Friday, December 28, 2012

Gospel Centrism and Its Neo-orthodox Foundations

Gospel Centrism and Its Neo-orthodox Foundations

          Gospel Centrism has been around for many years.  In most part it has been in the Neo-evangelical and Neo-orthodox camps of theology.  Within these camps Gospel Centrism has always been part of varying degrees of false views regarding the doctrine of the Church.  Both Neo-evangelical and Neo-orthodox proponents view the Church as some large mystical entity of all the “elect” (the regenerated and yet to be regenerated).  This view of the Church has been rapidly spreading through independent, fundamental Baptist churches as they become converted to Reformed Theology in varying degrees.  Because of this errant view of the Church, their view of biblical unity is proportionately distorted as well.  Depending upon what Camp you are in, there is a proportionate reduction of necessary of agreement (theological unity) on other doctrines before fellowship can be established. 
In I Corinthians chapter three, the Apostle Paul harshly corrected the Corinthian believers for their carnal divisions in the church.  His rebuke was not because they had refused to separate from them those teaching false doctrine.  He rebuked them because they had created divisions between themselves regarding whom it was that baptized them and of whom they considered the higher authority for what was being taught.  Divisions in the church were developing that would lead to sectarianism similar to the Rabbinical Schools existing within Judaism.  This was not to be part of Christianity.  Unfortunately, that was not what has come to pass.  We have men who are more loyal to their alma mater or some teacher/professor than they are to Christ.  Such is the problem caused by the movement that has come to be known as Gospel Centrism.  Bible Colleges and Seminaries are the new Rabbinical Schools and Bible Professors are the new Rabbis.  

          Gospel Centrism fines its origins in Karl Barth’s Dialectic Theology that came to be known as Neo-orthodoxy.  Neo-orthodoxy was nothing new and it was not orthodox.  Charles Ryrie addressed Barth’s unorthodox Gospel Centrism in addressing Barth’s radical view of his Neo-orthodox and existential view of biblical inspiration.  Ryrie said:

“Karl Barth (1886-1968), though one of the most influential theologians in recent history, held a defective and dangerous view of inspiration, a view many continue to propagate.  Barthians generally align themselves with the liberal school of biblical criticism.  Yet they often preach like evangelicals.  This makes Barthianism more dangerous than blatant liberalism.
      “For the Barthian, revelation centers in Jesus Christ.  If He is the center of the circle of revelation, then the Bible stands on the periphery of that circle.  Jesus Christ is the Word (and, of course, He is); but the Bible serves as a witness to the Word, Christ.  The Bible’s witness to the Word is uneven; that is, some parts of it are more important in their witness than other parts.  Those are the parts that witness about Christ. Nevertheless, such parts, though important, are not necessarily accurate.  Indeed, Barthians embrace the conclusions of liberalism regarding the Gospels, which teach that there are errors in those records.”[1]

          Granted, most of the (so called) fundamental Gospel Centrists would not go so far as Barth in his very weak view of inspiration.  However, like Barth, they do tend to categorize doctrines according to some highly subjective criteria.  Can we find any such pattern in their discussions for such subjective categorizing of doctrine according to importance so they might have some form of ambiguous unity?  Of course we do!  Again, there is a general consensus that agreement about defining the Gospel must be the first doorway that anyone must pass through before any kind of unity might be had.  However, that discussion has never taken place in any public forum I have read coming from the Gospel Centrists.  To make the Gospel the only significant doorway to some basic agreement to unity is really naive and an extreme form of theological reductionism.  I WANT to have fellowship with other believers and other local churches, but THEY MUST BE OF LIKE PRECIOUS FAITH!  I often go out of my way to give a man the benefit of doubt.  I go with him an extra mile!
          Undoubtedly, the Bible is Christocentric.  I do not think anyone should argue with that statement.  That fact is a reality from Genesis 3:15 through Revelation 22:20.  Therefore, no one should really argue against the fact that the Bible is Gospel centered.  The Bible certainly is Gospel centered.  Neither would anyone argue that the Gospel is the primary defining factor for the arena of agreement necessary to biblical fellowship (meaning cooperative ministry) with another professing believer or with other local churches.  Paul clearly established the priority of a pure Gospel as a necessity for fellowship with other professing believers or other local churches in his epistle to the Galatian churches.

6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:6-9).

