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Standards and Fences - Rerun

Saturday, November 11, 2006

There has been a lot of discussion lately about Fences again on one of the blogs that are popular in Fundamentalism. I have not had the time to read all of those posts, yet, so please do not interpret this post as an answer to Tom's posts. (I may have a desire to answer Tom's posts once he has completed all of them - including his explanation - but, this is not it).

Standards and Fences (Originally posted - August 5, 2006)

There are many today who like to equate having standards and guidelines as a form of legalism or Phariseeism and as contrary to the grace of God working in a person's life. The end of this equation is that anyone who advocates that others adopt standards in their lives to help keep themselves from falling into a particular sin is "adding to the Scripture" and is teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.

It seems interesting to me that the ones who I most often interact with on this type of conversation are people who have previously been in Fundamentalism, usually of the more extreme variety. It seems to me that there must be something in leaving the extremes that tends to move you towards the opposite extreme.

In one recent conversation on this topic, one individual commented (not to me) that "You don't have a supernatural religion, therefore you can't keep your thoughts pure without ‘going beyond what is written.'" Another an individual commented that "standards are a human-based solution to a deadness so profound that only God can change it" and "Standards promoters feel it is important to have faith, the correct doctrine, and the Triune Deity, but instead of actually having these things, they may only image (sic - I assume he meant imagine) that they do. The commands and wisdom of the Scriptures must be shored up where necessary by fences and rules. The Pharisees believed in this way..."

So, if I follow this reasoning, the following things are true about those who believe that having and maintaining standards can be a good thing.

1. They do not have a supernatural religion, but a fake religion.
2. Standards are "going beyond what is written" because you can't keep yourself pure with that fake religion.
3. Standards are the result of a profound deadness.
4. Standards promoters do not have faith, correct doctrine or the Triune Deity, just think they do.
5. Standards promoters do not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture.
6. Standards promoters are following the path of the Pharisees.

The reality, of course, is that numbers 1, 3, & 4 (at least) are all the same thing - those who believe in having, keeping, and encouraging others in the area of standards are lost.

I recognize that there are many groups out there who believe that keeping their standards are what makes or keeps them holy. Sadly, those individuals are severely mistaken. We do not merit grace, it is the gift of God. However, there is a large difference between having, keeping and encouraging standards and believing that it is those standards that make me right with God.

I am married. As a result of being married, there are some things that I will not do because I love my wife. There are some guidelines that I have set up so that I will not displease her (even though I am sure that there are plenty of other areas where I do displease her). I follow these things because I love Missy and I do not want to displease her, not because I believe that keeping those guidelines is all I need in order to keep my relationship with Missy what it should be.

Not only are having appropriate guidelines and standards helpful from a practical standpoint, they are also consistent with Biblical teaching about these things.

For instance, the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 13:14,

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

It seems to me that in order to fulfill that admonition, one must have an understanding of what types of things provide for our flesh so that we can avoid making provision for it.

Even more pointedly, Jesus Christ Himself seems to give a radical view of the seriousness of setting up fences so that we do not fall.

Notice these words of Jesus Christ,
Matthew 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

It seems strange to me that when someone argues, "If having unfiltered internet access causes thee to look after a woman to lust, thou shouldest get a filter on your internet rather than persist in that sin" they are viewed as being legalistic and having a false religion, when Christ says "pluck out the eye" if it causes you to stumble or "cut off that hand" if doing so will keep you from going down this pathway to sin.

Now, I recognize that the "non-standards" people will argue that "well, you are not Christ", but it seems to me that the principle from Christ is still applicable - if there is something we can do that keeps us away from those temptations (e.g. erecting a standard or a practice to avoid the problem - or "cutting off our hand"), then surely this is a wise and prudent thing to do.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

File under - Christianity, Fundamentalism

15 comments:

Jeri said...

The error of your reasoning is apparent in the verse you cite. Paul says to "put on the Lord jesus Christ," not set up a bunch of standards. It is not by
"setting standards" that we live the blameless Christian life, but by "putting on the Lord Jesus Christ."

Use the analogy of your marriage.
There are many men who never committed adultery and always put food on the table who were, nonetheless, very bad and cruel husbands. Indeed, they never
raised a hand to their wives and yet they failed to love. All the externals can be in place, but they are mere externals. You can follow all the observable
rules and still fail completely.

That's how it is with being a Christian. You can try the "standards" route and fail. Or you can "put on the Lord Jesus Christ," which is what the Bible
is telling you to do, and succeed. But putting on the Lord Jesus Christ is done by faith, not by making a list of externals.

