Monday, January 30, 2012

How Did "Old Time Fundamentalists Act When Their Leaders Did Stupid Things"?

Both evangelicalism and fundamentalism are interesting to watch.  And in a day in which everything is easier to view because of the internet, it's even more fun.   Evangelicalism, or maybe what could be called conservative evangelicalism, right now is involved in a larger-than-usual controversy.  It is an event that is challenging the entire premise of much of evangelicalism.  What am I talking about?

The interaction of evangelicalism, just like fundamentalism, shows up in its schools, associations, conferences, societies, conventions, coalitions, publishers, and fellowships.  A lot of the well-known, more conservative evangelicals, even leaders, can be found in The Gospel Coalition.  The Gospel Coalition is so much evangelicalism.  Evangelicals there unify based on one doctrinal point, the gospel.  They essentially ignore everything else for this coalition, except for the gospel.  So they have really only one thing to get right.  In doing so, they would make a big deal out of the gospel.  They would say they are exalting the gospel by isolating it in this way.  It's not that they would talk about nothing else, but that the gospel, they say, is the one thing that unifies the people of their group.

A lot of evangelicals, including very conservative ones, that are not in The Gospel Coalition, are connected to it by means of its members.  Some of its members overlap into other groups.  Certain Gospel Coalition members are Together for the Gospel or regular preachers at either the Shepherd's Conference or the Desiring God Conference.  An interconnectedness exists between these various venues.

Two major members of The Gospel Coalition started another meeting called The Elephant Room, namely James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll.  They invited well-known religious figure, T. D. Jakes, to be with them in their elephant room discussion as a brother in Christ.  Jakes, however, has clashed with a true gospel in two areas:  Modalism and Prosperity Theology.   As a result of this, MacDonald resigned from The Gospel Coalition without any kind of either repentance himself or reprimand from them.  I would call him defiant in his break from The Gospel Coalition and they gave him well wishes.  Driscoll still is in the coalition without any fall out.  So what does evangelicalism do?

What evangelicalism mainly has done is what it mainly does---it talks.  It writes.  Many reformed bloggers especially have gone after MacDonald, Driscoll, and then a little after The Gospel Coalition.  Evangelicals don't know how to separate.  They don't practice biblical separation.

My major point for writing this post was an evangelical thought as part of the reaction to The Elephant Room controversy in evangelicalism.  Fundamentalism has had really nothing to do with The Elephant Room situation.  And yet in his review of The Elephant Room, popular evangelical blogger, Frank Turk, writes the following:

If Jakes' chat with Mark Driscoll does not finally clear things up, then what's the best way for the council of TGC to handle Mark Driscoll's (non-resigned council member) endorsement of Jakes' orthodoxy? I don't have any suggestions, but I think ignoring it is the way old-school Fundamentalists acted when their leaders did stupid things, and we know that TGC is not a group of Fundies, right?

When I read that, I mouthed, "What?!?!"  What does fundamentalism have to do with any of this?  Where did that come from?  I've got some ideas and perhaps you could share yours too.  And then what is Turk talking about?   What he wrote is very vague and ambiguous.  I've got some examples I could give, but the idea of fundamentalism, differing than evangelicalism, including Turk himself, is actually to practice separation over the gospel at least.  But he said more:

I'm looking forward to them helping us understand what happened yesterday because they, too, are not old-school Fundies who support their leaders no matter what, and the "matter what" has presented itself as if the circus parade has just come down Main Street.

What is Frank Turk talking about?  What old school fundies is he talking about?  Is it true that fundamentalism really is a model of a bad example for not separating?  And I guess evangelicals could provide a lot of good examples of separating over the gospel?

Turk didn't give any context to his statements.  Nobody would even know what he was talking about.  That is supported by this response in the comment section:

On point #2-- In churchless Oregon, we need a little bit of a Fundy history lesson. I am totally lost on this point. Well, I think I get the point, but everything around the point is undiscovered territory. Help, please?

