Tyler Robbins 's Response to Don Johnson (pt. 1)

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Don Johnson's picture

 

Fair enough, but I have these quibbles:

1. I wouldn't define fundamentalism in opposition to unbelievers as mere unbelievers ("defend it against unbelievers") but as professed believers. The way you word this seems to define it as opposition to those who don't even claim to be Christian. Yet in fact, even liberal Christians are in some senses separate from this group. So you are at least unclear here.

2. You seem to be missing a key points in Oats:

"From the middle of the twentieth century on, fundamentalism may be defined as those Bible believers who desire to maintain a purity of doctrine and personal life and stand in positional and doctrinal opposition to various forms of compromise."

This can only refer to the split between evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Someone who is an evangelical may well be separated (to some degree) from modernism, but he has also compromised himself with it in some way. (BG compromise is the favorite whipping boy.)

When Dr. Oats says:

"I suggest that a fifth stage [of the fundamentalist movement] is now present: the separation of conservative evangelicalism from the left wing of evangelicalism, along with the reunion of some elements of fundamentalism with the right-wing of evangelicalism."

This is the convergence, where "some elements of fundamentalism" are willing to drop their guard or cease to separate over evangelical compromise.

By doing so, they are creating something new, which we are calling the Convergence. It is not the same as Fundamentalism.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

Bro. Johnson wrote:

This can only refer to the split between evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Someone who is an evangelical may well be separated (to some degree) from modernism, but he has also compromised himself with it in some way.

This is a good point, and I planned to address this divide at the beginning of my next article. I thought about tackling it in this piece, but decided it was already long enough! I'll get to it. It's important.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

Don said:

Someone who is an evangelical may well be separated (to some degree) from modernism, but he has also compromised himself with it in some way.

This seems to me to be begging the question.  Who decides that person X has remained 'compromised'?  I mean, I could argue that some FBFI members are compromised because of associations they have with others on the FBFI Board who are KJV Only.  So who is watching the watchmen, and how is any of this criteria objective in any way? 

"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

Begging the question, sometimes known by its Latin name petitio principii (meaning assuming the initial point), is a logical fallacy in which the writer or speaker assumes the statement under examination to be true. In other words, begging the questioninvolves using a premise to support itself.

If someone is separate from modernism, that means he isn't himself a modernist. His theology/philosophy is distinct. If he has at the same time compromised himself with modernism, he has made some kind of connection with it that belies his non-modernistic theology/philosophy.

Classic example, as I stated, was Billy Graham. He wasn't a modernist, yet he joined himself to modernists and made compromises with them that were not consistent with his theology.

My point is that compromise defines evangelicalism today and you can point to many conservative evangelicals who still maintain ties with modernism that compromise their position. Example: the Duke McCall ongoing connections at Southern, the BG School there, the signing of the Manhattan Declaration, etc.

You may object to fellowship with King James Only individuals, but that is hardly compromise with modernism.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

You may object to fellowship with King James Only individuals, but that is hardly compromise with modernism.

I would argue that the KJV Only position is far worse than 'compromise with modernism'.  It attacks God's character, the veracity of His Word, and undermines the foundations of Christianity with the oldest trick in our recorded Book - "Yea, hath God said" (Genesis 3:1).  Instead, we make alliances and celebrate men who who tell us that if we don't read the King James, we don't read the Word of God.  And then we praise our ability to 'stand for the truth of God's Word'.

But at least the KJV Only people look, act, and sing like 'we' do.  So compromise with some doctrinal aberrations is OK, as look as we all have the right title or...something. 

"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

Don Johnson wrote:

Begging the question, sometimes known by its Latin name petitio principii (meaning assuming the initial point), is a logical fallacy in which the writer or speaker assumes the statement under examination to be true. In other words, begging the question involves using a premise to support itself.

If someone is separate from modernism, that means he isn't himself a modernist. His theology/philosophy is distinct. If he has at the same time compromised himself with modernism, he has made some kind of connection with it that belies his non-modernistic theology/philosophy.

Classic example, as I stated, was Billy Graham. He wasn't a modernist, yet he joined himself to modernists and made compromises with them that were not consistent with his theology.

But Don, you argue that:

Someone who is an evangelical may well be separated (to some degree) from modernism, but he has also compromised himself with it in some way.

Your point is that an evangelical is compromised because they because they remain connected to modernism in some way.  So you are, in fact, using the premise of being connected to modernism to support your argument that they are 'compromised'.  That's what begging the question is.

"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

TylerR's picture

Editor
Joel Tetreau's picture

A few random thoughts.....may or may not be helpful.......