People who object to "standards" are not objecting to holiness. We object to the counterfeit of holiness: works. We recognize that only by putting on the Lord
Jesus Christ, by living in terms of His righteousness that covers us (faith), can we live holy lives. We do not put on rules and standards. We put on the Lord Jesus
Christ, who affords us a covering acceptable with God.

Frank Sansone said...

Jeri,

Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. I have read a number of things that you have written and I also disagree with those who believe that "standards=holiness" but, if you will read what I have written, that IS NOT what I am saying. I do not have time this morning for a fuller response, but I hope to be able to post one this evening.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

Frank Sansone said...

Jeri,

You claim that "the error" of my reasoning is apparent in the verse that I cite - Romans 13:14 and then you quote one part of the verse. Nothing I said contradicts the first part of that verse - yea, I believe that it is vital that we put on Jesus Christ.

Albert Barnes makes some very good comments about this concept - he indicates that this expression means "to imbibe his principles, to imitate his example, to copy his spirit, to become like him." He adds that "thus, to put on the Lord Jesus means, to take him as a pattern and guide, to imitate his example, to obey his precepts, to become like him, etc. In all respects the Lord Jesus was unlike what had been specified in the previous verse. He was temperate, chaste, pure, peaceable, and meek; and to put him on was to imitate him in these respects."

There is nothing in what I said that contradicts that. In fact, I would say if you consider the entirety of what I am saying, the position that I am taking takes this into account much more than the licentious position which I am arguing against. When I read the comments like the ones that I am commenting on, I see very little in those comments that reflect back on what Jesus Christ really was like. I see, instead, a desire to do what a person wants to do in the name of "Christian liberty." I noticed that you failed to address the fact that Jesus Christ HIMSELF - the One Who we are to "put on" - indicates that it is better to radically pluck out one's eye than to allow ourselves to look after a woman to lust after her. In doing so, Christ indicates that sin is serious enough that we ought to be willing to be radical in our efforts to get away from it. If we are going to "put on Christ" then it makes sense that to imitate his example in taking sin serious is something we should be striving for, rather than going around accusing everyone of a "fake religion" or "legalism" because they do so. Surely it is okay for those who are imitating Christ to say, "If having unfiltered internet access causes thee to look after a woman to lust, thou shouldest get a filter on your internet rather than persist in that sin" in light of Our Savior's own words about this type of sin.

In my original post, in commenting on the second part of this verse - "make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof" - I made the following comment that seems to be what you are reacting to regarding this verse. "It seems to me that in order to fulfill that admonition, one must have an understanding of what types of things provide for our flesh so that we can avoid making provision for it."

I fail to see how such a comment deserves such ire. The verse says to make not provision for the flesh. In order to do that, I need to have an understanding of what type of things provide for the flesh and I need to avoid those things that provide for the flesh. It is pretty straight forward. I did not say "live in your own strength" or "do these things apart from Christ." The underlying truth is that without Christ we can do NOTHING (John 15:5).

You go on from there to raise a straw man that does not say what I have said - in fact, completely ignores what I have said.

For instance, you comment:
"There are many men who never committed adultery and always put food on the table who were, nonetheless, very bad and cruel husbands. Indeed, they never raised a hand to their wives and yet they failed to love. All the externals can be in place, but they are mere externals. You can follow all the observable rules and still fail completely."

Did you not read what I said? I specifically stated, "I follow these things because I love Missy and I do not want to displease her, not because I believe that keeping those guidelines is all I need in order to keep my relationship with Missy what it should be." It seems disingenuous in light of this statement that I made in the post you are commenting upon for you to then make the statement you made above which tries to imply that I think that all that needs to be done is to meet the mere externals. I have already stated that mere externals alone are not enough. I am not arguing for a "a list of externals" as the "end-all" of the Christian life. If you read me clearly, you would understand that.

It seems that in order for the "no standards, no way" folks to make a point, they have to create a false dichotomy. This dichotomy says that you either believe in a works based salvation (or at least a works based sanctification) - and that any standards are a sign of this works based system or you believe in a grace based salvation/sanctification - and that standards are not permissible in this grace based system.

The reality is that the grace of God teaches us to DENY ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:11-12), not to just do what we want.

The reality is that God demands holiness of believers. Holiness includes the ideas of being set apart to God, being separated from sin, and being like Christ. It is not an "either-or" type of thing, it is a "because of - therefore" type of thing. Because I love Christ and want to be like Him, and because I am set apart to God, therefore, I will be separate from sin - even taking the radical steps of establishing standards in my life (or plucking out my eye:) ) if that is what is necessary.

