Fighting the Bantam Roosters: Baptist Fundamentalism Still Grapples with Its Colorful Heritage

Ninety years ago we gave ourselves a name: Fundamentalists.

“We suggest that those who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal for the great fundamentals shall be called ‘Fundamentalists,’” wrote Curtis Lee Laws in the July 1, 1920 issue of the Watchman-Examiner, a Baptist newspaper with loose ties to the Northern Baptist Convention.

And 90 years later, we still discuss the implications of the Fundamentalist label. Back then, the issues seemed crystal clear: either you believed the Bible was true, or you didn’t. Simple to articulate and easy to defend, the idea of Fundamentalism was expressed as core doctrinal beliefs. Lines were drawn. Positions were staked. Ink was spilt, often.

But language is elastic, meaning is elusive, and sometimes words just wear out.

In an era when the media uses “fundamentalist” to describe suicide bombers and child molesters, is it wise for Baptist churches to continue using the term? Does the label still describe a simple set of historic beliefs, or has it come to mean a complicated system of dress codes and organ music, five simple ideas fractured by six degrees of separation?

If we all believe the same thing, why can’t we get along?

These were the issues that were addressed in the “Resolution on Revitalizing Biblical Fundamentalism” passed unanimously by messengers to the 2010 GARBC Conference on June 22 in Schaumburg, Ill. The resolution attempts to summarize several years of realignment among various Baptist groups that splintered in the 1970s. “While we recognize that the term has suffered at the hands of our critics and society at large, we can think of no other term that adequately reflects the heritage and the position of those who have historically stood for the truth of God’s Word,” the resolution says.

The resolution also calls on GARBC churches to “initiate relationships among fundamentalists where barriers have existed due to misunderstanding or political expedience, in a spirit of kind affection and brotherly love, in honor preferring one another.” While questions of inter-church cooperation have sometimes been difficult for Fundamentalists to answer, the resolution asks churches to “establish networks of labor and ministry to meet the challenges of the future, equipping older organizations for the present task where possible, or establishing new ministries where restoration of the old is either impossible or inadvisable.”

James Maxwell, president of Faith Baptist Bible College and member of the GARBC Council of Eighteen, drafted the resolution, assisted by Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. (“Doctor Maxwell wrote 99 percent of it,” Bauder says. “He’s been thinking about this for a long time.”) Maxwell also consulted with George Houghton, retired dean of education at Faith Baptist Bible College; and several GARBC pastors, including Tom Alexander, Bryan Augsburger, and David Strope.

“It’s been my desire to see the structures of Fundamentalism rebuilt,” Maxwell said to the GARBC Council of Eighteen when the proposed resolution was discussed a day before its vote. “Fundamentalist unity really started to deteriorate in earnest in 1977, when John R. Rice tried to put together the largest meeting of Fundamentalists ever, at Cobo Hall in Detroit.”

But Rice ended up inviting people who were not historic Fundamentalists, Maxwell says, and as a result, the GARBC and several other groups pulled out. “Since that day I believe the infrastructure of Fundamentalism has been fissured,” Maxwell told the council.

In a later interview with the Baptist Bulletin, Maxwell offered another reason for Fundamentalist rifts.

“I grew up on a farm. My father owned one bantam rooster, an extremely colorful and gorgeous bird. He was beautiful—and he knew it!”

“Back in the 1970s, Fundamentalism became a bantam rooster scratching in the barnyard dirt. We ended up separating over personalities and politics. If you weren’t sufficiently abrasive and in-your-face, you weren’t worthy of being called a Fundamentalist,” Maxwell says.

For the past several years, John Greening has been leading the GARBC to patch up some of the fissures caused by the bantam roosters. “There are other independent Baptists who share our convictions. I want to make new friends with them,” Greening said during his annual address as national representative to the conference messengers. “The GARBC is not a closed club. The speakers we have had at our conference last year, this year, and will have next year, are indicative of that.”

One such example is Tim Jordan, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Lansdale, Pennsylvania. He arrived at the conference a day before he was scheduled to preach, just to hang out and hear the other preachers, meet people, and rub shoulders with ministry leaders he knew from other places. And Tim freely admits his outsider status.

