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Old School

November 21, 2006

Are young people more rebellious today in the United States?  Can they not be ordered or commanded?  Are they different in that they must be asked and nicely, maybe even sweetly?  Do their leaders need to explain, tip-toe, and coddle?  Some say that it has always been that way, that is, every older generation thinks the younger is softer and more disrespectful than they, and every younger generation thinks that their older counterparts are impatient and authoritarian, even despotic.

Old SchoolToday the latter is termed “old school.”  “Old school” physically lifts the chin of the pupil so that he looks him in the eyes, the student sending a signal of independence with his indifferent body language.  “Old school” requires fixated, thoughtful attention out of deference commensurate to his superior position.  “New school” expects placating, conversational tones and vocabulary that treats everyone as equals.   “New school” needs regular admission of error from leadership and even some sense of doubt that begs for suggestions and advice.  “Old school” speaks dogmatically and “new school” repels absolutes.  “Old school” takes charge, talking confidently, and “new school” expects the inmates to have a major say at the asylum.  “Old school” sees things more in black and white, while “new school” sees things more grey and fuzzy.

Again, is all of this a regular repeat in history, every generation, or is it symptomatic of a failing culture and a dying civilization?  In answer to this, consider the nation Judah, Eighth century B. C.  She had trusted Assyria for protection against Samaria and Damascus.  Now she allied herself with Egypt for help against the Assyrians.  God didn’t want this.  He sent His “old school” prophet, Isaiah, to deliver His message again and again.  Isaiah was a type A, fundamental guy going to the softer, gentler generation with his muscular warnings.  He delivered a dogmatic doom and deliverance message, a definite my-way-or-the-highway job, that didn’t set well with their sense and sensibilities.  Isaiah portrays those young fundies with this description (Isaiah 30:9, 10):

[T]his is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:  which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things.

This younger crowd was very particular about their message.  They wanted it positive, laced with humor, with plenty of room to maneuver; oprah-esque really.  Nothing straight, always with plenty of creamer.  Careful of the tone.  Empathetic.  Perceptive of feelings.  And expressed with just a pinch of doubt—too much certainty can be dangerous, lead to harmful divisiveness.  Ironically, they’re dogmatic about one thing:  tolerance.  Well, at least tolerance of something on the looser side.  That liberty thing.  Must be prudent never to be a prude.  Lax about liberty; emphatic about indulgence.

What doesn’t new school like about old school?  New school doesn’t like that old school makes emphatic statements, absolutes without relativity or nuance.  New school often agrees to disagree.  They like agreeableness and old school seems disagreeable when it disagrees.  They can’t tolerate that tolerantly.   New school loves latitude.  It wants evidence from you, really more than enough proof, but it likes you to respect its opinion—its very humble opinion, of course, it will have you know.  New school doesn’t mind inferences from Scripture unless they cramp its lifestyle.  If the logic doesn’t make them feel good, it suffers from a fault in the major premise, so it won’t be in their new curriculum.  All in all, the credo on the official seal for new school is:  Speak Unto Us Smooth Things.

I had this mainly written, when someone with which I differ on a few important doctrines[1] spoke about this very same matter.  We have the same world view in many ways, so that Dave Doran wrote:

Talk is pretty worthless if it isn’t correct, and testing its correctness is what seems to be missing. We are rapidly descending into a culture where everyone is free to say whatever they want, but no one is allowed to challenge or refute whatever is said. It doesn’t matter if they are right; what matters is that they feel that way. That kind of mush-headedness might be acceptable for the afternoon talk show circuit, but it can’t be accepted by God’s people. What matters most is always what God thinks, and we know what God thinks because He has spoken to us. . . . At the root of my concerns is the question of authority, that is, what will our functional authority be in matters like this? In principle, I imagine we all agree that the Bible is our authority. In practice, sometimes I wonder. How often can we appeal to our experiences without revealing something about the authority that experience wields over our thinking? To what degree have we become saturated with our culture’s relativistic, sentimentalized spirit? The common retorts show evidence of this: “Well, that’s just your view” or “That’s how I feel about it” or “I’ve had lots of people tell me the same thing.”

And then he dittoed my thoughts later:

People with a deep commitment to the Lord and His truth should be marked by the balance of earnestness and humility. We should care enough about truth to take discussions about it seriously. We should recognize that the truth matters more than we do, so we want to be sharpened and shaped by it, even if it comes through confrontation. It is a testament to the spiritual weakness and ill-health of contemporary fundamentalism that disagreements are so quickly personalized. This aspect of the whole discussion was disheartening.

