Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fundamentalists, Admissions of Legalism, and Conservative Evangelicals

Last weekend the Minnesota Baptist Association hosted a men's fellowship with Kevin Bauder as a keynote speaker and panel moderator. The audio is all available for download here. The plenary session with Bauder is important to understand the context of the panel discussions. I'm not going to take the time to summarize it now.

So far I've only listened to that plenary session and the panel discussion with older pastors. The first 20 minutes or so of that panel was fascinating—older pastors admit widespread presence of functional legalism and peer pressure among Minnesota fundamentalist Baptists 20-30 years ago. I don't at all want to skewer them for that admission—quite the contrary. The frank admission of the elephant in the room that so many others want to deny is refreshing. These men are examples of leadership in many ways. They think the situation is much better now and give reason to believe that's true. I'm skeptical that all the roots of legalism have been eradicated, and maybe they wouldn't argue with that. In any case I'm grateful for the trend, for the pastors' courage, and Bauder's terrific questions that drew out this ground-breaking public conversation.

Then the conversation turned to Bauder seeking advice from these pastors as to how he should respond to a request from Mark Dever to write something for one of his publications. (He later identifies this request, which he declined, as an article in the 9Marks E-Journal on what fundamentalists look for in seminary education.

The responses were mixed. The first was a definite no, and the rest were more ambiguous. I was fascinated by what their answers revealed about their rationale, their motivations, and their fears. Their basic argument was that Bauder writing for Dever could function as an endorsement of Dever's ideas as well as other conservative evangelicals. The chief threats to them seem to be losing members of their churches to Bethlehem Baptist Church (pastored by John Piper) and younger generations of fundamentalists identifying more with conservative evangelicals than their roots.

What I'm about to say, I say with only the kindest of intentions to Minnesota Baptist Churches: What Mark Dever writes will not destroy your churches; it might save them. They are not ideas to be distanced from, but embraced. Implementing them will not drive people to Bethlehem; it will keep people from going there and perhaps attract people from Bethlehem who look for something more from a church. In other words, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and The Deliberate Church and What Is a Healthy Church? and What Is a Healthy Church Member? will not create an appetite for a church with 4,500 people and three campuses.

Here's the absolute best thing I believe a Minnesota Baptist Association pastor could do:
  1. Adopt a thoroughly expositional approach to preaching. (Dever and Piper offer vastly different models in the spectrum of expositional preaching. Pick approach within those parameters and you'll be fine.)
  2. Encourage every member of your church to buy Piper's The Pleasures of God. Get small groups or Sunday School classes or pastoral staffs or deacons or people meeting one-on-one for discipleship to read and talk about the book.
  3. Buy a copy of What Is a Healthy Church? and What Is a Healthy Church Member? for every member of your church. Incorporate those books in your teaching curriculum and strongly encourage all prospective members to read them.
  4. Buy a copy of Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and The Deliberate Church for all church leaders—pastors, deacons, and other key officers. Create some sort of opportunity to talk through them with those people.
Here's the deal: If I lived in Minneapolis, I wouldn't go to Bethlehem, as much as I'm grateful for the amazing work John Piper has done in recovering the gospel in evangelical-fundamentalist churches. I'd go to a church that incorporates the best of Bethlehem and 9Marks. It just so happens, the church I know of in Minneapolis that does all those things isn't a "conservative evangelical" church. It's a church that has emerged very much from the stream of fundamentalism. It's a church I encourage people to consider when I hear they're moving to Minneapolis. When a younger guy was talking to me about a seminary decision, I counseled him that this church made it worth putting all his eggs in the Minneapolis basket. It's a church that's just down the road from one of Bethlehem's campuses. And judging by the size of the crowd when Mark Dever was speaking there on the evening of the Super Bowl, lots of people have found no reason to look elsewhere.

So, dear Minnesota pastors, you have nothing to fear from 9Marks. You have everything to gain, not only for the size of your church, but for the souls of your congregation. Beat the conservative evangelicals at their own game! If fundamentalism really is the closest thing to authentic biblical Christianity, as so many argue, there's no reason to be threatened by the church across town unless you don't trust the Spirit of God to work in his people's hearts to lead them to the place that will best serve their sanctification. I believe that could be your church.

And even if it's not, the kingdom of Christ is not coextensive with your church or your association. The question shouldn't be about whether principles are good for your circles of fellowship, but whether they are true. Don't be short-sighted.

