Below are a variety of issues arranged in alphabetical order that visitors often ask about when searching for a church. The statements below are not meant to be biblical defenses, but merely summary statements of what people can expect to be taught from the pulpit at Harrison Hills Baptist Church over the course of time. Those who desire to become members do not need to hold to all the teaching positions below, but they must agree not to teach contrary to them, so that unity can be maintained in the church.
AUTHORITY, INERRANCY, INFALLIBILITY, INSPIRATION, AND SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE
We teach the Bible is literally the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who moved men to write down God’s Word to mankind without error (in the original autographs). Though there are minor copyist errors in ancient manuscripts of the Bible, we teach that the Bible has been preserved through God’s providence, so that no doctrines have been corrupted. We teach that the best literal translations of the Bible are, for all intents and purposes, the very Word of God. Scripture alone is sufficient for all matters of faith, practice, and living the Christian life for the glory of God.
BIBLICAL COUNSELING/ DISCIPLESHIP
We teach biblical counseling is focused discipleship. The elders should set the example in giving wise biblical counsel to those in need, but all Christians are called upon to help and encourage each other in obeying God’s Word through accurate interpretation and application of the Scriptures.
CALVINISM VERSUS ARMINIANISM
We teach that theological labels are often not helpful because there are no standard definitions. In many instances, self-proclaimed followers of John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius don’t believe what Calvin or Arminius taught. Calvin and Arminius, though used by God, were fallible interpreters of the Word of God. Though Harrison Hills Baptist Church might generally be labeled as “Reformed Baptist,” we desire to be known as Christians who place all of the fallible writings of men in subjection to the infallible Word of God (including this doctrinal statement).
CHURCH DISCIPLINE AND RESTORATION
When needed we practice church discipline for members and regular attenders because we desire: 1) to obey and show love to Christ, 2) to show love to those in unrepentant sin, 3) restore people living in unrepentant sin to obedience to God’s Word, 4) to encourage a holy fear of sinning in the entire congregation, 5) to maintain purity in the church, and 6) be a God-glorifying testimony to unbelievers in the world.
We teach the terms elders, pastors, and overseers are used interchangeably to describe those who lead the church. Elder-qualified men must be godly, mature, gifted, trained, and meet all the biblical criteria for elders. Elders are called to lead, feed, protect, manage, and oversee the church as undershepherds of Jesus Christ. The church is required to submit to its elders. Those appointed to the office of elder must already demonstrate a high level of commitment to the local church, be gifted teachers, be discipling, be practicing hospitality, and leading the church in prayer. Elders are not merely decision makers, but active shepherds and teachers of God’s Word. Deacons are faithful, godly men, appointed by the elders to assist the elders in shepherding the local church, but are not required to be gifted teachers.
CHRIST-CENTERED PREACHING VERSUS CHRISTO-EXCLUSIVE PREACHING
We teach Jesus Christ, the gospel, and God’s historical redemptive plan of salvation are major themes in the Bible. We also affirm that many churches are failing to clearly and regularly preach the gospel. We do not teach that the solution for churches failing to preach the gospel is to read Jesus into every text, contrary to the original author’s intent. To do so is to commit “Christological eisegesis,” i.e., reading or inserting into the text, adding to the Word of God, content foreign to the original author’s intent. Though Christ might be preached in every sermon, He cannot be preached from every text, for He does not appear in every text. We are committed to preaching the gospel regularly and faithfully. We desire to preach the entire counsel of God’s Word, all doctrines, all texts, proclaiming whatever the original author meant by what he wrote to his original audience. We reject “Christo-exclusivism,” which is the overriding of the authorial intent of a text to insert Jesus Christ. This is a sinful, twisting of the Scriptures, and sets a bad example by mishandling the Word of God.
