Monday, May 02, 2011

When I Left Fundamentalism part seven

God is light without any darkness (1 John 1:5). Darkness is doctrinal and moral. God created us to please Him. We can't please God with doctrinal or moral darkness, both of which contrast with or contradict the message and application of God's Word. God Himself does not fellowship with darkness. If we wish to please Him, we cannot fellowship with it either. Over ten years ago, I concluded that I could not be a fundamentalist and please God.

Scripture is perspicuous. We can know what it means. God would have us do what it says. For instance, we know it teaches believer's baptism by immersion, not infant sprinkling. Infant sprinkling is darkness. And yet, infant sprinkling doesn't exempt one from fundamentalism or evangelicalism.

To remain in fundamentalism, one must condone or at least overlook doctrinal or moral error. This is how fundamentalism conducts what it calls "unity." Fundamentalism unifies upon a very amendable, malleable group of fundamentals, which are the source of perpetual debate between evangelicals and fundamentalists. Therefore, if you are going to get along in fundamentalism, you have to learn to "let go" what a mysterious consensus of fundamentalists consider non-essential. But none of this is how the Bible reads, nor is it how God operates. And this among other reasons is why I couldn't claim to be nor wished to be associated with fundamentalism.

How I Left, When I Left

To stay in fundamentalism, you remain involved with a para-church organization---a college, university, camp, fellowship, association, or board. And then you continue with the churches who continue to participate with those groups. If you persist in your fellowship with these, you will also fellowship with darkness. How? They are tolerating some doctrinal and moral error. If you fellowship with them, you will fellowship with darkness. God isn't pleased with that. You are choosing to let go some violation of Scripture.

I think that most fundamentalists do not believe it is possible to be consistent in the matter of separation. You will always be affiliating with some kind of wrong doctrine or practice, so your associations will always be a matter of a degree of error. You've got to choose what you think is serious enough to break from. And fundamentalists will make breaks. They will separate, unlike evangelicals. Evangelicals will say they don't like something, but it won't result in separation. Fundamentalists will separate, but they are always arguing about what is a "matter of separation." Because fundamentalists mostly don't know what they're supposed to separate over (in other words, there is no consensus), separation has become mostly political. Whichever fundamentalist orbit has the most dominance (not to be confused with competence) will most often sway the most fundamentalists to its particular stew of doctrine and practice.

Leaving fundamentalism didn't mean moving to another group where the same or worse problem existed, that is, evangelicalism. Leaving meant going back to square one, where I was only in fellowship with my church. Fundamentalists call this isolating yourself. Fundamentalists will say that you don't want to isolate yourself and even call this "isolationism." You know the verse on that, don't you? Correct. There is none. They'll also mock this kind of act, by asking something like this: "So I guess you are left to fellowship with yourself then, aren't you?" Actually I've found just the opposite, and I'll explain later.

So I went to ground zero in my fellowship. I knew I was in fellowship with my church, and so now our church and myself within our church would only fellowship with other churches that believed and practiced like we do. Our basis for fellowship would be doctrine and practice, that is, doctrinal and moral light. The truth is the grounds for fellowship (read 1-3 John---it's very clear there). Unrepentant false doctrine and practice hinder, disrupt, or break fellowship.

For a moment, I think it is important to understand that fellowship relates to working together in some endeavor or worship or service. It isn't getting together to talk or have a discussion. You will see that in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 and 1-3 John again.

The missionaries with which we would work together are sent by churches with which we are in fellowship. Those churches believe and practice like our church does. If I preach at a conference, I go to fellowship with that church. There may be someone attending the conference that I would not fellowship with, and I might even talk to him or discuss something with him, but I'm there to fellowship with that church.

Once we got back to square one, I didn't know of one church in California with which I would fellowship with. I would have hoped there was one church, but it wasn't that important to me to find another one. I knew I could trust the Lord with this. Micaiah was one prophet telling the truth next to four hundred who didn't (1 Kings 22). I was invited to preach at a church in Utah. The pastor there had heard me on tape. I wasn't sure I was in fellowship with that church, but I went to preach. This is how fellowship works. You don't cut people off. Love is involved. You believe. You hope. I preached there and then started receiving the church's news publication. When I read it, I was finding that I agreed with him on everything. We started fellowshiping with that church and today we support a missionary sent by that church. As I fellowshiped with that church, I got to know other churches with which that church fellowshiped. Now I know of churches all over the United States and in foreign countries that are just like our church. Or in other words, we're not isolated.

