Over these fifty-two years of ministry, I have been an observer of some individuals with very effective ministries that ended well.  Many of these servants of Christ have helped mold my own life and ministry, and they all have been conservative in their perspective.  While they may have varied in their ability and approach, they were faithful to the Word of God.  Admittedly, none of them was perfect; but they were mature, and only heaven will tell of their impact on those around them.

During these years, I have also been an observer of far too many failures.  I speak here of fundamentalism’s Hall of Shame.  Some in conservative circles have not escaped the “castaway” branding.  Their failure has done irreparable harm to the cause of Christ and has left a dark cloud over the work of the Lord.  The reasons for these personal and ministry disasters are many, but they all have some things in common.  It would be fair to say that each was related to pride, the dark side of fundamentalism.  Ministry and moral failure are not limited to the conservatives; liberals and evangelicals have their own list of horror stories.  I will raise that issue later.

What I am sure of is that, in every case on both sides of the issue, each instance of failure was related to theology.  Every act, habit, decision, sin, or success rises from our own belief system. In ministry, worship, and communication, we betray what we believe.  Jesus repeatedly taught this principle “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matthew 12:34) and “for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:” (Matthew 15:19)  It is what the new America believes that is sending her over the cliff.  It is what professing Christians believe that is sending them over a theological cliff.


All movements have their extremes.  We try to make that simple with phrases such as “from conservative to liberal”, or “from right to left”.  In each case, there is a central position that embraces the heart of a movement.  In Christianity, the center is those who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, without any addition or detraction.  Those who move right or left from that point may claim Bible authority, but every step away becomes a bit more dangerous.

I was raised in a church where “externals” were a high priority.  With the passing of time, much study, and the help of godly mentors, I came to understand grace as it is clearly stated in the scripture.  This position was solidified by an understanding that the Bible is the Word of God, and I must not add or detract from the text.  Many people whom I love dearly are still caught in the web of externalism, and my guess is that they are unaware of the pain it causes.  What I do know is that this extreme is fraught with theological error.  Theological and moral failures are bedfellows.

The other sad story is about those who didn’t stop at the scripture’s clear teaching of grace.  They traveled beyond the clear authority and sufficiency of the text to a false freedom and a veiled libertarianism.  They are headed for a theological cliff because what they have chosen to practice is based on what they have added or removed from scripture.  The freedom they proclaim in their move toward the left is not the freedom of scripture.  As a believer, my freedom makes me free to choose what God has said is right, and not what I may want to do.  The curse of human reason has taken over the thinking of many, and the demands of the flesh have captured them.  Rather than the grace they refer to as having given them freedom, they have actually become slaves by choice.  Sin always does that; just when you think you are free, you find yourself in bondage. They fail to heed the apostle’s warning in Romans 6:15.


I need to confess to you that I feel a bit of anger in the next step of this discussion; perhaps you will understand why.  Some time ago, I wrote an article entitled “Where have all the young fundamentalists gone?”  It described the journey of many youngsters who have been caught up in the cult of intellectualism.  They have become enamored with the teachings of scholars, intellectuals, philosophers, and academics who have little caution for a theology that is biblical. This dangerous road is made even more slippery with the rise of Evangelical Moderates.  The unstable youth worship at the feet of these men, buy everything they publish, rush to every conference and event they can find.  It is not hard to spot those who blindly pursue modern explanations based on human reason.  Their speech betrays them; they pick up the buzz words and use them with impunity, thinking they will thus be viewed as intellectuals.  The sad part of this story is that most of them have no clue that they are following theological error and are headed for the cliff.

There is, however, a lurking tragedy behind this story.  All this talk about freedom and worship of human independence has led to a wave of moral failure among these men.  Erroneous theology is always accompanied by moral failure, so why wouldn’t these hapless souls fall into destructive practices?  They are taught a flawed view of grace: God doesn’t care what you do; God hasn’t spoken this; enjoy yourself, and don’t let anyone judge you; let your own mind be your guide.  It is this same errant freedom that is taught in the emergent and emerging church. God is just a fetish, a name to use, not the sovereign creator, the Eternal Holy One.  After all, they say, there is no hell, and the New Jerusalem is just figment of your imagination.  Forget the hereafter; live for the here and now.


My anger is not just about the theological error that is being pressed on young men who have not been taught well enough to be able to spot and respond to extra-biblical concepts.  My feeling of grief is for those young men who have no idea of the moral failure that lies ahead of them. Just like those who have already fallen, they are not aware that they are headed for a theological cliff and a moral pit.  They will act on what they believe, because that is what people do.  On the other hand, my soul is comforted by young men who have not been led astray and by those men, past and present, who found the anchor and held fast to the Bible as the Word of God, without addition or detraction.  I speak of those who stand firm on a theology that is biblical, knowing that it is this belief that will be a defense against the moral decline so prevalent among professing Christians today. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word”. (Psalm 119:9)


LET THE WEEPING BEGIN Friday, Nov 30 2012 

The nation I live in is deeply divided, more deeply even than it was prior to the Civil War.  It is not divided by political parties; it is divided between liberal and conservative perspectives.  It is now a matter of record that the majority of U.S. citizens want nothing to do with biblical Christianity.  Those who hate the Sovereign Creator and His children have been emboldened, feeling now that they have a mandate to make everyone think and act like they do.  They despise the authoritative message of God’s Word, and the fermenting hatred that has been boiling under the surface is set free to overrun a once great nation.

I am sure you think all this is very negative, but ignorance or denial is not helpful.  I am fully aware that Jeremiah got into a lot of trouble by saying things like this.  There are some things that we most assuredly know; think about them:

  1. No one ever rises to power in this world without the permission of our God.  Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God.  (Romans 13:1)
  2. When the wicked rule, God’s people will suffer.  He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.  (Proverbs 29:1, 2)
  3. God is a holy and righteous God.  While He is indeed merciful, He is also a God of justice and judgment.  The existence of hell and the lake of fire are evidence of this. (see Revelation 20:15)

Yesterday I posted the following prayer on Facebook: “Dear Heavenly Father, we know this nation deserves judgment for its horrible sin, but we plead for mercy.  If it is Your time for judgment, we pray that believers will have the strength to face the persecution that is sure to follow.  We pray that there will be repentance and a true revival among believers.”


