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Fundamentalist Groupthink and the Inevitable Paradigm Shift, PART I

I prayerfully submit the first of what portends to be a four-part essay on the inevitable change within Fundamentalism as a movement. May the Lord preserve us from a “morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words” (1 Timothy 6:4) and enable us to contribute to the beautifying of His glorious Body.
[Read Part I.]

The closing of differences amongst Christians is like opening the book in the Revelation — there is none able or worthy to do it, in heaven or in earth, but the Lamb: when he will put forth the greatness of his power for it, it shall be accomplished and not before. ~ John Owen


by Bob Bixby, pastor of
Morning Star Baptist Church
Rockford, Illinois

Part I.

The groupthink of contemporary Fundamentalism is rooted in denominational preservationism and turf protectionism. Even the most casual reading of the Fundamentalist beginnings in the late 1800s and early 1900s cannot ignore the obvious desperation of many godly men to hang on to their crumbling denominations in spite of the unmistakable encroachment of liberalism. They fought courageously and failed. But they failed with dignity. These valiant warriors found a brotherhood outside of their denominations in the rise of the renowned Bible conferences of the early twentieth century. These popular conferences were patently interdenominational without the riggings of presbyteries, synods, state boards, and religious politics. The fellowship was truth-driven. Those were glorious days, revival-like in their power, and comforting to all true lovers of the Word.

Mainline denominations had sold out to liberalism, and the once tight-knit communities of same-mindedness were fragmented by the hammer of truth. Men found themselves enjoying a common cause with other men from other denominations, and that commonality was stripped of all denominational trappings for the sake of a truth-based community. That community eventually became known as “Fundamentalists.” They had to be “Fundamentalists.” How else could so many from so varied backgrounds thrive in a revival-like fellowship of militancy for truth, if truth wasn’t defined by, well, truth? “Fundamentalists” was actually a well-chosen name. Fundamentalism was not about any single denomination, any single religion, or any single association. It was a about a single cause. That cause was truth.

Fundamentalism clearly came out of denominationalism. Human nature is human nature, however, and what is not so clear is whether denominationalism has been properly exorcised out of Fundamentalism. I do not think it has.

In a short matter of time, the definition of Fundamentalism began to morph into private interpretations of what is essential obedience for fellowship. It was not long before one was not considered Fundamentalist if he was not premillennialist, or dispensationalist, or King James-only, or anti-CCM, and the list goes on and on. The sinful nature of man that inherently fears other men, with its corresponding hunger for the security of community (a denominational perk) aroused denominational protectionism within the movement — even though there was no denomination to protect — and sparked an uninterrupted series of infightings which continues to this day. Protectionism and/or preservationism are difficult without a denominated territory. Denomination necessitates definition with concrete, objective limitations, boundary lines. This has been impossible to do by the formulation of a creed because Christians will never be able to agree on what are the essential marks of obedience that, if not present, call for Biblical separation. The historic volumes called The Fundamentals prove this point. The denominating of the Fundamentalist movement will not, nor should not, happen in creed. But it is happening in deed; and that, by groupthink. Groupthink is the tendency of members of any group to conform to the prevailing feelings and opinions of the group.

Now, the movement which had at one time Biblical truth as its singular distinction began to conform to the pressure of men who not only championed truth (thank God!), but could unfortunately never do so without also championing their overheated opinions on secondary principles. John Owen, commenting on the polemical engagements of Jerome, made the astute observation that all debates of the day were not just about the truth, but about private causes. “If they were engaged, they did not what the truth only, but what the defense of their cause also required.” The outcome was an enforced agreement with the whole package, not just the part that was unquestionably true. Not only was one who was convinced of the truth of truth expected to accept it, but he could not accept it unless he was likewise convinced of the truth of the private cause. Therefore, if a man wholeheartedly accepted the truth of truth, but doubted the private cause, he was treated as an unbeliever in the truth, or at best a compromiser! Most men, then and today, just buy the whole package for the sake of community. They yield to groupthink. Groupthink will amalgamate even a truth-based, non-denominational movement into a community that equates the sharing of feelings and opinions as essential as truth. If one should go so far as to condemn the private cause, he is considered schismatic, a heretic, or a disgruntled. Our movement is marked by competing communities of groupthink (i.e. not all are King James-only, etc.), but there is a groupthink that is common to all those who embrace the term Fundamentalist as self-descriptive.

Within the modern movement of Fundamentalism is a growing number of men who have been bred in the Fundamentalist sub-culture, who have embraced in their hearts the core values of Fundamentalism, who cherish the friendship of the constituency of the movement, but who have found that their own spiritual and biblical principles are colliding with an unbiblical form of separation. This unbiblical practice of a biblical doctrine has become so entrenched in the movement’s psyche that to call it into question is to invite ostracism. John Owen complained, “We are condemned for separation by those who refuse to admit us into union!” Fundamentalism is coming full circle. Once a harbor for men fleeing the constraints and compromise of apostate denominations, it is now a prison so denominationalized that the men who speak to its sins or resist its constraints are finding themselves in the same spiritual and psychological stress that their Fundamentalist forefathers experienced. They are battling the status quo, standing up to the political powers, and refusing to regurgitate groupthink. They are marginalized now, but they will soon be the leaders and the core of the next big movement in the Body of Christ for the sake of truth.

This prediction is not based on a twisted prophet-complex or on an overestimation of the character and spiritual maturity of the men who are unhappy in the Fundamentalist movement. Nor should this prediction be construed as an underestimation of the personal godliness of the current leaders within the movement. It is based upon the history of the reformation and recovery of biblical practice within the Church, a little common sense, and an assessment of human nature.

In order to enjoy the denominational sanction of the Fundamentalist movement and avoid the risk of losing one’s friends, a leader must toe the line on more than just fundamental truth. Music serves as an excellent illustration because it is the most controversial. If a man is going to guard his constituency, protect his place on the speaking roster in one of the institutions, and maintain his fellowship with the men that he agrees with more than any other group, he would not dare adopt a different stance toward anyone who uses music that is unacceptable to the collective mind of his community. Much less, would he dare call into question the unacceptability of the music. And much, much less, are the chances that he would dare to use the music in his own church. He loves Fundamentalism, he loves their founders, he loves their schools, he loves their doctrine, he loves their leaders, but he is a man without a country because he cannot in good conscience parrot groupthink on every issue.

Unfortunately, too many people see the discussion facing our generation as one about music. This is because men on both sides of the discussion invest most of their time and energy arguing the finer points of musicology, worship, and the question of worldliness.
As an outspoken critic of contemporary fundamentalism who is equally upfront in his position that music is not an issue that necessarily calls for separation, I personally have a strong bent for the old hymns and a forceful stance for conservative music in the worship service of our congregation. I mention this, not to provoke a discussion about music, but to point out that music is by no means the crucial issue. By merely raising the subject to the level of illustration and exposing my views, I have already disqualified myself in the minds of some of my readers. I am already, in the mind of some readers, a marked man. This automatic polarization and dismissal proves the point that I intend to make in this essay; I would ask those readers especially to indulge me in good Christian charity. Read on.

The discussion is about groupthink, and we are experiencing a very human event not unlike a revolution. The word revolution conjures up all kinds of possible misconceptions, but in the context of this essay I would like to use it much in the same way it is used by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn’s work on the history of science which appeared in 1962 was soon considered to be one of “The Hundred Most Influential Books Since the Second War” by The Times Literary Supplement because it struck a chord with people from all sorts of fields, not just the science community. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions when read by a layperson is not so much a book about science or philosophy as it is brilliant insight into (a) mankind as a knowledge-seeking community and (b) the struggle that precedes advance. That struggle results in revolutions which Kuhn describes as “tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity” of a particular community.[1] A complement is that which completes or brings to perfection and maturity. Translated into our current context, the very thing that will serve as a complement to our noble heritage as Fundamentalists will probably (I might suggest necessarily?) conflict with our tradition-bound activity. The discussion/debate over separation and its applications is not the nemesis of our truth-loving community, but its hope!

