A Young Fundamentalist, on Fundamentalism

NickImage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Paul J. Scharf's picture

Quote:
I say this despite the obvious increased mingling between the camps, with conservative evangelicals being featured in fundamentalist conferences, chapels, and classrooms.

I agree with the author's basic sentiment and probably most of the details of the whole piece. However, I disagree with his overview of the current situation.
Fundamentalism is far more open than it has been at any time in my 25 years of involvement in it, as evidenced by the above quote -- and by the fact that if a fundamentalist such as the author would have written this piece 20 years, he would have been drummed straight out of the corps.
The marketplace of ideas has forced much of fundamentalism to change its ways. Expository preaching -- once a dirty word in some quarters -- is now the expected standard, even if some really don't quite know exactly how to do it. Manipulation, crowd control and the abuse of power -- all formerly standard modes of operation -- are now mostly regarded as the devilish tools they really are.
I am not saying that the house is in perfect working order, but I do think that in many ways the situation has improved radically, as the, shall we say, more balanced fundamentalists seem to have had great influence toward the maturing of the part of the movement I am familiar with.
Furthermore, at least in my present roles, there is a lot of this stuff I just don't find the need to worry about. I was recently involved in helping at a major conference that was attended, I am sure, by a wide cross-section of evangelicals of many different stripes. I didn't get the chance to ask each person there where he or she stood on the divide between fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism. In fact, had I had that chance, the thought of doing so would never even have crossed my mind.
Thus, I am not waiting for Mark Dever to make an official pronouncement to help me know how to handle such situations. Cool

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

PeterW's picture

Paul said,

"I am not saying that the house is in perfect working order, but I do think that in many ways the situation has improved radically, as the, shall we say, more balanced fundamentalists seem to have had great influence toward the maturing of the part of the movement I am familiar with."

We can't ignore that the very things you point out as positive signs have been met with open letters, withdrawal, and boycotts. Polarization abounds. Those you might describe as the less balanced fundamentalists stand in clear opposition to this conversation. Those who you might describe as "more balanced" have been under fire. (I'll save the discussion of the more important battles for another day). I think the rift is real, and while I am a fundamentalist by conviction, how long I carry the name will be influenced by the outcome of this important discussion. (My convictions however will remain unchanged with or without the label). It does however demonstrate the notion that all fundamentalists are the same and get their marching orders from a couple of institutions to be laughable.

Steve Davis's picture

Thanks for your perspective Mike. I am still a bit confused when I hear people speak about Fundamentalism as a movement. I’m not sure how that would be defined. I do understand the idea of Fundamentalism. However your idea of Fundamentalism with “common fundamentalist shibboleths: cessationism, young-earth creationism, dispensationalism, cultural conservatism” does not represent what is called historic fundamentalism. If these shibboleths are essential to the present idea it is no wonder that there are so many young and old former fundamentalists who have crossed over to another place.

With no offense intended to anyone, most of what is written about Fundamentalism is written from a standpoint of what I call “constituency Fundamentalism.” It is found in many schools and historic churches which bear little resemblance to the Fundamentalism/ists which founded them (which is mostly a good thing) but continue to wave the redefined fundamentalist flag. If anything it is a New Fundamentalism which welcomes fellowship with conservative evangelicals at never seen before levels even if it is done in the name of academia. The categories of conservative evangelical and fundamentalists are becoming more blurred and if not leading to an emerging middle are moving toward being more biblical and less fundamentalist in the practice of separation. Or so we hope.

Steve Davis

Rolland McCune's picture

This post by Michael Riley is one of the most passionate, perceptive, informed and fair that I have seen from our younger thinkers. This is encouraging. One timely note that I picked up, that calls for responsible discussion in view of the frustrations of some of our younger (and older) fundamentalists, is his observation that the CEs, with rare exceptions, don't really care if we exist or not. His further conclusion seems manifestly correct and valid, that "many fundamentalists are simply being absorbed into the organizations of the conservative evangelicals, organizations that would have been there without us."

Michael's point here contains some load-bearing factors that seem to have been, or have rarely been, addressed in our circles. Why would the CEs simply ignore us or, put another way, why would they need us? Why do we actually need them? Why are we in controversy over their existence and they not over ours? Why are the concerns and activity seemingly unilateral, i.e., from our side? What purposes or gains do we want from their appearances in our venues or on our platforms?

