BJU recently decided to pull a book by Dr. Randy Jaeggli entitled The Christian and Drinking. This was due in part to a need for a new printing anyway. It was also motivated by a veritable barrage of negative comments about the book, including a review by Shelton Smith who is the editor of The Sword of the Lord newspaper.
BJU says of Smith’s review:
This review exemplifies a deeper problem, and perhaps the most serious one of all. It is an unwillingness to allow for a serious analysis of biblical evidence. This unwillingness to accept biblical evidence, even when it supports a dearly held conviction, underscores the problem.
I recently read someone (who I cannot remember) who suggested that the hallmark of fundamentalism—biblical authority, that “whatever the Bible says is so”—is coming back to bite some. I think he’s right. When Dr. Jaeggli went back to the Bible and came to a different exegetical conclusion about the use of some words, he was loudly accused of compromise. The weight of the biblical argument (about which Dr. Jaeggli was certainly correct) was irrelevant. He differed with the real authority—what good men in past generations taught. Even though he agreed with the good men in past generations about application, he was still wrong.
There is, among some no doubt well meaning people, the tacit suggestion that one can go to the Bible for authority so long as your conclusions do not contradict those conclusions of men who went before. If you examine the biblical evidence and arrive at a different conclusion, you are anathema even if your application is the same (as Dr. Jaeggli’s was). You have compromised.
So what is the real authority for these? It is not the Bible but rather conclusions that were drawn about the Bible. In that, they have ceased to be fundamentalists.
It is interesting that some who claim that “good men differ” about certain matters (Calvinism vs. Arminianism, Bible versions, mode of baptism, etc) are quick to suggest that good men cannot differ about lines of separation with others or conclusions about biblical exegesis on certain passages. For some, you can differ about whether or not God is sovereign, but don’t you dare suggest the Bible does not universally condemn the alcoholic beverage or that John MacArthur might be a believer, or that John Piper might actually love God and the souls of men.*
In other words, there are certain biblical conclusions that are debatable but do not cost fellowship, while there are other biblical conclusions that are not debatable and do cost fellowship. (Interestingly, to closer you get to a fundamental doctrine, the more tolerance is accepted. Things like an errant view of bibliology are accepted so long as we agree about some radio preacher. Strange stuff, my friend.)
Perhaps fundamentalism’s greatest need at this point is to decide what will be the authority? Will it be the good men who have gone before? Or will it be the Bible itself?
No one should mistake where I am. I am a fundamentalist, and have explained why elsewhere on this blog. (You can search the blog for “fundamentalism” or “fundamentalist” and find those.) I have also made my views on the use of alcohol clear on this blog.
But I am not a fundamentalist because of what men of prior generations said, or what men of the current generation say. I am a fundamentalist because of what I think the Bible teaches.
What men of old said is informative. It is not authoritative.
And it’s not going to be authoritative, even if you yell and scream about it. Or write long blog posts about it. Or reviews in newspapers.
As fundamentalists, we need to get back to the Bible. And then stand on that.
*In the interest of deference to some, I offer here a disclaimer that no one I quote in this article should be understood to be a part of the Trinity or an angel from heaven. Therefore, they are sinners with actual sin problems of which we should be wary. I disagree with everyone mentioned on this blog anywhere. I even disagree with myself sometimes. So don’t whine that I don’t offer enough disclaimers.
I assume that you have the common sense and biblical training to be discerning. If you don’t, don’t complain to me. Talk to your pastor lovingly and prayerfully about his failure to train you, and be willing to find a new church if you need to where the pastor will take seriously his responsibility to teach people to think biblically, rather than to repeat a list of approved people, schools, practices, habits, etc.