Survey Update: Who's Talking and What are They Saying?

(Read the survey introduction.)

The ‘09-‘10 SI Reader Survey has been in progress for a few weeks now, and the results so far are quite interesting. The survey will continue for another month or so, but I’d like to share some results now in the hopes that first, many of you will find them interesting and second, many who have not yet taken the survey will take a few minutes to go to that.

At the moment, 428 have completed surveys. 55% of these are readers who signed up for membership after June 1 of this year. The rest are split about half and half between readers who used to have memberships at SI (but no longer do) and readers who have never been members.

Here are some survey results so far.

Demographics

  • About half of SI readers are between age 25 and 44. About 38% are between 45 and 64.
  • Vocationally, 38% are pastors, 13% are teachers, and about 19% chose “other.” (Note: this question allows multiple selections so there is overlap in the responses.)
  • Education: 30% have earned Bachelor’s degrees from Christian institutions. 39% have earned Master’s degrees. 16% are currently doing Master’s degree work.

Use of SI and views about the site 

  • Patterns: the vast majority visit the Front Page when reading SI. A majority read the Filings. Less than half read the Forums, Foundry or Blogroll.
  • Well over half of those who do not post often in the Forums say this is because they do not have time. 26% cited a wide variety of other reasons.
  • Slightly more than half of those surveyed felt that SI should challenge the status quo in Fundamentalism about as often as it does now. 22% said it should do this more often.

Views on issues

  • Fundamentalism:  50% identify with “the best of the Fundamentalist movement,” while 24% expressed distance from the movement but belief in “the idea.”
  • 62% are multi-translational and prefer more literal translations over more “dynamic” ones. 3% believe it is wrong to use anything other than the KJV.
  • On Calvinsim: 22% claim to be five pointers, another 22% claim to be four pointers. 34% do not claim “Calvinism,” though acknowledging some beliefs in common with it.
  • Eschatology: 82% are pre-millennialist and pre-tribulational. 42% are confident of whatever position they take. (We’ll eventually “cross-tabulate” to see how many of the premillennial, pretribulational believers are confident, etc.)

What folks are saying

Below are samples from the “other” and comment portions of various questions. These have received many entries and I’ve selected the few that appear here with no conscious criteria in mind other than a vague sense of “that’s interesting” and some effort to balance negative with positive.

Why some do not post often in the forums

“The forums are dominated by New Evangelicals claiming to be fundamentalists.”

“I’m not a fundamentalist, therefore I can’t join.”

“I don’t want to offend.”

“Thought I had to be a member” [You do].

“Most of the contributors are too young to know if they are right, and the older ones aren’t open to change.”

“…It is apparent to me that being too honest on this site is not generally welcome by the new publisher and owner. BTW, the site has noticeably deteriorated in the past year in debate quality and thought-provoking information provided. Hence, even though I have considered posting, I have resisted. And to further clarify FYI, I do consider myself a historic fundamentalist even though I share a YF view.”

“I’m simply not as verbally skilled as the majority of the posters here.”

“I rarely have anything of value to contribute. The discussion tends to be more educational for me than for others to benefit from my input.”

“Some folks get very rancorous in forums. Not a battle worth fighting.”

“Mainly enjoy reading the dialogue.”

Does SharperIron give people who are ill-informed or ill-mannered too much influence?

“Ill informed people may post a lot, but the # of posts doesn’t = influence.”

“Maybe a little; when it first started, it seemed like many were trying to make a name for themselves on SI; such behavior seems to have dwindled.”

“Self-proclaimed ‘experts’ who take over discussions.”

“It often allows those that are ill-informed to have a place to post, but other posts usually point out their flaws.”

“At times. However, I dont know how one would monitor this differently.”

“It seems to me that the young computer geeks get all the space. Older gray beards who have thought through the issues and have the Bible knowledge are scared of computers. As a result it isn’t good balance.”

“You’re talking about censorship, you have moderators deciding who is ill-informed, and personal bias often gets involved, SI has a history of allowing non-Fundamentalists to join.”

“In the past there were times when accusations and slander against individuals being discussed was permitted; I haven’t seen it in a while.”

What changes would you welcome?

“It needs to be much more positive and Christ-centered—that’s why I lack interest—too negative and too many hills to die on—ugh!”

“I enjoy the site as is!”

“A worldview among members which is actually consistant with fundamentalism, so you believe in the fundamentals of the faith, if you’re living like the world, so what?”

“Stay independent and don’t get sucked into being beholden to any school or group.”

“I can’t think of anything that should be changed. Online courses could be a good thing. Like I said earlier I am mainly using SI as a learning tool. Since we are out of the US, much of the controversial issues are in some ways new to me. Or rather I have missed the details. I have appreciated SI for how these things have been handled. The discussions have made me study my Bible more, so that is a good thing.”

“I would welcome more relevant articles on apologetics and true issues (like, personal holiness in regards to living out the Gospel), not bickering about things that are non-issues. It also seems like (especially in the Filings sidebar) that this blog is turning into one of those ‘watchblogs’ where all we like to do is talk about the evil in the apostate churches and the unregenerate world and get all excited about how terrible it all is. Why is that so exciting? Unsaved people are going to act unsaved. Not worth reading about.”

“While this survey might be helpful to you, the horse left the barn. You already lost virtually every non-Calvinist, balanced Fundamentalist. You have little idea how many have been driven away by your hosting, backing and running interference for Bauder. You aren’t going get any one back and the rest aren’t going to join SI as it is still moving toward evangelicalism and promoting those views and practices. You’re too late! No one believes SI can be returned to a balanced, biblical Fundamentalism because under Janz it never was in the first place and is still moving away under Blumer. You’re too late!”

“There’s too much ‘clutter’ on the front page, it’s hard to follow. I come here much less now, since the changes, just because it’s harder to follow. Perhaps getting rid of so much ‘stuff’ and streamlining things down would be helpful. When time is short, it’s easier to follow when there isn’t so much ‘stuff’. :)”

“Challenge assumptions.”

“Some comments on front page articles moderated before they post, according to the desires of the author, and only if this gains new authors.”

“Not much should change. You’ve got a good balance right now.”

“I wonder if you would consider allowing one forum category that specifically allows non-members to input comments, although they could be restricted from starting a new topic. This would allow opinions from outside fundamentalism, if anybody ever wanted them. You could consider having these comments moderated before posting them.”

On Calvinism

“The 5 points of Calvinism are in error but this does not void all of John Calvin’s works or license one to simply dismiss his contribution to theology seeing his works to not all revolve around the 5 points.”

“I am neither a calvinist nor an arminian; I believe both to be serious and damaging error and stick to scripture.”

“I have several beliefs in common with Calvinism, but I cannot explain or fully understand the biblical tension between points like free will and predestination. I am comfortable in rejecting any label and seeking to serve the Lord with what I do comprehend.”

“I was chosen bt a Soverign God before the foundation of the world. This substitutionary atonement dealt with every sin I’ve ever committed or will commit. Someone else will have add up my ‘points.’” 

“Calvin was Catholic, Baptist killer, French and did I mention Catholic.”

“Dumb question. This is a human idea.”

“Defined historically, I do not accept any points of the so-called ‘five points.’ I believe that the Arminianism and Calvinism debate is a false dilemma (do not accept either).”

“The Bible proves both Calvinism and free will.” 

Until next time

As you can see, weighing a boatload of feedback all at once is challenging! Our readers are all over the map on a number of things. But that does make the survey interesting (if sometimes pretty painful) reading. To those who have not yet taken the survey, please do it soon (click here). The more responses we collect the more valid the results. To the several hundred who have already taken the time, thanks so much for sharing your point of view. It is extremely valuable, and we’ll be reflecting on it for quite some time to come, I’m sure.