It could possibly be argued that resolutions to these queries would do too little too late, but in view of our deepening polarization, they must be explored sooner or later. Hopefully it will be sooner and not "for the record" when it is too late and some kind of a fundamentally conservative evangelical tertium quid is in place.

Rolland McCune

Brenda T's picture

Quote:
The categories of conservative evangelical and fundamentalists are becoming more blurred and if not leading to an emerging middle are moving toward being more biblical and less fundamentalist in the practice of separation. Or so we hope.

Are you speaking for conservative evangelicals or fundamentalists?

Steve Davis's picture

Brenda T wrote:
Quote:
The categories of conservative evangelical and fundamentalists are becoming more blurred and if not leading to an emerging middle are moving toward being more biblical and less fundamentalist in the practice of separation. Or so we hope.

Are you speaking for conservative evangelicals or fundamentalists?

An editorial "we." I don't speak for either group. Really speaking for myself since I find much in common with both CE (broader fellowship in the gospel) and historic Fundamentalism (including separation from apostasy) without claiming either or being claimed by either. I don't think much along these categories when determining fellowship and partnership. The categories may be helpful to a point but I look at a man and his trajectory, his desired obedience to the Bible, his commitment to revealed truth, not whether I agree with him (or vice-versa) and where he speaks, who he invites, what he has signed, etc.

Steve

Mike Harding's picture

We at FBC Troy are very proud of Mike Riley. Mike and his Parents attended our church and Christian school for many years. Mike and his sister are both graduates of our Christian school (Bethany Christian School). His sister and her husband are on our staff. Mike represents some of the best and brightest of our next generation of leaders. Steve Davis has a point that at times we try to include in the fundamental label more than was originally there. However, I think we fall into a trap if we try to include in one word all that we are or should be. First, we are CHRISTIANS. This label necessitates a thorough understanding of the gospel and the true nature of saving faith. Second, we are fundamental Christians who hold militantly to all the orthodox doctrines of Christianity with a commitment to biblical separation from false doctrine, false teachers, worldliness, and willfully disobedient brethren. Third, we are dispensationalists who hold to a fundamental distinction between Israel and the Church, a literal-normal hermeneutic, and the progressive unfolding of God's dispensational plan. Fourth, we are Calvinistic (four points) holding to a God-centered view of soteriology as opposed to an Arminian man-centered view. Fifth, we are Baptists who hold to the timeless baptist distinctives. Sixth, we are conservative. We reject change simply for the sake of change. We believe that necessary change should be careful, cautious, appropriate, and well-advised through all the unchanging principles of Scripture. We don't view worship as trying to cater to the worst elements of contemporary culture either in dress, music, or entertainment.

Pastor Mike Harding

Steve Davis's picture

I appreciate Mike Harding’s explanation of how he understands his identity and would have no problem fellowshipping with him on the basis of what he believes. His voice is one of the most reasonable I hear among Fundamentalists. It seems he has several tiers of belief and practice. We are first Christians committed to objective truth in the gospel. A slide begins when we include “worldliness” among the second tier issues of false doctrine, false teachers, worldliness, and willfully disobedient brethren IF we begin to draw lines in the sand that are subjective/cultural and then separate over our understanding of worldliness (I’m not saying Mike does this). Even “willfully disobedient brethren” must be carefully understood since much so-called disobedience is not to Scripture but really legitimate disagreement.

Mike’s third, fourth and fifth tier are areas where the rub lies. I too would be called calvinsitic when presented in such stark contrast with Arminianism although there is a large spectrum of belief in these areas and not all who consider themselves Arminian hold to man-centered soteriology. In the area of change I don’t know many who want change for change sake. They consider it necessary even if others don’t and it isn’t necessary from our perspective.

Public worship continues to be for many a lightening rod. It seems we can’t get over that others may offer God-pleasing worship with music, dress, and elements of contemporary culture that differ from our own choices while also holding fast to unchanging principles of Scripture.

