The big question we are wrangling about in the fundamentalist blogosphere in 2011 (and preceding 5 or 10 years) is our relationship to Conservative Evangelicals.
We are asking:
- Are Conservative Evangelicals the same thing as New Evangelicals? – varying answers: ‘not at all’, ‘somewhat’, ‘very much like’
- Should we cooperate with Conservative Evangelicals in some Christian endeavors? – verbal answers: ‘not at all’, ‘maybe’, ‘in some limited arenas’; practical answers: ‘not at all’ … at least up until this last six months or so…
You can debate the merits of these questions, whether they are important to ask or not, whether they are the right questions to ask, whether we are too obsessed with separation and this is evidence of that, or what have you. Regardless, these are the questions we are asking and the central theme around which most discussion on fundamentalist blogs have been obsessed for the last while, maybe since fundamentalists took up blogging at all.
All right then. We are wrangling about these questions. Up until the last six months or so this wrangling has mostly been talk. Now we are seeing some fairly important figures answering the questions practically by involving themselves in some kind of cooperative Christian endeavor with Conservative Evangelicals.
But here is where we have something I don’t understand.
Dave Doran posted today at his blog a letter he sent to a fundamentalist pastor asking questions about his planned involvement at the upcoming Leadership Conference at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA where Mark Dever is scheduled as the keynote speaker. The letter gives Dave’s rationale for participating:
That said, let me offer my thinking about why I don’t believe my speaking there needs to be justified. For context, I’ve spoken at all of the annual conferences at Lansdale since they started way back when, so it was something of a given that I would speak at this one. In other words, the burden of proof was on the side of why would I not speak (vs. why would I speak). I’ve posted something about my rationale for making speaking decisions on my blog, so you can read that for a longer explanation. The shortened version is simply the answer to these questions:
(1) Do Mark Dever or CBTS extend Christian recognition and fellowship to those who deny the Faith?
(2) Do Mark Dever and CBTS oppose the granting of Christian recognition and fellowship to those who deny the Faith?
(3) Do Mark Dever and CBTS obscure the distinction between the church and the world by denying the transforming power of the gospel, by embracing worldly approaches for the church’s growth and/or worship, or by failing to articulate and practice genuine church membership and discipline?
I suppose someone could disagree with me about these, but my answers to these questions are, respectively, no, yes, and no. Since I believe that Christian fellowship and recognition is limited to those who embrace the Faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), that we cannot ignore or disregard God’s commands about separation (Rom 16:17-18; 2 Ths 3:6-15), and that the distinction between the church and the world must be guarded (1 Cor 5; 1 John 2:15-17), these are the biblical justifications for and biblical boundaries of ministerial cooperation and fellowship.
I am no fan of the Southern Baptist Convention, but I also will not categorically assign everyone in it to the non-separatist category. Just as there were committed separatists within the Northern Baptist Convention for decades fighting for its purity, and just as there were men who fought for a long time within both the Presbyterian and Methodist churches, there are men of separatist conviction who have been fighting to remove liberalism and compromise with it from the SBC. Mark Dever is one of those men.
Just a few days ago, however, Dave gave his reasons for REFUSING an invitation to speak at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, pastored by Mark Dever. Here is what he said:
“My answer… to go back to Kevin’s … my answer was to Mark [Dever], No, I won’t come and preach and the reason I won’t come and preach is because I don’t agree with stances that you’ve taken and your church might be an anomaly in the fellowship that it’s in, but its not … the, the rest and … and I … I’m not comfortable with that…”
Now, please note this is a transcription of audio, the ellipses indicate hesitations and pauses in speech, not anything that has been left out. And it is something that is off the cuff, not a prepared remark or anything on the same level as Dave’s letter to the fundamentalist pastor. I include the audio below.
I have some questions about this:
The two venues are different: one is a conference at a seminary, the other is an invitation to speak in a church. What makes speaking with Dever at the conference acceptable and the speaking for Dever in his church unacceptable?
While the one statement is more thoroughly fleshed out and the other contains the briefest of off the cuff remarks, the two statements about the same person seem to be saying two different things. Am I right in seeing this as inconsistent? Does one statement contradict the other? Or am I missing the unifying principle between the two statements?
In any case, I don’t understand how it would be acceptable to preach in a conference with a fellow when you have refused to speak for him in his church. Perhaps Dave will have time to comment. I don’t want this to be an attempt to ‘bash Dave’, so I would like commenters to be extremely limited in putting editorial comment into their responses. I think the questions we are wrestling with are important and this situation offers a case in point.
It would be nice if we could really get some clarity that could aid us all in understanding how fundamentalists should proceed.