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

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Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

Thomas-

I don't think anyone is trying to diminish the importance of settled convictions on cultural matters. They are important. I personally don't drink. The church I pastor is committed to traditional worship. We even still use the KJV.

I think the concern is whether or not that is what defines fundamentalism. While I have settled convictions about these things, I am also not going to point the finger at someone whose convictions are different and say that they are not really fundamental. That, I think, is the issue.

I, personally, don't think that cultural standards should be a distinctive tenet of fundamentalism. Fundamentalists should be able to fellowship whether or not one drinks a cup of wine with dinner or not, whether one has a drum set on stage or not, whether or not one wears a suit and tie or not. In my humble opinion, that's not what fundamentalism was about not is it what it should be about. But it seems, in some circles, that is exactly what it has become.

Phil Golden

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

As an aide to the conversation, I may have missed this in other discussions or threads, but did anyone mention the irony that in the latest Frontline, Bob Jones has two adds (one for the Seminary conference and one for Bible Conference) that feature Ken Ham? I laughed when I saw the cover and read some of the articles then saw those adds.

Phil Golden

TOvermiller's picture

Philip Golden Jr. wrote:

Fundamentalists should be able to fellowship whether or not one drinks a cup of wine with dinner or not, whether one has a drum set on stage or not, whether or not one wears a suit and tie or not.

This raises the helpful, extended discussion that Kevin Bauder raised a few years ago, if my vague time reference is accurate. We easily view Christian fellowship as "all or nothing." (I say this as a general observation, but not as a charge against any person in particular.) Older men generally lean towards nothing and younger men generally lean towards all. This is very understandable. Instead, we need to carefully consider with whom we may fellowship, and to what extent. Older men generally lean towards expecting large, associational agreement on everything, while younger men generally lean towards large, loose agreement on essentials only. But there's a vast spectrum in between, and we need to respect this reality.

My baptist polity, so far as I learn from Scripture, affects my posture in this regard. Some will call this conviction individual soul liberty. Not only am I responsible as an individual (not a group) to develop settled convictions about these things, but I am responsible to express my views, strongly and with heart. At the same time I should be able to do so without condemning as heretics those who disagree. For instance, the church I shepherd does not use drums in worship. Can I have dinner with a fellow pastor who pastors a church differently on this point? Yes. Will I preach at his church, or visa versa? Will our youth groups participate in joint activities? I must make these choices with a clear conscience, and so must we all. Sometimes my decision will be yes, and other times my decision will be no. You may decide differently. But for a thoughtful Christian, the answer will likely not be always yes or always no. May God enable us all to do this better, and to be gracious in spirit towards those who differ. And we need to continue to listen to one another with this same grace also.

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

TylerR's picture

Editor

Bro. Overmiller wrote:

Fundamental believers in the younger spectrum tend towards a Chuck Swindoll Grace Awakening sort of view towards anything that is not a fundamental doctrine, which I consider aberrant. (Then we often include Reformed convictions as a near-fundamental of our essential beliefs.) We live by the letter of the law of grace, and do not give serious attention to matters of worldliness, application and the heart which may admittedly be subjective. We struggle with giving priority to what is best and prefer to swear allegiance to anything that does not have a law against it. Perhaps we should challenge our own thinking in a different way. Just because there isn't a law against certain behavior, does that mean God is unconcerned?

If this is what the FBFI is worried about, then I am worried, too. I haven't met these younger fundamentalists, but that doesn't necessarily mean much. Most of the younger fundamentalists I know are attracted to Reformed theology and John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Ligon Duncan, et al.

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?

Don Johnson's picture

Ok, now I have a moment so I'd like to comment on a few things you said instead of messing around with malaprops!

Philip Golden Jr. wrote:

On the broader question that Tyler addressed, I agree that many (maybe even most) younger fundamentalists have embraced a moderate Reformed soteriology. Tyler is on to something when he pointed out above that "the fundamental linchpin" is "...which part of your systematic theology is most definitional to you, and how does this impact your doctrine of separation?" So, yes, I think that we have a seen that kind of shift among younger Fundamentalists who are less about being "BIG B" Baptists and more concerned with fidelity to the "Doctrines of Grace." Younger fundamentalists are more defined by reformed theology. But, is that or should that be what impacts their doctrine of separation?

This is an important observation. Cornelius van Til didn't want to be known as a Fundamentalist partly because he felt the fundamentalists were concerned with the wrong things. For him the whole gamut of Reformed theology was the criteria. While the Convergent mindset (as I see it) wouldn't go as far as van Til, it does seem that for them soteriological hair splitting is more important than ecclesiological hair splitting. I recently reviewed a book by Dr. Larry Oats on P&D (the review may be slated to appear hear later, I'm not sure), The Church of the Fundamentalists. Dr. Oats contends that the theological issue that drives fundamentalism as opposed to other movements is ecclesiology, or "what is the church?" The Baptists fought for religious freedom, some of them suffering grievously for their views. Those who are "less about being 'BIG B' Baptists" likely don't know or don't value the history and the reasons for the history.