Aaron Blumer, SI’s site publisher, is a native of lower Michigan and a graduate of Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He, his wife, and their two children live in a small town in western Wisconsin, where he has pastored Grace Baptist Church (Boyceville, WI) since 2000. Prior to serving as a pastor, Aaron taught school in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and served in customer service and technical support for Unisys Corporation (Eagan, MN). He enjoys science fiction, music, and dabbling in software development.

 

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There are 34 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

Some of us are more "vocal" on SI than others (okay, maybe I should say that we like to write a lot and express ourselves).

As a result, we tend to be the "face" of SI, while others simply read or rarely comment. Thus it is interesting to read the comments.

I was surprised that only 44% (total) claimed to be either 4 or 5 point Calvinists (I am a 4). Reading the posts, one would think that it would be more like 85%!

What REALLY surprised me was the eschatology figure. I am Premil/Pretrib, but I thought I was in the minority, based upon forum discussions and a seeming propensity to attack dispensationalism. Yet, according to the survey:

Quote:
Eschatology: 82% are pre-millennialist and pre-tribulational.

We certainly are a (mostly) silent majority!

I took the survey almost immediately, but I want to share one thing I have come to notice since that time. It used to be that more SI folks liked to talk interpretation of Bible verses or contexts. I remember talking about Egyptian chronologies and the Exodus, or obscure passages in Ezekiel.

I have noted an obsession with talking about fundamentalism and education, but much less interest in talking Bible content. I suspect the "Bible content" contributors no longer participate, and that saddens me. A couple of verses that have long guided me in ministry philosophy is Psalm 119:99-100

Quote:
I have more insight than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, Because I have observed Your precepts.

It would be great if we could focus on the Bible more. I really miss that. Other Bible forums either do not have the clientele or they do not approach matters from a fundamental/conservative evangelical position.

I also think SI should advertise itself as a "Fundamentalist/Conservative Evangelical" site to attract more participation.

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The premil pretrib numbers surprised me a bit also.
As for talking Bible content, it's true we used to have a handful of folks who really enjoyed discussing exposition and these are, for whatever reason, not participating anymore.
I'm not sure advertising ourselves differently is the solution, but I agree that actively recruiting more in the "Bible talk" arena would be a good idea, and I'd be more than happy to see more that kind of discussion.
One surveyee commented about sermons that used to be posted. I don't remember ever seeing those, but perhaps giving something like that some high visibility would be a good way to strengthen that part of the site.
I think it's easy for the pastors who participate or read to forget that though they are the largest single "vocation block," the majority of readers are not pastors.

I'd also really like to see us "reboot" our ministry to women. No clue yet on how to do that so suggestions welcome.

I didn't mention it in the main post, but there was also alot of votes for structured debate with selected participants. So that idea has promise.
The challenge there is finding people with the right qualities to participate:

  • Real knowledge of the subject
  • An irenic--um, rational? disposition (outstanding ability to keep one's cool and not 'go personal')
  • Willing
  • At least two participants with substantially different views on the question
  • A little experience with how debates work (I'd love to see an old fashioned resolution-negative-positive-cross ex format) But that part's not really all that hard to explain.

So, for those of you who liked that idea, we'd love to hear suggestions for debate topics as well as candidates with differing views who might be willing to do some head to head here.

Joseph's picture

The education figures were striking, don't you think? When you add them up, a huge majority of the people who read/post have college degrees.

Maybe that's just where we are at culturally, but it seems like an unusually high percentage. Maybe Fundamentalists are an exceptionally educated group. That would be a nice smack in the face to a lot of cultural commentators . . .

Ed Vasicek's picture

Joseph wrote:
The education figures were striking, don't you think? When you add them up, a huge majority of the people who read/post have college degrees.

Maybe that's just where we are at culturally, but it seems like an unusually high percentage. Maybe Fundamentalists are an exceptionally educated group. That would be a nice smack in the face to a lot of cultural commentators . . .

I think, Joseph, that it is more likely that the type of fundamentalist that participates on SI either has a degree or is willing to think.

Like a church, intentionally or -- more often-- unintentionally, birds of a feather flock together. This site has attracted people who are willing to think, and that is one of the things I have enjoyed about it. I have learned much.

"The Midrash Detective"

Charlie's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

I was surprised that only 44% (total) claimed to be either 4 or 5 point Calvinists (I am a 4). Reading the posts, one would think that it would be more like 85%!

This surprised me at first, but I suspect that Calvinism has not deeply penetrated into lay Fundamentalists, partly because many Fundamentalist pastors either intentionally keep quiet about it or use terms like "doctrines of grace" or "sovereignty of God" or even "Reformed," and many laypeople don't realize it's just an alternative label. For example, not long ago, a church secretary at a large, influential Fundamentalist church in Greenville was outraged that someone would suggest that a seminarian from her church was a Calvinist. What she didn't realize is that her entire pastoral staff is composed of 4-pointers and just about every young adult is a 5-pointer. I think we've seen just the tip of the iceberg of Calvinism in Fundamentalism.

Ed Vasicek wrote:

What REALLY surprised me was the eschatology figure. I am Premil/Pretrib, but I thought I was in the minority, based upon forum discussions and a seeming propensity to attack dispensationalism. Yet, according to the survey:
Eschatology: 82% are pre-millennialist and pre-tribulational.

Agreed. Although, if trends in evangelicalism are accurate indicators (and they have been for just about everything else), the next few decades will see a massive shift to historic premillennialism. As an a/postmill guy, I regard that with a bit of indifference.

Ed Vasicek wrote:

I took the survey almost immediately, but I want to share one thing I have come to notice since that time. It used to be that more SI folks liked to talk interpretation of Bible verses or contexts. I remember talking about Egyptian chronologies and the Exodus, or obscure passages in Ezekiel.

I have noted an obsession with talking about fundamentalism and education, but much less interest in talking Bible content. I suspect the "Bible content" contributors no longer participate, and that saddens me.

I suspect that part of this is because SI spends more time discussing trends, systems, the history of Fundamentalism, and global issues. Threads about specific passages are great, but usually aren't that relevant to the purpose of SI. Really, how much can the label "Fundamentalist" change exegesis? Almost all of my exegesis textbooks at BJU were by evangelicals.

Ed Vasicek wrote:
I also think SI should advertise itself as a "Fundamentalist/Conservative Evangelical" site to attract more participation.

But it would only attract a certain kind of participant, the kind that is comfortable sharing ground with CE's. It's not likely to draw in more people from Hyles, PCC, Crown, West Coast, Ambassador, etc. And, if you say that you'd rather have CE's than those kinds of Fundamentalists, you've really raised the question whether SI Fundamentalists are distinguishable from CE's.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Paul J. Scharf's picture

[quote=Ed Vasicek ] It used to be that more SI folks liked to talk interpretation of Bible verses or contexts. I remember talking about Egyptian chronologies and the Exodus, or obscure passages in Ezekiel. I have noted an obsession with talking about fundamentalism and education, but much less interest in talking Bible content. I suspect the "Bible content" contributors no longer participate, and that saddens me. A couple of verses that have long guided me in ministry philosophy is Psalm 119:99-100

Ed -- You raise a good and thought-provoking point.

Obviously, it is easier and more tempting to write a response about some trend in fundamentalism than it would be to provide a substantive comment on a passage. Perhaps some of us are also still enjoying the feeling of freedom to express ourselves about some of these issues -- and a forum in which to do so effectively. Let's not forget how "new" this all still is.

But you make a great point, and one worth considering. I think sometimes we can get ourselves riled up about responding to one another when really it may be more an issue of semantics than real disagreement.

Also, this is purely my opinion -- but I get discouraged sometimes when there is a thread on a theological/exegetical topic and someone posts a LONG, detailed response -- as if to announce, "Thanks for asking, now that I have the floor, I will provide the answer to all of your questions."

