Lines in the Sand Redux: A Plea to Type A Fundamentalists

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The majority of the healthy remnants of historic fundamentalism today have settled into a kind of co-belligerency. That is, the theological sons and grandsons of the first generation of fundamentalism have perched onto one of two branches of the fundamentalist family tree. These two branches are what I call Type B and Type C fundamentalism. I noted several years ago that a third branch, namely the Type A branch often believe and act as if they, and they alone, represent the entire tree! Thankfully more and more are flying over to the part of our ecclesiastical bush that respects a certain heritage while at the same time respects an allowable diversity.

This kind of C/B relationship was on display this last year when Mark Dever shared a platform with leaders such as Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran and Tim Jordan. Another example of how that relationship continues to emerge is the incredible overlap of what a healthy and biblical evangelicalism looks like as defined by Kevin Bauder and then by Al Mohler in Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. One more example of this has been the explosion of interaction between Type B and C fundamentalists at conferences such as Shepherds and T4G. Certainly there continues to be a few differences between a Type B and Type C fundamentalists, but frankly there are far more differences between Type A fundamentalism and the B/C co-belligerency than there are differences between the B and C brethren themselves.

Lines in sand

Years ago I developed and presented a kind of taxonomy primarily for those within my own ministry. At the time I was wanting to hold on to the fundamentalist label but, for a variety of reasons, felt I needed to distance myself from many who used the same tag. I believed the taxonomy helped me do that in a way that could be understood by both those who grew up in the movement as well as newcomers (or onlookers). The result was the identification of Type A, B and C fundamentalism. I explored these categories several years ago in a series of articles entitled, “Three Lines in the Sand.” An earlier article entitled, “A Line in the Sand,” focused on the differences between Type A and B fundamentalism. “Three Lines” expanded to include Type C fundamentalism.

Several aims motivated that effort. First, I wanted to explain the similarities and differences within the fundamentalist heritage. Second, I wanted to defend the idea that there were occasions when A, B and C fundamentalists could have a meaningful koinonia (fellowship). I also believed (and still do) that there might be other times when (in the words of Mark Dever) a particular group should stay within its fence, while keeping that fence low enough to shake hands over. A third purpose was to explain to friends and family why I had departed the frigid ice-caps of Type A fundamentalism for the warmer waters of Type B—and why I wanted them to do the same!. Finally, I wanted to offer a kind of public rebuke against certain forms of Type A ecclesiastical nonsense that had wounded sheep near and far. I supposed this would probably be my only chance to lovingly smack the offenders all at once. I worked hard to speak truth in love but I’d been slightly irritated at certain Type A behavior for years.

From my earliest days in ministry training, and then vocational service, I had issues with the Type A status-quo. First, I have always been a Baptist who loves the doctrine of individual soul liberty and who is something of a maverick. I’ve always felt that this combination caused conflict with the Type A guys. They often want leaders coming up to follow the primary leader’s thoughts about this and that, and they frankly frown on mavericks who develop their own ideas. I had long been a believer in biblical authority—that is, when a leader tries to lead with authority that does not come from Scripture he is someone to be avoided. About the same time I began learning about the reformers and puritans and began to compare what I saw in Type A fundamentalism with a version of Christianity that was consistent with the sola’s of the reformation. The result was growing suspicion toward certain sub-culture norms in the movement of Type A fundamentalism.

Over the last few decades of ministry I have become convinced that the Type A fundamentalist’s aim to separate from all evangelicals or evangelicalism carte blanche is at best, biblically unhealthy and, at worst, sinfully schismatic to the body of the Christ. Not only have they thrown the poor baby out with the bathwater; but they’ve also condemned the whole nursery as if it was contaminated with some kind of an ecclesiastical leprosy! You slapped the initials “NE” (New Evangelical) on the poor baby’s forehead just knowing that eventually he’d be the next Billy Graham!

Some Type A’s might object that this means I must be for ecumenicalism, because they have been trained to think in the “us vs. you” mentality. They demonstrate the fallacy of the excluded middle. There is a third option that is better than “we separate from everybody or we separate from nobody.” That third option is we cooperate with brothers who love the gospel and are walking in obedience to the teachings of Scripture, even if they aren’t in our “camp” or “group.” You would think this reality would be near the Christianity 101 level.

After the articles appeared several years ago, I realized there had been some unintentional “friendly fire,” so I gently apologized where my taxonomy overlapped edges that they should not have. Looking back at my attempt, I’m actually grateful I was able to say what I needed to say. All in all, I remain in basic agreement with my presentation as it appeared then. Bob Bixby made a similar appeal about the same time in his discussion of “The Emergent Middle.” For the sake of those who are unfamiliar with my taxonomy, the following is a limited presentation of the position.

