Observations About Those Who Are Still Here

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Steve Newman's picture

Good content and distinctions the last few days by Mark Ward and Don Johnson. 

I'm fascinated by who is not included in the "tent" of the article The "we" of this article represent a subset of those who are self-identified as Fundamentalists. Is this (BJU-Northland-Maranatha-Detroit-Central-IBC-Wilds-Faith-FBFI) group saying that their "wing" is separate from and not tolerant of the false doctrines and abuses of the (BBF-Sword of the Lord-Hyles-West Coast-KJVO-or-belligerent-TRO) group? That last group is probably not very well defined. But the second group is definitely left out of the "in crowd" of these articles.  

Jim's picture

To Don & FBFI friends:

  • Don, while we haven't met face to face, we have chatted on the phone 3-4 times. I appreciate you and count you as a friend. You exemplify "orthodoxy and orthopraxy" and I respect you for this.
  • To the other 443 (Mike Riley, Mark Harding, and Tom O and others.) I thank the Lord for you too!

There's an old film from my youth that angered the Brits - The Great Escape. I saw it when I was 13 or 14 and have viewed it half a dozen times since. It angered the Brits because the Americans took a British story and made it "our" own. To quote the Wiki article:

"The screenwriters significantly increased the involvement of American POWs; the real escape was by largely British and other allied personnel. A few American officers in the camp initially helped dig the tunnels, and worked on the early plans; however, they were moved away seven months before the escape, ending their involvement"

Because you are Canadian this point may interest you:

The film omits to mention the crucial role Canadians played in building the tunnels and in the escape itself. Of the 1,800 or so POWs, 600 were involved in preparations out of which 150 were Canadian. Wally Floody, an RCAF pilot and mining engineer who was the real-life "tunnel king", was engaged as a technical advisor for the film

I mention the above as an analogy of a point in your article where you say:

My introduction to fundamentalist principles came as I saw my father and my uncle fight for orthodoxy within their group (and lose)

The FBFI "Who Are Still Here" articles, to me, express something like Elijah's complaint "“I alone am left a prophet of the Lord" 1 Kings 18:22 and "I alone am left" 1 Kings 19:14,. The Lord's response is the well known: "Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." (1 Kings 19:18)

My son (US Army) participated in a joint exercise with NATO sources from the Netherlands. He wasn't shocked but found their different standard on hair length interesting. (I can't find an article about that but here is one about the Danish NATO forces (w pics))

My critique (criticism) is that you guys think you are the only ones fighting for orthodoxy and you fail to realize that there are allies who are a bit different than you but on the same side)

Back to the Great Escape analogy: Others (eg John MacArthur) have fought just as hard for orthodoxy as the FBFI. My sense is, that like error of the US filmmakers, you have appropriated their efforts and ignored their contributions.

About orthopraxy: I too have a zeal for right living. You need to recognize that others have outworked their Christian faith - Loving the Lord as much! Seeking to honor Him as much! - but having arrived at some differences of opinion.

My 2 cents. Hope it helps!

 

 

Ron Bean's picture

 I was in a situation from 1994 to 2004 where I was isolated from news regarding evangelicalism/fundamentalism. (Long story - think "The Village) I was stunned and thrilled when I emerged and learned what had happened in the Southern Baptist Convention and Seminaries having been taught that "we" would always lose those kinds of battles. "Our" reluctance to recognize this victory by our brethren was interesting. Even now they seem to be looked at with suspicion because, in spite fo winning the battle with apostasy, some of thm still haven't come around to adopt our cultural stand.

 

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

Jay's picture

First, a much repeated theme was an over-all good experience with fundamentalism, often the fruit of the ministry of godly parents. Don’t dismiss the importance of this. The very first place for Christian discipleship is the home. Christian parents who faithfully follow the Lord are most likely to reproduce Christian faith in their children. No worldly success will compensate for the disappointments that will come if your children fail to follow the faith. The Christians we highlight in our recent issue demonstrate that loving, faithful, fundamentalist Baptist parents will create the kind of positive home and church environment that motivates their children to continue in the faith of their parents.

I kept noticing the references to parenting and the history of fundamentalism as well in the articles I read, and honestly, I wonder if this is the biggest determining factor for those who 'remained in' versus those of us who 'aren't' (whatever that means).   

