Are Conservative Southern Baptists Fundamentalists?

Note: This article is reprinted from The Faith Pulpit (January/February 2004), a publication of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary (Ankeny, IA). It appears here with some slight editing.

Any fundamentalist who has kept up with the conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is glad for conservatives' advances and rejoices with them in their success. There are several books and articles which have been written from various perspectives about what has happened within the SBC since 1979. Perhaps one of the most significant is The Baptist Reformation (The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention) by Jerry Sutton, written from the conservative point of view and published in 2000 by the SBC's denominational publishing house, Broadman & Holman Publishers. The book's significance is indicated by the endorsements it has received from many of the leading Southern Baptists today, including Morris H. Chapman, James T. Draper, Jr., Kenneth S. Hemphill, Richard D. Land, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, Ed Young, and others.

Still, fundamentalists have raised an important question: "Are these conservative Southern Baptists really fundamentalists?" The question is important, for its answer will largely determine whether those professing fundamentalism ought to embrace the SBC and its leadership. Organizations which have begun as fundamentalist in orientation, such as the Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI) and the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC), are currently facing this issue. Therefore, the question is not only important, it is also timely.

Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, pastored by Jerry Falwell, has Liberty University as one of its ministries. This church is listed as both a BBFI and SBC church (see the appropriate denominational web sites), and Jerry Falwell's National Liberty Journal had as a front page headline, "Liberty University Officially Approved as SBC School" (December 1999, vol. 28, no. 12). The GARBC lists Cedarville University of Cedarville, Ohio, as one of its partnering agencies. Yet Cedarville has also "entered a partnership with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio [SBC]. The partnership was formalized in November [2002] during the 49th annual session of the state convention when messengers overwhelmingly approved the agreement" (Baptist Press news, www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=14969, January 3, 2003). And the SBC web site lists Cedarville University under its category "Colleges and Universities." Even more recently Western Baptist College in Salem, Oregon, another school partnering with the GARBC, has been endorsed by the Northwest Baptist Convention and its executive board "as an educational institution that their member churches should support financially and promote as a preferred college for their young people." The Northwest Baptist Convention is associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

So the question "Are conservative Southern Baptists really fundamentalists?" is both important and timely. Six points must be made in response to the question.

I. Conservative Southern Baptists Disavow the Fundamentalist Label.

First, throughout the last 25 years of struggles within the SBC, those on the left have called themselves "moderates" and their antagonists "fundamentalists." Those on the right have called themselves "conservatives" and their antagonists "liberals." Neither side accepts the term used for them by their critics. In his book, Sutton refers to "conservatives (pejoratively and incorrectly called fundamentalists)" and states: "From a historian's vantage point, I reject the term 'fundamentalist' as not only pejorative but also inaccurate. . . . Although conservatives might share some similarities with fundamentalists, they are not identical, and to assert that they are is to misread history" (xv, 1).

II. Conservative Southern Baptists Disavow Biblical Separation.

Explaining why the conservatives don't want to be called fundamentalists, Sutton says: "Fundamentalism in religious circles has normally been characterized by separation, that is, departing from or removing oneself from a denomination. Quite obviously, conservatives stayed. . . . In actuality, the most accurate paradigm for the two sides in the SBC struggle should be puritans and pluralists. The conservatives (puritans) desired to purify the denomination from the liberal influence of the left" (1-2).

