a fundamental failure?

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.



  1. Larry says:


    A quick response:

    1. My comments on the KJV issue were in direct response to your question that brought it up. So I wasn’t pulling the topic out of thin air. You asked if “fundamentalism” should draw the line tighter and how tight. Not that I care particularly, but it seems a bit like you are going after me for answering the questions you asked to begin with.

    2. Your question in the previous post asked if “fundamentalism” should do something about it, implying that you think there is some way for fundamentalism to do something. You appear to back away from that here by saying that fundamentalism is too broad and varied to do that. So now, I wonder how you reconcile these two things. I am of the opinion that fundamentalism as a movement no longer really exists (similar to what Doran says), and that fundamentalists can do something about it by their associations and their teaching and their practice.

    3. “Your branch” of fundamentalism (the FBF) may have done something in the form of a resolution. But fundamentalism is usually considered more widely than the FBF. Most people would consider places like PCC, WCBC, HAC/FBC Hammond, and Crown to be fundamentalist. Many fundamentalist churches are having these ministries associated with them and a recent conference (much discussed) was hosted by one and prominently featured another along with a rep of the FBF. And not to be pedantic and bring up an unwanted conversation, but I think Doran speaking with Dever is far more of an aberration than an FBF guy speaking with someone from one of these orbits.

    4. I know some members of the FBF believe that my position on the text is compromise and a denial of the Word of God. So what good is a resolution? This was, in a sense, one of the problems with the original NAE. They had no enforcement mechanism for doctrine, as I recall. So people had to subscribe to it in theory, but they didn’t have to practice it. One of the benefits of using a modern version is that it draws the line clearly about the Scriptures.

    5. What’s the answer? My answer goes back to the centrality of the local church. I teach my church and guard my church and where possible work with others, and let others practice their conscience. I don’t think the answer is found in the movement mentality. I am not bothered by movements. I just don’t think they are the answer, at this point.

    • Larry,

      1. ??? Of course I asked the question to which you responded. I don’t agree with your answer, so I don’t see how I am ‘going after you’. I think the view you expressed in answer to my question is one held by many, not just you. I think it is important to discuss it.

      2. In asking the question, I am responding to Dave saying that he wanted Fundamentalism to do something but realized in 2005 that wasn’t going to happen. You shouldn’t read any more into my question than that. By asking a question, I am not implying anything about my position. So to say I am backing off from my original position is not correct.

      3. It is not that I don’t want to bring up Schaap/Vaughn. The previous post was about Dever/Doran/Bauder, et al, so I didn’t want to distract from that issue. However, I have stated elsewhere that I was not comfortable with Schaap/Vaughn, the discomfort has been expressed by several people in the appropriate places and I don’t believe the error will be repeated.

      I am a little astonished to see you say this:

      but I think Doran speaking with Dever is far more of an aberration than an FBF guy speaking with someone from one of these orbits.

      because that is exactly what I am saying. Perhaps you misspoke?

      4. There may be some ways to strengthen the FBF position on this issue. I’m not against that.

      5. If so, then why do you say that Fundamentalists should do something about those on their right? If it’s purely a local church matter, why do you instruct others (via blogs) about what they should do and what they should think? You should just talk to your local church about it and leave the wider movement alone, then.

      I say that to say that it appears the movement matters more to you than you are letting on.

      I do appreciate the discussion, though, and appreciate your probing questions. None of us has a handle on all the truth, certainly not me!

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. I think you have some validity to your points here. The problem is I think basically everything you have said applying to FBF types and how they deal with the extremists on their right could be applied to the CE’s and how they deal with the extremists on their left (i.e., they clearly state the position; write repudiations of other positions; but may not always be consistent in their application of the truths regarding association.)

    Which is why many people are willing to say “If I’m willing to associate with FBF fundy types who are inconsistent in their associations but are orthodox in their beliefs, then why shouldn’t I be willing to have some fellowship with CE’s who are orthodox in their beliefs but inconsistent in their associations?”

    • Hi Ed

      Well, when you say ‘extremists’, who exactly do you mean? The FBF resolutions separate out the Ruckmanites but not all KJO brothers. Schaap is on record as backing off the Ruckmanite position to some degree, and has taken heat for it. (I realize there are quite a few other problems with Schaap.) So who do you mean by extremists?

