Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cooperation and Separation: The March/April 9Marks E-Journal

Chances are, if you read this blog and you haven't yet subscribed to the 9Marks E-Journal, you're going to want to jump on board for this one.

Contributers include Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Wayne Grudem, Matthew Hoskinson (of Heritage Bible Church in Greenville), Mark Minnick, Dave Doran, David Wells, Mark Noll, Paige Patterson, and more.

Subscribe here. Don't waste time. It'll be out soon.

I'm currently traveling, but once I settle into one location for a couple days, I hope to post a small contribution I was able to make, which was a response to the question, "What can we learn from the fundamentalists?" My understanding is that the E-Journal will include roughly two dozen responses to that question from a variety of perspectives.

In the meantime, feel free to post your own answers to that question.


Bruce said...

No comment (at least just yet), but a question: Have you listened to the audio from the recent Desiring God Conference for Pastors where John Piper talks about his father as a lifelong fundamentalist, though one who did not stand with Bob Jones against Billy Graham in the 1950s? I'm sure you would find it interesting. It also makes me wish JP was asked to contribute to this upcoming issue from 9 Marks.

Ben said...

Hey Bruce,

I really think you should go ahead and comment now. Would be great to hear your answer to the question.

I have listened to that audio. More on that later. I don't know whether Piper was asked to contribute or not. For that matter, it's even possible he may have some contribution that I don't know about.

Keith said...

Ok Ben, I subscribed, when will I be able to read this e-journal?

Maybe the e-journal will answer the question that immediately comes to my mind, but maybe you or someone else can answer it sooner:

The appearance of certain names on the list of contributers indicates that some folks have abandoned the idea of "separation" as traditionally practiced in the BJU orbit of fundamentalism. Has BJU and its circle of friends announced a change of position regarding separation? Or, are we going to hear a deafening silence or, worse yet, witness another episode of "that rule was never a big deal to us"?

Once I have some sense of the answer to that question, I might have an answer to the e-journal's question.

Ben said...


Just time for a very quick response.

I think it comes out before the end of February.

On the bigger question, I think fundamentalists will say that their theology of separation does not prohibit them from defending their theology in an academic context. So in one sense I would not discount the fact that fundamentalists did not seek these forums. They were invited to write and explain their views. (And that in itself is no small thing. If some other evangelical publication ever offered fundamentalists much of a hearing, it's escaped me to this point.)

On the other hand, I can think of one time when a fundamentalist in the circle you describe turned down an opportunity to defend the fundamentalist position. Another fundamentalist took it, then got fried by fundamentalists for doing so. We'll see what happens with this one.

Glorygazer said...

So is this what happens when you get a bunch of guys with fundamentalist backgrounds attending and interning at CHBC? :)

Seriously, I had some questions related to cooperation/separation when I got to visit the church and was very impressed with some of the stands that had been taken (working to defund the DCBC, for instance). I also remember meeting several from fundamentalist backgrounds...being nourished at a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention...who didn't seem to be the "compromiser" type. I'm looking forward to this issue with baited breath. I think that's great that they got Minnick and others to contribute. Thanks for the teaser.

Doug Smith

Keith said...

Thanks Ben,

I also don't know how many fundamentalists of the past turned down invitiations to participate in journals or conferences hosted by non-separatists. I'd expect that the evangelicals didn't go out of their way to interact with them for many years -- the animosity went both ways.

However, I'm sure that the fundamentalists sent out every type of verbal and non-verbal message that they did not want to be asked. When a girl makes it clear that she's "out of your league" who blames the guy for not asking her to dance . . . I mean on a date?

Academic or not (it's coming from a church/parachurch ministry not a university or seminary), this journal is a "platform" that's full of non-separatists, new evangelicals, and guys who've cooperated with Billy Graham (THE unpardonable sin of the past)
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm very happy that these fundamentalists are on the platform of this journal. Just like I was very glad that BJU dropped its abominable interracial dating ban. Hallelujah.

I just hope that this time the change of stance is explained not made to dissapear from history in Orwellian fasion or minimized on Larry King Live.

Thanks again. And, as you say, we'll see what happens.

Bruce said...

No one has attempted to answer the question so far, and I'm going to continue to evade it for the time being, but I have to note the question itself: "What can we learn from the fundamentalists?"

I have never heard an evangelical ask that question before. I am impressed with the humility that is expressed by it, since most evangelicals don't think that they have anything to learn from the fundamentalists.