Philip Golden Jr. wrote:

I don't personally view someone with variance on the doctrines of grace as someone I would need to Ecclesiastically separate from. From a doctrinal standpoint, I don't think separation should be impacted by my theological system. This was, I believe, the focus of "historic" fundamentalism and why The Fundamentals were published. To define the Basic Tenets of Fundamentalism and, for that matter, the basic tenets of the Christian Faith.

There are within the FBFI (as an example) men who are more and men who are less Calvinistic. It isn't an issue of separation with us. Where the division occurs is when someone elevates the so-called doctrines of grace to the level of "the Gospel." The idea that contending for an interpretive issue like Reformed soteriology is more important than contending for a pure church is the difference. So I guess I am agreeing with you and disagreeing with you. Yes, the fine points of soteriology should not be the issue, but separation IS impacted by our theological systems, among other things. If not theological systems, then what? Mere party politics?

Philip Golden Jr. wrote:

What I believe has happened in fundamentalism proper that has discouraged "younger fundamentalists" is the elevation of other matters to become distinctive tenets of Fundamentalism. They range from theological matters (such as Dispensationalism) to cultural matters (music, dress, etc) to practical issues (particularly determining to separate from someone because they do not apply separation just like you would).

So what I think would be helpful is a serious rethinking of where fundamentalism stands on these issues. This is the reason I asked why dispensational theology is a defining characteristic of the FBFI. We need to ask why something has become a distinctive tenet of fundamentalism, and if the explanation is found wanting from a biblical perspective, then we need to really rethink if that tenet should be distinctive of fundamentalism.

I think that if you examine the history, dispensationalism in large measure created fundamentalism. It certainly arrived on the scene before fundamentalism did. So I don't think that an emphasis on dispensationalism has discouraged the convergents, rather they have come to an anti-dispensational or non-dispensational position which automatically tends to react against a movement that is largely characterized by it.

I would also suggest that as Reformed theology has increased in popularity, it isn't just Reformed soteriology that is on the upswing, it is the Reformed approach to culture that is being embraced. Instead of confronting culture, the attitude is more focused on transforming culture. These ideas are not compatible, so conflict is inevitable.

Why is dispensationalism a defining characteristic of the FBFI? Because we are dispensationalists. It is part of our doctrinal statement. It is who we are. I wouldn't say that it is a distinctive tenet of broader fundamentalism, but many non-FBFI fundamentalists (perhaps most) are also dispensationalists. But I think that this somewhat goes with the tension between Reformed theology and fundamentalism. We all want to claim Machen, for example, but it is doubtful that Machen would want to claim us. It is more that there are points at which militant Reformists (to coin a term) and fundamentalists can be cobelligerents rather than allies.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Andrew K's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Ok, now I have a moment so I'd like to comment on a few things you said instead of messing around with malaprops!

 

Philip Golden Jr. wrote:

 

On the broader question that Tyler addressed, I agree that many (maybe even most) younger fundamentalists have embraced a moderate Reformed soteriology. Tyler is on to something when he pointed out above that "the fundamental linchpin" is "...which part of your systematic theology is most definitional to you, and how does this impact your doctrine of separation?" So, yes, I think that we have a seen that kind of shift among younger Fundamentalists who are less about being "BIG B" Baptists and more concerned with fidelity to the "Doctrines of Grace." Younger fundamentalists are more defined by reformed theology. But, is that or should that be what impacts their doctrine of separation?

 

This is an important observation. Cornelius van Til didn't want to be known as a Fundamentalist partly because he felt the fundamentalists were concerned with the wrong things. For him the whole gamut of Reformed theology was the criteria. While the Convergent mindset (as I see it) wouldn't go as far as van Til, it does seem that for them soteriological hair splitting is more important than ecclesiological hair splitting. I recently reviewed a book by Dr. Larry Oats on P&D (the review may be slated to appear hear later, I'm not sure), The Church of the Fundamentalists. Dr. Oats contends that the theological issue that drives fundamentalism as opposed to other movements is ecclesiology, or "what is the church?" The Baptists fought for religious freedom, some of them suffering grievously for their views. Those who are "less about being 'BIG B' Baptists" likely don't know or don't value the history and the reasons for the history.

 

Philip Golden Jr. wrote:

 

I don't personally view someone with variance on the doctrines of grace as someone I would need to Ecclesiastically separate from. From a doctrinal standpoint, I don't think separation should be impacted by my theological system. This was, I believe, the focus of "historic" fundamentalism and why The Fundamentals were published. To define the Basic Tenets of Fundamentalism and, for that matter, the basic tenets of the Christian Faith.

 

There are within the FBFI (as an example) men who are more and men who are less Calvinistic. It isn't an issue of separation with us. Where the division occurs is when someone elevates the so-called doctrines of grace to the level of "the Gospel." The idea that contending for an interpretive issue like Reformed soteriology is more important than contending for a pure church is the difference. So I guess I am agreeing with you and disagreeing with you. Yes, the fine points of soteriology should not be the issue, but separation IS impacted by our theological systems, among other things. If not theological systems, then what? Mere party politics?

 

Philip Golden Jr. wrote:

 

What I believe has happened in fundamentalism proper that has discouraged "younger fundamentalists" is the elevation of other matters to become distinctive tenets of Fundamentalism. They range from theological matters (such as Dispensationalism) to cultural matters (music, dress, etc) to practical issues (particularly determining to separate from someone because they do not apply separation just like you would).