That's how it is with being a Christian. You can throw away all standards and live licentiously while giving lip service to a love for Christ and a life of faith, or you can indeed live a true life of faith by the grace of God that reveals itself in a pattern of obedience.

You say that you "object to the counterfeit of holiness: works." I say, along with James, that works - fruit - is not a counterfeit of holiness, but rather is the natural outpouring of a holy life lived for God by faith.

James 2:17-18 "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works."

I am not advocating the adoption of standards in the place of walking by faith. I am not advocating some type of "spiritual checklist" that makes one holy apart from faith. Those concepts are indeed false. I am saying, however, that "putting on the Lord Jesus Christ" and "not making provision for the flesh" are not incompatible, but go hand-in-hand. That "works" is not a counterfeit to holiness, like you claim, but rather is a natural result of a life of holiness and faith.

"Put on the Lord Jesus Christ" - AMEN and AMEN. If, however, you have truly put on the Lord Jesus Christ, you are going to be serious about sin - serious enough to erect some barriers to falling \into sin - whether it is plucking out your eye or whether it is placing a standard of having a filter on your internet access. (To use the illustration that started this whole conversation.)

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

Andy Rupert said...

A man convinced against his will
is of the same opinion still.
A woman convinced against her will
is not convinced and is not still.

Buffy said...

Hello,
Well it appears to me you 2 are coming to the middle from both ends of the rope. But

I've lived through the fundamentalist movement and I'm here to say that from my own experience, "Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ" is not the standards set down by fundamental Baptists...
You cannot dictate to a person how they should live and expect them to obey it.
The only way a person can live through Christ and not the flesh is through the Holy Spirit, not dictated by some human standard. Its the Spirit that guides a saved person not to sin and to make wise choices and to discern fleshly things...Its a personal accountability...
NOW, once a saved person sins; (and yes church, we all still do) the church scripturally is permitted to admonish, correct, help...etc the person see the error and help them back on track, but was never meant to be that persons personal deity. Which is what the "church" has tried to become..I know this sounds harsh, but the church has tried to REPLACE GOD in its power and authority so that people are accountable 1st to the church and then God.
That is why so many people (including myself) for years had a relationship with the "church" but not a personal one with Christ.(and I'm talking Baptist Not Catholic)...
Now you know why so many people fall away from the church...They never had the deep rooted relationship with CHRIST that it takes to sustain a walk throughout a persons life because they were too busy trying to keep up the pace around their piers.

I hope someday before its too late the church figures it out..Certain baptists (especiallly the extreme fundamentalists) need to get a revelation that its people dont need to answer to a JOE SMOE affiliation...But a Jesus Christ Affiliation.

The funny thing is...They are usually the ones that agree with you and say oh yeah we're not like that LOL........Give me a Break.

Frank Sansone said...

Buffy,

Thanks for stopping by and for your comments.

I agree that the only way a person can live through Christ and not the flesh is through the Holy Spirit.

I also recognize that there seem to be some churches out there where the Pastor and/or church has indeed become the focal point. We are told that in all things Christ must have the preeminence (Colossions 1) and God says that He will not give His glory to another. When a Pastor or a Church places the emphasis upon themselves instead of Christ, they are violating God's Word. I recognize that it does indeed happen - and it happens on all sides of the equation, btw (IFBx, Seeker Sensitive Megachurches, etc.) because of the fact that man is sinful.

I would also caution that just because someone has abused something (e.g. those who would make standards a checklist for holiness) does not mean that there cannot be legitimate uses of those things (e.g. personal standards put in place to help someone not give in to temptation of pornography). The fact is that people wrongly use all kinds of Biblical truth (e.g. people who use verses about Baptism to promote Baptismal regeneration), but that abuse by them does not mean that we should not speak about Baptism because of their abuse.

I hope you have a pleasant day and that you continue to strive to walk with Christ today.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

Buffy said...

Thanks Pastor for letting me comment.

Your right not all fundamentalist churches and/or pastors are the focal point; but I would have to say the majority are when it comes to standards. You can immediately tell when you walk into an IBF...you will not see any biker's or farmers; everyone pretty much looks alike.
I think the church is confused on the edifying believers and the pounding away of personal church standards.
For example, a man who was born and raised on a farm and lived his life working in the blue collar sector and jeans is not going to be comfortable walking in to most IBF's (or many other churches)...Even though no one would ever say a word,the ambiance would be enough to make that person feel uncomfortable.

I agree there is nothing wrong with helping people understand about temptations but the church cannot stop the person from sinning if their own heart does not convict them of it..
People who are tempted to sin get out of that situation by not attending church, thus the discernment is gone and a person falls into sin.Whereas, a personal accountability convicts that person whether he is in church or not.