III. Conservative Southern Baptists Are Committed to "Conventionism."

There is a strong sense of loyalty to the denomination by the conservatives. When Liberty University was approved as an SBC school, Paige Patterson declared: "For the great Liberty University to be a part of our Southern Baptist Zion . . . is an answer to prayer for us all" (National Liberty Journal, December 1999, 1, 15). The SBC is indeed a "Southern Baptist Zion," in which funds from local churches are sent to support the official denominational program known as the Cooperative Program. SBC churches send money to their respective state conventions. At their annual meetings, each state's convention decides how much of these funds will go to support state convention projects and how much will be sent to support SBC programs on the national level. State convention projects include evangelism, children's homes, missions education, support for the establishing of new churches, funding for colleges and universities, and camping programs. On the national level the Cooperative Program helps fund the appointment and support of missionaries (both home and foreign), the six recognized Southern Baptist seminaries, and organizations such as The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Annuity Board, the Southern Baptist Foundation, and the Baptist World Alliance (see the sbc.net web site, "Cooperative Program"). This approach to denominational cooperative support is very centralized and stresses the funding of its various programs. It fosters a loyalty to the organization and its programs rather than the support for people and their specific ministries which is characteristic of a more decentralized approach. Historically, it is this type of convention setting from which fundamentalist Baptists withdrew because of the strong emphasis placed upon denominational loyalty combined with little specific accountability to local churches by the individuals and institutions being funded. The Convention's approach puts pressure on local churches to conform to the denominational programs.

IV. Conservative Southern Baptists Still Tolerate Great Theological Diversity.

During the years of conservative/moderate struggle, the key factor which conservatives relied on was the annual election of a president of the Convention who not only believed in the Bible's inerrancy but who would also facilitate the election of trustees for the various denominational agencies who would also hold to inerrancy and who were willing to make it an issue. Previously, nominees for the Convention presidency had been largely unopposed, but during the years of struggle there often were two or more nominees—one endorsed by the conservative leaders and one who was willing to be more inclusive, tolerating doctrinal diversity. Although the conservatives were very clear about the theological issues involved, votes for the conservative candidate ranged from only 50 to 60 percent of the total votes (1979: 51%; 1980: 51.67%; 1981: 60.24%; 1982:57%; 1984: 52.18%; 1985: 55.3%; 1986: 54.22%; 1987: 59.97%; 1988: 50.53%; 1989: 56.58%; 1990: 57.68%; 1992: 62%; 1994: 55%) . 1 Those who did not vote for the conservative candidate—a very significant minority—did not necessarily deny the Bible's inerrancy, yet they apparently were willing to tolerate those who did. Some of these pastors and churches have formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and of this group some have left the SBC. Due in part to the ingrained loyalty to the denomination, however, the majority has remained in the Convention.

On the national level the SBC controls its six officially-recognized seminaries, all of which are under conservative leadership today. The national SBC, however, does not own or control any colleges or universities. They are controlled by the various state conventions, many of which are willing to tolerate doctrinal diversity at their colleges and universities. For example, the sbc.net web site (the official web site of the Southern Baptist Convention) lists under the category "Colleges and Universities" such schools as Baylor University, Mercer University, Stetson University, the University of Richmond, Wake Forest University, and William Jewell College. These schools are not known for a strong conservative doctrinal position, yet they are identified as Southern Baptist institutions. Further, a number of the colleges and universities have established their own seminaries or graduate schools for theological education and ministerial training, thus rerouting students away from the recognized SBC's conservative-controlled seminaries. Some examples would be the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Campbell University's Divinity School, Gardner-Webb University's M. Christopher White School of Divinity, Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology, Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary, and Wake Forest University's Divinity School. It should be noted that the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship also lists the above-mentioned alternate schools on its web site, along with some others, and indicates that they provide financial support for these schools. What is happening on the state convention level and in many of their schools is very problematic for the SBC conservatives.

V. Conservative Southern Baptists Endorse Doctrinal Latitude in Some Areas.

Issues such as the length of the "days" of creation week or the extent of the Noahic flood are not officially addressed in the SBC's doctrinal statement, The Baptist Faith and Message. In addition, the uniqueness of the Church as including only believers from the present age, the emphasis upon God's kingdom with any Jewish significance in the future, and a premillennial, dispensational, pretribulational representation of "last things" are actually excluded. This exclusion does not mean that there are no Southern Baptists who hold these doctrines, but the following excerpts from the Baptist Faith and Message demonstrate the SBC's doctrinal latitude:

VI. The Church—The New Testament speaks of the church as "the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages."

IX. The Kingdom—"The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God's will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age."

X. Last Things—"God in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord."

These statements reflect non-premillennial and non-dispensational attitudes. Sutton further states, "Fundamentalism also is characterized according to some scholars as blindly loyal to premillennial dispensationalism. Although some early on attempted to explain the Conservative Resurgence in these terms, the charge did not stick" (Sutton 1). At any rate, the SBC doctrinal statement is incongruous with that of the GARBC.

