“The Crisis of Modern Fundamentalism” – Colin Hansen in CT

October 26, 2007

“What concerns me more is that we have needlessly invited criticism and even ridicule, by a tendency in some quarters to parade secondary and sometimes even obscure aspects of our positions as necessary frontal phases of our view.”

That is from “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism” written in 1947.

Sadly, this is still true in 2007. Rather than theological distinctions, secondary and even obscure positions of conviction that fundamentalists hold dear are still the distinguishing marks of modern fundamentalism today – and proudly.

To help people understand why this is so, I’ve written a series of blogs here on “Inside the Legalist Mindset,” with still more to come, where I have sought to address some of the problems with the mentality of legalistic fundamentalists, having myself come out of that movement.

Colin Hansen writes in Christianity Today that the fundamentalists are still at it: denouncing good men that God is using mightily, such as John Piper, and calling for separation from him since he associates with those from different theological perspectives (Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, etc.).

In a day when some of the most fundamental doctrines are under attack, namely, justification by faith alone, their biggest worries are still standards and separation. The extent of their theological concern is expressed in terms of separation from “theologically accommodating Christian movements.” This, while men like Piper are laboring intensely to combat serious theological dangers lurking about in the church, having recently written a book carefully correcting N.T. Wright’s unbiblical and dangerous statements on justification.

I don’t bring up Piper to necessarily make a defense of him in particular, but rather to show the misguided concerns that perennially concern many fundamentalists, as is so clearly illustrated in their recent denunciation of Piper in particular. Rather than theology being their central concern, it is personal standards and ecclesiastical associations that continue to be their chief concern. That’s not to say that how we live or who we allow to influence us doesn’t matter, but those are not nearly as significant as defending biblical theology with precision, care, thoughtfulness, grace, and conviction.

In other words, too often fundamentalists feel that they have come to God’s defense when they have attacked or separated from people they deem “liberal” (a broad brush in their hands), rather than carefully, reasonably, and effectively dealing with doctrinal error itself. It sounds tougher and bolder to holler against someone and denounce them than to graciously and carefully reason from the Scriptures in defense of the truth – apart from personal attacks.

This approach too often has no effect in actually instructing people in the truth or clarifying and exposing error, only deepening the fundamentalist’s isolation and Pharisaism – an approach that will only serve to reduce their influence on the wider church, and thus number their days as a movement.

Hansen writes in conclusion, “The difference between evangelicals and fundamentalists hasn’t been theology, though some fundamentalists would refuse to compromise on dispensationalism, for example. Fundamentalists have a strategy problem: Do they clamp down on these youngsters, risking a deeper generation gap? Or do they reconsider strict separation and cultural isolation? By choosing the latter, they may save their youth and lose their cause.”

I know that some in fundamentalism have begun to see through this erroneous way of thinking, and misplaced priorities, and have begun to gravitate away from it. This, in my opinion, is not only good news, but biblically warranted. Fundmentalists themselves recognize that “many in the newest generation of fundamentalist leadership were still committed to fundamentalist theology but uncomfortable with some of the more extreme positions on secondary separation, association, worship music, extra-biblical standards, and other issues.”

Praise the Lord for a new generation of thinking and biblically-reasoning people within fundamentalism. That is a cause for hope. Too bad the entrenched leadership’s response is to warn this new generation to be faithful to fundamentalism’s historic commitments to legalism and secondary separation.

That’s exactly the wrong response. It is a good thing that the new generation is seeing through the erroneous emphases of fundamentalism, and longing for a return to the emphasis of Scripture.

That’s what happened to me. I got tired of being so dogmatic about things the Bible is so non-dogmatic about. I got tired of not being able to ask honest questions without being called a heretic. I got tired of emphasizing anger over love. I got tired of condemning people God was so obviously using. I got tired of the focus on extra-biblical personal standards and the disdain for scholarly understanding of theology. I got tired of the harsh legalism and the low emphasis on love. I got tired of the comparison of spirituality among Christians. That kind of religion is a ministry of death, not life. Law, not grace.

I have left the movement, and I haven’t looked back. That may not be what everyone should do, because God may yet deliver fundamentalism from itself through this new generation of leaders. I pray He does just that.

(HT: Andy Naselli)


Expositor’s Conference Audio is Now Available

October 26, 2007

Earlier this month I attended the Expositor’s Conference at Steven Lawson’s church in Mobile, AL. It was the best conference I have been to in a long while, and that’s saying a lot!

Both Dr. Lawson and Dr. John MacArthur preached excellent, and to-the-point messages for expositors – preachers committed to expository preaching. It was a feast for the soul.

What I appreciated most was that the messages were not belabored by generalities or taken up with rehearsing the basics of the why and what of expository preaching. The messages were very specific in application, and both men pulled no punches on the state of things in the typical contemporary pulpit. This was no dead conference.

The audio is available here for free download. There were 7 sessions total, including a great Q & A session.

Lawson kicked things off with a couple of stirring messages on expository preaching, and even a great how-to covering the basics, but the climax of the entire conference was his sermon “Famine in the Land.” If you hear nothing else, listen to that sermon!

