Now, About Those Differences, Part Twelve

NickOfTimeRead Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, and Part 11.

Together (Only?) for the Gospel

The differences between fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals include considerable disparity in their attitudes toward miraculous gifts. Fundamentalists are almost universally and vigorously cessationists. Conversely, many conservative evangelicals are continuationists, and those who are not can still function comfortably with the ones who are. From a fundamentalist perspective, this difference is rather a significant one.

Nevertheless, fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals do hold much in common. What they hold in common is properly designated as koinonia or fellowship. It would be hypocritical to pretend that this fellowship does not exist, just as it would be hypocritical to pretend to enjoy fellowship where none existed.

Most fundamentally (the word is deliberate), both groups are united in their affirmation and exaltation of the gospel. None of the differences that we have examined to this point results in a denial of the gospel. Both fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals believe the gospel, preach the gospel, and defend the gospel.

This mutuality in the gospel leads to a question. Since conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists are united in their allegiance to the gospel, should they not be able to cooperate at the level of the gospel? To put it positively, should fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals get together for the gospel?

Frankly, I am still thinking through an answer to that question. It is not really an urgent question, though, for two reasons. On the one hand, fundamentalists do not seem to be sponsoring any enterprises that center on the gospel alone. On the other hand, conservative evangelicals (who do sponsor such enterprises) do not seem to wish for fundamentalist involvement. I know of no recognizable fundamentalist leader who has been invited to speak at T4G or The Gospel Coalition.

Consequently, I have the luxury of making a few guesses and testing a few speculations. The following paragraphs are a tentative effort to think through the problem. Should fundamentalists join conservative evangelicals in projects such as T4G and The Gospel Coalition?

A moment ago, I noted that fundamentalists are not sponsoring any endeavors that center upon the gospel alone. Why is that? The answer cannot be that fundamentalists have no concern for the gospel. Every fundamentalist I know—even the most aberrant ones—care deeply about the gospel. In fact, fundamentalists have championed the preaching and proclamation of the gospel. Their most distinctive practice (ecclesiastical separation) is an effort to maintain the purity of the gospel.

So why don’t fundamentalists have an equivalent to T4G or The Gospel Coalition? I think that it is because fundamentalists realize something, although it is so basic that they might even have trouble explaining it. It is this: while our joint profession of the gospel constitutes the most basic form of Christian fellowship, our fellowship is rarely about the gospel alone. Nor should it be.

The gospel is the atmosphere of Christianity. It is the very air that we breathe. It is assumed in and by everything that is genuinely Christian.

Viewed from this perspective, it makes as much sense to have a rally in favor of the gospel as it does to have a rally in favor of air. Do we value air? Are we committed to its centrality for breathing? Of course! Under normal circumstances, however, someone who wanted to focus simply on air would leave us all nonplussed. The same would be true of a Christian who wanted to focus just on the gospel.

Of course, not every circumstance is a normal circumstance. We actually do focus on air under two circumstances. We become deeply concerned when we see someone who needs air. We also become concerned when the air is threatened by harmful pollutants.

Our focus on the gospel is analogous. We concentrate on the gospel when we see someone who needs it (i.e., evangelism). We also concentrate on the gospel when we see someone who threatens it (i.e., polemics). These are the two circumstances under which Christians might band together for the gospel: to propagate it through evangelism, or to defend it polemically. Under neither of these circumstances are they simply together for the gospel.

The task of evangelism does not terminate in the proclamation and acceptance of the gospel. Biblical evangelism includes baptizing. It includes teaching disciples to observe all the things that Jesus has taught.

If baptism and discipleship are part of biblical evangelism, then organizing for the gospel simpliciter is really a truncation of Christian responsibility. To come together for the gospel actually requires us to come together for more than the gospel alone.

The organizers of T4G and The Gospel Coalition seem to realize this. When they get together for the gospel, they actually feature a pretty narrow slice of gospel-believing theology. In fact, whole ranges of conservative evangelicalism have been excluded.

