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Thursday, May 24, 2012


 MAY 24, 2012

(first published March 18, 2010)(David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143,

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 apparently first stated by the 17th-century Lutheran Rupertus Meldenius (a.k.a. Peter Meiderlin). 
It became the rallying cry of the Moravians, who had a wonderful missionary zeal but retained such Romanist heresies as infant baptism and an ordained priesthood and who promoted unity above the absolute truth of God’s Word. 
The “essentials unity” principle was adopted by the fundamentalist movement of the first half of the 20th century. Fundamentalism focused on a unity built around “the fundamentals of the faith” while downplaying “minor issues.” The pragmatic objective was to create the largest possible united front against theological modernism. 
This has been a hallmark of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well. In describing why he is glad to be a Southern Baptist, Pastor Ben Simpson says, “I'm captivated by the commitment to unity in the essentials and mission of Christ while allowing diversity in the nonessentials and methodology” (“Two Divergent Views from Young Pastors,” Baptist Press, April 14, 2011). 
SBC leaders David Dockery, Timothy George, and Thom Rainer express the prevailing philosophy in the following words: 
“Though I may disagree with some on secondary and tertiary issues, I will not let those points of disagreement tear down bridges of relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ. ... We need a new spirit of mutual respect and humility to serve together with those with whom we have differences of conviction and opinion. It is possible to hold hands with brothers and sisters who disagree on secondary and tertiary matters of theology...” (Building Bridges, 2007, pp. 11, 34).
This dictum has 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 now buying into this heresy. 
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 and associating together for the sake of evangelism and world missions. 
In his book Thinking Outside the Box, Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) 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, Texas, and head Global Church Planters, in his paper on “Ecclesiastical Separation,” says we should not separate over non-fundamentals. He quotes John Rice in saying that 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 promotes the “non-essential” philosophy: 
“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 alleged to be such things as which Greek text or English translation to use, 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 a member of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention, which is partnered with the very liberal American Baptist Church, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and Baptist World Alliance.) 
There is no support in the Bible for the “in non-essentials liberty” doctrine. It is a man-made heresy created to further a pragmatic objective.  
Consider the Old Testament law. Its requirement was summarized in Deuteronomy 27:26, which Paul cited as follows -- “Cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). To foist a “non-essential” philosophy on the law of Moses would destroy its effectiveness to convict of sin and to be the schoolmaster to lead to Christ (Rom. 3:19; Gal. 3:24). 
There is no “non-essential” philosophy in the New Testament, either. 
The Lord Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to teach their 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 and fervently 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,” 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 gives to illustrate his teaching are diet 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 strictly 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 did not delineate what part of the faith is to be defended, the obvious meaning is that we should defend whatever aspect of the faith is under attack at a particular time. 
Since the Bible doesn’t identify a “non-essential” doctrine, who is to say what this might be? 
The fact is that once an individual adopts the “non-essentials” philosophy, his list of “non-essentials” tends to grow as time passes and as his associations broaden. It is a slippery slope.

Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc.’s Fundamental Baptist Information Service, an e-mail listing for Fundamental Baptists and other fundamentalist, Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. OUR GOAL IN THIS PARTICULAR ASPECT OF OUR MINISTRY IS NOT DEVOTIONAL BUT IS TO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO ASSIST PREACHERS IN THE PROTECTION OF THE CHURCHES IN THIS APOSTATE HOUR.  We take up offerings to fund this ministry, and those who use the materials are expected to participate (Galatians 6:6) if they can. Some of the articles are from O Timothy magazine, which is in its 29th year of publication. Way of Life publishes many helpful books. The catalog is located at the web site: Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061. 866-295-4143, We do not solicit funds from those who do not agree with our preaching and who are not helped by these publications, but only from those who are. OFFERINGS can be made at PAYPAL offerings can be made to

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