Why the adult children of leaders, particularly fundamentalist, should be considered as part of the fruit of their ministry.
I wish to make two points.
- A large percentage of believing children [I know] who grew up in the homes of outspoken fundamentalist leaders [I know] have not rejected the faith, but have rejected fundamentalism. This suggest several possibilities (note: I said “possibilities”)*:
a. The leaders were ineffective and could not influence their own children enough to maintain their “sectarian” views even though the children are followers of their God. Or,
b. The leaders were actually very effective and they adequately relayed to their offspring their highest priorities, the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the beauty of the Gospel, and the centrality of the Church despite their public pontifications on secondary issues.
Either way, it is legitimate, therefore to consider the closest disciples of these outspoken leaders in an attempt to discern what is really of eternal value. And this is my second and most controversial point.
2. It is legitimate to consider the adult children of leaders, particularly fundamentalists, as part of the fruit of their ministry. And I emphasize “particularly fundamentalists.” I think, however, that this can be reasonably defended to show that it is not a wild and off-beat charge of a desperate cynic trying to find whatever weakness he can contrive. I think it can be shown to be rational. But first, point one.
Point One. A close look at the leaders in the fundamentalist movement who have succeeded by the grace of God in transmitting to their children a love for Jesus Christ and His Church will show that a very large percentage of those adult children have also repudiated the idiosyncratic loyalties of their godly parents toward the fundamentalist movement and its sub-culture.
This is telling.
Ironically, these children, having repudiated fundamentalism, have embraced the fundamentals! This reminds me of conversion of C. H. Spurgeon to Baptist ecclesiology.
My mother said to me, one day, “Ah, Charles! I often prayed the Lord to make you a Christian, but I never asked that you might become a Baptist.” I could not resist the temptation to reply, “Ah, mother! the Lord has answered your prayer with His usual bounty, and given you exceeding abundantly above what you asked or thought.”
Many sincere, Gospel-loving servants of the Lord in the fundamentalist sub-culture have been given far more than they asked or thought in that God has not only made Christians out of their children but has led them out of the confines of the fundamentalist sub-culture. Fundamental Baptist college presidents have children serving God in evangelical para-church organizations. Men who are known for their hard stance on music have adult children passionately serving God in churches with contemporary music. Leaders of Baptist fellowships have children minister as Presbyterian pastors, etc. A large percentage, perhaps the majority, of grown children who have embraced their parents’ Lord have shed their parents’ culture.
I view this as a manifestation of thrilling grace. Because this is the good news. We are not considering here the host of adult children who have abandoned the faith completely. So, rejoice! But it does leave the fundamentalist leaders vulnerable to scrutiny. How is it that they can constantly claim that their movement is a paragon of Christian standing when their closest followers, their children, have latched on to the part of their faith that the world hates while rejecting in some cases kin and home in its repudiation of the fundamentalist cultural mores? Is it because the Spirit endorses one but not the other? I think so.
Some of these leaders pontificate on music and standards and separation and humble Christians around the nation listen with rapt attention to their chest-beating bravado for a movement that they are utterly incapable of convincing their own children to stay in. Some of these men are merely parrots, regurgitating the party line in order to keep their place on the political ladder of their favored circle, but because some of the views that they foist on people are abusive and controlling it is even more significant that at the first opportunity of escape their children abandoned their father’s authoritarian good-old-boys’ club for the fresh environment of politics-free Christianity. (Whether they actually have found that politics-free Christianity is another story, but the point here is that they quit their parents’ circles.)
I think the Spurgeon anecdote is useful here. I think that while a greater percentage of children have abandoned the faith altogether, fundamentalists who have children who love God and Church should rejoice that they have actually been doubly blessed. It also shows that the sub-culture of legalism and sectarianism that makes up most of fundamentalism is on a weak foundation, unblessed by God’s Holy Spirit, and vital Christians will either find themselves thriving despite being in it or, when free to make their own choices in life, walking away.
In another post, I will try to explain my rationale for Point Two.
*Editorial changes made per Jeff Straub’s criticism.