Reformed Baptist Fellowship

On the Right Hand and the Left!

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on May 10, 2008 at 2:38 pm

In recent posts and comments on this blog, it is evident that many Reformed Baptists are seeing the need to look for what is best in our brethren who differ from us on certain secondary issues.   In our attempts to avoid an unkind judgmental attitude and an ecclesiastical pride, we must nonetheless hold fast to truth and judge righteous judgment.   I would argue that the fundamental issue of being truly faithful is not the doctrines of grace, and that the primary token of God’s favor and blessing is not outward success.

There are a growing number of men who embrace the doctrines of grace and who are successful (in terms of growing churches and indeed conversions) who nonetheless convey these precious truths in ways that are disturbing in their content and tone.  When these preachers and teachers invoke sexually crude and worldly humor into their sermons, we cannot bring ourselves to be horrified, because after all, they preach the doctrines of  grace and have a lot of people going to their churches (more than you do, pal!).   I have heard this type of ministry defended by using the analogy of Martin Luther hammering the 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg.  Luther, it is said, held the theses with his left hand and hammered with his right-we ought to be more concerned with the left hand of truth, than with the right hand which drives it.

My question for us to ponder, my friends, is this: Is the right hand which drives truth truly a matter of indifference or at least of lesser importance than the truth which is declared?   A careful study of the ministry of the Apostle Paul will show that it was his manner of  life and his manner of  delivering truth, as much as the truth itself that was of great importance.  He writes to the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6 “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.  And you became followers of us and of the Lord…”

He could say to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10 “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance.”  In urging Titus to have a faithful ministry in regard to content, he also exhorted him to back it up with his manner of  life,  Titus 2:7-8 ,   “In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility,   sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.”

Brothers, let us rejoice when Christ is preached, when sinners are converted, and when truth is propagated, but let us also drive in that truth with reverent hands and the hammer of a life integrity!

Jim Savastio

  1. I have heard some very crude remarks by Driscoll. He has a potty mouth and does not help me in my efforts in sanctification.

  2. Jim,

    Good post. I just finished reading Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformissional Rev. I appreciated his candor and willingness to admit mistakes. I also appreciated his attempt to remain doctrinal sound and run the heretics out of his church. Moreover, I like his emphasis upon a local church vision that is missional in nature. Nevertheless, I think he undermines the effectiveness of his message and, perhaps unintentionally, cheapens the gospel message by his overuse of R-rated language in which to communicate it. Of course, there may be rare occasions when a crude word may serve a righteous cause. John Piper’s reference to the “health, wealth and prosperity gospel” as a “bunch of crap” is both accurate and effective in communicating the extreme detestation Christians should feel towards a perverted gospel. Yet, it seems to me that such language should be reserved for the proper occasions and directed towards matters of eternal life or death in order to awaken both the heretic and God’s people to the gravity of serious error (Phil. 3:2).

  3. Well said!

    Though we are certainly all sinners and slip from time to time, we would be wise to remember on whom our less than perfect presentation reflects. It may reflect poorly upon us, but we are of lesser consequence and it is a given that we will continue to stumble as we work through our new life. But it also potentially reflects upon our Lord. In light of His merciful extension of His grace to us, that one would through deliberate behaviour reflect badly upon Him, should be something that is avoided. IMO, the sort of behavior you are eluding to reflects poorly upon our Lord, is of the world, and is inappropriate and seriously misguided.

  4. Excellent post. A quick thought or question: how does this same mentality hold when dealing with Reformed brothers who hold to infant baptism? If one (rightly I might add) corrects Mark Driscoll for teaching the right doctrines the wrong way, how do we approach those who teach with seriousness and sobriety and yet baptize infants in opposition to Biblical commands? It has been a topic of some controversy especially in the weeks following T4G and it seems applicable here. I have been struggling with the proper response to the errors of paedobaptism.

  5. Arthur,

    You may believe that paedobaptism is an error, but you’ve got to deal with the theological arguments of paedobaptists. We can bear with the minor theological errors of other brethren.

