Church Planting Thirty Years Later

In 1982 my wife and I planted our first church in Philadelphia – Faith Independent Baptist Church. The long church name seemed awkward back then but I wanted to be sure people knew up front where I stood. Fresh from eight years of ministry training at fundamentalist schools, I was a committed independent, fundamental Baptist. As extra insurance to validate my IFB credentials, I often added “militant and separatist” as well. The church’s doctrinal statement enshrined a dispensational hermeneutic essential for correct interpretation, the pre-tribulational rapture as the next event on the prophetic calendar, and the King James Version as the official translation. As a church we were known more for what we were against than for who we were.

Fast forward to 2011 where in the same city I am now working with a team of elders to plant another church in a spiritual wasteland where we parachuted in with a few families but without a significant core group. After thirty years of church planting I claim no special expertise, offer no guarantees of success, and sense an even greater dependency upon the Lord to build His church. Similar struggles, resistance to the gospel remain.

This one-year-old church is elder led, non-denominational, non-dispensational, and uses the English Standard Version. Much has changed. Most remains the same. I would venture to add that what is essential has not changed. In areas where change has occurred, thirty years of ministry, of study, of relationships, and of experiences have conspired to bring me to the place I am today. For many years IFB was all I knew or cared to know. Now I find myself rarely at home in this fragmented movement of competing networks. I find myself increasingly on the outside looking in. This is my journey, but I’m glad I was not alone.

After planting a church in Philadelphia from 1982-1987 my family and I went to France and then Romania in church planting and pastoral training ministry. Those years spent overseas provided opportunities for fellowship with believers from different horizons and spared me the need to engage in many of the needless conflicts being fought in the States. There was less need to conform to others’ expectations of what it meant to be safely within the fundamentalist orbit.

During that time overseas I pursued further studies with Reformed Theological Seminary’s extension in Budapest and in time completed a degree in theological studies. For the first time I was challenged from a different theological perspective by men with whom I had strong disagreements. Yet I was persuaded of their evangelical commitment, their love for God, and their commitment to God’s authoritative Word. I began to see that we could differ interpretatively and still enjoy fellowship in the gospel. I was moving away from former positions for which I could still argue but could no longer support biblically with integrity.

In late 1998 we returned to the States where I began a short residency in Deerfield, IL at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and where in 2004 I completed a DMin in Missiology. Once again I was struck by the combination of scholarship and godliness among the professors. There were differences in some areas but the centrality of the gospel transcended those differences.

From 1999-2008, I was missions pastor and director of church planting at a well-known suburban church. I travelled frequently and taught overseas in Russia, Ukraine, Lebanon, Peru, China, and several other countries. There were opportunities to teach in the area of missions and church planting at several schools and seminaries and invitations to preach at various conferences. My visits to China were especially revealing as we looked for house church leaders with whom we could partner for training purposes. I found myself looking for “significant compatibility” and agreement with the historic Christian faith rather than agreement with my convictions. My time in Lebanon among Arab believers caused me to look at Scripture afresh and contributed to modifications in my views on eschatology.

Some might find it surprising that personal experiences have influenced my theology to such a degree. In reality our experiences or lack of them have a great part to play in how we read Scripture. We read it with the eyes of those around us, those who trained us or those we look to for guidance. Our experiences should not determine our theology yet how we read and understand Scripture cannot be separated from our outside influences and experiences. Some may consider it a badge of honor to hold the same beliefs and convictions they held thirty years ago. While I can say that for the fundamentals of the faith, I must confess that second and third-tier commitments and interpretations are held loosely and are no longer a cause for separation or hindrance in partnership in the Lord’s work. Perhaps it’s partly due to the fact that I recognize it is His work not mine and that I labor in His vineyard not one of my creation.

On one hand, I have no argument with fellow believers who affirm their identity as independent, fundamental Baptists. I have no difficulty in seeing them as legitimate representatives of the diverse body of Christ. I have no reason to demean them or to expect them to cease being what they are. I have no desire to avoid fellowship and friendship with IFB men of integrity who are sound theologically and choose to remain within an IFB framework. On the other hand I find after all these years in ministry, with experiences and exposure to global Christianity, that IFB fails to describe how I see myself in my relation to the Lord, in relation to other believers, and in relation to the mission of the church.

The last few years have been especially decisive in the direction I have taken. When I returned from Romania in 1998 I knew that both I and the spiritual landscape that I knew had changed. Then in 2008, while temporarily living in France and helping to plant a new non-Baptist church, I wrote an opinion article on Fundamentalism. It was my way of signaling at that time that although I was on a journey out of Fundamentalism as I had known it, I wanted to remain friends with Fundamentalists. I began to write, to challenge conventions and traditions. I have not always been irenic and have not avoided controversy.

When I described myself as a “soft cessationsist,” questioned elements of dispensationalism, took issue with unbiblical separation, did not clearly espouse literal six-day, twenty-hour creation days, expressed my dismay at the paucity of resources committed to church planting, or challenged traditional thinking in the church’s engagement with culture, I found more criticism than interaction with the ideas. The criticism wasn’t about the gospel. It was mostly about culture, tradition and even personalities who thought I was out of line and should keep a lower profile.

Whether or not I should’ve written some of those articles for publication is another story although I have few regrets. I know there are some who are so much surer in many areas where I have questions. I know others who do not want to rock the boat and, to mix metaphors, prefer to fly under the radar. I suppose that would’ve been a safer route for me but that bridge has already been crossed. I must confess that I have found somewhat amusing the wide range of men who have disagreed with me, attacked me, or separated from me. There has been something for many to dislike although certainly not the same things.

I have no one to blame but myself although these experiences reinforced in my mind how important agreement is to Fundamentalists in areas where I believe we have scriptural latitude to disagree charitably. The agreement demanded by many IFB gatekeeper leaders, churches, and institutions in order to play in their yard far exceeds biblical teaching. The loyalty required by many in order to be safe requires submitting to traditional rather than biblical standards. It is not a virtue to have an inquiring mind in much of Fundamentalism. I had to decide whether I would shut up or speak out knowing that speaking out might marginalize me.

