The Golden Goose that laid the Plastic Egg: Random thoughts on FBF Fundamentalism and questions concerning the possibility of an “expanded” fundamentalism to some who refuse the title.
I’m in Colorado at my “in laws” in between Farmington NM and Durango CO. I missed the FBF in Chicago. I soooooo wanted to be there. I’ve been catching up with the national FBF with what I can from a variety of sources. Well, I guess the atmosphere was a times “tense.” I guess the FBF decided not to deal with the issue “head-on.” I really wish they would have just taken off their ties and said, OK……some of us believe that the way “so-in-so” dealt with topic X was legit……others believe it wasn’t. Let’s roll up our sleeves and go back and forth here. Let’s find a consensus based on Biblical principle…..I guess we didn’t do that. I’m hopeful I’m wrong and there was more substance that was spent on the controversy. It looks like instead of a golden egg, attendee’s were given a plastic egg. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the Calvinism issue (that’s already been handled in other forums to such a degree that I don’t think I have anything to add). I do want to comment on fundamentalism and the possible “new-connections” with elements within healthy and militant evangelicalism.
I've said this I don't know how many times, in a variety of places and settings. I have really enjoyed getting to know Ed via online (looking forward to meeting him sometime) and so I will repeat what I've said before especially in connection to his thread.
Choice B - If fundamentalism is orthodox Christianity with a militant commitment to the gospel, then "yes" there are a "ton" of fundamentalists out there that simply do not go by the term (out of ignorance or choice.... probably choice!).
Choice A - If fundamentalism is a specific sub-culture with a specific application to a specific approach to separation (and especially to what’s called 2nd sep), and with a specific self-identity then no. You have to agree with the sub-culture (to one degree or another), you have to practice separation as the group does.....and you have to participate with the sub-culture.
I think these are our two choices friends.
I choose "B" because it is best historically and in my opinion philosophically closer to the teachings and "feel" of Scripture. I've argued both historically and Biblically/Philosophically on this before.
90 years ago, when guys started using the term a fundamentalists simply agreed to the nature of Christ, the gospel, the Scriptures and were "militant" about "the faith." Some of the men demonstrated their militancy by coming out of groups (these were separatists such as found with the IFCA, GARBC, etc....). Others were non-conformists warriors battling it out on the inside of groups. Such was the Fundamentalist Fellowship within the Northern Baptist Convention. Now for sure, many of these men eventually became separatists. However, many men stayed in and fought to the bitter end. The point is many men who did not call themselves fundamentalists per se, where indeed orthodox and militant and where viewed as fundamentalists (especially by the liberals or moderates who encountered them at the annual denominational "fist fight!"). By the way if those liberal ghosts could come back from eternity, they frankly would be embarrassed by those who would accuse these non-conformists militant Type C evangelical/fundamentalist types as not being fundamentalists enough.
If that was the history, then why is this even an issue? Good question. Here's why this is an issue:
Essentially what happened is that because too many evangelicals swallowed the new-evangelical ethos, fundamentalism became in the main "separatists." In a sense they won the "tug-of-war" between the "separatists" and "non-conformists" within the fundamentalists "framework" because too many of the "non-conformists" began to conform and stopped being vigilant and/or militant. It gave non-separatists a black eye and the leading "sub-movement view" is that non-separatists are automatically and with "apriori-conviction" tagged as non-militant. I would be quick to say that the majority of non-conformists were indeed too slothful (especially in those days) and not as discerning as they should have been about evangelical "compromise." However, even in those days there were many bright lights of militancy that were clear on ecumenicalism, liberal-seminary garbage, and even the dim future look of rescuing society from itself.
A part of the story here that's not been told like it should be told:
One part of the story that separatists have almost never admitted that the Type C (what I call them) "militant evangelicals" who were hesitant about the (what I call) the Type A culture (that was already showing signs of hyper-separation in the 50's and early 60's) were essentially shoved out of the movement (By the way, I have evidence of this in the forms of letters, minutes from association meetings, etc... Not only do I have evidence of the Type C's were in many cases shoved out of the movement....frankly I have first-hand accounts of men who weren't loyal to the regional fundamentalist "war-lord" and were shoved out even though they did agree with the local version of fundamentalism (i.e. - See a historcy of Minnesota Fundamentalism!...and before I get the emails...I pastored a Bible Church in central Minnesota where half of the congregation in one form or another had a front row seat of all the "Minnesota mess").
In other words after Billy Graham, Fuller Seminary and Christianity Today; The Big Guns of Fundamentalism in those days essentially put a rhetorical gun to the head of the Type C's of the day and said, "Choose!" You must either be with us or you are with them!
The problem was/is that many of these men were not with them, but they weren't with Billy either! It was and is possible to be an evangelical brother, who loves the Scriptures, is orthodox, is separated both ecclesiastically and personally from sin, and yet not participate with either ecumenicalism or hyper-fundamentalism.
Back to these non-conformists evangelicals. Already in the 1970's you began to read statements from some of the original new-evangelicals that their original strategy of infiltration both theologically and culturally were flawed. By the late 1970's the fight was on in the SBC over an authoritative Bible and an orthodox/militant gospel.
