Antidote: A Cure for a Common Problem of Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism

pillars

The first thing Aaron Blumer (publisher, SharperIron) said to me when we talked about our next conference was “I’m pretty skeptical of the idea of convergence.” Convergence—the idea that fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are heading toward, or should be working toward, convergence into one movement—has certainly been what some have perceived Standpoint Conference to be about. We would argue that’s an oversimplification of what we’re about. As our last Standpoint Conference concluded, we made a conscious choice to leave previous issues behind and move on to more critical issues.

Specifically, we believe that fundamentalism and evangelicalism face similar crises. For different reasons, fundamentalism has lurking at its most conservative end some who are less concerned with doctrine than they should be. Evangelicalism has, in the mainstream, those who are also less concerned with doctrine than they should be. On the extreme right of fundamentalism, this expresses itself with a near-obsessive attention to stylistic details that distracts from doctrinal issues. On the left of evangelicalism, church growth, political activism and social influence provide similar distractions.

The alarming result is that both are disengaged from issues that have serious doctrinal consequences. Among those on the far right of fundamentalism, the disengagement results from a feeling that the larger problems of Christianity are irrelevant to them. (“All who are to the left of us are ‘liberals’ anyway.”) Among those on the left of evangelicalism, the disengagement results from a feeling that all must be well because their churches are growing numerically.

Meanwhile, battles are being waged over ideas that represent vast theological shifts. These shifts are happening not just in institutions of higher learning, but in the pews. Rob Bell preaches a form of universalism, and thousands don’t know how to respond—or feel the need to soft-pedal their rejection. N.T. Wright’s New Perspective on Paul is only dimly understood (if at all) by the vast majority of those reading this article. The gay theologians advance their theories and they are uniformly rejected—but few realize that they are using hermeneutical models that are only slightly more radical than the ones taught in our colleges and seminaries. Ground is given, or freedom granted, on the roles of women in leadership, hermeneutics, creation models, eschatological views, all without recognizing that all of the changes are attached to theological structures that mean something and that changes in one area are harbingers of other changes to come—or changes that have already been made in theological viewpoints.

The role of writing

In the early 1900s, the spread of liberal theology drove a few men to engage in a series of lectures, papers and eventually books designed to address the crisis. The goal was to draw attention to liberal theology and renew interest in good theology. The Fundamentals, as a publication, became the foundation for all the fundamentalisms and evangelicalism we see today. They raised awareness of the issues and helped to turn back the tide of Liberalism.

We at Standpoint Conference propose to begin something similar. Over our next three conferences, we intend to address key issues that have theological implications that should alarm us. Your written contributions—or even lectures—may be helpful to us, and we desire your input.

We believe that the doctrinal drift of our times transcends the very real issues that still divide conservative evangelicals and those within the fundamentalist movement. Regardless of whether you believe in what Standpoint Conference has done in the past, or agree with its leadership team on certain particulars, you ought to care about theological purity. We challenge you to be part of the discussion.

This year’s planned topics include the importance of gender in theology and practice, the sufficiency of Scripture and modern counseling, the new mechanistic hermeneutics, responses to the gay theologians, which eschatological schemes are orthodox (and which are not), what constitutes authentic worship, the essentials of a believer’s life within the church body, the recent resurgence of various forms of inclusivism and universalism, and issues surrounding how we promote sanctification (if we can at all). The Standpoint Conference leadership is prepared to address some of these topics, if necessary; we are confident that there are persons with better knowledge of the topics who could address them more effectively. Perhaps you are one such person.

This need not be limited to the work of great doctors of theology. Pastors grounded in the Word through years of study can have equally valuable input. A detailed description of our topics for the next conference is at our website. Please consider them. In fact, we would welcome work on an entirely different topic of major doctrinal concern.

As of now, the conference has a great key-note speaker in Phil Johnson, of Grace to You. Phil is passionate about this topic and has spoken elsewhere on the need to re-emphasize sound doctrine in the church. Other speaker announcements will be made shortly. But we need the doctrinal core of the conference to come together soon—and that involves your help. Please stop by www.standpointconference.com today, look over our topics, and consider being part of the discussion.

[node:bio/mike-durning body]

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Mike Durning's picture

At 2:30 AM, I received a call to go to the hospital where they were taking my mom. Tests are underway. Please forgive me if I am slow to respond to comments for a day or two. Your prayers are appreciated.

At 2:33 AM, I received an email complaining about this article. I didnt even know the article was up yet. Don't you folks ever sleep?

The email was calling us Evangelicals, because of the inclusion of Phil Johnson on our platform. So, before the doctor comes in and gives us some results, let me respond. This seems like a great time to recap what the article indicates: This doctrinal drift issue transcends the issues between our two movements. We can't very well say that and then lock out folks for not agreeing with us on every issue. Are there limits? Sure. We wouldn't invite those who are part of the problem -- from either movement.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Mike, one of the problems among fundamentalists is that they think their stripe of fundamentalism and their stance of separation such as who are platform speakers at different conferences is the only valid ones. Growing up in the GARBC, there was regular movement among us fundamentalists and those who were conservative evangelicals. We saw it modeled in Dr. Ketcham and his friendship and platform sharing with Warren Weirsbe (who would be considered comparable to today's conservative evangelical).

