Archives for 6.8.09

shall we descend into sectarianism?

A frequent commenter on SI poses an interesting question: shall we separate over Calvinism. He cites these precedents:

  • Protestant Reformers did not allow latitude on this issue
  • When Melanchthon drifted away from Luther’s views, other Reformed people considered them as “other” than them
  • The Dortians condemned the Remonstrants
  • The Particular Baptists and the General Baptists operated separately
  • The Calvinistic Methodists and the Wesleyan Methodists operated separately

Another commenter replies, noting that such division is essentially sectarianism. Fundamentalism, with whatever faults it may be charged with, has essentially been non-sectarian in its philosophy and approach. It is a philosophy that created ecclesiastical coalitions around a common cause, generally laying aside more narrow sectarian concerns.

Thus, we have seen such gatherings as the World Congress of Fundamentalists, efforts to pool fundamentalist thought from the preaching and teaching of men of quite broad sectarian backgrounds. Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, men of other groups, all have been welcome at the table in this common cause.

Some gatherings of fundamentalists, to be sure, have been somewhat sectarian in their efforts. The Fundamental Baptist Fellowship would be one such gathering. It is both Fundamentalist and Baptist. Its goal is to promote the broader fundamentalist philosophy within a Baptist ecclesiastical framework. But being fundamentalist, it has not historically been particular about the distinctions among Baptists. To take part, it is sufficient to be a Baptist and a fundamentalist.

Sectarian over-emphasis threatens fundamentalism

Political coalitions are built on compromise. We see this all the time in secular politics. The conservative side of the spectrum politically is usually a coalition of fiscal and social conservatives with a few libertarians mixed in. When one group or another within that group decides its more narrow concerns are more important than the larger concerns of the coalition, the coalition breaks down and electoral defeats become more likely.

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