So what I think would be helpful is a serious rethinking of where fundamentalism stands on these issues. This is the reason I asked why dispensational theology is a defining characteristic of the FBFI. We need to ask why something has become a distinctive tenet of fundamentalism, and if the explanation is found wanting from a biblical perspective, then we need to really rethink if that tenet should be distinctive of fundamentalism.

 

 

I think that if you examine the history, dispensationalism in large measure created fundamentalism. It certainly arrived on the scene before fundamentalism did. So I don't think that an emphasis on dispensationalism has discouraged the convergents, rather they have come to an anti-dispensational or non-dispensational position which automatically tends to react against a movement that is largely characterized by it.

I would also suggest that as Reformed theology has increased in popularity, it isn't just Reformed soteriology that is on the upswing, it is the Reformed approach to culture that is being embraced. Instead of confronting culture, the attitude is more focused on transforming culture. These ideas are not compatible, so conflict is inevitable.

Why is dispensationalism a defining characteristic of the FBFI? Because we are dispensationalists. It is part of our doctrinal statement. It is who we are. I wouldn't say that it is a distinctive tenet of broader fundamentalism, but many non-FBFI fundamentalists (perhaps most) are also dispensationalists. But I think that this somewhat goes with the tension between Reformed theology and fundamentalism. We all want to claim Machen, for example, but it is doubtful that Machen would want to claim us. It is more that there are points at which militant Reformists (to coin a term) and fundamentalists can be cobelligerents rather than allies.

Correction: That is one model of the Reformed approach to culture known as "neocalvinism" and/or "transformationalism." It's hardly the only model, isn't the traditional model, may not even be the majority model, and certainly isn't my model. I lean more toward Two Kingdoms-ish myself (or the historic Baptist equivalent). We be a pilgrim folk.

Don Johnson's picture

Andrew K wrote:

 

I would also suggest that as Reformed theology has increased in popularity, it isn't just Reformed soteriology that is on the upswing, it is the Reformed approach to culture that is being embraced. Instead of confronting culture, the attitude is more focused on transforming culture. These ideas are not compatible, so conflict is inevitable.

Why is dispensationalism a defining characteristic of the FBFI? Because we are dispensationalists. It is part of our doctrinal statement. It is who we are. I wouldn't say that it is a distinctive tenet of broader fundamentalism, but many non-FBFI fundamentalists (perhaps most) are also dispensationalists. But I think that this somewhat goes with the tension between Reformed theology and fundamentalism. We all want to claim Machen, for example, but it is doubtful that Machen would want to claim us. It is more that there are points at which militant Reformists (to coin a term) and fundamentalists can be cobelligerents rather than allies.

 

 

Correction: That is one model of the Reformed approach to culture known as "neocalvinism" and/or "transformationalism." It's hardly the only model, isn't the traditional model, may not even be the majority model, and certainly isn't my model. I lean more toward Two Kingdoms-ish myself (or the historic Baptist equivalent). We be a pilgrim folk.

Sure, correction noted, but perhaps you could expand on that. What do you mean by Two Kingdoms? Would you say that the neocalvinist approach is characteristic of what I am calling "the convergents" or is that merely a subset of some?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Andrew K's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

 

Andrew K wrote:

 

 

I would also suggest that as Reformed theology has increased in popularity, it isn't just Reformed soteriology that is on the upswing, it is the Reformed approach to culture that is being embraced. Instead of confronting culture, the attitude is more focused on transforming culture. These ideas are not compatible, so conflict is inevitable.

Why is dispensationalism a defining characteristic of the FBFI? Because we are dispensationalists. It is part of our doctrinal statement. It is who we are. I wouldn't say that it is a distinctive tenet of broader fundamentalism, but many non-FBFI fundamentalists (perhaps most) are also dispensationalists. But I think that this somewhat goes with the tension between Reformed theology and fundamentalism. We all want to claim Machen, for example, but it is doubtful that Machen would want to claim us. It is more that there are points at which militant Reformists (to coin a term) and fundamentalists can be cobelligerents rather than allies.

 

 

Correction: That is one model of the Reformed approach to culture known as "neocalvinism" and/or "transformationalism." It's hardly the only model, isn't the traditional model, may not even be the majority model, and certainly isn't my model. I lean more toward Two Kingdoms-ish myself (or the historic Baptist equivalent). We be a pilgrim folk.

 

 

Sure, correction noted, but perhaps you could expand on that. What do you mean by Two Kingdoms? Would you say that the neocalvinist approach is characteristic of what I am calling "the convergents" or is that merely a subset of some?

Two Kingdoms is the classic Calvinist and Lutheran teaching that sees more discontinuity than continuity between this world and the world to come. Hence, "transformation of culture" is something of a faulty notion, though it may or may not produce good results (e.g., transformationalist efforts in ending child slave labor, etc.). Our cultural products aren't part of the new creation but are, at best, good (or bad) things that we share with unbelievers as part of the common kingdom (hence "two kingdoms"). We don't run around "redeeming" things (except time), because Christ is the only Redeemer and people are the only things that can be redeemed (in a New Creation sense). Our cultural creations, good or bad, are such on the basis of God's moral law and nothing else. They're not eternal, and won't "decorate the new Jerusalem." 