There are a few glimmers of hope as some IFB brethren have begun to break out of their isolation. I think particularly of Northland University which has invited professors from outside IFB circles and of Calvary Baptist Seminary with Mark Dever at their ATC Conference. Of course these moves have triggered substantial criticism from within IFBdom which comes as no surprise. Many IFB factions, which contribute little to theological reflection, brook nothing which deviates from their long-held conventions. I encourage those who choose to stay within the movement to continue their pursuit of God-honoring unity with those outside the IFB pale.

As for me, the time has come to seek to identify with men and movements which demonstrate greater generosity with dissent and challenge than I have found in my IFB experience, to identify with those interested in productive gospel-centered, church-planting partnerships, and God willing, to seek teaching opportunities to train men for next generation church planting. I have no illusions that moving on will bring greater resources or guarantee success in church planting. I’m not looking for greener grass. At this point any grass will do. I still welcome friendship and even partnership with my IFB brothers who have not drawn unreasonable lines in the sand. But I’m too old to jump through all the hoops, too ornery to kowtow and prefer relative obscurity and a few warm relationships to playing ingratiating politics and pleasing men.

Much has changed over the years but God has not. He is faithful and He remains the Lord of the harvest in these challenging and needy times, the ultimate Judge who knows the hearts, and the Accomplisher of His divine purposes. Before Him only I lift my hands, bend my knees, and bow my head.

[node:bio/steve-davis body]

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There are 127 Comments

Shaynus's picture

Bob T. wrote:

That fact that this SI thread has degenerated from the serious issues to discuss posters is somewhat pathetic.

Bob, two things. First, your original post with the comment about the door not hitting Steve on the way out was in fact about Steve, not the issues. Take your own advice in the future.

Second, we all recognize that people are influenced by other people. You recognize that and fear that Steve is influencing others along a path you don't like and think is dangerous. It's not merely ideas that influence us. We're more influenced by the men and women in various situations in concert with their ideas. Tone, writing style, examples, illustrations, the marshaling of various arguments to support a conclusion: all of these come together to form influence. I notice "ChrisS" and his teenage son who read these forums. I can't help but wonder how we are influencing his son to be a better thinker or not. I believe that sometimes your tone, especially with a younger generation, causes us to become exasperated with you before we even start listening. If I were you, and you really do want to influence another generation, perhaps knock down the tone a little bit. I'm 28. Our generation doesn't respond well do being told what to believe without arguments to back it up. Some have called us the "why" generation. There are probably downsides of such an attitude, but if you're going to convince us of your points, you'll have to take that into account.

Frankly, I find that the younger generation of fundamentalists has given up trying to convince much of the older generation of anything at all. We know that we'll outlive the older guys. . . probably. I don't like that approach. I'd rather engage in persuasion. So I'm not going to give up talking to the older generation. But it has to be on mutually respectful grounds.

Steve Davis's picture

Bob,

I ignored your first last posting but you keep charging ahead. You state "My telling Steve Davis to not let the door hit him in the back was harsh but not overly or unduly harsh when compared to some of his responses on this thread and others with nasty remarks made to others (not me)." I don't remember if I complained about what you said about the door but am at a loss about the "nasty remarks." I skimmed my comments and don't see nasty. It's not that I'm not capable of that but please show me my nastiness. The closest to that may've been my response to a poster who said: "However, leaving in this manner makes you look a bit ugly and even desirous to take as many people with you as possible. Go do the missiological work that you have done and for which you have trained, but please stop writing to us, if you are no longer among us." I may've been dismissive of his comment considering the source and his connections but nasty? And calling me "bit ugly!' Did he see my picture? Anyway, yeh, I didn't take much time to interact with him sensing a lack of experience and a combative spirit.

You on the other hand are a man of great experience (and I'm not being sarcastic). So I take you more seriously although you might be a "bit ugly" too. You accuse me of doublespeak because of my position on the 6 days. It seems that you cannot fathom how someone fails to see things as clearly as you do. You mistake interpretation with revelation. Then you go around the block with Biola, Fuller, Schuller, etc. and accuse me of accommodating Scripture to science although I'm "behind the curve." What in the world does that mean?

You do puzzle me with some of your charges and I wonder if there's another Steve Davis. You say: "Steve himself has repeatedly demeaned the fundamentalist and IBF movements as a whole. He has shown disdain for those who have and do hold to a different doctrinal viewpoint on doctrinal issues he has raised. In typical NEW EVANGELICAL fashion and method he has alluded to the lack of love and proper ecumenical spirit of others he is leaving while he himself demeaned them in an unloving manner. He often met posters who who [sic ] disagreed with him with demeaning remarks and sharp words."

If I have done demeaned "repeatedly" you can surely show me a few examples. Even though I expressly address my desire to not demean you find me demeaning others. When I said: "I have no argument with fellow believers who affirm their identity as independent, fundamental Baptists. I have no difficulty in seeing them as legitimate representatives of the diverse body of Christ. I have no reason to demean them or to expect them to cease being what they are. I have no desire to avoid fellowship and friendship with IFB men of integrity who are sound theologically and choose to remain within an IFB framework." I have no reason to demean them but am demeaning them according to you. Of course when you talk about "the errors, misjudgments, and harmful attitude and dangers of Steve Davis and his opinions" that's not demeaning in any way but needed rebuke and correction - of course.

The only reason I respond at this point is to let readers judge for themselves. I believe you sincerely believe you are defending the truth but it sounds more and more like something else. If you ever get to Philly look me up. We would have an interesting conversation.

Steve

JT Hoekstra's picture

"Caution, the surgeon general has determined that smoking cigarettes can be hazardous to your health." Those words, or words like them, were not on packs of 'rits' when I was a teen. Now they are, and harsher warnings are coming. Those who didn't smoke were at times laughed at as "Holy Rollers." Those who did smoke are battling cancer. Heed the warnings...

