I have been thinking lately about the topic of Christian landmarks. I will admit that this is not one of the “normal” things I think of when I think of the IFB, but it is definitely a teaching that I have heard all my life. The Bible verse that is most used to “support” this teaching is Proverbs 22:28. Deuteronomy 19:14, 27:17a and Proverbs 23:10 are also used. These verses out of the English Standard Version (ESV) say:
- “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.” –Proverbs 22:28
- “You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.” –Deuteronomy 19:14
- “Cursed be anyone who moves his neighbor’s landmark.” –Deuteronomy 27:17a
- “Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless,”–Proverbs 23:10
As you can see, all of these verses have the word “landmark” in them. When I was in the IFB, I was taught that God had set down certain landmarks that were not to be moved. One of those landmarks was to only use the King James Bible. Another landmark is the New Testament (aka IFB) church. I’ve heard of “landmarks” regarding dress standards. I’ve heard of “landmarks” regarding how the home should be run. There are “landmarks” concerning music. I even know of one pastor who said having a good work ethic was a Christian landmark. It seems to me that every pastor has their own set of “landmarks” which can not be moved or done away with. The person who removes or even slightly moves a “Christian landmark” will face dire consequences by God. Not backing down from the standards and “convictions” that we were told to live by was stressed.
I’ve also heard about patriotic landmarks, and these verses are used as a springboard for a pastor to go into a “sermon” about American patriotism. I consider myself to be a patriotic person. I have many family members who have served or are currently serving in the Armed Forces. I support our troops. I’m very happy to be living in this country. But even with all of that, America is not mentioned in the Bible. To take these verses and springboard into a patriotic sermon, is not handling the Scriptures correctly.
The IFB spiritualizes this word and these verses to speak of standards. Any standard or preference that the pastor holds to is deemed as a Christian landmark that cannot be moved. But is that what these verses are talking about? Are we supposed to spiritualize the word or these verses to speak of any standard or belief that we hold dear? Why, if this is so important, can no two pastor agree on exactly what a “landmark” is?
Proverbs 22:28 is not talking about a spiritual landmark. This is talking about literal land. It is saying not to steal land by moving the landmarks. Other versions use the word boundaries.
Deuteronomy 19:14 is also not talking about a spiritual landmark. In this passage, God was giving the Israelites laws to live by when they reached the land of Canaan. One of my commentaries said that the landmarks in this verse referred to “stones bearing inscriptions which identified the owner of the property. Moving a neighbor’s stone was equivalent to stealing property.” So again, this is in reference to literal land that God was giving to the Israelite nation.
Deuteronomy 27:17 is a verse that is in the midst of many curses. The Sinaitic Covenant was the covenant that God made between the children of Israel before they went into the Promised Land. There were specific blessings and cursings listed that depended on their obedience or disobedience to God’s laws. One of the curses was a curse on anyone who moved his neighbor’s landmark. As we have already seen, this is not talking about a spiritualized landmark in the life of a Christian. This is talking about actual land that the Israelites were actually going to inherit from God. This verse is not about God cursing someone who dares to move a “landmark” that an IFB preacher has set up for his church.
Proverbs 23:10 is also not a verse that is talking about a spiritual landmark. The words “ancient landmark” are not in reference to a teaching or belief that was held to, by great men of the faith in times past. It is in reference to the original boundary lines that were set up when the children of Israel first started taking over and acquiring land in the Promised Land. Again, this is about actual property.
I personally believe this is a dangerous teaching because it is used in a variety of unbiblical ways. As has been shown by looking at the verses that are used, there is not a single verse that talks about holding to the same views as those who were once great or popular Christians. They are not about God cursing someone who decides to carry a Bible other than the KJV, or someone who chooses to listen to a different kind of music. These verses definitely do not say a thing about American patriotism. Based on what I have learned regarding this issue, these are the predominant verses that a pastor will go to, to “prove” that his own personal convictions and standards are accurate and Biblical.
I listened to some online sermons from IFB pastors in preparation for this article. In most of the sermons, the pastors did talk at the beginning about how these landmarks are talking about literal property that God gave to the Israelites in the Promised Land. But then, they launched into spiritualizing things for the rest of their sermons. Why is that? Why is 5 minutes (or less) spent on what the verse actually means and “spiritual landmarks” preached for the rest of the time?
The fact that the pastors did give the correct meaning of these verses at the beginning of their sermons tells me that they DO know what the verses mean. If the literal meaning of a passage (in this case, what a Christian landmark is) is clearly evident, then why seek to change it? Why seek to spiritualize it? Are their own standards more important than the Bible? Do they look at the Bible as a springboard for whatever they REALLY want to talk about? Why don’t they preach the verses in context? (And by context I mean looking at the entire chapter. If needed, the whole Book of the Bible should be looked at.) Why do they look for a word or phrase that seems to fit their preconceived notions and “preach” from that? Why don’t they want to preach the Bible literally (as they say they do)? If they aren’t preaching what the Bible actually says, are they really preaching?
These are questions that have been running through my mind. I’m not sure what the answers are. I wish I did know the answers. I wish I did understand how someone can start out by giving the literal meaning of a word or phrase and then springboard into something else. I don’t want to think that the Scriptures are being purposely manipulated, but I’m not sure right now what else it could be. With my own ears, I heard them being manipulated after the correct meaning of a Christian landmark was explained. Do these pastors even realize what they are doing to the Word of God? Do the people who listen to them realize what they are doing to the Word of God?