It seems like a lot of the 'young fundamentalists' (like myself) who have left the BJU-Wilds-etc orbit are people who did not grow up in Fundamentalism and who were not surrounded by that support system for whatever reasons.  So while many of us do remain committed to the 'big idea' of Fundamentalism, we were also more able to step back and see the 'warts' much differently from someone who grew up in the BJU atmosphere of BJU daycare, BJU academy, BJU, BJU for post-grad work, then FBFI membership for five/ten years (as an example, and I'm not saying that to pick at anyone in particular).

It also makes us look at things a little differently when we didn't grow up surrounded by and in constant contact people like Chief Jordan or David Doran or Ken Collier or Bob III or whomever.  So we potentially see 'mistakes' as 'major' when someone who grew up with that constant exposure would be more inclined to let it slide as a simple mistake or something that should be easily overlooked.  I think we saw some of that with the threads on Chuck Phelps way back when.

I (eventually) came to Fundamentalism from Roman Catholicism, so I have a very deep seated skepticism towards the 'traditions handed down by our fathers' and place a very high premium on first sources - seeing what the person actually said/wrote as opposed to receiving it second or third hand via coffee stories at the table. Stories like Don's are great, and I'm glad for people that have those kinds of experiences, but it might be worth noting that there are a slew of first generation fundamentalists out there that don't have that background, so we approach Fundamentalism and the FBFI differently than they would.

"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

Mike Harding's picture

Jim,

You are absolutely correct.  There are many individuals and groups fighting for the Cause.  I know it and thank God for them.

 

Pastor Mike Harding

TOvermiller's picture

Jim wrote:

My critique (criticism) is that you guys think you are the only ones fighting for orthodoxy and you fail to realize that there are allies who are a bit different than you but on the same side)

Jim, thank you for sharing your heartfelt thoughts here. I can't speak for all, but I will share that it is not my perception that FBFI guys think they are the only ones fighting for orthodoxy. Perhaps some do, but such does not make it the case. Instead, the FBFI believes that it lends an important (albeit imperfect) voice to the broader spectrum of "those who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 

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

TylerR's picture

You wrote:

I kept noticing the references to parenting and the history of fundamentalism as well in the articles I read, and honestly, I wonder if this is the biggest determining factor for those who 'remained in' versus those of us who 'aren't' (whatever that means). It seems like a lot of the 'young fundamentalists' (like myself) who have left the BJU-Wilds-etc orbit are people who did not grow up in Fundamentalism and who were not surrounded by that support system for whatever reasons.

I think this is a real factor. I have no fundamentalist heritage in my family. I don't even have any Christian heritage. This may be why I am very baffled by some issues and personalities within fundamentalism.

This also impacts the so-called "generational gap" which Bro. Vaughn referenced. It would be easy for some people (e.g. the author of one of the convergent Frontline articles) to believe I'm wicked and deceitful, and assume I'm showing disrespect and disdain for the "old guard" of the movement. From their perspective, this seems like exactly what I'm doing. However, I didn't grow up in fundamentalism, I have no ingrained deference and loyalty to "grand old guard." It's not a loyalty issue for me. I'm an outsider; I'm not homegrown.

  • Fundamentalist institutions and organizations cannot assume they deserve "brand loyalty" from members who came to the movement as "strangers," then become indignant when these fundamentalist proselytes begin asking pointed and direct questions - without the normal tip-toeing deference homegrown fundamentalists often employ.

The articles in this Frontline edition were good. I liked them. However, some (not all) of them were written by people who grew up in fundamentalism and they are very careful, very nuanced and very apologetic with their criticisms. Some of them read as if they're written by insiders who are trying to be critical, but in as diplomatic and nice a way as possible. I understand how that is.

But, I think some of this so-called "generational gap" is due to the old guard not understanding that some of us aren't homegrown fundamentalists, and we don't ask questions with the same kind of ingratiating deference the "old guard" has, perhaps, become used to.

Maybe I'm wrong. I was encouraged by this article. It made me glad I subscribed to Frontline.

I plan to write something soon about why I'm grateful the Lord led me to Baptist fundamentalism. People rarely write anything positive about the movement; it's often all negative. There are a lot of good things to say.  

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Steve Davis's picture

I appreciate Don's article. I think we crossed paths back in our past lives at BJ long ago. I'm glad to see him faithfully serving the Lord after all these years.

I do take exception to this:

"Third, an often repeated refrain was the concern for practical holiness, suspicion of worldliness, and the desire to please the Master. While we have intramural debates on what this looks like when it comes to specific applications, the fact that we have these struggles demonstrates this as a fundamentalist distinctive. While the “worship wars” have been a subject of debate (to some degree) in evangelicalism, on average they don’t appear as concerned about this area of spiritual discernment as we do."