      With respect to inconsistencies on the Fundamentalist side, most Fundamenatalists of the FBF/BJU/Detroit/Central variety have not made a habit of fellowship with Schaap and even less with Ruckmanites. Vaughn’s appearance with Schaap at Crown was more inadvertent and indirect, not a deliberate intent to extend the right hand to Schaap as it was to extend it to Sexton. (Binney and Hamilton appearing at Pastors School would be the other inconsistencies here, I would say.)

      On the evangelical side, we have men supporting the Manhattan Declaration, making overtures to emerging/emergent types, taking their staff to the Toronto Blessing, promoting ongoing prophecy and tongues, and on and on. These are consistent and persistent practices.

      Are you saying that the inconsistencies on one side are exactly equivalent with the inconsistencies on the other side?

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. David Barnhart says:


    I accede to your point about “fundamentalism” not being a monolithic entity since I freely admit that I’m speaking about the parts of it I’ve been a part of and the men heard speak.

    KJVO was indeed one of the points I was thinking of (though not the only one). Those FBF resolutions are great (and I’ve seen them before). I still see at least two problems in spite of those resolutions. 1. The former pastor at my current church is associated with the FBF, and I’ve never heard an FBF resolution read from the pulpit from him or any other FBF pastor I’ve heard speak, and further, I’ve never even heard 2nd hand of one being read from the pulpit and explained. Again, if one does not know about the resolutions, and doesn’t hear about them from his church, how is he supposed to know they exist? And even if I do my own internet search and see these resolutions, I don’t hear much about them from fundamental pastors. 2. The application of them has been spotty at best. Those resolutions mention heresy, but when I hear the reaction about men like Hamilton and Binney appearing at Pastor’s School in Indiana, I don’t hear calls for them to be separated from, requests that those men recant their appearing at those types of events, or anything similar. I hear “unwise”, “maybe not the best, but understandable,” and such like. That’s much different from what I hear about things on the CE side. There’s a fair amount of consternation that Dever appeared at a fundamental church for a conference. If Doran appeared at a CE conference to speak, there would be a much stronger reaction, to put it mildly.

    I’m not justifying the young leaving fundamentalism because of hypocrisy and inconsistency. I know two wrongs don’t make a right. I’m just saying that it’s a factor, and one that must be acknowledged and dealt with openly. For some reason it seems (at least in the fundamentalism I’ve known) that doctrinal error will be excused where things that are less important, with less scriptural support, like music fundies are not used to (notice I didn’t say UNimportant) will be scathingly opposed. People visiting a church will hear the music, see the worship service, evaluate people’s friendliness, etc. It is the uncommon case that a visitor reads the doctrinal statement and understands it and makes that a major part of his decision to join a church. That’s the understanding of the average church goer, and it means we have things backwards, and have spent too much time teaching the wrong things.

    Some of the serious young people are starting to realize that doctrine and teaching should come first, and some of the other issues only after that. Unfortunately, some are completely disregarding the “secondary” issues because of the improper importance previously given to them, and that is certainly sad. I’m not excusing them at all. I am saying that fundamentalism should not be giving them that excuse to start with.

    • Hi Dave B,

      Good points. I am not sure what was done about FBF resolutions in the 90s, but these days an entire issue of Frontline is devoted to them with articles expanding on their themes in more detail. Look for that issue in the summer, and if you don’t get Frontline, I would encourage you to subscribe.

      I agree that pastors need to do a better job teaching their people about the issues of the day, especially their young people. However, when it comes to the ‘serious young people’, presumably these young people are the ones at our fundamentalist universities and colleges. While some responsibility for their education in these matters lies with the local churches, we would expect a good deal more instruction to be happening at the college level. Apparently our colleges aren’t doing a good job either.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. Dave Doran says:

    FWIW, Don, I think the way you’re using only first names might be confusing for some folks. For instance, in your comment to Larry you write that you are responding to Dave, but I can’t tell from what you say if you are responding to what i said at the conference (which is what the comment suggests) or to something which David Barnhart wrote as a comment (which is what the post suggests). It might be helpful to be more specific for clarity’s sake.

