Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Where Are the Young Men? by Dr. Bob Payne

The question which marks the title of this month’s article has been asked not only at our IBFNA meetings but also in gatherings of most fundamental Baptist circles. It has been correctly pointed out that many young men are rushing headlong into Reformed Theology and are becoming enamored with Reformed teachers and their doctrine.

In addition to this, we see many fundamental seminaries and colleges moving in the same theological direction, perhaps partly in an attempt to appease and draw students and partly because Reformed Theology has a pseudointellectual draw for some educators. As would be expected, changes in music and standards have also followed in lock step with the theological changes.

In this month’s moderator’s column, I would like to explore what is at the heart of Reformed Theology and how it manifests itself, as well as what can be done about the young preachers’ flight to falsehood.


At the heart of Reformed Theology is an inconsistent hermeneutic (what we might call “the Reformed hermeneutic”) which seems to manifest itself in the following ways:

1. The interpretation of some biblical passages with an inconsistently literal hermeneutic (e.g. not seeing dispensational distinctions in the “Sermon on the Mount” and applying it directly to the church).
2. The priority of grammar and exegesis over the total hermeneutical process. The Reformed hermeneutic sees grammar as the final argument to some questions without careful consideration of the rest of the hermeneutical process.
3. The other extreme of #2 is that words have absolutely no meaning outside of a context. This is actually a Neo-orthodox approach to scripture.
4. An arrogant “cerebral” approach to the scriptures (with a resulting attitude of “We are smarter than you are!”). Human reasoning takes precedence over biblical teaching; philosophy supersedes the text.
5. An excessive dependence on historical theology (instead of biblical and systematic theology). The reasoning seems to be that if the teaching is old enough, and if the theologian teaching it is respected enough, what is being taught MUST be true.
6. A tendency to ignore progressive revelation and dispensational progression by reading back characteristics of the present dispensation into previous dispensations without sufficient textual support (this is commonly done by reading back certain aspects of our present salvation into the Old Testament, as well as by applying certain aspects of the present ministry of the Holy Spirit into the Old Testament). This leads to a sort of confusion between Israel and the church.


Is the solution to the young preachers’ flight from fundamentalism to appease them? Should we begin to adapt our doctrine, music, etc. in order to draw them back into the fold? Does our theological and cooperative “tent” need to be a little bigger? Instead of engaging in a philosophical discussion of our own, we need to ask ourselves, “What saith the scripture?” The problem of people departing from sound doctrine is not new. No matter what time era we find ourselves in, the biblical response to such a situation is clear:
1. Use and teach sound hermeneutical principles consisting of a consistently literal (normal) interpretation of the Word of God. We need to use the methodology mentioned in the book of Nehemiah (8:8): “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.”
2. Patiently preach, teach, and reason with these young men from the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:2). This will include much one-on-one teaching time. Dogmatically shouting what you believe louder than you normally would will prove to be ineffective in reaching hearts. Shine the light on the text, and allow it to speak for itself. Love them; be a mentor! Let’s follow Paul’s methodology who ministered to a very difficult “audience” (Acts 17:2): “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures.” Bauer and Danker’s lexicon tells us that the Greek word translated “reasoned” means “to engage in speech interchange, converse, discuss, argue.” We need to engage them from the scriptures and “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).
3. Pray, pray, pray for those young men under your ministry (1 Sam. 12:23).
4. Model a godly life before them (1 Tim. 4:12). Words spoken from the mouth are much more forceful when backed up by a Godly walk.
5. Invite them to IBFNA meetings, and be sure to let them know about our young preacher’s scholarship.

In these theologically confusing days, we need to encourage young men to be focused on Christ, centered in God’s Word, and consistent in their biblical interpretation. Nothing less than the future of biblical fundamentalism is at stake!


Originally published in The Review (IBFNA), August 2010.