Certainly, we understand that the perversion Paul addressed in Galatians was the adding of “the works of the law” to the Gospel as a necessity for salvation.  “The works of the Law” included making any type of Moralism or Ritualism necessary to someone’s salvation.  We would also agree that many other perversions of the Gospel have developed over the centuries that carry the same anathema of Paul’s statement in Galatians 1:9.  In fact, Paul’s anathema on the false Gospel has more to do with unbiblical responses to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ than it does with the objective facts of the Gospel.  It is not that the Judaizers disagreed with the objective facts of Christ’s accomplished redemption.  They disagreed about the necessary response to the Gospel in order to be saved.  The Judaizers saw justification as a process rather than an event. 
Men like Luther and Calvin also took a progressive view of justification.  In fact, perseverance of the saints is really a progressive view of justification.  In fact, in Calvin’s Institutes of Religion, he has dedicated the whole fourteenth chapter to the discussion of progressive justification, which is just an extension of his false doctrine of Monergism (if you are not familiar with this term, be sure to educate yourself about it ASAP).  If you are willing to read through all of Calvin’s convoluted nonsense, you will discover that he believed that justification “by grace through faith” is not an event, but rather a progressive process.  Calvin and Luther both believed in an extreme form of the false doctrine of Monergism that confused or comingled justification with progressive sanctification.  This is a common problem within traditional Calvinism and New Calvinism.  Calvin said:

“On the contrary, though we may be redeemed by Christ, still, until we are ingrafted into union with him by the calling of the Father, we are darkness, the heirs of death, and the enemies of God.  For Paul declares that we are not purged and washed from our impurities by the blood of Christ until the Spirit accomplishes that cleansing in us (1 Cor. 6:11).  Peter, intending to say the same thing, declares that the sanctification of the Spirit avails “unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1:2).  If the sprinkling of the blood of Christ by the Spirit gives us purification, let us not think that, previous to this sprinkling, we are anything but sinners without Christ.  Let us, therefore, hold it as certain, that the beginning of our salvation is as it were a resurrection from death unto life, because, when it is given us on behalf of Christ to believe on him (Phil. 1:29), then only do we begin to pass from death unto life.”[2] (underlining added)   

Calvin’s convolution in progressive justification is also expressed in his commentary on I John 1:9:

This passage is remarkable; and from it we first learn, that the expiation of Christ, effected by his death, does then properly belong to us, when we, in uprightness of heart, do what is right and just for Christ is no redeemer except to those who turn from iniquity, and lead a new life.  If, then, we desire to have God propitious to us, so as to forgive our sins, we ought not to forgive ourselves.  In short, remission of sins cannot be separated from repentance, nor can the peace of God be in those hearts, where the fear of God does not prevail.
“Secondly, this passage shews that the gratuitous pardon of sins is given us not only once, but that it is a benefit perpetually residing in the Church, and daily offered to the faithful.  For the Apostle here addresses the faithful; as doubtless no man has ever been, nor ever will be, who can otherwise please God, since all are guilty before him; for however strong a desire there may be in us of acting rightly, we always go haltingly to God. Yet what is half done obtains no approval with God.  In the meantime, by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God. Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God.”[3] (underlining added)

9 If we confess He again promises to the faithful that God will be propitious to them, provided they acknowledge themselves to be sinners.  It is of great moment to be fully persuaded, that when we have sinned, there is a reconciliation with God ready and prepared for us: we shall otherwise carry always a hell within us.  Few, indeed, consider how miserable and wretched is a doubting conscience; but the truth is, that hell reigns where there is no peace with God.  The more, then, it becomes us to receive with the whole heart this promise which offers free pardon to all who confess their sins. Moreover, this is founded even on the justice of God, because God who promises is true and just.  For they who think that he is called just, because he justifies us freely, reason, as I think, with too much refinement, because justice or righteousness here depends on fidelity, and both are annexed to the promise. For God might have been just, were he to deal with us with all the rigor of justice; but as he has bound himself to us by his word, he would not have himself deemed just, except he forgives.”[4] (underlining added)

The obvious error here is Calvin’s confusing regeneration with salvation.  Salvation is an event that begins the process of regeneration that culminates in the believer’s glorification.  The so called Golden Chain of Romans 8:29-30 is in fact the order of the regeneration,” not the order of salvation.  Although regeneration and salvation are connected, they are two separate doctrines.  They are synchronous, but not synonymous.  However, there is never any doubt about the ultimate outcome in that every believer is “complete in Him” upon the moment of their salvation decision.  Paul, in dealing with the heresy of Gnosticism, warns against the “philosophy” of progressive justification in Colossians chapter two and makes some very definitive statements condemning such an idea.

8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete {perfect, passive} in him, which is the head of all principality and power: 11 In whom also ye are circumcised {aorist, passive} with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12 Buried {aorist, passive} with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen {aorist, passive} with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:8-12).

