The Great Evangelical Mea Culpa

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Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

When I read this it sounded very familiar and, alas, it is reprinted from a 2006 Frontline article.

Dr. Talbert is right! Evangelicalism's obsession with relevancy and academic prestige has had a corrupting influence on the veracity of evangelical doctrine. (Just look at Ligoner's recent polling data.)

However, as a "younger Fundamentalist," my attraction to "evangelical thinkers" is not to these type of men. It is to the men in Evangelicalism who are calling out this type of Evangelicalism. Their message of contending for the faith resonates with me. Men like MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Paul Washer, Al Mohler, and, to an increasingly lesser extent, John Piper, that have been critical of Evangelical compromise, continue to have a seemingly greater influence on the theological spectrum of Evangelicalism. This is what is appealing. It is precisely because they talk like a Fundamentalist that they continue to exert influence on younger Fundamentalists. What commends them all the more is that they are willing to be critical of their own movement. 

What concerns me regarding certain versions of Fundamentalism is an unwillingness to be critical of Fundamentalism. It seems that Fundamentalism is always sniping away at other camps (or at those within the Fundamentalist camp who are attracted to the Evangelical camp). I appreciate recent Fundamentalist leaders who are willing to introspectively critique the Fundamentalist movement (Bauder and Doran), but an honest, introspective evaluation of Fundamentalism is rare.

To take from Dr. Talbot's phrase: Yes, the cows are lowing in Evangelicalism. But what about the equally loud (and perhaps louder) lowing of the cows in Fundamentalism. Instead of pointing out the errors of the "Evangelical pasture," perhaps it is time to seriously address the problems in the Fundamentalist pasture. At least, for me, this would be an encouraging move in the right direction.
 

Phil Golden

TylerR's picture

Editor

Speaking as a fundamentalist - here are my main issues with the movement:

  • Shallow Doctrine. Fundamentalists are not educated. They produce little for their church members, and even less scholarship. This is a sad thing, given that the impetus for the movement was to combat liberalism and apostasy. You can't do that with a Bible Institute certificate or a bad BA. One caveat - I think Regular Baptist Press is doing fantastic work in all areas of their curriculum. Their adult Bible studies and children's material is top-notch and is far superior to anything else you'll find out there. If you're a fundamentalist Baptist, you need to support these folks and buy their curriculum. It's that good.
  • Shallow Training. Fundamentalist men are not trained well. This is getting much, much better. I believe we are seeing the first generation where a growing number of fundamentalists Pastors have MDiv's. Is it in time? I hope so.
  • Wrong Targets: Fundamentalists shifted their target from apostasy and liberalism to evangelicals a long time ago. This is a mistake. The movement, in some quarters, is more about preserving identity than combating liberalism and apostasy. I have a large problem with that. I think our movement has lost it's way badly in this respect. This stems, in large part, from the shallow doctrine and shallow training I mentioned above.

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?

Ron Bean's picture

I consider myself a fundamentalist as well and I add my amen to what Tyler and Philip have said. While I would like to see their suggestions occur, experience tell me that fundamentalism does not enjoy standing in front of a mirror as evidenced by their response when other respected fundamentalists like Bauder and Doran have offered them one. 

I was going to use the beam/mote illustration but decided against it.

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

DLCreed's picture

Ah this article will invite the usual hand-wringing and finger pointing that all the previous articles did years ago.  This article is only about 20 years too late.  It's like closing the gate after the cows have left the pasture. 

Here's a sentence from the article that pretty much embodies the problem with Fundamentalist thought and commentary today.  I quote:

" Symptomatically, the most influential evangelical is no longer an evangelist (Billy Graham), but a psychologist (James Dobson).”

Seriously?  Dobson's voice faded YEARS ago.  He's not even CLOSE to being "the most influential evangelical".  But should we be surprised when fundamentalism was warning against the evils of Steve Green when most kids were recording far worse secular stuff over sermon tapes in the 80's and 90's.  You can't influence a culture, a movement or a nation when you are 20 years too late and standing so far behind where folks actually live in the real world.

EDIT: Well, I went back to see that the book being cited was written in 2002, so Dobson was A leading voice -- still not ready to say THE most influential" at that time.  But then again, this proves my point.  Why is he citing a 15-year old book in this article/review?  Does he not get how MUCH the world has changed in the last 15 years? 

 

Bert Perry's picture

I dearly wish that I could argue with Tyler or Phil.  Sorry, guys, we're going to have to take it outside over the best type of BBQ or something instead.  I like Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, AL.  Or maybe we can argue over pizza--Gino's East on Superior is my fave.  Fight on?  :^)

(sadly, I haven't been to either place in well over a decade!)  

Or chow on?

Seriously, with all the creepy-crawlies inhabiting fundamentalist bellybutton lint, so to speak, I can think of few better things to do than a little bit of navel-gazing, followed of course by a call to "Orkin" as it were.  Moreover, I really don't have time to point that many fingers elsewhere--apart from pointing out "this church has female pastors" or "this church denies the Trinity, can I really paint all those thousands of different types of evangelicals (fundagelicals) with the same broad brush?  It all starts at home.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Greg Linscott's picture

Young Fundamentalists sidling toward the Evangelical fence, tempted by the sight of seemingly greener grass, need to take a closer look and listen carefully to the lowing of the cattle over there. The ones whose hearts are closest to yours are not happy over there.

