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

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Jay's picture

​Thanks for the tips.  I re-read the Bauder articles on the way home this evening, and I disagreed with some of what he wrote, especially in the first article, because I think that Dr. Bauder may be taking away more than is intended from the TGC documents...I will circle back to that when I have more time.

At the end of the day, however, the big issue is that it seems as though both Dr. Bauder and Don believe that dispensationalism / premillennialism is worth elevating to the level of a fundamental Christian doctrine. Although I think those beliefs are (very!) important and worth defending, I am not willing to say that denial of dispensationalism makes a person keeps them from salvation, so it cannot be a truly 'fundamental' doctrine.

You'll disagree with me on that, I'm sure, but I simply can't ascribe that level of importance to the doctrine.  If Paul clearly and explicitly taught dispensationalism in the NT epistles, I would feel differently.

And Greg?  I think Treebeard is more apropos here: "I am not altogether on anybody's side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me..." Smile

"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:

​Thanks for the tips.  I re-read the Bauder articles on the way home this evening, and I disagreed with some of what he wrote, especially in the first article, because I think that Dr. Bauder may be taking away more than is intended from the TGC documents...I will circle back to that when I have more time.

But Jay, you want to hold me to the TGC definition of the gospel, then say the rest of their documents don't matter?? Not logical, Captain, as a certain pointy eared alien would say.

Jay wrote:

At the end of the day, however, the big issue is that it seems as though both Dr. Bauder and Don believe that dispensationalism / premillennialism is worth elevating to the level of a fundamental Christian doctrine. Although I think those beliefs are (very!) important and worth defending, I am not willing to say that denial of dispensationalism makes a person keeps them from salvation, so it cannot be a truly 'fundamental' doctrine.

You'll disagree with me on that, I'm sure, but I simply can't ascribe that level of importance to the doctrine.  If Paul clearly and explicitly taught dispensationalism in the NT epistles, I would feel differently.

Well, first, nice LOTR reference! (I cut it out nonetheless).

Well, I think dispensationalism is clearly taught, especially in Romans 11. Regardless, I wouldn't make it a fundamental. I do think it is important, and it defines the FBFI. That doesn't mean it defines all fundamentalists.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Greg Linscott's picture

At the end of the day, however, the big issue is that it seems as though both Dr. Bauder and Don believe that dispensationalism / premillennialism is worth elevating to the level of a fundamental Christian doctrine. Although I think those beliefs are (very!) important and worth defending, I am not willing to say that denial of dispensationalism makes a person keeps them from salvation, so it cannot be a truly 'fundamental' doctrine.

I'm not sure how you get that out of Bauder's series. He is a dispensationalist, and believes that is a criteria for fellowship at his church level. So do I. I don't see how you think that means he believes it to be a fundamental doctrine. His point in the article is that these organizations seem to exclude dispensationalists... they would be elevating certain principles of Calvinism and Reformed doctrine to Fundamental levels.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Jay's picture

At the end of the day, however, the big issue is that it seems as though both Dr. Bauder and Don believe that dispensationalism / premillennialism is worth elevating to the level of a fundamental Christian doctrine.

Ok, I may have phrased that poorly.  I think that Don does elevate that, but Bauder may not.  Like I said, I was crushed for time and couldn't elaborate.

Bauder's point is that TGC is Gospel+ (a term that Don uses), but I don't read the positions that Bauder says TGC takes when I read their documents.  Here's the link and DS article in question:

10. The Kingdom of God 

We believe that those who have been saved by the grace of God through union with Christ by faith and through regeneration by the Holy Spirit enter the kingdom of God and delight in the blessings of the new covenant: the forgiveness of sins, the inward transformation that awakens a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God, and the prospect of the glory yet to be revealed. Good works constitute indispensable evidence of saving grace. Living as salt in a world that is decaying and light in a world that is dark, believers should neither withdraw into seclusion from the world, nor become indistinguishable from it: rather, we are to do good to the city, for all the glory and honor of the nations is to be offered up to the living God. Recognizing whose created order this is, and because we are citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing good to all, especially to those who belong to the household of God. The kingdom of God, already present but not fully realized, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty in the world toward the eventual redemption of all creation. The kingdom of God is an invasive power that plunders Satan’s dark kingdom and regenerates and renovates through repentance and faith the lives of individuals rescued from that kingdom. It therefore inevitably establishes a new community of human life together under God.

