what is the meaning of this

In this post, I asked:

What does this mean?

Ben Wright thinks it means something. Notice carefully Ben’s headline. Then consider the full schedule of events. Notice the place and prominence given to what Ben calls a "special guest lecturer".

I would suggest, "featured speaker," would be more accurate.

But, dear reader, what do you think it means? I have an opinion. Of course. I’ll share it with you shortly. But I’d like to see if anyone would care to "pontificate", as Ben calls it, before I charm you with my opining.

Several readers have given their opinions:

  • Kent thinks "fundamentalism, as you knew it, Don, is essentially gone"
  • Jack thinks "they don’t appear to be concerned about being fundamental or baptist"
  • Andy thinks "We are definitely in a time of transition" though he wouldn’t look at Calvary seminary as a benchmark

No one who reads me regularly will be surprised to know that I tend to agree with these opinions. It seems to me that Ben, whose post alerted me to this conference, sees the same things I and others are seeing. His headline is "Ed Welch to Speak at CBTS Leadership Conference". He is picking up on the significance of Welch’s participation. He learned of this conference, it seems, over at SI, where the whole article reads this way:

National Leadership Conference To Focus On “Ministering God’s Truth In A Broken World”

by PastorJoeRoof at 5:48 pm January 29, 2009. 82 views. Filed under: Filings

Read here.

To date, there has been no discussion of the link at SI, but it is not too surprising, because they only mention the conference itself, not Welch’s participation. So it hasn’t received much attention over there. But Ben picks up on it. This is a fairly significant event.

Why do I say that?

First of all, Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary and Calvary Baptist Church are fairly well known and accepted into Fundamentalist fellowship. Their personnel often speak at other Fundamentalist conferences and prominent Fundamentalists speak at their conference, as they are doing this year.

When a Fundamentalist institution headlines a clearly evangelical teacher (albeit in the less threatening ‘counselling’ genre!) as the main speaker at an erstwhile Fundamentalist conference, that is news. It is a change. It represents something that certainly wouldn’t have happened ten years ago, or even five. Or maybe even last year.

Secondly, for well known Fundamentalists to participate in such a conference, well, that too is a change. Wasn’t it just a couple of years ago that Dr. Olilla withdrew from a Pro-Teens conference because John MacArthur’s youth pastor was one of the speakers? (Ken Holland was the name if I remember correctly.) Yet here we have the list of speakers at Calvary:

  • Dan Anderson – President, Appalachian Bible College, Bradley, West Virginia
  • George Coon – Professor, Calvary Baptist Seminary, Lansdale, Pennsylvania
  • Dave Doran – Pastor, Inter-City Baptist Church, President & Professor, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, Allen Park, Michigan
  • Tim Jordan – Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Chancellor, Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary, Lansdale, Pennsylvania
  • Bill Park – Professor, Calvary Baptist Seminary Lansdale, Pennsylvania
  • Jerry Thacker – Ministry Marketing Researcher, Strategic Consultant, and HIV/AIDS Educator
  • Ed Welch – Psychologist & Faculty Member, Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, Glenside, Pennsylvania

Fundamentalists, I should say, but one. And then there are the speakers for the Workshops… I won’t give you the whole list, but here are a few highlights:

  • Greg Mazak – Bob Jones University
  • Bruce Meyer – Maranatha Baptist Bible College
  • Rob Campbell – Pastor Bethel Baptist Church, Sellersville, PA and host of last years national Fundamental Baptist Fellowship meeting

These lists are representative of the "branch" of Fundamentalism with which I have been associated throughout my ministry. I have spoken in one of the churches on this list. I graduated from BJU and am a Life Member of the Alumni Association. I say this to simply illustrate that this has been "my crowd", and to then testify that in my training years at BJU, this kind of association would not have happened. As I said earlier, it wouldn’t have happened even a few years ago.

Why is that? Is Welch an "untouchable", some kind of doctrinal deviant from whom all must be warned?

No, hardly. One can quibble over some of his positions and teachings, but as far as I can tell (and I have read most of his books), he is thoroughly orthodox. I think he has a fine Christian testimony and does a lot of good for the Lord.

The younger set seems to be asking why we would bother to maintain a distance if these things are true.

I have listened to countless sermons by Mark Minnick. I think in his Romans series, on the "separation verses" in Rm 15, he comments on the desire to see conservative evangelicals to take a more separated stance (and he is hopeful that they will). Those messages were preached some time ago, but I have heard him repeat similar sentiments in several other messages. One thing he has said that sticks with me goes like this [my paraphrase]: "For there to be closer cooperation between us, the evangelicals are going to have to admit that the Fundamentalists were right in the 1950s." (Or words to that effect.) As late as last summer, he personally and publicly assured me that there remain barriers where he could not speak in an evangelical pulpit like Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist (where Ben Wright is a member, I believe) and that he could not invite someone like Dever to Mount Calvary.

In this very blog, again last summer, Dave Doran also publicly stated that he could not have a Dever preach in his pulpit in the current circumstances. Why? Significant barriers remain.

This fall, in his lectures at International Baptist Bible College, Kevin Bauder stated that significant barriers remain. But he did add that some level of cooperation was possible.

I guess this represents that some level, eh?

But it also represents a change.

In the past, some leaders in Fundamentalism would have roundly denounced this kind of association if anyone dared to suggest it. (Am I not right?) Of course, we can dismiss these dead dinosaurs as relics of the past who fought an old fight that isn’t going on anymore and it is time to move on.

Ok, so what are we moving on to?

I have nothing against Welch, per se. A lot of what he says is valuable. But these evangelical guys are much more open to associations and fellowships that I am just not comfortable with. For example, I have been quite critical of the cussing pastor from Seattle in these pages. Many of the conservative evangelicals are quite willing to assist him, promote him, put him on their platforms and say favorable things about him. Are we moving on to a closer relationship with him?

One of Welch’s associates, another well-respected counselling teacher, is headlined on Steve Camp’s blog this way: ____ ____-ING – HE REALLY LIKES TO SAY THE "S" WORD …has Piper lost his mind or just forgotten his Bible? (Be warned, there is a video here you might not want your children to hear.) This same associate appeared with the Seattle Cusser at John Piper’s Desiring God conference last fall. Are we moving on to a closer relationship with him?

And there is still the issues of the new-evangelical compromise. Oh, yes, perhaps Welch, Dever, Piper, et al are not exactly new-evangelicals. But they sure love the new-evangelicals and think they saved the church from fundamentalism. In fact, they are quite willing to join in the publication of books with new-evangelicals and will not break ties with them. Are we moving on to a closer relationship with them?

Let’s start a pool!

How long do you think it will be before one of these prominent new evangelicals is the featured speaker in the pulpit of a leading Fundamentalist church or institution?

How long do you think it will be before a leading Fundamentalist speaks in the pulpit of one of these leading new evangelicals?

How long do you think it will be before a Fundamentalist is added to the roster of the Togetherness boys? (Maybe longer for that one. One of us will have to write a best-selling book that gets the kudos of the evangelical crowd. I don’t think any of us can write well enough… gotta give up those crayons!)

How long do you think it will be for a prominent Fundamentalist pastor or leader of one of our institutions to say, ‘Hey, that’s not right’?

[Don’t hold your breath on that last one!]

Kent said he thinks Fundamentalism is done. I am afraid so. Unless…


Just maybe…

One or two of our leaders start raising a bit of a stink and say we aren’t ready to cooperate if these guys won’t give up their cussing buddies and their new-evangelical mentors.

Any takers?



  1. Don,

    I’m not offended at all, but what you have written here is quite tame compared to what would have been written about this in the old days, so if anybody thinks you haven’t been nice, he would be wrong. You also got it pretty right. Calvary surely discussed this in their planning meetings before bringing in Welch—would it be tolerated by the FBF and BJU and the other orbiting schools and seminaries? Calvary has long been at the cutting edge of the subject of counseling within fundamentalism—I’m not saying they’ve been scriptural—but they’ve been out front on it, so they likely look at this as their owning the subject in fundamentalism. Being that Welch is in Pennsylvania, they’ve probably been friendly with him.

    The big ta-do that you had recently over the guilt-by-association subject over Driscoll at another blog, then coming back on you with your quotations of other men, I predict will be how you are marginalized in this, Don. I got what you were saying.

    I’ve got one other deal here. Just asking. What do you think of the Andy Naselli over at SI? Is he a fundamentalist in your opinion? He is one walking advertisement for D.A. Carson, who is an out-and-out new-evangelical. He’s something like Carson’s personal assistant and works there at Trinity and seems like he’s sold out to new-evangelicalism. Carson just spoke at Driscoll’s and is a regular at Piper’s. What’s the point of pushing that at SI? And then Detroit brings in Naselli to do a lecture at the Seminary. Does selling out to Carson and Detroit and that direction mean anything to Detroit? How is it one could be in such good favor at Trinity and with Carson and all the other new-evangelicals and then also be in favor with Detroit and SI, with absolutely no differentiation that I see. It’s all confusing to me.

    • Hi Kent, exactly.

      My “tone” here was to avoid the accusation of being a bomb thrower. Believe me, I had some choice lines percolating in my fetid brain. I may yet unleash them!!

      As for Andy, I totally agree with your assessment. He has been making some unfortunate choices and clearly is on the leading edge of the new fundamentalism (old new evangelicalism?). I have some personal connections with his family that makes this a bit of a grief to me, but I don’t know him personally. My thinking here is that this is an example of the hero-worship that goes on in the new fundamentalism. Young guys attach themselves to their guru and are unable to see the compromises and flaws that attachment carries with it. I have called them “Piperites” before, but it isn’t just Piper they genuflect towards.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. T. Pennock says:

    Don: [My thinking here is that this is an example of the hero-worship that goes on in the new fundamentalism.]

    tjp: I started out with the GARB back in ’73 (when I was saved). From there I moved into the Hyles sphere, where I spent well over a decade fellowshipping with that crowd.

    After witnessing acts of idolatry that would shame the ancient Greeks, I repented of that whole mess and moved on.

    To be honest, I thought I’d never see such creature worship again (you use the softer sounding, “hero-worship’). But I was wrong. Several years ago, I stumbled on SI, and there, to my horror, I witnessed the young fundies bowing and scraping before the gods of Sun City, Minneapolis, Capitol Hill, and Louisville.

    It was obvious then and it’s obvious now that the young fundies are as fawning and idolatrous as anyone whose ever come out of Hammond. The only difference is they’ve changed gods.

    And, not surprisingly, the same degrees of creature worship that often characterize the Hylesites are also found among the young fundies, with some practicing dulia and others hyperdulia. In either case, however, they all rob God of latria.

    Personally, I think your softer “hero-worship” is the first step to out-and-out creature worship, and from there we slip into total idolatry. What I’ve seen since my Hyles days is that creature worship is a broad worship. It includes not only men but institutions, philosophies, systems, and doctrinal niceties.

    When young fundies start teeing-off on the devotees of Hammond, I just shake my head and remind myself how many thousands of times I’ve heard: MacArthur says, Piper says, Duncan says, Sproul says, Dever says, Mahaney says, Mohler says. At best, this is the old Hylesism under new gods.


    • Thanks for the comment, Tracy. Another “exactly” post!

      I have to say that we are none of us immune from hero-worship or creature-worship as you so much better put it. May we all guard our hearts.

      But I do think that it is most evident when you scratch one of their gods. When you do that, the howls of protest show what they worship.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3