I'm not sure how much wiggle room "on average" provides. I spent years in fundamentalism. I've seen a lot. When it comes to practical holiness, worldliness and pleasing the Master, I think it's ludicrous to blanket suggest this as a "fundamentalist distintive." Maybe a mark of fundamentalism would be a better choice of words (which Don later uses). Claiming "practical holiness et al" as a "fundamentalist distinctive" is an insult to those outside that camp who are every bit as concerned for holiness and every bit aware of the struggles. It sounds like, well, "holier than thou." Rather than claiming holiness and preeminence in pleasing the Master, the gospel call us to an awareness of our need of continual repentance and humility.

 

Jim's picture

http://www.fbfi.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Complete-Resolutions-2010...

You've had 2 resolutions directed at him:

1985:

REGARDING NEW EVANGELICALISM The Fundamental Baptist Fellowship emphasizes its opposition to New Evangelicalism and its effort to brand as legalist those who hold scriptural standards of separation. We are opposed to the recent New Evangelical emphasis away from confronting people with the gospel to a life-style or bridge type of evangelism. We do not believe any person who rejects the Biblical doctrine of separation is a true Biblicist; therefore, we reject John MacArthur, Jr., Charles Swindoll, and others of their like who are opposed to the fundamentalist position. 

1995:

The FBF appreciates John MacArthur's expositional ministry of the Bible, but believes that his trumpet would give a more certain sound if he separated himself from speaking in places such as Moody Bible Institute, which has given support to past Billy Graham crusades and puts its stamp of approval on an upcoming Luis Palau crusade, and at Southern Baptist meetings in which he is on the same platform as Charles Colson, whose leadership in the movement known as Evangelicals and Catholics Together represents a betrayal of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone. We differ with the evaluation made by James Stitzinger, faculty member at Master's Seminary, in a recent book Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, in which he portrays MacArthur as being in the tradition of a Charles Spurgeon in the Downgrade Controversy since in all article written in 1888 as to why he separated from the compromising London Baptist Association the "prince of preachers" contended that the only complete protest was separation. While contending for the truth MacArthur continues to associate with those who by their actions and associations aid those who dilute and destroy the truth. We believe that those who follow the MacArthur line of reasoning and practice will produce a second generation of New Evangelicals.

In your 85 resolution he is called a "New Evangelical"

In your '95 resolution the same

Frankly these are both absolutely laughable! They show no nuance of thought

 

 

Greg Linscott's picture

If our institutions fail, we need to be loyal to God, first of all, and seek to build the work of God through institutions that are faithful to Him, even if it means stepping out and building new ones yet again.

I think Don's statement here reveals one of the difficult things about this conversation. The previous generations have honed instincts to "separate first." Perhaps I'm exaggerating slightly, but I think many of you will understand what I am talking about. These instincts were needed in many contexts, but have also led to some degrees of inter-mural factionalism that perhaps could have been avoided over the years.

For better or for worse, if what we know as "Fundamentalism" is to survive and perhaps one day thrive again (and I firmly believe it can), we have to start not with just learning how to get along with Conservative Evangelicals (though that may be part of it), but how better to get along with one another. The previous generations are conditioned to separate, and I believe bristle and react almost instinctively against anything that looks like a "reform and revitalize" kind of approach... or as my friend MWJr has cited and applied, "strengthening the things that remain."

I don't know how to reduce those kinds of conflicts. I do believe in allowing time for change... but make no mistake. Change is necessary. I'm committed to it in the contexts I'm now invested in. I've encountered resistance, and am willing to withstand it. I'm willing to do so because I still believe in our key principles and beliefs, our Biblical distinctives. Those things are nothing, however, without adherents who are taught to believe and live them. We are to invest ourselves in building Christ's church. That is principles, but it is also people. 

People need time to grow, time to change. People also need to be "recruited," if you will. There is sometimes such a conditioning to be so suspicious of anything new, anything that might seem "trendy," that I believe we miss so many real opportunities because we spent so much time worrying about being tainted and bucking against our sensibilities that we missed the people who needed Jesus.

If we look to the far past, some of our most prominent leaders--and I say this as a Calvinist--identified as Evangelists. They were serious about "recruiting." Looking back even further in our history, my Baptist (even Calvinist) ancestors were, too (Spurgeon, Judson...). They were also to some degree innovators. Judson took many risks as the first Baptist missionary from the US. Spurgeon developed many tools that if he were to be doing today might be seen as "gimmicky" (did you know he is credited with developing the "Wordless Book"?).