Dr. Bauder talks about this in the recent Baptist Bulletin article.......

Quote:

It is more true of some branches of fundamentalism than others, to say that we built the wall and never crossed it. I grew up in the Regular Baptist movement, and in the Regular Baptist movement that wall was crossed very regularly. And sometimes perhaps, even too regularly! On the campus of the school I attended (a Regular Baptist institution) it was not at all unheard of to hear conservative evangelical speakers, individuals who at the time would have been the equivalent of conservative evangelicalism today. Lots and lots of us have been to evangelical schools. Lots and lots of us have sat through Don Carson’s classes.

Anyway, my point is that labeling you and those who are putting on this conference as evangelicals is just crazy talk! Since it is being held at the church that I grew up in, there is even more of a motivation for me to participate Smile

G. N. Barkman's picture

When, oh when will we finally understand that doctrine is more important than camps and labels. (Ever hear of the "I am of Apollos, I am of Paul, I am of Cephas syndrome?) When, oh when will we understand that the Gospel is central and foundational, and everything else is secondary to it? When will we understand that a solid understanding and defense of the Gospel is far more important than taking a stand on Bible versions? When will we understand that fellowship around the Gospel is more God-honoring than fellowship around religious movements and issues?

Sigh. Perhaps not until we get to Heaven. But one can always hope and pray.

G. N. Barkman

L Strickler's picture

Not considering myself old, I must still admit to being old enough to remember when the terms fundamental and evangelical were equated with each other. I remember when the shift became evident - when doctrine was downplayed and evangelism became more important than truth and sanctification. I was just a child as I watched my father, the director of an independent Youth for Christ, grapple with the issues separating Christians. Dad became more and more of a
fundamentalist as he attempted to be true to the Word of God.

Today, I am watching conservative evangelicals fight the battle for doctrinal purity and I applaud them. I am watching some fundamentalists leave the preaching of Christ in His glory for minor areas of style and it saddens me. If God brings His people together around the truths of the Bible, for His glory, it will be a day for rejoicing. May you Christian men have wisdom from on high as you seek the Lord's will in this matter.

L Strickler

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Part of the problem with rhetoric on the subject is that people use "evangelical" pejoratively and narrowly. I think we should get back to using the term per it's actual meaning, "one who believes in and promotes the evangel," i.e., the gospel
I would hope that we are all evangelicals here!

The distinction between "them" and (some of) "us" has to do with what else we are besides evangelical... and how we understand certain implications of the evangel.
Kevin Bauder and others have written a good bit of what kinds of things still distinguish fundamentalist evangelicals from non-fundamentalist-but-conservative ones. FWIW, I think these differences are still important and shouldn't get lost, but the "keep the fence, keep it low, shake hands often" paradigm is a good one for where we now live... i.e., in a world where the very problem Mike addresses in the article is a reality.

There really is a major doctrinal erosion that characterizes all the flavors of gospel-believers/gospel-affirmers. And this problem is bigger than any one neighborhood in the evangelical landscape.

So... I'm not interested in "convergence," but the reality is that fundamentalists have always read the books and listened to the speakers and (to some extent) attended the conferences of non-fundamentalists. It's silly to think that we can isolate ourselves from what's happening in evangelicalism generally--and as Mike says here, we've got doctrinal problems of our own. It's already "inside" the (mostly imaginary) fundamentalist fortress. So that's the disease that is killing all of us.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bob T.'s picture

When the Lyman brothers paid for the distribution of the Fundamentals in 1909 there was not an Evangelical seminary in the country. All the graduate theological seminaries had been influenced by liberalism. In addition, the denominations were intact yet and many in them were fighting the truth battle. The undergraduate Bible Institute movement was just starting.

Today there are several graduate seminaries that are considered Fundamentalist in doctrine and practice of separation. Also, there are numerous undergraduate Bible Colleges and colleges that are considered as Fundamentalist. Today there are several seminaries that would be classified as Evangelical, conservative, but not Fundamentalist in practice. There are also several colleges and universities that would be classified as evangelical and conservative. In addition there are numerous specialty organizations such as Answers in Genesis, ICR, and others.

These Fundamentalist and conservative Evangelical schools and organizations regularly publish Journals and papers which handle the issues of the day in a rigorous academic manner. We also have the Evangelical Theological society and other such groups. This is not 1909 or the 1920s.

With the above institutions and groups speaking to the issues and having their own conferences, what real purpose is the conference going to accomplish? The leaders of this attempted effort appear to be confused as to Fundamentalism and Conservative Evangelicalism. These labels now are very inclusive and include a wide variety of people. Most are independent in their own right. What most who accept the label Fundamentalist call Conservative Evangelicalism is a large pool with a lot of swimmers doing different strokes and going different directions. The manufactured concept of "convergence" appears to be a made up scenario of some who were brought up in Fundamentalism, are dissatisfied with many aspects of what has happened or is under the label, and instead of calling themselves the "Young New Evangelicals" wish to hope that somehow some new movement may emerge. Today there are too many independent mega churches and schools for such to happen. Also, we need no further movements, labels, or studies.

