Now, About Those Differences, Part Eight

NickOfTimeRead Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

Styles and Methods

Fundamentalists and evangelicals (including conservative evangelicals) both want to distinguish themselves from one another. Fundamentalists usually want to be known as fundamentalists, or at least to find some label that says more than “evangelical.” For their part, evangelicals of all sorts are eager to avoid being mistaken for fundamentalists.

When asked about their differences, both groups often respond with stock answers. According to many evangelicals, fundamentalism has been polluted with legalism or externalism, while fundamentalists often say that evangelicalism has been tainted with worldliness. Each group has typically taken its perception of the other to be virtually axiomatic.

What I have been trying to do is to discover what each party means by its accusation. What do fundamentalists see in evangelicals that smacks of worldliness? What do evangelicals see in fundamentalists that seems legalistic?

I have suggested several answers to those questions. First, fundamentalists and other evangelicals have often differed over their observance of what I have called “revivalistic taboos.” Second, fundamentalists have been more hesitant to adopt the accouterments of the counterculture (now mainstream culture) that began in the 1960s. Third, evangelicals have been more suspicious of second-premise arguments when the second premise has relied upon a matter of judgment rather than a statement of fact.

A fourth factor is probably involved in the mutual denunciation of fundamentalists and evangelicals. It is expressed in the fundamentalist jibe—still frequently heard—that evangelicals have adopted the world’s methods to attract the unsaved. What does this accusation mean?

The accusation is most frequently directed against evangelicals who employ the latest manifestations of popular culture in their public ministries. In other words, fundamentalists and evangelicals tend to line up on different sides of the so-called “worship wars.” Fundamentalists generally perceive themselves as more conservative than evangelicals, and evangelicals typically perceive fundamentalists as narrower.

Broadly speaking, evangelicals are more willing to use contemporary music, to feature celebrities and sensational events, and to employ current forms of amusement in their gatherings. Within evangelical churches one is more likely to hear rock and rap rhythms, to see athletes and entertainers on the platform, and to find preaching displaced by other forms of communication (especially theater). Because they are more restrained in these ways, fundamentalists tend to think that they are less worldly.

One must not over-emphasize the differences, however. Certain versions of fundamentalism pioneered the use of amusements in church. Even today some fundamentalist churches seek to draw crowds through showmanship.

Furthermore, the commitment to popular culture is not a new thing with either fundamentalists or evangelicals. Popular culture is an invention of modernity and relies upon modern vehicles of mass communication. It first arose during the middle third of the 19th century. For the most part, both the proto-fundamentalists (1870-1920) and the original fundamentalists (1920-1947) gravitated toward Victorian and Edwardian popular culture. The expressions of this version of popular culture were individualized, romanticized, and sentimental.

A major shift in popular culture occurred in the wake of the First World War. Known as the Jazz Age, the new culture brought flappers, short skirts, bobbed hair, a new slang (e.g., “the bee’s knees”), the Harlem Renaissance, dance clubs (the Cotton Club, for example, or the Savoy Ballroom), art deco, big bands, radio announcers, Hollywood movies, and a whole new sound. This new culture represented both a break with Victorianism and a continuation of some trajectories that the earlier popular culture had established.

At the inception of the Jazz Age, American fundamentalism was already heavily invested in popular culture. The new culture, however, seemed to include negative and even immoral trends that would damage Christian piety and testimony. At first, fundamentalists strongly resisted any absorption of the new culture. During the late 1940s, however, individuals like Jack Wyrtzen, Merv Roselle, and especially Billy Graham began to target aspects of the new culture for the creation of a Christian youth movement. These were among the leaders who became known as “neo-evangelicals,” and they built a movement not only around cooperative evangelism but also around organizations like Singspiration, Youth for Christ, and Word of Life.

The evangelical youth movement answered its critics by attracting thousands of young people. By the 1960s, most fundamentalists had adopted the cultural concessions that neo-evangelicals had pioneered during the Jazz Age. At that very moment, however, popular culture changed again.

The mid-1960s to early 1970s brought the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, protest marches and sit-ins, flower power and free love, hippies and yippies, Woodstock and Altamont, the Kent State shootings and the University of Wisconsin bombing. Like the Jazz Age, the counterculture represented both a rejection of some mores from the previous culture and a continuation of other trajectories that had already been established.

