Ernest Pickering on the Pitfalls of Separatists

quoteSeveral bloggers have recently addressed the subject of separation, suggesting that current leaders such as Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, and Tim Jordan are moving to a position that contradicts the teaching of an earlier generation of fundamentalists.

In reality, the leaders of the 1960s and 70s did not always agree on the best way to apply biblical teaching about separatism, either. Separatism then and now has always reflected a range of values, with good men differing on particulars as they responded to the issues of their era. For instance, Bob Jones Jr. and Bob Jones III were sharply critical of Pickering’s pamphlet “Baptist Principles Vs. Interdenominationalism.” They later faulted Pickering for accepting speaking engagements from organizations they considered to be new evangelical. The leaders eventually reconciled in the early 1990s, but had rarely spoken to each other for twenty years previous.

Disappointed with the rough-and-tumble disagreements of his era, Pickering concluded his seminal Biblical Separation with a critique of fundamentalism’s well-documented foibles—advice that would have saved us a lot of grief, had we listened. A portion of the book’s conclusion follows.

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The pitfallls of separatists

Separatists are human. They have sins. They are not perfect. While the matters about to be discussed are not problems exclusively for separatists, separatists are especially vulnerable to them by virtue of their unique position.

An improper spirit

It is possible to believe the right things, but to hold them and present them in the wrong way. Paul told us this when he spoke of those in Philippi who preached Christ “of envy and strife” and “of contention” (Phil. 1:15, 16). He was saying that he was happy for their message—Christ—but saddened by their spirit. Because separatists are in almost constant conflict in order to maintain their position against the tremendous attacks mounted against them, they can develop a spirit of bitterness and acrimony. They are under the gun most of the time, and this situation can take its toll. It is very important to be “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). On occasion, some separatists may be long on truth and short on love.

Over-occupation with the issues

The issues are matters related to the apostasy and the response of separation. Some preachers become specialists in exposing the apostasy. They become consumed with the negative. They fail to feed upon the Word themselves, and they fail, therefore, to feed their people. The pastor is to declare “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). This description means he must not major on any one theme, but must seek for a full orchestration of Biblical truth. In some separatist congregations, people starve for lack of wholesome food while their pastor rants about the issues.

Uncontrolled suspicion

Some separatists see a new evangelical under every bush and a compromiser in every other pulpit. They are constantly “uncovering the dirt” about other believers. They have just heard this, or they have just heard that. They see sinister meaning in perfectly innocent actions. It is this characteristic, probably more than any other, that is sometimes referred to by nonseparatists as part of the “separatist mentality.” We would not hesitate to confess that this characteristic could be used to describe some separatists. On the other hand, we believe that this characteristic is not the essence of separatism and that it would be most heartily repudiated by most separatist leaders.

We certainly ought not to be gullible nor should we be silent when it is required that we should speak. But we ought not to make the main emphasis of our ministry “detective work.” One can develop a suspicious attitude toward everyone that can militate against helpful interaction and constructive growth.

Certainly separatists should immerse themselves in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul made an interesting statement: Love “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (v. 7). Does this statement mean we should gullibly accept whatever we are told? Does it support the idea that we should accept everyone’s Christian profession with no questions asked? No. The thrust of this verse is that we should be optimistic, hopeful, and positive in our relationships toward others—not suspicious and distrustful. If, of course, individuals show themselves through repeated actions as unworthy of trust, then we are forced to make appropriate judgments.

We believe R. C. H. Lenski had a helpful observation when he said that love “refuses to yield to suspicions of doubt. The flesh is ready to believe all things about a brother and a fellow man in an evil sense. Love does the opposite.”1 Biblical separatists are people with strong convictions. They are resolute. They have something of Elijah, John, Paul, and Jude in their natures. The very traits God uses to make them strong must be controlled, or separation can turn to fragmentation.2

Incorrect labels

Not everyone from whom we would be called to separate is an apostate. Nor, on the other hand, would they all be new evangelicals or liberals. The terms “new evangelical” and “liberal” are sometimes loosely employed to characterize all with whom one disagrees or all who have some practice or method deviant from the fundamentalist norm. This is not an accurate usage of the term and is an example of the techniques that sometimes bring unnecessary derision upon the heads of separatists.

Gloating over failures

On occasion some separatists seem to view with glee the uncovering of some fault in another Bible-believing servant of God. We ought to weep and not rejoice. “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him” (Prov. 24:17, 18). If this should be our attitude toward our enemies, should it not be even more so toward our fellow believers? Paul warned his brethren “with tears” (Acts 20:31). Separatists could use a few more tears.