The Old Testament is replete with examples of how God used wicked rulers to punish a nation. This is even true of Israel.  It is hard to understand how any believer could miss the reason why our nation deserves judgment.  I understand that some moderate evangelicals oppose this idea, and that obviously rises from their bad habit of “dumbing down” sin.  America has sanctioned the murder of untold numbers of unborn babies; that fact alone would call for the wrath of God.  The open approval of sodomy is another sure sign that judgment must come.  The headline on my computer right now states that Maine and Maryland have voted to approve sodomite unions. The move for America to turn against Israel has been on a fast track, and no nation in history has ever raised its hand against God’s chosen people without guaranteeing its own destruction in due time.  The favored status of Islam in our nation does not bode well for us.  Our Sovereign Creator God is no longer welcome in our schools, commerce, courts, society, or even in some churches.  God has obviously chosen to judge this nation, and His judgment has already begun.


Paul told Timothy that in the last days the Word of God would be the believer’s strength.  There never was a time in our lives when the Book was more important.  It is the source of our author-ity, comfort, and direction.  The church has followed the world into the pit of sin and has made believers numb to the things that offend God.  Repentance and revival need to be sounded from the pulpit, and the earnest prayer of confession and intercession needs to ring through the hearts of believers.  We cannot depend on professing believers, because they can be more of a hindrance than a help.  We cannot look to the wicked, the children of the devil, as they are at enmity with God.  They are dead in trespasses and sin with no ability to do good as God sees it.

We should not be at all surprised at the words and actions of the lost.  They have done the bidding of their father, the devil.  We have not yet seen the worst they can do; but we see them for what they are, and they have not disappointed us in this.  What has been a disappointment is the lack of action on the part of those who call themselves believers.  Why would the strong words in this article offend the believer?  Why would we spend time defending evil?  Why would we want to use soft words about sins that God says He hates?

The judgment that stands at our door is at least in part the responsibility of evangelicals and fundamentalists. Those who have learned their lessons – words from the liberal mindset, with form over content and meaning – have aided the coming of judgment.  Believers cannot expect help from them.  They will continue to compromise and even question the judgment of God.


Those who love God and His Word can expect difficult times and persecution.  This is not a guess; it is based on what we know has already happened.  There was a time when sodomy was disdained as a capital crime, but then a permissive attitude gradually began to prevail.  Now there is a big drive to make it legal, and with that comes a requirement for everyone to accept it.  Some are already being legally penalized for not accepting this abomination. Believers can expect to be incarcerated for open opposition.  Those in charge have again today openly pledged a massive raise in taxes.  The church will not escape this taxation, and it would be well for every church to have its leaders sit down and decide how they will handle this when it comes.  Because the liberal model cannot and will not accept successful competition, any education outside of the state model – including Christian schools – can expect impossible intrusion.

Yes, there will be tears, but our tears will be for the lost greatness of a nation, the loss of our liberty, the setting aside of the constitution, the rewarding of lawbreakers – a nation of fools.  The coming judgment should not be a surprise to any of us. (See I Timothy 3:1 and I Peter 4:13-19)

In June of 2011, my book entitled The Coming Conflict was republished with the idea that the truth in it would soon be needed.  The book is about “the separation of church and state”, but it outlines much of what there is no room for here.  It is available at:

The Coming Conflict; by Clay Nuttall, Faithful Life Publishers, (888)720-0950, or e-mail us at info@flpublishers.com

ONCE UPON AN ELECTION Friday, Oct 12 2012 

He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.  (Proverbs 29:1, 2)

My students know that I seldom deal with suppositions.  The Bible is full of factual information that calls for obedience, and that should occupy the center of our attention.  I admit that the question of “what if” may be entertaining, but it often leads to the invention of non-truths – the kind of things that can be found in the “theological error of the month”.  The same is true of prognostication.  I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet.  While God knows every detail of the future, we don’t know much about it at all.  What we do know is what has been given to us in the divine revelation of the word of God; going any further than that can be dangerous.  The Bible also gives us adequate information about a holy God, and our understanding of what may be in the future rests on who He is and what He has said.

This article is not a guess about who is going to win an election; it is about what we already know.  It seems astounding that people could know, and give support to, the very things that will destroy their way of life. Giving consent to deconstruction would cause anyone to ask, why?  Cheering moral depravation, mocking the work ethic, and creating a society of dependent slaves chills the bones of any thinking, moral person.  A culture that is exceedingly proud of its intellectualism, but that has abandoned common sense, is headed for disaster.  Why would people deliberately surrender freedoms that are so dear, freedoms that were won by the blood of our forefathers?

It is true that some of these people live in denial because they are so practiced at accepting a lie.  Others think their elite liberal perspective can triumph and destroy all conservative perspective and practice.  Like all false religions that their belief cannot conquer with truth, they must force their beliefs on others and imprison them in a humanistic mold.  The leaders of the elite are deliberate in their creation of a slave culture; everyone must be equal except them.  Examples of this include dictators, socialists, and communist societies as well as those controlled by a single intolerant religion.


We have no idea what will actually happen, but some things we do know.  History teaches many lessons about nations that take such drastic turns.  That is another story.   Some things we do know for sure: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  (Romans 13:13)  No one rises to power without the knowledge and permission of the sovereign eternal creator of the universe.

The next question is, why would God allow such a person with a wicked, anti-god agenda to come to power?  This answer is also in the Bible.  God has often directed or allowed the wicked to rule in order to judge a nation for its sins.  The scripture describes how God has allowed destruction of a country when its wickedness overwhelmed the land.  The wholesale murder of the unborn and the acceptance of sodomy in our own nation are sufficient evils to warrant the judgment of God.  Then there is the rejection of, and opposition to, Israel; that alone is sufficient to bring the judgment of God.  When a people turn their backs on a holy God, we can be sure that He will send judgment, which often is done through allowing wicked men to be in authority.