Old-timers called Tim’s dad “Chief,” as in, the chief of a different tribe of Baptist Fundamentalists, one that rarely intersected with the GARBC. Now pastoring what was once his father’s church, Tim no longer sees a lot of difference between the two groups.

“So, why is it that we weren’t fellowshipping sooner?” Tim asked before his sermon on Wednesday of the conference, pronouncing his words with at least a little sarcasm—and exasperation. “So … what was the difference?”

Jordan made it clear that he is all for the recent change of mood among Baptists, calling it “an enormous ‘Duh.’”

“So, yeah, kind of like amazing,” Tim says of the conference week. “It has been a joy to be here and I want to thank all of those involved in allowing me to come.”

And the dress codes, the organ music, the war over Bible translations? Jordan addressed these during an afternoon workshop, making a clear distinction between the baggage of cultural fundamentalism and the ideas of historic Fundamentalism.

“If we produce ‘biblical’ reasons for cultural fundamentalism, they [the young Fundamentalists] know you are lying,” Jordan said. “And why do they know you are lying? It’s because you are!”

Jordan stressed the idea of historic Fundamentalism as a way of defending the movement’s ideas to younger pastors and seminary students. “They’re not going to do the ‘emperor’s clothes’ thing anymore,” Jordan said of the young leaders, suggesting “they won’t leave if you don’t lie to them!”

Dan Davey, pastor of Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was keynote speaker for the GARBC conference. Like Tim Jordan, Davey leads a congregation that is also not in the GARBC, but he agrees with Tim’s summary of the week, and his definition of Fundamentalism.

“I’m a historic Fundamentalist and I use that term a lot with my church,” Davey says, feeling comfortable using the term “as long as you read it from my dictionary.” Both he and Jordan credit consistent expository preaching as their main teaching tool. “Our pulpits are a treasure from the Lord,” Davey says. “In our pulpit, we can provide the definition for our terms. We are a Baptist church—here’s what that means. We are historic Fundamentalists—here’s what that means.”

But Davey also warns of the complicated road ahead for Baptist Fundamentalists who attempt to restate a common set of beliefs—starting with nuanced terminology that can cause some regional confusion. “I would never use the phrase ‘biblical Fundamentalism’ with my congregation,” Davey says, referring to the title of the recently passed GARBC resolution. For Baptist Fundamentalists in the South, the phrase “biblical Fundamentalism” usually means a particular brand of KJV-only church, Davey says.

Having studied with Richard Clearwaters at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, Davey arrived in Virginia Beach still calling himself a “biblicist” (Clearwaters’ preferred label). But Davey discovered that “biblicist” didn’t work so well for Baptists in the South, what with Pat Robertson just a few miles down the road, famously calling himself a … biblicist. So Davey learned to adjust the terminology he uses, patiently teaching his congregation a new dictionary to replace preconceived notions.

Evangelicals who are reading over our shoulder at this point may feel tempted to gloat about the Fundamentalist identity crisis—until they recall their own struggles over labels. Having dropped the “neo” tag long ago, evangelicals adopted lifeless adjectives like “ecumenical,” an optimistic word describing their willingness to cooperate with anyone and everyone in mass evangelism. Kevin Bauder once described this misstep as “more and more people being converted to less and less Christianity.”

Haunted by their own unfulfilled promise, some evangelicals began adding adjectives such as “conservative” to clarify their intention to build orthodox, gospel-centered churches. And David Wells, writing in The Courage to Be Protestant, suggested “evangelical” may have outlived its usefulness. “Despite its honorable pedigree, despite its many outstanding leaders both past and some in the present, and despite many genuine and upright believers who think of themselves as evangelical, it may now have to be abandoned,” Wells said of the term.

Organizations such as the Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel, and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals made enormous strides in distancing themselves from the excesses of their own movement. Carefully articulating a set of doctrinal beliefs, the conservative evangelicals then did a curious thing: they distanced themselves from other Christians who were disorderly in conduct and doctrine.