    However, Driscoll and others who support him have little theological argument for using foul language from the pulpit. The ends doesn’t justify the means in Christianity. I’m distressed by the direction of the ACTS 29 network. There is a church in a nearby town here that rents out a bar for “church”, they have a rock band on stage, lots of candles, etc. They’re into art, modern marketing methods, slick promotional material. The main preaching elder is approaching 50 years old, but acts like he’s 25 (I’ve watched him on-line and listened to his preaching). Yeah, they preach from the Bible, and some of what is preached is good. They are generally Calvinist (although they wouldn’t teach on “Calvinism” per se), but what you win the lost with is what you win them to (to quote James White). They’re preaching a strain of Christianity that is molded by its surrounding culture, rather than influencing the culture surrounding it. It’s sad. They cannot minister to the elderly because no elderly person could tolerate a service there. They can’t minister to alcoholics because recovering alcoholics generally can’t worship in a bar (one man I spoke with who is a recovering alcoholic and had visited there a few times told me he couldn’t go there anymore). They have basically pared themselves down to college students (30% of their membership is in this category), and young couples/families in their 20’s or 30’s.

    They even have theological studies in a tap room, over beer. In fact, they talk about beer a lot. I guess that’s cool. Nothing wrong with beer, mind you. Just a little odd how central it is in their ministry.

    Anyway, excellent post Pastor Savastio. You have been faithful and steadfast in the midst of many changes coming about these days in Reformed Baptist circles…

  6. Jim,

    Good post! I haven’t heard or read Driscoll so I can’t really say much about him(I guess I better read him to be up on what’s going on). My fellow pastor knows more about him than I do and I think his comments were good. I will say this regarding something I have noted in my ministry over the years, particularly with reference to college students. It seems that Calvinism can be something of a fad taken up by young people who have a rebellious streak against the status quo. Thankfully I’m not aware of any college students in our church right now that I would even remotely put in that category. But I have in the past seen some that I feared might have been in that category who attended our church. These were guys who were often getting in trouble at school for breaking the rules and sometimes I feared that what drew them to attend our church and to Calvinism was that it broke the rules, so to speak.:) Perhaps there was both spiritual reality in them and a mixture of youthful carnality, only God knows. However I do think there is a certain type of person who is attracted to anything radical and shocking(Calvinism…crude language in preaching…funky hair…etc) and what attracts them may not really be the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ shining into their hearts.

    I’m not saying this is the case with respect to anyone in particular’s ministry. I don’t know. I just think it’s a dynamic we all need to be aware of if we are going to be discerning men. While seeking to reach people by every legitimate biblical means I don’t want to cater to that dynamic.

    Jeff Smith

  7. Pastor Jim,

    Great post…

    “showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility…”

    This is such a powerful linkage of words.

    Especially in the Pac NW, aka “The Left Coast”, words like radical, cutting-edge, and confrontational have been re-contextualized from their biblical moorings to fit in with what I refer to as a “postmodernic hipster Christianity” which is THE flavor of the day. I am growing very weary and increasingly vexed with it. Perhaps I am overly sensitive to this “tatooed indie hipster culture” because I ran in these circles for many years before the Lord showed His mercy and grace to me. I thank God for faithful men in the pulpit who deal with the next generation’s souls with an eye towards sobriety instead of an eye towards being cool and hip.

    If we are tainted by a postmodern world view we are in jeopardy because what is held to has to cave in on itself by definition.

    To my shame I was swayed very early on with words like radical, cutting-edge, and confrontational by misguided and deluded men in a similar context. These ideas fed my pride and ignorance and they steered me towards some heretical paths. Misused words like abrogate, covenant, reconstruction, and dominion slipped in under the radar thanks to amorphous contexts and redefinitions. Words are hijacked to manipulate thoughts.

    It deeply concerns me that many have taken a publicly insouciant position. The trend seems to be moving away from the “Purpose Driven” drivel towards the reckless and offensive. I would much rather have the pain of the law and sweetness of Christ over aging tattoos and marketing methods any day of the week.