Of course, it seems that if any fundamentalists pose the question, "What can we learn from the evangelicals?", that's usually about the time that their fundamentalist credentials are revoked.

I eagerly await this newsletter.

Keith said...


Evangelicals most certainly have asked the question before.

Off the top of my head I can think of: Richard Mouw's book "Lessons from the Sawdust Trail," Rick Phillips praising fudamentalism's practice of antithesis on the Reformation 21 blog (I don't think he was completely accurate in his assessment of the fundamentalists, nevertheless, he looked at them and learned), Doug Wilson praising fundamentalists in a fashion similar to Phillips on his blog, and John Piper praising his friendly fundamentalist father at a Bethlehem conference. And, with a little work, I bet we could find quite a few more examples. Not to mention the fact that the original evangelicals made it clear that they shared the fundamentalist's committment to the "fundamentals".

Anonymous said...

one reason why you may not be satisfied with past answers to "what can we learn from the fundamentalists?" is that the groups that ask the question often have a different idea of who is a fundamentalist than the fundamentalists themselves. for example, garrett critiques fundamentalist eschatology, dispensationalism and a literal hermeneutic by analyzing the left behind series.

Bruce said...

The reason Mouw wrote his book was to try to get evangelicals who are almost entirely dismissive of fundamentalists to appreciate that their roots lie in fundamentalism, though obviously, those roots are in that fundamentalism which focused on the fundamentals, not separation with its degrees.

I still think this is unique, because it is not an appreciation of fundamentalism past or an isolated incident today, but it is evangelicals asking actual fundamentalists to take part in the conversation about how evangelicals can profit from fundamentalism today. This is exceedingly rare, and, I would maintain, almost nonexistent in wider evangelicalism.

Ben said...

I think Bruce's final post distills what is different about this conversation.


Interesting little list though. We'll have more opportunity to talk about that soon, once everyone sees the content of the E-Journal.

By the way, universities and seminaries are parachurches as much as 9Marks is.

And Bruce, in some sense, fundamentalists have been willing to learn openly from evangelicals for a while, at least in the sense that they use their textbooks prolifically in the classroom. But it does seem as though there's an inexplicable disjunct between inviting them into your classroom on the written page and inviting them into your classroom podium. Fundamentalists try to make a distinction, but it smacks of a distinction in search of a coherent rationale.

Doug Smith said...

Before taking a stab at the question, keep in mind that these comments come from someone who considers himself a fundamentalist evangelical. If the two were a spectrum, I would be near the middle but closer to the fundamentalists but far enough away from them to be disowned by some of them (being a member of a Reformed Baptist Church where the NASB is preached from and the pastor is amillennial might be more than enough reason for some! However, that's not how all fundamentalists would view matters.). I am still working through much of this and I think there are some valuable lessons to be learned from "both sides."

Some of these "lessons" are taken from negative examples and some from positive examples. And some points in one perhaps merit addressing in the other camp as well.

One of the problems of the two terms, "evangelical" and "fundamentalist," is that both are extremely broad. There are evangelicals who behave more like fundamentalists than some fundamentalists and a wide variety of types of fundamentalists. So I am using a very broad brush below. (I would actually think that, from what I've seen, CHBC actually models many of the lessons to be learned from fundamentalism.) It must also be admitted that separation can be more specifically nuanced than is evident from my comments, which have to do with it on an ecclesiastical and a personal level.


1. Separation is sometimes necessary but ought to be done for the right reasons. In fact, it is essential when the Gospel is rejected. Fundamentalists have modeled both right and wrong in these areas, and have much to teach in what to do and what not to do. One ought not to separate because of a misguided neo-Landmarkist view (amounting to independent fundamental Baptists=the kingdom of God). One ought not to separate because of fear of man (so-and-so will think I'm a compromiser if I have anything to do with this individual/church, and, while not biblically convinced that I should separate, I will do so just so I can stay "in the club").

2. Separation ought to be done in the right way. Separation ought not to be done in a haughty manner. It ought to be done out of love for God's glory and the good of the church and the individual separated from.

3. Militancy is not necessarily bad. We should be looking for heretics under every rock, but at the same time, evangelicals ought to stand firm and fight the good fight instead of having the backbone of a jellyfish.

4. Stewardship of our funds is a key issue. We ought to be very careful in who we financially support, because we are sharing with them in their ministries. There ought to be a mechanism in place for a quick defunding of those who receive funds from churches if those institutions abandon the Gospel or otherwise show themselves unfaithful. For example, the Kentucky Baptist Convention rightfully agreed to stop giving money to Georgetown College (which had hired a Muslim professor), but this had to be phased out over 4 years due to some contractual agreements, if my memory serves me right (and my facts are straight). Hiring a Muslim professor is an act that demonstrates a repudiation of the Gospel when done by a Christian college - why not set things up so that funding would have been immediately terminated? On another note, it doesn't seem right for Lifeway to have T.D. Jakes on their shelves as if he is an edifying Christian author. $ales is not a sufficient reason to justify their inclusion in the stock.

5. We ought to have courage to name names. We don't need to do it for sensationalism or to build our ministry up by tearing others down; and we certainly don't need to do stuff like this every time a sermon or lesson is delivered, but when men like Billy Graham refer "decision makers" to Roman Catholic Churches or tell Larry King the agnostic that he thinks he'll be in heaven or when Joel Osteen says that it's not up to him to say who God will accept into heaven, these are things that weren't done in a corner. Peter was publicly rebuked for a public compromise; how much more is this needed when false doctrine is advanced!

6. Worldliness should be avoided. Many evangelicals have tried to distance themselves so far from legalism that they tend to jump into the deep waters of licentiousness and even get defensive about their "freedom" to indulge in ungodly forms of entertainment. The love of the world is very present. That is one thing that disturbs me about many conservative seminarians in my age bracket (I'm 30). There's talk about godliness, but then movies and entertainment that are clearly not godly, but that actively promote wickedness, are defended as fair game for Christians. Movies with blasphemy and immoral scenes don't bother them because they're "engaging the culture," and they will even justify such things by pointing to the content of the Old Testament (which was written for our edification, NOT mere entertainment, and was WRITTEN, not visually illustrated!). Clothing is another area of importance. Modesty can be neglected in the name of "freedom" as well. But the Scriptures speak to this, and fundamentalists have generally taken this more seriously than the wider evangelical world. Now it's true that clothing and movies and other entertainment media hardly exhaust "worldliness" - following a business model for the church, idolatry of "success"
and numbers fall into this category too. Worldliness certainly is a matter of the heart. The answer is not necessarily in prescribing checklists on these sorts of things. But this doesn't negate the importance of our behavior; we are stupid if we think it doesn't matter what we fill our minds with for recreation, and it wouldn't hurt evangelicals to have some standards. (And it's not just the stereotypical fundamentalist that has warned about these matters: the Puritans, Charles Spurgeon, and A. W. Tozer are among those who would not be impressed at the immersion in the culture that characterizes many evangelicals.)

7. Fundamentalism may have more of a reputation for "soul-winning" than evangelicalism, and have perhaps been more intentional and deliberate. That doesn't mean that all methods should be imitated in this effort (certainly we wouldn't want to follow a "1-2-3, pray after me" approach), but it does remind us that we need to be about the business of evangelism and not take for granted that others have heard or truly trusted in Christ.


1. There are levels of cooperation and fellowship. Just because someone can't be a member of your church (a conservative Presbyterian in a Baptist church, for example) doesn't mean that he could NEVER preach in a service or that you could never do cooperative evangelism or ministry of any type, or give money to such a church/organization/individual. The kingdom of God is bigger than one local church or group of similar churches. We see cooperation in the NT and should lean more in that direction than to separation (except when required by the Bible).

2. Separation ought to be a last resort, not first. It should be undertaken when necessary and required biblically, as it is serious business. Separation over eschatology, for example, seems to miss the point (when all parties AGREE that Christ is physically returning to earth and AGREE that the Scriptures are to be believed, while disagreeing on their hermeneutics). It should be an issue of orthodox & gospel doctrine and practice.

3. Related to the last point, the "doctrinal triage" concept Al Mohler recently advanced is a helpful grid. Not all doctrines are primary (the whole concept of the fundamentals was based on such an idea). That doesn't mean that secondary and tertiary doctrines are unimportant, but one must be careful in balancing these things. A type of separation over a secondary or tertiary issue is not going to be the same type as over a primary one - I can't have Christian fellowship with someone who denies the Trinity (or who insists that it's okay to live in adultery and be a Christian), but I can still have Christian fellowship with a paedobaptist, although we might not necessarily be able to belong to the same local church.