Over in our neck of the woods, we would call it “separation,” but that term had its baggage, too.

“After 1960, biblical separation became a badge of honor that replaced Bible exposition in the pulpits,” Davey says, choosing his words carefully. As a younger pastor, Davey was mentored by Ernest Pickering, the author of Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church. Davey continues to affirm Pickering’s ideas about so-called “secondary separation” (another label!). But Davey also warns that the right separation idea, wrongly coupled with a misapplied cultural fundamentalism, could well destroy the movement. The key, for Davey, is a return to expository preaching and doctrinal clarity, the sort of pulpit ministry that was consistently modeled during the recent GARBC Conference.

John Greening emphasized the same thing when addressing the conference messengers. “I want doctrinally compatible churches and ministries to feel comfortable and confident enough in the GARBC to say that they have found in us a new friend. We should cultivate relationships for fellowship, but also for ministry initiatives such as publishing, training church leaders, global missions, and assisting stateside church planting.”

Meanwhile, James Maxwell is already at work. “Today we are seeing coalitions that would not have been possible 20 years ago,” he told the Council of Eighteen earlier in the week. He should know. One such coalition is the proposed merger between his school, Faith Baptist Bible College, and Bauder’s school, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Plymouth, Minn. Other signs of growing Fundamentalist cooperation include the annual Men for Christ rallies, local efforts to support Baptist social agencies, annual meetings of the Bible Faculty Leadership Summit, and support of Baptist missionaries by churches in several different Baptist fellowships.

“I believe there needs to be a voice for biblical Fundamentalism that is broader than our own fellowship of churches,” James Maxwell told the Council of Eighteen. And despite Fundamentalism’s long history of bantam roosters, no one on the council looked particularly surprised.

In Tim Jordan’s words, the idea is “an enormous ‘Duh.’”


Kevin Mungons is managing editor of the Baptist Bulletin and editorial director of publications for Regular Baptist Press (Schaumburg, IL). He has previously ministered as an associate pastor and a high school music teacher. He and his wife, Carla, have ten children and live near Chicago. This essay will appear in the September/October issue of the Baptist Bulletin. See www.BaptistBulletin.org for links to 2010 GARBC Conference audio, photo galleries, and conference stories.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks for the article, Kevin... and happy 90th birthday to Fundamentalism, I guess.

Quote:
Does the label still describe a simple set of historic beliefs,

I don't think it ever was a simple set of historic beliefs but I do believe it was a simple set of beliefs + a determination to fight for them and/or separate in order to preserve them. And there's no doubt that much got added on and lumped in later.

I also don't think it's possible to be Fundamentalist without reference to culture. That is, the fundamentals have cultural implications. So biblical fund. will always be "cultural" in that sense. The error has not been that people applied Scripture by drawing lines in response to the world we live in. Rather the error has been failing to recognize that a whole lot of these are matters of liberty of conscience and the work of discerning our positions on them begins where Scripture ends. It's still important work, but it's very different work from expounding Scripture... and it's always on the other side of that important line between Scripture and not-Scripture.

But more to the point, I think it's great that GARBC is reaching out and especially great that it's reaching out toward it's "right," so to speak. Healthy fundamentalism is just too small to thrive in little isolated bits. Need to stick together. I personally hope that more of this reaching out will be reciprocated by other "centers of Fundamentalist identity" like colleges, seminaries, camps, mission boards, other fellowships and associations. We have real foes to fight together.

Rob Fall's picture

Back in the day, say the 30s (when the GARBC separated from the NBC) 'til the early 60s (when the FBF separated from the CBA) the GARBC looked at the men of what became the FBF\CBA as compromisers for staying in the convention until the late 40s. By the time, the FBF men (Cedarholm, the Wenigar brothers, et al.) had separated from the CBA in the mid-60s, the two groups had developed sufficient differences that precluded their joining together organically.
IIRC, Jordan, Sr. was called Chief because of his service in the US Navy. So, the Chief is Chief as in Chief Petty Officer. Can you name another of his peers with a tattoo on his forearm (an anchor IIRC)?

