Why I’m Still Here

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Jim's picture

Few people willingly call themselves “fundamentalists” today. I try to do so only when I get to explain what I mean.

So let me explain: I’m a (Christian, Protestant, Baptist) “fundamentalist” because I value four things—four things which make me believe, in turn, that the particular brand of fundamentalism I inherited is worth saving. In no particular order, I value …

  1. honoring my father(s) and mother(s).
  2. biblicism.
  3. personal holiness.
  4. traditional worship.

There are many more things I value as a biblical Christian, but these four have kept me aligned with the churches and institutions that make up (my sliver of) American fundamentalism.

Larry Nelson's picture

Excerpt:

"I’m not a fundamentalist because I think we’re the only ones who really believe the fundamentals. As for defending and promoting those fundamentals, I’d say we’re actually quite far behind some other Christian groups—the groups whose books and articles I read every day in the absence of much serious written output from my own tribe. This absence is one of the negatives I’ve experienced in fundamentalism. Empirically speaking, we are not the dynamic source of Christian books, articles, podcasts, magazines, journals, and websites that our brothers and sisters in Christ at, say, Crossway Books are. I’m sorry, but FrontLine  is a misnomer for us right now: we’re not fighting any wars except the civil kind. We have a weak Internet voice that almost never reaches escape velocity from our own echo chamber."

 

Kudos though to Frontline  for publishing something unflattering like this.

AndyE's picture

Thanks, Mark, for that article.  I feel like I'm basically where you are and why, although I'd probably add guarding the gospel or separation as a fifth value.  I guess I'm not all that young anymore and outside the demographic of concern but I am certainly thankful for the sliver of fundamentalism that I view as my heritage.

TylerR's picture

This is a good article. Many thanks!
 

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

Bert Perry's picture

....for the same reason, really.  That is, there are times where I cannot honor "fathers and mothers" in the church--forefathers in the fundamental movement--simultaneously while honoring Scripture.  To use a picture the author used, I cannot exclude modern music forms from church services to "honor fathers and mothers" without simultaneously ignoring the clear implications of Psalms 149 and 150.  I'm no CCM fan, but if there were percussive instruments and dancing in Temple festivities, maybe that's God's hint that we need to loosen up a bit, get a crowbar, and pull the nails that are holding our feet to the floor.

And in another way, he stumbles around a huge issue in our circles, and to another way in broader evangelicalism; when we talk of "standards" without clearly invoking Scripture, noting the "consequences" of not doing so, we really fall into the same errors as the church based on the Tiber.  For my part, I am glad that the principles of Sola Scriptura (the real first fundamental in my book, it's the same as inerrancy of Scripture) give us the tools to honor our forefathers in the faith by refusing to repeat their mistakes. 

Ron Bean's picture

I've read this repeatedly and it makes me hopeful. The section cited by Larry Nelson above made me spit my coffee.

Excerpt:

"I’m not a fundamentalist because I think we’re the only ones who really believe the fundamentals. As for defending and promoting those fundamentals, I’d say we’re actually quite far behind some other Christian groups—the groups whose books and articles I read every day in the absence of much serious written output from my own tribe. This absence is one of the negatives I’ve experienced in fundamentalism. Empirically speaking, we are not the dynamic source of Christian books, articles, podcasts, magazines, journals, and websites that our brothers and sisters in Christ at, say, Crossway Books are. I’m sorry, but FrontLine  is a misnomer for us right now: we’re not fighting any wars except the civil kind. We have a weak Internet voice that almost never reaches escape velocity from our own echo chamber."

It was truthful and bold. I really pray that it won't be ignored. (BTW, if Mark disappears in the near future we need to start an investigation. : )

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

T Howard's picture

Ron, I agree with your assessment. There are several reasons that, "Empirically speaking, [fundamentalists] are not the dynamic source of Christian books, articles, podcasts, magazines, journals, and websites that our brothers and sisters in Christ at, say, Crossway Books are."

  1. (Most?) fundamentalists are dispensationalists. Dispensationalists don't get air time.
  2. (Most?) fundamentalists don't attend evangelical seminaries and pursue advanced theological degrees from non-fundamentalist seminaries (we'll leave the reason this occurs alone for now). Even Naselli had to get another Ph.D. from TEDS to get any respect from evangelicals.
  3. (Many?) fundamentalists are still fighting about Steve Green, beverage alcohol, and the KJV. The broader conservative evangelical community doesn't want to touch these people with a 10-foot pole let alone publish their books.
  4. When fundamentalists are published in conservative evangelical sources, they are often accused of compromise or violating various levels of separation.
Ron Bean's picture

I graduated from the seminary at BJU. I was blessed to have sat under men who had advanced degrees from places like Union Theological Seminary and other non-fundamental but academically rigorous institutions. Many of them shared the challenges they faced in such atmospheres as they emerged equipped and unscathed. I know there are people  who attended liberal schools and walked away from their professions but my theology inclines me to think that their faith was not genuine to begin with.