I think it's important to take this article in context of what was recently published in the "Convergence" issue of Frontline. With that said, how are we gaging the "sidling" of the "Young Fundamentalists"/now labeled Convergents?

As I alluded to some degree in the other thread on the "Convergence" issue, there was a day where it was much more of a controversial thing to use modern (per)versions. One of the reasons that would often be cited, apart form the textual arguments and manuscript appeals, was that the translators and people using these newer translations were firmly in the "Neo" camp. One might even say that someone using those versions in their church might be "sidling toward the Evangelical fence." Certainly similar and harsher language was employed on the matter in decades past.

People like Mike Harding have demonstrated that was simply not the case. Someone could indeed be just as principled a separatist, maintain a Fundamentalist identity and philosophy, and so on while using a modern translation. Agree with him or not on that one application, you can't really argue that such a decision was an indicator that Mike was eyeing the "greener grass."

All I'm saying here is that today's critics need to be careful in their assessments. Not everyone who makes different musical choices than the apparent established norms is succumbing to Greener Grass Syndrome. Your own recent history can provide you with some perspective, if you would take the time to consider it.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

TylerR's picture

Editor

It is important to note that this word means to "move close to someone in a quiet or secret way." Nice, boys. Nice. Some men prefer the Tommy gun approach; others have a preference for random backhands to the face.

See my third criticism, above.

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?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

As several previous comments have shown in one way or another, a key part of the problem with conversations on these topics is lack of clear definition... "evangelicals"..."fundamentalists"... "sidling"

It might help if more people recognized that these terms no longer describe anything monolithic, if they ever did. Arguably, circa 1945-65 or maybe as long as '75, evangelical and fundamentalist were terms with relatively little ambiguity? I'm just surmising, because it was before my "age of paying attention."

But it's as hard now to clearly defining what's being sidled up to as it is to tell what's being sidled away from.

My vote is for looking at the whole thing in a more modular way. You have your "handling of Scripture in preaching" module, your "cultural ideals in worship" module, you're "perceived nonconformity to this world" module, your "getting the gospel right" module, your "attitude and practice toward social programs/social justice" module, and your "organizational ties" (aka "ecclesiastical separation") module. ... and probably a few more (translations?)

Table the whole "who's fundy and who's evangelical and who's not" question and look at the modules one by one. Rank their importance. Identify criteria for evaluating faithfulness to Scripture. Identify a process for making organizational ties choices.

Then see who you can work with, who you can't, and who just doesn't really matter, since no partnership is on the table anyway.

TylerR's picture

Editor

You have hit upon a new way to classify associations. This could be very helpful. Taxonomy charts can be made from this. I'll do some thinking about this and see what I can come up with. That is a good way to think of things.

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?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There's never going to be a really simple way to do it. Part of the reason there was much more consensus in biblical fundamentalism the 60's-80's (and pretty rapidly declining in the 90's and later) was that people were much more willing--so it seems to me--to look to an authoritative leader or institution and back their judgment enthusiastically (or just disagree silently). So things were simplified in this way. "So and so says..." so that's what defines who is "safe" and genuine, etc., vs. who is pseudo/neo/whatever.

But those times are gone, and the original set of issues and combatants was gone even long before that.

Every generation has to take a fresh look at why movements rose up in the first place and then, assuming those purposes were biblical (in this case, they were), how do we accomplish them as best we can today?

Neither what remains of fundamentalism, nor the causes that gave birth to it, will be served adequately by recycling the old, vauge "us vs. them" rhetoric of the 60s-90s. That rhetoric offered no thorough, intentional, careful process for evaluating ministry relationships/organizational ties because it was really driven by a handful of authority figures... who pretty much just decided things and handed them down.

I don't resent them for that, really. Best I can tell, they all did what they believed was right and would best serve the body of Christ. They just happened to be mere mortals and were wrong about (a) how these evaluations and alignment-decisions need to be made and (b) sometimes wrong about where the lines should have been drawn. 

But the bigger problem is not incorrect classifications of who's fundy and who isn't. The bigger problem was/remains "how is that decision to be made?"  (And when does it even need to be made? So much of it had nothing at all to do with local churches, much less individual believers)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Forgot the point I meant to make under the title "priorities" Biggrin

Looking at the factors in a modular way, surely "getting the gospel right" and "handling Scripture properly in preaching and teaching" have to be top priorities... though the latter is a reflection of underlying bibliology (as is the translation issue). So gospel/bibliology/practical bibliology need to be top tier going forward.  ... because this is where we see most of the serious erosion, in both fundamentalism and evangelicalism.

As Phil Golden noted up the thread, whatever we are calling the "better than evangelical mainstream" neighborhood, it needs to learn to be self-critical. You can't grow and improve if you can't tear your eyes off the "Them" and look at the "Us" and see where we need to be better.