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

I appreciate the leadership of the GARBC in this - great resolution!

Greg Long's picture

yes, Yes, YES!!! So glad to know this is happening; sorry I missed the conference.

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

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Jeff Brown's picture

Nice Article, Kevin. Thanks for giving us a good idea of all that was going on as this was formulated.

Jeff Brown

Jay's picture

Quote:
One such example is Tim Jordan, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Lansdale, Pennsylvania. He arrived at the conference a day before he was scheduled to preach, just to hang out and hear the other preachers, meet people, and rub shoulders with ministry leaders he knew from other places. And Tim freely admits his outsider status.

Old-timers called Tim’s dad “Chief,” as in, the chief of a different tribe of Baptist Fundamentalists, one that rarely intersected with the GARBC. Now pastoring what was once his father’s church, Tim no longer sees a lot of difference between the two groups.

“So, why is it that we weren’t fellowshipping sooner?” Tim asked before his sermon on Wednesday of the conference, pronouncing his words with at least a little sarcasm—and exasperation. “So … what was the difference?”

Jordan made it clear that he is all for the recent change of mood among Baptists, calling it “an enormous ‘Duh.’”

“So, yeah, kind of like amazing,” Tim says of the conference week. “It has been a joy to be here and I want to thank all of those involved in allowing me to come.”

And the dress codes, the organ music, the war over Bible translations? Jordan addressed these during an afternoon workshop, making a clear distinction between the baggage of cultural fundamentalism and the ideas of historic Fundamentalism.

“If we produce ‘biblical’ reasons for cultural fundamentalism, they [the young Fundamentalists ] know you are lying,” Jordan said. “And why do they know you are lying? It’s because you are!”

Jordan stressed the idea of historic Fundamentalism as a way of defending the movement’s ideas to younger pastors and seminary students. “They’re not going to do the ‘emperor’s clothes’ thing anymore,” Jordan said of the young leaders, suggesting “they won’t leave if you don’t lie to them!”


SOMEONE out there gets it. This is very exciting, and I'm sorry that I missed the conference and speakers if this was the thrust of the conference. Praise the Lord!

"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

gdwightlarson's picture

Some of you remember the "Forgiveness Project" from 15 years ago or so. It may not have made a real big gospel dent, but one of the men who got that ball rolling was James Maxwell. I'm pretty sure he wrote the gospel tract that was used for it. I've known him for almost 30 years and have appreciated all the "discussions" we had in which his gentle, flexible spirit was evident. We may still have some cultural issue differences but I credit him and some others with keeping us GARBC guys who were getting "restless" from walking away. The year's conference WAS full of good "food", but even more so, full of good "fellowship". When I attended a Men For Christ rally a few years ago, Tim Jordan (who'd attended Pillsbury a few years behind me, and whom I'd not seen for decades) came across a foyer to say hello to me. Didn't think he even remembered me. I was surprised and impressed.
Psalm 133:1-3; Ephesians 4:1-6

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

gdwightlarson

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
if this was the thrust of the conference.

No, it wasn't the thrust, I wouldn't say (I was there for the week). The focus was on the greatness and sovereignty of God and the book of Daniel, especially. And I think that's significant as well. Whatever future "fundamentalism as such" has, it's not going to be in focusing on itself. This is one of the things that has been killing it... when fundamentalism became about fundamentalism and little more. So the conference & the GARBC attitude has been encouraging on that point as well. Not ignoring fundamentalism, but not focusing on it either. The focus is on serving God as churches and working together in whatever ways seem prudent and helpful.

Jay's picture

Aaron, do you know if there were any plans to release the audio on a website for download?

"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

KevinM's picture

Jay--

Here's a link for all [URL=http://baptistbulletin.org/?p=9290 ]twelve conference sermons[/URL ]

The comments by Dr. Jordan before his Wednesday sermon are notable.

Rumor has it that the IT guys are also going to post the video; I'll let you know if that happens.
We also have the video from the afternoon workshop with Dr. Davey and Dr. Jordan, which is quite interesting. I'll see if maybe we can get that posted, too.

