Shedding Some Light on Conservative Evangelicalism

I grew up in Winston Salem, NC, a city of roughly 230,000. Not large, but by North Carolina standards, in the top five. Over the years, I’ve bumped into people from rural towns who have noted, sometimes with genuine deference, “Oh, you’re from the big city.” This makes me chuckle considering Winston would probably fit inside of Donald Trump’s living room. Our worldview is potently molded to our experiences such that it affects our perception of objective data and propositional truth.

If your experience of the Christian faith has been primarily independent, fundamentalist, traditional and conservative, operating in small to medium-sized churches, then your perception of evangelicalism may be similar to a small town resident visiting a large city. Bigger doesn’t mean better, but it is certainly different with diverse and multiple choices. This is not to denigrate traditional conservatives (whom I have affectionately nicknamed Tracons) or small towns. It is to illustrate perceptual distinctions. Why write about this? Let me explain.

Our church staff and elders attended the Gospel Coalition 2011 conference in Chicago this past week. What we experienced was simple, but profound, gracious, yet powerful. The subject matter, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, was well crafted and delivered from many regions of the older testament by gifted pastors and leaders. Some of you may have read the updates. While writing the updates and ruminating on the spectrum of participants and contributors at SharperIron, I considered the many articles and comments deliberating the topics of conservative evangelicals, culture, cooperation, fences, separation, etc. It occurred to me that “small town/large city” perceptions exist that skew an appreciation of the believers some have termed “fundagelicals.”

My comments are not meant to define nor defend TGC. You can read their confessional statements and theological vision here. I hope to bring some clarity to the ongoing tension between those of you within the Tracon ecosystem, and those like myself, who are fundamentally grounded in orthodoxy, but less traditional in orthopraxy.

At TGC the entire conference pointed the attendees to Jesus Christ. Every introduction, song, message and workshop proclaimed explicitly that Jesus is Lord. His glory and sovereignty over this world and individual lives were woven into the tapestry of events. I write this because when I read certain debates on this site, I often see a black & white, cut and dried viewpoint that imparts to evangelicals some nebulous legitimacy within Christendom while maintaining fundamentalism as the theocentric ministry gold standard. As difficult as it might be for Tracons to hear, TGC leaders preach God’s Word unapologetically. The Bible is their defining source of reference for all things pertaining to life and godliness. Why the negative little zinger?

I think that many conservative folk who have chosen a traditional path of ministry, with traditional personal standards and traditional music assume that those who do not share their specific personal convictions and conclusions in these matters don’t share equal footing in God’s kingdom. Allow me to illustrate. Please note that I respect Dr. Bauder, whom I know only through his writings. I also appreciate the dialogue he has initiated on this subject. In his Reflections article after ATC, he made a couple of statements that I think sum up the general mindset within the Tracon ecosystem.

If someone is choosing between fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, then fundamentalism is the right choice. And if one is looking for a movement that offers structures through which to advance ideas, it may be the only choice.

Later, he writes:

Conservative evangelicalism is on the far side of fundamentalism from me.

Bauder concludes he is a conservative Christian, neither CE or Fundie. Nonetheless, his conclusions are illustrative of the significant divergence between Tracon and CE mindsets. One, somehow there exists a choice between two teams. “You can be a Cowboys fan, or you can be a Redskins fan, but you can’t be both.” Two, my personal position is home base. Every other theocentric ministry style must measure itself against my personal conclusions. In this is the perceptual distinction. CE’s do not think in these terms.

Within CE circles, there is broad and open acceptance of differing points of view, different styles, and different approaches to ministry. TGC doesn’t promote one way as the best way. In fact, you will hear recommendations to form heterogeneous ministry partnerships. What is promoted is the power of the gospel over people’s lives. Everything is pointed back to redemption, the power of the gospel and the sovereignty of God.

I’ve seen Tracons hypothesize in regard to CE’s, “I appreciate this, that or the other, but I couldn’t join in ministry with them.” Or “I like him, but I couldn’t share a stage with him.” OK, please don’t take this the wrong way, but they don’t care. CE’s have no concern whether or not you think they have the right framework for advancing ideas. They are devoted to serving the Lord, advancing the gospel, seeing God work in lives. The leaders of the CE movement are biblical, spiritually minded and servant hearted. Those involved in their ministries love the Lord, long to see Him glorified and work tirelessly to that end. They attempt to avoid the theoretical and operate in the real. Here’s the rub. Tracon ministries are decreasing in influence while CE’s are increasing.

I hope you will think about this deeply. You must recognize the movement and flow of young adults into the CE ecosystem. It started a decade ago and has built great momentum. Events like TGC highlight the influx. ATC drew 500. TGC drew 6000+. Size is not success, but it illustrates the direction of flow for kingdom resources, both capital and human. One only need look at the attendance patterns of the last decade at Bible colleges and Tracon churches to recognize the significance of the changes.

Some think this shift highlights the gravitation to worldliness and attractional ministry, and sadly a Christianized pop culture does exist in some churches. Yet many are gravitating to the power of the preaching, the proactivity of the ministries and the principal emphasis on biblical community.

