Another reason why I am an independent Baptist! https://open.substack.com/pub/thedissenter/p/sbc-pastor-who-writes-for-wapo-suggests-597?r=pbjs4&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web
2Timothy 3:13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
‘It is a harsh but undeniable truth that the majority of what calls itself the Church in the modern world is nothing more than a shallow facade, a shell of its former self. Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest theologians and preachers of the past, had the foresight to recognize this disturbing trend even in his own lifetime. He famously declared, “A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats!”
Tragically, Spurgeon’s prediction has become a reality. As one looks out at the landscape of the contemporary Church, it is nearly impossible to find any semblance of genuine faith or spiritual depth. Instead, one is confronted with an endless parade of superficial and shallow antics, designed to titillate the senses and distract from the emptiness within.
A recent spectacle at the Center for Hope, a United Methodist church in Wintersville, Ohio, where a couple sang a trite and manipulative cover of “Eye of the Tiger,” is just one example of the degradation and degeneration that plagues the modern Church. It is a damning indictment of our spiritual state that we have become so enamored with cheap thrills and vacuous entertainment rather than seeking the nourishment of the soul and the timeless wisdom of the divine through His word.
Below are some of the altered lyrics the couple sang that were overly cheesy and focused on charismatic self-help themes:
Before I was a Christian, Something was missin,
felt a little distant, dark resistant,
made a decision, got a new vision,
wrote my goals yeah wrote my mission,
BC I was aimlessly walkin
then one day I heard the voice of God talkin,
rise up child to the enemy mockin’,
prayer is your weapon pray without stoppin’‘https://disntr.com/2023/01/05/church-performs-cringworthy-rap-edition-of-eye-of-the-tiger/
Christian schools unfortunately change through the years as do churches and preachers. Some change for the better and others for the worse. This is the story of Bob Jones University.
‘Earlier we documented Bob Jones University (BJU) stepping into ecumenical compromise with Franklin Graham. See BJU Embraces Franklin Graham’s Ecumenical Movement. That was the latest among many excursions, engineered by BJU president Steve Pettit, into non-separatist evangelicallism and the ecumenical movement. From Dr. David Beale’s new book Christian Fundamentalism in America I included a brief excerpt in the BJU/Graham article above and in the BJU: Compromised Spiritual Sanctification for Secular Pragmatism article. Dr. David Beale has written an article to expand on and bolster his argument. That article follows. (Originally appeared 12/14/21).
“After being the premier fundamentalist academic institution for eighty-seven years, BJU elected Dr. Steve Pettit in 2014, as the president who steered the University out of separatist Fundamentalism into the inclusive, Broad Evangelical movement,” David Beale, Christian Fundamentalism in America (Maitland, FL: Xulon, 2021), 179, 530.
• Dr. Andy Naselli, in his 2006 BJU dissertation, scorns independent, Fundamental Baptists for giving invitations to “surrender oneself to God.” Naselli criticizes the practice and calls it a “second blessing.” Naselli unsuccessfully tried to identify the Fundamentalist movement with Keswick extremes on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Naselli then identified with Broad Evangelicalism. He now serves on the faculty of John Piper’s College and Seminary, which are Reformed Charismatic schools urging every Christian to seek all NT gifts, including tongues and healing. Piper claims that “Signs and wonders” and all spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 are valid for today and must be “earnestly desired.” Piper says, “Prophecy and tongues will continue until Jesus comes.”1 Naselli is a pastor of Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Naselli seeks to transform Fundamentalists into Evangelicalism. In 2019, Dr. Pettit brought Naselli back to BJU to present the lectures for the annual Steward Custer Lecture Series. Naselli’s books were promoted. The late Dr. Custer all his life had been a stalwart Fundamentalist. Naselli represents Broad Evangelicalism. The bond between BJU and Evangelicalism has been clear since the beginning of Pettit’s administration.
• Dr. Sam Horn was executive vice president for enrollment and ministerial advancement at Bob Jones University when, on 2-7-2020, Dr. Pettit announced to all, “Dr. Horn is greatly honored today, and BJU is honored to have one of its own become the next president of The Master’s University and Seminary.” Horn succeeded Dr. John Stead. Dr. John MacArthur, a leading Evangelical, had led The Master’s University and Seminary as president from 1984 to 2018. Dr. Pettit preached for John MacArthur in a conference that year (2020). John Street, Chair of Biblical Counseling at The Master’s University, spoke at BJU’s CoRE Conference March 9–10, 2020. Street is an adjunct professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. By claiming that the word Fundamentalism can have no single definition,2 BJU leaders claim the label separatist but practice non-separatism (inclusivism). With such a notion, BJU attempts to sit on both sides of the fence—Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism—at the same time.
• Under Dr. Pettit’s administration, BJU students are permitted to bond with churches of denominations harboring apostasy.3 The following churches (underscored below) are among those approved for BJU students to attend.
• Covenant Community (Taylors, SC): An Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). On one of their website videos, the pastor poured water on a little child’s head and said, “This is like Abraham’s ‘baptizing his whole house’” (Genesis 17). The pastor substituted the word baptism for the word circumcision and called it regeneration. Augustine and Roman Catholicism devised and standardized this doctrine, which assumes an OT circumcisional regeneration for Jewish males.4 Romanism transformed that doctrine into NT water baptismal regeneration to elect infants. Forms of that doctrine passed into Reformed theology. John Calvin insisted that OT circumcision engrafted the Jewish infant into the covenant [elect] family of God; thus, NT baptism engrafts a newborn child into the body of Christ.5 Reformed doctrine leads many to believe the seed of regeneration is implanted at infant baptism, though salvation might occur later.6
• Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (Simpsonville, SC), PCA church.