If they simply wanted to get together for the gospel, we might expect to see an outspoken non-Calvinist or two in the lineup. We might expect to see someone who expressed questions about Lordship Salvation. We might expect to see an avowed (i.e., non-leaky) dispensationalist. We might expect to see someone whose theology was not explicitly Reformed.

After all, organizations like T4G and The Gospel Coalition feature continuationists. Their leaders are willing to work with people like Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren. Is it really believable that they cannot find a place for Christian statesmen like Charles Ryrie or John C. Whitcomb?

The leaders of T4G and The Gospel Coalition certainly make choices about acceptable boundaries. Those choices are reflected in the names that are featured on the platform. That is not wrong. In fact, recognizing boundaries is important. In view of the choices that these leaders make, however, it seems a bit facile to think that their fellowship in these meetings is determined by nothing but the gospel.

Lovers of the gospel may band together for evangelism. They may also band together to defend the gospel. The gospel requires defense when it is attacked and subverted by apostate teachers.

The gospel is not defended merely by restating it. It is not defended merely by exploring it. It is not even defended merely by replying to the arguments of those who attack the gospel. Each of these things is necessary, but even together they are inadequate as a defense for the gospel.

The defense of the gospel requires that apostate teachers be exposed and labeled. It requires that Christian recognition be withheld from them. It requires that the Lord’s people be warned against them, much as Paul did in Galatians 1:6-9 or John did in his second epistle.

In other words, being together for the gospel implies being separated unto the gospel. It implies a radical break with those who deny the gospel. Furthermore, I think it involves a refusal to follow the leadership of Christians who betray the gospel by making common cause with apostates.

This is not the time or place to develop these ideas. What I will note here is that these considerations introduce the fourth, and (in my opinion) most serious difference between fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. The bone of contention between us is over the necessity of absolute ecclesiastical separation from gospel deniers.

The gospel is surely the most important thing in the world. It is the most important thing in Christianity. What is of utmost importance in the Christian faith is expressed in, assumed with, or implied by the gospel.

If we are Christians, then we live and move and have our being in the gospel. Precisely because of its sweeping importance, however, it comes into focus only when it needs to be proclaimed or when it needs to be defended. Both of these activities, however, turn out to entail more than just the recognition of the gospel message.

If my musings come anywhere close to the truth, then evidently we are never simply together for the gospel. For Christians, other factors will necessarily be at work in decisions about fellowship and cooperation. Some of these factors appear to be recognized in practice by the planners of T4G and The Gospel Coalition.

So what about fellowship and cooperation between fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals? I suggest the following considerations.

First, when conservative evangelicals get together for the gospel, they appear to use more than simply the gospel as their basis of fellowship. Perhaps they are wrong to do so, but I am inclined to think that they are right. Whether it is proclaimed or defended, the gospel points beyond itself.

Second, if conservative evangelicals are right to base their cooperation upon more than the gospel, then it becomes difficult to criticize fundamentalists for doing the same thing. The factors that fundamentalists consider are sometimes different than the factors that conservative evangelicals consider. We can weigh each factor for its merits. What we cannot do, however, is to suggest that fundamentalists must strip aside everything except the gospel as a basis of cooperation—unless we are willing to demand that conservative evangelicals do this as well.

Third, if both fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are weighing factors that go beyond the gospel, then an additional possibility opens up. That is the possibility that the two groups are not necessarily obligated to cooperate for the sake of the gospel. They are not obligated to cooperate in its proclamation and they are not obligated to cooperate in its defense. They will need to determine the extent of their cooperation, not simply on the basis of their mutual allegiance to the gospel, but also on the basis of the other factors that they are weighing.

Fourth, if these two groups choose not to cooperate, then their non-cooperation must not be construed as opposition. Choosing to work separately is not the same as antagonism. It is possible to love one another, be grateful for one another, pray for one another, and wish one another success without necessarily working together. Possibly (remember, I am simply testing the idea) such fraternal non-cooperation might be the best course for fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals at more than one level.

Up-Hill
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.


Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). Not every professor, student, or alumnus of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.

