One of the plagues of our day is the softening of orthodoxy among Bible-believers. I wonder how we came to this.

Kevin Bauder posted an essay recently where he discusses Bob Jones Jr, among other things. He has this to say about Dr. Bob:

Whatever else Bob Jones may have been, he was never timid. He had a tender side alright, but (and I mean none of this to be derogatory) he was a vigorous, robust, confident, assertive, tenacious, resilient, square-jawed, straight-backed, tough-as-nails, heavy-duty, industrial strength, hardnosed, bull moose, larger-than-life, uncompromising fundamentalist leader who most definitely did not suffer fools gladly. He was the captain of his team, the general of his armies, the chieftain of his tribe, the commander of his troops, the admiral of his fleet, and the master of his domain.

Having known and loved Dr. Bob, I would say that this description is pretty well accurate. Dr. Bob was not shy about his convictions. He was also as warm-hearted as a man could be, at least in my experience.

Even the strongest leaders among fundamentalism today have difficulty matching the firmness of days gone by. We couch our assertions in language of conciliation or concession. It is correct to always acknowledge our fallibility – we are in the era of “it seems to me,” “perhaps,” and “one way of looking at it is…” You know we talk like this. I talk like this, especially in person (my online persona is more blunt than my personal one – at least… I think so).

You are also probably aware that younger people seem to recoil at tough talk – the kind that sometimes got Dr. Bob in trouble. If Dr. Bob were still around, one wonders what he would say about current goings on. One wonders how the younger set would react to what he would have to say. Not well, I’m guessing.

When you consider that Dr. Bob was not alone in his approach, and then consider how the leaders of former days really did work together, at least at times, one wonders how they managed to get along, especially when one of them might say something the other would disagree with. To be sure, at times they did not get along (see Rice vs. Jones, et al). Yet one man would make a strong statement on a platform somewhere and his friend would make an equally strong but perhaps somewhat different statement and they would still get along. For example, I can recall Dr. Bob making statements about the Gap theory. (If I recall, he was more of a Scofield dispensationalist than I would be.) You know, in areas like that, the strong leaders of the past could make strong statements that differed and still get along.

Today we have to speak softly and hide any stick we might even think of carrying, big or little. Perish the thought that we would even remotely think about a stick! No, no, we must be ever so inclusive in our remarks, and that is among fundamentalists.

For example, when I make a strong statement about Reformed theology, I have to couch it in language that shows I am not a hater of Reformed folks. I can’t just call it like I see it, I might turn them off. There are probably other examples, but that one comes quickly to mind.

As time has gone on, it seems that we have gotten better at many things. Knowledge has increased, our insight into the Scriptures has expanded, but our psyches have become exceedingly tender. Heaven help the nervous brother who hears a doctrinaire repudiation of his beliefs. Instant offense ensues. Controversy erupts, the offending brother is shouted down until he is made to apologize or retract or concede or learn to talk better.

I miss the old days. They seemed, perhaps, healthier (at least in my humble opinion), but I could be wrong. You know?



  1. Brian says:

    Don, thanks for the thoughts. We are the lesser for not having such men in our day. As I have sometimes thought of them in this way, the lions of Fundamentalism have died off. Heaven forbid if anyone should be as vocal as these men were. There has been a softening of the voice of Fundamentalism and the results that we have are not good. The line between Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism is so fuzzy, it’s almost indiscernible in some places, especially in the younger crowd. Popularity looks to reign as the way in which men do ministry rather than obedience to the Word of God regardless of what others may think.

    • Possibly you are right. IMHO. At least, it seems to me…

      Well, really, you are right. No equivocating about it.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. The entirely appropriate pursuit of humility, gentleness, and charity can so easily drift into one or both of the twin disasters of “wanting to be liked / popular” and equivocation/uncertainty.