And yet, how else would you deal with an exegetical issue such as you raise in this type of forum??

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Jay's picture

Charlie wrote:
Ed Vasicek wrote:
I also think SI should advertise itself as a "Fundamentalist/Conservative Evangelical" site to attract more participation.

But it would only attract a certain kind of participant, the kind that is comfortable sharing ground with CE's. It's not likely to draw in more people from Hyles, PCC, Crown, West Coast, Ambassador, etc. And, if you say that you'd rather have CE's than those kinds of Fundamentalists, you've really raised the question whether SI Fundamentalists are distinguishable from CE's.


Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't think that there are all that many SI Fundamentalists who would want to be differentiated between Cons. Evangelicals, and I'm not really sure how we'd need to differentiate between the two from an admin point of view.

The Doctrinal Statement asks that members verify that they hold to ten things:

Doctrinal Statement wrote:

1. The plenary Divine inspiration of the Scriptures in the original languages, their consequent inerrancy and infallibility, and as the Word of God, the supreme and final authority in faith and life.
2. The Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
3. The essential, absolute, eternal Deity and the real and proper, but sinless, humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. His birth of the Virgin Mary.
5. His substitutionary, expiatory death, in that He gave His life "a ransom for many."
6. His resurrection from among the dead in the body in which He was crucified, and the second coming of this same Jesus in power and great glory.
7. The total depravity of man through the fall.
8. Salvation, the effect of regeneration by the Spirit and the Word, not by works, but by grace through faith.
9. The everlasting bliss of the saved, and the everlasting suffering of the lost.
10. The real spiritual unity in Christ of all redeemed by His precious blood.
11. The necessity of maintaining according to the Word of God, the purity of the Church in doctrine and life.

I doubt that any self proclaimed CE [re: someone who does not take the "Fundamentalist label" ] would have a hard time disagreeing with any of the above. That said, I'm not really sure that it's possible to draw a line of demarcation between the two here, and I'm not sure that this site really NEEDS to.

"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

Charlie's picture

Jay C wrote:

Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't think that there are all that many SI Fundamentalists who would want to be differentiated between Cons. Evangelicals, and I'm not really sure how we'd need to differentiate between the two from an admin point of view.

...

I doubt that any self proclaimed CE [re: someone who does not take the "Fundamentalist label" ] would have a hard time disagreeing with any of the above. That said, I'm not really sure that it's possible to draw a line of demarcation between the two here, and I'm not sure that this site really NEEDS to.

I don't think I'm entirely understanding what you're saying. If SI Fundamentalists cannot be differentiated from CE's, then one of two things must be true. 1) SI Fundamentalists are really CE's, not Fundamentalists, or 2) CE and Fundamentalist are at least partially overlapping terms. If #1, then SI's posturing as a site for Fundamentalists is a farce. If #2, then SI is operating with a vocabularly significantly different than most Fundamentalist institutions. Would Bauder, Doran, or BJU not be able to distinguish themselves from CE's?

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The differences between CE's and Fundamentalists tend to fall into two categories... and I know I read or heard (conference?) some good stuff on this recently but my mind is drawing a blank on where it was.
Anyway...
1. All the cultural stuff. Most Fundamentalists are still want way more scrutiny of, and distance from, the current culture than most CEs
2. Secondary separation... most Fundamentalists sill believe in separating more aggressively than most CE's in areas of "disobedience" (intentional or just due to incorrect understanding)

If those are, roughly, the differences, then the line is difficult to maintain at SI because (a) many here are not in the same place as their forbears in their attitude toward the cultural questions and (b) there really isn't opportunity here to practice ecclesiastical separation.
We could make something of what you claim to believe about these things, but not what folks actually do. The doctrinal statement has never been strong on these points nor have the statements in the FAQ and other places where fundamentalism was referred to in descriptive ways.

In short, if at this stage we started using a definition of "Fundamentalist" that etches a crisp line between "Fundamentalist" and "Conservative Evangelical," we would be switching horses mid stream. The site's working definition has always been (and I think intentionally) very fuzzy around the edges. I'm pretty sure part of the aim on day one was that Fundies and CE's would talk to eachother here. As far as membership goes, they do so under a pretty broad "Fundamentalist" label.
I may have to revise some of this later. Gotta run.

Joseph's picture

Charlie wrote:

If SI Fundamentalists cannot be differentiated from CE's, then one of two things must be true. 1) SI Fundamentalists are really CE's, not Fundamentalists, or 2) CE and Fundamentalist are at least partially overlapping terms. If #1, then SI's posturing as a site for Fundamentalists is a farce. If #2, then SI is operating with a vocabularly significantly different than most Fundamentalist institutions. Would Bauder, Doran, or BJU not be able to distinguish themselves from CE's?

Those are not the only valid inferences to be drawn, which means it's fallacious to present the options as a stark dilemma.

It's perfectly possible that, "from an administrative point of view," on a forum like SI the differences between CE's and Fundamentalists are not relevant, cannot be discerned, or simply do not come into play.

What SI very helpfullly shows people - and this is one of its great services, in my view - is that what they think they are can a distortion. People often have rather unnuanced views of themselves, so if they think of themselves as "Fundamentalists," then they can think everything about themselves qua Christian is part of being a Fundamentalist. This is nonsense, though very common. People like me on SI show people that, no, in fact, being commited to the idea of Fundamentalist, or historical Fundamentalism, is compatible with a whole range of sensibilities, dispositions, and non-Fundamental doctrinal differences.

As I've have always said, if J. Gresham Machen was a Fundamentalist, then its a broader, deeper, more substantive, and therefore more accomodating term than many people think it is or want it to be. Everyone who knows anything about Machen knows he would make most "Fundamentalists" feel uncomfortable, just as any highly cultured, well educated person can make people with less culture and education feel awkward, even if this reflects no viice on anyone's part; differences can be uncomfortable. I always bring up Machen because of how different he was, not just as an academic, but as part of the old Southern arisocracy, from most of us today, especially in our sensibilities.

Finally, another response to Jay C. is that there may in fact be no substantive doctrinal differences between CE and Fundamentalists, which I think is the often case. Cultural issues are not doctrinal issues, and gross distortions result when we try to equate the two, e.g. when we try to somehow squeeze music or clothing into the set of beliefs that divide us from liberals, heretics, etc. The very desire to attempt this reflects deep problems in our theology.

The fact is, having heard people like Minnick talk about or to CE's, there simply is not a good reason to not have these groups associate with each other formally; the differences are real, but they are not substantive doctrinal differences. They are differences in sub-culture, academic outlook, cultural disposition, and other factors which often are far more noticable and bothersome to us than theology.

I personally differ as much with CE's as with Fundamentalist (in the movement) in terms of my dispositions and sensibilities on some matters; but that never makes me think, "hmm, maybe I don't believe all this doctrine anyway." I know, generally, pretty well where the differences arise, and they are intellectual and cultural, not theological - and I try to resist the temptation to make every issue "theological" in some overt sense.

Anyway . . . carry on.

Charlie's picture

Joseph wrote:

It's perfectly possible that, "from an administrative point of view," on a forum like SI the differences between CE's and Fundamentalists are not relevant, cannot be discerned, or simply do not come into play.

What SI very helpfullly shows people - and this is one of its great services, in my view - is that what they think they are can a distortion. People often have rather unnuanced views of themselves, so if they think of themselves as "Fundamentalists," then they can think everything about themselves qua Christian is part of being a Fundamentalist. This is nonsense, though very common. People like me on SI show people that, no, in fact, being commited to the idea of Fundamentalist, or historical Fundamentalism, is compatible with a whole range of sensibilities, dispositions, and non-Fundamental doctrinal differences.

