Monday, March 02, 2009

The Indifference of Contemporary Fundamentalism

Kevin Bauder, dean of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, has revived the usage of the term "indifferentism," and then concocted a companion word, "everythingism."(1) He snatched the term from the writings of J. Gresham Machen, early fundamentalist. Bauder writes: "J. Gresham Machen labeled them “'indifferentists.'” In 1923 Machen uses the word "indifferentism" on pp. 50-51 of his book, Christianity and Liberalism, speaking of Martin Luther's attitude toward the doctrine of the Lord's Table:

[T]he calamity was due to the fact that Luther (as we believe) was wrong about the Lord's Supper; and it would have been a far greater calamity if being wrong about the Supper he had represented the whole question as a trifling affair. Luther was wrong about the Supper, but not nearly so wrong as he would have been if, being wrong, he had said to his opponents: "Brethren, this matter is a trifle; and it makes really very little difference what a man thinks about the table of the Lord." Such indifferentism would have been far more deadly than all the divisions between the branches of the Church. . . . Indifferentism about doctrine makes no heroes of the faith.

When Charles Eerdman allied himself with liberals in the 1920s, Machen wrote in the Presbyterian in 1925 (pp. 20-21):

There is division between Dr. Eerdman and myself, a very serious doctrinal difference indeed. It concerns the question not of this doctrine or that, but of the importance that is to be attributed to doctrine as such. Dr. Eerdman's answer to this basal question has been, so far as it can be determined by his public actions, the answer of doctrinal indifferentism---Dr. Eerdman does not indeed reject the doctrine of our church, but he is perfectly willing to make common cause with those who do reject it.

In those first two quotes, Machen uses the word slightly differently. The first usage regards those who don't take certain doctrines seriously. Machen was happy that Luther wasn't indifferent to the Lord's Supper. In the second usage, Machen uses the word to describe those who ignore doctrine in matters of separation. This is how Bauder coops the term. Machen didn't coin the "indifferentism." Benjamin Warfield had already used it when he wrote p. 16 of The Right of Systematic Theology in 1897:

The basis of this impatience is often a mere latitudinarian indifferentism, which finds its expression in neglect of formulated truth, and is never weary of girding at what it represents as the hairsplitting ingenuity of theologians and the unprofitableness of theological discussion. . . . Dead indifference is frequently more difficult to deal with than the most lively assault. This is doubtless true in the present case also. It is not hard to show the folly of theological indifferent- ism : but just because it is indifferent, indifferentism is apt to pay little attention to our exhibition of its folly.

Machen surely knew about Warfield's usage. But Warfield didn't coin it. "Indifferentism" was used the same way in The Scottish Christian Herald in 1841 (p. 344):

The indifferentism which succeeded it (piety) soon went much farther,—it rejected all doctrine as useless, it effaced all Christian articles of belief, and changed the whole of Christianity into a simple morality.

We go even further back to Richard Wright, who wrote in 1805 in his book (you'll love this title), The Anti-Satisfactionist or the Salvation of Sinners by the Free Grace of God being an Attempt to Explode the Protestant, as well as Popish, Notion of Salvation by Human Merit, And to Promote the Primitive Christian Doctrine of the Sufficiency of Divine Mercy for All Who Are Penitent (p. 191):

You say that you make no profession of indifferentism respecting the truth or error of the points on which we differ. Do you mean to charge your opponent with indifferentism ? If so, you are requested to substantiate the charge. He believes that truth is of great importance, being calculated to produce those happy effects which error never can produce; had he thought otherwise he would have avoided this controversy.

Fundamentalism has from its historic early twentieth-century beginnings not been indifferent to what the Bible teaches, no matter what it is. Machen was happy to report that even though he disagreed with Luther on a doctrine, Luther wasn't indifferent to it. He said that Eerdman, though believing the same as himself, however, was indifferent to a doctrine by being "willing to make common cause with those who do reject it."

The Indifference

I'm illustrating the indifference of contemporary fundamentalism according to the latest way that Machen used the term. According to Machen, indifferentists fellowshiped with those who held to false doctrine even though they themselves may have believed true doctrine. Contemporary fundamentalists fellowship with men who might believe true doctrine, but "still make common cause with those who do reject it." I'm going to give you four examples. I could give many more. Before I give the examples, I want to show how fundamentalists relate to the indifferentists, and by Machen's understanding, become indifferentists themselves.