P.S. If you want to learn more, you'd be welcome at a 9Marks Weekender in DC. You won't be the first fundamentalist to attend and benefit from it (or the last), and probably not the most hard-core right-wing. Registration for May opens soon. Hope to see you there. (And if you want to know what church in Minneapolis I'm talking about, e-mail me. Or Paul, feel free to just tell everybody.)

[Update: Contact 9Marks for quantity pricing on the books I recommended. Just mention my name and . . . well, then you'll probably be out of luck.]

26 comments:

Paul said...

The respose you refer to is truly sad and appears to reflect an ignorance of what Dever and 9Marks is all about. I have not listened to the audio yet but will do so and possibly offer a further response. Thanks for drawing attention to this.

Ben is referring to my church, Eden Baptist in Savage. The audio from Mark Dever's recent visit with us is posted on our website: edenbaptist.org

It was a special treat having him with us. His words were confirming, encouraging and challenging in so many ways. I wish he could have gone for another two hours!

Kevin T. Bauder said...

It's surprising where one's remarks show up! I was not told that these sessions were going to be recorded for internet posting.

You really should listen to the session in which the younger pastors respond to the same question.

Incidentally, it is not quite correct to say that I declined to write the article. In the crush of activity, I simply could not fit it in. It was actually an article that I would like to have written--a fundamentalist perspective on seminary education.

Kevin T. Bauder

Dr. Rod Decker said...

The mbaoc.org site now generates an error message that says:

"Bandwidth Limit Exceeded
The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later."

So it sounds like the word is getting out! :)

Greg Linscott said...

The content is also available at the MBA Facebook page and at the Prior Lake Baptist Church audio site (more convenient for downloading)

Dave said...

Is the elephant in the room you refer to Scott Aniol teaching about the Worship Service?

(I mean if we want to talk about the roots of legalism...)

I am only partially kidding, but thanks for the links, looks like some interesting reading.

The automatic response to avoid assimilation or discussion of conservative evangelicals teaching does not serve most ministries well, these discussions are going on among the "young" fundamentalists and unless you engage in the discussion biblically and with knowledge of the teaching in question (not just what you have heard about the teacher in your camp) you are pretty much ineffective in steering them away from what might be legitimate concerns regarding some of these ministries and teachers.

Anonymous said...

Am I correct in understanding that the biggest danger in churches like Piper's is that they teach Calvinism? Other than this "elephant in the room," I really appreciate Piper and am wiling to overlook it and endorse many of his books. But I think that we need to stay away from Calvinism, even though in other areas we can agree.

Joel Tetreau said...

Anonymous,

Great question. For a few the elephant would include a Calvinist or even Calvinistic slant in life and ministry.

For myself, Calvinism would not be an elephant, it's a belief. Most that hold to versions of Calvinism do so because they believe Scripture teaches it.

Nice picture Dave. You'll need that armor once the Beethoven Group gets what you just said. Very Nice. Wow do I ever have Type B egg on my face...You did say what I just read. Wow...that's a thrill.

My guess is the biggest elephant in the room might be the idea that conceptual fundamentalism can exist outside movement fundamentalism in MN. That seems "dangerous" to a few.

Another elephant might be that these legalistic tendencies within ministry structures have created an unhealthy atmosphere in at least a few ministries. When ministries have unhealthy air....some from fundamental ministries go to not-so-fundamental in movement but fairly straight in Scripture type churches.

Of course I live in AZ so in reality I have no idea about the elephants in Minnesota.

I have an idea about an elephant or even a sacred cow here in AZ. We'll just let them lie right where they are.

A few thought from the lawn chair.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should listen to the audio because I am still confused. I might like a list of good non-Calvinistic churches in the Midwest. Like the author is this blog, I too appreciate Piper and have read several books. But I have to distance myself from actually being personaly involved in any church that teaches Calvinism, even though we agree in other areas.

Ben said...

Anonymous,

As a rule I don't interact with strictly anonymous comments. But I haven't mentioned that in a while, and there are lots of infrequent visitors on this thread.

So just to clarify, I don't remember Calvinism to have been related to the concerns about Piper that were expressed among the panel.

And for my part, I would not distance myself from Piper on the grounds of Calvinism.

Ben said...

To the person whose comment I deleted:

Feel free to contact me if you'd like an explanation. I don't want to embarrass you in public.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous guy who was confused earlier. Thank you for clarifying. I still haven't listened to the audio and that would perhaps answer my questions.