Ron Bean's picture

As a former pastor of a GARBC church, I'm greatly encouraged. I remember the exclusive mentality that was prevalent in the GARBC years ago. At my ordination council I was asked if I planned to be loyal to the GARBC and heard concern expressed because I hadn't attended a GARBC school and had fundamentalist friends who were not in the GARBC.

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

JonBeight's picture

Thanks for the encouraging report.

_____________________________________________
Jon Beight
Twin Lakes Camp & Conference Center
Hillsboro, Indiana

DJ Lowrance's picture

I praise the Lord for these men, who are bringing common sense back to fundamentalism, and most of all bringing the principle that the Text is king. As a student at Central Seminary in Virginia Beach and a member under Pastor Daniel's (Dr. Davey) ministry, these are not just words he is giving at this conference, but a life of humility and the grace philosophy of ministry that is genuinely lives out and preaches to the congregation he serves at Colonial and the students at Central (VB).

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself also in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Don Johnson's picture

Quote:
Organizations such as the Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel, and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals made enormous strides in distancing themselves from the excesses of their own movement. Carefully articulating a set of doctrinal beliefs, the conservative evangelicals then did a curious thing: they distanced themselves from other Christians who were disorderly in conduct and doctrine.

Can this paragraph be documented, especially in light of John Piper's cosy relationship with Mark Driscoll and now Rick Warren and Mark Dever's praise of Acts 29 (Driscoll) and John MacArthur's Resolved Conference and...

The list goes on.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Well, for one, you have MacArthur's thorough criticism of Driscoll's puplit habits, especially re. Song of Solomon. http://beforefoundation.com/2009/04/macarthur-addresses-driscolls-handli...

Mac on Manhattan Declaration: http://www.shepherdsfellowship.org/pulpit/Posts.aspx?ID=4444

I'm sure you can find several CEs decrying the whole "Purpose Driven" phenomenon as well as seeker-church-growth-ism in general.

(I would add that the whole reason for T4G, GC, ACE etc. was to orchestrate a return to clarity about the gospel within an evangelicalism that has lost sight of it. I think you'll find rhetoric to that affect in their founding/promotional writing.)

KevinM's picture

Don, I think it's an interesting question to watch--and I think it should be watched. [Another SI frequent reader sent me an email with the same question ]

My goal in writing those paragraphs was to show that evangelicals struggle with the same kinds of issues that befuddle fundamentalists. Can we define and articulate our own position? Can we implement it consistently and graciously?

For instance, in the Gospel Coalition's foundational documents, the framers said, "We have become deeply concerned about some movements within traditional evangelicalism that seem to be diminishing the church’s life and leading us away from our historic beliefs and practices." You can pretty easily find similar statements made by leaders of the other two organizations. So, yes, I think it is fair to evaluate these organizations on the basis of their stated position--and to commend that which is commendable.

Have they fulfilled their stated objectives consistently? It's a fair question.

Have we? [Another fair question, I think. ]

Don Johnson's picture

Where any Christian takes an appropriate stand against worldliness and ungodliness is certainly worthy of note.

But the push in these commendations from some sources seems to be something along these lines: "See, the Conservative Evangelicals are becoming like us, no need for any more division." Some modify that by saying, "less division."

But really, what does it prove if someone is willing to speak against the errors of Driscoll, as MacArthur has, yet at the same time is quite willing to engage in similar errors like the Resolved Conference, as MacArthur does. Talk is cheap. Can you spell hypocrisy?

I am not attempting to make the claim that Fundamentalists are pure as the driven snow. We certainly have our own problems. But we shouldn't be naive and think that the Conservative Evangelicals are almost nearly becoming just like us in so many ways. If you read their own writings about Fundamentalists, you will see that they get where we are different and repudiate our position as unacceptable. They may be tightening up some of their standards in comparison to other evangelicals, but they are not becoming fundamentalists.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
the push in these commendations from some sources seems to be something along these lines: "See, the Conservative Evangelicals are becoming like us, no need for any more division." Some modify that by saying, "less division."

