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Paul Chappell's Pragmatism and Dangerous Associations
Updated February 26, 2014; May 8, 2013 (first published December 6, 1996) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org) -

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This is a review of the book Church Still Works by Paul Chappell and Clayton Reed.

Pastor Chappell's name is listed first and the book is published by Chappell's Striving Together Publications.

From the name of Chappell's publishing arm and the description of this book, it is obvious that he has the same philosophy as Clarence Sexton and his Independent Baptist Friends International movement, which is to unify independent Baptists and to ostracize as harmful to the cause of Christ those who “criticize” their fellow Baptists.

Consider the following description of the book:

"Part three concludes the study with a personal call to 'strive together’--to help meet the great needs of our nation and our world. We can make a lasting difference without compromising, but to do so, we must labor together to plant more local churches in more places."

If you can get Independent Baptists together who believe in Calvinism, CCM, modern textual criticism, immodest dress, contemporary ecumenical Southern Gospel, and who are closely affiliated with the SBC, and a hundred other things, without compromising -- more power to you!

It is enlightening that Chappell would join Clayton Reed in writing a book, for Amos reminds us that two walk together only when they are agreed (Amos 3:3).

Reed claims to be a fundamentalist but he is clearly New Evangelical in principle. He uses “Christian” rock and his blog series entitled “Ecclesiastical Separation” represents an unabashed New Evangelical philosophy. He says we should not separate over "non-fundamentals" and quotes John Rice saying we should work with those who disagree with us on baptism, tongues, prophecy, election, and association with SBC. If John Rice believed that, he was dead wrong and was not a biblical separatist, and such a philosophy is probably the reason why all of his children are New Evangelicals today. (See
Biblical Separatism and Its Collapse among Independent Baptists, a free eBook available from www.wayoflife.org)

(Reed viciously libeled me as follows when I issued my first warning about the use of contemporary Christian music at Lancaster in February 2011. He wrote: “I do not believe that engaging critics like Mr. Cloud on your own behalf is particularly helpful. Some one said, ‘Wrestling with an angry blogger is like wresting with a pig– you both get dirty, but the pig likes it.’ ... I call on all our Baptist brothers to stand up to the blog bullies and internet hit jobs. Tell men like Mr. Cloud in no uncertain terms: ‘Leave Chappell, Messer, Sexton, Schaap and whoever else alone. We don’t always agree, but we know a self-serving bully like you when we see one.’”)

Reed says, “... we ought to join every willing, warm-hearted Christian in advancing our Lord’s kingdom while it is day."

As support for this position, Reed quotes Romans 14:4, ripping it entirely out of context.

In fact, Romans 14 has nothing to do with the idea that there are things in Scripture of secondary value in the sense of how we are to deal with them or whether we are to separate on the basis of them. Romans 14 is not dealing with “non-essential” doctrine. The examples given by the apostle are eating meats and keeping holy days. These are matters about which the Bible is
silent in this dispensation. There are no divine requirements for the New Testament Christian concerning these things. Thus, Romans 14 is deals with how we are to treat matters NOT TAUGHT IN SCRIPTURE. In matters in which God has not plainly spoken, I have liberty and I am to give liberty to others. On the other hand, in matters in which God has plainly spoken, the only liberty is to obey and I have a responsibility to judge others on that basis.

While not every teaching of Scripture has equal weight, there is not a hint anywhere that some doctrines are to be treated as “non-essential” in the sense of whether or not we should take a stand for them. The only “non-essential” doctrine is one based on human opinion rather than God’s Word.

Those who refer to the “non-fundamental” doctrines of the faith don’t tell us how to recognize such a doctrine, and once an individual buys into that philosophy the list of “non-fundamentals” tends to increase with time as new associations are established on that basis.

We are convinced that the “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty” philosophy is the path from Biblicism to the emerging church.


This is exactly what I talked with Paul Chappell about personally in 2010. In a sermon delivered to preachers and also published as a statement in the book “To Seek and to Save,” Chappell maligned warnings. I challenged him on this by e-mail and asked him if he did any plain warning of his own. I reminded him of all of the things that are going on among IFBaptists (e.g., modern textual criticism, Calvinism, affiliation with “conservative evangelicals,” affiliation with the SBC, the mocking of standards of music and dress).