Type A fundamentalists are those fundamentalists who emphasize a first and second degree separation with militancy. Typically with these brothers, fellowship or separation is an “all or nothing” proposition. Another common characteristic with this group is a kind of sub-culture identity that not only separates them from the secular world but from the rest of evangelical Christianity. There is very much an “us vs. them” identity. Type A men would in the main not view Type C men as fundamentalists. This is probably the chief difference between Type A and Type B fundamentalists. Type A fundamentalism holds that it needs to not only protect the gospel but a specific set of sub-Christian ecclesiastical practices and forms that are especially clear in the typical Type A congregation’s corporate choice of music.

Type B fundamentalists like myself, while growing up under and holding on to much of the heritage found in Type A fundamentalism, do not believe the Scriptures teach an “all or nothing” approach to separation and unity. Type A’s generally feel that there simply is really no arena where they could have any kind of real ecclesiastical co-work with a conservative evangelical. Type B’s disagree. We believe there a variety of occasions where fundamentalists can and should have co-ministry with those that self-identify as conservative evangelicals. This is especially true of those evangelicals who are militant and even separastistic. The recent flap over the Elephant Room “second edition” demonstrates that many conservative evangelicals know how to be both militant and even separatistic from other evangelicals when the gospel or orthodoxy is blurred!

Type C fundamentalists are evangelicals who, while not participating in the more Type A or Type B fellowships and not calling themselves fundamentalists (mainly because of the way many in Type A and Type A+ fundamentalism believe and behave), are in fact part of the fundamentalist heritage because of their gospel militancy, their clear commitments to the fundamentals of the faith and the veracity of Scripture, and their willingness to do “battle royal” against an ecumenical agenda. Examples of this approach include men such as John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Mark Dever and a host of younger men who are clear on the gospel, clear on truth and willing to stand especially against evangelicals who are spineless—or clueless—on theological veracity.

In some ways the modern Type C fundamentalists remind me of the earliest of the fundamentalists. In 1920 the Fundamentalists Fellowship was comprised of a group of militant evangelicals who contended for the faith on the inside of the Northern Baptist Convention. Some of these men eventually left, but some men (such as W. B. Riley and the First Baptist Church of Minneapolis) stayed within the NBC and fought for the sake of the gospel on the inside of the denomination. The recent victory of the conservative resurgence in the SBC demonstrate that indeed God can and does use men who are true to the faith and choose to stand and fight for the faith. So the Type C fundamentalists remind us more of the original fundamentalists that we who are already ministering outside of any real formal ecclesiastical connections with evangelical associations.

Today there seems to be little difference between the Type B and Type C fundamentalist. There are some differences. Kevin Bauder has mentioned a few differences that I think are helpful. The biggest difference seems to be that the Type B fundamentalists have fundamentalist-movement roots and the Type C fundamentalist has evangelical roots. There continues to be a little suspicion when the two groups come together. In the back of his mind, the Type B guy remembers that his Type A friends just know that this Type C guy is a compromiser! In the mind of the Type C guy looking at the Type B guy, he remembers that his evangelical friends are very sure that this Type B guy (because he still “sort of” connected to fundamentalism) must be an idiot! Other than that, there really is little difference. For the most part Type B and C ministries pretty much use the same teaching material, have the same theology, practice similar approaches to leadership, enjoy similar taste in Christian music and have a similar mind-set about how a Christian can be committed to Christ and His Kingdom and yet live in this society and culture at the same time.

Without being mean-spirited here, I would have to say I still prefer the Type B world to the Type C world. A clear example of that was my recent participation at Heart Conference with Northland International University. Frankly, as much as I love John MacArthur and the annual line-up at Shepherd’s Conference, I still prefer the bright lights of Type B fundamentalism that we enjoyed in Dunbar. The preaching by Dan Davey, Dave Doran, Kevin Bauder, Sam Horn, Tim Jordan, Matt Olson and Doug McLachlan was the best I’ve ever heard in any one conference. So while I really enjoy being with the Type C fundamentalists, and while I have more in common with the Type C guys than I do the Type A guys, (for the three of you who care), I still remain a Type B fundamentalist. I think our relationship with the Type C’s will continue to be something of a co-belligerency. It may be that eventually the B/C relationship will be one. I don’t think we are there yet.

To be honest, when I wrote “Three Lines in the Sand,” I pretty much had determined that both my view and my ministry would be rejected by the majority of the fundamentalist world. Now, just a few years later, my view is in the majority. Much to my surprise and thrill (and frankly shock) a consensus has formed amongst those of the balanced and non-KJV-only wing of fundamentalism to—to one degree or another—reach out to various conservative evangelicals. Most of the leaders of significant ministries within Type B churches, seminaries and other ministries are admitting either privately or publicly that some kind of a relationship is not only unavoidable but necessary for the day and age in which we live. I have no words to express how grateful I am for how things have developed.

