In two previous blogs I have dealt with the issue of Rehoboam’s refusal to heed the excellent advice of older counselors and the massive accumulated wisdom of the Proverbs, written particularly to and for him. In this blog I will attempt to address some of the reasons that Solomon’s excellent advice was ignored. I shall also endeavor to make an application to the “Solomons,” that is the older leaders of this generation and their relationship to some young men who are turning away. Of course, these are general statements and do not apply to every older independent fundamental Baptist leader. In fact, I would argue that most of them do not apply to most leaders. I’m simply attempting to expose some of the errors that have been at least partially responsible for some young men ignoring good and godly counsel.
After giving such wonderful instruction to his son Rehoboam, why was it that the wisest, and in many ways, most blessed man of his generation, ended up failing to keep his son on the right path? The answers for Solomon seem obvious.
- He married strange women (I Kings 11:1-3).
- When he was old, these strange women turned his heart away from God to the worship of strange gods (I Kings 11:4).
- He experimented, according to the book of Ecclesiastes, with worldly ways to find happiness. He tried to fill up his head with perception (Ecc. 1:17, 18), his heart with pleasure (Ecc. 2:1-3), and his hand with possessions (Ecc. 2:4-11).
- He broke most – if not all – of the commandments God gave for kings of Israel (Deut. 17:16-20).
In our own age our Solomons have, in some cases, been guilty of similar behaviors. Here is a list, admittedly incomplete, of some of the ways in which this generation of young independent Baptists has been poorly served by some of their leaders.
- We have had too many Corinthians and not enough Bereans. We have been eager to divide on the basis of men and institutions rather than on the basis of Bible principle. Please note that the Bereans were not cocky, rebellious, or hard to persuade. We usually quote the second of their attributes and leave out the first. The whole text is “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind (emphasis mind), and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). First, the Bereans received, and then they researched. When I attended Bob Jones University, I was taught many things in the classroom that were contrary to what I had seen in my dad’s life and ministry. On one occasion, when I mentioned them to him, he gave me a great verse. It is a verse that I went through college with and have tried to use as I have gone through life. He said, “Son, ‘Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (I Thessalonians 5:21).’” Our focus must always be to lead people to the Word of God and its commandments and principles and then make application from those principles to current trends and philosophies.
- We have sometimes seen questions as an attack instead of an opportunity. When a young man wonders if it is really scripturally forbidden to drink alcohol; or if the King James Bible is the only really legitimate translation for us to use; or if the Calvinists might not have a point, we sometimes become defensive. It is my own opinion that this is often because we did not know the answer but merely had adhered to what we had been taught. Unwilling to do the research and in some cases, afraid of what we might find, we responded by bursting with indignation, raising our voice, and wondering how anyone would dare question our established dogma. I recognize that the verse (I Peter 3:15) has a primary reference to our salvation, but it seems to me that there is a legitimate principle that we ought to be able to defend from the Scripture those positions we take. We should be glad for the questions asked of us. Too many young men don’t ask us and don’t give us the chance to give them an answer. I fear that in some cases it is because they received such a poor reception when they asked earlier questions.
- We have been better at delivering a message than at being a model. Too often powerful sermons have been preached with fiery denunciation of sin and wickedness, only to be followed by a meal at a local restaurant where questionable jokes are exchanged without so much as an eyebrow being raised in opposition.
- We have taught the “what” without the “why.” We have developed our list of 20 or 30 or 40 “issues” that we oppose. We have thundered against Hollywood movies, rock-and-roll music, dancing, alcohol, and tobacco. (For the record, I oppose all of the above!) Unfortunately, we have not taken time to teach the principles behind our positions. Someone has well said that rules without reason equal rebellion. On two occasions I have taken over six months on our Wednesday evening services to teach a series on “Bible Principles.” In each session I explained that a principle is a Bible truth we must live by, a conviction is a personal belief based on a principle, and a standard is a guideline to help me keep my conviction. I further tell our people, “I would rather you understand and live by the principles and agree with me on 80% of my convictions, than to follow all my convictions without understanding the principles.” You see, I will not always pastor the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport. My voice will not always be heard. I will not always be alive. But even during the period I am alive, better-looking, more persuasive, more educated, more smooth, more charismatic, and more compelling speakers will come along than me. If people followed me simply because of personality and leadership, they may follow others into error. If I used whatever influence God gave me to lead them to understand the truth, they will be able to make wise decisions without my input. How many independent fundamental Baptists would never darken the door of a movie theatre to watch any Hollywood movie, including Finding Nemo or Cars (again, count me among that number) but would rent a DVD which takes the Lord’s name in vain, filled with sexual innuendoes and nudity? No wonder our message seems inconsistent to some of the younger generation.
- We have not been careful and thorough enough in preparing our young people for inevitable attacks. We try to teach the young people in our Christian school why we use the King James Bible. I have on several occasions given a series of Chapel messages on why I disagree with all five points of Calvinism. I have taught the aforementioned series on Standards in our High School Chapel. I freely confess that these preparations have not had all the beneficial results I had hoped for. Nevertheless, I have tried to obey the Scripture which tells us, “The prudent man forseeth the evil and hideth himself” (Proverbs 22:3).
I want to be clear that I have been blessed to be taught, influenced, and encouraged by the great leaders of the past. I have never seriously considered their flaws to outweigh their greatness or their errors to be an excuse for my disobedience. I do believe, however, that each generation should build on the foundation that was given them by the previous one. I do hope that we can do a better job of encouraging our young men to stay on the right path by avoiding some of the errors we have seen in the past.