Archives for September 2010

what is my objective?

Dave Doran wrote a post in response to my ‘phantom movements’ post. He continues to hold that there is no such thing as a fundamentalist movement any longer, and I continue to hold that there is an identifiable movement. (My claims should not be misunderstood to mean that I think the Fundamentalist movement is brimming with health, just that it exists.)

Dave’s major criticism of my piece centers on the way I expressed myself. First, he quotes my take on the objectives of both evangelicalism and fundamentalism:

The evangelical objective is cooperation with as many as possible while maintaining in some fashion the integrity of the gospel.

On the other hand, there is a group of churches, individuals, and Christian institutions that pursue separatism as an objective.

It really hurts to see your own words in pixelated print! Especially when your quoted words are followed with this critique:

More importantly, I believe he misses the mark on the objective of fundamentalism by making separatism the objective rather than the means to the objective.

I hate it when Dave is right like that! My statement of fundamentalism’s objective not only misses the boat entirely but it contradicts some things I have been saying here recently about separation plus non-cooperation.

Dave also criticizes my words ‘in some fashion’ with respect to evangelicalism’s objectives. I think my statement is somewhat awkward and unclear, but I don’t think it is as far off as my second statement with respect to the objective of fundamentalism.

First I’ll explain ‘in some fashion’ and then I’ll re-address both objective statements, hopefully with greater clarity on the one hand and greater accuracy on the other.

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how organized to you need to be?

This will be the first part of my response to Dave’s critique of my last post. This part of my response will deal with an aspect of his critique that I think is incorrect. He does make a valid criticism that I will address in a subsequent post.

The first thing I would like to address is this point:

Ironically, both Don and I quote Webster dictionary as the basis for making our assessment. He does it in his post and I do it to make the opposite case in a post in October 2009. So, at least we can say that we agree that for a movement to exist there must be some unifying objective.

First, the reasons why Don and I can both use Webster to argue opposite points is that Don drops part of Webster’s definition. Now, to be sure, he acknowledges this—“Based on this definition, one could dispute whether there has ever been much of a fundamentalist movement, especially if the word ‘organized’ is emphasized”—yet dismisses this as a non-problem. But it is a serious, thesis refuting problem! A thousand people at the shopping mall to buy clothes for school all have the same objective, but nobody would consider them a back-to-school clothes buying movement, would they? Without organization and coordination of effort, there is no movement. When you drop the word organized from the Webster definition you actually change the meaning.

Dave is contending that my dismissal of the word ‘organized’ changes the definition of movement into something else.

My contention is that the word ‘organized’ in the definition doesn’t mean some kind of formal organizational structure across the length and breadth of a movement – it is impossible for such to be the case and I doubt that it has ever happened. That is not to say that there isn’t some organization that galvanizes, leads, influences, or directs movements, but that one really can’t expect a movement to have an over-arching organization.

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phantom movements

Is there still a fundamentalist movement? An evangelical movement? Some are claiming that whatever movements could have been called such in the past, they exist as movements no longer. If that is so, what difference does the dissolution of these movements make in decisions about Christian fellowship?

The Merriam Webster dictionary gives us this definition of movement:

a series of organized activities working toward an objective also : an organized effort to promote or attain an end, the civil rights movement

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

Based on this definition, one could dispute whether there has ever been much of a fundamentalist movement, especially if the word ‘organized’ is emphasized. Apart from some denominational fundamentalists in the early days (GARBC, CBA, OPC), my perception of fundamentalism is that it is largely a very loosely organized group of independent individuals and churches. By ‘very loosely organized’, I’d have to say ‘so loose as to not be organized at all’.

However, in the sample phrase the dictionary gives (‘the civil rights movement’), tight organization is not much more evident than we have seen in fundamentalism or evangelicalism, so I suspect the emphasis of the definition should fall on ‘activities working toward an objective’ or ‘effort to promote or attain an end’ rather than on the word organized.

In this sense, I think we can safely say there has been a fundamentalist movement and an evangelical movement.

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be an extension of the coach

When it comes to sports, I tend to follow sports associated with the city of my birth, Edmonton, Alberta. My hockey team, the Oilers, let their captain go over the summer so a new captain is in the offing. An article speculating on the new captain contained this bit:

Renney [coach of the Oilers] said the captain has to be an extension of the coach.

"In terms of work habits, his own personal preparation from fitness, nutrition, his emotional state. That’s critical. He has to help deliver what’s required from a game plan and have a deep commitment to it."

