I’d like to comment on myself this time. In my post on ‘the vision thing’, I made this comment:
Another complicating factor in making these comparisons is that the ‘competing’ ministries are represented by ministries strongly identified with a popular individual on the conservative evangelical side as opposed to more institutional or group oriented ministries/organizations on the fundamentalist side.
Others have noticed this difference also. The Conservative Evangelical brand is largely led by ministries centered around prominent individuals. The Fundamentalist brand, these days, really has no star power in its leaders and it tends to find whatever leadership it has in collective efforts, rather than in individual ministries.
That is a generalization, of course. There are, I suppose, some exceptions to the rule, but I think the generalization holds.
For example, when you think Conservative Evangelical, you think of a list of names: Dever, Piper, Mahaney, Mohler, MacArthur, etc. Some of these men represent institutions and work closely with a number of other men, but there is a sense that they are the focal point of the brand.
On the other hand, when you think Fundamentalism, what comes to mind? Bob Jones University, the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, Maranatha, Detroit, Central, the Wilds, etc. Of course, individuals lead these ministries and fill up their staffs, but I would suggest that even fairly well informed observers would have to think a bit to get the individual leaders of ALL of these ministries. On the CE side, if we simply named 9Marks, Desiring God, Sovereign Grace, Southern Seminary, Grace to You… most observers – regular readers of this blog – would be able to put the names to those ministries without any effort.
Isn’t that a curious difference? It wasn’t always so in Fundamentalism. And that involves both an irony and a sign of generational change.
The irony is this: One of the big complaints against fundamentalism is that fundamentalism is personality driven, led by larger than life dictators, and ‘that’s gotta stop!’
Ironically, which brand is led by personalities these days?
Isn’t it interesting that so many of those who complain about a ‘personality driven movement’ are moving towards a real personality driven movement? Just who is ‘man-centered’ here, anyway?
The generational change is this: When I was going through university and seminary, fundamentalism was dominated by big names. Hyles, Jones, Rice, and others like them were very prominent. As these men passed off the scene, who really took up the same kind of prominence in leadership?((Before you jump all over the Hyles reference, please be aware there was a time when he was relatively mainstream in fundamentalism – a time before he took some infamously extreme positions.))
The FBF, for example, is led by a collective group of men on the board, some fairly well known, others less well known. Dr. Bob III is still a prominent name, but his style is different from his fathers. He is more of a transitional figure between the older generation and men my age (the leadership age – or the mid-life crisis age, take your pick). No one from the next generation of men have really emerged as any kind of dynamic leader as yet.
So there has been a change in fundamentalism. Is this the natural process of things? Is the current state of affairs better or worse? It could be considered better, if the idea of dynamic and dominant personal leadership is actually as bad as it is made out to be. On the other hand, it could be that the lack of dynamic leadership is contributing to the restlessness of the natives. Having no chief to follow, the Indians are straying to other reservations where there are heap big chiefs aplenty.
I don’t think someone should now set out to become the fundamentalist guru to rally the troops around his dynamic version of fundamentalism. But I do wish that some of our more prominent leaders would talk up the idea of a Bible-believing, soul-winning, orthodoxy-loving Fundamentalism once again. It seems to me that we need a bit more outspoken leadership in the Fundamentalist direction than we are getting.