The parallelism between Kuhn’s world of science historiography and tight-knit communities of men in white coats, and our small world of Fundamentalism and tight-knit communities of men in suits, is striking. Kuhn made the audacious suggestion (offensive to some) that scientists are not white-coated independent thinkers who are responding to available data and acting accordingly. They are almost unanimously in bondage to the thought-culture, the groupthink, of their community, a “constellation of group commitments,” a paradigm. Scientific advance, Kuhn postulated, never occurs until there is a revolution which is “a special sort of change involving a certain sort of reconstruction of group commitments.”[2] The term for this, which he made famous, is paradigm shift.

Fundamentalism is in a similar bondage to its own constellation of group commitments and is rushing headlong toward its inevitable and necessary paradigm shift. Some of its group commitments are no longer valid, even while others are of life-and-death validity. Fundamentalism today is a complex constellation of group commitments with evocative themes and sub-themes that so affect the movement that nearly all of its solutions and judgments are predictably monolithic. To provoke a conversation on the rightness or wrongness of various applications of separation which is the core commitment of the movement becomes a veritable Pandora’s box to anyone who assumes to publicly open it for the sake of mutual edification. But, like the mythical Pandora’s box, opened again, it may release hope.

The reason for the seeming polarization on the subject of Fundamentalism and separation is, I think, because Fundamentalism as a whole has inherited and imbibed a groupthink that functions with an outmoded paradigm. A paradigm is an overall concept or pattern accepted by an intellectual community because of its usefulness in explaining complex processes or ideas. Intellectual here, of course, doesn’t mean reasonable, sound, accurate, or even intellectual. It simply speaks of thinking. Any community that shares a pattern of thought on any given subject has accepted rules, facts, and formulae that are automatically, even unthinkingly, assumed as the basis for all problem resolution and explanation. As I mentioned before, Kuhn called this unique thought-culture, groupthink, the “constellation of group commitments.”

This is particularly obvious among the subgroups within Fundamentalism. What Kuhn says about scientific communities one could also say about them:

Having isolated a particular community of specialists… one may usefully ask: What do its members share that accounts for the relative fullness of their professional communication and the relative unanimity of their professional judgment?[3]

I have a number of friends from a notable Fundamentalist seminary, but I have always commented that once you have met one of them, you’ve met them all. I jokingly tell my wife that I can talk to one of my friends from that group about any controversy and know exactly how the others from the same group are going to dogmatize. While this “relative unanimity” is certainly evident in varying degrees in the subgroups of Fundamentalism, it is also evident among the movement as a whole. Kuhn’s question is appropriate here. What does the community share? His answer is also on target: a paradigm or set of paradigms.

Scientific progress has shown that paradigms eventually crumble under the weight of anomalies, a departure from the regular arrangement. If a paradigm for problem solution and/or explanation results in a correct answer 999 times out of 1000, one has an excellent paradigm. There is only 1 anomaly. So rare is the anomaly that the exception almost proves the rule. However, when there are 50 or 100 or more anomalies then the paradigm must change. Again, let’s learn from science:

On other occasions a piece of equipment designed and constructed for the purpose of research fails to perform in the anticipated manner, revealing an anomaly that cannot, despite repeated effort, be aligned with professional expectation. In these and other ways besides, normal science repeatedly goes astray. And when it does — when, that is, the profession can no longer evade anomalies that subvert the existing tradition of scientific practice — then begin the extraordinary investigations that lead the profession at last to a new set of commitments, a new basis for the practice of science.[4]

If a paradigm, then, is an overall concept accepted by any given community because of its assumed effectiveness to resolve problems as already shown, then a set of agreements, beliefs, and world-views that are shared by any given community that govern that community’s problem solving is paradigmatic. Our community is Fundamentalism and our challenge is separation. Our way of explaining and applying it is our paradigm.

The one challenge that affects every believer is the problem of separation. It is without a doubt the primary concern of all Fundamentalists. Yet there seems to be a crisis. I would suggest that the doctrine of Biblical separation is not so much in crisis as is the constellation of group commitments that hem our groupthink[5] into unrealistic, impractical, inconsistent, and sometimes blatantly unbiblical applications of separation. The anomalies are increasingly difficult to evade. There will be a paradigm shift.

What is certain is that young minds that have not been pickled in the traditional paradigm will eventually discard it. In the ensuing controversy that always preludes revolutions there will be some young men that sin against God and ignore the complexity of separation, but others will be able to navigate through the labyrinth of group commitments, embrace the challenge of separation because it is biblically mandated, and structure a new paradigm. I would suggest that the paradigm of separation adopted by Fundamentalists in the 1950s was useful. However, the anomalies are so numerous today that one must admit to a change of paradigms or risk becoming marginalized into ineffectiveness and irrelevancy.

I do not entertain any notion whatsoever that my thoughts will be accepted by the Fundamentalist community, but out of love for my fellow servants I am suggesting for your consideration what the old paradigm is, why it will be discarded, and what might be a new paradigm for separatist believers. Criticisms are expected. That we all become more committed to the Headship of Jesus Christ is my prayer. In my effort to do this, I will first attempt to define the old paradigm. Secondly, I will reiterate the complexity of separation. Thirdly, I will suggest another paradigm, my own, which serves my conscience well and, I believe, is faithful to the mind of Christ.
of Christ.

1. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p. 6.
2. Ibid., p. 180.
3. Ibid., p. 182.
4. Ibid., p. 6.
5. I am aware that I sometimes use “groupthink” and “paradigm” interchangeably, and at other times differentiate between the two. This is because of their co-dependency. Even Kuhn, a much more brilliant thinker, faced the same challenge in his work.

Morning Star website | email Bob Bixby | request a free CD or sermon catalogue

| download printable PDF file |


37 Responses

  1. looking forward to the other three. and the download option. 🙂

  2. In order to enjoy the denominational sanction of the Fundamentalist movement and avoid the risk of losing one’s friends, a leader must toe the line on more than just fundamental truth.

    Not necessarily true, Bob. If memory serves, your parents serve with Baptist Mid-Missions. Therefore, I’m assuming that you have at least some experience with churches in the GARBC. You have an example there of a decidedly historic Fundamentalist group where that it is also decdiedly not the case. There is a great deal of tolerance and variance going on in that fellowship on your illustrative issue of music. The churches that remain in that group have not made it an issue of separation. Are they or are they not part of Fundamentalism? Who determines that?

    I find it interesting that the GARBC and its (especially recent) history hasn’t come up in this ongoing conversation of the direction of Fundamentalism. It might be worth a look-see. Some of the issues that they and their churches have dealt with in the last 20-25 years have parallels to what we are discussing here now.

  3. As I said, music is just “an” (meaning one out of many) illustration (example used to help explain). I could have used KJV-onlyism, theatres, pants on women, dispensationalism, or church polity; anything, depending on your fellowship within the larger community of Fundamentalism. I chose music. That it is not “necessarily so,” as you said concerning music, serves to enhance the illustration, proving my point that it is polarizing to some, not to others as well as illustrating what I said that “In a short matter of time, the definition of Fundamentalism began to morph into private interpretations of what is essential obedience for fellowship. It was not long before one was not considered Fundamentalist if he was not premillennialist, or dispensationalist, or King James-only, or anti-CCM, and the list goes on and on.” I also said this is not a conversation about music, but about the groupthink. The fact that groupthink is so easily polarized by positionalism leads right into part two of my essay. Your immediate honing in on my music comment illustrates for us the incapacity of too many in this movement to see anything beyond their pet issues. In short, you missed the point.

