Wednesday, October 28, 2009

When A Classification Slanders

In the summer of 2009 at a Bible faculty summit for fundamentalist Bible college and seminary faculties, Jeff Straub read a paper entitled "The Fundamentalist Challenge for the 21st Century: Do We Have a Future?" in which he attempted to classify segments or branches of fundamentalism by assigning characteristics with certain titles for each branch (you can read it here and here). With his essay came a chart he titled, "The Broad Theological Landscape of the 21st Century --- A Working Taxonomy," with contributions from Kevin Bauder, Dan Brown, and Jon Pratt. His three classifications for fundamentalists were Hyper Fundamentalism, New Image Fundamentalism, and Historic Fundamentalism.

What is the purpose of these three classifications for fundamentalists? What I can surmise is that he wants everyone to know that he and his friends represent historic fundamentalism. The paper really is not to establish who is obedient to God and the Bible, but who are the real fundamentalists. Why is this important? Um. I don't know. I don't think God cares at all, but this is a big deal to fundamentalists, it seems, because they are regularly speaking in these taxonomies and classifications. It reminds me of what I do every year when I'm doing my taxes and I'm working at aligning myself with the sweetest spot tax-wise for my family and me. These fundamentalists place themselves in the sweet spot and the others outside of it.

Another reason someone like Straub, who has put himself in the Historic Fundamentalist category, would be interested in drawing up these classifications would be to combat some of the work that has been done by the New Image Fundamentalists (which would include several that many are calling "the young fundamentalists) to include the Evangelical Right in the column of Historic Fundamentalism. The New Image guys see an "emerging middle," as noted by Straub in his chart, that would include conservative evangelicals as fundamentalists. Not only would this allow the young fundamentalists to be a part of the big and famous boys of conservative evangelicalism (Piper, MacArthur, Carson, Dever, Mohler), but it would give them cover for making this move, some sort of fundamentalist legitimacy.

Of course, from my perspective, I wonder why it matters to be a fundamentalist. I've been asking this for a long time. Why isn't it good enough to be a church? Why isn't Baptist good enough? What about a saint? I don't consider myself a fundamentalist, so I'm attempting to help out men like Straub, which would allow them to have that term all to themselves. However, in Straub's classification system, I likely can't avoid still being a fundamentlist, because I would have to be a Hyper Fundamentalist. This is not a good thing to be on his chart.

So I look at the chart to see who I would be. It is, after all, a Hyper Fundamentalist, that is, what Clarence Sexton, David Cloud, and D. A. Waite are, according to the Straub lay-out. I'm pretty familiar with D. A. Waite and David Cloud and Clarence Sexton. Shouldn't Jack Schaap be in there too? And Paul Chappell? And Pensacola Christian College? Maybe it would have looked too bad for Cloud and Waite to have lumped those men in there too. So we get the strange bed fellows of Cloud, Waite, and Sexton. I think we all know what has those men in common---the King James Version. Why not just have that column have one thing under it---KJVO---and he would have been done?

But according to the chart, that's not all that they have in common. And just as a reminder, I'm sure that Straub would be put me in the Hyper Fundamentalist category too. He says that they are strongly anti-calvinist. I don't know what that is, because I know that historic Baptists, according to John T. Christian's History of Baptists, have been more Calvinist than Arminian. That doesn't sound too strongly anti-Calvinist. And doesn't Clarence Sexton have Ian Paisley there on campus to speak? Doesn't he associate himself with all things Spurgeon in almost everything that he publishes? Does D. A. Waite push anti-Calvinism? Those are the names that he used.

But the anti-Calvinism is a relatively minor one. Next the Hyper Fundamentalists elevate orthopraxy over orthodoxy. Wow! Maybe Sexton, but not Cloud, and especially not Waite. And as for me, well, I would guess that Central and Straub are more revivalistic than I am, placing more emphasis on pragmatics than I would. Then the chart says that Hyper Fundamentalists over emphasize a separation which is unrelated to church discipline. I know quite a few that he would place in this category would not practice church discipline. Cloud and Waite, two of the three names he mentions, believe in it and practice it. The churches I'm in fellowship with practice it. And we all see our separation relating to church discipline.

