Monday, March 27, 2006

Evidence to the Failure of Fundamentalist Ecclesiology

Read this article, then scroll down for my analysis of the central problem with Flanders' thinking.

I don't know if you agreed or disagreed with Flanders' point. Frankly, I'm not very concerned whether people prefer the Majority or the Eclectic Greek Text. Besides, that whole debate completely ignores the Old Testament, which is rather frightening. But I digress.

So let me ask you one question. What, if anything, troubles you most about that article?

My greatest concern has nothing whatsoever to do with the text/translation arguments. Rather, I am grieved over the fact that Flanders identifies "most fundamentalist leaders" as "heads of influential institutions" and "the directors or presidents of the following organizations."

One of the great ironies I have observed in Baptist fundamentalism is that the people who speak most forcefully for the primacy and autonomy of the local church are also the people who look to evangelists and para-church ministries for leadership. Does anyone else see the problem? Like the old "new evangelicalism," we have abandoned our ecclesiology.

Maybe I should not blame Flanders' for his definition of the leaders of fundamentalism. After all, he does refer later to pastors as among the leaders of fundamentalism. Perhaps his primary reference to institutional leaders is simply a reflection of the reality that they are the de facto leaders. When you read the article, did it ever occur to you that seeing institutional leaders as the leadership of an ecclesiastical movement is problematic? Or perhaps he is simply identifying these leaders because it is easier to count institutions than churches. (Of course, that strategic approach would argue for the TR over the MT, but I digress again.)

Regardless, my sense is that fundamentalists—laypeople and pastors alike—often think of the people at the helm of the grand institutions as the leaders of the movement. I simply think that is a dangerously flawed ecclesiology.


Josh said...

I've noticed that fundamentalists think they have a virtual monopoly on "autonomy of the local church" and "soul liberty". However, by their constant evaluating of one-another's ministries and compiling lists of who's "in" and who's "out", they trash both. Fundy polity also seems out of step with the New Testament - the fundy churches I've been in follow the pastor-deacon-trustee model.

Anonymous said...

I believe you hit the problem smack solid. Indeed, institutional leaders have become the spokesman for fundamentalism and have replaced the churches as the voice of authority. Perhaps this has come about more by default than by design, but in either case it's a sad situation and needs fixing.

In an odd sort of way I think the internet (and especially the blogsphere) is performing an admirable task in returning the leadership of fundamentalism back to the churches and restoring institutional accountability back to our colleges, fellowships, and associations.

There was a day when institutional leaders could say wild things, pontificate shamelessly, and virtually go unchallenged. Why? Because there really wasn't an effective means to challenge and correct their errors. They had the platform; no one else did. But that day is passing, if it hasn't already.

With the internet we can challenge our leaders and question them in ways unheard of even ten years ago. Less and less nonsense is flying under the radar these days, and that's a good thing. All the new-found scrutiny will help keep things clean and measured at the meetings.

When a man screws up today and says some outlandish thing that has no basis in either fact or reason,he is immediately challenged via the blogsphere or some other instant media. And thus his accountability level has risen--whether he likes it or not!

Anonymous said...

I read the article and had the same thought.

I personally know one of the men that is in Flander's list of "leaders" and I so appreciate his approach. He has told me that he will not lead that institution in a different direction regarding the text. He believes that any change, if ever, must come from the churches sending students to that school.

Joel G.

Ben said...


That is good news. I also know one of the men on the list. He once told me that his institution did not permit students and faculty to use any translation other than the KJV in their local church ministries (even when those churches used other translations). The reason given was that no pastor had ever asked the leader for permission for students/faculty to use another translation. That is one example of the kind of thinking to which I am referring.