Had we done that, we might not have the mostly-the-same-mess bibliology that we see today in the evangelical mainstream.

Rolland McCune's picture

Having lived through the 1950s to 1990s era of the New Evangelicalism and having analyzed, written and taught on the subject since the mid-60s, I keep thinking of what all we allegedly did wrong, or more particularly in light of the above, what we should have done to prevent the present-day turmoil. If someone can put himself back in those days with the issues,  institutions, personalities, and ongoing events of the time, I would like to see what more precisely could/should have been done, said, etc. I suppose it hinges on the thought that we did next to nothing about "us" and way overspent on the "them." But when, where and how.

In other words, put in some names of the "us vs them" vis-a-vis what the "us" should have said or done in agreement or collaboration with "them" that would have prevented  the situation of today. Is it the idea that we should have taken the Neo Evangs less seriously on some of the issues, given them more of the benefit of the doubt more often, etc.? Or can someone be named who did do what is being recommended today, but was shot down by the fundamentalists? Where was the fork in the road that led down the path to the problems in fundamentalism today? I'm not talking about who didn't show enough of a sweet spirit or had no such at all. We are light years past that in my judgment. Pietism never solved anything in these situations.

What I am desiring to see is chapter and verse from the events that should have taken place back then but of which fundamentalism (idea, movement, et al) is bereft today, and that led to the present impasse. Who were the Dever, MacArthur, Johnson, Mohler types, et. al., of the Neo Evang era that should have been listened to back then?  There was no lack of critics in those days that we might have heeded.

 

Rolland McCune

Greg Linscott's picture

Dr. McCune,

Why does the present day action one way or another have to lead to the conclusion that the Fundamentalists of the past were wrong?

It's an honest question... because whatever you assume about what people are doing today, the reality is that how we behave today as Fundamentalists with one another isn't quite like Fundamentalists of the past interacted. The positions and practices of the SBC, for example, aren't exactly what they were a generation or two before, either. There are also objectionable elements within "Fundamentalism" (at least those using the label) that one would desire not to be identified with.

Re-assessing how we behave today doesn't necessarily mean that we believe our predecessors were wrong or misguided.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Rolland McCune's picture

Greg,

Pleasant greetings to you and the good people in Marshall.  I have many fond memories of preaching there and having fellowship in different homes. 

Greg, unless I missed something quite obvious, I can't imagine what you mean by the last sentence, and the multitude of references and/or inferences in the previous posts. If you are speaking personally, it is encouraging to those of us longer in the tooth. But I confess to not hearing the same in these present blogs and many like them over the past few years.

Rolland McCune

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

Let me add a hearty Baptist Amen to Greg. I am overjoyed at the legacy of the Fundamentalists of the past both the Old Guard who fought against theological liberalism in the major denominations and those who called out the compromise of the "new" evangelicals. I think the major issue for Fundamentalists and (new) Evangelicals has always been cooperative Evangelism and Ecumenism. As a "younger Fundamentalist," both of these issues are still important to me.

I think the disconnect comes when current Fundamental leaders don't recognize what Evangelical leaders have done to correct the errors of cooperative Evangelism and Ecumenism. It is precisely because men like Mohler, MacArthur, Dever, Johnson and the like have sought to correct that error that I am drawn to them. The failure of Fundamentalism and its leaders to recognize and rally behind and with this movement within Evangelicalism is the problem. When this happened is probably harder to pin down. It would have been more useful, instead of always looking for the wrong in Evangelicalism, to look for what, and specifically who, was speaking the right. Just because someone was not in the Fundamentalist camp did not mean they were not speaking the Fundamentalist message. But previous generations seemed to think that if anyone came up through Evangelicalism or remained in Evangelicalism, they were "tainted" by the compromise of Evangelicalism. This just was not, and still is not the case.

I think this is where denying any possibility of "Convergence" with these men is damaging to Fundamentalism. As a younger Fundamentalist, I don't desire to "sidle up" to Fuller Seminary, the National or World Council of Churches, or BGEA. I want to fellowship with an grow from the men inside Evangelicalism who hold the same values that I do.

Of course, there is also the issue of the elevation of secondary issues (like worship styles, casual dress, etc.) to the seeming irreducible minimums of the Faith, but thats a whole different discussion and when that happened or what capstone event marked that as a defining characteristic of Fundamentalism is also very hard to pin down.

Phil Golden

Bert Perry's picture

....is that while perhaps the specific stands have changed, there are often specific things in our fundamentalist "corporate culture" that could make a huge difference for us.  In quality engineering, the proverb is that corporate culture eats corporate initiatives for lunch, and then of course there is the old dictum "those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it".  No?

Other ways of describing the matter are Deming's proverb "your system is perfectly designed to give you exactly the results you're getting."  So if we see, for example, publications making vague accusations like "sidling" up to movements, guilt by association arguments, strong suspicion of any change, and the like, we might wonder whether the system purposefully or inadvertently rewards them, and why.  