• Second Presbyterian Church (Greenville, SC): A Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). This church’s senior pastor is Dr. Richard Phillips, adjunct professor and member of the Board of Trustees at Westminster Theological Seminary, which enforces no dress codes and allows the use of alcoholic beverages.7
➢ Richard Phillips is also on the Board of Directors of (1) the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals; (2) the Council of The Gospel Coalition, and (3) the Council of the Gospel Reformation Network.8
➢ On October 12, 2019, at Phillips’ Second Presbyterian Church, Dr. Pettit participated in a Conference on Reformed Theology.
• To begin chapel on February 5, 2018, Dr. Pettit announced, “We are honored this morning to have as our guest Dr. Gene Fant,” president of North Greenville University, a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) school. Fant was welcomed with a standing ovation.9 The so-called “SBC Conservative Resurgence” has now spiraled into a deadening mix.10
• Calvary First Baptist Church (Greenville, SC): SBC church.
• Roper Mountain Baptist Church (Greenville): SBC church.
• Rock Springs Baptist Church (Easley, SC): SBC church. Dr. Pettit, BJU President, spoke here October 6, 2019.
• White Oak Baptist Church (Greenville, SC): Affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and the Greenville Baptist Association. Their lead pastor is Lonnie Polson, BJU Division Chair of Communication of the School of Fine Arts. Their music director is Jeff Stegall, BJU Associate Professor in the Theatre Arts Department.
• For the article, “Bob Jones University Embraces Franklin Graham’s Ecumenical Movement: HaveYou Finally Seen Enough?” click the following link: BJU Embraces Franklin Graham….
• Dr. Steve Pettit permits dress style, music, and entertainment of the world’s style. For the Artist Series of January 27, 2015, he brought in the music group, “Cantus,” which includes beer drinkers and known homosexuals.11
• The following letter was sent to me on 10-14-2021 from a concerned grandfather who has grandchildren at BJU:
In 2021, at Bob Jones University, the first of the fall semester’s artist series was conducted on October 7 in the FMA. The program was titled “Symphonic Hollywood: Featuring the Music of Lee Holdridge.” The guest conductor was Richard Kaufman. The featured selections were beautifully done, and each was announced by Kaufman, interspersed with lavish praise on BJU and its leadership. Kaufman mentioned his background which included his participation with a Los Angeles orchestra in which he played violin for the recording of music for “Animal House,” a raunchy R-rated movie. He expressed no regret for its production. On the contrary, he mentioned that his contribution helped launch his career as a conductor. Not once did he mention any conflict between Christian beliefs and the moral cesspool of Hollywood. Nor did he give any confirmation of Christian belief. Yet he gave the impression that a believer could function contentedly in such an environment. Toward the end of the program, Jay Matthews and another representative, on behalf of the University, awarded Kaufman with a certificate and plaque granting him lifetime membership as an honorary alumnus of BJU. In the program notes on Kaufman, the bio states that “his wife Gayle is a former dancer and actress in film, television, and on Broadway, and his daughter, Whitney, is a highly successful singer and actress.”
All of this conveys to BJU students that a vocation in the worldly Hollywood scene is perfectly acceptable and, indeed highly commendable. The artist series productions have in recent years included more Broadway-type productions, mingled with the brilliant work of such Christian artists as Dan Forrest. “Broadway” sums up the philosophy of the new Bob Jones University— broad and inclusive.
Students are not learning to distinguish the true from the false kinds of entertainment, evangelicalism, and life-styes. This is lamentable and tragic. There was a day when Bob Jones University could be trusted to instill in its students the virtues of a separated godly lifestyle. Now the University simply wants to “fit into” the culture, to accommodate and even imitate its behavior.
Believers identified with the SBC, PCA, OPC, etc. are lending credibility to false teachers and false gospels. The believer who willingly does such is living in sin. People all over the country know that BJU is Evangelical. It is old news. Evangelicals often say, “Identification is a non-essential.” That mindset constitutes the difference between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism! Indifference is dangerous! It is a path God forbids! “For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John verse 11). One’s personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ determines his church identification! “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (2 John vs. 8). We must never entangle the message of the gospel with man-made organizations and institutions that harbor false gospels.
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers…. After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also, of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:28–30).
Every moment of our lives, we are building our ministries upon either the foundation of gold, silver, and precious stones, or upon a foundation of wood, hay, and stubble. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:11–13). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:10–11a). “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” (First John 2:28). In Romans 1:1, Paul introduces himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.”
Charles H. Spurgeon promised his church, “That I might not stultify [invalidate] my testimony, I have cut myself clear of those who err from the faith, and even from those who associate with them. What more can I do to be honest with you?”12
Dr. Bob Jones Sr. so often cried, “Earnestly contend for the faith. Stand up and fight.”
David Beale (Enlarged 12-8-21)
David Beale taught courses on Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism for some thirty years at Bob Jones University and Seminary. He is a prolific writer and historian. Since Dr. Beale retired in 2010 he has taught and preached in schools and churches.
Originally Published December, 14 2021.
1) John Piper, Signs and Wonders: Then and Now.
2) Letter from a BJU leader to David Beale (2021).
4) Augustine, City of God, 6.26–27; Enchiridion: On Faith, Hope, and Love 43; cf. 93; Sermon 294; and On Forgiveness of Sins, and Baptism 1.27.
5) John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (4.15.1—22).
6) L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939), 632–42.