Through works like Ralph Carmichael’s Tell It Like It Is, mainstream evangelicalism tried and failed to co-opt the new counterculture as it had the popular culture of the Jazz Age. It became clear that evangelical leaders, who had tapped the psyche of the youth movement during the 1940s and 1950s, had no idea what motivated the counterculture.

The people who eventually adapted evangelicalism to the counterculture were baby boomers who came from within the counterculture itself. They became known as the Jesus Movement (sometimes as Jesus People or Jesus Freaks). They later became the foundation of the Evangelical Left.

A good exemplar of the Jesus Movement was musician Larry Norman, sometimes called the “Granddaddy of Christian Rock.” Norman was a boomer and a writer of rock-and-roll songs. His challenge to the religious establishment is summarized in one piece, “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?”

I want the People to know That He saved my soul,
But I still like to listen to the radio, They say Rock ‘n Roll is wrong,
They’ll give me one more chance. I feel so good I want to get up and dance.
I know what’s right, I know what’s wrong, I don’t confuse it.
All I’m really trying to say Is, Why should the devil have all the good music?
I’ve been filled, I feel okay, Jesus is the rock and He rolled my blues away.

They say to cut my hair, they’re driving me insane. I grew it out long to make room for my brain.
But sometimes people don’t understand, What’s a good boy doing in a Rock n’ Roll band?
There’s nothing wrong with playing the blues licks, If you’ve got a reason, I want to hear it.
Why should the Devil have all the Good Music?
I’ve been filled, I feel okay, Jesus is the rock and He rolled my blues away.
I ain’t knockin’ the hymns, just give me a song that has a beat,
I ain’t knockin’ the hymns, just give me a song that moves my feet,
I don’t like any of them funeral marches, I ain’t dead yet.

The point at which the Jesus (counter) culture and the evangelical mainstream came together was Explo 72. This event was the evangelical answer to Woodstock: a Christian rock festival held in Dallas, Texas. It made the Jesus Movement aware of evangelicalism, and it gave the evangelical mainstream its chance to absorb the counterculture as it had the culture of the Jazz Age.

Fundamentalists, however, resisted strongly the absorption of the counterculture. They found the values of the counterculture to be highly offensive. When the evangelical mainstream was willing to accommodate the music and attitudes of the counterculture, fundamentalists perceived this move as prima facie worldly.

Three observations, however, must be born in mind. The first is that the way had been prepared for this absorption by the fundamentalists themselves. Their capitulation to Victorian popular culture left all of their successors with an unenviable choice when the popular culture changed. On the one hand, they could seek to remain appealing by adapting to and absorbing elements of the new culture. On the other hand, they could cling to the older popular culture—but nothing seems goofier than trends that have just gone out of fashion.

Generally, evangelicals have attempted to adapt to newer manifestations of popular culture, while fundamentalists have tried to cling to older versions. Decades later than anyone else, fundamentalists did eventually accommodate themselves to the Jazz Age. Only now, however, are they coming to terms with the counterculture.

That brings up the second observation, namely that the rising generation of fundamentalist leadership is prepared to make that shift. Indeed, many have made it already. One of the great incongruities of fundamentalism is to find King-James-Only churches that are filled with contemporary music.

The third observation is that, both within fundamentalism and evangelicalism, a more genuinely conservative reaction is taking place. More and more people who have grown up in fundamentalism see its attempts to be trendy as simply pathetic, rather like the aging goof who tries to impress teenagers by turning his ball cap backwards. These people are firmly committed to the idea of fundamentalism, but they despise its campy culture. They find it increasingly difficult to identify with a movement whose primary attachment seems to be to the dowdiest versions of popular trends.

On the other hand, many conservative evangelicals are also reacting against church marketing techniques and, increasingly, against the yearning for the contemporary. They are settling into a more genuinely conservative manner of worship. For example, on my desk I have four recent bulletins from a prominent conservative evangelical church located in the District of Columbia. It would be difficult to find a more conservative church service anywhere in fundamentalism than the services that are outlined in these bulletins.

The conservative reaction among evangelicals seems to be strongest among churches that are most committed to Reformed thought, such as Presbyterians or Reformed Baptists. These churches are protected by a high view of God that leads them to want to be driven by God’s character rather than their own appetites. They are also committed to a rather exact application of the regulative principle, which restricts the elements of worship to those that are prescribed in Scripture (and usually even in the New Testament) itself.

