John Ashbrook – The Nameless Prophet

John Ashbrook (1926-2011) wrote dozens of articles for the OBF Visitor, a gospel pamphlet titled A Bird’s Eye View of the Bible, and three books: Family Fundamentals, New Neutralism II, and Axioms of Separation. These are still available through Here I Stand Books, which recently came under the umbrella of the American Council of Christian Churches.

At 30 pages in length, Axioms of Separation is more booklet than book, but it is helpful and demonstrates decades of ministry experience and wisdom. I state in my own paper, “The Doctrine and Application of Biblical Separation,” that

I have learned and culled these principles from godly men who have taught them to and modeled them before me. Though sadly many reject learning these things from others, it is entirely and thoroughly biblical (Phil 3:17; 4:9; 2 Tim 2:2; 3:10–11). I am especially indebted to Pastor John Ashbrook (Axioms of Separation), Dr. Ernest Pickering (Biblical Separation, pp. 217–36), and Dr. Rolland McCune (Promise Unfulfilled, pp. 153–54).

Today in Orwell Bible Church‘s daily devotional 1 Kings 13 was one of the chapters to read. I immediately thought of Ashbrook’s sermon on this passage titled, “The Nameless Prophet,” which is included in his Axioms of Separation.

I knew Ashbrook had given permission for many churches to reproduce Axioms on the internet; just Google the title and you’ll find several links.

I also knew that Ashbrook had preached “The Nameless Prophet” many, many times. Indeed, during my last year in seminary I served as student body president and had him speak in our chapel on “Teaching Separation in Your Church.” The next day he preached in a regular chapel on “The Nameless Prophet.”

So this morning after reading 1 Kings 13 and searching for an audio recording of Ashbrook preaching it, I was surprised not find any such recording. Thankfully I have a cassette copy of Ashbrook preaching this on December 2, 1999. Click here to download and/or listen to it.

Dr. Rolland McCune Message #5 on Fundamentalism – W. B. Riley, Billy Graham, and Northwestern Schools

In 1992 my young wife and I visited Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. We were warmly greeted by the president, Dr. Rolland McCune. After walking through the building and meeting some of the professors, Dr. McCune took us out for lunch. Trish and I felt greatly honored–“The Seminary PRESIDENT took little old US out for lunch!”

When we finally moved out there was a lag of time before we could settled into our apartment. Where to stay? Somehow (I don’t remember) Dr. McCune found out, and told us he and his wife Daisy would be out of town that very week we’d be there, and they offered their home to us. At the time we also had our first daughter who was nearly a year old. How many seminary presidents would do that? These expressions of Christian love made a definite impact on us.

Dr. McCune’s love never sacrificed or ignored truth for the sake of what would then be unbiblical, ungodly, unchristian love. Truth and love were not separate characteristics; both were essential. Love is only truly known and expressed in the sphere of truth. Without truth genuine love cannot be known. Truth and love as attributes of God can only be rightly known from God, and thus from the Christian Scriptures. I thank the Lord for Dr. and Mrs. McCune teaching and living this out before us.

This message is, as Dr. McCune described it, a vignette in the history and development of fundamentalism, considering the transition of leadership of Northwestern Schools from its founder, W. B. Riley, to Billy Graham. Unfortunately, the conclusion of the message is not on the recording, as Dr. McCune spoke longer than one side of a cassette tape.

The material here is not in any of McCune’s journal articles on fundamentalism and new evangelicalism, nor in his book, Promise Unflufilled. Yet this message he gave is so important to learn–

  1. Who Graham really was. There is the tendency to think that as his life advanced Graham changed and became softer and compromised in ways he shouldn’t have. That was not the case. Graham always denigrated defending the faith. He always sought a broad coalition of practically any kind of “Christian” for the sake of “evangelism.”
  2. How Riley was so wrong about Graham. Riley assumed too much and too well of Graham. The consequences of Riley’s failure regarding this had tragic results; within a matter of years Northwestern schools completely changed from fundamentalism to new evangelicalism.

Dr. McCune made a statement in this message that has stuck with me through the years and which experience has demonstrated to be true:

It’s not the direction one’s nose is pointing (what he says), but where his toes are pointing (what he does).