We also know from the Bible text that God uses such terrible times for the benefit of his own people – in this age, the church.  It is true that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church”.  It is also true that persecution tends to bring more spiritual awareness on the part of believers.  In an affluent economy, even believers tend to expect help from the things of this world, with less dependence on God.  Where a government provides everything from the cradle to the grave, it becomes a matter of “who needs God, anyway?”  This attitude seems to be especially prevalent among the younger generation of today.  In the main, they have little interest in heaven and the things to come; rather, their lives are focused on the here and now, the things of this world.  Even the church has failed in this area.  Music, message, and ministry tend to be more about earthly things than heavenly goals.  When we collect prayer requests, very few of them anymore are about the lost.  Heaven has faded behind the fog of things, people, and stuff.


Before we list the failures of liberalism, socialism, and humanism, we should observe our own weaknesses . The church in our nation has failed to obey the clear teaching of scripture.  We have not shared the good news with those who are implementing the deconstruction.  The church has become apologetic about the truth in the whole counsel of God.  Believers have not only fallen in love with the things of this world; they have downgraded the meaning and effect of sin.

One of the most disturbing developments has come from popular evangelicals, moderates, and intellectuals, who keep telling us that sin is not all that bad.  This dumbing down of evil is oh, so slick.  If there is some offense to God that they don’t think is really so bad, they just tell us that “the Bible doesn’t speak to that”.  After all, they are the elite, and they think they just may know more than God.  When a heinous practice is condemned by those who teach the holiness of God, this group reminds us that no sin is worse than any other and we shouldn’t be so hard on that crowd.  It doesn’t seem to matter to them that God has condemned that practice.

Finally, there are the misguided leaders who keep reminding us that we shouldn’t deal with the bad in this world.  We are told not to speak out on political things.  Don’t bother voting; just love people, forgive them, and let them make their own choices.  While love, forgiveness, and soul liberty are important, that is not all that the Bible teaches.


The big question is, what are we supposed to do?  The writings of the apostle Peter will answer much of that question.  No matter who wins, temporarily there will be persecution and suffering.  Paul’s epistle to the Philippians outlines how it is possible to retain one’s testimony and joy when circumstances appear to gang up on us.  For now, we need to go back to the Bible for instruction as to why we should speak out on matters of righteousness, and that would include speaking for truth at the polls.  The real power, however, is in prayer.  So, how should we pray in light of all of this?  It is easy to construct an imprecatory prayer against those that we disagree with.  Contrary to the intellectual view, there are times to pray for such a victory…as long as we leave it with God.

Have you ever thought about what would happen if we were to participate in concentrated prayer for the salvation of a wicked ruler?  If God were to act in response to the cry of His people, the major problem would be solved in a split second!  This reminds me of the terrorist who was saved a couple years ago in the morning service of a student church planter.  In one second, he went from being a destructive force to being instead a man who will never fly a plane into a building in order to destroy hundreds of innocent people.  He came to church a coward, but left that morning a man of courage who now helps people instead of hating them.


Ecumenical evangelicalism is alive and thriving.  Like a pack of wolves, the left leaners are devouring the stable theology of the right.  There appears to be some kind of death wish on the part of those who feel driven to erase a theology that is biblical by merging it with all kinds of aberrations.  This ecumenical activity is willing to set aside important doctrine in order to draw people together.  Their argument is that only love, the gospel, unity, or any such singularity is all that matters, along with getting people together; as long as you have the central doctrines, whatever they are, you can trash the rest of the text.  This is done by stealth and the redefining of such things as the gospel itself.

Defining the main players is easy; they regularly confess their participation in print.  Placing them in categories is another matter altogether.  There is no single category where everyone holds to the same views.  Terms like atheist, agnostic, infidel, apostate, modernist, liberal, or neo-orthodox is one thing; dealing with evangelicalism, neo-evangelicalism, conservatism, and fundamentalism is something else altogether.  Trying to sort them all out is like trying to pick up mercury.  In general, each designation does have some major things in common; but none of these is equal to the others.

When individuals try to straddle the theological fence between liberal and conservative, they are most often referred to as moderates.  This position of compromise gives credence to the views of both sides.  It always means, however, that they have to give up something to the right of them.  You cannot hold two contrasting views at the same time; one of them will have to be damaged or disrespected.  Part of this problem comes from the desire to be tolerant.  We ought to respect others in that they have a right to a view, but that does not mean they are right.  The moderate, however, sees tolerance as allowing a broad range of theological positions with a focus on just a few things that are often unstable in themselves.

Recently, discussion has centered on a group called conservative evangelicals.  The term alone admits that not all evangelicals are conservative, so this designation is an effort to build a bridge between two divergent positions.  It is true that there will be some common ground between them, but they are two distinct views.  In light of the forgoing discussion, those who stand in between the two views are really moderate evangelicals.


The moderate position has to surrender something.  One cannot hold to a theology that is biblical and blink at the error of another.  We don’t have to attack the persons who hold them, but we are obligated to state the contrast of biblical doctrine and to reject error.   An example of this is what happened with the invention of progressive dispensationalism.   Admittedly, it was an effort to build a bridge between standard dispensationalism and covenant theology, but that is impossible.  The gulf between them is as wide as the Atlantic Ocean, and it is impossible to bridge the two.  In this case, the moderates had to give up something.  While they continued to claim to be dispensational, they departed from the true meaning of the word and developed something new.  This, of course, leaves serious questions for them to answer; but this is the nature of the moderate position.

What brought them to this place?  Why would anyone want to be caught in the middle?  One of the reasons is an insatiable lust for intellectualism.  The pseudo-intellectuals have painted fundamentalists and dispensationalists as being a little less than bright.  The truth is that some of the finest minds we know are in the ranks of historical dispensationalists; many of these trusted scholars, however, have not felt the need to appease those on the left of the discussion.  It is a serious flaw to “want to be like them” so much so that you would walk away from, or be embarrassed about, key doctrines of the faith, because you end up joining the moderates’ choir singing “the time of rapture is not something to separate over”.

