Shedding Some Light on Conservative Evangelicalism

I grew up in Winston Salem, NC, a city of roughly 230,000. Not large, but by North Carolina standards, in the top five. Over the years, I’ve bumped into people from rural towns who have noted, sometimes with genuine deference, “Oh, you’re from the big city.” This makes me chuckle considering Winston would probably fit inside of Donald Trump’s living room. Our worldview is potently molded to our experiences such that it affects our perception of objective data and propositional truth.

If your experience of the Christian faith has been primarily independent, fundamentalist, traditional and conservative, operating in small to medium-sized churches, then your perception of evangelicalism may be similar to a small town resident visiting a large city. Bigger doesn’t mean better, but it is certainly different with diverse and multiple choices. This is not to denigrate traditional conservatives (whom I have affectionately nicknamed Tracons) or small towns. It is to illustrate perceptual distinctions. Why write about this? Let me explain.

Our church staff and elders attended the Gospel Coalition 2011 conference in Chicago this past week. What we experienced was simple, but profound, gracious, yet powerful. The subject matter, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, was well crafted and delivered from many regions of the older testament by gifted pastors and leaders. Some of you may have read the updates. While writing the updates and ruminating on the spectrum of participants and contributors at SharperIron, I considered the many articles and comments deliberating the topics of conservative evangelicals, culture, cooperation, fences, separation, etc. It occurred to me that “small town/large city” perceptions exist that skew an appreciation of the believers some have termed “fundagelicals.”

My comments are not meant to define nor defend TGC. You can read their confessional statements and theological vision here. I hope to bring some clarity to the ongoing tension between those of you within the Tracon ecosystem, and those like myself, who are fundamentally grounded in orthodoxy, but less traditional in orthopraxy.

At TGC the entire conference pointed the attendees to Jesus Christ. Every introduction, song, message and workshop proclaimed explicitly that Jesus is Lord. His glory and sovereignty over this world and individual lives were woven into the tapestry of events. I write this because when I read certain debates on this site, I often see a black & white, cut and dried viewpoint that imparts to evangelicals some nebulous legitimacy within Christendom while maintaining fundamentalism as the theocentric ministry gold standard. As difficult as it might be for Tracons to hear, TGC leaders preach God’s Word unapologetically. The Bible is their defining source of reference for all things pertaining to life and godliness. Why the negative little zinger?

I think that many conservative folk who have chosen a traditional path of ministry, with traditional personal standards and traditional music assume that those who do not share their specific personal convictions and conclusions in these matters don’t share equal footing in God’s kingdom. Allow me to illustrate. Please note that I respect Dr. Bauder, whom I know only through his writings. I also appreciate the dialogue he has initiated on this subject. In his Reflections article after ATC, he made a couple of statements that I think sum up the general mindset within the Tracon ecosystem.

If someone is choosing between fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, then fundamentalism is the right choice. And if one is looking for a movement that offers structures through which to advance ideas, it may be the only choice.

Later, he writes:

Conservative evangelicalism is on the far side of fundamentalism from me.

Bauder concludes he is a conservative Christian, neither CE or Fundie. Nonetheless, his conclusions are illustrative of the significant divergence between Tracon and CE mindsets. One, somehow there exists a choice between two teams. “You can be a Cowboys fan, or you can be a Redskins fan, but you can’t be both.” Two, my personal position is home base. Every other theocentric ministry style must measure itself against my personal conclusions. In this is the perceptual distinction. CE’s do not think in these terms.

Within CE circles, there is broad and open acceptance of differing points of view, different styles, and different approaches to ministry. TGC doesn’t promote one way as the best way. In fact, you will hear recommendations to form heterogeneous ministry partnerships. What is promoted is the power of the gospel over people’s lives. Everything is pointed back to redemption, the power of the gospel and the sovereignty of God.

I’ve seen Tracons hypothesize in regard to CE’s, “I appreciate this, that or the other, but I couldn’t join in ministry with them.” Or “I like him, but I couldn’t share a stage with him.” OK, please don’t take this the wrong way, but they don’t care. CE’s have no concern whether or not you think they have the right framework for advancing ideas. They are devoted to serving the Lord, advancing the gospel, seeing God work in lives. The leaders of the CE movement are biblical, spiritually minded and servant hearted. Those involved in their ministries love the Lord, long to see Him glorified and work tirelessly to that end. They attempt to avoid the theoretical and operate in the real. Here’s the rub. Tracon ministries are decreasing in influence while CE’s are increasing.

