A Young Fundamentalist, on Fundamentalism

NickImage

It is a periodic priority for the leaders of fundamentalism to attend to the mindset of their young folks. This essay is another contribution to that discussion, although I must acknowledge at the outset that it is based on a survey of no one but me. I therefore begin by defending the significance of these observations, despite the paltry sample size.

I grew up in some of the very best neighborhoods of fundamentalism. I’ve become convinced of this in recent years as I’ve found that, unlike many of my peers, I have precious little in my ecclesiastical upbringing to react against: neither scandal and abuse, nor outlandish authoritarianism, nor anti-intellectualism, nor pervasive mishandling of Scripture, and not even an intolerable measure of crisis-inducing revivalism. Friends whose experiences in fundamentalism have been nothing so benign as mine have decided that theological conviction—if not common decency—compels them to abandon the movement. But I am not of their disillusioned number.

Not only have I had few bad experiences in the movement of fundamentalism, but I’m still wholeheartedly committed to the idea of fundamentalism. The most important distinctive of fundamentalism remains its willingness “to do battle royal” for the fundamentals (recalling Laws’s definitive expression). Christian fellowship cannot exist with anyone who denies a fundamental of the faith. Those who extend such fellowship have erred, and not insignificantly. As the regular author of this publication insists, compromise on this point is scandalous, and those who advocate and perpetuate scandal are derelict of duty and patently untrustworthy. Separation is both theologically and historically justifiable.

In addition to boilerplate separatism, I also adhere to a litany of other common fundamentalist shibboleths: cessationism, young-earth creationism, dispensationalism, cultural conservatism. That last item merits special attention in establishing my traditional fundamentalist credentials, as it makes me something of a demographical oddity. (As I write this, I’m wearing a tie. Voluntarily.)

So, were the institutional fundamentalists to draw up a profile of a young man likely to remain among their number, the description would fit me comfortably. This is why I feel justified in offering my reflections on the movement, although I have taken no survey: I am a representative sample of those most likely to be the next generation of fundamentalists.

And yet, as one who might be expected to stay in the movement, I confess that I’m disinclined to align myself with the institutional fundamentalists. (An aside: I intend nothing pejorative when I speak of institutional fundamentalism. I simply use the term to refer to institutions which identify themselves as fundamentalist, and indirectly, to the informal but real network of such institutions.) It should be obvious that my reluctance is not caused by any substantive disagreement with the principles of fundamentalism; point by point, I’m a convinced fundamentalist. Nor do I hesitate to join the fundamentalists because I have any thoughts of throwing my lot in with the conservative evangelicals. Rather, my disinclination is rooted in the shifting identity of the fundamentalism most familiar to me.

Nearly a half-decade ago, a blogger stirred up spirited discussion when he projected an emerging coalition of the saner fundamentalists and the more conservative evangelicals. From where I sit, I think that his prediction is unlikely to come to pass. I say this despite the obvious increased mingling between the camps, with conservative evangelicals being featured in fundamentalist conferences, chapels, and classrooms. To form an intentional coalition, however, the evangelicals would have to care that we exist, and (perhaps with rare exceptions) they don’t. Rather than some third thing emerging, I contend that many fundamentalists are simply being absorbed into the organizations of the conservative evangelicals, organizations that would have been there without us (but, hey, we’re welcome too!). To this Detroiter, the situation suggests the DaimlerChrysler “merger of equals,” although I doubt that fundamentalists will be granted the dignity of a compound name.

As a consequence of these new relationships, the institutions that still proudly wear the label fundamentalist are increasingly dominated by those who are (or tolerate those who are) the most rabid anti-Calvinists, and by those who uphold (or tolerate those who uphold) disastrous heresies on the text of Scripture. This shift in power is occurring for two reasons. The first is obvious: the fundamentalists who are most inclined to seek common cause with conservative evangelicals are also those who have repudiated the stereotypical fundamentalist eccentricities. As they forsake (or are expelled from) the institutions of fundamentalism, the deleterious influence of those who remain grows proportionally.

Second, those fundamentalists who are alarmed by these perceived defections are ratcheting up their separatist rhetoric and reforging wholly indefensible alliances with the most extreme segments of self-proclaimed fundamentalism. This is not a new problem for fundamentalists, but the day for patience with such inconsistency is long since past. The same men who decry sharing a platform with Mark Dever will then share a platform with Jack Schaap, thereby abandoning any credibility on the topic of separatism. I have no issue with militancy, but misaimed militancy is appalling.

Given the changing complexion of institutional fundamentalism, I suspect there is decreasing tolerance for an outspoken Calvinist—even one no more outspoken than the semi-Pelagians who receive choruses of amens. Is there a place in fundamentalism for one who happily acknowledges that he has profited from the ministries of brothers not of our tribe, commends their resources, and applauds them in their battles for the evangel (even as he sees no good reason to join their battles)? Is it possible to be a fundamentalist in good standing while also standing opposed to overtly pragmatic, manipulative methods of ministry?

If not, what am I supposed to do? Read that less as a rant than a lament. It is a lament because there ought to be sadness when one feels cut off from those to whom he owes gratitude. It is a lament because I retain my principled objections to the compromise of evangelicalism, so much so that I can find no home there.

