Just thought the world should know that I agree with every point in Dave’s post.
Just thought the world should know that I agree with every point in Dave’s post.
First, what is modalism?
Modalism maintains that there is one God who manifests Himself successively as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit but who is not contemporaneously all three. [Believer's Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Glossary.]
The ESV Study Bible expands on this with this paragraph:
One of the most fundamental ways to misunderstand the Trinity is tritheism, which overemphasizes the distinction between the persons of the Trinity and ends up with three gods. This view neglects the oneness of the natures of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At the other end of the spectrum is the heresy of modalism (also known as Sabellianism, named after its earliest proponent, Sabellius, 3rd century), which loses the distinctions between the persons and claims that God is only one person. In this view, the appearance of the three persons is merely three modes of existence of the one God. For instance, God reveals himself as Father when he is creating and giving the law, as Son in redemption, and as Spirit in the church age. A contemporary version of modalism is found in the teaching of Oneness Pentecostalism. [Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2514-15.]
Sabellius, the man usually credited as the earliest proponent of the view was excommunicated by the Bishop of Alexandria in 260 or 261. The Sabellians appealed to Rome (the church in Rome played an early leading role, but there was as yet no papacy). In 262, the Bishop of Rome held a council and condemned Sabellius and his modalism along with tri-theism and subordinationism (an early variant of what would become Arianism).
False doctrines like modalism were condemned by the church in the third and fourth centuries. That settles the question, right?
Kevin Mungons reports on today’s panel discussion at the Advancing the Church Conference in Lansdale. I am not sure if this is a verbatim transcript or not, it looks a little edited. However, Kevin reports these words from our friend, Dave Doran:
Doran: I doubt we all agree with each other on the right way to solve that problem, but I do think (I’ll speak for myself on this one) that we are committed to the same principles of separation that we have always been, yet I do and have tried to acknowledge that there have been changes that have forced me to think through the applications differently than I have since becoming a pastor 22 years ago…[.in the midpoint of the last dedade, 2005-2006 there were some things that I thought were significant in a change of landscape, both internally and externally
Dever: I’d be curious to hear—what were those changes?
Doran: In early 2005 there was a meeting in which Kevin and I were both speakers. Both of us tried to make a case (I’ll try to say this as tactfully as possible) for drawing a circle, to say that if you are going to identify with historic fundamentalism, certain theological aberrations have to be rejected. We tried to make an ernest appeal, but I didn’t think that that was actually going to get traction. I would say that outside [fundamentalism] in March 2005, Phil Johnson did his presentation on “Fundamentalism: Dead Right?” We spent four or five weeks going back and forth about it. The month right before that I had asked the folks at Grace [Community Church, John MacArthur’s church] very specifically on the issue of secondary separation, an idea they never publically accepted. But in his presentation, Phil Johnson said “we do believe it is valid, but has not been used properly.” So that was a significant change.
Doran: Right. And his book was beginning to talk about this. There’s probably a dozen books that began to talk about the problems of the evangelical left. Grudem in his book on Open Theism. Carson, Love in hard Places…the necessity of separating over the gospel. Mohler’s chapter in Horton’s book….so there actually was an uptick of talk about separatism among a certain segment of evangelicalism, that’s what I meant by a change in the landscape. [The evangelicals] were not as thorough and as consistent as I would have preferred…
I am cutting off a bits on these quotations, so please read the whole article for yourself to get the whole context.
It is interesting to note a few things here:
This will be the first part of my response to Dave’s critique of my last post. This part of my response will deal with an aspect of his critique that I think is incorrect. He does make a valid criticism that I will address in a subsequent post.
The first thing I would like to address is this point:
Ironically, both Don and I quote Webster dictionary as the basis for making our assessment. He does it in his post and I do it to make the opposite case in a post in October 2009. So, at least we can say that we agree that for a movement to exist there must be some unifying objective.
First, the reasons why Don and I can both use Webster to argue opposite points is that Don drops part of Webster’s definition. Now, to be sure, he acknowledges this—“Based on this definition, one could dispute whether there has ever been much of a fundamentalist movement, especially if the word ‘organized’ is emphasized”—yet dismisses this as a non-problem. But it is a serious, thesis refuting problem! A thousand people at the shopping mall to buy clothes for school all have the same objective, but nobody would consider them a back-to-school clothes buying movement, would they? Without organization and coordination of effort, there is no movement. When you drop the word organized from the Webster definition you actually change the meaning.