With all due respect, I would suggest these gentlemen get on with their individual ministry callings and responsibilities. Please leave the studies and conferences, of which there are already way too many, to the already established groups. Instead of convergence we need common sense emergence. Something all of us, including myself, need more of.

Fundamentalism is Fundamentally Evangelicalism plus separation. At the heart is the admonition of Acts 20: 17-31. Fundamentalists take the degree and application of separation necessary to protect the churches and institutions. Evangelicals, whether conservative, moderate, or new, do not.

Bob T.'s picture

Jim Peet wrote:
Convergence rhymes with emergence Smile Sad

And always results in divergence! Wink

Mike Durning's picture

Bob T. wrote:
Today there are several graduate seminaries that are considered Fundamentalist in doctrine and practice of separation. Also, there are numerous undergraduate Bible Colleges and colleges that are considered as Fundamentalist. Today there are several seminaries that would be classified as Evangelical, conservative, but not Fundamentalist in practice. There are also several colleges and universities that would be classified as evangelical and conservative. In addition there are numerous specialty organizations such as Answers in Genesis, ICR, and others.

These Fundamentalist and conservative Evangelical schools and organizations regularly publish Journals and papers which handle the issues of the day in a rigorous academic manner. We also have the Evangelical Theological society and other such groups. This is not 1909 or the 1920s.

With the above institutions and groups speaking to the issues and having their own conferences, what real purpose is the conference going to accomplish?

Sure, there are many fine colleges, seminaries, and para-church ministries standing for the truth. And yet, Bob, the doctrinal erosion continues. The situation in my own state demonstrates it well.

There are several reputedly fine Evangelical schools in Michigan. I can say with confidence: every undergraduate ministerial student I have met from these institutions in my own state (and a fair percentage of those who have completed their degrees) has alarmed me. The things that fall from their lips... "Contemplative modes" of spiritual development, mocking Biblical counseling advocates and speaking out in favor of purely secular methodologies, the creation account in Genesis 1-2 doesn't matter (not that they are open to debate: they think it actually doesn't matter), and, of course, "Who am I to condemn Rob Bell's teaching?" Of course, these schools are not even Conservative Evangelical, but mainstream Evangelical, demonstrating one of my points from the article.

When meeting the same level students or graduates from Fundamentalist institutions, the pattern of distraction I addressed in the article emerges quickly. Their obsession is over Bible versions, music, and other secondary (or, dare I say, tertiary?) issues. Nobody asks me what our church believes about any theological position of any kind.

Fortunately, those with graduate-level educations show more wisdom and balance, whether from Evangelical or Fundy institutions. But the problem continues, even at that level.

I think we would be foolish to wait until things get as bad as they got in the early 1900's to raise awareness of this issue.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Mike and all,

You are addressing the REAL issues that need to be addressed. The New Perspective is particularly dangerous, and the real battle line is hermeneutics.

One of my long term goals is to write a second book after my first book, The Midrash Key, paves the way. The Midrash Key explains how many of Jesus teachings' are explanations and applications of Old Testament texts.

The next book I intend to write (but have yet to start) will probably be titled, "The Amazing Doctrines of Paul as Midrash." I am convinced that the best defense within the community of believers that acknowledges the Bible is to demonstrate how NT teachings are based on OT passages. That can refute the New Perspective and other errors particularly in soteriology with amazing force. For example, consider that Isaiah 53 demonstrates that a penal sacrifice was in mind when Paul wrote "Christ died for our sins." Paul's doctrine of justification -- being declared righteous and being given the righteousness of Christ-- is based on Zechariah 3:1-9. The eternality of hell is based on Daniel 12:2.

If we can demonstrate that all the fundamentals and essential beliefs we embrace are found in the First Testament and elaborated on in the Second, we have a pretty tight case. That is what I hope to do, personally. You can only distort the New Testament so much when you include Old Testament mother texts for New Testament teaching.

What Mike and the conference wants to do is crucial for us all! I am with you, brother. The need is real, the threat greater than most realize.

"The Midrash Detective"

Daniel's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
I am convinced that the best defense within the community of believers that acknowledges the Bible is to demonstrate how NT teachings are based on OT passages.

Brilliant!
I remember when taking Hebrew my prof opened my eyes to this. And just recently having a converted Jew explain a lot of the symbolism between the Passover and Easter/Jesus. I am trying to get him to do similar things for a few of the other feasts. So many NT things make so much more sense when first understood from the OT.
Plus, there really are a lot of good things in the OT.

RPittman's picture

Mike wrote:
N.T. Wright’s New Perspective on Paul is only dimly understood (if at all) by the vast majority of those reading this article.
What's so hard to understand? It seems that Mike is saying, "Hey, most of you guys are ignorant!" IMHO, this is not the way to win friends and influence readers. Smile

Mike Durning's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
I am convinced that the best defense within the community of believers that acknowledges the Bible is to demonstrate how NT teachings are based on OT passages. That can refute the New Perspective and other errors particularly in soteriology with amazing force. For example, consider that Isaiah 53 demonstrates that a penal sacrifice was in mind when Paul wrote "Christ died for our sins." Paul's doctrine of justification -- being declared righteous and being given the righteousness of Christ-- is based on Zechariah 3:1-9. The eternality of hell is based on Daniel 12:2.