The idea of fundamentalism remains as sound as it ever has been, and there are many good men committed to instantiating the grand idea. And I’ve become acquainted with other rooms in the house of fundamentalism, rooms where the problems I’ve cited aren’t nearly so prevalent.

Even so, I’m saddened about my fundamentalism. I love the house, but hate what’s being done to the place.

From Depths of Woe I Raise to Thee
Martin Luther (1483-1546); composite translation

From depths of woe I raise to Thee
The voice of lamentation;
Lord, turn a gracious ear to me
And hear my supplication;
If Thou iniquities dost mark,
Our secret sins and misdeeds dark,
O who shall stand before Thee?

To wash away the crimson stain,
Grace, grace alone availeth;
Our works, alas! are all in vain;
In much the best life faileth:
No man can glory in Thy sight,
All must alike confess Thy might,
And live alone by mercy.

Therefore my trust is in the Lord,
And not in mine own merit;
On Him my soul shall rest, His Word
Upholds my fainting spirit:
His promised mercy is my fort,
My comfort, and my sweet support;
I wait for it with patience.

What though I wait the livelong night,
And till the dawn appeareth,
My heart still trusteth in His might;
It doubteth not nor feareth:
Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,
Ye of the Spirit born indeed;
And wait till God appeareth.

Though great our sins and sore our woes,
His grace much more aboundeth;
His helping love no limit knows,
Our utmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is He,
Who will at last His Israel free.
From all their sin and sorrow.


This essay is by Michael P. Riley, Assistant to the President at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.

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Joel Tetreau's picture

Right

And one of my responses from the comfort of my Lawn 4000 is that very few here would say we haven't brought the Sriptures to bear on the topic of being careful about making sure our preaching is consistent with the text (my quick explanation of "expositional preaching.") Most of us here would say it is possible to be exegetically "aware" and still preach sermons with a "verse by verse"or "textual" or even a "thematic approach." One can find a variety of preaching styles within the text of Scripture with Jesus himself and the various apostles (another topic for another day).

The reason I'm not loosing sleep here on the issue of exegetical preaching or for that matter non-sacramental approaches to communion is that most of the readership of SI already believe these things and are very aware of the Scriptures that defend. Now if it's really needed - being pastoral and all, I'd be happy (actually I'd probably be a little put off - but still willing) to write up a little Biblical work sheet on any of those topics.

Michael, Chris and anyone else that is passionate here - I like your zeal, that's good - enthusiasm is a powerful thing - however, these issues are really apples and oranges with the CC emphasis of the BG. You guys (the BG) have not (IMO) done with CC (or the definition of "worldliness" as being vis-a-vis CC) the work that has been accomplished already with exegetical preaching and/or communion. So again.....I'm happy for you that the Troy guys and Kevin and whoever else has CC on your list. Personally I'm glad I don't believe CC is part of discipleship - discipleship is hard enough with just calling people to the standards of God! I'd hate to through in cultural man-made standards on top of that. But you know - if you guys feel that CC is part of discipleship, I'm rooting for you from the shadows of my cacti....sort of.

Also... I'm happy that Mark has exegetical preaching on his list - wonderful! I only ask that if you make the case that any of this be on my list, or all of our lists...that you demonstrate exegetically that Scriptural authority demands that it be on the universal list. You haven't done that.....good men have already done that with the issues of preaching and communion.

May the force be with you!

Be fruity.....or fruitful!

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Mike Harding's picture

Joel,

I enjoy your threads because I know you don't agree with me and secondly they usually make me chuckle. Tomorrow I am meeting with our committee for our next Truth Conference. Your comments have given me new motivation. Dave Doran has a message entitled, "The Case for Conservative Christian Music." Why you are out there grazing on the lawn (do you even have grass in Arizona?), why don't you give the message a hearing. Admittedly, this is a tough subject. However, the culture of our churches has a daily influence on many things. This is why Scott puts it near the top of the list. As a theologian I put it elsewhere; nevertheless, I still think the culture of our churches regarding music, dress, etc. is important. Again, thanks for the renewed motivation.

Pastor Mike Harding

Joel Tetreau's picture

My dearest friend "Mike of Troy,"

I am thrilled you have experienced a "renewal" of sorts - you don't often here (opps - "hear") - Detroit graduates admitting (at least publically) to these kind of "renewal experiences." Smile

Go get em man! I have listened to you guys and I'll be happy to continue to listen as time allows.

What of course would be better is for a group of us to just find a cozy campfire, pour some hot cider, and fellowship together around these various themes.

You know ... in the words of the great C.S. Lewis,

"Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?"

Straight Ahead!

jt

ps - by the way...for the record (and for the benefit of the two of you who care...), the ministry I lead is conservative. In the area of music (which seems to be the focal point of many in these kind of discussions), we blend newer spiritual songs with older Hymns. We do use newer music that some might even consider softer CCM, however we typically do those with a traditional flare. We don't even have drums. So it's not like we're some "motly crew church" trying to argue with these "ultra conservative types" are squashing our style. Someone from a nameless larger ministry not far from us once claimed we were the "party fundamentalist church" of the Valley. Everytime we talk about that, my boys start laughing. I don't have an issue with "being conservative" as long as it is a Biblical conservativism that comes out of following "King Jesus"...instead of walking ahead of "King Jesus." Just trying to bring a bit of sanity to this deal. Wowzers.......Shalom everyone!