The IBF's need to stop police-ing people and start loving people.
Everytime I get near one; all I hear about is what a person should not do, wear, look like, act like.
What everyone else is doing wrong and how they look down on people that are different..

I can say all this because I was one for years and I am so thankful the Lord has shown me there is a better way to reach people than to continual try to convince people the IBF way of living is correct.

For years I've heard the church say: We catch em the Lord cleans em...
Wrong....
the church trys to catch em, clean em, clone em, petrify them, brow-beat them, dress them,talk for them,sing for them and on and on.

This is not the freedom in Christ people are looking for or need.

People are starting to wise up and see there is more to Christ than what the IBF"S are offering..

Thanks again for letting me view my opinions.

Frank Sansone said...

Buffy,

Thanks again for stopping by and the interaction.

It has been a long day with ministry responsibilities (I did not get home from the youth activity tonight until after midnigh) and with the emotions of my mom currenly being in critical condition in a hospital in Illinois.

I am not sure when I am going to be able to respond more fully to your comments, but I do appreciate the interaction and hope to have opportunity soon to contribute more to this conversation.

FWIW, my parents were truck drivers and we have chicken farmers who are very active in our church :).

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

Russ said...

Frank,

I’ve been reading the entries on Jeri Massi’s blog, BASSENCO's Blog on the Lillypad 2 and couldn’t stay silent.

I ‘m trying to understand both of you but some of words are getting in the way. The words spoken from a human face have a great advantage over the written word when it comes to any communication other than the scriptures. I sense conviction in your arguments, but some subtleties of effective communications reside outside of the written word and remain in the eyes, the lines of the face, or the tone of the voice.

Without a face to face discussion, I have difficulty approving your arguments. Jeri’s words ring truer because I recognize the same issues she has put forth for consideration.

I had a discussion with a friend about similar issues. Of course the discussion involved discerning right and wrong, sin and holiness. However you want to describe the topic, it revolved around the topic of how to please God. My statements included words like, “of all the people in the human race, Christians should be the experts in justice and righteousness. We should be able to discern what is right and wrong when it baffles everyone else. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. We as Christians don’t seem to possess the wisdom to apply spiritual principles to understand what is equitable in all the providential situations that God puts us in…”

He simply stated, “Just tell me what to do.” That statement really discouraged me. He requested a standard, a rule, a simple way of putting an issue to rest. I wanted him to grasp the underlying principle that produced a written law of God and he just wanted another law. When sin makes itself manifest in a variety of shapes and directions, a genuine love of a Godly principle creates an understanding of the path most pleasing to God. This is the idea taught in Hebrew 5:12-14. We must earnestly try to understand what is right and wrong to have our senses exercised to actually discern both good and evil. How else can we experience the “face time” with our God if we’re not intimate with His nature?

If I found a list of “hunny-do’s” on a post-it note stuck to the frig from my wife, I would probably start them and say to myself, “because I love her, I’ll do what’s on the list.” I believe this is your position. This is not a bad position if it’s accompanied with a foundation of other more needful things.

To satisfy my love for her, I must feel that I’ve provided for her welfare and her genuine needs. The post-it note can be part of this process, but it can never be used to express my love. A checked-off list found on the frig is a poor excuse for love. I see several things wrong with it.

1. If I choose to avoid her, I can keep the list checked off. “I have done all, what lack I?” This would be one way to get her off my back so I can get back to my own life.
2. If I am selfish by nature, I can leverage the list to my advantage. It allows me to have a distant relationship when claiming to have a “personal relationship”.
3. If I only go by the list, it enables me to imagine anything I want about her motives and her alleged love for me. It keeps me at a safe distance in case she comes looking and asks me, “Where have you been? I’ve missed you.” “I’ve been off on the missions you gave me. As soon as you leave me alone, I’ll get back to loving you.”

I don’t in any way claim that all who live by standards are avoiding God. I’m saying that it’s more difficult to love God as He really is. The law, rules, standards, however you want to say it; these things are only schoolmasters to bring us to Christ. God give grace to the humble and resists the proud. Meeting standards appeals to the flesh and encourages pride. Using standards (the law of God), to know Him makes us humbly dependent on Christ. It is “in Him” that we have the courage to be in God’s presence. It is the presence of God that impresses the image of His likeness on our hearts to know good and evil. Can we not judge the simplest of things in this world? We will one day sit with our Christ and judge angels.

Frank Sansone said...

