Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fracture or (More) Theological Reductionism: Fundamentalism's Choice

Seldom do peculiar fundamentalist alliances surprise me, but I have to say I never saw this one coming. With little regret, I'll confess ignorance about most of the names on this list, but Jack Schaap (son-in-law and heir to the Jack Hyles kingdom), Jack Trieber (legendary California KJV-thumper), and John Vaughn (president of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship) by themselves make a perplexing coalition.

Big thanks to Dave Doran for posting the above link. Though appalling, it's certainly informative. I'll let his words kickstart the conversation:
The ministries of men like Fugate and Schaap are blights on the cause of Christ and should not be welcomed by anyone with an earnest commitment to biblical theology and ministry. I know that is a strong statement, but the former has abandoned the biblical doctrine of inspiration and the latter presides over a bizarre sideshow of theological quirks and ministerial abuses. Calls to separate from unbelief and ungodliness ring hollow when glaring errors like these are ignored.
Read his whole post here. I think he's actually rather charitable.

The affiliation of a theologically and exegetically bankrupt swath of pseudo-fundamentalism with the leader of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship should not merely be surprising. It should have been unthinkable. I don't mean to suggest that the FBF hasn't demonstrated doctrinal indifferences of its own in the past. (Remember the Danny Sweatt fiasco?) I do mean that this constitutes a significant and undeniable step towards a choice fundamentalists need to make.

The FBF is no fringe association. Check out the leadership of the organization and you'll see the names of men whom many would consider the mainstream of thoughtful, balanced fundamentalism. Names like Jones, Phelps, Harding, Burggraff. Names like Minnick, who recently identified Conservative Evangelicals as a growing threat to his church and fundamentalism.

Their president's choice to put the name of their organization in affiliation with a plethora of doctrinal aberrancy has created the same sort of scenario some of them have used as occasion to criticize Conservative Evangelicals. This is not the sort of fellowship that strikes me as likely to bear the fruit of credibility.

No one thinks these choices will be easy for men who have long-standing relationships. This sort of thing just makes them easier.

I suspect we'll learn of some resignations soon. Or perhaps I'm just an eternal optimist.

[Update: an e-mailer points out that the staff evangelist at Bob Jones University is also a scheduled speaker.]

30 comments:

Reforming Baptist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reforming Baptist said...

I am continually re-evaluating if being a card-carrying fundamentalist is now to my own disadvantage because of these kinds of things. For the most part, the vast majority of fundamentalism IS the kooky fringe. When people visit my church looking for a fundamental independent Baptist church, they are always (so far)disappointed to find out that we are not what they were expecting.I'm not part of the majority fringe where they find security.

So, what can I do? Join the Southern Baptists? Ya right, the big umbrella including everything from Warren to Dever? That's just as bad as the IFB label!

I'm really in a pickle and I don't know where I fit.

ben said...

Update from an e-mailer now added to the original post.

James Kime said...

Demanding that others separate from apostate and compromising teachers is always easy when you don't have to do it.

We will see if those within the FBF have the courage and fortitude to actually live out what they have been claiming for so many decades.

While I am an optimist as well Ben, I also know that the fear of man is a trap.

Greg Linscott said...

Regrading "card-carrying" Fundamentalist- I am by no means pleased or encouraged by what Ben notes. However, there are people who call themselves "Baptist" I not only disagree with, but deny essential elements of the Gospel. I have not abandoned that label. I do have to define myself, however. I see the use of "Fundamentalist" being less useful a label by the moment, but still see usefulness in appealing to it as a Tool in defining who I am, who my church is, and what we believe and practice. I will note that it would certainly be useful to have either a better label or another additional to help quickly distinguish what we are not. I have not seen anything that is completely effective there, however. To me, however, dropping the Fundamentalist identifier (and not replacing it with something else of similar association, say "Separatist" or "Independent") serves to make you even more ambiguous. Either way, you are still going to have to distinguish who you are and what you believe. The label just helps a little in getting where you want to go down the identification road.

d4v34x said...

I'm not sure which boggles me more: that Vaughn is willing to go to this or that they are willing to have him.

Wierd.

Joel said...

