Now, About Those Differences, Part Four

NickOfTimeRead Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Dispensationalism

Conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists actually hold a great deal in common, including the most important things. Nevertheless, they do differ in certain ways. Some of those differences are more important and some less so. Some of them are more characteristic of each group, while others are matters of degree.

One of the differences has to do with dispensationalism and covenant theology. In general, fundamentalists are rather loyal to dispensationalism. Also in general, conservative evangelicals incline toward covenant theology.

This difference does not apply in every instance. Exceptions exist in both camps. Some fundamentalists are (and always have been) covenant theologians, while some conservative evangelicals are dispensationalists.

Actually, at one time many or most conservative evangelicals were also dispensationalists. For example, in his recent history of Dallas Seminary, John D. Hannah argues that Dallas Theological Seminary tried to stake out a middle ground between fundamentalism and neo-evangelicalism. He cites Lewis Sperry Chafer and John Walvoord to show that these leaders disapproved of inclusive evangelism as it was practiced by the new evangelicals, but they also disapproved of the rigid separatism (as they saw it) of many fundamentalists.1 Yet Dallas Seminary was certainly among the leading voices of dispensationalism.

Even at that time many conservative evangelicals affirmed covenant theology. In particular, those who were connected with Westminster Seminary and Covenant Seminary were outspoken covenantalists. Compared with the Moody-Wheaton-Dallas axis, they were probably a minority within evangelicalism. Nevertheless, their influence was considerable and it grew over the years.

Just as many conservative evangelicals were once dispensationalists, some fundamentalists have held to covenant theology. Curtis Lee Laws, in his original definition of fundamentalism, made it clear that that fundamentalist party was comprised of “premillennialists, post-millennialists, pro-millennialists and no-millennialists.”2 T. T. Shields was an advocate of covenant theology as were the fundamentalist branches of the conservative Presbyterian movement that J. Gresham Machen founded. As late as 1992 Allan MacRae, founder of Biblical Seminary, was still insisting that he had always affirmed covenant theology.3

Even now, some conservative evangelicals are dispensationalists and some fundamentalists are covenant theologians. Both the Bible Presbyterian Church and the Free Presbyterian Church are fundamentalist organizations, and both are clear in their adherence to covenant theology. On the other hand, John MacArthur and his associates are definitely dispensational (though MacArthur calls himself a “leaky” dispensationalist), while being identified with conservative evangelicalism.

In spite of these exceptions, however, the generalization holds. Covenant theology is definitely a minority position within fundamentalism, and a small one at that. Dispensationalism seems to be held by only a minority of the most visible conservative evangelicals. Even some who might not identify themselves as covenant theologians would be very reluctant to accept the dispensationalist label.

How thoroughly dispensational is fundamentalism? Examining the ten largest training institutions that identify themselves as fundamentalist, one will discover that virtually every professor of Bible and theology affirms some version of dispensationalism. The percentage is very high indeed.

Determining the percentages among conservative evangelicals is more difficult, but little question exists concerning the widespread influence of covenant theology. Figures such as R. C. Sproul, John Piper, and Mark Dever are public advocates for some version of covenantalism. Dever has even stated that the attempt to institute premillennialism as a test of church membership is sinful.4

In general, the dictum holds: fundamentalists tend to be dispensationalists while conservative evangelicals tend to hold covenant theology. This is a difference between the two movements. But how serious is this difference?

In the calculus of doctrines, the distinction between dispensationalism and covenant theology affects some rather important areas. It involves the relationship between Israel and the church. It touches on hermeneutics, particularly the hermeneutics of prophecy. It even opens the question of the content and direction of God’s plan. These are more than incidental differences. It is to be expected that these differences, if taken seriously, will lead to some limitation in the experience of Christian fellowship.

Having said that, the differences are not as great as might be feared. Some older dispensationalists sounded as if they believed in more than one way of salvation. Some covenant theologians reacted with understandable vigor, but too quickly concluded that dispensationalism necessarily entails a denial of the gospel. Most dispensationalists have been trying to clear up this misunderstanding ever since, and many covenant theologians have been willing to accept their reassurances.

The gospel is not at stake in this difference. Some level of Christian commonality actually exists between covenant theologians and dispensationalists, and some level of mutual endeavor is certainly possible. Fundamentalist dispensationalists and fundamentalist covenantalists manage to work together in various ways, for example at the annual Bible Faculty Leadership Summit.

Furthermore, the distinction between covenant theology and dispensationalism does not go to the heart of either movement. Conservative evangelicals are not conservative evangelicals because of their covenant theology, nor do fundamentalists hold to fundamentalism because of their dispensationalism. While fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals do tend to disagree about dispensationalism, that divergence is not really what makes them different.

Dispensationalists and covenant theologians find ways to work together within both fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, though they do experience tensions in both camps. It may well be possible that dispensationalists might find ways to work together whether they are conservative evangelicals or fundamentalists. The same might be said of covenant theologians.

Downplaying the difference between dispensationalism and covenant theology is a mistake. So is amplifying that difference, particularly when the difference is not really the thing that distinguishes the two groups. And it is not the point of distinction between conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

Consequently, the difference over dispensationalism should have a limited effect upon the ability of fundamentalists to cooperate with conservative evangelicals. This difference should affect the two groups in much the same way that it affects parties within each group. It is not, however, the only difference between the two. Three more differences remain to be weighed.

Notes

1 John D. Hannah, An Uncommon Union: Dallas Seminary and American Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 156-159.

2 Curtis Lee Laws, “Convention Side Lights,” Watchman Examiner (1 July 1920), 834.

3 Allan MacRae, “Communication,” Westminster Theological Journal 54 (fall 1992), 404.

4 Mark Dever, “The End of Death,” sermon preached at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, 12 July 2009. While some covenant theologians are premillennial, no dispensationalist can be amillennial.