This brings us to the challenge of the present article. I once again would like to urge our friends in Type A fundamentalism to consider (or reconsider) a better approach than your present trajectory. In one sense I don’t think any of us who are Type B or Type C fundamentalists have a problem with your not enjoying venues such as the Shepherd Conference or T4G. We don’t have a problem with your continued use of the KJV. It’s a beautiful translation of God’s Word! We don’t have a problem that you continue to use conservative music in your worship services. We are refreshed that you continue to encourage brothers and sisters to hold the line on modesty in the present Corinthian culture. The problem and puzzle is not really that you will remain more separatist than we are. The confusion is that you would reach out to the unhealthy branches of hyper-fundamentalism (A+ fundamentalism) as a place to hang your bird house.

What would be better is for you to allow us who are to your left to have an occasional cup of coffee and prayer time with some that you might not fully understand, than for you to run away from us and bolt towards those who are guilty of everything from Pelagianism, to sacramentalism (angels took the blood to heaven and sprinkled on a literal alter?), to a bibliolatry (the worship of the 1611—didn’t that include the apocrypha?), to “decisional regeneration” that rejects biblical repentance, not to mention the almost common occurrence of pastoral and spiritual abuse that takes place at the hands of these hyper-fundamentalists!

Here’s the appeal: It’s really time for you guys to choose which way you’re going to head! A well known national fundamentalist fellowship of Baptist separatists have recently been sharing their angst that some of us Type B fundamentalists are reaching out to the Type C’s. Meanwhile various leaders who have been connected with this group continue to reach out to ministries characterized by a Type A+ approach to ministry. OK—that’s just confusing, and frankly it undermines just about everything you guys say to us when we reach out to men like Dever or MacArthur. It looks like the Type A guys have three choices:

  1. Go ahead and separate from everyone (which some of you seem to enjoy!). Separate from the A+ guys (which is often right because many of them are not orthodox!). Withhold (or at least undermine) koinonia also from the Type B guys because we have some connection to the Type C guys. So there you are under your juniper tree with Elijah complaining everyone else is worshipping Baal!
  2. Link up with the A+ guys!
  3. Consider that perhaps The B/C guys really do love Jesus, His Word, His Church and in fact are co-belligerents with the gospel. (I would recommend option 3!).

One more note. This really isn’t meant to be incendiary, but in case you A guys don’t know, we B and C guys aren’t really worried or even waiting for you to make up your mind. We have a mission and there is an urgency and were moving on. But if you ever want to join us, you can expect a warm and genuine hug from at least one of us.

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JD Miller's picture

Thanks Joel. I did not grow up with the fundamentalist label, but was a fundamentalist at heart. Over the years I could have fallen into a variety of spectrums on your list. Part of the challenge for me was that when I actually latched on to the term fundamentalism, I did not realize how much difference there really was within fundamentalism. Though I would not suggest your ideas should be carved in stone, these discussions are encouraging as I see that others have noticed some of the same things I have seen along the way.
You have mentioned how you have changed between ages 36 & 43. I do not want to ever be blown about with every wind of doctrine, but as I study the word of God and understand it better, I hope I continue to change. Having the opportunity to study the scriptures in detail as I prepare expository sermons has been one of the most blessed experiences in my spiritual life. I pray that God continues to mold and shape me through a better understanding of His word. I hope none of us would be afraid to study further out of fear that if we studied God's word more, we might be tempted to change. Joel, I don't know you and have not been following your posts through the years so I do not know if you are changing to be more or less Biblical, but if we are changing because of a better understanding of the scripture, then let us all praise God for that.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Thx for you who have read and interacted. We’ve had some fun going “back and forth” today. It’s too bad I can’t do this every day. By the way please disregard the guy behind the curtain…he’s up to no good! Hey this ABC thing is just the way I slice the fundamentalist/evangelical pie up. It's based on 3 different ways you organize the issues of orthodoxy, militancy, unity and separation. I think three different approaches to those four issues are a legitimate discussion. Some of my friends here don't - or they don't think the way I've organized or framed the discussion is legit. For any of you who disagree with my approach - I'd really enjoy hearing what you have that's different, not just "that" you are different. In other words I'd love to hear "how" or "why" you are different and exactly what you would explain differently. Even a short explanation of your view would be a thrill. I find that sort of thing helpful. I am "off the chart thrilled" for what I'm seeing in both conservative evangelicalism and the careful portion of fundamentalism. I believe God is doing some great things in these days of ministry and I'm excited to be in the middle of it. For you who are just negative people and are just used to saying "no" every morning when you wake up....you got a stop that! You keep that up and eventually your face will make a great cover page for the book of Lamentations! You will become a scary person....on behalf of the people that have to live with you – please don't become a scary person! Become a Type B Fundamentalist!
Good night. God Bless. Straight Ahead!
jt

ps - I am Joel Tetreau and I approve this message!