    -Christian

  8. Brethren,
    Thank you for your supportive and helpful comments. I did not mention Mark Driscoll in the article, but some of his excesses were certainly in my mind in writing the blog. There are many others who follow and go beyond. I recently read these remarks by Spurgeon that fueled some of my writing. This is from Lectures to My Students and the chapter entitled, “On Spiritualizing”, There is a kind of beetle which breeds in filth, and this creature has its prototype among men.
    Do I not at this moment call to mind a savory divine who enlarged with
    wonderful gusto and sensuous unction upon the concubine cut into ten
    pieces:.. What abominable things have been said upon some of the sterner and more horrifying similes of Jeremiah and Ezekiel! Where the Holy Spirit is veiled and chaste, these men have tom away the veil, and spoken as none but naughty tongues
    would venture to do. I am not squeamish, indeed, far from it, but
    explanations of the new birth by analogies suggested by a monthly nurse,
    expositions of the rite of circumcision, and minute descriptions of married
    life, would arouse my temper and make me feel inclined to command with
    Jehu that the shameless one should be thrown down from the exalted
    position disgraced by such brazen-faced impudence… I aver that no pure mind ought to be subjected to the slightest breath of indelicacy from the pulpit. Caesar’s wife
    must be without suspicion, and Christ’s ministers must be without speck in
    their lives or stain in their speech…. Solomon’s Song had better
    be let alone than dragged in the mire as it often is. Young men especially
    must be scrupulously, jealously modest and pure in word: an old man is
    pardoned, I scarce know why, but a young man is utterly without excuse
    should he overstep the strict line of delicacy.

  9. Jim,

    I appreciate your thoughts on the use of proper speech backed by a holy life of grace. Certainly we as elders must know of the depths of depravity that we all have been pulled out of and must run as far as we can from such worldly verbiage and lives. May we all endeavor to use our mouths “seasoned with salt” for the glory of God, and to draw God’s elect closer to our holy and just God in sweet communion with Zion’s language, rather than to wallow in the “asphalt pits” of Sodom and claim such actions for Christ.

    Harold Chase
    Minnesota Valley Baptist Church

  10. Pastor Jim,

    I very much appreciate the burden of your post and agree that men of God especially must be careful to “let no unwholesome word proceed out of their mouths”.

    On the other hand, I would argue that the “unkind judgmental attitude and ecclesiastical pride” of some Reformed Baptists has done far more harm to the cause of Christ than the unguarded speech of certain preachers mentioned.

    There are many specks in our brother’s eyes – we should pray God removes them; but let’s be careful that these don’t distract us from the planks in our own.

  11. I believe that “earnest brother” has made two interesting points. Taken separately they might be readily agreed with. But taken together they muddle the issue that Jim Savastio raises. To grant that Jim’s point is valid and helpful on “the one hand” and then “on (with) the other hand take its validity away by calling to an unrelated grievous blight somewhere else is not only unhelpful but can be stifling to beneficial exhortation. Someone might say that it is lamentable that Americans have an air of arrogance when travelling in Europe, only to have someone else say “yes, but we must remember that there are many Americans who kill their babies which is far more wicked”. Non sequitur.

  12. What you talkin’ bout, Willis?

  13. G.C. ,

    You may be able to get a good flavor for where Anne is coming from by her own responses on other theo blogs by “Googling” her first and last name.

    -Christian

  14. Thanks Christian, I took your advice. I see that she is the follower of the exact original Gospel Truth, and has taken it upon herself to proclaim that truth, and needs no one to be her teacher (just as Scripture says, of course). That parenthetical statement was sarcasm, lest anyone be mistaken. Take note: her use of Scripture is the textbook definition of Scripture twisting…

  15. Anne,

    Are you a Quaker?

  16. Bob,

    Thank you for your comment and I understand your concern about my logic (and believe it is probably valid) but I hope it will not distract you and others from the burden of my very serious concern (see post above).

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