So actually I think the "convergent" articles from our FBF friends is helpful. It clearly marks out a position that spells out where the FBF is and where it continues to head. If indeed these men speak for the FBF at large then the FBF position is ..... 1) if you are a conservative who marks yourself out as "evangelical" vis-a-vis "fundamentalist" you are not "with us".... or if 2) you are a "fundamentalist" who is willing to have continued fellowship (at some level) with these conservative "evangelical" than that means you are not really a fundamentalist....and you are not with us and...... you are this other thing ("convergent"). Quick Statements:

1. The FBF is bleeding so many younger leaders my guess is this is more a tactic to try to keep the young and not-so-young from moving on. The message to younger FBF types is, "If you hang with these evangelicals you aren't one of us!" My message to the younger FBF types is "that's OK guys"....come on over to the IFCA! (The GARBC might even be happy to take you!). We in the IFCA are historic fundamentalists who are angry all the time (Type A = Angry all the time). Just a word to my FBF friends. So....you've done this before....remember....."Psudo-fundamentalist." It didn't work then and it won't work now. You will continue to bleed until your position is better and Biblical.

2. The standard for unity and fellowship is something different than these men are defending. The NT position is we have unity on the gospel and when a brother is clearly "disobedient" (not "different") then we work through the levels of unity/separation. It frankly matters not to God if a brother calls himself Fundamentalist, Evangelical, etc.....what matters is what he believes and how he practices.  

3. The FBF get's it wrong when it says only they believe in separation......or that convergent or conservative evangelical's don't believe or practice separation. That is so off it's actually embarrassing. Do you guys read anything that is happening outside of your FBF bubble? There has been all kinds of Type B and Type C fundamentalists who have separated from all kinds of compromising and ecumenical evangelicals but you guys miss it because some of these men have a drum set in their church building.....Have you missed the elephant room discussions....and John MacArthur and friends taking on Charismatic evangelicals, etc.....? The Southern Baptists kicking out liberals and evangelicals who are overtly ecumenical?

4. This definition of fundamentalism makes the standard of unity "us" as opposed to the work of Christ. It is a false and dangerous version of unity and frankly is not different than other denominations.

5. I would argue that Fundamentalism historically has been something other than these FBF men are presenting. Historically a fundamentalist is someone who holds to the faith (gospel plus orthodoxy) and then defends that militantly. This militancy can either take on the form of fighting within a group.....or leaving a group. Both forms of militancy are Biblical and can be defended from the text of Scripture......which if you want to see look up what many of us wrote 10 years ago during the Type A, B,C and Young Fundamentalism discussions.

6. A word to you FBF men. You need to understand this....very few actual fundamentalist or militant conservative evangelicals care what you call them or how you paint them. You guys have so painted yourself in such a corner and you come off so arrogant to other conservative men....most men in other groups have given up trying to work with you. They are simply walking away......and not because of compromise.....but because of their loyalty to the gospel and Christ's body.

7. I am thankful for the FBF men who try to balance truth with love, and embrace the gospel and a commitment to real discipleship. For you men in the FBF who have a healthy and more Biblical view of your other brothers in Christ.....I hope you can have an influence of these FBF men who have decided they have the authority to chop up the body of Christ by their own view.

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;

Joel Tetreau's picture

1. We "aren't" angry all the time......

2. Only God knows if you are arrogant. My point is the way you paint others comes off to many as arrogance.

Sorry for the need for clarity.

Straight Ahead.....still!

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;

Don Johnson's picture

Jay, I think you are just attempting to ignore the obvious. An evangelical is not a modernist. No one accuses them of being a modernist. But an evangelical (since the 1950s) has adopted a stance that is compromised with modernism in some way. This is is the defining distinction between fundamentalism and evangelicalism. You are simply trying to confuse the terms so as to make them meaningless.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

Don said:

Jay, I think you are just attempting to ignore the obvious. An evangelical is not a modernist. No one accuses them of being a modernist....This is is the defining distinction between fundamentalism and evangelicalism. You are simply trying to confuse the terms so as to make them meaningless.

I find little to no value in drawing arbitrary distinctions within the body of Christ over terms as nebulous as they are being (re-)defined.  Either you follow Christ and fulfill the Great Commission, or you don't.  Some people I can agree with and support, some I have to be more skeptical and stand-offish towards, and some I can't work with or are simply not believers.  I really do not have a desire to label people into the three or four different groups (fundamentalist, evangelical, convergent, modernist) that we seem to have to need for this entire conversation to make any sense.