All four of the examples relate to the so-called "conservative evangelicals"---John MacArthur, C. J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, John Piper, D. A. Carson, and Albert Mohler---to name a few. Fundamentalists support these men in many different ways, not the least of which is their support of Together for the Gospel (T4G) and The Shepherd's Conference. A poll was started over at the fundamentalist forum SharperIron to see who would attend T4G and more than twice as many would go as would not go (72% to 28%). Here is a taste of the comments about T4G:

I attended both of them and I plan to go again. . . . The fellowship was good - many fundies at both conferences and the giveaways were nice! I plan to never miss any of them! . . . . I saw some well-known Fundemental (sic) non Calvinist at both conferences.

I would go if I had the opportunity! Our youth pastor attended last year and had positive comments about it.

I plead with all of you to plan to go to TG4 in 2010.

I was there in 08. Would love to go again.

No one said he wouldn't go (except for one because he lives in California). Another thread opened about The Shepherd's Conference, and men wrote:

I'll be there. I know of a few more, but I'll let them speak for themselves. You are in for a treat, brother.

I'm going for the first time ever this year . . . My family surprised me with the money to go for Christmas! I'm so excited about it I can hardly wait!

I'll be there too.

I want to go . . . does that count!

It looks as if from our own leadership and ministry core we will have a dozen men at the three more from outside our ministry.

There were no negative comments, no disclaimers. You don't get even close to the same kind of excitement about anything that is fundamentalist on SharperIron, a self-professing fundamentalist site. There is virtually unconditional support given.

If these fundamentalists are not attending the indifferentist conferences and fellowships, then they are strongly endorsing the indifferentists all over the internet on their blogs. I could give many examples. You'll see the support on the blogroll at SharperIron, the fundamentalist leader on the internet, for indifferentists with rare examples of any defense for fundamentalists. Usually they're are attacking or picking apart fundamentalists for separating, a quality that distinguishes the fundamentalist. There is no disclaimer by SharperIron. One of them is the personal assistant of D. A. Carson and another works under Mark Dever. That makes them sort of celebrities at SharperIron. If you just went down the list, you'll see this with these titles and statements easy to see:

Q and A with D. A. Carson and Mark Dever

Yesterday my family visited CrossWay Community Church in Milwaukee for second time since our church planted it a little over a year ago. If you or people you know live near the high school building where they’re meeting, I’d commend this gospel-centered assembly to you.

I sang this song tonight in chorus with quite a few Amillennialists at my church.

Mark Dever interviews D. A. Carson

Here’s how D. A. Carson introduces Craig L. Blomberg’s Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions

The blogs of choice are those that regularly criticize the separation of fundamentalism or encourage the type of behavior of the indifferentists. You'll see the same kind of treatment of indifferentists all over the place. Scott Aniol is one of the best and conservative voices out there on Christian music. I pre-ordered and received his book Worship Song, which has wonderful teaching on the subject, some of the best you can read anywhere. However, Aniol refers to and mentions with great favor men like Bob Kauflin and Phil Johnson. He linked with the article by Johnson on contextualization, but how does that fit with the Resolved conference for youth put on by the same men. Spurgeon would turn over in his grave if he saw that picture and heard that music. He links to Christianity Today on culture with no instruction or rebuttal. So here is the fundamentalist representing the most conservative stand on worship and yet he behaves very nonchalantly about the dangers of evangelicals indifferent to his scriptural worship position. This is all something very different for fundamentalism with its characteristics of militance and separation.

Mohler and Billy Graham

Billy Graham has promoted universalism. His methodology has supported that belief. There is a huge divergence in the gospel understanding of Billy Graham and Albert Mohler, but that did not stop them from coming together in a “gospel” endeavor in 2001. Mohler was indifferent to Graham's universalism. It didn't make a big enough deal for him to separate from Graham. Mohler is keynoting the Shepherd's Conference this year.

Dever, Mohler, and the Southern Baptist Convention

If you are in the SBC, you are in fellowship with avowed liberals. Even though there is a conservative resurgence in the SBC, it is still the home of many liberals and men of other stripes of scriptural indifference. Dever pastors a church in the convention. He recently explained why in an interview with Mark Minnick, a fundamentalist pastor in Greenville, SC. He said that they must stay in the convention to keep the money and the property that they would lose if they separated. You can look for that reasoning in Scripture. You won't find it.

Piper and Daniel Fuller and Baptist General Conference

Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis, MN, where John Piper pastors, is in the Baptist General Conference. The Baptist General Conference in 2000 voted to allow open theism in their denomination. Open theism is the false doctrine about God that says that God doesn't know the future, because the future is unknowable. It also rejects several of the other scriptural attributes of God. That isn't enough for Piper's church to separate.

