I'm personally not confused about certain issues that are now up for grabs and questionable. They were wrong before and they're still wrong. I still preach them as wrong. I still view them as wrong. I still do not believe that they should be practiced and will say so. But this is not how it is with everyone.
A few years back, Dave Doran, president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, and a prominent fundamentalist, wrote the following in response to a criticism of fundamentalism:
When rock and roll came out, it clearly represented a shift in the culture toward ungodliness, so it was uniformly rejected. Now, after five decades of music variations and three of "Christianized" versions of it, the united front within Fundamentalism seems something less than united. When long hair was the cultural symbol of rebellion, there was a pretty clear consensus that it was not proper to follow the fad. Now, when some of the fads don’t include long hair, defining a worldly hairstyle is far more difficult. I could go on, but I think you can see my point.
Some Fundamentalists are clamping down on these pop culture issues and are making the case for the same applications that worked 40-50 years ago. The net result of this is that they appear to be arguing for an Amish-like response to culture. Their goal seems to be the preservation of a pre-60s Americana, not the production of godliness in the 21st century. Mistakenly arguing that "your standards can’t be too high for God" they keep staking out positions that can hardly be defended biblically. Anything that looks or sounds new is suspect for that very reason. While I agree with the desire to pursue holiness, I have serious questions about the biblical and theological orientation of this wing of Fundamentalism. There is serious confusion about the differences between biblical principles (which are timeless) and contemporary applications (which are time bound). This confusion often leads to division over differences of application, not principle.
A few thoughts came to my mind when I read Doran's quote. First, he was equivocating morally between various cultural issues, lumping several of them together that were dissimilar. Second, with his ambiguity he was opening up the idea that these cultural issues were no longer issues of fellowship or that they didn't have to be with everybody. I was thinking mainly about secondary separation. Doran himself might not use rock music, and someone with whom he fellowshiped might not use it, but it would be OK to fellowship with those who did also fellowship with those who used rock music. Fundamentalist churches could countenance churches that used rock music. Third, rock music may have changed in its inherent meaning. That was a possibility, because maybe we can't be sure that it has a wrong meaning by itself. Rock music might be in the category of wire-rimmed glasses or certain types of beards. They might have meant something at one time, but they don't any more.
What got me thinking about the Doran quote was an email from my alma mater, Marantha Baptist Bible College. When I was there, women couldn't wear shorts. I'm not talking about pants---that's a whole other issue. I'm talking about shorts. I clicked on their athletics link to see what might be happening and finally surfed to an article that happened to be about a girls' soccer game, which had a picture of one of Maranatha's female players in a pair of shorts (I think that's the present pastor of Calvary Baptist in Watertown behind her, watching her; I would have thought he would have considered this immodest and said something). It's not just that this is Maranatha's standard, but that the college, who once opposed this, is promoting it on their website. It means nothing anymore.
Why did it mean anything in the first place? Should it have meant anything in the first place? When Maranatha changed, why did it change? When did this particular standard of modesty stop being immodest? How much further can it go before it is immodest? Were these kinds of questions asked before the change was made?
You might think that this is a good step for Maranatha, because of something like Dave Doran said, so that Maranatha won't be Amish. That could be the level of argumentation---they're fleeing Amishness. Was that a threat at Maranatha? That they were potentially Amish? Is showing the thigh on a woman as such, is that like a change in meaning of rock music? But has rock music actually changed its meaning? And are those issues the same? Does what Christians believed for hundreds of years matter?
The Apostle Paul took chunks out to deal with dress issues. You see it in 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2. It was worth the space in his letters to treat. What is permissible change in these areas? Why is fundamentalism changing in them? Is it good? Let's think about it.
Technically, why is this not any worse than this? It's showing the same thing. Would enjoy someone who claims to be a Christian, and especially a fundamentalist, who has no problem, to explain what the difference might be.