The Hypocrisy of Contemporary “Conservative” Evangelicalism
Many young fundamentalists vocalize their hatred for the errors of fundamentalism, especially concentrating on Jack Hyles, bad preaching, shallow evangelism, political bullying, and standards pushed with little to no exegetical basis. They also decry the excesses and abuses of revivalistic practices. Of course, at the top they spew venom against the exclusive use of the King James Version. They are angry and they’re not going to put up with it anymore.
One repercussion of the above mentioned items is the pendulum swing over to the “conservative evangelicals” by these young or youngish fundamentalists. Certain evangelicals provide a perfect shelter for runaway fundamentalists. They provide an almost perfect checklist for youngfundamentalist-matchmade.com. And the fundamentalist will defend his new asylum with the fervor of a revivalist.
Why the Loyalty to “Conservative Evangelicals”?
I believe that much of the new loyalty to these evangelicals is fueled by the fundamentalist seminaries. The seminary professors there aren’t as critical of the evangelicals as they are of fundamentalism. They see, I believe, violations of their own principles or at least preferences to a much greater degree among fundamentalists than they do among the so-called conservative evangelicals. They feel more comfortable with evangelicals than they do fundamentalists. You catch this mood by the way these fundamentalist professors and presidents talk about these evangelicals and the great respectfulness they talk to them.
By the way, what conservative evangelical, who young fundamentalists love, has a small church? Interesting. They are drawn to those with earthly success. Success isn’t justified by numbers, right? That’s one thing we hate, right? The numbers game. But they like the guys that got big. How did they get big? What did they do to get that way? This is all tell-tale in what is happening within this movement.
There is now underway a movement toward giving a new label to conservative evangelicals. They’re now paleofundamentalists. They are fundamentalists of the old stripe of fundamentalism, who fought mainly for the fundamentals, and we’re talking now 75 to 100 years ago. These historic fundamentalists supposedly remained indifferent to anything that fell below a major doctrine (the fundamentals). And I’m just reporting what I’m reading.
The feelings of the refugees from fundamentalism also are stirred by the published authorship of the conservative evangelicals. They pump out books. The fundamentalist fugitives read and study their books in seminary classes. They then think: “if we are so impressed with their books, then why is it that we don’t just join them.” The lists of recommended reading are almost entirely evangelical—hardly anything of fundamentalism. I recognize fundamentalists haven’t written much, but it’s still an elephant in the fundamentalist seminary class room.
Disapproval of “Conservative Evangelicals”
Very little critical is said of the conservative evangelicals. Only recently has any popular evangelical been the target of any fundamentalist denunciation—the one guy is Mark Driscoll. Driscoll had been constantly beloved in fundamentalist writings, only with minor disclaimer for potential future deniability. John MacArthur and Phil Johnson granted permission to fundamentalists to join the opprobrium of Driscoll. He had broken MacArthur’s and Johnson’s rules of decorum, so everyone was now welcome to start shelling Driscoll with them. MacArthur and Driscoll started pummeling Driscoll a few months ago and now it is open season on Driscoll. Even John Piper has come out in vintage Piperesque fashion to talk about the good spanking he was going to give Driscoll while they remained in fellowship together. (I believe that this is an example of how evangelicals separate. They write essays and make statements.)
I would like to begin to illustrate to you the hypocrisy of this crowd of people, the conservative evangelicals. Beyond Driscoll, the fundamentalists can’t seem to see the hypocrisy. That is a kind of hypocrisy in itself. There’s also the hypocrisy of seeing all the foibles in most of fundamentalism with very little about evangelicalism. But before I start exposing this problem, I’d like to expose some Scripture that applies to the problem. I want us to think together about a segment of Romans 15.
Here’s the text so you won’t need to look it up:
15 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, 16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. 17 I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. 18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, 19 Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: 21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.
I recognize that with a passage of scripture like this in an essay, there’s a tendency for your eyes to avert the passage and go to what I’m saying about it, even evangelicals and young fundamentalists who are reading. Let’s make sure to read through the text. I mean, you want to, right? At least to check me out, to see if I’m treating the text correctly?
The “grace of God” had a certain effect on Paul (v. 15). And we see in v. 16 that the grace was available to him to minister the gospel of God to the Gentiles, and not just in any way. The grace of God worked toward the result of these Gentiles being an acceptable offering up to God. And then he goes to elaborate on that in the next few verses.
This is what the young fundamentalists miss about the conservative evangelicals. The conservative evangelicals like to talk about the grace of God, but they are as guilty as the Hyles’ people and the revivalists at manipulation in order to get their results. The reason they’re big is not the grace of God. The grace of God operates in a different way than what we see with them. If it is the grace of God, then it will look like what we see Paul describe in Romans 15. What does characterize a work of God?
In v. 17, Paul says that Jesus is glorified “in those things which pertain to God.” The instrument of the glory of Jesus Christ is something that is God. Paul wanted a result that he could give God as an offering (v. 16). The second “ministering” in v. 16 is a word that applies to the sacrificial service of the priest, speaking of priestly offerings. The word “sanctified” is a form of the word “holy.”
Jesus is glorified in a work, when it pertains to God. Works that don’t pertain to God, but pertain to human techniques and strategies, these are by nature unholy. They’re profane or common—they don’t pertain to God. The work produces sacredness in its adherents because it is sacred itself.
We see constant man-made, worldly techniques in the work of John Piper. A recent Calvinist publication reveals this with a review by Peter Masters (you’ve got to read this whole article), the pastor of Spurgeon’s church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle:
The author begins by describing the Passion, conference at Atlanta in 2007, where 21,000 young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments. And this picture is repeated many times through the book – large conferences being described at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine.
We are told of thunderous music, thousands of raised hands, ‘Christian’ hip-hop and rap lyrics (the examples seeming inept and awkward in construction) uniting the doctrines of grace with the immoral drug-induced musical forms of worldly culture.
Masters does more than report what is happening, when he diagnoses:
Indeed, a far better quality Calvinism still flourishes in very many churches, where souls are won and lives sanctified, and where Truth and practice are both under the rule of Scripture. Such churches have no sympathy at all with reporter Collin Hansen’s worldly-worship variety, who seek to build churches using exactly the same entertainment methods as most charismatics and the Arminian Calvary Chapel movement.
The new Calvinists constantly extol the Puritans, but they do not want to worship or live as they did. One of the vaunted new conferences is called Resolved, after Jonathan Edwards’ famous youthful Resolutions (seventy searching undertakings). But the culture of this conference would unquestionably have met with the outright condemnation of that great theologian.
Masters doesn’t leave it alone to Piper. He goes after another fundamentalist icon, John MacArthur, with this further criticism:
Resolved is the brainchild of a member of Dr John MacArthur’s pastoral staff, gathering thousands of young people annually, and featuring the usual mix of Calvinism and extreme charismatic-style worship. Young people are encouraged to feel the very same sensational nervous impact of loud rhythmic music on the body that they would experience in a large, worldly pop concert, complete with replicated lighting and atmosphere. At the same time they reflect on predestination and election. Worldly culture provides the bodily, emotional feelings, into which Christian thoughts are infused and floated. Biblical sentiments are harnessed to carnal entertainment. (Pictures of this conference on their website betray the totally worldly, showbusiness atmosphere created by the organisers.)
I’ve been talking about this for awhile, engendering hatred from younger and even older fundamentalists. They don’t want to hear it. Their guy exposits well. He doesn’t use the King James Version. They show a high degree of shallowness and an almost complete lack of discernment in their evaluation of Piper and MacArthur. They might listen now that Masters has said something, but they have been extolling them despite these things and have pushed Piper and MacArthur. It will come across as disingenuous now—Johnny come lately. Jesus is not glorified.
Piper and MacArthur like to connect themselves to the Puritans, but they are so far away from much of what the Puritans wrote. They work in those things which “pertain to men,” that “pertain to sinful culture,” that “pertain to worldliness.” It doesn’t produce something different than the world. It produces a more conservative version of the world, but not something separate. Piper and MacArthur neither preach separation. They don’t practice separation. They don’t produce separatists, that is, they don’t produce sanctification through the Spirit.
If you read Johnson carefully over at his blog Pyromaniacs, you will hear him say that how good men are in the pulpit, speaking of their communication skills and ability to connect through their speech, being what yields success. It’s blatant revivalism. The other Pyromaniacs glory in their rock music and their knowledge of contemporary culture. They don’t like the degree that Driscoll gets to, but they do movie reviews and often quote rock music lyrics from godless pagans who hate God. Much more could be said and be given in example, but Jesus is glorified with things that pertain to God. Those things do not pertain to God.
Pastor Peter Masters doesn’t even leave out Together for the Gospel, when he writes:
A final sad spectacle reported with enthusiasm in the book is the Together for the Gospel conference, running from 2006. A more adult affair convened by respected Calvinists, this nevertheless brings together cessationists and non-cessationists, traditional and contemporary worship exponents, and while maintaining sound preaching, it conditions all who attend to relax on these controversial matters, and learn to accept every point of view. In other words, the ministry of warning is killed off, so that every -error of the new scene may race ahead unchecked. These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety.
True Calvinism and worldliness are opposites. Preparation of heart is needed if we would search the wonders and plumb the depths of sovereign grace.
We have to have Peter Masters write these things because fundamentalists won’t. You don’t hear Kevin Bauder or Dave Doran or anyone of the separatist fundamentalists. When you do hear a few men saying things in their midst, small church pastors, they are savaged. It’s a sad time when the things which pertain to man are acceptable to us, especially since they aren’t approved by God.
Extra: Others, including myself, have been saying the same thing as Masters for awhile. We see Peter Masters’ review article is linked at Scott Aniol’s Religious Affections and then at SharperIron. I’m interested in hearing how they’ll react with someone saying exactly what myself and others of the supposed lunatic fringe have been saying. Maybe it will be “right” now. I’m pointing out the political nature of fundamentalism—in so many cases it isn’t WHAT is being said, but WHO is saying it. Truth is truth.
Extra #2: Phil Johnson gave Greg Linscott a quote over at SharperIron in response to Peter Masters’ article. Here’s my take on Phil’s comment. He starts with introductory words of respect for Peter Masters. By the time he’s done, writing on and on, the words of respect are lost. His comment, in my opinion, is condescending to Masters. I noticed two other aspects. First, he makes reference to Greg Linscott’s note to him and says he agrees that NO ONE is saying the things that Masters is saying (which, of course, means that he has a private interpretation of matters—anyone can see he is saying this—this is where he starts tearing apart Masters’ article, while feigning that he isn’t). Second, the respect he does have for Masters is based on his success, his numbers, that the auditorium is full. Here are the exact words:
[H]e took a historic but nearly-dead congregation and shepherded it through a season of growth and fruitful evangelism, so that it is now full every Sunday, I think he is entitled to speak his mind on the worship issue.
This smacks of new measure Finneyism. It is a perfect example of what I’ve talked about regarding these evangelicals. They talk against revivalism, but they deal like revivalists.
(to be continued)