Unity or Heresy, Part 10: Baptist and Nondenominational
Revelation 2:5 – Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
So last week, I had a challenge to my view of United Methodism that I feel I need to clarify. This reader expressed concern that I went too easy on the UMC denomination. While heresy exists in every denomination, and UMC is no different, the basic tenets of their faith, minus the Arminian views, are fairly Scriptural. There are a lot of things going on in all of the old-line denominations right now that are cause for alarm, and again, the UMC is no different. They are the largest supporter of the ecumenical group World Council of Churches. This is a radically liberal theology group that is looking to create unity among the churches. Unfortunately, it is going beyond just the churches and into unity among religions. Also, many people point to the UMC when speaking about gay rights. I want to post the page directly from their Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions. This will give you their official statement and then I would like you to be the judge.
The next point about the UMC is something that does concern me. They allow for abortion in certain circumstances. Here is the word from the UMC on their site:
The sanctity of life is beyond important. If it weren’t, God would not have sent His Son to die on the cross for us to save us. If life were not sacred, then we would not even exist. Life cannot be aborted. In any case. What would happen if we chose to abort a life that God was going to make into the next great evangelist or a talented musician or a great writer? Even beyond those opportunities to miss some of the world’s greatest people, the Bible is clear about murder. Does “Thou shalt not murder” ring a bell with anyone?
Regardless, the UMC church is still a strong denomination. Like all of the larger, legacy denominations, they are on a slippery slope and heading closer to ann abyss of heresy. But there is no denying the 200,000 who gave their lives in Africa alone last year through the UMC.
So now it is time to get to this week’s topic, the Baptist Church and all of those non-denominational, evangelical churches out there.
1 Peter 3:21 – Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
The Baptist church is one of the oldest Protestant denominations. The main difference between Baptist churches and many other Protestant faiths is that they believe only in believer’s baptism and that this baptism takes place through immersion only, as traced back to the early church. Just like any other legacy denomination, there have been schisms along the way and those schisms have caused the theology to be varied from subgroup to subgroup. The most major of these schisms was in 1845 when the church divided between north and south with the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention. The two main groups of Baptists in America are the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the American Baptist Churches (ABC). While the basic theology of Baptist churches varies between subgroup, there are certain points that make a Baptist Church its namesake. This can be seen in the acronym BAPTIST:
B Biblical Authority
A Autonomy of the local church
P Priesthood of the believer
T Two ordinances (believer’s baptism and communion)
I Individual soul liberty
S Separation of church and state
T Two offices of the church (deacon and pastor)
While most affirm that basic acronym, there can be differences found between Calvinism and Arminianism, eschatology, views on homosexuality, and views on women in leadership.
Let’s look a little at each of the major groups of Baptists out there and determine the differences.
Each of these two groups has done amazing things worldwide for the cause of Christ. They both believe in the authority of Scripture, believer’s baptism, that the Bible is inerrant, inspired, and infallible (according to their position papers), and in the Trinity. While that may be the case, they both have some issues that need to be addressed. The SBC is extremely conservative in their approach with being one of the few denominations that do not allow women to hold pastoral roles. They also affirm, on their positional statement, that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, disallowing the world’s view of homosexuality as less than a sin. You can find their positional statement here:
The denomination has chosen to begin severing ties with the Boy Scouts of America over the issue of homosexuality in leadership. You can read this here:
The SBC has been known to re-baptize those who were baptized in other denominations. While the information I have received is ambiguous as to whether they are required to re-baptize if they came from a believer’s baptism/immersion church prior to joining the SBC church, this position can be seen in two different ways. Either the church is breaking down the unity of believers by requiring this stance, thus making other denominations out to be unbelievers, or they are attempting to create a unified methodology that can bring a visible example of Christianity in this dark world. If the former is true, then there could be cause for claiming heresy as they would be seen as exclusivist. If the latter is true, then they have a long road ahead of them with some definite push back, not only from non-Christians but Christians as well.