Next on the chart for the Hypers is that they separate from other fundamentalists. True. But it's not like these separatists choose out fundamentalists as some special group. I would think that Cloud and Waite, and I know it is true for me, would separate based on what Scripture said irregardless of whether the person or church thought himself to be a fundamentalist. My experience has been that historic fundamentalist churches will welcome people that we have disciplined from our church based on the passages on church discipline, and they don't give me so much as a phone call. I've also noticed that it comes back to haunt them, but they still have done it nonetheless. I would not do that to them. When I asked one pastor why he did that, he told me it was because I was KJVO. There we go.

Straub and company next include this as a characteristic of the Hypers, which include Cloud and Waite---they use a "mixture of old Gospel and Southern Gospel music, some CCM." It's pretty easy to find that Cloud rejects Southern Gospel. He has written and spoken about it extensively---you can get the articles and the DVDs where he has. I would think that Waite, a BJU graduate, does not use Southern Gospel either. That leaves Sexton, which does use Southern Gospel, but the other two are against it.

Then the Hyper Fundamentalists expand the central core of fundamentals beyond the "five," as well as "extraneous issues --- e. g. Bible versions" as a basis for separation. You could just call this practicing what the New Testament teaches on separation. This isn't a slander against these men, because it might be the one that is the most accurate of all his 'scholarly' classifying.

Next is topical preaching. Waite rarely does topical preaching. I preach almost exclusively expository, as do pastors I am friends with. Straub says concerning his group, the historic fundamentalists, "Some good expository preaching." It's not only not topical, but it is good expository preaching. I grew up in what Straub calls "historic fundamentalism" and I rarely heard an expository sermon, so it is not entirely historic. Now it is more of an emphasis in churches everywhere. This is not necessarily with thanks to historic fundamentalism, but let us all be glad for this development. However, to across-the-board say that the Hypers do topical preaching isn't true.

In his group, Straub includes Tim Jordan, Matt Olson, Mark Minnick, David Doran, Kevin Bauder, John Hartog 3, and Chuck Phelps. Those were likely the guys represented at the meeting he was making his presentation. You weren't going to get too much of a protest from them. Of course they don't separate too much or too little. They separate just right. Why? Because they are willing to compromise more on the "non-essentials." We're supposed to see that makes them better. They may have allowed Uzzah to live.

But I titled this post, "When a Classification Slanders." To include Cloud and Waite in a presentation that smears them with certain characteristics that they don't have is slander. No explanation is given. It is just put out there with those inaccuracies for people to assume that these qualities characterize these two men. I've tried to give my point of view on Straub's blog at Central, but they wouldn't allow it. He's welcome to come here and tell me how he hasn't slandered anybody. That's called "due process," by the way.(1)

What brings these two together is their support of the KJV---that's it. So again, the KJV position really is the determining factor here, since half of the other characteristics don't even describe them. The chart would have been a little boring and sort of thoughtless if it had one point under Hyper Fundamentalists: KJVO. Cloud and Waite are living men, men who are saved. I don't think Straub is questioning that. But they are men who should not be slandered by him.

(1) I received an email from a source I shall not name who informed me that everyone in the group of "Historic Fundamentalists" he lists were not there. I want everyone to know that. So he was not influenced by their presence. What I was saying was that there is acceptance from the people to whom you are making this presentation. I'm not against some judging of motives, as long as I'm careful with the wording---which I was. I have mentioned in the comment section that he leaves out the New Image Fundamentalists, except for a Stephen Davey with a question mark, so he had the ability to leave people out. If he was really looking for men who represented his qualities of Hyper Fundamentalists, he missed them.


Damien said...

I agree - he got it very wrong, and one really has to wonder what the point in all this is.

Don Johnson said...

I loved your line, "what's wrong with being a saint?" A very telling point.

I would call this kind of analysis the "Goldilocks approach". Too Hot, Too Cold, and Just Right.

If it's any comfort, I'm probably in there in the Too Hot category with you even though I'm not, you know, one of those KJO guys.

Not really a helpful article, but I guess it passes for scholarship in some places.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Colin Maxwell said...

Hi Kent,

You ask the question:

Does D. A. Waite push anti-Calvinism?

In his article on Limited Atonement, Waite accuses those of us who believe that Christ's atonement only covers the sins of the elect ( and not the reprobate) as preaching another gospel, and references Galatians 1:8 after it. I quote:

"It is almost as though God is screaming out at all the false and unscriptural "LIMITED ATONEMENT" people who are parading around their "other gospel" (Galatians 1:8), and saying, "Here is something that I did through My Son's Work at the Cross of Calvary which had an effect on the WHOLE, ENTIRE WORLD of mankind, barring NONE!!" (Comments on 2 Corinthians 5:21)


I accept that this observation is somewhat off the main thrust of your article, but it does establish that Waite does push his anti Calvinism, even to the point of damning those of us who believe the Doctrines of grace to hell.

Interestingly, (and, in the current context, somewhat bizarrely)his Dean Burgon Society site praises the AV translators most of whom were devoted to destruction Calvinists) as spiritual giants and challenges any one to doubt that Theodore Beza (another devoted to destruction Calvinist)had a high regard for the word of God.


Aaron B. said...

The word "slander" stops having much impact when folks use it of everyone they disagree with. Nobody's claiming the chart is anywhere near perfect, including Straub himself. That's why the lines are dotted and the line appears at the top "Names are merely suggestions and may not fit neatly the categories."
It's just a study of the current evangelical landscape, guys.
As for "why isn't saint good enough" etc., surely every saint has beliefs that extend beyond the gospel and practices that extend beyond church attendance and prayer. And surely some of those beliefs and practices matter.
The paper and chart are a study of several of these beliefs and practices.

Gary Webb said...

Brother Brandenburg,
Good article. I think one of the main driving points of this type of thing within the "critical text fundamentalists" is that they must defend their intellectualism. They must believe that there cannot be any "good expositors" among the KJVO crowd since we are non-intellectual. That is why(according to them) we take the anti-Calvinist position - we don't read, because if we did we would appreciate Calvin. We don't know Greek & Hebrew like they do. We emphasize "orthopraxy", meaning we cannot tolerate the ignorant position of total abstinence from alcohol because of the "two wine" position (which they consider ignorant). And yes, we believe strongly in dress standards because of TRADITION - we learned it from Hyles & others, not because we have exposited the Scriptures. I remember that a member of the SC legislature said that another legislator objected to a proposed bill by saying with disdain, "Only a fundamentalist could write a bill like this!" His response to her: "I ARE ONE!" Yes, I would be classified as a "hyper fundamentalist", & much of that classification would be a slander, but still my response to Straub and others in his group would be "I ARE ONE!. I cannot convince them, so I will let them believe what they will.

Jonathan Hunt said...

Calling Clarence Sexton 'anti-calvinist' is hilarious.

Here in the UK his Church's projects are almost entirely run with the local help of Calvinists!

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks for the info on Waite. I hadn't heard a big push against Calvinism by him. You've documented it. Thanks.


Slander: "false, and defamatory statement or report." What word would you rather I use? Liable?

The disclaimer Straub offers is weak---extremely weak. If you were the one severely misrepresented, I think you would be different. If you are on the side lobbing the charges, it seems fine.

He also chooses to use Cloud, Waite, and Sexton. Why? These are not the biggest names in Hyperfundamentalism. Two of them are probably the names that irritate him the most. He could have used names that absolutely fit his column, but he didn't, so in so doing he lumps these guys in with his group. Notice how that in the New Image section he chooses to put ZERO names except Stephen Davey with a question mark. Where are all the SharperIron guys that he could have listed? That is tell-tale. If you don't think so, I'm wondering about your analysis skills. Thanks for dropping by again though.