"The Fundamentalists," whoever they were, had some warning signs too, of higher criticism or liberal theology. One of the FIRST of them was "other theories" concerning a 6 - 24 hour day creation as defined and used in the Hebrew text(s). I watched the church I attended throughout my childhood "muse," on this, then debunk completely: creation, Red Sea parting, Joshua, Sampson, Jonah, Sodom, crucifixion, resurrection...You Name It including the entire Book of Daniel/Revelation 'myth.' They went from 40 human pen-men to 200 or so, from grace to Buddah, from soldiers to yoga. This they did in my formative years as a Christian. Hippie mystics started preaching, then became professors, then DOCTORS even...

This was their...'journey.'

By Mr. Davis' own descriptions, and being new to his writings here or elsewhere...I liked him better when he first defined that Indy Baptist Church plant in South Philly, even though he may have been at the front door measuring inches from the knee. Now he scares me right to the Da Vinci Code core. I'm no fundamentalist and not a Baptist.

I believe the Biblical Surgeon General's warning label reads something like, "wolf among the sheep." The more posts there are in this thread, the more stories we read of seminaries and Bible colleges who have also experienced this journey. Also, the more posts here, the more Mr. Davis replies, "you mis-read me..." etc.

Since watching a whole country and its churches go completely to hell from reading and believing mythology concerning Genesis 1-11, I have had no visions, no ecstatic speech or dreams that would tell me to read scripture any other way than how He intended it: literal. Dispensational. Genesis to Revelation...And I am staying away from those who would beckon me to "some other teaching." Even if the angel Moroni appeared to me I would not believe! I am so sorry, The Book is never soft but Sacred.

Bob T.'s picture

To: Shaynus

Shanus stated: "Bob, two things. First, your original post with the comment about the door not hitting Steve on the way out was in fact about Steve, not the issues. Take your own advice in the future."

What thread are you posting on?
. The central subject and issue of the article is who? The subject is Steve Davis.

The rest of your post is off subject. Probably because you have not yet realized who the subject is. Smile

Have a good day.

Shaynus's picture

Bob T. wrote:
To: Shaynus

Shanus stated: "Bob, two things. First, your original post with the comment about the door not hitting Steve on the way out was in fact about Steve, not the issues. Take your own advice in the future."

What thread are you posting on?
. The central subject and issue of the article is who? The subject is Steve Davis.

The rest of your post is off subject. Probably because you have not yet realized who the subject is. Smile

Have a good day.

So it's OK to talk about personalities and people as long as they are Steve Davis, who is now a "serious issue." The point is you can't harshly attack a person in this forum and not open yourself to criticism. You can't have it both ways.

ChrisS's picture

Shaynus ][quote=Bob T. wrote:

I notice "ChrisS" and his teenage son who read these forums. I can't help but wonder how we are influencing his son to be a better thinker or not.

He enjoys critical thinking, and tries to apply that in his reading, both of this thread and theological material, comparing them to mainstream media and society today, more specific to apologetics and the various church movements these days. Rest assured that he knows that nobody on here is near perfect, and as to how you/others are influencing his thinking, it has seemed to be very positive, especially given the assumption going in that you all love the Lord. He forms his opinions, sure, and might agree with some even if he disagrees with the methodology or argument used, if that makes sense... I should just get him a user ID and let him speak for himself, I suppose. He's a teen, he already knows it all, right? Wink

Of personal note, he and I have tended to live in a theological world where we have seen the creation of "straw men", and we are aggressively seeking to change how we view various points and opinions which may differ from ours, as well as those holding those views. In short, it is good for him (and me, for that matter) to see real Christians discuss real issues.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I can't really figure out where all the intensity in the reactions to Steve are coming from.
Isn't it pretty close to self evident that...

1) Aside from his openness to (not embracing of) old earth readings of Gen 1 and "softness" on cessationism (not embracing non-cessationism) his positions on things have been held by various orthodox Christians since at least the time of the Reformers. I don't agree with several of these, but it's not like they're something new. Some of the reactions here suggest he's founding a new Cult of the Body Snatchers or something.

2) Harshness is appropriate in response to apostates and blatant heretics (see Jesus' example, with Paul, Peter and Jude). Warmth and winsomeness is what's necessary in response to brothers who struggle with questions or disappointments, etc. There is no virtue in treating a brother like an infidel. In the discipline/separation passages, you don't stop treating a brother like a brother until you can no longer believe he is a brother.

3) Unexamined beliefs ought to be examined. There is no danger in asking "Why?" about a wide variety of questions if you're committed to the authority of Scripture as a given.

4) When you know you have the truth on your side, you don't feel threatened by ideas that are contrary. You find them somewhat interesting as a way to strengthen your arguments or better understand others you hope to win over. I can't help but think some of the frothing at the mouth I've seen here lately reflects some insecurity of convictions. As a kid growing up in fundamentalism, the guys who could not handle questions or challenges went quickly to my "not worth listening to" list. Graciously, there were plenty of warm and winsome fundamentalists in my orbits who did not collapse into spasms of outrage whenever someone said "I think you're wrong."

They are a major factor in why I'm a fundamentalist today.

Why do some find it so hard to be immovable yet calm, patient and gracious? ...I've found it hard myself at times. I guess the real question is why do some not even believe in being immovable yet calm, patient and gracious?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Bob T wrote:
My response to Susan on this thread was to her obvious rebuke to church leaders. On this thread she was the first one to post against another poster or posters regarding conduct and not about the thread subject. I posted regarding her rebuke because she is an SI administrator and moderator. I raised the gender issue because it was and is appropriate because she was attempting to rebuke church leaders and was doing so because she wrongly perceived this as a situation one where appropriate compassion was not in view.

I'd like to clarify one aspect of my initial post, since it has been so thoroughly and constantly misinterpreted-
Susan R wrote:
I think if folks really believe that Bro. Davis needs to be 'corrected' and 'restored', there was a better way to do it. The lack of compassion and humility in church leadership of any stripe is astonishingly lacking.

Quote:
Gal 6:1-5 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.

Funny how Scripture tells us in one verse to bear one another's burdens, and then two verses later tells us that every man has to bear his own.