I've been reflecting on my earlier post, and I believe you are correct. As Aaron said, part of SI's identity is an intentional ambiguity in the term Fundamentalist. I don't know why that struck me as unusual when I read Jay's post. On that note, I wonder if that's one of the reasons many Fundamentalists don't want to participate on SI. They have very concrete ideas about what constitutes a Fundamentalist and are therefore constantly irritated by the ambiguities of the site. SI represents a mild rebuke to many Fundamentalist institutions. For example, BJU students (generally) aren't allowed to attend PCA or Southern Baptist churches, yet we have members of those bodies in good standing here. From their point of view, it must look like SI is intentionally compromising. As uncomfortable as it may be to be around people with different beliefs, it is even more uncomfortable to be around people with different beliefs when they insist on sharing a label with you.

Perhaps, then, some stricter Fundamentalists might be more comfortable on SI if it did advertise itself as a forum for CE's and Fundies. To use the recent Manhattan Declaration as an example, I'm sure many more Protestants would have supported it if it hadn't so strongly implied that all the participants belonged to a single genus.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Jay's picture

Charlie wrote:
Jay C wrote:

Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't think that there are all that many SI Fundamentalists who would want to be differentiated between Cons. Evangelicals, and I'm not really sure how we'd need to differentiate between the two from an admin point of view.

...

I doubt that any self proclaimed CE [re: someone who does not take the "Fundamentalist label" ] would have a hard time disagreeing with any of the above. That said, I'm not really sure that it's possible to draw a line of demarcation between the two here, and I'm not sure that this site really NEEDS to.

I don't think I'm entirely understanding what you're saying. If SI Fundamentalists cannot be differentiated from CE's, then one of two things must be true. 1) SI Fundamentalists are really CE's, not Fundamentalists, or 2) CE and Fundamentalist are at least partially overlapping terms. If #1, then SI's posturing as a site for Fundamentalists is a farce. If #2, then SI is operating with a vocabularly significantly different than most Fundamentalist institutions. Would Bauder, Doran, or BJU not be able to distinguish themselves from CE's?


Charlie,

Joseph did a good job in explaining my rationale; so much so that I need only make one minor comment.

Lots of religious people talk about 'being one' [echoing John 17 ], but what SharperIron does is to make this a semi-reality. Not because there are no differences between the two camps, but because the list of things to believe in order to post here is pretty much limited to just the ten doctrinal items that I referred to above, and to agree that the writer/poster is a "Fundamentalist". I think that most 'harder-core' Fundies won't associate with us because the site allows discussion of [what I see as ] peripheral issues like the Bible Version debate [as opposed to everyone just using the KJV ], music, et cetera [and some of that will be clear once Aaron opens up all the rest of the survey results, I'm sure ], and so they see us as 'compromised' and won't associate with us. Some proof of this may be found in someone's comment in the original post about "the horse leaving the barn". So the site LOOKS like it leans more to the left than it might if, say, BJU hosted it. [I'm not picking on BJU, just using them because they are pretty much the only one with the resources to pull this type of thing off if they wanted to. ]

So as long as the registration is doctrinal specific and not "sphere of influence" specific [I went to BJU, I went to Detroit, I went to TMS ], I don't know how we could split the two categories apart. Furthermore, as long as the registration remains doctrinally specific and not culturally issue specific, we can't tell. There are some here from denominational churches / affiliations that in whole are theologically liberal, but a few people reject their denomination's teaching and still hold to the doctrinal core that we ask all members to, so they are allowed to be here.

"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

Jay's picture

On the CE/Fundy divide here at SI - it's not possible to give exact percentages on what members are what because we do not ask members to self identify as to their position. Basically, we'd have to have some way for users to mark that they are not 'fundamentalists' when they register, and there's no way to do that. We could do an informal poll on the forums, but even then you'd have to nail down a definition of fundamentalist that everyone could agree with...good luck with that, and that would only be valid for users who made the post at that specific time, not people who identified as fundies when they registered and have since changed to CE's. While we do have fields for church and school [I think school is on there ], they are optional and not mandatory, so they would only be marginally helpful if we needed to pull donors on that.

So, speaking from a DBA point of view, SI and the software that runs it either does not have the capacity to break out those numbers or the site chooses not to use it. As I said, I don't think we need to.

"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

Joseph's picture

Charlie,

Interesting thoughts. I'm inclined to think you're right about SI making a lot of Fundies uncomfortable. I'm not sure about the shift in image/advertising, particularly because I'm not sure if Conservative Evangelical isn't more of a Fundamentalist term than one a large group uses to self-identify, etc.

Groups, like individuals, are partally constituted by their level of self-consciousness, and sensitive groups incorporate others' perceptions of themselves into their own awareness, which in turn shapes the way that group portrays itself and acts.

Fundamentalists have historically not been very self-conscious in a serious sense, and this has a lot to do with its general disregard of serious intellectual activity. The results in this area have been consequential, although seemingly not well recognized. It's perhaps easier to see this by looking at Evangelicalism. Prior to the Neos, Fundamentalists Protestants largely existed as if serious cultural and intellectual discussions were not happening - this is one consequence of removing oneself from power centers like universities, urban centers, etc. New Evangelicals were brilliantly successful at changing the state of consciousness on intellectual matters, even if some of their gains came at high prices. A result of this is that one technically non-doctrinal "thing" that separates many theologically educated Evangelicals from many comparably educated Fundamentalists is that the Evangelicals will probably have a broader perspective, been required to read more critical and secular scholarship, etc. In short, the evangelical seminarian will have a qualitatively different kind of consciousness than the Fundamentalist seminarian (saya Trinity M.Div and a BJU M.Div). This is what produces one of the most notable differences between the groups, in my view, and it's not something that is well captured in a survey or on paper. You can hear it by comparing Minnck and Dever; Dever, granted he's exceptionally well educated and well read, just comes off (in general) as a broader, more deeply read, and less polemical kind of guy. Now, this happens to be literally true, and it hardly reflects poorly on Minnick - Dever, as I said, is an exceptional pastor.

But I think it represents a fairly accurate ideal-typical construction of one difference between even a conservative Evangelical and a Fundamentalist, viz. given comparably educated and intelligent Fundamentalists and CEs, the latter will reflect a different degree of self-consciousness, in many ways deeper (culturally and intellectually), than the former. I'm not talking about regular pew-sitters here, I'm talking about the theologically self-conscious seminarian types. One could continue this kind of ideal-typical analysis with the Dutch Reformed, Presbies, etc. but that isn't my point.

The point is that SI contributes to changing Fundamentalists' identity by deepening and expanding their degree of self-consciousness as "movement members," or self-identified Fundies. I don't think we'll see Evangelicals move towards us in a formal, self-conscious way; they may get more conservative, but they will not become "Fundamentalists," again; I think that's a kind of historical impossibility, given the history of 20 C American religion. So, the group that will move, self-consciouslly, will be Fundies. That's a good thing in my view, and SI is contributing to it.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Joseph,

Quote:
You can hear it by comparing Minnck and Dever
This is a most interesting comment to me. Can you give us some insight as to your comparison method? What did you compare? How did you do it? Can you be more specific?

A few other thoughts, so long as I am here.

I am not sure conservative evangelicals (which, BTW, I don't think is a fundamental designation according to something I was reading recently and I can't recall exactly which source, but it is at my office) ... I don't think conservative evangelicals have this self-consciousness that you speak of. Perhaps at the upper levels they do, but then as you seem to admit, the fundamentalists do as well. I think the rank and file evangelical pastor is largely fairly clueless on a lot of important matters (as is the rank and file fundamentalist pastor).

