Home > Brandenburg, Culture, Fundamentalism, Separation, Truth > A Follow-Up to Questions for Non-Revivalist Fundamentalism

A Follow-Up to Questions for Non-Revivalist Fundamentalism

April 15, 2009

The grass gets tall this time of year in Northern California.  It is the end of rainy season.  When I cut the tall grass, two things often happen.  One, some of the grass doesn’t get completely clipped.  Two, you’ve got to mow again really quickly just to keep up.  I went back and forth with my mower in no special pattern to get the job done.  Some of the long grass needs another run.   The yard, of course, in this instance is non-revivalist fundamentalism (NRF).   I made a pass over NRF several days ago with some random sweeps of my mower, that is, questions for NRF.  I got some answers, but I would like to follow-up because of the eclectic nature of my interrogation.

Psychoanalysis

In some good fundamentalist fashion, people read into me and my column.  Some of that was due to how I mowed the grass the first time.  I had a few lines in there that could have provoked some young Freuds to get me on their couch.  Because of the link over at SharperIron, the nature of the comments seemed as though I may have written a column about SharperIron, when that was just one of my questions.  As a result of that, some speculated that I must be trying to become a member again.  Others assumed that I was pouting over a lack of attention.

I was in fundamentalism for a lengthy time.  The point of fundamentalism I agree with, that is, purity of doctrine.   If that is the major idea of fundamentalism, I like it and have sympathy with fundamentalism and fundamentalists on that.  I also think I have now lived a little so that I can judge history a little better, so I wrote the first post.  I would prefer to keep this all to the actual lines I typed, although the psychoanalysis was interesting.

Misrepresentation

I read comments that misrepresent what I wrote.  They verge on more psychoanalysis.  For instance, I haven’t said anything about stifling discussion on issues or “blocking out other views.”  We should prove everything, hold fast to that which is good.   Regarding SharperIron (SI), I’m saying only that I see it left-leaning on the fundamentalist (right)-evangelical (left) scale.

I think where the “stifling discussion” point segues with the essential-non-essential issue is that, I believe, evangelicals have been those who talk most about ranking doctrines.  They do this to avoid separation.   The truth is that the fundamentalism I grew up with wanted to talk about everything that might be scriptural.  I find it is the evangelical side that “blocks out views.”  They don’t want to talk about cultural issues unless it suits their fancy (“smutty pulpit speech”—see Phil Johnson and John MacArthur).  This isn’t anything that I had heard in fundamentalism, while I was in it.  Everything in scripture was important in the fundamentalism I knew.  Maybe that’s what McCune and I have in common—he and I are old school in this way.

Evaluation

Hopefully you, like I, have a biblical grid that screens all that you read and hear.   If we do have one of those, we should all leave it in the “on” position, evaluating everything in light of scripture.  I’m curious at least when professing fundamentalists don’t use the Bible to judge.  Perhaps it is what I should expect today.   I don’t think I read any comment here or in the filings thread at SI that exposed my post to God’s Word.   The only valid criticism of fundamentalistic positions should be biblical, shining light on error.

Someone wrote this:

But are there not degrees of separation, just as there are degrees of agreement and degrees of practical importance? (cf. Mohler’s triage) Brandenburg’s (and McCune’s it seems) view of pan-importance is true in one sense, but I don’t believe that we ought to be separating over baptism in the same way that we separate over the virgin birth.  Haven’t some evangelicals been a little more discerning – and hence a little more biblical – in their application of separation when they have paused to identify the exact level of disagreement?

The answer to this should come from scripture.   Some, it seems, think that asking the question qualifies as an argument.  Or, someone should be shamed by even bringing up the topic.  Or, that the question alone shows the lack of common sense involved in taking a different view.  I’ve never thought of these tactics as replacing biblical authority.  You still need “thus saith the Lord.”  And I don’t think anyone should trust common sense.

I haven’t found evangelicals will separate at all.  I don’t even hear them talk about separation.  It is as if it has dropped out of scripture.  By the way, where is that criticism of evangelicalism and this dearth of biblical teaching at SI?  Show one good dealing with separation by an evangelical, when they are supposed to be the master exegetes of scripture.  Young fundamentalists don’t like some of the positions of older fundamentalism and their criticism of fundamentalism, even saying that evangelicals are “more biblical” than fundamentalism.  It really is a matter of personal comfort on where the line is drawn; it isn’t a matter of trying to find out what the Bible says about why and how to separate.

Keep on your biblical thinking caps.  Consider this again that Joel Tetreau writes:  “We could get more accomplished because our partnerships would be larger.”   Where do you get a scriptural basis for “larger partnerships” as a motive for what we do as Christians?  How are we guaranteed at all through this pragmatic approach in getting “more accomplished” either?  I see scripture teach the opposite.  Think Egypt.  You think you’re safer, but not only is it wrong and it doesn’t trust God, it doesn’t end in more being accomplished.

This statement made in response to my post is typical of a fundamentalist argument today:

That camp makes little distinction (beyond lip service) between the fundamentals and rural, turn of the century American culture. . . . The real force of true fundamentalism is a loyalty to the Word of God, not a canonization of any particular culture or era of time. If it is otherwise, I want nothing to do with it.

This has already been standard fare for evangelicals.  To start, it is incredibly simplistic on the matter of culture.  Second, it is no argument or at least an illogical one.  Third, it is dangerous and ignorant (1 John 2:15; Rom 12:2).