James 4:17 – So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
The ABC church, while known as being more liberal in their teaching, also holds many of the same basic tenets of Protestant faith. To give you an idea of their view of homosexuality, here is their positional statement:
The ABC has been littered, over recent history of individual heresies that go unpunished. These individual heresies may not have been primarily done by the ABC, but they have turned a blind eye to much of it. For example, in 1991, an ABC women’s ministry paper, stated, “What I have come to love about Scripture is the fact that IT IS NOT INERRANT. That IT IS NOT PERFECT. That it is not complete. That it does contradict itself…”
In another situation, at the Christian Feminist Conference in 1993 in Minneapolis, an ABC outwardly gay female pastor claimed that Mary and Martha were not sisters, but lesbian lovers. My question for the ABC is how does that statement in 1993 by an openly gay, female pastor line up with the 2005 statement in the link above that homosexuality is “incompatible with Biblical teaching?”
The American Baptist Convention is having a major issue. They have claimed some of the right teaching in their positional statements, but reading pieces from their website and seeing the major schism that is forthcoming proves that there is something below the surface that is brewing. The heresies that have been turned a blind eye toward are finally beginning to take a toll. In a matter of time, there will be many more Baptist denominations. Here is one more link, showing their views on women in ministry:
Looking at the SBC, I would have to call them a denomination. But the ABC, I need to see them as a cult.
Jude 1:3 – Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.
The nondenominational churches are very tough to pinpoint. For these, you have to look very carefully at the individual church. Whether it is a single church, a multi-site church group, or even a para-denomination unto itself, one needs to look very deeply at the individual church beliefs, positional statements (if even there) and interview the leadership. For the record, I attend a church that is nondenominational and evangelical. This church I attend is very Biblically focused and, from what I have seen, heresy is not existent. As with any large church, the challenge to love all of the congregants as we love our family is tough, especially when the church is constantly growing. And, of course, like any large organization, there are daily operational struggles, mostly involving the same operational struggles of any church, growing a volunteer organization to be evangelical, loving, and unified.
But the blessings that I have experienced at Chesapeake Christian Fellowship are not experienced at all nondenominational church or organization. I look at Calvary Chapel as an example. I love the idea of Calvary Chapel. The running joke there is that “you don’t have to go to cemetery, er, seminary to pastor a church.” Now I am not one who believes that seminary is an absolute necessity to pastor, but there is something to be said for deep, intellectual study of Scripture. This is why at Calvary, inconsistency from one church to the next is significant. From a pride-filled Gospel to one that is very Scripturally sound.
And then there is Mars Hill. Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll’s multi-site organization. This is the same church that provided for us Rob Bell. The benefits to these non-denominational churches is that, since they don’t have positional statements, they can easily wipe away heretics such as Bell. But in the tradition of sola scriptura, they show the Bible as inerrant, infallible, and inspired. They believe much of the Protestant view of Christianity. But there is one thing that is concerning, similar to Calvary Chapel, that they “believe in the autonomy of the local churches, free of any external authority and control.”
That is a common theme throughout nondenominational churches.
I am not going to bash many of my friends. I love Mark Driscoll. I grew up on heavy metal music that came out of Calvary Chapel in the 80s. Steven Furtick at Elevation Church, David Ashcraft at LCBC, Perry Noble from NewSpring, Chris Hodges at Church of the Highlands, Matt Keller at Next Level, Greg Surratt at Seacoast, Jim Putman at Real Life Ministries and the list goes on, I love them all. I’ve spoken via email to almost all of these men, spoken live to a couple of them, and read almost all of their books. I love what they all stand for.
But you can’t deny the risk.
Christian, let me ask you, what is the largest church in America? Lakewood Church, pastored by Joel Osteen. I’ve blogged before about my concerns with Osteen’s teachings. But his church had 43,500 weekly attenders in 2013. It is very easy for churches to water down the Gospel in order to reach more people. Every pastor who is part of a growing church will at least be tempted by Satan to make the church more appealing to the masses. Whether that be twisting Scripture like Osteen or disregarding the command to disciple while focusing only on seekers, the temptation will happen.
If you are seriously considering one of the megachurches or any nondenominational church for that matter, then I mean this severely: You need to interview the lead pastor. You need to make sure you check them out deeply. These churches can build amazing communities that are Scripturally sound and focused on the Gospel. But they can be dangerous as well. They can do more damage if there is little or no oversight. Remember, the road to hell is broad while the road to heaven is narrow. The definitions of broad and narrow can be subjective, however.
So I can’t really give a blanket statement about nondenominational churches. I know that Chesapeake Christian Fellowship is a true definition of a church by Scriptural standards. And I know that Osteen’s church is more heretical.
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Next week, I will begin to wrap this up with the 3 part conclusion that will list out each denomination and each standard that I am reviewing them all by and giving the denomination’s position.