You’ll have to take my word for this anecdotal evidence. I have spoken with countless men and women in the last five years who have left a traditional ministry setting for our CE church. Two things I hear often. One, “I’ve never heard the gospel preached so clearly, so practically and with such high expectations.” Two, “The people here are authentic believers. Jesus is real to them seven days a week.” There is genuine, humble, loving and biblical ministry outside of the walls of traditional fundamentalism.

In conclusion, the reason I started with TGC is that it represents a nexus of CE’s. It should help us to put into perspective what is happening in our generation. I’m not suggesting Tracons should migrate, I am advocating a recognition of God’s hand at work among his multifarious body, the church.

I hope each of us will rejoice in knowing that God is working in diverse ways through countless individuals and innumerable churches to accomplish His will. The uniting factor is the transformative redemption found only in Jesus Christ. Despite this complex hurricane of a discussion, remember what Paul wrote: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (ESV, Col. 3:14).

[node:bio/dmicah body]

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RPittman's picture

The college sophomore is the most knowledgeable person around. Upon returning home, he begins enlightening his untutored friends and relatives on the wonders of his newly acquired knowledge. He never pauses to consider that he may not yet have it all down pat and the ones whom he lectures have been there before him. IMHO, this article suffers such a weakness.

Micah shows the earmarks of one recently enlightened by his attendance at GC 2011. His zeal and enthusiasm are commendable but his profound understanding of the intricate issues is lacking. First of all, he seems to be talking down to the Tracons. His portrayal of this group is one of limited exposure and understanding. It's the old ignorant, narrow-minded Fundamentalist shoe. Now, Micah never explicitly says this but his whole tone and demeanor makes it clear. No problem. Fundamentalists have borne this stigma, although perhaps undeserved, since the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy. This is the standard caricature of Fundamentalism whether fitting or not. It's the old game of discrediting your opponent with ridicule when your own substance is lacking.

Second of all, Micah is enamored of the new world that he has entered. This love affair makes for blinders to prevent his seeing all sides. He sees all the positive and laudable qualities that no one contests. No one denies that there's much good and praiseworthy in CE. For example, I, for one, am thankful for the conservative resurgence in the SBC. The problem is that apparent success of CE and the commendable things conceal the pitfalls. Although there is neither the time nor space to list and define the pitfalls, I will note one discrepancy.

All is not as well in CE as it appears to the new initiate. The disparity between talk and walk is overwhelming. Having close association with CE young folks, my mind boggles. How can a supposedly devout Christian girl pray such a beautiful prayer and handle such filthy language a few minutes later? How can an unmarried Christian couple have their devotions together in her bedroom before engaging in sexual relations? The list multiplies . . . . There is a disconnect between professed belief and behavior among many young people in CE. This is the kind of attraction for young people that CE holds--the opportunity to profess accepted orthodoxy and live as one pleases.

Third of all, there is a real lack of understanding why Tracons object to cooperation with CE's. Tracons are country bumpkins who have never been exposed to the big world outside. This seems to be the standard pabulum that is spread among those desiring cooperation. I can remember these same arguments being mouthed since the 1960's. It is not a knowledgeable view but it is the misreading of the separatist position. There is no evidence of real understanding in separation issues. Why should we be separate from both worldliness and religious compromise of associations?

Dan Burrell's picture

Wow, Roland....could we be any more cynical?

Blasting someone who leaves the front porch of fundamentalism and discovers that there is a world out there in which other brothers and sisters in Christ live, who may not dot their "i's" and cross their "t's" exactly like some in the world of old-school fundamentalism do, is not exactly an effective way to help them discern their experiences. Indeed, I have watched this stereotypical response drive them not just into a visit, but into a residence on the other side of the cornfield.

Perhaps a thoughtful dialogue that acknowledges the good that one can find in C/E or fundagelicals or whatever moniker (pejorative or not) one might hang on them might help them to navigate the dangers (and the blessings) of being part of the Body of Christ as they earn their wings. If I'm not mistaken, you're a college professor or have been? So as a matter of practice, do you see "sophomores" moved toward orthodoxy, growth and Truth by sarcasm and stereotyping?

You scold the author, "All is not as well in CE as it appears to the new initiate. The disparity between talk and walk is overwhelming. Having close association with CE young folks, my mind boggles. How can a supposedly devout Christian girl pray such a beautiful prayer and handle such filthy language a few minutes later? How can an unmarried Christian couple have their devotions together in her bedroom before engaging in sexual relations? The list multiplies . . . . There is a disconnect between professed belief and behavior among many young people in CE."

If he's not thinking it, I am....so how does this differ in substance to what we have going on in various and sundry fundamentalist scandals at this very moment -- many of whom who would not be "young folks", but are or have been actual leaders/movers/shakers? Using anomalies or even anecdotal examples as "prooftexts" of universally-existent corruption/error/heresy in a part of a whole would seem to be as fallacious for one group as the other.

I'm not defending all of Micah's conclusions anymore than I am discounting your concerns. I'm simply saying that as long as we hurl cowchips across the cornfield at those who dare visit the "big city", I'm not sure we will convince anyone to return to the farm and we're likely to get a lot of stuff all over us in the process.