It is foolish to say that agreement on the Gospel should be the only thing that determines what belongs in the arena of agreement for any cooperative ministry to be blessed of God.  After all, should not the determining factor for fellowship be about what is necessary for God’s blessings on cooperative ministry? 
Granted, there are some nuances of doctrine over which one should not separate.  However, in the propagation of Gospel Centrism, we fine its proponents radically silent on even general areas of doctrine.  Instead they make wide, sweeping arguments for unity without any biblical exegesis for the basis of that unity.  Have unity and fellowship somehow become two separate and disconnected entities?  Can Christians unite for fellowship without any definitive theological foundations for that unity?  It appears to me that many are throwing around theological terms while trying to purposefully make the meaning of those terms ambiguous.  The job of theologians is to provide answers, not raise doubts and questions that essentially abrogate dogmatism. 
It seems to me that the Gospel Centrists are striving for the kind of unity that the leaders of the Reformation had?  We would be foolish to think that there was close agreement between most of the players within the Reformation.  On a few occasions, they tried to have one another killed.  The leaders of the Reformation were united in what they opposed.  The leaders of the Reformation opposed Roman Catholicism and Papalism, but never opposed Rome’s radically corrupted Theonomic views of Ecclesiology or Eschatology.  The leaders of the Reformation opposed all who refused to baptize infants, even persecuting and killing those with opposing views.  Are Gospel Centrists seeking a softer, gentler New Reformation? 
It would appear to me that the Gospel Centrists are really trying to cultivate a twenty-first century New Reformation.  They are proposing a New Reformation that is not based upon doctrinal agreement, but upon denigrating those they oppose.  Many of the Gospel Centrists are trying to accomplish this New Reformation within their own ambiguous confession of faith known as Fundamentalism and Conservative Evangelicalism.  If you understand the formation of the movement known as Fundamentalism you understand that their unity was in what they opposed rather than the few things upon which they agreed.  That is not biblical unity!  Biblical unity has a trinity of agreement for unity:

1. Right doctrine (orthodoxy)
2. Right practice (orthopraxy)
3. Right purpose (orthopathy)

Careful exegesis of Ephesians chapter four will provide ample foundations for this trinity of unity.  Of course, there will be small nuances of disagreement within each of these three areas of agreement.  We are not looking for unanimity.  However, there should be a very broad and definitive arena for agreement.  If not, the Scriptures have not given enough weight of evidence for dogmatism.  There surely is enough weight of evidence to be dogmatic about every general category of doctrine.  In these general categories of doctrine there must be agreement before unity can be achieved. 
In Ephesians chapter four, the emphasis is to seek unity with the Godhead.  The simple truth of the chapter is that all those in unity with the Godhead will be in unity with one another.  The unity of the Godhead is a tri-unity both in their Persons and in the three areas of orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy.  We need to put a stop to all of the theological ambiguity of Gospel Centrism and mark it for its reductionist’s goals of a pseudo unity lacking any theological parameters. 
Instead of continuing a discussion engulfed in theological ambiguity defining the center, perhaps the wiser of those in the discussion should be more involved in a discussion of what defines the broader parameters of agreement for unity.  The Gospel Centrists refuse this part of the discussion because they know their movement will immediately disintegrate into a thousand factions if they do.  Their answer to those wanting them to define these parameters is – WE WON’T GO THERE!  They know that true biblical separatism, when practiced biblically, will dissolve their pseudo unity like sugar in water. 

Talking about Gospel centered ministry sounds wonderful.  Who would disagree that every ministry should be Gospel centered?  However, the terminology is purposefully deceptive, because the gospel of Gospel Centrism is Calvin’s Sovereign Grace gospel of Monergism.  Gospel Centrism is an attempt at a New Reformation that joins together all those holding to various positions of Reformed Theology bound together by Calvin’s Sovereign Grace gospel centered in Monergism.  In order to achieve this New Reformation that focuses on this new radical center, every other category of doctrine must be minimalized and marginalize to achieve the goal of Sovereign Grace Gospel Centered Unity (this would at least be an honest name for the movement).  The naiveties within Fundamentalism are being suckered into this deception.  If you do not believe this is true, connect the dots to those promoting Gospel Centrism. 

If nothing else, this New Reformation is the outcome of the Gospel Centrism propagated by a book entitled The Gospel as Center edited by D.A. Carson, and Timothy Keller, with contributing articles by thirteen other men, all New Evangelicals.  Another book, written with a similar premise, is Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times.  This book was edited by Millard J. Erickson, Paul Kjoss Helseth, and Justin Taylor with thirteen other contributing authors; all New Evangelicals calling themselves Contemporary Evangelicals.  Most true Baptists and true Fundamentalists do not read these kinds of books.  They probably should read these books just to stay informed on the terminology and where these terms come from.  Although these men may have some good things to say, there is a compromising spirit engrafted in their universal view of the Church.

The common denominator among all these men is their connections to Reformed Theology.  Propagation of their New Reformation has come through conferences such as Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel (T4G), the Ligonier Conference of the Reformed theologian R.C. Sproul, and the Acts 29 Convention.  Gospel Centrism is a Sovereign Grace movement to capture evangelical Christianity and much of Fundamentalism with Calvinism.  There is no doubt about it!  The only difference is that the reformed fundamental Baptists are trying to achieve the same goal while hiding behind ambiguous terminology.  Unless these men are uprooted from our Baptist Bible Colleges and Baptist Seminaries, they will turn many Baptist churches into becoming Reformed in their doctrine.  Before you recommend any student to a Bible College or Seminary, ask those institutions who on their staff holds to any degree of Reformed Theology.  Do not let them get by with their deceptions.  Bring them out of the shadows by shining the light upon their hidden goals. 

