what now?

The latest controversy in the ranks of fundamentalism certainly has many of us riled up. Although things have quieted down a bit now, there are still rumblings in various venues of the fundamentalist blogosphere that indicate the pot is still simmering with plenty of hard feelings and resentment to go around.

Many are still agitating for something more than “we haven’t divided over this issue and we aren’t going to start now.” It is evident that this is so even in Kevin Bauder’s third article on the subject and the subsequent discussion at SI. Some still want something more to be done.

I am still amazed at the reaction to all this. The whole thing reminds me of this:

NAU Acts 19:32 So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together.

We read various rallying cries around the web: “The Time is Now!” “It’s time to take a stand.” “We can’t take this any more.”

Politically these are extremely fragile and risky times for fundamentalism. There has never been complete unanimity on every point, but this controversy threatens to destroy a great deal of such unity as has existed in fundamentalism for some time. It is very hard to see what advantage will be gained.

To risk the unity of brethren, surely, some great cause must be at stake. What is that cause? Can you name the one single thing that a great mass of right thinking people should now rally around and say, “we’re not going to take it anymore”?

I am suggesting that the “cause” is as varied as the participants. There is no “one great cause”, and, really, no “eternal principle” at stake.

In the 1930s, great fundamental principles united fundamentalists in the battle against modernism. In the 1950s another great fundamental principle united fundamentalists against the new evangelical compromise with liberalism.

In 2009, what great fundamental principle are we to rally around?

Should we divide over Calvinism?

Clearly, some are saying, “Yes.” Either that, or it’s “Let’s divide over poor arguments against Calvinism.”

Seriously?

We are going to make this the slogan of 2009: “At last, we got rid of those non-Calvinists!” Or, “At last, we divided over the clear biblical fundamental of Calvinist soteriology.” Or, “Now they can’t call Calvinists  names anymore.”1

Really? Is this really what we want the next divide in Fundamentalist ranks to be about?

Should we divide over bad preaching?

To read the remarks of many, we are now at a crisis because someone preached a poor sermon, and we need to take a stand against it.

Yes, I can see how this will fly in the history books: We took a stand against topical preaching! Those topical preachers (like Spurgeon) are killing us! From now on, all fundamental preachers will commit to expository preaching only and all sermons will be submitted to the Central Sermon Approval Counsel.

Is that it?

Are we seriously considering dividing an orthodox, Bible believing group because someone preached a supposedly bad sermon? Are we seriously thinking that those who preach expository sermons are always preaching “good” sermons?2

Lord help us! Are we going to make this the Great Cause of 2009?

Some say we must take a stand against the dictatorship of the Big Personality?

I can’t believe that anyone is trying to construe pastor Danny Sweatt as a big, overbearing personality who is trying to control fundamentalism and get it to bend to his will. What demands did he make in his message? If people would really listen to his sermon once again, leaving aside the bit about Calvinism, they would hear him say mostly the same things the younger guys have been saying: We can’t be overbearing, we’ve got to be open and accessible, etc. etc.

There is a large personality, a national figure, making demands in this fight, though, isn’t there? Who would that be?

I can see our slogan for 2009 coming out this way: “We’ve taken a stand against Big Personalities because Kevin Bauder said so.”