20584 reads

There are 74 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

We've had some conversations on the team about topic control. It's a very subjective thing. Some like to keep threads more focused, some don't care so much as long as the person who started the thread isn't concerned. (If somebody starts a thread and wants to keep it on the topic he/she introduced, that's certainly a good reason to keep it focused).
I lean a bit toward the latter perspective. That is, as long as the original poster is content and the conversation is at least somewhat related to the original topic... and not straying into an unrelated "hot" topic (wouldn't want to see threads about the indwelling of the Spirit become threads about KJV controversy, for example), let it go where it goes.
But what's "related" and "unrelated" is really a murky thing. I often see relationships in topics others apparently don't and vice versa.
So I don't think it's ever out of line to suggest "Maybe this should discussion should go to this thread" but "stay on topic or else" should be pretty rare.

But now we're even further off topic because we're talking about topic control. Biggrin

Threads on front page articles where the author doesn't participate much (if at all) are kind of a unique breed. Usually I think we're going to try to keep discussion pretty close to the topics in the article--but with the understanding that the piece itself may introduce more than one topic.

Edit: in this case, the piece definitely raises the issue of Calvinism and other factors that the T4G/Coalition folks rally around beyond the gospel itself... and certainly it raises the issue of what the gospel is when we have "gone beyond" it. So FWIW, I don't think the thread has really wandered much... except for our posts about topic creep!

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

Eric R.'s picture

Aaron wrote:
The argument in this installment is, in large part, that the CE's of T4G and Coalition do, in fact, get together for more than just the gospel, and that there is nothing wrong with this. But by the same token there is also nothing wrong with fundamentalists cooperating/getting together based on more than just the gospel.

I agree that this is Bauder's main argument here. But that confuses me. His argument seems to be based on the premise that the T4G/TGC guys are somehow claiming that the gospel is their only test of fellowship, and Bauder has cleverly uncovered for us that they actually have more guidelines than that. As far as I can tell, his assumption of that premise is based entirely on the names of the groups/conferences.

I am not a member of, nor have I attended a conference of, either group. But it takes all of about 2 minutes on their websites to "discover" that the gospel is not their only test of fellowship. Just read their clearly posted, rather extensive, statements of faith. Anyone interested can find them http://thegospelcoalition.org/about/foundation-documents/confessional/ here and http://t4g.org/aboutus/affirmations-and-denials/ here.

Pointing out that the speakers invited happen to all be Calvinists or Reformed or whatever else doesn't really prove a thing about what the conferences are about. I've been to Fundy conferences where I'm pretty sure all the speakers were Dispensational, Pre-trib, Pre-mil, KJV-preferred and in favor of long skirts, but that wasn't what the conference was about. Perhaps someone here has attended or listened to recordings and could shed some light on the actual content of the conferences?

I just don't get what big revelation the author thinks he's pointing out to us.

But these points remain secondary to my chief concern with this article: a narrow and inaccurate understanding of the nature and purpose of the gospel.

Mike Durning's picture

Dear SI Administrators,

Please redirect all threads about redirecting to other threads to the thread about redirected threads.

Thank you. Smile

Mike

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jay C. wrote:
Please redirect the Invitation / Altar Calls discussion to...

Jay, for my 2 cents, I would have liked the thread to remain here. The altar call issue was introduced by me as a lever to get a discussion going on the main point of Bauder's article which Eric challenged so well, I thought. Eric's point was that the gospel in Fundamentalism is truncated as only being about evangelism and defense. I supported his challenge with an illustration - the use of altar calls and invitations as proof that Fundamentalism needs the gospel for much more than Bauder's 2 points.

It was only natural that my bringing up altar calls and invitations would be challenged in this forum. It was also necessary to defend my point (as did others) becasue it made the larger point about challenging Bauder's limited view of the gospel. It allowed for Eric's main challenge to be proven with something concrete, and not just an assertion - that Fundamentalism has issues with the gospel and life. At least I hoped to show that where Fundamentalism employs the invitation system, it supports Bauder's limitations to the gospel to evangelism and defense. It was necessary to use something concrete (altar call/invitation system) to explain Eric's point that the gospel is broader than those 2 purposes.

I think you might have missed the flow of the thread, bro.

