One common criticism from certain fundamentalists and evangelicals has been the tyrannical nature of fundamentalist leadership. Is meanness a quality unique in Christianity to fundamentalism? Not at all. Evangelicals are just as "mean," in my opinion. Their sarcasm and mockery of fundamentalism is just as harsh as anything you'll see coming from fundamentalists. I give you a recent example that is really just what I've noticed as par for the course. It comes in a recent discussion online about "Christ in the Old Testament." Mark Snoeberger is a professor at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and wrote some of his observations for a future Old Testament class he's teaching at the seminary. I think he made some rightful criticism of reading too much Christology into the Old Testament. Christ isn't more greatly honored by seeing Him where He isn't. Snoeberger said some things in a less artful or sensitive way than some thought necessary, but later he apologized publically for that.
After Snoeberger's apology, Phil Johnson, a well-known evangelical, linked to an article written by a fellow evangelical, Nathan Pitchford, who called Snoeberger a false teacher and a Marcionite. Others in the comment section wondered if Snoeberger must not believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Johnson himself writes this:
Snoeberger's inelegant use of the expression "Gospel Carnival" reflects his contempt for what he calls "the Gospel Togetherness Movement." He says it is not meant to denigrate the gospel per se. However, I think his view does denigrate the gospel, deliberately downplaying what both Christ himself and the Apostle Paul said should be central.
Snoeberger had already apologized for his expression "Gospel Carnival." Phil Johnson ironically does not give Snoeberger "due process." I say "ironically" because Johnson himself has written that lack of due process is what will kill fundamentalism, as it stands, if it hasn't already. What I've noticed is that Johnson likes due process for himself and his friends, but he's very glad not to give it those he criticizes. This is just an example of how evangelicals aren't really different as a whole from fundamentalists in what they think makes them different than fundamentalists. We get no mention of Snoeberger's apology or of how Snoeberger had clarified some of the statements he had made. If someone were treating John MacArthur like Johnson treated Snoeberger, Johnson would see that as fundamentalist styled treatment.
You haven't escaped meanness if you leave fundamentalism for evangelicalism. I've never seen any Christians as mean as evangelicals. The comments I get at this blog from evangelicals are the most vile and rude that I get, on par at least with Peter Ruckman, if not worse.
But I digress. I haven't yet talked about the most pivotal event toward my leaving fundamentalism. I can't tell the whole story in one post, but I'll get started here.
Our church had become woven into fundamentalism. We attended fundamentalist meetings, camps, and colleges. Our school joined the American Association of Christian Schools and the California edition of it. We began attending the teacher's conventions for the AACS. We supported missionaries from fundamentalist mission boards. Was this the best thing for our church? I found it wasn't. Affiliating with all these organizations was doing more to hurt our church. They siphoned off a lot of money from our annual budget without helping our church.
The preachers that came in to the various "service organizations" of fundamentalism couldn't represent the best preaching. Rarely to never did you hear good exposition. Perhaps this has improved in fundamentalism, but still not at that time. We heard the same people all the time, the big guys from Bob Jones University or from the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship.
We paid dues to be a part of the Golden State Association of Christian Schools. We paid for the teacher's convention and for the transportation and hotel costs. I was excited to see what kind of help we could get there for our teachers. I sat in on a session on 'teaching Bible' offered by the president of the AACS. In the session, he said that Bible class needed to be easy. Why? Kids like easy classes, so if you make Bible easy, then your kids will like Bible class. Ingenious, huh? So he taught us how they had made Bible class an easy class, so their kids would like the Bible. If you made Bible class too hard, your kids wouldn't like it, and they would be turned off to the Bible. How does that sound to you? Hopefully very bad.
It was in the lobby of that convention that I stood with some of the big names in fundamentalism and heard them talk about how men came to fisticuffs with one another. One of the biggest names in fundamentalism had the other big name by his shirt, and the other with his hands around the throat. The one telling the story told how that he had to break the fight up before it got really ugly. This was a different picture than what I had in mind for these types of men when I was in school or growing up.
Things got worse.
A Church Discipline Situation
We had a Filipino man in our church who wanted to go back to the Philippines as a missionary. The man wasn't even qualified to be a deacon in a church, let alone our sending him as an evangelist to a foreign country. Nevertheless, he asked me and another man in our church to send a letter of recommendation to Baptist World Mission. The letter I sent did not recommend him. He didn't have a job. His wife worked, brought home the paycheck, and the man home-schooled his children. He never got to church on time. The whole family was almost always fifteen minutes late. I didn't even know that the other man in our church had sent a letter, which said the same things that I said in mine. I got a letter back from the executive director of the mission board and he thanked me for the letter. He said he would recommend the man to get into a mentoring or internship type of situation with me. The executive direction of BWM was very happy that we did not recommend such a man.
The Filipino man agreed to do an internship with me. I wanted to help him all I could. I started with getting to church on time. I laid out an entire schedule for him for Saturday night and Sunday morning that would enable him to arrive early and be a help. Upon seeing the schedule, he decided that he did not want this mentoring and so he would not pursue being a missionary any more.
Shortly thereafter, I was preaching a series on Wednesday night through 2 Thessalonians and got to chapter 3. I was convicted about this man not working, being supported by his wife. When I was preaching 3:6-15, I knew that it was speaking directly to him and then to me. I was allowing him to disobey God without correction or discipline. In other words, I wasn't loving the man by allowing him to get away with this, and in so doing, harming our church. I talked to him one-on-one and told him that I would help him obey the passage. Even though I would rather not, we would hire him to work in the school, and he could put his kids in the school for free. That would give him a job and take away the excuse of his children's education. He refused. He said "no."
Myself and another man in our church went to him again and said that he needed to look for a job or to accept our job offer or we would bring it before the church. He told me it was too late, because he was going to leave the church. He did. He left and took his family to a church in San Francisco, one pastored by a big-named fundamentalist, a man who was a leader in the FBF and on the board of BWM. When he got to that church, he told the pastor there that he wanted to go to the Philippines as a missionary. That church recommended him to Baptist World Mission. The executive director of Baptist World Mission, who had thanked me only a year before, accepted the recommendation.
Our church was supporting five Baptist World Mission missionaries. We had removed this leaven from our lump and BWM had accepted the leaven from our lump---knowingly, with full knowledge. Even at this point, I was shocked at the kind of thing that happened in fundamentalism. The executive director of BWM had written two books on separation and the holiness of God. I had read them both. With that in mind, I knew that when I called him, he would certainly do what was right. I knew he would. So I called.
More to Come.