Separation is still necessary... but it isn't all that's needed, either. A Holy God became man to redeem humanity from the curse of sin. Love provided life, and a means by which sinful people can embark on a process of transformation. It's not all immediate.

I'm not arguing we never critique one another. But we need to extend a little more grace and remained committed to partnering and collaboration, even when people take risks and use approaches that raise some questions. We need to allow differences in administration and not be quick to leave and start our own new institutions. We might even need to look and consolidating some of the old ones in order to enhance effectiveness.

Who's in? Smile

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Ron Bean's picture

Greg Linscott brings up a good point. In church history it seems that separation was a last resort when we consider the Reformation, the Downgrade Controversy, and the emergence of Baptist Fundamentalism.

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

Jim's picture

I'm a separatist (probably more than many) but ...

For some (including the FBFI) there has been such inconsistency : Back to the PDF above

http://www.fbfi.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Complete-Resolutions-2010...

  • A lot of lauding Bob Jones (which is nice): (1998)

Whereas Dr. Bob Jones championed the cause of Christ-honoring Fundamentalism in over 70 years of fruitful ministry, the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship resolves to praise the Lord for our friend, mentor, and fellow in arms and to honor his memory and legacy by our continued stand for the "faith once delivered" that "Dr. Bob" counted so dear. As preacher, evangelist, poet, author, educator, administrator, spokesman, actor, connoisseur of the arts, teacher and friend, Dr. Bob stood apart from the multitudes as a man without equal. Yet, in true humility of service, Dr. Bob ministered to ministers and shared the gospel whether the place was large or small, opulent or obscure. We resolve to honor and uphold the memory of Dr. Bob Jones as the friend of this organization and the cause of Christ and Fundamentalism throughout the world.

Where was the FBFI on race relations & racism?  ... crickets

Where was the FBFI when BJIII lied and slandered John Mac? "MacArthur's position is heresy." 

The above linked article suggests (rightly in my mind) "clearly fueled by a deceitful malevolence"

From the perspectives of some - YOU COMPROMISED. 

 

 

Bert Perry's picture

I'm no expert on FBFI resolutions,but it strikes me that a lot of the dispute about separation lies in the question of whether we ought to separate based on "doubtful" things, or whether we simply choose not to partake.  It strikes me that in some things which are doubtful--no clear testimony from Scripture--the FBFI takes the tack of "separate" a bit hastily. 

I'm not opposed to separation when it needs to be done--I've personally separated from churches due to seeker sensitive theology (and lack of preaching) and KJVO/Trail of blood theology.   The former contradicts Christ's call to make disciples, the latter attacks the authority of Scripture itself.  Big Deals.  But there are a lot of other things where I simply choose not to partake.

Greg Linscott's picture

Jim,

Hasn't MWJr been saying that he can't and won't defend every FBFI resolution of the past? As I've been interacting with him, it seems that he is willing to acknowledge warts and not affirm everything, even as he is committed to strengthening what's still here now.

If that's the case, perhaps we can reduce the criticism of the past and talk about what is needed moving forward?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Jim's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:

Jim,

Hasn't MWJr been saying that he can't and won't defend every FBFI resolution of the past? As I've been interacting with him, it seems that he is willing to acknowledge warts and not affirm everything, even as he is committed to strengthening what's still here now.

If that's the case, perhaps we can reduce the criticism of the past and talk about what is needed moving forward?

Now's the time for a FBFI resolution that really recognizes the contributions of John MacArthur

 

Greg Linscott's picture

Jim wrote:

Now's the time for a FBFI resolution that really recognizes the contributions of John MacArthur

...or maybe it's time for the Fellowship to consider a better process and structure, so resolutions (should they continue) better reflect the membership's positions than those of select board members?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Jim's picture

TOvermiller wrote:

 

Greg Linscott wrote:

 

If that's the case, perhaps we can reduce the criticism of the past and talk about what is needed moving forward?

 

 

Yes. I concur. And I think the FBFI leadership agrees as well.