Regarding the second question, neocalvinism may very well be characteristic of what you call "the convergents." I know it is of some. But I have no idea to what degree it's true. I'd like to see some data on that myself. I attend and OPC church currently, so I don't exactly have an ear to the ground with reference to the types you might have in mind.

Don Johnson's picture

Good to know what you mean by Two Kingdoms. I've seen the term around, but not had a working definition in my head. Too busy to study up on it, I guess.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ron Bean's picture

While most of the convergents tend toward Calvinism and while it appears that the FBFI tolerates an anti-Calvinistic attitude as evidenced by Danny Sweatt's sermon of a few years ago ( http://www.sermonaudio.com/saplayer/playpopup.asp?SID=56091910360), I don't think that the alleged lure of Calvinism or Reformed Theology is the explanation for the migration of "convergents" from the FBFI.

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

Bert Perry's picture

I appreciate Tom's thought, and though I differ emphatically with many on many of them, I know they're important--to get right and in a way where we see things Biblically instead of culturally, and using a consistent, tenable, hermeneutic to do so.  That's part of why I take part in these threads.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

If the FBFI is really concerned about the exit of convergents from its fellowship, may I suggest that they do some exit interviews with them. I've always found it more beneficial to talk "to" people rather than "about" them. In the PC (pre convergent) days I was one of those who left the then FBF. I wrote a letter, explaining my concerns, and never got a response.

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

Joel Shaffer's picture

It might be better to classify much of today's reformed thinking into two camps.  

1.  Neo Calvinists---those who embrace reformed theology and have a more transformational view on culture, emphasizing God's sovereignty over all creation.  The influence of Abraham Kuyper cannot be overlooked.  His quote, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” is their rallying cry.  Tim Keller leans towards this view (although he seems to equally advocate the two-kingdom view in one of his books) as does the Christian Hip-Hop artist, Lecrae.  I've heard Lecrae lecture on a couple different occasions and he often speaks of transforming Hip-Hop culture (He quotes Kuyper, Dooyweerd, and Wolters) 

2.  New Calvinists-these reformed folks emphasize God's sovereignty in salvation.  And most of them would adhere more to the two-kingdom view of culture, rather than the transformational view.  Piper is one of the people who birthed this movement.   Here is a summary of how Piper describes New Calvinists.  http://reformedforum.org/john-pipers-twelve-features-new-calvinism/   Hope this helps.....

 

Andrew K's picture

^I might add the influence of Mike Horton, David Van Drunen, the White Horse Inn, and the whole Westminster California crew (and maybe some of Westminster in Philly? Carl Trueman calls himself an "ordinary means of grace-er," but that position seems closer to 2k than to transformationalism) to #2. But that seems to be accurate to me. I didn't know where Piper would fall on these issues, so that's helpful to know.

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

Thanks for your kind and clear response Don! It is appreciated. In response to your response (as is the nature of forums Smile )

You contrast the Baptist Fundamentalist concern of a pure Eccliesology with the Reformed Fundamentalist concern of a pure Soteriology. I think this is a bit of an oversimplification. I would argue that Reformed Fundamentalists are ardently concerned with a pure Eccliesology, but that the first place they start with keeping the church pure is in its Soteriology. They key to a pure church is a right view of salvation. However, my point is that I think that approaching the subject from either emphasis (Eccliesology or Soteriology) gets us to the same relative place. The things that are of concern to Reformed conservative Evangelicals are, in a large part, the same as the things of concern to Fundamentalists (Doctrinal allegiance to the fundamentals, disdain for theological liberalism, separate from false teachers, denial of Ecumenism and Cooperative Evangelism, etc). These common causes are the driving force between convergence. How we got there is of less importance.

I think "big tent" fundamentalism recognizes that there will be nuanced expression of separation due to one's theological system from a practical standpoint. But in the "big tent," those nuances are not the focus. What is held in common is. It is not "mere party politics" that drive separation in the big tent. It is the common cause of the defense of the Christian faith that does. I don't think that most Reformed convergents who desire to stay in the fundamental movement would say that the defense of Reformed soteriology is more important than a pure church. I can only speak for myself here. I am ardently Calvinistic! However, if a Calvinist embraces something that harms the pure church (say cooperative evangelism), then I would find myself separating from that individual. I think you see that kind of thinking in MacArthur and with His Strange Fire conference. While much of modern Reformed thinking is non-cessationist, MacArthur did not give them a pass because they were Calvinists. He called them out for harming the purity of the church.

Finally, your contention that "dispensationalism in large measure created fundamentalism" would doubtless be challenged by those in the Free Presbyterian Church or the Bible Presbyterian Church, those from Westminster or Machen himself. Now, it may be more true that Dispensationalism created a particular flavor of Fundamentalism, but many of the fiercest battles of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy were fought among Presbyterians.

A final question to consider: Is the FBFI willing to lose fellowship with many younger fundamentalists over the issue of Dispensationalism? I think that is a question that seriously needs to be considered by the leadership. When I look at the FBFI Mission, Vision, and Core Values, I say AMEN! When I hear that there is no room for allegiance with a separatist Baptist who is Post-Trib, I am, to say it lightly, less enthusiastic. 