Russ,

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I appreciate your question and I hope to be able to answer your question. I did not know you were going to post over here, so when I saw you had posted over at Jeri's blog, I sent you the following email to the email address on your profile. It looks like that you have posted the same thing over here, so I will post the content of that email below. (Hopefully the pasting of the email comes out alright in the comments section. :)


Dear Mr. Jarvis,

This is Pastor Frank Sansone of Fellowship Baptist Church in Salisbury, Maryland and from http://athinkingmansthoughts.blogspot.com. You had posted a response to me on Jeri's blog. I am replying to you via email because I have no confidence that Jeri would actually post my response - especially since she seems more interested in pushing her agenda than in having an honest and civil conversation. (For instance, while I have explained to her that I accidently submitted the second post without pasting the response I had referenced in the post and that I therefore made the third post to correct that mistake - a problem I would not have had if she did not have her comments set up the way that she does. Instead of correcting things - or at least letting my explanation post be posted - she has instead kept up the three posts and her "rapid fire" comments in an attempt to make me look bad - it is very frustrating.)

Anyway... back to your comments.

>The words spoken from a human face have a great advantage over the >written word when it comes to any communication other than the >scriptures. I sense conviction in your arguments, but some subtleties of >effective communications reside outside of the written word and remain in >the eyes, the lines of the face, or the tone of the voice.

I agree with you completely about the limits of written communication - and for some reason it seems even worse with online written communication.

>I had a discussion with a friend about similar issues. Of course the >discussion involved discerning right and wrong, sin and holiness. However >you want to >describe the topic, it revolved around the topic of how to >please God. My statements included words like, “of all the people in the >human race, Christians >should be the experts in justice and righteousness. >We should be able to discern what is right and wrong when it baffles >everyone else. However, that doesn’t >seem to be the case. We as >Christians don’t seem to possess the wisdom to apply spiritual principles to >understand what is equitable in all the providential >situations that God puts >us in…”

I agree with this. I would probably add that not only do we (Christians) not seem to "possess the wisdom to apply spiritual principles", but that in the Christianity-lite that is being promoted today, there is an aversion to the ATTEMPT to apply spiritual principles. It seems that if someone makes a comment that he has made X application of Y Biblical principle - even if he has only made that X application for himself, let alone suggested that it might be a legitimate appllication of that principle for others, as well - he is branded as a legalist. You will notice that on my post that Jeri attacks, I did not say "You had better have a filter on your internet if you want to please God or if you want to be spiritual." I simply supported an argument that Chris Anderson had written about "If having unfiltered internet access causes thee to look after a woman to lust, thou shouldest get a filter on your internet rather than persist in that sin"

In Matthew 22:29, Jesus tells the Sadducees that "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." He then goes on to support that statement by alluding to Exodus 3:6 & 16 when Christ says "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." The concluding statement - "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" is not in the text, but is a logical conclusion from that text. Yet Christ says that the Sadducees do not know the Scripture because they have not made this logical conclusion. The reality is that Christ expects us to study His Word and Christ expects us as individuals to make real application of that Word to our lives. If we fail to make the logical conclusions and applications from God's Word, we are making the same mistake that the Sadducees made - we are keeping the Scripture in a theoretical realm rather than in a life changing realm where the rubber meets the road.


>He simply stated, “Just tell me what to do.” That statement really discouraged me. He requested a standard, a rule, a simple way of putting an issue to rest. I >wanted him to grasp the underlying principle that produced a written law of God and he just wanted another law. When sin makes itself manifest in a variety of >shapes and directions, a genuine love of a Godly principle creates an understanding of the path most pleasing to God. This is the idea taught in Hebrew 5:12-14. >We must earnestly try to understand what is right and wrong to have our senses exercised to actually discern both good and evil. How else can we experience the >“face time” with our God if we’re not intimate with His nature?

FWIW, I would be greatly discouraged with your friend's statement as well. I find that most people that I interract with want less rules and don't want to be told what to do, so I find his response interesting from that perspective, but I definitely disagree with this approach.

>If I found a list of “hunny-do’s” on a post-it note stuck to the frig from my wife, I would probably start them and say to myself, “because I love her, I’ll do what’s >on the list.” I believe this is your position. This is not a bad position if it’s accompanied with a foundation of other more needful things.

>To satisfy my love for her, I must feel that I’ve provided for her welfare and her genuine needs. The post-it note can be part of this process, but it can never be >used to express my love. A checked-off list found on the frig is a poor excuse for love. I see several things wrong with it.

>1. If I choose to avoid her, I can keep the list checked off. “I have done all, what lack I?” This would be one way to get her off my back so I can get back to my >own life.
>2. If I am selfish by nature, I can leverage the list to my advantage. It allows me to have a distant relationship when claiming to have a “personal relationship”.
>3. If I only go by the list, it enables me to imagine anything I want about her motives and her alleged love for me. It keeps me at a safe distance in case she comes >looking and asks me, “Where have you been? I’ve missed you.” “I’ve been off on the missions you gave me. As soon as you leave me alone, I’ll get back to >loving you.”