    I do have experience with the GARBC and I have seen the same kind of polarizing groupthink on issues, including music. We are conditioned, as Fundamentalists, to be polarized. That’s because of a faulty paradigm. More later.

  4. Bob, I don’t think I missed the point. If you look at the GARBC today, there is a wide variety of thinking on various issues, not just music. Yet they remain in association or fellowship with one another. The complete “groupthink” or unanimity just isn’t there.

    I used music as my illustration since it is the one you, too used. “Honing in” is a little strong- not like I started citing Garlock and playing my LPs backwards. But hey, if you’d rather have me go with plurality of elders (or not), that’s fine with me. There’s an awful lot of variance on that within that group today, too. There may be discussion and defensiveness over it, but the fact remains that there are people on both sides of the issue who continue to remain in association with the GARBC.

    My point is that not all Fundamentalists immediately break ranks over people who don’t agree with them completely.

    Again, I do think that seeing where the GARBC began and where it is today is interesting and somewhat relevant to where the “larger community of Fundamentalism” is heading. Many of the young guns who read here seem to have had little exposure to that segment of Fundamentalism. I simply thought that they would find it interesting.

    I’m not claiming to have all the answers, Bob. I always try to remain teachable. I look forward to reading your subsequent entries.

  5. Bob,

    I do not disagree with you that a genuine, honest discussion about separation needs to be put on the table (Bauder’s recent paper argues similarly), but I wonder about the over-reach of your arguments here:

    (1) You write, “They are marginalized now, but they will soon be the leaders and the core of the next big movement in the Body of Christ for the sake of truth.” Perhaps I am mistaken, but fundamentalism is a very small segment of the Body of Christ, and it seems hyperbolic to think that the next great movement will come from within it. Maybe I have misunderstood your point.

    (2) It is obvious that fundamentalism would have a certain “groupthink” since it is, although loosely configured, a “group.” I don’t think that this really says much, since every group, by definition, is going to have a certain amount of common thought about the things which bind it together. Baptists all have groupthink about immersion, etc. In other words, it seems impossible to not have groupthink operate at some level if you have a group. It begs the question to impugn a thought simply because a group holds it in common. As you certainly agree, thinking differently than any group does not automatically mean that your thoughts are, by that fact, correct. It seems to me, though I may be wrong about this, that you have overplayed the paradigm argument. For instance, when you state that “paradigms eventually crumble” you give an impression that you probably don’t mean to, i.e., that all paradigms are flawed and eventually exposed to be incorrect. I will grant that you seem to allow that some may stand the test, but the whole paradigm discussion raises epistemology questions that are much more complex and serious than you are allowing.

    (3) Perhaps this is nit-picking, but it seems like you have read the last 30 years of fundamentalism’s foibles into the earlier history of the movement. You say that it was only “a short matter of time” before you had to be a premillenialist, dispensationalist, KJV-only, anti-CCM, etc. But this is clearly not the case. Some of those issues are very much “johnny-come-lately” issues–the music issue isn’t more than 30 years really, the translation issue not much more. And I think you may be misreading the point about eschatology, dispensationalism, etc. There were divisions over some of this, but not necessarily as a matter of fundamentalism and not always by those who claimed to be fundamentalists. As I am sure you agree, there will always be a limit to the amount of fellowship those who disagree about doctrinal matters can have (it is difficult, say, for a Baptist and a Presbyterian to plant churches together). That doesn’t mean that they necessarily exclude each other from fundamentalism.

    (4) I wonder how changing paradigms is necessarily connected to your warning about being marginalized into ineffectiveness and irrelevancy. Perhaps, my point would be better stated that I wonder at the presumption here, namely that any local church is dependent on relationships with other churches, etc. for effectiveness and relevance. Maybe I am misunderstanding something, but your comment seems to imply that we must be a part of something bigger in order to be effective and relevant. I may be the lone wolf on this one, but it seems to me that this thought has always been the problem both in and outside of fundamentalism. It seems like just about every wrong path over the last 150 years started with an effort not to be marginalized. Even more important, if the local assembly is the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), then we must be very careful not to think that its effectiveness for Jesus Christ is necessarily dependent on other churches, etc.

    Again, let me say that I am all for an open discussion about separatism. It does need to be addressed because (and in this we seem agreed) the times have changed and that means we need to consider how to apply the biblical principles appropriately to the times we now live in. It just seems that the discussion will be more profitable if it is less overblown.

    People who are trying to convince people usually aren’t looking for a fight. People who want a fight can usually find one. Perhaps we need a fight in order to stir things up and separate the wackos from the historic fundamentalists. It seems to me, however, that you aren’t just “calling out” the wackos since it seems like you are calling out guys like me, and I don’t consider myself a wacko (maybe I have deceived myself! Groupthnk?:>).

    In other words, since you and I agree on just about everything that you considered an abnormality, except separatism, let’s have a discussion first, then decide if we need to start a fight. Make sense?


  6. The beauty of the blog. It allows for immediate analysis and criticism. I embrace it.

    Dave, I winced when I read your quotation of me – “They are marginalized now, but they will soon be the leaders and the core of the next big movement in the Body of Christ for the sake of truth.” I told myself a dozen times I needed to tone that one down, but failed to do it. You’re right: overblown.

    2/ I am not necessarily against groupthink if it is solid. I’m going to try to argue that it isn’t solid for many (notice I didn’t say everybody) because of a way of explaining separatism that is outdated (paradigm). I might say here that your comments on the local church are very much in line with what my own “constellation of commitments” that help me explain my position on separation.

    3/ As to your third point, I’ve got to ponder on it. I might agree with you that it may be nit-picking because I can’t name all the issues. Might as well bring up the ones that are current.

    4/I think I agree with you on your last point about marginalization. When I use the term it is not to express any desire to be embraced by the mainstream. I mean it in a more literal sense of being relegated to the outer edge of usefulness, not necessarily in a societal sense. I could have chosen a different word.

    Finally, I certainly am not looking to pick a fight. I honor and respect you and have enjoyed our friendship. But you know, I think, that merely raising one’s voice on the issue is going to render one’s self vulnerable to attack. I happen to be in a Providentially-provided capacity/position where I can do it with little sense of vulnerability. Oddly enough, it is often the person who renders himself vulnerable to criticism that is pegged as the fighter when all he is doing is jarring the status quo. Unlike many so-called ‘young fundamentalists,’ I have no intention of leaving. I have two major difficulties: I’m Baptist and I am a Fundamentalist. So I find myself rather stuck with this group even though some would rather me take the leap!

    Our leaders have failed us because they have been afraid of the conversation. They have been Rather-esque, believing that the pajama bloggers would go away, not realizing that groupthink in the USA is radically affected by the bloggers. This is a huge sociological mis-read on their part. The blog is the great leveler.

    I am very pleased, however, to see that you are involved. Your criticisms are more than welcome on my blog. (My church folks know I think highly of you.) I have very tough skin. I can take criticism and learn by it. What is hardest for me to take is when people misread my outspokenness as disrespect for them. I sincerely respect anybody who has as earnest a love for the Head of the Body as I do.

    We are seeking to understand. To understand, we must talk without beating around the bush. In attempting to do that we sometimes overstate our point and have to publicly back off a little. Maybe even eat crow. Yet, in the end, I think we are all glad that somebody is willing to stick his neck out and let others saw on it. Because, in the end, we should all be better people.

