applied fundamentalism

It’s been a long (but blessed) day. See previous post. I am still up late after an early morning. I am attempting to make a DVD of the funeral for family members to take home to loved ones who were too ill to attend.

While I wait for the process to conclude, I thought I’d make an attempt to answer questions that came from this post regarding this event held at our church.

The event we held was a Creation Seminar led by Dr. Emil Silvestru, a geologist with Creation Ministries International (formerly Answers in Genesis). The question, as I understand it, is essentially this: How does your sponsorship of this event square with your previously stated views on separation?

I think the question is a fair question, as I stated in my initial brief reply:

In deciding on this particular event, I had some misgivings and am still not certain we made the right decision.

Now for a more detailed answer.

My misgivings concerning hosting the event stemmed from the fact that CMI in this same tour on the Island were appearing in churches with which we have strong disagreements, so strong that I would not participate in any joint religious effort with those churches of any kind. That is not to say they are non-Christian churches, far from it! But we do have significant differences. I do not wish to seem to approve (in any way) their ministries and associations.

With those misgivings, here is the thought process I went through in arriving at my conclusion:

  1. The Creation issue is one of vital importance for our people.
  2. CMI (and other ministries like it) are doing critically important work in the area of creation research and promoting a literal understanding of Genesis 1-11.
  3. We would stock CMI materials in our bookstore and have distributed CMI materials in the past.
  4. CMI’s agenda is not so much ecumenical as reformational: they go wherever they can to call churches back to a more orthodox position (actually countering one of the planks of the neo-evangelical platform).
  5. CMI is tightly focused on the creation issue and doesn’t appear to stray much beyond it in their public statements.

With these thoughts, I still have some misgivings about hosting such events in the future. While nothing was said in the Seminar that presented any problem for us, some of our private conversations revealed that we are truly different in our approach to the overall ministry – CMI generally is pretty well evangelical in its thinking, and we are not. I don’t care to go into details, but some of the things said reveal to me that we would not choose to proclaim the whole counsel in the same way.

In spite of those differences, I think the meetings were well received by our people and profitable for them.

It seems to me that Creation Ministry people are a unique sort of group. They go into churches as agents of change, if the church is weak on creation. I appreciate that. I can’t really think of any other ministries that are really doing such things. The nearest parallel I could imagine is something like Scott Aniol’s Religious Affections Ministries. What would you say if Scott were able to go into some CCM church and teach basic Christian music philosophy? (I’m not holding my breath on that one!) If such a hypothetical became reality, I wouldn’t be against it. The focus of such ministry would be fairly one-dimensional, it would be reformational, it would be calling such a church to repentance. I don’t think I would have a problem with that.

The way that I would have a problem is if instead of CMI we were approached by an evangelist, let’s say, who had a much broader ministry emphasis, but was known as a specialist on creation. If he was one who was known for certain associations and compromises, who preached on all sorts of general topics, who sought to build ties between people of all stripes, fundies, conservatives, and beyond, then I would be much more worried about that association.

Well, I am getting pretty tired. I still have about a half hour of videotaping to do, but I think I may not be making much sense as it is. I think I will stop there and seek follow-up questions from my readers so I can flesh this out a bit more if more specifics are wanted.

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Comments

  1. Dave says:

    Don,

    Thanks for explaining your decision-making process on this. As I said earlier, I wasn’t looking to debate, just wanting to understand your thinking. Kent was right that my reason for questioning was related to the matter of consistency. IOW, I think that Tim Jordan would offer the same basic explanation that you did for including Ed Welch in the recent Leadership Conference. You seemed to be concerned about that.

    Well, you have fulfilled my request, so I will recede back into cyberspace. Thanks.

    • Thanks for your response, Dave. Consistency is a rare jewel!

      With respect to Welch, however, my argument there would be that his ministry is much less tightly focused than these creation ministry men are. That may be a weak justification, I don’t know. And as I said, I still have some misgivings about using CMI in this way and I am not inclined to do so again, at least at this point.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

      • Thinking on this a bit more…

        Our meeting was a local church meeting, primarily for the edification of our own people, with a secondary purpose of attracting a few outsiders. That would be a little different from a “National Leadership Conference” where you are teaching and training pastors in the way they should go. If a local ministry wanted to use a Welch or an Adams to talk particularly about counseling issues to train and edify their own people that would be one thing. But it says quite another thing when a fundamentalist conference that is billed as “National” uses someone with those kinds of associational issues.

        All that to say that I think the venue and purpose of the meeting would make a difference.

        Maranatha!
        Don Johnson
        Jer 33.3

  2. tjp says:

    Don,

    I think your explanation is a reasonable one. I’m glad you offered it. I too thought your association with CMI (especially given your militant, separational stance) was a little puzzling.

    Perhaps I’m wrong here, but your explanation for using the CMI men sounds eerily similar to the rationale that many old fundamentalists gave , such as Rice and Jones, Sr., for cooperating with certain SBC men.

    I’m glad consistency isn’t a be-all and end-all with you. I once heard an old-line fundamentalist say, “Outside of Christ, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

    tjp

  3. Don,

    Do you think this statement is true: While fundamentalism is burning, it’s leaders are fiddling?

    tjp

    • Well, it certainly seems so!

      At least, many leaders are keeping quiet about religious trends. The ones who are vocal seem to be supportive of the new changes and the rest are silent. It makes one wonder where they stand.

      And I suppose if you just stand there silently, you aren’t really leading anymore, are you?

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. tjp says:

    Don,

    I’ve been thinking about the future of fundamentalism, and I’ve concluded that whatever movement survives the current fundamentalist mess must not be controlled by the educational institutions (colleges and seminaries, in particular). Somehow we must locate the nurture and direction of a new movement within the context of local churches, and not in the self-serving and crusty institutions that’ve grown, in many respects, rich and fat and unresponsive.

    Is that possible?

    • To a certain extent I am sympathetic with that notion. In a way, that is what the Conservative Evangelicals are doing. You see prominent pastors taking a lead and organizing, for example, Together for the Gospel. Whatever you think of that group, they are obviously leading in a direction and a good number of people are following.

      Is such a thing possible in fundamentalism? Perhaps, but it seems that we don’t have pastors with the kind of public persona that the T4G pastors do. As a result, we tend to mostly default to institutions, like the colleges, for that kind of leadership. The FBF could be a vehicle for local church leadership, but I think it is going through a bit of a changing of the guard as well. It remains to be seen where the FBF as an organization will end up. And of course it isn’t representative of all who would call themselves Fundamentalists.

      In the end, I think that the Lord will use whatever he chooses to lead the faithful fundamentalist-like movement. We should try to do what we can, but realize that the final decision will be up to Him in the end.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. Just found this article today. . .reason #4 resonates with me the most. Sometimes people often forget that in order to help people understand something better, you have to go to them. I’ve been around some people that love to rail on the church down the street so much that it seems they’d be upset if that church did get back on track (maybe because they wouldn’t have someone to criticize?) by having someone go there and set the record straight.
    Another parallel ministry you can add would be something like Ray Comfort’s Way of the Master. He’s gone to churches of all sorts and helped them get back to a biblical understanding of the gospel. Fundamentalists such as David Cloud have criticized him for this but I don’t think it’s right (oddly, his reason was that Comfort was “endorsed” by various new-evangelicals. Of course, various people endorse Jesus, too). Suppose Paul was on his way to Ephesus and the Ephesians said, “wait, did you just come from Corinth? Don’t come here, then!” We ought to praise the Lord for every church, no matter how different from us, that is strengthened by ministries such as CMI or WOTM that are more concerned with helping than what others think. Good post!

    • Hi Damien

      Thanks for the comment. Well, a couple of things…

      First, I agree that we need people to function as prophets calling wayward Christians back to the right path.

      However, I would have a much bigger problem with Ray Comfort than CMI. First, his ministry is not as narrowly focused nor as specialized. Second, he clearly boasts about his connections with Billy Graham et al on his site and promotional material. This seems incongruous when BG’s terminology and compromises carry a lot of the blame for the watered down gospel preaching Comfort preaches against. Third, I am not entirely comfortable with Comfort’s emphasis on the law. I think there is something wrong with the way he does it, a misplaced emphasis and to some extent an unbiblical methodology. Compare the evangelistic efforts of the Lord and the Apostles (such as we have recorded in the Bible). Hardly the same as Comfort’s. However, please note that I am not entirely against him on this point, but just think he has a misplaced emphasis here, and possibly some theological problems. I haven’t studied him enough to come to anything more than that, however.

      As for your example of Paul, it’s just not a parallel. Not at all. If Paul had been consorting with the false teachers that were troubling Corinth, then showing up in Ephesus, then it might be a parallel. As it is, Paul served as a missionary-apostle in both places, not giving any place to false teachers. But Ray Comfort is quite proud of his associations with many compromised evangelicals. There is a huge difference.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

      PS, I should add that you should consider all my points in totality rather than isolate just the one. If it were only one of those points that were true, I would probably have ruled against having CMI in.