Ed, I'm sure I speak for our team when I say give us a paper on it! We'd love that!

Mike Durning's picture

RPittman wrote:
Mike wrote:
N.T. Wright’s New Perspective on Paul is only dimly understood (if at all) by the vast majority of those reading this article.
What's so hard to understand? It seems that Mike is saying, "Hey, most of you guys are ignorant!" IMHO, this is not the way to win friends and influence readers. Smile

Ha, Roland! I admit I don't have a scientific survery, but let's be frank. I surveyed a bunch of pastors standing around at a meeting recently. I knew more about it than any of them - and I've barely scratched the surface of the topic. I don't think the ignorance is because they are dumb rubes, but because of the priorities the modern version of ministry places on us.

I'm reminded of the guy who told me I hadn't been out to visit him at his house in 6 months. I asked "How long have you been a Christian?" His answer: "25 years". I said "You should be out visiting, not waiting at home for a visit!". They go every week now, visiting shut-ins and seniors, and are a great blessing. But as long as every believer thinks the pastor is there to help him raise the new barn, or the pastor should visit him every few weeks (whether he is being discipled or not), we'll have pastors who can't keep up on their reading filling our pulpits.

I do have a friend who has gone to hear Wright speak and will lecture exhaustively on his errors, though.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
The things that fall from their lips... "Contemplative modes" of spiritual development, mocking Biblical counseling advocates and speaking out in favor of purely secular methodologies, the creation account in Genesis 1-2 doesn't matter (not that they are open to debate: they think it actually doesn't matter), and, of course, "Who am I to condemn Rob Bell's teaching?" Of course, these schools are not even Conservative Evangelical, but mainstream Evangelical, demonstrating one of my points from the article.

When meeting the same level students or graduates from Fundamentalist institutions, the pattern of distraction I addressed in the article emerges quickly. Their obsession is over Bible versions, music, and other secondary (or, dare I say, tertiary?) issues.

This compares two fairly distinct sets of issues and I think it highlights a key distinction. The first issues are doctrinal, and they are settled matters for fundamentalists. So these things do not "fall from their lips" because they know better. The unfortunate part is the second issues. It reminds me of a conversation years ago where someone was commenting negatively on the fact that fundamentalists weren't speaking out about complementarianism and egalitarianism, where people like Driscoll and Piper were. My response was simple: Fundamentalists aren't speaking out about it because the people they are speaking too aren't confused about it.

And that brings me to the NPP. As for the NPP, I think that outside of academia, it's not that big of a deal. If I had a dime for every time one of the people in my community asked me about the NPP, I would be ... well, penniless. And with good reason. It's not the stuff that local church ministry is made of. Very few pastors know about it because it is not that big of a deal unless you are in academia. Which is why I am skeptical that it is a worthy topic for a pastor's conference. It may be helpful to give an overview of some sort, but I doubt that it will be useful in preaching or teaching in most local churches.

Charlie's picture

I'm not excited by this venture, nor do I think it has any hope of living up to the Fundamentals. (Of course, I'm not sure that the Fundamentals were actually that significant in the first place.)

Fundamentalism cannot address the issues of the day, for Fundamentalism is removed from the issues of the day by self-imposed exile. Fundamentalism cannot speak with a scholarly voice, for it has no scholars through which to do so. The essence of scholarship is a commitment to research in a critical yet cooperative peer-reviewed environment. It is through forced interaction with people of differing views that one comes to understand one's own position and its significance. Since most Fundamentalists refuse to participate in the very activities that define scholars - publishing in peer-reviewed papers and presenting at peer-reviewed conferences - they have not developed scholarly mindsets. Listening to Fundamentalists critique broadly Christian theology is like listening to a lecture on French culture by an American who has never visited France and knows no French people. It's impossible for them even to recognize how incomplete, skewed, and arbitrary their thoughts are.

The scholar listens before making himself understood. This requires open dialogue and meaningful interaction with divergent viewpoints. Because this is contrary to the majority Fundamentalist modus operandi, Fundamentalism maintains no scholarly voice. Any papers presented or lectures given at such a conference will be ignored except by those who already care about and agree with the speakers. It is speaking into an echo chamber.

I will be excited to hear Fundamentalist critiques of other culture when Fundamentalists themselves can produce rigorous theological works that stand up to peer criticism, and when they have first-hand knowledge of what they're talking about through open, professional dialogue with non-Fundamentalists.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

SamH's picture

To the StandPointers among us:

I went to the website to see what has been publicly discussed in the last 2 years, and found nothing. Do you have to be logged into the site to see the discussions, or is there really nothing being said there?

Thanks...

SamH

Mike Durning's picture

SamH wrote:
To the StandPointers among us:

I went to the website to see what has been publicly discussed in the last 2 years, and found nothing. Do you have to be logged into the site to see the discussions, or is there really nothing being said there?

Thanks...

Great question, Sam.

