What, precisely, is a “Convergent” fundamentalist? That is, what are the “marks” of a “Convergent” fundamentalist?

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G. N. Barkman's picture

These types of discussions seem to eventually point us back to the basic question, "What is Fundamentalism?"  Originally, it was defense of the fundamentals of the faith without which, Biblical Christianity ceased to exist.  Today, it seems to have become a certain circle of fellowship, in which all those who are "in" are entitled to the term, and all those who are outside are denied the label of Fundamentalist, or at least, "True Fundamentalist."  Sigh.  Can we ever get back to a vigorous defense of the Biblical gospel without the baggage of cultural norms and good old boy networks?

If you are talking about historic fundamentalism, count me in.  If you mean something else, please count me out.

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

We often speak of the "marks" of a church. Well, in this kind of discussion, I believe the FBFI needs to define what it means when it speaks of "Convergent" fundamentalists.

If what Bro. Unruh says about "convergent fundamentalists" is true, then they're very dangerous indeed! But, we just need to know what, in his, John Vaughn's and the FBFI's mind is an alleged "convergent fundamentalist." In other words, who are they talking about and how can we know how to spot these people? Moreover, what kind of message is the FBFI communicating to the rest of Baptist fundamentalism by publishing a piece which makes such sweeping and serious claims about these "convergents?"

This is all very troubling. Hopefully, this is a misunderstanding and dialogue with the author will clarify the matter. 

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

Bert Perry's picture

Since Tyler's questions are consistent with the excerpt of Unruh's article that I saw, as well as with Vaughn's teaser, I've got to conclude that Unruh is extremely sloppy in his thinking and writing (failing to even define critical terms like "convergent" and "separatism"), and is moreover willing to make some fairly reckless accusations of those he's criticizing--the Absalom thing.  Moreover, Unruh misses the obvious point that it was David, not Absalom, who set the stage for that tragedy.  There is a lesson there, no?

If we want people to take our writing seriously, we have got to do better than this.  We need to throw the flag when ad hominem attacks and other genetic fallacies are used, and we need to start asking ourselves "does this really follow?"

Ron Bean's picture

I am hopeful that there will be a meaningful response and some beneficial discussion. I've been timidly asking similar questions in personal conversations for almost 20 years and have experienced three things. 

1. I've seen that creating a nameless "enemy" is useful in making the people inside the village fearful of "strangers" and of leaving the town limits.

2. I've found that defending generic statements with specific details is not something that people like this do well.

3. I've also found that asking questions, especially those that need answers, can still get a person dismissed as a rebel.

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

T Howard's picture

We already have the answers we seek. Convergent pastors are those who allow SG (whether Steve Green or Sovereign Grace) music into their churches, don't prohibit drinking "beverage alcohol" (I love this term) from the pulpit, and who promote conservative evangelicals to their congregation or associate with them. There may even be a hint of "and they dress down for Sunday worship, don't use the KJV, and don't preach against women wearing pants" thrown in for good measure.

Look, this is the SAME song and dance I've been hearing since the 80s. None of it has to do with the fundamentals of the faith. It is all cultural fundamentalist baggage.

Larry Nelson's picture

T Howard wrote:

We already have the answers we seek. Convergent pastors are those who allow SG (whether Steve Green or Sovereign Grace) music into their churches, don't prohibit drinking "beverage alcohol" (I love this term) from the pulpit, and who promote conservative evangelicals to their congregation or associate with them. There may even be a hint of "and they dress down for Sunday worship, don't use the KJV, and don't preach against women wearing pants" thrown in for good measure.

Look, this is the SAME song and dance I've been hearing since the 80s. None of it has to do with the fundamentals of the faith. It is all cultural fundamentalist baggage.

From the FBFI's 2009 resolution # 09-02:

"And whereas sins previously not named among believers such as the use of alcohol as a beverage,
premarital sex, adultery, homosexuality, profanity, vulgarity, immodesty, and much more are now not
only viewed unashamedly by believers as entertainment but also practiced without shame among those
who name Christ,"
- http://fbfi.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Complete-Resolutions-2010.pdf 

----------------

To the FBFI, the use of "beverage alcohol" is not a matter of Romans 14 Christian liberty or individual conscience, nor is it something that may merely be considered unwise for a believer, it is a SIN. 