My experience with MDiv grads from evangelical institutions has not revealed much self-consciousness at all. They seem completely unaware as to where they fit, either historically or contemporaneously. They do not seem to have a better grasp on theological matters than do the grads of fundamentalist institutions. It is interesting in my interaction with them how little awareness they show of anything outside of raw pragmatism. I could give examples t

You say that you don't think evangelicals will move towards fundamentalist in a "formal, self-conscious way." But I think they already have. I think the last decade or two has shown a pulling back from a lot of what the NE agenda was (though it is still alive and well). I think many insiders are of the view that McCune summarized as "Promise Unfulfilled" and that dates prior to his writing. I think back in the 60-70s NEs were already seeing major problems that drew some back towards the fundamentalist position.

Joseph's picture

Larry wrote:
This is a most interesting comment to me. Can you give us some insight as to your comparison method? What did you compare? How did you do it? Can you be more specific?

A few other thoughts, so long as I am here.

I am not sure conservative evangelicals (which, BTW, I don't think is a fundamental designation according to something I was reading recently and I can't recall exactly which source, but it is at my office) ... I don't think conservative evangelicals have this self-consciousness that you speak of. Perhaps at the upper levels they do, but then as you seem to admit, the fundamentalists do as well. I think the rank and file evangelical pastor is largely fairly clueless on a lot of important matters (as is the rank and file fundamentalist pastor).

My experience with MDiv grads from evangelical institutions has not revealed much self-consciousness at all. They seem completely unaware as to where they fit, either historically or contemporaneously. They do not seem to have a better grasp on theological matters than do the grads of fundamentalist institutions. It is interesting in my interaction with them how little awareness they show of anything outside of raw pragmatism. I could give examples t

You say that you don't think evangelicals will move towards fundamentalist in a "formal, self-conscious way." But I think they already have. I think the last decade or two has shown a pulling back from a lot of what the NE agenda was (though it is still alive and well). I think many insiders are of the view that McCune summarized as "Promise Unfulfilled" and that dates prior to his writing. I think back in the 60-70s NEs were already seeing major problems that drew some back towards the fundamentalist position.

With respect to my comment about Minnick and Dever, my answer is not technically "No, I can't," but "No, I won't waste my time." Asking questions like that is, in my view, silly, when you know perfectly well such a "method" would be a post facto construction. Such constructions may be valid (if they succeed in consciously reconstructing an unconscious process), but I have no interest in constructing one. If you disagree with my observation about Dever as exceptionally well-educated, well read, etc. that's fine; you won't see the same thing nor buy the my results of a comparision, regardless of the "method" used. If you agree with my observation (which I think is not a particularly incisive or controversial one, nor, as I said, does it reflect poorly on Minnick) it's a waste of time to convince of something you already agree of. In short, it's a waste of time to answer that question.

With respect to your experience, again, it would be pointless for me to argue with your experience; experience is not, as such, the proper content over which to argue.

You do, however, seem to have missed a couple things in my post. First, I was explicit that I was not talking about the rank and file, but was talking about an "ideal-typical" comparison of comparably educated folks from each group. While I can't argue with your experience, I could simpy refer you to the required reading and courses at the two example institutions (Trinity and BJU). I doubt anyone would argue that they differ in some substantial ways, one being that the former require more reading in secular and critical scholarship.

Second, you also seem to have shifted the focus from what I was talking (evidenced in your failure to note all the specific elements of the post: "ideal-typical," "Trinity and BJU," etc.) about to something else, something specific that I was not addressing, viz. whether my ideal-type of the CE seminarian is as "movement consciousness" as his Fundie counterpart. I was not addressing that nor do I find it terribly significant. Again, obviously, I don't dispute your experience. Speaking broadly, few people seem to be self-conscious about the "movements" or historical forces that have shaped their disctinctive identity; one factor that alters this general trend is being a (disliked or persecuted) minority and/or having an identity that is partially constituted by opposition to other groups. In this latter case, it will be more likely that people in such a group would be self-conscious about their group - that Fundamentalists are so follows logically from the fact that they are such a group. Evangelicals are, I think, not as much so, if they are at all.

With respect to your final point about self-conscious movement towards Fundamentalism, I can't dispute with your experience. I do not, however, think it reflects as significant (if even real) a trend as you seem to think, and this is so for at least three reasons. First, except for an incredibly small group of Fundamentalists , I doubt most peopel have heard of, much less read, McCune's book (I would be interested in how many copies have sold). Second, and more broadly, besides a few churches and their affliate instituions, I cannot think of any major group or institutions that would (much less actually has) indicate(d) a self-conscious movement towards "Fundamentalism" (not just a movement to the right, a distinction which I made in my post).

The "many insiders" to whom you refer are beyond my compass, so I can't speak to them. I can say having studied for four years at an Evangelical institution with numerous self-consciously evangelical professors who studied at evangelical institutions (Trinity, et al.) and regularly attended Evangelical events (at ETS/EPS) that I have seen nothing of the sort, especially amongst academics (who would be teaching these ideal seminarian I was discussing). There is no doubt that there is variety in Evangelicalism, with CEs like Piper and Dever representing one slice of the pie, but these would be the most likely groups to indicate the kind of movement I find implausible, and I see no evidence of them so doing. That they appreciate elements of Fundamentalism, etc. is all well known, but I've not heard such men calling for a movement towards "Fundamentalism." That would be bizarre anyway for these guys, who would be more likely to frame a call for renewal in broader terms (e.g. return to the Gospel, authority of Scripture, etc.).

Either way, this is a historical/sociological question, and all of my data is anecdotal. It will be interesting if you're right, but I don't see evidence for that - although you may have some to produce. I'd also be interested when you get time in the term CE as something usually with some regularity and normality outside of Fundamentalism, mainly out of curiosity. I having nothing at stake, I just got the impression it was a term Fundies used more than others.

Finally, I should note that I don't think the ideal-typical CE I am describing is superior, in some moral or spiritual sense, to his Fundie counterpart. Rather, my point was that there would be a qualitative difference in consciousness, in part due to education. So, unless ones thinks that being better educated makes one a better person, my comparison does not suggest that one group is better than the other. Its point was to highlight a singificant difference (consciousness) and its potential causes (education, etc.). Moreover, the overall purpose of my post was to respond to Charlie on the issue of SI, Fundamentalism, and self-consciousness. I did not see you address much of that, which is fine, but that's what I was interested in - so it may be we're just interested in different things here.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Wow, Joseph, that was a quite a lengthy response to what I thought was a pretty simple question. I shall be lengthy in return.

1. I am truly sorry that you won’t “waste your time” defending what you said about Minnick vs. Dever. That was actually all I wanted to know. I don’t disagree with your description of Dever as well-educated or well-read. However, you said, Dever “comes off (in general) as a broader, more deeply read, and less polemical kind of guy.” I am curious as to what you base that on. “Less polemical” perhaps, but it would seem to be hard to argue that in light of Dever’s comments on eschatology, evangelism, baptism, or a host of other issues. I think he is polemical on different issues. In other words, I am not convinced your observation is “not a particularly incisive or controversial one.” I think, so far, it is baseless. That’s not to say it is incorrect, but it is far from self-evident. So I was asking as to how you arrived at that conclusion.

2. You say you were “explicit that I was not talking about the rank and file, but was talking about an "ideal-typical" comparison of comparably educated folks from each group.” I assumed when you talked about “the evangelical seminarian” and “the Fundamentalist seminarian” and explained it by “saya Trinity M.Div and a BJU M.Div” I assumed you were talking about the rank and file pastors who have MDivs, not the PhDs. If I misunderstood, my apologies.

3. With respect to the reading lists, I have seen neither the list from TEDS or BJU on the MDiv level since I attended neither for that purpose (though I have attended both). If you have these lists, I would be interested in seeing them.

4. With respect to shifting the focus, you seem to base a lot of your post on this idea of self-consciousness. You talked about it more than I did. So I don’t think I shifted the focus at all, but whatever. It’s not big deal.