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

TylerR's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

It was truthful and bold. I really pray that it won't be ignored. (BTW, if Mark disappears in the near future we need to start an investigation. : )

If Mark Ward disappears under mysterious circumstances, I volunteer to investigate his disappearance. I'm just down the road, in Olympia.

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

Mark_Smith's picture

Publishing is probably not a possibility. Getting a book really published, especially in the major publishing houses, is a practical impossibility for a fundamentalist. We all know that. At least I hope we do.

As for blogs, that is a good question. Where are the 30-40 year old BJU/Central/Etc PhD grads? What are they writing? The thing is, the evangelicals, backed by a decent amount of money from MacArthur, Piper, Dever, etc. have academically trained theologians who only write. They don't pastor. So, my question is, where are the BJU trained scholars?

TylerR's picture

Mard Ward is has a PhD from BJU, and works at Logos. Andy Naselli has a PhD from BJU (and TEDS) and works at Bethlehem Seminary in Minneapolis. Kevin Bauder has a DMin and PhD and he writes, and is at Central. By and large:

  1. I don't think fundamentalists write as much, and
  2. What they do write often flies under the radar because Baptist fundamentalism is basically a non-entity in the broader conservative Christian world.

I think more fundamentalists need to write, but I'm not sure what publishing opportunities are available. Fundamentalists are usually restricted to blogs. The books some do publish are usually dealing with issues central to Baptist fundamentalism (e.g. One Bible Only), but irrelevant to the larger conservative Christian conversation. I've seen:

  • No attempt to engage the current culture wars (e.g. transgenderism, homosexuality) on a Biblical basis (beyond blogs)
  • Few attempts to write biblical commentaries, beyond the prophetic books
  • Few attempts to engage current theological issues (e.g. NPP). Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary does have an active theological journal, but they are an exception. I don't believe Central has one. Maranatha has one, but they're very busy right now.

I don't believe there are enough trained Baptist fundamentalists to do this work, and those who are trained are already very, very, very, very, very busy.  

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

Mark_Smith's picture

has tied himself to D. A. Carson, and now Piper. To me, his experience at BJU is now irrelevant to him. I could be wrong. That is my impression.

Jim's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

has tied himself to D. A. Carson, and now Piper. To me, his experience at BJU is now irrelevant to him. I could be wrong. That is my impression.

You need to see things in "shades of gray". Fundamentalists are a very small subset of Evangelicals. 

JBL's picture

The current American fundamentalist movement was born out of the modernism and post modernism of the first half of the 20th century.  As society rejected absolute truth in favor of relative, or no truth at all, American Christians responded by affirming the principal and essentiality of the former.  I believe that this movement is the reason why Evangelical Christianity is currently so much stronger in the United States than in Europe.  

However, my impression is that during the last half of the 20th century, many in fundamentalism confused the idea of absolute truth with the idea of absolute human certainty.  This ideal has led to very rigid constructs of biblical interpretation and application.  Much of the fervor within fundamentalism over microanalyzing world events in a prophetic context, the emphasis of biblical cultural norms, and the bible version/translation debates emanates from this idea.

As regards to publication, my belief is that this viewpoint of absolute human certainty is the primary reason why scholastic and theological inquiry within the movement has been stunted.  The politics of publishing houses or time constraints are secondary in impact.

John B. Lee

T Howard's picture

Jim wrote:

Bauder and Straub from Central: both write

Jeff Straub uploads quite a bit to https://www.academia.edu/ (Baptist history)  http://centralseminary.academia.edu/JeffStraub 

Kevin Bauder here: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-k...

Both often write for the GARBC Baptist Bulletin

They write, but not for conservative evangelical publishing houses. Bauder did contribute to a book published by Zondervan, but that's about it. Straub wrote an article for SBJT, but that's about it for him.

When they do write for these sources, it's usually about fundamentalism or the bible version debate. Apparently, that's the only thing fundamentalists can contribute to the overall conversation.  I will say, my former seminary prof, Rodney Decker, did write and contribute to broader evangelical scholarship. So, there's that.

 

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding publishing, it's worth noting that Beacham & Bauder's "One Bible Only", as well as MacLachlan's "Recovering Authentic Fundamentalism", are published by evangelical publishing houses.  I believe Kevin's got a few other writing credits in evangelical-land as well.  