The first sentence and the second sentence were separate thoughts, but I neglected to make a new paragraph, so it should look like this-
Susan R wrote:
I think if folks really believe that Bro. Davis needs to be 'corrected' and 'restored', there was a better way to do it.

The lack of compassion and humility in church leadership of any stripe is astonishingly lacking....


SO now, the second paragraph is addressing points that Bro. Davis made in his OP as I intended, such as
Quote:
As extra insurance to validate my IFB credentials, I often added “militant and separatist” as well.

Quote:
As a church we were known more for what we were against than for who we were.

and
Quote:
I found more criticism than interaction with the ideas. The criticism wasn’t about the gospel. It was mostly about culture, tradition and even personalities who thought I was out of line and should keep a lower profile.

However, no matter where you go, there you are, which is why the phrase "of any stripe" is included in my comment. Which is not a rebuke, but a comment, and not of anyone specifically, or I would have been specific. But CE's, Neo-whatevers, or any other group is going to have power mongers, predators, and manipulators in their number who endeavor to rise to the surface to gain control over the weak. A big clue is usually whether or not they have any patience, compassion, or humility about them when dealing with people, especially those who have doubts or are struggling.

I can certainly understand why YF's are looking for an atmosphere of 'cooperating for the Gospel', a generosity in ministry and doctrinal discussions, and an elevation of Scripture over IFB traditions. And when you are working in an area, such as some inner cities, with a large number of people who are 2nd generation welfare, have barely mastered personal hygiene, haven't yet grasped the concepts of earning their living, paying their debts, or being faithful to a spouse, you aren't quite as concerned about teaching them proper eschatology or dispensations or cessationism. You are just really hoping that this week when you do a head check, none of the kids have lice. Very few IFB churches that I know will tolerate the 'dirt' that inner city work, or ministry in an impoverished area, involves.

But bending in an area such as creation is IMO extremely dangerous. For reasons that are delineated elsewhere, much better than I could possibly hope to convey, the literal acceptance of the creation account does impact the Gospel message. One of the first things we do with our Sunday School is give a thorough grounding in Genesis 1-11.

I apologize for the confusion my initial post has caused, and the subsequent wasted time addressing points I did not intend to make, but that is my fault for not being clear and formatting my post in a way that communicated my thoughts accurately.

Barry L.'s picture

Many young fundamentalists are swayed because they don't know why they are fundamentalist. When they ask questions, they don't get Biblical answers, they get "60 years of fundamentalist tradition" and their spiritual life is put to question for asking. So many silently go on without uttering another objection until some movement comes long and gives them answers, although faulty.

We aren't teaching them. As young people we teach them about purity and nothing else. We are upset that young pastors are reading MacArthur, Piper, etc, but who in IFB are writing any new books? Are we really teaching our non-ministerial students much in our Christian colleges? I know I received very little Biblical training.

You can't strong arm belief, it works for a little while, but it flies away with the chaff. We need to persuade men's hearts.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
We argued against his reasons and rightly labelled his transition and change of doctrinal positions and view as the same as that expressed in history as New Evangelical and therefore labelled steve with the same label they did give themselves.

There are many within fundamentalism who also know their history and they would strongly disagree with you on this one....but rathat Steve is leaving fundamentalism for Conservative evangelicalism, but not for new evangelicalism.....that the two are not the same. There are many especially among the GARBC and the IFCA that do not hold to the narrowness that promise Unfulfilled has defined separation and New Evangelicalism, yet both of these associations are still separatists and have strongly critiqued new evangelicalism from the 1950's and what remains of it even now. To insinuate that Sharper Iron fits the description of some pseudo fundamentalist group only gives credence to your type of fundamentalism, which has much in common with the IFB, but leaves out historical streams of fundamentalism such as the GARBC and the IFCA which are both about 1200 churches strong. Its the same argument that I have tried to make to Lou and a few others, but when I bring this up, I only hear crickets.....

Yet I though you would be more understanding, since part of your background includes both the IFCA and the GARBC. You know that there is diversity with many type B's and type C's (if we are to use Joel T.'s taxonomy) among these groups and there always has been that type of diversity among them since the 1960's as they tried to discern how to apply separation among evangelicals that were not militant separatists. You know the history of Bob Ketcham....where he applied separation from Billy Graham, yet not with Warren Wiersbe, even though Wiersbe had all the associations with just about every evangelical group you can imagine, some of which have been labeled as New Evangelical.....Anyway, my whole point is that not everything is as cut and dry as you seem to make it out to be when it comes to how Fundamentalists labeled New Evangelicals with both doctrinal and how they applied separation..........

Bob T.'s picture

Shaynus wrote:
Bob T. wrote:
To: Shaynus

Quote:
Shanus stated: "Bob, two things. First, your original post with the comment about the door not hitting Steve on the way out was in fact about Steve, not the issues. Take your own advice in the future."

What thread are you posting on?
. The central subject and issue of the article is who? The subject is Steve Davis.

The rest of your post is off subject. Probably because you have not yet realized who the subject is. Smile

Have a good day.

So it's OK to talk about personalities and people as long as they are Steve Davis, who is now a "serious issue." The point is you can't harshly attack a person in this forum and not open yourself to criticism. You can't have it both ways.



Shanus, surely you can understand that the article by Steve Davis was about himself. Therefore all posts on this thread are about Steve Davis, his changed beliefs and his journey.

Also, you made a post about what you considered harsh language and included examples. If that was not a joke and you considered those really as harsh language examples, then I would recommend you stay in bed all day and never go anywhere as the whole of society is too harsh for you.

Also, you talk about your age and influencing twenty and thirty year olds. Almost my entire class in constitutional law at WSU last semester were 20s and 30s. We get along very well. However, one thing I can tell you about your post modern age group is they have developed an academic reputation for not being able to think as clearly and concisely as former generations. In Law school it is the unspoken understanding. It has been written about. Dallas Seminary also had an article by one of their professors on that subject that was actually a few years ago. Some theological professors have actually changed teaching methods according to that article. In Law we actually have to be a little more patient in allowing students to rewrite legal papers. I am not sure what repore I have with your age group today. In pastoring, at my former church we had a very large youth group of about 80% males and about 80% from non Christian, unchurched homes. Today several are in ministry. I do occasionally hear from some today. One is an Army chaplain now in Iraq and I get his emails regularly. I was considered to have had good repore with them according to our youth pastor and others.

