An Analysis of Type A, B, and C Fundamentalism
(My apology that this article has been slow in coming. I had hoped to publish this in late summer. We have been so busy here at Southeast Valley Baptist Church that I simply have not been able to take the time to finish this until now. Blessings on you as you read and think through the issues found here. Looking forward to future interaction here— regardless of what “type” you are. Straight Ahead! —Joel)
I’m getting to the place where I dislike writing. It’s not the work of placing ideas on paper that is the challenge. It’s not even having good people disagree with some element of my presentation. The frustration comes when people try to read “into” what is written. Often instead of taking what is written at face value, guesses are made as to the motivation or “deeper meaning” of a composition. I am told by those who are both gifted and experienced (and I am neither) in writing that I might as well get used to it.
That being the case, we once again start this article with the obligatory fence-building. First, what I write here is simply my understanding of what is happening within Fundamentalism today. Second, I do not think I’m better than those who have a different “take” on the past, present, or future of the movement. Third, I offer the following combinations of ideas, views of history, and solutions to present challenges to Fundamentalism with a strong optimism about what God is doing with separatist ministries today.
Frankly, as I look at balanced fundamental ministries today, I am encouraged. I write this primarily for the benefits of those attending Southeast Valley Baptist Church. It is important for you to understand that this view of Fundamentalism is held by all of our elders here at SVBC. We’ve had a great time these last months looking at our heritage. In a sense, I see historic Fundamentalism as being a type of Christianity that carries the torch of Biblical faith initiated by the early church. It is the same heritage that, for the most part, is represented by the more Biblically-based Anabaptist groups (not to be confused with the heretical Anabaptist groups). It is that same basic heritage that we see carried by the great reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others. We have much in common with the particular Baptist in England. It has the same spirit and commitment typified by the great Puritan leaders of the 17th and 18th centuries. It also carries with it the same heart and passion as evidenced in the ministry of Charles Spurgeon. But that was “then.” What about now?
Fundamentalism today is right for many reasons. A quick look at the history of the movement would demonstrate an impressive list of strengths. Some of those would include a commitment to holiness, the planting and building of strong local church ministries, a zealous heritage of missions, an aggressive investment into Christian education, a heavy emphasis on evangelism, a keen interest in discipleship, a healthy commitment to separation from worldliness, a passionate hope of the Lord’s soon return, and perhaps its crowning achievement—militancy for truth and an equal hatred for compromise. In stark contrast to the mainline denominations from which it escaped nearly a century ago, Fundamentalism today is found “thriving” in multiple denominations, thousands of congregations, and perhaps millions of believers both here in North America and around the globe. In stark contrast to Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism has a firm grasp of “the word,” “the gospel,” and “the faith!”
More than a year ago, I wrote “A Line in the Sand.” After nearly a year and a half of interaction with numerous friends, mentors and peers, I wanted to write a follow up, “Three Lines in the Sand.” This updated paper is to clarify, restate, and hopefully improve upon the first version. I will be mixing in new thoughts with some of the same material I presented in the spring of 2005. This is not meant to be a journal article. Much of the information presented here I have documented with primary and secondary sources in other places. Those sources will for the most part be left out here (for sake of time and space). Some of the information is simply commentary or opinion.
In the future it is my desire to add the sources, get much help with the editing of this, and present this for a serious journal-type publication. This time around, I simply want to get my thoughts down and present these for your consideration. I will appreciate critical comments both pro and con. The interaction is most always helpful. Let me say before you read this that I am not your enemy if you find yourself something other than what I call a Type B fundamentalist. I have friends with a variety of approaches to ministry. You do not have to agree with all of this to be my friend. Furthermore, I would never accuse anyone with a different approach of not being spiritual. I say that because at times I can come across strong. Please know that disagreements are not meant to be personal, merely positional. May God richly bless you as you consider these thoughts and respond as the Lord leads you through His Word and by His Spirit.