We once were in the American Association of Christian Schools. Things only improved when we left the AACS. If we want a teacher conference, we hold our own. We do a great fine arts and academic competition with only churches which believe and practice like we do. We have our own camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We've gotten together with another church that believed and practiced like ours one year. We have in missionaries who are sent by churches like ours, who are not affiliated with a board. We don't have to tolerate doctrinal or practical error. We can please God. We can be consistent. We're not isolated. We have fellowship.

When You Leave Fundamentalism

There really is no reason for a fundamentalist to separate from me or our church, except that we separate from fundamentalists. I've noticed that if you separate from fundamentalists, you are treated worse than evangelicals who don't fellowship with fundamentalists. If you are a separatist, but not a fundamentalist, then you must be a heretic or factious. There is no way that someone who separates more than fundamentalism could be anything but a heretic. I don't know of the scriptural explanation for this, have never heard it. Fundamentalists are not excited you are a separatist, which has me thinking that separation isn't what's so important about being a fundamentalist. It can't be unity either, or fundamentalists wouldn't be as separated as they are.

I have noticed that fundamentalists will sometimes agree with me, but then they'll quickly provide a disclaimer, something like "but I don't agree with everything he says" or "I'm not in favor of his position on the versions or the church or on dress standards." You won't, however, hear them say, "I really like Mark Dever, but I don't agree with everything he says, especially on amillennialism." Or "I really like the material on humility by C. J. Mahaney, but I'm not in favor of his continuationism." Fundamentalists dislike certain disagreeable doctrine and practice more than others for no apparent biblical reason. I think that amillennialism is far worse than women wearing dresses, but you would never, ever know that by listening to fundamentalists. This is one way that I see fundamentalism to function according to a political position more than a doctrinal or moral one. Or maybe this is just modern fundamentalism---men who feel such respect for the intellectual or numerical prowess of evangelicals, that they are fine with throwing embarrassing separatists under their bus.

After I left fundamentalism, fundamentalism didn't associate with me any more. They didn't have a verse for that. I wasn't confronted by fundamentalism for my separation from it. I just got the cold shoulder. To remain a fundamentalist, you do have to support fundamentalism. You have to send your kids to their colleges, go to their camps, and support the missionaries that are a part of their boards. That's how you get along in fundamentalism. If you stop doing that, you really are "x'ed" from fundamentalism. It's nothing official or even biblical. You'll just know. And some guys are afraid of that, afraid of those prospects, that they might be missing something. News: you won't be missing anything. You thought you were getting something and all you were getting was getting gotten. They got you; you don't get anything. You don't even get fellowship, because that involves doctrinal and moral light.

Shortly after I left fundamentalism, myself and a few other pastors finished a theological book. I've written three. One is not yet in print, but it's been done for a little while. A fourth is about finished. No one from the fundamentalist college from which I graduated had written a book. None of the faculty had written a book. Maranatha had published two books. The first was a reprint of Thomas Armitage's two volume History of the Baptists. The second was a paperback, Evaluating New Testament Versions, by Everett Fowler, foreword written by B. Myron Cedarholm, the founder and president. The latter was a King James Only book. Of the two books that I have written, that are on the market, neither of them is either in the college bookstore or library. You'll find secular humanist and apostate books in the Maranatha library and several non-fundamentalist books in the bookstore, but never mine. Why? I don't send students nor support the college. Neither does R. Kent Hughes, but you'll find his books in the library and bookstore. He's as good as separated from the school, to it's left, not a separatist. This is the blatant inconsistency of fundamentalism. And it will always be inconsistent---it really is part of being a fundamentalist.

(More to Come)


Gary Webb said...

All sounds familiar to me. I am sure that some will think that you are bitter about all this. Just to let them know: you aren't, & I'm not. I don't hold a grudge against Fundamentalism. I just don't agree with overlooking some doctrinal matters: the text issue, Calvinism, universal church teaching, etc. So, we [our church] is happy to carry out the Great Commission without having to overlook so many doctrinal disagreements.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Gary.

I have to be something, like bitter, as a reason for some to disregard what I'm writing. Truthfully, I wish I had heard someone else teach me what I've written. It is in the Bible, but I didn't hear about it---but I didn't hear about a lot when I was in fundamentalism.

Will Dudding said...

Hi Kent, I have dropped off the blogosphere for a little while to re-evaluate some things in my own life and ministry and felt that I needed to stop talking and do more listening.

Anyway, I've been reading your posts on leaving Fundamentalism, and what you're saying about it is exactly the way it operates! I couldn't have said it better. I too have given up on trying to be "gotten" by the IFB world. I just fellowship with those whom have the same in common with me theologically and philosophically and even in all of that I'm still learning what I'm even supposed to be.

Thanks for sharing.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Will.