The discussion forum is empty. There was vigorous downloading of the MP3's of our last conference, and a huge number of hits on the site pointing people to the MP3's on Sermon Audio. There was extensive emailing between myself and others who listened on the web for many months afterward. But the Forum engine is terrible. It is difficult to navigate, and confusing as to who is responding to what. Quite frankly, a single post on it reveals the problem.

We have people on our team with the skills to put something spiffy (like SI) together, but no time, and a decision was made to route all of our discussion through SI rather than reinventing the wheel (I hope it's ok that I say that publicly at this time, SI). Shortly the disussion forums on the Standpoint site will go away.

At the same time, don't imagine that I'm representing the previous Standpoint Conferences as huge. The best attended sessions of the last one were just a couple hundred (and those were on Sunday). Some of the worst attended were weekday afternoon sessions with about 25 or so. The fact that we pre-announced the posting of MP3's immediately after the sessions bled off some potential attendance (we were told that by a number of people). But they missed the far more interesting discussion periods afterword.

We hope to transition from what can more accurately be titled "a group of friends" into a full-fledged conference soon, since these issues are important. We know of no place where they are being addressed in this way.

Mike Durning's picture

Larry wrote:
Quote:
The things that fall from their lips... "Contemplative modes" of spiritual development, mocking Biblical counseling advocates and speaking out in favor of purely secular methodologies, the creation account in Genesis 1-2 doesn't matter (not that they are open to debate: they think it actually doesn't matter), and, of course, "Who am I to condemn Rob Bell's teaching?" Of course, these schools are not even Conservative Evangelical, but mainstream Evangelical, demonstrating one of my points from the article.

When meeting the same level students or graduates from Fundamentalist institutions, the pattern of distraction I addressed in the article emerges quickly. Their obsession is over Bible versions, music, and other secondary (or, dare I say, tertiary?) issues.

This compares two fairly distinct sets of issues and I think it highlights a key distinction. The first issues are doctrinal, and they are settled matters for fundamentalists. So these things do not "fall from their lips" because they know better. The unfortunate part is the second issues. It reminds me of a conversation years ago where someone was commenting negatively on the fact that fundamentalists weren't speaking out about complementarianism and egalitarianism, where people like Driscoll and Piper were. My response was simple: Fundamentalists aren't speaking out about it because the people they are speaking too aren't confused about it.

And that brings me to the NPP. As for the NPP, I think that outside of academia, it's not that big of a deal. If I had a dime for every time one of the people in my community asked me about the NPP, I would be ... well, penniless. And with good reason. It's not the stuff that local church ministry is made of. Very few pastors know about it because it is not that big of a deal unless you are in academia. Which is why I am skeptical that it is a worthy topic for a pastor's conference. It may be helpful to give an overview of some sort, but I doubt that it will be useful in preaching or teaching in most local churches.

The first set are perhaps less settled than you think. I can think of sermons in some parts of Fundamentalism where some modes of contemplative Christianity are taught under a different, less mystical sounding name. The EXTENT of how much sufficiency of Scripture applies to the counseling issue can and should be a rigorous discussion, and needs some clarification from Scripture itself. I know many who disagree on it, despite their nominal adherence to Biblical Counseling paradigms. You need look no further than the manner in which some would defend their views on the Creation story to demonstrate the diversity of hermeneutic models being used among those who self-identify as Fundamentalists. Not all of these models are theologically sound. There is softness on all of these issues.

The New Perspective on Paul is largely, as you say, an academic matter. But it has implications for the pulpit. I've heard some pretty fuzzy sermons on the atonement (and preached a few myself before I became a theology wonk). Some of our pastors from some of our institutions are vulnerable to errors of this kind, and the study of NPP is a great place from which to conclude not just where NPP is wrong but where orthodoxy is right. Good theology is not only defined in textbooks; it is affirmed and sharpened in the crucible of theological crisis.

Jay's picture

Mike Durning wrote:
We have people on our team with the skills to put something spiffy (like SI) together, but no time, and a decision was made to route all of our discussion through SI rather than reinventing the wheel (I hope it's ok that I say that publicly at this time, SI). Shortly the disussion forums on the Standpoint site will go away.

Fine by me! Biggrin

Charlie - your points are valid, and what I'm hoping Standpoint will eventually do is really wrestle with what doctrines are fundamental and more importantly, why. I don't think that they could put together a complete list, but if they can at least get the conversation started, that would be great.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

G. N. Barkman's picture

I'm encouraged that you have scheduled Phil Johnson to speak. I've heard him a number of times, and he's one of the hardest hitting, straightest shooting preachers I've ever heard. He could easily be mistaken for a fundamentalist! However, he sticks to Scripture. No shooting from the hip.

He is solid on the fundamentals, and scathing in his denunciation of compromisers. He's fearless. He labors in an independent ministry, separates from apostates, and openly rebukes those who are worldly in life and language as well as those who are soft on doctrine.

He's the kind of preacher fundamentalists can appreciate, learn from, and identify with. Except for the fact that he does not call himself a fundamentalist, and can be just as hard on foolish fundemantalists as he is on wishy-washy evangelicals, he sounds like a fundmentalists in the best sense of the term. Good choice!

G. N. Barkman

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
The first set are perhaps less settled than you think.
thanks Mike.

