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Sunday, May 11, 2008

This is a little bit old, but I think it is still relevant. I started writing it in March, but it got saved in draft mode and never finished.

In March, 9 Marks published an e-journal in which the question was asked, "What can we learn from Fundamentalists?"

There has been quite a bit of discussion regarding the articles in that journal and I have basically just watched from afar. (A dear and faithful lady in our church had a very serious stroke around the time the articles came out and we had a number of other things going on at the time of the publishing of the journal.)

At the time, however, I noticed a comment by Ben Wright (aka Paleoevangelical) that I wanted to address, but never completed my post.

Ben wrote an article over at Paleoevanglical regarding Dr. Dave Doran's article in the 9 Marks e-journal.

In the comments on this thread, Ben comments to Bruce:

So Doran seems to be arguing that we can disagree on issues that are not directly tied to the gospel (music, head coverings, the Rapture, etc.) and still have some meaningful level of fellowship together for the gospel. I think that's different from what you (and I) might be used to.

I probably live in an isolated world, but one of the things that I have seen repeatedly running around the internet in the last few years is a memory of some regarding Fundamentalism that just seems strangely distant from the memories of Fundamentalism that I have. I recognize that there are some different streams of Fundamentalism, but I seem to find these divergent memories even from those who are mainly from the same general stream.

For instance, I don't know much regarding paleo ben's background, by my assumption has been that he spent some time at (or even perhaps graduated from) my alma mater or at least from one of its "sister schools" (NBBC, MBBC, etc.). I know that he also was involved in a youth ministry/publishing ministry that I found to be profitable when I was a youth pastor - and whose Leadership Training Course I used and adapted for training our youth leaders. While I do not agree with everything that organization did (and remember my wife and I getting up and leaving at one event that the leader was "performing" at a camp that I like a lot), I think it has been one of the better youth ministry sources available.

However, when I think of those things, it makes it hard to imagine how the statement that I put in block quotes could be accurate. (In fact, it reminds me in some ways of the faulty memories of the Israelites who started to long for the "fleshpots" back in Egypt when things went a little difficult in the wilderness - they "misremembered" the conditions that existed in Egypt before the exodus.)

Mainstream Fundamantalism has always allowed for disagreement on issues not directly tied to the Gospel. For instance, Ben uses the example of head coverings. Come on, Ben. Surely, you are not ignorant of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church where Dr. Mark Minnick serves as Pastor (and where Jesse Boyd, Rod Bell, and Les Olilla served before him) or the Free Presbyterian Church or even BJU up until a decade or so ago. To try to indicate that up until recently Fundamentalism would have viewed head coverings as something to be separated over is implausible and irresponsible.

Are there wacko fringe groups that refer to themselves as Fundamentalist that might make such a thing a matter of separation? Sure. But this discussion was not that it was different from the fringe, but that it was different from the Fundamentalism that Ben and Bruce (Countryman?) were used to.

Therefore, I ask - Really?

Just my thoughts,



Andy Rupert said...


After reading through Ben's article and the subsequent comments, I felt uncomfortable with the limited quotation from Dr. Doran's article. From what I gather, the gospel has become the only doctrine worthy of separation. (Please correct me if I am misunderstanding things.)

While perfect unity will not be attained in this life time, we should seek for it. However, it seems strange to overlook certain offensive practices (such as Christian rock bands) that distort the biblical view of God's holiness, the need for repentance, and the Christian's call to be holy. Why should we look for fellowship with those who promote such practices?

Perhaps this is what Ben was referring to -- the idea that certain practices no longer requires separation.

Frank Sansone said...


I am not completely sure I agree that Dr. Doran's statement goes far enough, but I will admit I have not read the entire article yet and will withhold a more thorough judgment until then.

However, the point that I was attempting to make was that guys like Ben are criticizing a "straw man Fundamentalism" rather than true Fundameentalism when they play the type of rhetorical tricks that were played on that thread.

No one who has any legitimate knowledge of Fundamentalism would claim that HEAD COVERINGS were an issue of separation in Fundamentalism until recently. It is just plainly UNTRUE. The existence of the Free Presbyterians in the ACCC, the prominence of a church like Mt. Calvary in Fundamentalism, and the fact that the largest school in Fundamentalism (BJU) were all in favor of head coverings not too many years ago shows that this is a flawed statement. The implication and impact of the statement Ben made was that the "ignorant old Fundamentalists" used to separate over head coverings (as one of the example he gives), but now we know better. When in reality those guys did not separate over the issue either.

I guess I am just showing some frustration with the charicature that is being painted.