The Habit of Perfection
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

Elected Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.

Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!

O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.

And, Poverty, be thou the bride
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.


This essay is by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). Not every professor, student, or alumnus of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.

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Paul J. Scharf's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
Covenant theology is definitely a minority position within fundamentalism, and a small one at that. Dispensationalism seems to be held by only a minority of the most visible conservative evangelicals.
Consequently, the difference over dispensationalism should have a limited effect upon the ability of fundamentalists to cooperate with conservative evangelicals. This difference should affect the two groups in much the same way that it affects parties within each group.

I am not sure I follow this essay.
First, I am not sure I accept the premise that "fundamentalism" as a movement offers a shining example of dispensational theology. I wish it did -- but I am just not sure that is the case -- especially if you (like me) do not accept progressive dispensationalism as a legitimate form of dispensationalism.
Second, I would say that conservative evangelicalism is far too broad to be characterized by any system of theology on any level -- other than in the very broadest terms, such as influences, directions, trends, etc.
Third, can I as a fundamentalist dispensationalist cooperate with a conservative evangelical covenant theologian? Sure! -- proactively within limited spheres of influence, on issues we agree on -- like Biblical creation, for instance. Am I likely to cooperate with him on the level of his covenant theology? Very probably not...

As an aside, my wife and I were listening to Erwin Lutzer in the car last night. It made me wax nostalgic, and a bit sad, to think of the fact that Lutzer, Jeremiah, Kroll and MacArthur are all about the same age -- and in a few years the message of dispensationalism may disappear from major Christian media -- just when we need it the most...
As a second aside, with all due respect to Dr. MacArthur, the term "leaky" dispensationalist is a very silly one...and not very picturesque :~ :tired:

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Don Johnson's picture

As Paul Scharf says above, perhaps the distinction isn't as cut and dried as Bauder tries to make it.

Regardless, the distinction makes no difference. It really isn't the issue in the fundamentalist idea. Over time, I think that the great majority of those who would call themselves fundamentalists would also call themselves dispensationalists, but that is somewhat irrelevant. It wasn't an issue in the 20s and 30s and it wasn't an issue in the 50s and 60s. I don't think it is a meaningful issue in terms of fundamentalism vs. evangelicalism today.

So all in all, another essay that says nothing. It might be interesting if Bauder ever decides to say something in these pieces.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Charlie's picture

Bauder's aim is to expound the areas both of difference and similarity between contemporary self-professing Fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. As such, he is examining major trends, whether they are integral to the fundamentalist/evangelical divide or merely accidental. I agree with his description on the Fundamentalist side, but I think dispensationalism was probably also the dominant paradigm in conservative evangelicalism, at least on the popular level, a few decades ago. I mean, those Thief in the Night movies weren't by Fundamentalists, were they?

Today though, even Fundamentalism seems to be moving away from Dispensationalism, especially the classical and revised (Ryrie) versions. As Paul noted above, Progressive Dispensationalism is a serious departure from tenets in the earlier system that move it, in my opinion, to a stance nearly indistinguishable from a George Ladd/Daniel Fuller sort of macrohermeneutic. The strongholds of Dispensational thinking are already at the periphery of the theological schools. In 20 years, I doubt that Dispensationalism will be a major factor in theological discussion, even among most Fundamentalists.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Charlie wrote:
The strongholds of Dispensational thinking are already at the periphery of the theological schools. In 20 years, I doubt that Dispensationalism will be a major factor in theological discussion, even among most Fundamentalists.

I know what Charlie means in the first sentence -- and as a group dispensationalists might debate the truth and significance of that possibility.
The second sentence offers a bold prediction, to say the least. For some it might be wishful thinking, but I would caution anyone against writing an obituary for dispensationalism just yet.
I am sure it is not a "theological school" of the order that Charlie would use as a measuring stick, but I would remind us that Liberty University, the largest Christian school in the world, currently houses the [URL=https://timlahaye.com/shopcontent.asp?type=PreTribResearch ]Pre-Trib Research Center[/URL ].
I also have it on good authority that The Master's Seminary -- I assume we are moving away from the periphery (?) -- desires to be the standard-bearer for dispensationalism among major seminaries. Granted, they may not hold dispensationalism as purely as Dallas or Grace once did, but they are still formidable. Perhaps some TMS grads here can shed some light...
Then again, if the Lord returns somewhere in the next 20 years, dispensationalism will very suddenly be in vogue -- even among the theologically sophisticated! H:)

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Charlie's picture

When I speak of schools being peripheral, I'm not talking primarily about how many students they have or how well-known their president is. I mean that they do not influence scholarship at other schools. If you look at the TMS faculty website, you will notice a striking prominence of DTS grads. If you look on the DTS faculty website, I doubt there is even one TMS grad. So, DTS, nearer the center, provides the faculty of TMS, nearer the periphery.

Another indicator is whether they publish scholarship, particularly scholarship that makes it into use at other theological schools. How many books and journal articles by Liberty professors do you think students at Wheaton, Dallas, SBTS, etc. read?

A look at the resources available for theological instruction seems a bit disheartening. I typed "Old Testament Theology" into Amazon (not the most scientific method, I know) and had to scroll down to #16 to find a Dispensationalist. A search on "New Testament Theology" wasn't much better, with Zuck and Bock appearing at #13. However, if Donald Guthrie is a Dispensationalist, he is at #7. For "Systematic Theology," Dispensationalists did pretty well, with Geisler and Culver in the top ten, but Grudem at #1.