The simplicity and profundity of worship in such churches offers relief both from bad-boy evangelicalism and from frumpy fundamentalism. Not surprisingly, a vigorous minority among both evangelicals and fundamentalists is drawn to it. They are tired of showmanship, whether contemporary or outdated. What they want is to meet God and to focus upon Him. Even where they disagree theologically, they appreciate the worship of these churches and the attitude toward popular culture that this worship reflects.

The only thing less relevant than a trendy church is a campy one. Most evangelicals are very concerned with trendiness, and many younger fundamentalists have begun to share that concern. Older fundamentalists tend to be concerned with preserving a church culture that has become its own parody. In both groups, however, a small but increasing number is beginning to exempt itself from the pursuit of popular culture and to relocate itself within the worship and ministry of historic Christianity.

O Traurigkeit, O Herzeleid
Johann Rist (1607-1667)
Tr. Catherine Winkworth (1829-1878)

What sorrow sore
At my heart’s core!
The Son of God now dieth.
He, the King whom I adore,
In the darkness lieth.

I cannot dare
His Cross to share,
Alone he doth endure it.
Mine the sin he beareth there,
Dying he doth cure it.

O happy he
Whose heart doth see
And rightly comprehendeth
Why the Lord of glory thus
To the grave descendeth.

O Jesu blest,
My help and rest,
I humbly pray, Lord, hear me;
Make me love thee to the last,
And in death be near me.

Amen.


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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There are 43 Comments

Joel Tetreau's picture

Thanks Kevin,

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;

Steve Newman's picture

I appreciate the article and feel there is a lot more to say than what has been said.
I also grew up in the era of Christian "counter-culture" rock and remember hearing Larry Norman, Keith Green and others being played by friends extensively.
One trend that might be addressed would be that of "Christian entertainers" putting out sacred and secular works, such as this hideous example:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_a_Metal_Mood:_No_More_Mr._Nice_Guy
I'll try to have more to say later.

Charlie's picture

I heartily applaud this latest installment by Dr. Bauder; I believe he has summarized the current state of worship and culture well. I'd like to add a bit of analysis pertaining to his "conservative reaction" near the end of the article. There are several factors that led to the embrace of popular culture over historical norms; when they were modified or discarded, they led to the recovery of historically grounded worship.

From about the Revolutionary War to about the early twentieth century, most Christianity in the United States was under the thrall of Scottish common sense philosophy and republicanism, which, their merits notwithstanding, functioned to mute church history and church tradition as meaningful voices in theological dialogue. Common sense philosophy all but guaranteed accurate knowledge by an inductive and introspective reason, and heavily democratized republicanism tended to reduce all forms of learned discourse to the lowest level. In the popular mind, this meant not only the death of the expert and the dismissal of past authority, but also an extraordinary capability for all people, with a little intellectual effort, to understand any feature of the world as it actually is. The result was a philosophical disposition perhaps more blind to cultural situation than any other. The norms of every given community were not accepted merely as local norms, but as rational, intuitive, common sense morality and truth. (There are plenty of resources on this topic, but I will recommend just one: http://sacredpage.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/review-americas-god-by-mark-n... America's God by Mark Noll ).

A second factor which is not always appreciated is the decline of classical languages in education. Even into the 18th century, quite a bit of theological literature was written in Latin. Many older theology books were not even translated into English, since the people who wished to read them would certainly already be able to do so. In the 19th century, widespread proficiency in both Greek and Latin learning declined considerably, leaving many important texts inaccessible. This development was probably secondary, since few Americans were interested in reading old theology anyway, but it served to further distance Christians from their roots. A third factor, which I will not expound, is the rapid technological progress and globalization. We all know that changed the world, perhaps in ways we have yet to realize.

However, at the limit point of ages of progress and (over?)optimism, there always comes a transitional period in which, our starry hopes for the future dashed, we look back to consolidate and evaluate, perhaps even to gain some keys to our present situation. For the secularist, this age is postmodernism, a period of criticism and, to some extent, skepticism. Conservative Christianity has taken a differing but parallel route, the recovery of church history. Like a college sophomore who has overextended himself in argument, we are chagrined at our overconfidence and are ready to listen. The Reformed resurgence is fueled, in part, by the realization that the Reformed churchmen of an earlier age carefully hammered out a doctrine and theory of worship that can regulate culture, rather than being a plaything in culture's jaws. Some emergents have begun to look to the Roman or Othodox church for help regulating culture. In any case, Christianity seems to be freeing itself from the disastrous assumption that whatever seems normal to me is necessarily right and good. The cultures of past ages are helping us put some distance between ourselves and our own culture.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Quote:
Certain versions of fundamentalism pioneered the use of amusements in church. Even today some fundamentalist churches seek to draw crowds through showmanship.