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;

Joel Shaffer's picture

Joel,

I used to describe myself more as a C according to your taxonomy, but my roots are GARBC fundamentalist, not evangelical. But because of my work as the leader of a faith-based non-profit ministry in the inner-city, I have ties to a broader evangelical network that most fundamental churches don't. I also view the church's role differently in helping the poor than most fundamentalists so I have much more in common with evangelicals. Yet I have stood my ground against what I perceive as serious doctrinal error among some my evangelical urban ministry colleagues in our view of the gospel and the poor. http://sharperiron.org/article/social-involvement-without-social-gospel

I embrace a more progressive dispensational framework for eschatology (which many Type A and Type B's frown upon) so I hold a form of an already/not yet view of the kingdom without it being over-realized. Moreover, I really doubt it if I listen to the same music as the Type A's and B's (unless B's such as Dr. Bauder have changed their mind about Christian Hip-Hop :bigsmile: ), yet I don't believe that culture is neutral (I see it through the lens of creation, fall, redemption, and the final consummation) which puts me at odds with many of my conservative evangelical hip-hop culture people such as Shai Linne and Lecrae.

I find Straub's taxonomy http://sharperiron.org/sites/default/files/reference/fund_taxonomy_chart... easier to peg me (somewhere between a new image fundy and the evangelical right) unless you have an idea because frankly it doesn't seem like I fit the mold anywhere. Except maybe with Dr. Steve Davis because of the similar work that we do. I've enjoyed Sharper Iron because it has blown away certain stereotypes and helped me reconnect with my fundy roots and it has been a good place to discuss theology, ministry among the poor, and cultural issues with those who don't necessarily see eye-to-eye with me.
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http://www.utmgr.org/blog_index.html

SamH's picture

"sub-Christian...practices"
logical fallacy: adj n ; log·i·cal fal·la·cy (\ˈlä-ji-kəl\ \ˈfa-lə-sē\)
Definition:
In logic and rhetoric, a fallacy is usually an improper argumentation in reasoning resulting in a misconception or presumption...Fallacies can be used to win arguments regardless of the merits.[fn1 ]

fn1: redacted from wikipedia

SamH

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

When it comes to categorizing, defining, labeling- whatever, I am more apt to be concerned about approach and attitude than I am about the actual doctrinal destination (with the obvious exceptions, or at least they are obvious to me). Sometimes how one gets there is just as if not more informational than where one ends up.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Susan,

That's the best thing I've read from you today!.....Outstanding! You of course are right - that is why the first time I tried to put together this "ABC thing" I tried to include attitude. My first view was that the Type A's were mostly "pessimistic jerks" - B's were the "careful & optimistic guys" and C's were "fun & groovy." Well.....I've sense bumped into gracious brothers in all three groups and mean-spirited men in all three groups...so much so that I no longer believe those early caricatures. Your point is well taken - attitude is important - not just the position/view/etc.......

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;

Mike Harding's picture

Joel,

No one group has a corner on depravity. To one degree or another depravity will raise its ugly head in individuals and organizations. This is not to imply that all believers are exactly the same when it comes to Christian growth and sanctification. Even unbelievers, all of whom are totally depraved, are not equally corrupt.

Pastor Mike Harding

Joel Tetreau's picture

Amen Mike - couldn't agree with you more.

BTW.....in my ABC analysis I simply cannot make a claim as to which group is filled with the most Godly ..... that is all three groups are equally pathetic in our flesh and all three groups have benefited greatly from God's mercy. All of us if we are honest share Paul's view - namely "chief of sinners."

Straight Ahead......prayerful it's lovely there in Troy.

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;

Alex Guggenheim's picture

The problem with any ecclesiastical/theological taxonomy is it tends to serve the author's view of things instead of its clients. Their (e/t taxonomies) imprecision must be kept in mind and if not used loosely it suffers, even more if it is promoted above discretion.

EthanS's picture

It works, but may not be necessary to distinguish between B and C any longer. So I give you an A-. I'm a C kind of guy with roots in A. I have personally have rejected the need for the term "fundamentalist" and have left the circle or "branch" of those that hold to A-, A, and A+ beliefs.

I'm very active and teach in a conservative SBC church much like that and in fellowship with Mark Dever. We honestly pay little heed to those professing a title like "fundamentalism" and are busy about the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus. So we're definitely in your C category.

B types have my applause and I commend them for being true to scripture rather than being true to their fellow fundamentalists personal views. Praise God for the "unity" resurgence in the fundamental movement. It is as refreshing to see this taking place as it is to see the "conservative" one continuing in the SBC.

I personally see three different categories with no need to distinguish between B and C any longer.