7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge. 8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit” (Proverbs 14:7-8).

[1] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books1994, page 75.
[2] Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Public Domain PDF:, Third Book, Chapter Fourteen, page 483.
[3] Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library,, page 143.
[4] Ibid. pages 145-146.

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Subtlety of “Good Words and Fair Speeches”

The Subtlety of “Good Words and Fair Speeches”
          People who are called to serve the Lord as pastors, missionaries, and evangelists understand the insecurity of ministry.  They know that people are often fickle.  Pastors understand the volatile nature of local church ministries.  Many local churches are like powder kegs that could explode at the first spark of a personality clash.  The natural tendency for pastor and missionaries living in such volatile conditions is to live by the simple principle – PROCEED WITH CAUTION!  Sadly, in many cases, pastors and evangelists simply avoid any thing that is controversial just to protect the little bit of job security that they have.  The central thrust of Romans 16:17-20 is a warning about the subtlety of the failure to deal with the issues of false doctrine that regularly arise within local churches.  The thrust of the warning is found in verse 18 – “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” 

17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Romans 16:17-20).

          I was notified recently that the Minnesota Baptist Association will host its annual Men’s Fellowship in September of 2013.  The featured speaker will be Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, the broadcast ministry of John MacArthur.  John MacArthur is a hyper-Calvinist, believes in Lordship salvation, Presbyterian polity, uses CCM and Christian-rock in his church ministries, and is undoubtedly a New Evangelical.  MacArthur was flirting with the National Association of Evangelicals back in the early 1980’s when I was a member of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (I.F.C.A.).  Phil Johnson is essentially MacArthur’s public relations person.  MacArthur and Johnson are certainly not independent Baptists. 
          Why then would an association of independent Baptist churches promote someone that so blatantly disagrees with them in doctrine and practice?  The answer is obvious.  They do not disagree with him in his doctrine and practice.  They must think his doctrinal positions to be at least viable.  They have changed!
          Compromise is often expressed in small increments.  There is a subtle and dangerous undercurrent in the temptation to compromise.  The undercurrent has to do with a pastor’s inherent desire for self-protection and survival in the ministry.  It also affects leaders of ministries like Bible colleges and seminaries.  When a pastor allows such inherent feelings to dominate his thinking, he will soon be led into varying degrees of incremental compromise.  Pragmatic measurements, particularly in using numbers of people in determining ministry success, lead many men astray.  No one wants to see the numbers of people diminish under their leadership whether it is in a local church, Bible college, or seminary.  Talk to any pastor who has lost large numbers of people and almost always you will find a man who believes he has failed.  The fact is, he may have been faithful in preaching the “whole counsel of God” and some people just did not like it.  When the solution to a loss of numbers of people is anything other than revival, you will find the willingness to compromise somewhere in the mix.
Perhaps the main reason Paul was so faithful in his many battles for “the faith” was that he saw himself as a “sheep for the slaughter.”  He told the Roman believers earlier in his epistle to the Romans that their thinking of themselves as “sheep for the slaughter” ought to be the norm for all true believers. 

“As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Romans 8:36).

          Maintaining such an attitude in our ministries is certainly difficult.  In order to maintain such an attitude, it demands that we do not view our ministry as a job, and that we do not give ourselves self-importance.  Although pastors serve people, people are not their employers.  God is their boss and it is to Him they will ultimately answer for our leadership.  All of this is even more difficult when we consider the threat to the financial security of their families.  In most cases, we cannot they men-pleasers (I Thessalonians 2:4) if they are going to be God’s ambassadors (II Corinthians 5:16-21).  Although those that truly love the Word of God will be pleased when it is preached without consideration of the fear or favor of men, those who do not love the Word of God will wince and retreat when it is proclaimed.
          The church I pastor separated from the Minnesota Baptist Association in 2012 because the M.B.A. began to redefine the way they were going to practice separation.  The use of Phil Johnson as their featured speaker is merely a reflection of their new Gospel Centrism (their Gospel is really Reformed Soteriology).  During the six years I was the State Missionary of the Minnesota Baptist Association and editor of their North Star magazine, I wrote many articles to keep the association from going the direction it has gone.  Apparently, in most part, those articles have gone unheeding.  In some cases, they were ridiculed.  One such article, entitled The Hegelian Dialectic, is quoted below:

The Hegelian Dialectic is basically a process that ultimately results in Centrism.  This is accomplished by bringing together diverse positions for dialogue.  The process involves bringing together a thesis (extreme right) together with an antithesis (extreme left) for discussion that moves both extremes towards the center (compromise).  Two things happen to the majority of those involved in the dialogue.