I hope you will think about this deeply. You must recognize the movement and flow of young adults into the CE ecosystem. It started a decade ago and has built great momentum. Events like TGC highlight the influx. ATC drew 500. TGC drew 6000+. Size is not success, but it illustrates the direction of flow for kingdom resources, both capital and human. One only need look at the attendance patterns of the last decade at Bible colleges and Tracon churches to recognize the significance of the changes.

Some think this shift highlights the gravitation to worldliness and attractional ministry, and sadly a Christianized pop culture does exist in some churches. Yet many are gravitating to the power of the preaching, the proactivity of the ministries and the principal emphasis on biblical community.

You’ll have to take my word for this anecdotal evidence. I have spoken with countless men and women in the last five years who have left a traditional ministry setting for our CE church. Two things I hear often. One, “I’ve never heard the gospel preached so clearly, so practically and with such high expectations.” Two, “The people here are authentic believers. Jesus is real to them seven days a week.” There is genuine, humble, loving and biblical ministry outside of the walls of traditional fundamentalism.

In conclusion, the reason I started with TGC is that it represents a nexus of CE’s. It should help us to put into perspective what is happening in our generation. I’m not suggesting Tracons should migrate, I am advocating a recognition of God’s hand at work among his multifarious body, the church.

I hope each of us will rejoice in knowing that God is working in diverse ways through countless individuals and innumerable churches to accomplish His will. The uniting factor is the transformative redemption found only in Jesus Christ. Despite this complex hurricane of a discussion, remember what Paul wrote: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (ESV, Col. 3:14).

[node:bio/dmicah body]

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Aaron Blumer's picture

Micah, just so you know, I'm not mocking your pov here. Just having a little fun w/the sound of "Tracon Ecosystem." It really does have a sci fi ring to it.

("fyoo tile" has a double purpose: first, you don't get the right effect unless you pronounce futile the British way and second, everybody knows fundies can't spell)

Ben Howard's picture

Micah,

Thanks for this article...I have definitely met a lot of people that fit the description you present and hope would give you a hearing. I don't post much here anymore simply because I do not define myself anymore as a fundamentalist, and this is where my response to Roland comes in. There are many of us who have thought long and hard about our intentional decision to move out of our fundamentalist upbringing. You can call me young and inexperienced- compared to many on here I am; but I have been in full time ministry for the last 12 years, since I was 24, all of it in a Southern Baptist context. What caused me to leave was becoming convinced theologically that unity within the body of Christ is an imperative for the church; and while I believe in separation from sin and false doctrine, those two areas encompass far smaller realms of actions and beliefs than what the fundamentalism I grew up with in the BJU orbit espoused. Are there issues in the CE world and even in my SBC world that I am not comfortable with - yes. Do they meet the definition of sin or false doctrine? In my opinion, based on my study of Scripture, no.

Roland, you brought up some examples of CE young people and their attitudes towards sin. Those attitudes are reflections on those people and possibly their churches and parents, not CEs as a whole. As someone who grew up in fundamentalist churches and schools all my life, I can tell you about the exact same scenario's among BJU students. Its not right for a fundamentalist teenager and its not right for a CE teenager - both are in sin. However, in neither scenario do their actions reflect on the church unless the church is teaching that the Bible says that is correct and holy action. I can positively say that I have never yet been in a CE church that says immorality isn't sin. I have been in a church that didn't deal well with it and gave the wrong impression, but I have seen fundamentalist churches do that as well.

Charlie demonstrated my thoughts for me when he said,
[quote]Who are the people who remain most stringently separated from conservative evangelicalism? The Hyles types. The Jack Schaaps. The crazy KJVO's (as distinguished from the sane ones). The Finney-esque revivalists.

Those are the people who have pretty well defined fundamentalism, especially around the military bases where I serve. In my opinion, those views represent far more serious doctrinal deviations from Scripture than the fact that a fellow pastor fellowships with someone who may be somewhat to the left of where I am theologically.

You are more than welcome to disagree with our beliefs and opinions, but at least give us the benefit of the doubt that many of us have spent much time in thought, prayer, and study as we have expanded our associations and left behind some teaching of our youth.

Don Johnson's picture

Ben Howard wrote:
You are more than welcome to disagree with our beliefs and opinions, but at least give us the benefit of the doubt that many of us have spent much time in thought, prayer, and study as we have expanded our associations and left behind some teaching of our youth.

So you thought about it. I also thought about it. That makes at least four of us on this thread. I come to different conclusions than you, more along the line of Roland. So what does that prove? So we all thought about it. Big deal.

I think you probably agree with me on that, at least. Perhaps we should just give up statements like "I've thought seriously about it" and assume that those who disagree with us also have brains that occasionally think and may have thought over our points of disagreement, eh?