7) Letters from a recent graduate to David Beale (2021); see Paul M. Elliott, Christianity and Neo-Liberalism: The Spiritual Crisis in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Beyond (Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2005).
10) George Houghton, “Are Conservative Southern Baptists Fundamentalists?” Faith Pulpit, January/February 2004 at: https://faith.edu/faith-news/are-conservative-southern-baptists fundamentalists/; J. Gerald Harris, The Rise and Fall of the Conservative Resurgence: The Southern Baptist Convention: 1979-2021 (Taos, NM: Trust House, 2021); and David Beale, “SBC Today,” in Baptist History in England and America: Personalities, Positions, and Practices (Maitland, FL: Xulon Press, 2018), 581–83.
12) Charles H. Spurgeon, “No Compromise,” Sermon No. 2047, delivered on the Lord’s-Day morning, October 7, 1888.’https://indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com/2021/12/facts-enlarged-discussion-by-dr-david.html
‘Beth Moore has announced she has left the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) although she is “still a Baptist.” Not sure if that means she now identifies with the churches of the New Testament that were totally independent—self-propagating, self-governing, and self-supporting.
Moore was shocked that so many SBC pastors supported Donald Trump and was highly critical of him (as was I) and saw only his grossness, not his greatness. She was seriously offended at the Billy Bush recording (as I was) where Trump boasted about grabbing women sexually.
Moore could not see the good that resulted from Trump’s policies—numerous babies saved from abortion, Blacks and Hispanics lifted out of poverty, religious freedoms protected, a strong economy that helped everyone, massive tax cuts, oppressive regulations removed, a wall built to keep out undesirable illegal aliens, etc.
Maybe Beth is blind in one eye and has a thick cataract on the other. Whatever, she does not see clearly.
Moore was also rightly concerned about 400 sex abuse charges in more than 20 years against SBC pastors. Of course, Moore knows that the convention does not license or ordain men; only a local church has that authority, so just a local church can pull credentials. While that is true, nothing keeps SBC leaders from putting accused pastors on probation until their churches look into the charges and resolve the issue. If not resolved, the SBC can remove offending churches from membership.
Moreover, a charge against a pastor does not equal guilt, contrary to mainline feminist leaders. We are told that we must believe any accusation made by a woman. Of course, that is insane. While every charge must be taken seriously, the allegation must be admitted or proved to be true. If a pastor is found guilty, he should be jailed. If a woman is proved to be a false accuser, she should be jailed. While sexual assault seriously impacts a woman’s life, personality, health, and the rest of her life, so does an assault on a man’s reputation affect his job, finances, his relationship with his wife and children, and his future.
I demand Equal Rights and Equal Responsibility, and Equal Accountability.
While I don’t ever want to be considered soft on pastoral sexual assault, it must be remembered that there are 47,000 SBC churches in the U.S. While one case of sexual assault is too many, 400 cases in 20 years out of 47,000 pastors (and almost that many associates) is comparable to the ratios in other denominations and non-church groups.
SBC critics speak of offending pastors (accused pastors) being moved to other locations when charges are made public; however, the SBC cannot move pastors to other places. To move to another church is a decision made by a local church and a potential pastor. That charge against the SBC is not legitimate.
One of Moore’s major supporters (who wanted to nominate her to be President of the SBC), Pastor Dwight McKissic recently left his state convention declaring, “We Are Getting Off the Bus,” meaning he has pulled his church out of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Moreover, he will pull his church out of the national SBC if he does not like how things go at their national convention.
He has a right to choose with whom to associate as a person and as a pastor.
The President of the SBC, J.D. Greear, said in a statement that he hoped the news of Moore’s departure would cause the denomination to “lament,” pray and “rededicate itself to its core values.” But the SBC, as an entity, left SBC “core values” a long time ago. It is now concerned with critical race theory, feminism, and all progressive issues that makes vice president what’s-her-name Harris stand up and cheer.
The SBC, if not dead, is dying; and the vultures flying over their corporate headquarters in Nashville are indicative of that. (For the metaphor-deficient readers, that is a symbolic comment since Nashville doesn’t have vultures—that fly.) Frankly, it is not a natural death, since the SBC is committing suicide.
I have dealt elsewhere with the convention’s divisive issues in which the denominational leaders have almost always made the progressive but wrong decision. The trend toward an extreme Calvinist position, education at the expense of evangelism, promoting social justice warriors, progressivism over tradition, and female leadership are the reasons crepe will hang on their corporate doors. They are doing it to themselves.
Those are the reasons Beth and others should have left the SBC convention. She made the right decision for the wrong reason.
While all the above hot issues are taking their toll, one of the most divisive is the role of women in the group and in local churches, of which Beth Moore is their main spokeswoman. Of course, that is a decision for a local church to make.
Leftist pastors in the SBC have promoted the possibility of Beth Moore being elected to be President of the SBC! Dwight McKissic, the senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said, “If I thought Beth Moore would accept the nomination or be agreeable to being nominated,… I would nominate her for SBC president.”
He went on to say there was no Scripture to prohibit a female leader of the SBC since it is not a local church; however, there is the problem of having authority over men. He mentioned females who prophesied in the Bible, but that is not having authority over men. Moreover, to deny Beth or any woman a leadership position would be “sinful and shameful,” according to the good reverend.
Nevertheless, refusing Moore as president of the SBC would be Scriptural in my opinion.
Will the SBC make a break with its longstanding position of male leadership and thereby split the denomination? Probably so, and very soon. The SBC is complementarian. That is defined as “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” In opposition is egalitarianism, the unbiblical position that “men and women are equal in authority and responsibilities, including as pastors.”
A train wreck is about to happen.