I also wonder, and here I'm really just speculating, how well certain seminaries are doing at retaining their graduates within their theological fold. For example, BJU is nominally Dispensationalist and non-Calvinist, but I ran into 4 BJU PhD grads in a row, all of whom were non-Dispensational and strongly Calvinistic. All but 1 were working in big "BJU churches." My exposure is limited, but I wonder about the recent products of some of our Fundamentalist seminaries.

Please understand what I'm saying. I'm not passing judgment on the effectiveness of any schools or teachers. I'm just noticing a trend; it seems that Dispensationalists are decreasingly influencing future influencers. I freely acknowledge that I don't have any hard, scientific data on this; a conglomeration of observations and perceived factors accumulated to convince me.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Steve Davis's picture

Charlie wrote:
I also wonder, and here I'm really just speculating, how well certain seminaries are doing at retaining their graduates within their theological fold. For example, BJU is nominally Dispensationalist and non-Calvinist, but I ran into 4 BJU PhD grads in a row, all of whom were non-Dispensational and strongly Calvinistic. All but 1 were working in big "BJU churches." My exposure is limited, but I wonder about the recent products of some of our Fundamentalist seminaries.

I graduated from BJU in 1978. I had a number of professors who clearly were non-dispensational or if they were dispensationalists it was not apparent. It didn't seem to be an issue as I recall and my first real exposure to Dispensationalism came in seminary. A recent M.A. grad from BJ commented that the more he reads dispensational works the more he is attracted to covenant theology. Whether Charlie is right about the state of Dispensationalism in 20 years remains to be seen – if we’re still around. One comment questioned whether progressive dispensationalism is a legitimate form of Dispensationalism. If that’s the case than Charlie’s 20 years may be overly optimistic. I know they exist but I don’t know or meet many classic dispensationalists.

Kevin has some good thoughts on this in spite of his detractors. There are differences between D & CT. But as he states "The gospel is not at stake in this difference." Further I think that he's right that "Covenant theology is definitely a minority position within fundamentalism, and a small one at that." Among the reasons for that may be that as men become acquainted with the contributions of CT they no longer find a home in some Fundamentalist circles camped on the "right" position and who refuse fellowship with those outside the camp, to those who are not pre-trib, pre-mill, etc. Another reason may be the sharp discontinuity seen between Israel and the Church which alienates those who do not see in present-day unbelieving Israel fulfillment of prophecy nor attribute to Israel an untouchable status in the realm of international affairs which leads almost inevitably to the confusion of conservative theology with conservative politics.

Don Johnson's picture

Steve Davis wrote:
Kevin has some good thoughts on this in spite of his detractors. There are differences between D & CT. But as he states "The gospel is not at stake in this difference." Further I think that he's right that "Covenant theology is definitely a minority position within fundamentalism, and a small one at that."

But Steve, Kevin is saying that this is one of the key distinctions between fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism. That is the whole point of this ponderous series. The observation that most fundamentalists today tend to be dispensationalists is probably correct. But it is irrelevant to the question of key distinctions between fundies and ce's. That's why I am saying he hasn't said anything yet. If he actually said anything, the thread here at SI would be filled with comments arguing his essay back and forth. Look back at the last three or four weeks of essays. Hardly any discussion. The main discussion in this one is a discussion of Charlie's point about schools, which is really irrelevant to what Kevin said in his essay.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Steve Davis wrote:
One comment questioned whether progressive dispensationalism is a legitimate form of Dispensationalism. If that’s the case than Charlie’s 20 years may be overly optimistic. I know they exist but I don’t know or meet many classic dispensationalists.

Hold the line, Steve. Have you heard of the [URL=http://www.bbc.edu/council/ Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics[/URL ] at [URL=http://www.bbc.edu/seminary/default.asp ]Baptist Bible Seminary[/URL ], the [URL=http://www.pre-trib.org/ Pre-Trib Research Center[/URL ], [URL=http://www.foigm.org/ Friends of Israel[/URL ] (which produces the most widely distributed Christian magazine in the world), [URL=http://www.faith.edu/seminary/index.html Faith Baptist Theological Seminary[/URL ]... Shall I keep going? These are all institutions committed to classical dispensationalism. Paul Nyquyist, the new president of Moody Bible Institute, also had [URL=http://www.moodyministries.net/uploadedFiles/Corporate/News/News/2008/Co... ]Charles Ryrie [/URL ]speak at his installation.
My question would be whether progressive dispensationalism will be around in 20 years -- at least by that name. It has had a radical influence, to be sure, but as its adherents get farther from the memory of their dispensational roots and more enamored with covenant theology, I wonder how many will be out touting that they are "progressive dispensationalists." Perhaps the day will return when "dispensationalism" is once again dispensationalism.

Charlie, since TMS is still a fairly young seminary, and since DTS has moved away from its dispensational heritage and has long been enamored with guys trained in European scholarship, I would not expect DTS to have TMS grads teaching there. TMS is beginning to have a big impact at other schools, however, which are focused on Bible exposition and resultant ideas such as dispensationalism. Perhaps you will answer that this just displays the obscurantist nature of the whole dispensational realm. To which I would reply that the Apostle Paul faced similar charges (2 Cor. 10:10). He never did seem to change the course of Roman scholarship, yet somehow I think he did OK Smile .

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
But Steve, Kevin is saying that this is one of the key distinctions between fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism. That is the whole point of this ponderous series. The observation that most fundamentalists today tend to be dispensationalists is probably correct. But it is irrelevant to the question of key distinctions between fundies and ce's.
So it sounds like you agree with him.

Quote:
That's why I am saying he hasn't said anything yet. If he actually said anything, the thread here at SI would be filled with comments arguing his essay back and forth. Look back at the last three or four weeks of essays. Hardly any discussion.
Might that be because what he has said isn't that controversial, it's not salacious,, and it's pretty theological. Things like this don't get much discussion at SI.