I am still confused. If I lived in that area I would appreciate Mr. P's church and have fellowship with them on a personal level. But, I could not in good faith be a member of that church because I understand that they are Calvinists. Ok, here's where I'm confused. I thought Calvinism was the issue we were talking about. Other than that issue, what could possibly make a person not want to join a church such as this? For me, it's a big enough reason not to be a member personally, but I would still fellowship with them as good fellow Christians on a personal level. I'm confused as to what other issue could be as big as Calvinism that anyone would have reason to disagree?

Doug Roman said...

I'd like to offer a friendly rejoinder on the post, albeit a few days late. I am a church planter and pastor of a new church in Elk River, MN. I think I'm still in the "younger" pastors category. I'm 34 going on 60 (pastoral ministry is aging me fast! . . . kidding). First, the elephant in the room, as I understand it, is the presence of "functional legalism" in fundamentalism. With all due respect, I would hardly call that admission "ground-breaking." I don’t think you will find too many guys my age or younger that would say this is headline worthy. It's pretty well known that much of what has become known as fundamentalism is based on a prominent leader who made his kind of fundamentalism the defining brand. Albert Schweitzer's analysis of the liberal's quest for the historical Jesus might be applied to some of these past fundamentalist leaders: "they looked down the well of human history and saw in the bottom a reflection of their own face." (NB: I am NOT suggesting that whoever is in view is the equivalent of a liberal).

Second, as a younger fundamentalist pastor, I appreciate the voices of men like Dever and Piper. They always provide probing analysis, keen insight, and an exemplary love for and exposition of God's word, not to mention decades of faithful pastoral ministry. I can learn much about pastoral ministry from them; and I have. I appreciate Piper's timely message in Brothers, We are Not Professionals, for example. At the same time, they are not the voices for pastoral and church ministry; prominent as they are, other younger pastors like me would do quite well to hear the voices of men like Doug McLachlan, Kevin Bauder, and Dave Doran to list a few. I have not only read their books, but I have observed their lives, and sat under their preaching. Consider reading Doug McLachlan's book Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism or Bauder's weekly In The Nick of Time, or interacting with Bauder’s “A Fundamentalism Worth Saving.” You'll find that these men have world-class minds and pastoral hearts that match Piper’s and Dever’s.

Third, I read your exhortation to Minnesota pastors with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I appreciate the caveat that you share your recommendations "with the kindest intentions" and I believe you desire to be genuinely helpful. On the other hand, I find it condescending. I don't know you or how old you are and how long you've been a pastor, if you are a pastor, but what did successful churches and pastors use prior to The Pleasures of God, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church?, What Is A Healthy Church?, What Is A Healthy Church Member?, and The Deliberate Church? It's evident that you have high regard for Dever, and Piper to a degree. But why do you assume that ministry and the Christian life according to Dever and Piper is the silver bullet for ministry? Frankly, I think it’s a bit arrogant of you to instruct Minnesota pastors on how to turn their ministry around in four easy steps. It seems that you assume we have an abundance of unhealthy churches in MN (with the exception of Eden Baptist, which incidentally, I agree that it is a phenomenal church.). Only one out of the four recommendations you provide is outside of the Piper/Dever corpus, viz., expositional preaching, which we employ as our preaching model. I think one problem with younger fundamentalists is that, having recognized the elephant in the room of "functional legalism," they have uncritically embraced conservative evangelicalism. Are there good elements in conservative evangelicalism? Yes! But it too has warts. My suspicion is that Dever and Piper would admit this too (though I am not intending to put words in their mouths).

Look, I realize that there is much to think through in any movement. Having grown up in a broad spectrum of fundamentalism, I know that we have conspicuous blemishes. My generation and the next have much work to do to advance the idea of fundamentalism by contending for the faith without being obnoxious. My contention (no pun intended) is that many guys are willing to put fundamentalism under a microscope, but conservative evangelicals get a pass because it is perceived that the grass is greener on their side. Is it possible that conservative evangelicals are depraved too? So, all I ask is that conservative evangelicals consider borrowing one of the many microscopes in fundamentalism and critique conservative evangelism with the same fervor. We might find out that we are all part of Adam's race after all.

Cordially,

Doug Roman

Joel Tetreau said...

Doug,

I'm very sure Ben will respond to you. I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for showing up here in "Ben's world."

I love the line about looking into the bottom of the well and saw a reflection of himself. Wow....That was great!

Good points about our needing to look carefully at the conservative evangelical side of the isle. I really believe many men who are wrestling with the issues that are being talked about here are indeed looking carefully on both sides of the isle.

Doug, I have to tell you, you sound like a Minnesotan. I pastored just South of Backus for nearly 3 years (French pastor with a Scandinavian and German assembly...Wow! that was a mix!). Minnesotan's don't appreciate the observations of outsiders (or insiders for that matter)....but especially outsiders.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Ben said...

Doug,

Let me say first of all a thank you for taking the time to write all that. I appreciate the opportunity to interact directly with someone who has (snow)boots on the ground. I'm going to respond in brief bullet points rather than longer arguments due to time. Feel free to follow up if I oversimplify.

1. I do think a public, recorded, posted online conversation between older men—older than Bauder, not younger—is ground-breaking. I don't remember seeing that before. I'm more used to older men suggesting that younger guys who see problems just "get over it." That's why I appreciate those older pastors.

2. I have deep appreciation and respect for McLachlan, Bauder, and Doran. But which books are you referring to that they have written? Anything on the local church and affections for the glory of God? That's what I was referring to when I linked to Piper and Dever's books. That's not to take anything away from what the three fundamentalist men have done and are doing in their ministries. I've read everything by them that you reference. They do have world-class minds and pastoral hearts. You'll never catch me denying that. In fact, I've referred to all of them as excellent examples on numerous occasions. But fundamentalism simply has not produced a robust literature on significant components of pastoral ministry, and we shouldn't be afraid to encourage people to read the men who have.

3. I certainly didn't mean to suggest that Minnesota pastors should read only Piper and Dever. It wouldn't be hard at all to pull together a list of books written before the term "fundamentalist" ever entered Christian nomenclature that would say the exact same things. Both of those men say frequently that their ideas are not new. I brought up Piper and Dever's books because they were the men named as people to be avoided, when I think they will be helps to pastors.

4. I'm not suggesting those are four easy steps that will turn around any church and fix any problem. They are four useful steps I would take.

5. If I think Minnesota has lots of unhealthy churches, that is because fundamentalism has lots of unhealthy churches. Evangelicalism has lots of unhealthy churches. Every state has lots of unhealthy churches. The pastors on the panel seemed to imply that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. But if Minnesota is vastly different, I'd be grateful for it. But in my experience, Christians don't leave small, healthy churches for big, maybe healthy-ish churches. It seems as though the pastors on the panel suspected people would leave fundamentalist churches, so I was assuming they weren't too healthy.

6. Yep, conservative evangelicalism has warts. But you don't see conservative evangelicals debating whether to expose their congregation to the writings/sermons of fundamentalists because they might leave for their churches.

7. Conservative evangelicals are critiquing conservative evangelicals all the time. John MacArthur has blasted Driscoll. Dever has told Duncan he's in sin for his paedobaptism. Dever has criticized multiple services and taken shots back over it. David Wells has critiqued everybody. I could go on. Fundamentalism could use a bit more of that transparency. So could conservative evangelicalism, though I think it's far ahead.

I don't want to give CE's a pass. I've criticized them on various points from time to time, and I'll continue to do so. But fundamentalism has lobbed verbal hand grenades at people like MacArthur and Piper and Mahaney and others for decades. It seems to me that a little equal time is fitting, even though I hope to be a little more reasoned and reasonable than some of what has gone before.

Doug, I hope this has been clarifying. I hope the brevity (or what I intended to be brevity) doesn't communicate sharpness. Next time I'm in Elk River, or you're in DC, or we're in the same place somewhere between, let's make it a point to grab a cup of coffee at some place other than Starbucks and have this conversation face to face.

Joel Tetreau said...

Doug and Ben,

When you guys meet in Elk River, let me know. I've been invited to preach back at Mildred Bible Chapel, just North of Pine River,
South of Backus on good ol' 371....right next to the Paul Bunyan railroad! I think I'll see if I can go up during the warmer months of the year. Minnesota in July.....Amen!

Straight Ahead!

jt

Ben said...

Yeah we'd love to have you Joel. I was definitely channeling a little bit of Tetreau in that idea.

Doug Roman said...

