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Contending for the Faith

I know in advance that what I write today will not be popular, but the trumpet must be sounded to a renewed stance of separation from error. A few years ago I attended a Promise Keepers conference for the first time. My Baptist brethren had debated whether or not PK was over the edge on their ecumenical philosophy so I reluctantly went, expecting an ear full of talk about breaking down denominational walls. My first year at PK went surprisingly well and the messages seemed well balanced. Over the next year, I learned more about the doctrinal identity of the speakers and decided to give it another try. My second experience at a PK conference would be my last.

The first three messages called men to be godly leaders – a message I wholeheartedly endorse. The last three messages were calls to break down the doctrinal barriers that divide us. The conference closed with an invitation to all Pastors present to come to the altar, hug each other, and apologize for wanting “our denomination” to be the one to bring revival in America. How pompous, how arrogant of us to desire that a truth-teaching body of believers usher in a new wave of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment.

This call to abandon doctrinal rigidness seems to be the spirit of Christianity in our age. Consider this excerpt from a recent daily devotional by Michael Craven…

Don’t misunderstand me, I think doctrine is profoundly important but I pray that
I do not violate the unity of the Body by being more committed to my own
doctrinal convictions than I am to the fellowship of believers and the Lordship
of Jesus Christ. Again, such a position assumes that “my” doctrinal convictions
are true absolutely. (Crosswalk.com’s “Live It” devotional, June 7, 2006)

Notice the common assumption that “the body of Christ” is this foggy, universal collection of all believers of all denominations and all doctrinal persuasions. Scripture speaks of a church that may be organized with ordinances and officers, not an invisible and universal assortment of all who call themselves Christians.

Also notice the equating of “the fellowship of believers” and “the Lordship of Christ” as being together more imporant than “my own doctrinal convictions.” Craven’s order is definitely contrary to Scripture. It is the Lordship of Jesus Christ that determines our doctrinal convictions, which in turn determines the boundaries of our fellowship with other believers.

Finally, notice Craven’s unwillingness to say that his own doctrinal convictions are true absolutely. Allow me to think critically here and assert that Christianity today is guilty of a doctrinal relativism akin to that of the postmodern culture’s philosophy concerning truth. I assume that my specific doctrinal convictions are true absolutely, such as the eternal security of the believer, the nature of the church as a local body, etc. If I felt they were not true absolutely, I would abandon them.

Mr. Craven, I’m sure, is a godly individual and I would never question his heart for Jesus. But I’m concerned with the proliferation of ecumenicalism, theological and doctrinal relativism, and the emphasis on supposed “unity” and “harmony” at the expense of the truth.

In an age of compromise and resulting apostasy, Jude declared that believers should “earnestly content for the faith which was once delievered unto the saints.” The problem with modern ecumenical Christianity is that we’ve lost our fight. The loose and liberal world in which we live doesn’t like our rigid standards, so we’ve accomodated and compromised in the name of our evangelistic witness. But if we aren’t careful, we’ll lose our saltiness, they very key to permeating the world with the gospel.

I believe in getting along, striving for unity, and strengthening the body of Christ (which is a local institution). But I believe that God’s truth demands vindication in an age of error and I’ll not apologize for standing for my own doctrinal convictions. Let’s recover the early church’s zeal for knowledge and truth, and defend our multi-faceted gospel at all costs.

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  • http://www.battlefortruth.org S. Michael Craven

    Dear Brandon,

    I urge you to avoid painting your fellow believers with such a broad and condemning brush. Given that I hold to Reformed theology (historic orthodoxy) with strong convictions; you grossly misrepresent my statements as well as my theology. While I do hold to Reformed theology–which is arguably more orthodox and more thoughtful than that found among the average southern baptist today–I also realize that I am a sinner, thus my intellect and reason are also affected by this sin and echoing the apostle Paul, I now see through a glass darkly. As a Southern Baptist it is likely that you and I might not agree with every point of doctrine: paedo-baptism as an example and yet I would not condemn you. I would be willing to listen to your position, enjoy fellowship, being open to my fellow Christians as I work out my own salvation. We might simply disagree on this particular point of doctrine. So, to suggest that this type of charity (cf. 1 Cor. 13) makes me a postmodern relativist in search of some wishy-washy, 1960s type ecumenism is at best uncharitable and at worst divisive to the Body.

    Regards,
    Michael

    • Brandon

      Michael, thanks for sounding off here on the post – I do appreciate you clarifying your orthodox position. I don’t intend to be divisive or uncharitable. Since it’s been three years since I wrote this post, I had to read over my words again. Having done so, I still stand by all that I affirmed. If I’ve made a mistake here, it’s in quoting your devotional out of context. For that, I apologize. I think if you and I were to meet face-to-face and discuss this very topic, we’d actually be much closer than you might think. I even think that you’d agree with me that in much of modern Christianity, there is a likeness to the moral relativism of the culture around us. I simply apologize for categorizing you as such.

      Having clicked through to your site and seeing only a description of your book, it’s obvious I did not do enough research three years ago. I also think your comments and our conversation here may well form the framework for a kind of self-rebuttal post. I would actually appreciate reading your book soon. It does appear to be a good one… judging by its cover.

      I sincerely hope that you’ll receive my apology and that we might even connect somehow, some time. Your comments are a reminder that we are never really allowed the privilege of saying, “but I wrote that three years ago.” We always own the words we’ve printed for the world to read. If nothing else, let me close with a challenge to others to do better research than I have done before quoting someone in a public rebuttal. My hat’s off to you!