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Micah, I appreciate your thoughts on this... a perspective I don't think I've heard before.
While it's certainly possible that growing up "inside" fundamentalism/tracon accounts for some of the perspective on non-fundamentalist belief and practice, it might be better to start with the stated reasons for being one and not the other.
In Kevin's case, he's explained at great length why he identifies with fundamentalism (idea vs. movement) and not with conservative evangelicalism. And has written a good bit on his approach to culture as well.
For the former, a good place to read up is http://sharperiron.org/tags/now-about-those-differences

It's worth doing because, while not everyone shares his analysis of the differences, he makes it very clear that some of the differences between fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are substantial, too substantial from his POV to ignore.
I mostly share his perspective.

As I recall, three points of substantive difference came into focus through that series:

  • Different understanding of and practice of separation
  • Different degree of openness to continuationism
  • Different approach to culture

For me it's not about hanging on to what is familiar and comfortable, but rather there is a thought process behind it and the options have been examined, filtered, and narrowed down to one. I'm sure there are lots of fundies who have not really reflected much on the whys and wherefores, but Kevin is certainly not among them... and he is far from alone.

(As for Roland, he speaks for Roland. I think he and I would agree on that point, though not many others. Biggrin )

dmicah's picture

first, thanks for reading. i think we all understand the parameters of length of articles that limit context. So, i believe a host of Roland's responses would be answered if i wrote a small book, but this was a few words. I know there are some culture issues. It is naive to assume i'm sophomoric on these matters. My main emphasis is that there is a lot of value on the CE side of the fence, that some, like Roland don't want to acknowledge. I really don't want anyone to think i am being snarky about conservative fundamentalists. The rural vs. city thing is an illustration of options, not an assumption of incompetence. Tracons themselves take great effort in announcing their remnant and its resistance to change. So by default, it's smaller, less options. There is no doubt 5 years ago, i spoke with hubris on this topic and employed reverse legalism; "when will they be enlightened?" But God took me through some deep waters to purge that sin. I see great value in the Tracon world and recently spoke at one of their schools. There is value on both sides. In fact, our church is continuing to build a relationship with Piedmont Baptist in WS which is still a very conservative place.

Aaron, thanks for breaking down those points by Dr. Bauder. I did read all of his articles. I agree that the thinking part is a big deal. One of the issues that is definitely a concern in the CE movement is a lack of deep thinking. Not at the leadership level. Certainly DA Carson, Mahaney and Piper have given thought to their beliefs. But there are a lot of young bucks running around planting churches like it's some kind of entrepreneurial franchise. As to separation/culture, I have some opinions of course, but that's for another day.

I recognize i can't have an opinion without personal bias, but i've given this whole thing a lot of consideration. My church is also on the conservative side of CE with most of the staff having graduated from Piedmont, Moody and Trinity. Perhaps a book project would be in order.

Also I could write a fairly clear Devil's Advocate article poking fun at CE's. For instance, TGC was like a Christian hipster convention. Everyone trying to be as cool as the next semi-affluent middle class cat in the room with their man purses & messenger bags, Macs and Moleskins, tattoos and piercings. Every group has its idiosyncrasies. But i still contend that many of us are quite fundamental.

Regards,
micah

RPittman's picture

Dan Burrell wrote:
Wow, Roland....could we be any more cynical?
Yes, Dan, one could have been much more cynical. Cynicism and sarcasm are effective tools if wielded properly. Do you think more pabulum would have made the statement?
Quote:

Blasting someone who leaves the front porch of fundamentalism and discovers that there is a world out there in which other brothers and sisters in Christ live, who may not dot their "i's" and cross their "t's" exactly like some in the world of old-school fundamentalism do, is not exactly an effective way to help them discern their experiences. Indeed, I have watched this stereotypical response drive them not just into a visit, but into a residence on the other side of the cornfield.

Well, you're speaking in hyperbole now. This is hardly blasting someone over dotting "i's" and crossing "t's" and it is not quite the stereotypical Fundamentalist response. There was no heat or anger in my post. I used literary devices to help make my points. In the world of published opinions, don't expect to be soft-soaped or handled with kidskin gloves. If one's ideas won't hold up to critiques, then something is lacking. I don't think one need apologize for being plainspoken. In fact, Christ was quite candid and offensive when He said, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. . . . (John 8:44)."
Quote:

Perhaps a thoughtful dialogue that acknowledges the good that one can find in C/E or fundagelicals or whatever moniker (pejorative or not) one might hang on them might help them to navigate the dangers (and the blessings) of being part of the Body of Christ as they earn their wings. If I'm not mistaken, you're a college professor or have been? So as a matter of practice, do you see "sophomores" moved toward orthodoxy, growth and Truth by sarcasm and stereotyping?

Well, I thought that I found good in the CE, which I balanced with the pitfalls. Read my post again. On the matter of balance, one is not always helped by positive affirmation. Rebuke, correction and reproof are prominent themes of Scripture. It is our total infatuation with the positive that blinds us to our weaknesses. And we're not arguing orthodoxy or truth. We're trying to establish some markers on the continuum for separation by pointing out the inadequacies of the post. Otherwise, we follow the primrose path into a compromised mire. Micah is saying it sound great and feels good so it must be right and good. He doesn't see the corrosive flip-side of the coin. Perhaps it takes a little cynicism and sarcasm to deflate his euphoria. I'm simply playing hardball without rancor or malice. Yes, sophomores are quickly disabused of their grandiose illusions outside of the ivory tower in the nasty gritty world.
Quote:

You scold the author, "All is not as well in CE as it appears to the new initiate. The disparity between talk and walk is overwhelming. Having close association with CE young folks, my mind boggles. How can a supposedly devout Christian girl pray such a beautiful prayer and handle such filthy language a few minutes later? How can an unmarried Christian couple have their devotions together in her bedroom before engaging in sexual relations? The list multiplies . . . . There is a disconnect between professed belief and behavior among many young people in CE."