I wonder if the biggest issue here - at the root of it, really - is how much these categories actually matter.  Right now, it's looking like it doesn't matter a whole lot.  Separation matters, of course, and doctrinal purity is critical.  These terms, on the other hand...are not so important, because a person with an aberrant view of Bibliology is ok as long as he's a 'fundamentalist' (whatever that means).

Maybe one of the best reasons for paying attention to convergents / evangelicals is that they aren't constantly carving up the body of Christ like bite sized hunks of turkey for a meal with other believers.  They preach, they teach, they disciple, and while they have flaws - some of them massive flaws - they don't engage in silly debates like this.

"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

to say that terms can't be defined. The definitions we are talking about have a very clear historical significance. There is no confusion in the matter. The question still remains, and has remained since the beginning of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy: Is it legitimate to join forces with modernists to accomplish any gospel/orthodox objective? Many Christians have said "Yes" in answer to that question.

That answer led to the defeat of the fundamentalists in the 1920s.

That answer led (ultimately) to the defeat or at least marginalization of fundamentalism since the 1960s.

It continues to be the question today.

The KJO allusions are simply red herrings (to talk about logical fallacies) in an attempt to further confuse the issue.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Steve Davis's picture

Jay wrote:

Don said:

Jay, I think you are just attempting to ignore the obvious. An evangelical is not a modernist. No one accuses them of being a modernist....This is is the defining distinction between fundamentalism and evangelicalism. You are simply trying to confuse the terms so as to make them meaningless.

I find little to no value in drawing arbitrary distinctions within the body of Christ over terms as nebulous as they are being (re-)defined.  Either you follow Christ and fulfill the Great Commission, or you don't.  Some people I can agree with and support, some I have to be more skeptical and stand-offish towards, and some I can't work with or are simply not believers.  I really do not have a desire to label people into the three or four different groups (fundamentalist, evangelical, convergent, modernist) that we seem to have to need for this entire conversation to make any sense.

I wonder if the biggest issue here - at the root of it, really - is how much these categories actually matter.  Right now, it's looking like it doesn't matter a whole lot.  Separation matters, of course, and doctrinal purity is critical.  These terms, on the other hand...are not so important, because a person with an aberrant view of Bibliology is ok as long as he's a 'fundamentalist' (whatever that means).

Maybe one of the best reasons for paying attention to convergents / evangelicals is that they aren't constantly carving up the body of Christ like bite sized hunks of turkey for a meal with other believers.  They preach, they teach, they disciple, and while they have flaws - some of them massive flaws - they don't engage in silly debates like this.

Jay,

I think you expressed some of what I feel with the whole label and categories thing. On the spectrum, some on the left of me might consider me a (historic) fundamentalist. Others on the right of me might consider me a (compromising) evangelical. To my lost neighbors I simply want to be a disciple of Jesus, a Christian. When they ask me that's how I describe myself (of course after that there are multiple layers of explanation and I am regarded as an alien creature by many).  

If what Don says is true, i.e.,  - "But an evangelical (since the 1950s) has adopted a stance that is compromised with modernism in some way. This is is the defining distinction between fundamentalism and evangelicalism."  - then I must not be an evangelical in the eyes of militant separatists. And as someone who cares little for labels, that's fine with me. I am thankful today that I enjoy fellowship and unity with believers from whom I might've separated in the past when I still practiced unbiblical degreed separation. 

Steve

 

 

TOvermiller's picture

Don provided this clarification in his initial reply to your response:

I wouldn't define fundamentalism in opposition to unbelievers as mere unbelievers ("defend it against unbelievers") but as professed believers.

I think this is a very important clarification.

Thomas Overmiller
Pastor | www.studygodsword.com
Blog & Podcast | www.shepherdthoughts.com

TylerR's picture

Editor

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

JD Miller's picture

I grew up as an evangelical (I did not grow up in a fundamentalist church- I did not even know any existed in my area until I was in my early 20's).  I left "evangelicalism" when I was 24 years old because of the compromise and lack of separation in the Promise Keepers movement.  I read about "new evangelicals" and "neo evangelicals."  That seemed to describe what I was seeing happening in the church I grew up in as they promoted Promise Keepers.  That same church just a decade and a half earlier under a different pastor did not even participate in the world day of prayer because they did not want to compromise with modernists.  They were always an evangelical church, but at one point they acted more like fundamentalists than they did at the later date.  Today we see some evangelical churches trending back to fundamental positions.

I am curious if Don sees any distinction between the terms evangelical and new/neo evangelical?  I left evangelicalism for fundamentalism, but that was because of a church's practice, not their label.  I view a lot of the so called convergants as simply looking at what a church is doing now in the area of practice (including separation) and not looking at their past associations (whether they have a long heritage of being in the fundamentalist camp or if they hosted Billy Graham in 1958).   At the same time convergants are not willing to give churches a pass on doctrine simply because of their history of association.  I view this as a good thing, not something to reprove them over.

On the other hand, I met an evangelical pastor shortly after moving to South Dakota.  He was frustrated with the compromise he was seeing and had led his church to a more fundamental position.  He had not grown up in fundamental circles, but wanted to learn more.  He was still an evangelical and had not broken all past ties.  Would Don tell me that I should have separated from this pastor who wanted to learn more and leave him to the influence of the modernists, or should I have done like I did and fellowshipped with him and encouraged him to stand firm in the fundamentals while sharing my views on separation?

 

Don Johnson's picture

TylerR wrote:

I pulled this off the IFCA's site, and I think it gets the idea across pretty well:

These terms refer to that movement within evangelicalism characterized by a toleration of and a dialogue with theological liberalism. Its essence is seen in an emphasis upon the social application of the Gospel and weak or unclear doctrines of: the inspiration of Scripture, Biblical creationism, eschatology, dispensationalism, and separation. It is further characterized by an attempt to accommodate biblical Christianity and make it acceptable to the modern mind. We believe that these movements are out of harmony with the Word of God and the official doctrine and position of IFCA International and are inimical to the work of God.

This definition makes sense to me. I just want to be sure I understand you, going forward, when you mention "new evangelicalism."

I think while New Evangelicalism is all of this, it is probably more. Not limited to "toleration and dialogue" or "accommodation", but also involves "cooperation" and "infiltration". Modern evangelicals are characterized more or less by these same principles.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

JD Miller wrote:

I am curious if Don sees any distinction between the terms evangelical and new/neo evangelical?  I left evangelicalism for fundamentalism, but that was because of a church's practice, not their label.  I view a lot of the so called convergants as simply looking at what a church is doing now in the area of practice (including separation) and not looking at their past associations (whether they have a long heritage of being in the fundamentalist camp or if they hosted Billy Graham in 1958).   At the same time convergants are not willing to give churches a pass on doctrine simply because of their history of association.  I view this as a good thing, not something to reprove them over.

I don't see much distinction between new evangelicalism and evangelicalism any longer. The new evangelicals were probably an identifiable group of leaders, but most evangelicals went along with their philosophy to some extent. By "some" I don't mean "just a little bit", but I mean they pretty well adopted the same openness to broader cooperation with modernism and an openness to almost any Christian testimony. Some evangelicals have recently become more discerning, but remain entangled in their cooperative efforts with groups or individuals who are not orthodox. (I am speaking generally here, there are variations of all kinds.)

JD Miller wrote:

On the other hand, I met an evangelical pastor shortly after moving to South Dakota.  He was frustrated with the compromise he was seeing and had led his church to a more fundamental position.  He had not grown up in fundamental circles, but wanted to learn more.  He was still an evangelical and had not broken all past ties.  Would Don tell me that I should have separated from this pastor who wanted to learn more and leave him to the influence of the modernists, or should I have done like I did and fellowshipped with him and encouraged him to stand firm in the fundamentals while sharing my views on separation?

 

No, no problem with that. More power to the brother and may his tribe increase.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ron Bean's picture

I think we're seeing why we need to name names and have precise definitions of terms. It seems to me that those in the FBFI consider almost everyone outside their fellowship either a convergent, evangelical, or new-evangelical. Warnings concerning a nameless and generically defined stranger tend to make many in the group suspicious of anyone from outside. It also fosters a confident attitude of "rightness" that can be perceived as arrogance. Adding to that perception is the militant attitude toward those considered disobedient brethren that is nearly equivalent to a militancy that would be better directed at apostasy and false doctrine.

In the interest of peaceful relationships, perhaps we should realize that the FBFI prefers to live in their small tent and when we get to heaven realize that the campground is bigger than they imagined.

And Joel Tetreau's comments are worth re-reading.

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

JD Miller's picture

Don wrote:

I don't see much distinction between new evangelicalism and evangelicalism any longer. The new evangelicals were probably an identifiable group of leaders, but most evangelicals went along with their philosophy to some extent. By "some" I don't mean "just a little bit", but I mean they pretty well adopted the same openness to broader cooperation with modernism and an openness to almost any Christian testimony. Some evangelicals have recently become more discerning, but remain entangled in their cooperative efforts with groups or individuals who are not orthodox. (I am speaking generally here, there are variations of all kinds.)