Isn't the problem, RB, the associations of those who nitpick about associations and not associations in general? You can't associate without embarrassments, but the problem is really for those who make a main focus out of the embarrassments of associations rather than on the principles of association--think of that one next time they lob something at Mohler or Piper, are they talking about an embarrassment or a principle? If fundamentalism had another distinctive, at least one worth saving, then this wouldn't stand out so glaringly.

That's what is so pathetic about these latest denials of being a movement. They pick at other's associations, then associate with low discrimination, then get resentful when they're all lumped together. What about the common denominator of disassociation from conservative evangelicals because these are considered NEs? What about a common practice of separation, however strange and parochial? Who else in the world thinks that way? It makes all of them (fundamentalists, who have this mindset) look alike, from Schaap to Doran. They can deny it on all their blogs, but they can't change their mode of operation until they change their constituencies and the flow of money.

And it is obvious that they have been inconsistent. We wouldn't care that they're part of the FBF if only they cared less (or better) that somebody is part of the SBC (I'm a member of a church in Bogota, Colombia which was started by an ARBCA missionary. The ARBCA has members who are also part of the SBC, and the SBC has Rick Warren. I think what that works out to is that no fundamentalist can fellowship with me, heh). But that is what makes the difference, isn't it? One is fine and one isn't: and good luck finding a principle behind it, although when it comes to constituencies, the logic is a bit more discernible.

I sometimes get the idea they would like to get credit for one little, strained out consistency when for years they've swallowed camels. Remember the curious Sweatt affair and how much difference that made? All the old cheered, all the young were disappointed, nothing changed. Watch how this one plays out (nowadays, we can).

Everybody knows they are the self-appointed torchbearers of separation, and now we know they aren't too good at looking like getting it right or even sounding like they're getting it right, let alone getting it right.

What if they stopped? What if they stopped trying to finesse what Bauder said about conservative evangelicals and didn't insist on drawing lines where no lines were necessary? They make a point of placing distance between themselves and the CEs (always and eternally NEs to most of them, it seems), and now they're forced to acknowledge there are people they were not marking and avoiding formerly that perhaps they ought to. Doesn't it seem to you as if fundamentalists who want to be serious find themselves in an artificial position? One they must maintain by a sheer act of will? If their separation were driven by a grasp of theology, would they not have been associating at some levels with Devers and MacArthurs rather than Pirates, Schaaps and itinerant evangelists with chalk drawings, therumins, balloons & cheers and other "gospel" paraphernalia?

When they do, when the constituencies and the flow of money can stand having someone like Dever in a conference with them, or Bauder in one of Dever's or MacArthur's conferences because it is a point on which all clearly agree, then we will know that perhaps principles and not embarrasments have come into play.

Larry said...

Joel, A couple of questions,

It makes all of them (fundamentalists, who have this mindset) look alike, from Schaap to Doran.

Are you suggesting that Schaap and Doran look alike?

What if they stopped trying to finesse what Bauder said about conservative evangelicals and didn't insist on drawing lines where no lines were necessary?

Two questions on this one: 1) Are you suggesting that no nuance is appropriate in these discussion? And 2) Who decides what lines are necessary?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Theological Reductionism, an attempt at some understanding of unity, not scriptural, but not anything different than I see in the SBC, Ben. But isn't theological reductionism the belief du jour. I get your though, I think---don't talk about some kind of separation over the gospel when you won't separate from abusers of the gospel. So is the overall point, 'don't talk about separation?' Things would be more comfortable for those in the SBC if that were the case. Everyone could go along their merry way, excusing themselves.

One more thought though, Ben. MacArthur at the Shepherd's Conf. in the Q & A was asked about his stand on speaking places and he said, 'the same as what Bob Jones would do,' that is, 'he'd speak at the Vatican if he had the opportunity.' So this is a disclaimer on all MacArthur speaking opportunities, including Billy Graham. Since love hopes all things, maybe Vaughn and Phelps think they're going to say what this group needs to hear. Would you speak at these two gatherings if they invited you? I'm not sure I would, but I think I would, and then I would preach on the true gospel and true, biblical methodology. It would be a first and last, but it is something perhaps that Jesus would have done.

