twisting the tail?

A few days ago I was incapacitated while comments on an earlier post piled up. I’d like to respond to each one individually in the order in which they were received, so I thought I would do it in a post. I’ll close the comments on the original post and all subsequent comments (if any) can be posted here.

First off, a comment from:

Lou Martuneac
Submitted on 2010/01/22 at 5:42am

Don:

At Chris’s Two Cents blog you wrote, “Further, I am complaining about the way complaints like this are used to slam fundamentalism and justify leaving it… Complaints like these are pretty shallow justifications of leaving the fundamentalist position.

Most of those who complain about fundamentalism have left for evangelicalism already. They keep a presence in fundamentalism, they try to retain the “fundamentalist” label; why I do not know. Maybe they think they can embrace the practices of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals and call it “fundamentalism.”

In any event, last summer just before the FBFI annual conference I was speaking to one of its leadership. We discussed the angst and anger of some YF guys. He wondered what could be done. I said, if they want to leave for the ce camp, let them go.

You wrote, “Fundamentalism is…defined by a commitment to defending the gospel against its denial or betrayal.” A good partial definition. And here we have men who want to identify with fundamentalism, but they have already begun to embrace, promote and attend conferences sponsored by certain evangelicals who hobnob with the “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18), i.e. those who deny the Gospel.

Is it possible that their problem is not so much with the preaching in fundamentalism? Isn’t it possible they are attracted to evangelicalism, want to be evangelicals, are committed to evangelicalism and simply need to legitimize the shift, and complaints about preaching ease the transition for them?

Lou

My response:

Since my post on ‘pinning the tail on the fundamentalist’ is not directly related to Chris’ post on preaching and the following comments, I want to broaden your question in the last paragraph:

Is it possible that their problem is not so much with the XXX in fundamentalism?

In other words, it is more of a ‘fill-in-the-blank’ (represented by my XXX) for the complaint against fundamentalism. There is a tendency to blame some error or weakness in fundamentalism for motivating some to leave. These errors may be real or imagined, but they become the stated reasons for disenchantment.

The problem, however, is not the errors themselves, but that the ones ‘leaving’ never embraced fundamentalism in the first place. If they embraced fundamentalism, they wouldn’t leave, or seek to redefine it, but would try to overcome the errors by various means. The reality is that the complainants don’t believe the defining militancy of fundamentalism is biblical, or, if they accept that it is biblical, they don’t think that it is biblically applied by fundamentalists.

In the end, I agree with your comment in the main. You are saying what I am saying.

Keith
Submitted on 2010/01/22 at 9:47am

“I thought of simply deleting your post since it really is kind of a snide remark that doesn’t advance any discussion.”

Don. It was a joke. Lighten up. And, for goodness’ sake, is your entire post really anything more than a snide remark? You weren’t being snide mentioning background choruses of “O to be like thee”?

But, since you asked for better . . .

Your position that “Fundamentalism is a position or state of mind or philosophy taken by Bible-believing Christians in active opposition to certain but not all error,” and the way you apply it, is fairly worthless in regards to the larger discussion. Here’s why:

1) It could be applied to evangelicals too. Which essential doctrines of the faith do they deny?
2) It could be a description of various denominations.
3) But mostly, because it basically amounts to, “Those who oppose the right things are fundamentalists.” While, of course, the whole discussion is over what should be opposed. Should goofy preaching be opposed, or only the debils music? Should KJVO be opposed, or only the dread neos? Etc.

You say “Fundamentalism isn’t a movement.” Why the “ism” then? And, you sure do spend a lot of time defending this non-existent movement. You sure do seem to give guys who are a part of this non-movement much benefit of the doubt while giving guys who are not a part of this non-movement little to no benefit of the doubt. You talk about things like “close fellowship” and “branches” and “camps”. Those all seem like movement language. One can’t leave or be “out” if there is no “in”.

Furthermore, even if you aren’t a part of movement fundamentalism, I don’t see how you can with a straight face claim that there is no such thing as movement fundamentalism. There is clearly a recognizable, describable sub-culture that can be labeled Christian Fundamentalism. Are you saying that no one is allowed to comment upon it or challenge it — even from within? That too sounds like movement mentality.

But, even if one were to concede your point that Fundamentalism is not a movement, your argument would fall apart. Because, you see, then the same thing applies to evangelicalism. On your terms, evangelicalism is no more of an organization or a movement than fundamentalism is. So, how in the world can someone “go to a branch of evangelicalism” as you say?