Today some of the younger Christian generation need to get off their posterior, out of the classroom, and volunteer for a stint in the military or work on the oil rigs or in the mines. In the 1970s Hadden Robinson wrote an article about glad handing smiling pastors who lacked back bone. My opinion (surely to be attacked on here - I await the fun) is that is part of our problem today. If there is hope for America to have real future leaders, it won't come from Harvard or Yale, or from groomed party people. It should come from Iraq and Afghanistan. Some Evangelical and Fundamentalist leaders came the old school of non ministry hard knocks background. Todays progress made at some Christian college then seminary, then ministry, has many with minimalist untested convictions. Ministry can be hard. But often it is not hard enough.

Please forgive me for not having paid much attention to your posts. However, I probably may continue to do so.

I think one problem here on SI is that there are some who may be YF by background but are in reality now CEs (confused evangelicals) still trying to plug into Fundyism without having sufficient convictions. The result is they have more hang ups than the President's suit closet.
Many posts on SI appear to be by those frustrated with what they term Fundamentalism but still discussing within some sort of Fundamentalism forums.

Bob T.'s picture

To: Joel Shaffer,

Thank you for the post. Here is my perspective.

First, CEs are really an inadequately defined group. John Piper is classic New Evangelical but Puritan reformed in soteriology. The other big names vary greatly. The only one of the variously named CEs that really should be in that newly labeled category is John MacArthur and others of his convictions. As you surely know JM has and does use harsh language (he is dogmatic) against those who have accepted other then literal 6 day creation and the Charismatic movement. Steve Davis has no place in the JM arena.

I have lived through the NE controversy. At Biola in the 1960s, it was a divided student body over the issues. The faculty held quiet differences of opinion but would discuss in conversation. Back then Biola and Talbot considered themselves as not NE and criticized Fuller. Today all is quiet and Biola is still more conservative than Fuller but definitely not Fundy or CE. JM parted ways with Talbot and Biola in 1986. Talbot extension at JMs church became Masters. There were some behind the scene mild hard feelings.

By the way, Bauder's articles which addressed CEs were good but too broad and naive. From my vantage point I will readily call JM and crew CE. They are also mildly but definitely anti Fundy. JP and others are Evangelical reformed with broader acceptance of some doctrines.

Steve Davis drove past JM, and perhaps even some others. His openness to Charisma and non literal creation Genesis account plus some others makes him a definite moderate Evangelical but because of his journey and openness he is also an NE. To me, the nature of his journey and over all view puts him as NE.

I do recognize that in Evangelical circles today no one uses NE as a label. It has died out with the NE first generation. Today you are Evangelical and no one wants to be wacko Fundy out here except the KJVO. The IFCA changed its name to get rid of any association with the term Fundamentalist.

If someone asks me, I and our assembly of believers are Biblical (or just "Bible") standard Christians. I like the term "Bible Standard Christian." For further understanding I would explain that some would consider us as Evangelical in that we believe the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ as presented in the Bible. I would also explain we are a type of fundamentalist historically in that we are particular about certain Bible doctrines as essential for a healthy spiritual life and world view, some are literal creation, true spiritual walk that denies Charismatic views, and some other helpful Bible teachings. To understand missions one must understand the Biblical view of the Kingdom, the separation of Israel and the assembly, and the mission of the assemblies.

But I accept and appreciate classic Fundamentalism and do not shy away from the label. Like Evangelical, it is now a broad label with many different groups huddling under the Umbrella.
I do not think that the KJVOs are entitled to the term historically but hey are so labelled today and they do love the term.

To see where Steve Davis is and what he is seeking to persuade others as true please look at all of the papers he has published on SI. They include missions, kingdom, creation, Charismatic possibilities , etc.

By the way old guys have too much experience. I was youth Pastor at the Evangelical Free Church of Orange, CA. from 1962 to 1964. Went to some EFCA meetings. It has changed for the better and the worse since then. The Swindoll influence was probably good but limited. Now they are probably better off than Converge (BGC).

Bottom line: I think my view on Steve Davis was fair, especially considering all the articles SI published on here and their content. Thats what I have been responding to.

As far as posts go this is my last on this subject. Perhaps my last on SI. Too much time has been given to this. SI is no better than the sum of its parts and is not really ministry but just information and discussion of a specialty type.

Appreciate your posts.

For some others: For those sick of labels, you are in the land of nowhere with no signs to follow or words to use. You cannot even identify your faith or God. Labels are. Deal with them.

Jim's picture

Bob T. wrote:
As far as posts go this is my last on this subject. Perhaps my last on SI. Too much time has been given to this. SI is no better than the sum of its parts and is not really ministry but just information and discussion of a specialty type.

Emphasis mine

Bob T. wrote:
But as they say in Philadelphia; "don't let the door hit you in the back on your way out.".

To quote you from Friday.

We say that in Minnesota too!

GregH's picture

This thread represents the new low in the history of SI I think. It is so bad that I can't even stomach the tactics of the side I agree with. When down the road when fundamentalism is dead and gone, an archaeologist may find this thread somehow and it will answer some questions about how it happened.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Well, Greg, the thread is much better now after that post. Wink
Jim is just trying to find a little humor in the situation. Sometimes we need a little of that to avoid going completely bonkers in the Chamber of Moderating Secrets.

Safe to say we'll be hearing less from Bob. Which is too bad, in some ways. There are some good points in there. They just don't really compensate for the mode of delivery.

Jeff Straub's picture

Aaron:

This thread is one reason why I seldom check SI. New Evangelical? How easy the term is tossed out and how poorly it is understood. Moreover, I marvel that some have so much time on their hands to write these long posts that go nowhere? How does this advance the work of Christ? Now the term pseudo-fundamentalist. These ad hominem arguments advance no conversation or promote genuine work of God.

