[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."
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 conference.....plus 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.
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.