Nevertheless, his attack on Mark Minnick does resonate with me a bit, not in the least because I think Minnick is out of line, but because Cloud is picking up on a shift in how fundamentalists think about a few evangelical leaders who exist outside the traditional parameters of the fundamentalist movement.
My sense is that many fundamentalists would like to deny that this shift is taking place, but I expect these denials will be wholly implausible—as are similar denials that certain now-abandoned policies within institutional fundamentalism were ever believed to have had biblical foundations. Forthrightness has seldom been our first instinct.
Here's my opinion. (Feel free to disagree.) I just don't think there's any possibility that someone so well-received within the fundamentalist movement as Minnick could have permitted the sorts of things to be said twenty years ago (back when, I'm told, Jack Hyles was still preaching at BJU) that were said at the Whetstone Conference this summer.
I've used posts here to point toward some of that evidence for this shift numerous times, and perhaps more will follow. Suffice it to say that a positive reference in a conference to a website that contains resources from Jack Hayford is a relatively mild example of fundamentalist affinity for charismatics. Ultimately, I think Bob Bixby's recent post, "The Emerging Middle," describes the future pretty well.
One comment from Cloud stood out to me. He writes:
A chief reason that so many “young fundamentalists” are becoming New Evangelicals is that they read so deeply and uncritically from the writings of New Evangelicals.Although I suspect an equally chief cause is that so many "young fundamentalists" have been taught to listen deeply and uncritically to mainstream fundamentalist preaching, I'll play along with Cloud for a minute or two.
I wonder where these young-fundamentalists-becoming-New-Evangelicals learned to read uncritically. Where did they develop their lack of discernment and their theological fuzziness? Where did they encounter New Evangelical books? What fundamentalist commentary sets and language study tools and, of course, books on an authentic heart orientation towards God that produces a transformed life would Cloud have them read? Calvin. Yeah, maybe not. The Puritans? Um, even if he could swallow their Calvinism, wouldn't he have to deal with other distasteful aspects of their theology that are incompatible with True Baptist Fundamentalism?
Maybe Spurgeon would work—a redacted Spurgeon, of course.
Here's the bottom line. I think Cloud's final analysis is correct (even though I disagree with how he gets there and his opinion that the analysis points to something harmful). Fundamentalists recommending non-fundamentalist resources, even with a caveat to read critically, will inevitably lead to the dilution of the fundamentalist movement. But that dilution is every bit as much a testimony to the widespread theological bankruptcy of the fundamentalist movement as it is to the bankruptcy of discernment among "young fundamentalists." Exhibit A is David Cloud himself, who extends a warm embrace to the bibliological heresy of KJVOnlyism. Fundamentalism as a separatist movement only maintains credibility when it practices its separatism consistently. And it hasn't.
I've argued before and will continue to contend that we all need to read everything critically and with discernment. I have no more love for the evangelical icon fanboys than I have for the True Fundamentalists who argue that we ought to trust the fundamentalist leaders just because we know them and they're good guys. You can find both approaches in the comment threads of the SharperIron that Cloud so despises.
A fundamentalist friend who recently attended a "Neo-Evangelical" seminar commented to me that he was struck by "all the instances where [the main speaker] and the other pastors are more conservative than YFs." I think he's right. And if conservatism has anything to do with a fundamental allegiance to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, then I think they're more conservative than the True Fundamentalists too.