Nobody answered this guy's comment.   Frank didn't elucidate to the question.  I had the same question.  What are you talking about?  Why even include that in your post unless someone knows what you're talking about?  I didn't know.  The only example I knew of was Jack Hyles and the Hyles' movement.  Lots of fundamentalists separated from and remain separate from Hyles among others in his orbit.  And then someone else made this comment:

As many of us are rightly concerned about the doctrine and methodology of ministers like T.D. Jakes, how do we express that concern without veering into Fundamentalism's excessive focus on secondary separation? How can the leadership of TGC do so?

Normally Frank Turk is a bundle of answers, a proverbial chatter box. You can't keep him quiet on almost any topic.  These wouldn't have been controversial comments to answer, but he answered them none at all.  By the way, if fundamentalism has an "excessive focus" on secondary separation, is anyone saying that some kind of secondary separation is legitimate?   Fundamentalists would characteristically say that you can't remain indifferent to a gospel denier.

Why do I think Turk brought up fundamentalism?  Because this is an obvious case of a major weakness in evangelicalism.  It doesn't practice separation, which is commanded in Scripture.  He knows that fundamentalists at least practice a form of separation.  They would include separation in their doctrinal statements.  And since evangelicals are disobedient in this area, he points out in an albeit ambiguous way that fundamentalists haven't always separated like they should from some of their own leaders.  He doesn't say what the example of that is or who it is.

Fundamentalism isn't a homogenous movement.  Many fundamentalists did separate from their leaders, and would have said that those who didn't were not actually fundamentalists.  There have always been fundamentalists who were separating, however.  We have zero examples of evangelical separation.  They don't teach separation at all.  They write blog posts against those who fellowship with gospel deniers.  Machen would call them indifferentists.  Evangelicals are still willing to make common cause with indifferentists.  Mohler made common cause with Billy Graham.  Southern Baptist evangelicals make common cause with liberals through the cooperative program.  MacDonald and Driscoll make common cause with Jakes.  Evangelicals write blog posts against their indifferentists.  They don't separate.

Frank Turk takes a shot at fundamentalism out of the blue.  It was interesting to read.  What's his point?  What do you think?


Gary Webb said...

I think I know his point, but first let me thank you for making this post. I don't know how you keep up with all this.
In the process of going to the TGC link I found out that I have quite a superlative religious heritage. One of the key bloggers & I guess speakers is Scotty Smith. He taught a Bible study that I was in right after I got saved as a teenager. He directed all of us into the doctrines of the Charismatic movement. His Christianity back then was probably sort of an East form of the Jesus Movement. I read in his bio that he still likes "classic rock."
I am thankful that the Lord directed me to greater & greater doctrinal purity over the years, while it looks like Scotty must have never progressed too far. That may read like a cheap shot to some, but I am so grateful for the Lord's mercy.
I believe the "fundie" reference is something that all Bible Christians experience. It is a lot like King Ahab blaming Elijah for the drought & saying that Elijah was the trouble-er of Israel. Frank Turk does not know anything about obedient Christianity. He just knows that he does not like those who are in it. To take a shot like he did was just to salve his conscience & excuse his disobedience.

PSFerguson said...

Good post Kent

I was reading the recent post on the TD Jakes saga by one of the TG more conservative types, Thabiti Anyabwile and was just as confused by what he said. Can anyone decipher this:

"But this I do know, the entire situation raises association, separation, and accountability concerns for me that I did not have to the same degree before now. It raises significant questions about how members of The Gospel Coalition associate and endorse beyond the Coalition meetings themselves. For me, it tests the bounds of cooperation. I’m no Fundamentalist with well-established separation doctrines. But as one attempting to draw lines–cardinal biblical lines, mind you!–in a community flooded with heresy, this is no easy relationship to balance. Can I really endorse or remain quiet on an event that features a heretic I’m committed to opposing in writing? I don’t think so. That decision is easy for me. More difficult: Can I really endorse or support a brother who willingly associates with such a heretic and extends them a platform? Painful. Sobering."

What questions and what answers on separation does Thabiti Anyabwile conclude? One would have thought that an experienced pastor and theologian could have at least made some attempt! Separation is the "elephant in the room" that is omitted in every evangelical Systematic Theology textbook!

Kent Brandenburg said...


I think you're right in your assessment.


Separation would destroy the coalition, which would be worse than being them.