He also considers himself to be in close and unashamed fellowship with Daniel Fuller. Fuller wrote this: "[There are] many passages in Scripture in which good works are made the instrumental cause of justification." Fuller also does not believe by any historic, scriptural thinking, the inerrancy of Scripture.

John Piper was a speaker at the 2004 National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, joining hands in that forum with Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Ted Haggard, and Pat Robertson a speaker at the 2004 National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. Three Roman Catholic organizations were active at the 2004 NRB conference. The Global Catholic Network ran an ad in the NRB newspaper each day and rented exhibit space.

C. J. Mahaney and Charismaticism

Piper and Bethlehem Baptist claim to be charismatic too, but C. J. Mahaney is a charismatic. Mahaney long-time pastored Covenant Life Church, which is now led by Joshua Harris. The doctrinal statement of Mahaney reads:

All the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in the church of the first-century are available today, are vital for the mission of the church, and are to be earnestly desired and practiced.

So tongues, healings, and miracles are to be earnestly desired and practiced according to that statement, or in other words, we must seek after signs. Jesus said in Matthew 16:4, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign."

The same church put on Godspell. Here's part of the explanation of Godspell from Time Magazine, which wouldn't be opposed to it:

This Hassidic hippie show, by John-Michael Tebelak and composer Steven Schwartz, spawned the Top 20 charter "Day by Day" ("Oh Lord, three things I pray: To see Thee more clearly, To love Thee more dearly, To follow Thee more nearly, day by day"). Director David Greene set the 1973 movie on Manhattan's city streets and the climax in a city playground. The other night on "The Daily Show," Rob Corddry accurately described the "Godspell" Christ figure as "a '70s pop rainbow suspendery kind of Jesus." Brown-eyed, frizzy-haired Victor Garber, who 30 years later has a career on Broadway ("Art") and TV ("Alias"), stresses Jesus' gentility in sensitive-clown makeup: teardrop eyeliner and a sweet heart on his forehead. The rest of the young cast follows suit, miming up a storm, sipping imaginary sacramental wine from invisible chalices. Drinks for the Last Supper are served in paper cups. Was Jim Jones watching?

Mahaney is not only part of Together for the Gospel, but John MacArthur recently had him preach at Grace Community Church.

Excusing Indifference

The above-explained indifference is explained as acceptable by those critical of fundamentalism because of the indifference of fundamentalists in the past. Bob Jones University was indifferent to racism and racists. Because BJU has a building named after Bibb Graves, then Southern Baptist Theological Seminary should be able to keep associating with Billy Graham. That's the type of moral equivalence that is argued. Most of fundamentalism overlooked the false gospel of Jack Hyles, so they should also be able to overlook the universalism of Billy Graham. The logic of the argument is that if fundamentalists won't separate consistently, then they can't criticize others who don't separate at all, so we may as well go ahead and none of us separate. Some think the worst example of indifference is the belief in one Bible. This is what a panel of fundamentalist pastors answered first as an example of fundamentalist indifference in a recent meeting of the Minnesota Baptist Association. These all sound like the excuses to keep moving fundamentalism away from separation and toward more indifferentism.


I believe that anyone needs to look at these issues, either as fundamentalist or evangelical. We need to look at them in the light of scripture. We can apply the Bible and the doctrine of separation that it teaches to all of these situations. This really is the kind of work that fundamentalists once did. They should be the ones doing it now, but they are nearly silent. For the love of God, honor of His holiness, and the purity of the Lord's church, we should practice separation based on what the Bible says and not tradition or popular norms.

I understand the criticisms of inconsistency. It is why I can't be a fundamentalist. Fundamentalists don't separate enough, and when they do, they rarely do it in biblical fashion. They're too indifferent. I believe there is more worth separating over than the fundamentals. All of the Lord's truth is important and should be preserved. We shouldn't be indifferent to any of it. Separation is the means that God has given us to do that. However, inonsistency is no legitimate reason not to disobey the Lord in other areas.

I don't see many fundamentalists standing up to stem this slide of indifferentism. They would rather keep in good standing with those who are willing to make common cause with those who do reject certain truths of Scripture. A fundamentalist church in New Hampshire is having a leadership conference in which one of the sessions is why not to go to T4G. That was worthy of a link from a moderator at SharperIron. Only one man defended the pastor who was teaching the session. Everyone else thought it was silly. It seems many fundamentalists don't understand separation anymore. And is ecclesiastical separation being preached by fundamentalists like it once was? It looks like fundamentalism is losing its young people too. They seem to have become. . . . indifferent.

