The Roots of Postfundamentalist Evangelicalism (and Fundamentalism)

"One thing that I perhaps should mention is that evangelicalism (and fundamentalism) is the sum of reactions to the Enlightenment. In this sense, both movements are reactionary, but with turtle-like reactions of decades to a problem now centuries old." - Don Johnson

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Don Johnson's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

 

TylerR wrote:

 

Don wrote:

The fact of a conservative theologian who doesn't want to be identified as a fundamentalist is pretty well the textbook definition of a post-conservative evangelical. That's Olson's point, which will be the subject of an upcoming post at Oxgoad.

I am genuinely confused about your point (and Olson's). Are you saying that, for example, Al Mohler and D.A. Carson are post-conservative evangelicals if they don't self-identify as fundamentalists (according to how you and Olson define the term)? Is Olson writing from the perspective that Mohler (et al) are fundamentalists? If so, I would agree! So did Frances Fitzgerald.

To clarify, I meant I don't self-identify as a "fundamentalist" as Baptist fundamentalists like the FBFI define the term.

 

 

 

Oops! I mistyped. Sorry for the confusion. I should have left "post-" off that sentence.

Fixed: The fact of a conservative theologian who doesn't want to be identified as a fundamentalist is pretty well the textbook definition of a conservative evangelical. That's Olson's point, which will be the subject of an upcoming post at Oxgoad.

My bad. Thanks for the correction.

Sorry about the confusion, but I think I didn't say it right in my correction. Here is, I hope the final version of my comment:

The fact of a conservative theologian who doesn't want to be identified as a fundamentalist is pretty well the textbook definition of a postfundamentalist evangelical. That's Olson's point, which will be the subject of an upcoming post at Oxgoad.

By postfundamentalist, I have to add, Olson means what we used to call "new evangelical." He mentions the term, but claims it is a slur from the fundametalists (I think I mentioned this earlier). He forgets that new evangelical is their own term. Nevertheless, he means the same thing by both terms.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

mmarprelate's picture

Part of the problem, which several have alluded to, is that our modern culture is sloppy about word definitions. For example, try to define the term "racist." Roger Olsen is often characterized by the term "post-modern evangelical," and I really have never seen a good definition of that term either.

We are arguing about who is a fundamentalist. Olsen himself has argued that the Conservative Evangelicals are really fundamentalists, but they refuse to admit it. But if you read enough of Olsen, you realize he really has an ax to grind with Fundamentalism. He is not the unbiased historian he would have you believe. I still enjoy reading him. He is also off-base on his definitions of Calvinism, but that's another story.

Note that even Bob Jones University has started calling itself Evangelical. I think that shows they recognized they had driven themselves to a non-Biblical extreme over the previous fifty years.

So I think the easiest definition is this: You are a Fundamentalist if you call yourself a Fundamentalist. Historic Fundamentalism is as much a populist culture as it is a theology. At one time I called myself a Separatist Evangelical because I didn't like the Fundamentalist baggage.

This has been an interesting discussion.

MM

Don Johnson's picture

He certainly is hard to pigeonhole. I find his writing very interesting, though I would probably argue with him constantly if I knew him personally.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

The fact of a conservative theologian who doesn't want to be identified as a fundamentalist is pretty well the textbook definition of a postfundamentalist evangelical. That's Olson's point, which will be the subject of an upcoming post at Oxgoad.

Don, what is the purpose / advantage in identifying as a 'fundamentalist'?  What is the advantage of being an FBFI "Fundamentalist" over a, say, IX Marks "Evangelical"?  I haven't checked, but I'm pretty confident that they would have similar doctrinal statements.

I used to try and get people to define 'fundamentalism' on this site a long time ago.  I've never yet seen that really answered other than 'separation' - but conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists both practice that concept, as Phil Johnson noted way back in the "Dead Right" lecture.  So what's the point of using the term?

By postfundamentalist, I have to add, Olson means what we used to call "new evangelical." He mentions the term, but claims it is a slur from the fundametalists (I think I mentioned this earlier). He forgets that new evangelical is their own term

It's actually both.  Yes, this was a term devised by Ockenga et al to differentiate from people they disagreed with, but there is no denying that others have used it as a slur to describe people that we disagree with, similar to the way the term 'convergent' was used in Frontline years ago.

If you want people to agree with you, give them a reason to use it.  Explain why that term differentiates you from new evangelical, evangelical, convergent, or whatever.

"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

Jay wrote:

The fact of a conservative theologian who doesn't want to be identified as a fundamentalist is pretty well the textbook definition of a postfundamentalist evangelical. That's Olson's point, which will be the subject of an upcoming post at Oxgoad.

Don, what is the purpose / advantage in identifying as a 'fundamentalist'?  What is the advantage of being an FBFI "Fundamentalist" over a, say, IX Marks "Evangelical"?  I haven't checked, but I'm pretty confident that they would have similar doctrinal statements.

The purpose of taking any label is to define yourself in the way you want to be defined. Of course, outsiders, both friend and foe, may have other labels. There aren't a lot of doctrinal differences between someone like me and a 9 marks evangelical (outside of their *heretical* Calvinism -- joke! joke! sorta) but it is the difference in philosophy or ethos that is significant. The difference is what is important to me, so I want to be known as different from them. If you look at my post, I list Olson's definition of evangelicalism:

“Evangelicalism is a loose affiliation (coalition, network, mosaic, patchwork, family) of mostly Protestant Christians of many orthodox (Trinitarian) denominations and independent churches and parachurch organizations that affirm…

  • “a supernatural worldview…
  • “the unsurpassable authority of the Bible…
  • “Jesus Christ as unique Lord, God, and Savior…
  • “the fallenness of humanity and salvation provided by Jesus Christ…
  • “the necessity of personal repentance and faith…
  • “the importance of a devotional life…
  • “the urgency of gospel evangelism and social transformation;
  • “and the return of Jesus Christ…” (14-15)

The point of difference would  be I DENY the urgency of social transformation, I DEFINE the return of Christ more specifically, and I demand a separatist ethos when it comes to ecclesiastical cooperation and affiliation. There might be a bit more if I took the time to think on it, but these are enough for me to use a different label and walk in a different path. Evangelicals separate in some ways, but not really. They will speak up against some errors, but then still cooperate. Thus I won't work with them.

Jay wrote:
I used to try and get people to define 'fundamentalism' on this site a long time ago.  I've never yet seen that really answered other than 'separation' - but conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists both practice that concept, as Phil Johnson noted way back in the "Dead Right" lecture.  So what's the point of using the term?

I deny Phil Johnson's premise. He's wrong. I disagreed with him then, and disagree today. If MacArthur, for example, really believed what he says about the charismatics, he wouldn't have them in his pulpit or cooperate with them in meetings. True, he doesn't work with all charismatics, but if charismatism is a heresy as he alleges in his book, why does he continue to work with charismatics?

Jay wrote:
If you want people to agree with you, give them a reason to use it.  Explain why that term differentiates you from new evangelical, evangelical, convergent, or whatever.

My goal is to be faithful to the Lord. I hope others will be also, and when we hold to the same general philosophy of ministry, we can work together.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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