It seems to me that Bauder's point is that there are doctrinal differences between the two groups, this is one of them, it is not a gospel difference, and it doesn't preclude some level of cooperation. In other words his point is that this is not a core or defining distinction, and it doesn't preclude cooperation. So far, it sounds like you agree.

Is your complaint really that you don't disagree with him? Biggrin

Don Johnson's picture

Larry ][quote wrote:
Is your complaint really that you don't disagree with him? Biggrin

No, my complaint is that this particular difference is insignificant. It doesn't matter. It isn't what makes fundamentalists 'tick' as fundamentalists, nor is covenant theology what makes conservative evangelicals 'tick' as conservative evangelicals. If fundamentalists are to remain distinct from conservative evangelicals, dispensationalism or covenant theology is not (and I submit never has been) the reason to maintain a distinction. The exceptions Kevin notes within both groups make it quite clear that this issue is irrelevant as far as the stated topic is concerned.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
No, my complaint is that this particular difference is insignificant. It doesn't matter. It isn't what makes fundamentalists 'tick' as fundamentalists, nor is covenant theology what makes conservative evangelicals 'tick' as conservative evangelicals. If fundamentalists are to remain distinct from conservative evangelicals, dispensationalism or covenant theology is not (and I submit never has been) the reason to maintain a distinction. The exceptions Kevin notes within both groups make it quite clear that this issue is irrelevant as far as the stated topic is concerned.
I am not sure it is insignificant, but I am not sure how you disagree with Bauder. I think you would agree it is a doctrinal difference that doesn't affect the gospel. I think you agree that it does define or distinguish either fundamentalism or evangelicalism. And that seems to be Bauder's point, isn't it? Perhaps you could help me understand your disagreement.

There are some people who think this is a big deal, that covenantalists have left the ranch, so to speak. I think Bauder's point, and your point, is that they haven't. This is a difference, but not a fellowship breaker, necessarily.

Brian Ernsberger's picture

Larry, Don's point is that Bauder's articles are about "the differences" between Fundys and CE and that this particular article addressing D and CT is not discussing a "difference." Bauder has rightly noted that both views (D and CT) are in both camps, though to different degrees. Thus, making the D/CT issue a "non-difference" between Fundys and CEs. If Bauder is going to address the differences then address the differences.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
Larry, Don's point is that Bauder's articles are about "the differences" between Fundys and CE and that this particular article addressing D and CT is not discussing a "difference." Bauder has rightly noted that both views (D and CT) are in both camps, though to different degrees. Thus, making the D/CT issue a "non-difference" between Fundys and CEs. If Bauder is going to address the differences then address the differences.
I think there is a group of fundamentalists (a pretty large one) who think this is a difference, and one that demands separation over false teaching about Israel and the church. I think Bauder is making the case that DT and CT are different, but not that different.

Do you think Bauder is correct that fundamentalism is predominantly dispensational and CE is predominantly covenantal? I am not sure how that would be disputed, though I am open to it. There are exceptions, but that's the point, I think. They are exceptions.

Maybe I am misunderstanding Bauder. I wouldn't be the first, but I do promise not to blast him on my blog about it. However, here is Bauder's close, which seems to make the point:

Quote:
Downplaying the difference between dispensationalism and covenant theology is a mistake. So is amplifying that difference, particularly when the difference is not really the thing that distinguishes the two groups. And it is not the point of distinction between conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

Consequently, the difference over dispensationalism should have a limited effect upon the ability of fundamentalists to cooperate with conservative evangelicals. This difference should affect the two groups in much the same way that it affects parties within each group. It is not, however, the only difference between the two. Three more differences remain to be weighed.

Isn't his point that this is a difference but it doesn't require lack of cooperation necessarily. I can't imagine either you or Don thinks that there is no difference between dispensationalism and covenantalism and you do think that the difference is not the distinguishing mark (which means you agree with Bauder on the first point), and I don't imagine that you think the difference requires separation (which means you agree with Bauder on the second point).

I think Kevin is addressing some fundamentalists who think that covenantalism is virtually heresy, and that those who teach it should be separated from and denounced. I think Bauder may be addressing an audience that perhaps you and Don aren't thinking of or perhaps don't even know it exists. But I know there are people for whom covenantalism is akin to denying the deity of Christ. I think Bauder is telling them that these people are doctrinally different, but are not outside the fold of Christianity.

But I won't prolong this. I was just curious what Don was disagreeing with. Thanks to both.

Don Johnson's picture

Larry, in Essay One of this series, Bauder wrote:

Quote:
Whether or not some rapprochement will occur between fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals is more than I can guess. Some fundamentalists seem to entertain a hope that the two can be brought together. Too often, however, their efforts are dogged by the fact that they have not seriously considered the differences that actually exist.

Therefore, an examination of those differences is highly relevant right now. Such an examination is what I propose to do. I hope to say just what the differences are, how characteristic each difference is, and how serious the differences are both singly and together. But before proceeding with that discussion, it is necessary to spend a moment considering the problem of how differences in general are to be weighed.

I take Kevin at his word on his purpose for examining the differences.

Ok, now here we are at essay FOUR where the first actual "difference" is raised. I don't think Bauder has succeeded in raising this difference for a couple of reasons.

  1. It isn't much of a difference since both Fundy and CE have both Dispy and CT and to some extent Dispys and CTs work together within their various movements.
  2. It isn't a serious difference because even if we concede that Fundys today tend to be mostly dispensational, it isn't a defining issue for Fundamentalism. Do you think Bauder includes Dispensationalism in his ballyhooed "idea of Fundamentalism"? I kind of doubt it.
  3. Therefore, yet another ponderous and irrelevant essay...