You close by saying that "militant Reformists (to coin a term) and fundamentalists can be cobelligerents rather than allies." This is exactly what is driving younger fundamentalists away. This is precisely what convergents bemoan about the current state of Fundamentalism. We want to view and accept "militant Reformists" as allies. It seems, at least to me, that you are saying that is not possible. And that is exactly why younger fundamentalists are leaving the movement.

Phil Golden

Don Johnson's picture

Philip Golden Jr. wrote:

A final question to consider: Is the FBFI willing to lose fellowship with many younger fundamentalists over the issue of Dispensationalism? I think that is a question that seriously needs to be considered by the leadership. When I look at the FBFI Mission, Vision, and Core Values, I say AMEN! When I hear that there is no room for allegiance with a separatist Baptist who is Post-Trib, I am, to say it lightly, less enthusiastic. 

Well, I don't speak for the FBFI as a whole, but our doctrinal statement is dispensationalist. I don't see how it would work to cooperate with a non-Dispensationalist in an FBFI setting. Could members of the FBFI attend or participate in a broader meeting, such as perhaps the ACCC? Sure. But we as a group are dispensationalists.

Philip Golden Jr. wrote:

You close by saying that "militant Reformists (to coin a term) and fundamentalists can be cobelligerents rather than allies." This is exactly what is driving younger fundamentalists away. This is precisely what convergents bemoan about the current state of Fundamentalism. We want to view and accept "militant Reformists" as allies. It seems, at least to me, that you are saying that is not possible. And that is exactly why younger fundamentalists are leaving the movement.

I think this sentiment misreads the history. The Presbyterians and the Baptists were not cooperating in their fights with modernism. They were fighting their own battles. They may have known each other and encouraged each other on occasion, but their paths did not cross that much. They could cooperate in an endeavor like The Fundamentals, but there was little in common in their church fellowships. I don't see any reason for that to emerge in the future. Why would we, say, get involved in a fight in the PCA or the Bible Presbyterians? We aren't part of them. I doubt they would appreciate the interference.

This sentiment is more along the lines, however, not of fighting against modernism but cooperating with such things as Together for the Gospel or The Gospel Coalition. Well, that isn't going to happen. Those groups have multitudes of problems that affect the fundamentals in profound ways. Not the least is the ongoing revelation of the charismatics. MacArthur can take a strong stand against it as a concept (and he does) but he won't break with Piper and Mahaney who promote it. There are serious errors in the theology of Tim Keller and others in TGC. We aren't going to join with that. Do they produce useful stuff? Sure. But we aren't going to be partners with them either.

In essence, I think the convergent mindset minimizes or fails to see the errors in these groups. I have my suspicions as to why this is so, but that is speculative so I'll let it rest at that.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

J. Baillet's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

I think this sentiment misreads the history. The Presbyterians and the Baptists were not cooperating in their fights with modernism. They were fighting their own battles. They may have known each other and encouraged each other on occasion, but their paths did not cross that much. They could cooperate in an endeavor like The Fundamentals, but there was little in common in their church fellowships. I don't see any reason for that to emerge in the future. Why would we, say, get involved in a fight in the PCA or the Bible Presbyterians? We aren't part of them. I doubt they would appreciate the interference.

Well put.  Agreed.  It works both ways.

JSB

Greg Linscott's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

I think this sentiment misreads the history. The Presbyterians and the Baptists were not cooperating in their fights with modernism. They were fighting their own battles. They may have known each other and encouraged each other on occasion, but their paths did not cross that much. They could cooperate in an endeavor like The Fundamentals, but there was little in common in their church fellowships. I don't see any reason for that to emerge in the future. Why would we, say, get involved in a fight in the PCA or the Bible Presbyterians? We aren't part of them. I doubt they would appreciate the interference.

This sentiment is more along the lines, however, not of fighting against modernism but cooperating with such things as Together for the Gospel or The Gospel Coalition. Well, that isn't going to happen. Those groups have multitudes of problems that affect the fundamentals in profound ways. Not the least is the ongoing revelation of the charismatics. MacArthur can take a strong stand against it as a concept (and he does) but he won't break with Piper and Mahaney who promote it. There are serious errors in the theology of Tim Keller and others in TGC. We aren't going to join with that. Do they produce useful stuff? Sure. But we aren't going to be partners with them either.

In essence, I think the convergent mindset minimizes or fails to see the errors in these groups. I have my suspicions as to why this is so, but that is speculative so I'll let it rest at that.