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Steve Davis's picture

Mike Harding wrote:
....; nevertheless, I still think the culture of our churches regarding music, dress, etc. is important. Again, thanks for the renewed motivation.

It seems to me that what needs to be answered is how important are these things. Are they important enough to separate over and if so at what point? I'm not sure what is included in the "etc." but it opens the door for lots of opinion.

It might be helpful to have some panels at the TC with those who hold different views on dress and music. Most of what’s being said by Mike, Scott, etc. is preaching to the choir. What they believe might reinforce those already convinced but the arguments are hardly convincing (although I’m sure there are some testimonials :- ).

How about hearing from church planters in urban areas where there is huge diversity economically, ethnically, educationally, etc. and where churches have no received tradition in these areas. When I hear guys pushing their views on conservatism it sounds like white, suburban, established. That's okay but it also sounds like this is also supposed to be a biblical position which to this point has not been adequately demonstrated.

Steve

Joel Shaffer's picture

Quote:
It might be helpful to have some panels at the TC with those who hold different views on dress and music. Most of what’s being said by Mike, Scott, etc. is preaching to the choir. What they believe might reinforce those already convinced but the arguments are hardly convincing (although I’m sure there are some testimonials :- ).

How about hearing from church planters in urban areas where there is huge diversity economically, ethnically, educationally, etc. and where churches have no received tradition in these areas. When I hear guys pushing their views on conservatism it sounds like white, suburban, established. That's okay but it also sounds like this is also supposed to be a biblical position which to this point has not been adequately demonstrated.

You nailed it!

Jeff Brown's picture

Steve Davis wrote:

How about hearing from church planters in urban areas where there is huge diversity economically, ethnically, educationally, etc. and where churches have no received tradition in these areas. When I hear guys pushing their views on conservatism it sounds like white, suburban, established. That's okay but it also sounds like this is also supposed to be a biblical position which to this point has not been adequately demonstrated.

Steve

Steve, I think I understand well where you are coming from and I certainly respect most anything Joel says. But what is the problem with a church holding a conference which promotes its own views, even stacked with speakers that agree with its views?

Jeff Brown

Steve Davis's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
Steve Davis wrote:

How about hearing from church planters in urban areas where there is huge diversity economically, ethnically, educationally, etc. and where churches have no received tradition in these areas. When I hear guys pushing their views on conservatism it sounds like white, suburban, established. That's okay but it also sounds like this is also supposed to be a biblical position which to this point has not been adequately demonstrated.

Steve

Steve, I think I understand well where you are coming from and I certainly respect most anything Joel says. But what is the problem with a church holding a conference which promotes its own views, even stacked with speakers that agree with its views?

Jeff:

No problem with a church doing that. It was just a suggestion.

Steve

Mike Harding's picture

Steve,

Last night Luke and I were discussing this very idea on the phone. Believe it or not your name came up in our conversation and for the very reasons you stated (prior to my reading your recent post). You certainly are qualified to speak to this issue in light of your background, church-planting, many years of missionary service around the world, and your education both in fundamental and evangelical venues. Our theme will be "Christ and Culture: Preserving the Truth in a Changing World". With your doctoral work in missions coupled with your personal experience I have no doubt that you would pose pertinent questions to challenge our thinking and/or application. Granted, conservative principles will have different applications in different cultures. Possible speakers might include Minnick, Snoeberger, McAllister, Klapperich, Hartog III, Aniol, Doran, McCune, etc., etc. At this point I have neither asked nor solidified any speakers for the conference except for one.

Pastor Mike Harding

Jay's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
Steve, I think I understand well where you are coming from and I certainly respect most anything Joel says. But what is the problem with a church holding a conference which promotes its own views, even stacked with speakers that agree with its views?

I know Dr. Davis has already weighed in on this, and I also have no problems with churches choosing speakers to endorse it's views, but I do think that there is a dangerous tendency for churches to pick only people who are 'safe' (in terms of not rocking the organizational boat) and to avoid speakers that could very well challenge the accepted tendencies of that church, even if they may be more compelling, more educated, or just 'outside of the realm'...a church in Greenville, for example, is FAR more likely to stick with the 'tried and true' teachers at BJU or the WILDS than bringing in someone from Northland, Dallas, or Maranatha. For local church conferences, this isn't as likely, but it's one reason why I've been glad to see more 'cross-pollination' between the various and sundry schools that I like and would endorse. It's also why I think that this website can be a good tool.

"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

Steve Davis's picture

Mike Harding wrote:
Steve,

Last night Luke and I were discussing this very idea on the phone. Believe it or not your name came up in our conversation and for the very reasons you stated (prior to my reading your recent post). You certainly are qualified to speak to this issue in light of your background, church-planting, many years of missionary service around the world, and your education both in fundamental and evangelical venues. Our theme will be "Christ and Culture: Preserving the Truth in a Changing World". With your doctoral work in missions coupled with your personal experience I have no doubt that you would pose pertinent questions to challenge our thinking and/or application. Granted, conservative principles will have different applications in different cultures. Possible speakers might include Minnick, Snoeberger, McAllister, Klapperich, Hartog III, Aniol, Doran, McCune, etc., etc. At this point I have neither asked nor solidified any speakers for the conference except for one.

I'm glad my name came up in a good way Cool Believe me I wasn't fishing for an invitation. I'd attend just to fellowship with you and old friends if I could get out of prison for a few days. The need to be challenged goes both ways.

