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Three Chalk-Marks on the Sidewalk

November 17, 2006

A Review of Joel Tetreau’s THREE LINES IN THE SAND

The long-awaited toy, mail-ordered from the cereal box company, has finally arrived. On the box, it looked so enticing. I was sure it would be even better than advertised. I rip open the package, anxious to get my sweaty palms on the new playthingy. I dig down through the packing peanuts to the plastic baggy at the bottom of the box. With all my might, I rip open the baggy containing my new greatest toy. I pull it out. My mouth drops. I stare incredulously. “I waited all this time for THIS!” I say to myself before tossing it aside.

Yes folks, finally, the long-promised and eagerly anticipated “careful” analysis of Fundamentalism has arrived. We could hardly wait, but now it is here. Joel, you should have waited a bit longer. Really, you should have. Because if you had, we would still be thinking that you were serious.

In the serious debate of issues, it is important that we treat our counterpart’s arguments with the dignity that it deserves. And THREE LINES IN THE SAND by Joel Tetreau, begs to be treated lightly. It reminds me of the Emperor, wearing the outfit that only the smart people can see. The rest of us are giggling at those flesh-colored “clothes”. Joel talks about a dream he’s apparently had about running down the street buck-naked. I’m thinking that this isn’t a dream, it’s a reality. I’m trying to catch my breath, but I’m laughing too hard. I’m wheezing, choking, gasping for air, pointing my finger. Look… that guy out there… on the street… the one with the crown… parading down the street… and he ain’t wearin’ no clothes! Forgive me for pointing, but I think the emperor might be streakin’.

Sorry folks, but we won’t be waiting for the promised fourth installment to give this thing the treatment it deserves. If your curiosity gets the better of you, and you have to look at the fourth part, go right ahead. But be warned ahead of time, because it’s bound to be as ridiculous as the first three.

I have to be honest here. When I first encountered the “Type A” stuff, I thought that Joel Tetreau had something serious to say, some Biblical objections to us. But then, I read his first three articles. Looks like our clay modeling is still in the play dough stage. Once in a while, he actually alludes to the Bible. But never fear, they are only allusions. You won’t find any Biblical objections to what Joel calls the “Type A’s”. Just Joel assuming what he should be proving.

THREE LINES IN THE SAND amounts to fundamentalist stereotyping. (There Joel. This “Type A” just used the word “Fundamentalist” as an adjective). The fourth article, slated to make its appearance on SHARPER IRON on Friday (the day this review should be posted), will deal with “Type C” fundamentalism. He’s saving the best for last, no doubt. The first three articles were designed to lambaste “Type A” fundamentalism, the “dictator-type” pastor-dominated churches that characterize what some have affectionately dubbed “IFBx-dom”. His major point is to urge a more moderate stance, and to argue the superiority of “elder-rule” that characterizes the “Type B” fundamentalists.

Tetreau makes great pains to stress his desire for “unity”, with statements like this in part 1:

Let me say before you read this that I am not your enemy if you find yourself something other than what I call a Type B fundamentalist. I have friends with a variety of approaches to ministry. You do not have to agree with all of this to be my friend. Furthermore, I would never accuse anyone with a different approach of not being spiritual.

And this in part 2:

At the end of the day, I really am not trying to divide A, B, and C.

And this classic in part 3:

First, here’s a word about my chart. It’s my chart. I am not attempting to come up with the “Tetreau Scale” that’s universally accepted by all or even most “out there.”

Along with this in part 3:

I also believe that the Spirit of God is wounded when we fight, cut, and separate from men and ministries, accusing them of being disobedient when, in reality and in the eyes of God, they are merely different than we are.

And this, also in part 3:

It seems to me that each type ought to be able to reach over and fellowship and have some cooperation with other fundamentalists who are different types.

But, then the shrieking starts. We might call it self-contradiction. Joel would never accuse anyone with a different approach of not being spiritual. Only “dictatorial,” “can’t work with anyone else (except hand-picked “yes men”),” men who “lead by pride and a sense that I’m always right because I’m the pastor,” men who have the “Messiah Syndrome,” “spiritually abusive,” “a dark-sided form of abusive leadership,” and an “odd ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ syndrome.” Consider this quote from part 2:

There is something in the genetic DNA of some Type A’s that carry this heavy-handed and abusive tendency with leadership.

So now it’s a genetic deficiency. How about this humdinger from the discussion of part 2 (post #46):

…but friends this is one discussion about one hill that Tetreau is willing to die on. I’m “Anolish” on my view of the dangers of the dictatorial aspect that is too often embedded into the DNA of Type A ministries (no offense to Scott – just comparing my passion for this with his passion on the music deal).

I have too often had to dig some Type A’s or (even more frequently) Type A+ battle axe out of the scull of a dear believer who crawled all bloodied to the door of our church. I’ve too often had to apply first-aid to a believer who had been beaten instead of feeden (sorry – couldn’t resist) by a so-called shepherd. Because of that……I’ve put a stake in the ground. I’ve had it. I’m done being Mr. nice Joel on this point. In the future when I see God’s sheep being wounded by Type A’s who are abusing their authority (or for that matter even Type B’s or Type C’s) If the Lord let’s me – I will be on my horse with my lance aimed at the wolf in sheep’s clothing called “whoever.”