Will,

You don't have to be a part of any group larger than your church. Fellowship with churches that believe and practice as you do.

Dan said...

Praise the Lord, some of us are trying to get along!
Sometimes I wonder if I would rather not be called "Fundamentalish" than "Fundamentalist." I remain a conservative, independent baptist who believes in the doctrines of salvation by grace alone through Christ alone, the inspiration of Scripture, the need to separate from apostasy, etc. But with so many fundamentalists claiming that OTHER fundamentalists are NOT for various reasons, I am growing weary of the title. I don't know everyone who will be at this conference, but I do know many of them. They are truly good and godly men! It has been my privilege to meet face to face with many of the leaders in the various "families" of fundamentalism. Of course I don't agree with everything they say, do, or believe; but I think we need to treat those we have differences with more like quirky relatives rather than demons to ostracize. Sure, we have differences; but they're still family! When we get to Heaven, we're all going to find out where our hidden warts are. None of us have it totally figured out. The biggest problem we have today is that we have too many opportunities to observe and criticize one another via impersonal technologies like the Internet. It's not unlike being a sports fan who "hates" or "loves" a team - without ever really knowing any of the players on that team. It's so easy to sit at a keyboard, watching and critiquing these things from afar. It's expensive, time consuming, and (really and practically) impossible to sit down face to face with every one of these guys to learn their true heartbeat for God. If we could do that, I'm sure that some of this cybercriticism would diminish. I'm so glad that Paul and Barnabas didn't have to deal with this hyper-critical fundamentalism that we live with these days! Thank God for some of these men who are willing to get close enough to get to know one another in person before throwing darts at one another! I praise the effort of those involved in Independent Baptist Friends International Conference! Go for it!

ben said...

Cool, thanks for illustrating my point, Dan.

Now talk to Kent and tell him how it's all great that Southern Baptists are just trying to get along too.

By the way, you actually sound like a Fundamentalist, not a Fundamentalish, for what it's worth.

Dan said...

Thanks, Ben, for confusing me more about your point.

Time for me once again to abandon cyberspace for a while. I emerge once in a while to comment - usually to be either misunderstood or to leave confused at the logic of those who blog.

I am not opposed to Southern Baptists getting along either. There are some Southern Baptists I would enjoy spending time with over a cup of coffee.

Labels mean less and less to me all of the time.

The world will be reached quicker when we spend less time texting past one another and more time sitting down face to face with each other, and more importantly, with a lost soul who is seeking the truth.

May God bless your efforts - whatever it is that you're trying to accomplish.

Chris Anderson said...

The problem isn't that separation is unbiblical. It's that it's too often practiced selectively and for the wrong reasons. Ugh.

Todd Wood said...

If I lived in the area, I would probably attend the conference out of curiosity.

Out here in Mormon country, it is nice to hear Faith for the Family on the Calvary Chapel network.

Frank said...

Kent, does that true gospel include women wearing pants being unbiblical?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Chris,

I understood Ben's point. I was simply putting it back in his court on the SBC. And Ben caught that. Perhaps you didn't.

Frank,

Who are you? That is an odd question, sort of like Herod asking Jesus if He was John the Baptist. Both questions packed with behind-the-scenes meaning.

But to answer it. I front load zero works to grace. If it's grace, it's no more works and if it's works, it's no more grace. To enter into His rest, we cease from our own labor.

It was clever how you brought that issue, Frank, into this discussion. By the way, I also do not think that whether or not a man wears a skirt is included in the gospel. Just so that you personally would know. ;-D

Chris Anderson said...

I actually wasn't thinking of anything you said, Kent. Just making a general observation.

John said...

I know I am late to the party, but I'll admit to being scandalized by this. I mean, who charges a dollar to let you stream a sermon these days!

ben said...

Kent,

Frankly, you didn't put anything in my court, though I recognize that you tried. I haven't been trumpeting a theology of separation for the past 40 years that demands that I separate from anyone who doesn't separate from someone who doesn't separate from the right person. Like so many in Church history who worked for reform from within when reform was plausible, I'm not saddled with that impossible burden.