Don, thank you for your prompt reply.  I think this is probably where I would differ from you the most on this subject.  I am seeing a number of evangelicals heading toward the fundamentalist position while not taking the fundamentalist label.  Having said that, I do not necessarily see them heading toward the FBFI, but I also see fundamentalism as much broader than the FBFI just as I see evengelicalism as much broader than new evangelicalism.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I came out of the semi-Pelagian, KJVO, "Sword of the Lord" style fundamentalism. The Lord led my family to a sane church with a good Pastor who also came from that arena. He steered me to Seminary at Maranatha, because he had gone to Fairhaven and knew that place was not for me.

I am firmly planted in the GARBC orbit now, which some would consider a drift to the left. I am interested in the IFCA. I generally consider the FBFI to be to my right, not in doctrine per se, but in application and approach. I generally consider the organization to be perhaps permanently crippled by a mixed constituency which coddles various flavors of KJVO-ism, has lurking anti-Calvinist tendencies, displays a troubling persecution complex and is fixated on "the past" to an unhealthy extent.

I think  Joel's post sums things up well.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

I am seeing a number of evangelicals heading toward the fundamentalist position while not taking the fundamentalist label.  

Judging from what I've seen in evangelicalism / convergentism / IFCA / Conservative Baptist / apostate circles (your description may vary)...most evangelicals look at Fundamentalists and think 'Hylesism'.  So even if they have been exposed to Biblical fundamentalism, the associations are just so powerful that they want absolutely nothing to do with it - this is why I keep bringing up the issues with the FBFI's rightward flank.  That's if they care about the terms at all, which (as I noted before), most don't.

I know I have beat this horse down to less than nothing, but what Phil Johnson said in 2005 still applies:

So why was I never part of the fundamentalist movement? Because it was obvious, even when I first became a Christian in 1971, that fundamentalism—the visible, organized, identifiable movement made up of men and churches who proudly labeled themselves as “fundamentalists”— was seriously dysfunctional. In 1971, the most vocal and visible figures in the movement were men like Jack Hyles and John R. Rice. The house where my family lived at the time was less than a mile from the international headquarters of Billy James Hargis, a fundamentalist radio preacher who disgraced the fundamentalist cause in the mid-1970s through an appalling moral scandal. The town where I attended my first year of college had once been the hometown of Carl McIntire, and he still dominated the airwaves there—so I also became acquainted with him through the radio. 

Frankly, the closer I got to the fundamentalist movement in the 1970s, the more it seemed to me that the movement had significant tendencies that owed more to the cults and the pharisees than to historic Christianity. So I carefully kept my distance from the movement, while affirming the principles of historic fundamentalism. 

During those years I subscribed to The Sword of the Lord and read as much fundamentalist literature as I could find. (Of course, one of the things I noticed right away was that there wasn’t a whole lot of serious fundamentalist literature to read.)  After getting my diploma from Moody Bible Institute in 1975, I needed one more year of college to complete my bachelor’s degree, so I attended a fundamentalist school for the 1975–76 school year. That one year in a fundamentalist school convinced me that American fundamentalism as a movement was already seriously and perhaps irretrievably off the rails. The movement was in serious trouble doctrinally, spiritually, and morally. 

That was thirty years ago, but even then, the fundamentalist movement was dominated by personality cults, easy-believism, man-centered doctrine, an unbiblical pragmatism in their methodology, a carnal kind of superficiality in their worship, petty bickering at the highest levels of leadership, deliberate antiintellectualism even in their so-called institutions of higher learning, and moral rot almost everywhere you looked in the movement. It seemed clear to me that the fundamentalist movement was doomed. 

In fact, by the 1970s, American fundamentalism had already ceased to be a theological movement and had morphed into a cultural phenomenon—a bizarre and ingrown subculture all its own, whose public face more often than not seemed overtly hostile to everyone outside its boundaries. 

Frankly, I thought that sort of fundamentalism deserved to die. And I knew it eventually would, because the most prominent hallmark of the visible fundamentalist movement was that its leaders loved to fight so much that they would bite and devour one another and proliferate controversies—even among themselves—over issues that no one could ever rationally argue were essential to the truth of the gospel...

But my subject in this hour is the failure of fundamentalism, and I want to give you three reasons why I believe the fundamentalist movement of the twentieth century went off track in such a serious and catastrophic way. For convenience’s sake, and since you are mostly preachers, I’ve alliterated these. You can take them all three down now if you’re fast enough, but leave some room to fill in the details between the points: First, fundamentalism failed because of a lack of definition. Second, it failed because of a lack of doctrinal clarity. And third, it failed because of a lack of due process.