Dan, I hardly call "as it appears to the new initiate" to be scolding. Again, this was nothing more than a literary device. It is carrying on the theme of the stereotypical sophomore. As Micah stereotyped the Tracons, I stereotyped him. The message is that as stereotyping is repugnant and unfair to him, so it is to the Tracons. The rest of the quoted material is observation of young folks in CE circles. Are you saying that my observations are wrong?
Quote:

If he's not thinking it, I am....so how does this differ in substance to what we have going on in various and sundry fundamentalist scandals at this very moment -- many of whom who would not be "young folks", but are or have been actual leaders/movers/shakers? Using anomalies or even anecdotal examples as "prooftexts" of universally-existent corruption/error/heresy in a part of a whole would seem to be as fallacious for one group as the other.

Well, both are sinful. The scandals are hypocrisy when compared to what we preach and believe. Are these individual failures or failures of our beliefs and principles? Our beliefs and principles are right and are not refuted by high profile failures. Even of the twelve, Judas was a devil (John 6:70). However, there is a distinguishing difference between the Fundamentalist failures of individuals and the disconnect between belief and practice among the CE youth. Fundamentalist beliefs/principles condemn the painful scandals and immorality in its midst whereas the disconnect between faith and practice is promulgated by the beliefs of CE. Without being stated explicitly, their tolerance of diversity and emphasis on uncritical acceptance fosters the idea that it doesn't really matter what you do as long as you love Jesus. Whereas Fundamentalism may err to exclusiveness, CE errs on the other side to inclusiveness. This happens when we fear to put up road signs.
Quote:

I'm not defending all of Micah's conclusions anymore than I am discounting your concerns. I'm simply saying that as long as we hurl cowchips across the cornfield at those who dare visit the "big city", I'm not sure we will convince anyone to return to the farm and we're likely to get a lot of stuff all over us in the process.

I'm not criticizing Micah's trip to the "big city" but I'm just trying to deflate his infatuation with all the bright lights and glittering tinsel that conceal the dangers and corruption. I made my trip more than 40 years ago to a much more dangerous and corrupt city.

As for cow-chips . . . . well, back on the farm, cow-chips were a nasty fact of life and we just had to shovel the manure . . . . Wink

RPittman's picture

Roland wrote:
He sees all the positive and laudable qualities that no one contests. No one denies that there's much good and praiseworthy in CE. For example, I, for one, am thankful for the conservative resurgence in the SBC.

Micah wrote:
My main emphasis is that there is a lot of value on the CE side of the fence, that some, like Roland don't want to acknowledge.
What did I fail to acknowledge? Would you care to retract?

RPittman's picture

[quote=Micah ] i think we all understand the parameters of length of articles that limit context. So, i believe a host of Roland's responses would be answered if i wrote a small book, but this was a few words.[quote]Granted, but I wrote under the same limitations, perhaps more so, of time and space. So, what does this mean? That you could refute me if you had the time and space to do it? That I took unfair advantage of your time and space constraints? What is your point?

RPittman's picture

Micah wrote:
I really don't want anyone to think i am being snarky about conservative fundamentalists.
Well, that was precisely my take on it. But, don't let it bother you because I was smirky over your apparent sophomoric understanding. Wink

Alex Guggenheim's picture

I have to echo much of what Roland stated, not because I am a traditional conservative (because I certainly hold to enough views that would disqualify me as such) but because he rightly identifies the jejune approach by the author. One of the most telling is the author's expression in the article (bold mine):

Quote:
The leaders of the CE movement are biblical, spiritually minded and servant hearted. Those involved in their ministries love the Lord, long to see Him glorified and work tirelessly to that end. They attempt to avoid the theoretical and operate in the real. Here’s the rub. Tracon ministries are decreasing in influence while CE’s are increasing.

I hope you will think about this deeply.

Then in his follow-up he restates this position (bold mine):

dmicah wrote:

I recognize i can't have an opinion without personal bias, but i've given this whole thing a lot of consideration. My church is also on the conservative side of CE with most of the staff having graduated from Piedmont, Moody and Trinity. Perhaps a book project would be in order.

This reflects a certain vanity in his position which assumes (whether he realizes it or not) that others (what he calls Tracons) have not thought "deeply" about what he is proposing. A rather grandiose assumption.

Now he does states some facts but does a poor job of characterizing those whom he labels Tracons with his use of the least flattering contexts and comparisons. And he does seem to manifest a certain infatuation with his associations.

Because, in the end he suggests this:

Quote:
I’m not suggesting Tracons should migrate, I am advocating a recognition of God’s hand at work among his multifarious body, the church.