    • Hi Dave

      Thanks for the note.

      You are correct, I wasn’t clear. In my response to Larry just now, on his point 2, I was referring to your statement as reported by Kevin Mungons and quoted in my previous post about the AtC conference. Too many guys named ‘Dave’, eh? I have been confused by common names before and apologize for any confusion in this case.

      I realize you are busy, but I wonder if you might care to comment on my understanding of your comments? Not necessarily here, but if you would give a blog post at your own site about the timeline/circumstances/developments in 2005 that you mentioned, it would be helpful for understanding changes in your application. As I read you in various places, I see that you stoutly maintain you are teaching the same doctrine of separation as always (and I don’t really see any substantive deviation on your teaching in these areas), but I think that you admit changes in application. The conference with Dever et al would be a case in point. So… it might be helpful to get a little more specific insight into the events that led to your change of application.

      Thanks for stopping by, your comments are always welcome.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. Larry says:

    Thanks Don,

    Sorry to misread your comments here. I thought you were suggesting that I brought up the KJVO thing and you were responding reluctantly. I completely misread. My bad.

    On my comment about Doran, I think I said that correctly but let me explain furhter what I meant: Doran speaks with Dever far less frequently than someone from the FBF speaks with someone from the KJVO side. In that sense, it is more of an aberration (a departure from the norm). It is more frequent that aberrant doctrine on Scripture is given a platform in fundamental circles than aberrant doctrine on separation. I think fundamentalists need to stop inviting people to speak who have aberrant positions on the Scripture.

    With respect to the local church, I have no problem with influence between local churches or associations and participation together. My only point is that I think the center is the local church, not the movement, and therefore I am not particularly troubled by other things. I don’t feel like I have to be a policeman and try to convince everyone else. I may or may not participate but I am willing to let others answer to their conscience and their local church.

    Thanks for the exchange here and there.

  6. d4v34x says:

    “Unfortunately, some are completely disregarding the ‘secondary’ issues because of the improper importance previously given to them, and that is certainly sad. ”

    Excellent point.

  7. David Barnhart says:


    Re: Christian colleges. I agree with you that these are not doing a good job in this regard. I didn’t think my college was doing such a great job in the 80’s either, but I don’t think it’s because it was shoddy — the college just had to teach to at least two different groups. They had kids who were just recently saved, and they had kids who had grown up in fundamental churches, but the Bible courses were the same for all of them, and through the junior year, they were completely basic.

    I would have loved to have “tested out” of the basic Bible courses and taken in depth courses on interpreting the Bible, systematic theology, basis and application of separation, applying scripture to current issues and world thinking etc., etc. Obviously, you get a bit of this from the chapel preaching, but it’s not deep enough, and it’s too uneven. Pre-Seminary students do much better in this regard, but for non-Bible majors, there needs to be better instruction at this level.

    I don’t think that lets churches off the hook, though, as the primary biblical instruction should be there. I think we’re just too “dumbed down” today. The Catholics and Lutherans run circles around us in the depth of instruction offered in their catechism classes (not that the kids really learn it that well when actions speak louder than words, and I’m sure most don’t even bother to attend). Some of that lack has been remedied in some of the newer kids programs like Frontline (not the magazine) and Kids4Truth, where there is more scripture learning, systematic, catechism-type teaching, etc. I hope that type of thing really continues, and I hope fundamental churches consider seriously the depth and application of what they are teaching.

    By the way, I do get to see Frontline, because our church gets probably 15-20 copies a month. (I wish they offered a Kindle/Nook/iBooks subscription, since I can’t keep track of paper and have no place to put it anyway, but that’s another subject!) I just wish that some of what was available in there was also coming more regularly from the pulpits so that there is reinforcement of these things from the local church leadership. Otherwise, most people see it as something they don’t need since it doesn’t always impact their daily lives.

    • Hi Dave, thanks for the note. I agree that we need to do a better job of communicating the fundamentalist philosophy both in college and especially in churches. I try to approach the subject from various angles on a regular basis. It is not a hobby horse, I reserve that for the blog! But I have taught through Pickering’s Biblical Separation, had a series of lessons I call “Distinctives”, taught the details of the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy to our men, and so on. We need variety of presentation and a rationale for taking the positions we do. And we need to preach the whole counsel of the Word. I don’t harp on Fundamentalism all the time, but over time have made it a part of our teaching.