Better to simply make Biblical arguments for our conclusions, if we can.

BTW, I think Charlie's statement is completely untrue. He can't possibly know all fundamentalists everywhere and has no basis for making the assumptions he makes in that statement.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ron Bean's picture

Easter Sunday morning I attended a CE church. Next to me sat a young man in jeans and sporting dreadlocks. As an "old fundie", you can probably guess what thoughts were going through my mind. My imagined sterotype of someone from outside my "village" (please excuse the movie reference) started to disappear as we sang "Look Ye Saints! The Sight is Glorious" to Bryn Calafaria and this guy was singing with an enthusiasm I hadn't seen on a young person in years. The sermon was over an hour and included a brief but bold denunciation of those who would deny the fact of the resurrection and a wonderful exposition of the resurrection account and its application. The church is more than people who go to hear a sermon and then spend their week trying to get other people to come and hear a sermon. Service opportunities in the church are more than being an usher, working in the nursery, teaching Sunday School, and singing in the choir (they don't have one and I didn't miss the annual Easter cantata).

Would someone please tell me what's wrong with this church and why I should give it up for one of the churches in my area that are decidedly non-CE but are noted more for what they're against than what they're for.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Greg Long's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Ben Howard wrote:
You are more than welcome to disagree with our beliefs and opinions, but at least give us the benefit of the doubt that many of us have spent much time in thought, prayer, and study as we have expanded our associations and left behind some teaching of our youth.

So you thought about it. I also thought about it. That makes at least four of us on this thread. I come to different conclusions than you, more along the line of Roland. So what does that prove? So we all thought about it. Big deal.

I think you probably agree with me on that, at least. Perhaps we should just give up statements like "I've thought seriously about it" and assume that those who disagree with us also have brains that occasionally think and may have thought over our points of disagreement, eh?

Better to simply make Biblical arguments for our conclusions, if we can.

BTW, I think Charlie's statement is completely untrue. He can't possibly know all fundamentalists everywhere and has no basis for making the assumptions he makes in that statement.


C'mon, Don, you completely missed his point. He wasn't saying he's the only who thought about it. He's reacting to Roland, who seems to indicate that the only reason people leave fundamentalism is because they are starry-eyed sophomores who are enraptured by CE. Ben was simply saying that this is not true of him, that his decision to leave fundamentalism was a careful and sober one. Again, he didn't make any suggestion that those who stay in fundamentalism aren't thoughtful. I'm not sure why you reacted so sarcastically to his post.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Don Johnson's picture

Greg Long wrote:

C'mon, Don, you completely missed his point. He wasn't saying he's the only who thought about it. He's reacting to Roland, who seems to indicate that the only reason people leave fundamentalism is because they are starry-eyed sophomores who are enraptured by CE.

Well, as to missing the point, that is entirely possible. However, I thought Ben was reacting to Roland who was reacting to Micah who started the ball rolling.

My point, however, is that the value of our decisions doesn't depend on how long we think about something, or how deeply. The value of our decisions depends on conformity to God's will as revealed in the Scriptures and nothing else.

P.S. It is also possible that you missed the point, no?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben Howard's picture

Don, you did miss the point. Most if not all of us who leave fundamentalism think and pray long and hard about the decision - as I'm sure you and Roland did about your decision to move towards or stay within fundamentalism.

As to conforming to God's Will, I would not be where I am theologically and denominationally today if I didn't believe this was God's Will as revealed in the Scriptures.

Ben

Don Johnson's picture

Ben, I am not denying that you thought long and hard. I am saying that the long hard thinking doesn't mean anything as it is stated here. I can't say, "I've thought long and hard about it and all those Presbyterians should become Baptists." My thinking long and hard about doesn't mean anything.

So I'm just saying that as far as the argument goes, it really is irrelevant how long and hard we think about it. What matters is whether we are right or not.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Greg Long's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Ben, I am not denying that you thought long and hard. I am saying that the long hard thinking doesn't mean anything as it is stated here. I can't say, "I've thought long and hard about it and all those Presbyterians should become Baptists." My thinking long and hard about doesn't mean anything.

So I'm just saying that as far as the argument goes, it really is irrelevant how long and hard we think about it. What matters is whether we are right or not.


AGAIN, Don, I don't know what you're saying has to do with what Ben wrote. He didn't say, "I thought long and hard, so I'm right and you're wrong." Did he?