I am frequently asked why so many of our young men are following the pied pipers of theological error. Immature students are apt to be fooled quite easily by intellectual gurus.  They reveal their passion by repeating telltale buzzwords and questionable theological pretzels such as a “misguided kingdom theology”.   Like their mentors, they are quick to discard such important parts of the theological puzzle such as cessationism and to adopt such things as the replacement theory.  This not only identifies spiritual immaturity, but also shows that they have had poorly-taught biblical theology in their seminaries.  The real bombshell, though, is the absence of the one biblical hermeneutic that would have prevented them from gulping their minds full of doctrinal error.  This ministry tragedy can be placed at the feet of the moderates.


Every doctrinal error and theological diversion comes from an erroneous hermeneutic.  This is the heart of the moderate problem.  The one biblical hermeneutic is exact; it is mathematical.  Letting the text speak for itself will bring us to common conclusions.  This process would exclude any moderate. On the other hand, the hermeneutical system used by moderates actually lets them conclude anything they wish – and they do.  So why would anyone who is committed to a theology that is biblical, established by a biblical hermeneutic, want to hold theological hands with the moderate?

It is one thing for the authors of the “theological error of the month” to ignore the one biblical hermeneutic. Their bad hermeneutical habits go way back to the Jewish rabbis, Origen, Clement of Alexander, Thomas Aquinas, and – surprise! – to Luther and Calvin.  To argue that some of them were right some of the time is to argue for the value of a stopped clock.  It is true that some of them claimed to own a literal hermeneutic, but their writings tell us otherwise.

The most disturbing thing about this subject is that there are so few people among us who really understand what the plain, normal, consistent, literal hermeneutic is and fewer yet who actually use it. Using the biblical system will not let you agree with the wayward theological ideas that are being fed to young minds these days by the moderate evangelicals.


The liberal mind infects the moderate mentality.  It will focus on form instead of content and meaning.  It loves complication that creates a smokescreen for the infusion of human reason into biblical text.  Such thinking is so well practiced that it is hard to peel the layers off.  This is where the biblical system of interpretation is so valuable.  When you are following the biblical system, it is impossible to arrive at the many theological errors that exist and are even now being created.  On the other hand, there is real joy in knowing that we are allowing the text to speak for itself.  Leaning on the grammar, the context, and the historical setting of the text will produce that purity of doctrine that our Lord desires us to have.

SINGULAR HEADSHIP Monday, Sep 3 2012 

In the previous issue, I took up the challenge of some readers to point out areas where the scholars have gotten it wrong.  We dealt with the issue of elders in the church.  If you missed that one, consider going to our website where it is posted.  Careless scholarship has created two groups who snipe at each other from their towers of human reason.  The Bible is in the middle of this war, and because it has the answers, that is where we want to focus.

Let me repeat for you that the problem isn’t about plurality of elders, or elder rule.  These are clearly taught in scripture, even if we have ignored them.  The point of discussion is “Who is qualified to be an elder”?  A careful study of the text firmly establishes that the words “elder, bishop, overseer, shepherd, pastor” are all referring to the same person.  He is all of these, or he is none of them.  He is a shepherd, and the Bible explains what that entails.  The simplest form of the local church is not where two or three are gathered together; it is sheep with a shepherd.  Yet there are those who, because they have decided that headship is multiple, use an errant hermeneutic, arguing that some sheep who are not shepherds can be elders.

Against my better judgment, I refer you to an article on “The Plurality Principle” on page 83 of The Practical Aspects of Pastoral Theology.  The author of that particular chapter is Christopher Cone. The writings of a number of other authors are included in the book, including some who are the finest in their field, but “The Plurality Principle” article is a hermeneutical disaster.  It is a perfect example of what happens when we try to defend a presupposition and force the scripture to comply.  I know this is a strong evaluation, but it demonstrates the ease with which a theological pretzel can be manufactured.  If you think that this amounts to attacking a brother rather than exposing an idea, I beg you to read other articles in the Shepherd’s Staff archives.


All of creation teaches clearly that headship is singular.  It is God’s plan.  An animal with two heads is not normal, and a multiple-headed being is viewed as a monster.  When God created the home, He created single headship.  Every time He stepped into the molding of society, He created single headship.  The patriarchs, judges, and kings whom God chose were singular headship leaders.  When God chose Moses, He knew what he was doing and He made no mistake.  The people may have erred, but God did not.  To argue that God was wrong in His singular choices because the people failed is to argue from error, not truth.  Even the Godhead reflects this headship concept.  Someone once said that “God so loved the world that He didn’t send a committee or a board; He gave us the God-man.”

Anyone who has some years of leadership under his belt knows that there is no vacuum in leadership. Someone always rises to the top.  It is as natural as breathing.  It is how God made us.  You can see this working out in the record of the New Testament local church.  It is evident with James in Acts chapter 15 and with Paul in his epistles, as well as with those who traveled with Paul, planting and bringing order to the local churches.  The record of local churches in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation are simple if only we will just let the text speak for itself.  Nothing speaks more clearly than an honest understanding of the role of the shepherd.  Shepherds come one at a time.  If the flock was too large, there would be multiple shepherds, just as in a local church.  How could there be any question that there is also singular headship where there are multiple pastors?  Any other plan would be a disaster.  John chapter 10 and I Peter 5 are only a couple of clear examples of this.  There may have been hirelings, apprentices, etc., but just because they did some shepherding did not mean they were shepherds.  Remember that all of creation teaches what we see in a local flock – singular headship.  Multiple shepherds with the flock, perhaps, but there had to be singular headship.  At this point, you may wish to read chapter 7, “The Shepherd and His Sheep”, in my book, The Weeping Church.


Let me encourage you to review the one biblical hermeneutic.  It will assist the reader in seeing how ignorance of, or ignoring this God-given plan of interpretation, will always create error. When we come to such a subject as this, we must pay attention to the language, context, and historical setting of the text if we are to come to a biblical conclusion.

I am stunned at the idea that God had one plan – singular headship – from the beginning of time and used it throughout the life of Israel…and suddenly it is no longer true in the church age?  In the chapter by Dr. Cone mentioned above, he argues that singular headship in this age supports the replacement theory, which posits that Israel has been replaced by the church. The fact is that many, if not most of those who reject the replacement theory, hold to singular headship.  Creating straw men like this is not helpful.  Let me point out, though, that Cone doesn’t use the term “headship”, but instead uses “leadership”. These terms are not the same. Not all leaders have headship, but all who have headship have leadership.

