Questions for Non-Revivalist Fundamentalism
The goal in mowing the lawn is to get all the grass cut. If it gets long and grown over with weeds, sometimes the cutting becomes a little random. This post will be like mowing an over-grown lawn. It reminds me a little of the problem for the mosquito at the nudist colony: “Where do I begin?” I don’t want to try to figure out where to begin. I just want to get the grass cut, so this might go all over the place. I’ve got some things in my mind, but they’re not organized so I’ll write about them in the order I think of them until I think this has gone on long enough. Some of the questions are going to be a series of questions all on the same subject. Then I’ll comment on the questions. I’m not even going to number them, just bullet point. Here goes.
- Are fundamentalists reverting to the origins of fundamentalism to make room for conservative evangelicals (new-evangelicals)? Should militancy over the gospel be the only criteria for being a fundamentalist (even if it were true that fundamentalists were militant over it)?
The original fundamentalists (the guys who wrote “The Fundamentals”) apparently did not separate over dress, music, the Charismatic movement, or complementarianism, so neither should fundamentalists. After all, neither did they, it seems, separate over the “bigger” issues of church government, mode of baptism, versions, or Calvinism versus Arminianism, so fundamentalists today shouldn’t fuss over those “smaller” things. Conservative evangelicals point this out. They add to that the observation that fundamentalists were little on big issues like “justification.” And fundamentalists haven’t contributed in the defense of the “important” doctrines of scripture by writing any substantial books.
That first paragraph is the basis for many young fundamentalists shifting to new-evangelicalism. You might bring up something about their fellowship with Billy Graham. They’ll bring up your fellowship with easy-believism and no-repentance factions of fundamentalism. You might bring up Charismatics. They’ll bring up infant sprinkling. It goes like that tit for tat. They’ll argue that certain evangelicals are more militant about the gospel than actual fundamentalists, which, they will argue, was the original point of the fundamentalism. On top of that, they’ll argue that the preaching is more substantive among conservative evangelicals than the fundamentalists, that there has been more care for the Bible among the conservative evangelicals than the fundamentalists. You point out the cultural compromise and the worldliness, and they’ll point out that these weren’t issues with original fundamentalism and that you’re adding this criteria.
Are they right? Are true fundamentalists actually paleo-evangelicals? That’s what some young fundamentalists contend and what Phil Johnson says. I think this manifests the problem of being a fundamentalist. What difference does it make if you’re a fundamentalist if you are disobedient to Scripture? I contend that culturally today almost all non-revivalist fundamentalists would be a good deal to the left of the original fundamentalists culturally and that those original fundamentalists would separate over the cultural issues that they see today—they would gasp at the pants on women, the nudity in the way of mixed swimming and shorts on women, and they would go bonkers over the music.
I don’t hear ANYONE talking about this, except me, but at the recent Shepherd’s Conference in Southern California, Phil Johnson, as one of the main speakers, officially opened up far more than the gospel into the separating factors for conservative evangelicals. They don’t separate, but he sure did bring that into the equation. His message was an expositional (Titus 1-2) expose of smutty pulpit speech. He said that conduct that does not adorn the gospel is a gospel issue. That opens up the door for separation over a lot of practices, doesn’t it? So where do we stop in the determination of what wrong practices actually do adorn the gospel? Sounds like everythingism to me.
- How is SharperIron still fundamentalist? How is it that real fundamentalists still associate with SharperIron?
This is curious to me. I am not intending to offend anyone, by the way. I know I will, but I’m not intending to. Why don’t fundamentalists themselves point this out? They push and endorse a tremendous amount of new-evangelicalism on that blog. They don’t practice separation. On their blogroll they have the Southern Baptist Ben Wright, who is in Mark Dever’s church. They have the new-evangelical, Andy Naselli, the assistant to D. A. Carson, who attends a new-evangelical church. When you read the rest of their blogroll, including Joe Fleener, The World From our Window, and the Jay Adams blog now, they either constantly endorse new-evangelicals, or in the case of Jay Adams, he is one. On Joe Fleener’s blog, he had links to Psalms set to blatant rock music. I commented to point that out. He didn’t say a word to me; just deleted the comment. SharperIron is infatuated with, and I mean in the way of loving, conservative evangelicals. They rarely bash an evangelical and are always smacking fundamentalists. I sense a disdain for the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship there. How is it a fundamentalist blog?
SharperIron still gets the kind participation and endorsement of big name non-revivalist fundamentalists—Mike Harding, Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, and Mike Sproul. I know that the internet has changed things relating to associations, but I would think that SharperIron would have been off-limits to me when I was in college and grad school. Yet, many of the major Bible colleges in fundamentalism advertise on there. They advertise on a site that smacks them around. Are all these people afraid of SharperIron?
- Where did fundamentalists learn the cold-shoulder method of separation and why do they use that method?
This isn’t every fundamentalist, but it is common. They would rather take a cheap shot from a distance than confront someone face on and deal with an issue. The only major figure that I know isn’t this way is Dave Doran. I have to applaud him for this. I can’t call it courage, because what is there to be afraid of? But he will talk right to you about issues. If you point out an error, they’ll either ignore you, delete you, say a smart personal comment, or ban you. They seem to be too afraid to comment here or at our blogs. I know they read us. I think there is fear among them to engage here. They will easily associate with new-evangelicals though, engage in “dialogue” with them.
- Is the King James Version issue the most unifying factor for contemporary fundamentalism? Why?
KJVO often gets raised as something as serious as a false gospel by fundamentalists. Separating from a KJVO has been elevated to the level of an essential with many fundamentalists. I recognize that we separate over it too, but that is how we operate. They don’t—not in their stated objectives. Let me give you a for instance. Let’s say that Calvary in Lansdale was KJVO. What would their national leadership conference look like? Would they have Detroit and Central and Maranatha and BJU show up? Not a chance. However, they do get together despite differences on how they view the gospel and the doctrine of sanctification, among many others. Look at Ambassador, a KJVO school. See how they are treated by non-revivalist fundamentalism. By observation, I see KJVO as the most signficant factor of unity for non-revivalist fundamentalism.
- Why do non-revivalists fundamentalists go back to the 1920s or perhaps only to the 1890s with Warfield at Princeton to get their history of bibliology? In other words, why do they ignore history on the doctrine of preservation and then say that they have some kind of tradition they’re defending?
I added this after I posted this whole article, because of reading someone about conservative Christianity depending on a tradition that has been passed on. The multiple versions, several Bible, position is brand new historically. Post-enlightenment based upon evidentialism or empiricism. They fully trust man’s sin warped faculties to interpret external data to extrapolate a text of scripture, a position that has no tradition and no history. They should just admit that they’ve got a brand new position that they’re comfortable with, even though it clashes with how Christians have believed and practiced through history. Of course, they’d have to say that there was a total apostasy of the correct position for centuries, but at least it would be honest.
- Has anyone noticed that the long time systematic theology instructor at Detroit and I both have the same position on ranking doctrines? Does that mean my position is “in” now with fundamentalists? Or will he be “out”?
It doesn’t seem to me that one could be in and another could be out. It seems that we must both be out or both be in. Read this from Rolland McCune.
Essentials and non-essentials pose a monumental difficulty from the human perspective. One of the basics of theology is the pervasive Creator-creature distinction, i.e., nothing exists in man as it does in God. Confusing this principle via human autonomy is the fundamental basis of sin (to worship the creature rather than the Creator, Rom 1:25); it is a controlling rubric of all thinking about God and truth. This distinction between the Creator and the creature puts the two in totally unmixed categories. The chasm between them can be bridged only by the Creator, from the top down, and thankfully has been crossed, for example, in the incarnation of the God-man and the divine message of the Bible in purely human languages
That being the case, a two-tiered approach is mandated for all the difficulties of theology that involve the compatibility of the infinite and the finite, the eternal and the temporal, including the essential and non-essential. On the one hand, there is no non-essential proposition, datum, or doctrine in God’s mind. Being omniscient, for example, all truth in God is infinitely exhaustive and interlocking, and anything lacking or in any way diminished therefrom denies the person of God, especially His simplicity as well as His “intellectual attributes.” God does not have attributes as such; He is what His attributes are. In that case there are no non-essentials in the Bible and theology.
On the other (human) hand, I do not like to venture into the essential/non-essential briar patch. Part of the problem with this is how does one determine what is essential or non-essential to what? David’s mighty man who killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day (2 Sam 23:20) may be deemed by some as a non-essential, but to what, and why? Certainly not to God. If it is in the Bible, I must believe that everything there is essential or it wouldn’t have been put there by God via inspiration. Such a proposition or datum may well be ultimately incomprehensible to a finite mind—even forever, but it is necessary nonetheless. Which is all to say, I don’t believe finite humans have the necessary criteria or propaedeutic to declare with any certainty on this issue and others like it. This is not to say that 2 Sam 23:20 should be an article of saving faith, so in that sense would not be as essential to the kerygma in our minds, but since it is in the Word of God it must be ultimately essential and is something that the God of infinite and exhaustive truth, knowledge, wisdom, purpose, et al. cannot do without.
He uses, albeit with some loftier rhetoric, the same arguments we used in our recent months to attack the ranking doctrines position. I get attacked all over, even to the point of ridicule, on my defense of no non-essentials. By the way, as of this writing, in the comment section where this was posted—no criticism of the no non-essential position. Zero. Zilch. Well, Roland McCune and I. Here we are. Two peas in a pod on this subject. Has he been reading Jackhammer and What Is Truth?