Thank you for speaking the truth

Quote:
but nothing seems goofier than trends that have just gone out of fashion.

Chuckle

Quote:
The simplicity and profundity of worship in such churches offers relief both from bad-boy evangelicalism and from frumpy fundamentalism
.
Another chuckle and a hearty "amen"

Quote:
The only thing less relevant than a trendy church is a campy one
.
Yep

Question: To what influence would you attribute the increase in the number of doctrinally sound contemporaty-style songs that are out there today?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Alot of insight to ponder here.

Quote:
increasingly, against the yearning for the contemporary
I would sure love to believe this. Time will tell. There are enough glaring exceptions to make me doubt it (the "increasingly" part)

Probably a quibble: I'm not sure I believe in the "popular culture" category. That is, I'm not sure it's something essentially different from what came before it. Perhaps it's just plain ol' culture sped up. I wonder if now we are in an era where major turning points like "Victorian...Jazz Age... Counterculture" will occur so frequently and rapidly that they all just blur into "the culture here in this spot at this moment." But there have to be some limitations on how quickly the human herd can change its mind about things, despite the speed of information.

I hope someday Kevin will take on the question of how one avoids getting on the whole 'popular culture' track in the first place. He's argued that fundamentalists were already partly on it before the Jazz Age. The thing is, I don't think anybody was conscious of that at the time. It's hard to tell a capitulation to popular culture from a sensible choice when you are in the midst of that culture. He alludes to a partial answer here when he talks toward the end about the guys who have embraced a "higher view of God" and "the regulative principle." But I don't think that solves the problem entirely because, as long as we await the Return, we will always live and serve in a cultural setting with features we may adapt and features we should not adapt. So how we get out of the rut of either being reactionary or just worldly... I find that no simple solutions come to mind.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jim's picture

I always cringe when I hear the illustration of the drawbridge keeper’s son.

Train is coming ... keeper can save the train occupants but his son dies.

Not sure why it rubs me the wrong way. I especially cringe when it is "acted out" (in a drama kind of way)

Some blog links about it:

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
The simplicity and profundity of worship in such churches offers relief both from bad-boy evangelicalism and from frumpy fundamentalism. Not surprisingly, a vigorous minority among both evangelicals and fundamentalists is drawn to it. They are tired of showmanship, whether contemporary or outdated. What they want is to meet God and to focus upon Him. Even where they disagree theologically, they appreciate the worship of these churches and the attitude toward popular culture that this worship reflects...The only thing less relevant than a trendy church is a campy one. Most evangelicals are very concerned with trendiness, and many younger fundamentalists have begun to share that concern. Older fundamentalists tend to be concerned with preserving a church culture that has become its own parody. In both groups, however, a small but increasing number is beginning to exempt itself from the pursuit of popular culture and to relocate itself within the worship and ministry of historic Christianity.

A thousand "Amens"!
Ever since I entered fundamentalism, I never did grasp the concept of why we would canonize the 1940s and try to continually reproduce them -- kind of like a spiritual Groundhog Day approach.
I would much prefer going back to historic, orthodox Christianity -- then applying that to today's culture, all with a focus on the exposition of Scripture.
This article comes the closest to expressing my frustration with these aspects of fundamentalism than anything I have ever seen. I hope its message will be heeded. Many of our churches, in particular, have a LONG, LONG way to go. :tired: :tired: 0:)

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin Bauder wrote:
Certain versions of fundamentalism pioneered the use of amusements in church. Even today some fundamentalist churches seek to draw crowds through showmanship.