Because the content of this message is not in print, here is a thumbnail sketch of it:

W. B. Riley’s (WBR) original choice of Billy Graham (BG) as president of Northwestern (NW)

  • WBR’s heart set on BG succeed him as president of NW—6 reasons (1947): youth, personality, speaking ability, recent college days, contacts with people of means, attitude in theology (an out-and-out fundamentalist; doctrinally oriented, particularly fundamentalism, fighter and defender)

Graham’s presidency of NW, 1948-1952–The board thought they were getting someone who would be

  1. Head of three schools
  2. Outspoken on the subject of theology, because WBR was
  3. Profound conviction

What they got was a change in direction, because this is who BG was and where he was going. BG changed direction of things at NW—

  1. Exposing error—WBR was a polemic and attacked error; BG was almost never negative dealing with error; he was not a defender of the faith and was turned off by those who did so; positive, not a defender
  2. Priority/popularity of evangelism—under BG NW went from polemics to evangelism; BG was popular, WBR was polemical; BG was not going to be anti-, he was going to reach out to people; it was popular to be in evangelism, not polemics; BG’s interdenominational efforts were not concerned with doctrine as a basis
  3. Philosophy of education changed—NW took on a Wheaton look, a “Wheaton college of the north,” a liberal arts school; change the philosophy bringing a change with disastrous effects; press for accreditation; primacy of evangelism—‘the most important thing is evangelism,’ but they separated evangelism from doctrine
  4. Relationship with the NAE changed—WBR criticized the NAE, but after he died, NW became very sympathetic with NAE; Ockenga and BG were very close friends; during annual WBR lectures BG brought in Carl Henry who taught the students the principles of new evangelicalism.
  5. Relationship to Fuller Theological Seminary—Marsden has demonstrated FTS’ objective, “Reforming Fundamentalism,” and that is what NW schools’ objective became under BG’s leadership; calls for peaceableness and loveliness were subtle attacks against WBR and fundamentalism

I hear calls today from within fundamentalism we need less or no polemics but we need apologetics. What does that mean? I think the two are intertwined, but the idea [of the statement is] we don’t want these combative, Riley-types; we want those who can explain and preach and do that. We’re hearing that today.

Dr. McCune, 29:00

WBR’s failures

  1. Too enamored with success of BG—Riley was playing to the grandstand on this one
  2. Failed to guard the doctrinal aspects of the transition, too optimistic about BG being an ardent fundamentalist and not a middle-of-the-roader
  3. Failed to ascertain the true convictions of BG—BG’s interdenominationalism was pragmatic, ecumenical; WBR’s was doctrinal, fellowshipping because they believed the same things

39:55—“In one student generation conviction was turned to compromise and convenience and militancy to moderation and mediocrity. This occurred in part to reach greater crowds in his evangelistic work.”

Listen and/or download:

Fundamentalism: W. B. Riley, Billy Graham, and Northwestern Schools

Biblical Hebrew Vocabulary, from 1997 to 2020

I hope present day students of biblical Hebrew appreciate what they enjoy today. I hope they recognize they stand on the shoulders of poverty-stricken Hebrew students of old, such as ME in 1997. Most likely they do not, but they are products of, as one of my profs would say, our Oprah-ized culture with a sense of entitlement. “If I can’t download it for free, that’s an injustice.” I’m sure there’s a hashtag going around something like #freehebrewvocab. I’m just sure of it.

Ok, that was all sarcasm! 🙂

But seriously.

In 1997 I was a very poor seminary student with four kids three and under (had a set of twins there, hehheh). And I was starting second year Hebrew. Fall semester was Hebrew Syntax, and one of the required books to purchase was George Landes’ A Student’s Vocabulary of Biblical Hebrew. I still have it, check out these pix–

Nice little booklet, eh? When my books arrived at the Inter-City Christian Bookstore (always an exciting pre-semester moment!) I picked up that little booklet, looking forward with anticipation to learning my Hebrew vocab, and then saw the price tag–

WHAAAAAAATTTTTT!!!!!!!????!!!!!!!!

$28.75???!!!

“Sorry Trish, no diapers for the kids for a few weeks. I had to buy a 56 page pamphlet instead.”

This morning I was working through Deuteronomy 20, and of course couldn’t remember some of the Hebrew words. I did a quick search for “free Hebrew vocabulary PDF” (whoops, #freehebrewvocab, hehheh).

What’d I find?

Academia has Landis’ work for free.

They got it from pdfdrive.com.

I hope current day seminary students enjoy all this free stuff, and I hope they have lots of kids and those kids are thankful for food and diapers. 🙂

Romans 16:22 – Did Tertius Greet or Write “in the Lord”?

I’ve had an unexpectedly interesting time with this greeting. The by-far predominant view is that Tertius, Paul’s amanuensis, greeted the Roman church “in the Lord” (Kruse, Moo, Cranfield). I only read one contemporary commentator (Morris) who goes against the prevailing view and instead leans toward Tertius “writing in the Lord.” Schreiner didn’t even mention the issue.