He was responding to Roland who implied that those who leave fundamentalism haven't truly thought it out. Ben was saying he made a thoughtful, prayerful, and (here's the key) Scripture-based (in his opinion) decision. He said ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about those who choose to stay in fundamentalism. He did not state, imply, suggest, or hint that those who stay in fundamentalism are not thoughtful. Of course he agrees with you that the final decision should not be based on his thoughtfulness, but on on Scripture itself. That seemed to be pretty clear to me from his post.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

RPittman's picture

When I was a kid, there was a game that youth groups or other gatherings played. The group would sit in a circle and the first person would whisper something into the ear of the person beside him who in turn would tell it to the next person. By the time that it has traveled the full circle, it was usually entirely different or greatly modified from what the first person said. Something similar must have happened between posts # 1 and #40.

Greg has gotten it all wrong. My points, I thought, were pretty clear and straightforward but folks insist on finding new meanings. Why can't things be left alone at face value?

Here's what I said:

  1. Tracons are wrongly characterized as being of limited world view, experience, understanding, or knowledge.
  2. Tracons have reasons for their objections and separation from CEs.
  3. The writer's arguments are nothing new. The same type of arguments were espoused by the NEs 30-40 years ago. It's a well-worn path of inclusivism and liberalization (i.e. accepting a wider range of variance and tolerance).
  4. The author's glowing report of the CEs is a halo effect by not recognizing the many problems of CEs. It is an uneven comparison in juxtaposition with the problems of Fundamentalism, which we well know because we are better acquainted.
  5. The report is heavily biased by the author's enthusiastic endorsement of CEs.

So, where is the justification to say that ". . . Roland . . . seems to indicate that the only reason [emphasis added ] people leave fundamentalism is because they are starry-eyed sophomores who are enraptured by CE?" Again, Greg is wrong in saying ". . . Roland . . . implied that those who leave fundamentalism haven't truly thought it out." I did not say or imply this. Yes, I did imply that article was sophomoric in what I considered the writer's deprecating attitude toward Tracons by depicting them as limited in world-view and perspective meanwhile giving a glowing account of a larger world of the CEs. But, one cannot legitimately generalize this into "the only reason people leave fundamentalism is because they are starry-eyed sophomores who are enraptured by CE" or "those who leave fundamentalism haven't truly thought it out." Greg, don't go beyond what someone states. You can't read their thoughts.

RPittman's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
Easter Sunday morning I attended a CE church. Next to me sat a young man in jeans and sporting dreadlocks. As an "old fundie", you can probably guess what thoughts were going through my mind. My imagined sterotype of someone from outside my "village" (please excuse the movie reference) started to disappear as we sang "Look Ye Saints! The Sight is Glorious" to Bryn Calafaria and this guy was singing with an enthusiasm I hadn't seen on a young person in years. The sermon was over an hour and included a brief but bold denunciation of those who would deny the fact of the resurrection and a wonderful exposition of the resurrection account and its application. The church is more than people who go to hear a sermon and then spend their week trying to get other people to come and hear a sermon. Service opportunities in the church are more than being an usher, working in the nursery, teaching Sunday School, and singing in the choir (they don't have one and I didn't miss the annual Easter cantata).

Would someone please tell me what's wrong with this church and why I should give it up for one of the churches in my area that are decidedly non-CE but are noted more for what they're against than what they're for.

So, Ron, are you saying that this experience is what changed your view?

Greg Long's picture

RPittman wrote:
The author's glowing report of the CEs is a halo effect by not recognizing the many problems of CEs. It is an uneven comparison in juxtaposition with the problems of Fundamentalism, which we well know because we are better acquainted.
This is exactly what Ben was referring to. He was stating that in his case there was no "halo effect," but rather a decision that he arrived after much thought based on what he believe Scripture states on the matter. That's exactly what I was referring to as well. You assume that anyone who gives a positive recommendation of CE or who has left fundamentalism has done so because of a "halo effect." That may be true in some cases but it is not true in all cases.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Ron Bean's picture

RPittman wrote:
Ron Bean wrote:
Easter Sunday morning I attended a CE church. Next to me sat a young man in jeans and sporting dreadlocks. As an "old fundie", you can probably guess what thoughts were going through my mind. My imagined sterotype of someone from outside my "village" (please excuse the movie reference) started to disappear as we sang "Look Ye Saints! The Sight is Glorious" to Bryn Calafaria and this guy was singing with an enthusiasm I hadn't seen on a young person in years. The sermon was over an hour and included a brief but bold denunciation of those who would deny the fact of the resurrection and a wonderful exposition of the resurrection account and its application. The church is more than people who go to hear a sermon and then spend their week trying to get other people to come and hear a sermon. Service opportunities in the church are more than being an usher, working in the nursery, teaching Sunday School, and singing in the choir (they don't have one and I didn't miss the annual Easter cantata).

