Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Part 2.

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
(1Tim 3:2-6)

Maybe in this segment I can get to the point....

All that KJO stuff previous was born out of a recent experience with a young pastor who is of the KJO persuasion and took great umbrage because of a quote I posted elsewhere--a 1954 statement by A.W. Tozer wherein Tozer decried the decline of fundamentalism into (even then) shallow, worldly, man-centered religion.

This young fellow's problem is that he has been taught that fundamentalism = the belief that the King James Version is "the" Word of God; that short haircuts on men, dresses on women, and attendance to every church service are Biblical mandates, even indicators of salvation.

That's why I get in trouble when I describe myself as a "fundamentalist"--because I mean none of that by the word. Before the 60's or whenever the co-optation of the word took place, "fundamentalist" meant simply and clearly "an adherent to the fundamentals of the faith." Those fundamentals were defined with some variation but more or less agreed-upon to mean:
1. The inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture. 2. The virgin birth and Deity of Christ. 3. The vicarious, substitutionary, and penal death of Christ. 4. The bodily resurrection of Christ. 5. The imminent return of Christ.

From thinking about this fellow, who is pastor of a small Baptist church, my thoughts expanded to include all the young preachers I have come across in the past 30 years--including myself, for I was young once. Very few of the men I am thinking of are scripturally qualified to be pastors (elders, bishops). They are novices! My experience is limited to the Baptist world, either independent Baptist, or Southern Baptist, and in a small corner of the world, but this is what I've seen. Men are routinely "ordained" to the Gospel ministry based upon their profession of a calling from God followed by an examination conducted on a local level, by other pastors, many of whom themselves might be poorly qualified.

What we end up with is churches, especially the smaller, "country" churches, pastored by novices who lack:

1.) Emotional maturity simply because of their age and lack of life experiences.

2.) Any education or training whatsoever (who lean heavily on "Ye have no need that any man teach you..." while clearly lacking the "anointing" referred to in the same passage)

3.) At best, or perhaps "worst" some of them have been trained--at Dr Billy Bob's Bible School and Flea Market--where they were indoctrinated into the particular cultic mindset of whatever sub-set of "fundamentalism" they belong to.

I speak from experience, too, having qualified in all three of those categories at the time I was "ordained" by a local SBC church: NOVICE: saved only 2 years. NOVICE: no education or training of a theological nature. NOVICE: under the influence of the KJO, neo-fundamentalist world I lived in as a new convert.

Part of the problem here is that there are way too many local churches and too few qualified pastors. The county where I live has about 28 churches in the local association. There are usually 5 or 6 open pulpits--mostly little 20-60 member congregations (some even smaller) who can barely pay a man gas money for driving out there and holding one service a week. They have no teaching ministry ("Sunday Schools" are a travesty), no outreach, no witness, most are just kept alive by tradition and family sentiment (Grandad is buried out back....). I have preached in several of these, just filling in on a Sunday morning. I have been offered pulpits in nearly every one....after one appearance......with no questions asked apart from "would you be our pastor?" The idea of qualifying a man to be the episkopos based on his ability to walk into a building, speak for 40 minutes without slobbering too much, and having a firm handshake, prevails in too many such situations.

I heard this story (not directly from Paul) that Paul Washer preached in a pastor-less church one evening, first time ever in the town, and after the service was approached by the leadership who offered him the pastorate! Just like that......! Now, he's an impressive preacher, to be sure, but his reaction was right on: What? You don't KNOW have no idea who I am, how I treat my family, how I live my life.....and you offer me your pastorate?

Exactly. This passage of scripture carries no weight with entirely too many churches. because they are desperate, they are frustrated, and they are like ships without a rudder. They have no internal leadership to carry on when there is no pastor. Of course, this is another strong argument for plurality of elders but that's for another time.

Compounding the problem that these hundreds and thousands of churches, especially small congregations are "led" by novices is something even more disturbing to me. In recent years, mostly in the "internet phase" of my life, where I have been in contact with many more "pastors" than would be possible for me to do "face-to-face," I have found a level of carnality among these men which is astounding. In this internet world, the filthy mouth, the trivialization of the things of God, the preoccupation with things of this world (sports, money, sexual things, etc) demonstrated by self-styled "men of God" is absolutely mind-boggling. And, I'm not hanging around with unitarian-universalists or liberal Methodists...I'm talking about "fundamentalists".