For a robust Fundamentalism to have any future there must be insistence on the first two tiers and allowance for disagreement on the other tiers. I know “generosity” can go too far but without it Fundamentalism’s decline will continue IMO. Otherwise it sounds too much like “agree with me and I will fellowship with you.” How much better to say, “we may disagree in some of these areas but our union in Christ, our place in the family, our commitment to the gospel and the fundamentals of the faith, our burden for evangelism, and our desire to maintain God-honoring unity allows us to enjoy fellowship in spite of our unresolved differences.”

Steve Davis

Paul J. Scharf's picture

OK, I think I may need to go back to bed...

Last week a warm fuzzy article by Dr. Bauder heaping praise on some well-deserving professors drew heated fire...

This week, a fiery treatise lambasting large sectors of fundamentalism draws heaps of warm fuzzies...

Did you think you heard what I thought I said when you told me what you said you thought I heard???

Like the old boy said, "On average, one out of every two people is crazy, and I'm feeling pretty good right now!" Wink

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Mike Harding's picture

Steve,

I understand "separation" to be a part of the original fundamentalist rubric. "Worldliness" is a subset of "separation." Since the apostle John states what worldliness is (lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life) and commands all believers not to love the world in this sense, the concept has to be one of the non-negotiables. Notice I said concept. To call someone a worldling is a serious charge and one that should never be made lightly, particularly since those whose lives are characterized as loving this world do not have the love of the Father in them and by implication will not abide forever. Perhaps, we have trivialized "worldliness" into simply a list of taboos. If so, such would be a simplistic understanding and avoid the deeper attittudes and yearnings which are at the heart of worldiness. Nevertheless, I think the concept can be included in relating Fundamentalism to its original ethos. I say this all with a sense of fear and trembling knowing full well how easilyly my sinful heart can be drawn into worldliness.

Pastor Mike Harding

ChrisS's picture

So what are the main, concrete examples of "fellowship" that are being sought, or which are being denied, based on what Dr. Davis properly describes as "unresolved differences"? The word "fellowship" seems tossed around, and may mean different things to different people. To those commenting, how do you define "fellowship" today, and how do you Biblically put it into practice or withdraw it under the umbrella of separation? And is this different when interacting with individuals within a local church vs a church corporately associating with other churches?

I have scenarios that come to my mind, but they may not be the types of issues people here have in their minds, for instance:

A professing-believing neighbor with whom I might share a cup of coffee and conversation, where we disagree on a major fundamental. Is this fellowship or evangelism/discipling, and, if fellowship, should Christians avoid this?

Can our church and yours join forces in an evangelistic effort, when we disagree on the specifics of creation, cessation, hermeneutics, etc.? Where would we mutually encourage a convert to attend to learn and grow, naturally praising GOd for the resultant salvation?

Is there really potential for separation Biblically for anything other than apostasy? And even then, shouldn't we occasionally fellowship with such individuals in an attempt to win a brother? And are you "allowed" to separate personally or corporately without giving a reason to the individual or church from whom you are separating?

Trying to glean some wisdom...and I believe these are key areas that our young people (and I have some in my home) are trying to discern through. I'm certainly open to learn and grow from those with more experience.

M. Osborne's picture

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

You may have no home movement-wise, but your bio reads, "Assistant to the President at Central Baptist Theological Seminary." That sounds like a great home: serving God, helping the next generation of leaders grow in articulate biblical fidelity. May not cancel out your lament, but hopefully puts it in perspective. May God bless you with a very fruitful ministry.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Paul J. Scharf's picture

M. Osborne wrote:
You may have no home movement-wise, but your bio reads, "Assistant to the President at Central Baptist Theological Seminary." That sounds like a great home: serving God, helping the next generation of leaders grow in articulate biblical fidelity. May not cancel out your lament, but hopefully puts it in perspective. May God bless you with a very fruitful ministry.

Amen! Very healthy and positive thoughts, M. I hope Michael experiences every blessing in his position in the exact way you have described.

As I said in post #1, I probably agree with this piece in many respects, but I also wonder at what point the process of analyzing fundamentalism ceases to lose value, or even meaning. If fundamentalism were a denomination or even an association, it could be reformed. But it is not. As the author notes, it is a movement. How does one logistically go about reforming a movement that is this large and nebulous? One can only imagine that the very idea serves to further fragment the movement, thus begging the original question once again.

