Should Conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Embrace Our Unity in Christ?

John E.'s picture

Thank you for sharing, Ron. Much appreciated.

pvawter's picture

From where I'm standing, I don't really see any fundamentalists denying that CEs are "brothers and sisters in Christ and co-laborers for the gospel of Jesus Christ." That's​ not to say that I speak for all fundys, but the author seems to be missing the point, although he touches on it towards the end. Wide agreement not withstanding, the points of variance make it difficult to pursue closer fellowship much less partnership if they are taken seriously.

Fundamentalism's emphasis on purity over unity is different from evangelicalism's emphasis on unity over purity. (Larry Oats argues this point very effectively in his book, "The Church of the Fundamentalists," btw.) As long as this is so, cooperation will necessarily be limited, but such separation ought not be characterized by the same tone or argument as that between believers and apostates.

Ward remarks that his views on music, to use one example, prevent him from having closer fellowship with those who embrace contemporary forms of worship. And the author himself admits that his views concerning the regulative principle produce the same result, albeit with different practical results. I guess I just fail to see what is to be gained by increased cooperation if it means ignoring or trivializing legitimate differences.

Jay's picture

From where I'm standing, I don't really see any fundamentalists denying that CEs are "brothers and sisters in Christ and co-laborers for the gospel of Jesus Christ." That's​ not to say that I speak for all fundys, but the author seems to be missing the point, although he touches on it towards the end.

I'm taking this from the FBFI's Frontline article on Convergents in September/October:

In early 2010 an article by Ben Wright appeared on the 9marks.org website titled, “An Evangelical Fundamentalist Convergence?” Pastor Wright saw hope in such a convergence, but we use it here with little optimism. After all, “convergence” is the antonym of separation. The antonym is needed now to avoid the confusion resulting from the lack of a clear term when striving to understand what is likely a new movement. For example, some just call the Convergents “Calvinists,” as if their recent identification with Calvinism were the root of all choices that separatists find objectionable. Others use the unhelpful phrase “these young guys,” as though younger Convergents consistently move away from separatism just because they are young...

Nevertheless, something is going on—something that looks very much like the self-styled “Neo- Evangelicalism” of sixty years ago; something that in its efforts to engage the culture seems to be, again, embracing the culture. Therein lies the danger of the pursuit of relevance as an end in itself. In seeking to stay in touch with the ever-changing culture, churches can think themselves separate from it while moving away from their moorings...

Some deal with the positions the Convergents themselves held to without apology until recently. The first article, by Dr. Mike Harding, reviews the fact that “The Scriptures Are the Final Authority for Belief and Behavior.” Behavior is the tip of the iceberg, but the “dignity of its movement,” as one author put it, is due to what is under the surface: belief and biblical truth. Dr. Harding explains that biblical applications for life are not inherently legalistic. The claim that we should not teach what is not specifically stated in the Bible, is not specifically stated in the Bible...

...The second article is presented as a question and- answer interview gleaned from personal conversations and correspondence with the Editor initiated by students, singles, young couples, and senior citizens who have felt driven from their churches by Convergents...

Next, a provocative article by Pastor Daniel Unruh addresses the dilemma of those who are trying to explain “Why I Left my Fundamental Church.” [This is the article that TylerR has referred to on SI on several occasions and addressed on his blog - Jay] This pointed article is included not only to provide wise counsel for vulnerable, trusting believers but also to those who have had to leave their churches because of Convergence.

...Then, the ever important question of music is addressed again by FrontLine as veteran music pastor Dr. Tim Fisher and FrontLine editor Dr. John Vaughn revisit their well-known principles and personal observations published elsewhere over the last twenty years. Their article, “Approving Things That Are Excellent,” adds unapologetic opinion on the controversial and divisive topic of Sovereign Grace Music, increasingly used by Fundamentalists—almost militantly so by Convergents.

...And the closing article is taken with permission from Dr. Randy Jaeggli’s book on beverage alcohol, Christians and Alcohol—A Scriptural Case for Abstinence. Specifically, we are reprinting the Preface by Dr. Steve Hankins and the Introduction by Dr. Jaeggli. We encourage every reader to obtain and study this book.

So the hallmarks of 'convergents' seem to be:

  1. A refusal to separate from the culture and false teaching
  2. An insistence that Convergents 'taking over churches' and 'driv[ing]' Christians out
  3. Music, especially Sovereign Grace Music 
  4. the use of Alcohol

That first point is the most serious one and substantial, I think, but it's not the points that are the issue...It's how the FBFI discusses people that they are disagreeing with.  

There are a lot of words and insinuations that indicate that all of these things are done by Christians that are in error or sin.  So while it's phrased as an 'admonition', it comes across as 'error' that needs to be 'corrected'.  That all ties back to the FBFI's insistence on 'separating' from those who do these things, to the point of saying that they want no part in fellowshipping with Convergents.  I'm fairly confident that the FBFI would expel any members that it deemed as 'convergent' - if it had the will to.

'Separation', in the NT, is almost always a response to sin issues.  It's never portrayed as the first or desirable response to someone who has fallen into sin.  So when the FBFI makes the case that 'separation' is at stake and uses terms like 'error' and 'correction', they have left the realm of loving encouragement/admonition and moved into a sphere where these are sin issues and must be dealt with as such.  They have made these things violations of Scriptures and assaults on the person/character of God.  That's a big deal.

If this issue of Frontline was a one off, I wouldn't describe it this way, but the FBFI has taken this position repeatedly and over several years in multiple places and multiple venues, and FBFI Board members on SI have also reaffirmed that stance (or doubled down on those claims).  So it has left the realm of 'sharpening iron' and 'encouragement' because the FBFI continues to insist that these are sin issues meriting separation.

Make sense?

"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

So the hallmarks of 'convergents' seem to be:

  • A refusal to separate from the culture and false teaching
  • An insistence that Convergents 'taking over churches' and 'driv[ing]' Christians out
  • Music, especially Sovereign Grace Music 
  • the use of Alcohol

Remember, I graduated from a conservative NBBC/NIU and BJU and have read and participated in many, many threads here on SharperIron.  I've sat under some of the guys that wrote those articles and understand their positions.  I moved away from them because I was increasingly convinced that there is no / little Biblical support for their positions on music and alcohol.  Many others have made that jump as well.  

This is a case where as I (and others) look at the Scriptural case on these things, the positions and conclusions that we come to are radically different from the FBFI / traditional and conservative culture position.  We do not agree that their positions are based on Biblical arguments, and therefore we afford others more latitude and use things like Sovereign Grace Music, although we ourselves draw lines on what, where, when and how we do so, which the FBFI refuses to acknowledge that as legitimate.  The FBFI continues to argue that the positions they hold (and that they themselves presented in the Sept/October issue) are based on clear Biblical teaching that merit separation if we don't agree with them.  So, as Dr. Ward writes in the most recent Frontline, they become sin / separation issues instead of areas where we can disagree and still work together.

That's why I called Don (in the comments on that Frontline link) on 'error'.  He agrees with me that it's 'error'...but then insists that his case is Biblical.  It's not, and I'm not going to tell him that it is because I am not going to read traditional / conservative Baptist culture into the Bible.

"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

TylerR's picture

I'm cautiously optimistic after the latest Frontline article. However, as I mentioned somewhere else, many of the criticisms leveled against fundamentalism in this latest issue were far too sweet, nice, apologetic and, well . . . politically nuanced for my taste - they were cautious critiques. Nevertheless, they were critiques, and I am grateful the authors were allowed to express their concerns.

Jay wrote:

We do not agree that their positions are based on Biblical arguments, and therefore we afford others more latitude and use things like Sovereign Grace Music, although we ourselves draw lines on what, where, when and how we do so, which the FBFI refuses to acknowledge that as legitimate.  

I mentioned in my last response to Bro. Johnson on my blog that I believe the FBFI leadership sees Baptist fundamentalism as essentially a confessional movement, and itself as the confessional guardian of this movement's "orthodoxy." I believe this is the lens which makes the most sense of that unfortunate "convergent" edition from last year. This explains Jay's observations (see quote above), and my own. Bro. Johnson vehemently disagrees.

We'll see. As I said, I'm cautiously optimistic.

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

Don Johnson's picture

Jay wrote:

 I moved away from them because I was increasingly convinced that there is no / little Biblical support for their positions on music and alcohol.

I think this sums up the shift rather well.

Jay wrote:

That's why I called Don (in the comments on that Frontline link) on 'error'.  He agrees with me that it's 'error'...but then insists that his case is Biblical.  It's not, and I'm not going to tell him that it is because I am not going to read traditional / conservative Baptist culture into the Bible.

For reference, could you provide the link? I don't recall exactly where it is or what I said either.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

Don, the link to the comments is http://www.proclaimanddefend.org/2016/10/18/convergence-frontline-septoc... (at the bottom).

And again, while I think that the FBFI positions on alcohol and music are not Biblical, but I really don't think we're all that far apart in practice.  I'm just not going to elevate my convictions to the level of 'clear Biblical teaching', as the FBFI does.  I can't do that, logically, philosophically, or scripturally. 

TylerR, 

I mentioned in my last response to Bro. Johnson on my blog that I believe the FBFI leadership sees Baptist fundamentalism as essentially a confessional movement, and itself as the confessional guardian of this movement's "orthodoxy." I believe this is the lens which makes the most sense of that unfortunate "convergent" edition from last year. 

Now that you say it this way, it does seem to me that the FBFI has generally presented themselves as the 'confessional guardian' of Baptist Fundamentalism for quite a few years now, much as (I believe) the Sword of the Lord did before it.  You can see that in my comment here (link from above):

I will accept that you don’t intend to treat others as ‘enemies’, but the article headings/descriptions make it very clear that the FBFI [is] more interested in standing in opposition to them. If you were serious about helping the convergents grow, treating them like they do some things right might actually pique some interest.

It certainly explains the Frontline taking a position of marking and warning about so many others over the years (you can see this is their list of old resolutions); I wonder if that's why they are trying to move towards 'position statements' instead.  I don't know.

"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

pvawter's picture

Hmm. So I have to read between the lines to see if they're criticism is calling into question the genuineness of the "convergents'" faith? I guess if it's that subtle then maybe the best response isn't to ask for recognition as Christian brothers, but simply to admit there are real differences and move on.

I don't understand why there is a need to ask the fundamentalists to cooperate or recognize the conservative evangelicals who are brothers. What does that gain those who have already left the fundy fold? Is there street cred to be earned by self-identifying as a fundy and then complaining about them?

John E.'s picture

pvawter,

As the author of the post, I've stayed out of this comment thread, although I've enjoyed reading it. But, you've piqued my curiosity to the point where I must respond. Or, rather, ask a question(s). 1. Where have I complained about the "fundy fold?" Maybe I have. That one I'm more than willing to leave open to interpretation. I am curious to what you're referring, though. 2. Realizing you posed it as a question, what in the world could you possibly mean by "street cred" in this context? In other words, do you think that my post plays well with ex-fundies? The irony is that I get accused of being a hateful legalist probably more than most BJU-orbit fundamentalists do.

The thing is, I don't believe that I left the "fundy fold." I believe that some people have a private fold within the larger fold. I just want those in the private fold to come out and be willing to fellowship with those of us in the larger fold once and awhile.

Don Johnson's picture

Jay wrote:

That's why I called Don (in the comments on that Frontline link) on 'error'.  He agrees with me that it's 'error'...but then insists that his case is Biblical.  It's not, and I'm not going to tell him that it is because I am not going to read traditional / conservative Baptist culture into the Bible.

Thanks for the link. I am struggling to follow your logic. You agree with me that Convergents are in error? Is that what you are saying? Or that Conservative Evangelicals are in error? That point is not clear.

The next point of unclarity is where you say we agree that it's error, then I insist my case is Biblical.

How else would we tell if something is in error? If the Bible isn't the standard, what is? If the action/attitude/position doesn't contradict the Bible, how is it an error?

I am seriously not following you here.

I did notice my own comment in that thread had a glaring lack of clarity itself. I hopefully have made it more clear now.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

So I have to read between the lines to see if they're criticism is calling into question the genuineness of the "convergents'" faith? I guess if it's that subtle then maybe the best response isn't to ask for recognition as Christian brothers, but simply to admit there are real differences and move on.

But if the convergents are legitimately in error, and pose such a threat to the church that the FBFI needs to devote an entire issue (again) to the risk that we pose, then we've moved beyond corrective admonishment into straight up confrontation of sin.

Maybe that's just the way my mind works, but I'm not hearing, 'hey brothers, we love you and think you are mistaken'.  I'm hearing 'repent and return to Fundamentalism'.  So maybe it's me, but that's what my radar picks up, especially since the FBFI keeps returning to this issue.  They were saying stuff like this when the 'young fundamentalism' survey was a thing in...what?  2005?

This, by the way, is why so many of us pushed for a clearer definition of who/what the convergent threat is, and I don't think that we're any closer to really understanding what they are warning us against.

I don't understand why there is a need to ask the fundamentalists to cooperate or recognize the conservative evangelicals who are brothers. What does that gain those who have already left the fundy fold? Is there street cred to be earned by self-identifying as a fundy and then complaining about them?

Because unity is a fundamental concept in the New Testament? Because we're all members of God's family?  Because we aren't supposed to be divided into little tribes of Christians, each following our own individual leaders?  Because we all have roles we're supposed to play in building up each other instead of all this sniping and infighting over silliness?  

“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, because they are yours. Everything I have is yours, and everything you have is mine, and I am glorified in them. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. -John 17:9-11, CSB

and

Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction. For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by members of Chloe’s people, that there is rivalry among you. What I am saying is this: One of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in Paul’s name? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say you were baptized in my name. I did, in fact, baptize the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t recall if I baptized anyone else. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ will not be emptied of its effect...

...What then is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted,Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s coworkers, You are God’s field, God’s building. - 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:5-9, CSB

and

Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. For it says:

When he ascended on high,
he took the captives captive;
he gave gifts to people.

But what does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower parts of the earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things. And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ. From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. - Ephesians 4:1-16, CSB

That's why this stuff matters.  Not only does the FBFI insist that alcohol, music, and a 'lack' of separation all rise to the levels of fundamental importance, but because their activities are unnecessarily and unscripturally dividing the church of God - the body for whom Jesus died.  Those are big issues, and they're worth resisting as unbiblical behavior.

"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

I used the term 'error' to try and gauge the risk that the convergents pose in your eyes to fundamentalism/fundamentalists.  I didn't think you were treating it lightly, but I wasn't sure that you'd call it heresy either.  'Error' is a good term that indicates that convergents are, at best, out of sync with what the Scriptures teach.

Is that better?

As for the rest - in quick order:

  1. No, I do not think Convergents / Young Fundamentalists are in error.  I think that we come to different conclusions based on Biblical principles and passages, and that it looks like compromise to other fundamentalist brethren.
  2. Yes, I believe that you put the issues I described (alcohol, music, different separation levels) as first tier doctrinal issues and I do not.
  3. Of course the Bible is the standard.  I don't see a Biblical case for why SGM is a threat to the church or why Christians must abstain from alcohol.  I think that these issues are debatable and at the level of personal conviction, not absolute Biblical command.  I also think that the music issue in particular is based on a lot of broad-brushing and sweeping generalizations instead of serious discussion. As I've mentioned here on several occasions, I don't drink and would strongly encourage others to abstain as well. But I won't say that 'the Bible teaches that we must abstain from alcohol'.

Hope that makes more sense.  I'll check in on the P&D blog at some point tomorrow or over the weekend.

"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

pvawter's picture

John E. wrote:

pvawter,

1. Where have I complained about the "fundy fold?" Maybe I have. That one I'm more than willing to leave open to interpretation. I am curious to what you're referring, though.

Complaint may be too specific a term. Maybe fascination is better. I'm just not sure why you or anyone who considers themselves a part of conservative evangelicalism would care about what goes on in fundamentalist circles, especially those they have left behind.

Quote:
2. Realizing you posed it as a question, what in the world could you possibly mean by "street cred" in this context? In other words, do you think that my post plays well with ex-fundies? The irony is that I get accused of being a hateful legalist probably more than most BJU-orbit fundamentalists do.

That's what I can't figure out. Why appeal to fundamentalists for recognition and embrace? I just don't get what the advantage is, especially when it's pretty clear that there are significant differences between fundies and CEs. However these differences are characterized, they are real and not likely to be simply ignored by many in either camp.

Quote:
The thing is, I don't believe that I left the "fundy fold." I believe that some people have a private fold within the larger fold. I just want those in the private fold to come out and be willing to fellowship with those of us in the larger fold once and awhile.

And that's the rub, isn't it? It seems like the writers of the convergence issue of Frontline would probably disagree that you are indeed a fundamentalist. I'm not sure how you'll overcome that perspective, but I'm pretty sure treating their views as mere opinions as opposed to your own convictions is not going to work.

pvawter's picture

Jay,

See I'm not sure that the whole convergent label applies to you. Granted, it would be extremely helpful if the folks at Frontline would have defined the term more clearly, but it seemed to me to be speaking not of those who have left behind fundamental churches and institutions but those who have remained yet are sympathetic to broader evangelicalism and are using their influence to move those institutions in that direction. If I'm right, then you're reacting against something that was never intended for you at all, and if I'm wrong, then the FBFI wrote an entire issue of Frontline to take pot shots at a group that doesn't listen to them anyway and doesn't care what the older fundamentalists think (or any fundamentalists for that matter).

Don Johnson's picture

pvawter wrote:

Jay,

See I'm not sure that the whole convergent label applies to you. Granted, it would be extremely helpful if the folks at Frontline would have defined the term more clearly, but it seemed to me to be speaking not of those who have left behind fundamental churches and institutions but those who have remained yet are sympathetic to broader evangelicalism and are using their influence to move those institutions in that direction. If I'm right, then you're reacting against something that was never intended for you at all, and if I'm wrong, then the FBFI wrote an entire issue of Frontline to take pot shots at a group that doesn't listen to them anyway and doesn't care what the older fundamentalists think (or any fundamentalists for that matter).

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

Jay wrote:

I used the term 'error' to try and gauge the risk that the convergents pose in your eyes to fundamentalism/fundamentalists.  I didn't think you were treating it lightly, but I wasn't sure that you'd call it heresy either.  'Error' is a good term that indicates that convergents are, at best, out of sync with what the Scriptures teach.

Is that better?

As for the rest - in quick order:

  1. No, I do not think Convergents / Young Fundamentalists are in error.  I think that we come to different conclusions based on Biblical principles and passages, and that it looks like compromise to other fundamentalist brethren.

So when you say this:

Jay wrote:
That's why I called Don (in the comments on that Frontline link) on 'error'.  He agrees with me that it's 'error'...but then insists that his case is Biblical.

You aren't actually saying we agree that it is an error, but we agree that error is the term we (Fundamentalists) would use.

Jay wrote:

  1. No, I do not think Convergents / Young Fundamentalists are in error.  I think that we come to different conclusions based on Biblical principles and passages, and that it looks like compromise to other fundamentalist brethren.
  2. Yes, I believe that you put the issues I described (alcohol, music, different separation levels) as first tier doctrinal issues and I do not.

If I were putting these issues as first tier doctrinal issues, I would be saying that those who disobeyed are not Christians at all. I'm not saying that and I don't know anyone in the FBFI who would say that.

Jay wrote:

Of course the Bible is the standard.  I don't see a Biblical case for why SGM is a threat to the church or why Christians must abstain from alcohol.  I think that these issues are debatable and at the level of personal conviction, not absolute Biblical command.  I also think that the music issue in particular is based on a lot of broad-brushing and sweeping generalizations instead of serious discussion. As I've mentioned here on several occasions, I don't drink and would strongly encourage others to abstain as well. But I won't say that 'the Bible teaches that we must abstain from alcohol'.

And on this one, again, I don't teach that you must not drink because the Bible explicitly says so, but I would teach you must not drink for these Biblical reasons... (not going to go into the reasons here, let's please not turn this into a thread on alcohol!!!) I think most FBFI men would use a similar approach, though I have not surveyed them all on this point.

On the SGM music, plenty of Fundamentalist churches are using Majesty Music's Rejoice hymnal, which includes SGM music. I don't care for it, won't use it myself. But I think you may not really understand exactly where fundamentalism is on this point.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

John E.'s picture

pvawter,

Thank you for your response.

I think that I understand why you use the word "fascination" in reference to me, although I'm not sure that I agree with your assessment of me. Like with many things, this forum is probably not well-suited to fully explain my "fascination" with fundamentalism (Keep in mind, I do legitimately consider myself and many of my fellow "c.e.'s" fundamentalists, too.). However, yes, I do care about fundamentalism and what happens in and to it. I pray for BJU on a regular basis. I thank God for my fundamentalist parents on a daily basis. I am incredibly thankful for fundamentalism and how the Holy Spirit used it in my heart and life. So, yes, I do care very much about fundamentalism. 

I'm not asking for the differences to be ignored. And I'm not asking for us to stop disagreeing and debating. I'm asking for the way those disagreements and debates are worked out to change. Honestly, from my perspective, the jabs from "your side" often appear acrimonious and designed to destroy, not humbly admonish and edify. On one hand, I get that. There is an entire cottage industry of ex-fundies who delight in slandering and tearing down fundamentalism. I think that there has been an unfortunate conflation of those ex-fundies with c.e.'s. But, as stated, I get it on one level. Without knowing me, I understand how some (not necessarily you, because I don't know if this personally applies to you or not) look at me, read some of my positions, and then assume that I'm a bitter ex-fundy who wants to mock fundamentalism. Let me be clear about this, those ex-fundies are sinning, brother. They're guilty of slandering the Bride of Christ and sowing discord and disunity. And they're not me. Nor are they my church or the larger orbit (IX Marks) that my church operates in.  

Most of my fellow c.e.'s are fascinated by fundamentalism and most of them know next to nothing about BJU, FBFI, et al. But, they praise God for you all. They have almost nothing but good things to say about you all. And when they hear the negative things said about c.e.'s by fundamentalists, they're puzzled by it.

To your last point, I'm not asking convictions to be treated as opinions. For example, I disagree fairly strongly with several of John Piper's convictions/beliefs, and, all things being equal, I don't think that I could ever join his church. However, I will thankfully and joyfully go and hear him preach. I will praise God for how Piper is being used to magnify God's name and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Likewise, I disagree fairly strongly with Dr. Minnick on several points, and, all things being equal, I don't think that I could ever join his church. However, if I hear that he's preaching near me and it's not scheduled during my own church's worship service, I will thankfully and joyfully love to hear him preach God's Word. And that's because my agreement with both of those brothers is the same and is more important than my disagreements. For the record, I do not say the same thing about men like Andy Stanley, Mark Driscoll, or most especially Joel Osteen.

I understand that the FBFI will probably never concede that I'm a fundamentalist. That's fine. But I promise you that the vast majority of the rest of our society does not see a substantial difference between me and the FBFI. When I'm being accused of being a bigot, a legalist, and unloving (which happens on a fairly regular basis) none of my accusers are softening their accusations and opinions because of the music I listen to. This was the point of one of my final paragraphs in my article.

Brother, I'm not going anywhere. By God's grace, I will cheerfully accept every single criticism fundamentalists give me (accept the criticism of heretic, I'm assuming that you understand what I mean). By God's grace, I will cheerfully reply, "Thank you for encouraging me to pursue holiness." By God's grace, I will continue to evaluate my personal standards in light of the objective truths of God's Word. And by God's grace, I will continue to honor my fundamentalist father, mother, and teachers who loved me enough to tell me about Jesus.

 

Jay's picture

Well said!

As for this:

but those who have remained yet are sympathetic to broader evangelicalism and are using their influence to move those institutions in that direction.

So let me get this straight...the FBFI does not want us to use our influence to move in the direction of Conservative Evangelicals or Convergents...but we should use our influence to move others in the direction of a more conservative Baptist culture because that's 'Biblical'.

And then when we talk about 'Fundamentalism', almost all of our conversations revolve about the pulped horses of alcohol, music, and degrees of separation from the world.  Nevermind that most of us (CE's / Convergents) are in roughly the same place as you anyway.

So then why use terms like 'error'? 

 

"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

pvawter's picture

Jay wrote:

So let me get this straight...the FBFI does not want us to use our influence to move in the direction of Conservative Evangelicals or Convergents...but we should use our influence to move others in the direction of a more conservative Baptist culture because that's 'Biblical'.


My guess is that the FBFI is not really very interested in how you use your influence if you have indeed left whatever fundamentalist institutions you had previously been associated with. The concern is how those who are still in the FBFI orbit are influencing their churches, schools, etc.
I'm reminded of a church my dad pastored years ago. When he left, he was succeeded by the man who had been his assistant, and who he thought was a like-minded fundamentalist. However, this pastor began to lead/drive the church in a seeker friendly direction. He alienated all those who still were committed to fundamentalism and eventually the church closed it's doors. My dad's greatest frustration, as far as he communicated it to my, was that this man didn't go start a seeker friendly church in town, but that he co-opted a fundamental one. The real issue was one of integrity.

All that to say that I don't think the FBFI is asking you to do anything with your influence, if you are not a part of a fundamental ministry. And they are trying to warn those who would claim to be fundamentalists yet eschew things like separation that their integrity may be at stake of they desire to move their fundamental ministry toward broader evangelicalism.

I say all of this as someone who has no personal connection to the FBFI. I'm not speaking with authority here, just sharing how it appears from where I stand.

Jay's picture

I'm reminded of a church my dad pastored years ago. When he left, he was succeeded by the man who had been his assistant, and who he thought was a like-minded fundamentalist. However, this pastor began to lead/drive the church in a seeker friendly direction. He alienated all those who still were committed to fundamentalism and eventually the church closed it's doors.

My sympathies on your father's church and associate pastor.  

That being said, did the associate go in a 'seeker sensitive' direction, or was he trying to make necessary changes that would keep the church alive and usable for the Lord, a la Northland?  I say that because the constituency that NIU had depended on for years was no longer sufficient to support the school, so they had to make changes if they were going to survive.  As it turns out, trying to do make those changes (in some cases, spectacularly badly) ended up driving away all the supporters and wound up closing the school anyway in the long run.

If I'm a ministry leader - of any kind - my job is to lead.  And sometimes that does mean leading people away from crazy positions like the ones the FBFI talks about and defends, and that means that I take arrows.  It's an occupational hazard that anyone in the ministry should expect.

Take a small church that needs to replace their hymnals.  Buying 200 hymnals (to pick a number) is probably a lot more expensive than repurposing an old computer and using PowerPoint to project the lyrics on the wall.  Making a change like that is a huge change...but I don't think that it rises to the level of a 'lack of integrity'.  It's an acknowledgement that the money for the hymnals isn't there, so we are going to have to do it differently until circumstances change.  But many people would freak out because "they don't have hymnals anymore!!!"

In any cases, there are many, many of the 'conservative evangelical' / 'convergent' churches that have no serious doctrinal difference with the FBFI.  Unless, of course, we talk about music, alcohol, tradition, and degrees of separation.  While the FBFI may not appreciate this, those churches do worry themselves about doctrine and false teaching, and we do practice church discipline.  I'd argue that we practice it better than the FBFI brethren do, in some cases.

And they are trying to warn those who would claim to be fundamentalists yet eschew things like separation that their integrity may be at stake of they desire to move their fundamental ministry toward broader evangelicalism.

That may be true, but if so, that is not at all what their articles are communicating to the readers.

"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

pvawter's picture

Jay,
Leading a congregation is one thing, but co-opting one and knowingly leading it away from its historic positions and associations is another. If you think the FBFI or some other organization is unbiblical, then by all means avoid them, but don't infiltrate then for the purpose of subverting them. That is a far cry from your ridiculous illustration of PowerPoint vs. hymnals.

To you the positions of the FBFI may seem crazy, but I think that is uncharitable at best. Instead, I choose to think they are sincere even where we may disagree.

As far as how their articles communicate to their readers, I assume that since readership is mostly limited to FBFI members, they are indeed speaking to their audience in a way that is understood. Those of us outside the organization are likely only a secondary audience, imo.

Jay's picture

but don't infiltrate then for the purpose of subverting them

Wow, suspicious much?

This is not what I do and not what I think most convergents or CE's do.  But if you feel better insisting that we have malicious intent, then more power to you, I guess.

With friends like these, it's no wonder the FBFI and their supporters are afraid of losing the young men. 

"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

As far as how their articles communicate to their readers, I assume that since readership is mostly limited to FBFI members, they are indeed speaking to their audience in a way that is understood.

Except that the people reading their articles are very confused about who the 'convergents' are.  We're all the way back to who, exactly, is the FBFI going after, and the only really substantial definition is the trifecta of music, alcohol, and the practice of separation.

 

"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

Joeb's picture

Jay your arguments in this thread are super. Your heart is in the right place.  No question about it.  I can't raise any theological arguments and won't try here.  

I do agree that if the Assistant Pastor took a historically Fundamentalist church in a whole different direction that was wrong.  The Assistant should have declined the appointment and clearly explained why and where his heart was   If the church accepted him under those conditions then all the cards were on the table   

The church I go to now is lead by a young man who was an Assistant at the church I used to attend. He wanted the church to support him in starting a new ministry different then the home church.  They declined and he did go out on his own and planted a church that I attend now.    

I know you guys don't like me but I'll continue to put my two cents in from time to time.  

dcbii's picture

You don't have to have the intent to change something for it to just end up going that way in the long run.  I have an example at my church that I'm sure is maybe somewhat more intense than changing hymnals, but certainly not to the extent of changing to "seeker-sensitive."

When I joined my current church in 2003, it had "Baptist" in the name.  Though I was not a Baptist by conviction, my family and I believed that this was the right church for us, and I agreed to be baptized by immersion (my previous baptism had been by sprinkling, post conversion) and to not teach anything against what the church taught.  I kept that, and though my background was part of my testimony at the Baptism and when my family and I joined, I rarely talked about my fundamental Methodist background or any differences that entailed.  Any SS teaching was always to children, and none of it included anything on comparative denominational doctrines or differences or anything like that.

When our pastor resigned at the end of 2010, and I was chosen to be part of the pastoral search committee, I didn't try to find a man that would go obviously in a new direction, but I also wasn't personally spending a lot of time to find a man who was specifically "Baptist" in his identity.  The questionnaire we used talked much about the various doctrines that would identify someone basically fundamental (think 1920's fundamentalism).  The man we ended up choosing as our pastor was definitely part of the circles of fundamentalism, but was also one who had no trouble reading/quoting John Piper, going to Shepherds and 9Marks conferences, and definitely not being hostile to the more conservative side of greater Evangelicalism.  He also switched to using the ESV, where previously the NKJV had been the pulpit Bible. (I personally still use my old KJV on my phone in the pew.)

Fast forward to 2015/2016, and we decided as a church to relaunch our ministry, but as a Bible, rather than Baptist church.  The vote among the members was over 93% to change our identity and name.  We are still decidedly "baptistic" in doctrine, use very conservative music (including both very old songs not really used much in modern fundamentalism and some new Sovereign grace-type songs, though played without any "band").  I love that -- though I'm not a music leader, my ministry music tastes are probably *more* conservative than the average Baptist (think high-church).  I'm sure there are some who have thought we have gone down the road to convergent or seeker-sensitive type of ministry since we don't use the name Baptist any more, but I don't worry about any who have not attended before thinking such.

I'm sure there would also be some who think I'm one of the infiltrators trying to change something that was established.  However, I was clear about where I stood with the leadership when I joined, and I never even talked about changing away from being Baptist, let alone agitated.  However, in the now 14 years I have attended this church, changes have been made, and we are definitely not the same church we once were, but we are thriving and growing in what I believe is a very healthy direction.  And yes, I'm sure my thinking has been at least somewhat influential in making some of those changes, but I don't see that as "infiltration for the purpose of change." Our pastor's messages make much of Christ, and even though he will tie in our biblical perspective to current events (like preaching on "put no trust in princes" around the election last year), there is no hobby-horse preaching on issues only talked about in certain circles of fundamentalism.

All that to say that in the years of the life of a church, things will change, and sometimes old traditions will be cast aside, not just in search of the new, but even in an honest evaluation of what ministry should be and where it should go when trying to reach the world around us.  I loved the fundamental Methodist church I grew up in, but over 30 years later since I grew up and moved on, I'm really happy our current ministry is neither that church nor the one I started attending in 2003.

Dave Barnhart

pvawter's picture

I agree Dave. Intent matters. To that end I can see a couple of reasons why the FBFI might write the issue on Convergents. One would be to warn those men who are not intending to leave historic FBFI positions yet may nevertheless be drifting in the direction of broader evangelicalism. They may simply not be aware of the history of their fellowship or ministry and the significance of the changes they are making. Another reason might be to warn those who are knowingly leaving their roots in fundamentalism or those of their ministry. These men may in fact be subverting their congregations by presenting themselves as fundamentalists when they are truly not.

As far as I can tell, neither of these reasons seems to apply to folks like you, Jay, and John. Good news! That means we can all agree that men ought to be up front about what they believe and that they should seek out churches and fellowships with which they can wholeheartedly agree or at least respect enough not to try to loose from their moorings and redirect away from their historical roots.

Of course, I'm sure there are nefarious motives we could seek to explain the FBFI's position in this matter, but as I said earlier, I don't think that's charitable in the least.

This discussion is mostly academic, since none of us (you, Jay, John, or myself) actually belong to the FBFI and therefore have no real influence on it at this time.

Jay's picture

Dave, I appreciated that testimony. I know that a lot of the positions that I changed were the result of many, many hours thinking about different passages, books, sermons, and articles and being exposed to teachers like John MacArthur, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Russell Moore, John Piper, and others. None of the positional changes I made were done lightly or easily - the music position alone probably took me two or three years.

Some of what is really being discussed here is how we work though the process of change as Christians, and some of it is the straight up theological discussion of what positions are best and Biblical

This discussion is mostly academic, since none of us (you, Jay, John, or myself) actually belong to the FBFI and therefore have no real influence on it at this time.

I'm not quite sure that I'd describe this as 'academic' or that we 'have no real influence'.  I'm sure that FBFI members read/post on SI - I know of at least three who do, and some of them have posted in the recent threads on the FBFI - and I'm hoping that I can encourage others by talking about this openly and without rancor.  I want to demonstrate that the 'convergents' are no 'threat' to the FBFI or its' members.  As I've noted before, I really do think that it is fundamentally unhealthy [pun intended] for the FBFI to be presenting the Convergents/Conservative Evangelicals as people in error or people to be avoided.

I'm also hoping that by discussing it, I can nudge people to continue moving in a good direction or at least think hard about their own personal convictions and positions so that they know where they stand and will be able to defend/explain their positions. After all, we will all give account to the Lord for the things we have done and the things that we left undone.

"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