Of course, maybe you have come over to the dark side yourself. You wrote: “So some fellow (claiming to be a fundamentalist) cooperates with or actually participates in something I consider to be an error – so what? What difference does someone else’s error make to my own philosophy or position?” Just swap in evangelical for fundamentalist and you sound just like a neo.

And I say all of this without any anger or bitterness.

Keith, I thought of interspersing my thoughts among your comment, but decided I would leave it in its entirety and make replies here. Hopefully I can make the context clear enough.

You said:

Don. It was a joke. Lighten up. And, for goodness’ sake, is your entire post really anything more than a snide remark?

Fair enough, and I can see how some might think my entire post was a snide remark. It was an attempt, however feeble, to address a problem with some humour. Of course, humour for one is snide and sniping to another.

Further:

Your position that “Fundamentalism is a position or state of mind or philosophy taken by Bible-believing Christians in active opposition to certain but not all error,” and the way you apply it, is fairly worthless in regards to the larger discussion. Here’s why:

1) It could be applied to evangelicals too. Which essential doctrines of the faith do they deny?

I suppose I could have defined the ‘certain’ error. Fundamentalism teaches that certain categories of error are the grounds for refusing fellowship or for full separation. Evangelicals might agree with the principle, but they would certainly differ on the kind of error to which this applies. Since the general disposition of Fundamentalism is fairly well known, I didn’t think it necessary for my point to define the errors I was talking about. My point was that Fundamentalism doesn’t demand separation/refusal of fellowship on every point of error. Those that do have been called ‘Hyper-Fundamentalists’ or ‘Fundamentalists-Plus’. Examples of this latter category might include KJO fundamentalists, or No-Pants-On-Women fundamentalists, or what have you.

Finally, I am not suggesting that evangelicals (in the best sense of the term) are denying essential doctrines. Our beef with them is that they are indifferent to those who do deny essential doctrines which is thus a betrayal of those doctrines, rather than a denial.

2) It could be a description of various denominations.

Again, see my answer above. Fundamentalism is defined by taking action because of certain categories of error. Denominations may take similar actions based on certain distinctives, but that doesn’t necessarily make them fundamentalist denominations.

3) But mostly, because it basically amounts to, “Those who oppose the right things are fundamentalists.” While, of course, the whole discussion is over what should be opposed. Should goofy preaching be opposed, or only the debils music? Should KJVO be opposed, or only the dread neos? Etc.

Of course, this is the question. What should be opposed?

Let me turn the question around: Is goofy preaching necessarily an example of denial or betrayal of essential doctrines? I think the answer is not necessarily so. Thus it, or any of the other examples you mention, are not grounds for repudiation or refusal of association on the basis of the fundamentals. It isn’t a fundamentalist question.

I might choose to limit my relations with goofy preachers who are otherwise not denying essential doctrines. But I don’t make that choice based on fundamentalist considerations. And I don’t abandon my fundamentalism because of their goofiness.

Next point:

You say “Fundamentalism isn’t a movement.” Why the “ism” then? And, you sure do spend a lot of time defending this non-existent movement. You sure do seem to give guys who are a part of this non-movement much benefit of the doubt while giving guys who are not a part of this non-movement little to no benefit of the doubt. You talk about things like “close fellowship” and “branches” and “camps”. Those all seem like movement language. One can’t leave or be “out” if there is no “in”.

I am accepting Dave Doran’s and Kevin Bauder’s observations that fundamentalism isn’t a movement when I make these statements. The observations are noting the reality that fundamentalism isn’t going anywhere.

Fundamentalists sometimes talk about ‘taking a stand’. That isn’t the language of movement.

I don’t know if I actually use all those terms you mention, but regardless, even if I do, I am attempting to defend an idea or philosophy rather than a whole movement or group of people.

But it really doesn’t matter. Call it a movement if you want. I am just not disagreeing with Doran or Bauder on this point.

Finally, you say:

Of course, maybe you have come over to the dark side yourself. You wrote: “So some fellow (claiming to be a fundamentalist) cooperates with or actually participates in something I consider to be an error – so what? What difference does someone else’s error make to my own philosophy or position?” Just swap in evangelical for fundamentalist and you sound just like a neo.