Over the last decade, numbers of leaders have noted a “wind of change” within Fundamentalism. From my perspective, much of the change is healthy and needed. Before I explain the sub-groups (I call them “types”) of Fundamentalism today, I want to take some time and give a brief autobiography, not for any purpose of highlighting anything I have done. The purpose for this is simply to help the reader understand the background and setting from which the writer has come. Hopefully this will aid in setting the context of what I believe Fundamentalism is today.
Fundamentalism is changing. I have been in a good position to see the changes firsthand. I am a product of Fundamentalism. I was converted hearing the gospel thundered from her pulpits. I have been discipled by her teachers, mentored by her churches (five of them), dedicated and re-dedicated in her camps (countless times), challenged (and sometimes confused) by her evangelists, humbled by her missionaries, thrilled by her theologians (especially the Calvinistic ones), educated in her institutions (four of them), equipped by her regional and national conferences, and edified in her associations (five of them).
My father grew up under the influence and teaching of solid leadership in the GARBC and the IFCA. He received a good portion of his education from fundamentalist schools. He had been influenced greatly by fundamentalist leaders from the 1960’s. Leaders such as John R. Rice, Myron Cedarholm, Monroe Parker, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., and his son, Dr. Bob Jones, Jr., left a significant mark in the life and ministry of my dad. Growing up under the influence of a godly home, I was exposed to a variety of sub-types in Fundamentalism. At Southside Baptist Church (Greenville, SC) in the earliest years of my life, I was exposed to a ministry that had both the stamp of Bob Jones University as well as John R. Rice. Also at Southside in the early 70’s, I was exposed to the music philosophy of Frank Garlock. (The issue of music is a significant one between the types. We will revisit this point later in the discussion.)
In the fall of 1973, our family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. At Thrifthaven Baptist Church, I came under the great Bible preaching ministry of Dr. Charles Britt. Dr. Britt is a graduate of Bob Jones University. In addition to being exposed to the BJ world there, I was also exposed to the FBF, Southwide (Thrifthaven had a good relationship with Tennessee Temple), and a bit of a BBF-type ministry experience. We also would have been somewhat influenced by Hyles-type ministries such as the Bill Rice Ranch. I remember hearing Lester Roloff many times in Memphis. I remember Lester wiping the sweat off his head as he preached. I remember on at least one occasion when Thrifthaven even participated in a Memphis-wide crusade with Jack Van Impe. The theological deficiency (at least in my opinion of what was happening 30 years ago) of Thrifthaven was that it was extremely hostile toward a Reformed theology. In defense of this anti-Calvinistic sentiment (which is hard for me to do), one has to remember that this was the norm with Type A Fundamentalism in the 70’s, especially in the South.
In the summer of 1979, we moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where my dad continues to serve to date. Here we became involved in the ministries of Tri-City Baptist Church (Tempe, AZ). I am most grateful for the Lord’s providence in putting me under the influence of my pastor, mentor, and eventual friend, Dr. James Singleton. Also significant was the influence of my youth pastor, Pastor Dave Bunt (a Maranatha grad who has mentored many of us who grew up in the ministry at Tri-City and are now in full-time vocational ministry). The most significant leader and mentor was my dad, Dr. Jerry Tetreau. Dad, along with my mother, demonstrated a commitment to the principles of Fundamentalism without duplicity. With my parents, what you saw on Sunday was what they were throughout the week. I’m grateful that even though dad holds and perhaps is most comfortable with a Type A approach to Fundamentalism, he has always been able to respond to others with grace, charity, and hospitality. I pray that, while this project will identify a line in the sand (actually three of them), it will be done with the same spirit of grace and charity.
