14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16And 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.
17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
LEAVENETH THE WHOLE LUMP!!
Today, as I am older, and wiser, I KNOW this to be a virtue, and I thank God for my perennial way of thinking, for my steadfastness in all things!]
Enlarged and updated December 7, 2010 (first published March 18, 2010) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
The modern evangelical philosophy is often stated by the dictum, “In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity.”
Though commonly attributed to Augustine, it was actually first stated by the 17th-century Lutheran Rupertus Meldenius (a.k.a. Peter Meiderlin).
It became the rallying cry of the Moravians, who did many good things but retained such Roman heresies as infant baptism and a priesthood and promoted unity above the absolute truth of God’s Word.
It was adopted by the Fundamentalist movement of the first half of the 20th century. As a movement Fundamentalism focused on unity around “the fundamentals of the faith” while downplaying the “minor issues.” The objective was to create the largest possible united front against theological modernism.
This dictum has also been an integral philosophy of New Evangelicalism. They might stand for ten or twenty or thirty “cardinals,” but they refuse to make an issue of the WHOLE counsel of God. Particularly when it comes to one’s associations, they believe that there are “non-essentials” that should not get in the way of unity.
Many Independent Baptists are buying into this error.
The Independent Baptist Friends International conference in 2010, hosted by Clarence Sexton of Crown College, was based on this premise, that such things as the Bible text issue, dress, music, Calvinism, modes and candidates of baptism, and separation from the SBC are “non-essentials” that should not hinder fellowship.
In his book Thinking Outside the Box, IB leader Charles Keen said, “I’m a slow learner, but I finally realized that not all truth is of equal value. Some truths I differ from others and divide over even die for (as least I should). With others, I might be uncomfortable with how they are handled by my brethren, but I can still fellowship with them either personally or in some cases, ecclesiastically. We need to develop some ‘ecumenicalism within the parameters of fundamentalism.’ ... Let’s decide who the enemies of the cross are and divide from them. Then let’s decide who the friends of grace are and tolerate them. We don’t have to unite but we do need unity” (p. 81).
Clayton Reed of Southlake Baptist Church, Southlake, TX and head Global Church Planters, in his paper on “Ecclesiastical Separation,” says we should not separate over non-fundamentals. He quotes John Rice saying we should work with those who disagree on baptism, tongues, prophecy, election, association with SBC. Reed concludes, “We ought to join every willing, warm-hearted Christian in advancing our Lord’s kingdom while it is day.”
Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Seminary in Minnesota, praises “conservative evangelicals” in his blog and promoted the “non-essential” philosophy as follows: “Conservative evangelicalism encompasses a diverse spectrum of Christian leaders. John Piper, Mark Dever, John MacArthur, D. A. Carson, Al Mohler, R. C. Sproul ... These individuals and organizations exhibit a remarkable range of differences, but they can be classed together because of their vigorous commitment to and defense of the gospel” (In the Nick of Time, Bauder’s blog, March 2010).
In a mailing to its alumni announcing its February 2011 National Leadership Conference, Calvary Baptist Seminary of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, stated: “We should grant each other the freedom to hold differing viewpoints and to refrain from caustic letter-writing campaigns to or about those with whom one might differ. ... in our zeal to earnestly contend for the faith, fundamentalism became more concerned about minor issues and less concerned about what the Bible clearly presents as the majors” (Aug. 25, 2010). The “minor issues” are said to be such things as which English translation to use, acceptable dress standards, musical styles, election, and baptism. We are told that such things should not determine fellowship. The seminary used this philosophy to explain why they invited Ed Welsh, a Presbyterian, as a speaker to their annual National Leadership Conference in 2009 and New Evangelical Southern Baptist Mark Dever in 2010. (Dever’s church, Capitol Hill Baptist in Washington, D.C., is also a member of the liberal American Baptist Church, which is affiliated with the horribly apostate National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches.)
There is no support in the Bible for the “in essentials liberty” doctrine. The Lord Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to teach converts “to observe ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mat. 28:20).
The Apostle Paul reminded the elders at Ephesus that the reason he was free from the blood of all men was that he had preached the WHOLE counsel of God (Acts 20:27). The more plainly you preach the whole counsel of God, the less likely it will be that you will join hands in ministry with those who hold different doctrine.
Paul instructed Timothy to keep the truth “without SPOT, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:14). A spot is a small, seemingly insignificant thing. That particular epistle contains commandments about such things as the woman’s role in ministry, which is widely considered a “non-essential” today. Paul taught Timothy to have an entirely different approach toward such teachings.
In 1 Corinthians 11:2 Paul said to the church at Corinth, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in ALL things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” This passage deals with hair length and the Lord’s Supper, which are widely considered to be “non-essentials” today, yet Paul praised the church for remembering him in all things.
We know that not all doctrine has the same significance and weight, but none of it is “non-essential” in any sense.
I challenge anyone to show me where the Scripture encourages the believer to treat some doctrine as “non-essential” or to “stand for the cardinal truths and downplay the peripherals.”
Some try to use Romans 14 to support this philosophy, but Romans 14 does not say that some Bible doctrine is non-essential. It says that we are to allow one another liberty in matters in which the Bible is silent! The examples that Paul gave were eating meat and keeping of holy days. Those are things that the New Testament faith is silent about. There is no doctrine of diet in the New Testament, so it is a matter of Christian liberty.
This reminds us that the only true “non-essential” is a personal opinion not based solidly upon Scripture.
Jude instructed every believer to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). As Jude didn’t delineate what part of the faith is to be defended, the obvious meaning is that whatever aspect of the faith is under attack at a particular time, God’s people should rally to its defense rather than pretend that it is a “non-essential.”
Since the Bible doesn’t identify a “non-essential” doctrine, who is to say what this might be?
The fact is that once one adopts the “non-essentials” philosophy, his list of “non-essentials” tends to grow as time passes and as his associations broaden.
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