    I don’t know the brother Greg, but his critique is also helpful. My response to him should not be read as anything but a hearty disagreement/clarification that, if he were in my living room, I would say as I was serving up some more fresh coffee while my heart would be simultaneously beating out a prayer for the prosperity of his service wherever it is.

  7. Bob,

    Thanks for the response. I am glad the conversation is rolling. 20 years ago, when I was a “young” fundamentalist, there were not many options for engaging the discussion. I agree with you that technology has changed all of that, and I think it has changed it for the better. Proof of that, however, will be in the kind of discussion which is conducted. As you know, there are some places where it is all heat, no light. I believe you are trying to generate light, that’s why I decided to hop into the discussion. Robust discussion and disagreement can be very healthy. I agree with you on that.

    A note of clarification–on my point 3, I was meaning that maybe I was being nitpicky, not you. In other words, I was hoping that I was not making too much out of the fact that I think these are late developments (vs. early developments). Fact is they are still here whether they came later or early. My larger point is that one danger of seeing them as early developments is that one might conclude that they are inherent problems in fundamentalism (which seems implied by some of your comments). I know you have a great appreciation for history, but not all folks involved in these discussions seem well-informed about the history of this movement. Some criticisms of it transpose later problems unto earlier times. Frankly, there were enough problems for that time period not to saddle them with ours!

    I have no desire to just fit in to the current quagmire, so I am all for open discussion about these important ideas. My disagreement, if expressed, will be, by the Lord’s help, directed at your ideas, not you. I believe that is what you want and also will practice, so let’s sharpen each other whenever we get the opportunity. I am hopeful we will find we are not far off from each other.

    Now, on to even more important matters–have a great Lord’s Day!


  8. I just wanted to interject that God has something to say about ‘groupthink.’

    1 Corinthians 1:10 “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

    Philippians 1:27 “. . . that I may hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel.”

    I would say that it is a good thing that all the grads of a particular seminary are “of the same mind and in the same judgment,” esp. when that institution is part of a local church. It seems biblical to me, and consistent with the Holy Spirit’s instruction here. The only question is whether or not the position(s) taken is biblical.

    Rather than lament that all the brethren parrot the same groupthink, I think we should be seeking as much doctrinal and practical unity as possible. Churches and movements are weakened by divisions within.

    I look forward to reading the coming discussion on separation. It is needed and timely.

    Steve Owen

  9. Bob, a quick note:

    When you say —

    “In a short matter of time, the definition of Fundamentalism began to morph into private interpretations of what is essential obedience for fellowship. It was not long before one was not considered Fundamentalist if he was not premillennialist, or dispensationalist, or King James-only, or anti-CCM, and the list goes on and on.”

    And in the next paragraph say:

    “Now, the movement which had at one time Biblical truth as its singular distinction began to conform to the pressure of men who not only championed truth (thank God!), but could unfortunately never do so without also championing their overheated opinions on secondary principles.”

    It seems to me that your arguments that follow are resting on these propositions. Am I missing something here?

    If I am correct, then I would have to say that you have not proven the case. In order for your arugment to succeed, your underlying premise needs to be established. I think that is where the other commentators are going also, although I could be misreading them too.

    Perhaps you need to shore up the base before you come to your conclusions?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  10. Don,

    Long time no blog! Good to hear you.

    What you are missing is what everone is missing who reads this: my idea of the soon-to-be or must-be discarded paradigm. I’m using that term like my dictionary uses it: A paradigm is a concept accepted by a community because of its effectiveness in explaining a complex process.
    That my attempt to define the soon-to-be-discarded paradigm is not posted yet is by design.

    In short, I strongly believe in separatism. I will attempt to show that some of us embrace that doctrine but have a real issue with the way the complex process of it is conceptualized and therefore explained.

    I hardly think that I need to prove any more that Fundamentalists are often guilty of majoring on the minors. If Providence permits, I will soon post PART TWO which will either clarify our confuse. Either way, I am earnestly praying that it will contribute to our edification in the Body.

  11. I look forward to part two, but a few more comments on part one.

    The two sections I quoted above use terms that seem to paint Fundamentalism as a monolithic entity. You said “It was not long before one was not considered Fundamentalist if he was not premillennialist, or dispensationalist, or King James-only, or anti-CCM, and the list goes on and on.” Later you said that fundamentalists could “never” divorce themselves from also championing their secondary issues. That sounds like these secondary issues have come to define all fundamentalists, does it not?

    As you say in your response, you don’t need to prove that Fundamentalists are often guilty of majoring on the minors. However, being often guilty of something and always guilty of something are two different things. It appeared to me that you were making a blanket “always” statement in the original post.

    And of course, I don’t think ‘often majoring on the minors’ is a uniquely fundamentalist trait. I think it is a human trait.

    I hope you get article two up soon… I know how hard it is to do extra writing in the midst of a busy preaching schedule (not to mention the rest of our pastoral duties). I am off to tend to some of them now myself…

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  12. “May the Lord preserve us from a ‘morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words’ ( 1 Timothy 6:4) and enable us to contribute to the beautifying of His glorious Body”

    I often question my reading of this and other articles like this as merely unprofitable interest in a controversial topic.
    Thank you for articulating what many of us (“young fundamentalists” for lack of a better term) believe.

  13. David Clark offers some cautions related to Kuhn’s theory in To Know and Love God (availble here: http://www.gnpcb.org/product/1581344848 — search for Kuhn using the Google Print feature).

    He also refers to the critques of Notre Dame philosopher Alasdair Macintyre, whose work may be worth checking out.

  14. I probably should have responded to this earlier. I think that it is obvious that I don’t rely on Kuhn for either my epistemology or theology. I used his terminology because it is well-known. I appreciate your mention of Clark’s criticisms.

  15. I guess I missed this discussion. People quit posting months ago. Just in case anyone is still looking, here goes.

    The article is excellent, though some of the criticisms of hyperbole are valid (I wouldn’t believe Bob Bixby wrote it if it wasn’t exaggerated!). However, I think many of you are missing Bob’s point.

    Bob’s criticism of “groupthink” is not a criticism of people actually THINKING the same things, but rather the observation that, on some issues, fundamentalists have largely stopped THINKING at all, choosing rather to submit to the will of the collective. Worse yet, thinking any thoughts other than the approved set on virtually any issue has often become an offense punishable by a shunning which often makes tribalism look compassionate.

    Yes, we are commanded to “keep the unity of the spirit,” but attempts to do so by discouraging open thought and discussion are very misguided—even when it comes to fundamental truths of our faith! Why? Because assent to doctrines which is primarily motivated by a desire to “fit” within one’s group is really not much different from open rejection of those doctrines—and it is certainly less honest.

    Let me point out that though I appreciate Bob’s article, I am not speaking for him. Though I suspect he would agree with what I have said, I have not consulted him.

    I welcome criticism as much as Bob does. If you disagree, feel free to chop away 🙂 This article deserves more discussion than it has gotten thus far, anyway.

    By the way, Bob, when are parts 2-4 coming?

  16. Kevin,

    I take exception to the fact that I always exaggerate. Give examples. I do use hyperbole which is legitimate and, as hyperboles are, obvious.

    But, yes. You did get my point. Stated well.

    The other parts are coming. Since I posted this, SharperIron came on scene and that has somewhat influenced some of my thinking. Fundamentally, however, my thoughts on this have not changed, only matured in the last several months.

    Also, while my use of the word groupthink was sharply criticized, I think I am going to stick with it in the next few articles on this subject.