Again, I completely agree with you on this - that is part of what was so frustrating about Jeri's post. Here is the relevant quote from my original article:

"I am married. As a result of being married, there are some things that I will not do because I love my wife. There are some guidelines that I have set up so that I will not displease her (even though I am sure that there are plenty of other areas where I do displease her). I follow these things because I love Missy and I do not want to displease her, not because I believe that keeping those guidelines is all I need in order to keep my relationship with Missy what it should be."

My point, which I guess I must have been very unsuccessful in communicating, is that while keeping the guidelines ALONE is not enough, if I were to throw off the guidelines of not doing those things that I knew would displease her (because, after all, she knows I love her), then I WOULD BE harming the relationship.

While it is true that I could clean the house every day (or whatever guideline you want to use) and still not show my love to my wife, the flip side is not automatically also true - that I could trash my house and never help out and still show my love to my wife. I would argue instead that the fact that I trashed the house and never gave her any assistance was likely a demonstration of the fact that I don't properly love my wife - even though the guideline of cleaning up after myself is not enough by itself to show that I DO love her.

If I knew that my wife hates for mold to build up in glasses as can happen if they are left indefinitely laying around the house for a long time, I may make a standard that relates to this area of her displeasure.

For instance, I might say, "Every night, I will make sure that I walk through every room in the house and gather all of the dishes and run the dishwasher before I go to bed."

Now, this action is viewed entirely differently by the two sides of this discussion "legalist yeller" sees that rule and says, "You must not love your wife. If you did, you would not need to make such a rule for yourself because you would never dream of ever leaving a dish anywhere in the house long enough for it to get mold in it if you really loved her."

The "standards maker" sees this instead as "I know that my kids and I may sometimes forget to put our cups in the dishwasher when we are done drinking, so I want to do what I can to make sure these do not get left out and forgotten about and eventually gather mold to bother her."

I believe that the "standards maker" is indeed acting out of love in this situation - and his rule is an attempt to show that love by not displeasing his wife by accidently letting things get left out until they reach the condition that displeases her.

Now, relate this to the spiritual realm and the discussion at hand.

I know that it displeases God for a man to commit fornication - whether physically or mentally.

Therefore, I might make a rule that I will put a filter on my internet so that I am not tempted to look at pornography. Or I might make a rule that I will not be alone with a woman who is not my wife, etc.

The "legalist yeller" says, "You must not love God. If you did, you would not need to make up that rule about the filter on the internet because you would never be tempted in that way if you really loved God."

The "standards maker" says, "I know that the heart is decietful and desperately wicked and that in my - that is, in my flesh - dwelleth no good thing. Therefore, even though I do not believe I would be tempted to look at pornography, I will place this filter on my internet anyway so that I do not allow myself to accidently head down that path to sin."

I hope that clarifies my thinking on this a little better.

>I don’t in any way claim that all who live by standards are avoiding God. I’m saying that it’s more difficult to love God as He really is. The law, rules, standards, >however you want to say it; these things are only schoolmasters to bring us to Christ. God give grace to the humble and resists the proud. Meeting standards >appeals to the flesh and encourages pride. Using standards (the law of God), to know Him makes us humbly dependent on Christ. It is “in Him” that we have the >courage to be in God’s presence. It is the presence of God that impresses the image of His likeness on our hearts to know good and evil. Can we not judge the >simplest of things in this world? We will one day sit with our Christ and judge angels.

I agree with most of what you have said here, as well. I am not advocating having standards as some type of "checklist" that we can meet with the idea that "I have a filter, so I am spiritual", but rather I am advocating having standards that help us avoid some of the known pitfalls "I know I can fall, so I will have a filter so that I don't fall down that particular hole."

I know this has been long - much longer than I expected. I hope it helps to clarify my position a little better. I appreciate the interraction and pray that you will have a good day of living for Christ where He has placed you. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or I have been unclear in this meandering letter.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

Russ said...

Frank,

I’m glad we agree. I sense that you and I have similar views of pleasing God. However, your defense of the terminology “standards” is troublesome to me because it is a word that represents more to me than it appears to represent to you when it comes to “being led of the Spirit”. I think you are more correct in your thinking when you replied to Buffy about making a “personal standard” based upon a meditative request of the Spirit of God to live before Him by faith.