A desire to dominate

Separatists tend to produce some strong-willed leaders. In the conflicts of separatism, strength of will can be an asset; but it can also be a drawback. In the process of arriving at their positions of leadership, separatist leaders must guard against an insatiable desire to dominate everyone and everything and to build empires. If someone disagrees with us on some minor issue, we should resist the temptation to make a major issue of it, brand the offender as a new evangelical, and ostracize him from our fellowship. Separatists must ask God for humility. We do not know everything. We can yet learn from others. Our Lord was “meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). We ought to emulate Him.

Hasty rejection of offenders

All separatists have made mistakes of judgment. Good men who are trying to take a stand for righteousness sometimes become involved in something or with someone who may seem inconsistent with a separatist position. They may have someone visit their pulpit who, in the judgment of other separatists, is not taking a proper stand.

Separatists need to learn to distinguish between occasional lapses or misjudgments, which are part of the frailty of human nature, and patterns of consistent compromise. The former must be looked upon with some charity, while the latter is more serious and demands a stronger stance. We ought not to make a man “an offender for a word” (Isa. 29:21).

John Ashbrook has rightly stated:

It is easy to separate from a brother because he has a speaker we would not have, supports a mission we would not support or recommends a school we would not recommend…. I have had speakers, supported missions, and recommended schools that I would not have, support, or recommend today…. Be careful not to run up the red flag for every mistake or differing decision. Wait to see if it is a pattern.3

Caustic language

Some separatists have evidently tried to imitate Martin Luther and other controversialists of his age (and other ages) in employing rather strong, colorful, and pungent language about their evangelical brothers and sisters. It is true that the New Testament uses some rather strong language in reference to apostates. However, separatists need to employ caution and restraint when speaking of those who are our brethren but with whom we may disagree. Tongues and pens need to be controlled by the Spirit.

A young lady once approached me in tears. She had written to a separatist leader, expressing disagreement with him on a minor point. She received a three-page diatribe in reply (which she shared) in which the man called her names and used very strong language, professing horror that anyone would dare to disagree with him. I was extremely embarrassed, since the writer of the letter was a well-known figure. “My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (James 3:10). Being a fundamentalist and battling for the faith does not give one the right to ignore plain Scriptural commands to use speech that is pleasing to God. “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6). We are to be “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). We are to put away “evil speaking” and “malice” (v. 31). No improper words ever escaped the lips of our blessed Lord. Let this be our example.

Public instead of private rebuke

At times, matters of serious import must be discussed in public, and proponents of erroneous views must be exposed in public. On the other hand, some times public discussion is most certainly not in order. Some separatists take to the printed page with barbs, innuendoes, and castigations of their brethren without ever checking privately and carefully to see if they have the facts straight. If a personal grievance or a compromise (real or imagined) has occurred, they make no effort to correct it privately, but simply blast away in some public organ. Broadside attacks and startling revelations about the supposed shortcomings of other brethren may make readable copy (depending upon one’s tastes), but such an approach may not be the finest and most productive method of dealing with problems. This is especially true when one is dealing with other brethren who take the same general position as they do.

Overcoming pitfalls

The matters discussed here should not in any way become a cause for the repudiation of the doctrine of separation. It rests upon a solid foundation: the Word of God. No Biblical doctrine should ever be rejected because of the faults and foibles of its advocates. However, its advocates should humbly seek the face of God and inquire about how to improve their testimony before other believers and the world. I certainly do not agree with everything that the early Baptist leader John Smyth wrote, but I think all separatists could profit by reading his last book. In it he confessed the bad spirit that characterized some of his earlier debates; and, while still maintaining what he viewed as truth and defending his right to argue for it, he pled for a proper spirit in so doing.4

God is concerned not only with the truth that we hold, but also with the spirit with which we hold it. When we stand before the Lord someday, He will examine “the counsels of the hearts” (1 Cor. 4:5). God desires “truth in the inward parts” (Ps. 51:6). Our prayer should be, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Ps. 19:14). Our hearts must be pure before the Lord if we are to expect His blessing.

I have been involved in the separatist movement for many years. No finer group of men and women could be found anywhere, and my fellowship with them has been life-enriching and challenging. Most separatists, we believe, have a desire to do God’s will, to honor God’s Son, and to “adorn the doctrine of God” by a Spirit-filled life (Titus 2:10).