Don,

What do you see as the difference between cooperating in an endeavor like The Fundamentals or the old prophecy conferences, "camp meetings," Congresses and such, and things like TGC or T4G today? You raise the PCA or Bible Presbyterians of the past and how "we" didn't interfere with their church fellowships. But it seems to me as though there are still separate church fellowships in these modern efforts. Certainly T4G is fairly loose--you have different people coming from different church fellowships. Al Mohler doesn't seem intent on getting MacArthur to fellowship with the SBC, nor does MacArthur seem to be recruiting Ligon Duncan for the IFCA. I am not debating the specific positions or anything like that for this question... just not sure how different the categories of the past are with the categories of today.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Don Johnson's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:

What do you see as the difference between cooperating in an endeavor like The Fundamentals or the old prophecy conferences, "camp meetings," Congresses and such, and things like TGC or T4G today? You raise the PCA or Bible Presbyterians of the past and how "we" didn't interfere with their church fellowships. But it seems to me as though there are still separate church fellowships in these modern efforts. Certainly T4G is fairly loose--you have different people coming from different church fellowships. Al Mohler doesn't seem intent on getting MacArthur to fellowship with the SBC, nor does MacArthur seem to be recruiting Ligon Duncan for the IFCA. I am not debating the specific positions or anything like that for this question... just not sure how different the categories of the past are with the categories of today.

Well, The Fundamentals and the old prophecy conferences were not really fundamentalism as such, were they? They pre-dated fundamentalism, perhaps they could be called embryonic fundamentalism. They did have a fundamentalist center, I would say, and that is they were opposed to modernism.

On the other hand, TGC and T4G have a different center. It seems to me that the center of these efforts are evangelicalism and/or Calvinism. They ignore serious doctrinal deficiencies like charismatism (continuing revelation) and the social gospel efforts of some like Tim Keller.

The difference to me is the central purpose of these efforts. In the past, Dr. Bob Jr and Ian Paisley, among others, attempted to rally fundamentalists in their World Congress meetings. The center of these efforts was fundamentalism. I think you would agree that they were quite different from TGC and T4G. 

I've posted a response to Tyler's list of questions (he simplified it for me) over at oxgoad, if any one is interested.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

On the other hand, TGC and T4G have a different center. It seems to me that the center of these efforts are evangelicalism and/or Calvinism.

I haven't traveled in the TGC circles lately (in part because they blocked my account on Twitter), but the center of TGC/T4G is actually, in fact, ~ the gospel ~.  It's not a group of 'evangelicals', it's not about a group of 'Calvinists'.  It's a recognition of the fact that there are Bible believing Christians all over the place, all of whom are working together to advance (surprise!) the Gospel.  That's what is attractive to me as a young fundamentalist / convergent / dark lord of the sith / whatever the new group is that people have to be warned about.

If Don or others want to build a organization, like the FBFI, based on a joint defense and subscription to dispensationalism (or fundamentalism, as Ian Paisley and BJ Jr. did with the WCF) then that's fine, but it's going to be a much smaller subset and isn't going to attract as many as something as broad as the Gospel itself.  You can't build an organization on two axes that cut against each other.  The Gospel is larger than Fundamentalism.  So either Evangelicals are welcome or they are not.  It sounds like the FBFI wants to limit it to 'fundamentalism'.  That's fine - but you're going to need to define what fundamentalism you stand for and realize that you're self-limiting in important ways. You can't say I want the FBFI to be centered on dispensationalism and include only fundamentalists as well.  Either you celebrate dispensationalism or you don't.  

So when Don argues that TGC 'ignores doctrinal deficiencies like charismaticism and the social gospel', he's partially right.  The TGC crowd is so broad that people who fall into those areas can join and be welcomed - because the overriding concern is the gospel, not theological purity.  But I don't think that it's fair to say that TGC 'ignores' those things.  You can make the case that TGC sidesteps those areas as matter of soul liberty or whatever, but I don't think it's outright, studied and deliberate ignorance.  I do think that it's a huge weakness in TGC, but there's not much I can do about that - it's not like I can ask them to re-write their founding documents or push for change with the TGC Board.  As I said, I've been blocked, so my avenue of approach looks an awful lot like the eye of a needle. Smile

Furthermore, as someone who works in NYC, I'm not real sure how fair it is to attack Keller as preaching a social gospel.  From where I'm standing, it looks an awful lot more like Christians living out their lives and ministering to unbelievers in ways that Fundamentalists do not than any kind of real social gospel.  And it is worth noting that the gospel always affects a broader sphere than just believers and their churches.

"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:

I haven't traveled in the TGC circles lately (in part because they blocked my account on Twitter), but the center of TGC/T4G is actually, in fact, ~ the gospel ~.  It's not a group of 'evangelicals', it's not about a group of 'Calvinists'.

I think it is about the gospel as they define it. Which is to say, a Calvinist gospel, although they are TGC is less overtly Calvinist than T4G. I don't think you can argue with that.

Jay wrote:

So when Don argues that TGC 'ignores doctrinal deficiencies like charismaticism and the social gospel', he's partially right.  The TGC crowd is so broad that people who fall into those areas can join and be welcomed - because the overriding concern is the gospel, not theological purity.  

Exactly. The lack of concern for theological purity is the issue. They welcomed the execrable Driscoll for many years, in spite of many complaints. Why? Because he was right on the gospel, supposedly. 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Greg Linscott's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Well, The Fundamentals and the old prophecy conferences were not really fundamentalism as such, were they? They pre-dated fundamentalism, perhaps they could be called embryonic fundamentalism. They did have a fundamentalist center, I would say, and that is they were opposed to modernism.