1. The majority of the participants form a synthesis (a composite position) somewhere between the two extremes (this is the goal of the Hegelian Dialectic).
2. Those not accepting the synthesis become sympathetic towards the various degrees of positions of those involved in the dialogue in that tolerance becomes the banner under which the process functions.

      This process is repeated with each generation and the center (synthesis) constantly moves towards the extreme left (compromise, tolerance, and liberalism).  No one likes to be viewed as an extremist or a radical.  That is why all Christians are naturally prone towards moving towards the middle on every issue of conflict.  That is the reason why the vast majority of local churches, associations of churches, and conventions/denominations have become New Evangelical and Liberal. 
      When conflicting positions arise, we will find most people settling for one of two solutions: tolerance or compromise.  Neither of these two positions is acceptable to God.  Neither should they be acceptable to the person that calls himself a Biblicist.  Truth is always a constant.  God is immutable.  All truth originates in God’s immutableness.  Therefore truth is immutable.  Which of God’s truths is inconsequential to Him?  Which of God’s truths does He delineate as a major truth and which is a minor truth?” 

          Therefore, Centrism is an applicable term to describe the outcomes of what we see in the dialogue between radically different theological positions.  Romans 16:18 describes this process by the phrase - “good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”  One example of this is how biblical separation is now being redefined during this dialogue.  In order to justify the way separation is being redefined, they must redefine the way unity is defined.  Therefore, they must take a Big Christianity view of the doctrine of the Church rather than an independent local church view.  This is Reformed Ecclesiology.  Reformed Theology seems to be a common denominator for defining who is going to be included in the dialogue and who is excluded.  In fact, Dr. Kevin Bauder has regularly criticized people for criticizing Reform Theology, especially Reformed Soteriology.  Under his paradigm, anyone believing that Reformed Soteriology is unscriptural, and is willing to say that publicly, is outside of his acceptable Fundamentalism. 
          Dr. Kevin Bauder, past president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, clearly defines “fundamental doctrines” as those “doctrines that are essential to the gospel.”  This statement seeks to reduce Fundamentalism to Gospel Centrism.  Certainly, Fundamentalism is Gospel centered, but the fundamentals of the Bible extend into other areas of theology as well.  Anything less is the abdication of theological dogmatism regarding anything other than the Gospel.  In most cases, Evangelicals cannot even agree on what the Gospel is and certainly do not agree on what defines a biblical response to the Gospel. 

“To be an evangelical is to be centered upon the gospel.  To be a Fundamentalist is, first, to believe that fundamental doctrines are definitive for Christian fellowship, second, to refuse Christian fellowship with all who deny fundamental doctrines (e.g., doctrines that are essential to the gospel), and third, to reject the leadership of Christians who form bonds of cooperation and fellowship with those who deny essential doctrines.”[1]

New Evangelicalism essentially developed in order to build bridges between Evangelicalism and Liberalism (Theological Modernism).  Gospel Centrism is a group within Fundamentalism (actually Evangelicals), trying to build bridges to the ever drifting New Evangelicals now rapidly becoming the Emergent Church.  Dr. Kent Brandenburg defines the issues in this form of compromise very well in a new book he has recently edited and in which has written a number of chapters:

“Disobedience to the Biblical doctrine of separation follows the spirit of this age, which reflects post-enlightenment human reasoning.  The world will get to where man is in charge of everything, but to get to that goal, there will be a series of compromises fitting to a Hegelian dialectic.  Dialogue and consensus building are the means.  The goal is the ‘third way’ that we often read about in politics today.  The first and Biblical way is separation.  The second and man’s way is getting along.  The third way is the compromise of separation in order to get along more.  The result of the compromise is called progress, reaching toward the end of world peace.  Churches are now caught up in this cycle.
Compromise is called love, which is really sentimentality.  The watering down of doctrine is labeled humility, which is really pride.  Humility submits to God.  Pride replaces what God said with man’s ideas, elevating men.  Pride is the new humility, however, in the new political and theological correctness.  The new humility emphasizes nuance and repudiates dogmatism.  Finally, anything anyone believes is accepted so that everyone can get along with everyone else, except God.”[2]

          Dr. Doug McLachlan seems to be a connecting link to what he refers to as a “radical new center.”  This “radical new center” is being fleshed out by a form of Gospel Centrism in some kind of New Fundamentalism.  Unfortunately, this New Fundamentalism looks much like old New Evangelicalism.  He has stated that he believes that the way Northland International University, Central Baptist Seminary, Calvary Baptist Seminary, and Detroit Theological Seminary are now practicing separation is what he intended in the writing of his book Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism.  This Authentic Fundamentalism is markedly absent of a central characteristic of old Fundamentalism, which is militancy.  Dr. Roland McCune offered his review of Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism:

Militancy has always characterized Fundamentalism.  It is not so much a matter of personality as adherence to principle.  Militancy has been so fogged over by its detractors that it has become a wholly negative concept, even for many Fundamentalists.  Dr. George Houghton, of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, gave an excellent definition of militancy.

