Judges 12:5-6 And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,” (6) they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.
Some years ago a pastor from a nearby church phoned me to ask a few questions about our church. He was sincere in motive I believe and just wanted to know if we were a true, Bible-believing and teach church or not. But he started in the wrong place. He asked the wrong questions. Here is his first:
Are you complementarian or egalitarian?
For those of you not familiar with these terms, they apply to two views of marriage. The complementarian is the model that says the husband is the head, in authority, and the wife is to submit to him. The egalitarian model puts husband and wife on equal levels in regards to leadership, authority, etc. [We get into trouble when we start throwing these terms around because inevitably they drag us into this “authority” arena and things go south from there].
Now, in the conservative churches I was raised and taught in, the complementary model was the one embraced. After all, is that not what Ephesians 5 teaches? The husband is the head of his wife and the wife is to submit – well, yes, but….somehow or other the actual application of this Scripture has gone very wrong. But anyway, that is not my main point here.
What I wanted to point out is that we have created these “shibboleth” tests for orthodoxy that the Bible never uses. The reason, you see, that this pastor ran right to his question about complementarian or egalitarian is because he had been taught that the answer to that question will reveal whether a church believes that the Bible is the Word of God or not.
But this is not the question he should have been asking. He should have just been right out with it: “Do you believe the Bible is the inerrant, inspired, authoritative Word of God?” And his second question should have been, “do you believe Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, ‘you must be born again?'” These are the right questions and not only do they need to be asked, the answers to them need to be analyzed very carefully because the truth is that the majority of local churches and pastors, in everyday practice, do not believe the Bible is the Word of God nor do they believe that everyone must be born again to be saved. Discerning “shibboleth” from “sibboleth” is quite easy. But getting straight answers to our two questions is not so simple because our enemy is so deceptive.
One of the chief reasons (if not THE chief reason) the wicked such as domestic abusers are being harbored and enabled in the churches today is, bottom line – here it is – far, far more pastors and church leaders and church members are unregenerate than we want to admit. Their rotten fruit is the proof. They may give “altar calls,” and they may preach and talk about being born again every Sunday, and they may tell their members they must “lead people to Christ,” but in fact their notion of what being born again IS, is not what the Bible says it is.
Therefore, more questions must be asked. The matter must be pressed further. “Ok, so you say you believe that sinners must be born again to be saved. What do you mean by ‘born again’? Do you mean that a person prays a prayer, their sins are forgiven, they are on their way to heaven, and that’s pretty much it? Do you mean that they can go right on living just as they did before, and yet be saved? Do you mean that they are still ‘sinners’? Do you mean that a person who has been born again, according to your standards, can still regularly commit rank sins, show no evidence of a change of heart, and even abuse their spouse?” Make no mistake, honest answers to these questions by most churches today is, “yes, yes, yes, and yes.”
THESE are the questions that pastor should have been asking me. The Pharisees of our day easily pass his comp/egal test, convince him that they are children of God, and he will embrace them as true brothers in the Lord. He will end up hugging wolves.