The news for the author is that most of what he calls Tracons do recognize that God works outside of their associations, they simply reject certain aspects of their theological expressions both in faith and practice (again I am not a traditional conservative, in fact many of my views would place me squarely as a CE).

It mostly seems like an article written to affirm his group but certainly not to treat the topic with supreme objectivity as if to appeal to those outside of his circle.

Charlie's picture

Growing up in fundamentalism, I heard about people outside the movement one of two ways. 1) They're bad, or 2) They have some good points, but...

When groups like T4G and TGC started, when Sovereign Grace started gaining traction, and when the PCA started kicking up its church planting and urban ministry efforts, I heard #2 increasingly. It was obvious that lots of good things were going on outside. So, in order to prevent young people from jumping ship en masse, increasingly sophisticated variations of #2 became offered. The more "good stuff" was readily visible, the longer and pickier the "but" became. After a while, it becomes a lot like saying, "Yes, your NASCAR driver may have won the championship 4 out of the last 5 years, BUT mine...." Does anyone buy that?

I know my perspective is limited. How could it not be? But I see the CE's as almost overwhelmingly good, and fundamentalism as not so good. In fact, most of the good in fundamentalism is caused by the good stuff from CE's spilling over the borders. Expository preaching, multi-elder congregations, rejecting revivalism, etc. all came primarily from influences outside fundamentalism. The people regarded as brains in Fundamentalism - Bauder and Doran - received their education from CE's. Who are the people who remain most stringently separated from conservative evangelicalism? The Hyles types. The Jack Schaaps. The crazy KJVO's (as distinguished from the sane ones). The Finney-esque revivalists.

It's good here in CE-land. Not perfect, not even close. But it's way healthier than the baggage I grew up carrying. So when you want good commentaries, you'll read CE commentaries. When you want good pastoral advice, you'll read CE books. When you want PhD's, you'll go to CE schools. And the few fundamentalists you look to for leadership are themselves products of CE influences. But, most fundamentalists will still go back and say, "They have some good points, but..." Ironically, that's how I refer to fundamentalism now.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

JoeM's picture

This is an issue I've been thinking about for some time. I grew up in the IFB world and went to IFB schools and colleges. Many of the kids & students I grew up with have left the IFB and went "liberal" by going to new evangelical churches.

This was many years ago, but back then most of the students I refered to above that didn't like the IFB would openly mock and ridicule them and flaunted their "liberty." This included students and certain teachers to disobey direct instructions from an organization's leadership about the attending of a CCM concert in another city. Even back then as a college student I was turned off by their "sophmore know-it-all" arrogance, their selfish attitude, and a complete disregard for their heritage. Sure, the IFB had problems, I could see that. But I couldn't understand why they needed to carelessly throw the baby out with the bath water, laughing as they did it without a single thought for the hurt it would cause many a parent. I think I can safely say these people were lead by their own spirit and not of the Holy Spirit.

At the same time in the churches and organizations I went to would speak against the NE world saying they were soft on doctrine and had a very pragmatic attitude towards separation, standards, music, and personal liberty. Frankly, there is a lot of truth to that. Obviously with the recent 20/20-IFB abuse scandal plus other problems the IFB has their issues too.

But now over time as I rub shoulders from time to time I defintely see how that most of them love the Lord, want to serve Him & others, want to be challenged in their walk with the Lord and to be held accountable. In other words, most of them are genuinely Godly people that I would enjoy fellowshipping with.

Honestly, the IFB could learn a lot from the NE world. But I also think the reverse is true too. Both groups have their strengths and weaknesses. I think we're starting to see the distrust that both sides have had for each other in years past starting to disolve.

So, how far do I go with this? Still thinking through it all. On the one hand I think I can say I would fellowship with the NE group, but on the other hand, could I become a member of a NE church? I don't think so for basically the three reasons Blumer mentioned above.

Hopefully both my friends and myself have grown and matured over the years.

dmicah's picture

Roland...
as to length...i think if i wrote a book, i would explain that i recognize many of the dangers you are claiming i don't see. I try to approach this topic even handedly. Stereotyping is not a negative word. There is a general understanding of what traditional conservatives think and how they operate. There is nothing negative in speaking on terms we understand. I only use the term Tracons, b/c it shortens my typing and Star Trek fans can identify with it. Smile

What i can't figure out is why you keep assuming that i just woke up like Rip Van Winkle, stumbled into McCormick Place, listened to speakers at TGC and suddenly abandoned all notions of traditional conservatism. Aaron actually hit it on the head, i spent 31 years including a college education inside an IFB environment. I am intimately aware of its workings. Further, i spent about 3 years thinking and praying before I chose to follow a different path.

You are actually making my overall point. You judge/discern CE's based upon your standards, your system of thought. You judge Christian practice and faith by your personal understanding of the Word and your perception (real world experience) of how things should be. You stated without documentation and support that

Quote:
the disconnect between faith and practice is promulgated by the beliefs of CE
So you assert that not only am I misguided and infatuated with the CE movement, but I'm wrong.