So no, Type A’s aren’t unspiritual. They’re just… unspiritual. But we find this kind of inconsistency throughout the three articles. We shouldn’t be surprised. Moses the man of God drew a line and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” Joel draws three lines in the sand, and asks, “which line are you on?” “Stand in your line straight, now, boys and girls.” “Now, lets play hopscotch.” He has a three-sided box, and he wants to put you in one.

THREE LINES IN THE SAND is really all about the moderates. The “Type B’s” are Joel’s version of the moderates, and the “Type A’s” are the “radical right” as we’re referred to in political circles. Joel is a moderate, and he can’t stand the extremists. That is the bottom line. He has an aversion to the “cowboys” on the right. He doesn’t like the “John Wayne-ishness” of the Type A’s. We are militant like George Patton. That is bad. Joel wants us to fight like George Washington. He wants us to be “gentlemen soldiers.” George Washington was a nice guy. Joel says so. George Patton wasn’t. And we’re all supposed to be nice guys. John Wayne wasn’t a nice guy. We want Roy Rogers. Or was that Mr. Rogers…

Consider this quote from part 3:

Most Type A’s view legitimate Fundamentalism as a single circle of fellowship. Many Type A’s believe and preach that only the guys who view doctrine (especially separation) as they do in their regional or national group are “all that’s left of real Fundamentalism.” Type A’s view Fundamentalism as a patriot views his country.

And this is bad. This is really, really bad. Too extremist. Almost backwards. Tetreau wants a new kind of militancy. For instance, Tetreau makes the following statements about the difference between “Type B’s” and the “Pseudo- Fundamentalists:”

The overwhelming majority of independent Baptists supporting “PF” did so for stereotypical and national/political reasons.

But, of course, those embracing “moderate Fundamentalism” or “neo-Fundamentalism” are not doing so for “stereotypical and national/political reasons.” That’s just an illusion of the clear-thinking right. You better get that out of your head, you Type A’s! How dare you compare Tetreau and his entourage with neo’s? Consider this statement:

Indiscriminately joining hands with the evangelical movement as a whole would be treason.

Joel’s doing it discriminately. Come on! Can’t you see the difference, you zombies, you lemmings, you… you… sheep? Next thing, you’ll be accusing him of fellowshipping with non-fundamentalists. He doesn’t do that. Listen to his explanation:

However, when a ministry demonstrates a consistent attempt to actively obey Scripture and consistently contend for the Biblical faith once delivered, Type B and Type C fundamentalists grant a type of “fundamentalist standing” to such a ministry, even if that ministry is not officially functioning within a fundamentalist association.

See! If they aren’t fundamentalists, we’ll just call them fundamentalists. That way at least we can feel good about it. Which is similar to the way Joel treats this whole stereotyping system anyway. Abraham Lincoln once asked, “If I called the dog’s tail a leg, how many legs would the dog have?” And when his friends answered “five,” Lincoln smiled (notice, you Type A’s, he smiled) and said, “calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” But this is exactly what Joel is doing. He stands on the left shoulder and insists that this is the middle of the road. “At least, it ought to be. And I’m going to act like it is.”

The best example of self-defeating rhetoric comes in his section denying that his brand of moderate fundamentalism is neo-evangelical. Consider these statements:

It is my belief that Type C fundamentalists (in one sense) are perhaps the truest heirs to the fundamentalists from the 20’s and 30’s who were attempting to “purge” liberalism and unbelief from their ranks.

(But that statement actually explains a big part of why I don’t like to think of myself as a Fundamentalist to begin with. Joel might be relieved.)

But how about these. You might think that this is me talking about Joel. Sorry folks, this is Joel talking about the neo’s. Now, pick your jaw up off the ground and take him seriously…

New-evangelicals were to infiltrate, not with militant confrontation, but with smooth dialogue and politics.

New-Evangelicalism said, “Wow them with your intellect, superior apologetics, and sensitive attitude toward social issues.”

There is this sissy, let’s-get-along-with-everyone attitude that frankly is not consistent with the Pauline metaphor of “contending for the faith.”

That’s what I was thinking about the new militancy being promoted by “Pryde and Prejudice.”

And what is Tetreau’s problem with the “Type A’s?” Consider…

First, the social concept of leadership in those generations tended to be more “John Wayne-ish.”

Speaking of past “fundamentalists”. But with the current “Type A’s:”

One of the central characteristics of Type A is a consistent practice of secondary (ecclesiastical) separation. (emphasis his)

Yep. That’s a problem, alright. A big one too. And Joel is careful to extend that out into the utterly ridiculous:

Certainly all Bible-believers should desire a consistency in any application of Scripture. In an attempt to be consistent, some in Type A have moved from the secondary level of separation to third, fourth, fifth levels and beyond.