I also don't believe it's predominantly due to what fundamentalists are writing about; you will find many books about wine, Bible translation, and music coming out of evangelical publishing houses.   Not that I deny that there is some viewpoint discrimination out there, but I think that if fundamentalists had well-thought-out books about these subjects, they could get published by evangelical publishing houses.  

Rather, I think one of the major problems is how the points are too often argued.  If we lead with guilt by association and personal attacks, fail to define our terms, ignore obvious facts, and the like, we're not going to get published by reputable publishers; they have a reputation to protect.   

T Howard's picture

TylerR wrote:
I think more fundamentalists need to write, but I'm not sure what publishing opportunities are available. Fundamentalists are usually restricted to blogs. The books some do publish are usually dealing with issues central to Baptist fundamentalism (e.g. One Bible Only), but irrelevant to the larger conservative Christian conversation. I've seen:

  • No attempt to engage the current culture wars (e.g. transgenderism, homosexuality) on a Biblical basis (beyond blogs)
  • Few attempts to write biblical commentaries, beyond the prophetic books
  • Few attempts to engage current theological issues (e.g. NPP). Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary does have an active theological journal, but they are an exception. I don't believe Central has one. Maranatha has one, but they're very busy right now.

I don't believe there are enough trained Baptist fundamentalists to do this work, and those who are trained are already very, very, very, very, very busy.  

From what I've observed...

  1. (many?) Fundamentalist seminaries are more focused on teaching than they are on academic research and writing. (One seminary I know of actually discourages its profs from writing because it takes away from their in-class teaching/instruction time.)
  2. Fundamentalist professors who do write are primarily writing book reviews.
  3. Publishing houses primarily publish what they believe will sell. Publishing a no-name, fundamentalist author will not generate an ROI. (Even Johnny Mac gets pushback from publishers if they believe his books won't sell.) Further, publishing such an author will degrade the publishing house's reputation in the broader evangelical academic community. 
  4. Because (most?) fundamentalists primarily attend fundamentalist seminaries and don't participate in broader evangelical communities (e.g. ETS), they really don't have the connections and networking needed to land a book deal other than with other fundamentalist publishers.
Jim's picture

Fundamentalists waste energy on a narrow band of topics (I know a gross generalization).

But see it in the blog posts ... anti-CCM, versions, hyper-degrees of separation, drinking, why go to a Christian school, CDS, et cetera

Wears one out

---- 

Example: Want a good commentary on the Psalms? No fundamentalist author!

 

Mark_Smith's picture

Remember, I work at a state university and I attend Liberty University seminary. I am surrounded by gray!

dgszweda's picture

Jim wrote:

Few people willingly call themselves “fundamentalists” today. I try to do so only when I get to explain what I mean.

So let me explain: I’m a (Christian, Protestant, Baptist) “fundamentalist” because I value four things—four things which make me believe, in turn, that the particular brand of fundamentalism I inherited is worth saving. In no particular order, I value …

  1. honoring my father(s) and mother(s).
  2. biblicism.
  3. personal holiness.
  4. traditional worship.

There are many more things I value as a biblical Christian, but these four have kept me aligned with the churches and institutions that make up (my sliver of) American fundamentalism.

The problem that I have with this, is that 1) I am not sure is a very tenable argument.  I fully understand where he is coming from, but to hold to this dogmatically means that if the movement does die out, you become the very last person in the movement.  I think it is important to honor your father and mother in the things you were taught.  I am less concerned with aligning those to a man made denominational construct.  The other challenge that I have is that for points 2,3,4, I would argue that many conservative evangelical churches hold to those as well in fundamentalism, if not better.  I would argue that there are many elements in a typical fundamentalist worship practice that is not nearly as traditional as some practices in some conservative evangelical services.  I feel that many in fundamentalism (as I once did), are not entirely clear as to what is out there outside of their circle.  Are there "convergent churches" that have rock bands, smoke and lights in their worship service?  Sure.  But there are also many who do not.  Just as there are fundamentalist churches teaching their kids Father Abraham and singing theologically false songs out of their "traditional hymnal".

I am part of a pastors forum in the Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia area that is filled with pastors that are not fundamentalist and that meet once a month.  I have personally never met people so engaged with their congregates, so driven to live a holy life in all manner of their lives, focused on teaching their congregation on what the Bible teaches and so purposeful in their worship.  They are not focused on engaging the culture, but focused on engaging the people in the culture with the only technique that matters.  Preaching the Gospel.  They struggle just like we all do, but there churches are filled with young families, are healthy, attracting large numbers of college students going to secular colleges, despite having no "programs".