How ironic is that?

~~~

I have been rather sarcastic here. Some won’t like it. (2009: the year we took a stand against sarcasm.)

The reason for my sarcasm is that we are in very risky territory here and I think we are in this territory for NO GOOD REASON.

Some do have an agenda in this. Some want to make changes in fundamentalism. They are using this controversy for their own purposes, I believe, and are willing to stir up emotions over various issues to pursue those ends. I am just urging people to stop and think.

Some might say, “Things are quieting down, why stir the pot any longer?” The issues remain with us, though the rhetoric may be temporarily ratcheted down. Now that things are a bit quieter, perhaps we can think things over and take serious stock of the perils that face us.

I believe there are good and sufficient reasons for men of God to unite around the fundamentals in separation from modernism, compromised evangelicalism, and worldliness. I believe that a reasonably unified group of fundamentalist believers can accomplish some worthy things collectively that we would be hard pressed to accomplish individually. I believe such a useful fellowship exists in the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. It is not a unanimous group, but a coalition of men who hold to a certain core philosophy and creed that is vital for orthodox Christianity.

And… I believe there is NO sufficient reason to divide that coalition. I believe it would be shocking to cause division over any of the issues named so far.

More on ‘what next’ in a later post.

May God grant wisdom to us all.

don_sig2

Notes:

  1. Please don’t think I am advocating name-calling, misrepresentation, or slander. I am speaking sarcastically, based on what some seem to be saying. Charity, clarity, and tolerance should be the watchword of the day when it comes to the interminable soteriological debate. Even when one side or the other says something stupid. []
  2. I’ve heard a few expository duds… I’ve delivered a few of them… []

Comments

  1. tjp says:

    Don,

    Well, someone once said we should never waste a good crisis. I believe a few of our “leaders” have taken this to heart over the recent Sweatt incident.

    While my memory is often short, I seem to recall not too long ago a seminary president saying from a sponsored fundamentalist platform that young fundies should either “get over it” or get out.

    Now here’s the odd thing. I don’t recall Bauder or Doran picking up the cause of the young fundies and stoking the fires of abuse, arrogance, imperialism, and ignorance. Was it because the good Dr. McCune was one of them (a Calvinists that is)?

    I’m sure they confronted brother McCune privately and sought his repentance and even wrote letters to the ACCC demanding Colas and McKnight do something. After all, a great injury was done and an arrogant spirit was on display. The old fundyism was stinking up the house and creating an insufferable burden for the young Turks.

    Like most believers I admire righteous anger, and I especially admire it when it comes with consistency. But I fear this whole Danny Sweatt episode is a classic example of some being righteous over much.

    tjp

  2. I can’t believe that anyone who knows him would call Pastor Sweatt “overbearing”. He isn’t. Obviously they’ve not eaten dinner with him or had him in their homes.

    Thanks for pointing out the obvious, which has been mostly overlooked (about the sermon).

    “What demands did he make in his message? If people would really listen to his sermon once again, leaving aside the bit about Calvinism, they would hear him say mostly the same things the younger guys have been saying: We can’t be overbearing, we’ve got to be open and accessible, etc. etc.”

    I’ve just had to stop reading the posts as they’ve seemed to be over the top with stupid demands like “separate” or “he has to issue an apology”, etc. It has really been very interesting to watch. I’ve wondered if all preachers nowadays will be toasted for opinions they issue that go against the popular opinion of the day and be required to issue an apology.

    Actually, It helped that SI was off line so much of the last week.

    My dad used to say that if you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one who goes off howling is the one that got hit. I’ve been wondering why so many bloggers were howling so loudly if what he said was so off-target. I’d just shrug, and say, “He’s not talking about me because I don’t believe that.”

    I think the whole thing would help if someone, somewhere would define “calvinism”. Is it a 2 pointer, a 2.5 pointer, a 3 pointer, a 3.5 pointer, 4, 5, or 7 pointer? What makes a person a “Calvinist”? It seems to mean different things to different people.

    One time I did hear a preacher tell people to “pray through the night” when calling on God for salvation so that he would answer your prayer. He gave callers absolutely no assurance, that, when praying for salvation, that they would be saved. This was 20 years ago.