Under Dr. Singleton, I was exposed to a combination of influences. Doc was both a pastor/theologian/philosopher as well as a bit of a pietist. Sort of B.B. Warfield meets Soren Kierkegaard (without the neo-orthodoxy, of course). Doc had come under the influence of the gospel in his childhood under the Brethren Church in Key West, Florida. As an eventual Methodist, he enrolled at Bob Jones College, where he eventually met and married his wife, Mary. After finishing at BJ, he found he needed to leave the Methodist group he was with because of a variety of issues. So he became a Southern Baptist. Doc continued his education by getting his B.D (today’s equivalent of the M.Div) and his Th.M. at Southeastern Seminary; a major focus of his studies was Christian education. Well, eventually he believed that once again he found himself in a group that was too willing to allow the status quo. Because of his militancy, he found it necessary to migrate to the CBA. A few years later, he eventually arrived at the position of independency. Not long afterwards, the Singletons came out to Tempe to start what would become Tri-City Baptist Church.
Doc was amazing! Frankly, I experienced all three brands of Fundamentalism that I will be presenting in this paper in the life and ministry of Doc. Doc’s ability to philosophically change over the years frustrated many who knew him (especially his FBF-type buds). To those of us who were younger, it made him our hero! When we first moved to Phoenix (actually Mesa since the ministry is in Tempe), Doc was a typical Type A fundamentalist. We had a steady diet of topical/running commentary/inductive-style sermons. Dr. Singleton’s homiletics defy explanation. He knew how to do exegesis, and he was always careful with the text. It’s just that his philosophy of ministry would find its way into just about every sermon. Other Type A tendencies would have been the ever-present “Methodistic-style” invitations, bus ministry, Ron Comfort every two years, Dr. Bob Jones, Jr., and of course a whole host of anti-Falwell sermons.
Then in the mid 80’s, I watched him turn into what I today call a Type B Fundamentalist (maybe B+). This is not to say he gave up everything about being a Type A Fundamentalist—especially his irritation with Falwell (and what was then called “pseudo-Fundamentalism”) and his friendship with Rod Bell and others in the FBF. The more evident signs that he was changing included his taking on the blood issue against his friend Ian Paisley and siding with John MacArthur on both Lordship Salvation as well as the blood.
(I must admit here that, while Doc enjoyed reading John’s stuff, he never was comfortable with the level of my appreciation for MacArthur. He didn’t like the fact that John encouraged Baptists to give up congregational polity for elder rule. I also don’t think Doc ever could get past in his mind that John’s dad left Bob Jones over the Billy Graham issue back in the 50’s. An interesting note is that, sometime in the late 80’s, Doc, Ed Nelson, and Dr. Van Gelderen, Sr., had a meeting with John MacArthur about Fundamentalism. Doc’s view, coming out of that meeting, was that Mac was no new-evangelical, but that until he fully embraced the movement of Fundamentalism he would produce new-evangelicals. I would counter today that “Big Mac” [a term of affection that can only be used if you have at least 20 books by John] will continue to produce Type C fundamentalists, but in fairness they are not new-evangelicals.)
There were other signs of change. Doc became more and more aggressive in his embrace of small groups. He found himself more and more in open warfare with the very strong Type A and Type A+ guys (like Waite, Cloud, and Jasmen). Then, in the last chapter of his life, I watched him secretly slide into a hybrid of Type C Fundamentalism. I say “secretly” so as not to accuse Doc of being disingenuous. He was careful not to offend his Type A friends with his Type C tendencies. He was also concerned not to hurt Tri-City Baptist as well as TCA (the Christian School there at Tri-City), IBC (the Bible college where my dad continues to serve as president), and IBM (the mission board). He knew he could trust me and a handful of other trusted friends (these other men will remain nameless in order to protect the innocent, or nearly innocent!) with some of his most avant-garde ministry ideas and visions. I personally believe that, humanly speaking, some of the reasons why Southeast Valley Baptist Church was planted during the last phase of his life and ministry was a desire to apply a few methodologies that he did not, or could not, apply fully at Tri-City.