VI. Conservative Southern Baptists Are Sympathetic to Aspects of the New Evangelicalism.

A call for a new evangelicalism was issued in the late 1940s by those dissatisfied with aspects of fundamentalism, a sentiment which is well represented in the broad evangelicalism of our day. An anti-separatist attitude is particularly noted in the cooperative policy of Billy Graham in his ecumenical evangelistic campaigns. This cooperative policy has been highlighted since his 1957 New York City meetings. Yet Billy Graham has been identified as a Southern Baptist and has been endorsed by the conservative SBC leadership. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, served as executive chairman for Graham's 2001 Louisville, Kentucky, crusade, and the seminary offered academic credit to students who were involved in the crusade.

The 2003 SBC's annual meeting messengers were addressed by a broad spectrum of leaders from within evangelicalism (some by videotape, some in person) such as James and Shirley Dobson of Focus on the Family, John MacArthur, Franklin Graham, Charles Colson, Hank Hanegraaff, Jim Cymbala, Joseph Stowell, Greg Laurie, Stephen Olford and Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham's daughter, who spoke "at a Sunday morning worship service June 15 sponsored by the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists" (Ohio Baptist Messenger, July 2003, 2, 6). The SBC leadership can cooperate with whomever it wishes, but fundamentalists historically have not cooperated with these kinds of new evangelical leaders.

Conclusion

Clearly the answer to the question, "Are conservative Southern Baptists fundamentalists?" is "No." This answer does not mean that Southern Baptists are not good people who genuinely want to serve the Lord or that the conservatives have not made advances within the Convention. Rather, the answer reveals that the conservatives are not going in the same direction as fundamentalists. Organizations which have been historically identified as separatist and fundamentalist need to decide whether they are willing to partner with conservative Southern Baptists and thus depart from their historic direction. If they are willing to do so, they should drop the fundamentalist identification.

The GARBC Partnering Network Questionnaire asks such questions as, "Have you read and do you concur with the enclosed article describing the GARBC position on separation?" (Question 19). That article is "Biblical Separation--Does it Matter?" by Dr. Paul R. Jackson. This historic article spells out God's principles of separation by stating: "God has commanded that we should not partner in the ministry with unbelievers," and "God commands that we separate from our brothers when they walk in disobedience." Conservative Southern Baptists are our brothers, but they are not fellow fundamentalists.

Dr. George Houghton holds a Th.D. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary where he also taught from 1967 to 1973. Since 1973 he has taught at Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Ankeny, Iowa. He became the academic dean of the college in 1982 and currently serves as the vice president for academic services. He specializes in historical studies, Baptist history and polity, and contemporary theological trends.

 

7360 reads

There are 23 Comments

Jack's picture

Recognizing that Dr. Houghton’s piece is several years old and may not accurately reflect his observations on today's landscape, I’d like to offer a gentle critique on a few points. But, before critique, I should note both that I appreciate his appreciation for the conservative resurgence of 1980-2000 and that I, for the most part, agree with his conclusion. Also, I want to be clear that this is not an argument that the SBC is without flaws. Still, I think a few points warrant clarification.

First, the answer to the question posed depends in large part on the definition of fundamentalist. That matter has been beaten to death here at SI, so I’ll not explore it further than to note that my own pastor has claimed the title for himself on numerous occasions. Those interested should listen to Jason Janz’s SharperIron interview of Mark Dever (assuming it’s still available somewhere around here) and Mark Dever’s 9Marks interview of Mark Minnick. These interviews clarify how at least one pastor, whose church is in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention, can describe himself as a fundamentalist.

Second, an incorrect understanding that seems to underlie much of the article seems to be that the SBC is a denomination. The SBC is not a denomination, but a meeting that takes place over a few days each year. This also has been explored a couple of times here on SI. This (looser than most people realize) nature of SBC affiliation permits the degree of diversity seen in both churches and state associations with some connection to the Convention. Note that while I will continue to use familiar constructions (“in the Convention”) for ease of reading, the Convention is not a denomination.