We're all sinners. I am aware of my own fleshly inclinations, so I'm not talking about the occasional slip and stumble; I'm talking about a lifestyle of worldly preoccupation, behaviors, and attitudes. Much is written these days about the problem of the local churches being populated by an unregenerate membership. Real problem. A product of the decisional regeneration heresy, superficial "evangelism" and psycho-babble preaching of the self-esteem mantras.

Now I'm beginning to suspect an even more disturbing aspect of this situation: unregenerate pastors. It would not be illogical for these novice preachers, those who perpetuate the easy-believism heresy and the morphing of fundamentalism into a system of outward appearances, for them to be deceived even about their own salvation. When they are teaching others that one's salvation depends upon "saying the prayer" and "walking the aisle" why should we not wonder if they have fallen for the Lie? J.C. Ryle said it succinctly: Where there is no holiness, there is no Holy Ghost.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Part 1

Today, August 3, 2008, I went to church carrying my Bible.

Zowie, that's a hot item, huh?

It really is because that Bible was an ESV (English Standard Version). I did it without thinking, because we missed Bible study and were going just to the preaching service, I decided to leave behind the large, heavy Key Word Study Bible (KJV) which I usually carry to our Small Groups class. This event marked the first time in the 32 years I've been going to church that I did not carry a King James Version.

That should say something.......and I've been trying to figure out just what it says. It's not a landmark because I've been using other translations for years--mostly ASV and NKJV--for study and comparison; and have unhesitatingly referred to Greek and Hebrew texts and commentaries like Keil and Delitzsch and Robertson's Word Studies. Maybe what it says is that old habits die slowly.

When God saved me, He used the witness of some fellows who were members of an Independent Baptist church of the most extreme sort, and one decidedly King James ONLY. Though we lasted in that atmosphere only a few years because of our discomfort (and worse) concerning various practices and teachings, the King James stuck with me. It probably took 20 years for me to get over the KJO brainwashing I had been subjected to. I remember my wife taking up with an ASV (American Standard Version) at some point and making a serious effort to dissuade her from using it. (She still uses it.)

Furthermore, I always liked the KJV, and still like it. For my own reading it's fine; I love the Jacobean language and am comfortable with it (probably related to my love of Elizabethan literature). All the scripture I have memorized is from the KJV. I never make any effort to memorize ESV or NASB. At the same time, I am aware of the various weak spots in the translation and correct them in teaching or preaching without the slightest twinge of guilt--an act which is directly contrary to my KJO indoctrination.

For the past few years, since I have been preaching in prisons, I frequently intersperse readings from the ESV where the archaic language of the KJV is just too much to cope with, especially for a group of men whose average education is on the 3rd grade level. One can take the time to translate the occasional archaism when reading from the KJV, but some entire passages are replete with words which cause my listeners to go "Huh?"

The KJO world is still out there; it's small but it's loud and it's impenetrable to reason and logic. And, it's sad to see people so wrapped up in a totally baseless "philosophy" which is, in fact, idolatrous. Though it might sound to some as if I'm making this up for the purpose of mockery, I assure you this is true and not unique, though maybe not a majority view in the KJO world: I have heard it taught (condensed version here): Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1); the Bible (KJV or course) is the Word of God; therefore, the Bible = Jesus. We are carrying Him around with us. We worship the Bible (Jesus).

So, it's hard to get along very far with KJO folks if you're not one of them. I started working as a volunteer with a prison ministry which is KJO. It's a great ministry with fine, Godly men serving therein. I had no problem because I always used my KJV (which is just how I am; I didn't do it just for their benefit; I always preach from the KJV) I was compromising to some degree in that I knew better than to "correct" the KJV in any way, whereas I might have so done in another setting. I finally got convicted about my duplicity and have forsaken the work. It's interesting though, looking back. My "calvinist" preaching never bothered anyone; but if I had "corrected" the KJV or quoted my ESV, I'd have been jerked out of the pulpit in a heartbeat.

(to be continued)