It is easy to grow up in the fundamentalism movement and really look outside of their circle and put people into categories and preach against those categories.  But as someone who has stepped outside of this circle, I can tell you that this is not always the case.  I visited a few fundamentalist churches up here in the Northeast, recently and it was quite discouraging.  They were filled with man-made constructs, and the churches were filled with 75% over the age of 50 and a lot that were very old.  It felt like "death" walking into them.  I know this isn't true of all fundamentalist churches, because I know of many that are vibrant working to live out the Gospel.

I am just happy to be part of a church that is not part of a denomination, a fellowship or any other category, and that is vibrantly seeking to live out the Gospel.

TOvermiller's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

if fundamentalists had well-thought-out books about these subjects, they could get published by evangelical publishing houses.  

Perhaps I'm wrong, but there's no one standout reason why fundamentalists don't get published. However, I strongly (did I say strongly) agree with you Bert that we need to work hard at more than writing more. We need to work hard at writing well. Good and important thoughts deserve good and articulate expression. Perhaps that requires more work (and humility) than we've been willing to invest.

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

Bert Perry's picture

TOvermiller wrote:

 

Bert Perry wrote:

 

if fundamentalists had well-thought-out books about these subjects, they could get published by evangelical publishing houses.  

 

 

Perhaps I'm wrong, but there's no one standout reason why fundamentalists don't get published. However, I strongly (did I say strongly) agree with you Bert that we need to work hard at more than writing more. We need to work hard at writing well. Good and important thoughts deserve good and articulate expression. Perhaps that requires more work (and humility) than we've been willing to invest.

in some cases, definitely harder work--more into original languages, etc..--and in some cases, just smarter.  

To the second point, many simply need a good, vicious editor who will not hesitate to say "you did not define your terms", "you're using personal attacks and inflammatory language", "this is a guilt by association argument", and the like.  (not attacking your work personally, by the way--I of course don't know it well).  Clear out the flotsam and jetsam of logical fallacies, get a quorum of people involved who recognize them and will throw the flag instantly ("ad hominem, 15 yards and loss of down", that kind of thing), and the world is going to take notice.  

I believe that, regarding the kerfuffle involving FBFI and "convergentism", one of FBFI's best friends is Dr. Bauder--he was one who threw the flag on "you're not defining your terms" by asking what was meant by the term--and I'd also suggest a wonderful partner might be found in the many in the "conservative evangelical" wing of Christianity, many of whom dearly love their fundamental friends, and dearly wish that (per Mark Ward's comments) that fundamentalists would be able to find their way out of the "fundamental ghetto" and onto the front lines. 

TOvermiller's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

many simply need a good, vicious editor who will not hesitate to say "you did not define your terms", "you're using personal attacks and inflammatory language", "this is a guilt by association argument", and the like. Clear out the flotsam and jetsam of logical fallacies, get a quorum of people involved who recognize them and will throw the flag instantly ("ad hominem, 15 yards and loss of down", that kind of thing), and the world is going to take notice.  

Yes! I wholeheartedly agree!

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

WallyMorris's picture

I wrote my D.Min. dissertation at BJU on a bioethical issue (end of life decisions), published and promoted by Ambassador, review copies sent out, and completely ignored by the theological journals.

Here's a link: A Time To Die.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

TylerR's picture

Here is some good stuff I'm thankful for (this is a small list - there's more out there):

  • Kent Brandenburg (ed): Thou Shalt Keep Them. Probably the best a TR position has to offer. A very good book.
  • MacLachlan: Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism
  • McCune: Systematic; Promise Unfulfilled
  • Bauder: Four Views; One in Hope and Doctrine; Baptist Distinctives
  • Pickering: Biblical Separation
  • Moritz: Be Ye Holy
  • Oats: Church of the Fundamentalists
  • Various: Dispensational Views on New Covenant
  • James Williams (ed): The Bible in Our Hands
  • Peter Steveson: Daniel
  • John Greening: Strong Church
  • David Beale: Historical Theology in-Depth; In Pursuit of Purity
  • Regular Baptist Press: The entire "BuildUp" series

Also, in light of the recent "Bible Answer Man/Orthodox Answer Man" kerfluffle recently, behold this title from Regular Baptist Press - High Church Heresy: Exposing Resurgent Catholicism and Orthodoxy. A sample is here.

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

WallyMorris's picture

Material produced by BJU faculty over the last 10 years or so: Commentaries by Steveson on Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, etc., Bell's book Theological Messages, Talbert's Not By Chance and Beyond Suffering, and much more. I suspect that, overall, the BJU faculty have produced a lot of quality books compared to other schools.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

TylerR's picture

You're right about BJU. I was actually planning to buy Steveson's book on personal evangelism this evening!

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

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