GregH's picture

I was curious about Dan Unrah so I went to his church website and sure enough, a position paper on music. I quote here from it:

Music always consists of three elements: Melody, harmony, and rhythm. Without any one of these elements a composition is not music. These elements must be put in proper priority. The melody is the theme of the music. The harmony and rhythm are supposed to elevate the melody. Any time the melody becomes subordinate, the music is unbalanced. Both secular musicians and sacred would agree that melody affects the spirit or soul, harmony affects the mind and rhythm affects the body. Musicians know that they can get people to respond different ways by over emphasizing certain elements. For example: the New Age Movement seeks to help people self actualize by reaching an altered state of consciousness. One of the ways they use to accomplish their goal is music. The New Age style of music over emphasizes harmony. It is done on purpose to help people meditate and lose their mind. Styles are made by simply emphasizing certain elements in different ways. The only people who consistently argue about these basic musical principles are Christians! The secular musicians know exactly what they are doing!

This is so wrong on any number of levels. The reason only Christians debate this stuff is because the rest of the world knows better. Here are just a few things wrong with this one paragraph:

1) Harmony is in fact not necessary in music. In fact, the discover of harmony occurred just a few centuries ago in Western music and has been in use only that long.

2) The whole idea of imbalance between melody, rhythm, and harmony is far oversimplified and certainly open to all kinds of debate. The idea that melody affects the heart, harmony affects the mind and rhythm affects the body? I would love to see the studies to support that. 

3) "The New Age style of music over emphasizes harmony. It is done on purpose to help people meditate and lose their mind." Um, really? New Age music is actually known for very simplistic harmony though I will admit it might seem sophisticated to people used to singing horrific 3-chord gospel songs like "Jesus Saves." And what can I even say about the fact that New Age music is designed to help people lose their mind?

I applaud the effort to try to build bridges but honestly, I am through trying to debate the absurd with people who dogmatically proclaim this kinds of stuff.

 

TylerR's picture

I remain hopeful Bro. Unruh or somebody in the FBFI will clarify what they mean, and explain the comments in Bro. Unruh's article which, on the face of it, appear to be very "provocative" indeed. I could be wrong. I just don't know.

I hope some dialogue is possible. I was upset and outraged last week when this first came across my radar screen, and I wasn't constructive in my criticisms. I was wrong. Now, I am trying to be constructive. I hope some in the FBFI are willing to look past any outrage they feel and do the same.

The editorial at the front of the magazine says they're issuing a "loving rebuke." They want to talk. Let's talk, brethren. You started this public conversation with this latest issue of Frontline. I'm willing to chat. Let's make it happen.

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

Don Johnson's picture

Tyler and I have communicated privately, and I want to make a few comments publicly at this point.

First, as I said to Tyler, I think he really only has a few questions, not 48. He is quite repetitive, asking essentially the same questions over and over. This implies to some that bro. Unruh's article is also disorganized. I think it is fairer to say that Tyler is repetitively asking the same questions to different points in bro. Unruh's article.

Second, I am planning to reply to Tyler and will do so both privately and probably publish it at oxgoad. (My little-used blog, lately.) Time pressures will not allow me to get the response out right away, but I will plug away at it. I've explained my circumstances to Tyler and he seems happy to be patient (so far!! heh!). I'll try to come back here with a link once I get it done.

Third, yes, this is a conversation we have been having for quite some time. I think it is important to talk about it, but I would rather that we try to keep the snide remarks and insults out of it. If our goal is to inflame each other, that would be the way to do it, if our goal is to have a productive conversation we should refrain from taking shots at each other. Some will say, "well Unruh started it" - maybe so, but as my mother used to say, "you don't have to finish it." One complaint I frequently have heard from the less strict side (what shall we call them, "convergents"? or???) is that the old-line fundamentalists like the FBF ("spits") never listen and talk down to us. Well, brethren, from the "old line" side, we think we are getting slander and sneering from your side as well. How about we just stop that, take a deep breath and speak kindly to one another? I'll try to start and keep it that way.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. 3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.

We will get further if we talk to one another like Christians. I haven't seen a lot of that in the threads on this topic in the last week or so. We can do better.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

I apologize for my comments about the FBFI and Bro. Unruh from last week, on the earlier thread. I was upset and I acted irresponsibly in several posts. I have hit the reset switch and posted the questions I had as I read (and re-read) Bro. Unruh's article. I shall be patient as you respond. I know you are busy, and I am not in a hurry. I promise. Smile

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

Don Johnson's picture

TylerR wrote:

I apologize for my comments about the FBFI and Bro. Unruh from last week, on the earlier thread. I was upset and I acted irresponsibly in several posts. I have hit the reset switch and posted the questions I had as I read (and re-read) Bro. Unruh's article. I shall be patient as you respond. I know you are busy, and I am not in a hurry. I promise. Smile

thanks, I appreciate it.

More to come. Now I am off to make lunch for my mother! She's 92. A wonder!

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Steve Davis's picture

TylerR wrote:

We often speak of the "marks" of a church. Well, in this kind of discussion, I believe the FBFI needs to define what it means when it speaks of "Convergent" fundamentalists.

.......

Tyler,

I write as an interloper because you mentioned the "marks of a church." Yesterday, along with the five other elders from our church, I attended my first 9Marks conference at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, pastored by Mark Dever. The 9 Marks are a good place to start for the church. I was reminded that Dever was invited to a fundamentalist conference a few years ago and shared the platform with Drs. Jordan, Bauder, and Doran. It was a great "convergent" moment but many saw it as compromise since Mark Dever is an amillennial Southern Baptist who shares the platform with Mahaney, Keller, Piper, Mbewe, etc. There were probably a couple hundred mostly young men at the conference. Many are church planting; many are revitalizing churches. Not everyone there would partner with everyone else and I'm sure we could find something to disagree with. The problem with any Christian movement is when something or someone else becomes the center rather than Christ and the gospel. With cultural Fundamentalism separation and issues are at the center. If Christ and the gospel were at the center, separation would have its rightful place but not the center place. Your 'marks of the church" also reminded me that God's movement is the Church not parachurch organizations (as helpful as they might be in service to the Church). 

Steve

Mark_Smith's picture

Is this really a common expression? Other than Dever's book, which I have never read, I have never heard the expression.

 

T Howard's picture

Dan Unrah wrote:
Music always consists of three elements: Melody, harmony, and rhythm. Without any one of these elements a composition is not music. These elements must be put in proper priority. The melody is the theme of the music. The harmony and rhythm are supposed to elevate the melody. Any time the melody becomes subordinate, the music is unbalanced. Both secular musicians and sacred would agree that melody affects the spirit or soul, harmony affects the mind and rhythm affects the body.

This is the same nonsense I heard in the 80s. The reasoning follows thusly: rhythm affects/appeals to the body (i.e. your flesh). Your flesh is sinful. Therefore, listening to music that contains rhythm appeals to your sinful flesh (instead of to your spirit) and is sinful. Galatians 5:16-17. Q.E.D.

Once this fallacious reasoning is accepted, it is then applied to any so-called Christian music with drums or a beat in it (e.g. Steve Green) to prove the music is sinful regardless of the lyrics.

And, if that appeal is not successful, then we make an appeal to one of the 3 principles Dan's position paper lays out: the “new song” principle, the principle of appropriateness, and the present predominant association principle. This net of "discernment" will catch any and all so-called Christian music that isn't in our hymnals. (You still use hymnals in your church, don't you?!?!)

JBL's picture

I find it interesting that FBFI published the following definition of fundamentalism in its resolution list from the years 1978-1980.  

80. 01 REGARDING FUNDAMENTALISM 

A fundamentalist is a genuine believer in the Person, Work, and Doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ who: 

1. Regards the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, as the verbally inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God; 
2. Recognizes the Bible as the authoritative voice of God on all issues pertaining to life, including civil, social, and spiritual; 
3. Endeavors to practice Biblical conduct in all areas of his life; 
4. Believes in all the foundational truths of historic Christianity, including:
    a. The inspiration of the Bible 
    b. The virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ 
    c. The Deity of Christ 
    d. The bodily resurrection, ascension, and literal return of the Lord Jesus Christ 
    e. Salvation by grace through faith and regeneration by the Holy spirit
    f. The eternal destinies of Heaven or Hell 
    g. Man is a sinner by nature and by choice 
5. Earnestly contends for the faith, which includes a militant defense and proclamation of the faith and separation from all forms of heresy, apostasy, unbelief, and inclusivism, direct or indirect. 
6. Is compelled by love to expose error, within and without the household of faith.

 

The 1978-1980 fundamentalism definition was terminated in 1981 and was replaced by 

81. 01 REGARDING FUNDAMENTALISM

The FBF believes that there is a subtle undermining of historic fundamentalism by definition; that a true fundamentalist not only
believes in such fundamentals of the faith as the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, the incarnation, virgin birth, substitutionary
atonement, bodily resurrection and glorious ascension and second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the new birth through regeneration
by the Holy Spirit, the resurrection of the ungodly to final judgment and eternal death, and resurrection of saints to eternal life, but
also exposes and separates from all ecclesiastical denial of that faith and refuses to be tolerant of believers who are tolerant of
unbelievers; we believe that those who hide their "soft" stand on separation by hiding behind what they term "the modern fad of
secondary separation" espouse a position that will eventually destroy historic fundamentalism.