Can this statement be documented? Smile

I'll concede that I think I've read the equivalent of "less division" in one place or another. Though what I've seen from Bauder, for example, is not "let's have less division" but rather "less division exists than many seem to suppose" (paraphrasing). That is, there is division that exists or doesn't exist objectively, then there is "division" in the form of what we choose to not do together. I don't think it can be denied that objective unity exists wherever you have people who are truly believe the gospel and are seriously fighting for it.

About Resolved conference... one of the many examples of evangelical lack of discernment about where we are as a culture. But fundamentalists have their own versions of cultural cluelessness. I don't think we have to embrace either the evangelical version or the fundamentalist version.

Don Johnson's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Quote:
the push in these commendations from some sources seems to be something along these lines: "See, the Conservative Evangelicals are becoming like us, no need for any more division." Some modify that by saying, "less division."

Can this statement be documented? Smile

I'll concede that I think I've read the equivalent of "less division" in one place or another. Though what I've seen from Bauder, for example, is not "let's have less division" but rather "less division exists than many seem to suppose" (paraphrasing).

Is that last a distinction without a difference?

For some documentation of the first point, see, I think, [URL=http://weblog.wordcentered.org/archives/2007/08/04/the_emerging_middle.php ]this[/URL ] and [URL=http://sharperiron.org/2006/11/15/three-lines-in-the-sand-part-3 ]this [/URL ](and the related posts). It isn't really hard to find people advocating these changes.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
But really, what does it prove if someone is willing to speak against the errors of Driscoll, as MacArthur has, yet at the same time is quite willing to engage in similar errors like the Resolved Conference, as MacArthur does. Talk is cheap.

Can you specifically explain why you think MacArthur's Resolved conference is similar to Driscoll's indulgence in sensual language in Song of Songs?

Don Johnson's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:
Quote:
But really, what does it prove if someone is willing to speak against the errors of Driscoll, as MacArthur has, yet at the same time is quite willing to engage in similar errors like the Resolved Conference, as MacArthur does. Talk is cheap.

Can you specifically explain why you think MacArthur's Resolved conference is similar to Driscoll's indulgence in sensual language in Song of Songs?

The music of the Resolved Conference represents the same basic philosophy with respect to sensual cultural expressions. One is more overt because it is language, the other is a little more subtle because it is music. But the cultural accommodation is essentially the same.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Joel Shaffer's picture

Don,

By assuming that the music played at Resolved is sensual in nature, aren't you being influenced more by cultural fundamentalism that historic fundamentalism? Throughout history the church has always resisted cultural change when it came to music. When Gregorian chants were being sung in the middle ages, there were certain R.C. bishops and priests that wouldn't allow certain pitches (major and minor 3rds and 6ths, rather than perfect 4ths and 5ths) to be allowed because it was thought to be worldly and sensual in nature. Issac Watts was accused of being worldly by his contemporaries, and the list goes on and on. I guess I am curious as to what makes Resolved music sensual and worldly as apposed to the music that you have in your church?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Suggest starting a (nother) music thread rather than getting any further into it in this one. But "assuming" is not the right word, in any case. It asserts that the evaluation has not been made thoughtfully.

Don Johnson's picture

Joel, if you can't see what makes the music of Resolved worldly, nothing can help you.

So let me point out some other errors of MacArthur et al that are to the point. To review the point I am bringing up, I am discussing Kevin Mongon's paragraph:

Quote:
Organizations such as the Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel, and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals made enormous strides in distancing themselves from the excesses of their own movement. Carefully articulating a set of doctrinal beliefs, the conservative evangelicals then did a curious thing: they distanced themselves from other Christians who were disorderly in conduct and doctrine.

I am pointing out areas where the so-called conservative evangelicals are hypocritical in any "distancing" they are making with some who are disorderly in conduct and doctrine. They say conservative things in some cases, but either say or do things that are still disorderly in these two areas.