Steve

Rolland McCune's picture

If I may reintroduce my concerns/questions in # 4 (Nov 7); I have not noticed any interest so far.

1. Why do CEs ignore us (or is Michael mistaken here?) and not need us?
2. Why is the conversation with and about CEs seemingly unilateral, i.e., initiated and pursued by "fundamentalists" by whatever designation (orthodox, idea, movement, et al.).
3. What purposes or gains are anticipated by having CEs in our venues, institutions or platforms? This is sort of the converse of # 1 above: why do we need them?
4. Does perception have any bearing on the organizational links with CEs that are developing in our midst; what message is really being sent here? I.e., what kind of baggage comes with the CEs. Have their ties to the apostasy and disobedient brethren actully been broken, or is "heading in our direction" sufficient justification for organizational fellowswhip?
5. Has there been any acknowledgment or repentance about former years' fellowship with the New Evangelicalism and worse in some cases?

I would like to see some informed, responsible, non-emotional/pietistic responses. These criteria were entertained, formally or otherwise, in the Fundamentalist-New Evangelical issues 50 or more years ago.

Rolland McCune

DavidO's picture

Having allowed plenty of time for real theologians to answer, I'll take a stab at Dr. McCune's 1-2.

1. Why would they need or want us? For starters they might get along much better without us than we might without them. Which pastor would be more greatly hindered, the CE who is forced to prepare a sermon without using any F resources, or the F pastor forced to prepare a sermon without using any CE produced resources? Not that there aren't some good Fundy produced resources out there, but they beat us on sheer volume, and our pervasive use of them testifies that their quality isn't too shabby either. Furthermore, lots of our lit focuses on the areas in which we disagree with them. So, we don't like their friends, their music, etc--why would they want to hang with us? Bigger numbers? They've already got bigger attendance as well.

2. I wonder if it isn't because, despite some of their failings in associations, etc., there are some things they actually get "righter" than us, or large pockets of "us". Frankly, the gospel preached by MacArthur, Keller, Carson, et al. is far more robust and fully-orbed than the gospel I heard at my fundamentalist church growing up and the Christian day school I attended. And far more God-focused as opposed to man-focused. So someone like me could easily be left with the impression then that, yeah, we've got a better separation than them, but somewhere along the way we degraded the gospel? Maybe something's out of whack here, and maybe the people who have kept the gospel might be a good place to figure out what.

Having said all that I feel bound to disclaim. I am not for wholesale convergence. I have also, since leaving my hometown, found that not all fundamentalist churches have a distorted gospel. I thank God for the fundamentalist church I now attend and the careful preaching and thoughtful doctrine of my pastor. I simply offer what may be some rationale for some people.

Jay's picture

At the risk of demonstrating my own foolishness, I'll take a stab at your questions as well, Dr. McCune. This is intended to further discussion with you, not to personally attack or to tear down the work that you and others have put into the movement; please accept this as the musings of someone who is working through all of this in my own mind. I understand and appreciate your concerns, and am especially grateful that you took the time to weigh in here with questions that do deserve consideration and answers. To that end, I've quoted the questions here in bold and put my responses in regular text.

1. Why do CEs ignore us (or is Michael mistaken here?) and not need us?
I don't know, nor do I care, why they 'ignore' us. There aren't enough 'fundamentalists' or 'conservative evangelicals' here in New York State to have the luxury of cutting relationships with fellow believers off because of a label placed by some upon others, especially when the label has not been defined. I have felt for many years that if we want to have profitable discussion about "Conservative Evangelicals" and "Fundamentalists", we need to make sure that we all understand the terms and descriptions that we're using. Too often, CE is just another way of saying 'people I don't like' (like the Young Fundamentalist label).

2. Why is the conversation with and about CEs seemingly unilateral, i.e., initiated and pursued by "fundamentalists" by whatever designation (orthodox, idea, movement, et al.).
It's because the most vocal fundamentalists are the kind of fundamentalists that I (and others) would shun as theologically impoverished. To wit, the Hyles-camp Fundamentalists are very outspoken about the need to defend fundamentalism and what it is, but their 'fundamentalism' as aberrant, majoring on external issues and leaving the internal matters of the spirit mostly alone. Men like Dr. Doran http://gloryandgrace.dbts.edu/?p=524 ]share my concern ; I recall spending an entire class with him discussing this very subject when I was at Northland over ten years ago. So people like myself who do not wish to be associated with the 'crazy' Fundamentalist wing look over and see 'sane' believers in the CE camp and want to fellowship with those people instead. I do not believe - and have never personally believed - that to be with the CE's is desirable for any reason other than we're both Christians that fall within the same concerns and desires. Most of us, I suspect, feel that way, even if they do not phrase it as bluntly as I do.

3. What purposes or gains are anticipated by having CEs in our venues, institutions or platforms? This is sort of the converse of # 1 above: why do we need them?
The unnecessary division of 'us' and 'them' can be and occasionally is counterproductive, at least according to my understanding of Ephesians 4:1-16, I Cor. 1:10-3:23, and I Cor. 12:12-31. I wrote http://sharperiron.org/2006/07/25/unity-is-fundamental-2 ]an article about this a few years ago, and my personal position is that the Bible teaches that unity among believers is and should be the desired position until sin enters the fellowship and finally results in separation (Matthew 18:15-20). So to argue that we should need high fences between 'those believers' and 'us believers' based on who is affiliated with whom at any certain point in time is at best Scripturally difficult, especially when the issues of separation revolve (as they often do) around the personal outworkings of belief in shared doctrines and not in doctrinal issues themselves.

