Home > Brandenburg, Fundamentalism, Jack Schaap, Separation, The Church > Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism: Indifferentism

Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism: Indifferentism

April 19, 2010

This last week two huge evangelical and fundamentalist events concurred:  Independent Baptist Friends International in Knoxville, TN (April 11-16, 2010) and Together for the Gospel in Louisville, KY (April 13-15, 2010).  Obviously, these two groups didn’t get their calendars together to make sure that they wouldn’t be competing for attendance.  It’s probably a very small group who had to decide which one to attend.  But it was possible.  And actually, when you consider the speakers at these two conferences, you aren’t too many steps away from almost the entire spectrum of evangelicalism, including fundamentalism, being represented, except for a very small number.

I think we could probably agree that the Dan to Beersheba at the IBFI conference is best represented by the one side of John Vaughn, former president of Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International,  and Mike Schrock, a staff evangelist for Bob Jones University, stretching to another side with Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond.  It’s harder to find the outer boundaries of Together for the Gospel, because there’s the Charismatic, C. J. Mahaney, the Southern Baptists, Mark Dever and Albert Mohler, and then the Presbyterian, Ligon Duncan.  Also there’s John Piper, who is having Rick Warren come to speak at his Desiring God Conference later this year.  Some of the conference speakers of IBFI also fellowship with Southern Baptists.

Several fundamentalists, who would associate with the FBFI, would also attend Together for the Gospel.  They have.  They do.  So you move from Bob Jones to Jack Schaap and you can make it all the way through the Southern Baptist Convention to John MacArthur to Rick Warren in the connectivity.  Nothing is that far removed.  And just for a little sidebar:  they all say they represent the historic Charles Spurgeon, all of them.  If you take it one step further, you get Rick Warren with Robert Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral.  I think that the theme for IBFI, Truth-Friendship-World Evangelism, would work for Together for the Gospel too.  Both of these conferences are saying, let’s put down differences to get together.

What does all this mean?  What is it that the leadership of these conferences are saying to those following, including the people in the churches?  And is there anything wrong with it?  What brings these people together?  Should anything that any of these believe and practice result in some kind of separation between them?

As I start to consider this, the typical reaction to any kind of analysis or questioning is that it is “critical” and “divisive.”  In that way, the ironic critics of the analysis would say that it is also “unchristian.”  They might even say it is “heretical.”  Oh, and “unloving.”  Or something like this:  “You’re just trying to impose your opinions on others.”  And “that’s what gives fundamentalists a bad name.”  Or, “you’re why everyone is turned off with fundamentalism.”   And just in case, a little psychobabble, “You’re just jealous!”  Wait a minute, one more:  “While you are writing your blog, people out there are dying and going to hell.”  OK, now we can move on.

Getting together like these two groups means deciding that certain differences in belief and practice don’t matter enough.  They must be overlooked, ignored, or deemed non-essential, too minor.  When it comes to the T4G guys, paedobaptism and continuationism are two obvious of  the supposed tertiary differences—together despite them.  For the IBFI conference, the gospel itself is at stake with a denial of some that repentance is necessary for salvation.   A few of the primary participants are the poster boys of the 1-2-3 pray-with-me method of evangelism.   Within both groups the range of acceptable music for worship among the participants ranges from contemporary to southern gospel to very conservative.   John Piper’s affirmation of Rick Warren makes a concession to his methodology.   IBFI wouldn’t use all the techniques and strategies of Warren, but the basic philosophy between many of these IBFI and Warren are the same.  Both conferences are purposefully minimizing certain doctrines and practices for the purpose of cooperation and fellowship.   An emphasis of both is that they aren’t going to be judging based on too strict a standard, making concessions in several areas for the sake of unity or friendship.

Several of the conflicting beliefs within these conferences are mutually exclusive from one another.  Both could not be at the same time pleasing to God.    Two irreconcilable doctrines could not both be congenial to the nature of God.  To say so or to act as such is to suggest that God has no particular favor for either truth or error.

I understand that these men would not say that they are indifferent to the contrasting doctrine and practice, just that they are willing to overlook it for the sake of the alliance.  The alliance itself becomes sovereign.  The idea is also that the value of the gospel in T4G and friendship and world evangelism in IBFI surpasses the value of the differences in belief enough to merit indifference toward those conflicting doctrines and practices.

Unity and fellowship, in contrast with what scripture says, have become more about toleration.  Evangelicals and fundamentalists don’t wish to be reduced to an insignificant number to the world, which will happen if one elevates all of Scripture to a basis of fellowship.  The key then is to reduce doctrine to a manageable level, that will allow the conflicting factions to get along.  The new heretic is the dogmatic, someone who thinks he’s certain on too many teachings.   He endangers the harmony and cohesiveness and ruins the togetherness.  Or in other words, he violates the most sacred tenet to the whole, getting along.

Whether evangelicalism or fundamentalism likes it or not, or whether they agree or not, they have surrendered to the uncertainty and ambiguity of the meaning of Scripture.   They concede the perspecuity of God’s Word.  At the root of this is a fundamental awareness of permissible doubt.  We cannot assume that all truth can be known.  They are saying that God hasn’t been plain and that we cannot sort things out.  As much as they say they love the truth, the truth is the casualty of indifference.