I am wondering if anyone can point to a historical example of a movement being reformed from within. Is it fair to say that movements are usually reformed by the process of the market, as other movements compete with them from without? Politically, Pat Buchanan tried to reform the Reform Party a few years ago. If you remember, it was sort of like trying to herd tomcats.

In this case, the movement of fundamentalism involves thousands of independent institutions -- essentially independet businesses -- of which the author speaks. How in the world are we going to go about reforming them -- as a movement? Impossible!

I agree with the author that an emerging coalition between fundamentalists and CE's is implausible, but that doesn't make me the least bit sad. The problem, of course, is that if we had one such coalition that claimed to be the official one, we would soon have a thousand of them. Personally, I would probably run from them all. I am not looking for another Big Brother to watch over me, thanks much.

My mother always told me that a lot of life is what you make it. If we applied that attitude to fundamentalism -- or the little corner of the movement that we are experiencing and can control -- maybe we would all be a lot happier.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

DavidO's picture

Paul makes an inescapable point, I think, and it's illustrated by the Dr. Davis/Pastor Harding conversation above. There are probably nearly as many fundamentalisms as there are institutions that claim the title, and their trajectories are like 12 gauge shot. Even members of groups that have doctrinal statements (such as the FBFI) have shown themselves to be of several divergent minds, and with the ideas of, say, Bauder, Piper, Martuneac, etc, esssentially competing in the same marketplace (not to be vulgar), it seems to me that cohesion is not in the movement's future.

I've decided there is little to do but join a good church, learn there, and contribute to it what I can. Do my best teach my family. Write the odd article here and there. Above all seek to know and love God.

Dave Doran's picture

DavidO,

Your last paragraph is dead on target, but (hopefully I am not reading too much into it) I'd suggest that it being viewed as "little to do but" that is precisely the sub-culture problem we face. We are so immersed in a parachurch world that we seem to think that if we are left only to our assemblies we are missing out on something. The lingering impression left by all of the parachurch hustle and bustle is that the real action is out there in the fellowships, coalitions, and conferences.

The constant yearning, it seems to me, for something to emerge that can be the big thing is a misplaced ambition. It doesn't matter to me if that is a longing for the restoration of a fundamentalist movement, a preoccupation with the evangelicalism, or a hope for some third emerging middle. All of them, from my perspective, reveal a lack of contentedness with the God-appointed means for His work in this time--the assembly of God's people in a specific time and place. What happens there is far more important than happens in any conference or coalition gathering.

My contention is that we need to stop trying to build some kind of parachurch movement, network, or whatever we want to call it. The fulfillment of Great Commission springs from churches and results in churches. Real fellowship/partnership in the Gospel revolves around that, not singing songs with a big crowd or having coffee down at Starbucks with the pastor from across town. Clearly, I am not against the personal side of it, but we've seriously tilted the discussion away from church cooperation toward individual Christians and that almost always comes from the parachurch engine that drives these events and efforts.

We need to radical shift back to the NT paradigm that truly places the primacy on the congregation of God's people without the constant longing for something more.

DMD

DavidO's picture

You did read (a little) something more than I actually meant into "little to do but", yet I agree with everything you said after anyway, so that's fine.

Although I'd have to admit that I probably once (recently) cared/hoped too much that a movement reflecting my values would "carry the day".

M. Osborne's picture

Dave Doran wrote:
DavidO,
All of them, from my perspective, reveal a lack of contentedness with the God-appointed means for His work in this time--the assembly of God's people in a specific time and place. What happens there is far more important than happens in any conference or coalition gathering.

It's amazing how local church life, week by week, progressive sanctification in a corporate context, can clear away all the distractions of how to define a movement. Separation? Sure, OK, it's something I might need to think about again. Right now, I'm handling a church discipline situation here and now. All those passages we use when talking about separation were originally written, after all, for a primarily local context.

When I stand before God, I expect to be talking more about how I taught my Sunday school class, how I treated other believers week after week, what opportunities I took and what I passed up as there were needs all around me. Until I'm actually offered platform fellowship with __________, I have a hard time justifying much ink on the question, aside from the general principles worked out.

This isn't to slight the question for the people actually facing it. I guess I'm just rambling to say that theology should have an existential edge to it, and if it doesn't, it risks falling to the level of endless genealogies.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Joel Tetreau's picture

Michael (& friends),

Even though I remain vigorous in my rejection of your tie, please know I appreciated deeply both the content and tone of your article. Once more it's been fun to read some of the responses. Frankly I recognize personally the frustration of wanting to say you appreciate certain ministries and certain leaders that you have gained from, only to articulate a set of beliefs that you know will be rejected…and to some degree that rejection may, or has, a personal edge to it. That’s hard, but if these differences really result in a separation (at least from them to you), and if you believe that is not at all reasonable, then perhaps they (whoever “they” are) are not as reasonable as you might think they to be. I have a few quick thoughts to your initial post as well as a response or two to the others who have commented. Just a few free-floating thoughts, as I ponder this away from my beloved "Lawn 4000" and the dry yet cooler November climate of AZ (I'm visiting the campus of CCC here in what my middle son calls “the shwamp” of Florida). OK....the first several points here are directed to you Michael....the rest of the points are thoughts on the observations made by the others.

1. To your last question, "What am I to do?" My response is relax! In one sense you worry too much here (I know you really don’t worry, just go with me here). Frankly there are many who have not bowed the knee to what you might assign as Baal. You don’t know who they are, but I promise you out there in the big blue world of ministry are many ministries who walk with God and honor him with healthy ministry….even many who would fly all (or certainly most) of those flags you fly.

2. Furthermore many who are “evangelical” would agree with you about your conviction of not being or becoming “evangelical!” My guess is it’s too late and you already are but we’ll save that discussion for another time! I will say here that I don’t think it’s accurate to say that conservative evangelicals (and especially the really militant CE’s that I call “Type C” fundamentalists) just want to swallow you up in their own identity. The difference with most of those guys, is that if you love the gospel they love, and order yourself with Biblical convictions, even if it limits how much you can do with them, they have a great appreciation for what you do, and even with who you are! Furthermore on the few occasions your conscience will actually allow you to have some level of pre-heaven “koinonia” with your evangelical brothers, you’ll find they are thrilled and (even without you being able to admit it to certain friends), you will also be thrilled! (because the Spirit of God will be thrilled – in many cases). Your comment adds fuel to the opinion of not a few of us that we still have many who continue to have this binary thinking that lumps the conservative Gospel world into two “hermetically sealed” tents – one with “Fundamentalist only;” and a second with the phrase, “evangelicals only.” Maybe God is doing something with those tents?

3. I would have to say amen! to Dave Doran's thinking about our retreat to the one thing that is consistently and exegetically clear: ministry from and for and through the local assembly. Having said that, I would also tell you that as you tread forward in the direction of ministry objectives, you will without a doubt be joined by other churches, individuals, ministries that are headed in the same direction, but what is different is that you won’t have to lament that a unity is not allowed because it will be natural, shared and undeniable! Often times you'll even be surprised at how much you have in common (per Harding's post) and how much you don't have in common (per Steve's post) with those to whom God joins you with in ministry.

4. So to review - I would just restate what Dr. Dave has said – just in my own less-impressive way: a) The biggest thing “out there” is local church ministry. As a matter of fact, that’s really all we need. b) God graciously gives us a second category of “like-minded” guys with whom we can enjoy limited or broad “right-handed” koinonia with co-belligerents (notice this idea of “co-belligerency” fits well the “battle-royal” motif you so appreciate!) outside the local church. You actually don’t have to have fundamentalism or evangelicalism to do these first two. I see the movement thing as almost a third category – this is where movements start naturally and are often powerful because the Holy Spirit blesses the effective ministry of the Word. Then overtime our dependence of the Holy Spirit and the Word shifts over to our dependence on a movement….or association…..or denomination, etc….. this tends to degenerate into a man - made thing and eventually serves as a poor substitute for the Word and the Spirit….probably. This does not mean fundamentalism or evangelicalism has to be unhealthy. I suppose it could be healthy somewhere…sometimes.