The whole thing is lamentable. So Steve Davis is wrong . . . let him be wrong before God who is his judge. Whatever Steve is, he is no NEW EVANGELICAL. He may be wrong and I think he is on some things. So may you (Aaron) but you are no PSEUDO Fundamentalist. These attacks are . . . . well I am tired of the silliness. We could all use a bit of humility in our walk with God!

Jeff Straub

Jeff Straub

GregH's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Well, Greg, the thread is much better now after that post. Wink
Jim is just trying to find a little humor in the situation. Sometimes we need a little of that to avoid going completely bonkers in the Chamber of Moderating Secrets.

Safe to say we'll be hearing less from Bob. Which is too bad, in some ways. There are some good points in there. They just don't really compensate for the mode of delivery.

No need to get defensive Aaron (or sarcastic either); I was not referring to you. And I am not capable of improving this thread I'm afraid. I was just pointing out that the average person reading this has to be appalled. The nastiness here is unbelievable, but even more unbelievable is the constant attempts to try to justify nastiness from the Bible. To listen to some guys spin it, nastiness is a virtue.

I'm sorry but either side telling the other to leave and not let the door let them on the way out seems over the line to me.

Jim's picture

GregH wrote:
I'm sorry but either side telling the other to leave and not let the door let them on the way out seems over the line to me.

Look carefully at what I said (and didn't say)

I actually said almost nothing except: "We say that in Minnesota too!"

Bob's words (addressed to Steve) were and are ugly: "But as they say in Philadelphia; "don't let the door hit you in the back on your way out."."

Did Bob consider Steve's feelings?

I simply turned his own words back on himself.

Perhaps I am his http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_of_La_Mancha ]Knight of the Mirrors to show Bob the ugliness of his own words! (Click the link for an explanation)

Steve Davis's picture

Jeff Straub wrote:
Aaron:

This thread is one reason why I seldom check SI. New Evangelical? How easy the term is tossed out and how poorly it is understood. Moreover, I marvel that some have so much time on their hands to write these long posts that go nowhere? How does this advance the work of Christ? Now the term pseudo-fundamentalist. These ad hominem arguments advance no conversation or promote genuine work of God.

The whole thing is lamentable. So Steve Davis is wrong . . . let him be wrong before God who is his judge. Whatever Steve is, he is no NEW EVANGELICAL. He may be wrong and I think he is on some things. So may you (Aaron) but you are no PSEUDO Fundamentalist. These attacks are . . . . well I am tired of the silliness. We could all use a bit of humility in our walk with God!

Jeff Straub

Of course I am. And I respond only because at least my friend Jeff is still reading Smile But being wrong is partly my point. How much can we be wrong or differ with others without being considered NE or worse? Many are more comfortable with "righterism" and "saferism" and find security in being immovably right on everything even in areas where there has never been Christian consensus. I want to find my security in Christ and not in getting everything right and not living in that self-assured state where I treat every disagreement as disobedience or slippery slope departure. I'll get it all right some day. Until then I'm trying........

Shaynus's picture

Bob T. wrote:

Also, you made a post about what you considered harsh language and included examples. If that was not a joke and you considered those really as harsh language examples, then I would recommend you stay in bed all day and never go anywhere as the whole of society is too harsh for you.

You win. You're harsher than me and maybe even more sarcastic. Congratulations.

Bob T. wrote:

Please forgive me for not having paid much attention to your posts. However, I probably may continue to do so.

So it looks like you're not actually asking for forgiveness, and continue the sarcasm. I can't take this comment any other way.

Bob T. wrote:

I think one problem here on SI is that there are some who may be YF by background but are in reality now CEs (confused evangelicals) still trying to plug into Fundyism without having sufficient convictions. The result is they have more hang ups than the President's suit closet.

So now many young fundamentalists are confused evangelicals. It's this kind of CONSTANT minor name-calling and needling that discredits your ideas, whatever good ones you might have. If the point of you posting on SI is to actually convince anyone, then please continue to post here, but with well-laid out ideas that make sense. If you want to continue the ad hominem needling, then I suggest you write to yourself.

Don P's picture

Thanks Steve for your last post. I think that you have nailed it. In "fundamentalism" there can be no "wrongness." One cannot say, "I am wrong." Questioning the stated positions of fundamentalism will get you labeled. When young, you are rebellious. When an adult, you are a new evangelical.

Joel understands this and labels fundamentalists A, B, and C. But this attitude of being right in fundamentalism will ultimately destroy the label, even as some have already stated that they want nothing to do anymore with the label.

I am a fundamentalist. Having served in the EFCA, many fundamentalists would call me a new evangelical. But that would be out of ignorance - a lack of knowledge about who and what the EFCA is.

Blessings!

Jay's picture

I would rather belong to a movement of guys and gals who really loved Christ and were serious about doctrine and practice with a bad reputation than be tied to a movement that demands and expects blind obedience and unquestioning acceptance of every iota, jot, or tittle. I think that in a Fundamentalism worth saving, we ~can~ actually have both.

Of course, to say something like that puts me outside of established Fundyism as a movement, so... I guess the point is moot. Smile

"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

Anne Sokol's picture

I've started and deleted this post a few times now . . .

Im kind of a nobody in fundamentalism and a female (of lesser doctrinal importance Wink ), so I am not really risking a lot here. But I will say that my life experiences have been similar somewhat to Steve's. I have my own list of things I could speak up about that I no longer consider of the importance to which I was taught when I was deep in the fundy world. Like music, the idea of "confronting" someone with their sin, fellowship with other groups of Christians (I have interacted quite bit a and worked with pentacostal and charasmatic Christians), and women wearing bikinis.