Don Johnson's picture

AndrewSuttles wrote:
Don -

You criticize a group of men for being too inclusive, and yet you call them ecumenicists. Good night, man, get some consistency in your argument. If you hate Calvinists, just say so.

Been away from the internet, hence the delay in replying.

Hmmm.... Your statement doesn't make any sense. As far as I know, "too inclusive" and "ecumenicist" are roughly synonymous. Maybe you mean "too exclusive"? If so, in the context of the T4C gatherings, they are exclusive of all but Calvinists and call that the Gospel, but at the same time, they are quite willing to cooperate with men who compromise the true gospel in various ways, just so long as they have the proper C label.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

That's what I think of every time I read this thread (for those old enough to remember The Partridge Family). YouTube it if you're under 30 :D.

Quote:
...if both fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are weighing factors that go beyond the gospel, then an additional possibility opens up. That is the possibility that the two groups are not necessarily obligated to cooperate for the sake of the gospel. They are not obligated to cooperate in its proclamation and they are not obligated to cooperate in its defense. They will need to determine the extent of their cooperation, not simply on the basis of their mutual allegiance to the gospel, but also on the basis of the other factors that they are weighing.

That's certainly fair and honest. Everyone draws a line somewhere as to where, why and with whom they will cooperate. It isn't enough to say that we can cooperate solely on the Gospel, because let's face it- our testimony, conversation, conduct etc... establish our credibility in the eyes of Christians and the unregenerate world. I'd never want to cooperate 'for the Gospel' with a cussin' preacher- I simply couldn't take him seriously, and neither could anyone else I know, saved or lost.
Quote:

Fourth, if these two groups choose not to cooperate, then their non-cooperation must not be construed as opposition. Choosing to work separately is not the same as antagonism. It is possible to love one another, be grateful for one another, pray for one another, and wish one another success without necessarily working together. Possibly (remember, I am simply testing the idea) such fraternal non-cooperation might be the best course for fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals at more than one level.

This is also fair and needs to be ingested, digested, and repeated.

Jim's picture

Take the Minnesota Baptist Association:

  • There is at least one KJVO church
  • There is a guy (and I like him and I could fellowship with him up to an extent) whose position on election, in my view, basically denies it altogether

In my own church:

  • There are at least 2 5 point calvinists (me and another!). Probably many 4 pointers .... and many "no pointers"
  • There are all kinds of positions about versions (KJV preference, NKJV preference, ESV preference etc)
  • There are all kinds of positions about music
  • There are various positions on home school, public school, Christian Day school
  • I'm sure various positions about standards etc
AndrewSuttles's picture

Don -

You are right, I did mean 'exclusive'.

Regarding the following -

Quote:
If so, in the context of the T4C gatherings, they are exclusive of all but Calvinists...

I don't know how many different ways to say it. Each of these men strong disagree with each other regarding very important doctrines, but yet they can have a conference where they get together to discuss the gospel. I don't understand why you care so much that they folks have a conference centered on the gospel. I wouldn't refer to a Fundamentalist Conference as Together for Scofield.

Aaron -

Quote:
Is Al Mohler a firm cessationist, passionate affirmer of "revivalist taboos," energetic supporter of dispensationalism?

Mohler is not the president of the SBC. He is a seminary president, but so is Paige Patterson and Danny Akin. Bryant Wright is the present President of SBC and Johnny Hunt was the last one. You can google these men to see if they disagree with IFBers any key area of doctrine. I'm guessing they do not.

Mohler is a cessationist, teetotaler, and premillennialist.

Quote:
I don't see how you're getting T4G/Coalition bashing out of it.

Bashing is far too strong. I didn't mean to convey that - only that Bauder is characterizing all of CE as T4G and that is simply not true. Akin, Wright, Patterson, etc are the big names in the big convention so they are far more representative.

Paul said,

Quote:
I believe that Mohler is an amill. Someone please correct me if I am wrong. I doubt he has many taboos, either.

I posted somewhere else where the SBC, as a whole, is against drinking alcohol. Mohler is against drinking and says that 99% of SBC pulpits are close to pastors who drink (not sure what other taboos you have in mind).

Mohler is a premillennialist.