Would someone please tell me what's wrong with this church and why I should give it up for one of the churches in my area that are decidedly non-CE but are noted more for what they're against than what they're for..

So, Ron, are you saying that this experience is what changed your view?

RPittman, what I'm saying is that in my repeated experience at this CE church I have seen or heard nothing contrary to the Bible but I have seen and heard things that have strengthened and encouraged me Biblically.

What I asked is highlighted.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Don Johnson's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
RPittman wrote:
Ron Bean wrote:
Would someone please tell me what's wrong with this church and why I should give it up for one of the churches in my area that are decidedly non-CE but are noted more for what they're against than what they're for..
So, Ron, are you saying that this experience is what changed your view?

RPittman, what I'm saying is that in my repeated experience at this CE church I have seen or heard nothing contrary to the Bible but I have seen and heard things that have strengthened and encouraged me Biblically.

What I asked is highlighted.

Ron, surely you don't really expect an answer to that question in a forum like this. How could such an answer be meaningful? If I were to attend that church with you and examine in detail each facet of its ministry, the theology and philosophy of the pastors, etc., I might be able to point out some serious errors or ramifications of your participation in such a church. Or maybe not. But you surely don't expect anyone to give you such an answer based only on your one paragraph description, do you?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

RPittman's picture

Greg Long wrote:
RPittman wrote:
The author's glowing report of the CEs is a halo effect by not recognizing the many problems of CEs. It is an uneven comparison in juxtaposition with the problems of Fundamentalism, which we well know because we are better acquainted.
This is exactly what Ben was referring to. He was stating that in his case there was no "halo effect," but rather a decision that he arrived after much thought based on what he believe Scripture states on the matter. That's exactly what I was referring to as well. You assume that anyone who gives a positive recommendation of CE or who has left fundamentalism has done so because of a "halo effect." That may be true in some cases but it is not true in all cases.
Greg, don't tell me what I assume because I don't. Read your own statements. They are groundless. How hard is it to understand that I may have said or implied about the one post DOES NOT GENERALIZE to everyone. You are making the wrong inference. You have admitted my argument when you said, "That may be true in some cases but it is not true in all cases." Okay, so what's the problem. You're the one who keeps saying it applies to all; I made comment on one case.

iKuyper's picture

Thanks for the article Micah. You'll soon realize that these posts and responses will all bring up the same issues over and over again. Its starting to become pointless. It'll take the grace of God for ifbdom to realize that the energies spent debating each other on whats "worth saving" and "who's in or out" is a dead horse that needs to be picked up and buried.

If the historical fundies could peak down from heaven, who would they see as carrying the torcch of their message?

Ecclesia semper reformanda est

Ron Bean's picture

For the sake of summary, simplicity and specificity could someone (perhaps RPittman, who last used this phrase) list some of these many problems of CE's?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jay's picture

Ron, you asked a good question. The only complaints that I've seen about CE's on this site boil down to two things:

1. Separation that doesn't look like Tracon separation and therefore isn't taking place in the way that Tracons would deem appropriate.

2. Affiliations are taken as actual endorsements of everything that CE's do. So MacArthur is evil because he's associated with the Resolved Conference, and Mohler is unforgivable because he signed the Manhattan Declaration, despite the fact that he's said signing it was a mistake. Nevermind that MacArthur or Mohler stand or fall before the Lord based on what he's done with the works in his own body.

Of course, the critics usually don't boil it down that easily.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jay's picture

Greg Long wrote:
C'mon, Don, you completely missed his point. He wasn't saying he's the only who thought about it. He's reacting to Roland, who seems to indicate that the only reason people leave fundamentalism is because they are starry-eyed sophomores who are enraptured by CE. Ben was simply saying that this is not true of him, that his decision to leave fundamentalism was a careful and sober one. Again, he didn't make any suggestion that those who stay in fundamentalism aren't thoughtful. I'm not sure why you reacted so sarcastically to his post.

Ben's observation is valid, because every person that I know of who has left Fundyville for CECity has either been turned off by Tracons behavior or has found enough Scriptural deficiencies in the Tracon practice that the whole system collapses.

One of those deficiencies is the skewed understanding of separation, which leads to people being 'separated from' when they have never been Scripturally confronted in the first place about their "error", or why it's really not a big deal that when leaders of the FBF go and fellowship with the heretics and apostates of Hammond.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Don Johnson's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
For the sake of summary, simplicity and specificity could someone (perhaps RPittman, who last used this phrase) list some of these many problems of CE's?