There are many areas of Christian liberty. Each Christian is to express their Christian liberties in obedience and submission to the Word of God. The Bible gives many instructions concerning the use of our liberties, but they boil down to making sure we show love to God by obeying God’s Word and showing love to our neighbors, believer and unbeliever alike. Though forming personal convictions in the use of Christian liberties are necessary for each individual, we must avoid elevating our personal convictions to the same authority as Scripture or condemning others for not holding to our personal convictions. We must exercise our liberties in love, thinking of what is best for others, and not merely think of ourselves. Love should motivate Christians to exercise their liberties in wisdom, caution, for the glory of God, and the good of others.
CONTINUING REVELATION AND THE GIFTS OF PROPHECY
We teach the sixty-six books of the Bible are God’s “special revelation” to man. We teach that the Bible is sufficient for everything pertaining to life and godliness, and that the biblical canon is closed. We do not believe God is giving inspired special revelation to people today, like He did to the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles of old. Christians are called to live by the Word of God alone, not by feelings, emotions, intuition, what we sense, or our interpretations of God’s providential acts or events around us.
DIVINE CREATION VERSUS MATERIALISTIC EVOLUTION
We teach God created the heaven and earth and all they contain supernaturally, out of nothing, in six, literal, sequential, 24-hour days less than ten thousand years ago. Evolution is a false religion, based on unscientific assumptions, and a materialistic, man-centered world view. Evolution attacks biblical authority, the truthfulness of the authors of Scripture, and even Jesus Himself. The theory of evolution is a result of man’s fallen need to eliminate a Creator from their conscience. Evolution is a lie that produces tragic consequences and is incompatible with biblical Christianity.
Expository preaching uses objective Bible study principles to extract from biblical texts what the original author meant for his original audience to understand by what he wrote i.e., the interpretation of a text. The expository preacher seeks to package truth that is objectively taken from a text of Scripture and then proclaim the truth to his listeners clearly and accurately, so God can speak to His people. We teach that sequential expository preaching through books of the Bible is, in general, the best approach. Though other kinds of preaching have been used by God and are sometimes necessary, sequential, expository preaching through books of the Bible allows God to speak most clearly, comprehensively, and objectively to His people.
END TIMES EVENTS
We teach the study, preaching, and teaching of biblical prophecy as important for the health of the church. Though a person’s views of end time events are not a matter of salvation, how we interpret prophetic portions of the Bible has massive implications on what we believe about God, the Bible, how to interpret the Bible, and how we should presently live in light of what the Bible says will happen in the future. We hold to a literal, historical, grammatical, contextual interpretation of the Bible. We teach if the literal interpretation of a text makes sense, we should not seek another sense by adopting a figurative, metaphorical, or spiritualized meaning foreign to the original author’s intent.
FALLIBLE SPECIAL REVELATION
We do not teach there can be fallible special revelation. The Holy Spirit, being God, cannot err, therefore what He communicates to man cannot err. There is no such thing as fallible prophecy, visions, dreams, or inspired special revelation of any kind. The idea that there can be fallible special revelation is an accommodation to those in Charismatic circles who claim to receive special revelation from God, but what they claim is from the Lord doesn’t come true. Those who fallibly make predictions “from the Lord” are either deceived or are false teachers and charlatans.
GOSPEL MINISTRY VERSUS THE SOCIAL GOSPEL
We teach all ministry must fall under at least one of three distinct areas: 1) worshiping God in spirit and truth, 2) equipping the saints for the work of the ministry, or 3) evangelizing the lost. If at least one of these areas of ministry is not present, then the activity isn’t a ministry, but an attempt to do good deeds, give money, support charitable causes, feed the poor, etc. The social gospel cannot be biblical ministry if it leaves out preaching the gospel and calling sinners to repentance. The church does not exist to make sinners comfortable on their way to hell, but to love them by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to them as well as meeting physical needs. We teach that the Bible makes a clear distinction between, and gives different instructions to, Christians about how they are to treat “the poor,” those who want to work, but are prevented because of sickness or circumstances, and those who are lazy, indolent, idle, and sluggardly.