Notes

1 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961), 560.

2 John Ashbrook, Axioms of Separation (Painesville, OH: Here I Stand Books, n.d.), 20.

3 Ibid., 21.

4 John Smyth, The Last Book of John Smyth Called the Retraction of His Errours, and the Confirmation of the Truth.


Ernest D. Pickering (1928-2000) was a noted leader in American fundamentalism. He served in many roles during his years of ministry. He pastored several churches, served as president of Baptist Bible College and president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary as well as deputation director and, later, field representative for Baptist World Mission.

[node:bio/kevinm body]

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There are 35 Comments

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Thank you Kevin for sharing this. I remember reading this. I have some precious memories of being in a Pastor's meeting with Dr. Pickering near the end of his life. It was a moving time for those of us in that meeting. I believe he modeled the attitude that he challenged others to have in the battles for truth.

Meekness is part of the fruit of the Spirit. No wonder Paul told Timothy to exercise meekness in ministering to others.

rogercarlson's picture

Excellent article Kevin. It's a great reminder for all of us. I remember when I first read Dr. Pickering's book in college. I loved it, but was suprised that he was the president of BBC - at that point, I didnt think that "we" considered "them" a fundamental institution. Smile

I think your points are great for all of us on all sides. We can all be guilty of the pitfalls you mention. Often we are guilty of those.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Don Johnson's picture

Dr. Pickering's cautions are certainly correct. We would do well to heed his advice. But don't miss this line:

Ernest Pickering wrote:
Not everyone from whom we would be called to separate is an apostate. Nor, on the other hand, would they all be new evangelicals or liberals.

That is not what some are saying today.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Well, there's always "some" saying something. But if you're referring to Doran, Bauder, Olsen, Jordan, Davey, Olila, etc., I'm pretty sure they all believe in separating from disobedient brethren when conditions call for that and I've personally heard several of them affirm that.

So I don't think their position is "only neo evangelicals and apostates should be separated from." I haven't heard them say that.
Rather, accepting as a given that neo-evangelicals and apostates are to be separated from (but not in the same way--a "neo" is a brother!), they have asserted that some non-fundamentalists are not neo's or apostates and, therefore, in reference to these, separation is...
a. not a given, and
b. when separation is appropriate, not necessarily of the same kind as separation from new evangelicals.

I think the debate is healthy but we need to be clear about what we're opposing. In general, there's been quite a reckless labeling problem. I understand the appeal. It's alot less work to lump everybody who is different under one heading and treat them the same way.

jimfrank's picture

I subscribe to a well-known Fundamentalist publication and occasionally read a few Fundamentalist websites. I have even met the publisher of said publication and was impressed with his graciousness and generosity. But is seems that for every gracious separatist publisher there are numerous followers who think, "It's just you and me, brother, and I'm wondering about you." Such a party spirit! Furthermore, I've never understood their pre-occupation with Billy Graham. Just this week one of these websites led with a screed about Graham. Good grief, leave the poor man alone! He's 90 years old and has been in failing health for some time. Doubtlessly these separatists will take the opportunity to dance on his grave once he leaves the scene. The only thing it could possibly be is pure, unadulterated jealousy: "Bob Jones had his thousands and Billy Graham had his tens of thousands."

Ron Bean's picture

Thank you for posting this. I also had the privilege of sharing fellowship with Dr. Pickering. I also recall sharing this article with some fundamentalists who read it and then labeled Dr. Pickering as a border line neo-evangelical because of his statements.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Joel Tetreau's picture

People,

IMO - when "the" Dr. Pickering is viewed as being on the edge and close to "neo-evangelicalism," we have people who are smoking for more than just their health! Wowzers.

Kevin,

Great article my friend. Keep this kind of stuff coming from the GARBC archieves my man - keep it coming!

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
Quote:
Not everyone from whom we would be called to separate is an apostate. Nor, on the other hand, would they all be new evangelicals or liberals.

That is not what some are saying today.

Don,

Isn't this contradicting your point and supporting Bauder's? Kevin long been saying that there are people who are neither new evangelical nor fundamentalist and you seem to disagree. Pickering is saying there are people who are neither new evangelical nor fundamentalist and you seem to agree. So how is it that when Bauder and Pickering agree (if I understand them) you disagree with one and agree with other (if I understand you correctly).

Am I missing something here?