Like, say, a http://mytwocents.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/big-weekend-at-tcbc/ Fun Fair , maybe?

~~~

I don't buy the "Fundamentalist bought into popular culture of Victorianism" etc angle. I think it is largely historical revisionism. It is probably better to view the culture of Victorianism etc as heavily impacted by Christian principles and values following the profound influence of the Wesleyan revivals.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
I don't buy the "Fundamentalist bought into popular culture of Victorianism" etc angle. I think it is largely historical revisionism.

I am not an expert on Victorianism, but I think it would be difficult to argue that fundamental baptist "worship" was not heavily influenced by the culture of the early 20th century.
Fundamentalists ushered in the original "seeker" services. Although they may not have been "sensitive," they were geared toward evangelizing visitors, and often employed entertainment and oddball stunts of various kinds to draw a crowd. (I.e., I have a textbook from Bible college with a memorable picture of some kind of a character fixing to jump off the church roof in celebration of some type of special church event.) This philosophy also greatly impacted church music and the format of the worship service -- which culminated in an altar call (with a focus on man rather than God). This was a radical departure from both Biblical ministry and historic, orthodox Christianity.
This stuff is no secret -- it is readily discussed in Church Growth Movement literature.
Now that the long-term implications of some of these methodologies are coming into view (i.e., full-blown seeker sensitive movement, junk culture youth ministry, etc.), fundamentalists are divided among three responses:
1) Some have continued on into the full-blown contemporary expressions of these methodologies. (This group is the majority of people in my age group whom I have known within fundamentalism.)
2) Some are trying to continue on in the old "campy" traditions -- the group Dr. Bauder refers to the at the end of his article. (This is the group of baby-boomers still in control of many IFB churches. Generally, these churches are in serious decline, but praying for "revival.")
3) Some are turning back to the Bible and attempting to implement Biblical ministry and the approach of historic Christianity. (Unfortunately, many in this group have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and are simultaneously turning to Reformed Theology, thinking that is a necessary implication of their newfound approach -- as Dr. Bauder alludes to.)
I am -- and by God's grace always have been -- in group #3 -- minus the Reformed Theology.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Don Johnson's picture

I am not arguing about the merits of stunts to attract people to religious gatherings. Some such events may be legitimate, many are certainly not. I provided one recent example that some have lauded and others have criticized. Check the link.

I am arguing, however, that Victorian culture wasn't some 'pop culture' that Christians adopted (as Bauder alleges) but that Victorian culture was in fact heavily influenced by the Christian movements that preceded its formation. As I understand Bauder's thesis on this point, fundamentalist/evangelical churches have simply always been followers of culture for the last 100 years or so. And that those who are trying to retain an 'old' culture are just hanging on to the Victorian/Edwardian pop culture (so-called). I don't buy it. To the extent that church culture is similar to Victorianism, I would suggest that is because of historical Christian influences in English culture. I think the impact of the Wesleyan revivals is largely missed in this discussion.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jim's picture

Hey Don,

Would you be kind enough to interact with me a bit about "drawing crowds" and "connecting with people"

A large Baptist church in the Twin Cities really goes all out for VBS. It is top notch. Volunteers spend months planning and executing. Thousands are drawn to their VBS. Is this "connecting with people" to enable the church to present the gospel (during the VBS week and at the concluding program where the gospel is presented to adults) or is it entertainment?

I can think of many examples

  • Golf outing where unsaved men are invited by Christians as a church program. Gold, friendship, and a gospel presentation
  • A church BBQ or
  • A youth event with fun activities programmed in ... followed by a Bible study or gospel message

It seems that often if someone else is doing this (and doing it well) outsiders will look at it and say a stunt or entertainment.

I have my own view (about the VBS example above or the previously mentioned new church open house event). I think it's legitimate.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Neither the Fun Fair nor the VBS are the church worship service, so far as I can tell.

I have no problem with going all out with either, as long as they do not impact the content of the worship service of the church. That is where fundamentalism left the rails...having "Cowboy Bob" jump off the church roof, or whatever it was, to celebrate "Pack the Pews Night." Bleah

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Don Johnson's picture

But you see, Kevin is criticizing Fundamentalists "drawing crowds through showmanship". It is a frequent criticism and (I think) is meant to attack "Hyles-like" hijinks. But at what point does a "Fun Fair" not be "showmanship"? Why is it OK to criticize the Hyles wing for events like these and not the neo-Calvinist wing?

As I said, I don't particularly have a problem with the concept of using 'showmanship' to draw a crowd. Some 'shows' are over the top (in my opinion) and unworthy of Christian use. But in principle, I am not against the concept. I recognize that my evaluation of what is 'over the top' is highly (entirely) subjective.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