Now perhaps I'm not old enough in fundamentalism to know really well, but I'd suspect that a great part of the deal is simply that fundamentalism is a reaction, as it were, to the innovation of theological liberalism--and hence we tend to resist change, and we've drug in a whole bunch of Victorian/Edwardian mores into our "body of knowledge" as it were without even quite realizing what we were doing.  (I'd even argue that accidentally, we drug in some things that were part of the agenda of theological liberals)  We also had our birth in the early/middle industrial era where the company president often acted more or less as a benevolent dictator.

Start at that point, and view academia and change as inherently suspect, and is it any surprise what we read about in histories of fundamentalism?  The question is, IMO, how we extract the doctrine of separation so it becomes merely a way that we separate based on the fundamentals, and not on the other issues we've dragged in, and how we resurrect academic work in our movement. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JBL's picture

​Responding to some of the comments that TylerR made above regarding shallow doctrine and shallow training:

One of the things that Fundamentalism has done well is to articulate its positions on a far reaching range of doctrinal issues.  Christians who are serious about the studying the Word of God should come to conclusions about the many points of faith and practice of which the Bible speaks.  Compare the typical doctrinal statements of a typical Fundamental church vs. a typical Evangelical church (yes, there is a stereotype here), and you will find that the typical Evangelical church has a few paragraph doctrinal statement, and the Fundamental church has a multi-page one.  The Fundamental church will go way beyond the gospel and have very specific position and practice statements for the Lord's Day, ordinances, human sexuality, creation, eschatology, etc.  Fundamentalists believe that the Bible can be interpreted simply and literally, and that doctrine is a result of that type of hermeneutic process.

So far, so good.

But there is one downside to this, and I believe it's a big one.  Subtly, over a period of several generations, a shift in how Fundamentalists perceive the Word of God and doctrine have become suspect.  I'd like to lay out the case that we have let our doctrinal statements become the standard of truth, and use the Bible as evidence of that truth.  In other words, many in Fundamentalism will view critical thinking of the Bible as outright dangerous and and unnecessary because we already have a gold standard for truth.  I believe that this proclivity has led to the shallowness of teaching and training of which TylerR has spoken.  The discussions that we have been having regarding the symbolism of baptism in a recent post are not encouraged in many fundamental churches and schools.  It might upset what we think we know, and that's very disconcerting.

When students are not encouraged to critically examine Biblical text, they lose objectivity when studying Scripture, and wrote memorization and recitation kicks in.  Fundamentalists must not become Catholics in the sense it allows the Biblical analysis that men have performed (doctrine) supersede the authority of Scripture.

We need a humbling and repentance from any whisper of this attitude or risk becoming theologically corrupt.

John B. Lee

Joel Tetreau's picture

I'd love to see us try to answer Dr. McCune's question........indeed.....who were the militant evangelicals twenty or thirty years ago......who were clearly in the evangelical camp.......clearly not in the fundamentalist camp......and yet were the "white hats," fundamenatalism should have listened to, appreciated, be willing to have some level of dialog?

It's my theory that it wasn't until the Battle of the Bible and the SBC's massive fight with the liberals....coinciding with MacArthur and guys like him in the late 70's...early 80's were men like Schaffer (and others) began to recover and articulate an anti-eccuminical evangelicalism vis-a-vis Billy Grahama's version of evangelicalism. Dr. McCune....many IFCA leaders saw friends at Dallas Seminary who were dispensational and anti-ecuminical in the 70's....and early 80's.

Just Joel's view here......I would say much of the fights that took place from the 50's to late 70's between fundamentalism in the main and newevangelicalism in the mane..... were mostly ....legitimate......even necessary! Especially the issues over doctrine....and an eccuminical gospel fight is a legitimate fight over the nature of justification. When we turned our separation and militancy on each other we undermined our credibility (BBF vs. Itself vs. FBF vs. NTB vs. GARBC vs. IFCA vs. OBF vs. etc.....). Everybody was separating from everybody......how lovely. 

Of course what young fundamentalists forget is there was as much angst and hatred from newevangelicals to fundamentalists than there were from fundamentalists to evangelicals. Of course these were also the days when fundamentalists hated other fundamentalists. I think Dr. McCune saw some of that in Minnesota..... As a type B fundamentalist I'd say the Minnesota wars between the leaders that we know of.......was not really one of our finest moments.......of course I wasn't there yet......

As always.....Thx Dr. McCune for sharing your thoughts.....please don't stop.......where you think we younger ones are being unfair historically, even if you think we disagree with you, please share......please.......Don't be afraid to "bring it!"

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;

TylerR's picture

Editor

In regards to the past, I have nothing to say which Bro. Golden (above) hasn't already written.

Regarding the present, I think fundamentalism can do better than simply attack conservative evangelicals repeatedly and publish articles admonishing the choir to "hold the line" against the usual array of "compromising" positions. We're spinning our wheels. Bro. Dan "Tommy Gun" Unruh and Co represent a spectrum of fundamentalism which is obsessed with defense against the wrong targets, rather than offense against liberalism and apostasy.