So let's consider MacArthur again... the author of Charismatic Chaos who regularly cooperates with Charismatics. Or Al Mohler, who signs the Manhattan Declaration (and who cooperates with Billy Graham). BTW, MacArthur will make noises about Billy Graham's compromises and refused to participate in Graham's last crusade in LA, but then goes and speaks at Graham's conference center, The Cove, and published at least one article in Decision magazine since that last LA conference.

As I said earlier, the list goes on and on.

And this same group, these conservatives, are going to make clear statements dismissing the fundamentalist position on these types of issues as "too narrow, too separatistic, too divisive" etc.

So my point is that their alleged distancing of themselves "from other Christians who were disorderly in conduct and doctrine" is a hypocritical sham.

Finally, please note that I am not conceding anything about the wickedness of the Resolved Conference. But since you appear unable to see the point, I am moving on to other points.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
So my point is that their alleged distancing of themselves "from other Christians who were disorderly in conduct and doctrine" is a hypocritical sham.

Don, you've got some good points here, but you're overstating. It's certainly debatable whether any substantive distancing has occurred. Calling it a "hypocritical sham" is unwarranted even if you believe no distancing has occurred at all. Hypocrisy comes into play when you are claiming a virtue you don't possess and you know you don't possess it.
If your point is that sufficient distancing or actual distancing has not occurred, it would be more persuasive to focus on that point and make a case for it.

I don't personally know how it's possible to characterize the gospel-centric (and usually doctrine-in-general centric) movements lead by these men as anything other than a distancing of themselves from the gospel-diluting/distorting evangelical mainstream, but if you believe these efforts are something else, help us see them as you see them (using overheated terms won't do that, though).

Don Johnson's picture

But there is a difference between "say" and "do". The conservatives talk a good game doctrinally, but they practice the same old game in reality. I think I have offered sufficient examples to establish the point. It is not that these things are done in a corner, there are plenty of other examples. It does appear that one has to keep repeating them because the attention span of conservative evangelical fans is exceedingly short.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

jcoleman's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Joel, if you can't see what makes the music of Resolved worldly, nothing can help you.

Tim Jordan wrote:
If we produce ‘biblical’ reasons for cultural fundamentalism, they [the young Fundamentalists ] know you are lying,” Jordan said. “And why do they know you are lying? It’s because you are!

Don,

I think this is exactly the type of statement that has frustrated many Christians in fundamentalist churches. I have searched for Biblical reasons to support this type of conclusion, but I can't find them. First, it is certainly a patent untruth that nothing can help us. If the music of Resolved is directly contradictory to the gospel (a definition I am substituting for "worldly") - then I want to know. But I want the reasoning to be based on the gospel rather than cultural fundamentalism. And if indeed it is contradictory to the gospel, than the gospel CAN help us! Second, I think our discussion of music has often been centered on what is acceptable to God. Please read me carefully here, but I don't that is the correct goal. Radical alert: I believe that all of our music is completely unacceptable for worship of an infinitely holy God. So the answer is not to search for what is good enough to merit God's favor. Indeed, the only reason we can worship God with any music is because we, and our music when pursued for God's glory, have been clothed in Christ's righteousness. We have to directly connect our understanding of worship to what the gospel says about our state before Christ and what God has done for us in making dead hearts alive by uniting them to Christ.

I'm utterly amazed at how radically Christ-centered /everything/ is at a conference like Next (thisisnext.org) and similarly Resolved. Having actually been to Next, I've been blown away by how much everything is directly connected to the importance of the gospel. These people are seeking to have the good news of Jesus Christ affect absolutely everything they do. Especially their music. So, to say that they are pursuing worldliness - a direct contradiction to the gospel - is a hard connection to make. If true, it means that while they intentionally pursue Jesus Christ they are ignoring the work of the Spirit in their lives that convicts them on their sin.

So, I beg you to detail for us the "wickedness of the Resolved Conference". If it contradicts the gospel, I desperately want to know so it can inform my faith and practice. But I will not accept cultural fundamentalism's preferences as gospel informed reasons.