  1. April 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…

    Is all that comes to mind.

    David Cloud wrote an open letter to Clarence Sexton on his conference:

  2. April 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    It’s true Dave.

  3. artdunham
    April 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Brother Kent,

    You are so right. I had an interesting phone conversation with Brother Bobby Mitchell about this conference. Did you know that his church, your church, and my church are in the IBFI online directory?

    The T4G guys are going to have to either stand up against John Piper’s invitation of Rick Warren or take back some of the things they have said about him.

    But, then, the “Fundamentalists” at the IBFI extravaganza would have to do the same about Southern Baptists, wouldn’t they?

  4. April 20, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I saw someone say something about the directory ans churches being listed without consent or knowledge. As far as I know, my church isn’t there.

  5. April 20, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Oh wait…. I take that back.

  6. April 20, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    It does say this at the top of the listing page.

    “This directory is designed to serve as a listing of Independent Baptist churches and ministries. It is not an endorsement of any particular ministry, nor is it a fellowship or organization to which any local church belongs.”

  7. Bobby
    April 20, 2010 at 8:54 pm


    That disclaimer was added after some of us began rocking the boat. They have also removed the Statement of Faith of IBFI. One of their staff informed me today that they have simply loaded up their directory by copying from other folks’ online directories. Meanwhile, Dr. Sexton was “rejoicing” last week during the meeting that so many thousands were “registering” at the website.

    I think that they saw that many were not happy that they implied that these thousands were “joining” the IBFI so they put the disclaimer. They want us to “register to be a Baptist friend,” pay to register, and get on board. They have a logo. They are attempting to build a huge network. They are asking us to “partner” with them. Meanwhile, they seem to be sensing that a lot of us don’t want to be in an association with them, so they are paring back the association look of the “movement.” They seem to want a non-entity entity.

    BTW, why do “friends” want $10 to have someone become their friend and then charge their friends $40 for mp3s????? “Hey, I want to be your friend” *with hand held out for you to slip me some cash*.

    This is the newest ox-cart of Independent Baptists. It would be great to see folks get back to the Scripture and stop building ox-carts. Let the local NT church do what God gave it to do!

  8. Bobby
    April 20, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    I will be giving a report on my viewing the Mon-Wed meetings of the IBFI via the internet last week. There will be quotes from the messages preached that will convey the philosophy of the IBFI. I will be comparing their philosophy with the Scripture. When it is complete I’ll email it to brother Brandenburg and he can feel free to post it here if he would like.

    I won’t charge anyone a penny to read it and you won’t get a special coin. I will welcome feedback and will not call those who disagree with me “immature” and “presumptuous” as some who disagreed with IBFI were called by Dr. Sexton last week.

  9. April 21, 2010 at 5:36 am

    I used to like the idea of “guest speakers.” Back then I thought, oh a break from the ordinary. Usually guest speakers are good speakers which is why they were invited in the first place. What I don’t like about the idea is that some Chritians pay more attention to the guest speaker than their own pastor. Me thinks that conferences become nothing more than a glorified pep-rally, and a big anthropocentric social club. Now myself personally, there’s just not a lot of conferences I would or could go to. The one that I like attending (and even then, I couldn’t possibly attend every year as I wish) always challenges me to get right with God and go back and get busy for the Lord. They also don’t want another “fellowship” or “association” of disgruntled or indifferent Baptists. It is enough for them to say be faithful to the Lord, His church, and His work. I guess the point I am making is, the church is enough. God’s man is enough. His Word is enough. He gave us a pastor, and if we would just listen to him, and obey God’s word, we would be better off than looking to some other gathering for a spiritual high. (OF course, as long as the pastor is not disqualified for the office).

  10. April 21, 2010 at 6:38 am

    Brother Bill,

    I was looking over your blogs and church’s website. I was shocked to see your 2 hours from us! Great church website! What a blessing!

    — Sorry for the off topic greeting 🙂

  11. d4v34x
    April 21, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Bro. B., Your central point here is fascinating. One can indeed navigate, stepping stone style, from the least credible wing of Fundamentalism to the least credible wing of Evangelicalism.

    One has to at least consider that perhaps the pendulum of separation is swinging off center in at least some of these situations.

  12. April 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks Art. Thanks d4. Thanks Bill.

    Bobby, I’ll look forward to your take on the sessions of IBFI.

  13. April 21, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Bobby :
    “Hey, I want to be your friend” *with hand held out for you to slip me some cash*.


  14. May 2, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    In terms of deception, modern heresies and urban myths we still haven’t seen the last of purveyors of false gospels. As long as people are ready to eliminate sin, righteousness and judgement from their messages or salvation story we will always have a long list of substitutes. The result of these easy substitiutes leads to frustruation, embarrassment and shipwreck. (See article “The emperor steps out in his clothes..again” http://wp.me/pEVJ0-jL )

  1. February 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: