What About the Types?
First, here’s a word about my chart. It’s my chart. I am not attempting to come up with the “Tetreau Scale” that’s universally accepted by all or even most “out there.” It describes the way I see various “types” of fundamentalists in the fall of 2006. Frankly, if you compared my first “Line in the Sand” article, written in the spring of 2005, with this article, you would notice some changes. I’m sure that if the Lord tarries, I will continue to grow in my understanding of His church. Second, I designate the sub-groups as types and not groups for the following reason: in many cases, you will find a variety of “types” within a single group. The best example of that which comes to mind is the BBF (Baptist Bible Fellowship). One can find every shade and color in the BBF. Type A+, A, B, C and “others” all appear within the fellowship fold of “Springfield and company.”
A fundamentalist will be militant. Because he’s willing to do battle royal for the truth, he cannot help but be militant. Militancy is a common trait to all fundamentalists regardless of their type. I will state my conclusion here at the beginning so that the reader will not miss what I believe to be the major point. The point to all of this is not that we honor Fundamentalism; the point is that we honor our Lord. I believe that Christ is honored when we have Biblical convictions that result or limit cooperation with disobedient brethren. I also believe that the Spirit of God is wounded when we fight, cut, and separate from men and ministries, accusing them of being disobedient when, in reality and in the eyes of God, they are merely different than we are. In a way, when we accuse other men of being disobedient when they are only different, we begin to act more like a twisted version of God than a brother who is lovingly admonishing our brother.
The group divisions here are legitimate. That is to say, there are good reasons why each type is that type. It seems to me that each type ought to be able to reach over and fellowship and have some cooperation with other fundamentalists who are different types.
Two Questions to Answer Before Treating Type A, B, and C Fundamentalism
- Aren’t Type B and Type C Fundamentalism really just the newest forms of Pseudo-Fundamentalism?
- Aren’t Type B and Type C Fundamentalism really just the newest forms of Neo-Evangelicalism?
1. Aren’t Type B and Type C Fundamentalism really just the newest forms of Pseudo-Fundamentalism? Type B and C Fundamentalism are not the newest forms of Pseudo-Fundamentalism or New-Evangelicalism, but rather a more accurate practice and version of historic Fundamentalism in comparison to the Type A variety. Some Type A’s contend that Type B and Type C are just a rehash of Ed Dobson’s and Jerry Falwell’s “Pseudo-Fundamentalism” from the late 70’s and early 80’s. There are five reasons why that assertion misses reality.
First, Type B and Type C fundamentalists for the most part do not accept the concept behind the “moral majority.” We would not embrace or work toward a coalition of liberal Protestant, Catholic, Charismatic, Mormon, and other conservative forces in a hybrid of ecclesiastical and political unity. That’s not to say that as individuals we would not work toward a certain political conviction. It is to say that we would not officially merge our church into a political conglomerate even in the name of “revival” as was attempted by Falwell and Dobson.
Second, the philosophical foundation for accepting ministries into a cooperative arrangement is significantly different for Type B’s and Type C’s than that of the Falwell/Dobson movement. The overwhelming majority of independent Baptists supporting “PF” did so for stereotypical and national/political reasons. They tended to be non-Calvinistic, revivalist-oriented churches out of mostly southern-style and anti-Calvinistic Baptist associations. Type B fundamentalists, on the other hand, are mostly Calvinistically-oriented ministries—which means that they tend not to be run by a soteriologically-based pragmatism.
Additionally, Type B’s are foundationally dispensational. They see the ultimate purpose for creation as doxological, not soteriological. Therefore Type B’s are not interested in joining hands with evangelicals (or others) for the purpose of bringing in national revival. We pray for national revival, but we desire not to violate God’s glory. Indiscriminately joining hands with the evangelical movement as a whole would be treason. There may be individual evangelicals who pass the historic test of baseline Fundamentalism. But that is a different animal than opening one’s arms to a movement that is both cancerous and dying. Evangelicalism as a movement has lost the gospel, an understanding and application of inerrancy, and any sort of an internal compass as to what pleases God in this postmodern context of ministry. There may be individual ministries that grow out of Evangelicalism with whom Type B and Type C ministries will actively cooperate. However, that cooperation will be limited and based on the actions of each individual ministry.
Fourth, Type B and Type C fundamentalists are able, in some cases, to work with other like-minded men who may not presently minister in the context of a fundamentalist’s association. However, when a ministry demonstrates a consistent attempt to actively obey Scripture and consistently contend for the Biblical faith once delivered, Type B and Type C fundamentalists grant a type of “fundamentalist standing” to such a ministry, even if that ministry is not officially functioning within a fundamentalist association.
Fifth, Ed Dobson’s theory was that the conservative wing of Evangelicalism could cooperate with the reasonable wing of Fundamentalism. While many of us are saying something close to this, it is not the same. Many of us are saying that conservative evangelicals who are willing to be militant over and against the liberal and compromising band of evangelicals are enough of a brother-in-arms that we could have some level of cooperation. The difference is that, in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the conservative evangelicals Dobson was focused on were men who wholeheartedly agreed with Ecumenicalism. In the newer arrangement, today’s Type C fundamentalists do not (as a consistent pattern of practice) participate in open Ecumenicalism. Thomas Pryde recently posted a whole list of Type C fundamentalists (who, in many cases, would have been associated in the past with conservative Evangelicalism) who have made mention of the importance and practice of ecclesiastical separation. The old paradigm that separatists are always fundamentalists and evangelicals are always neo-evangelicals and are always against separation is not reality.
2. Aren’t Type B and Type C Fundamentalism just the newest forms of New-Evangelicalism? About three months before he passed on to heaven, Doc asked me, “Joel, what’s keeping you and men like you from going down the same road as the new-evangelicals from the late 40’s and early 50’s?” I smiled internally because I was prepared to answer that question. He had written in the booklet he had published in the early 90’s (Fundamentalism—Past, Present, and Future) that he had asked that question to one of the students who had talked about reforming Fundamentalism. He said that the student had no answer. I was ready. I looked into his eyes and said, “Doc, I can give you at least five reasons why we would never be a part of launching a new New-Evangelicalism.” His eyes were excited. He could tell I was prepared.
First, we hate Ecumenicalism! It is treason of the highest order, especially when you mix fundamentals-denying religion and/or cultic sacramentalism (such as the Roman Catholic Church!) mixed in with “Bible-believers.” You essentially mortgage the forensic nature of justification in any ecumenical arrangement. You also sacrifice most, if not all, of the fundamentals of the faith. How could we do that? We are fundamentalists! We are not Type A, but we are still fundamentalists!
Second, we hate European (or home-based) liberalism and couldn’t care less whether the liberal scholars in “Churchville” or even in “popular society” respect us.
Third, while we believe that we should love our neighbors, most of us are dispensational enough to know that we will not bring in the Kingdom of God.
Fourth, none of us is trying to recapture liberal denominations. I didn’t say this to Doc, but I will add this today. Type C fundamentalists will work within a group such as the SBC or CBA. However, while some groups have had a liberal element, the fact that a group like the SBC is turning out thousands of men from its conservative seminaries with conservative and Bible-believing convictions is because some “fundamentalistic” men stayed, waged a war for their faith, and have gained the upper hand over and against the modernists. These groups are not as “rooted” with the liberalism that had gripped the main-line denominations in the early part of the 20th century. They are not the same! It is historically dishonest to try to paint the SBC, CBA, and other groups as being as corrupt as the main-line denominations were in the early 20th century. In other words, not all “stay-in-ism” is equal. Neither is it always sinful!
This contending (by Type C fundamentalists) is more in keeping with the first generation of Fundamentalism than the first generation of new-evangelicals. The first generation of fundamentalists were busy defending the faith from liberalism. Had they had the success that modern-day SBC conservatives are having, they would not have left those groups. They left because there was no hope of retaining the gospel and of keeping the integrity of “The Faith.” Type C fundamentalists are staying in the SBC and CBA because they are seeing success against liberalism. For many of them, to cut and run now would be tantamount to going AWOL in the midst of the battle. That’s hardly the spirit of New-Evangelicalism! It would be like handing over those ministries to the enemy. That’s the militant spirit of Fundamentalism!
It is my belief that Type C fundamentalists (in one sense) are perhaps the truest heirs to the fundamentalists from the 20’s and 30’s who were attempting to “purge” liberalism and unbelief from their ranks. This was a different approach than those who, near the same time, withdrew from those same groups. While the separatist activity after 1930 displays a different method toward liberalism than before (“departure” as distinct from “purging’), these two ecclesiastical paths demonstrate a consistency of opposition and intentional separation from liberalism. (See Rolland McCune, “The Self-Identity of Fundamentalism,” DBTJ 1 (Spring 1996):28-29.)
New-evangelicals were to infiltrate, not with militant confrontation, but with smooth dialogue and politics. Type C fundamentalists within the SBC and other groups are contending even though many of them have taken heat from peers. They hardly contend with the spirit of being “sneaky.” New-Evangelicalism said, “Wow them with your intellect, superior apologetics, and sensitive attitude toward social issues.” I’ve never heard that from Type C fundamentalists in the SBC and in other places. They tend to be passionate, articulate, and clearly Biblical. If you don’t believe that, attend one Shepherd’s Conference with John MacArthur and his gang and listen to the nationally leading Type C fundamentalists present their general sessions. You will hear militancy. You will see a Type C picture of historic Fundamentalism. Type B’s disagree with Type C’s on being inside a group such as the SBC, but that doesn’t mean that Type B’s automatically classify them as “disobedient” and/or compromising.
Fifth, we disagree with the mood of New-Evangelicalism. There is this sissy, let’s-get-along-with-everyone attitude that frankly is not consistent with the Pauline metaphor of “contending for the faith.” Now we disagree with the Type A and Type A+ regular practice of internal strife over ecclesiastical politics (see the history of the MBA from the 60’s and 70’s). But just as John commended Gaius, we desire to walk in truth and, at the same time, walk in love (charity with hospitality, as in 3 John).
What About the Types?
Type A Fundamentalism
Militancy to the Type A fundamentalist is akin to George Patton militancy. “Fundamentalism” to Type A’s is a noun. Fundamentalism is that which is and has been. You may use other modifiers, but “it” exists as a single identifiable movement. Type A’s see a fairly narrow definition of Fundamentalism. A fundamentalist will be loyal to “it” and only “it.” Most Type A’s view legitimate Fundamentalism as a single circle of fellowship. Many Type A’s believe and preach that only the guys who view doctrine (especially separation) as they do in their regional or national group are “all that’s left of real Fundamentalism.” Type A’s view Fundamentalism as a patriot views his country.
One of the central characteristics of Type A is a consistent practice of secondary (ecclesiastical) separation. Certainly all Bible-believers should desire a consistency in any application of Scripture. In an attempt to be consistent, some in Type A have moved from the secondary level of separation to third, fourth, fifth levels and beyond. The other two types (B and C) also believe and practice separation from disobedient brethren; however, no one takes secondary separation to the same lengths as members of Type A. The strength of many with this approach is a high view of holiness. In defense of this application of separation, one needs to remember that the etymology of the word holy does indeed mean “separation.” The motives of these men should not be called into question, even if one does not agree with the degrees of their separation.
It is important for younger men who often end up in Types B and C to see that many of these men in Type A were trained by men who had witnessed firsthand the destruction of Billy Graham Ecumenicalism. They had also witnessed the Fuller attempt at redoing Fundamentalism. They witnessed the theological self-destruction of Daniel Fuller. In several interviews with one of the original architects of New-Evangelicalism, Carl F. Henry noted that the idea of infiltrating liberal church organizations as well as society itself with academic credentials and a social “activism” had not only failed but also been skewed from the start.
In a sense, one can see prototypes of these contemporary mindsets of internal differences between separatists as early as the 50’s and 60’s. Fundamentalism has fought several major wars over the years. There seem to have been two major seasons of conflict with liberalism. I call these two War World I and II. The third major war was over the development of ecumenical Evangelicalism (they called themselves the “new-evangelicals”).
Type A Fundamentalism typically leans toward an isolationistic approach to society. Because of their understanding of separation passages, they have developed their own forms of music, literature, even Bible versions.
Type B Fundamentalism
Militancy to the Type B fundamentalist is kin to George Washington militancy. George Washington was a fighter, but he was equally a gentleman. Type B fundamentalists are almost to the man painfully aware of the rude image many of their Type A mentors demonstrated throughout years of leadership. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule (such as my dad). “Fundamentalism” to Type B is an adjective. Loyalty to Christ may or may not mean loyalty to the movement called “Fundamentalism” (or any of the variety of sub-movements that are viewed as being fundamental). This type of Fundamentalism developed in the 1960’s. Fundamental men in groups like the GARBC and the IFCA could not help but notice the in-fighting of groups such as the Minnesota Baptist Association.
Numerous leaders looked on with disgust at what seemed to be the turning of the heated guns after the NBC and CBA wars on each other. This resulted in numerous men calling for Biblical charity in the face of militancy. Often such moderate voices were accused of being “soft,” “compromising,” and “spineless.” Many were publicly and privately ripped by Type A’s for their not going along with the internal “turf” wars between the fundamentalist “warlords” of the 1960’s and 70’s. After my writing of the original “Line in the Sand” article 15 months ago, I personally received over a dozen e-mails, phone calls, and letters from men in their 50’s and 60’s who had story after story of Type A men sabotaging their ministries because they were Type B instead of Type A fundamentalists. I have wept with several of these men and have assured them that they were sinned against by certain fundamentalists and not by Biblical Fundamentalism as a whole. That’s a hard sell to someone who has lost friendships and, in some cases, ministries because he was maligned by those with a more aggressive view of secondary separation.
Today, I am convinced that Type B’s outnumber Type A’s. Once in a while, I get a note or a piece of communication from an angry Type A who tries to convince me that Type B’s are really just new-evangelicals who should leave the movement. I’ve always responded that they are actually closer to Hyper-Fundamentalism (type A+) than we Type B’s are to New-Evangelicalism (left of Type C). I have suggested that they should leave because the closer reality is that they have changed the face of Fundamentalism, not us. They aren’t used to this interaction. In the old days, Type A’s would bark at a Type B, and the Type B (or C) would leave. Those days are mostly over. In its place is a civil war. Hopefully, we will wage this with Biblical ethics. The war is mostly between A’s and B’s.
The five major categorical differences between Type A’s and Type B’s are (1) the scope of secondary separation; (2) the exegetical accuracy of traditional views on a variety of positions and standards (issues such as divorce, remarriage, ministry, and total abstinence from wine. Can you really find your music standard taught as an absolute from Scripture? If you can’t and you teach your standard as an absolute anyway, is that not similar to what the Pharisees did?); (3) issues related to the relationship between church and culture (like music, arts, the theater, etc.); (4) issues related to the experience of corporate worship and the rightness of certain emotions in that context; and (5) the practice of local church leadership and decision making in relationship to the offices of elders and deacons, and how it specifically flows from or impacts congregational polity.
Where did the civil war between Type A’s and Type B’s come from? Type A’s are waking up to a scary scenario. They are beginning to lose the ropes of leadership to Type B men. Type B’s are arriving in large numbers to leadership positions in local churches, ecclesiastical associations, colleges, seminaries, mission organizations, schools, printing presses, evangelistic organizations, etc. The generation of Frank Bumpus, Bob Jones, Jr., and Rod Bell is either retiring or dying. For the most part, these were good men. They were strong men. However, many of them were flawed in their approach to separation. (Let me add this: I would also say that John R. Rice was also wrong in his approach. Somewhere between Bob Jones, Jr. and John R. Rice is the Biblically balanced answer to separation and unity—IMO.)
The main battlefields between Type A and Type B Fundamentalism have been local church ministries, the campuses of Christian colleges and seminaries, and—within the last few years—the newest battlefront: cyberspace.
A Note to Type A’s: You are losing this battle. Let me explain how. First, you are losing the battle on the Internet. Type B’s are utilizing this great tool of communication while some of you are still debating whether the computer is really a tool of the devil. Second, you are losing at the college and seminary level. Most young men who are leaving your schools have been taught to base their ministry on the authority of Scripture. Scripture is to be handled with careful exegesis. To their credit, these young men are taking the rules of hermeneutics and exegesis and are examining the approach to separation. They are examining your arguments against certain forms of music and your arguments in regard to a whole host of other issues (such as “What really is an evangelist?”, “standards,” “polity issues,” etc.). Most of them are concluding that the approach to secondary separation and other issues, as practiced by many in the Type A mindset, is not the result of careful exegesis. It is instead the result of a system, a grid, a binary view of separation and Fundamentalism that seeks not a Biblical consistency but logical consistency. So you see large numbers of ministerial students graduating from your colleges and seminaries with a Type B and Type C approach to Fundamentalism. Why is that a problem? Well, it’s not a problem for us, but it is a problem for you. Let me explain.