I know, I know, what’s the big deal, right? This doesn’t touch on any major doctrine AT ALL. Well, you’re right, but my curiosity was piqued. It’s been awhile since I’ve dug into this kind of research, and I was having fun!

Using what one of OBC’s deacons calls my “Bible chainsaw,” the now defunct BibleWorks, I searched occurrences of the Greek phrase “in the Lord,” and was starting to lean toward seeing “in the Lord” modifying “wrote this epistle,” not “greet.”

Having done that spade work, it was time to see what others thought, hopefully to correct my heresy of going against the standard English Bible translations. I dusted off my nine different Greek grammars and checked their Scripture indices (Wallace, BDF, Porter, Moulton, Zerwick, Turner, Young, Robertson, Moule). I checked out BDAG and NIDNTTE. I also checked the indices of McCune’s and MacArthur’s systematic theologies. I even re-upped my Galaxie subscription (for one month, $5, cheap-skate me) to see if there’s been any recent theological journal articles on this (there weren’t). Nothing. No mention at all.

At this point I side with the minority view, something I was taught not to do unless you’re really, really sure about yourself. So if any of my 3 readers with Greek skillz and perhaps more time and powerful tools I have would like to weigh in, I’m all ears!

Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t support Greek characters very well, so I can’t copy my notes in this post. Thus, I’ve uploaded a PDF of my study here.

Dr. Rolland McCune Message #4 on Fundamentalism – Period of Consolidation, 1930-1950

Robert T. Ketcham, 1889-1978

I mentioned in my last post how influential the biography of Robert T. Ketcham was in my life. Dr. McCune valued and believed in the importance of personal biographies. As he will relate in this chapel message from 1996, biographies not only relay historical facts, but they enable us to learn about the persons and the character of the times in which they lived.

Here Dr. McCune tells of the growth of various fundamental associations and institutions such as the OPC, BPC, GARBC, Grace Theological Seminary, the ACCC and ICCC, NAE, and CBA.

He noted,

I wish we could say that organizations would stay true to the founders. They just don’t. They really don’t….Dr. Robert Delnay asked what was the difference between the newly formed New Testament Association of Independent Baptist Churches which was fresh and separatistic and the GARBC, which was showing signs of problems. Dr. Delnay said, “A matter of time.”

Then at the 19:05 mark Dr. McCune made a comment I will never forget. As he said it the chapel room became immediately quiet—we couldn’t believe he said this, but he knew from history and human nature how things tend:

I don’t know, I’m not a prophet, but someday this seminary will go down the tubes. I’ll just stand here and say it. God forbid and I hope it doesn’t come for a couple of centuries, but it will. It has always been that way. Eventually attrition sets in and the vision of the founders begins to deteriorate.

Dr. McCune noted the primary reason for the decay of sound institutions at 21:30–

Modernists and liberals never had the horses, never had the strength, to take over a school or a denomination or anything like that. They never would have done it alone. They always had to have and received the help of the peacemakers and of the pietists and those who joined in the cause because they didn’t want to raise a fuss and all that sort of thing. If God’s people would have just stuck to principle rather than emotion, things would have been a lot different. But you know the story, it never happens that way. We have to blame ourselves in some of these controversies, because the forces of darkness in and of themselves would very seldom ever carry the day, but they had help from the forces of light.

He closed the chapel with this summary and closing prayer (36:55)–

This will give you some idea where we are, where we plug in…and why we are where we are. I didn’t go into why we [Inter-City Baptist Church] left the GARBC; that could be a profitable chapel. But we do plug into this. We believe we are standing where our forebearers stood and we don’t want to move from that; that’s why we’re here, and that’s why we’re having this very series

Our Father we pray that thou wilt guide our minds as we rehearse some of these things of history. May we not repeat the mistakes of history, may we truly learn the lessons and may we go forward. May we not regress, and may we not compromise; may we not hold hands with those who compromise. May we not attempt to lend our influence in any aid and comfort to that which would tend to compromise. May we always have our colors strong and our flag high. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Listen and/or download:

Fundamentalism:
Period of Consolidation, 1930-1950

Dr. Rolland McCune Message #3 on Fundamentalism – Period of Controversy, 1918-1930

William Bell Riley, 1861-1947

When I arrived at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary I had a very sketchy idea of what fundamentalism was. It was basically informed by two books I had read just one or two years beforehand, the biography of Robert T. Ketcham (Portrait of Obedience, 1978), and William Ashbrook’s New Neutralism. I was convinced fundamentalism was the biblical path to follow, and that was one of the reasons in 1992 I chose to attend DBTS (I didn’t start until 1994; another story).