Ron, let me first acknowledge that there are many valuable contributions to Christian thought and life by Conservative Evangelicals. I think most of us who have problems with them do appreciate their ministries (to varying degrees).

Here are some of the problems from my perspective:

  1. The growing influence of charismatism - the charismatics have major problems when it comes to inspiration, inerrancy and the canon. They either believe in ongoing revelation (denying a closed canon) or they believe the Bible is in error when it expressly says that Agabus spoke his prophecy by the "Spirit". The influence of charismatism has widely altered the shape of evangelicalism at large. Next year at 9Marks, one of the Sovereign Grace men will be teaching from 1 Cor 12-14. What do you suppose will be the topic of discussion?
  2. The tolerance of worldliness on many levels, including the widespread tolerance of men like Mark Driscoll, and such discussions as you see here on SI where gambling and drinking are openly approved. In moderation, of course.
  3. The continuing relationship between CEs and the Billy Graham organization itself. The most conservative CE of them all, John MacArthur, has spoken in recent years at Graham's training center, the Cove, and has published articles in Graham's Decision magazine. The connections between Southern Seminary and the Graham organization are well known. Mark Dever is chairman of the board at Southern.
  4. The widespread use of worldly music undermining the gospel message that is preached. Almost all the CE ministries that are usually touted here are affected by this.

    You might not find these things problematic. Regardless, these things are huge stumbling blocks for me and preclude ministry cooperation with these men. They are not trivial differences.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

RPittman's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
For the sake of summary, simplicity and specificity could someone (perhaps RPittman, who last used this phrase) list some of these many problems of CE's?
Okay, Ron, I can give two examples that quickly come to mind. I have association with some fine CE college-age young folks. They are theological orthodox, concerned about others, serious about serving God, and zealous. The problems are the points of tension between their professed faith in Christ and their behavior. Oh, they're very kind, sweet, polite, understanding, and amiable enough but there's really little difference in many areas between them and their unbelieving counterparts in the world. Although there are many other areas, I will choose only to address two--modesty and language--that are easily observed. Although my comments are NOT applicable to every young person on the CE (I am not stereotyping) I have observed enough to say that these behaviors are pervasive.

As to modesty, the concept is foreign to many. For young women, modesty is shown by how they handle their bodies as well as how they dress. For many CE young women, they seem think nothing of displaying their bodies. Just in case someone is getting the wrong idea, I am not defining modesty as wearing a dress or skirt to the knee. These CE women wear clothing that leaves little to the imagination. This includes sheer tops, low-cut tops, short-shorts, etc. Also, they show little concern in changing outer garments when males are around. How they sit or flout their bodies is often sensuous or seductive. I could be more graphic in my descriptions but I don't want to offend the sensibilities of the readers on SI. Although I am no prude, I have had to avert my eyes to avoid seeing more than I ought.

Also, there is the language element. Sometime ago, I was shocked after hearing a wonderfully prayed prayer by a young woman to hear an explicit discussion of sex and vulgar language coming from her mouth. They talk of God, Christ, love, grace, obedience, etc. and discuss the most foul things a short while later. The F-word and S-word along with a host of other vulgarities and profanities are no strangers to the lips of many professing CE young folks.

My point is simple. I am saying there appears to be a disconnect between belief and behavior in CE circles. IMHO, this may exist because of an over-reaction to what they view as legalism. Their view of tolerance, acceptance, diversity, etc. contributes. They say as long as you believe that behavior is not important. Ultimately it's a personal separation issue, which follows having denied the corporate kind, from worldliness.

Alex K.'s picture

RPittman wrote:

Also, there is the language element. Sometime ago, I was shocked after hearing a wonderfully prayed prayer by a young woman to hear an explicit discussion of sex and vulgar language coming from her mouth. They talk of God, Christ, love, grace, obedience, etc. and discuss the most foul things a short while later. The F-word and S-word along with a host of other vulgarities and profanities are no strangers to the lips of many professing CE young folks.

My point is simple. I am saying there appears to be a disconnect between belief and behavior in CE circles. IMHO, this may exist because of an over-reaction to what they view as legalism. Their view of tolerance, acceptance, diversity, etc. contributes. They say as long as you believe that behavior is not important. Ultimately it's a personal separation issue, which follows having denied the corporate kind, from worldliness.