I do think that every believer wants to belong to a larger group - it's a spiritual desire based on our longing to be united together in Jesus at the Throne. So we look for alliances and associations where we can draw encouragement and fellowship from other believers, especially those outside of our immediate location. That's why we have conferences, and camps, and get together at the WILDS and elsewhere. The desire to 'network' with CE's, I think, mirrors that spiritual desire.

"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

4. Does perception have any bearing on the organizational links with CEs that are developing in our midst; what message is really being sent here? I.e., what kind of baggage comes with the CEs. Have their ties to the apostasy and disobedient brethren actully been broken, or is "heading in our direction" sufficient justification for organizational fellowship?
Organizational links are the most difficult to parse here, because I know that not all of us draw lines for fellowship/separation at the same places; indeed, most of us have different standards that would have to agree before we could even undertake such a discussion. I belong to only one or two 'organizations' of either the Fundamentalist or CE divide, which is www.gty.org ]Grace To You's mailing list (I think I might belong to http://www.9marks.org/ 9 Marks as well). GTY is by far the most praiseworthy organization out there (that I know of - although I certainly know that there must be more!) because of its' emphasis on teaching believers God's Word and supplying tools to that end at no (required) cost. I am eternally grateful to GTY and John MacArthur for supplying CDs and books at no cost to my family when we could barely afford rent and groceries several years ago.

I do not know if the 'ties to apostasy and disobedient brethren' that you refer to are broken, simply because I'm not sure who you have in mind. I have been considerably cheered (and continue to cheer) Dr. MacArthur's http://www.challies.com/articles/john-macarthur-wants-us-to-grow-up ]pushback against the YRR movement and http://www.sfpulpit.com/2006/12/11/grunge-christianity/ Mark Driscoll in particular, although I am not privy to every discussion that he's ever undertaken with everyone. I am concerned about the flirtation of Grace Community and the Resolved Conference with CCM, but my musical standards are not the same as BJU's, so I am not as concerned about that as I am that doctrine is correctly taught (which, IMHO, is where the emphasis on the musical discussion should be). I have personally filed many of http://sharperiron.org/search-tool?title_keywords=&content_type=All&auth... ]the articles about the Gospel Coalition / TD Jakes issues, simply because I do think that caution is merited in regards to the overall direction of that particular group and because it is worth observing what will happen there - will TGC be torn asunder as a result of the Driscoll/Jakes/MacDonald issue(s)? Or will men like Anyabwile and others carry the day and keep the elephant from trampling the room's walls so that it becomes nothing more than a group of really cool 'Christian' people?

5. Has there been any acknowledgment or repentance about former years' fellowship with the New Evangelicalism and worse in some cases?
Again, I'm not sure who or what you are referencing here. I am not sure that the question is even applicable to me, as a lot of the people that you and others fought against as members of the 'new evangelicals' are long since departed from orthodoxy. I have no relationship with Fuller Seminary or any of the men who established it. Billy Graham is in his nineties, I believe, and retired in the Carolinas somewhere. I shun anything related to Driscoll for several reasons. I do have, read, and http://sharperiron.org/comment/37074#comment-37074 ]occasionally endorse Piper's books, but so do BJU, Central, Calvary, Maranatha, NIU and DBTS, among a few Fundamentalist organizations; that's the extent of the 'involvement' that I have with him or Desiring God. I have already noted Dr. MacArthur's stands in several areas against Conservative or other Evangelicals. So if you could provide some examples, I would appreciate it.

I hope this is a helpful post, and look forward to your response whenever you have time.

"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

Joel Tetreau's picture

Dr. McCune,

Greetings! Prayerful you are doing well there in the "shwamp" of Florida.

Quick answers to a few questions before I run off to our Thursday pm small group:

Question - 1. At least in pastoral (or "parish") miniistry, especially in smaller towns and cities, my experience was just the opposite. Frankly I was invited to far more "opportunities" of some level of koinonia than not with the various evangelical types. Of course I'm a "fundamentalist" (Type B anyway) that loves my brothers in the Lord who are not "fundamentalist" ... typically the guys know that, so in general they reach back - knowing I'm not going to smack them in the head probably helps. No offense to Michael but his ministry experience especially in connection with "fundamentalist" and "ot-so-fundamentalist" is for the most part relegated to the world of "the academy" - which can be a different experience all together with the guy pastoring in the small village of 3000 people. Of course Michael does have experience in that he studied at Westminster. I have no doubt that some of Michael's comments come from his interaction with various ones there - but again this is the world of the academy. This experience of inter-mingledness between Fund and CE is especially true in some parts of the West or the Mid-West where you have a town of 3000 and the only other guys who believes the gospel as you do (There at the Baptist or Bible Church) is the Community church guy and the Evangelical Free Church brother. On the other side is the Roman Church, most of the Lutherans and of course "Pastor Sarah" from the United Methodist Church. Usually when it's just the three of you that are clear on the gospel and Biblical authority, you become appreciative of each other.....really fast! The men who are from the evangelical side of the academy are often surprised to know there is a wing of fundamentalism like DBTS or Central or Calvary that are characterized by careful if not serious theology. Once they know you, my experience is they appreciate you and will seek you out.