Dave is contending that my dismissal of the word ‘organized’ changes the definition of movement into something else.
My contention is that the word ‘organized’ in the definition doesn’t mean some kind of formal organizational structure across the length and breadth of a movement – it is impossible for such to be the case and I doubt that it has ever happened. That is not to say that there isn’t some organization that galvanizes, leads, influences, or directs movements, but that one really can’t expect a movement to have an over-arching organization.
Dave points out some of the difficulties we have in dealing with the doctrine of separation. I agree with him about the complexities we face. Separation decisions aren’t easy.
His ‘case study’ is the recent conference in Powell, TN, the International Baptist Friends Conference. His view is that it is unacceptable to enter into ministry partnership with a church and pastor from Hammond, IN. In the main, I agree with this point.
In discussing the topic, Dave says this:
My guess is that plenty of people in the FBF are prepared to overlook it. It is clear that speaking for the Pastors School in Hammond doesn’t get one excluded from Bible Conferences or have churches refuse to host your music seminars. And that reality raises the point that needs to be discussed and illustrates something that I’ve been saying for at least a couple of years now—what ripple ramifications should this have for my fellowship?
Well, that is a good question. What should our relationship be with those who don’t see Hammond as such a problem as I do (or as Dave does)?
Restore the local assembly to the center where God intended it to be. When your local assembly engages in Great Commission work outside its walls, find some folks you agree with and get busy doing it. Unity is built on agreement about the truth, not by politics. Few things are as political as trying to preserve movements once they have fragmented theologically.
Would that it were so simple. But it is not that simple. In the words of John Donne,
No man is an island entire of itself…
And certainly the pastor and church in question is no island, entire unto themselves. If we were talking about a small church in a small community it might be that simple, but … probably not.
Everyone influences someone else. That’s why our private decisions are important. They have influence on someone.
Within fundamentalism, ongoing discussion of our views and practices inevitably leads to a discussion of worldliness. Traditionally fundamentalism has called for a separation not only from false teachers and modernism but also for a separation from the world. Fundamentalism has spoken out against an attitude of worldliness developing in the church.
In Dave Doran’s recent presentations concerning separation, he touched on the area of worldliness, some of which I objected to earlier. He continues this discussion by putting into writing a good deal of the material he covered in the presentations. This article deals with worldliness.
Dave starts off with a reasonable definition of worldliness:
Worldliness is having a heart and mind shaped by the world’s beliefs and values so that we engage in its sinful pleasures and pursue earthly treasures.
So far, so good. You can read any number of articles on worldliness and come up with similar definitions.
But it is the expansion of this definition that I find … what? Curious? Unusual? Discordant? Troubling? Perhaps all of the above…
In response to the recent MACP presentation on separation, I posted some questions. Today, I’d like to post a few objections. That is not to say I object to the basic concepts concerning separation as presented, I thought that was quite helpful. But I do have some objections to particulars and I think they should be noted.
Since Dave Doran’s blog has no comments and he sometimes comments here, I thought I’d ask some questions.
I have listened to the audio of his first two presentations at the recent Mid-America Conference on Preaching. I have to say that in general I am in agreement with what he is teaching about ecclesiastical separation. We may differ on some points of application, but as to philosophy, biblical grounds and motivation, I think Dave has it basically right. (I am sure he is relieved to know I think so!) I would encourage anyone to listen to the audio for their own instruction.
But I do have some questions:
Dave Doran gives us more concerning the fragmentation and death of the fundamentalist movement as such. There is a good deal of truth to his observations concerning the lack of unifying goals and the center of biblical focus for Christian unity and ministry.
The center of God’s will for this dispensation is in the local church (1 Tim 3:15). That’s where the unity of the Spirit is to be preserved in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3). The local church has been charged with the task of carrying out the Great Commission (since baptizing is an ordinance of the church). The movement that ought to matter most to us is one that aims to plant churches that will reproduce in every place where the name of Christ has not been named, and that movement must spring from local churches in order to be biblical. Sign me up for that movement.
I once met a preacher who told me that he wasn’t much for going to conferences and getting known. He just preferred to stay home and “hoe corn” (he pastored in the Midwest).
So in light of this non-movement movement sentiment, I wonders: