Are We Evangelicals?

"The need to define the term seems universal among those trying to get a handle on the history. In Kidd’s piece, he shows how the term evangelical now carries political baggage. He traces this development through recent decades. (Well, they seem recent to a certain set, at least!)" - Don Johnson

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TylerR's picture

Editor

I get what Don is saying. I've said this before, and Don has rebuked me because I've failed to be sufficiently clear, but I'll try again:

  • Fundamentalism split in the second quarter of the 20th century into two broad camps; those who were more militant and seperatist and those who were more irenic.
  • I would side with the latter
  • Today, I am what Olson labels a "post-fundamentalist evangelical."
  • I think this is the place to be

I have thought for several years now, ever since that shameful Frontline article, that the idea of true fundamentalism is more about ethos; more a philosophy of ministry than a unique set of doctrines. Evangelicals and what Olson calls "later fundamentalism" (e.g. the FBFI) largely agree on doctrine; it's the ethos you take REGARDING that doctrine that is distinctive.  Olson makes this great comment:

The difference between early fundamentalism and later fundamentalism is not so much one of doctrine as of mood. The single most important distinction between them has to do with later fundamentalism's adoption of a militant stance toward exposing the "heresies" of other Christians and of a policy of separation not only from liberal Christians but also from fellow evangelicals who do not separate from liberal Christian denominations and organizations (Pocket History of Evangelical Theology, 84-85).

The mood, or ethos or philosophy, is different. Evangelicalism has the same goal; the Gospel and protection of orthodoxy. But, later fundamentalism found itself at odds over the APOROACH to achieve these goals. So, evangelicalism split, and this difference of "mood" seems to sum up many of their differences.

Is FBFI-style fundamentalism "evangelicalism?" Don doesn't think it is. I think it is, historically, but it's certainly a very distinct sub-set of the movement. Its later fundamentalism. I'm content to be a "post fundamentalist evangelical." Its the mood and ethos. I think it's important enough to separate from, ironically enough!

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?

Mark_Smith's picture

I am surrounded by people who say they believe all the right doctrines, but they do all kinds of silly stuff I think is nuts. Examples include shallow youth programs, terrible children's programs, etc.. that focus on you rather than Jesus. Some others rant against Joel Osteen, then rock to Hillsong and Bethel Music (both charismatic to the core) every Sunday (hint most the SBC nowadays). Others talk about love, love, love, all day long. Jesus loves you. He loves me. We are all loved by Jesus. Mention wrath and they turn green and turn their backs on you for being a Pharisee. Other churches are more like divorce recovery programs. They focus on being hospitals for you to repair your life. Its all about you improving you because Jesus loves you and wants you to be happy. Worse yet, they twist evangelism into making everybody feel loved.

I could go on and on, but I really frustrated about it. They say they check all the right theological boxes, but I can't stand the thought of joinging the shallow, vapid. Christianity they say is biblical. Yuck.

TylerR's picture

Editor

It won't get any better. This is the way things are! This coming Tuesday, the other elder and I are meeting with a church member, who has an MDiv, who has accused us of preaching "works salvation" because we emphasize sin, repentance and the necessity of fruit in your life if you claim to be a Christian.

I think the ethos of latter-day fundamentalism is often mean-spirited and focuses on minor issues. In effect, I have separated over ethos (ironically enough). I think latter-day Baptist fundamentalism is not a good ecclesiastical environment. I think the movement has lost its sense of purpose. I think the conservative evangelicals are the ones who are perpetuating the ethos of the original fundamentalists, which is why I believe it's a healthier place to be. It's also why I believe the GARBC is a very healthy association. It's focused on building healthy churches. It isn't trying to fight old battles again ... and again ... and again. 

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?

Andrew K's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

I am surrounded by people who say they believe all the right doctrines, but they do all kinds of silly stuff I think is nuts. Examples include shallow youth programs, terrible children's programs, etc.. that focus on you rather than Jesus. Some others rant against Joel Osteen, then rock to Hillsong and Bethel Music (both charismatic to the core) every Sunday (hint most the SBC nowadays). Others talk about love, love, love, all day long. Jesus loves you. He loves me. We are all loved by Jesus. Mention wrath and they turn green and turn their backs on you for being a Pharisee. Other churches are more like divorce recovery programs. They focus on being hospitals for you to repair your life. Its all about you improving you because Jesus loves you and wants you to be happy. Worse yet, they twist evangelism into making everybody feel loved.

I could go on and on, but I really frustrated about it. They say they check all the right theological boxes, but I can't stand the thought of joinging the shallow, vapid. Christianity they say is biblical. Yuck.


I'm frankly shocked at how much sympathy exists for the charismatic movement in the SBC world--let alone the fundamentalist and Reformed crowds. Don't get me wrong, there are kind and wonderful Christians I've known who happen to be charismatic; but it simply does not produce a mature and healthy Christian mind.

Don Johnson's picture

TylerR wrote:

 I think the conservative evangelicals are the ones who are perpetuating the ethos of the original fundamentalists, which is why I believe it's a healthier place to be.

How are they trying to root out the errant ones from their organizations? The "original fundamentalists" for example, tried to purge their Northern Baptist seminaries and mission boards of modernists. Who are the conservative evangelicals trying to purge? They seem quite content with merely identifying (occasionally) the bad actors, but they don't push for their ouster. Rick Warren is still in the SBC last time I checked. Charismatics are still welcome at T4G, TGC, etc.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mark_Smith's picture

Can you flesh out what you mean by "conservative evangelical"? If you mean MacArthur, Piper, and Mohler, fine. But what about the average evangelical church? I mean the Summit Church, or Velocity Church, or Church at Foggy Bottoms (a Baptist Congregation) that are dotted across the USA. They are conservative evangelicals, and they do all kinds of weird stuff I KNOW you would have no part in. Will you align with them and say sure, they are a great church. Go there to a new convert.

** For clarity Summit Church and Velocity Church are random silly sounding church names I picked to represent the present attitude of evangelical churches. I am not meaning and specific Summit or Velocity Church.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Every movement has weirdos. Baptist fundamentalism has the "Sword crowd" and the BBF co-existing uneasily with MBU/FBFI and the more Remormed-ish brands of fundamentalism. Likewise for conservative evangelicalism (e.g. JMac, Ligonier, Mohler, etc.).

I'm a Regular Baptist, which is such a different flavor of fundamentalism than the FBFI and the heirs of the "hard core" CBA in TONE (not doctrine) that it is, essentially, conservative evangelicalism.

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?

Mark_Smith's picture

Methinks you have too narrow a view of "conservative evangelicalism".  Conservative evangelicalism includes a lot of people who say they are conservative theologically, but their praxis is far different from you.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Fundamentalism is pretty broad, too. It includes a whole host of movements I think are heretical and/or want nothing to do with. As I said, there are weirdos everywhere.

As far as labels go, as I said, I'm a Regular Baptist. Its allegedly a fundamentalist association, but the mood and ethos is so at odds with so much of Baptist fundamentalism that I regard it as indistinguishable from conservative evangelicalism (ala the IFCA). For context, see my category of "fundagelical" here. The article is nearly two years old, and I'd revise some of it, but I think it's still reasonably accurate.

Any movement has different flavors, and all taxonomies have limitations. If you imagine a taxonomy of evangelicalism (and there are a few floating around in SI archives), I'd put myself in something akin to "confessional evangelicalism" (i.e. hard right).

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?

Joel Tetreau's picture

I'm not sure that I can beat what my colleague Tyler has noted here and elsewhere... but, I'll share some thoughts in the upcoming Voice magazine. I've given the title to my response... "The hijacking of Fundamentalism..." 

Hope many of you will take the time to pick up a copy...

Just as a side, I'm thrilled for the strong relationship that continues to develop between the GARB and the IFCA... that has been a God-send... For any of you brothers who are without a fellowship, and you long for a conservative group that is committed to Biblical orthodoxy and charity at the same time... please talk to either your nearest IFCA or GARB pastor-friend.  

Until then....

See you at the fire-pit fellowship with hot cocoa, coffee and lots of encouragement...

Straight Ahead! 

jt

 

 

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Ron Bean's picture

Joel, let us know when your article comes out. (I i might even subscribe to the magazine.)

There is a brand of fundamentalism "that is committed to Biblical orthodoxy and charity at the same time" and there is a brand of fundamentalism that seem to me at most  times have as a prime commitment to separation from anyone they consider to be disobedient brethren and whose militancy, which used to reserved for apostasy, is now directed against those brethren. 

It would be interesting to know how those in the FBFI orbit think of the budding relationship  between the IFCA and GARBC and the recent GARBC Council of 18 meeting on the BJU campus.

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

Joeb's picture

Tyler is their a difference between West Coast GARBS and Midwest GARBS and say EASTERN GARBS.  Like do some GARBS practice secondary separation as the FBFI crowd does and others don't.  Do GARB Churches have different positions on music drinking alcohol etc.  Being that if I met up with Bert who attends a GARB Church he would have a cold craft beer with me yet another GARB would reject that.  Just wondered if there are different colors in the rainbow in the GARBC just like the SBC.    

Jim's picture

Joeb wrote:

Tyler is their a difference between West Coast GARBS and Midwest GARBS and say EASTERN GARBS.  Like do some GARBS practice secondary separation as the FBFI crowd does and others don't.  Do GARB Churches have different positions on music drinking alcohol etc.  Being that if I met up with Bert who attends a GARB Church he would have a cold craft beer with me yet another GARB would reject that.  Just wondered if there are different colors in the rainbow in the GARBC just like the SBC.    

No doubt!

Ed Vasicek's picture

I was in the IFCA many years ago, and the IFCA, GARB, and Grace Brethren always seemed to get along pretty well.  I remember when John Whitcomb (Grace Brethren, before the split) was the keynote speaker at the IFCA  national conference back in 1976 (I was 19 at the time).

I am not into secondary separation and more doctrinally oriented than militant.  The problem with all movements is that their members each have a different personality.  Hard-driving personalities at home and work make for hard-driving approaches toward ministry and separation. Relational people tend to be less militant no matter what their labels.

As a result, I am of the opinion that people are often drawn to movements (and sadly even theological perspectives sometimes) based upon their personality.  This idea is readily dismissed because there are SOME people of all personalities in every group. Personality is a FACTOR, but not the only factor, but it weights movements toward a certain personality bent.

Because it is a blow to our egos to admit we are drawn to certain groups based upon our personality (we like to think we are more objective than most others), we rarely examine this concept.  

Don't think a book -- or even article -- deals with this in detail.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

One thing that strikes me is something the evangelical newspaper of record, the Babylon Bee, notes from time to time; there are simply times when a theoretically "evangelical" or "fundamental" pastors slip away from exegeting the Scriptures to what they call "moral therapeutic deism."  The Trinity is submerged in a modalistic example as an explanation, etc..  Real, theological imperatives are submerged in attempts to put makeup on cultural habits to make them look like theology.

This is evangelicalism?  This is evangelical or fundamental theology at work?  Why doesn't it look a little more like the Gospels?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.