I see the three as follows:

A. Those who blur and hinder the gospel by raising personal self-righteousness and associations (whether it be in regard to (hyper) separation, people, translations, dress, or music) to a level above what God has said and in turn hide and blur the full message of the Gospel. (If you seem to think this is ok let me remind you of Romans 14) (majority of A)

B. Those who are primarily concerned with being absolutely faithful to the entire Word of God, including the Gospel. These are those who are willing to constantly recheck what they are doing and preaching against the Word of God (Samll part of A, and all of B and C)

C. Those (on the Liberal end) who would diminish and throw out the value of some if not all the Word of God and as well as some if not all the need for the gospel. I would also place in this category any who openly and consistently support those who do this. (e.g. supporters of those like Rob Bell) They cloud the gospel at best and are likely just as guilty.

In all of this I remind us that Our Lord delights to work through His church so rejoce in your place in His Kingdom!

Luke 10:20 “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians%203:7-16&version... ]Philippians 3:7-16

Joel Tetreau's picture

Thx Ethan for sharing your taxonomy. Ethan....or anyone else that might know......I'd really love to see someone develop a taxonomy of evangelicalism with the Mac and Dever's to the far right. Who would be just to the left of them (Maybe Piper and Mohler?) and who would be just a bit more to the left of them (Maybe the Gospel Coalition?) and who would be to the left of them (Maybe Driscoll/Acts 29 network).....I'd love to see someone that really knows that world to explain what's happening over there.

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;

Ron Bean's picture

You'll have to ask Shayne what I am...I kind of weave my way through Straub's more detailed taxonomy.

Seriously, some of my A friends have labeled me as neo-evangelical, liberal, and/or making things easier for the anti-christ because I attend a church where we sing "bad music" (the Getty's), read "bad" books (Piper, Dever, Mahaney), most men don't wear ties, and ladies may wear slacks. The fact that my church features sound doctrine, expositional preaching that is practical, biblical polity, active evangelism that bears fruit, and actually works at discipleship and loving the brethren is secondary to them.

It seems that A's would prefer to be separate from B's and C's along with everyone else.

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

Bob Hayton's picture

I, for one, really enjoyed seeing the ABCs of Fundamentalism revisited. Back when you first explained this, Joel, it really helped me in my thinking and perspective on the movement. I know it has been a help to many others. And as dcbii points out, it has limitations but is at least as helpful as any of the other labels we have to constantly qualify.

I enjoyed this bit, the best:

Quote:
Some Type A’s might object that this means I must be for ecumenicalism, because they have been trained to think in the “us vs. you” mentality. They demonstrate the fallacy of the excluded middle. There is a third option that is better than “we separate from everybody or we separate from nobody.” That third option is we cooperate with brothers who love the gospel and are walking in obedience to the teachings of Scripture, even if they aren’t in our “camp” or “group.” You would think this reality would be near the Christianity 101 level.

I shared this quote and a bit more from your post http://www.fundamentallyreformed.com/2012/03/02/a-third-option-for-separ... over at my own blog today and added a few remarks I have about your taxonomy. For convenience sake, I'll just post them here too.

One area of difference I have with Joel (besides being a Type C fundamentalist — Joel is a Type B), is that he limits fellowship to just the Type C’s rather than those who are perhaps a Type D. I’m referring to those who are further removed from the mindset of militancy, but who nevertheless respect the fundamentals and are confessionally based. I notice John Piper, D.A. Carson, Tim Keller and the like, are not listed as Type C fundamentalists – yet I would argue each in his own way does much to stand for the fundamentals of the faith against the inroads of modernism and liberalism (and a whole host of other -isms). They may not have that “edge” or sharpness about them in their critique of other movements in Christianity. They may not be as shrill as fundamentalists typically would like. They may not have pronounced as many anathemas over the Elephant Room 2 as some would like, perhaps, but they nevertheless are leaders who represent a mindset that Type B and C fundamentalists should respect and cooperate with.

Still, Joel’s explanation of Type A, B, and C has really helped me in my thinking through the tangled reality of fundamentalism and evangelicalism over the years. And I’m happy he is continuing to expound on his simple matrix for processing how we can “cooperate with brothers who love the gospel and are walking in obedience to the teachings of Scripture, even if they aren’t in our ‘camp’ or ‘group’.” That is the spirit I see exemplified in Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels, and embodied in his call for unity in John 17. May such a spirit of cooperation and unity continue to spread among fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals everywhere.

I really appreciate many of the comments here so far. I think as someone else has brought up Rom. 14, that we shouldn't be approaching this in just trying to see who qualifies to get our fellowship, but we should be welcoming of all who embrace Christ's name - even as we may have to warn and limit fellowship from some. Fellowship, as Kevin Bauder often reminds us, shouldn't be an all-or-nothing thing. And we should be able to disagree with some of the decisions of brothers in Christ without feeling that having anything to do with them somehow tacitly approves of everything they stand for.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Bob,

Thx for the comments - just to let you know the list of Type C's go far beyond the few I mention. I can tell you that for sure in my book Don Carson makes the list. I don't know Keller enough to make a judgment. Piper, who I often enjoy, is his own classification - "Type P." Bob - congrats on your continued good work over at Fundamentally Reformed.