Third, not all conservative Southern Baptists disavow the fundamentalist label. Many, and increasingly more, Southern Baptists see themselves as fundamentalists in the tradition of Machen. While they typically do not embrace secondary separation, they are hold to the fundamentals of the faith and will separate from those who do not. Similarly, I would note that there is a tendency in Fundamentalism to modify that label (e.g., YF) to be sure the meaning of the label is clear.

Fourth, many conservative Southern Baptists embrace biblical separation . . . though they may not apply it in the same way as Fundamentalists. While the argument can be made that those who stayed in the Convention should have left as the liberals took control, an argument at least as strong can be made that those who have come of age in the Convention over the past two decades have no reason to separate from the Convention. Consider whether, upon accepting a call to a church, you found a few members on the rolls who denied fundamentals of the faith. Would you immediately leave the church? If you would instead work to see them brought to faith or, absent that, remove them from the rolls, you understand the decision made by many Southern Baptists these past twenty years.

Fifth, not all Southern Baptists are committed to conventionism. In fact, a surprising number, while appreciating the efficiencies provided by bodies like the IMB or the seminaries, are focused on the local church. SBC churches remit funds to the Cooperative Program and, while the CP disburses some of these funds to state associations, churches can choose to allocate their funds as they see fit. For example, because of continuing liberalism in the DC state convention, our church allocates more of our CP funds to the IMB and seminaries and has de-funded the DC convention. And, while the centralization of the CP can permit churches to ignore responsibility for those they send, many of the SBC churches I’m familiar with instead use this as an opportunity to build deep relationships with overseas workers during their times in the US since they do not have to visit fifty different churches.

Sixth, the Convention tolerates great theological diversity because it is not a denomination with centralized control of doctrine. Thankfully, in God’s kindness, that diversity has lately centered on issues of secondary importance rather than primary.

Seventh, the doctrinal latitude referred to by Dr. Houghton does not, to my understanding, touch any issues fundamental to the Christian faith.

Eighth, New Evangelicalism is dying. This is less of an issue every day.

In conclusion, I almost agree with Dr. Houghton that conservative Southern Baptists are not fundamentalists. But, depending on what you mean and how you ask, you will find a few. And, if the heart of the issue is separation from those who do not hold to the fundamentals ofo the faith, by God’s grace, we can hope for more and more over time. I agree that fundamentalists and conservative Southern Baptists are not walking in the same direction - I think they're walking toward one another.

Greg Linscott's picture

Jack,

In light of your reply, http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/default.asp ]this might be of interest to you:

SBC.net wrote:
The term "Southern Baptist Convention" refers to both the denomination and its annual meeting. Working through 1,200 local associations and 41 state conventions and fellowships, Southern Baptists share a common bond of basic Biblical beliefs and a commitment to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Rev Karl's picture

Jack wrote:
Second, an incorrect understanding that seems to underlie much of the article seems to be that the SBC is a denomination. The SBC is not a denomination, but a meeting that takes place over a few days each year. This also has been explored a couple of times here on SI. This (looser than most people realize) nature of SBC affiliation permits the degree of diversity seen in both churches and state associations with some connection to the Convention. Note that while I will continue to use familiar constructions (“in the Convention”) for ease of reading, the Convention is not a denomination.

This line of "argument" was used by a dear friend and pastor 18 years ago (Wow! has it been that long?) who was trying to woo me from my independent fundamentalist (not Baptist) roots into a ministry career in the SBC. Without any judgement on which position is right or wrong, the result of our dicussions was that the LORD led me in the direction of ministering in independent churches.

What others do when fully convinced in their own hearts by the Holy Spirit is between them and the LORD. All I can do is seek the LORD's will for my own life and ministry, and do it. I can't change anybody's mind or heart. Only God can do that.

Jack's picture

I guess instead of asserting that the SBC is not a denomination, I should have instead spent that time on the degree of connectedness between SBC churches.

Assertions on the website aside, I was trying to get to the fact that the SBC has no control over the local church: no rights to property; no control over calling pastors or recognizing elders; and no rights in the case of church discipline. From my seat it doesn't seem to be much more than a giant missions agency.