5. You say, with respect to your final point about self-conscious movement towards Fundamentalism, I can't dispute with your experience. I think you misunderstand. That has nothing to do with my experience. You further say that The "many insiders" to whom you refer are beyond my compass, so I can't speak to them. I can say having studied for four years at an Evangelical institution... If you studied for four years at an Evangelical institution and are not familiar with these names, then something is wrong. Maybe you should have gone to Bob Jones. Biggrin These issues date back more than three decades. Harold Lindsell, a NE who taught at Fuller (the birthplace of NE), took his fellow NEs to task over the doctrine of the Bible trying to move them back towards the view that the fundamentalists held. Carl Henry, I think as far back as the 70s if I recall correctly and up until the day of his death (as evidenced by a news article about him with a quote of him just a day or two before he died) expressed grave concern that NE had gone too far and needed to come back. A student of Charles Woodbridge (I think it was Charles and not John, but I can’t recall for sure), said he asked Woodbridge if NE had failed and Woodbridge said yes. Even the conservative resurgence in the SBC was a move back toward fundamentalist positions in many areas. So this is a long issue, and it has nothing to do with my experience. I don’t think any of these men were consistent as they should be, and I don’t think they shared fundamentalist sensitivities or commitments, but they saw problems and they addressed them. They did not want to become fundamentalists. But they were concerned that the NEs were going the wrong direction. And the concerns they expressed were fundamentalist concerns.

6. You say, a self-conscious movement towards "Fundamentalism" (not just a movement to the right, a distinction which I made in my post). First, your distinction was they may get more conservative, but they will not become "Fundamentalists," again; If words mean anything (up for debate I know Biggrin … Just having some fun with you), your distinction was about becoming fundamentalist, not a movement towards Fundamentalism. I think by any reckoning of anyone who understands the issues, a movement to the right is a movement towards fundamentalists/fundamentalism, even if you never get there. If the fundamentalists are to the right on the spectrum (which is not particularly insightful or controversial), then a move to the right is a move toward fundamentalism.

7. You speak of guys who would be more likely to frame a call for renewal in broader terms (e.g. return to the Gospel, authority of Scripture, etc.). That would be a move towards fundamentalism. If you are familiar with the issues, you remember that the authority of Scripture and gospel itself were major issues in NE and its evolution. Ultimately there was a denial of the authority of Scripture and there developed a major issue on the gospel that led to ecumenical evangelism/ECT and the like. So this call that you speak of toward scriptural authority and the gospel, in and of itself, is a call to move towards fundamentalism .

8. I'd also be interested when you get time in the term CE as something usually with some regularity and normality outside of Fundamentalism, mainly out of curiosity. I will try to find the reference. I have read quite a bit lately in preparation for class I am teaching that I can’t recall the source. At the time it was interesting to me, but not worth documenting because it served no purpose for me. If I can find it, I will pass it along.

9. Finally, I should note that I don't think the ideal-typical CE I am describing is superior, in some moral or spiritual sense, to his Fundie counterpart. Fair enough. I am not bothered by that. In fact, I wasn’t bothered originally. I was curious as to your comments about Dever and Minnick. I would urge you to reconsider making the case. I would like to more fully understand your point and your bases for it.

Joseph's picture

Larry,

I think the crux of this is your No. 6., although I'll respond to some other things to in order to be clear about what I meant. I think there is a very big difference between people just becoming more conservative, or rejecting some NE tactic, and moving towards Fundamentalism. As an example, it's easy for me to imagine lots of the people you mention still repudiating Fundamentalism. Admitting failures/weaknesses of NE does not mean you return to what you left, and that is an important distinction. I would not dispute that from the perspective of a future historian, when the all cards are on the table, the people like Woodbridge and Carson (esp. if he's right about another battle for the Bible brewing) may look like the Machens of the late 20C/early 21 C - but neither of them, for example, advocate a return to Fundamentalism. So, if we disagree on this, that is the heart of our disagreement. Even if we do, though, it's ultimately a debate about how to use the word "Fundamentalism," one that could be resolved by making distinctions.

I maintain, though, that someone who knows exactly what Fundamentalism is (like Piper or Dever, for example), today, and does not advocate becoming like it, even if said person is becoming more conservative (I don't see this, by the way), is not moving towards Fundamentalism. The only way this could be the case is if one simply equates Fundamentalism with certain doctrinal positions and then empties it historical characteristics (I've already said CE may not differ in any substantive way on doctrine - the differences are things like "consciousness," which was the point of my post). Rejecting a tactic or admitting excess is not advocating a return to the status quo ante. If one does this evacuation of historical meaning from Fundamentalism, then the failure of "Fundamentalists" to fellowship with Dever et al. becomes even more baseless.

With respect to No. 5, your use of "insiders" did not tip me off to the referents you intended; I am familiar with those people (one of my mentors did his dissertation under Joel Feinberg, and he, my mentor, had a lot of stories about Feinberg's stories), Marsden's account, the inerrancy debates, etc. I use to grade inerrancy papers by undergraduates. But these people like Woodbridge prove my point: none of them said, "Well, I guess we should have just stayed Fundamentalist. That's where I'm heading now." And the fact that they did not say is significant.

On Dever and Minnick - I don't really understand your concern, and I assume it must be personal. I can't imagine you have not heard the 9marks interview, which is the most obvious grounds for a direct comparison. I'm not as familiar with Minnick as with Dever, and I know Dever is a good baptist, but he's still irenic. If it makes you happy I'm willing to withdraw the "less polemical." Although I see no evidence that it isn't the case, it's not a hill I care to defend.

Dever and Minnick were, like TEDS and BJU just examples, particularly good ones since they actually had a conversation, which is why I mentioned them. If you don't like them as examples, you can choose others, but the example is not the point: the example illustrates the point. Dever has a different mindset, a different way of viewing things, and I think he, as a CE, represents broader concerns, both intellectually, culturally, and theologically, than what I've seen from Fundamentalists. How many Fundies, for example, studied under scholars like Roger Nicole then did a PhD at Cambridge? That's not everyday stuff anywhere, but it's also not unusual for pastors' at Dever's level in Evangelicalism (e.g. think of Keller as an intellectual, Piper, fluent in German, PhD from Munich, etc.) And, note, the fact the Dever could study under Nicole was because of the successes (which were great, regardless of the failures) of NE. That makes a difference, and that's one of the differences I was drawing attention to. I really don't think it's controversial; it's more likely I am not making myself clear.

In fact, as I think of it, Dever and Piper are both good illustration: these two classic CE's both have educations that no leader in Fundamentalism has (that I'm aware of - point me to the Munich and Cambridge grads. if they are out there). That kind of difference in education is one of the things that produces measurable differences, not in doctrine, per se, but in sensibilities, levels of awareness, fields of concern and engagement, etc. And because these guys are influential, they are modeling a subtly different pastoral ideal (e.g more educated, more intellectually engaged), which influences their followers, etc.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Somewhere back there someone suggested the possibility that CE and Fundamentalist are overlapping terms. [Edit: I mean, questioned if they might be overlapping terms ] I was surprised to see that because I thought it was generally known that "Conservative Evangelical" is a category that includes "Fundamentalist." That is, Fundamentalists are CE's who are particular about a couple more things than most CE's are.
(Important things, in my view).
I don't know if that helps. The last several posts are deep into "I don't get it... what's that all about?" territory for me.

In my view, some CE's are fundamentalists and don't know it. That is, they believe in the same principles and practices of separation and share the same stronger antipathy toward culture (because they identify it more strongly with "the world.")
But they do not claim the name or have much interest in the visible gatherings and institutions we call "the movement."

Also, some self-identifying "Fundamentalists" are really CE's of the non-fundamentalist variety and don't know it... because they simply do not share the beliefs and attitudes that are distinctives (and these are few in number in any case... few but important).