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;

Bob Hayton's picture

Thanks Joel, I should have figured as much.

Straight ahead!

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

There is a need to practice discernment in the practice of separation in fundamentalism.

First of all, there is a sense where every brother is disobedient. If one does not use discernment, he will end up separating himself into a corner where he is the only godly person left. I have seen this too many times. Right now, I am thinking of a follower of David Cloud who will not even attend church anymore because they are all "ungodly." David Cloud even believes this wrong but I have known several of his readers who believe if you take all of his criticisms to heart, there are no churches where they live where they could ever attend, so they sit home.

Secondly, there is often a frenzy that takes place when one leader suggests the need to separate from someone else. For example, years ago, there was a frenzy over John MacArthur because of a statement about the blood of Christ. In a matter of days, it was declared that he was a heretic. Preachers were screaming and yelling against him over the issue of the blood. Three fundamentalists Pastors took me to the IFCA meeting, where right after Ron Hamilton spoke, John MacArthur explained what he meant to say and apologized for any confusion he might have created. Unfortunately, because of that frenzy, there are still preachers yelling about this untrue thing today. There have also been several instances recently of outbreaks of frenzies where concerns for a brother quickly turn into false accusations and rushes to separate instead of desires to clarify, understand, and even seek to restore.

So, I personally believe it wrong to ignore the Bible principle of separation. I also believe it is wrong to jump the gun and go with the flow everytime someone calls to separate from somebody. I did not always think this way but I had to feel what it is like to be misrepresented in a few these frenzies to see how painful this is.

I think I am a type m for mut - I have tad bit of A, a lot of B and some C in my DNA at the moment. I guess that's what happens when you have been exposed to about every major segment of fundamentalism.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Joe,

Great note - great illustrations.

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;

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Another aspect of discerning when separation is necessary is knowing the difference between an incident and a pattern. A person may occasionally indulge in gossip, catch themselves, and apologize. I think we all have our moments of speaking inappropriately or impulsively. But a gossip/backbiter/railer is someone for whom this behavior is common. It is at that point when the wheels should start turning toward addressing the sin, giving opportunity for repentance and spiritual growth, and only when the person is unrepentant is separation supposed to come into play.

I've often noted that the passage in Matthew 18 doesn't give a time frame. Some people seem to want to put about 5 minutes between Mtt. 18:15 and Mtt 18:16, and then about 3 seconds between Mtt. 18:16 and Mtt. 18:17. It's not a competition, people.

Then there's purposeful separation vs. natural separation. There are people from whom I keep a distance on purpose because they have major issues, and then there are people whose path I seldom cross because we do not share the same lifestyle, interests, hobbies etc... and then those with which we do not share the same beliefs about lifestyle and appropriate or permissible conduct. Some 'separation' is just a natural by-product of living according to one's conscience. It isn't intended to 'make a statement'.

Joel Tetreau's picture

There's one more dynamic in all of this I want to touch oh so gently.

Several men this time and last time have made it clear that they really don't agree with either my taxonomy (as outlined) or my commitments behind what I call "Type B fundamentalism"....or what Bixby calls "The Emergent Middle" or what Straub calls "New Image Fundamentalism."