As the late pastor Adrian Rogers wisely said, “As the West goes, so goes the world. As America goes, so goes the West. As Christianity goes, so goes America. As evangelicals go, so goes Christianity. As Southern Baptists go, so go evangelicals.”
If the SBC follows the path they are on and nominates any female, there will be a bloody battle on the convention floor resulting in the split heard around the world.
Beth Moore has already done her splitting—with more to follow. She made the right decision but for the wrong reason.’ http://donboys.cstnews.com/beth-moore-has-left-the-southern-baptist-convention-the-right-decision-but-the-wrong-reason
Bob Jones University was once looked upon as the flagship of fundamentalism. Well, how times change.
On March 7, 2020 the President of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International (FBFI) wrote that ‘Over the past few years changes have been occurring at Bob Jones University rather quickly. The FBFI has had a reputation of being in close kinship with BJU since the early 1970’s. Because of that we have received many questions about the changes at BJU in policy, speakers, and alignment. Those questions should be directed to BJU. We do not believe it would be ethical or edifying for us to try to answer such questions. We have no part in the decisions that are being made and we operate completely independent of BJU. Please be assured that the FBFI is completely committed to function under the same principles and values that we have always maintained as a fundamentalist, separatist, Baptist, dispensational, and Great Commission-focused fellowship. We are a fellowship of individuals and are not governed by any particular individual, church, educational institution, or parachurch organization. We have become convinced that organizing loyalty/fellowship groups around educational institutions is not wise (1 Corinthians 1:12-13). Fellowship should be based upon commonly held theology and practice rather than institutional loyalty.’ https://www.proclaimanddefend.org/2020/03/07/a-note-from-the-president/
Perhaps one of the reasons the President of the FBFI wrote the above is due to ‘The Board of Directors of The Master’s University and Seminary in Santa Clarita, California, today voted to name Dr. Sam Horn their 9th president, succeeding Dr. John Stead, effective in May or June 2020. Dr. Horn is the executive vice president for enrollment and ministerial advancement at Bob Jones University.
The Master’s University and Seminary is a non-denominational, conservative Christian liberal arts university and seminary with an enrollment of approximately 2,000, including seminary, graduate, undergraduate and online students.
Prior to joining the BJU administration, Horn served as a faculty member in BJU’s School of Religion and as the director of BJU’s Office of Extended Education. From 1996 to 2002, he served in various academic and administrative positions at Northland International University. In 2004 he became senior pastor of Brookside Baptist Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, and in 2011 accepted the presidency of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Plymouth, Minnesota.’ https://today.bju.edu/news/the-masters-university-and-seminary-appoints-dr-sam-horn-president/
People and organizations change but God and His Word do NOT!
Over thirty years ago Ernest Pickering wrote on page ten in his book BIBLICAL SEPARATION that ‘A new generation of separatists has arisen.’ He was certainly correct then and the same can be said with more emphasis today. As Kent Brandenburg writes: ‘Movements even by definition have what we might call a “shelf life.” Movements come and go. The church isn’t a movement. The question then remains, were the underlying principles of the movement true or right? Fundamentalism started as a response to and stand against pervading institutional liberalism. The attack on scripture and its authority first met by biblical defense led to a necessary practice of separation. Thus began regular controversies over the grounds of separation. Sermons were preached, conferences were held, new associations were organized, and books were written that attempted to draw lines and set boundaries for the protection and the propagation of the truth. The ones constituted by fundamentalism were not scriptural. They chose arbitrary lines that constantly shifted one way or another, so that when someone did separate, it often seemed just political.
Fundamentalism is known for separation. It marks fundamentalism. Scriptural separation is not so difficult to understand. The Bible lays out what, why, and how in and for separation. Fundamentalism separates, but never practiced biblical separation. For that reason, the history of fundamentalism is one of confused and distorted separation. When I have defended fundamentalism, it is because it does separate over right doctrine and practice. Separation preserved fundamentalism and its erosion will also end it.
Was the separation of fundamentalism ever right? Fundamentalism taught it. They punished those who didn’t comply. Should fundamentalists have separated from John MacArthur as they once did? Some are saying, No. What is the juxtaposition of Carey Schmidt and John MacArthur? That doesn’t make any sense, and probably more for MacArthur than BJU. I’m not going to keep asking questions. First Baptist in Hammond has never repented over the theology of Jack Hyles. When it keeps up his statue, it accepts the non repentance over the other well-documented things. There are just too many issues and situations here to either unwind, wind back up, put back in the bottle, or whatever metaphor works.
I actually see a circle in my mind. It goes like this. You tell me if I’m wrong. I’m going to start with Jack Hyles. Jack Hyles – John Wilkerson – Kevin Schaal – Wayne Van Gelderen – Paul Chappell – Carey Schmidt – Bob Jones – Steve Pettit – Sam Horn – John MacArthur – Matt Redman – Hillsong and Bethel Music.
I’m not talking about degrees of separation: first, second, third degree. I’m talking about how any of this could fit together. It shouldn’t. For the sake of biblical doctrine of practice, for the sake of God Himself, someone should say, No. At some point, someone can’t cast a blind eye. There’s actually more than what I’ve written here, but this is all bad for quality control. Someone needs to do some explaining. Let me explain just a little.
Bob Jones separates from John MacArthur and now it doesn’t. A step needs to be taken. If you don’t believe in separation from MacArthur, then explain that from the Bible. If you are Bob Jones and you still believe in separation, then explain why the change. Explain why you were wrong before and you are right now. If not, then it looks like your feeder churches aren’t feeding enough, and you are just making a pragmatic move to increase the potential feed. I could say the same thing for why the girls are now wearing tight blue jeans on campus. That was wrong too at one time, but now isn’t. People can remember these things.