It became apparent at the end that, not only had Doc adopted the small group model, but he also embraced some of the theology that often goes with the small group methodology. He was too much of a Baptist and a fundamentalist to ever fully embrace any branch of new-evangelicalism, especially the kind found within the Pentecostal movement, but he began to teach an understanding of spiritual gifts and prophecy that would be similar to the view held by Wayne Grudem (who is now at Phoenix Seminary). Those of us who were closest to him in the end encouraged him to be careful with whom he shared that. Here were a few other changes: he began to question the way in which women are often limited in fundamentalist ministry. He encouraged the women in the small groups to have an equal role in prayer, Biblical testimony, and ministry. He embraced a methodology of ministry that, if fully applied, would potentially turn traditional fundamental ministries on their ear. Doc in the end questioned if perhaps the Christian day school movement hadn’t caused more harm than good. All of this was connected to what he understood the New Testament concept of an “every-member” ministry. Doc envisioned church life that centered on body-life. His dream was to see local churches where ministry took place naturally from the inside out, using an aggressive small group model, instead of artificially leading body-life from the topside down.
Let me stop here and go back to the early 90’s. It was here that I began the transition from ministry training to vocational service. It was also here that I began to grow into what I call today a Type B fundamentalist.
After finishing my B.A. (90’) and M.A (91’) at IBC, I married my wife, Toni, and we moved to Southeast Michigan to start my seminary education at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. I had already completed some work at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. While working on my M.Div, I was privileged to serve as associate pastor at Tri-Lakes Baptist Church in Brighton, Michigan, with Art Larson, who continues to serve the church today. Pastor Larson helped me in a variety ways. He and the congregation in Brighton were both kind and patient with a young pastor who thought he had it all together. In this position, I was able to serve in music, youth, and Christian education. While at Brighton, I was also given the privilege of co-founding the Brighton Bible Institute. After completing my M.Div (95’) and part of a Th.M at Detroit, we moved to Backus, Minnesota (just north of Brainerd, Minnesota, about three hours north of the Twin Cities), where I served as senior pastor at the Mildred Bible Chapel. During the three years at Mildred, I completed most of the course work toward a D.Min at Central Seminary in Minneapolis (now in Plymouth, MN).
At Detroit Seminary, I experienced the theological titanium grid that is DBTS. McCunism flows through my veins. I am a McCunian Calvinist. I am a McCunian dispensationalist. I am a McCunian apologist. I am not a McCunian separatist. I appreciate his view of separation. However, Dr. McCune, like my father, is a Type A fundamentalist. I am Type B. About the only other disagreement I would have with my mentor is on the understanding of the Kingdom. I would see a bit more of the Kingdom being here already than Dr. McCune would understand. Before you jump to any conclusions, please know I am not self-deluded on who is the expert and who is the learner. I will not be surprised at all one day to publicly admit that I now believe I’ve been wrong and my dear mentor, Dr. McCune, was right. Publicly disagreeing with someone you admire and love like Dr. McCune feels like that weird dream when you were a kid and were running down the road buck naked! It is hard to disagree with Rolland McCune because he is a wonderful example of graciousness and Christlikeness. In a very real sense, he introduced me to God. Yes, I was born again before arriving at seminary. However, there were so many aspects of God that I simply did not appreciate until arriving under Dr. McCune’s teaching ministry at DBTS.
At Tri-Lakes Baptist, I experienced a variety of influences. Tri-Lakes’ history frankly comes out of the BBF world. It also had ties with the GARBC. Pastor Larson successfully led the congregation out of those circles and more into the Calvinist wing of the IFBAM. Not long after I left Tri-Lakes (Spring of ‘96), Pastor Larson, Dave Doran, and several other ministries within the DBTS constituency left the IFBAM, mostly over a split with more non-Calvinistic elements of IFBAM. In my view, that was a good move for more reasons than the stated theological ones. Many of these men today fellowship around a loose organization called Ecclesia Consortium. EC is lead by Pastor Scott Williquette of First Baptist Church of Rockford, Illinois. Steve Thomas of Huron Baptist in Flat Rock, Michigan, has also had a significant leadership role in EC. Another significant leader close to this group would be my good friend, Mark Buhr of Gibralter, Michigan. I’ve often said that if the Lord were to take me home, I would want our congregation to consider Mark to lead our fellowship (of course, Mark would have to leave Michigan!). Mark is one of those quiet, yet solid leaders one is privileged to know. His faithfulness and shepherding have been superior over the decades (Mark, you’re getting old, bud!). Some of these men are part of a sub-type of Type A Fundamentalism that I affectionately call the “Beethoven Group.” These men believe strongly that church music should be based on certain philosophical and classical musical components. While I don’t share many of their views, I do appreciate their passion that church music ought to accurately reflect the character of God.