On the other hand, TGC and T4G have a different center. It seems to me that the center of these efforts are evangelicalism and/or Calvinism. They ignore serious doctrinal deficiencies like charismatism (continuing revelation) and the social gospel efforts of some like Tim Keller.

The difference to me is the central purpose of these efforts. In the past, Dr. Bob Jr and Ian Paisley, among others, attempted to rally fundamentalists in their World Congress meetings. The center of these efforts was fundamentalism. I think you would agree that they were quite different from TGC and T4G. 

Don,

I'm not asking about the center, though. You seemed to be objecting in the earlier posts on the grounds that different congregations and individuals could not be allies because of incompatible ideas that distinguished different church groups from one another (such as PCA and Bible Presbyterians). But whatever their center issue was, my point is raising examples of the past is that many Fundamentalist congregations and leaders had some type of connection with others not in their specific "church groups." While T4G may have a different center or purpose than something like a Congress of Baptist Fundamentalists or American Council of Christian Churches, I'm not sure it is a different category. 

In the context of the current discussion, one could at least argue that  the efforts to counter Modernism in past efforts are similar to current efforts to oppose the excesses of mainstream Evangelicalism, with a variety of examples one could cite such as Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Andy Stanley, and even Rick Warren (who arguably has enough gospel content to put him in a different category than the first two).

Whatever else, it doesn't seem that the various specific church groups represented in this discussion do very much on their own to oppose and address more serious error... almost tending more to assume (especially in Fundamentalism) that is so off the reservation that it poses no immediate threat. But from where the so-called "Convergents" sit, could it be that there could be more of a perception of immediate threat, so better to have the benefits of some combination, whether you classify it as "alliance" or "co-belligerence," with those who are sounding the call and opposing the error?  

Why does action or even general sympathy at that level seem to constitute a betrayal of one's "church group?"

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Don Johnson's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:

 

Don Johnson wrote:

 

Well, The Fundamentals and the old prophecy conferences were not really fundamentalism as such, were they? They pre-dated fundamentalism, perhaps they could be called embryonic fundamentalism. They did have a fundamentalist center, I would say, and that is they were opposed to modernism.

On the other hand, TGC and T4G have a different center. It seems to me that the center of these efforts are evangelicalism and/or Calvinism. They ignore serious doctrinal deficiencies like charismatism (continuing revelation) and the social gospel efforts of some like Tim Keller.

The difference to me is the central purpose of these efforts. In the past, Dr. Bob Jr and Ian Paisley, among others, attempted to rally fundamentalists in their World Congress meetings. The center of these efforts was fundamentalism. I think you would agree that they were quite different from TGC and T4G. 

 

 

Don,

I'm not asking about the center, though. You seemed to be objecting in the earlier posts on the grounds that different congregations and individuals could not be allies because of incompatible ideas that distinguished different church groups from one another (such as PCA and Bible Presbyterians). But whatever their center issue was, my point is raising examples of the past is that many Fundamentalist congregations and leaders had some type of connection with others not in their specific "church groups." While T4G may have a different center or purpose than something like a Congress of Baptist Fundamentalists or American Council of Christian Churches, I'm not sure it is a different category.

Well, it depends on what you are talking about. When it comes to the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy, those efforts were very denomination specific. The Baptists had their fight, the Presbyterians theirs. And it looks like the PCA has some trouble stirring on various fronts at the moment, see the Bayly bros. blog for more details. What I was responding to was the question "why can't we join forces?" Well, we have different fights on our hands.

I agree that The Fundamentals or  the prophecy conferences and the like were efforts where fundamentalists reached across denominational lines to encourage one another. That is fine as far as it goes, and hasn't been unknown in fairly recent history. The FBFI had some connections (through Rod Bell and the Joneses) with Paisley and the Free Presbyterians. That doesn't mean the activity of the FBFI as such would spend much time on joint efforts, but the connections still existed.

Greg Linscott wrote:

In the context of the current discussion, one could at least argue that  the efforts to counter Modernism in past efforts are similar to current efforts to oppose the excesses of mainstream Evangelicalism, with a variety of examples one could cite such as Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Andy Stanley, and even Rick Warren (who arguably has enough gospel content to put him in a different category than the first two).

...

Why does action or even general sympathy at that level seem to constitute a betrayal of one's "church group?"

What do you mean by action or general sympathy?

On the one hand, what specific action should we (as outsiders) take towards the types you mention that we have not taken? What action are the supposed insiders in their circles taking towards such teachers? I'm not sure that you have a point here.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
I think it is about the gospel as they define it. Which is to say, a Calvinist gospel, although they are TGC is less overtly Calvinist than T4G. I don't think you can argue with that.

There is only one gospel.  What do you mean by the 'Calvinist gospel'?  Is it the 'Lordship' gospel?  How do you define it?

Quote:
Exactly. The lack of concern for theological purity is the issue. They welcomed the execrable Driscoll for many years, in spite of many complaints. Why? Because he was right on the gospel, supposedly. 

So for Christians...do we make the purity of the gospel our defining concern, or do we make the gospel our defining concern.  That is where the division occurs...and this is why I said, on a different thread, that the primary issue between Fundamentalists and Convergents is where the emphasis is placed.  Both will defend their position against attack.  Both will separate over it.  But they don't look or act the same or respond to the same 'triggers' (and I use that term loosely).