I, for one, am so excited to see that people like Tim Jordan are recognizing that the gospel has to be our primary emphasis, not preferential concerns. If we truly get the gospel right and give scripture full say in lives, everything else cannot help but fall into place as pursue our savior recognizing that even our best attempts at pleasing him are radically sinful unless they are clothed in Christ's righteousness.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

When Jordan says "cultural fundamentalism" in a negative sense, I do not believe he means "all efforts to apply Scripture to cultural choices." Let's be clear about that. There is absolutely no sphere of life that is exempted from the Lordship of Christ. So looking at some of these events and the "cultural trappings" they accept and trying to apply biblical principles to them is an obligation we all have.

Just want to be clear what our choices are here: it's not like on one hand we have "cultural fundamentalism" and on the other we have "anything goes as long as its 'cultural.'" The former is the error of much of fundamentalism. The latter is the error of most of evangelicalism. By "cultural fundamentalism," Jordan (and several others I've heard use the term) is referring to the practice of taking a particular set of applications (or just opinions, for the many who never bothered to think them through) and making them them (a) equal in status to Holy Writ itself and (b) the defining essence of fundamentalism.

The cure for this is not to look at the evangelical landscape and say "none of this cultural stuff matters"!

But we do need to acknowledge that these areas are difficult. It's a bit like a doctor attempting to do exploratory surgery on himself. It's really tough to think clearly about what you have absorbed and is part of your every day life to the point that you don't even notice it. And it's hard to do that with features of "normal American life" that everybody takes for granted. But we're called to do it.

And the fact that many of these lines are very, very hard to draw doesn't negate the fact that some of them are actually obvious to anyone who is giving them any submissive (to Christ) reflection at all (including at least a little digging into history).

In the case of Resolved, as an example, I don't doubt in the least that they are putting a great deal of energy into focusing everything on the gospel... everything verbal. I seriously doubt they have given much thought to what musical forms (and other cultural elements... like how stuff looks) mean. I wouldn't go all the places Bauder goes w/that, but he's wright that in a culture, what we wear, how we talk, what we paint, what we create musically, what we view for entertainment, etc., all has meaning. There's meaning on the individual level ("what does it mean to me?") but also on a larger, more objective level. Why has one sound replaced another and one form of dress replaced another, etc.? What sort of thinking was behind it? In the years that have passed since the transition (from one form to another, whether music, fashion, speech patterns, etc), has the connection w/an underlying set of beliefs and principles eroded? Is it gone entirely?
Culture is a moving target, but you can look at how features of it have moved and get an idea of their trajectory and form some reasonable guesses about what it "means" in the present.
And some of those "guesses" are no brainers.

jcoleman's picture

To be clear, I'm not attempting to say that none of this cultural stuff matters. Rather I'm saying that our discussion of what we do with culture has to be informed - actually has to springing from our understanding of the gospel rather than cultural preferences. When one comes to the conclusion that if someone else doesn't see the worldliness in a certain activity there is no hope for him, then we need a better understanding of how the gospel changes our lives constantly as we pursue Christ and God pursues us.

I also believe there is a big difference between some of the stuff Driscoll has done compared to the music at Resolved. Scripture clearly marks sensuality as contrary to the gospel's work in our lives. However, the reason this discussion has been had so many time is that scripture does not clearly mark styles of music as contrary to the gospel. I'm not suggesting that it does not at all inform our musical choices. Rather, I'm saying that we have to be extremely careful to not elevate the exact applications that our Lord leads us to in our lives as being equivalent to scriptural authority for another. Instead we have to encourage those others to examine how the scripture affects their own choices. But in areas where scripture doesn't draw immediate fine lines, then we must recognize the evidences of grace in another's life even as they come to different conclusions than our own.

Also, though I'm not as familiar with the people at Resolved, I do believe that from reading and listening to people like Kauflin who organize the music at conferences like Next, I do believe they have given much thought to their practice. And they believe that it is not contrary to the gospel. And if it is true that they have intentionally thought about this and made these choices, then if we say that their practice is wrong - we have two options: to say that they knowingly sinned or that the Spirit has led them contradictory to scripture. Neither is any way an attractive option!

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