Home > C. H. Spurgeon, doctrines, eschatology, hermeneutics, S. Lewis Johnson > The “Mark Dever attitude”: Confusing Revealed Biblical Doctrine with Food and Drink

The “Mark Dever attitude”: Confusing Revealed Biblical Doctrine with Food and Drink

July 20, 2010

Recently the local preacher, in a message supposed to be an exposition of 3 John, expressed a Mark Dever kind of attitude (and see further discussion at this post also) in his inability to distinguish between true lesser matters such as eating and drinking, and the oft-classified “second-order” and “third-order” biblical doctrines.  Specifically, he lumped one’s view of eschatology into the same category as the disputable matters of eating meat sacrificed to idols and one’s view of food and drink, as something that people should not divide over or even break fellowship over — and he even laid the charge that those who would divide over something so unimportant are really the divisive ones.

Not surprisingly, he did not put forth as an example the difference between Calvinist and Arminian doctrine — something of which Christians do have different understandings, and do separate over.  Believers also separate over ideas concerning spiritual gifts — cessationists and continuists.  They also divide over modes of baptism and the Lord’s Supper — all matters which the Bible reveals far less information about than it does concerning Christ’s Second Coming.  Regarding creation, another supposedly “less important” doctrine, the Grace to You and Pyromaniacs blogs have done an excellent job of pointing out the importance of that doctrine and overall biblical inerrancy and authority.

God has given us a vast amount of revelation and teaching concerning the Second Coming — far more than the New Testament has to say concerning these other doctrines over which, as we all know, Christians have “divided” into differing fellowships.  See, for instance, S. Lewis Johnson’s statement concerning the number of times baptism and the Lord’s Supper are mentioned in scripture, as compared to mentions of the Second Coming.  Eschatology is not something obscure or hidden from us and thus to be equated with food and drink.  Eschatology is not a minor thing that begins in Revelation or even Daniel — it begins in Genesis (with the Abrahamic covenant).

To quote Matt Weymeyer again:

many Christians are self-proclaimed, sometimes even proud, agnostics when it comes to their view of the end times, and unfortunately, many of them seem to be content to remain in the dark when it comes to what God has revealed about the future… God has revealed too much about this issue for us to be content with being agnostic.

I’ll also add here my agreement with Expository Thoughts’ latest blog:   “I told my students to believe that the text was written by God – if you can’t understand something written in the text, it’s your fault, not the author’s.”

The person who classifies eschatology as something on the level of food and drink (and charges those who think differently with sin and divisiveness) only reveals his own lack of understanding, his own neglect of the study of scripture, and arrogance in presuming to stand over God’s word and decide which doctrines are and are not important.  As Caleb Kolstad pointed out in reference to this similar attitude from Mark Dever:

“I also don’t think he takes into account the point that not everyone agrees on what second-level matters are and what third-level matters are.  For Pastor Dever’s church family, eschatology is a “Third-order issue” …  Fine, but if another pastor or local assembly decides this is a second-level matter for their particular church body don’t call it “sin” brother.”

And now to what the Bible does have to say regarding the specific doctrine of eschatology.  The same apostle Paul who emphasized getting along and doing no harm to the less mature brother regarding meat sacrificed to idols, also went to great lengths to warn the Gentiles against arrogance regarding the natural branches (Romans 11:18-20) and to teach the truth concerning the status of Israel now and in the future (Romans 9 through 11) — and throughout his teaching in Acts and the epistles continually affirmed the future hope for his people Israel.  The same apostle John who spoke out against Diotrephes in 3 John, also delivered the clear premillennial teaching, a Revelation from God, in his final contribution to the New Testament canon — a teaching so well understood in the early church that it was affirmed by John’s successors in the second century, and Justin Martyr in the late 2nd century would also affirm that all who were right-minded (true believers) also held to this truth, the future thousand year millennial reign of Christ.

In closing, I turn to much more edifying words, the great wisdom of C.H. Spurgeon.  From sermon #123, “Particular Election” — on the matter of making one’s calling and election sure:

do what the Scripture tells you—“Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” … study well the Scriptures and get knowledge. For a knowledge of doctrine will tend very much to confirm your faith. Try to understand God’s Word. Get a sensible, spiritual idea of it.  Get, if you can, a system of divinity out of God’s Bible. Put the doctrines together. Get real, theological knowledge, founded upon the infallible Word. … And when you have done this, “Add to your knowledge temperance.” Take heed to your body—be temperate there. Take heed to your soul—be temperate there. Be not drunken with pride. Be not lifted up with self-confidence. Be temperate. Be not harsh towards your friends, nor bitter to your enemies. Get temperance of lip, temperance of life, temperance of heart, temperance of thought… Get temperance and then add to it by God’s Holy Spirit patience. Ask Him to give you that patience which endures affliction, which, when it is tried, shall come forth as gold. Array yourself with patience, that you may not murmur in your sicknesses.  That you may not curse God in your losses, nor be depressed in your afflictions. Pray, without ceasing, until the Holy Spirit has nerved you with patience to endure unto the end.  And when you have that, get godliness.

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