That prompted some thoughts on pastoral leadership. Peter says:

NAU  1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

Could we say that as examples of the flock we need to be “an extension of the Lord” displaying work habits that are committed to the kind of spiritual fitness the Lord expects of his people? Can we say the pastor must deliver what’s required from the game plan and have a deep commitment to it? In other words, if we expect the people of God to buy into what we are preaching, surely we must be at least as deeply committed as we are calling them to be, eh?

It may be that we are too much interested in our own agenda, our own game plan, than the Lord’s plan. Yield yourselves (voluntarily) to the Lord as the shepherd of His sheep – they are His, not yours, after all.



Our family had a little milestone on Saturday. My daughter bought her first car! We’re all pleased and she is quite excited. Here it is:


I took the picture just after she bought the car. A 1999 Honda Accord, one owner, low miles, mint condition.

We live in such an automobile oriented society, the day you get  your first car is a real milestone for almost everyone, I think. My first car still lingers in my memory, truly loved, though it was a real lemon. I bought a 1972 Dodge Charger in 1977. It only had about 57000 miles on it, as I recall, about the same as my daughter’s Honda. Except… my previous owner was in a different demographic! Those 57,000 miles were hard miles. Several serious issues emerged as I began to get to know the car. We traded it for a 1977 Plymouth Fury after only six months or so.

But it could fly! Memories…

So far we have helped two of our young people with these milestone purchases. Neither of them have ended up with such an impulsive buy as my first, but this one was much more deliberative. My wife went with my daughter on the shopping expeditions. They narrowed it down to a few, then had one of our men go with them to whittle it down to one. The next day, I went along, but I sent my wife in to do the negotiation. I figure that I don’t get blamed for anything this way! They ended up with the price I predicted before the horse trading started.

Now our family can have something else to remember Sept 11 by.


decisions, decisions

What if you don’t recall the hour of your “decision for Christ”? Or, as this old article at Christianity Today asks, “How can I know I’m a Christian if I can’t remember when I first responded to the gospel?”

The question reveals, I think a faulty view of salvation and assurance of salvation. In light of our recent discussion of revivalism here, I thought the article asked an interesting question.

The whole idea of a “decision for Christ” is largely a revivalistic phenomenon. As the article says:

Much of American Protestantism has been influenced by revivalism, which places great emphasis on "making a decision for Christ" in a public, definitive way. These "moments of decision" often become the crucial evidence that one is saved. Other Protestant traditions, less influenced by revivalism (including some Reformed and Lutheran churches), may be content to leave the conversion experience unclearly identified, putting the focus on identification with the church. Both of these traditions have benefits, as well as potential problems.

In a recent comment, our e-friend Tracy makes a good point, I believe:

If I’m preaching to lost folks, I preach Christ crucified and call for them to close with Christ immediately and publicly. Before I close, I tell them if they have any questions, either they can come to the front at the invitation time or they can see me after the service. I always stress that Christ desires their immediate salvation. So I declare the gospel, spell out its terms, and call them to close with it.

I agree with that. We need to call folks to decisions.

But what about some who can’t remember the specifics of their decision? (Perhaps it was a long time ago, perhaps it was when they were very young, perhaps they remember bits, or perhaps they remember nothing at all.)

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national review on marriage

Very good article here:

What a healthy marriage culture does is encourage adults to arrange their lives so that as many children as possible are raised and nurtured by their biological parents in a common household.


We cannot say with any confidence that legal recognition of same-sex marriage would cause infidelity or illegitimacy to increase; we can say that it would make the countervailing norms, and the public policy of marriage itself, incoherent. The symbolic message of inclusion for same-sex couples — in an institution that makes no sense for them — would be coupled with another message: that marriage is about the desires of adults rather than the interests of children.

The article is of course written from an entirely non-Biblical perspective, but I think it has some arguments from a philosophical and practical standpoint that Bible believers can use.


new methods in a spiritual wilderness

A few weeks ago I posted an article highlighting something I found in the book The Scotch-Irish: A Social History by James G. Leyburn. Today I want to post an extended quotation from the book and make a few observations.

I am in the section of the book that deals with Scotch-Irish immigration to America. The chapter is “The Presbyterian Church”. The first point made is about the lack of churches among many (most) of these immigrants. Two reasons are cited: First, the lack of trained ministers. The Presbyterians insisted on a classical education for their clergy, something in short supply on the frontier. Trained ministers from the Old Country were rarely found among the immigrants.

But an even greater problem afflicted the re-establishment of the church among these immigrants, all of them Presbyterian in their native country. That problem was a general spiritual malaise that affected all the major denominations at the time, according to Leyburn. My lengthy quotation follows (including the quote in our little ‘identify’ the person and time game a few days ago). The quotation comes from pp. 277-279.

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