    We’ve also had a someone in our home tell us that he couldn’t go out passing out tracts and tell everyone he met that “Christ died for them” because he didn’t believe it since Christ died only for the elect.

    • Thanks, Becky. I suspect there are probably more sharing our amazement at all of this than we know. The loudest voices on the internet seem to trend in one direction, so that’s why I keep writing.

      Blessings on you and Mike. I was looking at your pics on your website and the haze of memory brings back more youthful times for all of us!

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. tjp says:

    Don,

    I seem to recall that only a few short months ago there was a fundamentalist Bible college president (Matt Olsen) who repeated favorably a quip from his predecessor (Les Ollila) that they both believed in “no-point Calvinism,” that is, that there was no point in talking about it.

    Now how boneheaded was that!

    Yet I don’t recall our two scrupling heroes, Bauder and Doran, suffering any public anxiety over such academic malfeasance. But perhaps they did, and perhaps they privately wrote the college board beseeching them to sanitize themselves from such obnoxious and burdensome behavior.

    Again, rising up in righteous wrath is a noble thing. But selective rage is odious.

    tjp

  4. tjp says:

    Don,

    As you know, brother Danny Sweatt has made some remarks that have inflamed the young fundies and their enablers. Since this is now the season for filing complaints and citing misbehavior among the brethren, I’m wondering if the Calvinists would deem the following statements objectionable and worthy of public censure.

    These statements, by the way, are conclusions Calvinists have reached about their non Calvinist brothers, conclusions not entirely dissimilar in spirit from brother Danny’s remarks. And they are certainly no more acceptable than brother Danny’s especially when measured by the tender consciences of the young fundies who, as you know, have become the touchstone of righteousness in these turbulent days.

    I’m not sure how I, as a non Calvinist, should respond to these statements. They are indeed troublesome. If I take the young and callow fundies as my example, and give credence to their mouthpiece in Minnesota, I suppose I should be deeply offended and demand something be done lest justice fall to the ground and arrogance and ignorance triumph.

    As I consider my options, I thought perhaps the young players would like to set the record straight on the blatant, cruel, carnal, malicious, devious, unconscionable, and completely false misrepresentations of non Calvinist teaching by their Calvinian shepherds. I don’t think I have to point out at length the egregious errors evident in these statements. They are apparent enough, although we’ll offer a few comments nevertheless.

    But again we ask: How are the following “official” statements (or accusations) any different in spirit and design than brother Sweatts? Aren’t the conclusions Calvinists draw at least as grievous as those drawn by brother Sweatt? Aren’t they at least as ill-founded, inaccurate, and demeaning? Where’s the outrage? It seems rather inconsistent for the young fundies to denounce the FBFI for the very same sins that flourish among the Cals.
    _________________

    Homer Hoeksema: “It is simply Arminian to teach that Christ died for all men.”

    (It can’t be anything else? It has to be Arminian? It can’t be BIBLICAL?)

    –“A Christ for all is really a Christ for none!”

    (I guess a brass serpent for all is really not a brass serpent for any! A Bread of Life for the world is really not a Bread of Life for any! Yup, we gotcha.)

    –“With a Christ that merited salvation for all men, but who cannot actually save sinners unless the latter permit Him, salvation is utterly impossible.”

    (So everyone not saved under the Calvinist banner is not saved?)

    Gordon Clark: “Though no one accuses the Arminians of being Roman Catholics, the two agree on one point at least, a fatal point, namely, that while Christ’s sacrifice was necessary for salvation, it is not sufficient. Man must add some meritorious work of his own.”

    (“Man [read all non Calvinists] must add some meritorious work of his own” is so over the top that the young fundies should either denounce this as Satanic or offer Danny Sweatt an apology.)

    Boettner: “The Arminian theory that God is anxiously trying to convert sinners but not able to exert more than persuasive power without doing violence to their natures, is really much the same as the old Persian view that there were two eternal principles of good and evil at war with each other, neither of which was able to overcome the other.”

    (So non Calvinists are essentially pagans? And Danny Sweatt said . . . what?)

    Ben Rose: “Those who deny Limited Atonement are said by Rose to ‘believe salvation is in part our own doing; they do not believe that we are fully and effectively delivered from sin by the grace of God alone.”‘ Rose continues, “If some do not believe this doctrine [limited atonement], they must be ready to bear the weight of their own guilt, ready to atone for their sins the best way they can.”

    (Non Calvinists teach auto-soterism? Really? And this accurately portrays the non Calvinist position? This is a Calvinism worth embracing? Salvation is partly our doing? What if brother Sweatt had called the Calvinists works religionists? Would he have gotten a pass? Why aren’t Rose’s words considered slander of the deepest dye? Isn’t this the very muckraking that has damaged the psyches of the young fundies? Personally, if I’m left with guilt and self-atonement on the one hand and Calvinism on the other, I’m going with Danny Sweatt.)

    Edwin Palmer: “To them the atonement is like a universal grab-bag: there is a package for everyone, but only some will grab a package. Christ not only shed His blood, He also spilled it. He intended to save all, but only some will be saved. Therefore, some of His blood was wasted: it was spilled.”

    (According to the high priests of Calvinism, then, non Calvinism is a grab-bag religion that tramples under foot the Son of God. Now why hasn’t Palmer been called on this? Surely this is as down and dirty as it gets. Yet the young fundies have grown conveniently silent about all this. It’s okay to bash the FBFI for its ignorance and misrepresentation, but when was the last time the young spouts rose up in holy wrath to denounce the Palmer-types?)

    Herman Hanko: “For if Christ died for all men and all men are not saved, the cross of Christ is of no effect. Calvary is a sham.”

    (And this isn’t slanderous toward the non Calvinists? How can the young fundies tolerate this? Where’s that fair and balanced spirit they clamour about? The non Calvinists turn the cross into a sham? Puh-leze!)

    tjp

    P.S. Don, you’ll notice I didn’t mention Calvinism’s routinely insolent claim that virtually all non Calvinists are either Catholic in spirit, Pelagian in doctrine, or antinomian in principle. These are certainly gross and uncharitable ascriptions that should warrant a letter from Bauder and a blog post from Doran. However, I don’t think Calvinism, with its little predestinarian flock, can seriously critique itself.)

    • Hi Tracy,

      It is certainly true that Danny Sweatt isn’t the first person to make a pejorative accusation against his theological opponents. Those who are offended by it might say, “That doesn’t justify what Danny said.” True, but it misses the point. What should the godly reaction be?

      And, for what its worth, the charge that seems to have most rankled is Danny’s statement that “Calvinism opens the inerrancy debate.” If one listens to the message carefully, it seems that Danny actually meant something else by the term, not inerrancy, but more likely he is referring to perspicuity rather than inerrancy. So they are taking umbrage at a malapropism. That’s pretty pathetic and seems awfully contrived.

      That’s also why I have described Danny’s message as a clumsy attempt to answer the question of why young fundamentalists are leaving. The rest of the message actually seems to simply echo the things the YFs consistently say. Danny himself was somewhat taking on the “big bad dictator” syndrome in fundamentalism.

      So Bauder’s entry into the foray looks more and more like a crass political move. An attempt to be the Big Boy of fundamentalism and call everyone to his point of view. It is rather incredible how the anti-dictators are dancing to the song of the latest dictator.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. tjp says:

    Don,

    I realize one thing doesn’t justify another. However, I also realize Calvinists have small grounds for complaint especially since they sport such a long history of cut-and-thrust toward their non Calvinist brothers.

    ___________

    Thomas Bradbury (rabid Calvinist):

    “Arminianism [read: all non Calvinism] and Popery are twin-sisters, and they are carrying all before them. Time was, when Arminianism dared not to show its head, but now it stalks abroad with a whore’s forehead, and infests almost every pulpit.”

    “Arminianism is the soul of popery.”

    “A profession of universal love always lacks chastity, honesty, and truth.”

    “The devil hates election. and well he may. He would endeavour to palm Arminianism upon poor, ignorant man, but he knows there are no Arminians in heaven.”

  6. Funny how some Calvinists compare non-Calvinists to Catholics – YET Calvinist doctrine comes from Augustine (as Calvin himself admits and quotes repeatedly), the father of the Catholic church…

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