2. It's because usually it's not the CE guy (or Elvis) that has "left the building." It's the fundamentalist. Usually the CE guy is saying, "dude - we like you, don't run away!" Again my limited experience is that in the parish community, they are wondering why we never want to pray with them.

More later - got a run!

Joel

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Rolland McCune's picture

David, Jay and Joel

The conversation here is appreciated both for content, interest and tone. I will respond generally and somewhat obliquely. Being a "real theologian" to me bears little weight here; no apology needed or implied. On further reading, I think I did not clarify sufficiently my Q's. My concern is with organizational fellowship or affiliations with the CE types. There is no problem using their resources or being on someone's mailing list. CEs may well be "righter" on some issues, no question. Nor is there a dispute over having some form of fellowship with "sane believers in the CE camp." Every believer is spirituallly/judicially bonded inseparably to every other believer in the Body of Christ (Rom 12:5) whether in heaven or on earth. My Q's deal with the matter of "levels" of fellowship, especially the organizational or ecclesial dimension. Personal fellowship between believers is not scrupled here at all, nor is such between two or three pastor-brothers in town at McDonalds or Waffle house (or your personal country club). Union, not unity, is the issue I see. Collaborating in organizational projects with these pastor-brothers and their churches is my concern. E Free or Southern Baptist pastors, for example, carry too much entanglement baggage to justify a public level of affiliation, in my thinking. (By the bye, 1st Baptist of Naples, FL [SB ], 1st Presbyterian of Naples and Bonita Springs [PCUSA ] are all strongly and surprizingly very "evangelical" and Bible-believing, but the opportunities for fellowship with these brothers are obviously very limited, in my view. They would probably fit the now passe "label" of New Evangelical. In my sheltered 1940s and 50s youth, there were annual "union (evangelistic) meetings" of all the churches in town at the large 1st Mennonite church; all were Bible-believing. That is no longer possible and the union meetings have ceased. But those grand old days are gone and I think it is impossible to restore them meaningfully in any context, rural or urban.)

Getting back, most fundamentalists, of course, would concur with the notion of levels of separation/fellowship. But the devil is in the details ("drawing the line") of what constitutdes organized affiliation. Personally, I am of the R. V. Clearwaters-R.T. Ketcham-Ernest Pickering- Fred Moritz-Mark Sidwell vintage side of the "dividing line" of separation, of which CEism is totally bereft. Conferences and other visible, public and announced venues of having or exploring avenues of "fellowship" with the CE types leave too many loose ends, in my judgment. They send the wrong messages and perceptions expecially to struggling fundamentalist type pastors and their people not privy to insider information and the newer thinking.

Simply wanting to belong to a larger group modeled on the fellowship we will have in heaven may or may not be in the Christian psyche; for me it is not. (Parenthetically, this was the rationale of Donald Grey Barnhouse near the end of his ministry. He was seeking as much [organizational and fraternal ] fellowship as he could with all those with whom he would be in heaven. This led him to the National Council of Churches, the Pentecostals in Springfield, MO, and even Seventh day Adventists, if memory is accurate. This would be extreme for any of us, I'm sure, but the "slope" is still there.) I have believed and said for years that fundamentalism had too many misfits with whom I could not pull in the harness. Nor am I ignorant of some of the sins, unwise statements, actions and attitudes of a few in our sainted number; these things happen in every group. I simply see no reason continually to parade this sort of thing, and, worse, use it as an excuse to attack and/or depart from fundamentalism. That kind of reasoning has become a bearded adolescence whose time has long gone. Let us, with many others in our ranks, say goodby and good riddance to its demise, get over it and move forward. As Michael clearly noted in his experience, he did not grow up in the the jaded atmosphere now being attributed to fundamentalism's general existence and history. Nor have multitudes of others.

My labors in this area, such as they were (as I said elsewhere, dwelling on past sins and foibles was generally unproductive and thus not the main string on my banjo), were to strengthen and promote existing fundamentalism by getting it back on track with a trajectory that was militant, separatist (1st and 2nd), Baptist, local church centered (1 Tim 3:15) (or associations of like faith and practice), theologically sound and robust, with an expositional pulpit front and center. My fundamentalism worth saving would eventually purge and prevent Arminianism, Keswickianism and its various flavors, anti-dispensationalism, KJVOism in its various hues, Hylesism and its offspring, acerbic anti-lordship salvation, among several others. Strong feelings, statements and confrontations come with the turf of preserving truth. The genius of fundamentalism is not mean, unkind, strident, or have bad manners. I have stated publicly, at the DBTS MACP, et al., that "fundamentalism had to bleed " before things got better, but I didn't envision the disruption and the reaching across the aisle that have been occuring in recent times in some quarters. I knew that there would emerge smaller but purer expressions of a non-monolithic fundamentalistic "idea," but, since I'm not a joiner or particularly interested in numbers of bodies, it didn't/doesn't bother me.