    Kevin, great to see you in cyberspace, brother!

  17. Bob,

    Don’t take exception; take it as a complement! Hyperbole is often a very effective form of communication, even if some statements must be qualified later on. Those who are too timid (or whatever it is) to make their point forcefully may not provoke as much criticism, but they don’t provoke much thought either.

    One of the criticisms of you really deserves to be refuted. DMD appears to suggest that fundamentalism’s problems with emphasizing petty issues didn’t begin until around 1975. I can’t imagine how he came to that conclusion. Of course it wasn’t called CCM back in 1955, but fundamentalists majored on that and an entire host of silly things way back into the 30s and 40s. Though it is not a great book, E.J. Carnell’s “The Case for Orthodox Christianity” gives several valid examples, including theater attendance, card playing, dancing, and KJV only–an issue on which he was bitterly attacked by fellow fundamentalists. I don’t have a copy anymore, but I believe it was published in the early 50’s. Also, think about J. Frank Norris or Carl MacIntyre. They weren’t considered kooks back then.

    I’m glad you’ve decided to stick with the word “groupthink.” It works, don’t fix it.

    Can you direct me to the parts you found helpful on SharperIron?

  18. Received emails letting me know that more had been added to this discussion, and since I was referenced I will only offer a quick reply about my comments which “deserve to be refuted”: (1) I agree that Carnell’s book is not a great book–in fact, I would suggest it is a very bad book and one that hardly serves as a solid source for info on fundamentalism; Carnell was proving himself to be a very bitter man (2) I would encourage a rechecking of the KJVOnly comment–my hunch is that they were criticizing his use of the RSV, not calling for exclusive use of the KJV (I suppose I should go look it up, but I will be lazy here. My reason for believing you’re mistaken is based on the history of the KJVO movement and the rejection of the RSV that mushroomed in the 50s); and (3) it is somewhat anachronistic to look back on the issues you have outlined and call them “petty”–you do so comfortably from today’s culture and in the face of a much wider group than fundamentalists (Spurgeon wasn’t a big fan of the theatre; the Puritans were “petty” about a lot of things).

    I don’t deny that there have always been quirky fundamentalists, but that is not the same as saying the movement/idea was/is inherently quirky. It is not helpful to pick out the extreme examples of any movement in order to discredit it. We are better served by looking at its raison d’etre (just tossing in some French for Bob) than some representative failures.

    Some things to think about,
    A rhythmless, Rook-playing, video-watching, NASB using fundamentalist

  19. I basically agree with Dave’s defense here. (The French won my heart.) We are, indeed, better served by looking at fundamentalism’s raison d’etre than some representative failures. Although I would hasten to add that we don’t do ourselves any service by ignoring the failures either. Therefore, I think I concur in the main.

    My main consternation at this point, however, is whether Dave plays Rook high or Rook low. I have very strong feelings in favor of Rook high.

  20. “Rook high” all the way. Wish I knew how to say that in French…

  21. DMD,

    You start out dodging the question, and end up forgetting the issue completely. Carnell, thought a bitter man, was a fundamentalist and no one questions whether or not the examples of lunacy he gives are actually true–we simply fault him for being so bitter about it.

    I suppose if you want to narrowly draw a difference between “anti-RSV” and “KJY only” you might have a point. But, what do you think they were using instead of the RSV, the Geneva Bible? Wycliffe? True, they were not full-blown Ruckmanites, but the issue, as far as Bob’s reference is concerned, is no different.

    No, it is not anachronistic to call various issues petty. Anachronism happens when you give someone a label that did not exist in their time, or expect them to have dealt with issues that did not exist in their time (e.g. saying that Spurgeon’s smoking showed that he disregarded the threat of lung cancer). Nothing happened in 1975 which somehow made those issues petty from that point forward. They were petty then because they are issues on which the Bible gives no clear verdict, and because they distracted from what the Bible does clearly say.

    Furthermore, it is no help to say that others also engaged in such distractions. It is true that they did, even more for the Puritans than for Spurgeon (who didn’t need to go to the theater, he put on his own dramatic production regularly at the Metro. Tab.). This is the classic, “but Johnny did something worse that I did” defense. It may be true, but Spurgeon and the Puritans aren’t at issue.

    Your implication that MacIntyre and Norris were the outer fringes is historically misinformed. It is true that MacIntyre, being a Presbyterian, was of a slightly different group, but both were well-respected leaders of large followings. And, though they were extreme, they are just two examples of many. Again, these things were taking place WAY before 1975.

    No one has argued that the movement was or is inherently quirky, but rather that it became preoccupied or obsessed with trivial issues–an obsession that distracted greatly from the movement’s original raison d’etre. You forget the issue. No one is well-served by ignoring the problems and focusing on the sunny side of the original raison d’etre, for in all the time between the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy and now, the raison d’etre has certainly shifted somewhat. We must analyze the current state of the movement (both good and bad) to see what the real raison d’etre is for the group today. It is like answering the concern “____ church is making hairstyles a test of the faith” with the glib observation “but the original Fundamentalists were good men with a good cause.”

    I don’t think it is Fundamentalist bashing to honestly admit to the faults of the movement, both historical and present. And, I think it is irresponsible not to do so.

    On the funny side, one of Carnell’s criticisms of the Fundamentalists was that condemned theater attendance but watched the very same movies on TV (video would be anachronistic, but applicable). I think Rook was around back then, but the harshest condemnation was reserved for “face” cards, so you’re probably ok there, even if you played Rook low.


    I used the French phrase several times to get you to reconsider, but think about my arguement too. And don’t be so hard on Rook low, it just takes a little more practice.

  22. Kevin,

    I can see my spiritual gift of making people hyperventilate is still working.

    I am not sure that you asked a question, so I am even more perplexed about how I dodged it. You made a statement–the fundamentalists of the 30s and 40s were obsessed with petty issues–which I believe lacks credibility because:

    (1) Carnell was coming unhinged because of his animosity toward fundamentalism (even his friends acknowledged this and tried to temper him–read Marsden). Carnell was a pioneer of the new evangelicalism who came under fire for a lot of things and rejected fundamentalism chiefly because of its perceived failure to challenge the culture and liberal academia. He wanted to distance himself from the movement, so he blasted it at every chance (hyperbole) he could so that those he did want to impress would accept his credentials as a non-fundamentalist. I do not consider that a reliable source. Offer other, better ones and perhaps we can talk about it.

    (2) If you don’t see the difference between being against a translation that has serious defects and being KJVO, then you don’t understand the context or substance of this issue. On the grounds of your argument, Piper or Grudem’s rejection of the TNIV is tantamount to being KJVO. There were other translations options for Carnell, e.g. ASV, RV. John R. Rice carried ads for the RSV NT in the Sword, but when the OT was published it came under attack for its handling of Isa 7:14, etc. Bob Jones, Sr. regularly preached from the Amplified Bible. I could go on, but it seems clear that opposition to Carnell’s embrace of the RSV (which reflected some liberal tendencies and was published by the NCC) cannot be automatically attributed to being KJVO. That was your point and it is not valid.

    (3)While I may have used anachronistic improperly (not sure yet about that), I believe the argument stands. At least it does for me because I don’t believe how believers interact with culture is inherently petty. I would imagine we disagree with each other on some of this. So be it.

    (4) (To keep playing word games)I don’t believe that I implied that Norris or McIntyre were at the outer fringes of fundamentalism (you inferred it incorrectly). What I stated was that we should see the difference between (some quirky) fundamentalists and fundamentalism. Norris and McIntyre were larger than life individuals who had quirks, no doubt about it. But it is wrong to conclude that they are the embodiment of fundamentalism.

