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The Best and the Brightest

Thursday, November 17, 2005

One of the frequent assertions and laments that I have heard over the last year is a concern that Fundamentalism is losing "the best and the brightest" of the young guys. Sometimes this comment is made by older leaders in Fundamentalism, but most often when I have heard it, it is being made as part of an accusation - as in, "that is why Fundamentalism is losing its best and brighest."

When I look at the scene, however, I see a vastly different picture. I see a number of younger men who are indeed what I consider the best and the brightest and these men are not fleeing Fundamentalism, but are staying by the stuff.

One of the reason that I am not falling for this line of Fundamentalism loosing its best and its brightest is tautological - if Fundamentalism is the truly Biblical position (and I believe it is), then clearly those who are leaving it are not "the best and the brightest" by virtue of the fact that they are leaving what is right - not a very "bright" move to make, imo.

A second reason that I am not falling for this line of Fundamentalism loosing its best and its brigthest is because of personal observation. I have been privileged over the last couple of years to interact with a number of young men who are the type of men that I think of when I consider "the best and the brightest."

When I think of "the best and the brightest," I think of some young pastors that I recently had the privilege of spending time with in Ohio, men such as Pastor Chris Anderson, Andy Rupert, and Mark Perry and others who are pastoring and planting churches and standing for the truth. Their names are not on everyone's lips (okay, Chris' name has been on a number of guys' fingertips over the summer), but they are among the best and the brightest in my book because they are doing what really matters - serving Christ without compromise and making a difference for Him.

When I think of "the best and the brightest," I think of another young Pastor who fits that description in my book - Jonathon Smith. Jonathon pastors a Fundamental church in Tipton, Iowa (how many of you know where that is?) where he has taken over the role of Sr. Pastor from his father. While I have not had the privilege of hearing him preach in his church, I know from my conversations with him that he is a young man who studies the Word and faithfully proclaims it.

When I think of "the best and the brightest," I think of men like Evangelist Mark Kittrell, who was here preaching at Messiah Baptist Fellowship a couple of weeks ago. While he is a little older than me, he is still fairly young and he continues to stand for the truth and make a difference for Christ.

When I think of "the best and the brightest," I think of men like Missionary Ken Smith in Papua New Guinea. A young man with whom I had the privilege of serving beside when I was at Hardingville Bible Church in New Jersey. A young man who has left the comforts of American Christianity and taken his wife and two kids to the other side of the world to reach souls for Christ. A young man who was willing to take a stand regarding his choice of mission boards, despite the fact that it turned his alma mater against him and it avoided the easy path of following in family footsteps. A young man who prays and is even now dealing with a national pastor whose son has been murdered and whose other son has been "marked" for murder.

Maybe I am a "rose-colored glasses" type of person, but this is what I see when I look at the young men in Fundamentalism. I see "the best and the brightest" and they are still here, and they are making a difference for Christ.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

File under Popular_, Fundamentalism_, Christianity_, Hot_Issues

11 comments:

Frank Sansone said...

I did not realize that Greg was going to mention this article, so I need to make a couple of clarifying comments.

1. This list of the best and the brightest is merely exemplary, not exhaustive. There are many other outstanding young men in Fundamentalism that are standing strong and serving Christ.

2. I need to issue an official disclaimer (would I be much of a Fundamentalist without one?) - inclusion here does not mean that I necessarily agree with every thing said, written, or done by anyone listed here - and I am sure they would say the same thing regarding me.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

Andy Efting said...

You forgot to mention the pastor at Messiah Baptist.

Frank Sansone said...

Thank you, Andy. Of course, if I mentioned him, then I would REALLY have add a big disclaimer. :)

I also failed to mention the godly laymen that stand with their pastors and make their voices heard for the cause of Christ.

Michael C. said...

Pastor Sansone,

In the spirit of this discussion, I want to add a disclaimer before I even start: I'm sympathetic to what you say. But at the same time I think that there may be some truth to the claim that we are losing some of our best and brightest.

You cited examples of bright lights in fundamentalism. This tells us that some sharp guys are staying in the movement, but it does not tell us anything about who is leaving. Surely the people who are worried about a exodus from fundamentalism would not say that they think all the sharp guys are leaving, just a high enough percentage to be worrisome.