But at what point does a "Fun Fair" not be "showmanship"?

Primarily, as long as it does not affect the worship service.

Don Johnson wrote:
As I said, I don't particularly have a problem with the concept of using 'showmanship' to draw a crowd.

I do (2 Cor. 2:17).

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Don Johnson wrote:
As I said, I don't particularly have a problem with the concept of using 'showmanship' to draw a crowd. Some 'shows' are over the top (in my opinion) and unworthy of Christian use...

Like... Mike Crain splitting a watermelon with a sword on the youth director's stomach?

It's human nature to feel as if we have to continue to 'top' ourselves. I see it alot with parents and birthday parties- every year needs to be just a bit bigger and grander, until a parent finds themselves renting King's Island for a day or some other extravagance. The principle of manufacturing the spectacular to draw people in is not in synch, IMO, with the reasons why Jesus and the disciples performed miracles, even though that is often why folks were drawn to Christ. Or at least it seems to me where the 'Scriptural' basis for the idea of 'Christian showmanship' originates.

It's about 2pm here, which is typically when I experience a mid-afternoon brain crash, so I could be horribly wrong or not making any sense.

Diane Heeney's picture

Quote:
Broadly speaking, evangelicals are more willing to use contemporary music, to feature celebrities and sensational events, and to employ current forms of amusement in their gatherings. Within evangelical churches one is more likely to hear rock and rap rhythms, to see athletes and entertainers on the platform, and to find preaching displaced by other forms of communication (especially theater). Because they are more restrained in these ways, fundamentalists tend to think that they are less worldly.

One must not over-emphasize the differences, however. Certain versions of fundamentalism pioneered the use of amusements in church. Even today some fundamentalist churches seek to draw crowds through showmanship.


I think it is key to note the phrase "in church" here. He seems to be speaking of shenanigans and sensationalism and outright entertainment during what is set aside for a preaching service...not outside activities which may serve as a way to reach into the community or invite them to step foot on the church premises. We have offered holiday dinners to the needy in our community, conducted a "cowboy Bible conference" to attract ranchers and the like who would not likely step foot in church otherwise, and we are contemplating a kid's Christmas shop this year, supplying nice gifts from everyone's "gently used" closet stashes from which they can choose for their immediate family members, free of charge and giving a gospel witness in some way. I see nothing wrong with these types of efforts.

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Susan R wrote:
The principle of manufacturing the spectacular to draw people in is not in synch, IMO, with the reasons why Jesus and the disciples performed miracles, even though that is often why folks were drawn to Christ.

Susan,

You certainly are correct! The miracles of Jesus and His apostles were in fulfillment of Isaiah 35 and foreshadowed the conditions of the Kingdom which Messiah was offering to Israel (Heb. 6:5). No relation to Cowboy Bob or the watermelon guy Wink -- unless you want to be consistent and become a charismatic postmillennialist who is enjoying Kingdom miracles even today!! Cool

Jesus had harsh words for those who misplaced the value of His miracles...(Matt. 12:39; John 6:26).

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
As I said, I don't particularly have a problem with the concept of using 'showmanship' to draw a crowd. Some 'shows' are over the top (in my opinion) and unworthy of Christian use. But in principle, I am not against the concept. I recognize that my evaluation of what is 'over the top' is highly (entirely) subjective.

The problem is that it is unprincipled, it is a bait and switch tactic decried by the nature of God's work through the gospel.

TRJones's picture

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
I think it would be difficult to argue that fundamental baptist "worship" was not heavily influenced by the culture of the early 20th century.

Don Johnson wrote:
I am arguing . . . that Victorian culture wasn't some 'pop culture' that Christians adopted (as Bauder alleges) but that Victorian culture was in fact heavily influenced by the Christian movements that preceded its formation.

Does anyone have historical data to adjudicate this?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Diane Heeney wrote:
Quote:
Broadly speaking, evangelicals are more willing to use contemporary music, to feature celebrities and sensational events, and to employ current forms of amusement in their gatherings. Within evangelical churches one is more likely to hear rock and rap rhythms, to see athletes and entertainers on the platform, and to find preaching displaced by other forms of communication (especially theater). Because they are more restrained in these ways, fundamentalists tend to think that they are less worldly.

One must not over-emphasize the differences, however. Certain versions of fundamentalism pioneered the use of amusements in church. Even today some fundamentalist churches seek to draw crowds through showmanship.