Don Johnson said...

"I guess I am just showing some frustration with the charicature that is being painted. "

See, Frank, you are just showing that you truly are a 'Fundameentalist'. But you need to do better at spelling it, that would be 'FundaMEANtalist'.

(hehe... just take a quick look at your spelling above...)

BTW, I agree with your frustration.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Frank Sansone said...


Thanks for the spelling heads up. I noticed that I also left an "a" out of it in the original article. I guess I am just trying to help along the caricature of the ignorant old Fundamentalists by spelling caricature and Fundamentalism wrong in the same comment. :)

Unfortunately, I do not know how to edit comments. I guess I could delete it, but then it would make your comment not make sense.


Andy Efting said...

“I felt uncomfortable with the limited quotation from Dr. Doran's article. From what I gather, the gospel has become the only doctrine worthy of separation.”

Andy, I am not opposed to the idea that guarding the gospel is the foundation for Biblical separation. The problem is not with the concept but with how some people limit the concept to a very narrow list of fundamental gospel doctrines. I would say, for example, that denying inerrancy is an attack on the gospel because it attacks God’s Word which is the foundation of the gospel. I would say that living in continued unrepentant sin is an attack against the gospel because it says something about the gospel that isn’t true, namely that belief in the gospel does not result in sanctification. And at some point, I think the type of music you listen to can, as you say, distort our view of God’s holiness and would, therefore, fall under the same area of unrepentant sin.

There is a second level of separation that we would recognize that does not result from attacks on the gospel so much as strong differences in philosophy or doctrines that do not directly or indirectly affect our understanding of the gospel. Those differences would make it difficult to work closely together or be a part of the same church, but you would not identify those people as harmful to the gospel or to the cause of Christ.

Don Johnson said...

To both Andys... for some 'the gospel' is THE issue. But it is the issue in this way: it is code for a certain soteriological system. If you are on the in, you rally around 'the flag', i.e., the gospel, i.e., the system. And many formerly suspect practices/notions are tolerated as long as you have the gospel right... charismatism, for example.

My young lad has a post on his blog derived from some of his classwork where he suggests that the original rallying point for fundamentalism was essentially inerrancy. You can see it here:

Inerrancy: a continental divide

I am not sure if he is right on that, at least as the only or central issue in the whole discussion, but it does seem to me that it was/is a major point of contention. (I'm a little biased towards the author, of course.)

Frank, on the spelling...

I am amazed at my own exquisitely composed posts. They fly off my keyboard with nary a mistake. Somehow, when I upload them, little spelling errors creep in. I'm blaming AlGore, since he invented the internet.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Andy Efting said...


There is obviously some truth to your observation. It is what allowed Dever to associate with the Acts29 church planters. Listening to his whole rationale was very disappointing.

I made the point, when I taught through this concept in our Sunday School class, to say that Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic positions do not necessarily create "another gospel" from which we would have to separate. Extremes on both sides can but the basic positions do not. I do not equate Calvinisim with THE gospel, even though I am a fairly committed 4-pointer. So, I think the concept is very helpful but I'm not looking to the T4G folks to define how to implement it.

In regard to Duncan's post, inerrancy is what the NE's had to compromise on in order to gain the respect of the liberal theological establishment that they were trying to impress.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Andy,

Yes, I agree with your statements. I should add that although I vigorously argue with much Calvinistic rhetoric, I am appreciative of the many fine contributions of Calvinists to Christian thought and life. I liked the way you put it in your comment above, "Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic positions do not necessarily create 'another gospel' from which we would have to separate".

It does bother me when Calvinists seem to want to equate their system with the gospel. Terms like the "doctrines of grace" come to mind.

In any case, to me this Calvin-centric point of view is driving the Togetherness movement and all other doctrines seem to be considered secondary.

From a committed 'one-pointer'... [vbg]

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Andy Rupert said...

Reading Dr. Doran's article clarified some things for me. The article is directed toward the T4G crowd. In it, he shows the danger of building a broad coalition according to the "lowest common denominator." He also states that standing for the gospel requires standing apart for it. I agree.

Ben Wright seems to have taken things in a different direction. Instead of seeing the audience and intent of the article, he singles out the lack of secondary separation. I don't see that as the main reason for writing the article. Doran is trying to get the T4G people to see their need to separate from those who preach another gospel. This (from my viewpoint) is the reason the other forms of separation were not included.*

*Even so, notice the beginning paragraph. In his call for separation, Doran includes the need for purity and holiness. That would necessitate a separation from those who are not pure and holy.