4. Worldliness is a matter of the heart. It's outward manifestations exceed movies and entertainment. A preacher who cultivates a personality cult in his church is advancing worldliness. The subculture of fundamentalist music can be quite worldly as well, in the imitation of marketing and the goal of selling CDs (quartet announcing the music for sale in a church service, etc.). Fundamentalists can be quite worldly with a Christian veneer that tries to disguise it. Pursue godliness.

5. Fundamentalists need to beware of the academy usurping the place of the local church. While a school may have the right to tell it's students where it can't go to church, it's probably not the best for this to take the form of a "blacklist." While cults, the Roman Catholic church and churches that are clearly liberal should be out of bounds, it seems that biblical principles about healthy churches should be emphasized and the students should be allowed to make their own choices. Substituting a Sunday morning chapel service (and therefore excluding participation in a local church) is a very, very dangerous thing, in my opinion. (Yes, this is written with one particular school in mind, and in recognition that many fundamentalists may share this concern.)

6. Evangelicals need this point too, but I felt like I needed to say it. The Word must always be central. Many evangelical churches do a far better job of expositional preaching than many fundamentalist churches. I have even seen a fundamentalist university's drama team do a presentation in a Sunday morning service. This displaces the proclamation of the Word in the way God intended it to take place. The apostles had drama available to them, but they never used it, and it is not commanded; we are commanded to "preach the Word."

7. Godly scholars must be produced or the movement will continue to be very impoverished. There are some, but it seems like few. Evangelicals and the wider world needs to hear from fundamentalists who are doing serious academic work that also reflects faithfulness to the Bible. Many of us have sought education outside fundamentalist circles because we felt very limited in our options (although it is great that schools like Detroit and Central exist).

8. Going to a school that does not self-consciously identify itself as fundamentalist does not necessarily mean someone has "left the fold" and "compromised." They might (and I do mean might, as they also might not) actually be more useful to the body of Christ as a result of having made this choice.

9. Not all evangelicals are "new"/neo-evangelicals. Some are much closer to fundamentalists in faith and practice than they may realize ("they" being deliberately ambiguous as it may refer to either side depending on the parties involved).


On another note, in regard to using their books but not letting them speak: it seems like one thing in an academic environment, where one would not want to provide a forum for everyone that needs to be read in a particular discipline (although you might still want to have someone with a different view lecture on a specific topic) - but I find it strange to use a man's books for curriculum in Sunday School in a church where he would clearly be unwelcome to speak!

Don Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

is it just me, or is there a disconnect between these two parts of doug's comment?

"being a member of a Reformed Baptist Church where the NASB is preached from and the pastor is amillennial..."

"Separation over eschatology, for example, seems to miss the point (when all parties AGREE that Christ is physically returning to earth and AGREE that the Scriptures are to be believed, while disagreeing on their hermeneutics)."

Ben said...


I usually don't respond to posts that are completely anonymous, but I'm going to break my own rule because you seem to have stated a common misconception that amillenialists don't believe in a literal return of Christ.

I live and work around amillenialists all the time, and they all believe in the literal, physical return of Christ. This is a frequent generalization we premillenialists have made, and we need to stop it. If it's ever true, it doesn't seem to be predominately true, and it's certainly not always true.

Keith said...

Bruce and Ben,

I will happily concede that, considering the tiny bit I know at the moment, this e-journal conversation (can you use the term "conversation" and not be branded "emerging"?) does seem to be rare if not unique. And, as I indicated previously, I am happy for it. I hope such conversations become less rare -- as long as they manage to point everyone involved toward the best from the various traditions.

That said, here are two quibbles (this is a blog after all, gotta have some quibbles):

1) I don't think Mouw was trying to merely get evangelicals to appreciate their ancestry. He wanted evangelicals to learn lessons from their ancestors. And, he wanted those lessons applied to life today.

2) I did not use the term "parachurch" as a pejorative. I even wrote "church/parachurch" because I wasn't sure how best to characterize 9marks. The little I know suggests that 9marks is perhaps a direct ministry of a church, but it has it's own name, so I wasn't sure.

While it is true that universities and seminaries can be parachurch organizations. It is also the case that universities and seminaries can be church ministries -- schools owned and run by denominations (Covenant Seminary) or particular churches (Knox Seminary).

All that's really beside the point though. My point was that 9marks is not a university or seminary. It is not an academic institution in the traditional sense. That doesn't mean it's inappropriate or inaccurate. It's just a different thing than traditionally academic.