​It's also worth noting that Johnson disavowed himself of evangelicalism, and threw evangelicalism 'under the bus' to boot:

By the way, I’m not going to suggest to you that the evangelical movement has in any way succeeded where the fundamentalists failed. It would be my assessment that the evangelical movement has, if anything, melted down in an even more catastrophic way than the fundamentalist movement. It’s perhaps not as obvious yet, because the broad evangelical movement has so many thriving megachurches all dutifully buying books for their forty days of purpose and eagerly awaiting the next evangelical fad. But most of those churches are no longer truly evangelical in any meaningful sense. Most of them have no discernable doctrinal position.

"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

Mark_Smith's picture

Tyler, you keep using the label "semi-pelagian" recently. What do you mean by that term? I think it is relevant for the discussion we are having.

Historically, it is the heresy that man can initiate a response with God, that God's grace is a response to that effort, and that denies predestination.

The problem is "semi-pelagian" is a derogatory term that Calvinists use against people that are not Calvinist or Arminian. I cannot speak for this former pastor/church that you speak of, but as for me, I am neither Calvinist or Arminian. JESUS through his sinless life, death, burial and resurrection opened the way for man to be able to be justified before God. This is why semi-pelagianism is a heresy. Without Jesus there is no restoration possible between God and man. So, refusing to recognize Jesus' role in that should be heresy.

The thing is, Tyler, there are many Baptists, in particular, that are neither Calvinist nor Armninian. The theologians refuse to acknowledge this, but it is a fact. Labeling such people "semi-pelagian" is inflammatory and dishonest.

Don Johnson's picture

JD Miller wrote:

Don wrote:

I don't see much distinction between new evangelicalism and evangelicalism any longer. The new evangelicals were probably an identifiable group of leaders, but most evangelicals went along with their philosophy to some extent. By "some" I don't mean "just a little bit", but I mean they pretty well adopted the same openness to broader cooperation with modernism and an openness to almost any Christian testimony. Some evangelicals have recently become more discerning, but remain entangled in their cooperative efforts with groups or individuals who are not orthodox. (I am speaking generally here, there are variations of all kinds.)

Don, thank you for your prompt reply.  I think this is probably where I would differ from you the most on this subject.  I am seeing a number of evangelicals heading toward the fundamentalist position while not taking the fundamentalist label.  Having said that, I do not necessarily see them heading toward the FBFI, but I also see fundamentalism as much broader than the FBFI just as I see evengelicalism as much broader than new evangelicalism.

Yes, it is true that some evangelicals are heading towards a more fundamentalist position and are becoming more willing to contend for the faith. I am glad to see it. However, they are still not fundamentalists, and often deliberately so. I recently reviewed an excellent Baptist history by a trio of Southern Baptists (see Review: The Baptist Story). In their discussion of the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC, the authors say "In addition to establishing their electoral strategy, conservative activists made two other key decisions in the late 1970s that proved instrumental to their success. They rejected the label fundamentalist in favor of the more benign conservative. While the two terms had often been used as synonyms, conservative activists knew that the former was problematic because of its association with J. Frank Norris, the King-James-Only position, strict ecclesiastical separation, and premillennial theology. This decision proved especially prescient after the Iranian Revolution in November 1979 led to the term fundamentalist being applied to militant Muslim revolutionaries." (p. 286)

So... Yes, the conservative evangelicals are doing praise-worthy things. Yes, J. Frank Norris and the KJO movement are at best unfortunate baggage for the term fundamentalism. However, please note that the conservative evangelicals in the SBC also deliberately wanted to distance themselves from "strict ecclesiastical separation, and premillennial theology." This is a problem.

Of course fundamentalism is much broader than the FBFI. No one in the FBFI thinks we are the only fundamentalists. It is really slanderous to lay that charge at our feet. Our enemies (including some in this thread) regularly do that. We don't believe it and don't hold to that view. What else can we say? It is unfortunate that Christians will stoop to slander in these discussions, but it is nothing more than that.

I agree that you and I might disagree on the distinction between evangelicalism and new evangelicalism. I think that is a mistake on your part. The New Evangelicals were an indentifiable group of leaders (Graham, Henry, Ockenga, Bell, and others, Packer and Stott, too, I'd say) whose philosophy came to dominate evangelicalism to such an extent that there was no need for two separate terms. I don't see how you can read history differently.

In any case there is clearly a distinction between fundmentalism and evangelicalism and most evangelicals are pretty clear as to what that is.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

...to all of those who are repeating "just define your terms."  Write clearly; tell us who you're talking about, and how we might recognize fellow laborers with this group.  Joel's comment says it very well/ there is a huge enemy called "vagueness" involved here.