I think it is key to note the phrase "in church" here. He seems to be speaking of shenanigans and sensationalism and outright entertainment during what is set aside for a preaching service...not outside activities which may serve as a way to reach into the community or invite them to step foot on the church premises. We have offered holiday dinners to the needy in our community, conducted a "cowboy Bible conference" to attract ranchers and the like who would not likely step foot in church otherwise, and we are contemplating a kid's Christmas shop this year, supplying nice gifts from everyone's "gently used" closet stashes from which they can choose for their immediate family members, free of charge and giving a gospel witness in some way. I see nothing wrong with these types of efforts.

It's easy to miss the couple of words that places the entire thought into context.

AndrewSuttles's picture

Perhaps there is a more fundamental question here. Rather than asking ourselves how much entertainment value is "over the top", we should ask ourselves why, primarily, do we have church? Do we meet to draw the unsaved or do we as believers meet to pray and hear the Word?

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin Bauder wrote:
Certain versions of fundamentalism pioneered the use of amusements in church. Even today some fundamentalist churches seek to draw crowds through showmanship.

So define "in church".

Is a 'show' ok as long as it is not in a church building? Is a 'show' ok as long as there is no preaching?

Again, using the example of the Fun Fair (which I am not criticizing, it is just a recent example), the events happened on a Saturday, outside the actual church building but on the church property and the day concluded (if I recall correctly) with a service. So, was that 'in church' or not?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
So define "in church".

Is a 'show' ok as long as it is not in a church building? Is a 'show' ok as long as there is no preaching?

Again, using the example of the Fun Fair (which I am not criticizing, it is just a recent example), the events happened on a Saturday, outside the actual church building but on the church property and the day concluded (if I recall correctly) with a service. So, was that 'in church' or not?

As an illustration, the conservative Lutheran church I grew up in had a church picnic every year about this time -- on a Sunday -- following church. We had a cookout, softball -- even bingo (not for money Smile ).
And in all those years no single person would have confused the picnic with the preceding church service.
Perhaps the confusion Don is expressing speaks volumes about the degree to which fundamentalist church was corrputed by amusement.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Steve Newman's picture

Sure, all the manifestations of older culture are easy fodder for those who find them "campy", but that is not a sin. But the fact is, every church is going to have a "culture" of its own. If I'm going to borrow elements from our society's culture to be part of my church, there is extremely little that I want to "redeem" from today's culture. I don't believe our pursuit for relavancy should take us there. The things I may pick up have some to do with technology (I've had Skype calls live to missionaries during church services, for example). IMHO, I find very little in today's art and culture worthy of being "redeemed" to be able to use it in church. The level of coarse, profane, and wicked manifestations of culture is clearly affecting Christians today in a very negative way. Do you really expect us to want more of that?
The things that could be borrowed from culture and be used for incentives in the past were much less "harmless" than what is available today. Nor is there more virtue in being as close as possible to the trends of the world in the name of relavancy. I'm afraid the desire to pattern the Christian after the world is becoming stronger across the board among believers, why do we want to feed that?

Shaynus's picture

I really can't stand Victorian sentimentalism. Here's what Dr. Bauder says on that subject. It might be helpful here. http://sharperiron.org/article/fundamentalism-whence-where-whither-part-5

Regarding that evangelical church in the District of Columbia with the very conservative worship. Having been a member of that church (I'm pretty sure I know which one he's talking about) I have less and less taste for performance in church services. For example, that church doesn't have special music. It might have a choir once a year for Easter. Why? We don't want showmanship, and hey why not let the congregation sing to one another? This church also just got rid of their pipe organ which they rarely used. Why? Because it drowned out the congregation. That's the same reason I don't like rock style worship bands. It's not because it's worldly so much, but that I really can't hear myself sing.

I like how Dr. Bauder characterized this new movement happening among fundamentalists and evangelicals. It's more "genuinely conservative." Is it more conservative? In some ways no in terms of straight style. I have been in fundamentalist churches where it the special music seemed to be more about the technical gifts of the performer, than on the message. One man's high quality worship is another man's showmanship or gaudy display of talent, much like the old guys with the hat turned backwards.

Rpyle's picture

It doesn't really matter whether Victorian sentimentality influenced the church or the church spawned the sentimentality that was Victorianism. As Roger Scruton puts it, "those to whom it appeals are frequently unaware of its principle characteristic, which is that it is a pretense. . .it is a mark of sentimentality that the object becomes hazy, idealized, observed with no real concern for the truth." Thus, IMO, sentimentality has no place in an authentically Christian world view. Of course, much contemporary art (visual and performing arts) is as sentimental as anything the Victorians produced. But Christians above all people should not be guilty of wallowing in sentiment.