‘What exactly is militancy, anyway?  One dictionary says it is to be ‘engaged in warfare or combat . . . aggressively active (as in a cause).’  It springs from one’s values, is expressed as an attitude, and results in certain behavior.  One’s values are those things in which one strongly believes.  They are what one believes to be fundamentally important and true.  From this comes an attitude which is unwilling to tolerate any divergence from these fundamentally important truths and seeks to defend them.  It results in behavior which speaks up when these truths are attacked or diluted and which refuses to cooperate with any activity which would minimize their importance.  The term is a military one and carries the idea of defending what one believes to be true.’[3]

I must confess that I do not hear a clear note of militancy in the book under discussion.  Forcefulness in leadership and in defending the faith is simply not there.  (The concept of “Militant Meekness” or “a militancy for the meekness of Christ” [p. 140] is a little confusing in terms of historic Fundamentalist militancy.)  The idea of “servant leaders” (p.40ff.), while certainly a biblical thought,[4] seems expunged of all notions of aggressiveness.  Some of this may be explained by the author’s non-confrontational type of personality.  Many of us could identify with this.  But again militancy is not a matter of personality.  There are many Fundamentalists who are reticent and retiring but who are militant in the fight for truth.”

Terms like “militant meekness” and “radical new center” sound very intellectual, but they are nothing more than “good words and fair speeches” that “deceive the hearts of the simple.”  I wrote an article on this October 22nd, 2011 entitled - Has God Changed the “Old Paths” for a new "radical center"?  The closing paragraph of the article is quoted below:


I do not understand how knowledgeable men can so easily be led into the ditch of philosophical compromise.  I do not understand how knowledgeable men can justify using the language of Centrism when they must know it is the language of cultural manipulation.  I think they must understand their methodology and have adapted certain agreed upon talking points.  If they are right (and their argument is that they are right), then everything to the right of them is wrong and everything to the left of them is wrong.  Yet, they are willing to label everyone they say is to the right of them as Hyper, while labeling select individuals to the left of them as friends.  Then they separate from those to the right of them (which means all those unwilling to accept their new center) and maintain fellowship with those they admittedly understand to be to the left of them.  It does not seem too difficult to discern the direction in which they are moving, even though they claim they have not moved.  This obviously tells us something about them.  Either they never were where they once professed to be, or they have moved.  Either of those two possibilities is unacceptable.”[5]

When professed fundamentalists such as Dr. Kevin Bauder, Dr. Douglas McLachlan, Dr. Timothy Jordan, and Dr. Dave Doran begin to defend men like Al Mohler, John Piper, Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Mark Dever, C.J. Maheney, and Rick Holland (to name a few), it becomes very apparent that there has been a considerable change in direction regarding the practice of militant separation.  This goes one step further when they invite these me to preach for them. 
In Romans 16:19, Paul commends the Roman believers for their obedience to “the faith” and then warns them in the next sentence – “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men.  I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”  The word “evil” is from the Greek word kakos (kak-os').  The context would imply the meaning to be about worthless teaching that is harmful or injurious.  This context is established because the word “simple” is from the Greek word akeraios (ak-er'-ah-yos), meaning unmixed in the sense of being unmixed with false teaching.  Therefore, the word “simple” here means harmless.  An alternative reading of last part of Romans 16:19 might be, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and harmless concerning harmful false doctrine.” The “harmful false doctrine” refers to what Paul said earlier when he spoke of “good words and fair speeches” that are intended to “deceive the hearts of the simple.” 
The biblical doctrine of separation is nothing to be trifled with.  The biblical doctrine of separation should certainly never be reduced the way the Gospel Centrists are attempting to reduce it.  To propose that Christians focus on the center while ignoring the parameters is ludicrous and bizarre.  Such a proposition is to say the center of biblical truth is more important than the boundaries established by biblical truth. 
To emphasize unity at the sacrifice of doctrinal continuity is equally ludicrous and bizarre.  This is what the New Evangelicals have done for years and is the practice of those within the varying degrees on Emergent Christianity.  We all certainly understand we are not talking about doctrinal unanimity.  No two people will ever be perfectly unanimous doctrinally.  However, there certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on what defines the Church and how it is to be governed.  There certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on what the Gospel is and how people get saved.  There certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on what the Bible teaches about the end times and the Christian’s part in these future events.  There certainly should be doctrinal unanimity on whether sign gifts have ceased or if they continue throughout the Church Age.[6]  These are very important issues of orthodoxy that radically impact orthopraxy and orthopathy. 
To define the “unity of the Spirit” outside of its parameters of the statement in Ephesians 4:5-6 is equally ludicrous and bizarre – “5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  This simple statement does not reduce unity down to one commonality as does Gospel Centrism.[7]  This simple statement in fact expands the “unity of the Spirit” exponentially by the phrase “one faith.”  There is but one true God and He has given only one inspired Bible.  Therefore, there is only one correct interpretation that defines the “one faith.”  True “unity of the Spirit” will only be found where there is unanimity within all the parameters of the “one faith.” 
Who then gets to decide what defines unanimity?  Does a Bible college get to define this?  Does a seminary get to define this?  No, every individual and every local church must define unanimity for themselves.  Then they must decide how they are going practice separation within their own definition and agreement.  They must do this so as to insure no believer will be led astray by identifying with someone, or another local church, that teaches false doctrine or practices separation that appears to endorse false doctrine. 
Romans 16:17-20 appears almost as a parenthesis within the context of Paul’s salutation to the faithful believers within various local churches at Rome.  The text is Paul’s final statement defining a true Opus Dei (the universal call to holiness).  Paul pleads with these faithful believers to “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17.  There are two admonitions in the text.  These faithful believers were to “mark” these people that causes “divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine” and they were to “avoid them.”  The word “mark” is from the Greek word skopeo (skop-eh'-o), which literally means to take aim at.  The intent is to put a mark on them like a point on a target.  The word “avoid” is from the Greek word ekklino (ek-klee'-no), which means to deviate.  The idea is to walk away from such a person.  Obviously the intent of the verb is separation. 
Let me be careful here to say that I do not disagree with everything these men teach.  I have been often enriched and edified by their ministries, teaching, and writings.  However, this new pathway of Gospel Centrism is a pathway on which we cannot walk together.  It is serious enough to require biblical separation from these men.  It is serious enough for spiritual men to separate them from their associations.  I have talked to a few men in the leadership of the Minnesota Baptist Association of churches regarding these issues.  My comments were received with a smirk of derision and ridicule.  What they have done is shunned the “mark” that should be put upon these men for their apparent compromises.  In doing so, they have accepted a pathway of heteropraxy foreign to every Bible believing fundamentalist for thousands of years.  Thousands over the centuries have adorned the true doctrine of biblical separation with their own blood. 
Most importantly, these men have rejected the clear statements of the Word of God about separation in exchange for “good words and fair speeches” intent upon the deception of “the hearts of the simple.”  This was addressed in an article entitled Conservative Evangelicalism’s Distortion of the Doctrine of Separation.  The quote below is from that article:

We must understand Paul’s instruction to ‘mark them’ and his command to ‘avoid them’ as referring to anything that departs from ‘the faith’ he had just laid out in careful divisions and meticulous detail including the vocational election of national Israel, the details of the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Palestinian Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the place of Church Age believers in the unfolding already, not yet beginning of the New Covenant.  Paul gives details of Pneumatology in Romans chapters 6 and 12 regarding the supernatural baptism with the Holy Spirit (6:1-18) and the supernatural enabling of the Holy Spirit in the lives of consecrated believers (12:1-8).  Paul gives details of the Church Age priesthood of all believers in Romans chapter 11 and warns them of the consequences of unfaithfulness by disobedience to what they were saved to do - Ambassadors of Reconciliation. 
      Secondly, two practical outcome failures are addressed in the statement ‘cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine.’ 

1. ‘Divisions . . . contrary to the doctrine’
2. ‘Offences . . . contrary to the doctrine’

      Those to be marked and avoided are those involved in these two corrupt outcomes.  The words ‘the doctrine’ are synonymous with the words ‘the faith’ used elsewhere in Paul’s epistles.  In fact Paul uses the phrase ‘the faith’ to refer to the complete inscripturalized doctrines of the Word of God over and over again in his epistles.  I believe Paul uses the phrase ‘the faith’ on 20 different occasions and Peter and Jude each use it once.  The phrase ‘the faith’ is what Paul refers to in Acts 20:27 as he addressed the ‘elders’ of the local churches of Ephesus, ‘For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.’ 
      The word ‘divisions’ in Romans 16:17 is from the Greek word dichostasia (dee-khos-tas-ee'-ah), which means disunion.  Paul is referring to doctrinal dissension resulting in division or sedition.  Therefore, the primary meaning of ‘divisions’ is the breaking of what was previously joined together.  ‘Divisions’ is doctrinal disunity as contrasted with doctrinal unity.”[8]

          The men I seek to mark by this article are creating “divisions contrary to the doctrine.”  This refers to heresy in that heresy is creating a faction or a new group from those led away from a previous group.  This is explained in the same article as the quote above.

