Friday, May 22, 2009

What I Really Do Appreciate About Fundamentalism. Seriously.

SharperIron linked to a series of Tim Challies liveblogs from a Moody Bible Institute conference. The post is headlined with this assessment of the conference from Challies:
(T)here seems to be a disconnect here and we have speakers coming from radically different theological perspectives; and I’m not sure how to reconcile this.
What I really do appreciate about fundamentalism is that no one in the fundamentalist movement would have this "I'm not sure how to reconcile this" reaction. Every fundamentalist knows from the time he's old enough to read two sentences of "What in the World" (while he's doodling a picture of the preacher's illustration of the boy who didn't go forward at the invitation and then got hit by a truck the next week) that this strain of evangelicalism is riddled with mixed messages, some of which are, to be fair, not entirely inconsistent with orthodox Christianity. A movement that was conceived and birthed in a bed of compromise doesn't often rear its children well.

Now, Challies has reviewed a myriad of books, and actually wrote
a book about spiritual discernment, which I'm told is excellent. In light of that, I really doubt that he's completely surprised. But fundamentalism is marinated in a certain realistic cynicism towards the spirits of the evangelical age that doesn't engender much astonishment at the widespread dearth of discernment that has been so audaciously displayed at a popular conference.

Much is broken in the fundamentalist movement today, none of it more immediately disheartening than what Bob Bixby thoughtfully assesses here. That doesn't change the fact that I've purposed to press on in life and ministry applying the fundamentalist idea. No matter how much the idea has been severely polluted by the movement, the idea is as right in 2009 as it was in 1957 and 1932 and 1887.

Every semester in my church's internship, it's fascinating to see the stunned reactions of the gentle souls who grew up in broader evangelicalism, when they discuss their reading of Iain Murray's Evangelicalism Divided and watch the YouTube video of an evangelical hero articulating heretical pluralism to Robert Schuller. And that all happens a literal stone's throw from the original offices of Christianity Today. Funny how things sometimes come full circle. So regardless of what might be the associational heritage of those who best articulate and apply the fundamentalist idea now or 25 years from now, I'll be forever grateful that I was raised in a context where I learned not to be shaken or dumbfounded by appalling inconsistency and incoherence.


Anonymous said...

Do you have a link to the Youtube video?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

I hear ya Ben, and agree to some degree with the point I think you are trying to make.

However, fundamentalism came out of the same primordial ooze as Moody and broader evangelicalism. Furthermore, fundamentalism is rife with "I'm not sure how to reconcile this" moments. You regularly share them on your blog.

I mean you've got BJ Jr. a sophisticated art collector and actor and then you've got all the Brother John Billy Joes losing their breath while screaming against "nekid paintings" and "Post hole Digger degrees."

You've Got a larger than life political activist baby baptizing Calvinist Presbyterian Ian Paisley and then you've got his friend Bob Jr. who wouldn't even allow Calvinism to be debated on the campus of his university -- not to mention the countless preacher boys who are good at reciting, "all means all" and couldn't properly explain covenant baptism if their life depended on it.

You've got guys who want to praise both Finney and Machen as if they were on the same team.

Yes, fundamentalists are cautious about cooperation -- they presuppose it will be "compromise". And, broad evangelicals do not share this caution -- they presuppose it will spread the gospel. But, fundamentalism still has a boat load of head scratching inconsistencies to deal with.


a guy said...

Interesting post. I think it could be qualified, along the line of thinking provided by Anonymous, as something like "Fundamentalists aren't surprised at this sort of thing, having much-exercised discernment", (or at least a lot of people who try at practicing it consistently, thus they catch the blatantly obvious that almost everyone else now misses), and "but being so shallow on doctrine and hermeneutical ability--despite having some prime examples of analytical minds and detail-oriented readers (analysis doesn't equate with understanding, nor many details with the bigger picture), they are often to their own faults and inconsistencies blind", or something like that, probably put more concisely but just as rich (or moreso).

That's one of the things I like about Reformed B's, having the Reformed emphasis on systematic doctrine, learning their hermeneutics well, but the evangelical emphasis of genuinely personal faith, and just enough "fundamentalist" tendency that they're on guard, which shouldn't be surprising, at least in modernity, with how many of them come from fundamentalist backgrounds. In the past it seems various Reformed folks among the camps were being vigilant, and openly (Machen comes to mind first, some other Presbyterian dues and few R.B.'s second).

The trouble with addressing the topic you attempted in you post is...generalities; in general you're right, and wrong, depending on who's being considered at the time of reading what's been written! I appreciate, however, what you did write. : D