You may or may not be familiar with the Pastor of Emmanual Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma. His name is Wade Burleson. Without doubt he has had one of the most popular blogs in the “baptist world” over the last few years. Recently, he declared that he would be blogging no more for ministry reasons.
I do not know Bro. Burleson personally, and from reading some of his writings, no doubt he is a very likeable and considerate man. Though he doesn’t need it from me, I do wish him well.
It is however the closing of his blog that has spurred my heart and mind on to driving down some tent stakes that ought never to be uprooted. Bro. Burleson without question is a liberal theologian. He has shown nothing but disdain for Landmark Baptist theology, or for the virtue of Fundamentalism among Baptists. While he outwardly labled himself as a conservative, his theology and teachings were anything but. Now that being said, my intentions for this article is not to be about him, per se, but about the theology and philosophies that he and others like him ascribe to.
The s0-called moderate Baptist ideals as I understand them center completely upon what they call “soul competency” and “individual freedom to interpret scripture” and to categorize certain doctrines as primary, secondary, and tertiery. (For fairness sake, the only writings of Bro. Burleson that I have seen have to do with the primary, secondary, and tertiery issues.)
The ideas being that no one possess certain and settled doctrinal truths, and that no church, pastor, or person should base their fellowship with other professing Christians on whether or not they are “right” doctrinally.
Such ideas are not only Biblically false, but they are categorically dangerous. Nothing can be more dangerous to the cause of Christ’s New Testament church, and to new believers, than the idea that doctrine is a merely a matter of opinion, and shouldn’t be used as a dividing line between fellowships. Among many particular differing issues, this idea seems to be the fundamental dividing line between the right and the left. Or more appropriately between the right and the wrong.
The Bible makes it perfectly clear that Truth, whether it be moral, or doctrinal, is absolute; and that we are responsible to teach it; and Christians are responsible to follow it, and be held accountable to it. It is one thing to show grace to those who are doctrinally in error, it is another thing altogether be conciliatory toward their wrong.
I have learned over the last 20 years, that not every Christian who joins the church that I pastor is doctrinally straight and theologically sound. New Christians are obviously much easier to teach than those who have been taught incorrectly. However if everyone was doctrinally, morally, and spiritually settled, then no doubt I wouldn’t be needed as a Pastor/teacher. In dealing with individuals who are “doctrinally challenged” we deal with them patiently, gracefully, and enduringly. However, it is never our place to by osmosis allow their incorrect opinion to permeate the doctrinal stance of the church as a whole. Our entire agenda with such a person is to patiently teach them, and bring them to the place of a correct doctrinal conviction.
The problem is that any time a church itself, has no clear stand, or stands by no clear teaching, then people who are left to their false ideas, will be left to their false ideas.
Now that being said, one of the continual themes that I heard from people like Bro. Burleson was the idea that such doctrinal stands should not affect our cooperation and fellowship one with another. The real issue with that is, when you do so, you are essentially doing two things. 1.) You are admitting that your doctrine is merely your opinion, and not settled fact. 2.) You are condoning and helping propogate Biblical errors.
Paul told the churches in Rome, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. ” That being said when someone attempts to teach that Salvation is by Faith plus works, which is another gospel, we aren’t to “cross denominational lines” we are to avoid them. When a church or pastor teaches that Baptism is part of the Saving process, we aren’t going to “cross denominational lines,” we are going to avoid them.
When someone teaches that women are qualified to be pastors, and that Paul was being chauvenistic when he wrote what he did, then that clearly reveals their low view, or wrong view of the scriptures. We do not reach across denominational lines, we avoid them.
The Lord gave us instructions in His word about how to respond to those who would not receive His Word rightly understood. “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15
Now I full agree that not all doctrinal issues are divisive issues. However there are certainly more than most want to admit. For example, eschatological issues have never been used as a test of fellowship and generally for good reason.
The reality is that idealogical issues have been and for the most part should be used. When someone does not view the scriptures as the infallible, inerrant, Word of God then there can be no basis for fellowship. When someone demands that it cannot be “rightly divided”, and must be merely “personally opinionated” then there can be no basis for fellowship. Man is subject to the “Rightly Divided” scriptures, and not the other way around.
The liberals and moderates often throw the insults toward us, (me and people like me) as being arrogant; demanding that our view of scripture is the right view of scripture. The flip side of their argument is that “no one’s view is a right view of scripture” which is another way of saying, “since I don’t know you don’t either.”
We have been commissioned by God to preach “the truth.” Not the truth “as we see it” but THE truth, as it is, regardless of who is looking at it. Where God charges, God equips. No where in scripture does He expect something of us, that He has not given us the power to do.
Disagreeing over Primary, Secondary, and Tertiery issues in and of itself constitutes another battle. But all boiled down to it, for the sake of clarity, truth is, truth can be rightly divided, and truth is to be a matter of division. Learning that would be a much needed change worth making.