In the years since a re-birth of non-conformist fundamentalism has emerged. I call this Type C fundamentalism. These are fundamentalists who battle on the inside of groups that have other types of evangelicals in them (groups such as the SBC, CBA, etc....). My contention is that my Type A friends who insist that the SBC and CBA conservatives are not fundamentalists say that because our baseline is different. Look at the beginning of this post. I've suggested that if my baseline is right (orthodox and militant) then these men must indeed be considered our fundamental brethren. If the Type A view is right (orthodox, a certain approach to separation, commitment to a sub-culture, etc....) then indeed these men while considered brethren cannot be considered fundamentalist brethren.
I prefer the historical view. I do that in part because I see a mystical tension in the Scriptures. A tension between unity and separation. My concern is that Type A fundamentalism has dumped the tension. "When in doubt separate!" That's a problem for me because I'm not sure that's the right answer. That's almost as naive as the assumption that "if in doubt.....fellowship!" I also say this because I believe their was a time in the late 70’s that the main of Fundamentalism turned their backs on dear brothers that could have used their help in the “battle for the Bible” as well as other opportunities for co-labor (and by their admission wanted help from the white-hats of the fundamentalist movement).
Look people.....Fundamentalism isn't warm and fuzzy right now. I'm not even talking about the "Cold War Feel" that has existed between the Type A's towards guys like me and Bixby (Type B's) or between the Type A's (like Chuck) and Type C's (like Mac). I mean you Type A's can't even get along. Exhibit A – The recent FBF “thaw” you all enjoyed the last few days.
I can tell you exactly why fundamentalism smells like a rotten egg right now....Because we've added to the sine-quo-non. Yep....keeps growing and growing like the wart on the end of the nose of the Wicked Witch of the East (Not equating anyone from the FBF to the Witch….just a figure of speech). In the early days all a fundamentalist needed for real unity, Was an orthodox view of Christ, the gospel, the authority of Scripture on the one hand and a view of apostasy in the other. Today for too many fundamentalist you have to do that plus agree with 14 other essential doctrines, plus you have to a certain approach to anyone who doesn't call himself a fundamentalists, cut ties with any sort of music that wasn't written prior to 1850, or that hasn't been approved by musicians who trace their lineage to one degree or another to Frank or Ron (no offense to Frank or Ron!), demonstrate a pedigree that includes two or more degrees from one of seven accepted institutions and most importantly a little black book in your mind that can regurgitate the right names, friends, and other impressive facts that will open certain internal Type A, fundamentalist doors of opportunity (i.e. politics!).
What I hear type A's say is "Joel you don't understand....we had a common enemy in those days....Liberalism....we don't have a common enemy today." Give me a break! Francis Schaffer (one of those Type C fundamentalists who would have been strong-armed by the early separatist-fundamentalists of the late 50's and early 60's) prophetically nailed the tail on the donkey's behind 30 years before evangelical-postmodernism showed up. With post modernity we have ample "cause" to have a new coalition of militant and discerning evangelicals working with theologically oriented and truly spiritually minded fundamentalists.
Because I have one foot and two toes in movement fundamentalism and three toes next to a growing group of Type C militant evangelicals, I very much care for the "white hats" in each house. I get very tired of listening to men who have never actually had a real conversation with men from the other side of the isle make character-judgments about other men.
I am also tired of two types of fundamentalists. I grow weary of the Type A's that think they have all of the younger fundamentalists "pegged." You with your arrogant pronouncements think you can just wave your hand above all of them and declare "new-evangelical," "compromiser," etc....My response to you is go ahead and separate from us. We'll make it without you.
The second group that gives me real pause, are young fundamentalists that want to peg every Type A fundamentalists who is more militant as you as "a jerk." Frankly I fear that those of us who set ourselves up in a position of superiority are frankly proud and carnal. Most of these men are probably at least three times as spiritual as you or I. Many of them fast, pray, witness and live honestly and rightly before a Holy God. Please.....just shut up! You're what 25? maybe 40? And you think you can teach these men who are 60 or 70 something they can't read for their own? Give me a break. Look, these guys have watched other attempts of "re-doing" fundamentalism crash and burn a few times. They very much have earned the right to warn us of the dangers of re-thinking fundamentalism. They're old, we're young....that means we respect them....period! No, you don't have to agree with everything they say. Yes, you are free in Christ to draw your own conclusions….but you and I better listen and we better be teachable, and we better not trust ourselves.
Uhhh....to answer David's question, "there is a cause." And the cause my friend is far larger than the student body enrollment of BJ, Northland or Central Seminary. It is far more important than the continued legacy of the FBF or any other group that considers itself to be "irreplaceable" for sake of the Kingdom.
Thanks for listening. Sorry for the length. I've not been saying anything for the last month. I've been sitting on this egg of my own. At least I have this in common with the FBF....I'm sure it's not golden....but it is indeed mine!
Well….tomorow we take the Lawn 4000 to Grand Junction. We then take my lawnchair to Rifle on Saturday. Back home on Sunday. Then out to Alpine AZ on Monday. Camp COWS from next Monday till Friday. A chance to read, pray, think and write (and maybe fish). What a thrill!
With much love for all!