It is not impossible to distinguish between them, but since one is a subset of the other, it's often not easy to tell. Of course, when you're dealing with a prominent public figure, there's an additional element: we've had a chance to observe what they do when a massive "cooperative evangelism" event comes to town and get an idea what they believe the limits of fellowship are/ought to be. Or we have them in writing clearly telling us that they are not fundamentalists.
At a website where folks discuss things, you don't often have that kind of information, nor is there any sure way to get it.

So far, it's worked pretty well to have a fairly vaguely defined "Fundamentalist" label for the site and say "this place is for Fundamentalists." That doesn't mean it will work well forever, and we (mods, admins and I) have bounced around some other ways to handle the "fundamentalist identity" question.

Of of the options that has been talked about (and only that) is more precisely defining what the 'folks who run the place' believe and practice and what we mean when we say "we are Fundamentalists" without changing the current ambiguity with respect to membership. Kind of a "supplemental doctrinal statement" scenario.
But we all recognize that what makes conversation interesting in many cases is not having a really precise definition we all agree on.
That is, it would just get really, really dull if we started saying 'We all have to have the same views on all the issues to be members here.'

All that to get around to this. Two things that are not on the table at this moment:
1. Restricting membership any more than it currently is
2. Becoming a "non fundamentalist site"
I realize some believe #2 is already the case. That's to be expected, since the membership standard is pretty accommodating... It's also to be expected since lots of fundamentalists have a large number of disqualifiers along the lines of "If you don't believe/do as I believe/do on A you are not a real fundamentlist."

Lots more to say but this post already long and some folks in the "real world" want my attention.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Joseph,

1. How does one become more conservative without moving toward those who are already conservative? That seems impossible to me. I think everyone acknowledges that fundamentalist are more conservative. To try to argue that some are becoming more conservative or rejecting a NE tactic without somehow moving towards those who are already there and already rejected the tactic is a strange argument to attempt to make. I don't think any of these men in question want to be fundamentalists or are becoming fundamentalists. I never said that, but perhaps I was unclear.

2. Fundamentalism is about doctrine and response to those who have capitulated on doctrine (or never held it to begin with). People have tried to shoehorn in all manner of stuff that really doesn't help and isn't clear. And they do it from both sides. But when people move towards biblical doctrine, they are moving towards fundamentalism even if they never actually get to fundamentalism, and even if they repudiate fundamentalism. Anything else seems to be word games to me. Historically, fundamentalism was about fidelity to the fundamentals of the faith and the militant defense of them up to and including separation. NEs rejected the latter, and along the way many of them rejected the former as well. And when that happened, many NEs were calling people back towards fundamentalism.

3. I don't think people like Woodbridge prove your point. I think they prove mine, that these men saw the problems with NE, that it wasn't what they intended it to be, and that it failed in many respects. And BTW, speaking of consciousness, fundamentalists recognized these failures long before NEs did. The NEs were simply not self-conscious enough to see it. They were late to the party. (Of course fundamentalists don't have parties, so it was strictly a NE party.)

4. On Dever and Minnick, it's not personal in the least. I am not really concerned about it. I am simply curious as to how you concluded that Dever is broader and more deeply read then Minnick. I don't know either of their reading habits. I don't know that there anyone anywhere who more meticulous and thorough with the text as Minnick is. If by "broader" you mean in terms of fellowship, perhaps. If you mean in terms of academic breadth, then I question how you know this. I am not saying it isn't true. I am questioning your basis for knowledge. An interview about a very narrow subject does not seem to be sufficient grounds. I don't know either of their reading habits, and I don't know how you do. So I can't comment on that. I am wondering how you can.

5. With respect to studying under Nicole and Cambridge, there are not many evangelicals who can say that. So picking a fairly unique situation and pointing out that no one in fundamentalism measures up is hardly a good argument. Few in evangelicalism measure up to that argument. It is pretty unusual. Keller has a DMin from Westminster. That's not particularly impressive academically. And a number of fundamentalists have that. Keller is exceptionally gifted in many ways. But again, that seems a wrong standard of comparison. Furthermore, I have to wonder why it matters? Why the infatuation with these things? Academically, evangelicalism does not receive much regard among top tier schools because of their view of critical scholarship. When Peter Enns embarked on his fateful journey with I&I, he was virtually run out of evangelicalism for it.

So again, I am not all that concerned with most of this. It just doesn't matter to me that much. I think it is an interesting topic that is pretty irrelevant. Those who want the acclaim of the world will do what it takes to get it. Others will not.

But I am still simply wondering your basis for comparison. That's all.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Charlie wrote:
I've been reflecting on my earlier post, and I believe you are correct. As Aaron said, part of SI's identity is an intentional ambiguity in the term Fundamentalist. I don't know why that struck me as unusual when I read Jay's post. On that note, I wonder if that's one of the reasons many Fundamentalists don't want to participate on SI. They have very concrete ideas about what constitutes a Fundamentalist and are therefore constantly irritated by the ambiguities of the site. SI represents a mild rebuke to many Fundamentalist institutions. For example, BJU students (generally) aren't allowed to attend PCA or Southern Baptist churches, yet we have members of those bodies in good standing here. From their point of view, it must look like SI is intentionally compromising. As uncomfortable as it may be to be around people with different beliefs, it is even more uncomfortable to be around people with different beliefs when they insist on sharing a label with you.

Perhaps, then, some stricter Fundamentalists might be more comfortable on SI if it did advertise itself as a forum for CE's and Fundies. To use the recent Manhattan Declaration as an example, I'm sure many more Protestants would have supported it if it hadn't so strongly implied that all the participants belonged to a single genus.


Whatever 'group' people think they belong to, there is often a desire for exclusivity, which is something I perceive in quite a few of the comments on the survey. It is hard work to truly understand what someone has written without the benefit of a real life relationship, tone of voice, and facial expression, and who wants to put forth effort to participate in an internet forum? The reason most people read but don't post is because they don't have time, and I appreciate that- they aren't going to participate unless they have time to really think through what has been posted and to write a reasoned and supported response.

What disappoints me is when those with more knowledge and wisdom are sometimes too impatient and intolerant- they don't like being questioned by people they consider to be 'beneath' them in the sense of education, experience, age, gender, position... and this could be a venue for people to ask questions and debate topics they wouldn't be comfortable asking about IRL. Sure there are some people who are arrogant... so what? Don't we learn more about ourselves when we have to communicate with someone who is unpleasant vs. someone who always nods their head and smiles at us?

Some people invest too much, IMO, by 'reading into' comments and trying to psycho-analyze the members, moderators and admin, and attempt to label the site as being intolerant of this or too tolerant of that view, but I think the membership tends to self-regulate in this area. So a few people think mods step in too often, and others think we don't step in enough... which is probably proof we are doing just fine... but I think there is quite a bit to be said for allowing controversial topics and hard issues to be tossed around, pinned down, dissected... the process itself is valuable and IMO watching people 'think things through' is essential to understanding each other and improving communication.

I'd really be disappointed to see a "Calvinists Only" or "Dispies Only" Club here- I think the membership process is as narrow as we can make it without it becoming "Us Four and No More", and there is just no possible way to narrow it to people who make the same lifestyle choices. Oy vey.

Jon Bell's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
The differences between CE's and Fundamentalists tend to fall into two categories... and I know I read or heard (conference?) some good stuff on this recently but my mind is drawing a blank on where it was.
Anyway...
1. All the cultural stuff. Most Fundamentalists are still want way more scrutiny of, and distance from, the current culture than most CEs
2. Secondary separation... most Fundamentalists sill believe in separating more aggressively than most CE's in areas of "disobedience" (intentional or just due to incorrect understanding)

I see the biggest difference being simply the direction that we are coming from. When you read the Pyros and others in the CE camp they are mostly where most YFs are. The chief difference is that they arrived there from broad evangelicalism and we have arrived there from fundamentalism but we all seem to be standing on the same train platform. Now, a lot of people think that the station is called "Neo-Evangelicalism" but I think a number of people (Bauder, Straub, et aliud) have demonstrated that current movement within fundamentalism/YFs is not at all the same as the dreaded "neos" that your grandpappy warned you about!