(1) "Everythingism" was a word coined by C. S. Lewis in 1947 in his book, Miracles, to describe the belief of the person who sees everything around him as a miracle. Bauder says "an everythingist is someone who is committed to the 'literal exposition of all the affirmations and attitudes of the Bible, and the militant exposure of all non-biblical affirmations and attitudes.'” He thinks it's bad to be one of those.


Don Johnson said...

Good work, Kent.

I would add that Fundamentalism has lost much of its militant spirit, even more than separation. This is the heart and soul of Fundamentalism.

I agree that all doctrine is important, but I don't agree that we must break fellowship for disagreement over every point. I think in practice you likely do the same.

But, you know, I think it is possible to be militant (dogmatic?) about what we believe and at points choose not to separate but still remain friends. I don't think that is indifferentism. It is an attitude that says differences matter, but we are going to choose not to fight over X with one another (we'll just think ... and say ... each other is wrong there).

Nevertheless, you have captured the essence of the problem with this post.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kent Brandenburg said...


I got worn out writing this, and so I posted it knowing it needed a few minor errors lifted and maybe a few clarifying sentences written. Thanks for the comment. In practice, I don't separate over everything; it's true. But I do separate over what our church teaches. However, we don't cut people off. Nobody can grow and learn that way, including us. It doesn't leave room for indifferentism, however.

Thanks again.

Josh said...

I am one of the younger guys, I have really appreciated T4G and SC, various writings and sermons of all the people you mentioned.
More so, I appreciate the Fundamentals.
I want to communicate this properly, but blogs are a difficult forum, so please understand my heart. I am entreating you as a father.
Your research is excellent and I understand your logic, but I struggle to agree with your conclusions.
I think we both want to say what the Bible says, but we are coming to differing positions. You really are pushing for Fundamentalists to continue practicing secondary separation, and that position is the conclusion of some excellent logic plus Biblical statements. It is also a very gray area (subjective analysis of other people) and as you said rarely done Biblically. What is clear is separation from the world, sin and disobedient brothers. Of course you can say they are being disobedient because they are separating, but again that's the logic kicking in.
The other concept of yours that I am struggling to agree with is the idea of separating from men because they come to different conclusions about non-fundamental issues (not doctrine but practice). The Fundamentals don't discuss music, dress, baptismal mode or versions. So why ought we to separate from someone who preaches the Gospel but has different conclusions about music, etc?
Kent, I don't want to be indifferent, just reading your article challenges me to analyze and think through my positions. I appreciate your passion and desire to articulate your position and I am thankful for it.
Humbly, Josh

Real Fundy said...


Excellent post. The root problem ironically goes back to men like Kevin Bauder himself. It is clear that Bauder seems to be generally to the right of most of the Younger Fundamentalists, but his own example has opened the door to the embrace of T4G.

Bauder started out in Fundamentalism and then jumped ship to graduate school by completing a D.Min. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois (1991)and then a Ph.D. in Systematic and Historical Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary (2001)before returning to a Fundamental School at Central. No doubt this exposure had a critical influence in his writing One Bible Only? where he tries to argue the Lord is indifferent as to His Words as Bauder claims, “He might preserve some words and He might permit some to be lost, depending upon His own purpose.” (p159-160)He seems to have become. . . . indifferent.

With such an inconsistent example, it is no wonder those younger fundamentalists who admire Bauder think nothing of attending conferences like T4G to hear men that Bauder sat under at Graduate School. Such an action would historically have got Bauder banned for life by institutions like BJU, who used to refuse you a degree if you admitted you would be enrolling in the next semester at Seminaries such as Dallas.

Bill Hardecker said...

I liked "everythingest" that I read. Seriously, thank you. I don't exactly know what attracts fundamentalists to neos and emergers, maybe it's the goti.

Bob Hayton said...

I have two points which need to be understood in all of this discussion. Consider them my 2 cents.

1) The original fundamentalists, and most of the modern day movement-fundamentalists hold to a priority in doctrines idea. I know Jackhammer addressed this recently. And so I know you guys hold that all doctrines are created equal and all equally worth separating over. The other position of course, holds that certain doctrines are especially fundamental -- they are core doctrines. Denial of those doctrines is a repudiation of the Gospel. There are 2nd and 3rd level doctrines that shape the practical ways we can work together with other believers, but in which absolute agreement is not necessary in order for one to be a Bible receiving Christian. A valid difference of interpretation or opinion exists. The second is my position, but I won't go into debate over it here and now.