As far as CEs publicly apologizing, repenting and breaking with past participation in elements of the New Evangelicalism, not all are presently dead. Circumlocutions such as "he's rethinking what he did back then," or "he's pushing back at some CEs and their notions," or "I didn't know there were liberals on board when I chaired the local BG Crusade" always sound a little hollow and disengenious. To me it is inconsistent to give the CEs sort of a pass here while scolding fundamentalists for not handing down a jail sentence or a few rounds in the chest for alleged incidents, true or otherwise, that have exceedingly long whiskers by now, or in fact are in a state of aggressive decomposition.

I recall (and some can help my memory here) hearing a message by Dr. Mark Minnick on this general subject at DBTS MACP in which he stated that one of the principles that predicated affiliations with the CE types was their disassociation from and forthright declaration of past sins, mistakes, attitudes and actions while in or dabbling with the New Evangelication (my words). I agree.

This all being said, I'm still puzzled over what is to be gained substantively by public affilialtions and joint ventures with CEs, except possibly to reap some PR and other more tangible benefits along the way. I would hope that is not the case, but the real case is unclear to me.

This response has morphed into something akin to a personal manifesto (or swan song) from what I first anticipated; it has become more in the interests of information, observation and clarification than disputation.

Rolland McCune

DavidO's picture

Rolland McCune wrote:
This response has morphed into . . . information, observation and clarification . . .

Thanks for all the above.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Dr. McCune,

Thanks for the discussion and clarity. As always you make your points well. You have made these points well before. I have appreciated the fact that you have been willing to chop off the cancerous leaf to the right of you as well as to the left of you. You can be grateful that you leave behind you (Not that I'm thinking you're leaving soon :).... men who are careful towards those issues you mention. Just in my loose interaction with a variety of leaders and ministries - You have been succesful Dr. McCune. Your influence has been passed all over the thinking wing of the fundamentalist movement.

In the most respectful way I can, I probably disagree that those sweet days that you enjoyed at the Independent, Bible-believing Mennonite Church are in fact over. Part of that is my own way of looking at the Biblical theology of NT body-life. In looking closely at the Gospels and even the epistles - to me it looks as if the baseline to koinonia is loving the same Jesus and preaching the same Scripture. Unless there is consistent disobedience, then fellowship is not only encouraged but it is at least to some degree assumed. You mentioned the co-ministry Baptist had with Mennoites "back in the day." I don't think those days are gone necesarily. I had the thrill of having some unbelievable koinonia in SE Asia with Baptist leaders in the underground church and Mennonite leaders from the underground church - and both of them having the same theology. That was a thrill! So....I'm prayerful these days are not over.

I don't know if this is happening in Florida or Michigan but let me chat about Arizona. Here in the Phoenix area we have a variety of Mega-churches. With very few exceptions the label or the doctrinal statement is almost a non-issue. That is it really doesn't matter if it's called "Wesleyan" or "Lutheran" or "Congregational" or "Baptist." They pretty much get the same kind of preaching (much of it would hurt your theological sensitivities), the same kind of music (that would make you deaf), and the same kind of politics (which would make you green). However, the same thing is also true of the careful Bible-believing churches that self-describe themselves as "evangelical." Frankly many of them are more "separatistic" and more "conservative" than several who calll themselves "fundamentalist." My point is only that we are coming into a day or perhaps the day is already here, where the label thing is almost a non-issue. What matters is what is preached in the pulpit, what is believed by way of teaching and what is present by way of Godliness. The ministry I lead wants to connect themselves not with "fundamentalist churches".....or "evangelical churches"....but rather Godly churches. Because we are truly independent we get to pick and choose who our ministry partners are - which is a help I think.

One more point if I may -

This is only a guess on my part - There may be a "generation thing" going on here. To be honest....and this is just my "orb"....most of the CE's that I have good fellowship with hate any and all forms of eccuminicalism that would be associated with the classic eccuminical or even classic newevangelicalism. When speaking about these men, they shake their head and say, "I don't know what Billy was thinking" ... and a few would say of Carl Henry - "I don't know what Henry/Archer/Fuller were thinking...."in reference to the newevangelicalism. However, when looking at the theological and methodological record of fundamentalism, once again they'll say, "I don't know what you fundamentalist were thinking." Usually the "white hats" within the CE group love the kind of men who have come out of DBTS, Central, etc.....Furthermore, these men do not send their people to or support Promise Keepers, Graham meetings or "joint effort" which muds the waters of forensic justification, Biblical authority, etc.....This still may not undermine what you have written. First, you have far more life experienc then I and you have the benefit of seeing historically other attempts at ecclesiastical "adjustments" that ended up badly - so of course we have to respect the gifts you bring to the party. Second, I would admit that the CE's I have occasion to enjoy koinonia with would be the right wing of the right wing of evangelicalism. However, I don't think these guys are alone. Also just like many younger men out of fundamentalism who are careful (if not hesitant) to claim a direct connection in belief/practice with older fundamentalists - my guess is you have the same thing with younger evangelicals who are more militant and separatistic than their evangelical "fathers." That being the case - It's just hard for me to speak of CE's as if you can really lump them into one category. I don't think you can do that in reality.

I think in the past fundamentalists have hurt themselves when joining non-fundamentalists because the non-fundamentalists were moving away from Scripture.

This time fundamentalists who are reaching outside of fundamentalism are reaching out to men who are moving in obedience to Scripture.

Enough said for now - I pray you are encouraged dispite our differences. You are certainly loved in the Lord in spite our differences.