Dan Burrell's picture

Thanks for posting this. It was illuminating and even convicting. Sadly, I was still sucked into the vortex of the nuttiest branches of fundamentalism when Pickering was alive and at his best. There was much on which I could reflect from this article and I appreciate the opportunity to be exposed to these thoughts. Even those of us who have issues with the extreme separatists within today's fundamentalism would do well to consider some of the pitfalls listed here -- or at least I know I need to do so.

Dan Burrell Cornelius, NC Visit my Blog "Whirled Views" @ www.danburrell.com

KevinM's picture

I'm still thinking about these pitfalls and our goal to identify intemperate speech wherever it occurs. Even if it hurts.

In the early days of the GARBC, leaders tended to emphasize (maybe with too much pride) that they had separated from the Northern Baptist Convention faster than leaders from the Conservative Baptist movement. And when the FBFI rose from the ashes of the Conservative Baptist movement, some GARBC leaders took a not-so-subtle "I told you so" approach. In public.

Ironically, it was the FBFI leaders who later accused the GARBC of moving too slowly when separating from new evangelicalism. What goes around, comes around, I suppose.

The who-jumped-first, who-jumped-highest mentality seemed to foster the attitude of spiritual pride that Pickering discusses here.

Don Johnson's picture

To Aaron and Larry

First, I wanted to point out that Dr. Pickering was saying that separation might be demanded by the Scriptures, even if the man is not guilty of liberalism or neo-evangelicalism. He also seems to be saying that we have a tendency to throw around these labels too much. I would agree with that - we don't need to prove a man is a neo simply to justify separating from him.

Aaron mentions, among others, Dave Doran. I recently had a conversation with him at my blog where he seems to be limiting separation only to those categories. I get that sense from a few others, but I certainly got that sense from the conversation. The reason I said "some" is that perhaps I am still not understanding all Dave is saying. You can read it for yourself http://oxgoad.ca/2011/01/24/something-i-dont-understand/ here .

As for my disagreement with Bauder, I believe that he is wrong in so narrowly defining neo-evangelicalism as to limit it to the select few leaders and influence makers surrounding Graham, Ockenga, Christianity Today, and Fuller Seminary. I believe that evangelicalism today is essentially neo-evangelical in its basic philosophy, although some are somewhat aware of some of the neo-evangelical errors, and don't wish to repeat them. Nevertheless, even though I think neo-e is far more widely spread than Bauder thinks, I nevertheless agree with Pickering that there is more to separation than merely falling into one or the other of these categories.

Some are calling for separation from professing fundamentalists who would not fall into these categories, for example. In some cases, I would agree.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

JGHenderson's picture

Having become a biblical fundamentalist and sepratist by conviction, I've always appreciated anything Dr. Pickering
wrote and found such very helpful. My "latest and greatest" recommendation for outside reading is Dr. Peter
Master's STAND FOR THE TRUTH, from the Sword and Trowell at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, 36 pp. Try getting it in the
USA from the Wakeman Trust or Cumberland Valley Book Service. Masters deals with various arguments against
biblical separation from error and makes good practical applications, some uniquely from his British view and history
since the UK historically slipped directly from orthodoxy into modernism without a "fundamentalist movement". For
my "young fundy" friends, don't knock Masters and the Tabernacle. Having observed their ministry for 30 + years
, I feel they're "doing a job for God in a British way" as a "lighthouse in London". Captain Joe Henderson

gdwightlarson's picture

Have had Pickering's book for years. He spoke as a leader within the GARBC for most of his ministry. Seems to me he and some others succeeded in leading that association to put his words into practice. I only wish it had had even MORE influence, especially when he ministered in Minnesota (land of the "frozen chosen").

gdwightlarson

"You can be my brother without being my twin."

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

JGHenderson, thanks for that. I want to get my hands on that document. I think the British POV can be very helpful because their history has followed a similar yet different track over there and so their efforts to live separatism in a different setting might really help bring the difficulties involved into sharper focus.

Don wrote:
[Bauder is ] wrong in so narrowly defining neo-evangelicalism as to limit it to the select few leaders and influence makers surrounding Graham, Ockenga, Christianity Today, and Fuller Seminary. I believe that evangelicalism today is essentially neo-evangelical in its basic philosophy,

I'm not sure you've understood his definition accurately. He does have a narrower view than many, that's true, but doesn't limit it to the handful you suggest here.
Because of the term-decay, many have come to define "neo" to include so much that it doesn't. I think Kevin would agree that the "basic philosophy" is the issue, but would disagree with you on what the basic philosophy includes and how much of it you have to buy to really be a new evangelical.
A couple of points of similarity in philosophy does not a neo make.

