Recent discussions here prompt a longer response, hence a new post on the question: Have Fundamentalists failed to separate from heretics on their ‘right’?
For context, I am going to quote from two of my correspondents. I’ll link to the comments of each so you can see the whole context. First, from Larry:
on the KJVO thing, there are two points: (1) KJVO people deny what the Bible teaches about itself and therefore have denied a fundamental of the faith; as fundamentalists, if there were ever a cause for separation surely this would be it. Fundamentalism’s willingness to tolerate doctrinal aberrancy in this situation is why many people are leaving it. (2) I am for not making it an issue. KJVO people make it an issue which they have done by their vocal stands. I am fine if someone uses only the KJV or believes it is the best translation or believes that the TR is the best text. I can and will work with that kind of person. There are no problems there for me. I would only make an issue of it if they did. (Full comment here.)
We should be willing to speak out about "us" just as freely and strongly as we do about "them." People should not get a pass on doctrine or practice simply because they separate from the same people we do. (Full comment here – different comment from above quoted paragraph.)
And from Dave
The issue with the "nutbars," as you call them, is not that they haven’t separated from mainstream fundamentalism themselves, but that they have not, by and large, been clearly repudiated by mainstream fundamentalism. …
Even brothers can be noted and avoided that they may be ashamed, and fundamentalism should clearly do this with the extremists, just as they do with the NEs. Not dealing with the extremists on the right absolutely contributes to the young people then not believing what is said about those on the near left, especially when what they hear from them is much sounder doctrinally than the preaching they hear from those on the right that are tacitly accepted. (Full comment here.)
You can see, I think, a common thread. Larry and Dave are arguing that Fundamentalism by and large has tolerated errors on its right, leaving itself open to the charge of inconsistency and hypocrisy. Larry uses phrases like “denied a fundamental of the faith” and “doctrinal aberrancy.” Dave uses the term “extremists.”
Regular readers will not be surprised that I don’t think Fundamentalism is guilty as charged. In fact, I think quite the opposite.
First, one has to say that “Fundamentalism” is a catch-all term that encompasses various groups and individuals who have similar, but not identical, positions on many issues. So when one says, “Fundamentalism hasn’t taken a stand on this”, it is easy to get nods of agreement from many critics of “Fundamentalism.” After all, it is easy to find Fundamentalists who tolerate the error or even promote the error. Other Fundamentalists are “in” Fundamentalism with them, and are easily tarred with the same brush. No matter how much the “other” Fundamentalists protest that they “have too” taken a stand against error, the critics can sagely smile and call their protests hypocritical. (I am not saying that this is what Dave and Larry are doing, but the fact is there is no monolithic “Fundamentalism” that can “do” anything about this error. I think both Dave and Larry know that.)
The main issue in contention here is, it is presumed, the King James Version controversy. Larry explicitly names it, and I suspect that Dave may have it primarily in mind, although other ‘extreme’ issues may also come into play. For the sake of this discussion, I am going to limit it to the King James Only error, although I don’t want to get into an argument about the King James Only position, for or against.
So my second response to these charges is that the segment of Fundamentalism I identify with, i.e., the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, has indeed spoken to this issue. Please note the following statements:
1995 FBF Resolution:
The FBF, while recognizing that God has used the King James version of the Bible in a special way in the English speaking world, reaffirms its belief that the original manuscripts of Scripture are the documents which are inspired by God and that Bible translations may be considered trustworthy only if they accurately reflect the original manuscripts (II Timothy 3:16). In light of the considerable discussion among Fundamentalists about the issue of manuscripts and textual theories, no particular belief about the best textual theory should be elevated to the place of becoming a core Fundamentalist belief. Fundamentalists may hold the doctrine of inspiration with equal strength without embracing the same belief about textual criticism. Additionally, proper evaluation of the doctrinal integrity of any particular English translation can only be done by examining its faithfulness to the original languages, not by comparing it to another English translation. While the process of comparing it with other translations may be profitable for matters of clarity and readability, this process cannot pass as the test of doctrinal accuracy since it is illegitimate to check one copy by another, one must compare the copy to the original. In a day when translations abound, Fundamentalists must exercise careful discernment in both the selection and rejection of translations. Some professing Fundamentalists have wrongfully declared one translation to be the only inspired copy of God’s Word in the English language and have sought to make this a test of Fundamentalism. Since no translation can genuinely claim what only may be said of the original, inspired writings, any attempt to make a particular English translation the only acceptable translation of Fundamentalism must be rejected.
1996 FBF Resolution:
The FBF rejects the heresy that the King James Version contains "advanced revelation" not available in the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and the heresy that salvation is possible only through the incorruptible seed of the King James Version being planted in an unbeliever.
The FBFI states that its resolutions are a snapshot of the consensus viewpoint of the fellowship at a given point in time. Both of these resolutions represent the FBFI position as of 1995 and 1996. I don’t know of any change in the FBFI viewpoint, although perhaps it is time that the statements be reviewed and reaffirmed, or strengthened as needed.
But really, what more could be said regarding the Versions issue? There is a rejection of a heretical position with respect to the King James Version. There is a careful definition of the doctrine of inspiration, one to which almost all who are lumped under the label of “King James Only” would assent to. Consider these points of the 1995 resolution:
- The original manuscripts alone are inspired
- No particular belief about the best textual theory should be elevated to the place of becoming a core Fundamentalist belief
- Fundamentalists can hold to an orthodox view of inspiration while disagreeing on theories of textual preservation
- Proper evaluation of any English translation must be by a comparison with the originals, not by comparison with other versions
- Some professing Fundamentalists have wrongfully declared one translation to be the only inspired copy of God’s Word in the English language and have sought to make this a test of Fundamentalism.
These are the essential points. Can any complaint be made about these points? What more could be said? Note that the 1996 resolution repudiates the heresy of Ruckmanism.
I would submit, then, that my branch of Fundamentalism has made its view clear. We are not willing to repudiate all who might be called King James Only, and we are not willing to be intimidated into acquiescence or support of any particular view of preservation over another.
Third, let’s address the issue of associations with men who some would call ‘extremists’. I’ll leave off the specific names, I am sure some readers can supply them for us in the comments if they wish. I have a few points to make about problematic associations:
- No one is likely completely consistent on every matter of association. Situations arise where for one reason or another, you find yourself on a platform or inviting in a speaker that may not maintain absolute consistency with your own philosophy of separation. This is unavoidable, unless you never go anywhere or never have anyone in to speak.
- Some circumstances may trap you into an association that is problematic, but you can’t discern a way out of the situation without causing great embarrassment. You decide that the greater good is served by enduring the connection for the time being.
- Problematic or inconsistent associations ought to instruct us for future practice – ‘There is no education in the second kick of a mule.’ (attributed to George S. Patton)
- Overall patterns of behaviour are the mark of consistency, not individual aberrations from stated policy or philosophy.
- Deliberate associations with problematic individuals when the problems of association are well known and clearly established ought to give pause to the individual making the association and prompt the protest of Fundamentalists observing the association.
I don’t think every Fundamentalist leader could say that he had never made any mistakes in implying his endorsement of other ministries or ministers. I believe that such recent mistakes as have been made (and widely noted) will not be repeated. They are not a pattern of behaviour.
Those critics who want to excuse their departure from Fundamentalism over such alleged inconsistencies need to take heed lest they fall into greater error themselves. There will be plenty of time for them to display their own inconsistencies. And there will be plenty of time for the fruit of anti-fundamentalist error to show itself in life or ministry.