This discussion is about hypocrisy, not separation. I can't remember the last year in which some FBF leader hasn't launched a screed on Conservative Evangelicals. If I'm going to have a conversation with folks about the SBC (and I do), it'll be with people who have an essential grasp of credibility and integrity.

ben said...

Kent, just for fun (really!), is the Bible in your avatar photo a 1611 KJV? And if so, does it contain the Apocrypha?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Ben, I really wasn't trying to slam the ball into your court, more of a ball machine placement with a wooden racket. I did not catch the hypocrisy message. I didn't know that was the main entree, thought it was a side. So nothing about separation at all, except the hypocrites that teach about it. Got it. I think the hypocrisy angle works too. However, I did think you were concerned about the gospel of Schaap and Fugate. Is it only "second degree" separation to separate from those who teach a false gospel?

The large book is a large book. You can really read into it, pun intended.

Chris,

My bad.

Nathan said...

To be honest with you guys, this fundamentalist perverting the gospel stuff has really hit home for me recently. I'm working with a guy in my college ministry right now who got saved and didn't receive good discipleship so he turned to the internet and started reading John R. Rice and Jack Hyles. It all seems nice to talk and argue about until your dealing with a life that has actually been messed up by their bad theology. This junk affects real people and I guess the other "fundamentalists" don't care...they just want to keep the label and keep enjoying the good ol boys club.

Anonymous said...

"They pick at other's associations, then associate with low discrimination, then get resentful when they're all lumped together."

Game

"It makes all of them look alike, from Schaap to Doran."

Set

"We wouldn't care that they're part of the FBF if only they cared less (or better) that somebody is part of the SBC" (or PCA, BGC, etc.)

Match

I think you're on to something Joel.

And Ben, you nailed it here: "This discussion is about hypocrisy, not separation. I can't remember the last year in which some FBF leader hasn't launched a screed on Conservative Evangelicals."

Keith

Christopher D. Barney said...

Ok, Ben. With all this kind of "diversity" in a conference, why am I getting shot at for my conference?
See www.lbbconference.org.

Chris Anderson said...

Because you're a stinking Calvinist, Barney. Duh. ;)

ben said...

Didn't know you were getting shot at. Publicly, or are you getting one of those private invitations to a sit-down we've all heard about?

But I'm guessing you already know the answer.

ben said...

That Naselli dude is nothing but trouble.

Nathan said...

Because you are dealing with people who are more concerned with the "fundamentalist" label than the gospel and you live in Greenville near a school that doesn't realize it's not a church.

Joel Tetreau said...

Well....this is hard to believe. I've said a few times in the past that the FBF types will have a choice if they continue to see their ranks diminish. I've said "we will probably see them either" - 1) begin to open their arms to conservative evangelicals who are orthodox and militant with the Gospel [I was praying that they would go this way] or 2) they will reach out to the Type A+ crowd.

If the FBF as a whole is in agreement with this and if this a sign of "things to come" with the FBF then it means this - They care more for the sub-culture of a "certain kind of separation" and a "certain kid of self-identity" than they do the careful handling of the gospel and God's Word.

Man I was fearful that this might happen. I hope this is not a consistent thing Vaugh and the FBF guys....however with "others" in the Type A "camp" moving over to the right (wow?), I imagine we'll see more of this. Sad.

In a way, It's easier for me to make my case. You guys that actually demonstrate theological and exegetical concern in the FBF orb....open your eyes my friends. This is your leader of your group. How in the world are we to defend this kind of stuff when many of you want to point to Conservative Evangelicals as "dangerous?" You guys are confused....very confused.

For the three of you that were wondering why 4 years ago I called the FBF types "Type A" and the Hyles types "Type A+", this is why. In the end, they're not as far apart as they tell we "Type B's and Type C's." They care more for the label of fundamentalism than the Truth of the Scriptures and the accuracy of the Gospel.

This is why fundamentalism as a movement will die. Truth decay...from the inside.

Well.....as I always say, "Straight Ahead!".....right over the right cliff into the right ditch. Wowzers!

jt

greglong said...

Any Conservative Evangelical alliances surprising you these days, Ben?