Rich blessings on you and yours!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

JG's picture

I hope it is the former (manifesto) and not the latter. The Internet is taking more and more of the influence of the schools as far as being formative in the thinking of younger pastors and laymen. We can argue whether that is good or bad, but it simply is, and this kind of writing is immensely valuable, the position it articulates badly needed. In light of it, now that I understand the questions better, I'll take a shot at some answers.

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1. Why do CEs ignore us (or is Michael mistaken here?) and not need us?

From my experience in the CE movement (admittedly, growing stale after 20 some years), CEs do not ignore fundamentalists. They instead mock a caricature of fundamentalism. If you asked someone at Biola, 25 years ago, what BJU stood for it was A) short hair on guys Cool long dresses on girls C) no mixed swimming or holding hands D) Peter Ruckman E) Hyles' style evangelism. Separation might get a mention, but not usually. Sometimes racism got mentioned as well, but it wasn't a main topic back then.

The more thoughtful CEs, who bothered to look past the false witness of others, would come up against a rock that they couldn't get past. But this goes to question #2.

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2. Why is the conversation with and about CEs seemingly unilateral, i.e., initiated and pursued by "fundamentalists" by whatever designation (orthodox, idea, movement, et al.).

Purely and simply, the fundamentalist movement has been a separatist movement, while CEs are not separatist. A CE rejects separatism, in part at least, because he thinks (or has persuaded himself) that it is unbiblical, in light of Scriptural teaching on unity.

Therefore, a CE cannot adopt separatism, so he cannot gain access to a separatist institution. He will gladly welcome a former separatist or weak separatist to his institution, because they are meeting on his terms. But he cannot meet on separatist terms, and separatists won't welcome him on any other terms.

Fundamentalists are often accused of being "black and white" about separation, but as your post demonstrates, that is not always the case. What is often ignored is that thinking CEs (and that's the only kind I wish to discuss) tend to be just as "black and white" on the other side of the issue, in fact, more so. A thinking CE has to reject separatism, because to do otherwise, to accept it and think it through, is to move from CE to fundamentalism. Thabiti Anyabwile's recent writing stated it clearly -- he doesn't have a developed doctrine of separation. Effectively, he rejects separatism by neglect.

So a non-separatist CE can't join a separatist institution unless A) he quits being a CE and becomes a separatist / fundamentalist or Cool the separatist institution lowers their standards enough to let him come on his terms.

But a weak separatist can certainly involve himself in a non-separatist institution, because they will raise no barriers. They'll be glad to have him, on their terms.

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3. What purposes or gains are anticipated by having CEs in our venues, institutions or platforms? This is sort of the converse of # 1 above: why do we need them?

1. Truth is truth, and we rejoice in the truth. Some of these men are excellent teachers of the truth. This is a positive purpose/gain. We should be willing to accept and rejoice in truth from imperfect sources. After all, we ourselves aren't perfect, either. (This is the reason we buy their books, too.) But this should never be the only factor in extending invitations.
2. Bigger is better (supposedly). We'll have greater influence/impact if we connect with these people. I reject this purpose, but it is definitely a factor in the thinking of some.
3. It's more loving. This is based on a false definition of love, but it is certainly a factor in the thinking of some.
4. At its root, we're getting away from the centrality of the local church as God's institution for this age. This is true whether we are trying to bring in big-name speakers from fundamentalism or from CE circles. The search for "big names" in our pulpit is flawed. We'd be better off bringing in guys who have laboured faithfully in obscurity for years.

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4. Does perception have any bearing on the organizational links with CEs that are developing in our midst; what message is really being sent here? I.e., what kind of baggage comes with the CEs. Have their ties to the apostasy and disobedient brethren actully been broken, or is "heading in our direction" sufficient justification for organizational fellowswhip?

This is difficult. I'm not sure there is a hard and fast answer. Paul praised the church at Corinth, which was a mess, but heading in the right direction. If someone jettisons ties to apostasy, but not disobedient brethren, they've come a long way, and there's something to be said for encouraging that. There is even more to be said if they've broken ties to some disobedient brethren, but not all.

I don't think the "heading in the right direction" argument is entirely fallacious, but it is certainly sometimes overused. People are rarely all or nothing on anything, and perhaps our response should reflect that. Certainly, the level of baggage that they carry has to factor in our decisions. I Tim. 5:22 appears to me to directly teach care in ministry endorsements, lest we partake in the sins of others. I like to say that what you get up to when I'm not around affects what we can get up to together.

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5. Has there been any acknowledgment or repentance about former years' fellowship with the New Evangelicalism and worse in some cases?

When I left CE circles and went to BJU, I still thought CEs had a point on separation, but that there had to be some lines drawn somewhere. As a result, though I was a separatist at that point in time, I didn't really know it. However, by the very act of going to BJU, I had implicitly acknowledged that separatists had a point. It would have been impossible for me to go there without that.

Had I "repented" of my former non-separatism? Well, I had changed. Acknowledgement or apology? I didn't see it clearly enough to articulate that, but I had changed. How do we define repentance, by apologies or by changes?

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I would like to see some informed, responsible, non-emotional/pietistic responses.

Although, as usual, this is too long, I hope it matched up a little bit to these criteria and is somewhat helpful to the discussion.

Rolland McCune's picture

Thanks David, Joel, JG for the sincere, thoughtful, and informative responses. Food for thought.

Rolland McCune

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