MacArthur gave a 2-session message (“Why I Am Committed to Expository Preaching”) that began with a powerful word study on the Christian calling to be a slave. Yes, I said “powerful word study.” It was convicting. Just give it a listen and you’ll be deeply humbled before the Lord and renewed in your commitment to be a slave of Christ.

The rest of MacArthur’s session 1 and all of session 2 were given to a list of problems that result when expository preaching is neglected. He only got to about 25 of over 60 of the problems he had come up with. But those were more than enough to solidify the argument for the supremacy and necessity of expository preaching in our churches.

Listen and be edified.

New Mars Hill Audio Is Here! Issue 87

October 26, 2007


The latest Mars Hill Audio Journal is now available (Vol. 87). In case you are unfamiliar with it, it is “a bi-monthly audio magazine of contemporary culture and Christian conviction.” Think of it as Christian NPR.

Download a free edition here. Download free bonus tracks here. They also offer a great podcast called Audition. Ken is also the author of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes, which I’m currently reading with great pleasure (albeit slowly).

As I’ve said before, this is an absolutely indispensable subscription for me. I never fail to be stretched in my thinking and understanding of the issues discussed. The fact is, I could write paragraph after paragraph of how much Mars Hill has enriched my life. It has been sheer pleasure to listen in on the conversations Ken has with his guests and be drawn in to a world of thoughts, ideas, and issues that I would otherwise have never thought about, much less though about well or Christianly, all for only $30 a year. I hope you’ll check them out. (This is a non-paid advertisement!)

This is what is on this new edition:

  1. John Witte, Jr., on why law needs to be understood in the context of its relation with other practices and disciplines, including religion
  2. Steven Keillor, on discerning the presence of God’s judgment in historical events
  3. Philip Bess, on how New Urbanist ideas are rooted in a natural law framework
  4. Scott Cairns, on how the writing of poetry requires attentiveness to the life of words
  5. Anthony Esolen, on why Western literary critics need to understand Christian convictions
  6. Anthony Esolen, on ironies of time, power, and love at the heart of Christian belief
  7. CD & MP3 Bonus Track: John Witte, Jr., on historical models for the relationship between Church and State

Top 10 Reasons I Haven’t Blogged Lately

October 22, 2007

You may have been wondering if I’ve quit the blog altogether since it’s been a month, as of today, since I posted an entry here. I apologize for the extended absence, and offer you my excuses.

1. I had to tile my bathroom. I bought the tile two Thanksgivings ago, and I simply had to get ‘er done. Amanda had been VERY patient with me, and I simply ran out of excuses!

2. Then a close friend of our family died. Don was a former church member who retired and moved away last October. Connie decided to have the funeral back here, and I had the honor and responsibility of preaching the funeral, since I was their pastor for nearly a decade. This happened in the middle of my tile job, and it took up most of my week a to help plan and accomplish what was needed of me.

3. The very next week I went to the Expositor’s Conference in Mobile, AL with my good pastor-friend Rob. At the time I did not have a laptop, so I think I was only even able to check email once the whole time on a public computer.

4. Then, Doug, a disciple of mine, and one of my best friends in the world moved to Virginia, so we tried to spend time with them before they left.

5. All of these interruptions to my normal schedule pushed back all of my appointments, so I’ve been running hard to catch up on meetings and lunch appointments and such for the last 2-3 weeks. This, while my tile job remained unfinished, and our master bathroom out of service.

6. I’ve had some significant counseling emergencies that arose in the midst of my catching up that took even more time. These never come at convenient times, either. Especially since I’ve been cramming anyway!

7. Through all of this, I’ve had to continue to prepare my sermon manuscripts each Sunday, a Bible Study lesson each Sunday night, prepare the order of worship for each morning service (choose songs, etc.), publish the bulletin, and read and prepare Systematic Theology notes for our men’s discipleship group that meets every other Wednesday night (we’re using Grudem’s Systematic Theology). I can’t tell you how hard it has been to get my normal pastoral preaching and teaching duties done. I have been burning the candle at both ends for over a month now. A lot of late nights and early mornings. I’m kinda exhausted, but I did finally get the bathroom done (after 5 weeks!).

8. Now, I’m in Orlando, FL all week at the Ligonier Pastor’s Conference (with Rob). I’m writing this on my new MacBook Pro 17″ (yes, it’s awesome!). But, the week is packed with sessions, so blogging won’t be on the top of my list, especially since I have to keep what will be an intense counseling session this Saturday with a couple I know, preach and teach this Sunday, prepare worship, and prepare for Discipleship and an elder’s meeting the following week. It never ends!

9. All of this has made keeping up with what’s going on in the blogosphere and in the news really tough. I’ve skimmed news and blog headlines for a month now, but haven’t read much. So, it’s made it hard to respond to things and give my own commentary and perspective on things on this blog. I hope things will slow down a bit.

10. My family has been gracious, but has been neglected through all of these demands, so any extra time I’ve been able to spy out, I’ve tried to give to them by making myself leave my home office and spend time with them.

Thanks for being patient with me. I will be back soon (I hope). Pray for me to get some rest and to catch up (while I try to keep up!). This is the way it is sometimes in ministry in a small church with a big family (4 kids). It ain’t always easy, but it’s sure makes you sleep well at night (’cause you know you better sleep while you can)!

Speaking of…….I’m exhausted. I’m going to bed. See ya later.