I think the fact that Calvary Lansdale, BJU, and the FBF have all held meetings geared toward the younger generation indicates that this is a real concern.

Finally, there is the question of how they could be the best and brightest if they are leaving fundamentalism. I think there are several possible answers. One is that many of our best and brightest don't leave, they are told to walk the plank (to use a popular phrase right now). If a student graduates from a fundamentalist institution then chooses to go to a conservative evangelical seminary, he will likely be written off (assuming he is preparing to be pastor, not a professor at a fundamentalist seminary).

The second answer lies in our semantics. How do you walk away from fundamentalism? Most of the best and brightest who have left the movement still subscribe to the idea of fundamentalism. What does that make them? Traditional reasoning says if you are not a fundamentalist you must be a new evangelical or a liberal. This may have been true in the '60s and '70s, but I find fewer people and churches today define themselves according to a movement.

Indeed, the majority of the sharp guys I have seen leave fundamentalism are not running to some other movement. They have concluded that the rubric of fundamentalism does not match their own, so they move to a position of greater independence, identifying themselves by their local body rather than by a movement. Sometimes the result looks funny for those of us who grew up in "old fundamentalism." These people go to BJU for HELP Conference in the summer and to Master's for Shepherd's Conference in the winter.

I hope these thoughts make some sense. I'm around a lot of young guys, so I thought I might have some perspective that would interest you.

Frank Sansone said...

Michael C.,

Thank you for your comments. You make some points that I would like to address, but I will try to address them in a regular post rather than in the comments section. Stay tuned.

Frank

Anonymous said...

I graduated from a “fundy” school with a BA in Bible. Almost all my close friends in the field of biblical studies left Fundamentalism for Historic Protestantism (The Reformed Faith). This is a category that should be added to your thinking. We (those in the Reformed faith) are not Evangelicals in the normal sense. Hence, we are concerned about things like the Sabbath. We are certainly not Liberals. In fact, with all due respect, the Reformed community is by far the most powerful voice in refuting Liberalism on the academic plane. To be quite blunt, it is hard to find a major non-Liberal piece of academic work that was not done by someone who, at least, is Reformed if not a major member of the Reformed Community.

So why did my dozen or so friends all leave Fundamentalism? There are probably a lot of reasons. But, the point I want to make, for your sake, is that when we left Fundamentalism we did so in order to join another movement. That movement is Historic Protestantism. The tragic irony of Fundamentalism is that it has little in common with the Protestantism it sought to save. In my experience, Fundy folks are usually Arminian, which would have devastated the original Protestants who knew this as the Roman Catholic position. The comparison could go on and on. The point is this, by becoming Historic/Confessional Protestants, we did not become more “liberal.” Quite the opposite, we became historic. Fundamentalism is a shadow of Confessional Protestantism mixed with a dozen American and Evangelical pieces. For example, Fundy folks are adamantly opposed to any consumption of alcohol. This opposition can only be traced to Prohibition in this country. None of the founders of Protestantism would approve of this.

Fundamentalism is a unique movement that is actually more “Evangelical” than historically Protestant… I could go on and on… I will spare you that. I hope that you find your way. A good glance at the past will do wonders for the movement.

Frank Sansone said...

Anonymous,

I appreciate you stopping by. I would ask that you use your name if you wish to continue the discussion (even if it is just a first name), so that I do not have to address you repeatedly as "Anonymous" (Not a problem for short posts or non-debating posts, but an issue if there is going to be interraction or ongoing discussion

I do not have a lot of time to interract tonight, but I would like to address a couple of things which you have said in this post. If you choose to respond, I will try to take the time to more fully interract.

First, I comment that I disagree with your characterization that you "left Fundamentalism for Historic Protestantism." I would disagree with this for a couple of reasons. 1. Fundamentalism is within the flow of Historic Protestantism - it is much more consistently so that most of what passes off as "evangelical" today. 2. Even if you are to inaccurately describe Historic Protestantism as solely Reformed (which leaves out a whole swath of church history), there are plenty of Reformed men and churches within Fundamentalism, so "leaving" Fundamentalism for it would not have been necessary.

Secondly, while I am not Arminian in theology, your connecting of this position to Roman Catholicism is an unfair and inaccurate characterization.