There are a lot of differences between these various groups of people. Is anyone right in all this? I don’t believe any of them are right. Some are better than others, but all of them are wrong. Bob Jones and all of these others are being tested for the practice of the doctrine of separation. I would be interested in their explanation for how they are obeying the Bible in doing what they are doing.’ https://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/
If you have been following this blog you read what Dr Les Ollila, former president of Northland Baptist Bible College (NBBC), had written in 2010 seeking to explain the condition in which NBBC found itself after Dr. Matt Olson took over the presidency. Three years later, 2013, a former student of NBBC wrote this for The Gospel Coalition (TGC). This is the voice of one who moved from the NBBC ‘fundamentalism’ into the ‘evangelicalism’ found in the TGC.
‘Most readers of The Gospel Coalition probably aren’t familiar with the story of Northland International University. In fact, many readers of this blog have probably never heard of Northland at all. But for more than 50 years God has been doing some amazing things in northeastern Wisconsin at Northland Mission Camp, then Northland Baptist Bible College, and now at Northland International University.
As the camp ministry grew and a small Bible college launched on the property, the school had a decided emphasis on the proclamation of the gospel and servant leadership. Along with that, however, the college was also connected to the fundamentalist movement. This connection led to an uncompromising position on separation from the world in nearly every way and a strong stance against certain types of music and ministry. Not only did the school take strict positions on many of these less-than-clear issues, but it also drew strict lines of separation from those who did not. By the time I arrived on campus as a freshman in 1998, Northland was a pretty separated place. Most types of modern music were off limits, as were most movies, TV shows, and other popular media. In the classroom, we read books by authors like John Piper, R. C. Sproul, and John MacArthur, but they always came with a disclaimer. I spent my last two years on campus wrestling over the theological and exegetical foundations for these practices and felt like we needed to be somewhere more biblically and theologically robust. So in the summer of 2002, we packed up and moved to Minneapolis, where I started the apprenticeship program at Bethlehem Baptist Church. But I knew this move would lead to a separation from Northland. While I certainly maintained relationships with many on campus, I assumed that I would never be able to have close ties to my alma mater. There was much about Northland to love: a unique emphasis on servant leadership; a humble administration, faculty, and staff; a strong love for the Word of God; and a radical commitment to world missions. But it seemed like the strict separatism and all that went along with it would keep me, and many other alumni from my generation, from having close relationships with Northland. It was a fundamentalist school in every meaningful sense of the word, and none of us expected that to change.
But God was at work in ways many of us alumni never expected. The centrality of the gospel was taking deeper root at the school, and the results we have seen are encouraging. Over the course of three or four years, Northland underwent some important transformations, including receiving accreditation and changing some of the unnecessary rules. But more importantly, Northland became a place where the gospel is at the center, and rules and regulations are not. In a recent letter, outgoing Northland president Matt Olson listed some of the changes the school underwent in the last few years. He explained:
- Northland went from the exclusive use of the King James Version in the pulpit and classrooms to allowing other translations.
- Northland went from a demerit system to a discipleship platform for our students. Yes, we still have rules: we still confront, and we still have consequences. We just believe we have a better and more biblical model now. It is built on relationships. We are always looking for better ways to accomplish our mission.
- Northland went from practicing some forms of “secondary separation” to what we now understand to be a more biblical separation. Where we would not have had men like John MacArthur, Rick Holland, Ken Ham, Bruce Ware, or Mark Dever, we would now. We see no reason to separate from these men. We would consider them to be in the spirit of historic fundamentalism; they believe in the orthodox faith, will separate over it, and live godly lives.
- Northland went from only allowing “traditional” styles of music to accepting more modern styles as well. A blend of traditional and current music is used in our programs and chapel.
- We created an overarching name of Northland International University to give our students greater opportunities with the gospel worldwide. The change was driven by our passion to reach every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.
To many TGC readers, these changes might sound obvious. But at Northland, they reflect something deeper. They reflect the way the gospel, rightly applied, will eventually work itself out at the institutional level. While some of the parallels break down, Michael Horton’s explanation of semper reformanda was applied at Northland: “It is not because the culture is always changing and we need to be up with the times, but because we are always in need of being re-oriented to the Word that stands over us, individually and collectively, that the church can never stand still.” In the same way, an institution must always be re-orienting itself to the Word and asking whether its practices and policies could reflect greater fidelity to the Word of God. And when this practice is taken seriously, great things can happen.
Now there is more hope for Northland than ever. Along with a renewed emphasis on the centrality of the gospel, the school is still committed to a unique emphasis on humble, servant leadership; strong love for the Word of God; and radical giving to world missions (in a 2009 survey, 44 percent of the student body planned to serve overseas). So Northland is worth knowing about and praying for. Especially now. The school is facing some significant challenges in the coming months. In just a few weeks, Olson will be moving on from his role as president of the school. Also, it is no secret that most Christian colleges live and die by their constituencies, and making changes means alienating some of those constituents.
I don’t pretend to speak for Northland. I have recently re-connected with some of the leaders at the school and teach an occasional course for their distance program. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything the school says and does. But I have seen the way a re-centering in the gospel can transform a school, and for that I praise God.