Many of your schools are still led by Type A men who are courting Type A churches and Type A “big names.” But your students and your graduates are coming out, in large measure, as Type B men. In some schools, the tension is fairly obvious. Northland Baptist Bible College is a really good example. Consider graduates like Janz, Bixby, and Brian. Compare their approaches to ministry to those of Ollila and Olson. The same scenario is evident at Bob Jones University. This is our (balanced Fundamentalism, that is) undisputed flagship school. So is Maranatha Baptist Bible College. Pillsbury Baptist Bible College’s movement on the A-B-C scale has been nothing less than yo-yo-ish. They have gone back and forth from Type A to Type B to Type C and back to Type A within the space of one decade. By the way, I love Bob Crane, one of the most solid college presidents we have. Humanly speaking, that school is still in ministry because of Bob’s herculean effort. For that matter, I love all of these schools. Let me continue. In my opinion, Clearwater Christian College has this issue. Piedmont has this issue. So does Calvary-Lansdale. So do the Centrals (both of them). To Central-Minneapolis’s credit, they’ve been training the present Type C faculty members that now serve at Masters, Northwestern, and Clarks Summit—all the while still being able to service Type A and B ministries, all the while not exploding into the internal turmoil that has been characteristic of that state’s past fundamentalist history. Amazing! (Go Kevin! Go Doug!) To Central-Virginia Beach’s credit, the leadership (to me anyhow) is Type B and makes no apology for it. Dan Davey’s recent emphasis on grace has been nothing but a godsend that we have needed for years! Also, to Central-Virginia Beach’s credit, they seem to be able to reach across all three sub-types listed here. Calvary-Lansdale has also been able to do that. Appalachian in West Virginia and our own IBC here in Tempe Arizona, have also been able to reach across the Grand Canyon (sorry, couldn’t resist) of types.
Still, all in all, with the exception of the King James Only and Type A+ schools, the majority of graduates leaving fundamental institutions and entering ministry are Type B. This is just an “FYI” for you Type A’s. You might rethink your strategy.
The one school that is the exception is Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. Their system is titanium. You may not like it, but the level of agreement of the alumni to faculty is uncanny. Almost scary. Usually, if you bump into one DBTS grad, you pretty much know what they all will be thinking and doing. I think there are only three or four of us alumni who would be considered “black sheep.” They would accuse us of being baaaaaaad! (sorry for my attempted humor). By the way, I’m grateful for my DBTS education. I don’t know if Detroit has an equal in the balanced region of Fundamentalism in theological or exegetical studies. (Having said that, all of them are staffed by sharp men.) I don’t think I’m saying that just because I am part of the alumni (until that status is revoked, which I’m expecting any day). Roy Beacham at Central might be up to where McCabe is in the Old Testament. Bauder might be where McCune is. Central-Virginia Beach, BJU Seminary, and Calvary-Lansdale have extremely sharp men as well. By the way, as an aside, I would put “our guys” (including Master’s Seminary and Faith Seminary with those I’ve already mentioned) and our schools up and over the evangelical schools any day of the week. Our schools are doing right in not chucking the exegetical and theological basis as the major focus. I’m grateful that they are not caving into Evangelicalism and tossing out these disciplines for every historical-philosophical and “practical” emphasis. That’s not to say that pastoral and theological classes should be ditched. It is to say that our schools are right to keep these at the highest level of importance.
Back to DBTS: They have about a dozen younger guys coming up through the ranks who are as tight, sharp, and gifted as the Doran/McCune/McCabe/Combs/Priest/Compton (and now Sam Dawson) approach to theology and ministry. This is the Harvard of fundamentalist, Van-Tillian, Baptist, Calvinist studies. These guys are sharp. There are three or four young theological wizards out of Mike Harding’s church alone. The alliance between Troy and Allen Park is formidable. That means that, if the Lord tarries, we’ll just have more of the same from Allen Park—which is not a bad deal, just a predictable one. I don’t think that Dave Doran has ever looked back after leaving both IFBAM and the FBF. He leads in ministry just as he plays ice hockey—straight ahead and flat out! It’s one of the reasons that I’ve secretly admired his leadership over the years. I’d just never publicly admit to that—ever!
In part four, we’ll take a look at Type C Fundamentalism. (What is written here is just my view. Please remember that this is a blog, not a journal. Please do not blame anyone other than me for what is written. This is not an SI “official” view of Fundamentalism or types of Fundamentalism. I know that this part looks as if I want Fundamentalism to be locked in a pitched civil war. That is not the case. In the last part of this, you will see that ultimately I’m simply wanting us to understand the differences between these three different “moods,” and you will see that I am prayerful and hopeful that we can at least work and dwell together on some level.)
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.