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Mark Dever's Interview of Mark Minnick - Part 1

Friday, May 30, 2008

In a previous post, I highlighted the 9 Marks interview of Dr. Mark Minnick by Dr. Mark Dever on the subject of Fundamentalism and the Doctrine of Separation.

While I have only known of Dr. Dever's ministry for the last couple of years, I appreciate a lot that I have read and heard coming out of the ministry in D.C., although I agree with Dr. Dever that he would not be considered a Fundamentalist in the way that I understand Fundamentalism.

I had the privilege of attending Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville for a couple of years during Dr. Minnick's early years as the Sr. Pastor of the church. I also had Dr. Minnick for a few classes at Bob Jones University and consider him a very gifted preacher and godly man.

What I would like to do in this post is to kind of give a "lay of the land" in regards to the interview, with my comments interspersed. I want to do this so that those who have not had a chance to listen to the interview can at least attempt to follow along.

The interview apparently took place in February at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and was, in part, the result of an earlier get-together between Dr. Dever and some Fundamentalist Pastors in the Greenville area. The interview does not indicate who, other than Minnick, was at that meeting, although some of the names have been indicated in other places in the blogosphere.

In the beginning of the interview, Dr. Dever seeks to start by introducing the topic - Fundamentalism and separation - and introducing the interviewee - Dr. Minnick. If you are familiar with Dr. Minnick, there is not a lot in this first section to draw attention to other than a couple of quick things.

1. Dever made it clear very early in the interview (1:25) that there was a clear area of difference between Minnick (and the other Pastors at that meeting) and himself was over the issue of "how we associate with other Christians - how we decide to do that" (i.e. separation). It seemed to me that early on Dr. Dever was wanting to get at the core of the issue. I appreciated that and felt that he kept trying to do this over and over throughout the interview.

It must have been a little frustrating to him that Dr. Minnick seemed to have been more interested in making sure that Dr. Dever understand the areas of agreement - and to recognize that Fundamentalism was not some weird unorthodox monster hiding in the corner like some Evangelical leaders try to portray it. (See the recent Evangelical Manifesto or Rick Warren's comments on Fundamentalism for a couple of examples of this.)

In a large way, it was very frustrating to me as well. However, as I reflected on this a little more, I think that I may not have given Dr. Minnick enough credit in my initial thoughts regarding this. Dr. Minnick was not on his "home turf" and the reality is that while guys like Don, Greg, Andy, Chris, Ben, Bob and others in the "Fundamentalist Blogosphere" - including most of those who will read this and many who discuss these things at SI - have been discussing exactly the point of tension that Dr. Dever was asking about, Dr. Minnick undoubtedly realized that the audience of the 9Marks interview goes beyond this small group of people - and was probably therefore more careful that I would have been about making sure people get a better "big picture" of Fundamentalism. In other words, this is not Dr. Doran in the comments section of Chris or Ben's blog discussing the finer points of these issues (something that appeals to people like me who are intimately concerned with these issues), but rather a broader audience that, in general, is pretty ignorant of Fundamentalism - and whose ignorance of Fundamentalism is often fueled by the very unbalanced and uneducated critiques of Fundamentalism that I mentioned earlier. So, while I would have loved for Dr. Minnick to just have delved into the issue of Fundamentalism and separatism strongly from the beginning, I recognize that his approach in this area, while not as satisfying to guys like me, was probably the wiser approach, as it helped to correct some of the common mischaracterizations about Fundamentalism before hitting on the more minute points. (I also wonder if there is an aspect of still wanting to "go as far on the right road" as you can, so emphasizing the areas of agreement at this point may have been viewed as more helpful in that attempt.)

2. Dr. Dever also commented during this point, that while Dr. Dever sometimes refers to himself as a "fundamentalist" he is not a Fundamentalist in the way that Dr. Minnick would mean the term. Dr. Minnick's answer here was "I think we are [agreed] in our instincts and I think we are agreed in terms of Biblical principle - its probably the extension of them that would be where the difference comes."

This is one of those points where I would have loved to have heard more elaboration from Dr. Minnick. Perhaps some more had been said in the Greenville discussion that clarified this for these two men, but I wonder about the agreement in terms of Biblical principle. Perhaps someone from CHBC can fill me in here: Does Dr. Dever believe that it is ever necessary (outside of the context of a local church) to separate from professing believers? It may be - after all, perhaps that is part of what the de-funding of the D.C. Convention was about - but I am not sure I have heard him articulate this position and would find this a significant shift from the arguments that Evangelicals were making regarding this concept as little as 10 years ago. (When the mantra often seemed to be - "No. That only applies to laziness.")

3. It is also during this part of the interview that Dr. Minnick is given the opportunity to define Fundamentalism and gives the definition that I mentioned on my last post:

A Fundamentalist is a person who believes the essentials of the Christian faith and believes that they are also the essentials for fellowship and cooperation - particularly spiritual cooperation.

I appreciated this definition from Dr. Minnick. While I may have opted for a little more militancy in my definition of Fundamentalism (perhaps more along the lines of Curtis Lee Laws' - "those who hold to the great fundamentals and mean to do battle royal for the faith." ), I like the fact that this definition keeps a focus on two of the key aspects of Fundamentalism - the insistence on orthodoxy and the importance of limiting fellowship to those who are also orthodox.

4. It is also during this first section where Dr. Dever comments that Dr. Minnick is advocate of "what we might call a ‘deliberate Christian' or ‘deliberate cooperation'" (a play off of Dr. Dever's book The Deliberate Church.

5. Dr. Dever also mentions that he had read Dr. McCune's book - Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism - and found himself agreeing with much of his critique of Evangelicalism. He also stated he found himself only in "mixed agreement" with what Dr. McCune positively advocated. I would love to have seen some follow-up at that point - what areas of what Dr. McCune advocated was he in agreement with and what areas was he in disagreement with and what areas was he unsure. (Again, perhaps this will be covered in a follow-up interview with Dr. McCune :) ).

6. Dr. Dever then asked for a "quick tour" of Fundamentalism as a whole, since listeners will know "different parts of the elephant." While Dr. Minnick was correct in identifying the fact that Fundamentalism is not monolithic, I felt that this is one of the areas where he could have been much more clear in indicating that much of what he called "sectarian Fundamentalism" is repudiated by mainstream Fundamentalism and has ceased to be "Fundamentalism" due to its leaving of orthodoxy on issues such as its pragmatic soteriology and radical views on inspiration.

7. In this section, Dr. Minnick also responds (in response to a question regarding Hyles, etc.):
The fact is that in terms of the practicalities of cooperation and association they just don't intersect much. In some cases it isn't really a studied issue where they came to a definite determination at this point in time we no longer will interact with each other.
While there is probably truth to that for some Fundamentalists. The problem with this is that there SHOULD BE a definite determination that we will no longer interact with this type of "so-called" fundamentalist.

8. In the end of this section, Dr. Minnick points out that the question is laid out in the title of a book by Iain Murray based on a sermon that was preached at Grace Community Church - "Unresolved Controversy - Unity with Non-Evangelicals."

Dr. Minnick comments that
That was the issue that divided the Evangelical world 60 years ago. The Fundamentalism that I am familiar with took the position that that controversy is resolved in the Bible and "No. You ought not for spiritual purpose fellowship with and cooperate with non-evangelicals."

Since I see that this is getting long, I will stop here for tonight. (Besides it is past my bed time.)

Anyway, these are just some thoughts,