Thirdly, while I recognize there are different views regarding alcohol, it is also a misreading of history to claim that this position "can only be traced to Prohibition in this country."

While I have not used this blog as a place to argue about the positions on Alcohol, I would point to one of your Reformed, not Fundamental Pastors as showing that this position is at least as old as the Bible.

In John MacArthur's commenting on 1 Timothy 5:23 ("take a little wine for your stomach's sake"), we read the following:

"By calling for Timothy to remain pure, Paul was not advocating a rigid asceticism. He did not want Timothy to injure his health ... Timothy had obviously committed himself to total abstinence from wine. He desired to be a model of spiritual virtue and never establish a pattern that could make someone assume a liberty that would destroy them (cf. Rom 14:13-23; 1 Cor 8:12-13)." (MacArthur New Testament Commentary: First Timothy (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishing, 1995), 225)

I agree that a healthly look at the past is important. I would also argue that the very men that you are indicating you have great respect for would not have joined themselves to and cooperated with some of the errors that many of the heroes of the reformed camp today connect themselves to (such as Open Theism and ecumenical evangelism).

Anonymous said...

Wow. Where to start. Let me address a few things.

First, there is nothing unfair about me connecting Arminianism to Roman Catholicism. I am not suggesting that the two are the same thing. Certainly not... my point was this: Fundamenatalism, as it is today, is usually Arminian in its theology. This important stance (whatever we may think of it) would have been a scandal to historic Protestants. There was a time when, for all intensiver purposes, there were only two major opinions held by two major bodies. Arminianism was/is held to by the Roman Church. The historic Protestant Reformation held to a Calvinistic view of the matter. My point wasn't that one is right... although I strongly believe that Calvin is correct. My point was that Fundamentalism doesn't look like the historic Protestantism it was trying to "save." At least not in this vital area. Surely you are aware that this is the position of the RC??

Second, MacArthur is almost the only respected name in the Reformed community that holds this position. And, I didn't have someone like him in mind anyway. I was thinking of bigger fish. Men like Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, Knox... men who were foundational to the rise of historic Protestantism. MacArthur, who I admire very much, isn't really a good representative of the Reformed community on this. I have spent my entire life in this community and know virtually no one who holds that view. MacArthur is not a confessional, historic Protestant. He is a mixture of Evangelicalism, Anabaptist and Reformed influences... once again, this isn't an attack. Im just trying to help you see that the Fundamentalism of today is new and is often not in line with the past... Im not even arguing, here, that that is a problem, just that it is so.

Third, there are not a whole swath of churches and men who are confesional/Reformed and in Fundamentalism. IF by Fundamentalism you mean what is seen in places like Bob Jones University. Now, if you define "fundamentalism" to mean anyone who believes in the innerrancy of Scripture, then you are correct. There are many who hold such a view. But, the Fundamentalism of today is not so basic... unfortunately. The Fundamentalism of today is characterized by a great interest in clothing, movies, alchohol, facial hair, premill eschatology and the KJV. Not all of these factors are present in every case, but simply examine the "handbooks" from BJU or Clearwater Christian or Pensecola. Please name a single historic/confessional Reformed institution that can properly be called "Fundamentalist."

Fourth, Im sorry if I offended you by drawing Fundys outside the historic Protestant circle. Let me be more specific. In the sense that we hold to important truths together, like the inerrancy of Scripture, we are all connected to historic Protestant faith as opposed to Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, if you know anything of the Reformation, you must know that there is a great difference between the fundamentalism of BJU or Pensecola and the fundamentalism of a historic Protestant such as Machen... for example. Fundamentalism, as it exists today, owes much more to the Anabaptists of the Reformation period. They also share, ironically, much with Evangelicalism. The real unique church is the one that holds to a confessional standard.