      BTW, that’s an interesting idea about Frontline… maybe somebody really smart can come up with a way of implementing that. Don’t know what the costs might be, but maybe there would be a way. I do know you can get pdf copies of issues if you have your own subscription to the print magazine.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  8. David Barnhart says:

    Well, I can’t argue that all of those topics should be covered as part of the whole counsel of God. I’ve seen hobby-horse preachers too, and it’s not pretty. I certainly wasn’t calling for that!

    Getting PDFs *if* you have a print subscription has always seemed completely backwards to me. The idea of getting a PDF subscription is to not have to pay for the costs of the paper part of the subscription, but just for the journalism, etc. This would also make it cheaper (at least over time) to the publisher as well, to not have to have the costs of paper, ink, physical delivery, etc. For those that don’t want or need all the paper lying around, there’s no reason to have to order a dead-tree edition.

    I’ve already almost completely switched over to e-Books, but that hasn’t extended yet as much to Christian publishers and fundamental publishers are the slowest. (I recently had to order a paper copy of a BJ Press book from Amazon, since they didn’t have a Kindle edition of it.) I haven’t taken a newspaper in years, and I just eliminated my last paper magazine subscription (National Geographic — at least I can get these in e-form a year late or so, even if not at the same time as the magazine publication). I would love to see Christian publishers really get into e-publication as it would make their publishing costs go down and make some of their products easier to acquire (and keep/store) — a win-win situation. I guess it will just take time.

  9. Roger Carlson says:

    Hi Don,

    Just some food for thought. Until about 3-4 years ago, I agreed with you that the FBF-style fundamentalism was different and I freely associated with it (still do). But I think that is changing for the worse.

    I have heard from several that many within the movement (FBF style) are upset at the changes in Greenville. They don’t like girls being allowed to wear pants to games, etc. When Phelps went to Maranatha, these same were excited, hoping he would bring back the BJ of the 70’s to Watertown. When that didn’t happen, I was told that some FBF board members were now thinking of sending their kids to WCBC. If that is true, the gulf will only grow larger. IMHO, West Coast is just a cleaned up, slicker version of Hyles. Why are some moving that direction? Superficial dress standards that aren’t a fundamental of the faith.

    Another area where the “right” of our wing of Fundamentalism is doing damage to the cause of Christ is through revivalism and Finneyism. I read an article yesterday by a college president that lauded revivalism and lumped it with genuine revival. Revival is a genuine gift of the Holy Spirit that is given out sovereignly. Revivalism is a man-made superfical, short-term fix. But this error seems to be spreading and championed in our movement.

    • Hi Roger

      What to say? I am now on the FBF board and was in the room for the recent meetings. I can’t talk about what was talked about, but I think I can say something about what was not talked about. I can say that none of the things you suggest here were talked about. Nobody talked up WCBC to me in private. No one complained to me about BJU or Maranatha in private. I don’t know who you are talking to, but these things weren’t on my radar screen during the meetings.

      Personally, I am not entirely happy with the changes at BJU, but it is not for any one rule change per se that I am unsettled. Rather, it is the whole direction of change, from more to less discipline. The thing that attracted me to BJU was the ‘military-college-like’ atmosphere. I wanted the discipline. I think discipline is an aid to building character. (I know you must also reach hearts.) As the discipline weakens, I think the overall product weakens and BJU becomes less unique. They used to be “the World’s Most Unusual University”. Not anymore. Now, a friend of mine on faculty said to me after discussing some of the changes, ‘Well, we’re still pretty strict.’ I suppose so, but…

      And to make it clear, the pants rule is not a problem for me. I only wish they had gone whole hog and simply said, this is no longer an issue in Christendom and allowed pants in any non-formal setting. I would require skirts for the ladies on Sunday church, formal assemblies, Vespers, and Artist Series. Liberty for all other occasions. But that’s just me.