Early on in my seminary education there would be times when Dr. McCune would “get militant.” I saw the necessity of that toward unbelieving liberals like I read about in Portrait of Obedience, but had a hard time processing why Dr. McCune would also speak negatively about evangelicals and even fundamentalists who weren’t as separatistic as he felt they should be. I thought and felt, “What’s the big deal? Why so upset about this? Why can’t we work together? I think he’s being too belligerent.” I actually thought Dr. McCune wasn’t being very spiritual.

Then he gave this series on fundamentalism in 1996, and especially this message. My eyes were opened. I saw why he said what he did, saw the issues at stake, and especially saw that I was controlled by ignorance and false piety.

Dr. McCune observes at 19:50—“Who really sold the faith down the river? In the interest of piety, brotherhood, and unity, these kind always lose the farm.” And here’s an RDM observation that has stuck with me through the years:

I’ll just stand here and prophesy: Those who are evangelical and conservative but don’t have a militant, separatist mind will always lose the farm. Just mark my words.

He then concludes at 43:25–

If you learn anything this morning people, if you’re going to take a stand, take it. If you’re going to believe the fundamentals, then stand up for the fundamentals. Riley said this: ‘The enemies of the truth are always the in-betweenites.’ They always fall on the wrong side of an issue. Every time they’ll vote on the wrong side of an issue. I’ve seen this in my own life, in the controversies I’ve been in. Be strong. I can’t urge you enough. We stand for militant separatism here. That does not mean pugnacious and ugly and lying kind of militancy, but it means being firm and aggressive and standing where you stood 25, 30, 40 years ago. And when an issue comes up if you don’t have the fortitude to lead the battle then get [behind those who will lead the battle].”

This is the kind of fundamentalist Dr. McCune was. He was very gracious, patient, and giving, and he was committed to militant, separatist, fundamentalism. Let’s not forget this essential aspect of Dr. McCune, and let’s heed his admonitions and warnings.

Download and Listen:

Fundamentalism:
Period of Controversy, 1918-1930

Dr. Rolland McCune Message – The Definition and Conception of Fundamentalism

In 1996 Dr. Rolland McCune was president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and the first editor of Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal. The journal’s first issue came out in the spring of 1996, and I distinctly remember that. I brought that clean, fresh, crisp journal to work with me and read every word (I worked on a press at a corrugated box company in the area called Laimbeer Packaging). By the time I finished the journal was quite dirty and marked up.

The first article of that first issue was by Dr. McCune titled, “The Self-Identify of Fundamentalism,” and he started right out of the gate:

Dr. William R. Rice was trained for the ministry in the 1930s and 40s at Bob Jones University, a [then] clearly militant fundamentalist institution, and at Grace Theological Seminary, then also an outspoken fundamentalist school. He began his pastoral ministry in the post-World War II era when fundamentalism’s identity was not only self-assured but recognized outside its own confines as well. Over the years he witnessed many of his friends and former classmates leave the ranks of fundamentalism for the more congenial and inclusive camp of new evangelicalism. But his identity as a fundamentalist and that of his ministry of well over forty years were never in doubt nor questioned.

Today, fundamentalism is said to be in an identity crisis. It is allegedly trying to discover what it is. New self-definitions are being heard which say that a fundamentalist is one who is faithful to expository preaching, practices church discipline, repudiates easy believism, and is aggressive in evangelism. Or some imply that a fundamentalist is one who believes in inerrancy and does not cooperate with Roman Catholics, or is one who believes the “fundamentals” but is less militant and separatistic than formerly thought. The truth is that these are things that new evangelicals and self-proclaimed non-fundamentalists also believe and practice, leaving a distinctly fundamentalist self-identity completely vacuous. This all points up the fact that many are simply confused, and this includes would-be leaders as well as followers and well-wishers. Judging by some of the prevalent ambiguity, one is sometimes tempted to ask, Will the real fundamentalist please stand up?

The purpose here is to address some reasons for the present confusion, define fundamentalism as a bona fide religious movement, delineate a complex of doctrine around which the movement has rallied, and demonstrate that there are some other distinctives that make it what it is. In other words, I propose to set forth what I consider to be the real, historic identity markers of fundamentalism and thus to bring some sense of order out of the developing chaos on this question in certain sectors of the fundamentalist ranks.

As I mentioned yesterday, during that spring Dr. McCune gave seven messages on the history of fundamentalism. The second message is “The Definition and Conception of Fundamentalism,” and largely reflects his first journal article. As I also mentioned yesterday, what you get in the audio that is lacking in the journal are his anecdotes, humor, and asides.

Regarding the term fundamentalism Dr. McCune said we ought not to back away from the title; indeed, he said, “I will not give up the title” (4:40).