5. Why would you want to “force” movement fundamentalism to “fit” you? Why would you even ask movement fundamentalism to except you.? So this kind of reminds me of the occasional battered or abandoned or cheated-on spouse who will look at me with a black eye and says, “I really want my spouse to love me.” Right…I do too but this is why at least in my understanding of the Scriptures God hates but allows divorce in certain circumstances. There is something worse than divorce and that is to stay in a marriage that actually mocks what marriage is. Michael my friend….I say this with all candor. I think you will have to come to a conclusion I had to wrestle with some time ago….there is something worse than not being accepted by movement fundamentalism and that is making a mockery of Biblical Christianity as you understand it must be. If you have to compromise what you believe you must believe to be accepted by a group… “Holy Cow Vern!....What in the world does that say about the group!?” Furthermore, if the group so readily and in your mind so consistently rejects what is right…how in the world can you just wait for them to come to you? I don’t think you can do that with Biblical integrity. Can you do that with Biblical integrity?

6. At some point in time, I’d like to see you guys (You, Kevin, Harding, Scott A., etc...) in the “Beethoven Group” (BG) actually defend exegetically cultural conservatism (CC). So far it looks like you are assuming a priori that CC is in fact “good” and therefore all that is not consistent with CC (or “good”) is ergo….worldly. So, if there is hesitancy with a few to your right and to your left, perhaps it’s there. However, I don’t think reasonable men would reject you guy "BG" guys just based on your views of CC. I can’t imagine doing that.

Well….that’s more than I wanted to say. I try not to say much. Once in a while you have to come out of the shadow of the cactus and just think out loud. You all are good men. Would love to share hot cider over the warm campfire with all of you…..well…….

Straight Ahead! (or as they said in Rome....prorsus!)

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;

DavidO's picture

Quote:
you guys (You, Kevin, Harding, Scott A., etc...) in the “Beethoven Group” (BG)

Bach, actually. Wink

Michael Riley's picture

DavidO wrote:
Quote:
you guys (You, Kevin, Harding, Scott A., etc...) in the “Beethoven Group” (BG)

Bach, actually. Wink

I've talked to Joel about this before, that it's Bach and not Beethoven, but I don't seem to be making any progress on that at all Smile

Mike Harding's picture

Joel,

B is for "Beatles". "I is way cooler and more cultured than you think I be." In fact, I have a coffee mug at home that says, "Way Cooler Than My Kids Think I Am!" You pose a fair question and one which many volumes have attempted to address. I would like to tackle that subject at our next conference here at FBCT. You probably noticed that I listed "Conservative" at the bottom of the list. In other words I don't think it carries the same weight as other more important items listed prior; however, "Conservative" does describe one of our core values and I think I can defend it exegetically and theologically on a principle level. Applications will change from age to age. Now comb your hair and get back to work!

Pastor Mike Harding

Joel Tetreau's picture

Well....the little comments here tells me we have a variety within the Beethoven Group - not that I'm surprised. So Scott, you'd put your understanding of CC up with or near the fundamentals of the faith? I don't think Doran would be comfortable with that - but I'll read the link.

Mike, I'll look forward to hearing your exegetical delineation of CC vis-a-vis worldliness. As I mentioned before, I think this task for you men has been left undone thus far. I've seen the philosophical arguements - which you guys do well. It will improve your case if your exegesis can catch up to your philosophical apologetic.

Mike....for the record my hair is no longer an issue. I usually cut most of it off - which I should have done a long time ago. It is not an issue because when I'm out in the AZ sun I usually wear a hat. One more point.....of course you're cool.....you live in Michigan.....which is just 5 minutes south of the tundra of Canada!

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;

Scott Aniol's picture

Joel, belief in the fundamentals of the faith does not make one a fundamentalist; it makes one a Christian. So the fact that I said "Christian" was at the top of my list implies that the fundamentals of the faith are at the top of my list.

But yes, "Conservative" would come next in my level of priority. I am a Conservative because I am a Christian--because I want to preserve the fundamentals of the faith.

My separatist convictions (which define me as a fundamentalist) come as natural applications of my Conservatism. In other words, I am a Fundamentalist because I am a Conservative Christian. I don't believe one can be a consistent Conservative Christian without practicing separation from both the world and false gospels.

I'm glad you'd like to know more about the importance of Conservative Christianity. If memory serves, you once insisted that we should "shoot in the head the desire to be conservative."