IMMORALITY AND SEXUAL SINS
Any sexual thoughts and activity contrary to the Scriptures and outside of biblically defined marriage comprised of a single biological male and female is sin, e.g., fornication, adultery, polygamy, polyandry, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, pornography, etc. The Bible says repeatedly that those who practice sexual sin will not inherit the kingdom of God, which means they cannot be Christians though they may profess otherwise. A life of unrepentant immorality reveals a person has never repented of their sin and been born again by God’s grace. Though Christians commit sexual sins, they do not continue to live in unrepentant immorality. True believers keep confessing, repenting, turning from sexual sin to pursue holiness. Sexual intimacy is designed by God to be enjoyed in the context of marriage only. Christians are required by God to submit all their sexual passions to the Word of God and are able to do so by His all-sufficient grace.
INTERPRETING THE SCRIPTURES
We teach the literal, historical, grammatical, contextual method of interpreting the Bible. We also teach that every truly born-again believer is indwelt by the divine interpreter, the Holy Spirit. All things being equal, any believer should be able to understand any biblical text. Spiritual maturity, training in how to study the Bible, our understanding of systematic theology, spiritual giftedness, time spent in study, prayer, and meditation on the Word make a huge difference when trying to understand the meaning of the biblical text. Yet there are no “elite” interpreters of the Bible, who alone can discover the meaning of certain texts which other believers cannot discover.
LEGALISM AND LAWLESSNESS (ANTINOMIANISM)
We strive to avoid the extremes of legalism and antinomianism. Legalism appears in the Bible in several forms: 1) elevating man-made tradition to the same authority as Scripture and condemning others as sinning for not adhering to our traditions, 2) trying to be saved, justified, or earn God’s favor by our works instead of by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and 3) practicing a cold, dead, orthodoxy, i.e., doing all the right things, yet mechanically and not from the heart out of love to God. We desire to avoid all forms of legalism. We also reject lawlessness or antinomianism, which is the false idea that because we are saved and sanctified by grace, we don’t need to obey God and that if we try to obey God, we are sinning, living in the flesh, or legalists. We teach that Christians must obey all of God’s Word either directly or in principle. We must walk in the Spirit, trusting in God’s grace to obey. We teach that obeying the Bible by God’s grace, for His glory, out of love for Christ, is not merely acceptable, but mandatory for all who call themselves Christians.
God created and defines marriage in His Word. Genesis 2:24 teaches us that marriage requires: 1) one biological man and one biological woman; 2) the formation of a new family unit that takes priority over all other relationships; 3) the public declaration and willingness on the part of both the man and the woman to be married and 4) physical consummation of the marriage in sexual intimacy. People or governments do not have the authority to change the biblical definition of marriage. God does not acknowledge “same sex marriage,” “homosexual marriage,” “lesbian marriage,” etc., as marriage, but as sexual sin and perversion.
OBEYING THE GOVERNING AUTHORITIES
The Bible teaches that governing authorities are established by God. Christians are repeatedly told in the New Testament to submit to and obey the governing authorities that are functioning in accordance with Romans 13, and 1 Peter 2. Civil disobedience is only acceptable when the governing authorities tell Christians that they must sin against clear biblical mandates. In that case the Christian must obey God rather than men. As a brief primer, please see this ligonier article on the church and state for a more complete study. Scripture reflects three spheres of authority in creation: (1) the family sphere of authority; (2) the church sphere of authority and (3) the state sphere of authority.
We see from Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 that God has given the government a specific sphere within which to function. It is ordained to punish evil and reward good. Obedience to these Scriptures protects us from both anarchy and tyranny. To be clear, Christians must submit to legitimate rulers giving lawful commands whether they agree or not, or like it or not. Even if we don’t agree with the amount of taxation, we pay our taxes. Even if we don’t like the speed limits, we follow them.