2) Separation will look different in different contexts. In the 1930s and 40s, many fundamentalists elected to stay within the Northern Baptist Convention, hoping to work together to preserve it from total capitulation to liberal theology. Eventually they failed, and fundamentalists of later generations separated from the NBC. The same is true of the Southern Baptist Convention up until recent days. Some had separated and given up on it. Others worked from within for its preservation from error. To some extent at least, the SBC was saved from total error. There was no real unanimity surrounding when someone should just give up on an institution versus staying within the institution. Some of the initial leaders of fundamentalism never left but stayed in the dying institutions of their day.

John Piper is still within the BGC. He does not passively stand by and let the BGC accept open theism. He led the charge against the acceptance of open theism and his side lost the debate. He has great influence in the BGC and has decided to stay on the inside (for now) and use that influence for (hopefully) preserving effects. Al Mohler participated in a Graham crusade, but only after ensuring that no Catholics would work together with that crusade. He didn't passively accept the Graham platform, he actively made sure certain points were in order for him to feel comfortable working with Graham in a crusade.

Now fundamentalists can disagree with the decisions Mohler and Piper made. They would have done it differently, but that doesn't entitle them to claim that what Mohler and Piper did was a wholesale non-separatist thing. This matter is more nuanced than that.

In a world where everything is black and white (including things not expressly referenced in Scripture), it is convenient to condemn every position and every person who doesn't line up with one's own personal views on the doctrines of Scripture and the application of Scripture principles to ecclesiastical cooperation. It's easier to go that route, but is it the only Structurally warranted way? I would say no.

Sorry to go so long here. I was just trying to give my 2 cents. I'm not trying to hide anything here, btw. I have been a member at John Piper's church now for more than 4 years. And I'm a former fundamentalist.

Bob Hayton

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks for your comments. Josh, your comments were very well put, and you did entreat as a a Father, so you succeeded at obeying that. Let's say you disobeyed that command in 1 Timothy 5 and then when you did, you weren't repentant over it. Is that a separating issue? It would be in a church, because unrepentant sin is separated over---called church discipline. So is that primary or tertiary?

But moving on to what you wrote well. Secondary separation. I don't like the term, because I believe the term itself is the logic, not the act of separation itself. Usually, it is the indifferentists who argue against it with the slippery slope argument: "so how far do we go? third and fourth degree. It's facetious." It throws the baby out with the bathwater. I believe Machen described it well with his usage of indifferentism.

Separation is a doctrine in Scripture. It's all over the place. Not separating is a violation of scripture. When someone doesn't separate from an indifferentist, he is violating teaching on separation. This is looking at it scripturally. Logic is necessary for application of Scripture. Most scripture is applied using second or minor premise arguments. If we establish the scriptural principle or command to be true in the major or first premise, then we can come to a conclusion about real behavior in the second or minor premise that violates the major premise. God expects us to do that. It is His reasonable (logikos) service (worship, latreia).

Concerning fundamental doctrines, I'm not going to deal with that here and now, because I have probably argued more on that than anyone on the internet. I haven't had anyone answer my arguments. They have answered some of my criticisms of their arguments, but not my actual arguments.

However, Josh, I didn't argue for indifference of fundamentalists based upon even what fundamentalists consider tertiary issues. Mine were primary---the gospel and Christology. I threw in the Scott Aniol situation as an example of indifference even on something that someone believes himself.

Thanks for coming over. You don't have to tell me who you are, but have we met before?

Kent Brandenburg said...

Real Fundy,

Thanks. You sound right about your stated characters, but I'm hopeful that regenerate men will desire to be obedient.


YW. Glad to help enlighten.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Interesting comment. Very deflective, like many fundamentalists. Ring around the rosy in style.

First, why even mention my belief in everythingism. I already said I was. Why do you need to let my audience know that aspect, except to think that you are discrediting what I've written? I would rather someone judge this on its own merits, don't you? To start, like I told Josh, I didn't argue this from my point of view but from a fundamentalist's point of view. That technique of starting with something to discredit me with those I want to persuade by taking a swipe at another position I take was very fundamentalist of you [and then poking it in later too---this parenthesis---"(including things not expressly referenced in Scripture)."]. I believe that you make the commandments of God of no effect because of your new tradition, Bob. You don't have to separate. No reason given, except for nuance. Where is the "stay in and try to change them" teaching in the Bible? Are you sure you're not a fundamentalist?

Second, what is typical of a new-evangelical is what I read in your second part. Just excuses. You call it nuance. You say that they didn't do "a wholesale non-separatist thing." Huh?