Consider this - who is writing and defending the Bible's teaching on:

  • human sexuality?
  • gender?
  • inerrancy of Scripture?
  • the Trinity?
  • absolute truth?
  • Christology?
  • the canon of Scripture?
  • the doctrine of the Holy Spirit?
  • etc, etc, etc? 

It is not fundamentalists - some of them are still arguing about Steve Green and reloading their Tommy guns. It is MacArthur, Mohler, DeYoung, James White, Michael Kruger, et al. In this respect, these men are more "fundamental" than "Tommy Gun" Unruh is. Much more. That is why younger fundamentalists see some real common cause to be made with these men. That is what is wrong with large swatches of fundamentalism. Many of its leaders are either unwilling or frankly not well educated enough to engage these issues in a comprehensive way for their congregations and the Christian community at large. They're playing with tinker toys while evangelicals combat liberalism and apostasy. "My brethren, these things ought not so to be."

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 think Dr. Talbert does an excellent job with this piece, and I think that, in reality, the emphasis on the 'fundamental' to 'evangelical' divide is visible with this paragraph:

So I do not condemn penetration by evangelicals any more than I condemn separation by fundamentalists. Separation was necessary to save the gospel against the inroads of modernism, I think; and penetration has been necessary to save the gospel from irrelevance and a seclusion that threatened to keep it from being heard in the world at large.

I started out attending a church pastored by FBFI men, then switched to an IFCA church, and now have moved to a Conservative Baptist church.  I have watched that strategy of 'penetration' and 'separation' for a while now, and I am convinced that the difference between our brethren isn't as much a matter of separation per se as it is a matter of timing.  For whatever reasons, the strongly 'fundamentalist' camps (thinking of primarily the FBFI here) are much, much faster to draw the sword of 'militant orthodoxy' than evangelicals, who are just as serious in their commitment to the overall unity of the Body of Christ (cf. John 17, Eph. 2).  Evangelicals, I think, haven't developed the systematic reason for separation because they generally want to work issues out and remain united.  Fundamentalists are generally (and I think rightly) more prepared to say 'this is so dysfunctional that I can't remain or participate in it'.  I see the advantages of both approaches, but I also haven't been through the new evangelical battles of the '50's-'70s, either, so my view is different from many.  Dr. Talbert touches on that when he writes:

Fundamentalism has historically championed a militant orthodoxy wedded to personal orthopraxy. Jude 3 has long been its corporate life verse. 

 

Having watched the Religious Right / Fundamentalist discussions since 2005(ish), it is my opinion that a sliver of 'fundamentalism' (as I have seen it, although not nearly as much on SI as elsewhere) is absolutely dominated by the cultural fundamentalism (Hyles / FBCH) and, more recently, that some sections of 'fundamentalism' are more akin to what Russell Moore described as 'southern honor culture' in Erasmus lecture for First Things this week than they are actual, true, Biblical fundamentalism.  That is a serious problem as well that needs to be addressed.

Phil Johnson commented on this in his Dead Right presentation at Shepherds' Conference in 2009:

In fact, let me say this: From the title of the seminar, those of you who don’t know me might assume that I am someone who is hostile to the principles of fundamentalism. That is not the case. In the historic and classical sense of the word, I am a fundamentalist. I have never really been a member of the fundamentalist movement, but I have always had an interest in the movement and a deep sympathy for the true principles of historic fundamentalism. Here’s what I mean by that: I believe wholeheartedly in the authority and the inerrancy of Scripture. I’m quite willing to be militant in defense of the gospel. In fact, I believe as Christians we have a duty to contend earnestly for the faith whenever vital gospel truths are threatened. I recognize that there is a core of truth that is absolutely essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and when someone’s teaching deliberately rejects or fatally compromises any of those essential truths, true Christian fellowship is impossible (and seeking spiritual fellowship with such people is absolutely out of the question). I am not willing to pretend that someone who rejects the essentials of the gospel is my brother or sister in Christ, and I would not knowingly align myself in ministry or Christian fellowship with such a person in the name of Christian unity.... 

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 4 themselves—over issues that no one could ever rationally argue were essential to the truth of the gospel.

My question, which I have posed on SharperIron before, is what is it going to take for Fundamentalism to disown it's half-bred stepchildren and stand for the gospel when there is sin in 'our' own camp?  I've seen and heard and read a lot about evangelicalism's issues - when will be clean up our own messes?  Are we willing to say, "No, 'brother' Hyles (to pick a name), you are not a Fundamentalist.  Don't say that you are, because your life doesn't manifest the fruit of godly living that is described in John 13:35, Gal. 5:22-23, etc."  I realize Hyles is the easiest to target, but there are a few other names that I think we could all agree on fairly easily.

So far, I'm not impressed with the responses I have seen.  But there are some who are trying to fix it, and I'll support that until the end.

* This section in particular reminded me of TylerR's post from the Convergent thread the other day.

"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

Larry Nelson's picture

TylerR wrote:

In regards to the past, I have nothing to say which Bro. Golden (above) hasn't already written.