Yet unqualified Christian obedience to government cannot be taught from texts which explicitly limit the boundaries of government authority and the extent of our submission. God Himself clearly restricts the role of government, not giving it unlimited authority: it acts “for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Pet. 2:14). When rulers reverse that, as often happens, by praising evildoers and punishing those who do right, they violate their delegated, God-given authority and transgress their divinely established boundaries and assigned jurisdiction.
Theologian Francis Schaeffer writes:
“The State is to be an agent of justice, to restrain evil by punishing wrongdoers, and to protect the good in society. When the State does the reverse, it has no proper authority. It is then a usurped authority and as such it becomes lawless and is tyranny… If there is no final place for civil disobedience, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the living God. …And that point is exactly when the early Christians performed their acts of civil disobedience, even when it cost them their lives. …Acts of State which contradict God’s Law are illegitimate and acts of tyranny. Tyranny is ruling without the sanction of God. To resist tyranny is to honour God.”
Yet even in the rare instances where civil disobedience is necessary, the Christian must display the fruit of the spirit, live in humility, and be willing to suffer the consequences for disobeying the governing authorities in order to obey God.
PSYCHIATRY AND PSYCHOLOGY
The fields of modern Psychiatry and Psychology were developed by God-hating atheists and are weak or worthless in helping people with their spiritual problems. The Bible and God’s grace are sufficient to help people with all spiritual problems and the sins that plague humanity. Psychiatry and psychology sometimes accurately observe and diagnose people’s spiritual problems, yet they fail to offer biblical solutions. Psychology often misdiagnoses sins as diseases and slavery to sin as addiction. There are over one hundred different competing and contradictory schools of thought concerning how psychiatrists and psychologists should help people with their spiritual problems. History has borne out that psychiatry and psychology are bankrupt fields of study that fail to offer biblical solutions to people’s true spiritual needs.
People suffer from two general kinds of problems, physiological and spiritual. Medical doctors focus primarily on physical ailments. Psychologists and psychiatrists focus on mental or spiritual problems. There are times when spiritual problems create physical problems and vice versa. Psychotropic medications are in some instances a gracious provision from God. When a person is very traumatized and may not know the Lord, they do not know how to approach sin or the consequences of sin with a biblical framework. Psychotropic medications might be used to temporarily suppress the symptom of a spiritual problem until the gospel and biblical counsel can be administered. But you cannot cure spiritual problems with psychotropic medications.
The concept of racism is faulty because racism implies that a person of one race is prejudiced against a person of another race. The Bible, however, teaches there is only one race, the human race, and that all people are blood relatives descended from Adam and Eve. Biblically “racism” is the sin of hating your fellow man because they look, act, speak, or have different cultural or personal preferences than you do. People hate other people for many reasons, but the core sin is failing to obey the second great commandment “to love your neighbor as yourself.” The lie of “racism” is the evil offspring of the greater lie of Darwinian evolution. Darwin taught that the reason some people groups look different is that they are different races and that some “races” are superior to others. All people bear the imago Dei: all are image bearers of God, regardless of physical features or the amount of melanin in their skin. To show partiality toward anyone for an external reason is sin.
ROLES OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THE HOME AND CHURCH
We take a complementarian view of men and women in both the home and church. Scripture shows men and women are equal in value and in salvation, but that God wonderfully made men and women physically and emotionally different. God assigns to men and women different, but complementary roles in the home and church. In the home, men are called to lovingly lead their wives as servant leaders, submitting to God’s instructions to them as husbands. Wives are required to submit to and support their husband’s leadership in the home as the Word of God instructs them. In the church, biblically qualified men, who are appointed to the office of elder are called to lead the church. In accordance with Scripture, women are not to teach, lead, or exercise authority over men in the church. While this is controversial in our current culture, it is not controversial in Scripture. The commands concerning this (most notably from the Apostle Paul) do not rely on their ancient culture to inform this but point to the created order in Genesis as the basis for such a command. It is timeless.