Greg Linscott's picture

That's more fair- though they also do approve agencies such as schools and seminaries, and have had things such as hospitals in their past. The state agencies own some of the schools, don't they?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

tlange's picture

I know that among Fundamentalists there are those who distance themselves from the Hyles crowd, etc. But is this article being fair by lumping all SBC members into one category. I know that we would resent being painted with such a broad brush, so why do it to the SBC?

Funny thing, guys like Dever, Mohler, etc. are probably more conservative than some Fundamentalists.

AllenS's picture

I think that the point is brought out in the subsequent discussion on the association of the churches in the denomination. They have "lumped" themselves together under the SBC umbrella. This is why Independent Baptists bristle at broad strokes. There are many varieties of these non-associated churches.

Jack's picture

There are a number of seminaries around the country. And state associations are involved to greater or lesser degrees with schools and seminaries not supported directly by the CP. But I don't know too much about the state associations. As I mentioned above, we do not cooperate with the DC state convention. I've not been around SBC churches long enough to know about hospitals and the like, but not much would surprise me.

As you can see here, about 95% of CP funds go to missions and the seminaries.

Ben Howard's picture

To start with, I'm biased - I am Southern Baptist, and have been been actively involved in Southern Baptist life in both South Carolina and Florida, a little less so here in California, although I attend an SBC church here. They also endorse me as a Chaplain through the North American Mission Board.

Jack is right, that really the SBC is more of a missions funding agency than a true denomination. As a Chaplain I interact closely with and have friends from all denominations, from all sides of the theological spectrum, and the SBC definitely operates differently than most denominations. Each church is completely autonomous and can choose to associate at any level and be considered Southern Baptist.

There are three levels:
1. the local Baptist association, which usually cover a county area or a little more.
-You will find in most local associations that I have seen an array of churches, some of whom have even defunded the SBC for the more liberal CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship). It is at this level that some churches have been removed for disciplinary/theological reasons. If you associate at this level, you usually give a portion of your offerings to the general association budget or fund specific projects etc. Usually the local association is involved in interdenominational efforts like a rescue mission, food pantry etc. In SC, our association would hold an annual combined outdoor camp/revival meeting. (not my cup of tea, but that was what most of them thought was effective) Also, they can deny churches admission, who may be a part of the state convention or contribute money to the Cooperative Program (SBC), which I have seen happen twice.

2. The state convention. Pretty much every state has an overarching state Baptist convention that is in friendly cooperation with the SBC. In some places like New England, there is one state convention for several states, and in other states because the original Baptist convention was too liberal, there is now a competing more conservative state convention, for example Texas - The Southern Baptists of Texas convention which is in full cooperation of the SBC and its original, more liberal, Baptist General Convention of Texas. Many churches are dually aligned with both to one degree or another, and SBC website lists both under its state convention section. The thing to keep in mind with state conventions is that they reflect the churches in that state and are totally autonomous from the national SBC and the local associations who choose which state convention they will support. The state convention is where the Cooperative Program starts and is the main reason why there are competing conventions in some states. The SBTC was started because the BGCT was sending more and more Cooperative Program money to its own state programs or to CBF and less to the SBC because of the conservative resurgence. If a local church chooses to be a part of the state convention, they send CP money to the state, part of which is used for state missions projects - church planting etc. - and the rest is sent by the state to the CP of the SBC for the national convention's budget, or in some states, part of the money can be sent through the state to the CBF. This is the way that most churches contribute to the Cooperative Program - some like Capital Hill Baptist (Jack's church) skip this level for theological differences with the state and give straight to the SBC. The state conventions for better or worse do own and run colleges, and some are better than others. Some of those colleges have started seminaries that are not aligned at all with the SBC and if Baptist at all are CBF. They recieve no money at all from the national convention. On the other hand, just because I lived in SC and was on staff at an SBC church, the SC state convention gave me grant money for Seminary at Southeastern.