Those who have missed the meaning of the plurality texts would normally argue that Christ is the head of the church.  That is true if you are talking about the body of Christ – that is, those who have been saved since Pentecost or will be saved up until the time of the rapture.  It may sound spiritual to say that Christ is the head of the local church, but it is error not to recognize that Christ, “the Chief Shepherd”, has appointed under-shepherds/pastors to lead and head the local church.  This designated headship is stated clearly in I Corinthians 11:3, which says that “the head of Christ is God, the head of man is Christ, and the head of woman is man”.  Christ has made the husband/father the head of the home, just as he has designated headship in the church.  We have clearly seen that this, and all headship, is singular.

So in the church, where the workload must be shared, Christ would have appointed other shepherds to carry the load; but the Bible teaches that headship is singular.  A church with multiple heads is a monster.  It might please human reason for us to order our churches like corporations and flawed forms of human government, but does it please God?  I am also astounded by those who claim that the Bible does not provide us with a pattern for polity, or church government.  That fits right in with the thinking of others who would like to be free to rewrite the Bible.  It is equal to the nonsense that says the Bible doesn’t speak to music, or alcohol, or adultery.  They may want it that way, but God has a plan for anyone who is interested.


When one of these articles stirs a wave of response, I consider that a compliment because it lets me know that at least someone is reading what I publish.  In the last issue, I challenged the reader to ask questions about everything, just as I do in my apologetics classes.  This is particularly important in Bible study.  Asking questions of the text makes one a student, whereas telling the text what it says makes one a writer, or at least an editor of the text.  Since I was challenged to demonstrate a specific issue where published scholars have it wrong, I will allow you to read over my shoulder.

In 1985, Regular Baptist Press published The Weeping Church, Confronting the Crisis of Church Polity.  The book has gone through several printings and is still in print.  I wish I could share with you the huge file of thank-you notes from those who have benefited from the information in that book that pointed them to the scriptures.  In it you will find a broader presentation on the subject I have chosen for this article.  Every doctrine rises from an individual’s system of interpretation. Theological errors rise from an erroneous hermeneutic or, at best, a misuse of the one biblical system.  The way to know if a scholar has a failed hermeneutic is simply to look at his conclusions, because “the proof is in the pudding”.


The frustration that rises with the question I have chosen for this issue is that there are two extremes of argumentation, and both are wrong.  Both extremes make it clear that they are arguing for a human presupposition and that their words are simply twisted to prove something they think is true.  None of us is free from this kind of temptation; but in an honest approach, we must stop and admit that “I added that to the text”.  The strange thing is that the presupposition of both sides is the same.  From one view, they downplay the function of the pastor/bishop/elder by arguing against the oversight, the ruling functions, and the plurality.  The other side argues against the shepherd role and makes unqualified sheep equal to fulfilling the God-ordained plan.  They both end up ignoring the clear teaching of scripture on the role of the shepherd.  The motive may well be a cultural infusion, or a political ambition, but it allows them to take for themselves what God in His wisdom has given to another.

For the record, both sides should go no further until they accept the plain statements of scripture.  The pastor, shepherd, bishop, overseer, and elder are all one and the same person. Either he is all, or he is none of these.  (Acts 20; I Peter 3; Hebrews 13; I Timothy 3; Titus 1) The main issue here is that the debate is not about plurality.  Plurality is clearly taught in scripture.  What some say about it, or how they explain it, however, has often been added to scripture.  The issue is not whether or not elders rule; that is plainly taught in scripture, even if we don’t like it.  The real issue here is “who is qualified to be an elder?”.

Typically, I Timothy 5:17 is rewritten by some to create two kinds of elders – ruling elders and teaching elders.  The text teaches the opposite: “The elder who rules well is to be ‘paid double’”.  Since all elders must be qualified to teach, those who do this work well are worthy of the same consideration.  The context rules in this passage, making it clear that the text is talking about remuneration.  Verse 18 is most often left out by those who choose to divide the office, but the issue is confirmed in I Corinthians 9:7-9.  A second problem is posed by those who state that the office is one, as the teaching/ruling elder; however, they most often miss the point that this man is also an under-shepherd.  These local shepherds are chosen by God and are answerable to the “chief shepherd” (I Peter 5:1-4). In a local church, there are sheep that have a local resident shepherd.  Understanding this text requires the full use of the one biblical hermeneutic.  The use of the term “under shepherd” here can only be understood in the historical setting of the text.  Understanding who would qualify to be a true shepherd requires some knowledge of that specific historical setting.  There was a clear difference between sheep and shepherd.  There were helpers, hirelings, and apprentices; but they were not the shepherd.  For the benefit of the sincere student, John chapter 10 has a wealth of information on this subject.


A person is not a shepherd simply because he does some shepherding, no more than a babysitter who does some mothering is automatically a mother.  A true shepherd is not an afterthought; his task is all-encompassing and consuming.  He has no thought or goal outside of this occupation.  The safety of the sheep is at risk if he is distracted by the things of this world. In II Timothy 2:3-7, Paul told young pastor Timothy how demanding the shepherd’s role is.  With very few exceptions, he lives, sleeps, and stays with his sheep.  The qualifications of a local resident pastor (and all pastors) are not found alone in I Timothy 4 and Titus.  His qualification and function can be found in the very understanding of the shepherd.  With all of these things in mind, one would be hard pressed to find a qualified pastor/elder among the many sheep who are falsely called elders.

The concept of having sheep called by men to be elders is not new, but that calling doesn’t make them shepherds; that is still creating two kinds of elders.  The idea of a ruling elder board is an invention of men.  True, some of the men who hold that view are well-known important people, and some are scholars; but they are wrong.  If a church is ruled by a “presbytery”, it has chosen the Reformed polity with a man-made hermeneutic.  If the polity of a church is Presbyterian, it is a Presbyterian church and should not use the name Baptist, no matter what mode of baptism they may use.  The fact that some Baptist churches have done this is no proof that it is correct, even if a well-known scholar is the pastor.