We teach that the Sabbath as an observance was given as a special occasion between God, and the nation of Israel. Moses records in Exodus, “The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested” Ex. 31:16-17 Moses goes on in Deuteronomy to tell the nation of Israel why they are to observe the Sabbath: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” Deut. 5:15 The purpose was not merely as some form of remembrance concerning creation, or God resting. It was instituted to remind Israel about God’s deliverance from Egypt.
We teach that the Sabbath as an official observance was given to Israel, not to the New Testament church. The Jewish Sabbath observance was abolished at the cross for New Testament believers, and the command was never again restated or given. The Sabbath is still observed by various Jewish sects today, and it remains on a Saturday, as it has always been. This was certainly a topic of discussion during the time Paul wrote his letters to the various churches. Paul told the Romans “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” Rom. 14:5 Paul also tells the church at Colossae ““Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” Col. 2:16-17
We do not teach any concept of a “Christian Sabbath”, or “Sabbatarianism” as a way to compromise or amalgamate a position that Scripture does not require. Very simply, Sunday is the Christian day of worship because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. While this time is precious and revered, the meaning does not extend beyond that.
The keeping of the Sabbath being an Old Testament command is not to be confused with the command we have to gather with other believers. While the gathering of the church today has nothing to do with the Old Testament concept of the Sabbath, it would be a misuse of this position to not seek fellowship and church membership because of this. To be clear, if one does not desire to be in fellowship with other believers, Scripture would encourage that person to examine the state of their soul, and whether or not they are born again. One very important and required sign of a true believer is a desire to be with other believers.
SIGN GIFTS I.E., GIFTS OF MIRACLES AND TONGUES
We teach that God still performs miracles—salvation being a regular miracle of God. Sometimes God performs miracles in answer to prayer. Yet God is not giving men miraculous sign gifts in the church today. Sign gifts were given to verify and identify a messenger of God and his message during times when the Bible was being written. Now that we have the completed Biblical canon, the full and sufficient revelation of God, sign gifts are no longer needed. Men were given sign gifts during three distinct periods of history, which always meet these three criteria: 1) sign gifts were only given to a select few, 2) sign gifts were only given in a specific geographical location, and 3) sign gifts were only given while the Bible was being written. The three distinct periods when God gave men sign gifts were the time of Moses, the time of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, and the time of Jesus and the Apostles.
We teach that God gave the gift of tongues during the time of the Apostles, while the New Testament was being written. The biblical gift of tongues is when a person is supernaturally gifted by God to speak in a known language, previously unknown to them, so that others who speak that known language can understand the Word of God being preached. Both the preacher who has the biblical gift of tongues and the listeners who hear someone preach with the gift of tongues understand what is being said. Those who do not speak the known language that is being spoken through the gift of tongues need an interpreter. The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 14, distinguishes between the biblical gift of tongues and pagan ecstatic speech. Ecstatic speech is gibberish, not a known language, not edifying to others, can’t be interpreted, and the speaker doesn’t know what he is saying. The biblical gift of tongues was used to edify others, was practiced out of love for others, was destined to pass away, was used to evangelize the lost, was never to be practiced by women in the church and was to be used in an orderly manner. Sign gifts have never been the norm for the people of God. The Bible warns that in the latter days Satan will seek to deceive even the elect with false signs and wonders.
SOCIAL JUSTICE, INTERSECTIONALITY, AND CRITICAL RACE THEORY
The Bible teaches that there is one human race, that we are all blood relatives of Adam and Eve, and that all of mankind is corrupt, depraved, and in need of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. God created mankind to give Him glory. We glorify God by loving God and obeying His Word. Social justice, intersectionality, and critical race theory are unbiblical and worldly theoretical frameworks that can only exist where false doctrine, pride, bitterness, greed, and lack of forgiveness exist. Christians are commanded to love their neighbor, forgive those who sin against them, knowing that all men have intrinsic value because they are all created in God’s image. Scripture makes it clear that men and women are responsible for their own sin, not for the sins of others in the past. The practice of categorizing people based upon perceived or actual victimhood, physical attributes, or sinful lifestyles is contrary to Scripture. The gospel message of reconciliation, and the finished work of Christ on the cross makes the teachings surrounding Social Justice, Intersectionality, and Critical Race Theory incompatible with a life redeemed by grace and is steeped in overt concepts of cultural and political Marxism.