But I say that I as a fundamentalist CE have come to my own conclusions and biblical convictions about separation, culture, cooperation, music, etc. The difference is that I don't say you're wrong, I say you are operating within your personal conviction. Obviously i think my system of thought is best practice, or i wouldn't be doing it, but i believe in freedom in Christ, autonomy of the local church and personal spiritual accountability at a judgment seat one day. Please don't mistake this line of reasoning for "everybody's right as long as they love Jesus" nonsense. I am referring to reasonable disagreements on faith and practice by thinking men and women.

Again, it goes back to experience and perception shaping our worldviews. I am sure you could point out numerous examples of CE's gone wild. Then i would pull out my little rolodex of fundies gone wild and we could perceive that our mutual theocentric ecosystems were fundamentally flawed. But it is not the systems that are flawed, but the humans. And that is the rub.

I bid you well. I have to go get things in motion for our Good Friday service. Perhaps something you could address in a response is my article's assertion that conservative fundamentalists are losing traction and influence. Is that a legitimate assertion, or have i simply lost touch with all things conservative? I base my statement on the attendance i have witnessed at independent conservative churches and the perpetual shuttering of small Christian bible colleges.

Regards,
micah

Greg Long's picture

Micah, thanks for your post. I enjoyed the conference as well.

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

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Bob Hayton's picture

I agree with you Micah. Never heard the angle of small-town/big town quite before. It seems helpful. Like you, I have matured over the last five years in thinking about this. I enjoyed TGC this year and it was my first time that I was able to go to TGC or T4G.

From my vantage as a blogger, I have had countless people tell me of their own journey which led them out of fundamentalism proper into CE-land. It hasn't been easy for them, but the reactions you list seem to be common upon their trying a CE church (I'm referring to your third to last paragraph in the main post).

I was just chatting by Facebook last night with someone who recently found my blog & read my story. He is agonizing over a difficult break with a church he's been in all his life. He has half his deputation funds raised and there is absolutely nothing to be gained by him leaving that IFB church. But he and his wife are compelled to follow their conscience and the Lord's leading. They can't continue acting like they really hold the positions which are so prized in their church.....

This story is multiplied countless times over. And as these decisions are broached, stones are hurled as they pass through the door. They're the next sermon illustration, and most in that church will suspect the worst and imagine evil motives, etc. And families will stand apart over this.

From this perspective, I'm thankful for Micah's charge and his thoughts here, and for SI being willing to give him the platform to share this concern.

BTW, I enjoyed meeting you, Micah at TGC. And I also met Greg & discovered he works for my uncle at his church! Small world....

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.

JG's picture

I went to Biola, I've served at Church of the Open Door in LA, and been in Swindoll's church and Macarthur's church. I've seen the "big city" of CE from the inside -- and I've seen where lack of separation ultimately leads. No thank you.

Of course, I'm happy to continue to serve in a tiny little church in a town in Scotland which will perhaps never be able to support me. So maybe I'm just a country bumpkin, after all. Smile

I wanted to respond to a couple specifics:

Quote:
Why the negative little zinger?

I heard so many negative little zingers towards fundamentalists in my conservative evangelical days that it made me sick, even when I thought the country bumpkin fundies deserved it.
Quote:
Within CE circles, there is broad and open acceptance of differing points of view, different styles, and different approaches to ministry.

Yes, there is broad and open acceptance. Broad and open acceptance of ministries like Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral (his music minister was invited to Western Conservative Baptist Seminary when I was there). Broad and open acceptance of various errors of the charismatic movement, and its musical apostles. Broad and open acceptance of Fuller Theological Seminary's compromises and drift towards serious error. I could go on.

But that "broad and open acceptance" was never extended to those who felt certain types of associations were inappropriate or dangerous, or to those who felt that some types of music were not appropriate for worship, or to those who felt that "broad and open acceptance" ought to actually have some limits. If such people were noticed at all, it was with dismissive attitudes or negative little zingers.

I joined the crowd and had the same dismissive attitudes and said some of those negative little zingers myself. I could have written Brother Micah's article myself back in those days. When a speaker said the only thing that mattered in music was the lyrics, I applauded along with the crowd -- I certainly wasn't one of those narrow-minded people who thought that the music itself mattered. I certainly wasn't a Fundie who would do nothing but fight. There was a whole world out there that was open and broad. I would never be judgmental -- well, except towards those who felt that there should be some discernment in some of these matters.

I lost friends when I decided to leave Western and go to Bob Jones. That's broad and open acceptance, I guess.

Does "broad and open acceptance" include bringing in someone like Dr. Bauder to ask him to explain why there should be limits on music, and actually giving him a fair hearing, with the acknowledgement that actually we might have missed something here? I seriously doubt it.

Maybe conservative evangelicalism has changed over the years, and the snarky comments and dismissive attitudes towards those more conservative than them have been banished. If so, that would be a blessing. But this article gives the opposite impression. The implication is that we don't know what is on the other side, we don't understand, we haven't thought deeply about it.