      My problem with the changes is the weakening of discipline. Light bell rules. Study hour rules. Fraternizing rules. Well… ok, enough of that. You hit a hot button.

      On the revivalism/Finneyism issues, I think it depends on the meaning attached to the terms. Personally, I think a lot of young Calvinists are either seriously misinformed by their teachers or are seriously misunderstanding their teachers and labeling things as ‘revivalism’ or ‘Finneyism’ when they really aren’t. Any kind of invitation is out. Itinerant ministries are out. etc. I just don’t buy it. I’m not one for manipulative invitations, but I am not against invitations. I am not against emotionally moving messages. I find it amazing how people who fall all over themselves in praise of John Piper will turn around and savage our evangelists for their emotional messages. Sheesh! Talk about a double standard.

      Don’t know if that answers anything for you, late night ramblings after a long day.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  10. David Barnhart says:


    I was there near the same time you were, and I didn’t really like the rules about light bell, study hour, wearing ties to all meals, etc., but I learned to live with them. Like you, I think I really needed the almost military-style discipline, at least at first, to help me think seriously about what I was doing there.

    The real problem to me was not that they had the rules, but that they were not always clear about the intention of the rules, and I think that to some extent that was intentional. Had they come out and said that ties and skirts, and hair length to the 1/4″ were not a spiritual issue, but were there just for character-building discipline, I believe it would have cost them too many students because of what the supporting pastors/churches would have thought. Instead of telling us that the rules about walking the same direction with no business there were because it could provide opportunities to sin, they could again have said that it’s for discipline, and because we don’t want you to. I could go on, but it’s unnecessary. Given that uneasy tension about the “real” reason those rules existed, I think it’s better that they have been eliminated and/or changed, because the confusion over which were considered truly spiritual and which were not was too great among the student body, even though of course, we had our own personal views.

    I know it wasn’t just me that understood these the way I did, because whenever it came up and I expressed out loud that I was just going to conform to these rules while at college but in no way was I going to adopt most of that type of living as normal for life in the outside world, I was questioned by PCs, hall monitors etc. about my spiritual state and my attitude, etc. When the rules about which music checked switched from not allowing something to allowing it for a year, and then back to not allowing it made me question the actual biblical principles behind what they were doing to faculty and staff, I was told that as a junior, I should have no need to ask such questions, and that I must not be spiritually mature. If they had just admitted that the principles were not easy and some decisions just had to be made for practical purposes and to establish a “safe” standard, I could have understood it, but that’s not what they told me, even if that was the real reason behind it.

    You don’t even need to get me started on the “spiritual” background of the ban on inter-racial dating that was in place and considered part of the “moral” law while I was there that has finally been admitted to be a serious error. I commend Stephen Jones for finally handling this in the right way when it wasn’t done by previous generations. I’m sure this change alone makes many in fundamentalism uncomfortable, though it certainly shouldn’t.

    I’m not saying all this just to bash my alma mater. I see their evaluation of more and more things in light of scripture to be a good thing, and if they couldn’t just come out in the past and say that ties and skirts are a uniform, and not a sign of spiritual condition of the wearer, I appreciate that changes were made to handle this better in the present. As to discipline, yes, it’s not exactly like it was when we were there. However, visiting it several times and seeing for myself the way the place is still run and the rules in place for the students leads me to believe that discipline and character-building are still high on the list, but that they are now doing a much better job of realizing that discipline and obedience without reaching the heart will lead to a product that’s not much different from what comes out of West Point — and we want it to be. We don’t want whited sepulchres to be the legacy of our Christian universities.

    Obviously, it remains to be seen if the changes that are being made will accomplish the goal of preparing men and women for a life of living for God better than what was in place before, but I am hopeful, and unlike the FBF men that Roger has run into (and apparently you, to some extent), I believe the changes they have made to be good overall.

    • Hi Dave

      Well, all I can say is that I can’t count how many times I was told “it builds character” when it came to the rules at BJ. As for the changes, I am afraid that the driving force behind the changes in general is catering to the flesh more than anything. We have had four of five of our kids as students there, one more to go, and we have heard about life in the dorms. All of our kids have experienced persecution for trying to live in submission to the authority of the university (and their parents who insisted on it). This isn’t entirely the university’s fault, of course, but I believe that atmosphere has changed for the worse. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of positives about the university and we believe it is the best option for our kids.