Ben,
Your response did not communicate sharpness. The only sharp words were Joel’s when he said “you sound like a Minnesotan.” :)

Joel,
I actually grew up in San Francisco, CA and lived in Southern CA (by Huntington Beach) prior to moving out here to attend seminary. I have worked hard to avoid assimilating the Midwestern thing, but unfortunately, my “o” sound has been affected. Who would’ve thought that a surfer would turn into a deer hunter? I married a Swedish/Norwegian girl, so what’s more, I enjoy pulsa and other Scandinavian delicacies. When I moved out here, I experienced the difficulty of an outsider trying to assimilate, so I know what you mean. It is quite a strange phenomenon, isn’t it? My response in the post was less driven a Minnesota disposition (I still consider myself a Californian) than it was by a disagreement with Ben on some points. You’re a wise man for coming back to MN in July instead of January.

Ben,
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I appreciate your post. Briefly, I want to be clear that I don’t pretend to have all these things sorted out. So I want to follow up with just a few additional comments. First, while the public recording of the admission by older pastors may be “ground-breaking,” I would still argue that the admission itself is not, which was my point in the response. When I heard them mention this, I didn’t think much of it because I have some degree of familiarity with these men. Nevertheless, I think introspection like this is always valuable and will be productive.

Second, as far as the “books” by McLachlan, Bauder, and Doran, you’re right that it would have been more accurate for me to refer to their “writings.” There was no intent to imply that there is a rich repository of books out there by these fundamentalist leaders. It’s true that literature in the realm of pastoral and church ministry by fundamentalist is certainly not readily available; this is unfortunate. I understand your point to be: don’t be afraid to read people who have written on these subjects. If this is correct, we agree on this point. While there may be some hesitation among the older pastors, you won’t find that among the younger pastors. I would still caution against a corrective approach to older pastors, the rightness or wrongness of the exhortation aside, we should be discerning when engaging in this. But I think you also understand that I can only go off of what you wrote (I did not employ a sensus plenior hermeneutic when reading your post), and it only included Piper and Dever. My point was that it seemed to oversimplify. Oversimplification can lead to caricaturing. I would also draw a distinction between work that needs to be done in churches and unhealthy churches.

Finally, are you suggesting we employ a Christian fairness doctrine when you said “It seems to me that a little equal time is fitting?” Kidding. . . a little political humor.

I would enjoy dialoguing further if our paths cross again. I hesitate to write too much. I believe Abraham Lincoln said “better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak [or write as the case may be] and remove all doubt.”

jeff said...

Ben:

For the public record, the church to which you would attach were you to live in Minnesota is a great church, but would it surprise you that THEY have lost members to a large, multi-campus mega-church with a well-known pastor/teacher. I know of at least one other church that has a good and godly pastor, no make that two, who have lost people to the large multi-campus mega-church in town. The concern is real and it is reductionistic to say that if people leave a church, the church they are departing from must be unhealthy. To quote you, "But in my experience, Christians don't leave small, healthy churches for big, maybe healthy-ish churches."

Don't you see a bit of a problem here . . . how large IS your experience? In this poit, you made the totally unwarranted assumption that if people leave, it is because the church is unhealthy. So . . . no one ever leaves CHBC for another church without moving out of town? Must I assume that it is because CHBC is somehow unhealthy?

Jeff

Ben said...

Doug,

Let me be really pointed and clear on one thing:

I like Minnesota accents. If I did not have the pure intonation of voice that comes from growing up in NW Ohio and had to pick an accent from any part of the USA it would be Minnesota/Wisconsin. Not a shred of doubt about that.

Thank you for your caution. I appreciate your willingness to offer it.

Doug Roman said...

Ben,

I would attribute your second choice of accents to the T in TULIP. :)

Doug

Joel Tetreau said...

Jeff,

I just re-read Ben's post. I think you've made assumptions about his assumption. What's up with dinging Ben on his experience? ("how large is your experience?") That was beautiful! Your people skills are as warm as a Minnesota January. His view is his view, bro. I'm sure he wasn't speaking in absolutes but generalities. You don't have to agree with "friend Ben" here, but why ridicule him? Of course he knows the points your making. Come on man. Are you having a hard week or something?

Be at peace Jeff.


Ben and Doug,

As long as we are posting things here "for the record" (Jeff was concerned his post was "for the record") know this - I loved my years in Minnesota. As a matter of fact as I was coming out to pastor SVBC here in Gilbert, I told both congregations I was willing to split the time. I was willing to pastor 6 Months in MN (April 15 - Oct 15) - thus serving as a missionary from SVBC to the MN people group. I then would be willing to serve the rest of the year in AZ (Serving the Mildred Chapel congregation as their missionary to the AZ people group).

Neither congregation went for that. Very selfish of them!

Straight Ahead!

Steve said...

Ben,

Too long I have strayed from reading the paleoevangelical site, and now it has bitten me. I am one of the "younger" pastors from the panel to which Kevin Bauder requested you listen. I realize that I have lately, perhaps too late, joined the conversation. Nonetheless my question is simple one, had you listened to that discussion first would your analysis of the state of MBA pastors been different resulting in a different initial post?

Ben said...

Yes Steve, you ignore to your peril. ;-)

To answer the question, I don't think so. Nothing in later sessions mitigates anything I wrote in my mind. What are you fishing for?

Paul Peterson said...

Doug Roman said: I would attribute your second choice of accents to the T in TULIP. :)

Now that's funny! And I say that as both a Minne-SO-tan and a Calvinist. :-)

I really appreciate the spirit of the original post and the civility reflected in the comments.

Steve Brower said...

Ben,

I'm a terrible blogger, sorry for the long and debate killing delays. What as I fishing for...I was trying to understand your motives for your original blog, perhaps I've still got it wrong (and perhaps over the length of time you have even forgotten!) but it would seem that your post and your answer to my question reveals it. Here goes:
It would seem that you took from the sessions that the pastors were afraid of reading Dever (like never not fever!). Note in your words: "What I'm about to say, I say with only the kindest of intentions to Minnesota Baptist Churches: What Mark Dever writes will not destroy your churches; it might save them. They are not ideas to be distanced from, but embraced." This would seem to be your understanding since in your advice to the pastors of the MBA you indicate that the 4-step plan (to use Doug here) is really a system of reading Dever and Piper and discussing their ideas. You do mention to adopt an expositional method of preaching (I guess you are assuming they don't? Or, to give you the benefit of the doubt, you were ensuring that they do. But, if the latter then I wonder why you picked this rather than anything else such as, "Adopt correct orthodoxy", surely that is important as well along with a myriad of other things. This leads me to think that you were taking a stab at their practices of preaching...the sessions of course gave no indication of a non-expositional preaching...skeletons in the closet Ben? Are you sure they apply here?). Nonetheless, the remaining three points are all about the writings of Dever and Piper. Read these, have your people read them, and discuss them. Therefore it seems to me that you think the issue is that they are unwilling to read these conservative evangelicals.

Hence my question. That is not the issue. That is not the issue with the younger pastors. That was made clear in the younger pastors session. I would even submit that it is not the issue with the older pastors. It is not addressing the ideas and concepts which these conservative evangelicals are bringing up and addressing, it is the defining line between fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. It is the issue of separation. That is what the older pastors were addressing. It appears that you missed this and understood it to be relative to reading these men. Again I repeat your words, "What Mark Dever writes will not destroy your churches..." - Nobody has said it would. "They are not ideas to be distanced from, but to be embraced." Nobody is attempting to distance themselves from the IDEAS portrayed in the five books you mentioned. What you have missed is that there are some elements of conservative evangelicals that fundamentalists have historically and continue presently to separate from.

A bit further about what you were trying to do comes across in your response to Doug Roman. In that response you indicate that you don't like the verbal hand grenades launched at conservative evangelicals over the years and you were going to provide a more reasoned and reasonable approach against fundamentalists from the other side. Ok. Hopefully you can see and admit that your "hand grenade" was not fair as well to the current situation.

Contrary to Joel, I don't think Jeff was being cross or harsh in his public response here, I read and re-read his comments and I don't understand why Joel is upset by it. Jeff makes valid points. Churches here HAVE lost members to CE's. It is NOT reasonable to assume that the reason they lost members was because they are unhealthy. The prime example of a healthy church which YOU identified has lost members (according to Jeff, I can't verify that but Paul probably can). They HAVE used the books you mentioned. They HAVE even brought Dever in. Yet the very thing the older pastors were concerned about occurred. Doesn't that give you pause to consider?

Ben, I know you. I'm not against you. I'm not an angry blogger. I'm not trying to be on a soap-box here. But I don't think the conversation or the original blog helped the situation here in MN or truly contibuted to the conversation. I couldn't keep silent. I stand ready to receive the rebukes.

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