And then you leave a lot out. I didn't say anything about Graham's fellowship with Roman Catholicism. That is a good point though; thanks for bringing it up. I was talking about Graham's universalism. Graham himself was still sticking by his universalism. The words Graham uses that he calls the gospel don't mean the same thing that the Bible means. I'm sorry if I don't nuance that more, but it's called contending for the faith. And then on John Piper, he himself says that he remains in fellowship with Daniel Fuller. He was quite clear on that. You said nothing of that.

Separation is the only scripturally warranted way. Show me another way in scripture. Really. When there is no doctrinal reconciliation or repentance, there must be a split. That is, by the way, how you know that someone really does love too. God is love, so doing what He said is the most loving thing to do.

Don Johnson said...


Let's look at this issue another way: you bring up the term "secondary separation", so let's say (for now) that we agree and we decide we won't do it anymore. What will that look like?

Well, I might decide that it would be ok for me to cooperate with some of the men named: Piper, Dever, Mohler. Fine. So suppose I participate in some official way with the Desiring God Conference. Who does that put me in cooperation with? Mark Driscoll, among others. Do I want to cooperate with a blasphemer?

In fact, with each of these names, the same result ensues. If you cooperate with them in some way, you will be cooperating with others with whom you might be extremely uncomfortable. If these 'conservative evangelical' fellows would actually isolate themselves form some of their questionable (at best) associations, I would be more willing to open up towards cooperation with them.

Until that happens, I'll hold off. (But not hold my breath!) You can call it secondary separation or whatever you want, I'm just not willing to join hands with these guys and their entire circle. If they would truly break fellowship with their especially more offensive entanglements, maybe we could talk. Until they do, not a chance.


Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Josh said...

Thanks for your response. It was fatherly and kind and forthright, all of which I greatly need and appreciate.
To your first question, yes, it would be primary.
I don't like the term, secondary separation either. When removed it seems simpler and makes the situations black and white and demands that a man be full of the Word (so he sees it is full of commands to separate) and the Holy Spirit (so he has grace and strength to do it and to properly practice discernment.
Clearly there is a need to separate from a disobedient brother (if we've Matthew 18ed him), but if we haven't? What about all the separation from brothers we have never spoken to? It seems then our logic (well I would if I could, and I have to tell everyone that I would) gets before the Bible (cart before the horse picture here)
Agreed that most application uses second or minor premise arguments, but is a brother disobedient when he goes further? When our logic is so tight, where does the Holy Spirit and priesthood of the believer fit in? Fundamentalism is broken into logic camps (people who all agree on the same minor premise. I think the point of some young guys is that we find great blessing in the major premises, and we want to allow the Spirit to work in the minors (without becoming grace abusers, of course), that too is reasonable service, is it not?
I will go back and look at your archives, I understand your not wanting to rehash everything.
My name is Josh McCarnan, no, I don't think we've had the pleasure of meeting. Again, thank you for your response. I look forward to reading more in the future.

Josh said...

That's a great question! The Word and the Holy Spirit would make it look different for every man. It is easier to make list of men to avoid and men to hang out with than it is to evaluate each man according to Scripture (I am sure you have done this, but what about others that might just take your list and run?)

If you were to be a part of DG that would actually give you opportunity to Biblically confront Driscoll right? But even if you did that, I don't know if that makes you cooperating with Driscoll. Maybe on a surface level, both wearing pants on the same stage throughout the conference, but even the historic fundamentalists had conferences where the speakers were passionately opposed to one another.
You are right you may be uncomfortable, but for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom, these men may need to hear the message that God has laid on your heart, your admonition, your point of view, your exhortations. I'd say you ought to pursue, don't wait for them to come, they may not realize the damage of the associative principle.
I respect your position. I's a nobody, so I don't have to worry about even being invited to the circle or holding hands and accordingly, I can "skim the cream" and leave the rest. Therein lies great stuff that increase my view of and my love for Jesus and His cross.

Don Johnson said...

Why is it my responsibility to confront Driscoll? He isn't a member of my church, and he has done nothing against me personally.

My responsibility is for my flock.

There is a widespread mis-interpretation of Mt 18. Some attempt to handcuff those who would mark false teachers and protect the flock by a false insistence on making personal contact. It isn't possible unless you have a direct personal relationship. It isn't my job to call up every errant Christian in the world and confront them.

Cooperation = fellowship. You need to truly do some study of the concept of koinonia, fellowship, in the Bible. This is exactly what the conservative evangelicals miss. They are quite willing to cooperate (i.e., have fellowship) with men who are clearly disobedient to either doctrine or practice. The fundamentalist, on the other hand, is not.

Until that impasse is broken, there can also be no real fellowship between the CE and the fundie.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ryan Martin said...