We are well aware that there are lots of problems among those who use a true biblical system, but you don’t build error on error.  You don’t add to the scripture; you simply ask the text what it says.  To correct error, we go back to the source of the authority – the scripture – and begin there again.  We need to go to the Book – not to prove our point, but to know truth that God has revealed for us in His Word.  Space and time are limited here, so there will be more to follow.

In case you have never read it, you may wish to consider the book The Weeping Church,

ISBN: 0970826117 / 0-9708261-1-7.

CAN YOU TRUST A SCHOLAR? Wednesday, Jul 18 2012 

Both scholars and scholarship have their value; we need them for several reasons.  The skill of scholarship, however, is like theology, academia, accreditation, and leadership in that it has a negative side.  The problem is that many people have chosen to adopt a “boiler-plate” position as to the worth of each one.  Some people can see no flaw in scholarship, while others can see no good in it.  It is the same argument we have had with accreditation, but both extremes are wrong and dangerous.

Yes, you can trust a scholar.  You can trust him to think, search, and research.  You can trust him to be complicated and detailed.  You can trust him to go where others have not gone.  You can trust him to look for answers where none have previously been found…and to sometimes find answers that don’t really exist.  While some scholars think they are infallible, they are not; God alone is without error.  There are scholars who are our friends and will be helpful to us in resolving difficult projects.  Some are humble enough to admit that, even in their specific discipline, there are things they do not know.  The honest scholar will tell you that he has made a lot of mistakes and that he spends time helping others learn to think critically and analytically.

All thinking is not equal; one can think good thoughts or bad.  Nor does all thinking necessarily lead to truth; it can just as often lead to error.  For the same reasons, all scholars are not equal. Though they may have similar practices, they – like all humans – are stymied by presuppositions. Some of their positions may be a result of flawed thinking, while others are deliberate mental roadblocks that lead to destructive conclusions and practices.  These mental barriers include evolution, atheism, agnosticism, and arguably the most damning, liberalism.


In many disciplines, such as science, scholars often claim to hold absolute truth on a subject.  The problem, however, is that they then keep changing their minds about what is absolute and continuing to violate their own standards that affirm scientific proof.  As in the courtroom and in politics, they play fast and loose with data, reminding us of the old adage which says that “figures don’t lie, but liars figure”.  Paul told Pastor Timothy, O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith. (I Timothy 6:20-21a)

Although it may be difficult to keep the value of trustworthy scholarship in mind, the sad fact is that much of what falls under that heading is nothing more than intellectual “vain babblings”. One can expect such from the scholar who is spiritually dead, because his condition leads to deceit and the denial of divine revelation and the sovereign creator God.  The point of this article, however, is about something far more serious.  It has to do with the scholarship and intellectualism that falls under the name “Christian”.  Even here, we have to peel off the layers. Many of these individuals, while claiming the cover of Christians, do not appear to be believers. We could understand why a professing Christian might still think and act in a confused pattern, since they do not have the Spirit of God dwelling in them.  Sadly, evangelicalism has broadened ranks so that the evidence indicates that it now includes scholars from both sides of the spectrum.  For this discussion, though, we will focus on those who claim to be believers.


The idea that scholars are the authorities and therefore are the final word on a specific subject or issue may rise from the worship of intellectualism.  Even in the matter of the biblical text, it is dangerous to use human reason as the final judge.  When the valuable tools of scholarship are used to discover an answer from a Bible text, then we are thankful for such expertise.  Those who are highly skilled in the languages of the Bible and in textual studies do us a great service. As long as they remain servants of the text, we can benefit from their ministry.  The problem comes when they place themselves beyond challenge from the average believer.

The Bible was not written to or for scholars; it was written for the average believer.  God did not establish a separate category of Bible students, such as a college of grammatical cardinals.  He did give believers different gifts and abilities, but those were for the benefit of all and not just some.  It is the responsibility of every believer who is serious about Bible truth to ask questions about the conclusions scholars offer.  Often, the conclusions of scholars are still questions rather than firm or proven answers.

The fallibility of these skilled servants can be seen by comparing their findings.  Faithful renderings of the original languages are important to the process of hermeneutics.  The problem is that some of these scholars feel that when they have finished their work with the original language they have found the answer and thus need go no further.  The conflict is revealed when others who are skilled in the same language and doing the same work come up with different conclusions.  In reading what various commentaries have to say about a single passage, it appears that there is little agreement even among the “final authorities”.


Luke tells us that the people at Berea had it right:  These were more noble than those at Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the scripture daily, whether those things were so.  (Acts 17:11)  Can the faithful believer who studies the word diligently with the one biblical hermeneutic know when a scholar’s conclusion is erroneous?  The average bookstore that claims to be “Christian” probably has more error in its books than truth.  The faithful student will ask questions about those errors.  He will ask questions of the Bible text and then will let the text speak for itself.  The faithful believer will ask questions about every lesson, sermon, article, and song with which he intersects.  The average church member lets the majority of false teaching just go right by; after all, why challenge a scholar?  Why question any person who sounds like they know more about the Bible than I do?

We have also discovered the reason why educational institutions that call themselves Christian get a “pass” when they are moving away from the clear teaching of the Bible text.  In many cases those departures are not deliberate, but what is the difference?  Error is error, and God gave believers the scriptures to check and see if what is being taught is true or false.  The challenges are clear; you can’t trust someone else to do your work for you.  You can’t trust scholars, religious icons, or popular preachers.  You can’t trust me to do your work for you.  I can tell you how to know if you are being lied to, but you have to do the work for yourself.


A WORLD DIVIDED Wednesday, Jun 20 2012 

The country I live in is a sample of a worldwide divide.  We are not divided by political parties; those are too much like each other.  We aren’t divided by religions; they have too much in common.  We are not even divided by wealth; poor people are just as greedy as those who are rich.  We aren’t divided by race, either; all people groups operate with pretty much the same kind of approach.  It isn’t the peripheral things about which we disagree that count here. Rather, there are basic things that divide us; and while they can be rejected, they remain as crystal clear options.  The whole world is divided into two groups. The first group consists of those who believe in the sovereign creator God and who have a personal relationship to Jesus Christ.  The second group is made up of those who confess and/or live as if man is god.  This is the reason why there are only two final dwelling places, one called heaven and the other hell

Each of the two groups has its own authority base.  For the believer, it is the revealed word of God, the Bible.  The authority base of all others, without exception, is human reason.  I like to classify this group as “Humianity” in contrast to biblical Christianity.  Some would argue that there is a third group known as moderates.  The problem is that a moderate must use human reason as a higher authority than scripture, and that would automatically place him/her in the second group.  I am fully aware of the fact that people hate simplicity, and there is a reason for that: they do not like the discussion of right and wrong, even when it comes from the eternal Creator and Judge of the universe.