 

If anyone from FBFI cares to comment and is knowledgeable about the change, could the following questions be answered?

Why were points #1 - #6 from 1978-1980 rewritten, and why couldn't the issue of refusing to be tolerant of other believers have been published as a #7?

Also, should we view the issue of separation to be an omission to the original fundamentalist definition, or an addition?

Would it be fair to characterize a "convergent fundamentalist" as one who held to the original 1978-1980 definition, but didn't fully subscribe to the 1981 revision?

John B. Lee

TylerR's picture

Thanks to Don for agreeing to respond on his blog, publicly. Here is my position on this:

  • If a position is laid out in a public forum (e.g. as a feature issue in Frontline magazine which has been distributed into thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, of homes)
  • then nobody should be upset if critics and friends (in this case, I am both) respond publicly in return
  • If someone is not willing to deal with public criticism and interaction, then do not state your position on certain issues in a public forum for interaction

Some in the FBFI may be upset because I published my response publicly. Well, the original piece was published publicly. My response (which was really not a response at all, but a call for clarification on a number of points) will therefore be just as public. If the FBFI is as serious as it says about confronting the excesses of "Convergent" fundamentalism, then they ought to welcome this kind of dialogue. I am glad Don has decided to respond. I hope other people from the FBFI do, too.

Isn't that how . . . iron sharpens iron?

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

Don Johnson's picture

JBL wrote:

If anyone from FBFI cares to comment and is knowledgeable about the change, could the following questions be answered?

Why were points #1 - #6 from 1978-1980 rewritten, and why couldn't the issue of refusing to be tolerant of other believers have been published as a #7?

Quickly, because I have to be out the door five minutes ago... If a position statement is repealed, it is no longer published. Since both are published, we would see the second to be an expansion or restatement of the first. There was a period where resolutions (as we used to call them) were repeated year after year (not in total, but at least some of them). We have gotten away from doing that.

JBL wrote:

Also, should we view the issue of separation to be an omission to the original fundamentalist definition, or an addition?

Would it be fair to characterize a "convergent fundamentalist" as one who held to the original 1978-1980 definition, but didn't fully subscribe to the 1981 revision?

To the second question, no, since I see separation in the first statement also, just more fleshed out in the second.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Steve Davis's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Is this really a common expression? Other than Dever's book, which I have never read, I have never heard the expression.

I'm not sure how widely the expression is used but it has been around for awhile. For example the Belgic Confession: “The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing sin” (Belgic Confession, Article 29). The number may be different but I think the intention is the same - to describe what a true church is in contrast to false churches that use the name "church" but have departed from Scripture.

TOvermiller's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

We will get further if we talk to one another like Christians. I haven't seen a lot of that in the threads on this topic in the last week or so. We can do better.

I agree. My appreciation to you and Tyler for striking this chord together.

From my generation to yours, I trust that we will do our very best to listen, even when we disagree. We all need to be very careful to express ourselves as thoughtfully, graciously and clearly as possible. For myself, I find that Matthew 7:1-5 never grows obsolete. I usually find a lot of myself in the so-called problems I critique in others. I'm still working on my beams. If you have any advice for how to get rid of them, I'll listen Wink

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

JBL's picture

These were written almost forty years ago.  I appreciate the insight.  

I believe I am correct then in assessing that FBFI is saying that believers who are "tolerant of believers who are tolerant of unbelievers" were never true historic fundamentalists.

John B. Lee

TylerR's picture

The concept of "marks" of a church isn't new. I've seen it in most systematic theologies. For a class I taught in church a few years ago, I made a comparison chart of different theologians (from days lone gone and current) and how they define what a "church" is. It's a common term.

As a sidenote, I really recommend John Hammett's book on Baptist polity. What makes his book so interesting is he doesn't just state a position. He critiques where many Baptist churches fall short today, and suggests ways forward. Very thought-provoking - especially his remarks on how to make the ordinances a meaningful part of worship again. Well worth the money. I emailed him and expressed my appreciation a few years back, and he was kind enough to respond.