I'll stop on that last one to make a point. I've become a little blaze about christian women wearing bikinis here in Ukraine. I was really shocked by it at first. It was so incomprehensible to me how, maybe 15 yrs ago, my Christian friend had to apologize to the church for cutting bangs in her hair (a major no-no at that point), yet the entire youth group goes to the beach and no one, absolutely no one in the church considers it odd or inappropriate that every girl in the youth group wears a bikini. (Lest we think ourselves too holy than they, I will say that they are absolutely shocked by our idea of dating. It is sinful (here). Also, most Christians here have, for the most part, begun to accept the idea of using sports in evangelism--that also used to be considered sinful.) . . . . and now marrying a Ukrainian guy . . . well, some things change. . . . So I'm not encouraging anyone to wear a bikini, but i'm just saying, it's not the marker it was to me yrs ago.

Now, I really don't face the marginalization in fundy circles that Steve does, though i've felt it a little. But I understand young fundys' reactions and why it's easy for them to either be mostly critical of fundy-ism or to leave altogether or sort of claim a no-man's land in fundy-ness (not use the label).

It's very easy to feel betrayed by fundamentalism. Steve wrote:

Steve Davis wrote:
I have no one to blame but myself although these experiences reinforced in my mind how important agreement is to Fundamentalists in areas where I believe we have scriptural latitude to disagree charitably. The agreement demanded by many IFB gatekeeper leaders, churches, and institutions in order to play in their yard far exceeds biblical teaching. The loyalty required by many in order to be safe requires submitting to traditional rather than biblical standards. It is not a virtue to have an inquiring mind in much of Fundamentalism. I had to decide whether I would shut up or speak out knowing that speaking out might marginalize me.

It's very easy to feel betrayed by fundamentalism. What makes it more confusing is the fact that, as I relax about *external* things that fundamentalism focused on or in many ways conveyed as being so very important, the more I have grown in my love of the true fundamentals, the more I have seen my own sin b/c it can't be covered up by being a good girl who obeys certain rules, and the more I have grown in my love for and understanding of the gospel and of God's love shown to us in Jesus Christ. It brings tears to my eyes.

I hope Bob T doens't answer this post AT ALL, but I do want to insert where I somehow agree with him. Or do I? I don't know. But i do know that ideas have consequences. So what ideas/truths am I clinging to and where do I need to draw lines? Those are sometimes difficult questions. Maybe they are not as difficult as we think. . . . But that is what I would find helpful talking about. I have a few more things on my mind, but that's all for now.

Andrew K.'s picture

Requesting this article and subsequent posts be collectively re-titled

"Church Planting: Thirty Years' War"

Wink

神是爱

JohnBrian's picture

Anne Sokol wrote:
What makes it more confusing is the fact that, as I relax about *external* things that fundamentalism focused on or in many ways conveyed as being so very important, the more I have grown in my love of the true fundamentals, the more I have seen my own sin b/c it can't be covered up by being a good girl who obeys certain rules, and the more I have grown in my love for and understanding of the gospel and of God's love shown to us in Jesus Christ. It brings tears to my eyes.

In the Fundamentalism that I knew that was exactly the problem - doing all the "right things" allowed us to ignore our own hearts. Right externally allowed us to ignore the internal deceitfulness. During my senior year of high school on the mission field, I got my hair cut only 3 times. All 3 were when I visited in the home of a missionary couple who "confronted" me about my sin, and how my sin would cause my folks to have to leave the field. I had a very tender heart and was easily manipulated into crying tears of repentance (I was always one of the first to go forward at camp each year to rededicate my life), but the heart problem wasn't solved. I looked like the good missionary son but those who knew me knew better.

I am glad to have left that brand of fundamentalism behind!

CanJAmerican - my blog
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Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

JohnBrian wrote:
Anne Sokol wrote:
What makes it more confusing is the fact that, as I relax about *external* things that fundamentalism focused on or in many ways conveyed as being so very important, the more I have grown in my love of the true fundamentals, the more I have seen my own sin b/c it can't be covered up by being a good girl who obeys certain rules, and the more I have grown in my love for and understanding of the gospel and of God's love shown to us in Jesus Christ. It brings tears to my eyes.

In the Fundamentalism that I knew that was exactly the problem - doing all the "right things" allowed us to ignore our own hearts. Right externally allowed us to ignore the internal deceitfulness. During my senior year of high school on the mission field, I got my hair cut only 3 times. All 3 were when I visited in the home of a missionary couple who "confronted" me about my sin, and how my sin would cause my folks to have to leave the field. I had a very tender heart and was easily manipulated into crying tears of repentance (I was always one of the first to go forward at camp each year to rededicate my life), but the heart problem wasn't solved. I looked like the good missionary son but those who knew me knew better.

I am glad to have left that brand of fundamentalism behind!


I've also 'left' that brand of Fundy-ism, but find myself even more conservative than ever. I can't help it- I have wicked flesh that needs killin'. A lot.

It seems the 'dirty little secret', or maybe it's the elephant in the living room of some 'camps' of IFBism is that the façade is not nearly as impermeable or unassailable as they think. People see through the bluster and intimidation tactics to the "Do as I say and not as I do" message, and eventually they leave, even when it means they are going to be branded as compromisers and apostates and rebels.

But now that we feel like we are one the 'other side', and the 'right' side to boot, we are still talking about 'them' and 'they', and IMO this is the same self-congratulatory pit we found ourselves in before. We need to be careful to spend more time looking in the mirror than we do looking out the window.

Jay's picture

My wife and I caught http://www.amazon.com/Chronicles-Narnia-Wardrobe-Two-Disc-Collectors/dp/... ]The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe last night. As we were watching the movie, I was reminded of the greatness of God's love in volunteering to die for me (when we got to the part where Aslan voluntarily surrenders to the Witch in order to spare Edmund, even though his character isn't very lovable at all in the film). Then, of course, was the suffering and death of Aslan a little later.

I say all of that because I wonder about the relationships of "Fundamentalists" who can't admit that they screwed up, that they might be wrong, or that they must be followed at all cost...I wonder if they really understand where they came from before Christ, or if they ever really understood it. So much of what characterizes the bad behavior of Fundamentalists is so self-centered, just like Edmund's, and they just don't get it but yet claim to understand the gospel, preach it, and live it. It's almost like the more important or more powerful they get, the less the gospel and actual ministry matters.