Individuals who have chosen man as their god will often quote from, or rub shoulders with, the authority base of the Bible.  Such a practice is just one more clear indication that they want the respectability of both, while still clinging to their own sense of superiority.  For believers, the scriptures are the sovereign word on anything to which they may speak.


An example of this issue of an authority base is found in the divide between conservatism and liberalism – the real struggle that is dividing our own nation.  At the heart of this warfare is a life-and-death struggle around the issue of an authority base; it’s not really about all the incidentals stated in half-truths and partisan politics.  There are no perfect people.  There is no one who always does it right, but there are people who operate on a solid standard that over the years has been tested and tried.  This is the authority base of conservatism.  The authority base of liberalism is the plastic whim of man at any given point in time, and this movement hates any reliable standard.

The best example of this is the constitution of the United States.  It is despised, hated, maligned and disobeyed by liberals who want to rewrite it.  It is interesting to note that this group deals with the Bible in the same way.  They try to tell us that both documents are out-of-date and certainly not applicable to today’s world – that people today are much smarter than the founders of our country and certainly more intellectual than God!  Because liberals claim the authority base of human reason, all of their actions are bound to be bent in the wrong direction.  Conservatism, on the other hand, tends to find itself committed to proven standards such as the constitution. This identifies their authority base.

We are not proud of the attitude and vitriolic speech of some people who call themselves conservative, but conservatism is the home of many measured saints.  Although liberalism may claim to be compassionate and caring, some – if not much – of the hate speech and ugly rhetoric come from that camp.  They say that conservatives have a “boiler plate mentality” and are “short part of their brain”, and they like to call us the “radical right”.  Now, I’m not suggesting that we should actually use the term – after all, what would that gain us? – but I do wonder if the above does not make them the “lunatic left”!!


This matter of the authority base is not a hard one to follow.  It is the reason why those of us who prefer tested standards tend to support a good work ethic, compassionate use of wealth, justice and judgment for the offender, careful recognition of the victim, etc.  It is also why we oppose socialism and government-controlled functions that belong to the private sector.  We oppose making anyone either dependent on or virtual slaves to the government.  Interestingly, the Bible speaks to all of these issues; and that is why it is a good authority base.

The problem of using man as a standard rather than God is that man is flawed, and so are all of his attempts to mold society.  This mindset only repeats the same errors over and over again.  For instance, socialism has never worked anywhere.  It only creates pain and suffering.  Rather than erasing greed, it creates it at every level.  Liberals hate the word socialism, which is proof that they know how bad it really is; but they will press on to own it, anyway.

In this discussion, it is important to avoid a major error used by the “man is god” group.  In reading the literature they provide on this subject, I note that nearly all their arguments use error to build error.  For instance, mamy of the complaints offered by those on the left are valid: people are doing it wrong.  The problem is that doing something wrong in order to deal with a wrong is a non-answer.  That kind of thinking flows from an errant authority base.  If something is wrong, we need to go back to the beginning for an answer – a solid authority and the true God.

Finally, it is to be noted the authority base of individuals, and the decisions they make, will run throughout the whole of their lives and will affect them politically, spiritually, socially, mentally, and even physically.  As for myself, as a believer I have chosen the sovereign creator God and the authority of scripture because all problems, injustice, difficulty, and human standards are tested by the Bible.  Just like you, I am what I believe.  Each of us is what we believe, and that is why we think and act the way we do.

PLAIN TALK Saturday, May 19 2012 

If it is indeed true that words have meaning, then why is it that so often you can’t be sure what someone has just said?  I support the use of plain talk, not wanting anyone to doubt what I mean when I preach, teach, or write.  If we use words that have clear and strong meaning, people will know for sure what we are saying.  They may not like it, but they will know where we stand.

The problem is that often such clarity is not welcome in our world today.  Our culture is always searching for terms that will weaken true understanding.  It is frightening to realize that in the near future we may be required to use compromised words, and perhaps may even be punished by law if we are pointed and transparent in our speech.  Speaking the truth, in some cases, is already considered to be hate speech.  Our forefathers may have seen this coming when they wrote in stone, “The Freedom of Speech”.


It is one thing for our pagan society to attempt to force on all of us their secular religious views; it is, however, something else altogether when the dumbing-down of words is pressed on us by those who profess faith in Christ.  The impression we get is that we are supposed to do everything we can in an effort to be unclear.  I have just given you an illustration of this by using “pagan society” and “secular religious.”  It takes some concentrating on meaning and content to be able to understand those statements; but then, we are trapped in word games where everything is form, rather than meaning.

The word “murder” has a very clear definition, but we are forbidden to use it; instead, it has been replaced by “abortion”.  The word “sodomy” is strong and clear; but it, too, has been replaced by terms considered to be more respectable.  We are not allowed to use clear words like “socialism” and “treason.”  Polite people evidently are not comfortable with the truth.  You may have noted that “offensive” words have been removed from some hymn lyrics so that the sinner is painted in a more sensitive way.  This may be why so many sinners don’t think they’re all that bad and why it is that today we have so many unsaved members in our churches.

Preaching that deals with sin is now cast in an unfavorable light.  We are being told that it is not polite to talk about such things in public and that people need to be encouraged, not confronted.  Offending God has become the rule of the day, and it seems we are supposed to only say nice things about even the most heinous of sins.  Even the devil deserves measured speech, they say.


It has been argued that the use of clear terms demonstrates a lack of love toward the sinner.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We do not exhibit love when we leave people to wonder what we mean.  We do not express love when we let a lost man go to hell because his horrible condition was not made clear.  Fire is a plain, blunt word.  It may disturb people.  To fail to cry “fire” when a friend’s home is engulfed in flames in the middle of the night, though, is not love.  Plain talk does not offend God, but it does disturb those who see man at the center of all things.  There is something wrong with the love of man that does not begin with the love of God.  The love of God flows from His foundational attribute of holiness.  Truth precedes love, but you can’t have one without the other.


We have been lectured by those of a liberal mindset that doctrine is not an expression of love; it is divisive.  Of course it is; that is God’s point.  Doctrine divides truth from error and heaven from hell.  The gospel is offensive to the unbeliever who rejects it.  It is so offensive that “new gospels” have become part of the “error of the month” club.  The apostle Paul made the offence of the gospel plain:  “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18)

Plain talk allows people to know exactly where they stand.  Strong words lose their power when they are made nice.  Compromise has a down side.  If we are so pressed to be measured in our speech that we cloud the facts, why bother speaking at all?  An editor of one of my books wrote to me, “You certainly have a sharp pen!”  I love and respect that man and took that statement as a compliment.

It is argued, however, that you will turn people off and they will not listen to you if you use plain language.  It is not my task to convince people; that is the role of the Holy Spirit.  I don’t have to be cute in my conversation in order to be effective; I do have to be clear and plain.  It helps if our plain talk is about ideas, not about persons.  For instance, we should refer to liberalism as the ideas and not the liberal people themselves.  It also helps to remember that the liberal mind focuses on people, not on ideas or on God.  For the liberal system, everything is judged on how people will feel and what they may think.


There is a difference between using words that offend and being offensive, but that has to do with motive.  When we preach clearly about hell and judgment, we must not leave the impression that we are glad that people are going there.  We can use plain words with love.  Hearts that are open to the Spirit of God will sense our sincere grief over their lost state.  It is possible to hate sin as God does.  It is possible for us to love the lost with the love that God has expressed.  There is no conflict in this, which is why we sow the seed and water it with our tears, but it is God who gives the increase.

GOD DEFINES MARRIAGE Friday, Apr 27 2012 

The plague of human reason has firmly placed man as god.  Whenever the subject of an event or an issue is raised, reporters from the liberal media ask opinions of entertainers, failed politicians, customers at a bar, intellectuals, and “religious types”. Why not ask the sovereign creator God for a clear statement on the subject?  The answer is that the majority no longer cares what God has said.  Our leaders have been busy erasing the true God from our culture while they establish man as god.  As you know, I like to describe this as replacing Christianity with a new religion, which I have dubbed “Humianity”.

One of the tenets of the religion of man is the freedom to lie about anything.  This bad habit, in some cases, comes from a lack of understanding and wisdom.  Every thought and opinion of a man comes from his religious perspective.  Those who own man as their god see their own convoluted ideas as the final word on any subject.  The true believer seeks the word of God for any definition.  The authority base for a believer is the scriptures, while human reason is the authority base for all others.

An illustration of this can be found in evolution, or unintelligent design, versus creation, which is known as intelligent design.  The world looks for soft words to cover their heinous sins.  For instance, murder has become “abortion”, sin has become “sickness”, and sodomy has become “gay”.  The sad thing is that professing Christians far too often have joined the “Softening of Sin” club.

In our country there is a movement to redefine marriage.  One can only wonder why people support this, but their position depends on who is their God.  For the true believer, it’s a simple matter, because God has given us a definition in Genesis – one man for one woman for one lifetime.


In several states, including the one we live in, a marriage amendment has been proposed, simply stating God’s true definition of marriage.  Some may not like it, but what people are really doing at the polls is declaring who is their god.  For true believers, casting a vote is a grand opportunity to publicly identify with the God of glory and with the authority of scripture.  In front of some people’s houses are signs that say “Vote against Amendment One!”  Those signs on their lawns constitute an open confession of the god those people have chosen.  One might argue that there are also Christians and churches who oppose the amendment; by doing so, however, they also have declared who is really their god.  People are not Christians just because they say they are; we are defined by what we believe.  The fact that so many have twisted or ignored the clear teaching of scripture only confirms their choice of gods.  I am a Christian because of what I believe.  I am a Baptist because of what I believe, and I say what I say and do what I do because of what I believe.  Our beliefs, however, have to be founded on the central and clear teaching of God’s Word; we do not have the luxury of personal and private interpretation.  The Bible is not plastic, and we have no authority to mold it as we please or to rewrite it at every whim.

It is easy for the believer to be lazy and ignore opportunities to speak for God, but our silence in such matters amounts to disobedience.  Remember that the great sin of Adam and Eve wasn’t their diet; it was that they disobeyed God.  The result of their sin is still with us and is part of what is going on in this debate.  That may seem to you a small thing, but what is going to follow will be far worse.  If those who worship man get their way, the day will come when I will go to jail for what I have written here! The tide of evil flows very strong, and only a blind person would miss the growing hatred toward biblical Christianity.  We need to speak while we have the freedom to do so, because introduction of the flood of laws against us is just around the corner.


Many evangelicals would say that what I have written is not kind or compassionate. They need to read the next issue of Shepherds Staff on the subject of “Plain Talk”.  First, let me explain the problem.  The liberal mindset is unable to separate ideas or fact from people.  Liberals tend to spend their time in the swamp of people talk, where they can shut down truth by talking about Christians being “mean spirited”.  They have placed their own inventions about love above the holiness of God.  There is nothing loving about teaching people to sin or being silent while those who are chained to their lusts plunge to eternal judgment.

The God of the Bible is perfect in holiness, truth, and love.  His perfect holiness has defined marriage.  This is the truth, and while we are to love the sinner, we must not love his sin by making him feel comfortable about it.  That is exactly what the Corinthians had done in I Corinthians 5.  While some smarter-than-God intellectuals don’t think God loves sinners, He does; and so must we.  At the same time, God hates sin; the cross is all the proof you need.


I cannot help but wonder if this subject will come up at the Judgment Seat of Christ – something as small as speaking for God and His word on the subject of marriage, as opposed to those who choose to mock God?  I think that if you could ask Adam and Eve, they would tell you that disobedience is no small thing!  “…let God be true, but every man a liar…” Romans 3:4


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