Fifth, I know of no Reformed denomination or key member who would embrace open theism. Open theism is only attractive to Arminians. A Calvinist believes in the exact, utter opposite. Please don't get me wrong, I am not calling all Arminians Open Theists... absolutely not. What I am saying is that Open theism is the polar opposite of the Reformed faith. Please name, if you can, a historic/confessional Protestant Church that allows for open theism. As to your second claim, I won't try and address this because we would have to talk a lot about what you mean by "ecumenical evangelicalism." However, just one quick thought. The Reformed camp, if you will, tends to place a great emphasis on the importance of doctrine. Unlike Fundys and Evangelicals, we tend not minimize our differences for the sake of evangelism... maybe we should do that more. We actually tend to be more excitable about doctrine... for better or for worse. We have significant standards/confessions and a court system. This, of course, doesn't mean we are perfect, far from it. But, what it does mean, is that our participation with Evangelicalism is often not as big a deal. That is, they aren't given any official authority in our churches.

Matthew

Frank Sansone said...

Matthew,

Thank you for stopping by again. Let me try to address a few things so that you can understand where I am coming from and maybe we can make some progress.

To equate Arminianism with Roman Catholicism is just as unfair as equating Calvinism with fatalism. This is the type of rhetoric game that makes the C/A discussion usually end up as one that is completely unprofitable. Roman Catholicism teaches a works-based salvation. This is contrary to both C and A. The Reformers would not have recognized A as RC because it is a completely different Gospel than was/is taught by the RC. Surely you are aware of this.

In regards to your comments on Mac and alcohol, you missed my point. My point was not that Mac was an abstentionist, but that TIMOTHY WAS. That would seem to have a lot more relevance considering what you had said in your first post. The use of Mac's commentary was to show that this was not just a Fundamentalist interpretation of 1 Tim 5:23, but also the interp of someone most Reformed guys I know hold high.

You have indicated that you disagree that there are groups tht are both Fundamentalist and Reformed.

I would imagine that someone aware of BJU would also be aware of the Free Presbyterian Church and Geneva Reformed Seminary which would definitely fit in with the Reformed tradition. I would also imagine that you would be aware of the American Council of Christian Churches, the largest multi-denominational Fundamentalist body whose current president, Dr. John McKnight is clearly of the Reformed tradition.

I also find it interesting that you mention both BJU and PCC and connect them and then make a comment about "The Fundamenatalism of today is characterized by ... and the KJV." Anyone who has watched the attack by PCC upon BJU over the last decade on the KJV issue (in particular) must find it interesting that you have 1) joined these two schools and 2) described "the Fundamentalism of today" as holding something in common that actually has caused a split.

In regards to your defense that "no Reformed denomination or key member would embrace Open Theism", I agree with you. However, that was not was I was claiming.

My original statement was: "I agree that a healthy look at the past is important. I would also argue that the very men that you are indicating you have great respect for would not have joined themselves to and cooperated with some of the errors that many of the heroes of the reformed camp today connect themselves to (such as Open Theism and ecumenical evangelism). "

My point is that Luther, Calvin, etc. would not find themselves where the non-Fundamentalist Reformed men find themselves to be - joined together denominationally with Open Theists (e.g. Piper) and cooperating with ecumenical evangelism (e.g. Mohler).

You mention the positive of a confession and a court, yet for all the good that a confession and a court ought to do, I find it telling that these things have not kept churches like the PC-USA, the Lutheran Churches, etc. from going away from Biblical truth.

The truth is that it is not a "confession and a court" that keeps a church or denomination in the right way, for it has been evidenced again and again that this fails. It is first and foremost the grace of God. Secondly it is a militant stand against error that is willing to deal with sin and disobedience Biblically - including practicing separation - that keeps a church and/or group from following the same path that many of the "formerly historically Protestant" churches have followed.

In Christ,

Frank Sansone

Frank Sansone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank Sansone said...

Matt,

It looked like the sitemeter indicated that you tried to post. If so, please be aware that it is not me that has deleted your post. I have had a probllem with commenting on other people's blogs who had used Blogger Beta (for instance I have lost a few comments that I tried to make on Don Johnson's Blog) and was not upgrading because of that. Unfortunately, Blogger decided to make the upgrade mandatory rather than optional and in doing so, I am now having the same problem on my blog. In fact, the reason there is a delted post of mine above is because I had posted the post directly above it, but it had not shown up in a regular way. I did a test post and that post made my main post show up, so I deleted my test post.

Perhaps this post will send your post into the comment section if you left one. If not, please feel free to try again and be assured that if you sent a post it did not disappear because I held it back in some way.

In Christ,

Frank Sansone