when you wish more was said…

Frank Sansone alerts us that the 9Marks interview with Mark Minnick by Mark Dever is now available. I stayed up late to listen to it because, as you know, this is my main topic.

Frank heard about it from Andy Naselli and I see that Greg Linscott is linking to it as well over at his site. I expect this to immediately be the topic du jour in the fundamentalist blogosphere.

Why would that be? Because as Minnick points out very well in the interview: “Associations matter.”

This interview matters because associations matter. I think I understand what Pastor Minnick is trying to do in having communication with Pastor Dever, but even this low-level public association matters (though it is certainly not the same thing as sitting on a platform in a cooperative effort or appearing on the platform of Capital Hill BC, for example).

This interview, I predict will be the buzz this next week because associations matter.

But, oh, how I wish a little more had been said!

I believe Pastor Minnick did a credible job explaining the rationale of Biblical separation. I think he did a good job providing Biblical illustration of the concept from the life of Jehoshaphat and the issue between Peter and Paul recorded in Gal 2. Where he fell short was in making clear specific real world application in a way that could be readily seen and understood.

Dever gave Minnick every opportunity to do so. In fact, he pressed him to do so, asking several times, “What do we have to do for you as fundamentalists to feel free to accept an invitation to preach in our pulpit here at CHBC?” Pastor Minnick only answered this question in vague generalities, reiterating the essential theory of separation.

In fact, at one point where Dever was pressing Minnick, he started to say something like, “I was just at this conference…” Minnick was in the midst of his answer and may not have heard that reference. I think it was very significant. The interview with Minnick was done, I believe, on Feb 27. Right about at that same time Dever had been at the Acts 29 Conference in Chicago and had made his seriously flawed endorsement of that effort, as I reported elsewhere.

I think I know why Pastor Minnick was vague at this point, and that is he genuinely hopes to influence Dever and others like him to seriously look at the doctrine of separation for themselves. He didn’t want to get too close to Dever’s own associations specifically when pressed for fear of upsetting that effort. At least, that is what I think lay behind the vagueness. (I have been in correspondence with Pastor Minnick on this point and will be sending him the link to this post. I also hope to see him later on next month and will ask him personally about it if I can get a chance.)

However… if only he had felt at liberty to say something like this:

“If Open Theism is tolerated within a man’s denomination, that would be an issue demanding a public rebuke and ongoing battle, wouldn’t you agree? And if that battle was not clearly being fought, what would you say about a pastor remaining in that conference? And would you invite him to your pulpit? And would you invite him to your Together for the Gospel conference?”

For Dever, the answer to that question is “Yes” at the moment. (And I think it unlikely to change.)

Or, for example, if only something like this would have been said:

“If someone publicly opposes Billy Graham’s foolish statement on Robert Shuler’s program that basically says ‘if you’re sincere, you’ll go to heaven, even if you never heard of Christ’, and that same someone makes some noises about how he wouldn’t cooperate with the Billy Graham Crusade when it came to town [and didn’t], but then goes to the Cove [Billy Graham’s training institution] for a week as a special speaker and writes an article in Billy Graham’s Decision magazine… Would you invite that same someone to speak to your people and participate in your Together for the Gospel conference?”

You see, there are some real world examples that Dever needs to be confronted with.

I hope Mark Minnick will do some of this kind of personal confrontation on a one on one level with Dever. I hope that there will be a resolution of this situation soon because if there is not, the ranks of those of us who look up to Pastor Minnick as a leader will be seriously confused. Is Dever someone we should look to for leadership? Is he someone whom we will not confront about his associations with: Piper, MacArthur, Mahaney, Acts 29 and the Whiteboard Sessions, etc.? Are we simply going to let these things slide by and let our young men wonder where we stand on them?


UPDATE: Perhaps my examples above are a little too personal, a little too direct, especially in the host’s house. For another example, couldn’t Falwell’s Moral Majority have sufficed? It would fit very well with the Jehoshaphat illustration as well.


  1. I thought it was just starting to get interesting when they ran out of time.

    My first impressions:

    1. Dever didn’t seem to understand the Jehoshaphat illustration at all. Or for that matter, what Minnick was driving at with the Galatians 2 passage.

    2. A confrontation at this point with Dever, may not be very effective until he understands the substantial implications of those passages. I don’t fault Minnick for working slowly with him.

    3. We fundamentalists need a good answer for why we separate over some clear positions in the Bible but not others. Dever kept bringing up the Lig Duncan question. For me the answer is that covenant theology does not teach a different gospel or impact fundamental truth. The whole point of Galatains 2 and other passages, is that actions and associations can impact the truth of the gospel.