But when a preacher such as yourself states that standards are “useful”, I envision you stating this to your flock and your flock receiving these standards allowing you to do their spiritual work for them in making moral decisions. I know it is a fleshy weakness to do someone else’s thinking anticipating their response. We are both doing this, but only you can correct me if my assumption is wrong. Is it?

Buffy makes a great argument. Buffy, may I call you, “Buffy, the despot slayer”? It seems to me that there is a “built in” danger of fundamentalism that creates a type preacher than emulates a miniature Pope. His word becomes ex cathedra. His whim and opinions become the commands of the people. Those who seek the pastor’s favor carry out their obedience to his whims like zealots calling for Barabas. These despots manipulate the people by appealing to their flesh.

I say “appealing to their flesh” not because they entice them to “openly” sin, but they shame their personal pride and encourage a “spiritual” arrogance. They equate the performance of their church business agenda to being “right with God”. They never “increase” Christ and “decrease” themselves. I view them as mercenaries, hirelings. They’re addicted to the power that comes from the obedience of “their” people. Their standards are the purple Kool Aid of fundamentalism.

I don’t sense that in your writings, but, I’ve never heard you preach. I pray that you are not one of them.

Frank Sansone said...

Russ,

I see you stopped by today. I have written a reply, but it is on my other computer. I will try to post it tonight after church. Sorry it has taken me so long to write back.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

Frank Sansone said...

Russ,

Thank you again for your visit and for your interaction on this topic. I think it is interesting how much of our thinking is reflective of things that we may have seen and experienced. When you hear "standards are useful", you seem to think of checklist that a Pastor may give to his church about what they should and should not do - or at least that godly believers do or do not do. I would assume that you think that way because of something you have experienced. When I hear "standards are legalism", I think of those who live unholy lives and encourage others to do so in the name of "liberty" and think of loved ones who have followed that siren song of "so-called liberty" to the detriment of their walk with Christ.

The reality is that a person can say both of these things and probably be right in certain senses - and wrong in certain senses.

If a person says "standards are useful", but is using that to justify a works-based view of Christianity, they are wrong. It would seem from your comments that this is what you have experienced when some have promoted "standards" and I can understand your concern if that is the case.

If a person says "standards are legalism", but is using that in the sense of those who promote those standards to others as something binding upon their conscience and something that must be kept if those others want to be right with God, they would be correct. In my experience, those who take the "standards are legalism" route do not generally stop at the idea that "standards promoted as a way in and of themselves to please God is legalism", but rather go beyond that and throw off all standards - or at least are unclear in their attacks upon standards so that their hearers throw off all standards. In fact, it is kind of ironic to me that the "standards are legalism" crowd has in a sense made their own standard or rule - you must not have any standards - and elevated that to equate with a person's spirituality (e.g. "If you have standards, you have a fake religion.") (NOTE: I am not saying YOU do this.)

Regarding your comments concerning Buffy's comments - I understand your concern about despots. I am still only a young (to me) 37 year old Pastor in my first Sr. Pastor position. Many of the folks in our church have been Christians longer than I have been alive and are gracious to this "wet behind the ears" Pastor. They know that I am no Pope - and they are not afraid to tell me that I blew it when I mess up (which is unfortunately much more often that I would desire :) ).

I do have one family who is from a church that sounds like the kind of thing you are describing. Unfortunately, that church did not have the right kind of standards in place to protect young people (see how nicely I went back to working "standards" into this part of the discussion:) ) and this family had a really difficult experience.

I would also state that the issue with "despots" is not a danger of fundamentalism, per se, but a danger of man-centered churches, in general. In other words, I don't think it is a purple Kool- Aid to those who hold to a strong view of inspiration, doctrinal orthodoxy such as laid out in The Fundamentals, separation, etc., but rather a purple Kool Aid to those who have a philosophy that tends to exalt the man over the message (whether they hold to a strong view of inspiration, doctrinal orthodoxy as laid out in The Fundamentals, separation, etc. or whether they hold views diametrically opposite of those views). While there is indeed a "despotism" that is characteristic of some churches that take the name "Fundamentalist" (especially some of those in the IFBx circles), I would argue that the same is seen in other circles where men are elevated as well - think Baker, Swygert, Haggard, etc. This is not meant to excuse such behavior when it does show up in Fundamentalism, but it is meant to help us point the finger at the right problem. It is a man problem - a sin problem - not a Fundamentalism problem.

Regarding this statement: I don't sense that in your writings, but, I've never heard you preach. I pray that you are not one of them.