Some of my fellow Northland alumni are upset because the school did not change fast enough or pursue change in the way they would have done it. Others are upset because they thought nothing should change. Ever. Still others are upset because of Olson’s departure on the heels of many of these changes. To those alumni and friends, I would simply ask that you to grant the same grace to the institution that you would to a fellow Christian who is growing in grace. We will all make mistakes, and we all have room for growth. We can all learn from the example of an institution that is willing to further submit itself to God’s Word—in spite of the criticism and challenges these changes will bring. So pray for Northland as it searches for a new president and be praying about God’s continued work there, knowing that when the gospel moves to the center, amazing things can happen to an individual, a church, and even a fundamentalist school.’ https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/can-god-save-a-fundamentalist-school/
In Part One Dr. David Nettleton was quoted saying ‘Today we are choosing between two alternatives: A LIMITED MESSAGE OR A LIMITED FELLOWSHIP. If we preach all of the Bible truths, there are many places where we will never be invited. If we join hands with the crowd, there will be the limiting of the message of the Bible.’
The doctrine of separation and especially that separation from other Christian believers is almost an anathema today. The thought of separating from another Christian conjures up all sort of thoughts and questions. Who do you think you are? Where’s your love? What about grace?
Nevertheless, separation is a necessity in the Christian life. As Dr. Earnest Pickering wrote in BIBLICAL SEPARATION page 106 ‘Separation requires severance from that which is wrong.’ Around 57 A.D. Paul wrote in 2Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
A year later Paul wrote Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
These passages along with many others tell us there is a difference, or should be, in the life of a believer from what they were before salvation. So, what are we to do with professing believers that seek to mix the world with the church and the believer’s life? One would have to be a blind Freddy not see how much influence the world has on Christians. This worldly influence has reached into the theology of Puritan piety. Today, there is a resurgence of Calvinist teaching which was the teaching of the Puritans which included holy living. However, according to Dr. Peter Masters this resurgent Calvinism is not the Puritan Calvinism of old especially in its matter of sanctification. This New Calvinism is the foundation theology in two fairly new organizations, The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. Now, I am not defending Calvin or the teaching that has taken his name but it is well worth reading what Dr. Peter Masters, pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London has to say on this issue of New Calvinism. He writes,
‘A new form of Calvinism took the shape of a movement from about 2005, but it differed from the original in its acceptance of ‘the world’. This critique written in 2009 was sharply attacked by new Calvinistic preachers but strongly endorsed by conservative preachers worldwide.
When I was a youngster and newly saved, it seemed as if the chief goal of all zealous Christians, whether Calvinistic or Arminian, was consecration. Sermons, books and conferences stressed this in the spirit of Romans 12.1-2, where the beseeching apostle calls believers to present their bodies a living sacrifice, and not to be conformed to this world. The heart was challenged and stirred. Christ was to be Lord of one’s life, and self must be surrendered on the altar of service for him.
But now, it appears, there is a new Calvinism, with new Calvinists, which has swept the old objectives aside. A recent book, Young, Restless, Reformed, by Collin Hansen tells the story of how a so-called Calvinistic resurgence has captured the imaginations of thousands of young people in the USA, and this book has been reviewed with great enthusiasm in well-known magazines in the UK, such as Banner of Truth, Evangelical Times, and Reformation Today.
This writer, however, was very deeply saddened to read it, because it describes the New Calvinism as a seriously distorted Calvinism falling far, far short of an authentic life of obedience to a sovereign God. If this kind of Calvinism prospers, then genuine biblical piety will be under attack as never before.
The author of the book is a young man (around 26 when he wrote it) who grew up in a Christian family and trained in secular journalism. We are indebted to him for the readable and wide-reaching survey he gives of this new phenomenon, but the scene is certainly not a happy one.
The author begins by describing the Passion, conference at Atlanta in 2007, where 21,000 young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments. And this picture is repeated many times through the book – large conferences being described at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine. This gives a clear picture of what New Calvinism is about.
We are told of thunderous music, thousands of raised hands, ‘Christian’ hip-hop and rap lyrics (the examples seeming inept and awkward in construction) uniting the doctrines of grace with the immoral drug-induced musical forms of worldly culture.
Collin Hansen contends that American Calvinism collapsed at the end of the nineteenth century and was maintained by only a handful of people until this great youth revival, but his historical scenario is, frankly, preposterous. As one who regularly visited American seminaries to speak from the early 1970s, I constantly met many preachers and students who loved the doctrines of grace, preaching also in churches of solid Calvinistic persuasion. But firmer evidence of the extensive presence of Calvinism is seen from the fact that very large firms of publishers sent out a stream of reformed literature post-war and through the 1980s. The mighty Eerdmans was solidly reformed in times past, not to mention Baker Book House, and Kregel and others. Where did all these books go – thousands upon thousands of them, including frequently reprinted sets of Calvin’s commentaries and a host of other classic works?
In the 1970s and 80s there were also smaller Calvinistic publishers in the USA, and at that time the phenomenon of Calvinistic discount Christian bookshops began, with bulging catalogue lists and a considerable following. The claim that Calvinism virtually disappeared is hopelessly mistaken.
Indeed, a far better quality Calvinism still flourishes in very many churches, where souls are won and lives sanctified, and where Truth and practice are both under the rule of Scripture. Such churches have no sympathy at all with reporter Collin Hansen’s worldly-worship variety, who seek to build churches using exactly the same entertainment methods as most charismatics and the Arminian Calvary Chapel movement.
The new Calvinists constantly extol the Puritans, but they do not want to worship or live as they did. One of the vaunted new conferences is called Resolved, after Jonathan Edwards’ famous youthful Resolutions (seventy searching undertakings). But the culture of this conference would unquestionably have met with the outright condemnation of that great theologian.
Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff, gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers.)