Don Johnson's picture

AndrewSuttles wrote:
Quote:
If so, in the context of the T4C gatherings, they are exclusive of all but Calvinists...

I don't know how many different ways to say it. Each of these men strong disagree with each other regarding very important doctrines, but yet they can have a conference where they get together to discuss the gospel. I don't understand why you care so much that they folks have a conference centered on the gospel. I wouldn't refer to a Fundamentalist Conference as Together for Scofield.

I don't care about the fact the T4C guys have a conference at all. I focus on them because this is where all the noise is made in our endless conversations about it. Usually, when the term "Conservative Evangelical" is used in these discussions, it is shorthand for the T4C crowd.

Now as far as the Calvinist aspect of their gathering, I criticise their use of 'gospel' in their name because they imply that Calvinism = gospel. That just isn't so.

I criticise the T4C guys in general because they are willing to compromise the gospel by toleration of various kinds of error.

AndrewSuttles wrote:
only that Bauder is characterizing all of CE as T4G and that is simply not true. Akin, Wright, Patterson, etc are the big names in the big convention so they are far more representative.

I agree with this. There is too much obsession with the T4C crowd in this debate. But the obsession is revealing something - the push to redefine fundamentalism is linked with the ethos of the T4C gathering.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Paul J. Scharf's picture

AndrewSuttles wrote:
Mohler is a premillennialist.

I stand corrected. I had heard he was amill., and could not find anything definite online.
The taboo comment was a bit tongue in cheek -- not thinking about alcohol per se. Wink

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

FranL's picture

The New Testament drives hard at the truth that the Gospel is for living the Christian life as well as for evengelism. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Paul declares the gospel to the Corinthians by which they were being saved (present participle). Other passages: Romans 1:16, Galatians 2: 20-21 and Colossians 3:1-2 to name a few. Galatians 2:20-21 show that Paul was saved by grace (I have been crucified with Christ) and lived by grace (the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God). Verse 21 states that if righteousness comes by the law then Christ is dead in vain. This applies to both salvation and sanctification.
Even in Revelation 2:1-7, concerning the message to the church at Ephesus, Jesus says they have left their first love. Could this be that they loved their works (they had plenty) more than the Savior Himself? Could they have been boasting in their works rather than in Christ alone? Could this be from not living in the power of the gospel but living in their morality and determination?

As I look at the situation, we need to exhort and preach to Christians sanctification in the gospel as well as salvation. There needs to be a concerted effort to do this or else our Christianity will take on a self righteous element. Because our flesh is sinful and craves attention, there is always this desire to start to take credit for victory over sin, growth in the Chrisian life, witnessing ability, etc. Preaching the gospel as the sole means of sactification (which it is) will keep us humble, knowing that any Christian growth is from the Lord. It will drive self righteousness away because our source of sanctification is Jesus and Him alone. It is the gospel whereby we are being saved.

Francis Lerro

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
the truth that the Gospel is for living the Christian life as well as for evengelism.

I don't think anybody's denying or questioning that.
The concern is gospel reductionism... where biblical teaching that is 'in addition to' gospel is neglected due to overemphasis on the gospel. Yes, it is possible to overemphasize anything.

As for sanctification, it is true that "by grace we are being saved" but this is not what Eph 2.8 says, btw. Don't have my Greek NT w/me or the software at the moment but I'm pretty sure that's a perfect tense verb there.
At any rate, it's just as accurate to speak of salvation as something already done so I think we're going to confuse our listeners less if we use "sanctification" to refer to what is ongoing and "salvation" normally to refer to what is already done... occasionally explaining though that some of sanctif. is already done and much of salv. is yet future.

We just want to avoid like the plague any suggestion that justification is a process.

It's also important not to have a gospel-in-sanctification that results in folks thinking their choices do not matter or that they have no work to do. This is not compatible w/the NT teaching on that taken as a whole.

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

Jay's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
Jay, - i got an email from monergism this morning - they're selling MacArthur's ESV study Bible. I knew they has a prophet motive.

Groan....

I did get MacArthur's newest Direct Mail piece this weekend - he's giving it away for free. I already signed up Smile

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

Pages

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.