    (5) I am a little lost regarding your comment that I forgot the issue. I was responding to your comment that something I said deserved to be refuted. My answer was directly connected to your comment. I thought the question under discussion was something like, “Was fundamentalism preoccupied with petty issues prior to 1975?” Wasn’t I trying to answer that question?

    (6) And, for the record, since you seem to be arguing that fundamentalism has always been sidetracked by petty issues, I disagree with you. The raison d’etre of the fundamentalist movement was separation (putting out the modernists or pulling away from them). The separation question became more complex as the historical context changed in significant ways. One shift that threw fundamentalism into fits was the cultural revolution of the 50s and (particularly) the 60s. It seems that the personal separation issues started to move front and center because the world was slipping downward and the new evangelicals were following along–fundamentalist identity started to coalesce around rejecting both of these trends. But, there has never been anything like a unified view of personal separation among fundamentalists–I grew up in a church that was anti-movies, but had pool parties for the youth group (go figure). The fragmentation of the movement has been accelerated by the tendency since the 70s for various fundamentalist groups to make these issues central to the separation question.

    I don’t think I know you and it seems like you don’t know me. I don’t think many fundamentalists think that I ignore the problems in fundamentalism. I may rate their relative importance differently than you and probably go at them differently than you might, but I don’t ignore them.

    In any event, I am sure that Bob will clear everything up in the forth coming installments.

  23. Kevin, I wish you had written the whole thing in French! Then I would have been able to grasp your point better. But let me just say this:

    I don’t think there really was a question posed as such, and I’m not sure Dave Doran dodges. The mere attempt to dialogue in this venue requires some intestinal fortitude on the part of any thinking person (which he is) because he knows that he can’t normally get away with a dodge when who-knows-how-many-people are reading it.

    He used “anachronism” the right way in my book. According to my Webster’s an anachronism, among other things, is “anything that is or seems to be out of its proper time in history.” To project your judgment in 2005 (with its culture and historical hindsight) on their issues of 1945 and relagating them to “pettiness” would be to deliver a judgment that is out of its proper time in history. That is anachronistic.

    Parenthetically, you said Spurgeon “put on his own dramatic production regularly at the Metro Tab.” Really? Regularly? I am fairly familiar with his life and I can only think of one time where he had a dialogue with a monkey in order to ridicule Darwinism. That kind of “production” hardly makes him inconsistent with his anti-theatre stance as you seem to imply.

    Kevin, you are finished with fundamentalism, so it may be easy for you to say that it has become “preoccupied or obsessed with trivial issues – an obsession that distracted greatly from the movement’s original raison d’etre.” Au contraire, my friend. The very reason I am still a fundamentalist is because the original raison d’etre is still the obsession. We are obsessed about living for and defending the truth. We are obsessed with the notion that separation is required. It is true that we are rarely agreed on how separation is to be applied, but we understand that truth-living necessarily affects every area of our life and consequently we will necessarily have to talk about cultural issues as well as various applications. We often disagree. But our disagreement shows more about what we agree on than anything else. We agree that it matters.

    It is granted that we have many sins and warts. I point them out all the time. But I think a closer examination of the discussions (even on this blog) will show that there is a fundamentalism that has risen above the petty, and is desperately hammering forward in sometimes discouraging dialogue with the full persuasion that the original raison d’etre of our movement is actually prevailing among many of us who still cherish our heritage. In a movement that takes truth so seriously, there will never be silence (even on petty issues). And while we sometimes err as to where we should put our emphasis, we are not erring to insist that emphasis must be put – and that in many more places than modern culture cares to admit! That’s why I love fundamentalism.

    Dave, I would gladly settle everything in the next few installments, but I’m afraid that you’ll deftly debunk it as soon as I post it! 😉

  24. I feel that the tone of this interaction has degenerated greatly. If I written anything that comes across as an attack on your character, I repent and retract. Please forgive me. I do feel like your hyperventilating remark falls below the standard of speaking the truth in love.

    The “question” to which I referred was Bob’s discussion in the original post.

    Again, Carnell’s state of mind doesn’t have any bearing. Are you seriously going to suggest that every example he gave in his bitter diatribe was false?

    Actually, I granted you the difference between KJV only and anti RSV, so my point is not that they were the same. But, the “anti-RSV” issue was just as ridiculous as Pensacola Pete is. It was a petty distraction of the kind Bob alleged, and it happened way before 1975 (“30 years ago” in your terms).

    None of us is saying that how believer interact with culture is inherently petty. What I am saying is that the particular cultural issues which fundamentalism tended to make into tests of faith were petty.

    Also, none of us is concluding that Norris and MacIntyre were the embodiment of Fundamentalism. I granted that they were extreme. But, they are literal historical examples of people who were respected in the movement. And they carried on their antics long before 30 years ago.

    Actually, the issue is this statement “In a short matter of time, the definition of Fundamentalism began to morph into private interpretations of what is essential obedience for fellowship. It was not long before one was not considered Fundamentalist if he was not premillennialist, or dispensationalist, or King James-only, or anti-CCM, and the list goes on and on.” You previously argued that these things were only true after about 1975. I am arguing that these problems were extant long before 30 years ago. What you would have to do to argue your position would be do show that examples of such behavior before that year either did not happen or were not true of fundamentalists. All you have done is to say that Carnell was batty, so you don’t have to deal with the issues he raises, and MacIntyre and Norris were extremes, so they don’t count. The problem is, Carnell’s examples most likely did happen–many people reviewed his book at the time; none argued that his charges were patently false. And, though the eccentricities of the other two were noteworthy, no one is claiming that they were not fundamentalists.

    Neither I nor Bob argued that fundamentalism has always been sidetracked. Bob argued that it became sidetracked quickly. I agree both that it was not always so and that it quickly became so. I also agree that separation (specifically understanding it) was the key problem for fundamentalism. You might wish to state it differently, but I think that fundamentalism in general handled its separation heritage very poorly.

    I’m not accusing you of ignoring the problems. But you have here taken a chastising tone toward some who are attempting to point them out, especially if we point out the problems before 1975. Understanding the present condition entails crtically evaluating the past from which it flows and frankly acknowledging BOTH the triumphs and the failures. That is all I seek to do.

    I respect you even though we differ on some very minor things. I don’t want to be guilty of some of the very same faults I criticize in the movement.

  25. In line with the last statement I made on my previous post, I want to repent of my statement about “Pensacola Pete.” I do disagree with many of Ruckmann’s ideas, but that is no reason to speak as I did.

  26. Scattered thoughts.


    Your clarification (posted while I was posting obviously) helped. Thanks.

    I see your point more clearly now. I read into your statement that “separation” is/was the petty issue within fundamentalism. That is something that I can’t agree with.

    Your clarified argument with Dave is at least fair as it stands now…

    Dave is not dodging (as in having whimpy character), but his (and others) standard defense whenever an individual/institution/group are used as an illustration is to say that it doesn’t apply because that was an isolated case or they are not part of that group, etc.That has been his consistent answer. We’ve had this argument before: there is fierce defense of the movement, but when the movement is criticized by example we are told that it is not a movement or that it doesn’t represent his fundamentalism. Therefore, the question/subject is moot.

    I agree with your last post, but my concern with you is that you don’t buy the whole separation concept at all. Where I differ with Dave is in the managment of self-evaluation. Dave wants to be called a fundamentalist (as I do), but he doesn’t want to admit any tie whatsoever to Norris, MacIntyre, Hyles, and what not. I, on the other hand, am willing to admit that they are a part of the same lineage and that those problems must be addressed. In the long run, I think my approach to dealing with the fundamentalist question is healthier.