Remember, you have to define what errors I am talking about. If some erstwhile Fundamentalist denied the virgin birth or inerrancy or some such doctrine, then it would matter. Then there would be full-scale repudiation. If, by his associations, demonstrated indifference to such errors, then there would be severe (or even total) limitation of fellowship.

And, for the record, I don’t see KJO errors as falling in this category, for the most part. They aren’t denials or betrayals, they are errors of a different category.

David Barnhart
Submitted on 2010/01/22 at 1:25pm

Actually, my thinking was similar to Chris’ — although his post really didn’t exhibit what you were decrying, it did look to me as if his post (and the comments following) were the proverbial “last straw” that caused you to post. Obviously, I was reading into it, and it was just the timing that caused me to think that. I hadn’t even seen Scott’s post yet, though I now want to go read it.

Hi Dave

Well, I know the coincidence is there. I don’t deny that the comment thread on Chris’ post certainly seemed to fit what I was complaining about. But the fact is that I began thinking about the topic several days prior, made various attempts at writing it and finally came up with my little ‘pin the tail’ gimmick just as Chris was putting up his post.

Thanks for the comment.

Sam Hendrickson
Submitted on 2010/01/23 at 9:15am

Don,
I’ll take credit for the “good on ya” remark–that was mine. And it stands. Thank you for referencing it here–it brings no shame properly understood. I guess your post here didn’t address CA’s post, but your exegetical comments about your own post do address CA’s post?

Men, young and old, leave associating with other men or churches, or movements–without leaving the idea of fundamentalism. I don’t run in your circles geographically, but I do by association (with the churches that support or have supported you.) I’ve heard enough of what CA was describing to make me stop associating with some men & churches & even movements, but never with the idea–in fact the kind of stuff he described drove me to know better and express better the biblical ideals of f’ism.

The kind of stuff CA was writing about is not what defines f’ism (as an idea), nor is it part of what makes f’ism as a movement powerful and God-pleasing. It is what removes power, in some cases mocks the Spirit, and makes some men think twice about whom they will associate with. That is what many are expressing when they say they “left.” I.e., they are not leaving the idea, just the people who promote elements of the very thing they claim to be against.

Setting aside whether this makes men “leave” or not, is it not good and right that we TAKE GREAT PAINS to examine ourselves, and those we claim to be in harness with, and see if we pass biblical muster? True, so many express their critique poorly, even self-centeredly, and as you noted, some are perhaps “blameshifting” but CA did not–and at this point, even if he had been guilty of that, [and he was not], is not the rigor of a biblical searchlight and examination ALWAYS needed? Whatever else others are doing “out there” we ought to look and act for excellence “in here.” If anything, f’ism ought to be the first to be hard on our method and message; i.e. hard on our men. The CE’s et.al. should be able to look to us and see a standard worth emulating–because it is a biblical standard–not some evidence of a lack of respect for the pulpit, the Word or God’s people. And CA seemed to be referencing men who often seemed to have ill regard for all three.

If this isn’t what “got you started”, then why reference my and other’s “atta boys”? That makes it seem (at least to this slow-thinking guy) that you had CA’s post in mind somehow in the first place. If not, then I’m just not getting the subtleties, maybe I’m not postmodern enough :D. If I am wrong, then you pinned me and “good on ya”–and I need to learn something, and it’s not wrong, prideful, etc. to tell me I’m wrong if I am. Unless one sins in how that work is done. Maybe you agree with me, and I just don’t see that you are…

Sam, thanks for your comments.

First, as to your first and last paragraph and your ‘good on ya’ comment, I assume you are referring to my earlier reply to Gary. The string of kudos I quoted came from a private e-mail from a friend who was stringing them together in response to my post. On his part and mine it was an attempt at humour which apparently falls flat in the wider world and also lead to some confusion. I think at least some of those remarks were seen in the responses to Chris’ post, so it naturally seems to tie the two posts together.

As to your question: “I guess your post here didn’t address CA’s post, but your exegetical comments about your own post do address CA’s post?”, well, it is so hard to keep track of what one says where that I am not sure. You might be right, but short term memory loss is real and as I am rapidly advancing in age, I will plead that as my answer.

I thought this paragraph of yours was very interesting:

Men, young and old, leave associating with other men or churches, or movements–without leaving the idea of fundamentalism. I don’t run in your circles geographically, but I do by association (with the churches that support or have supported you.) I’ve heard enough of what CA was describing to make me stop associating with some men & churches & even movements, but never with the idea–in fact the kind of stuff he described drove me to know better and express better the biblical ideals of f’ism.