Hmmm. Some of the above quotations look familiar.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hey Ryan,

I never saw your article at all. Didn't even have anyone mention it to me. I don't say that to say that there aren't numerous people that read your blog---maybe they do. What motivated me to write it was a combination of things, not mainly Dr. Bauder, but the subtle arguments of Ben at paleo and then the rising love of all things evangelical by many. I also must admit that my main source of research was Google books. I simply googled the forms of the word at Google Books. I read enough to get a sense of the history of the concept. You're obviously around it at Central, but I am interested in how you came to your info. Did you do it the old fashioned way in an actual library?

I also think we came to a little different conclusion about the history; maybe I'm wrong. Thanks for commenting. I hope you don't think I was attempting to steal any historic credit (smiles).

Kent Brandenburg said...


Answers to questions.

"Clearly there is a need to separate from a disobedient brother (if we've Matthew 18ed him), but if we haven't? What about all the separation from brothers we have never spoken to?"

Don and I, I believe, differ on this, but I see the pattern of three steps everywhere, so I think it is the way to operate if possible. However, there are some we are never in fellowship with in the first place, because we know they have already been confronted multiple times. We don't have to keep confronting them and really we shouldn't keep confronting them. Look at how Jesus dealt with people---finally He even spoke in parables so people couldn't understand, and He earlier said, Cast not pearls before swine. This isn't because I don't want to talk to people with a loving motive---it is just that you're not more loving by doing something Jesus wouldn't do.

"Agreed that most application uses second or minor premise arguments, but is a brother disobedient when he goes further?"

This is mainly why separation is a local church issue. Each church determines what are the separating issues.

"When our logic is so tight, where does the Holy Spirit and priesthood of the believer fit in?"

The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. We go to the Bible for the concept of priesthood and, yes, it is a privilege, but mainly a responsibility. We aren't priests to get to do it the way we want.

"I think the point of some young guys is that we find great blessing in the major premises, and we want to allow the Spirit to work in the minors (without becoming grace abusers, of course), that too is reasonable service, is it not?"

Again, each church judges. We don't have liberty to disobey scripture. We don't have liberty to cause disunity in our church. I believe that when our church decides after having gone through the right process, we are required to fit into it.

Thanks for your comments.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Josh and Don,

I read Don's comment to Josh and I basically agree with Don. We warn at people who may have an influence. At the same time, I think that there are principles besides Mt. 18 that would say that we give a guy an opportunity to defend himself if he hasn't already---due process. Isn't something gossip if we haven't talked first to the person responsible? I think so, unless we know that someone has been confronted. All the guys I have talked about have been confronted and I've read their answers, sometimes repeated answers.

I didn't mention Driscoll, mainly because I wasn't sure to put him even in the MacArthur category, since MacArthur has written quite a bit negative about him. Plus it was easier to get the info on the others at the time I wrote this.

Don, I've got something else for you. Is music a separating issue for you? If so, why?

I ask that now because you said that minus hanging with his hanging with Driscoll, you could fellowship with Piper; maybe I'm wrong.

Don Johnson said...

Just quickly, because I am on my way out the door...

Yes, I have a lot of problems with Piper's music and it would be another area that would have to change for cooperation to take place. But I mention Driscoll because it is less debatable in my mind.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bob Hayton said...

One last thing about Piper. You've probably already read his response to the FBFI resolution warning of his ministry. He doesn't uncritically endorse Fuller. Obviously everyone must be read with discernment.

I was warned about Fuller's views on justification when taking some classes at my (Piper's) church institute, by one of the assistant pastors, if I remember right.

Bob Hayton said...

Forgot to add the link to Piper's response. It's not really a response, more a reflection on the value of fundamentalism for the wider body of Christ.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pastor Brandenburger,

Thank you for this well-researched and thoughtful article. It's a shame how far much of "fundamentalism" has sunk.

Anonymous said...

There are certainly problems in fundamentalism, the movement. Of course, one challenge in describing and addressing those problems is that the movement is hardly monolithic: persons of fairly different persuasions use the term of themselves.

In that regard, I have the sense that you are placing too much reliance on Sharper Iron, especially when you refer to it as “the fundamentalist leader on the internet.” I am not sure what basis we would have for saying that Sharper Iron typifies the fundamentalist movement. Further, we should be cautious about attributing the views of one set of posters to the membership generally (or to the leadership of Sharper Iron, for that matter) or to fundamentalism generally. On to your main point, however.