In times of disobedience the Jews of old syncretised by going to the Temple or the synagogue on the sabbath, and to idol temples on weekdays, but the new Calvinism has found a way of uniting spiritually incompatible things at the same time, in the same meeting.
C J Mahaney is a preacher highly applauded in this book. Charismatic in belief and practice, he appears to be wholly accepted by the other big names who feature at the ‘new Calvinist’ conferences, such as John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler. Evidently an extremely personable, friendly man, C J Mahaney is the founder of a group of churches blending Calvinism with charismatic ideas, and is reputed to have influenced many Calvinists to throw aside cessationist views.
It was a protégé of this preacher named Joshua Harris who started the New Attitude conference for young people. We learn that when a secular rapper named Curtis Allen was converted, his new-born Christian instinct led him to give up his past life and his singing style. But Pastor Joshua Harris evidently persuaded him not to, so that he could sing for the Lord. The New Calvinism movement or The New Calvinists do not hesitate to override the instinctual Christian conscience, counselling people to become friends of the world.
One of the mega-churches admired in the book is the six-thousand strong Mars Hill Church at Seattle, founded and pastored by Mark Driscoll, who blends emerging church ideas (that Christians should utilise worldly culture) with Calvinistic theology [see endnote 1].
This preacher is also much admired by some reformed men in the UK, but his church has been described (by a sympathiser) as having the most ear-splitting music of any, and he has been rebuked by other preachers for the use of very ‘edgy’ language and gravely improper humour (even on television). He is to be seen in videos preaching in a Jesus t-shirt, symbolising the new compromise with culture, while at the same time propounding Calvinistic teaching. So much for the embracing of Puritan doctrine divested of Puritan lifestyle and worship.
Most of the well-known preachers who promote and encourage this ‘revival’ of Calvinism (or New Calvinism) have in common the following positions that contradict a genuine Calvinistic (or Puritan) outlook:
- They have no problem with contemporary charismatic-ethos worship, including extreme, heavy-metal forms.
- They are soft on separation from worldliness [see endnote 2].
- They reject the concern for the personal guidance of God in the major decisions of Christians (true sovereignty), thereby striking a death-blow to wholehearted consecration.
- They hold anti-fourth-commandment views, taking a low view of the Lord’s Day, and so inflicting another blow at a consecrated lifestyle.
Whatever their strengths and achievements (and some of them are brilliant men by any human standard), or whatever their theoretical Calvinism, the poor stand of these preachers on these crucial issues will only encourage a fatally flawed version of Calvinism that will lead people to be increasingly wedded to the world, and to a self-seeking lifestyle. Truly proclaimed, the sovereignty of God must include consecration, reverence, sincere obedience to his will, and separation from the world, and the New Calvinism has very little of that.
You cannot have Puritan soteriology without Puritan sanctification. You should not entice people to Calvinistic (or any) preaching by using worldly bait. We hope that young people in this movement will grasp the implications of the doctrines better than their teachers, and come away from the compromises. But there is a looming disaster in promoting this new form of Calvinism (also known as The New Calvinism).
Why do some British Christians who hold the doctrines of grace give enthusiastic reviews to a book like this? There have been times in the past when large numbers of young people have suddenly become intellectually enthusiastic about solid Christian doctrine, only to abandon it almost as quickly. One thinks of the tremendous response the unique oratory of Francis Schaeffer secured on university campuses in the 1960s, and no doubt some young people were truly saved and established, but very many more turned aside. Gripped by the superiority of a biblical worldview, they momentarily despised the illogical, flaccid ideas of this world, but the impression in numerous cases was natural rather than spiritual. The present new, heady Calvinism, shorn of practical obedience will certainly prove to be ephemeral, leaving the cause compromised and scarred.
Has the New Calvinism come to Britain yet? Alas, yes; one only has to look at the ‘blogs’ of some younger reformed pastors who put themselves forward as mentors and advisers of others. When you look at their ‘favourite films’, and ‘favourite music’ you find them unashamedly naming the leading groups, tracks and entertainment of debased culture, and it is clear that the world is still in their hearts. Years ago, such brethren would not have been baptised until they were clear of the world, but now you can go to seminary, no questions asked, and take up a pastorate, with unfought and unsurrendered idols in the throne room of your life. What hope is there for churches that have under-shepherds whose loyalties are so divided and distorted?
Aside from pastors, we know some ‘new’ young Calvinists who will never settle in a dedicated, working church, because their views live only in their heads and not their hearts. We know of some whose lives are not clean. We know of others who go clubbing. The greater their doctrinal prowess, the greater their hypocrisy.
These are harsh words, but they lead me to say that where biblical, evangelical Calvinism shapes conduct, and especially worship, it is a very humbling, beautiful system of Truth, but where it is confined to the head, it inflates pride and self-determination.
The new Calvinism is not a resurgence but an entirely novel formula which strips the doctrine of its historic practice, and unites it with the world.
Why have the leading preachers servicing this movement compromised so readily? They have not been threatened by a Soviet regime. No one has held a gun to their heads. This is a shameful capitulation, and we must earnestly pray that what they have encouraged will not take over Calvinism and ruin a generation of reachable Christian young people.
A final sad spectacle reported with enthusiasm in the book is the Together for the Gospel conference, running from 2006. A more adult affair convened by respected Calvinists, this nevertheless brings together cessationists and non-cessationists, traditional and contemporary worship exponents, and while maintaining sound preaching, it conditions all who attend to relax on these controversial matters, and learn to accept every point of view. In other words, the ministry of warning is killed off, so that every -error of the new scene may race ahead unchecked. These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety.