    FWIW

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

iKuyper's picture

I'm still not quite sure if distinguishing Fundy/CE is even relevant these days. I believe more and more people are operating under a different paradigm. Instead of cooperating or separating on the basis of "Who is in Fundamentalism" more are concerned whether or not one is a dispensationalist or a covenantalist, calvinist or a arminian, etc. For example, I would cooperate with a CE who is Refomed/Calvinist over against a Fundy who is Arminian and Dispensational.

The younger crowd is finding the Fundy/CE label debates irrelevent. The points of separation and cooperation have switched to different labelings.

Ecclesia semper reformanda est

Larry's picture

Moderator

Don,

I think there are a lot of fundamentalists who believe that you cannot be a fundamentalist and a covenantalist. To them, covenantalism is denying the Bible, it's anti-semitic, it's virtually heresy.

I am not sure, but I imagine it is to these people that Kevin speaks and says, "It's a difference, but it's not a defining difference. One can be a covenantalist and a fundamentalist. The fact that someone disagrees with you on dispensationalism does not mean that they are unbeliever, or heretics."

As you quote Kevin, he says we need to carefully weigh these differences. So he weighs this one and says, "It doesn't weigh that much in the way that some think it does." I think it is a message that needs to be heard. Now, if only someone on the other side would speak up about it.

So, in the end, it seems to me that you agree with Kevin, and perhaps you are just not aware that there are people out there who disagree with you and Kevin.

Thanks again, Don.

Don Johnson's picture

iKuyper wrote:
The younger crowd is finding the Fundy/CE label debates irrelevent. The points of separation and cooperation have switched to different labelings.

First, that is a pretty hefty generalization. I am not sure that it is entirely true.

Second, I agree that some certainly are making points of separation and cooperation a matter of different labelings, but that automatically marks them as NOT fundamentalists. Fundamentalism is marked by separation over a particular set of ideas. If your separation is over different ideas, and you refuse to separate over the Fundamentalist set of ideas, you are not a Fundamentalist.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

dmicah's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
iKuyper wrote:
The younger crowd is finding the Fundy/CE label debates irrelevent. The points of separation and cooperation have switched to different labelings.

First, that is a pretty hefty generalization. I am not sure that it is entirely true.

Second, I agree that some certainly are making points of separation and cooperation a matter of different labelings, but that automatically marks them as NOT fundamentalists. Fundamentalism is marked by separation over a particular set of ideas. If your separation is over different ideas, and you refuse to separate over the Fundamentalist set of ideas, you are not a Fundamentalist.

iKuyper's statement may be imprecise, but not necessarily inaccurate. Few Gen X and certainly Y's debate this matter outside of academia, if they even know it exists. Separation is essentially an obsolete practice within our culture (much the same as church discipline) despite its biblical moorings, hence the "different labelings". To discuss would be off-topic, but its obsolescence is why little debate ensues.

I do agree that this installment in the series was a little bland, a filler of sorts.

Don Johnson's picture

dmicah wrote:
iKuyper's statement may be imprecise, but not necessarily inaccurate. Few Gen X and certainly Y's debate this matter outside of academia, if they even know it exists. .

The young people on SI know it exists. The young people at BJU, Detroit, Central, Maranatha, etc all know it exists. I would think that is the "younger crowd" iKuyper is referring to, not the sociological amorphous and fairly indefinable Gen X and Y in general, don't you think?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

iKuyper's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Second, I agree that some certainly are making points of separation and cooperation a matter of different labelings, but that automatically marks them as NOT fundamentalists.

That is exactly my point though. Many Fundamentalists by "heritage" are not limiting their scope of ministry to the confines or "fine-print" of what it is to be a "Fundamentalist" anymore. Younger "fundamentalists" can care less on what you call them...

Don Johnson wrote:
The young people on SI know it exists. The young people at BJU, Detroit, Central, Maranatha, etc all know it exists. I would think that is the "younger crowd" iKuyper is referring to, not the sociological amorphous and fairly indefinable Gen X and Y in general, don't you think?

If you combine all the Fundamentalists who exhibit the necessary traits of what it is to be a functioning Fundamentalist (you know, the ideal form that Bauder tries to define) in all these seminaries, how many would that be? If all of them, maybe 500-600? 1000 students collectively? Are these the people that Bauder is distinguishing Fundy from CE for?

How many more classes, articles, blog entries, Nick of Times, seminars, conferences, etc. does it take to distinguish and define the who, what, why, where, hows of Fundamentalism vs Conservative Evangelicalism? The young people want a little more than that.

Is the attempt to define itself the only contribution of "Fundamentalists" to Evangelical academic dialogue? I'm beginning to think so....

Ecclesia semper reformanda est

AndrewSuttles's picture

1) The vast majority of folks in every stripe of American Evangelicalism are by far Dispensationalists. To assert otherwise is absurd. To count theological texts (the realm of CTers and RTers) on Amazon is not where you go to find out the relative numbers between CTers and Dispys. Go to your local Christian bookstore! My local bookstore has no theological texts in stock, but has an entire row of popular works on the 'end-times'. That is proof enough for me.

Perhaps the reason why Dr. Bauder thinks there are so many CTers in CE is because every time a bright young Bible student comes to the conviction that the Dispy system does not lead to a right interpretation of Scripture, he is forced to leave Fundamentalism. To what? To the best Bible teaching church he can find! Call it CE or whatever, it doesn't matter.

As a movement that tries to lag the broad Evangelical movement by 30 or so years, Fundamentalism is exclusively Dispensational. Evangelicalism is mostly Dispensational, but not exclusively.

2) There is a difference between a Pre-millennialist and a Dispensationalist.