Gary Webb,

I agree with you completely. And well written.

Jonathan Hunt,

That's what I thought, but thanks for letting us know.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks for your comment. You probably are too hot.

PS Fergsuson said...

I suspect Straub is making his positions up as he goes along to promote his own prejudices. He tends to draw his line at anti-KJV, Dispensationalist Calvinist Baptist, and then smear everyone beyond that with the title "extremist." Sounds very Obama-esqe to me. Straub clearly believes that everyone is entitled to Straub's opinion!

Another glaring failure in Straub's analysis is that it factually and historically deficient. A quick perusal of the strongly pro-TR in the FBF resolutions in the 1980s would demonstrate that almost all the "historic fundamentalists" would now be in the hyper classification.

Kent is correct to spot the anti-KJV premise in Straub's classification. In his third post, Straub mentions "my Free Presbyterian friend Mike Barrett." Out of all the Presbyterians, he focuses in on Barrett and the answer is not hard to find out. Barrett is a Majority Text advocate and has recently published a book using the NKJV. He is a member of the North American FPC Presbytery, where there seems to be a strong BJU influence. Such a view would not be tolerated in the FPC Presbytery of Ulster who are strongly KJVO. Colin Maxwell is a good example of this position, as can be seen with his support for the TBS on his blog.

Straub is also way off on Sexton. Clarence Sexton has been primarily influenced and assisted in England by Dr Peter Masters an Amillennial 5 Point Calvinist and the High Leigh Conference in England. The latter conference is run by a group of Sovereign Grace Baptists and Free Presbyterians. All are strongly Calvinistic and KJVO.

I wonder where Straub puts men like Ian Paisley, Carl McIntire or the Bible Presbyterians in Singapore. All are KJVO, Calvinistic, Presbyterian, expository preachers with have strong total abstinence positions. Where will he put men like the strongly KJVO Fundamentalist leader Dr OT Spence? Certainly, you could not say that McIntire (founder of ICCC) and Paisley (founder of World Congress Fundamentalists) have had a limited role in Modern Fundamentalism!

Kent Brandenburg said...

Sorry P.S. You IS Hyper.

Reforming Baptist said...

I didn't think his choice of names for the "hypers" was the best. Bro. Sexton hangs our with some kooks, but he's a reasonable guy.
The Sword of the Lord crowd is mostly "hypers" and the Revival Fires crowd is even more hyper than they are. But yes, the one thing they all have in common is their almost superstitious and cult-like worship of the KJV.

Jerry Bouey said...

But yes, the one thing they all have in common is their almost superstitious and cult-like worship of the KJV.

Nothing like going to an extreme to knock those whom you don't agree with. No one I know worships the KJV (except Steven Anderson). It is certainly better to have a reason for standing on a particular Bible than blindly accepting anything and everything that comes down the pike EXCEPT the KJV. The majority of KJVonly advocates I have met have a reason for their position because they have personally studied the issue out and are not like many modern version advocates which do reject the KJV simply out of fear or peer pressure, and willful blindness (ie. the mentality that anything goes but the KJV).

Claymore said...

I really do not see how one can classify somebody as "Hyper" fundamentalist. To my understanding, either one is a fundamentalist or he is not. I truly believe that one cannot be a Christian unless he is a fundamentalist (or evangelical - the words are synonymous to an extent - do not confuse evangelicals with neo evangelicals as that would be like confusing orthodoxy with neo orthodoxy). To be a Christian, one must believe the fundamentals, and that is what a fundamentalist is. Therefore "hyper fundamentalism" is an entity that does not exist.

Jerry Bouey said...

All true Christians must believe in the fundamentals - however, a fundamentalist/fundamental Christian is a term meaning that they contend for the faith, separate from false teachings and false brethren, among other things.