I am not real well connected in fundamentalism these days, but it seems difficult to believe that the positions you talk about are broadly disputed. Even here at SI, which seems on the "cutting edge" of fundamentalism at times, there is really not much dispute about most of these, at least to a large degree. They seem, to me at least, to be largely intramural type debates about particular nuances. I wonder if, by and large, the discussion doesn't exist and it should because things are too often unnuanced.

I suppose, in thinking about it, if you are trying to bring CEs back towards fundamentalism, these things might be a profitable discussion to show that fundamentalists have well thought out positions.

Quote:
The New Perspective on Paul is largely, as you say, an academic matter. But it has implications for the pulpit. I've heard some pretty fuzzy sermons on the atonement (and preached a few myself before I became a theology wonk). Some of our pastors from some of our institutions are vulnerable to errors of this kind, and the study of NPP is a great place from which to conclude not just where NPP is wrong but where orthodoxy is right. Good theology is not only defined in textbooks; it is affirmed and sharpened in the crucible of theological crisis.
I think those fuzzy sermons on the atonement have nothing to do with the NPP though. They existed long before that, and clearing up covenantal nomism for people who don't know what it is probably won't fix that. By your description of yourself, your problem wasn't your lack of understanding NPP; it was lack of understanding theology. I would think there are better ways to go about teaching on the atonement and justification, like teaching on the atonement and justification.

And for me, I don't care if people study and understand NPP. All the better if they do. I am just not sure it's one the pressing issues that fundamentalist pastors need to be well informed on. I wonder if there are not some things that might be more profitable.

Carl Trueman had a great article recently on picking your battles in the Themelios. One of his points was that often we respond to things that people don't know about, thereby exposing them to heresy they would never be exposed to anyway. It is a thought worthy of serious consideration. I wonder if NPP doesn't fit into that category, at least for most people.

Again, maybe I'm all wet and just don't get out enough.

RPittman's picture

Charlie wrote:
I'm not excited by this venture, nor do I think it has any hope of living up to the Fundamentals. (Of course, I'm not sure that the Fundamentals were actually that significant in the first place.)
Charlie, are you saying that the Fundamentals were not theologically significant or were not significant in influence? Publication of the Fundamentals gave a common bond for the diverse elements (Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc.) that made up the old-time Fundamentalism. Today, the fragmentation of Fundamentalism is because the glue is missing.

Charlie's picture

Well, I put it in parentheses because I'm willing to be corrected here. It's my understanding that the Fundamentals never had the same sort of status as the Communist Manifesto for Communistis or any other sort of founding and guiding document. Marsden's Fundamentalism and American Culture represents it as the brainchild of a few individuals that received little notice at the time. He suggests that its significance lies in retrospect, giving historians an outline of the movement at an early point. He further asserts that The Fundamentals represents a transitional point, showing Fundamentalism before its changes under the heat of battle. (119, new edition)

I'm suggesting that many people viewed The Fundamentals as a useful collection of literature, but I don't see any evidence that Fundamentalists looked to it as a manifesto or a creed or a binding definition of their beliefs and goals. I have, however, heard a few contemporary Fundamentalists speak about it that way.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Mike Durning's picture

Charlie wrote:
Well, I put it in parentheses because I'm willing to be corrected here. It's my understanding that the Fundamentals never had the same sort of status as the Communist Manifesto for Communistis or any other sort of founding and guiding document. Marsden's Fundamentalism and American Culture represents it as the brainchild of a few individuals that received little notice at the time. He suggests that its significance lies in retrospect, giving historians an outline of the movement at an early point. He further asserts that The Fundamentals represents a transitional point, showing Fundamentalism before its changes under the heat of battle. (119, new edition)

I'm suggesting that many people viewed The Fundamentals as a useful collection of literature, but I don't see any evidence that Fundamentalists looked to it as a manifesto or a creed or a binding definition of their beliefs and goals. I have, however, heard a few contemporary Fundamentalists speak about it that way.

Charlie, I think these statements are essentially correct, but miss the point. It is not just the publications themselves, but the entire process, including the large lecture tour in association with W.B. Riley that raised awareness of doctrinal deviation and the need to return to solid doctrine -- this is the groundswell, the impact of which we hope to emulate. Most web-sources emphasize the anti-evolutionary aspects of Riley's work, but it was much more broad than that, and contributed to the stew of doctrinal emphasis boiling at that time.

I have asked Dr. Bob Snyder, our team historian, to pull together a few paragraphs about this time and setting, and I hope to post later today or early evening.

Greg Long's picture

Charlie wrote:
Fundamentalism cannot speak with a scholarly voice, for it has no scholars through which to do so.

This is simply not true. There may not be many, but there are a few. Google Paul Hartog Polycarp. He also has an article in Themelios.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Mike Durning's picture

As mentioned in post # 25, here is the promised material from Dr. Bob Snyder, our Standpoint Conference team historian. He not only gave material on what I asked, but gave us a little challenge as well:

Mike D

___________________

The Beginnings of American Fundamentalism and a Lesson to Learn
May 12, 2011

Every child has a father, and organized American fundamentalism is no exception. In the summer of 1918, William Bell Riley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Minneapolis, met with other prophecy-conference leaders in the summer home of R. A. Torrey, dean of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, to discuss future plans. The group had just completed a successful “prophetic conference” in Philadelphia, where attendance far exceeded expectations; but instead of planning for another one in Philadelphia, Riley convinced the group to host a conference on the defense of the fundamentals of the faith. Such a confederation had been his desire for at least a year, as seen in his book The Menace of Modernism (1917); surely, he must have been excited to see this vision get some traction.