The issue that I think that has been more disappointing than anything else is not when a Steve Thomas publically disagrees with me. Frankly Steve is like the second smartest guy on the planet. He has a high view of God and Scripture and I love him in the Lord dearly for it. He has remained faithful in the Lord's work there in Flat Rock and has influenced and/or mentored numbers of Godly men who today are faithful and effective in no small measure because of Steve's influence. Furthermore Steve is on Sunday who he is on Wednesday. He doesn't play games - He never has and never will. Steve Thomas is a man of integrity. He won't tell me to my face "I like this Joel" and then behind my back, "Joel is nuts!" I can say the same thing about Steve's good friend Mike Harding, as well as several other men who I love and yet take a different position on this aspect of ecclesiology. I would much rather have Type A, B and C brother who will shoot straight than to play "fundamentalist politics" because it helps or hurts their "standing" or "institution" or "reputation" or "ministry." That sort of stuff is sick....and it has to stop. I've watched as friends will tell another friend - "dude, you're my man" to his face. And then when it's not popular to stand with him because he believes something that maybe your other friends don't like - you become as loyal as Jane Fonda (For those of you from the last generation!). On other occasions I've watched institutions and leaders of institutions play themself off as a Type A school when they are with Type A ministries, and then Type B when they are with Type B, etc....What we need are real men who have the courage to stand up for what they believe is right! If Jesus is Lord, let's stop acting like "so-in-so's opinion" is Lord. This is somewhat connected but frankly probably deserves it's own article - I would love to see more historically fundamentalist institutions come out and say - "We will have men on our teaching facutly that are everything from A, B or C, Baptist and not Baptist, Dispensational and Not Dispensational. If that kind of diversity bothers you....go somewhere else." Then....I'd like to see other institutions who take the other view say - this is exactly what we are - "We are Baptist, Dispensational, Calvinistic and we stand here on the Fund-Evang issue(s) - This is who we are and if you don't like it, you don't have to come." What I'm saying is I'm thrilled when I see that kind of honesty from ministries. Frankly I'd love to see historic fundamentalism head into an era where we could demonstrate to other sections of evangelicalism that we who are militant and conservative and who do not play games with ecumenicalism can speak the truth with integrity and love. Frankly I believe that historic fundamentalism in all its colors still remains the best (not only) but the best ball-game in town. How I wish we could demonstrate to the left wings of evangelicalism and the hyper-wings of fundamentalism why historic fundamentalism is Christ honoring and more consistent with the spirit and practice of the NT. Frankly we don't do that when we play politics.....and bro's ......in all three groups ....we have played too much "stinkin'" politics! We have to stop that!

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;

Ed Vasicek's picture

I am late to the party, but I want to say simply that a 3 part division is meant to be a rough, broad description so that we can save a zillion words. It is kind of like personality types: they don't give you a perfect picture, but a generality, a ballpark picture.

If you ask a guy how much something will cost and he says, "a lot," you may not know if he is talking 100s, thousands, or 10 thousands. So you say, "Over a thousand," and then he might hopefully say, "no, not that much, maybe fifty dollars." But until you gave a number that means a "lot," he refused to give you even a ballpark idea.

I don't like that. I have some hot peppers I would enjoy feeding to people who refuse to be forthcoming.

Joel's system is as good as any. No system works for all. It gives a ballpark idea of what we are talking about. But don't believe me. I'm only a C+.

"The Midrash Detective"

gsm's picture

It grieves me and sometimes really upsets me when I hear a list of labels without the most important and only Biblical one missing: CHRISTIAN.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Dear GSM,

So I actually understand your thought here. Let me partially affirm your point. You are indeed correct that the two category distinction that means the most to God is Group 1 - "The elect" (these would be the saved, God's children, justified,etc.....) The second group would be "Not elect" (these by virtue of not being elect and therefore not responding to the ospel in faith and repentence....are lost). So....You are right. From God's perspective the world is divided into these two groups.

My chart only divides up the world of fundamentalism as I see it. Without a doubt - God's taxonomy is far superior and much more accurate.

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;

gsm's picture

What I meant is that we call ourselves, for example: fundamentalist, Calvinist, dispensationalist, culturally conservative … and we do not precede all that by CHRISTIAN. It may be understood in our circles but it would not hurt as a reminder to us and as a point to others and besides, it is the Biblical label as is brothers which is also not used much anymore. Or is it that some do not consider Christian certain combinations of these labels (and others)?

Grace, mercy and peace…

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Threads about fundie/evangelical classification seem to all follow a similar pattern. You have three basic views (with lots of sub-views)

  1. this particular taxonomy is messed up (wrong criteria, or wrong terminology, etc.)
  2. classifications/taxonomies are always imperfect but can be useful
  3. all classifications of this sort are worthless or even wrong

    To view 3... The point of any system of classifying anything is just as a tool for understanding differences and similarities. In this case, a tool like this is helpful for observing changes and trends in faith and practice. It's a way of trying to map the landscape. The landscape is there whether we map it or not, but there's no evil in trying to use a map to understand it better.

    To view 2... Well, that would be pretty much my own view, see above.

    To view 1... I guess we have possible overlap in views 1 and 2. I'm sympathetic w/view1. Maybe, if you shift the whole thing down a notch so that the "C" guys are not on the chart, the B's --> C's and the A+ guys --> A's, you have something more useful as an analysis of fundamentalism. As it is, it's not a bad analysis of the conservative branch of evangelicalism (in the sense of "all who believe and teach the gospel").
    The "alphabet soup" has advantages and disadvantages. The letters themselves don't "say" anything descriptive of what they represent, so maybe that has the advantage of being less emotionally loaded. On the other hand, it has the disadvantage of not conveying any meaning about those it represents. In Straub's map, the term "hyperfundamentalist" would undoubtedly be rejected by many of those who hold to the views under that heading... but it carries more meaning than "A" or "A+"
    So there are trade offs.

