Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Were We Wrong, Can Something Like This Change, or What? pt. 1

Can things that were wrong now be right?  Can certain practices be wrong at some point in time, but then change to be acceptable?  Could there be, for instance, a curse word that moves to an acceptable word?  Could music that was wrong for a Christian, now be acceptable?  Can standards of modesty change?   Should what was once immodest to everyone and then at least to Christians, now be acceptable to Christians?  Why do these things change?  How could they now be right, when they were once wrong?

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.

I had remembered reading this by Doran, and think I may have thought about writing about it, but it passed from my mind until I read it quoted in a discussion.  It obviously made an impression.  I didn't hear from anyone or read anyone who disagreed or contradicted what Doran wrote.  Perhaps people are just agreeing with him, that he represents a consensus of what most fundamentalists believe on what he's talking about.

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.


Joshua said...

Doran's position leaves only one approach to any wicked change in culture: oppose it for a few years, then adopt it wholesale if your culture does.

That should make for some inspirational preachin'. I'd love to hear him get going if they started putting skirts on boys.

"This, currently, is an abomination before God as shown in Deuteronomy 22:5, and is to be utterly rejected by fundamentalists everywhere for at least the next decade! And maybe the decade after that! But by 2030, if it's taken firm root in our culture, I want you lads to forget everything I've said and get your frock on."

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Joshua,

You're right.

What boggles me some is the crickets this kind of thing gets anymore. Few would seem to want to associate with this, and I've really only asked questions. These places and people have changed. I don't remember the theological pieces and exegetical explanations preceding the changes. It seems it was just the slide that occurs because of the influence of the world.

Gary Webb said...

I think the problem with most Fundamentalist standards is that they were built on culture & not on exposition. Many preachers just adopted them because the "big" fundamentalist preacher or school did.
The standards at our church remain the same because they were built upon an expositional basis. A change in American culture will not change that.

El said...


You need to check out your dad's yearbooks, or even your own. Back in the 70's the girls vb and soccer teams wore, shock of shocks, shorts!

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi El,

Your comment sort of fails in the way of history because there was no girl's soccer team in the 70s at MBBC when my dad was a student, or the 80s, when I was there. At the end of when I was there, under Dr. Weniger's leadership, women softball players started wearing sweatpants (and allowed in women's dorm), I believe. In vb, maybe they called the knee length clothing "shorts" (this was pre-fab 5 and Michael Jordan style), but my memory says they were called culottes.

Shock of shocks, another anonymous poster does a drive by and fails.

d4v34x said...

"I think the problem with most Fundamentalist standards is that they were built on culture & not on exposition."

Bingo (so to speak).

d4v34x said...

As to your addendum question. As a Christian fundamentalistical sort cum confessional wannabe , I judge the skirt to come a little lower than the shorts and to have funny gathers. Also the shorts are black. Differences aplenty!

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hey d4,

I linked the two pics because I would wonder why Maranatha doesn't allow the skirt if it allows the shorts. Does proximity to a soccer field relate to hemline? Of course, we know that it's just a lack of conviction, as Bro Webb said. It needs to be tied to exposition and not fundamentalist tradition, or it will change.

Scott Jonas said...

Good article and you're very observant compared to most men, or at least more courageous in asking questions and sharing conclusions.

Over the years, if I want to find out where the heart of a college really is (i.e. the heart of the students and staff), I look for pictures to see what attire the women are wearing. And the easiest place to find pictures is the women's athletics department. The women's soccer team typically has the most questionable attire - which is often rather immodest and manly. In the case of Maranatha I would say the cross-crounty team is slightly more immodest.

And yet we should also be asking if such activities (like competitive sports)are really becoming of women professing godliness.

I noticed Maranatha has yoked itself to the Feds through the financial aid program, which means they're governed by Title IX which has great influence over sports programs. They're also yoked to other less godly institutions via the various athletic conference they are involved with.

I think I got blackballed at some other IFB blogsites for sharing these observations.

I also agree with Mr. Webbs comments. Double Bingo!

Joshua said...

And yet we should also be asking if such activities (like competitive sports)are really becoming of women professing godliness.

Good comment. I was speaking with a Charismatic man a few years ago. He asked about my wife's consistency with dress, and whether it was conviction or coincidence.

When I replied conviction, he quickly asked what position that left a professional equestrian lady in. I countered by asking him if all sports should dictate dress and overrule Biblical commands for believers.

He paused, so I followed it up by asking what he thought of Christian ladies exposing their full figure to an appreciative audience as a professional ballerina.

He half opened his mouth, then stopped. Then he smiled and I smiled. He laughed and I laughed.

I can't remember exactly what he said, but I remember him chuckling, shaking his head and saying something like "sorry bro, I don't know what came over me then, of course the Bible trumps the sport every time. It's just not our natural way of thinking is it eh?"

I wish all my discussions on these matters ended that well, but that was a blessing.