The focus is indifferentism, an important topic that is worthy of our attention. After reviewing some historical uses of the term, you turn to modern times, saying, “I'm [I]illustrating[/I] the indifference of contemporary fundamentalism according to the latest way that Machen used the term” (emphasis added). It seems to me that there is a problem, however, in that you begin illustrating a problem that you have not yet defined. You may believe that you have defined your usage adequately, but I would suggest two respects in which you have not.

First, it seems that you have not specified what activities constitute indifferentism. On one hand, you repeatedly emphasize Machen’s words as to the indifferentist being “willing to make common cause with those who ... reject [the doctrine]. Yet later you say, “According to Machen, indifferentists fellowshiped with those who held to false doctrine even though they themselves may have believed true doctrine.” But I contend that having fellowship and making common cause with someone are not the same.

You discuss attending certain conferences. Is this more like making common cause (Machen’s term) or having fellowship (your term)? It seems that we should distinguish between attending an activity and sponsoring or speaking at the activity. Granted, there is probably a continuum, a range of involvement or engagement, but that leads back to my point: we need further definition.

You also discuss instances of fundamentalists citing and linking to the works of those you identify as indifferentists. Yet is learning from someone the same as making common cause with them? I do not think so. More generally, is listening to or learning from others with whom we disagree doctrinally indifferentism? We must be careful how we answer. Consider books (I see many similarities between choosing/recommending books and choosing/recommending web sites and sermons). Is a pastor an indifferentist because he possesses in his library and learns from books that contain some teaching with which he disagrees doctrinally? Does a professor, or a seminary generally, cross into indifferentism when choosing a text that contains some doctrinally objectionable elements? How many caveats must be given?

I am not trying to be cute here. We need to be discerning in where we go, what we read, and what we recommend. But we also need further definition of the term indifferentist lest we not be appropriately discriminating in how we apply it.

Second, it seems that you have not adequately defined what doctrines are relevant to or implicated by the issue of indifferentism. The context of Machen’s statement is contending with liberalism. Dr. Kevin Bauder, in using the term “indifferentist” indicates that he is talking about the fundamentals, that is, the Gospel and the doctrines upon which it depends. I sense that you would go beyond that. For example, you say, “All of the Lord's truth is important and ... [w]e shouldn't be indifferent to any of it.” Does that mean that you would apply the term indifferentist to anyone who engages in cooperative effort absent doctrinal unanimity? Granted, there are levels of cooperation and of separation, and the level of doctrinal agreement is relevant to that. But I do not yet see a case for applying the term indifferentist that far.

Again, I agree that these are important matters and that they are worthy of attention. I am concerned, however, that we be careful and precise in definition. I note your earlier comment about refining the piece, and I suggest these are some areas that warrant further attention.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks for your comments and they are worthy of my consideration.

I can be happy that you do not trust the comments at SharperIron, but I'm afraid that they do represent a large portion of young fundamentalism in the non-revivalist branch. If I decided to put in more time, I could have given you a larger sample size, but I believe that Jason Janz and those like him do well represent the thinking of fundamentalism. I'd find it pleasant if you proved this wrong.

I did distinguish between "fellowship" and "make common cause." I gave four examples of "common cause" after showing that these men consider themselves in fellowship with 'common causers.' Their communication as well as many others does not display merely attendance at a conference, but support without disclaimer. I also showed that on the blogroll of SharperIron.

If this were a book, I would give a bigger sample size for young fundamentalists. However, I think many fundamentalists would agree with me on this. And I did title it The Indifference of Contemporary Fundamentalism. This doesn't mean that I am saying that contemporary fundamentalism is entirely indifferent in the sense as those whom I quoted.

If I were to be judging Machen's writings alone, I couldn't say that he was talking about just "fundamentals," especially when in his definitional location, he mentions the Lord's Supper of Luther. I know that Bauder refers to fundamentals, but he is taking the utilizing Machen to do so.

It would be a long discussion for me to get into what I believe about ranking doctrines and separation, but last month we dealt with this topic at Jackhammer (we change topics every month) and I have written about it on several occasions here. I may start another category on my sidebar here that links to those articles, so they could be read as a series.

When it is all done, I want to obey and honor God. I believe that I do that by believing and practicing what He said and separate the way He taught us. Thanks again for your comments.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Regarding Piper, etc. and that he disagrees with the false doctrines propagated by the two mentioned. But he doesn't separate over them. Doesn't Galatians 1:6-9 say, "Let them be accursed"? Isn't that an imperative? Together despite the false gospel?

Lamblion said...

Have you seen this expose on MacArthur, Mohler, Dever, et al?

This website is a bit "out there" but the article appears to have some damning information, if it's true.