      FWIW. I guess we are getting off the topic here, but I participated in it by my earlier post.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  11. tjp says:

    Hi Don,

    You wrote, “Personally, I think a lot of young Calvinists are either seriously misinformed by their teachers or are seriously misunderstanding their teachers and labeling things as ‘revivalism’ or ‘Finneyism’ when they really aren’t.”

    I couldn’t agree more.


  12. David Barnhart says:

    Sorry about helping to get off topic. To take this back, I think predictable responses such as “it’s catering to the flesh,” for any perceived “loosening” of prior restrictions (even ones that are clearly not moral issues) is one of the signs of “nutbar-ness” (not that I think you are putting yourself in this category here — that’s just one factor). I’m a firm believer in re-evaluating things in light of scripture rather than tradition or pragmatism (i.e. it’s always worked, so we should keep doing it). I find it hard to believe that “catering to the flesh” is what the BJ leadership is shooting for, even if some of the students are pushing for it. (Sorry about this further digression, but if there is persecution for “trying to live in submission to the authority of the university,” I can’t see how any of that is the university’s fault. I had roommates who were rebellious, and those who were more BJ than BJ himself — I had to learn to be true to God’s leading in my own conscience, and today’s students will have to do so as well.)

    I think our churches (and universities, though it’s harder for them) need to cease catering to the nutbar-crowd, and call a spade a spade. Separation is not easy in any case, but it should be applied on both sides, and yes, I think it’s more strongly called for over doctrine than over associations, even though the latter is not unimportant. If there are FBF men who are moving more toward the WCBC orbit over perceived differences in standards at BJ, I believe they have the emphasis completely backwards.

    • Hi Dave

      I have some specific reasons to suggest that there is some catering to the flesh behind the changes, but I won’t go into those right now. I had a conversation with my youngest son a couple of weeks ago as I was preparing to take him off campus, him in jeans and a sports shirt, no tie. I asked if that was acceptable dress for off campus and he said it was. He also commented on how much he liked it when that rule changed. I replied, ‘the reason you like it is because your flesh doesn’t like restraint. It’s not that it is a sin to wear jeans and a sports shirt (not tucked in) and no tie, but when the flesh is restrained, it resists and pines for loss of restraint.’

      As for the persecution, I don’t fault the university for the fact that it exists to some extent, students come with all sorts of baggage. But there are problems in the discipline structure, with people in the chain of command taking the side of the persecutors and putting ungodly people into positions of leadership. Again, not entirely avoidable in a system as big and complex as the university’s, but one would think that you would get more godliness and support for godliness the higher up the chain of command you go. That has not been my universal experience lately.

      There may be some FBF men moving more towards WCBC, but that isn’t the sense I got out of board members. I don’t think that we are unfriendly to them, but I don’t get the sense of promoting that direction or viewpoint.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  13. Roger Carlson says:


    You and I actually don’t differ all that much on the rules at our alma mater. Back to that in a minute.

    I am glad that you didnt hear the promoting of WCBC at the board meetings or in private. I know it happened a couple of years ago (in private) because I know the board member who said it. Glad he isn’t part of an upswing.

    You are correct that there is a misunderstanding of revivalism on both sides. As one who is pretty calvinistic, I still have invitations. I still bring in evangelists sometimes. What I was referring to yesterday was a Bible College president saying, If you do this, this, and that God will send revival. No! We ought to be doing this, this and that because it honors and glorifies God. When God chooses to send revival is up to Him. Yet, many revivalists of our movement promote God will always send revival if we live right and that does not mesh with Scripture.

    I loved the discipline at BJU. God definately used it. But for the first three years there, I was unsaved. I was a good Pharisee. I lived by the handbook, it was my life. That was not the fault of the university, it was my sinful heart.

    That being said, I don’t mind them tweaking areas if that are not sinful if they wish. I don’t think you do either. But there are some out there that do. Dave did hit on something with the inter-racial thing. I, too commend Stephen for his handling of that issue. Of course, i did sign the open letter to him (I think I was one of four pastors that did).