3) This is a nitpick, but early Dispensationalists most definitely taught that there was a different method of Salvation in each Dispensation rather than a single Plan of Salvation (or Covenant of Grace). This was the primary feature of early Dispensationalism, to oppose the single Covenant of Grace (or Plan of Salvation) by asserting that God saved men throughout history by testing them with respect to obedience to His revelation. To see if I am right, go to almost any old Fundy church and ask the 'man in the pew' how Jews will be saved during the Millennium.

4) Finally, the fact that Dr. Bauder will say that the Fundamentalism/Covenantalism divide is what separates Fundamentalists from non-Fundamentalists is kind of sad. The original fundamentalist movement is a narrow ecumenical movement centered around inerrancy and literal Bible interpretation. Now that Machen has served us so well, do we turn our backs on him?

dmicah's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
dmicah wrote:
iKuyper's statement may be imprecise, but not necessarily inaccurate. Few Gen X and certainly Y's debate this matter outside of academia, if they even know it exists. .

The young people on SI know it exists. The young people at BJU, Detroit, Central, Maranatha, etc all know it exists. I would think that is the "younger crowd" iKuyper is referring to, not the sociological amorphous and fairly indefinable Gen X and Y in general, don't you think?

I can agree, as I mentioned, that people within academia can argue this. But academia, and I say this with respect and as a bible college grad, is not the real world, especially for the students. So their debate of this topic is rather futile.
I wasn't trying to be nebulous with Gen X/Y, i was referring to young people within the church of those generations. For instance, if you polled the members of our young church, we planted in 04i would wager no more than one in six people would know whether they considered themselves evangelical or fundamentalist - by official title. And i am sure no more than 1/20, outside of pastors/staff and Bible college students, would probably know there is a big debate over the differences. We don't talk about it, at all, though we separate and implement church discipline. Since so many young people are coming to faith from unchurched backgrounds, they just have never heard there is an "issue". There are a lot churches similar to ours, which led me to my conclusion.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
Finally, the fact that Dr. Bauder will say that the Fundamentalism/Covenantalism divide is what separates Fundamentalists from non-Fundamentalists is kind of sad.
What are you referring to here? I think he said it isn't not a distinguishing feature, didn't he?

His second to last paragraph says, "the difference is not really the thing that distinguishes the two groups. And it is not the point of distinction between conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism." That sounds the opposite of what you are saying he said. Is there some other statement you have in mind?

Don Johnson's picture

dmicah wrote:
For instance, if you polled the members of our young church, we planted in 04i would wager no more than one in six people would know whether they considered themselves evangelical or fundamentalist - by official title. And i am sure no more than 1/20, outside of pastors/staff and Bible college students, would probably know there is a big debate over the differences. We don't talk about it, at all, though we separate and implement church discipline. Since so many young people are coming to faith from unchurched backgrounds, they just have never heard there is an "issue". There are a lot churches similar to ours, which led me to my conclusion.

Do you think there are similar dangers in the religious world today that Christians in the pew faced when the Liberals were taking over the schools in the 1920s? In other words, do you think that there are false teachers out there who could potentially lead your people astray? Do you think your people don't get hold of some of these materials through various means?

If these dangers exist, you need to be teaching them how to discern them, don't you?

I don't go out of my way to 'bash' evangelicals. In fact, I often hear from my people how "so and so" is a blessing to them -- on the radio, internet, by books, what have you. I try to be cautious in what I say because I don't want to discourage them into some kind of "I'm the only guy you should listen to" syndrome. So I will usually say, "Well he has some good things to say, but you have to be careful about some of his teaching or who he recommends." One popular radio preacher a few years ago was endorsing and promoting a NeoOrthodox theologian. Some of our people heard about it and mentioned it to me. Well, what do you think? Do you think I said, "sure, go ahead"?

For this reason I have made teaching separation and discernment a part of our ministry. I don't harp on it all the time, nor do I teach it the same way each time. But our people need to know the dangers of the world they live in. They can learn from the battles that had to be fought in the 20s and the 50s. They can learn to appreciate the deep problems that Billy Graham (for example) plunged the church into with his compromises. I think regular teaching on both doctrine, philosophy, and history in these matters is vital. You aren't guarding your flock if you don't do it.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

dmicah's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
dmicah wrote:
For instance, if you polled the members of our young church, we planted in 04i would wager no more than one in six people would know whether they considered themselves evangelical or fundamentalist - by official title. And i am sure no more than 1/20, outside of pastors/staff and Bible college students, would probably know there is a big debate over the differences. We don't talk about it, at all, though we separate and implement church discipline. Since so many young people are coming to faith from unchurched backgrounds, they just have never heard there is an "issue". There are a lot churches similar to ours, which led me to my conclusion.

Do you think there are similar dangers in the religious world today that Christians in the pew faced when the Liberals were taking over the schools in the 1920s? In other words, do you think that there are false teachers out there who could potentially lead your people astray? Do you think your people don't get hold of some of these materials through various means?

If these dangers exist, you need to be teaching them how to discern them, don't you?

I don't go out of my way to 'bash' evangelicals. In fact, I often hear from my people how "so and so" is a blessing to them -- on the radio, internet, by books, what have you. I try to be cautious in what I say because I don't want to discourage them into some kind of "I'm the only guy you should listen to" syndrome. So I will usually say, "Well he has some good things to say, but you have to be careful about some of his teaching or who he recommends." One popular radio preacher a few years ago was endorsing and promoting a NeoOrthodox theologian. Some of our people heard about it and mentioned it to me. Well, what do you think? Do you think I said, "sure, go ahead"?

For this reason I have made teaching separation and discernment a part of our ministry. I don't harp on it all the time, nor do I teach it the same way each time. But our people need to know the dangers of the world they live in. They can learn from the battles that had to be fought in the 20s and the 50s. They can learn to appreciate the deep problems that Billy Graham (for example) plunged the church into with his compromises. I think regular teaching on both doctrine, philosophy, and history in these matters is vital. You aren't guarding your flock if you don't do it.