Thanks, Dr. Bauder, for a great analysis!

RonP

Phil Siefkes's picture

I would suggest you can tell when these events are "over the top" by asking people what made the biggest impression on them when it is all over. Do they remember how funny "Cowboy Bob" was, how cool the water-balloon slingshot was, etc. or do they remember being challenged in their heart by the Word of God concerning the greatness and holiness of God, their own sinfulness, etc.? What are people left with? On whom or what is their focus? The same can be said about what people focus on when we are done preaching/teaching during the regular services. If the focus is on us, our great outline, our friendly church, etc., then we have failed to glorify God. We should hang our heads in shame.

Discipling God's image-bearers to the glory of God.

Don Johnson's picture

Rpyle wrote:
It doesn't really matter whether Victorian sentimentality influenced the church or the church spawned the sentimentality that was Victorianism. As Roger Scruton puts it, "those to whom it appeals are frequently unaware of its principle characteristic, which is that it is a pretense. . .it is a mark of sentimentality that the object becomes hazy, idealized, observed with no real concern for the truth." Thus, IMO, sentimentality has no place in an authentically Christian world view. Of course, much contemporary art (visual and performing arts) is as sentimental as anything the Victorians produced. But Christians above all people should not be guilty of wallowing in sentiment.

But Bauder said:

Kevin Bauder wrote:
Victorian and Edwardian popular culture. The expressions of this version of popular culture were individualized, romanticized, and sentimental.

So it is more than sentimentality that we are talking about.

And FWIW, I am not defending sentimentality. But that is only part of what Victorianism is. The contention is that Christians embraced Victorian culture in that era and Fundamentalists are essentially persisting in that culture, it's just that they are stuck in a culture that has long since passed by. I'm just suggesting that such a view isn't really what happened. And I am not actually suggesting that the errors of Victorianism are actually all that much embraced by the church at large. Of course, that is probably a subjective observation, just as much as Bauder's is. But since he is making a big point of 'whats wrong with fundamentalism' out of it, it is at least a significant distraction from the real issues.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bob Hayton's picture

It was nice to see others are seeing this fundamentalist oddity:

Kevin Bauder wrote:
One of the great incongruities of fundamentalism is to find King-James-Only churches that are filled with contemporary music.

A former church of mine is like that. Personally, I am thrilled they are moving to a contemporary worship style that focuses on solid songs packed with message but uses contemporary orchestration. I'm for that (when done appropriately). I just wish they'd get over the KJV Onlyism, that just doesn't go....

I'm with Aaron (I think), too on being skeptical of there being a vast movement in evangelicalism (and fundamentalism too, for that matter) against contemporary worship style at all. One can be against showmanship and still be for a Keith Getty or Sovereign Grace song (with appropriate orchestration). I see the last 10-15 years of contemporary worship music as a vast improvement on the previous 15 years. I would like to see more churches use a balanced approach using new songs and old songs, in styles singable by all. That's my two cents.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Don Johnson's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Kevin Bauder wrote:
Certain versions of fundamentalism pioneered the use of amusements in church. Even today some fundamentalist churches seek to draw crowds through showmanship.

So define "in church".

Is a 'show' ok as long as it is not in a church building? Is a 'show' ok as long as there is no preaching?

Again, using the example of the Fun Fair (which I am not criticizing, it is just a recent example), the events happened on a Saturday, outside the actual church building but on the church property and the day concluded (if I recall correctly) with a service. So, was that 'in church' or not?

Paul Scharf gave a half-way answer (I think)... apparently no one else wanted to comment.

The reason I asked the questions above was because some of you seemed to be saying that a 'show' that wasn't 'in church' was OK. I really would like to know what constitutes 'in church'.

You see, from an outside observers standpoint, I really can't see how the Fun Fair differs from the use of amusements and showmanship as Bauder criticizes in his article. I personally don't have a problem with the Fun Fair in principle, but I see no substantive difference between it and the things fundamentalists are often criticized for.

To give another example, last year we had a pig roast to kick off a week of evangelistic meetings. The idea was to make contact with our neighbourhood and hopefully bring some folks in to the meetings. The pig roast was fun, the food was great (once we got the dumb pig cooked ... all night affair...), but we didn't succeed in making any contacts out of it. People were much more friendly at the door when we were going door to door, but virtually none of those contacted even came for the free food. And we had some preaching after the meal also.

But I don't see how either the Fun Fair or our pig roast is substantively different from the things Bauder is criticizing.

I do think some people go overboard with these types of events, but I don't personally think they are illegitimate as a means to contact people.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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