And no need to point fingers here; Romans 3:23, we've all been there.  But let's grow.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Tyler, you keep using the label "semi-pelagian" recently. What do you mean by that term? I think it is relevant for the discussion we are having.

Historically, it is the heresy that man can initiate a response with God, that God's grace is a response to that effort, and that denies predestination.

The problem is "semi-pelagian" is a derogatory term that Calvinists use against people that are not Calvinist or Arminian. I cannot speak for this former pastor/church that you speak of, but as for me, I am neither Calvinist or Arminian. JESUS through his sinless life, death, burial and resurrection opened the way for man to be able to be justified before God. This is why semi-pelagianism is a heresy. Without Jesus there is no restoration possible between God and man. So, refusing to recognize Jesus' role in that should be heresy.

The thing is, Tyler, there are many Baptists, in particular, that are neither Calvinist nor Armninian. The theologians refuse to acknowledge this, but it is a fact. Labeling such people "semi-pelagian" is inflammatory and dishonest.

Re: "The thing is, Tyler, there are many Baptists, in particular, that are neither Calvinist nor Armninian. The theologians refuse to acknowledge this, but it is a fact. Labeling such people "semi-pelagian" is inflammatory and dishonest."

Semi-Pelagianism

Semi-Pelagianism is a weaker form of Pelagianism (a heresy derived from Pelagius who lived in the 5th century A.D. and was a teacher in Rome). Semi-Pelagianism (advocated by Cassian at Marseilles, 5th Century) did not deny original sin and its effects upon the human soul and will; but, it taught that God and man cooperate to achieve man's salvation. This cooperation is not by human effort as in keeping the law but rather in the ability of a person to make a free willchoice. The semi-Pelagian teaches that man can make the first move toward God by seeking God out of his own free will, and that man can cooperate with God's grace even to the keeping of his faith through human effort. This would mean that God responds to the initial effort of person, and that God's grace is not absolutely necessary to maintain faith.

The problem is that this is no longer grace. Grace is the completely unmerited and freely given favor of God upon the sinner; but, if man is the one who first seeks God, then God is responding to the good effort of seeking him. This would mean that God is offering a proper response to the initial effort of man. This is not grace but what is due the person who chooses to believe in God apart from God's initial effort.

  • Semi-Pelagianism says the sinner has the ability to initiate belief in God.
  • Semi-Pelagianism says God's grace is a response to man's initial effort.
  • Semi-Pelagianism denies predestination.

Semi-Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange in 529.

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

You seem to assume I used the term "semi-Pelagian" in a derogatory sense. I can assure you I did not. You wrote:

The thing is, Tyler, there are many Baptists, in particular, that are neither Calvinist nor Armninian. The theologians refuse to acknowledge this, but it is a fact. Labeling such people "semi-pelagian" is inflammatory and dishonest.

Some men do throw out labels to castigate others. In my case, I did not. I understand what Arminianism actually teaches, and understand their explanation of prevenient grace. I've read Wesley, Wiley and Olson. What I experienced was not Arminianism. It was semi-Pelagianism, and I used the label accurately. In the more right-wing, Sword of the Lord-style, KJVO/reinspiration churches, salvation is often presented as completely semi-pelagian. Few of the men from this far right-wing of fundamentalism would understand the terminology, but it accurately reflects their soteriology. In fact, often the theology in these churches is so completely muddled so as to defy normal categorization. To some degree, labels are not applicable to these churches, because their theology in general is so vague.

I don't use the term in a deliberately derogatory sense. I used it to refer to the soteriology I saw taught and explained from the hard right wing of fundamentalism, which is generally characterized by KJVO reinspiration, a rabid anti-intellectualism, an unhinged and deranged view of Calvinism (i.e. "Calvin is roasting in hell right now"), and a bastardized form of Landmarkism.

So, in a sense, I guess you could say I have drifted from the hard right wing of fundamentalism (i.e. a cult) into the center of Baptist fundamentalism (GARBC). I am happy where I'm at now.    

I hadn't intended on launching into a discussion of semi-Pelagianism, and I assure you I didn't use the label to smear anybody. Anybody who has escaped from the cult that is hard right-wing fundamentalism understands what I'm talking about. Onto the FBFI and convergents . . .

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

Semi-pelagianism denies that Christ is needed for salvation. Is that what these people are teaching?

Greg Linscott's picture

Of course fundamentalism is much broader than the FBFI. No one in the FBFI thinks we are the only fundamentalists. It is really slanderous to lay that charge at our feet. Our enemies (including some in this thread) regularly do that. We don't believe it and don't hold to that view. What else can we say? It is unfortunate that Christians will stoop to slander in these discussions, but it is nothing more than that.