Regarding the present, I think fundamentalism can do better than simply attack conservative evangelicals repeatedly and publish articles admonishing the choir to "hold the line" against the usual array of "compromising" positions. We're spinning our wheels. Bro. Dan "Tommy Gun" Unruh and Co represent a spectrum of fundamentalism which is obsessed with defense against the wrong targets, rather than offense against liberalism and apostasy.

Consider this - who is writing and defending the Bible's teaching on:

  • human sexuality?
  • gender?
  • inerrancy of Scripture?
  • the Trinity?
  • absolute truth?
  • Christology?
  • the canon of Scripture?
  • the doctrine of the Holy Spirit?
  • etc, etc, etc? 

It is not fundamentalists - some of them are still arguing about Steve Green and reloading their Tommy guns. It is MacArthur, Mohler, DeYoung, James White, Michael Kruger, et al. In this respect, these men are more "fundamental" than "Tommy Gun" Unruh is. Much more. That is why younger fundamentalists see some real common cause to be made with these men. That is what is wrong with large swatches of fundamentalism. Many of its leaders are either unwilling or frankly not well educated enough to engage these issues in a comprehensive way for their congregations and the Christian community at large. 

 

A few passages from the article linked to below (but I'd encourage reading the entire article):

"Frankly, conservative evangelicals do seem to take doctrine more seriously today than many Fundamentalists do. Not that the Fundamentalists are unwilling to discuss doctrine! Many of them are at this moment arguing for a “biblical” doctrine of the perfect preservation of the King James Version or of the Textus Receptus. Others have speculated that the work of redemption was not completed until Christ carried His material blood into the heavenly tabernacle, there to abide as a perpetual memorial before the presence of the Father. Still others have engaged in shrill campaigns of anti-Calvinism while defending theories of human nature that almost beg to be described as Pelagian. Such Fundamentalists are too numerous to be dismissed as aberrations—indeed, their tribe seems to be increasing.

Conservative evangelicals have oriented themselves by fixed points of doctrine. They have scoured apostasy from the world’s largest seminary. They have debunked Open Theism. They have articulated and defended a Complementarian position against evangelical feminism. They have rebutted the opponents of inerrancy. They have exposed and refuted the New Perspective on Paul. They have challenged the Emergent Church and laid bare its bankruptcy.

In other words, because many Fundamentalists appear to have lost their doctrinal sobriety, the initiative for defending the gospel has shifted from Fundamentalism to conservative evangelicalism. Conservative evangelicals have majored on the centrality of the gospel and the exaltation of God. Rather than centering themselves upon theological novelties and idiosyncrasies, they have given themselves to a defense of the Faith."

. . . . . . . .

"We Fundamentalists may not wish to identify with everything that conservative evangelicals say and do. To name these men as neo-evangelicals, nonetheless, is entirely unwarranted. To treat them like enemies or even opponents is to demonize the very people who are the foremost defenders of the gospel today. We do not have to agree in every detail to recognize the value of what they do.

"If we did not have conservative evangelicals to guard the borders, the real enemy would have invaded our camp long ago. Fundamentalism has exhibited a remarkable freedom from Open Theism, evangelical feminism, New Perspective theology, and other present-day threats to the gospel. The reason is not that Fundamentalists have kept the enemy at bay. The reason is that other thinkers—mainly conservative evangelicals—have carried the battle to the enemy. Conservative evangelicals are the heavy artillery, under the shelter of whose barrage Fundamentalists have been able to find some measure of theological safety."

. . . . . . . .

"Conservative evangelicals are not our enemies. They are not our opponents. Conservative evangelicals have proven themselves to be allies and even leaders in the defense of the faith.

If we attack conservative evangelicals, then we attack the defense of the faith. We attack indirectly the thing that we hold most dear, namely, the gospel itself, for that is what they are defending. We should not wish these brothers to falter or to grow feeble, but rather to flourish. We must do nothing to weaken their hand in the face of the enemies of the gospel.

If we believe that we must respond to conservative evangelicalism, then let us begin by addressing the areas in which they have exposed our weakness. Let us refocus our attention upon the exaltation of God. Let us exalt, apply, and defend the gospel in all its fullness. If we were more like what we ought to be, perhaps we would feel less threatened by those whose exploits attract the attention of our followers."

http://www.centralseminary.edu/resources/nick-of-time/279-lets-get-clear-on-this 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Speaking as someone who was a teenager in a fundamental church in the 70's, I wouldn't say that it's mostly that fundamentalists of the time got everything wrong (though I would certainly argue that the views on things like e.g. interracial dating/marriage and music were much more based on preferences and tradition than on any kind of serious scriptural exegesis, and that dovetails with where I'll go with this).  From what I saw, the problem with fundamentalism at the time was that we spent no time really learning how to know why we believed what we did, and passing on the "why" and the desire to make it our own rather than just doing what we'd been taught and passing that same practice on to the following generations.  The battles were seen as having already been fought in the past, so we didn't need to revisit them, and all we needed to do was to continue soldiering on.  Maybe that analogy is not too far off, either.  Those of us in the pews were seen more as soldiers who needed to "hold the line," while those above had the knowledge and controlled the strategy.  In no way was it like the Catholics, but it certainly seemed to me that the whole "search the scriptures whether these things are so" and applying it to what we were told from the pulpit (not just from outside the church) was definitely discouraged.