Hi Roland,

F-words i think, agreed by all, is vulgar and often used by the vocabulary challenged. the S-words sound sort of vulgar to me too. i was surprised though when looking at Phil. 3:8, Paul seems to employ it.

the bolded part of your post had me scratching my head a bit also. worldliness, for the most part, is a heart problem for the Christian: it's the "lust of the flesh", "the lust of the eyes", and the "pride of life". so the corporate separation would be: don't go to movies, don't drink, don't wear short shorts?

Give to the wise and they will be wiser. Instruct the righteous and they will increase their learning. Proverbs 9:9

RPittman's picture

Alex K. wrote:
RPittman wrote:

Also, there is the language element. Sometime ago, I was shocked after hearing a wonderfully prayed prayer by a young woman to hear an explicit discussion of sex and vulgar language coming from her mouth. They talk of God, Christ, love, grace, obedience, etc. and discuss the most foul things a short while later. The F-word and S-word along with a host of other vulgarities and profanities are no strangers to the lips of many professing CE young folks.

My point is simple. I am saying there appears to be a disconnect between belief and behavior in CE circles. IMHO, this may exist because of an over-reaction to what they view as legalism. Their view of tolerance, acceptance, diversity, etc. contributes. They say as long as you believe that behavior is not important. Ultimately it's a personal separation issue, which follows having denied the corporate kind, from worldliness.

Hi Roland,

F-words i think, agreed by all, is vulgar and often used by the vocabulary challenged. the S-words sound sort of vulgar to me too. i was surprised though when looking at Phil. 3:8, Paul seems to employ it.

the bolded part of your post had me scratching my head a bit also. worldliness, for the most part, is a heart problem for the Christian: it's the "lust of the flesh", "the lust of the eyes", and the "pride of life". so the corporate separation would be: don't go to movies, don't drink, don't wear short shorts?

No, there's punctuation that makes "which follows having denied the corporate kind" a sort of parenthetical expression. The sense of the sentence is that one having discarded separation from groups of different practices or beliefs often translates into doing away with personal separation from worldliness as well. Corporate separation simply referred to groups or associations. And whether we will admit it or not, we are very much influenced by our associations.

As for Scripture, it does use some plain-spoken language but I wouldn't call it vulgarity.

Greg Long's picture

Roland, I've never heard any CE use that kind of language.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Ron Bean's picture

Quote:
The F-word and S-word along with a host of other vulgarities and profanities are no strangers to the lips of many professing CE young folks.

Sweeping generalizations like this aren't helpful to the discussion.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jay's picture

RPittman wrote:
Although there are many other areas, I will choose only to address two--modesty and language--that are easily observed. Although my comments are NOT applicable to every young person on the CE (I am not stereotyping) I have observed enough to say that these behaviors are pervasive.

As to modesty, the concept is foreign to many. For young women, modesty is shown by how they handle their bodies as well as how they dress. For many CE young women, they seem think nothing of displaying their bodies. Just in case someone is getting the wrong idea, I am not defining modesty as wearing a dress or skirt to the knee. These CE women wear clothing that leaves little to the imagination. This includes sheer tops, low-cut tops, short-shorts, etc. Also, they show little concern in changing outer garments when males are around. How they sit or flout their bodies is often sensuous or seductive. I could be more graphic in my descriptions but I don't want to offend the sensibilities of the readers on SI. Although I am no prude, I have had to avert my eyes to avoid seeing more than I ought.

Also, there is the language element. Sometime ago, I was shocked after hearing a wonderfully prayed prayer by a young woman to hear an explicit discussion of sex and vulgar language coming from her mouth. They talk of God, Christ, love, grace, obedience, etc. and discuss the most foul things a short while later. The F-word and S-word along with a host of other vulgarities and profanities are no strangers to the lips of many professing CE young folks.


RPittman,

The problems that you noted are hardly confined to CE's. If you don't believe me, check the Facebook pages of the kids in Fundy churches or even check the pictures that the kids take of Fundy camps and church activities.

My guess is that the kids / adults that practice what you talk about above claim to be Christian, but really demonstrate little, if any, relationship to Jesus. Otherwise, they'd know better.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

dcbii's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Here are some of the problems from my perspective:

  1. The growing influence of charismatism - the charismatics have major problems when it comes to inspiration, inerrancy and the canon. They either believe in ongoing revelation (denying a closed canon) or they believe the Bible is in error when it expressly says that Agabus spoke his prophecy by the "Spirit". The influence of charismatism has widely altered the shape of evangelicalism at large. Next year at 9Marks, one of the Sovereign Grace men will be teaching from 1 Cor 12-14. What do you suppose will be the topic of discussion?
  2. The tolerance of worldliness on many levels, including the widespread tolerance of men like Mark Driscoll, and such discussions as you see here on SI where gambling and drinking are openly approved. In moderation, of course.
  3. The continuing relationship between CEs and the Billy Graham organization itself. The most conservative CE of them all, John MacArthur, has spoken in recent years at Graham's training center, the Cove, and has published articles in Graham's Decision magazine. The connections between Southern Seminary and the Graham organization are well known. Mark Dever is chairman of the board at Southern.
  4. The widespread use of worldly music undermining the gospel message that is preached. Almost all the CE ministries that are usually touted here are affected by this.