The most disturbing thing to me in this survey is the vitriol of some people. It seems as though it is mostly older people. I love being told I am not a fundamentalist! My cred is as good as anyone's and I am happy to label myself a fundamentalist as I am anything else. All labels need qualifiers. But the hate toward people who hold orthodox positions is unbelievable. Both Calvinism and Arminianism are orthodox positions and both can also morph into unorthodox positions. I don't really think of myself as a Calvinist but I am deeply concerned about the theological direction of MOST Fundamentalist Arminians I have met. And that shows doubly here in the forums. We all need to acknowledge that the movement will attract people who are not 100% like us as is true of every movement. We need to interact with others who are different from us in light of the gospel. This is just how our churches are folks! My church is small but encompasses people from Calvinism to Open Theism and KJVO to complete ignorance of the translation issue. We preach/teach the word in line with 2000 years of orthodoxy. We don't straw-man other orthodox beliefs. At the end of the day we want every member of the church to be growing into the image of Christ and being saturated with His word!

While I am blathering let me just say, the snooty "You're a neo!" attitude of some posters here has the same sinful ring of the new evangelicals, "You're and ignorant fundamentalist!" One of the things that CEs and YF have in common is a desire to dialogue without compromising the truth and to speak the truth in love.

Jon Bell
Bucksport, ME
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and

Charlie's picture

Jon Bell wrote:
My church is small but encompasses people from Calvinism to Open Theism and KJVO to complete ignorance of the translation issue. We preach/teach the word in line with 2000 years of orthodoxy. We don't straw-man other orthodox beliefs. At the end of the day we want every member of the church to be growing into the image of Christ and being saturated with His word!

A KJVO Open theist, is that a joke? Jon, if you think that's an orthodox position, I'm not sure you're a Fundamentalist or a CE. Plus, I have no idea what sort of definition of orthodoxy you're using or what 2,000 years of it you're referring to.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Jay's picture

Charlie, I think that he's saying there are people who are Calvinist, people who are Open Theist, and people who are KJVO in his church. His beliefs and teaching may be orthodox, but some of his church's attendees may not be.

"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

Jon Bell's picture

Charlie wrote:
Jon Bell wrote:
My church is small but encompasses people from Calvinism to Open Theism and KJVO to complete ignorance of the translation issue. We preach/teach the word in line with 2000 years of orthodoxy. We don't straw-man other orthodox beliefs. At the end of the day we want every member of the church to be growing into the image of Christ and being saturated with His word!

A KJVO Open theist, is that a joke? Jon, if you think that's an orthodox position, I'm not sure you're a Fundamentalist or a CE. Plus, I have no idea what sort of definition of orthodoxy you're using or what 2,000 years of it you're referring to.

Sorry for my poor wording. The point is people in our orthodox churches get onto all kinds of things. Some are orthodox and some are decidedly not. Most pastors know the issues but sometimes the people in the pews don't so they embrace whatever sounds good like a narrow view of preservation (KJVO) or a wide view free will (Open Theism). The pulpit and the lectern are responsible to teach orthodoxy into this milieu with an eye to growing people in the gospel of grace. What I was thinking as I made the above statement is that a lot of Arminianism seems to fall into Open Theism unintentionally. And there are people who are blissfully ignorant that the Good News for Modern Man is not really a Bible to be read and studied. But while a pastor/teacher with these ideas is a heretic and a wolf in sheeps clothing and should be called out in the strongest possible terms a church member in the pew who believes the same probably just needs to be discipled into spiritual maturity.

Jon Bell
Bucksport, ME
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jon Bell wrote:
I see the biggest difference being simply the direction that we are coming from. When you read the Pyros and others in the CE camp they are mostly where most YFs are. The chief difference is that they arrived there from broad evangelicalism and we have arrived there from fundamentalism but we all seem to be standing on the same train platform. Now, a lot of people think that the station is called "Neo-Evangelicalism" but I think a number of people (Bauder, Straub, et aliud) have demonstrated that current movement within fundamentalism/YFs is not at all the same as the dreaded "neos" that your grandpappy warned you about!

Jon, yes I think 'where coming from' is a big attitude factor. And I do find the leanings of some of the CEs encouraging in that respect. Some of these guys are becoming fundamentalists but don't know it. I'm not expecting them to ever embrace the name, though. (Mostly because "fundamentalist" has suffered too much semantic corruption to be worth much as a term outside the relatively small groups that know what it means... but also because a fair number of the CE's still define the terms Fundamentalist as basically "CE with a bad attitude"... Michael Patton recently wrote some stuff to that effect. I was surprised to see him paint with that mile-wide brush, but probably shouldn't have been.)

Jay's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Jon, yes I think 'where coming from' is a big attitude factor. And I do find the leanings of some of the CEs encouraging in that respect. Some of these guys are becoming fundamentalists but don't know it. I'm not expecting them to ever embrace the name, though. (Mostly because "fundamentalist" has suffered too much semantic corruption to be worth much as a term outside the relatively small groups that know what it means... but also because a fair number of the CE's still define the terms Fundamentalist as basically "CE with a bad attitude"... Michael Patton recently wrote some stuff to that effect. I was surprised to see him paint with that mile-wide brush, but probably shouldn't have been.)

This is another reason, I think, why SI looks so much like it leans to the evangelical side of Christendom. We've gotten notes from people who would have registered [they liked the site and had not problems with the doctrinal statement ] but couldn't agree with the name 'fundamentalist' and in fact hate the term, so they didn't register. The term has been dragged through the mud so often that sometimes I don't use the term either.

"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

Jon Bell's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Jon, yes I think 'where coming from' is a big attitude factor.

I awoke this morning reconsidering this. I was really thinking of YOUNG CEs like Dever. The interesting thing is that the older leaders in CE are actually people who's fathers purposefully left fundamentalism. I am dying for someone to ask Piper and MacArthur the question: "So was your dad right or wrong to separate from BJU over the Graham issue?" MacArthur especially is sounding more and more like a fundamentalist although I don't ever expect him to come any closer to the name than Phil Johnson's "Historic Fundamentalist."

Jon Bell
Bucksport, ME
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and

Larry's picture

Moderator

Joseph,

To follow up on the term conservative evangelical, the source I was thinking of was Robert Lightner's Neoevangelicalism Today which was published originally in 1965, and I have the 1978 version of it.

He says, "Some evangelicals believe the term evangelicalism should be prefaced by the word conservative because some liberals claim to be evangelical" (p. 28; Lightner concludes it is unnecessary and incumbent on the liberals to define it).

I don't know how regularly the term was used, but this dates it to at least thirty years ago and possibly 45 or so (if it was in the first edition). And the reasoning (distinguishing themselves from liberals who also claim to be evangelicals) is what I have sensed elsewhere. That's the reason it is used today (no matter by whom) ... to distinguish the conservative evangelicals from the liberal evangelicals.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jay C wrote:
This is another reason, I think, why SI looks so much like it leans to the evangelical side of Christendom. We've gotten notes from people who would have registered [they liked the site and had not problems with the doctrinal statement ] but couldn't agree with the name 'fundamentalist' and in fact hate the term, so they didn't register. The term has been dragged through the mud so often that sometimes I don't use the term either.

I almost didn't join for that reason, but the SI definition of the term was clear and over-rode my resistance to the term. I have long proposed we develop a new term.

It is sort of like hearing the beginning of the Flintstones having a "gay old time." You know what they meant back then, but we no longer use the word "gay" in this manner because of the baggage it has associated with it.

"The Midrash Detective"

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