I don't believe all the "big men" of the time or even the generation previous were only interested in their own power and legacies -- I think many of them were just trying to pass on the truth and protect their flocks.  However, what was originally the applications of truths learned in days past was now seen as having more-or-less equivalent authority as scripture because it had been concluded by godly men of the past.  We then tended to pass on those applications as the actual scriptural truths, at the same time not spending enough time teaching the current and next generations how to take the scriptures and apply them ourselves.  Maybe that was oversight, or maybe it was fear that we wouldn't come to exactly the same conclusions as those who came before, so instead of learning to apply the scriptural principles, the conclusions and applications were taught instead.  I believe it was this mindset and shortsightedness which gave rise to what we now sometimes refer to as "cultural fundamentalism."

It was actually a relatively big shock to me coming from a fundamental Methodist church, and attending a college that had been started by a Methodist to find that better than 90% of the students were not only Baptist, but disagreed with things I had been taught.  I found myself having to defend my beliefs and realizing that although I knew what I believed, I really didn't know why and wasn't prepared to answer probing questions about it.  And I was not alone in this -- I met many others in college who knew just as little of the "why" behind their beliefs as I did with mine. 

Similar to Greg, I can very much respect the men from that time period for their desire and fight to stand firm on Bible truth without either wanting fundamentalism to be the same as it was in the 50's or teaching my children in the same way many of us were taught.  Fundamentalism should welcome probing questions asked in the right spirit, and its leaders should be prepared to spend the time and effort necessary to pass on the skills to read and apply the scriptures to the issues seen today without condescendingly telling the next generation that those battles have already been fought and that we should just take others' conclusions without wrestling with these things ourselves.  We won't learn as well without that struggle.

 

Edit:  Looks like I spent too long composing this -- several others have posted similar thoughts above.  It's not that I can't read, honest! Smile

Dave Barnhart

Larry Nelson's picture

 

"49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49 - 50 ESV)

 

Conservative Evangelicals are not Fundamentalism's enemies, or opponents---they are allies, and co-laborers.   

Ron Bean's picture

The purging of apostasy from Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville was a tremendous event that I didn't hear about until years after it happened. I was deeply involved in ultra conservative fundamentalism where the SBC and especially its seminaries were considered apostate. At that time a good fundamentalist friend of mine told me that he was planning on pursuing a doctoral program in Louisville and I was stunned that he would go to such a place, even though he told me Mohler wanted more people like him to come to Southern. At the time I saw "separation"as the only response to a case like Southern's. 

Today I regularly encounter fundamentalists who have never heard the story of Mohler and Southern and of what has gone on in the SBC. I'd like to think that somewhere in an old copy of Frontline there may be a few sentences complimentary of this event. 

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

Bert Perry's picture

Jay wrote:

<snip>

My question, which I have posed on SharperIron before, is what is it going to take for Fundamentalism to disown it's half-bred stepchildren and stand for the gospel when there is sin in 'our' own camp?  I've seen and heard and read a lot about evangelicalism's issues - when will be clean up our own messes?  Are we willing to say, "No, 'brother' Hyles (to pick a name), you are not a Fundamentalist.  Don't say that you are, because your life doesn't manifest the fruit of godly living that is described in John 13:35, Gal. 5:22-23, etc."  I realize Hyles is the easiest to target, but there are a few other names that I think we could all agree on fairly easily.

<snip>

Jay's got a great point there.  I am personally--nobody will be surprised if they know me well--convinced that at times, I do need to say that some people who view themselves as "fundamental" in doctrine need to be told why they're not.  Here's a bit from Kevin Bauder in 2010 where he effectively says that the hyperfundamental, KJVO wing of the church is denying the 1st Fundamental.  Which is, for what it's worth, the criticism I'd level at Hyles--not the hidden door to his secretary's office, but his approach to the Bible.   And I might even hesitate to call him "brother"; I sure wouldn't call him "pastor" if he were still on this side of Jordan.  Really, when we separate, isn't that what we're saying--that the person is probably NOT a brother (sister) in Christ?

We don't need to abandon separation.  We need to understand it and apply it properly. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Greg Linscott's picture

Rolland McCune wrote:

Greg,

Pleasant greetings to you and the good people in Marshall.  I have many fond memories of preaching there and having fellowship in different homes. 

Greg, unless I missed something quite obvious, I can't imagine what you mean by the last sentence, and the multitude of references and/or inferences in the previous posts. If you are speaking personally, it is encouraging to those of us longer in the tooth. But I confess to not hearing the same in these present blogs and many like them over the past few years.

First, greetings in return to the folks in Sebring (I believe that's where you are these days?). Give Gerry Carlson a hard time for me. I'm sure you have some good conversations with the folks down there.