My response, Brother, would be that for at least some of us, we do know what is on the other side, we've lived in the big city, and we've left precisely because we have thought deeply about it. Your article shows that for some of us, at least, you don't know what is on the other side or understand. Maybe we're just country bumpkins, but maybe you're just a clueless city slicker. Wink

I hope you'll think deeply about that. :bigsmile:

RPittman's picture

Thanks, JG! You're right on target. So, you are old enough to remember hearing this same kind of stuff before? I remember hearing it when I was in the SBC, when I was at ultra-liberal Furman University, and when I mixed and mingled with the NE/OE crowd. It's nothing new and the lines have changed little. As it surfaces in each succeeding generation, folks hail it as something new and amazing. They must either be too young to remember or have forgotten. You and I must be the last two of an older generation with our memories intact. Biggrin

Bob T.'s picture

Why Micah you said:

Quote:
If your experience of the Christian faith has been primarily independent, fundamentalist, traditional and conservative, operating in small to medium-sized churches, then your perception of evangelicalism may be similar to a small town resident visiting a large city.

Why Micah, seems like yous desciben yous xpeeryunce.

You went to big ole Chicago an saw all them thar big buildins an the big lake. Then you saw a big meetin where they had a fancy sound system an some fancy seats an a big platform an there werent any straw on the floor, an some guys preached that were usin big words an sayin fancy things about the OT that you aint never hurd before. It was just so dazzlin an breath takin that it just must be better than all that thar simple stuff you hurd growen up. Yes sir them Kunservutive Eevangelizers are so much better at dazzlin and speekun that they just gotta be better. They just aint so fussy as all them who yell they are Funnymentalists.

Charlie's picture

Several responses to this thread have totally misread Micah's town/city metaphor. The point isn't that a country bumpkin gets educated by the cosmopolitan urbanites. Rather, Micah's pointing out that from the outside, "the city" seems like a homogenous construct. In reality, it contains a diverse array of cultures and lifestyles that resist being reduced to a single label. The lesson is that many Fundamentalists pigeonhole CE's as if they were all the same, but they aren't.

But by all means, continue mocking the article that you didn't even read correctly.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

JG's picture

Hi, Charlie, we haven't "talked" in a long time!

Yes, I had fun with his metaphor, but that's hardly the substance of my response, is it? The point of the metaphor was that fundies don't really understand CE-dom, and that fundies think they are right and CEs are wrong where there are differences. CEs, on the other hand, are broad and accepting.

We need to think deeply about it. What's the implication? We haven't thought, and we don't really understand all there is on the other side, and we are the uncharitable ones.

I think I answered that. The "country bumpkin" vs. "city slicker" thing is just playing around, but with a point. You shouldn't actually make a big deal of people with a different view not really understanding and having flawed perceptions unless you actually understand where they are coming from yourself. Perhaps your perceptions are at least as flawed as theirs.

I don't have much use for those who trash CEs and see no value in their service for Christ. I know CEs who have a commitment to the Lord and to personal purity that outshines the majority of fundies I have known. I certainly know that they are an extremely diverse group.

But I have to part with CEs in some significant ways because of decisions they make that I cannot endorse, and it isn't because of flawed perceptions, or because I haven't thought deeply about it.

Mr. Pittman, you sound like you've got me with one foot in the grave, but Dr. T. thinks I'm just a young whippersnapper. Perhaps both are correct, in a way. Anyway, I hereby separate from you and SI because they allow a former Furman guy and two former Biolans (me being one of them) to post here. What a mess.

The real problem with the article was not that it extolled the benefits of the conference, which I'm sure had great value. The problem was that it made assumptions about those who aren't prepared to adopt the CE path which, at least in some cases, are not well-founded. It has nothing to do with perceptual problems, and everything to do with a desire to apply the Scriptures faithfully in every part of life and ministry, and the conviction that the CE approach violates that.

If only the conference had been in Greenville (and NOT at Furman), it might have received our blessing. Or something. Wink

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

A couple of folks seem to be a wee bit touchy on this subject... which makes their critics appear even more likely to be right. (Hmm... maybe getting hot and bothered is not a good strategy?)

I don't get what's so offensive about being told basically that you're only a fundie/tracon because you don't get out enough. (I know several fundies I'm pretty sure are only fundies because they don't get out enough!). It's an idea worth reflecting on. It's not like a little self examination will kill anyone.

But JG and some others have (or are) a valid point here: Micah's thesis is hard to sustain when you consider the fact that there are some evangelicals (conservative and otherwise) who have found their way into fundamentalism. True, these are not numerous (though there are more if you go back far enough). But it's enough to suggest the main idea needs tweaking a bit. I think it's fair enough to say that many fundamentalists are only under that banner because they've never really looked thoughtfully at the choices they have. But it's necessary also to point out that this is not universally true and manifestly not true of Kevin Bauder.

As for me, it's true, I don't get out much. (But I can read, watch youtube, and listen to mp3's... so I think I'm not completely in the dark on what I've been missing. Wink )

Sus's picture

As someone who grew up conservative evangelical and now attends an independent Baptist church, I appreciated Micah's reminder that "there is genuine, humble, loving and biblical ministry outside of the walls of traditional fundamentalism." At the same time, I respect the concerns that others have raised. To be honest, I struggle at times with the details of what biblical separation should look like in my life.

Still, I can't help but feel that some -- certainly not all -- within fundamentalist circles are missing out on the fellowship, blessing, and perspective that comes with seeing God work in and through those with whom we might not necessarily agree. This discussion only makes me more eager for the day when our differences are forgotten and we bow together before our risen Lord!