He replied that he is "concerned" about what is happening and that he does warn, but he does it "privately."

This method, of course, is entirely ineffective when we are talking about public issues.

The Chappell-Reed book employs a church growth approach -- analyze the "successful churches" and see what makes them tick. And the successful ones, of course, are always the big ones or the rapidly growing ones. Following is a telling statement from the publisher’s description of the book:

"Part Two explores the concept of positive deviance--what healthy churches are doing that struggling churches are not doing. You will delight to study seven biblical principles that healthy churches are practicing and that God is still blessing in twenty-first century ministry."

Of course, healthy equals big and struggling equals small. 

Had this approach been employed in the first century, it would have resulted in a book that would have treated the congregation at Philadelphia as a struggling church that needed help from Laodicea. Such a book would have excitedly laid out the seven Laodicean principles that would enable other churches, too, to be "rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." 

PRAGMATISM AND DANGEROUS ASSOCIATIONS

Paul Chappell is a pragmatist.

I heard from a former staff member at Lancaster Baptist Church who said that Chappell has sent his staff to a Rick Warren’s seminar. This man was on staff at the time, so I am not dealing with “hearsay.” The man gave me permission to use his name, but I don’t want to do so since I know by personal experience the dishonorable way that Pastor Chappell and his loyalists treat those who expose his errors. I have been blackballed, lied about, and slandered.

Consider who recommends “Church Still Works.” The Southern Baptist Ed Stetzer gave a positive recommendation of the Chappell-Reed book and interviewed Reed on his blog. He treated both the book and its authors with much respect. This is from a man who is one of the movers and shakers of the Mark Driscoll type rock & roll philosophy (he used to have a champagne dance party each New Year). Stetzer is very close with Driscoll and they have worked together in Acts 29, an emerging church planting ministry. Stetzer also praises Rick Warren. Stetzer despises separatism and he would not give the time of day to a book written by anyone other than a very “soft fundamentalist.”

Pastor Chappell’s pragmatism and “soft separatism” were on display when he brought in Michael Redd, a Christian NBA player, to speak to a youth rally at Lancaster Baptist Church (“A Great Weekend of Ministry,” Oct. 11, 2010, PaulChappell.com). Redd is a rock & roll Pentecostal, and though we do not doubt his faith in Christ or his sincerity in Christian service, he is not someone who should be speaking at a fundamental Baptist church, because of his doctrinal errors and the fact that his life preaches rejection of biblical separatism. God forbids this type of ecumenical joint ministry, because it is a compromise of sound doctrine and results in spiritual confusion and weakness. Redd helped purchase a building for the Philadelphia Deliverance Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio, pastored by his father, and in an interview he stated that he did so not merely out of family love but out of personal conviction that what that church is doing is right and important (“NBA Star Says Some Players ‘Church-Hurt,’”
The Washington Post, April 4, 2008). A web search shows that the church that Redd funds and supports is a rock & roll Pentecostal congregation filled with the doctrinal errors relating to the Pentecostal apostolic denomination. His mother is one of the preachers. Some of “Sister Haji Redd’s sermons are on YouTube.

Pastor Chappell’s pragmatic soft separatism was on display when he published a glowing recommendation of a book by Rick Warren’s associate Lance Witt (Chappell’s blog, November 28, 2012). The book review begins, “If you are in Christian ministry and are looking for a refreshing (yet convicting and challenging) book--and especially if you are a senior pastor--I suggest Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul by Lance Witt. When I read this book on my kindle recently, I had eighty-two highlights that filled over eight pages. There were so many truths the Lord used from it to speak to my soul.” Chappell’s review does not contain even a hint of warning about Witt.

I can’t imagine a more dangerous and spiritually ignorant recommendation for a fundamental Baptist pastor to publish. Witt is the executive pastor at Saddleback Church, and more dangerous spiritual waters do not exist anywhere. Warren is closely and warmly affiliated with New Agers and universalists (e.g., Tony Blair, Mehmet Oz, Daniel Amen, Mark Hyman, and Leonard Sweet) and promotes Catholic contemplative mysticism. (See the “Rick Warren” section of the Article Database at www.wayoflife.org). Witt personally promotes contemplative mysticism and even recommends Richard Foster and Buddhist-Catholic Thomas Merton in his book
Enjoying in Solitude. It was via the path of Foster and Merton that Sue Monk Kidd traveled from being a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher to a goddess worshipper. And yet Pastor Chappell has the audacity to think that Witt is promoting healthy waters from which fundamental Baptist pastors should drink. (See “From Southern Baptist to Goddess Worship: Sue Monk Kidd” and “Richard Foster: Evangelical’s Mystical Sparkplug,” and “Thomas Merton: The Catholic Buddhist Mystic” under the Contemplative Prayer section of the Article Database at www.wayoflife.org).