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

Jay's picture

From what I understand, Dever has explicitly and publicly claimed that he is a 'fundamentalist'.  If I were in a position to talk with Piper personally, I would have quite a few polite questions about how he can take that name and maintain relationships with people who are/were walking headlong into error (Andy Stanley, Mark Driscoll from several years back, etc).  I have never really considered a specific position on the Millennium to equate with Fundamentalist/ism.  I am very comfortable with the Premill / Pretribulation position but could consider fellowship/co-belligerency with a Bible preaching and Pre-wrath evangelist (for example).

Devers links to Dr. Minnick's message on Fundamentalism on his website, for goodness' sake: https://9marks.org/interview/fundamentalism-and-separation-mark-minnick/

​MacArthur is a fundamentalist in my book.  The FBFI, from what I am seeing in posts here and on their published articles, is heading towards the 'hyper-separatist / hyper-fundamentalist' column of Jim's PDF, and that's a shame. I hope that they can change course. 

 

"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

Aaron Blumer's picture

I groaned when I saw this topic coming up again…. and then groaned again louder. Psyched up and took a look at the thread. To my surprise… it’s not too bad. (If I were a pagan, I’d knock on wood at this pt.)

Seems like as I get older there is less and less fight in me and more and more desire to see people understand one another.

Three cheers for mutual understanding!

And my salute to this closet fundamentalist…

Jay's picture

Aaron - this will be THE thread that finally resolves all the other threads on Fundamentalism.  Trust us. Smile

Seriously, I saw this article - Early Fundamentalism's Legacy: What is It and Will It Endure through the 21st Century - at the DBTS Journal website tonight and figured I would pass it along for discussion/edification.  I'm sure there are salient points made that have bearing on this topic.

 

"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

Steve Davis wrote:

I write as an interloper because you mentioned the "marks of a church." Yesterday, along with the five other elders from our church, I attended my first 9Marks conference at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, pastored by Mark Dever. The 9 Marks are a good place to start for the church. I was reminded that Dever was invited to a fundamentalist conference a few years ago and shared the platform with Drs. Jordan, Bauder, and Doran. It was a great "convergent" moment but many saw it as compromise since Mark Dever is an amillennial Southern Baptist who shares the platform with Mahaney, Keller, Piper, Mbewe, etc. There were probably a couple hundred mostly young men at the conference. Many are church planting; many are revitalizing churches. Not everyone there would partner with everyone else and I'm sure we could find something to disagree with. The problem with any Christian movement is when something or someone else becomes the center rather than Christ and the gospel. With cultural Fundamentalism separation and issues are at the center. If Christ and the gospel were at the center, separation would have its rightful place but not the center place. Your 'marks of the church" also reminded me that God's movement is the Church not parachurch organizations (as helpful as they might be in service to the Church). 

I think this was the 2011 "Advancing The Church" conference at Calvary Lansdale.  If anyone is interested in listening to the speaker panels, you can get the MP3s from my OneDrive here.

"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

Andrew K's picture

"It was a great "convergent" moment but many saw it as compromise since Mark Dever is an amillennial Southern Baptist who shares the platform with Mahaney, Keller, Piper, Mbewe, etc."

One of the aspects of modern fundamentalism that renders its heritage and motivations somewhat suspect, to my mind, is precisely this drift of dispensationalism from what must have originally been only a characteristic common to many fundamentalists to a nonnegotiable (even core) doctrine. As a highly conservative, Reformed Baptist, it is my Baptist covenant theology--not Bible versions, for I love the KJV; not music, for I hold to the Regulative Principle of Worship; not alcohol, for I don't drink--that would hold fundamentalists back from considering me a fundamentalist and bar me from speaking in or even joining some of fundamentalist churches. Even causing many to label me a "liberal." I find this situation somewhat telling, honestly, about the real priorities of many fundamentalists (most of whom would have nothing to do with this forum, might I add. Because you're all "liberal compromisers" Wink ). 

TylerR's picture

I've always seen "fundamentalism" as a militant and passionate philosophy for ministry and theology, not a movement per se. That is why I think James White and John MacArthur are "fundamentalists." They're about as militant as you can get. They're just not the right kind of fundamentalists for some people. 

 

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

Mark_Smith's picture

James White ARDENTLY says he is NOT a fundamentalist. James sees himself FIRMLY as a Reformed Christian. That is his identity. James White mocks and caricatures "fundamentalists" as KJV only dispensational wack-jobs... and that is being kind. By the way, I think James would agree with everything I wrote.

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