"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

Joshua Louk's picture

Anne, I really appreciate this statement. It resonates with my heart.

"What makes it more confusing is the fact that, as I relax about *external* things that fundamentalism focused on or in many ways conveyed as being so very important, the more I have grown in my love of the true fundamentals, the more I have seen my own sin b/c it can't be covered up by being a good girl who obeys certain rules, and the more I have grown in my love for and understanding of the gospel and of God's love shown to us in Jesus Christ. It brings tears to my eyes."

Laurel

ChrisS's picture

Shaynus ][quote=Bob T. wrote:

Also, you made a post about what you considered harsh language and included examples. If that was not a joke and you considered those really as harsh language examples, then I would recommend you stay in bed all day and never go anywhere as the whole of society is too harsh for you.

You win. You're harsher than me and maybe even more sarcastic. Congratulations.

Bob T. wrote:

Please forgive me for not having paid much attention to your posts. However, I probably may continue to do so.

So it looks like you're not actually asking for forgiveness, and continue the sarcasm. I can't take this comment any other way.

Bob T. wrote:

I think one problem here on SI is that there are some who may be YF by background but are in reality now CEs (confused evangelicals) still trying to plug into Fundyism without having sufficient convictions. The result is they have more hang ups than the President's suit closet.

I'll try to be deliberately general, because I do not find myself personally offended here, and hopefully not an offender, either. In reviewing back through the posts, I find condescending comments, harsh statements, and a "real-close-to-the-line" way of phrasing some replies, from both "sides" of the thread (which has been discussed to some degree or another).

I admit, this format allows me to do nothing but read; I don't get to hear someone, see his/her face, read any non-verbal cues, I get that. So I must be careful to not mis-read, or specifically to try very hard to give a brother or sister the benefit of the doubt. And my "take" on a comment might also be indicative to me and where I stand on certain points and topics, so I try to understand what I already bring to the table with my understanding (hermeneutics of blogging, I suppose).

Perhaps when we are impassioned about God and His truth, conversations "need" to be a bit tense/adamant in the areas of disagreement, while trying very hard not to sin in the process. It is refreshing to "hear" people defend what they believe, even perhaps being properly angry, and I can only trust that most here have thought through and studied through the issues, and even considered the impact of their conclusions, most likely moreso than myself at this point of my walk.

Biblically though, I trust that those offended will seek out the offenders, gently rebuke as per Luke 17:3-4 , and that the offenders will repent and seek forgiveness, where that is applicable, and if that is applicable (that is, if people have truly felt offended personally). Several here have told others to apologize, and maybe that is our duty to help police each other, but neither do I want to talk someone into being offended when they weren't to begin with. And when we tell someone to ask for forgiveness, the preface is also that the gentle rebuke has occurred. Maybe others even see the harsher rebuke of Titus 1:10-14 in play, dealing with false teachers, and even that with the end goal of "...that they may be sound in the faith." The goal is to be the same, unity in truth, according to our Savior.

All this to say, harsh and bitter comments can be potential sources of casting a shadow over one position, just as condescension can be over another.

Shaymus, I thank you for the consideration of the young among the readers, who are trying hard to learn and absorb. I need to do more of that myself.

Anne Sokol's picture

Conservative standards: I would like to comment on this broadly in fundamentalism b/c it is one sphere where we, as a group, need to become more honest, educated, and articulate. This is one of, if not the main, reason we lose our "children."

First, I would like to describe a "conservative" Christian in Ukraine. This person is a pacifist (this means not only in war, but even in protecting your person and family), wears only black and white to church (no loud colors), uses no birth control, does not waste time engaging in sports or other physical activity, if a woman no make up, no jewelry (no wedding ring), long hair constantly worn up, head covering during church if not all the time, if a man, doesn't wear a tie (the "arrow to hell"), no computer, no internet, no TV, . . . and many other things. (Bikinis are OK, however, go figure.)

We think many of these things are bizzare, and I will say, in Ukrainian culture at large, they are also bizzare.

Now, we know that the purpose of conservative standards is so that we are not "worldly." Worldly is a slippery concept. And, after reading Martin Luther, I can better understand and articulate that performing certain external acts and standards cannot touch my inner man, cannot make my faith stronger or make my inner man freer. Only faith in the Son of God does that. Paul himself, if you look over the entirety of his NT books, was so all over, so everything to everyone in controversial ways at that time . . . Interesting that we do not discuss these things. . . .

One thing that really shook me up when I started thinking outside the fundy box was this: no one had ever asked me examine, for example, if I had a worldly view of money--I really struggled with this when I wanted a house. This is a normal desire, right? . . . Well, maybe not for me, and am I OK with that? No one had consistenly asked me to look at the sin in my heart--impatience, jealousy, etc.--it was mostly covered by externals. No one had ever said: I'm becoming more conservative and spending $20k to adopt an orphan. Or I'm becoming more conservative b/c God convicted me that I need to work in s*xual trafficking or help illegal immigrants.

I mean, I know that fundamentalists can sometimes engage in these things. But I think what I'm trying to say is that I discovered rather large spheres of God's concerns and character and morality that were not systematically taught to me in fundamentalism the way other, debatable points were emphasized and taught.

I'm not saying evangelicalism does this right--I honestly don't know. But the wider body of Christ has taught me these things. Like my Vineyard acquaintance who leads a s*xual trafficking ministry; my Mennonite friends who adopted special needs children through much poverty and hardship . . .

Are we systematically teaching our children to be concerned about major areas that God shows us over and over that He is concerned about? Are we teaching them to adapt to other cultures without judgment? I think, compared to the way we teach about personal standards, we are . . . ignoring (?) these areas.

I'm not sure I said it well, but I think I can go on with life now Wink Although now other things are rumbling around . . . I may be back.

Also, I wanted to say briefly, that if we, as fundamentalists, are going to have a doctrine of separation, we need to have a longer, more well-thought-out doctrine of unity. Maybe we need to have an enormous doctrine of unity. Maybe that could be a doctoral dissertation for someone Wink Or, as my mom says, just write the book Biggrin

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