I agree that guarding the flock is vital, but you've shifted gears on me. My comment was focused on the donning of a label and whether people observed doctrinal tenets correlated to those labels. That is significantly different than teaching godliness, spiritual fruit, discernment, biblical separation, etc. We preach expositionally and bluntly which inevitably leads to highlighting the theological apostasies of our day, such as prosperity gospel, cheap grace salvation, or emergent theology. Certainly we have mentioned names from time to time, but we make no assertions of labels or claim a "movement". There is a different approach among what i would describe as fundamental conservative evangelicals.

On a different note, with the rising influence of organizations such as Acts 29, Together for the Gospel, Advance the Gospel and the Gospel Coalition, it is obvious there is a broadening national evangelical unity that maintains a conservative doctrinal core while exhibiting a progressive approach to methodology, i.e. modern style worship music, casual attire. This collaborative effort appears to be built on inclusivity, whereas traditional fundamentalism is built on exclusivity (oversimplification, i know). I think that is ultimately what you are driving at. Evangelical thought, even on the very conservative side approaches ministry with a different perspective. For some, perhaps you feel this way, it is off target, out of sync and misaligned, and you call it like you see it. I can appreciate that. But CE's are here to stay and we have more in common with you than you might think.

Regards
dmicah

CAWatson's picture

iKuyper wrote:
Don Johnson wrote:
Second, I agree that some certainly are making points of separation and cooperation a matter of different labelings, but that automatically marks them as NOT fundamentalists.

That is exactly my point though. Many Fundamentalists by "heritage" are not limiting their scope of ministry to the confines or "fine-print" of what it is to be a "Fundamentalist" anymore. Younger "fundamentalists" can care less on what you call them...

Don Johnson wrote:
The young people on SI know it exists. The young people at BJU, Detroit, Central, Maranatha, etc all know it exists. I would think that is the "younger crowd" iKuyper is referring to, not the sociological amorphous and fairly indefinable Gen X and Y in general, don't you think?

If you combine all the Fundamentalists who exhibit the necessary traits of what it is to be a functioning Fundamentalist (you know, the ideal form that Bauder tries to define) in all these seminaries, how many would that be? If all of them, maybe 500-600? 1000 students collectively? Are these the people that Bauder is distinguishing Fundy from CE for?

How many more classes, articles, blog entries, Nick of Times, seminars, conferences, etc. does it take to distinguish and define the who, what, why, where, hows of Fundamentalism vs Conservative Evangelicalism? The young people want a little more than that.

Is the attempt to define itself the only contribution of "Fundamentalists" to Evangelical academic dialogue? I'm beginning to think so....

Kuyper,

To answer your final question - no.

Fundamentalists are adding to the academic dialog apart from defining themselves.

Consider the following examples:
Detroit Seminary's journal - Bob McCabe had a two part article (on Creationism) published in a recent book edited by Terry Mortenson
Rod Decker - His massive tome on aspect theory on Mark (also, he is working on a commentary on Mark)
The council on Dispensationalism (BBC) - note the articles from past events and years: http://www.bbc.edu/council/
Recent articles on Themalios by Jon Pratt and Paul Hartog

Concerning progressive dispensationalism - Either Vern Poythress is right in his observation that PD will end up exactly where Ladd did (cov premillennialism), or PD will survive. Among scholars, Classical Dispensationalism is the exception, not the rule. Among New Testament scholars, Classical Dispensationalism is almost non-existent (There are some who claim it, but there are reasons to doubt their claims if you press them on views). I have a personal feeling that Classical Dispensationalism will survive among the popular crowd and literature and all but die out in the scholarly world (along with biblical creationism - for the most part - it is popular among the scientists, but not among the theologians).

Don Johnson's picture

dmicah wrote:
I agree that guarding the flock is vital, but you've shifted gears on me.

That is the way conversations work, eh?

dmicah wrote:
On a different note, with the rising influence of organizations such as Acts 29, Together for the Gospel, Advance the Gospel and the Gospel Coalition, it is obvious there is a broadening national evangelical unity that maintains a conservative doctrinal core while exhibiting a progressive approach to methodology, i.e. modern style worship music, casual attire. This collaborative effort appears to be built on inclusivity, whereas traditional fundamentalism is built on exclusivity (oversimplification, i know). I think that is ultimately what you are driving at. Evangelical thought, even on the very conservative side approaches ministry with a different perspective. For some, perhaps you feel this way, it is off target, out of sync and misaligned, and you call it like you see it. I can appreciate that. But CE's are here to stay and we have more in common with you than you might think.

First, having watched evangelicals for a good while now, both on the inside and the outside, these new organizations are not all that diffferent than previous evangelical groups. Same strategy, same methods, same essential philosophy.

CEs are here to stay... as much as any group stays at any period in history.

The differences are the issue. Of course we have a lot in common, they are Christians. So are a number of men to the left of the CEs. So, I trust, is Billy Graham and his cohorts. We have a lot in common with all of them. That isn't the issue in deciding who we will be partners with.

The issue is what are the differences and how critical is it to maintain the differences. If the differences don't matter, then maintaining them as distinct dividing lines is mere playing politics. If the differences do matter, then it is a matter of obedience to the Lord, regardless of who we are including or excluding.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

AndrewSuttles's picture

Sometimes, some things are better left thought about than said and this is probably one of them.

AndrewSuttles ][quote wrote:
Finally, the fact that Dr. Bauder will say that the Fundamentalism/Covenantalism divide is what separates Fundamentalists from non-Fundamentalists is kind of sad.