I am amazed somewhat that he and I think the same on this, but I was happy to hear it.  It is highly possible that a large segment of men would more likely listen to him than to me.  I hope what he said at least changes the climate of discussions—puts the badges of the new school tone police back into their boxes of cracker jacks and their whiney victimization with it.

The new school preference on discourse parallels the cry of Judah to its prophets.  They don’t like being told in a straight, no-nonsense fashion.  It is not just a phenomena that repeats itself every generation.  It is a symptom of a dying culture that has reached the stage where it is near collapse.  You know that when the frat house reaches the White House that you’ve got big problems.  When the same kind of people are making the rules for theological discussion, you should know that the safeguard of orthodox doctrine is not all that’s at stake.  New school won’t even be able to protect the water supply.


[1] I am not a Calvinist; he is.  I believe in the perfect preservation of Scripture; he doesn’t.  I believe the church is local only; he believes the true church is universal.  His dress standards are different than mine.  His fellowship is wider than mine.

Categories: Brandenburg, Discourse
  1. November 21, 2006 at 10:06 pm

    Hi Kent

    very good, this is what I was looking for in my comments elsewhere.

    I think Doran hit a homerun on that one. He and I don’t always get along, but he does have a similar world view as you said. It is quite amazing to see the comments following his piece – many of them still don’t get it, just emoting away… That worries me more than anything if it is representative of the majority of fundamentalism.

    of course, you and I don’t agree entirely either, but I think our world view is similar.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. November 22, 2006 at 10:02 am

    Not to repeat myself here, but “Three Lines” is not an idea to be taken seriously. What we should take seriously is the fact that people are taking it seriously. That, to me, reveals a bigger problem.

    I think the whole “Type A” thing is really an aversion to strong personalities and “Amos” type preachers more than anything else. But, it is also a desire to be liked by the more liberal. And that is an idea that needs to be smashed. The problem isn’t that they are “different”, as Joel has argued. The problem is that they are “disobedient”. Sure, “disobedient” is “different”. But now we sound like the intoleristas…

    I have no problem with attacking ungodly and abusive pastors in a Biblical context. But I do have a problem with how we are defining what an abusive pastor is. An abusive pastor, in this series by Joel T., is being defined as a “George Patton”, or a “John Wayne”. In other words, if they aren’t nice like Joel (and, folks, Joel IS a very nice man), then they are abusive. So, Amos is abusive. In fact, so is Christ. And Paul. And DEFINITELY John.

    We need to Scripturally define abusive pastors, Scripturally identify them, applying the definition, and then Scripturally run them out on a rail. But then, that might mean we run out some of the “nice guys” too.

  3. November 22, 2006 at 10:04 am

    Joel reminded me… it’s been a while since I saw George C. Scott in “Patton”, and even longer since I saw a good John Wayne movie… Maybe I can take care of that over Thanksgiving! Sure beats those girly movies.
    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  4. November 22, 2006 at 10:14 am

    Dave, I would agree that there is a strong dislike to strong personalities and biblical preaching on holiness.

    I am not quite sure, though, that the idea three types is simply a dislike of Type A and a like of Type C. If that were the case, and if the Type Bs were so numerous, they would just work to drive out the Type As. It seems that what Joel is after is the approval of Type As for his desire to accomodate and compromise with the Type Cs. (He, of course, wouldn’t call it compromise.)

    It does seem that there are forces at work in some of the major fundamentalist institutions that may well lead to a Type B takeover, but I think some of these fellows still have ties to Type A forbears and want their approval. (At the moment, anyway.)

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  5. Anvil
    November 22, 2006 at 11:29 am

    This article did a fine job pointing out the errors of the “New School” of thought regarding authority. What it did not do, either because it was beyond the scope of the article or because it was intentional, was discuss any of the errors of the “Old School” which, in part at least, caused the “New School” to come into existence.

    It’s commonly held among Old School types that the New School is simply a rebellion against the old, and there is some amount of truth in that. However, when a number of men who want to do the right thing identify more with the New School, it must be considered that it might not simply be because it’s a rebellion or because it’s all they’ve known growing up. When you combine the Old School characteristic of insisting on respect because of age and position with not wanting to admit error, even when it’s obvious and egregious, abusive and inappropriate authority arises that in many cases ought NOT to be respected, let alone blindly obeyed. No pastor today is the equal of men used of God and given the same authority as Amos, Paul, or John, and of course, none of us can compare himself to Christ, who was perfect. Preachers most certainly should declare the Word, and do so directly, even when it hurts, however, no one today is being used of God to breathe out scripture, and thus do not have the same authority as any of those four men. It should not be only the New School types who insist that error be admitted and corrected, especially among the leadership.

    For believers, all authority is based on the Bible, and does not exist as an entity unto itself. Spiritual leadership is also different from secular leadership in that all believers are priests and have Jesus as our only mediator. Every one of us will one day stand in judgment before God, and just as it is wrong for a soldier who committed atrocities because he was so ordered to claim “I was only following orders,” it will do us no good to say at the judgment that our pastor said “X,” so we did it. It is the responsibility of adults under spiritual leadership to filter *everything* through the Word, and to the extent that something doesn’t match the Bible, it does not need to be obeyed, no matter who it comes from. Many Old School guys don’t like it when that determination is made about what they just said, especially those who feel that authority is what is rightfully due THEM rather than to scripture.

    When it comes to liberty, while some New School types will have a tendency to twist that into license, many Old School types try to simply deny that liberty exists, or they attempt to explain it away. I fail to see how either position is superior, since both are deviating from the truth of scripture.

    It also seems that many Old School types don’t like it when their arguments (which they are sure are absolutely scriptural and correct) are not just accepted as truth without any resistance or argumentation. This is what shows the inconsistency among some of the Old School — they want people to stand strongly, but not when it’s against what they have to say. It seems that they feel that New School types are too soft, but when they do show some backbone in a direction the Old School deems inappropriate, it is immediately labeled rebellion or disrespect of authority. The fact that some position comes from a New School guy doesn’t make it wrong, any more than the fact that a position comes from an Old School guy makes it right. Scripture is the measure, and we are all responsible to wield it discerningly.

    The way I see it, the New School (to the extent it represents true believers) exists because of the problems and abuses of the Old School. Members of both need to understand that not one of us has a monopoly on truth. Only God and scripture have that. All of us *should* hold our opinions humbly, understanding that because of our sinful nature, we could be misrepresenting what scripture actually says. Old School or New School, why not consider the strengths of the other without resorting to writing them off completely? If the ABC method of labeling is flawed, it must be said that dividing into New/Old with only one being considered completely “right” isn’t any improvement.

  6. November 22, 2006 at 2:37 pm


    I agree with the premise that A, B, and C are all equally subject to abuses and, therefore, disagree with the premise that B came out of A abuses. I believe that individuals pendulum swing, but the movements come from something more sinister, resultant of the world system mainly. I believe that the world has become more wicked and many churches and then parachurch organizations (colleges, etc.) have moved with it, staying usually a few steps behind. This has created whatever someone wants to call it, postmodernism, the emerging church, whatever. A major quality of the new way is a high value on ambiguity or mystery, rejecting that the Bible is clear so that anyone can really understand its meaning. All doctrines and practices are subject to doubt, as well as every authority. This further results in disliking hard preaching, intellectual pride, and few to any doctrinal or moral boundaries. No controlling legal authority. All a matter of what “is” is.

    The symptoms of this were seen in the responses to criticism, even as pointed out by Doran: “I feel differently about it” and “I am sorry if I hurt your feelings.” No apology was needed because no one said his feelings were hurt. We disagree. That does not mean “hurt.” It is on the feeling level with the new way and the new school. This is where the comparison to Oprah and Dr. Phil comes in. Everyone is a victim–Joel is a victim of criticism and we are victims of his hurting us.

    Anvil, there is only right and wrong. The ambiguity of some synthesis of right and wrong that renders a new right is exactly how doctrine and practice are diluted. I believe the reason for all this is faulty ecclesiology, but whatever is at fault, it is what exists. My “taxonomy” is Scriptural, two mountains, blessing or cursing, earthly or heavenly, the kingdom of God or the kingdom of this world, etc.

    Liberties are Scriptural, but liberty is not an occasion to the flesh. Liberty is Scriptural; license is unScriptural, so again the taxonomy. I believe the attack on the applications of Scripture to our culture, the inferences drawn, which is how it has been done for centuries, is part of the attack on clarity. I could go on, but I think you understand.

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