    My delay of posting these articles is for several reasons. The criticism has been very helpful and I am changing or honing my thinking on some things. But, more importantly, I don’t want this to die down immediately. The separation question is critical. Thank God there are people who recognize the importance of the long discussion.

    If I have misrepresented Dave or you, you may certainly clarify as you see fit! I’ll be blunt, though, Kevin. When it comes to fundamentalism, I’m mostly with Dave.

  27. One more dance…

    I don’t believe that you said anything that attacked my character, just my judgment, but that is the point of reasoned argument. You have nothing to apologize for. My reference to hyperventilating is because of the vehemence with which you went after my explanations. You came out of the gate pretty strong and kept pounding. Nothing inherently wrong with doing such, just seemed a little much. I don’t believe that I actually spoke unlovingly, and it certainly wasn’t my intent to do so.

    We seem to be talking past each other about Carnell. I don’t think he is a credible source to prove your point. That doesn’t mean that your point is invalid; it means, as I suggested earlier, that I would be happy to interact with better proof of it than Carnell.

    But, for the sake of moving forward let’s let Carnell rest in peace (DV) and return to the “question” and “issue” at hand. As you have laid it out in your last point, your concern is about how quickly fundamentalism got sidetracked. My original post on this point to Bob was:

    “it seems like you have read the last 30 years of fundamentalism’s foibles into the earlier history of the movement. You say that it was only “a short matter of time” before you had to be a premillenialist, dispensationalist, KJV-only, anti-CCM, etc. But this is clearly not the case. Some of those issues are very much “johnny-come-lately” issues—the music issue isn’t more than 30 years really, the translation issue not much more. And I think you may be misreading the point about eschatology, dispensationalism, etc. There were divisions over some of this, but not necessarily as a matter of fundamentalism and not always by those who claimed to be fundamentalists.”

    A few comments: (1)notice that I wrote that “some of those issues are very much johnny-come-lately”–you seem to respond as if I said none of these things pre-date thirty years, but that is not what I wrote; (2)perhaps my statement about music being a 30 year old debate is too precise, but most of the books I have read (both pro and con CCM) peg that time frame as the beginning of the Christian rock era; I don’t know of any fights about this issue in the 30s and 40s (I may just be ignorant here); (3) I don’t know of any fundamentalist school that was KJVO until the end of the 70s and and really in the 80s–profs at Central and BJU taught from the NASB in the 70s; (4) the dispensationalism issue is interesting to me, since I did my undergrad at BJU and they were decidedly not dispensationalist yet acknowledged as fundamentalists. In fact, I never heard anyone question someone’s credentials as a fundamentalist because of dispensationalism until the last 10 years. Obviously, that is my experience, so it may be off target. It seems like the only people who tried to tie fundamentalism to dispensationalism were the new evangelicals. (Caveat: I am assuming that someone may believe dispensationalism is so important that they restrict fellowship from non-dispensationalists in the same way a Baptist does a Presbyterian, but that such “separation” is not over fundamentalism, i.e., one is not saying the other is not a fundamentalist; he is saying that the other is not a dispensationalist or a Baptist.)

    I happen to believe that fundamentalism stayed strong and healthy all the way up to the late 60s, early 70s. The coalition included church groups like the GARBC and IFCA and seminaries like Central, Dallas, Grace, and (although not in name) Westminister. From the late 50s the coalition was unraveling because of Graham. I would encourage you, if you haven’t, to track down and read Farley Butler’s phd dissertation entitled “Billy Graham and the End of Evangelical Unity” (Univ of Fla, I think). I simply do not agree that the “movement” got sidetracked as early as you suggest. But we can disagree without any blood loss.

    My reason, originally and now, for raising a different viewpoint is because I believe that too many people talk as if fundamentalism itself is guilty of this problem (I don’t include Bob in this; I don’t know you well enough to include or exclude you). In other words, they reject the idea because they falsely conclude that it inevitably leads to these kinds of provincial and petty debates. I think that perpective is jaundiced by contemporary fundamentalism.

    Hope this clarifies my position better.

  28. Hey, we’re moderate dispensationalists at BJU ;o)

  29. Just a note of clarification. I don’t think anything I have said aims to eliminate Norris, McIntyre, etc. from my heritage as a fundamentalist. I have said that the presence of some quirky men does not lead to the conclusion that the movement/idea is quirky.

    I am rejecting the logic that runs like this—1st Premise 1: All fundamentalists are separatists. 2nd Premise: Some separatists are quirky or preoccupied with petty issues. Conclusion: Fundamentalism is quirky or preoccupied with petty issues. The logic here is flawed on several fronts: (1) new information in the conclusion (change from fundamentalists to fundamentalism); (2) a conclusion that does not follow, i.e., it is also possible that there are separatists who are not fundamentalists (e.g., Amish).

    Please don’t infer that I am accusing either of you of this flawed logic. I was, and am, trying to counter a sense of angst that I pick up when these discussions about fundamentalism start up. I believe the angst is because of all the negative caricatures. I often counter by saying: (1) that is an overgeneralization, i.e., not all fundamentalists are like that and the movement isn’t inherently so; and (2) that is a human problem, not a fundamentalist problem and I illustrate it by pointing to other groups that suffer from the same problem. I would like to think I am just being misunderstood by everyone when they interpret these responses as some kind of wishful thinking or artful dodge, but perhaps I haven’t communicated clearly enough (or I am thinking wishfully or dodging artfully—I hope not).

    P.S. Brian, things have changed at BJU since my days there; I don’t think it was very moderate back then.

  30. David (pronounce dAH-vEEd),

    Bien. J’ai compris.

    Paul (as they referred to me in Europe)

  31. Sure thing; I was coming in as some things were shifting.

  32. Bob,

    Strange, I guess we were writing our previous posts at the same time, and you finished first. But let me speak briefly to the points you raise.

    I “question” was the point you raise. See my prevoious post.

    Bob, why drop names? Does being Dave Doran make his points stronger or mine weaker?

    If you hold that it is anachronism, then, to be consistent, you must say that all the issues in Fundamentalism were not petty at the time, but were important issues of the faith which only later became unimportant because of changing circumstances. Your choice.

    A lot of people don’t like honest evaluation of Spurgeon either. He had some great theology and he was definitely on the right side of the down-grade controversy, but as a preacher he was a showman first and foremost. Though he had an incredible mind and got all the important and most of the unimportant theological issues right, he was somewhat sloppy as a theologian. I can email you a copy of my ThM Thesis if you want to read about the problem of figuring out Spurgeon’s theology of prayer.

    I like what Bauder says about Fundamentalism. Let me paraphrase, since I don’t have the email any longer. “I care deeply about the idea of Fundamentalism, but I have very little concern about the Fundamentalist “club,” in fact I will do whatever I can to hasten its demise.” I think Bauder’s separation of the ideas from the club is very legitimate. I guess that is where we differ. In my opinion (not necessarily Bauder’s), the club is practically beyond hope (though God does do miracles). But, the ideas are as true and powerful as ever.

    With regard to separation, I would say that you should spend some time outside of the club. I have found a lot of belivers who are very passionate about biblical separation (even though they don’t usually call it that) outside of the club. Your passion for separation is great, but that passion does not distinguish you or other card-carrying Fundamentalists from all other beleivers in Christ. Frankly, your assumption that it does comes across as elitist.

    You are right to cherish your heritage. But let me point out that that heritage is common to all evangelicals in our country, particulary conservative evangelicals (and there are a lot of them). They also cherish their heritage, even if they don’t trace it through precisely the same movement. Before the unfortunate advent of “the New Evangelicalism,” they all called themselves fundamentalists, and legitimately so.