During May 25 to June 1, 1919, over six thousand attended the first ever World Conference on the Fundamentals of the Faith. Riley gave the keynote address, comparing this nascent movement to the Protestant Reformation. Citing anti-modernism as a cause for the conference, Riley then mentioned the goal of “a new fellowship, a fellowship that is bringing into closer and closer union men from the various denominations who hold to the certain deity of Jesus Christ and to the utter authority of the Bible” (God Hath Spoken, 45).

As a result of the conference, the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association (WCFA) emerged, representing the first “organizational structure capable of correlating the fundamentalist opposition to modernism” (Gatewood, Controversy in the Twenties, 18). Riley served as president. One of his main goals was “to bring under the WCFA umbrella the just-emerging interdenominational network of fundamentalist Bible schools and publications” (Trollinger, God’s Empire, 39). To correlate the work of these separate institutions, five standing committees were created:

(1) On Bible Schools – to standardize curriculum and creeds
(2) On Colleges and Seminaries – to create a list of doctrinally safe schools
(3) On Religious Magazines and Periodicals – to promote WCFA and in turn receive articles and reports
(4) On Missions – to withdraw support from unfaithful boards and to give it to approved boards
(5) On Conferences – to bring the concerns to other cities

Of the five, only the fifth produced substantial results. Chaired by Riley, the committee “launched an extraordinarily ambitious cross-continent tour,” with speakers staggered out in a series, going on ahead without waiting for the others to finish speaking. The results were amazing. In six week, the tour reached eighteen cities, and “transformed the concerns of Riley and other conservative Protestant leaders into a national crusade” (Trollinger, God’s Empire, 39-40).

Equally amazing, however, was how quickly this initial organized faded in importance. By 1922, the WCFA was already in decline. Commenting on this decline, Riley’s biographer noted, “Although Riley’s speaking tours and related activities heightened antimodernist sentiment, they were of minimal value in banding fundamentalists together in a tightly structured organization” (ibid., 41). What went wrong?

Chief among the factors was a stiff independent spirit among the fundamentalist leaders. In the words of Riley’s second wife Marie, “Some personal incompatibilities, and a constant tendency towards independent leadership combined to retard the progress of what was intended to be an ‘all-inclusive fellowship’ in the Association itself” (ibid., 41). This independent spirit seemed to include Riley himself, who probably chose unwisely to lead the surge that he had birthed. Yes, he himself lamented, and perhaps rightly so, that “some fundamentalists are laws unto themselves, and [that ] even those who have no such disposition are not as yet in the close co-ordinated fellowship that would accomplish the best and most to be desired results” (ibid., 41-42); but the fact also remains that he himself kept the coordinated effort under his supervision.

If there is one lesson to learn from the beginnings of American fundamentalism, it may be this lesson: Revival comes through brotherly unity (cf. Psalm 133). Disunity grieves the Spirit and dooms all effort to the resources of the flesh, which cannot succeed in building the temple of God (cf. Ephesians 4:30; Zechariah 4:6).

Regarding the 1920s, more than one commentator has noted that fundamentalist “internecine battles, especially the power struggles among ambitious spokesmen, help to explain their organizational difficulties as well as their failure to achieve some of their stated goals” (Gatewood, Controversy in the Twenties, 17-18; cf. Trollinger, God’s Empire, 41-42). As a result, the WCFA in particular failed to provide “an institutional alternative to the modernist-tainted denominations,” and eventually shifted its goal to antievolutionism, which was in essence almost an admission of defeat, though not as public a defeat as the ill-crafted Scopes Trial it later sponsored (Trollinger, God’s Empire, 43, 44).

Brothers, there is a spirit of unity among many churches today. God be praised! Let it be discerning unity, as the ground for unity is ever the truth that is in Jesus, but let it also be an ambitious unity, for the motive for unity is the love that makes us speak the truth (cf. Ephesians 4). If we hold to the fundamentals with a firm faith, and promote them with a genuine love, how can God the Father and God the Son not be pleased and pour out the Holy Spirit on such a house?

Sources:
Gatewood, Willard B., Jr. Controversy in the Twenties: Fundamentalism, Modernism, and Evolution. Nashville:
Vanderbilt University Press, 1969.
God Hath Spoken: Twenty-Five Addresses Delivered at the World Conference on Christian Fundamentals, May 25
– June 1, 1919. Philadelphia: Bible Conference Committee, 1918. Reprint, Fundamentalism in American
Religion, 1880 - 1950, ed. Joel E. Carpenter. NY: Garland Publishing, 1988.
Light on Prophecy: A Coordinated, Constructive Teaching Being the Proceedings and Addresses at the Philadelphia
Prophetic Conference, May 28-30, 1918. New York: The Christian Herald Bible House, 1918.
Trollinger, William Vance, Jr. God’s Empire: William Bell Riley and Midwestern Fundamentalism. Madison: The
University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It always comes up in some form.
It's a complex subject for many reasons, not least of which--there is no strong consensus on what a "scholar" is in conversational English.
My view FWIW: we need scholars but scholars mostly talk to other scholars and peer review eachother, etc. A subset of them excel in taking those scholarly conversations to "the rest of us." Another group, not quite among the scholars, read them and also participate in gleaning salient stuff from the scholarly conversations for "the rest of us."