And for the record, Don, a bunch of us YF's / Convergents / Evangelicals did push back on Driscoll.  T4G shut us down quickly, usually by blacklisting/banning the accounts of people who were voicing concern.  That's what the old SI thread on #TGCBlockparty was about from a couple years back.  Most of us got the message they sent and pulled away from them as a result.

EDIT - this isn't the thread I'm looking for, but there was an discussion of separation within TGC related to the TD Jakes imbroglio a few years back that I found online.

"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:

 

Don Johnson wrote:

I think it is about the gospel as they define it. Which is to say, a Calvinist gospel, although they are TGC is less overtly Calvinist than T4G. I don't think you can argue with that.

 

There is only one gospel.  What do you mean by the 'Calvinist gospel'?  Is it the 'Lordship' gospel?  How do you define it?

It is not how I define it, it is how some Calvinists define it. To them, the gospel includes the so-called "Doctrines of Grace". As such it excludes those who don't accept the tenets of Calvinism.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

Here's their explanation of what the gospel is, reproduced from the TGC website:

The Gospel
We believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ—God’s very wisdom. Utter folly to the world, even though it is the power of God to those who are being saved, this good news is christological, centering on the cross and resurrection: the gospel is not proclaimed if Christ is not proclaimed, and the authentic Christ has not been proclaimed if his death and resurrection are not central (the message is: “Christ died for our sins . . . [and] was raised”). This good news is biblical (his death and resurrection are according to the Scriptures), theological and salvific (Christ died for our sins, to reconcile us to God), historical (if the saving events did not happen, our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, and we are to be pitied more than all others), apostolic (the message was entrusted to and transmitted by the apostles, who were witnesses of these saving events), and intensely personal (where it is received, believed, and held firmly, individual persons are saved).

Do you, Don, agree with this, or do you think that it is inadequate.  If so, why?

I'm not playing 'gotcha' here.  I'm trying to understand your position.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Greg Linscott's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

What do you mean by action or general sympathy?

On the one hand, what specific action should we (as outsiders) take towards the types you mention that we have not taken? What action are the supposed insiders in their circles taking towards such teachers? I'm not sure that you have a point here.

By action or general sympathy, I'm talking about the kinds of things that have some being labeled "Convergent," especially those things that cause concern, but cannot be said to conclusively conclude that the person in question is not  ceasing to (as quoted by Vaughn in his interview article)..."believe the Bible, obey the Bible, proclaim the Bible, and defend the Bible."

Regarding specific action of the "insiders," I would say that one obvious thing has been the effectiveness at rallying a significant number of pastors (especially from the new generation) to guard against pragmatism and love Bible exposition by modeling and championing. This has been accomplished, not only by things like the T4G meetings, but by effective engagement through publishing (and by that, not just printing books). Whether or not they always openly oppose and identify those in error, what they have done has been effective at providing an alternative to prosperity gospel, Charismaticism, and seeker-sensitivity. Some of what is being derided in this latest Frontline issue as a desire for relevance might just be effective communication and evidence of knowing the audience. How effective is taking the right stand if you aren't also persuading others to stand with you?

That isn't to say popularity is the only measure of success. But the reality is that if popularity were the only consideration by those "Converging," you would see far more leaving Fundamentalism for the Seeker model. Whatever else, it seems that if the birds are indeed leaving the nest, they're not falling from the tree, so to speak.

What actions could better be taken? Well, it does seem, for one, that as much criticism toward the Seeker model (and "leftward") could be made as is given toward the "Conservative Evangelicals." You mentioned Rod Pell and Ian Paisley. As it stands right now, it sometimes seems that more effort is being made to distinguish paedos from credos than the opposition both parties would have to the errors of Rome (speaking comparatively, not literally on those issues).

Instead, the force behind the coining of the Convergent" category seems bent on a pessimistic perspective... "they hate us 'cause they ain't us." Instead of looking at the situation, learning from it, and considering how the cause might be better communicated to rally others to it, it looks like a double-down consolidation, "the dwarfs are for the dwarfs!" Last Battle kind of mentality. Everything seems to be the fault of those perceived to be departing... no evidence of "what could we do or could we have done?"

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Don Johnson's picture

Jay:

See the link Greg provided above. The distinctiveness of TGC is not limited to the gospel per se. It is the gospel plus. That is my point.

Greg:

What??? I'm not getting anything out of your last post.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Joel Shaffer's picture

Don, 

Linking Tim Keller to the Social Gospel is pretty laughable, considering his church has helped start 387 churches in the past 13 years.  I have extensively studied the history of the social gospel and liberalism from the late 19th/early 20th century and have extensively read Keller's books, heard his sermons, and read position papers from his church and really the only thing that he has in common with the social gospel movement is that he also cares for justice for the poor.  Of course there have been discernment blog sites and posts and even a book or two that try to link Keller to the Social Gospel, but they lack the necessary theological scholarship about the social gospel and they also build their arguments on logical fallacies.   Now if you had mentioned Tim Keller's leanings and/or embracing of Theistic evolution, I would be much more sympathetic towards your argument.  In my opinion that is a problem.    

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