Don Johnson's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I think Kevin would agree that the "basic philosophy" is the issue, but would disagree with you on what the basic philosophy includes and how much of it you have to buy to really be a new evangelical.
A couple of points of similarity in philosophy does not a neo make.

I agree, coincidental similarities don't make something the same thing. But widespread adoption of defining characteristics does make the same thing.

I agree that there was some brandishing of the term 'neo' so as to make it meaningless, but the fact remains that the evangelical world by and large adopted the methodology and philosophy of Billy Graham, Ockenga, Christianity Today, and Fuller. I grew up in an evangelical church in the 60s and 70s. They, and countless other groups, thought of Billy as the patron saint of evangelicalism. They were astonished that I would go to BJU and become so 'warped' in their thinking. Yet these people are Bible believers and orthodox in their theology. They are not isolated instances, they simply believe it is a good thing to reach out to other professing Christians, including liberals and Catholics, to eschew separation and so on. That all came from the influence of BG and the CT crowd.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Brent Marshall's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Aaron Blumer wrote:
I think Kevin would agree that the "basic philosophy" is the issue, but would disagree with you on what the basic philosophy includes and how much of it you have to buy to really be a new evangelical.
A couple of points of similarity in philosophy does not a neo make.

I agree, coincidental similarities don't make something the same thing. But widespread adoption of defining characteristics does make the same thing.

OK, so what are the defining characteristics of a neo-evangelical, as you are using the term?

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

Don Johnson's picture

Brent, I don't have my copy of Harold Lindsell's The Battle for the Bible in front of me, but Harold Ockenga in the Foreword to that book gave a list of characteristics. There are other sources for his thoughts on this, but as the father of New Evangelicalism, I'd say his definition trumps everyone else's.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Brent Marshall's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Brent, I don't have my copy of Harold Lindsell's The Battle for the Bible in front of me, but Harold Ockenga in the Foreword to that book gave a list of characteristics. There are other sources for his thoughts on this, but as the father of New Evangelicalism, I'd say his definition trumps everyone else's.
Sorry, but that does not answer the question.

Ockenga's forward is not as specific as you seem to recall. I pulled my copy of Lindsell's book from the shelf and read the forward several times. Ockenga talks about the birth of neo-evangelicalism through his 1948 address, which included a "ringing call for a repudiation of separatism." He provides two points of distinction from modernism and one from neo-orthodoxy. His two distinctions from fundamentalism are "its repudiation of separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day." He then lists some points that neo-evangelicals emphasized. While informative, this is not sufficient for definition. Thus, I do not think that Ockenga's forward provides enough information for us to determine consistently whether Ockenga would label Pastor A or Doctor B or Professor C as neo-evangelicals or otherwise.

More importantly, however, I was not asking about Ockenga's definition then. Rather, I am try to get at your definition now: the specifics by which to determine whether Pastor A or Doctor B or Professor C is a neo-evangelical as you are using the term in this thread. My concern is the vague use of terms, as Pickering addresses in the excerpt above:

Ernest Pickering wrote:
The terms “new evangelical” and “liberal” are sometimes loosely employed to characterize all with whom one disagrees or all who have some practice or method deviant from the fundamentalist norm. This is not an accurate usage of the term and is an example of the techniques that sometimes bring unnecessary derision upon the heads of separatists.

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

Don Johnson's picture

What is the point of discussing?

I think Ockenga's points are sufficient. If you won't accept it, that's not my problem.

The ABC individuals you suggest in broader evangelicalism generally exhibit those characteristics to one degree or another. Even the so-called conservatives have often have these characteristics as essential parts of their philosophy.

If you refuse to accept those characteristics as marks of new evangelicalism by the father of new evangelicalism, what else is there to say? That's an astonishing attitude.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Brent Marshall's picture

Don, perhaps you skimmed what I wrote a little too quickly. I did not say that I did not accept an answer. I said that Ockenga's foreword did not provide an answer to the question that I posed to you, and I endeavored to explain why it provides no answer. In other words, there is not yet an answer on the table for me to accept or reject.