But don’t worry. Joel still wants to demonstrate his “sissy, let’s-get-along-with-everyone attitude that frankly is not consistent with the Pauline metaphor of “contending for the faith.” Of the “Type A’s,” he says:

The motives of these men should not be called into question, even if one does not agree with the degrees of their separation.

And one more problem.

Type A Fundamentalism typically leans toward an isolationistic approach to society. Because of their understanding of separation passages, they have developed their own forms of music, literature, even Bible versions.

And here, all this time, I thought we were singing the great old hymns of our fathers, and using the Bible version of our Puritan forebears. Silly me!

Oh, and one more problem.

“Fundamentalism” to Type A’s is a noun.

We could go on and on. I’ve wasted too much of your time already. This is the world according to Joel. We should remember that. It is his chart. He says that…

First, here’s a word about my chart. It’s my chart.

Classic. Extraordinary. Brilliant. This is his view, his chart, his stereotypes. He wants “Fundamentalism” to be an adjective. He doesn’t want to be like those nasty ole’ “Type A’s” who make “Fundamentalism” a noun. He doesn’t see “Fundamentalism” as a noun. It’s an adjective. Never mind the fact that he uses it almost exclusively as a noun. That’s beside the point. Because, see, he’s seeing it as an adjective even as he uses it as a noun. He uses it as a noun because, well, ya have to. But if he could think of how to use it as an adjective, he would.

But that only serves to illustrate the absurdity of the entire series. And to think, Sharper Iron filled over twenty pages of “serious” discussion of each of these articles in a few short hours. Glad to see that the guys over at SI take these things seriously. It ranks right up there with the very serious debate about Rap music’s place in worship.

It’s three chalk-marks, pastel chalk-marks mind you, on the sidewalk. Please, don’t anyone step on them. Especially not the pink one.

  1. November 17, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    OK. So, I’m being a comment hog. So what? What do you expect from an A+++++++++++++? After all, I’m just a dog according to the type B Joel. (To be fair, he did apologize for PUBLICLY calling me a dog, but, as the teens say, “whatever . . .”) He never apologized for his A+ to the 100th power attitude towards me, just for displaying it publicly. You can check out the B-Man Joel on a rampage at this thread: http://www.sharperiron.org/showthread.php?t=2963&

    I just am copying and pasting a portion of something that I posted earlier in reply to Kent’s article. Since I should have waited and put the comment here, here goes:

    Truly, it is funny to watch Sharper Iron (or maybe it should be Sharper Playdough) in a tizzy over such foolishness as the Three Lines articles. The funniest statement that related to Three Lines had to be one I read today in which a poster was exhorting fundamentalists to not take themselves so seriously. He then declared “The men who maintain this website are doing a great service to the cause of fundamentalism.” Huh?

    Good grief, Lucy! If that website is doing “a great service” for fundamentalism, then I would hate to see what the enemies of “the movement” have in mind!

    I’m sure they mean well, but those men are truly maintaining a website that daily produces undeniable proof of the mess that fundamentalism is! It is time for Dorothy and the gang to take off the green glasses and face the reality. They can’t even agree on what fundamentalism is! They can’t come to grips with what the “TRUE” fundamentals are. Watching their attempts at coming up with the answer to that one is like observing Bill Clinton explain the meaning of “is.”

    Does anyone else see the insanity of all of this?

    Isn’t it great to just be a member of one of the Lord’s churches?

  2. November 17, 2006 at 8:10 pm

    Look at how McArthur’s boy views them:


    very complimentary!

  3. November 17, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    I liked reading this one. Others would say, “Of course you do,” in a kind of loaded way. Well, I do. I like the sharpness of it. It got my blood flowing a little. Things like this—We want Roy Rogers. Or was that Mr. Rogers…”—made me laugh.

    I’m going to critique your article like Joe Roof of Sharper Iron would something written by a true separatist: “Hey everyone, I just read this article written by, I think, a Dave Mallinack, and he probably thinks that he is really doing something great because he can tear down someone. I showed his article to a friend of mine that is a PHD and holds several world records and flosses daily, and he just laughed. Does anybody else on here think the same way as I do about this guy? I don’t mean to criticize, but I wonder how he thinks this is going to help anyone struggling in his Christian life to live better. It just comes across kind of strange to me.”

  4. November 18, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    You all have much more patience than I do for the stuff that has been posted and discussed recently at S.I. I could not even bring myself to take the time and read that stuff. It is simply not real to me. It is not even near where I live. I am too busy doing things that matter than to discourse over topics that only moderates have the time to talk about. Our dear people of Community Baptist Church in Garfield, NJ have no clue about these pointless debates, and have no need to know about it. Again, those who post those articles and spend all their time (as the most recent post in this topic states) discussing these things should be studying the Scriptures more and reaching the lost.

  5. annecourager
    November 18, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    Just curious…is this blog’s sole purpose to bash Sharper Iron? The posts of the last few days seem to indicate so.

    I know you men have many more important things to write about. At least, I hope so.

  1. November 14, 2008 at 5:10 pm
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