During my three years of service at Mildred Bible, I experienced fellowship in a sister organization with the IFCA. Mildred belongs to a group of churches and individuals called the Northern Gospel Fellowship. The NGF is comprised of Bible churches that are Baptistic and have a compelling separatist history of Bible Presbyterian (primarily in Northern Minnesota) type believers who left liberal denominations in the early 20th century. Today, the NGF has a loose fellowship that centers on the Miracle Bible Camp near Hackensack, Minnesota. These congregations, while for the most part being Baptistic, have been separatistic as well as trans-denominational.
While at Central, I experienced a Type B/C approach to Fundamentalism under the leadership of Doug McLachlan and Ed Glenny. I then experienced a Type A/B approach to Fundamentalism under Doug McLachlan and Kevin Bauder. Doug McLachlan is another hero that I am grateful for. His book Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism (published by the AACS in 1993) put into words what many of us who are Type B “thirty something” fundamentalists were saying to each other in our 20’s at just about every balanced college and seminary in Fundamentalism. There are no doubt scores of men who did not leave the movement in large part because of Doug’s book. It offered hope for an authentic and healthy version of a movement that at the time seemed desperately bent on theological and ecclesiastical self-destruction.
Sure enough the Type A’s predictably came out against Doug’s book because he didn’t present the same “song and dance” the Type A’s demanded in the application of their understanding of secondary separation. I’m sure if Doug had published his work today, there would be far more voices lending support than was the occasion 15 years ago. It was at this junction that I began to see more clearly the divide between what today I call Type A and Type B Fundamentalism. Doug, in a very real sense, has been a major trailblazer for what I call “Type B Fundamentalism.” I’m sorry there were not more of us to hold up his hands against the onslaught of ruffled Type A feathers.
I was attracted to Central Seminary because of the position that was being articulated by Doug McLachlan, Ed Glenny, Larry Pettegrew, Robert Grisanti, and Thomas Zempel on a variety of issues. Zempel was and continues to be solid in the area of pastoral counseling. I knew I wanted the influence of Doug and Russ Lloyd in the area of leadership. I was especially hungry to learn under the ministry leadership expertise of Dr. Russ Lloyd. My leadership classes with Dr. Lloyd alone were worth the expense of my entire doctoral program. I have never, ever had a more Biblical, helpful, practical, and effective class than that which is experienced with Russ. Gratefully IBC (here in Tempe, AZ) is now using Dr. Lloyd for the same ministry leadership class that I had 10 years ago at Central Seminary. Dr. Lloyd is the director of the Institute of Biblical Leadership headquartered in Lake Lure, North Carolina. This is a little-known but solid ministry that has made a huge impact on my ministry style and approach to leadership as well as my understanding of the central role that character and integrity play in the ministry. Little did I know at the time how the Lord was forging a relationship between me and Russ. Russ has, in a sense, become the mentor and friend that humanly speaking I’d lost with the passing of Dr. Singleton back to Central. Even though I was disappointed at the loss of Petegrew, Grisanti, and Glenny, I was thrilled for the influence of Kevin Bauder. Roy Beacham has been a constant at Central. Ron Gotzman has also been a good friend over the years.
This ends the majority of the biographical section. In future parts, we will move on to the major focus of this project: three sub-types within Fundamentalism.
Dr. Joel Tetreau is senior pastor at Southeast Valley Baptist Church (Gilbert, AZ). He is on the adjunct faculty at International Baptist College and serves as co-director of SW Romania Missions Project.