3. The final level is the Southern Baptist Convention itself. If you look at Jack's link to the CP budget, you will see that everything that comes in from local churches or state conventions goes either to General operating expenses (full time convention staff - very small amount), the 6 SBC seminaries, the ethics and religious liberty commission, and mostly to missions through the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. If a church only gives to the CP at the national level those are the only agencies that receive money, and personally I feel like I can support all of them with a clear conscience. Lifeway is also an SBC national publishing entity, but they are totally funded through sales, and receive no CP funds. Also twice a year, offerings are collected, the Annie Armstrong and the Lottie Moon - one for NAMB and one for the IMB.

All a church has to do is donate money at any level to any of those 3 or simply say they want to be a part at any level, and they are considered "southern Baptist", so actually saying that ________________ is what a Southern Baptist is, is rather difficult. An individual church may donate some money to the SBC and be considered Southern Baptist, and also donate to the CBF at the same time demonstrating some theological differences with the SBC, and cause me not to join that individual church.

The SBC as an entity actually affects me more than a local church, because I am accountable to them for my actions beliefs and teachings in my ministry as a Chaplain, since their missions sending agency NAMB endorses me. The local church other than being listed on the website, getting a vote at the Convention each year, and being able to fund worldwide missions has little to do with the Southern Baptist Convention. Not to belittle that vote, because it was those votes by conservative pastors and laymen representing their respective churches that changed the entire theological bent of the convention between 1979 and 2000, so that now when my money is sent to the seminaries or to missionaries, I can be assured that it is money well spent.

As to the rest of what Dr. Houghton said, it sounds fairly accurate, although most of what he sees in a bad light, I tend to see differently. For example, I for one am glad that we are not adamant on eschatology as I could not in good conscience agree to a doctrinal statement written from a classic dispensationalist point of view. We have a wide tent around the inerrancy and authority of the Word of God. Interestingly, the same arguments over Calvinism are raging in the SBC as well, but we have a forum and voting process to make our voices heard on such issues.

Sorry for the length, and I hope it is helpful to someone

Charlie's picture

That was very helpful, Ben. I really didn't know how the SBC functions. Your post makes a lot of things make sense.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

JohnBrian's picture

Ben Howard wrote:
To start with, I'm biased - I am Southern Baptist, and have been been actively involved in Southern Baptist life in both South Carolina and Florida, a little less so here in California, although I attend an SBC church here.

Sorry for the length, and I hope it is helpful to someone

I am a fundamentalist, calvinist, southern baptist (that's enough adjectives) and what you have described is what I am familiar with as regards the SBC being a denomination. Thank you for the explanation.

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Red Phillips's picture

Unless I'm reading this wrong, it seems like Dr. Houghton is trying to equate premil dispensationalism with Fundamentalism. If so, this is exactly the wrong thing to be doing.

Fundamentalism from a historical standpoint is first and foremost about the fundamentals and secondarily about separation. It historically became about separation because the fundamentalists lost the battle with the mainline denominations they were battling within. Had they won those battles then it is not so clear that separation would have become the defining feature that it is now. In essence, the SBC is a situation where the conservatives have actually prevailed or maybe re-prevailed. So the issue is within the structure of the SBC which is loosely speaking somewhere between and an association and a denomination, what are the limits of association. I was raised Southern Baptist and as far as I'm concerned they tolerated too much shenanigans with their universities for far too long, but whether they are Fundamentalists depends on how you define the term. As the term has largely come to mean, they are not. In its most essential meaning many are.

But however one wants to define Fundamentalism, it should not mean defining oneself and separating over secondary issues like premil dispensationalism.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Fundamentalists comes in all shapes and sizes and Houghton is exasperating the definition. The problem here is that, as it appears to me, Houghton is projecting upon a generic but definable class (fundamentalist) the expectations and demands of denominationalism which are much more definitive. And this seems to be the construct (or at least toward this construct) that Houghton wants to force upon the definition of "fundamentalist" . The "fundamentals of the faith" or that which makes one a fundamentalist by way of historic and present definition at large, transcends denominations and associations and Houghton seems to have no room for the acceptance of anything outside of a rather exclusive definition which historically and presently reflected by a sizable portion of those holding to the fundamentals of the faith.

tlange's picture

Compare what the NAMB/IMB are doing to get missionaries on the field versus the Fundamentalist missionary who has to travel to hundreds of churches to raise a large amount of money. Some of them spend upwards of three to four years raising their support. Some of them never make it to the field because they either burn-out before hand (deputation is hard work) or some of them get discouraged because the process is so arduous and maybe in some ways very antiquated.