Your reference to "marks of new evangelicalism" is a repetition of the same problem. The fact that neo-evangelicals believe XYZ does not necessarily mean that Pastor A who believes XYZ is himself a neo-evangelical. Consider the common BAPTIST acronym of so-called "Baptist distinctives." The "B" is said to stand for Biblical authority. However, not every Christian who believes in Biblical authority is a Baptist, so it is not a distinctive after all. To use your words, it is not a "defining characteristic."

Bottom line, my question still stands. If you pass on answering, that is your prerogative. But without you specifying the defining characteristics that you had in mind when you wrote, how can we understand what you meant, and how can we understand the points of disagreement that you have with the men you mentioned?

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

Don Johnson's picture

Brent, Wikipedia gives us this quote from the same source:

Wikipedia wrote:
In the foreword to The Battle For the Bible by Harold Lindsell, Ockenga further defined the term neo-evangelicalism:

"Neo-evangelicalism was born in 1948 in connection with a convocation address which I gave in the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena. While reaffirming the theological view of fundamentalism, this address repudiated its ecclesiology and its social theory. The ringing call for a repudiation of separatism and the summons to social involvement received a hearty response from many Evangelicals. ... It differed from fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas of life."

Here are his characteristics in point form:

  • A repudiation of fundamentalist ecclesiology and its social theory (this means a repudiation of separation and the idea that the church isn't called to address social concerns)
  • A call to social involvement
  • Engagement in theological dialogue (this means interaction with liberal scholarship without the combative critiques characteristic of fundamentalist interaction with liberal theologians)
  • Political and social engagement

These characteristics are quite clear in Lindsell's statement. By and large, evangelicalism, including conservatives, have accepted all of these marks and still practice them. Conservatives have begun to have some misgivings about the theological dialogue business, but they haven't sufficiently repudiated the new evangelical errors (and I count ALL of these marks to be errors) to warrant entering into partnership with them.

You can prate on about Lindsell's definition not being adequate. I think it is quite adequate. It is what I mean by the term, something I have said THREE times now. You don't appear to be willing to accept that answer.

That would mean that it is time to insert the Monty Python sketch about whether this is the room for the argument.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

KevinM's picture

Ernest Pickering wrote:
The new evangelical movement began years ago with what one astute observer aptly called a “mood.” Moods are difficult to define sometimes, but they nonetheless can be real and potent forces. Biblical Separation 2d Edition, 298.

David Wells wrote:
They distanced themselves from their rather rough and belligerent cousins by speaking of themselves as “neo-evangelicals.” The language was Carl Henry’s, though it has usually been credited to Harold Ockenga.” What was “neo” about them was that they would not be anti-intellectual, separatistic, legalistic, or culturally withdrawn. They shed fundamentalist uncouthness, earned Ph.D.’s from the fi nest universities, sat at the ecumenical table, dispensed for the most part with dispensational premillennialism, and loosed themselves from most cultural taboos.” The Compromised Church: The Present Evangelical Crisis, 19–34.

And while Rolland McCune's Promise Unfulfilled is a well-regarded comprehensive look at evanglicalism from a fundamentalist perspective, the author does not leave us with a crisp, pithy definition of "new evangelicals" -- he provides no "soundbyte" you would assign a freshman to memorize during that Intro to Fundyism class.

Pickering probably had it right. Moods are difficult to define.

Jay's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Here are his characteristics in point form:

  • A repudiation of fundamentalist ecclesiology and its social theory (this means a repudiation of separation and the idea that the church isn't called to address social concerns)
  • A call to social involvement
  • Engagement in theological dialogue (this means interaction with liberal scholarship without the combative critiques characteristic of fundamentalist interaction with liberal theologians)
  • Political and social engagement

I'm just musing aloud here - is it possible that what we're seeing as Young Fundys is actually a division between the old New Evangelical definition, which falls in between the two camps?

I see Young Fundys as:
1. Repudiating a flawed separation methodology and replacing it with another construct (that we see as) more Scripturally accurate
2. Realizing that Scripture does mandate some kind of social interaction, but not full time social involvement or preaching the social gospel
3. Demanding a more thorough theological hermeneutic and exegesis in order to drive 'dialogue' on hard issues rather than deferring to cultural norms and the 'Man of God' syndrome (My reference being to Fundy culture, not society culture)
4. Limited political and social engagement for the purposes of furthering the Gospel, rather than strictly working through the church to reach out.

Does that make sense?

"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

Don Johnson's picture

Jay C. wrote:
I'm just musing aloud here - is it possible that what we're seeing as Young Fundys is actually a division between the old New Evangelical definition, which falls in between the two camps?