In the long run, it would be great to have fundamentalist scholars. I think we have a few now, though not many. But if we have some guys who can interact thoughtfully with the work of scholars and mostly focus on talking to regular pew-folk, well... let's just not undervalue that.

But the question does raise a problem w/respect to a "Fundamentals II" scenario: who is going to be influenced by another Fundamentals series? After answering that question, we're ready to ask "How would these writings most effectively influence them?"
I think we're not looking for writings that influence professional scholars. My impression from reading Mike and talking some about this is that Standpoint is more concerned about the doctrinal hollowness of the masses. If that's the case, a strategy that involves producing scholarly writings read and reviewed by other professional scholars, in hopes that it will trickle down--doesn't seem like the best strategy.

All that to say, some kind of bridgework between the world of scholars and the world of the "I think a read book in '09" crowd is more urgent.

I wonder if maybe "The Fundamentals II" should be a series of videos!

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Rolland McCune's picture

Mike:

Dr. Snyder laid the blame for the decline of the WCFA on the stiff independence, disunity, empire-building spirit, and grieving the Holy Spirit within the group. While there is some of that in any such group, one of the greater difficulties that I see was the interdenominational infrastructure of almost all of fundamentalism. I suppose, given the interdenominational spread of the liberal cancer, the battle would be fought in that framework. But the biblical/doctrinal base of such is far too flat and thin. To be workable, it must have a minimal, lowest common denominator basis of truth. W. B. Riley, 1st Baptist, Mpls and Northwestern Schools formed a corporate Mr. Interdenominational Fundamentalist. But eventually that wears thin for practicality, and such coalitions tend to decline. Their day in the sun is cordinate with strong leaders and personalities. Their absence begets attrition.

If the NT teaches the primacy of the local church, and it surely does (1 Tim 3:15), then a biblically vibrant local church, and fellowships thereof, can declare all the counsel of God all the time. They are not dependent on riding the crest of current issues in order to stay "relevant" and "united."

I think one could attribute the WCFA switch to anti-evolutionism more to the realities of the day, especially the aura that surrounded the Scopes trial in 1925. It may or may not have "failed to provide 'an institutional alternative to the modernist-tainted controversy,'" but I wonder if that is really relevant in light of 1 Tim 3:15.

Groups, coalitions and endeavors that sometimes appear to be "crossovers" between fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism in order to demonstrate a common brotherhood and united front face major difficulties. Whether fundamentalists go to the CE domain, or vice versa, to clear the air, find fellowship, explore possible common ground, plan strategies and such, their efforts and the afterlife thereof are murky and confusing. The lines of similarity and difference are already clear and rather easily found in the available literature and observation, with very little logistics.

Local church ministries and fellowships may seem slow, fragmented and unproductive, but that view is usually predicated on the notion that some biblical convictions are are considered negotiable, marginal and ancillary to a greater good. It is not just prickly fundamentalism that decries such a view, note (OPC) D. G. Hart's article, "Al Mohler ... the Gospel Coalition," oldlife.org.

When all is said and done the often unmentioned "dividing line" is still ecclesiastical separation. It would certainly clear the air if the CEs would openly declare their historical errors and that they do not /will not have fellowship with the apostasy or those that maintain connections and/or sympathies with it, however delicately worded. I have not seen such declarations nor are they readily empirically discernible

I am not insterested in going over all the current controversies; I am only attempting to enunciate a biblical principle that gets lost in the emotionalism, pietism, idealism, worries and the like that rise to the fore. The formula of R. V. Clearwaters is quite "relevant" today: Take the "historical approach" and take the "long look" ahead in contemplating proposals.

Rolland D. McCune

Rolland McCune

Mike Durning's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
But the question does raise a problem w/respect to a "Fundamentals II" scenario: who is going to be influenced by another Fundamentals series? After answering that question, we're ready to ask "How would these writings most effectively influence them?"
I think we're not looking for writings that influence professional scholars. My impression from reading Mike and talking some about this is that Standpoint is more concerned about the doctrinal hollowness of the masses. If that's the case, a strategy that involves producing scholarly writings read and reviewed by other professional scholars, in hopes that it will trickle down--doesn't seem like the best strategy.

All that to say, some kind of bridgework between the world of scholars and the world of the "I think a read book in '09" crowd is more urgent.

I wonder if maybe "The Fundamentals II" should be a series of videos!

Great observations, Aaron. I think it would be safe to say we are looking for scholarly work (in that it is thorough and engages all the issues involved at a high-level) yet aimed at non-scholars. That's a tall order!

As for video, I'm open to it. Maybe music videos! Wait, forget I said that, as that will open up a new can of worms.

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