Bauder's first article then says this:

This is a very definite assertion of an inaugurated kingdom. Of course many gospel believers do affirm that the kingdom is “already and not yet.” Nevertheless, few if any traditional dispensationalists can accept this statement. They understand the kingdom to mean the millennial realm of Christ, which has certainly not been inaugurated. If The Gospel Coalition means what it says, then it excludes most traditional dispensationalists.

Furthermore, article nine states that, in the Holy Spirit, believers “are baptized into union with the Lord Jesus, such that they are justified before God by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.” In other words, justification is the result of Spirit baptism and the believer’s consequent union with Christ. Again, traditional dispensationalists see it differently. 

My point isn't to say that Bauder is wrong.  As I read the DS, I get the sense that they aren't interested in the discussion of eschatology at all in this section.  So while a dispensationalist could disagree with it if they are reading eschatology back into the TGC statement, I do not see, read, or understand there to be any references to eschatological concerns in that section of their document at all.  As a matter of fact, there is a completely different section later in the doctrinal statement on 'last things':

The Restoration of All Things 

We believe in the personal, glorious, and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ with his holy angels, when he will exercise his role as final Judge, and his kingdom will be consummated. We believe in the bodily resurrection of both the just and the unjust—the unjust to judgment and eternal conscious punishment in hell, as our Lord himself taught, and the just to eternal blessedness in the presence of him who sits on the throne and of the Lamb, in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness. On that day the church will be presented faultless before God by the obedience, suffering and triumph of Christ, all sin purged and its wretched effects forever banished. God will be all in all and his people will be enthralled by the immediacy of his ineffable holiness, and everything will be to the praise of his glorious grace.

Is that a traditional premill/pretrib formulation?  No, and I don't think it's intended to be, because I'm 99.999% sure that TGC doesn't want to take an explicit position on that theological point.  They want the fellowship/organization to have a 'bigger tent' where, say, Pre-wrath or Post-Trib people are welcome.  I read it, as Bauder referred to, as a 'already/not yet' formulation completely outside of eschatology.

Now the RESULTS of accomodating the differing positions are serious and wide-ranging.  But as I read it, this is an "In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity" exercise, not as an attempt to exclude dispensationalists from TGC or even make them feel unwelcome.  

"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

But Jay, you want to hold me to the TGC definition of the gospel, then say the rest of their documents don't matter?? 

No, I'm saying that I think we (as Fundamentalists) are reading into their statements. 

As I said before, I don't really run in TGC circles that much, but I'd be pretty stunned if they announced at one of their conferences (or on the website or whatever) that they are going to explicitly exclude traditional dispensationalists from their fellowship.  That seems to run against what I have heard and seen from them.

I'm saying that their documents seem to be constructed in such a way as to afford the most leeway and flexibility to those who are interested in joining or following them, including fundamentalists, evangelicals, convergents, or Dark Lords of the Sith.  Or even Ents, for that matter.  The FBFI, on the other hand, seems to be constructed in such a way that a person must be both a 'fundamentalist' (whatever that means anymore) AND a 'dispensationalist'.  I don't have a problem with that if that's the position, but please don't tell me that TGC is 'gospel+' and the FBFI is not.  The FBFI is clearly 'gospel+', if you have to be a dispensationalist.  Someone who is a covenant theologian would likely not feel welcome at the FBFI meeting.

That's my point.

"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

I tend to think Jay is right here. I highly doubt these statements were worded in such a way as to include traditional dispensationalists. I suspect traditional dispensationalism just isn't really on the radar for most of those involved in these organizations, traditional dispensationalists traditionally sticking to their traditional enclaves. ;) 

Greg Linscott's picture

...but there might be a reason you don't see John MacArthur (or someone similar) on their council, who hold an explicit position on dispensational eschatology, or the church in which they serve establishes it as a distinctive of their congregation.

I know MacArthur has spoken in TGC events, but he has spoken in a lot of places.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Andrew K's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:

...but there might be a reason you don't see John MacArthur (or someone similar) on their council, who hold an explicit position on dispensational eschatology, or the church in which they serve establishes it as a distinctive of their congregation.

I know MacArthur has spoken in TGC events, but he has spoken in a lot of places.

Possibly for the same reason you don't see a James White or a Carl Trueman on their council. Such figures are considered a bit more "divisive" than is preferred, esp. with MacArthur's strong stand against the charismatics. I don't believe it has much to do at all with MacArthur's nontraditional dispensationalism

Greg Linscott's picture

Andrew, possibly. I had a personal conversation with Phil Johnson a few years ago that makes me allow for other possibilities.