True Calvinism and worldliness are opposites. Preparation of heart is needed if we would search the wonders and plumb the depths of sovereign grace. We find it in the challenging, convicting call of Joshua:
‘Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ https://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Christian-Article/New-Calvinism-Merger-of-Calvinism-and-Worldliness/Sword-and-Trowel-Magazine
The Bible has not changed but Christianity has! Nevertheless, believers are still to come out and be separate from the world and not to be conformed to this world!
In 1974 I graduated from Faith Baptist Bible College and Seminary, Ankeny, IA. Dr. David Nettleton was President and the school was in its hay day with over 500 students enrolled. Dr. Nettleton wrote a pamphlet in 1955 entitled A LIMITED MESSAGE OR A LIMITED FELLOWSHIP which is still very applicable for today. He wrote ‘I was brought up as a Presbyterian. I was saved at a college that was interdenominational in student body but was managed by the Church of the Brethren. From there I went to a seminary that was not a denominational school, and from there to another seminary that was United Presbyterian. I entered the Baptist pastorate with no Baptist training except that which came from reading the Scriptures.
A few years later I was drawn into an interdenominational youth movement and was given the leadership of a local Saturday night rally. I cooperated with any who were evangelical, regardless of their associations. I was advised by top leaders in the movement to seek the names of outstanding modernists for my advisory committee. I didn’t do that. But I did follow advice that led me to send all converts back to the churches of their choice, churches I knew to be liberal in some cases. This greatly troubled my conscience, and I prayed and thought about it.
Another problem connected with this work was the failure on my part to instruct any converts on the matter of Christian baptism, which in the Scriptures is the first test of obedience. I felt that I should do this inasmuch as Peter and Paul did it. But how could it be done when on the committee of the work there were close friends who did not believe it? By such an association, I had definitely stripped my message and my ministry of important Bible truths that many called “nonessentials.” In the follow-up work it was not convenient to speak of eternal security in the presence of Christian workers who hated the name of the doctrine. Thus the ministry was pared down to the gospel, just as if there were nothing in the Great Commission about baptizing converts and indoctrinating them. I had found the least common denominator and I was staying by it. But my conscience had no rest. Then it was that Acts 20:27 came to mean something to me.
The great apostle had never allowed himself to be drawn into anything that would limit his message. He could say with a clean conscience, “I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Why cannot many say that today? In my case, and in many other cases, it was due to a desire to reach a larger audience and to work with a larger group of Christians. Many have been carried away from full obedience by a noble-sounding motto that has been applied to Christian work: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity.” Some things are not essential to salvation but are essential to full obedience, and the Christian has no liberty under God to sort out the Scriptures into essentials and non-essentials! It is our duty to declare the whole counsel of God and to do it wherever we are.
Paul had a wonderfully balanced ministry. In his preaching he would never please men, for he knew he could not be pleasing to God if he tried to please men. Yet in his living he testified, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 1:33). What a happy balance this is in the ministry! It is true, humble, and wholesome.
Today we are choosing between two alternatives: A LIMITED MESSAGE OR A LIMITED FELLOWSHIP. If we preach all of the Bible truths, there are many places where we will never be invited. If we join hands with the crowd, there will be the limiting of the message of the Bible. Bear this in mind—it is the Baptist who lays aside the most! It is the Baptist who makes the concessions! Think this through and you will find it to be true. We believe in believer’s baptism. We believe in separation. We preach eternal security. We believe in the imminent coming of Christ. We consider it an act of obedience to reprove unbelief in religious circles. The Sadducee and the Pharisee are to be labeled. But according to a present philosophy, we must lay these things aside for the sake of a larger sphere of service.
Which is more important: full obedience or a larger sphere of service? And yet I do not fully believe these are the only two alternatives. It is our first duty to be fully obedient to God in all things, and then to wait upon Him for the places of service. It may be that we will be limited, and it may be that we will not. Charles Haddon Spurgeon did not travel as widely as some men of his day, but his sermons have traveled as far as the sermons of most men.
I have recently read a religious article by a great evangelist. He deplores the moral conditions in America. He deplores the conditions in our schools. He speaks against the liquor traffic and against juvenile delinquency. But nothing is said against America’s greatest enemy—THE MODERN UNBELIEF THAT GOES FORTH FROM SUPPOSEDLY CHRISTIAN CHURCHES. The strength of the nation lies in its love of God. That love has grown cold in many churches, and Jesus Christ our Lord is called an illegitimate child, a confused young man, and a dead teacher. That kind of thing needs to be rebuked at the cost of reputation and even at the cost of life, if need be. But as soon as it is rebuked, the man who rebukes it will lose the majority of his following, if he is gaining that following through cooperation with modernistic churches.
It is my belief that some of our great evangelists today are thorough Bible-believing Christians. They accept nearly every truth in the Book. It seems they refrain from preaching all the counsel of God for one reason. To them, it is important to reach farther even if we reach with a smaller message.
The breach within so-called Protestantism today is as great as the breach between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. We need to make this fact known. But every time we promote the inclusive type of ministry we are covering up a fact that needs to be known. God has given us a great message to preach. It contains the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, but it is not limited to that gospel. He has commissioned us to preach the gospel, baptize our converts, and indoctrinate them (Matthew 28:19, 20).
He has given us the very best system of follow-up work, which is the building of Bible-believing churches and joining converts to them. He is calling us to loyalty and obedience.
We need no new message. We need no new method. We need only the spirit of obedience found in Paul when he testified, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel for God.” https://baptistbulletin.org/the-baptist-bulletin-magazine/a-limited-message-or-a-limited-fellowship-2/
This is the first of several articles to follow.