THE LOCAL CHURCH AND ITS RELATION TO PARACHURCH MINISTRIES
Parachurch ministries have arisen for two primary reasons. First, because local churches have failed to do what God has commanded. Second, because local churches often don’t have the resources to do what parachurch ministries can do with collective resources e.g., mission agencies, Christian colleges, seminaries, etc. We teach that the local church must take priority over parachurch ministries. Involvement in parachurch ministry is optional, while involvement in a local church is necessary. We also teach that parachurch ministries must be led by people who are accountable to the leadership of a local church and must operate according to God’s Word.
Along with the Sabbath, the principle of the tithe is also derived from the Old Testament. Under the Mosaic Law, ten percent of one’s crops, livestock, or gain was to be given to the Temple. In fact, there were two other mandatory tithes as well (the poor, and the Levitical tithe) which actually would total closer to twenty-five percent. The tithe was often viewed as a form of taxation to pay for the intensive needs of the Temple and the Priests.
We teach that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill the Law. When Jesus became the perfect sacrifice, fulfilling all the righteous requirements of the Law, we see no further mention of the tithing system in the New Testament. What the New Testament does talk about extensively, is giving. Giving generously, giving with joy and cheerfulness. If that means ten percent, that is wonderful. If different seasons of life allow you to give more, and even sometimes less, be prayerful and obedient. As with so many of these questions, the heart of the matter, is a matter of the heart. The wallet is often called the “last frontier” of your walk with Christ. It is the hardest to let go. We should be faithful givers.
People are assigned their gender by God at conception and it never changes. Gender and sex are not different categories. Neither surgeries, hormone therapy, or seeking to change one’s behavior or apparel can change a person’s God-given gender. Those who try to change their gender are confused, deceived, and often hurting. The individual is actively sinning by rebelling against the very God who has told them who they are and by rejecting God’s design in creation. Transgenderism is a lie with devastating consequences for all who engage in it.
Traditions are extra-biblical religious practices Christians are free to engage in as long as they are not forbidden by God’s Word. Traditions must not be elevated to the same authority as Scripture, nor are we to judge others because they do not observe our traditions. We do not sin if we violate man-made traditions.
WOMEN PASTORS OR ELDERS
We teach the Bible forbids women teaching or exercising authority over men in the church. Women are given spiritual gifts to serve the church in many ways. They can serve children, women, and men, as long as they don’t teach or exercise authority over men in the church. Women can never hold or be appointed to the office of elder, pastor, shepherd, or overseer, or deacon.
WORSHIP AND MUSIC
The entire life of a Christian is to be an act of worship. Music is not worship, but one of the many ways God has given that facilitates worship. Music doesn’t worship, people worship. All acts of worship must be in accordance with the Word of God. God seeks true worshipers who worship Him in spirit, from the heart, and in truth, according to the Scriptures. The Old Testament has much to say about worship in the Psalms, I Chronicles, and II Chronicles. The most significant New Testament text that addresses singing in the church is Col. 3:16, which teaches us the purpose of music and singing is to “teach and admonish one another with songs, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Though there are different music styles, it is the goal of Harrison Hills Baptist Church to have music and singing that encourages the greatest number of people in the congregation to focus on what the Bible says about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God’s works, God’s will for our lives, God’s plan for the future, and sound doctrine. Worship in conducted with the audience of God alone in mind. True worship cannot be man-centered but must be conducted with high reverence for who He is, and the attributes He possesses. Listening to the Word of God preached is the highest and most frequently mentioned form of corporate worship in the New Testament. When the Word of God is faithfully and accurately preached, God speaks to His Church. We teach that preaching is the apex of Christian worship.