    4. I was surprised at Minnick’s non-familiarity with the different camps within Fundamentalism.

    5. Minnick seemed very uncomfortable at the beginning and at times throughout the interview, probably not knowing how hard to press or how direct to be in his answers. This forum was probably not the best way to get the conversation going between two men who are just getting to know each other. It would have been better to have a knowledgeable moderator lead the discussions. Ben Wright probably would have been able to do a good job in that role.

    6. I think it is a very positive sign for Dever to give Minnick a forum to present the Fundamentalist position to a largely non-fundamentalist audience.

  2. Hi Andy

    I agree that Dever in particular didn’t understand the Jehoshaphat passage. And I do think that the format wasn’t the best for addressing all Dever’s questions. Not only was the material being recorded but all of Dever’s young interns (apparently including Bruce McAlister’s son) were all eager observers as the audience. This is not the most conducive place for confrontation.

    In fact, that observation by itself makes me think this was way too early for any kind of public back and forth.

    It does seem to me that Minnick hopes to have further influence with Dever or others like him. I personally think this is a pipe dream. But if there is to be influence, let it be quiet, behind the scenes, and then let us see whether those being influenced actually do anything about it. There are many areas where change is needed on the conservative evangelical side, associations being only one of them.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  3. Greg Linscott says:

    1. I think the Jehosophat passage is somewhat irrelevant when it comes to how NT believers fellowship with one another, especially when trying to convince someone who is already skeptical. The relevance might seem more obvious to one who already assumes the validity of the position, but I myself struggled to understand why Minnick used that example, as did our friend Scott Aniol (who listened to it with me late Saturday night).

    2. I was a little frustrated with Minnick’s lack of acknowledgment of “different camps within Fundamentalism,” as you put it, Don. It seems to me that he must certainly have some familiarity with the issues in question (if not intimate acquaintance with the personalities), if for no other reasons than those whom he interacts with at BJU and the fact that he was a major contributor to a book responding to the KJVO issue. It does seem that it is a convenient way to pretend that the downsides aren’t there.

    3. I also found it interesting that when queried about his “theological heroes” (or whatever), Minnick never listed anyone specifically Fundamentalist (not that I’m sure whom he could have named).

    Overall, I’m not sure that the interview helped the Fundamentalist position all that much (though it didn’t change my mind about anything). I certainly don’t see that there was much useful in persuading a skeptic.

  4. Hi Greg

    Thanks for commenting here. I gave you a rather cryptic comment on your site regarding the Jehoshaphat illustration and Jerry Falwell. I am thinking there of the Moral Majority fiasco … one could easily have tied in the commercial/political aspects of it with the Jehoshaphat story which would make the illustration much more clear (I think!!! but I could be wrong).

    I agree with your point #2. Much more could have been said here.

    In my opinion, the reason there was little to convince a skeptic is that there was no ‘live’ application to the here and now. Dever (at least as far as the interview is concerned) is left with no clear notion of what he should do to become more acceptable to a fundamentalist. One would hope that in private perhaps more was said.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  5. Don,

    I thought my link to this discussion would show up as a “trackback”, but I have never figured that aspect of blogging out, apparently.

    I have made some initial comments and hope to have a chance to write more tonight.


  6. Hi Frank

    I am not sure how that works either. Your link does show up on my ‘dashboard’ page, but perhaps it isn’t enabled in the template somehow… I am not entirely sure how to check that either, but I’ll look around.

    Thanks for the comments, I agree with your assessments over at your site.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  7. Keith says:

    “If Open Theism is tolerated within a man’s denomination, that would be an issue demanding a public rebuke and ongoing battle, wouldn’t you agree? And if that battle was not clearly being fought, what would you say about a pastor remaining in that conference? ”

    What are you talking about Don? What makes you think that Piper is not clearly fighting the battle against Open Theism? Most people — including most fundamentalists — wouldn’t even know there was a problem with Open Theism if it weren’t for the battles being waged by guys like Piper.

  8. Hi Keith

    Thank you for your comment. I first heard about Open Theism when the controversy at ETS was reported in CT. I guess I don’t get out much. My understanding, however, is that Piper has had some conflict in the BGC over the issue but has been unable to effect change. My understanding is that following these efforts he has been content to maintain the status quo, somehow justifying continued association.

    If my understanding is incorrect, please enlighten me.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3