    • Roger, you and I see things pretty well the same, other than Calvinistic leanings! As for the rules, I’d say I actually don’t mind any of the rule changes (except light bell) individually. But collectively they seem to be a trend in the wrong direction.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  14. Roger Carlson says:

    Glad we are in agreement, mostly. I really believe the genuine Finneyism is real danger to the cause of Christ. Because of that, there are very few Evangelists that I will allow in the pulpit of the church where I pastor.

  15. Keith says:

    “I replied, ‘the reason you like it is because your flesh doesn’t like restraint. It’s not that it is a sin to wear jeans and a sports shirt (not tucked in) and no tie, but when the flesh is restrained, it resists and pines for loss of restraint.’”

    If it is not a sin to wear jeans, then how is it restraining the flesh to prohibit the wearing of jeans? It might be teaching one the character of being able to happily submit to authority in matters indiferent, but how is it restraining the flesh?

    If some school, “to build character” or to teach military type submission to superiors, required everyone to wear black shoes, or to part their hair on the left, no one would say that the removal of those requirements was the removal of restraints on the flesh. They’d just say that it was the removal of one technique for teaching subordination.

    It seems, Don, that you are providing exhibit a for the case that BJU’s “procedural” rules were convoluted with morality, character, and spiritual maturity.

    • Hi Keith

      Does the flesh like restriction in any way? Suppose we were to turn it around and require that someone wear blue jeans and t-shirts only, to every event. The flesh would come to chafe at that as well. Discipline builds character. Read Heb 13.

      Don Johnson
      Jeremiah 33.3

  16. Keith says:


    “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

    Either of your examples (forbidding jeans or requiring jeans — merely to restrain) would provoke to wrath because they have nothing — in and of themselves — to do with godly character. If these rules were intended to teach respect for others, or modesty, or some other truly good thing, and that were to be properly explained — well that’s different. But, restraint, just because “it’s good for you”, is exasperating.

    The flesh chafes at restrictions against sleeping with every attractive member of the opposite sex. However, disciplinary measures aimed to restrain that behavior would be attempts to restrain the flesh.

    On the other hand, a person might chafe at a prohibition against eating salad, but such a prohibition would not be restraining the flesh.

    There is nowhere in the Scripture which teaches that restriction simpliciter is good or godly. Sin is to be restricted and conflict within the body is to be restricted. However, random, arbitrary things are not to be restricted.

    Just the opposite. Christ came to bring freedom. Christianity is not asceticism or stoicism.

    And, Hebrews 13 makes my point:

    “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.” v. 9


    • Keith, you are confusing terms. I am talking about character, not holiness. Both of these are goals in training children and young people, not to mention old dudes like us. Character is an important goal, but it isn’t the first goal, I realize that. Nevertheless, I think character is important to function well in this world, to be equipped to lead, to be useful. Can you have holiness without good character? Maybe not. But you can have character without holiness (look at most of the products of the real military academies). I am not after character alone, but I think it is an essential aspect of child training/disciple making.

      BTW, you should do some word studies on “nurture” and “admonish” in eph 6.4. I don’t think you would be talking so much about provoking to wrath as you do here.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  17. Keith says:


    You confused holiness and character by calling the restraint of the “flesh” character building. The “flesh” is, Biblically speaking, the old man, the natural man, the sinful habits.

    If you are just arguing that resistance builds muscles, well then there is little disagreement. Of course, even then, it is important to give the right resistance to build the right muscle. You can do sit ups all day long and it won’t build your bicep.

    I think that you are also confusing the kind of character needed for military exercises with the kind of character needed for other things. Character is not monolithic and the term is not copywrighted by military types.

    By your definition of character, non-resistant soldiers in Hitler’s army had character. They’d been given plenty of resistance and meaningless (as well as evil) orders. They submitted to that resistance.

    It is important to build character. However, the methods used will determine the type of character that results.

    • Hi Keith

      Ok, I see your point. However, the rules I am concerned with at BJU are directly related to character formation in areas that I am concerned with in my own children. So while you have a ‘sorta’ point, I’m not just dissatisfied because they are changing picky rules that are just there ‘because I said so’.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3