Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Evolution of Taxonomy in Theological Divisions



The Evolution of Taxonomy in Theological Divisions

          Taxonomy is the way we group things together for identification.  We all like to choose our own description and our own taxonomy.  That is really not the way things work.  We would have to be naive to think people are not going to try to define us or categorize us in some way.  This process is natural.  We are categorized by how we dress, the things we find to do for recreation, and certainly by what we believe and the way we live.  There are so many nomenclatures of taxonomy that it would be difficult to even list them all.  Most nomenclatures are not of a nature we would refuse them.  However, there are also nomenclatures of taxonomy with which no one wants to be identified.

Fundamentalism is a taxonomy that has really lost its identifiers.  Fundamentalism, as a movement, was born out of the struggle against Liberalism and Liberalism’s denial of the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures and the cardinal doctrines of the faith.  Liberalism came from German Rationalism and Higher Criticism.  The Fundamentalist Movement has always been theologically ambiguous from its inception.  Therefore, taxonomy of divisions developed very quickly out of the large number of various denominations and theological positions within the movement.  

Terms like Evangelicalism, New Evangelicalism, and Neo-orthodoxy are taxonomies that separate certain positions from the group known as Fundamentalism. Fundamentalists wanted to exclude these divisions from their taxonomy.  Those holding these positions were not to be allowed to continue calling themselves Fundamentalists (most did not want the title).  That taxonomy within Fundamentalism continues to evolve today.  However, the new groups did not want to divide themselves from the taxonomy of Fundamentalism.  They began to practice a rather subtle tactic.  They continued calling themselves Fundamentalists while separating the group they view to the right of them out of Fundamentalism by calling these men Hyper-fundamentalists.  They change the identifiers in the taxonomy known as Fundamentalism.  This is a radical change in the way taxonomy evolves.  In order to do so, they took a more inclusive and fluid approach to separation that hitherto would have excluded them from Fundamentalism.  Those now labeled as Hyper-fundamentalists continued taking a strict approach to the interpretation of the Scripture’s teaching about separation.  

Strict Constructionism or Fluid Constructionism

Most people understand these terms as they are used in the arena of Constitutional Law within the USA.  Fluid Constructionists believe that the Constitution of the USA is a fluid document and needs to be reinterpreted according to the evolution of culture and the changing cultural values.  Strict Constructionists believe that the Constitution of the USA is a static document and that its interpretation should control how a culture evolves within the parameters of Constitutional Law.  Fluid Constructionism is actually an outgrowth of Liberal Theology, which takes the same approach to the interpretation of Scripture.  Liberal Theology began perverting evangelism and the purpose of the Church through this fluid approach in interpreting Scripture with such things as the Social Gospel.  The Social Gospel came from a fluid interpretation (actually misinterpretation) of Matthew 25:31-46.  The text talks about Christ rewarding believers that survive the Tribulation and who tried to help the Jews during the time the Antichrist seeks to have them all killed (correct Eschatology is important in the strict interpretation of Scripture).  The liberal Fluid Reconstructionists reinterpreted this text to mean redistribution of wealth through progressive Socialism.  False theology completely changed and redirected the missional purpose of the Church.  

Fluid Constructionism enters into Christianity in many ways.  Perhaps a basic way is the way in which people reinterpret God and begin to make Him into their image, or what they want Him to be or accept.  Doing this culturalizes God.  In this culturalization of God, there is a transition whereby the focus is progressively corrupted by varying degrees.  God’s commands are progressively replaced in their focus by man’s needs.  Doing this tries to make God more acceptable to the mixed multitudes.  Almost anyone should be able to see how all of this has made the Church anthropocentric in the Post-Modern era.  It is amazing how people justify these distortions of God.  It is also amazing how each generation tries new variations of these distortions.  It is almost like they view Christianity as some kind of ongoing experiment.  When people minimize God’s attributes, or maximize one attribute at the exclusion of others, they distort the image that God reflects of Himself through the revelation of inspired Scripture.  Which corruption do we evaluate as the greatest offense?

1. Is the greatest offense by the Atheist, who denies the existence of God and corrupts humanity with varying degrees of moral relativism and ethical subjectivism like Paul describes in Romans 1:18-32?
2. Is the greatest offense by the Distortionist, who distorts the image of God by corrupting doctrine and thereby corrupting the criteria for acceptable worship, acceptable service, or varying aspects of holiness and separation?   

          In the abdication of dogmatism, theology is now being presented as varying degrees of theological theories.  The Gospel Centrists are not saying it is inappropriate to disagree about these various theories.  They just do not believe they should separate from those holding to a different theory than they hold.  They redefine separation because of some silly notion that thinks separatists are unwilling to even discuss differences with those with which they disagree.  Such discussions are not fellowship.  We can have the discussion and be friends without joining in cooperative ministry with people of remarkable differences in beliefs.  

          Gospel Centrism takes an inclusive, fluid, wishy-washy approach to the practice of separation.  Others taking borderline positions on Gospel Centrism, like Kevin Bauder, David Doran, Timothy Jordan, and Douglas McLachlan are trying to define their own taxonomy.  I like these guys.  I like a lot of what they have to say.  Men like Matt Olson of Northland International University started down a slippery slope and appears to have completely lost his footing and theological anchors.  The sad thing about Matt is that no one knows what his taxonomy is yet.  We know where he is not anymore, but do not yet know in what taxonomy he will land.  In doing what they are doing, all these men become Distortionists and Contortionists in varying degrees.  They are Contortionists because of all the hoops through which they must jump to justify their distortions of the doctrine of separation.  The Atheist does not pose the threat to the purity of the local church like the Distortionist does.  The Distortionist works inside the camp, at least until he is put out of the camp.  Some of these guys suffer under an illusion that they are still inside the camp.  The Lord’s camp is stationary and right where it was when they left it.  God intended His children to cross the Jordan; not to stand in the middle of it.  If they stay in their wishy-washy river long enough, they will soon find themselves in the midst of the Dead Sea.  

          These men mentioned here are leaders in this distortion.  They want to change their taxonomy without changing their constituency.  That is not how it works fellows.  I am sure they are finding that out.  They now find their detractors to be those that they once called friends.  They now find their defenders to be those from who they once separated.  They have determined their own taxonomy.  They may be saying, good riddance to their detractors.  The fact of the matter is that you are changing your taxonomy by confusion and compromise.  Your detractors are trying to detract people from following you.  Understand this, your detractors love you and seek to persuade you to repent lest you end up in the Dead Sea.

10 In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. 15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. 18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it. 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day {the day you repent and return} will I bless you” (Haggai 2:10-19).

          If you are a student contemplating enrolling in one of the institutions of higher learning led by any of these men, you might want to reconsider.  A simple principle might go something like this:

ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHERE THE PLANE IS GOING TO LAND BEFORE YOU GET ON BOARD!

          If you are an alumni of one these institutions of higher learning led by any of these men, your degree is being devalued before your eyes.  Having a degree from any one of these institutions of higher learning will cast shadows of doubt upon your beliefs.  Your testimony is vested in your identification with these schools.  Make your voice heard.  Alumni Associations should be the most vocal of all voices.  Local churches should write formal letters of concern and protest.  A turtle never gets anything done until he sticks his neck out of his shell.


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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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