Has Sharper Iron Changed?

Let me start by saying that these are my impressions and I realize that, like everyone, I have my own beliefs that color my thinking. 

It is my impression that SI has become increasingly insular of late. I am not an old timer like some here but in the five or so years that I have been here I have noticed a shift. When I joined there were still some KJV only types here. I think they were more like strongly preferred but I could be wrong. There was also a decent contingent of Arminians or at least less Calvinistic folks than there are now. There was some pretty good discussion among those who disagreed and it seemed like, oh I don’t know, iron sharpening iron. I wonder if those people would still feel welcome here? It seems that many are using SI as a platform against wacky fundamentalism rather than celebrating its better elements. Kind of a do right BJU light. Almost every discussion seems to degenerate into some type of attack on the negative aspects of fundamentalism. 

In large part I can understand the exasperation of some who feel that unbiblical concepts are constantly being propogated. Let’s face it if music, alcohol, etc. is mentioned the thread will be mostly negative and unhelpful. I can also understand those that don’t want to identify with the term fundamentalist because of the negative connotations. From my perspective though those people aren’t here. I can understand going on the attack when we had the couple of people that were genuine heretics (I was one of those on the attack) but if someone differs over music, alcohol, dress, etc. do we really need a dogpile? When was the last time you read a pro-fundamentalism quote on SI? I wonder how many here can still sign on to the doctrinal statement? 

In general I think SI is a huge benefit but I hope we will all (myself included) reconsider our tone to see if we are being loving to those who disagree. In the words of the philosopher, that’s all I have to say about that. 

Edit: I realized that I was conflating the doctrinal statement with the definition of “Fundamentalist?” given. I am quite certain everyone here would subscribe to the doctrinal statement. 

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JD Miller's picture

I wonder if part of the reason for the shift is just that fewer people in general are interacting with SI.  The world wide web is a big place, and some may have found other sites to frequent. 

I do understand that KJ only folks may not feel as welcome here. As the discussion has taken place a fairly solid consensus was reached among the SI community.  That does not mean that it was 100%, but as ideas were exchanged it soon became clear where the vast majority stood.  Some hold the KJV position more moderately and felt they could stay and interact.  Others viewed it as a fundamental of the faith and could not imagine continuing to interact with those who would not hold that position.  Many of them left thinking they were doing right for not compromising their position.  A similar approach may have been taken by some on the issue of music.

Over the past year there has been intense interaction on the issue of alcohol.  Since there are varying positions ranging from prohibition to moderation- with a large grouping of SI readers promoting abstaining, the discussion has continued.  I may be wrong, but I do not expect as much interaction on that subject over the next year, since it was dealt with quite a bit in 2018 and we know where each other stands now.  I think that is what happened with some of those other issues as well.  At a certain point we end up rehashing the same arguments and it just makes sense to move on to another subject.

I have to chuckle because two of my favorite posts on SI from the past couple of weeks came from one of the members who I normally disagree with.  What a reminder that as we come together as believers we can strengthen and encourage one another.  His comments were not on any of the big attention grabbing subjects like music, versions, or alcohol, but on the day to day subjects of our walk with the Lord and each other.

I look forward to having my ideas sharpened as we move forward, but I am also curious as to how that will look in the days ahead.  No doubt SI has changed and will continue to do so.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts Josh. 

TylerR's picture


It depends. If you look at the filings, there is more strange stuff. If you look at the front-page articles, it's a very responsible place with some interesting discussions. Unfortunately, the things that generate the most interest are rarely the most substantive topics; they're usually the normal fundamentalist sacred cows. 

I've thought about writing something positive about fundamentalist philosophy of ministry, but I haven't been ab;e to summon the enthusiasm necessary. It just isn't a topic that appeals to me. I'd rather write articles about Christology, but these (and others of their ilk) typically go over with a yawn with the SI audience. Just compare the traction Paul Henebury's articles get, compared with Rajesh's mission against CCM in the filings. 

There are reliably only 15-20 people who interact on SI. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, who lurk in the shadows and generally say nothing. Most officials in the fundamentalist para-church organizations dislike SI, and they're all wary of any association with it.  

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?

josh p's picture

Good responses. Thank you both. I am not so much talking about articles promoting fundamentalism (although that could be good). My concern is more that it seems like most of the comments are negative and or critical of those of a different form of fundyland, even if they are totally orthodox. Maybe SI is a microcosm of fundamentalism in general in that many tired of the constant infighting and left for CE and those that remained are still fighting.

TylerR's picture


For me, I'm not sure fundamentalism is a brand worth fighting for. It's an IDEA worth fighting for, but (for me) not a brand worth selling. It's not my hobby horse. It's not how I "self-identify." I tell people I'm a conservative Baptist.

As far as criticism goes, there's a lot to go around regarding cultural fundamentalism. I like to think I'm negative towards ideas or positions that are less biblical, no matter where they come from or who advocates them.

I believe a lot of the pushback against the usual fundamentalist sacred cows are a combination of (1) reaction against cultural fundamentalism, (2) outrage over past hurt, and (3) cynicism over a dying movement peopled by (largely) older men who are often reluctant to cede leadership.

The younger men who are the best expressions of fundamentalism are virtually indistinguishable from the more conservative evangelicals. Add to it, some vocal and prominent flavors of the older fundamentalism was (and still is) largely unable to articulate and successfully project a mission and strategy beyond "separation from evangelicals." This isn't a mission statement calculated to produce long-term growth.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ron Bean's picture

I think I've been here from the early days and SI has changed. Many of those changes have already been noted in previous posts.

There are a lot fewer participants today that at the beginning.

Young conservative fundamentalists/evangelicals seem to be the more predominant. 

Some of the old "my way or the highway" types have disappeared as have the KJV only crowd.

I would like to thank the moderators for their work.

-They've given the younger (to me) generation a chance to question some of the cultural fundamentalism standards of the past and the dialogue has been good even though we'll never be at a consensus on alcohol or music. 

They've also kept us free from the extreme and crazy negativity of those who hijacked some of the BJU Facebook websites.  

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

josh p's picture

Tyler I think your analysis is pretty much spot on. A lot of comments seem to be more reactionary against excesses than things that are common here. I also definitely agree that it’s hard to distinguish between some CE and a lot of younger fundys.
Thank you Ron for your insights too. I believe at 38 I still qualify as a young fundamentalist. I was a CE who slowly migrated to a fundy position as I became convinced of its merits. Maybe that’s why I find it disturbing to hear all the criticism; I wasn’t raised in some backward hyper-fundamentalist church. I can imagine that if I had been I would have some of the same criticisms.

Jay's picture

Maybe SI is a microcosm of fundamentalism in general in that many tired of the constant infighting and left for CE and those that remained are still fighting.

That would be my guess, or people who strongly identified with the Fundamentalist idea (or movement) but who have...tired of a lot of what goes on within our sphere.  Some of us are just too busy to care about “the movement”.

I also think that a huge problem with the fundamentalist movement (as I have seen it here) is that the movement has never defined itself clearly so there are dozens of little fundamentalisms.  It’s hard to be excited about a discussion board for fundamentalists when you don’t know (or care) what that idea stands for outside of “crazy people who behead others in the name of god”.

"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

JD Miller's picture

Josh, I too came from CE to fundamentalism, but the churches in fundamentalism that I got involved in were not the extremist ones.  Thus I have had a good experience. 

I met my wife after becoming a fundamentalist.  She had come to the same place I was, but from the opposite direction.  Her parents had left an extreme Hyles KJO church where the pastor had been sleeping around and just took cash out of the offering plate.  I soon became aware that there was way more to fundamentalism than what I had experienced and I wanted to make sure that I was not identifying with a heretical movement by using the term "fundamentalist."  That is part of the reason why I am passionate about pointing out the errors of some of the extreme movements and making sure that others realize that is not where we stand.

Part of the challenge is that the extreme versions of fundamentalism have had an impact on a lot of solid churches.  For example there is a church about 10 miles from us that used to be a Regular Baptist Fellowship.  A man with a Hyles background joined the church, forced the pastor out and became the pastor.  It is now a KJO church that promotes Hyles on their website.  They have few members and little impact on the community.

Further many people have read literature from the extremist fundamental circles and try to bring those teachings into solid churches.  As a pastor I have to be on guard against wolves in sheep's clothing and there are a lot of wolves in extreme Baptist fundamentalism.  Further there are a lot of "want a be" sheep dogs in extreme Baptist fundamentalism who end up biting and devouring sheep in their quest to get at an imaginary wolf.  So, yes, I will make a point of exposing them and pointing out where positions are not biblical. 

One of the reasons I left conservative evangelicalism in the 1990's was because of their unwillingness to take a stand against false doctrine.  Today I am encouraged that many CE's have realized their mistake.  Considering that I left CE because of their unwillingness to take a stand against false doctrine, I would be a hypocrite if I didn't take a stand against false doctrine in fundamentalist circles.

josh p's picture

JD I agree with everything you said. Yes wolves need to be exposed and driven out. I also rejoice when I see CE taking such a strong stand against false doctrine. I would say that most people who know me think I’m pretty dogmatic (some might say overly so). I’m not at all saying that we should ignore error; just that I don’t see much of that type here.

Ron Bean's picture

I would consider myself an historic fundamentalist although I have friends who consider me a CE or a neo-evangelical or a convergent or a just a compromiser. I spent too many years in ministries that were KJVO or were ultra separatist. The latter group separating from anyone they saw as compromising. Compromising included the typical cultural changes (pants on women, facial hair on men, casual dress for church), music (CCM which for them included the WILDS and anything that had been written after John Peterson or that wasn't in Great Hymns of the Faith--except for How Great Thou Art which we couldn't sing because of Billy Graham). They had warned us about the slippery slide that BJU was on in the 90's. We were warned about Calvinism that teaches God saves men all by Himself. They were hyper-dispensational as well.

SI helped me emerge from the black hole and helped me to discern between Biblical fundamentals and cultural fundamentals. While I don't agree with everything that the CE's are doing, 9Marks was transforming for me and I appreciate the good things that they are doing. Speaking anything positive about CE's has further distanced me from my old friends.

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