Full disclosure: The church I grew up in was a former brethren assembly in Scotland (JG, I'd love to know what church you serve in), I attended that "ultra-liberal Furman University", and I'm a complete newbie to SI. I'm also an former city girl who now lives down the street from a cow field. Smile

Matthew Richards's picture

Welcome, Sus! So glad to have your perspective here. Looking forward to reading more of your thoughts here at SI!

Matthew

dmicah's picture

I am grateful for Aaron allowing this dialogue. I appreciate those who took the time to read and comment. I think there is much to be gained from this discussion.

Let me clarify two things, I really did not intend to imply anyone in the Tracon world is a bumpkin. Perhaps i should have used an illustration like growing up in England, and then moving to the states. The US is much larger and more diverse, but not superior. It's a culture distinction that affects life experience. Those who thought i was looking down from the enlightened halls of the CE ecosystem misunderstood, probably my lack of clarity. For those who included sarcasm in their response, thank you for speaking to one of my love languages. Smile

When i emphasized "thinking deeply", in the article, i was specifically referring to the apparent exodus of young people from the traditional conservative setting. It is something to consider, especially in light of what i believe the CE world has to offer, i.e. biblical community, authentic daily walks of faith, solid expositional teaching, etc. I was not assuming fundies don't think. It's obvious, Dr. Bauder thinks. i could have made that clearer.

Lastly, i am not challenging anyone to leave the Tracon ecosystem. I am challenging those in it to consider the breadth of our faith and the sovereign control of the Lord to work in and through different people. If you are firmly in the CE world, remember that perception and experience affects everyone. We can quickly resort to reverse legalism. It may sound like I'm crying, "Why can't we all just get along?" But I'm really saying that God's creative track record includes a diverse multi-layered world full of exotic locales, environments, climates, animals and beauty. Why should we expect his people to be monolithic? ...from every tongue, from every nation, from every culture.

So glad He rose from the grave and now acts as the holy advocate for those He is unashamed to call family. It's so humbling.
Happy Easter!
Micah

JG's picture

Hey, all, if I sounded touchy, please forgive me. I meant it to be humorous.

I think I'm the one who originated the term "bumpkin". I was teasing. I didn't think Micah implied that fundies/tracons/whatever are bumpkins -- just that people have limited perspective/perceptions. I don't think it was a well-founded premise, but I certainly don't feel touchy about it.

I'm quite happy with where I am, because I'm convinced (for good Biblical reason) that where I was when I was in the CE camp is not where God wants me. While no doubt I have much to learn about exactly where and what He wants me to be, I'm pretty confident I'm on the right path.

I'm thankful for my time in CE-dom, though. I learned a lot in those days. A lot of Scripture, a lot of the errors and compromises of evangelicalism, a lot of the danger in those things, but also a lot of appreciation for godly people who are seeking to please Him.

For many in conservative evangelicalism, the worst that can be said is that their heart is towards the Lord but they haven't quite got an understanding from the Scriptures of all that would please the Lord. That is undoubtedly true of me, too. I'm thankful for II Chronicles 30:17-20. It makes it very clear -- purity matters, but the good Lord is gracious to those whose hearts are prepared. We need to seek purity with all our hearts, for that is the mark of one whose heart is truly prepared, but should we fail in purity despite a heart desire for God, the Lord is good and heals.

The fundamentalist attitude towards conservative evangelicals, all too often, doesn't match up very well to Hezekiah's attitude. In my experience, CEs can be just as inappropriate, or even worse, towards fundies, but that doesn't excuse us.

Sus, I've sent you a message.

Mike Harding's picture

Bob,

I think your comment was one of the most hilarious things I have read in a long time. Satire can be quite effective.

Mike Harding

Pastor Mike Harding

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

JG wrote:
Hey, all, if I sounded touchy, please forgive me. I meant it to be humorous.

It was probably just my touchy reading glasses.... actually I can't remember now if I was thinking of you or not!

Sus wrote:
'm also an former city girl who now lives down the street from a cow field. Smile

Welcome... and let's hear it for the cow fields!
(I occasionally hear a horse to two trot by my office window... not unusual around here)

dmicah wrote:
I am challenging those in it to consider the breadth of our faith and the sovereign control of the Lord to work in and through different people.

Writing that communicates what you really mean it to is hard work, isn't it?! Well, there was (still is, I'm sure) a segment of the "tracon ecosystem" (that actually sounds pretty cool. I'm picturing it on a T shirt) that is eager to think of and portray everyone outside it as an evil just about equal to the Devil himself. I didn't grow up thinking that way, mostly because we read all the books of our nearest evangelical neighbors (and some not so near ones). So the reasons for being the Tracon Collective (sorry, it's cooler than "ecosystem") don't--in my case--include thinking that God is doing nothing important among those outside it.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

[img=433x430 ]/sites/default/files/images/11_04/teshirt.jpg[/img ]

I'll take orders... if we get a hundred or so, we'll have a batch made. Biggrin

Forrest's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
[img=433x430 ]/sites/default/files/images/11_04/teshirt.jpg[/img ]

I'll take orders... if we get a hundred or so, we'll have a batch made. Biggrin


Count me in!

That is so funny.

You ought to put an add on the front page, and make it a prize for the writing contest too!

lol

Forrest Berry

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