On the other hand, if you've had Mark Driscoll in your group, can anyone really be excluded as "divisive" with any degree of credibility? Smile

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Andrew K's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:

Andrew, possibly. I had a personal conversation with Phil Johnson a few years ago that makes me allow for other possibilities.

On the other hand, if you've had Mark Driscoll in your group, can anyone really be excluded as "divisive" with any degree of credibility? Smile

Afraid "cool"/"hip" trumps "divisive." Cranky, old, white men don't get that pass.  :)

Greg Linscott's picture

Andrew K wrote:

Afraid "cool"/"hip" trumps "divisive." Cranky, old, white men don't get that pass.  :)

 

Ha!

But more seriously, if there is someone from an explicitly dispensational church on the TGC council, please point it out. I didn't scan every member listed, but the ones I did showed no such evidence.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Bert Perry's picture

One "fig leaf" I can offer the FBFI regarding the controversy over dispensational theology vs. covenant theology and other variants is that--and I concede that I'm grossly oversimplifying here--covenant theology tends to do a lot of "spiritualizing" of passages, making Israel mean "the church" and so on.  As such, it can be legitimately seen as infringing on the first fundamental and Sola Scriptura.  It's subtle and of course disputed, but debates over proper exegesis/hermeneutics have been part of our tradition since Luther and before, really.  I would even argue that it's an important part of the gradual process of removing Catholic doctrines from the church.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

So I searched on Premilliennialism at TGC's website...here's some of what I found:

Are You a Dispensationalist? with Erik Reymond
Understanding Dispensationalism - a link to Vern Polythress's book (which is online in its' entirety) by Justin Taylor
5 Observations about Younger Southern Baptists

Quote:

4. Younger Southern Baptists are all over the spectrum when it comes to eschatology. 

I don’t have surveys to back this up, but my hunch is that thirty years ago, most conservative Southern Baptists would have placed themselves firmly in the premillennial, pretribulation Rapture camp regarding the end times. Dispensationalism reigned supreme for decades, even if prominent Southern Baptists throughout history like E.Y. Mullins and Herschel Hobbs did not hold this view.

Among young Southern Baptists today, Dispensationalism is on the decline and diversity is the norm. Whenever I talk to young guys about their eschatology, they run the spectrum from amillennial, to historic premillennial, to post-tribulation Rapture, to partial preterism. I’ve even met a couple of postmillennial Southern Baptists (a happy, hopeful minority!). But I meet very few traditional Dispensationalists. Left Behind was perhaps the best and worst thing to ever happen to Dispensationalism. The books popularized it for the masses and made it a punchline for the next generation.

I suspect the eschatological shift among younger Southern Baptists is more substantial than the Reformed discussion, but it doesn’t get headlines because (1) pastors are inclined to not make a big deal of their position, especially if it differs from that of their church, and (2) I’ve yet to hear of any church splits where eschatology was at the forefront. Of course, the Baptist Faith and Message (wisely) does not specify an End Times scenario.

 

and maybe my favorite story of all: John MacArthur Defines Self-Respecting Calvinism as Premillennial

Money quote:

He made an interesting connection between Genesis and Revelation. Basically he said that when people spiritualize or allegorize the first three chapters of Genesis we call them Liberals, but when they do the same with the prophetic Scriptures we call them amillennialists. MacArthur insisted that we should be able to preach the whole Bible without changing the original meaning of the text or abrogating promises.

In a really interesting illustration MacArthur envisioned an amillennialist evangelizing a Jew. He asked what the amillennialist would say if the Jew asked about the kingdom and the blessings. The amil guy, MacArthur said, would have to say that things have changed, those promises no longer apply to you, we have them now and this is the kingdom. In a shocking conclusion to the illustration, MacArthur said, “if this is the kingdom, then Jesus is not the messiah”. His point being that Jesus literally fulfilled promises of God just as they would have been literally taken, how in the world can we now redefine the kingdom in a different way than it was described in and through the prophets?

This message clears up any questions as to where MacArthur stands on the eschatology issue. His presentation was not an attempt to harmonize Calvinism with a premillennial view but rather to show the inconsistency of the contrary. He also spoke briefly about dispensationalism, but I am not going to cover that here, I got to run.

So check out Tim Challies’ summary on this once it is posted and if you are able to get your mitts on the audio for this [edit: here is the link] it is highly recommended.

I couldn’t help but wonder what the other guest speakers might have been thinking as they sat in the front row. Ligon Duncan and CJ Maheney (preaching tonight in the place of John Piper) both are Amil; Al Mohler and Mark Dever are both Historic Premil (I believe, correct me if I am wrong).

 

"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

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