Archives for 11.16.06

on my first fundamentalist heros

I grew up in a rough oil town on the edge of the Alberta prairie. My family attended a church that is part of the Church of God in Western Canada, a branch of the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). The church was the most conservative church in our town at the time, I have no idea how it ranks today. My mother graduated from two colleges of this group (Alberta Bible Institute, Camrose, Alberta, and Warner Pacific College, Portland, Oregon.) That connection further bound our family to this body of believers.

Daniel S. Warner, a holiness preacher in the American mid-west, founded the Church of God in 1872. From this group have come such notable figures as Doug Oldham, Bill and Gloria Gaither, and other prominent Christian musicians [just a note: this is a statement of fact, not an endorsement]. The group is not charismatic, although there are connections between the Church of God and the original Azusa Street revival. The preacher who led that meeting was at some point defrocked by the Church of God, partly because of his teachings on the Holy Spirit, if I recall correctly.

Over time, like so many religious groups, the Church of God drifted from its foundations. By the time I was a teenager (1970-1975) compromise in many forms appeared within its ranks. Some of its teachers were out and out liberals in theology. One of the distinctives of the CoG is its resistance to any kind of creeds, hence they have no safe guard whatsoever on theological drift. [That is not to say that a creed by itself will prevent drift.]

During these years, my first fundamentalist hero did what he could to stem the drift in the denominational organs of our group. My second fundamentalist hero did the same. These men failed in their efforts, but their vigor and conviction instilled a fundamentalist spirit in me.

One of these men is my dad. My dad grew up on a homestead on the Alberta prairies, went to a one room school house through grade 9 and finished grade 10 by correspondence. He later took a few grade 12 courses by correspondence while working to support his young family. Through the years he has been a reader and has educated himself at least to the equivalent of a bachelors degree, by my assessment. He made his way in this world first by working on oil drilling rigs in our oil rich province, then by starting an insurance and a real estate business in our home town. (I can remember the days when he would work graveyard on the rigs, then go work in his office all day long. Sometimes customers would have to wake him up at his desk to do business.)

My dad grew up with a God-fearing Irish mother and an unsaved father. As a young man, various circumstances and the influence of two godly pastors led my dad to Christ and discipled him in the Christian walk. It was in my home church that my dad met my mother and the rest is history.

My second fundamentalist hero was my mother’s brother. My uncle grew up on a slightly more prosperous farm north of Edmonton, with a godly mother and an unsaved father. (Both of my grandfather’s professed faith in Christ late in life.) My uncle was also born again as an adult. He pursued the ministry, attending Alberta Bible Institute, my mother’s alma mater, and then serving in pastorates in each of the four western provinces of Canada for the Church of God. He went to glory after his last pastorate, suffering from brain cancer.

These men were involved sometimes separately and sometimes together in agitating for true doctrine and fidelity to the fundamentals of the faith within the Church of God. Recently, while researching something else, I ran across copies of letters from 1980. Three were written by my dad, and one by my uncle.

It did my heart good to see the words of these men who made an impression on me for their courage to stand in the face of withering criticism and opposition. They manifested the grace of God and willingness to fight for the faith which must characterize true believers.

I plan to post these letters here to give you a sense of the kind of men they are. For me they are two of my first fundamentalist heros.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on the Spirit walk (sermon summary)

Tonight we were on Gal 5-6. I called the message “The Spirit Walk“. In Galatians, there are three great points Paul makes: I am an apostle, so you better listen (applies to all of us); Justification is by Faith alone, the first doctrine of the church; and now sanctification is by faith also.

This concept is perhaps one of the hardest for us to get about Christian living. Humans think that the only way to produce righteousness is to restrain evil. In this evil world, we do need to restrain evil, no doubt about it. But we won’t produce holiness, righteousness, or sanctified saints that way. Paul says ‘For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.’ [gal 5.5 esv] This is justification and ultimate sanctification all wrapped up into one. What is the hope of righteousness that we are waiting for? The righteousness that comes when our blessed hope comes, when we will sin no more. We wait for that righteousness by faith, believing it will come. Then Paul says: ‘For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.’ [gal 5.6 esv] In the meantime, between justification and the righteousness to come, we live by faith (not the OT Law) and we are sanctified by faith which works by love: Love for God, Love for man.

This Spirit walk is successful when we walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh (5.16). If we walk in the flesh, the result is not righteousness but the works of the flesh. If we walk in the Spirit, the result is the fruit of the Spirit, love joy peace, etc. because we are not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. We do this by loving God and loving others, the ‘more excellent way’, and the Great Commandment that is over the Law (which was fulfilled in Christ anyway). We don’t need the works of the Law for sanctification, we need faith which works by love.

I didn’t have time tonight to actually cover ch. 6 which gives us two applicatons of walking the Spirit walk, but the whole concept was quite a blessing to us as we considered it.

The key is this: We must work our faith by love – we can’t just somehow mystically ‘believe’ and BAM we are sanctified. We have to work our faith by love for God and love for others.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3