Hi Jay

Well, I think there are some parallels. I would hesitate to call the mindset of YFs as 'new evangelicalism' at this point, because it isn't an exact parallel, however my concern is that the trajectory is similar. I am not saying that YFs will definitely become NEs, but that there are certainly some similarities. I think there are especially similarities in attitude, but that is more subjective and certainly a matter of opinion.

You seem to be trying to make your list parallel to mine above, but I think some of what you describe doesn't match the NE pattern, especially your point 3:

Jay C. wrote:
3. Demanding a more thorough theological hermeneutic and exegesis in order to drive 'dialogue' on hard issues rather than deferring to cultural norms and the 'Man of God' syndrome (My reference being to Fundy culture, not society culture)

You have to remember that 'dialogue' is a specific and technical term. It has to do with Hegelian philosophy and is one of the major problems the New Evangelicals had in their approach. To 'dialogue' assumes that both sides of a conversation have something to offer, and the result of the conversation is a synthesis, a new idea containing the good elements of both propositions. That is fine as long as you are having such a conversation with orthodox believers who differ, but when you are having your 'dialogue' with liberals (as the NEs did), you will damage orthodoxy by admitting the value of the liberal thesis.

So I wouldn't say that 'demanding a more theological hermeneutic and exegesis' is on a parallel with 'Engagement in theological dialogue' in my list above. I don't think that YFs are proposing dialogue with liberals. This is probably a major reason to NOT label YFs as NEs, at least not at this point.

I would say the fruit of NE dialogue is seen in a majority of evangelical commentaries today, where serious thought and credence is given to many liberal ideas. One example that comes to mind is Schreiner's commentary on Romans where in his comments on chapter 4 and the quotation by Paul of David's Psalm 51, he says something like this: "It doesn't matter if David actually wrote Psalm 51." (I'm writing on a ferry right now and don't have access to my library!) Comments like this show the evangelical tendency to give credence to liberal ideas. You can see this over and over again in evangelical commentaries.

Of course, I would probably debate that YFs are actually demanding a more theological hermeneutic and exegesis, but that is another issue!

And last, yes, your thinking out loud makes sense to me, anyway.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Jay C. wrote:
3. Demanding a more thorough theological hermeneutic and exegesis in order to drive 'dialogue' on hard issues rather than deferring to cultural norms and the 'Man of God' syndrome (My reference being to Fundy culture, not society culture)

You have to remember that 'dialogue' is a specific and technical term. It has to do with Hegelian philosophy and is one of the major problems the New Evangelicals had in their approach. To 'dialogue' assumes that both sides of a conversation have something to offer, and the result of the conversation is a synthesis, a new idea containing the good elements of both propositions. That is fine as long as you are having such a conversation with orthodox believers who differ, but when you are having your 'dialogue' with liberals (as the NEs did), you will damage orthodoxy by admitting the value of the liberal thesis.


Yes, and that's probably the weakest point that I tried to make. I think that YF's aren't trying to engage in "dialogue" in the philosophical give and take sense of the word, but they are trying to understand more details of what they believe, and that's a process that involves questioning inherited positions, beliefs, and ideas...which might make it look like they are 'dialoging' simply because these are philosophical foundations that hadn't been examined/questioned before our time.

Of course, I'll continue to disagree with you that the overall trajectory is bad...but time will tell.

"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

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Don made the observation earlier that the evangelicals he was among growing up were big fans of Billy Graham and what he was doing. That's certainly not hard to believe and I've met quite a few fans as well. But those I've met--and I suspect many of those whom Don knew--were not true new evangelicals becuase,
a) They never really thought much at all about the practice of partnering with gospel-denying liberal denominations in the crusades and routing aisle-walkers back into these churches.
b) They never actually participated in any Graham event, sent money, or in any other way failed to "separate"

So, being a Billy fan is not synonymous with new evangelicalism either. The NEs were guys who thought about separatism and consciously rejected it (in any meaningful sense), not people who just got excited about crowds hearing the gospel and backed it enthusiastically without much reflection.

Most non-fundamentalist evangelicals I know personally haven't thought about separation at all. So they are in many ways the product of new evangelicalism, but are not aware of its principles.