So, for your reading and listening pleasure, let me recommend a few other resources beyond Doran's talk that articulate well the principles of Conservative Christianity:

http://cl.ly/0y0v0E2S3b362i3j412Q/Bauder_-_The_Need_for_Conservative_Chr... ]"The Need for Conservative Christianity" by Kevin Bauder

http://centralseminary.edu/publications/Nick/Nick203.html "Understanding Conservative Christianity" Nick of Time Series by Kevin Bauder

http://religiousaffections.org/series/toward-conservative-christian-chur... "Toward Conservative Christian Churches" by David DeBruyn

http://religiousaffections.org/series/defining-conservatism/ "Defining Conservatism" by Scott Aniol

http://religiousaffections.org/series/preserving-the-truth-in-our-worship/ "Preserving the Truth in Our Worship" by Scott Aniol | http://cl.ly/3C1w2U1x183e1u0I1A2H/Aniol_-_Preserving_Truth_in_Worship.mp3 ]audio

Michael Riley connects Conservative Christianity with Fundamentalism well in this talk: "Pressing the Antithesis: Defending a Fundamentalist Tertium Quid" – http://cl.ly/3R3j0T0b2n0w021K170B/Riley_-_Pressing_Antithesis.mp3 ]audio | http://cl.ly/0e1u0s1K0k2g2J0y0e05/Riley_-_Pressing_the_Antithesis-_Defen... ]notes

"How Can We Conserve Biblical Worship" by Scott Aniol - http://cl.ly/0f0V1S333I1J1d1x1F1F/Aniol_-_How-Can-We-Conserve-Biblical-W... ]audio | http://cl.ly/2P1m0N471J0w3O0x052U/Aniol_-_How_Can_We_Conserve_Biblical_W... ]notes

Scott Aniol 
Executive Director Religious Affections Ministries
Instructor of Worship, Southwestern Baptist

Joel Tetreau's picture

Scott,

The context of the shooting was those who place "conservatism" over the Scriptures. Thanks for the links brother. Prayeful you are well as you serve in your corner of the vineyard. I think I saw that you are working on a ph.d somewhere. I pray that goes well for you.

Joel

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

Joel Tetreau's picture

To those that are fearful of any past comments - I'm not really a violent person. The only time I shoot people is when I shoot my boys with rubber bands. My comment was aimed at my disagreement with a defense of conservatism (specifically the CC of the BG) that places that above the Scriptures directly or indirectly (IMO). In that sense I'm willing to not just aim at "conservativism" but also "liberalism," "evangelicalism, " "fundamentalism," "dispensationalism," and any other "ism" that places a grid above the Scriptures....and then demand that other believers should accept the same grid based as an abosolute based on .... a philosophy which they mix up with their bibliology....sort of.

Peace!

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;

Chris Ames's picture

Joel,

To your point in #6:

Perhaps while you wait for an exegetical argument that will satisfy you, you could provide an exegetical argument for "close communion." If that subject is not to your liking, maybe "expository preaching." I'm sure that the Bible is shot through with texts that explicitly outline a practice so patently biblical as either of these!

My hope is that this exercise will help you pass the time fruitfully.

Daniel's picture

Whether there is Biblical support for close communion/expository preaching, I doubt Joel would put either on a list.(I could be wrong) That is the difference.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Chris,

You post is confusing. It may just be me....I'm kind of tired this evening. I'm confident we'll strive to be fruitful with the gift of each day no matter if the BG guys ever exegetically are able to parse "CC" or "worldly" or not. I'm pretty busy with pastoring, writing, mentoring, teaching, and a few other responsibilities God's given me. I see you are in seminary (or were). Chris, if you need help thinking through either communion or preaching I'm happy to help, but I'm sure whichever school you are attending probably have some good courses on both homilitics as well as practical theology that you could sign up for. If you want to understand my view of preaching or communion I think I express that in a 10 page document that is called "Philosophy of Ministry of Southeast Valley Baptist Church" (or something like that). Happy to zip that to you. Stay on course my man.

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;

Michael Riley's picture

Daniel,

For what it's worth, Dever would (and has) put expository preaching on a list. And I don't disagree with him.

Joel,

Chris's question has nothing to do with any confusion on these issues on his part. Rather, his claim is that most folks here would hold expository preaching in high regard, and would consider unhealthy any church that makes it a habit to neglect consistent exposition. The question is: what exegetical reason could be given for this standard?

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