Apologies go a long way to righting past wrongs

TylerR's picture

You're right, change can happen. In BJU's case, it happened because BJU has new and fresh leadership . . . Smile

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Greg Linscott's picture

...though to be fair, the resolutions being cited didn't occur on John Vaughn's watch. They are also looking at a new president soon.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Jay's picture

It has been my opinion that the issues between BJU and MacArthur have been long past overdue for some kind of reconciliation and may be one of the dumbest and most pointless fights in Christendom that was waged in the last century.  Isn't 50 years (give or take) enough?  Do we really have to start burying people before we can admit we screwed up and that they weren't so bad after all?

I understand that that FBFI wants to work for the future, but they have to address some of the issues from the past if they are ever going to move forward, otherwise that gigantic cowbell around their neck will never be cut off.

"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

Taken from the Desiring God website:

While recognizing much that is commendable in the ministry of John Piper, including his emphasis on a passionately God-centered life and his identity as a theological conservative, the FBFI has some genuine concerns about his doctrine and practice. John Piper teaches in his local ministry that miraculous sign gifts are continuing. Piper has also failed to separate from the Baptist General Conference which has deliberately chosen to tolerate the heresy known as open theism in its membership. He also enthusiastically endorses Daniel Fuller, who has championed the attack on the inerrancy of scripture in our generation. The great popularity of Piper’s writings, especially among younger fundamentalists requires that FBFI warn its members concerning Piper’s non-separatist position and, for those who read his works, to do so with careful discernment.

-FBFI Resolution 

To which Piper replied:

What I want to say about Fundamentalism is that its great gift to the church is precisely the backbone to resist compromise and to make standing for truth and principle a means of love rather than an alternative to it. I am helped by the call for biblical separation, because almost no evangelicals even think about the doctrine.

So I thank God for fundamentalism, and I think that some of the whining about its ill effects would have to also be directed against the black-and-white bluntness of Jesus.

And the FBFI, as far as I know, never dealt with that issue either.  The FBFI went after a premiere Bible teacher, and Piper responded by thanking God for their criticism, in line with Romans 12:20-21.

And who, really, looked worse for it?  

"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

Greg Linscott's picture

...are not unique to the FBFI. I had a conversation once about why he is no longer invited to speak in a certain prominent Conservative Evangelical setting. Now it was a far less public thing than the FBFI, but make no mistake, such things exist outside our circles, too.

One of the reasons MacArthur gets labeled as a "fundamentalist" by some is the perception of "naming names" like with Strange Fire (something that the FBFI was at least somewhat complimentary on, again to be fair), or with Mark Driscoll.

I am not saying there isn't reason for criticism. I am saying that in spite of my own criticisms, this issue of Frontline is a healthy move in the right direction, and that more might be looming. The apologies at BJU weren't delivered as part of his appointment in 2005. They weren't issued until 2008. Let's see how the process continues to play out.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Bert Perry's picture

Now for the sake of argument, let me assume that the comments on MacArthur and others are as represented and are indeed slanderous.  Now I appreciate the comment that current FBFI leadership cannot and will not defend every resolution, but if we are indeed to confess our sins appropriately, what about walking some of these back?  

Now there's a Gospel issue in my mind.  When Peter chose to sin by refusing to eat with Gentiles, God chose to remember his confrontation and repentance forever.  Same thing with David and a bunch of others.

Looking at the actual text, there are a few things that strike me.  First is an overall negative tone--"we're agin' it" and all that.  Also, the doctrine of secondary separation seems to overflow at times into "guilt by association" arguments used in the statements against modern music, among others.

If I were involved with the FBFI, I'd be looking to walk a certain amount of these things back in the same way that a lot of southern churches have had to walk their prior behavior back.  

Greg Linscott's picture

The people who wrote the articles in the current issue of Frontline are not the same as "current leadership." As far as I know, none of them are on the board. MWJr. writes a column. That's about it.

So again, it's going to take time. Some of these people may gain more influence. But that hasn't happened yet. 

Time. More time is needed. 

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

TylerR's picture

I'm not sure the FBFI has much time. I'm reminded of a guy I met once who'd been the Youth Pastor at his church for 25 years. I asked if he was interested in being a Senior Pastor.

"Oh, yes," he replied. "My Senior Pastor says I'm almost ready!"

This senior Pastor was 82. The Youth Pastor was 50. Make the connection.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Greg Linscott's picture

...but if people like those featured in this issue have anything to say about it, they might. And if they don't, and the FBFI does go out with a whimper, something will arise out of the ashes should the Lord tarry His coming. The bottom line is there is a future... what it will look like has yet to be determined.

There's more than one possible outcome, by the way.

http://religiousaffections.org/articles/articles-on-church/im-still-here...

 

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

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