What Issues Are Important to God

Some talked about the issues that are important to God.  We don’t have to guess on that.  We can go to scripture and see how God operates with regards to what He said.  He wants us to take seriously everything that He said.  Now I can hear the response:  “No one is saying we shouldn’t.”  It is what I read from fundamentalists and evangelicals now.

Joel Tetreau wrote:

Well for starters Brandenburg would separate from all of us….oh yeah he’s already done that….my bad, I forgot. Sorry Kent! What would that do for fundamentalism’s MO?

I’m not a fundamentalist.  It’s true.  Greg Linscott got it right.  It’s because fundamentalism is too ecumenical, that is, it is ungodly in this way.  However, what I’d like to point out here is the last statement.  Look at it.  I believe that sentence is tell-tale.  It really does explain the biggest issue:  what will other people think of us?  Oh my!  It should be:  what does God know about us?  We’re not walking by faith when we’re concerned with how the evangelicals view us.  There are reasons they are more popular and get published by major publishers, and we shouldn’t admire them for it.

Off Topic

Some of the discussion about my first point veered off topic regarding my beliefs.   One person said that my beliefs were rejected by most of fundamentalism a long time ago.  I don’t think that fundamentalism takes the time to consider an exegetical defense of biblical ecclesiology.  I also believe they haven’t sorted through historic bibliology, which is why, I believe, we have  a mutating doctrine of inerrancy today in addition to major attacks on meaning, interpretation, and application of scripture that has eroded the authority of God’s Word.

A Problem

Like God is Truth, God is perfect in the unity of His attributes, all in an irreducible and unseparable whole.  He isn’t holy at the loss of love or loving to the detriment of holiness.  Joel Tetreau writes this:

Fundamentalism because it has become fixated on “separation first” instead of “unity first” has become….well, ill. . . . (Don’t you think Biblical evidence suggests we start with unity first, and then separate instead of starting with separation? I don’t think this should be that hard. I mean count up the times the NT writers speak to unity and then count up the times they mention separation.).

Both separation and unity are taught in the NT.  Both should be obeyed, neither to the exclusion of the other.   Since God cannot deny Himself, we can practice both according to Scripture.  Our position is correct only if we can be consistent in obedience to both unity and separation.  Something JG wrote at SI sheds light:

Seems to me that if unity is first, rather than holiness, you’ve got a major problem. Unity is always within the confines of truth, or it is not real unity.

Something Missed

A major part of my first post was about a wrong evaluation of fundamentalism.  To give a proper view of fundamentalism, you have to consider it in its cultural and historic setting.  People say accurately that fundamentalism isn’t monolithic.  That’s true, but it also applies to the setting for the various eras of fundamentalism.  It isn’t like early 20th century fundamentalism has some grand stamp of approval from God.  We see it for what it is.

I’m not a fundamentalist because I can’t justify fellowship with disobedient brethren anywhere in Scripture.   I believe infant sprinkling constitutes that.   However, I am a fundamentalist in spirit and by dictionary definition.  I adhere strictly to a standard.  I believe that we love God and others by battling for that which is of the greatest benefit:  the truth.  I believe there is an idea of fundamentalism that is worth saving.

I don’t see a valid historic argument to beg for a paleo-fundamentalism that includes conservative evangelicals.  I know we don’t have a biblical basis for fellowship with them.  However, we are judging fundamentalism at the time of a more singular American culture.  Not only has fundamentalism changed, but so has evangelicalism.   The issues have changed since that time.  There is a lot more toleration of false doctrine and practice now than there was then.  The culture has eroded.  We would do well to keep this in mind in this discussion.

This talk of unity is more in common with the onset of new-evangelicalism than the oldest brand fundamentalism.   I get the idea of “looking for unity.”  I don’t see it in scripture.  I’ve found that you don’t have to look for unity.  You find it and it’s based on what you believe and practice.  Unity happens with people and churches with the same positions and application of those positions.   The way to find unity that you might be looking for is through reconciliation.  Reconciliation, however, only occurs based upon scripture.  We aren’t right to “reconcile” by ignoring the truth.   We attempt to reconcile by preaching the truth, very much like someone who is reconciled to God.  That occurs when the  nature of a lost person is converted to line up with God, not when God approves of something less than Who He is.

Based on the terms for reconciliation that I mentioned in the last paragraph, I think that I work at unity more than fundamentalists and evangelicals.  Rather than give up on evangelicals or fundamentalists, I am often talking to them with the purpose of helping us come to the same doctrine and practice.  This is love.  We ought to be patient.  We ought to take some grief along the way.   At some point we may need to determine that future contact will not be the right way to go.  I don’t think we get unity by ignoring our differences in the matter of fellowship.   We honor God by taking seriously what He says.

New-evangelicals were the ones who denigrated militancy and favored getting together.   They were more concerned with how they were perceived by the world, its academic institutions and its scholarship.   We should have one goal:  the pleasure of God.  Our labor is not in vain in Him.

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  1. April 16, 2009 at 11:26 am

    It always amazes me to hear people, especially evangelicals, talk about “unity” as if there is no tangible essence to what unifies them. When the Scriptures speak of “unity of the Spirit,” the primary focus of that “unity” is unity with the Godhead and in Truth. When Truth is compromised to any degree to achieve unity with someone, we do so at the sacrifice of unity with God. When that happens, those individuals become “blind leaders of the blind” and both can expect to end up in the “ditch” as far as “fellowship” with God is concerned. However, at least they will all be able to gather around their “Camp” fire and sing Cum-bye-Yahweh.

  2. April 16, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    I agree, Lance. Right on.

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