    It's interesting to me how distracted people get by the map rather than using it as a way to understand what's happening to the landscape.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
It's interesting to me how distracted people get by the map rather than using it as a way to understand what's happening to the landscape.
Or they could be concerned that the map is misleading. Simply because a map is drawn does not lay to rest any valid objections regarding its accuracy. It isn't always being "distracted...by the map" rather a lack of confidence that it is accurate enough, even in its most simple form, to be used as an effective tool.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Aaron Blumer wrote:
It's interesting to me how distracted people get by the map rather than using it as a way to understand what's happening to the landscape.
Or they could be concerned that the map is misleading. Simply because a map is drawn does not lay to rest any valid objections regarding its accuracy. It isn't always being "distracted...by the map" rather a lack of confidence that it is accurate enough, even in its most simple form, to be used as an effective tool.

I see this as not too dissimilar to those maps that are given out by the states at the borders when you are traveling by interstate. Those maps are not likely to be helpful when you need to find a particular address, but they certainly help you know if you are at least close to the right place. And yeah, some might wonder if they are completely accurate, especially if they live there, but in reality, most of us will accept them as accurate enough to do what they are intended to do. Anything else is left to the cartographers or those with too much time on their hands.

This taxonomy is similar. None of us except for Joel may believe that this taxonomy gets us exactly right, and I wouldn't determine my fellowship and cooperation with someone based only on where they place themselves on the scale (or refuse to admit it applies in any way to them, which is probably just as telling), but it is useful enough from what I can see to give me some good ballpark ideas where someone may stand, same as those full-state maps.

Dave Barnhart

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Those geographic maps may not get you to a specific address but the minimal information they do have is quite accurate where these taxonomies are subjectively demarcated therefore reflective of its author's view and subject to debate. This does not mean they cannot hv any use but I would hesitate to compare them to geographically based maps which are scientifically drawn vs theologically/philosophically/practically drawn thus giving cause for debate with even its most basic forms.

Joel Tetreau's picture

A quick comment - For the four of you who might wonder - I care a lot less today than I did 5 or 6 years ago if you are AB or C. Frankly, I don't think that is the most important element to our ministries either for the "brotherhood" or "heaven." The most important dynamic is the spiritual one - are we actively walking with Christ? Is the fruit of the Spirit clear in our personal and ministry life? Are we touching the lost with the gospel and the saved with grace? Are we the same people in front of our spouse and children we are at church? Are we committed to the careful handling of the Scriptures? Are we committed to both the gospel and to the work of discipleship? Are we actively demonstrating "hospitality" to both brothers and strangers? Are we demonstrating true religion to the fatherless and widow? Are we committed to both love and truth? Am I hearing God through Scripture, prayer and meditation?

These kinds of things are eternally more important than which letter of the alphabet Joel might slap on your head! Ultimately there is only one type - That is all believers who are part of God's family are so not because of an A or B or C blood type - nope! All of us who have responded to the gospel of Jesus received a spiritual blood transfusion called Justification from the Jewish God-Man Jesus Christ of Nazareth and as such we are part of one baptism, one church, one family, one kingdom, and are spiritually the sons of Abraham and for all eternity the children of God united by a bond that is far more spiritually-organic than a denomination. That my friends is a fact we dare not forget.......as fundamentalists......as evangelicals......as Baptists.......or as Christians!

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;

Joel Tetreau's picture

I'd love to see someone do an ABC type taxonomy of evangelicalism. I know that some of our friends on staff at Central Seminary did a taxonomy that included both sides of the evangelical-fundamentalist categories - but I'd love to see a taxonomy of evangelicalism from the perspectives of the evangelicals themselves.

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;

Joel Tetreau's picture

I don't know why I left this little "thought" out of the ABC Redux - but I thought I'd add it for those just now reading the ABC thing. I made the point several years ago that there are two common (yet not absolute) differences between A ministries and B/C ministries:

1) Often times (not always) "A" ministries tend to be anti or non-Calvinistic and B/C ministries tend to be more Calvinistic.

2) Often times (again....not always) "A" ministries tend to be single-leader oriented in ministry vis-a-vis "team oriented" as most B/C ministries are. Another way of saying that is that Type A ministries often are against the idea that the Scriptures teach a plurality of elders and/or the practice of mutual accountability between elders and most B/C ministries believe that the frequency of a plurality pattern in the NT text is significant for church practice today.

Don't know why I left this little "thingy" out of Lines Redux - Consider it added - for the three of you who might care.

I write this from the comfort of a restful family vacation in late June here in Williamsburg VA. Back in the saddle next week. God has granted a great summer thus far. I was blessed to be with our Pastor of Missions and my eldest son (and another dear brother from our church) for a blessed missions trip to London, Kenya and then Greece and Turkey in late May and early June. What a thrill.  

Prayerful you all are encouraged in your corner of the Vineyard - and I don't care if that corner is Type A, B, C or Z......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;

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