I think this describes the other side of the coin to what I am complaining about. Your comments reflect exactly what happened to me as a young fundamentalist. I was exposed to various ignorant antics by some who were known as fundamentalists (late 70s, early 80s) and was not impressed. In that day, the big names that were intriguing the discontented young fundamentalist were Chuck Swindoll and John MacArthur. I listened a lot to both. Read their books. But I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to go in their direction. I wanted to maintain fundamentalist convictions while distancing myself from some fundamentalist whack-jobs.

So what you describe is exactly what I see myself as doing. I don’t say that criticizing fundamentalist errors means that someone is therefore leaving fundamentalism. What I am criticizing is the notion that “young men are leaving fundamentalism because of error XYZ.” That just isn’t the case. If they are actually leaving fundamentalism, it is because the philosophy/doctrine/theology of fundamentalism is itself not sufficiently important to them.

I agree with your next paragraph up to this point:

That is what many are expressing when they say they “left.” I.e., they are not leaving the idea, just the people who promote elements of the very thing they claim to be against.

While it is true that this could be true of some, I don’t believe it is true of all who make these kinds of statements. I would say it isn’t true of most who say they have ‘left’. I think in fact that most of the ‘blame the fundamentalist’ crowd have indeed left the idea.

Last, you asked:

Setting aside whether this makes men “leave” or not, is it not good and right that we TAKE GREAT PAINS to examine ourselves, and those we claim to be in harness with, and see if we pass biblical muster?

Yes, exactly, we must do this.

However, I am not sure what exactly we should do about some of these internal errors. Some surely should be publicly rebuked, warned against, etc. I am not sure how often that needs to be the case and some recent instances (last summer) seemed quite over the top to me.

You go on, seemingly thinking that my protestations were inadequate for not using this post to respond to Chris’ post. Well, what can I say? I hope my additional comments here will persuade you. If not, I guess we’ll just have to leave it as a disagreement.

Again, thank you for commenting. I think we are largely in agreement on these points.

Kent
Submitted on 2010/01/23 at 4:28pm

Don,

I don’t have a problem with pinning the tail on the fundamentalist. I do it all the time and I name names. Rather than leaving it to guess for better deniability (except for Andy Naselli, who puts a link to a BJU conference sermon—he doesn’t stand for that kind of criticism of evangelicals). But you’ll notice that I pin the tail on the evangelical far, far more. I’ve noticed that when I do, I get either attacked by or no support from fundamentalists. As a result, the adulation for evangelicalism grows in the midst of fundamentalists. When an evangelical has the tail pinned on him, he has a different sort of response. I would think some really great expositors, who preach right and well, would give you some exposition in answer. Instead, they attack you, usually with ad hominem. I noticed this to be the case with most of the fundamentalists that love them too. This is my honest evaluation. I really do hope the best for both groups, and like them better than most others, like …, etc.

[Note: the elipsis refers to a ‘Rev.’ who is a well-known activist. I don’t want search sites to pick up this name or for the name to sidetrack in anyway so I have marked it out with the elipsis. Suffice to say that this individual would represent a very liberal form of Christianity, if it is legitimate to use the term ‘Christianity’ in reference to the individual’s beliefs. — DonJ.]

Kent, you certainly are a fundamentalist in practice, if not in name. I appreciate your willingness to make your case. I don’t always agree with all your conclusions, but I do appreciate how you go about things. Hope you don’t mind my deleting the last name you used in the comment!

~~~

To all, thank you for your patience. I hope this method of replying is adequate. With the passage of time, I thought it would be hard to keep straight everything I was saying if I simply made a long reply at the end of the comments in the other thread.

If you have anything to add or more questions, have at it.

don_sig2

Comments

  1. Don, thanks for the long post and the work that went into it. It was an interesting read. I don’t mind receiving the fundamentalist label. I stopped disassociating myself personally with the label, however, when I concluded that a fundamentalist historically was interdenominational. That wasn’t strong enough for me. I don’t see it to be submissive enough to the doctrine of separation as seen in Scripture. I call myself a fundamentalist by dictionary definition, which is ‘strongly adhering to a standard.’ That’s why I am a fundamentalist in idea in that sense.

Speak Your Mind

*