Thank you. I understand that it is hard to get a "read" on someone when all you do is read them. Since you are in Florida and I highly doubt you'll be visiting any time in the near future, if you do want to hear me preach (assuming you have the time and the patience :)), we do have a few sermons on our church web-site at http://www.fellowshipbaptist-salisbury.org. The sermons can be found by clicking the "Audio" link (or the microphone picture). We only currently have three sermons posted, but they are free to listen to if you (or anyone else) are interested.

Thank you again for stopping by.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

Dr James Ach said...

Ironically, one of Jeri Massi's biggest complaints against the model of independency among the IFB churches is that there are no STANDARDS of accountability.

Something that Jeri does not clarify in her rebuttle to your article is just HOW do you "put on the Lord Jesus Christ"? Yes, we live by faith, but faith is not a subjective element of holiness that has no standards. Jesus made it clear several times "If you love me keep my commandments".

What Jeri has done is consistently use what Baptist consider standards within a sanctification context, and attempted to force others to believe that we claim they are required for justification.

But I can see why Jeri objects to the term standards because then there's no objective way to state that a Christian shouldn't drink beer, study Buddhism, or practice astrology.

Even matters of standards that appear adiaphoria (such as her argument against a Baptist argument about music) have general principles (Col 3:23, Rom 12:1-2, 1 John 2:15-17). Ephesians 2:10 is in direct conflict with Jeri's statement that "we object to the counterfeit of holiness: works". If God said we were ordained to good WORKS that apparently works has something to do with holiness AFTER we are saved.

And what is holiness? Becoming Christ like and being separate from sin. How do you know what sin is? How do you know what to separate from without certain standards that spell it out? Romans 7:7

Peter said we are to use Christ as our example and walk in His steps (1 Peter 2:21) and what example did Christ set? He lived by the power of the Holy Spirit and He lived by standards; He quoted them to the devil when tempted. And what is an "example"? A STANDARD.

What critics like to do is create a caricature of what IFB believes in and then make fun of their own caricature. When it comes to "rules" they act like we have some 23rd chapter of Revelation with a set of extra canonical mandates. Instead of evaluating each "rule" on its own merit, they lump in everything we say is sinful and give it a label.

*Don't smoke
*Don't kill your sister
*Don't beat your wife
*Don't kick the dog
*Don't run over pedestrians
*Don't be late to work
*Don't cuss out your creditors
*Don't make hurt people
*Don't leave the water running
*Don't run around naked

Oh all those "Don'ts", that's legalism isn't it! Hardly. It just looks that way because that's how the picture is painted.

One day Jeri and others hopefully will get the relationship between living by faith and implementing Biblical standards, the 2 are not enemies.

Dr James Ach said...

Ironically, one of Jeri Massi's biggest complaints against the model of independency among the IFB churches is that there are no STANDARDS of accountability.

Something that Jeri does not clarify in her rebuttle to your article is just HOW do you "put on the Lord Jesus Christ"? Yes, we live by faith, but faith is not a subjective element of holiness that has no standards. Jesus made it clear several times "If you love me keep my commandments".

What Jeri has done is consistently use what Baptist consider standards within a sanctification context, and attempted to force others to believe that we claim they are required for justification.

But I can see why Jeri objects to the term standards because then there's no objective way to state that a Christian shouldn't drink beer, study Buddhism, or practice astrology.

Even matters of standards that appear adiaphoria (such as her argument against a Baptist argument about music) have general principles (Col 3:23, Rom 12:1-2, 1 John 2:15-17). Ephesians 2:10 is in direct conflict with Jeri's statement that "we object to the counterfeit of holiness: works". If God said we were ordained to good WORKS that apparently works has something to do with holiness AFTER we are saved.

And what is holiness? Becoming Christ like and being separate from sin. How do you know what sin is? How do you know what to separate from without certain standards that spell it out? Romans 7:7

Peter said we are to use Christ as our example and walk in His steps (1 Peter 2:21) and what example did Christ set? He lived by the power of the Holy Spirit and He lived by standards; He quoted them to the devil when tempted. And what is an "example"? A STANDARD.

What critics like to do is create a caricature of what IFB believes in and then make fun of their own caricature. When it comes to "rules" they act like we have some 23rd chapter of Revelation with a set of extra canonical mandates. Instead of evaluating each "rule" on its own merit, they lump in everything we say is sinful and give it a label.

*Don't smoke
*Don't kill your sister
*Don't beat your wife
*Don't kick the dog
*Don't run over pedestrians
*Don't be late to work
*Don't cuss out your creditors
*Don't hurt people
*Don't leave the water running
*Don't run around naked

Oh all those "Don'ts", that's legalism isn't it! Hardly. It just looks that way because that's how the picture is painted.

One day Jeri and others hopefully will get the relationship between living by faith and implementing Biblical standards, the 2 are not enemies.