Chappell’s pragmatic soft separation is further evident in his Ministry 127 blog’s recommendation of a number of unsound authors, including John Maxwell and Donald Whitney. This is a very disturbing and dangerous practice. The reviewer of Whitney’s
Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health is Cary Schmidt, who until recently was the Associate Pastor at Lancaster Baptist Church. He writes, “Every page was intensely scriptural, very articulate, and powerfully inspiring regarding the healthy Christian life.” What Schmidt fails to say is that Donald Whitney, a New Evangelical Southern Baptist Calvinist, is a bridge to some extremely dangerous things. Whitney has some sound and helpful things to say, like any prominent New Evangelical, but the truth is mixed with error and he has no proper boundaries, having rejected “separatism.”

By this glaring omission and by recommending Whitney so highly, Schmidt and Lancaster Baptist are helping people to cross the bridges that Whitney has built. Lancaster is doing the same thing with literature that they are doing with music. They are messing around with the wrong stuff. It is the same “soft separatism” that destroyed Highland Park Baptist Church which we describe in the free eBook
Biblical Separatism and Its Collapse.

First, Whitney is a bridge to contemplative mysticism, and these are the most spiritually treacherous waters that exist. What Whitney touches on lightly in Ten Questions, he covers in some detail in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Though Whitney emphasizes the supremacy and authority of Scripture, he recommends unscriptural mystical practices and favorably and repeatedly quotes radical mystics Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Whitney praises Foster for his “great contribution” (Spiritual Disciplines, p. 22) and recommends the practices of “the medieval mystics” (p. 65), referring to the Catholic monks who invented contemplative mysticism in their benighted monasteries. It is unconscionable that Whitney doesn’t warn his readers that these mystics were committed to Rome’s damnable sacramental gospel and venerated Mary. Whitney promotes the practices of silence, journaling, and spiritual direction, and the “silence” recommended by Whitney is not merely to get alone with God and His Word in a quiet place. It is maintaining silence “inwardly so that God’s voice can be heard more clearly” and “does not always require words [or] sounds” (p. 184). This is blind and dangerous mysticism. To be alone with God in a quiet place and to meditate on His Word is NOT the same as sitting in silence and trying to hear God’s voice internally. One is scriptural and profitable; the other is mystical and dangerous.

Second, Whitney is a bridge to Reformed Theology, with its error pertaining to God’s election and its Augustinian allegoricalism and replacement theology which confuses Israel with the church. Whitney continually quotes the “Puritans” and recommends meditating on their writings as a devotional practice (“Do You Thirst for God?” 2001, p. 9), which is a recipe for being captured by the heresy of Reformed theology--something that is happening to many students in IFB Bible colleges. Whitney recommends John Piper in the most enthusiastic manner.

Third, Whitney is a bridge to the very dangerous world of New Evangelicalism. He quotes from New Evangelical writers continually and in the most favorable manner, such as William Barclay, Elisabeth Elliot, Philip Yancey, and Jerry Bridges. He even cites Billy Graham, the Prince of New Evangelicalism, as an example of true godliness and the wise practice of spiritual disciplines (Spiritual Disciplines, p. 191).

In some ways, “conservative evangelicals” like Donald Whitney and Ed Stetzer are more dangerous than the Richard Fosters and Dallas Willards and Rick Warrens, because they are bridges to the treacherous spiritual waters represented by the latter names.

IFBaptists who are careless about separating from such things as “conservative” evangelicals and contemporary music are building bridges to the bridge-builders.

(For more about contemplative prayer see the reports listed in the Articles Database at the Way of Life web site, www.wayoflife.org.)

See also the free eBook
Why Most Independent Baptists Will Be Emerging within 20 Years, www.wayoflife.org.


copyright 2013, Way of Life Literature

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