    You might not find these things problematic. Regardless, these things are huge stumbling blocks for me and preclude ministry cooperation with these men. They are not trivial differences.


Don, your items 1 and 3 represent doctrine and separation from men who won't separate over doctrine. I don't think many at SI find those to be trivial, even if they wouldn't always be applied exactly the way you do. Your points 2 and 4 are more related to definition and application, and I don't think our generation of fundamentalists really handled this well in most cases other than saying "don't."

Because of the differences in definition of "worldliness" and applications taken from it, different positions are reached, and not only by CEs. I'm personally a little uncomfortable with the current discussion on gambling, for example, but I think it's a discussion that should be had (rather than just ignoring it outright) because it helps (at least in my mind) to hash out what it means biblically to be worldly, and then what actions and applications we should make from that. If you've kept up with that discussion, you might have noticed that it's a CE (Phil Johnson) whose writings are being referenced as taking a very strong position against gambling. This helps demonstrate my point -- because fundamentalists have for years decried worldliness, with good reason, but without really delving into what it means other than "being like the world" (and that hasn't been well-defined), today's generation of CEs and YFs are having to wrestle with this, and they are coming to conclusions that make the old guard uncomfortable. Worse, the old guard is just saying things like "Well, that's the SI crowd," rather than wanting to tackle the issue more than just repeating the old mantra of "don't."

I've never understood, for example, why Christians think the "dress for success" look (representing greed and lust for power) is better than the biker look (rebellion). Why shouldn't Christians be different from both? If we divorce the power look from the sins of those who dress that way, why don't we do the same for leather and chains? This is just one of the issues that was never dealt with in the fundamentalism of my day; it was just assumed, but it's representative of the larger issue -- today's Christians don't really have a good handle on worldliness, and it seems the leadership is loathe to go into this too deeply because they haven't really studied it out all that well themselves and they don't relish the idea of not having all the answers, which might lead those under their leadership to come to different conclusions on some of those areas and practices. So it's either ignored, or worldliness ends up representing whatever the preacher's convictions are against. Then the people assume there is no good scriptural backing for his position on those issues (because one isn't given or if it is, taught well), and start taking positions on those "worldly" activities that you associate with CE, or even leave to go to a CE ministry, where the problems are much more than different applications -- there could be the separation and doctrinal issues you refer to.

As a final example, when I asked about a piece of music and why it was considered wrong (or at least, we couldn't listen to it) at my Christian college, the answer I got was: "You're a junior; you should already know this." If today's western Christians need any special teaching, it would be a serious examination of what it means to be worldly, and not just have that topic brushed off as "You 'claim' to be a Christian; you ought to know better."

Dave Barnhart

Don Johnson's picture

Dave, I can't really disagree with anything you say. There is no doubt we have been much too glib and ready to give 'pat' answers when various topics come up. There is no doubt we need more instruction in this area. FWIW, I did a series on godliness-worldliness in our church last summer (I think that's the time frame). If you go to gbcvic.org, click on the Our Sermons link, then filter by series and you can find it. I post pretty detailed notes if you don't want to spend the time listening.

As to my post, I wrote in response to Ron Bean's question. I think we need to do a better job educating our people on all of these topics. But they do remain reasons why I can't enter ministry cooperation with conservative evangelicals regardless of any weakness we may have had in teaching these subjects to our own.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

Don -

Thought you might be interested in a book edited by CJ Mahaney titled " http://www.amazon.com/Worldliness-Resisting-Seduction-Fallen-World/dp/14... ]Worldliness " that is on the market. I bought a copy two years ago, and it's been a fantastic and helpful work for referencing on this subject; so much so that I've given a second copy out to someone in my church who is working on this. Mahaney and the others do a good job articulating the "why" behind traditional Fundamental cultural mores.

I'd also agree with Dave that I'm not comfortable with the discussion on gambling either, but I do think that if we don't have those kinds of discussions, then people aren't going to be able to explain to others why gambling is wrong, and people will dive into it without realizing that there are good, strong, Scriptural reasons not to do so.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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