Once the division is created and an individual is disjoined from the unity of the ‘one faith,’ this creates a faction or new sect within Christianity.  Therefore, this division in doctrine leads to heresy.  The word heresy in the New Testament is from the Greek word hairesis (hah'-ee-res-is), which basically means to choose a party or sect.  The negative aspect of the word heresy refers to the removing of an individual from the main stream of Bible believing Christianity to form another division that wants to represent itself as the main stream or the norm.”[9]

The Greek word hairesis (hah'-ee-res-is) is often translated by the word sect rather than by the word heresy.  There was ‘the sect {hairesis} of the Sadducees’ (Acts 5:17).  There was ‘the sect {hairesis} of the Pharisees’ (Acts 15:5).  On two occasions, true Christianity was called heresy by the Jews (Acts 24:5 and 14).  Paul refers to the divisions within the church at Corinth as heresy (I Cor. 11:17-19).  Paul referred to ‘heresies’ as one of the manifestations of the ‘works of the flesh’ in Galatians 5:19-21.  Peter referred to the divisive teaching of the ‘false teachers’ as ‘damnable heresies’ in II Peter 2:1 that ultimately denies the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  The point is that even though individuals who come under the pretense of unity, but with some new divisive theological position thereby creating a new faction and sect within Christianity, thereby this is the very essence of what defines the word heresy.  Therefore, although Paul’s use of the word ‘divisions’ in Romans 16:17 is not the Greek word hairesis, the outcome of these ‘divisions’ is heresy (new sects). 
The second practical outcome failure addressed in the statement of Romans 16:17 is that they ‘cause . . . offences contrary to the doctrine.’  The word ‘offenses’ is translated from the Greek word skandalon (skan'-dal-on), from which we get our English word scandal.  It is derived from a word meaning trip stick.  The context of use gives us the meaning to refer to the outcome of false doctrine that would cause people to be tripped up or to stumble in their Christian walk.  This certainly would apply to the false teaching of Conservative Evangelicalism that cooperation amongst various sects of Christianity should only be determined by some ambiguous definition of the Gospel.”[10] 

          The words “good words and fair speeches” in Romans 16:18 do not sound as ominous as these words that come forth in the Greek text.  We see how ominous these words are when we look at the outcomes of their intent.  David Sutton brings this forth in his comments on this text:

“They deceive the hearts of the simple.  These good words (xrestologia) have a pleasing quality.  They seem full of virtue and reason.  They are not brash or harsh, but gentle, offering better results that the ‘old’ way.  This is the same tactic that Satan used with Eve.  He questioned God, contradicted God, and gave a reasonable solution for why Eve should do what he wanted.  Does it work?  It does?  The fair speeches (eulogia) come out as polished language, smooth and flowing, filled with good words and blessing.  Many times, these people speak their messages with eloquence and style.  They use tactics that tickle people’s ears and capture their attention. They flatter, look humble, sound sincere, and talk spiritual.  They know the Bible and often do good works.  Yet something seems off.  What they say does not line up with Scripture, yet they seem so believable.  The spiritually mature see problems, but the simple do not.  As a result, the simple are deceived in their hearts (their way of thinking).”[11]

          There is always a common pattern in the process of developing leadership among people.  The first step is to earn a hearing.  The second step is developing a friendship.  The third step is winning the heart.  The fourth step is creating loyalty.  However, once these four steps have been achieved, they can be used for good or evil.  Those following these leaders must always be extremely cautious when leadership appears to be taking a new pathway contrary to God’s Word.  

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Psalm 14:12).

“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein (Jeremiah 6:16).

[2] Brandenburg, Kent, editor. Contributing authors: Custer, Michael; Mallinak, Dave; McCandless, Erich; Mitchell, Bobby; Smith, Thomas; Sutton, David; and Webb, Gary. A Pure Church: A Biblical Theology of Ecclesiastical Separation. El Sobrante, CA: Pillar and Ground Publishing, 2012, page 296-297.
[3] George Houghton. “The Matter of Militancy,” Faith Pulpit (May 1994)
[4] The idea of “servant leadership” as it is propagated in the New Evangelical community was severely criticized by by David F. Wells, a fellow New Evangelical.  He says that the term “has the ring of piety about it.  But it is false piety, or it plays on an understanding of servanthood that is antithetical to biblical understanding.  Contemporary servant leaders are typically individuals without any ideas of their own, people whose convictions shift with the popular opinion to which they assiduously attune themselves, people who bow to the wishes of “the body” from which their direction and standing derive” (No Place For Truth [Eermans, 1993]’ pp. 214-15).  His attack was directed at the lack of convictions and biblical/doctrinal truth that has overtaken the New Evangelical movement and that has displaced theology with psychology and the prescriptions of the modern self movement.  This is not the case with the author of Reclaiming . . . Fundamentalism, but a word of caution is in order.  Without forceful leadership and the aggressive prosecution of a biblical philosophy and agenda, the Fundamentalist will find his vision being challenged by another who is quite militant about his own proposal.  Well’s point is well taken: Servant leadership does not necessitate a benign, non-aggressive stance.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Brandenburg, Kent, editor. Contributing authors: Custer, Michael; Mallinak, Dave; McCandless, Erich; Mitchell, Bobby; Smith, Thomas; Sutton, David; and Webb, Gary. A Pure Church: A Biblical Theology of Ecclesiastical Separation. El Sobrante, CA: Pillar and Ground Publishing, 2012, page 40.