This message largely relays the historical facts of what led up to and the birth of the fundamentalist movement. I wonder if this history is taught much at all in educational institutions that (at least at one time) are in the vein of fundamentalism. I know I am who I am today because Dr. McCune and others did teach this. He mentions at the end of the message two men who were likewise influential in his life, Alva J. McClain and Richard V. Clearwaters. I thank the Lord for these men.

Alva J. McClain, 1888-1968
Richard V. Clearwaters, 1900-1996

Dr. McCune closes (40:15) by exhorting students to give thanks to God for fundamentalists of the past, and to “pledge in your own heart you’re going to uphold those ideals, you’re going to stand for the thing that they stood for, and you’ll take the heat and you’ll take the abuse sometimes it comes. It may be from your own friends and your own countrymen and your own churchmen, but don’t be afraid to do it.”

Click here to listen or download:

The Definition and Conception of Fundamentalism

Dr. Rolland McCune – The Formation of Liberalism

Today would have been the 86th birthday of one of my seminary professors, Dr. Rolland McCune. Dr. McCune went to be with the Lord June 17, 2019.

There have been many thoughts running through my mind since he died, and today is no exception. Perhaps I will write out those thoughts, but not today.

There were many tributes and accolades given leading up to and following Dr. McCune’s death. I was surprised (or maybe I shouldn’t have been) at the relative lack of notice of his commitment to fundamentalism. (I will be the first to confess my lack of omniscience and will gladly be corrected on this point.) His devotion to biblical fundamentalism was essential not only to who he was, but to his ministry in the seminary.

I was an M.Div student at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary from 1994-2000. It was during those six years that Dr. McCune completed his tenure as seminary president and full-time professor. Half-way through my seminary career in 1996 Dr. McCune took seven chapel sessions to address the topic of fundamentalism because he wanted to make sure that students knew what it was. He said,

“We need to be reminded of our roots. You’re sitting this morning in a fundamental, separatist Baptist seminary. How did we get this way? We need to be reminded of that….One of the reasons that fundamentalism is somewhat in disarray in certain quarters is that people are simply not aware of their roots. They’ve not been told these kinds of things. For that reason we go through this every now and then.”

I purchased the cassette tapes of those messages and have since listened to them many, many times. I can’t thank God enough for his continued ministry in my life through these. I’ve subsequently digitized them and will post them over the next few days.

If you buy his first book, Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism, you can read what he taught in these messages. What you’ll miss in the book are the interesting and invaluable rabbit trails, applications, anecdotes, and of course his personality. You’ll hear his devotion, scholarship, seriousness, and his humor.

Dr. McCune was committed to biblical fundamentalism, to teaching and educating seminary students to not only know what it is but to convince them that they should be such.

With this introduction, here is Dr. McCune’s first message of the series on fundamentalism. It is titled, “The Formation of Liberalism.”

Lydia Update!

We’re all thankful to our Lord for His grace and help today. It was a long but good day.

We left at 6am, arriving at the hospital in Cleveland about 7:30. They prepped her, and then came her most dreaded moment: Getting the IV.

HOWEVER, while talking with the anesthesiologist, he said they could give a light anesthesia and then once she’s asleep put in the IV. “Lydia,” he said, “would you like to do that?” Uh, YEAH!!! She had a pretty big grin for someone about to have surgery!

The surgery took a good three hours. They got started maybe 9-9:30, finishing around noon. We were able to see her 30-45 minutes later in her foggy state. We then left for home, arriving around 3-3:30.

After we made sure she was comfortable, it was back in the car for me to get her antibiotic perscription refilled. Back in the day when we had a pharmacy in Orwell that was a quick run, but it closed, so it’s now a 25 minute drive to Middlefield, wait 30 minutes for them to fill it, then drive back home.

Life in the country!!! 🙂

We praise the Lord for His help, and for MANY who have been asking Him for that help today.

THANK YOU!!!

Please Pray for Lydia! :-)

As many of you may know, Lydia had her first cochlear implant surgery last July (she has a form of congenital hearing loss in both ears). She has done extremely well learning how to hear with that.

Consequently, tomorrow morning she’ll be having her second cochlear implant surgery for her other ear. We would greatly appreciate your asking our kind and gracious God for help, mercy, wisdom, and a faithful testimony for Christ to those we meet.

We’ll arrive at the hospital tomorrow morning at 7:30, with surgery set for 9:30.

If you don’t know or remember about cochlear implants, watch this video. It is excellent.

Following the surgery she’ll have a month to recover, then they will turn her new cochlear implant on. It will take several months of fine-tuning to get it right.