I heard all of the criticisms of the CP when I was in Bible College, but I have to say, take a look at what the SBC is doing in the area of missions and instead of criticizing them, maybe we Fundamentalists can learn something from them and possibly get more people to the mission fields of the world. The SBC is not perfect, but they have us beat in some areas.

I have always thought that we could improve the pre-field ministry or deputation process, but much of it is steeped in tradition coupled with some churches that have some really weird ideas and expectations of missionaries.

I speak from experience, having served as the Missions administrator from 1999-2002 at an IFB Mission Agency.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

tlange wrote:
Compare what the NAMB/IMB are doing to get missionaries on the field versus the Fundamentalist missionary who has to travel to hundreds of churches to raise a large amount of money. Some of them spend upwards of three to four years raising their support. Some of them never make it to the field because they either burn-out before hand (deputation is hard work) or some of them get discouraged because the process is so arduous and maybe in some ways very antiquated.

I heard all of the criticisms of the CP when I was in Bible College, but I have to say, take a look at what the SBC is doing in the area of missions and instead of criticizing them, maybe we Fundamentalists can learn something from them and possibly get more people to the mission fields of the world. The SBC is not perfect, but they have us beat in some areas.

I have always thought that we could improve the pre-field ministry or deputation process, but much of it is steeped in tradition coupled with some churches that have some really weird ideas and expectations of missionaries.

I speak from experience, having served as the Missions administrator from 1999-2002 at an IFB Mission Agency.


I agree totally with this. There is nothing more annoying than when folks refuse to change an ineffective and inefficient practice because of tradition or pride or plain ol' stubbornness.

As to the article, I tend to agree with much of it based on my own understanding of the SBC as more of a denomination than just a cooperative of like-minded churches or missions agency. but I have a friend that recently started attending an SBC church that isn't part of the SBC itself. Which confused me to no end, but this thread, esp. Jack and Ben's posts, have been helpful to clear out some of the cobwebs I didn't know I had.

Rev Karl's picture

Ben Howard wrote:
As to the rest of what Dr. Houghton said, it sounds fairly accurate, although most of what he sees in a bad light, I tend to see differently.
::SNIP::
We have a wide tent around the inerrancy and authority of the Word of God.

Hello, CHAPS! So good to "hear" from you here on SI.

I have a question about one of your comments (I know, not fair. Still...)

Does the "wide tent around inerrancy" mean many different views on inspiriation are held an allowed?

georgetcc's picture

Since I have never been a Southern Baptist, and see no prospect of ever becoming one, I must ask the question, "Are Conservative, Confessional Presbyterians 'Fundamentalists'?" When "The Fundamentals" was first published in 1909/1910, the series contained several articles and essays by Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield, Presbyterian stalwart and Princeton Seminary professor. When the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy was raging during the 1920s among Northern Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, it was "Doctor Fundamentalis," J. Gresham Machen, also a Presbyterian stalwart and Princeton Seminary professor, who produced the most eloquent and erudite statement of the issues ("Christianity and Liberalism"). So, my question remains: "Are Conservative, Confessional Presbyterians 'Fundamentalists'?"

Magister Reformatus Classicusque

KenFields's picture

georgetcc wrote:
Since I have never been a Southern Baptist, and see no prospect of ever becoming one, I must ask the question, "Are Conservative, Confessional Presbyterians 'Fundamentalists'?" When "The Fundamentals" was first published in 1909/1910, the series contained several articles and essays by Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield, Presbyterian stalwart and Princeton Seminary professor. When the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy was raging during the 1920s among Northern Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, it was "Doctor Fundamentalis," J. Gresham Machen, also a Presbyterian stalwart and Princeton Seminary professor, who produced the most eloquent and erudite statement of the issues ("Christianity and Liberalism"). So, my question remains: "Are Conservative, Confessional Presbyterians 'Fundamentalists'?"