Others have expressed thoughts since I posted that I can applaud to one degree or another. I think if nothing else, it should encourage you to know that there remain many of us who realize how significant a contribution that was made by our Fundamentalist forbears, and appreciate the sacrifices they made and commitment they had to stand for the truth in difficult circumstances. I pray that I and those that come after will have a similar resolve as we face the challenges of the current day,

At the same time, while we must learn from history, we cannot be unreasonably bound by it, either. Example: The Marshall congregation now has a significant number of members who are immigrants from refugee camps in Thailand, populated by displaced residents of Burma/Myanmar. They are ethnically from the Karen tribe, and a significant number of that tribe identifies with Christianity, tracing their heritage back to Adoniram Judson. We are richer for their presence among us (spiritually, if not financially).

I am in the early stages of planning a trip in 2017 to Thailand and across the border into the Karen state of Burma/Myanmar. One significant reason is because the connection Karen churches have with US congregations tends to be with the ones they perceive sent Judson and his co-laborers over a century ago. Unfortunately, those tend to be Baptists of the ABC-USA variety... and though not all of their churches would fit with the beliefs and practices of their American counterparts (ordaining women, affirming homosexuality, liberal theology, and so on), if there is an ABC church in the places they settle here in the US, that tends to be the first place they end up... not to mention where their leader get trained and so on.

We have been fortunate here in Marshall to be the only church in town with "Baptist" in our name. That opened the door for our friend to come looking for us now 6-7 years ago. I am working with a 2017 HS graduate now as she applies to be the first Karen student to enroll at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny next fall. The trip I mentioned is being put together as an attempt to establish and strengthen relationships between Karen church leaders (who have expressed a desire to connect with more Biblically-grounded Baptist congregations and leaders) and churches and institutions in "our circles."

From where they sit, if they were bound by history, they would be in a far less desirable place than where we are trying to lead them. We are trying to show them that things are not they same today as they were in the days of Judson, Boardman, and so on.

In a similar way, one of the reasons we have what we do today--some considering what is being called "Convergence"--is precisely because our Fundamentalist forbears were right to see and identify the error that they did in the past. The reality is, faced with the matters of liberal theology and Ecumenical Evangelism that previous generations faced, I would separate right along with those who came before me.

But one of the reasons there are what appear to be a change in demeanor and relationships is because those who have inherited and followed the Evangelicals have seen the problems our forbears also saw, and moved to purge that error from out of their ranks. In many cases, they have had great success at it, too. Another reality is that there are those now in the "Conservative Evangelical" side who are descended from those with whom some of our Baptist Fundamentalist forbears would have enjoyed broader fellowship with in organizations such as the ACCC, institutions like Bob Jones University (I've had people tell me about the SS classes that used to meet there on Sundays after the campus worship service that would be divided up by the various denominational groups), and so on. It's not just the "Conservative Evangelicals" or "Convergents" that have changed. Fundamentalists, for better or worse, tend to be more isolated than they once were, and place less priority on broader fellowship than they did in the past. Controversies over translations and "worship wars" have not helped, either.

I won't pretend to know exactly who should have been listened to in the past... though it does seem to me that there were people on the Evangelical side who were respected and given a hearing to one degree or another in my youth by the leaders of the day. People like Francis Schaeffer seemed to have some things to say that thoughtful Fundamentalists appreciated. Jay Adams or D. James Kennedy came up with ideas and approaches to ministry that many Fundamentalists used without surrendering their distinctive beliefs. I'm sure there are others that could be raised.

I can understand that not everyone is going to agree with decisions being made by today's leaders. I would just observe that whether you can affirm every decision or not, please know that not every decision is a statement of rejection and discarding of the past and its principles. Many are trying to figure out how to be consistent in applying those same guiding principles to a landscape far different than the ground our forbears walked around.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

Where is the "like" button for Philip Golden Jr's comments? 

Greg Linscott's picture

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:

Where is the "like" button for Philip Golden Jr's comments? 

 

Umm...

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

JD Miller's picture

The like button-  I think I have used the like button more on this this thread than any other I have read.  I am really encouraged by the thoughtful responses.

Yes, things have changed.  I am surprised that of all the churches in the Sioux Falls area, one of the most fundamental (in practice, not in association) is a North American Baptist Church in Hartford, SD.  The pastors there have been upset about the Baptist Seminary in Sioux Falls because it has gone liberal.  The leaders of this church are contending for the faith and I am so glad to be able to fellowship with them.

 There has been a revival in our nation and many fundamentalists have not even noticed it.  We can mention names like Mohler, McArthar, Dever, etal, but there are also unknown saints across this nation who are seeing the importance of standing for the word of God without compromise.  For too long fundamentalism looked at the Finny model of revival of walking an isle and making a decision rather than the Biblical model of revival of changing course and following God's word.  Many conservative evangelicals have been following the real Biblical model of revival.  Let us praise God for that and encouraged them in their faithfulness.

 

Ron Bean's picture

I think the message is getting through.

The conservative evangelicals with whom many are "converging" are our friends. It is wrong to compare them to the neo-evangelicals who co-operated with religious liberalism. They are our brothers while not being our twins. We are in this thing together and we can learn from each other.

If we need to separate from someone maybe we need to consider the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians, the "physical blood of Jesus in heaven" group, or the inspired, inerrant KJV crowd.

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

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