Don,

If that is true--that the FBFI aren't the only Fundamentalists--why distinguish between Fundamentalists and "Convergents"?

In your Oxgoad article, you provide several "Marks of a Convergent." I responded to them in the comments, but I'm stuck in the moderation queue, so I'll post them here... they fit into the context of this point, anyway.

* Anti-separatism (or at least non-separatism)
Who defines this? Is a Baptist who has a Presbyterian speak in the pulpit not a separatist? If a Fundamentalist takes part in a homeschool group that includes Evangelicals, or a seminary professor participates in ETS, is that “Non-separatism”? Is it only “Platform Fellowship” that is the criteria here? In insisting on hard line separatism of the first generation be imposed on the 3rd and 4th generation, you do not allow for any acknowledgement that some of the 3rd and 4th generation of the other side–even if they aren’t exactly like us– aren’t exactly what their predecessors, either.

* Embrace of a philosophy of fellowship, social action, cultural relevancy that is at least similar to new evangelicalism
Too ambiguous to be helpful. No matter how “tight” you might be, there’s always going to be someone who things you are more “new evangelical” than them. Even your comments on this article (where "Matt" talks about the KJV) reveal that with you and the version issue. Someone is going to conclude you are to their “left.”

* Movement from fundamentalist to the convergence philosophy – i.e. the philosophy that embraces evangelicalism and its positions as opposed to fundamentalism and its positions.

Same comment as the previous point... and it is statements like this, Don, that leave people concluding that even though they still would practice separation and hold to pre-millenial theology, that many in the FBFI don't believe that they are Fundamentalists.

* First-love” Calvinism – the love of a zealot for the new found perfect theology (as opposed to the Calvinist fundamentalist who willingly co-labors with non-Calvinists who share a fundamentalist philosophy)

This is a prominent and discernible trend… But it’s not the only ditch people veer off into. KJV, Keswick, Revivalism, certain methodological approaches… It’s the latest manifestation... and again, is this enough to make someone not a Fundamentalist?

* A new emphasis on Christian liberty (often expressed in use of alcohol and a broader taste in Christian music)
Many FBFI members openly acknowledge that they have implemented a “broader taste” in their congregational repertoire, even if it is with a proverbial discernment asterisk. You have arguably one of the primary enablers of “Broader taste” serving as an institutional head, voted into that position by many FBFI members. If this is a mark of a Convergent (and disqualifies from being a Fundamentalist), you have quite a few within your own ranks.

* Pragmatism in church polity (Application of modern business models to church governance and business practices)
Again, look within your own ranks. I’ve sat in a workshop led by a prominent FBFI board member advocating that pastors need to be less of a shepherd and more of a “rancher.” If this is a mark and trend, it’s not the kind of thing that happened instantaneously, or with no contribution or influence from preceding generations.

* In some, questionable pastoral ethics, seen in shifting existing congregations away from fundamentalist roots
While there may be some truth to this, Baptist churches are congregational in polity. One person should not be able to lead a well-taught and thoroughly discipled congregation very far astray. You have to ask how much if this is responsibility is with the will of a congregation to be led, or sometimes even with a shift a pastor exercising discernment and influence to keep a congregation from changing more radically than they actually did. I will also say that the kind of "Fundamentalist roots" being shifted away from usually have more to do with music and other non-issues than pre-millennial theology and practicing separatism.

* An openness or even embrace of supernatural gifts, especially prophecy, as legitimate modern phenomena
This is a troubling trend, but again, preceding generations have left the door open to this to some degree, with a lot of subjective “God told me” or “the Spirit led” kind of language that is tolerated and sometimes even encouraged in our circles. It is something that needs to be addressed as much within as it does to those perceived to be leaving the ranks.

* A keen interest in the “star” evangelical writers as the “go-to” guys for ministry philosophy, doctrine, reading, etc. And perhaps not only interest, but promotion of their writings as the last word on the subjects they address.

As opposed to previous generations, who quoted different “star Fundamentalists”?

———————————————–

Some of these things you list may be worth noting and being aware of, but they should hardly be criteria to establish clear lines of demarcation between “us” and “them.” Your "marks of a Convergent" list is a great example of why people think the FBFI thinks they are the only fundamentalists. What you (collectively) are accomplishing with this whole “Convergence” issue of Frontline is reducing influence, and communicating to a generation of leaders facing new challenges that they are being provided no room to figure anything out… that the attitude they will be met with is “conform or be cast out.” That’s sad… because there are things each side could stand to benefit from with the other side.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

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