Yes.

Of course, fundamentalism is not monolithic ... and in the mind of some (which I believe to be erroneous), dispensational premillennialism has become the mantra of the movement.

But historically speaking ... and fundamentally speaking, yes, conservative, confessional Presbyeterians are fundamentalists (and so are conservative, confessional SBC'ers--although they may not know it!).

Ken Fields

georgetcc's picture

Thank you, Ken, for noting the "catholicity" of "Fundamentalism."

Magister Reformatus Classicusque

Ben Howard's picture

Karl, good to see you online! I don't post much, but I do lurk often. I should have been clearer on that point. What I meant was that there is a lot of latitude given in interpretation and practice as long as the interpreters and practitioners agree with the complete inerrancy of Scripture. This would definitely make some in the fundamentalist camp uncomfortable; and to be perfectly honest, some of what I see makes me uncomfortable; but I am willing to be a part of the SBC for the larger overall good. As a small example, I have some theological differences with Rick Warren and the "purpose driven" concept of ministry, but I do believe that he 100% believes in and teaches the inerrancy of scripture and while I would not be a part of his church, I would not actively oppose him either. As another example, I have some definite issues with the fine line that Erwin McManus walks with the Emergent church movement, and especially the concepts outlined in his latest book; but I do believe him when he says that he supports the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000 and its article on the inerrancy of scripture. I wish he would be more clear about the issues, and I would not join Mosaic (his church in LA), but I don't believe he is heretical or that it is necessary for me to depart the SBC because I disagree with him.

Unfortunately, I will also go on record as saying that I have met a few, very few, pastors claiming the title Southern Baptist and outright denying the inerrancy of Scripture. Why they choose to still affiliate with the SBC, I don't know; but any money they contribute to the Cooperative Program is not going to support teaching that would agree with their doctrine.

To me, most Southern Baptists are like my friend I got to know in Panama City and have kept in contact with even though he is now pastoring in Louisiana. He had never had any contact with fundamentalism, and his only concept of the term was KJV only, no pants on women, and anything with a beat is sin. When I explained to him that that was not the fundamentalism that I grew up in, he had a really hard time understanding that. He is one of the best expositor's of God's Word I have ever seen, and one of the best pastors, and only because of his background education and training was he Southern Baptist. While I defended my view of fundamentalism to him, I never tried to convince him to become part of movement fundamentalism because to me, there is no reason for him to. He is true to God's word and serving God within the bounds of a denomination where his votes helped to turn the tide of the convention. Will he ever be a big name pastor? probably not. But he is faithfully serving God by preaching the inerrant word of God to the people God has placed him with in Eunice Louisiana. And in his own way, while serving as the association moderator in Panama City, he was able to make tough choices to withdraw support when there was an incident with a church plant that undermined our testimony for the Word of God. That is fundamentalism from within whether it is called that or not.

Sorry for the long answer again.

Karl, I hope your family is doing well and that you are enjoying that hot humid PC weather. (It is about 60 degrees outside here right now, and about 80 at the hottest part of the day!) Smile

Ben

Rev Karl's picture

Ben Howard wrote:
I should have been clearer on that point. What I meant was that there is a lot of latitude given in interpretation and practice as long as the interpreters and practitioners agree with the complete inerrancy of Scripture. This would definitely make some in the fundamentalist camp uncomfortable; and to be perfectly honest, some of what I see makes me uncomfortable; but I am willing to be a part of the SBC for the larger overall good.

CHAPS,

AH! I understand. Thanks for the clarification.

Years ago, after "dropping out" of The University, I matriculated at another Christian college in the Chicago area to complete my degree. These people were very much *not* fundamentalist. I was amazed to hear their testimonies, and to see the evidence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This was not what I had expected from the religious liberals I had heard demonized for so many years in so many churches and educational institutions. These people actually knew God, served Him, and loved Him.

By the same token, they were amazed that one such as I (a practicing fundamentalist) was not the fire-breathing monster they had been led to expect.

My observation, we too often categorize people, and that by their labels, and not by their own personal faith and practice.

John 13:35 comes to mind.

Enjoying the warm weather... in the pool!

Karl