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.
Good post, Jeff!
I’ve noticed similar trends, lately… these folks who are heavy on the comp perspective accusing anyone who allows women to teach of not believing the Bible or not following the word of God… just because they see things a little differently.
I agree with your conclusion that many of these folks seem to have lost track of exactly what the gospel message is… and have gotten side-tracked on non-essentials… majoring in the minors…
This past weekend I read this passage from Acts 19, in my morning devotion time:
“It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.
It seems many pastors, preachers, and teachers these days are much as these believers Paul encountered at Ephesus. They understand the need to be baptized but have not heard of the Holy Spirit and His power of renewing our hearts to be conformed to the image of Christ.
Agreed. Absolutely true.
no one down here
I don’t understand that being a test of anyone’s spirituality, let alone the doctrinal purity of a church. Both complementarian and egalitarian viewpoints have issues.
Beyond basic doctrines of inspiration of all Scripture, inerrancy of all scripture, virgin birth, trinity, Jesus being both God and man, death/burial/resurrection of Christ, etc… If you want to have a test that looks at the practical, a real test would be, How do you and the people in the church play out the tests of real belief according to 1 John? right doctrine; obedient, holy living; and practical love of saints.