But the truth is, none of us have any way of really measuring what % of today's evangelicals are or are not new evangelicals. This really reinforces why the category/acronym approach to separation that many attempted in the 70's and 80's can't really work and a case-by-case approach is much more fair, practical and defensible.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Don,

Your definition of new evangelical through the eyes of Ockenga compelled me to pull out Joel Carpenter's "Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism, which goes into depth about the 1930's and 1940's including the birth of new evangelicalism. While Ockenga might be the father of new evangelicalism, and his words should be one of the main voices describing new evangelicalism, he definitely should not be the only one, because there was much more diversity of views among the leaders of new evangelicalism. Carpenter not only exposes some of the striking differences and similarities between Ockenga, Wilber Smith, Billy Graham, and Carl F.H. Henry, but he also shows some of the differences and similarities of responses from different protestant (evangelical-type) denominations to the some of the changes that were taking place in the 1930's, 1940's and early 1950's.

I would hope that if someone was describing Christian fundamentalism since the 1950's that they would not limit themselves to one prominent Christian fundamentalist leader's definition of it.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
Most non-fundamentalist evangelicals I know personally haven't thought about separation at all. So they are in many ways the product of new evangelicalism, but are not aware of its principles.

But the truth is, none of us have any way of really measuring what % of today's evangelicals are or are not new evangelicals. This really reinforces why the category/acronym approach to separation that many attempted in the 70's and 80's can't really work and a case-by-case approach is much more fair, practical and defensible.

Good Point!

Don Johnson's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
But those I've met--and I suspect many of those whom Don knew--were not true new evangelicals becuase,
a) They never really thought much at all about the practice of partnering with gospel-denying liberal denominations in the crusades and routing aisle-walkers back into these churches.
b) They never actually participated in any Graham event, sent money, or in any other way failed to "separate"

On point a), well, yes, most people don't think much about much of anything. There is a term "sheeple" for a reason.

On point b), I have to disagree. While our area never attracted Billy Graham himself, I remember his brother-in-law and team member, Leighton Ford, holding a Crusade in Edmonton. We packed cars carrying people to hear him. We lived 90 miles away. In addition, my local church while I was growing up was involved in the World Day of Prayer. Sometime this was held at the Catholic Church. Sometimes at the United Church (a thoroughly modernistic church almost from its inception in the early 1900s).

I will grant that many of the locals never thought much about whether they should participate in such things or not. I guarantee you that leadership in our church and in the denomination as a whole were aware of the issues and CHOSE to cast their lot with ecumenism. I am pretty confident that my experience was repeated over and over again all over the United States and Canada. These things happened because of the INFLUENCE of the New Evangelical leadership in Evangelicalism.

You can try to limit your definition to those who were on the 'inside', to the Billy Graham cabal if you like, but the fact is that most of evangelicalism - the vast majority of it, outside of isolated small pockets of it - adopted the new evangelical philosophy as the new way to fly. I can remember people being quite giddy about 'now we can work with Catholics, isn't that great'.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
But the truth is, none of us have any way of really measuring what % of today's evangelicals are or are not new evangelicals. This really reinforces why the category/acronym approach to separation that many attempted in the 70's and 80's can't really work and a case-by-case approach is much more fair, practical and defensible.

Well, I hear what you are saying and maybe there are some who just want neat and convenient labels so they know who the enemy is and who our friends are, but I think that is a pretty dismissive attitude towards a lot of preachers all over North America who decided to take the road less traveled by.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:
Carpenter not only exposes some of the striking differences and similarities between Ockenga, Wilber Smith, Billy Graham, and Carl F.H. Henry, but he also shows some of the differences and similarities of responses from different protestant (evangelical-type) denominations to the some of the changes that were taking place in the 1930's, 1940's and early 1950's.

True, these men each had their individual persuasions and there were differences between them. But it ISN'T the differences that made them neo-evangelicals, it was the similarities.

Also, not sure if Carpenter's book is a thorough enough source on this, since neo-evangelicalism was only in its most incipient form in the period you describe. Neo-evangelicalism really didn't get going until the late 50s.

Joel Shaffer wrote:
I would hope that if someone was describing Christian fundamentalism since the 1950's that they would not limit themselves to one prominent Christian fundamentalist leader's definition of it.

Well, I think we would have to admit that fundamentalism has been a much more diverse group than neo-evangelicalism. They shared some characteristics, but they were all quite different from one another. The neo-e's however, were much more tightly focused on eschewing what they saw to be the bad influences/characteristics of fundamentalism. The major leaders joined together with a purpose and a will to overthrow the fundamentalist ethos. They largely succeeded.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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