Larry ][quote wrote:
What are you referring to here? I think he said it isn't not a distinguishing feature, didn't he?

His second to last paragraph says, "the difference is not really the thing that distinguishes the two groups. And it is not the point of distinction between conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism." That sounds the opposite of what you are saying he said. Is there some other statement you have in mind?

Yes, you are right, Larry, he did say that. I guess my point is that he is writing a series on the 4 primary differences between Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals and as a part of his series on those differences, he writes an article that says that, 'One of the differences has to do with dispensationalism and covenant theology.' He also makes statements like, 'In spite of these exceptions, however, the generalization holds', and, 'Examining the ten largest training institutions that identify themselves as fundamentalist, one will discover that virtually every professor of Bible and theology affirms some version of dispensationalism', and, 'Dispensationalism seems to be held by only a minority of the most visible conservative evangelicals' (which is clearly wrong).

He sums up by saying, 'In general, the dictum holds: fundamentalists tend to be dispensationalists while conservative evangelicals tend to hold covenant theology. This is a difference between the two movements....' - one of 4 key differences according to him.

AND

'Downplaying the difference between dispensationalism and covenant theology is a mistake.'

But then says,

'the difference is not really the thing that distinguishes the two groups.'

So, our systems of theology make us different, different enough to be one of the 4 key differences focused on in a series on the differences, but this is a difference without a distinction? Then why write the article?

PhilKnight's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Ok, now here we are at essay FOUR where the first actual "difference" is raised. I don't think Bauder has succeeded in raising this difference for a couple of reasons.

  1. It isn't much of a difference since both Fundy and CE have both Dispy and CT and to some extent Dispys and CTs work together within their various movements.
  2. It isn't a serious difference because even if we concede that Fundys today tend to be mostly dispensational, it isn't a defining issue for Fundamentalism. Do you think Bauder includes Dispensationalism in his ballyhooed "idea of Fundamentalism"? I kind of doubt it.
  3. Therefore, yet another ponderous and irrelevant essay...

AndrewSuttles wrote:

He sums up by saying, 'In general, the dictum holds: fundamentalists tend to be dispensationalists while conservative evangelicals tend to hold covenant theology. This is a difference between the two movements....' - one of 4 key differences according to him.

AND

'Downplaying the difference between dispensationalism and covenant theology is a mistake.'

But then says,

'the difference is not really the thing that distinguishes the two groups.'

So, our systems of theology make us different, different enough to be one of the 4 key differences focused on in a series on the differences, but this is a difference without a distinction? Then why write the article?

Don & Andrew,

Your objections to Bauder's including Covenantalism vs. Dispensationalism as a difference seems to be based on the fact that it isn't an intrinsic difference. However, at the beginning of this essay series Bauder made it pretty clear that he may not restrict himself merely to intrinsic differences when he said he would examine "how characteristic each difference is":

Quote:

Therefore, an examination of those differences is highly relevant right now. Such an examination is what I propose to do. I hope to say just what the differences are, how characteristic each difference is, and how serious the differences are both singly and together. But before proceeding with that discussion, it is necessary to spend a moment considering the problem of how differences in general are to be weighed. (emphasis mine)

Now, because he has focused on an area that isn't an intrinsic difference (a fact that was one of the central points of his essay), you conclude that he hasn't "succeeded in raising it as a difference" (Don) and "this is a difference without a distinction" (Andrew). That doesn't follow because not all differences are intrinsic differences. In this case Bauder is pointing out an important compositional difference between the two movements as they exist today. I say it is important for this reason: Because of the preponderance of Dispensationalists within Fundamentalism, many mistakenly (and sometimes unconsciously) conflate Dispensationalism and Fundamentalism. Granted, there are other doctrinal ideas that at times have been added falsely to the definition Fundamentalism; however, with the exception of KJV-onlyism (and its various ilks), I don't know of any that could be called out as an important or substantial compositional difference between Fundamentalists and CEs. Certainly, Dr. Bauder could have excluded this one and focused only on intrinsic differences, but I suspect his goal was to focus on important differences, not merely intrinsic ones.

Don Johnson wrote:

Do you think Bauder includes Dispensationalism in his ballyhooed "idea of Fundamentalism"? I kind of doubt it.

Bauder makes it very clear that Dispensationalism is not a distinctive of Fundamentalism.

Don Johnson wrote:

Therefore, yet another ponderous and irrelevant essay...

As I said above, Bauder here calls out an important, though not intrinsic, difference presumably to clarify an area of potential confusion. In my case, what he points out was already well understood, so I didn't find this to be one of the the more interesting of the essay series. I wouldn't, however, use the word "ponderous," and I certainly don't think it was "irrelevant."

P.S. "Ponderous" probably would be an apt adjective to describe the level of commentary (including my own) on this thread analyzing why Bauder chose to include this difference. Smile

Philip Knight

Don Johnson's picture

I use the word 'ponderous' because it seems a lot of words are used in these essays to say nothing.

I think my objections to raising this particular difference are two-fold.

1. As you noted, I don't think it is a defining issue of fundamentalism and as such, if there is a difference, it doesn't matter for the purposes of the present discussion (as stated by Bauder himself).

2. I am not convinced it is a difference at all. I think some have come to confuse Conservative Evangelicalism with a group of men that are Together 4 Calvinism, and hence likely to be influenced by Covenant Theology. I think there are significant numbers of Conservative Evangelicals who are Dispensationalists of one sort or another. I have recently been listening to some Paige Patterson sermons. He is Dispensational, he represents a significant group within the SBC, and certainly has to be called a Conservative Evangelical. So ... I think there really isn't a distinction here. I think Bauder's point is just wrong. Dispensationalism vs. Covenant Theology just isn't a marker between Fundamentalism and Conservative Evangelicalism.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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