    Your further point that Doran is picking and choosing who he will admit was a Fundamentalist is helpful. But, you talk about anachronism! What he is saying, effectively, is that though they claimed to be Fundamentalists, they were not my sort, and so they were not really Fundamentalists at all. So who made Dave Doran the admissions director of Fundamentalism both past and present? If he wants to claim that there was a “remnant” of faithful separatists within Fundamentalism, then he has conceded my point, that the movement which calls itself Fundamentalism is not really the important thing.

    Your concern about my separatism unnecessary. As I did before I gave up on the club, I hold that belivers in Christ need to honestly distinguish between what is belief and not belief (e.g. the downgrade and Fundamentalist/modernist controversies) and what is obedience and not obedience. I dislike the word separation only because it is widely used and little understood. Specifically, I argue that separation is not to be a punishment that we inflict on others, but an honest recognition of what they are. If a person does not believe in the deity of Christ, then I must simply admit that, if what I believe is true, then he does not know God. If a person who claims to be a believer practices fornication, then that person is disobedient to scripture. If they refuse to repent after confrontation, then there is no reason to believe their faith is genuine. Using the term “separation” of this seems to me to give the wrong idea. I do not think it is my job to inflict punishment on the unbeliever–God will do that. But to be true to scripture I must be honest about what is and is not compatible with what it teaches. These “distinctions”–as I prefer to call them–have only to do with believe or unbelief, obedience or disobedience. They can be faithfully practiced inside or outside of the Fundamentalist club.

    Perhaps that is different from your view of separatism. I would be interested to know.

  33. Kevin,

    It is a strange experience to watch my name tossed about as you did in that last post. I don’t know what I have done to garner this, but I would like you know (and hopefully my earlier post clarified) that I do not in any way view myself as the person appointed to declare who is in and who is out. I don’t think anything I have actually said suggests this.

  34. Dave,

    Fair enough. I was writing based on Bob’s explanation of why you so easily dismiss the examples given, not on anything you said. If Bob’s explanation is inaccurate or I have misunderstood it, I am sorry.

    But, you must be clear about whether you view Fundamentalism as a coherent movement or not. If you do, then you cannot claim that the good things are characteristic of the movement and the bad are not. You must accept it all–including the attempt of certain fundamentalists to reform the movement in the late forties and early fifties. If you do not see it as cohesive, then you have no justification for holding on to the movement of Fundamentalism, for it does not exist as a cohesive movement. You can only say that certain people or groups both in and outside of the movement were or were not faithful to the fundamental ideas. You can’t have it both ways.

  35. Kevin,

    I am not sure that I am guilty of what you suggest. I have tried to write movement/idea each time precisely because it is generally recognized as a movement, but I am more inclined to think not (at this point) and to refer to the idea of fundamentalism which animated the early fundamentalists.

    I don’t think it necessarily follows to argue that there is only a movement if it is cohesive or that if there is a movement than you must accept all those who claim to be in it. Fundamentalism has never been without offshoots and backwaters. Consider Marsden’s assessment, “it is just as true that each of these movements [fundamentalism and evangelicalism] is a coalition of submovements, which are sometimes strikingly diverse and do not always get along” (Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, p. 2).

    An idea animated a diverse group of people. As time passed and new challenges surfaced, the diversity has become a greater problem. Perhaps it has become such a problem that there is really no longer a movement.

    I don’t think there ever was “a” club. That is a convenient, prejorative way of dismissing it. There has been debate, disagreement, and breaking of fellowship (not always correctly) over the boundary lines, but it seems somewhat juvenile to treat it simply as a matter of cliques and clubs. That mindset impugns the integrity of those who made decisions, barring evidence to the contrary, based on convictions.

    I need to run to my son’s baseball game. Let’s pick this up again in a few months!:)

  36. Kevin,

    I wish you could see me grinning! I don’t know where to start…

    I don’t think I was “dropping names.” Dave is part of this thread. Also, I don’t think that I buy into an argument just because Dave said so. There is enough blogged history between the two of us to evidence that! =)

    I think that you misrepresented my misrepresentation of Dave. He and and would certainly agree that we don’t want him to be the “admissions director” of fundamentalism! Furthermore, I was not complaining that Dave was picking and choosing who he admitted as a fundamentalist. My complaint was a little more nuanced: I was complaining that he was picking and choosing representatives of fundamentalism.

    You said,

    Your passion for separation is great, but that passion does not distinguish you or other card-carrying Fundamentalists from all other beleivers in Christ. Frankly, your assumption that it does comes across as elitist.

    I don’t have a passion for separation. Frankly, I dislike it. I just do it. Don’t gotta choice. Fundamentalists are generally prepared to do it much sooner than others. I don’t think that is overstatement. Since it has to be done, I’m happy with those who are going to do it as consistently as possible. I concur that all true believers are separatists to a degree. I never assumed that they weren’t. Therefore, I am probably not an elitist.

    I am concerned about your separatism because it appears that you don’t agree with me %100!

    Oh! I almost forgot… I’m in no club. Nobody will take me. I think I’ll go eat some worms.


    But, you must be clear about whether you view Fundamentalism as a coherent movement or not. If you do, then you cannot claim that the good things are characteristic of the movement and the bad are not. You must accept it all—including the attempt of certain fundamentalists to reform the movement in the late forties and early fifties. If you do not see it as cohesive, then you have no justification for holding on to the movement of Fundamentalism, for it does not exist as a cohesive movement. You can only say that certain people or groups both in and outside of the movement were or were not faithful to the fundamental ideas. You can’t have it both ways.

    That, I think, was good. And that is a point I am trying to make.

  37. Bob,

    How many percentage points of variance do I get before you have to separate from me? 🙂

    However, all you said is that we don’t agree 100%. You didn’t say how or how much we differ.

    One way is how we view separation. Obviously you view it is an unfortunate necessity, hence your chafing at what I intended as a compliment (“passion for separation”). I do not view it as a negative thing, rather an issue being honest about what really is. I don’t think it is negative for me to say to people (as I have) ” What we believe is different in very important ways. If what I believe is true, then what you believe must be false, and if what you believe is true, then what I believe must be false.” In my experience, people take it quite well. I have certainly never been accused of anything like hyperventilating for it.

    In one particular case I spoke with several people who were highly outraged that churches would teach that women are not to be pastors and would refuse to accomodate women who disagree. I explained that it is a matter of personal convictions. Each side believes that the other is wrong, and only one option could be true in any given church. Obviously, those two groups cannot “do” church together. Though they still despised my position, they respected my “separatism.” They did not even mind when I explained that, if what I see in the Bible is true, then they are disobedient to God, and if what they believed was true, then I am a gender discriminator (your filters won’t allow the word they used for me).

    It seems you must hold to something of a “punishment to be inflicted” view of separation, though I am certain you wouldn’t use those words to describe it. Tell me more.

    I can see why you and Dave object to term “club.” It does convey a certain view of the group which you probably don’t share.

    But you are a member of a group, and you believe membership in that group to be important. Why? Is it the ideas? If so, then you cannot rule me or any other Bible-believing, obedient evagelical outside of the group. And,your statement “you are through with fundamentalism” is meaningless–unless you are making use of the label “Fundamentalism” a fundamental doctrine or a clear necessity for obedience to scripture.

    If it is not solely the ideas, then you may be able to legitmately exclude the rest of us, but you should be clear about the basis on which you do. Is it willingness to be in the group? If so, then you have to admit that scripture nowhere commands membership in the group, so it is not an issue of obedience and thus not really important (hence the term “club”–participation is optional).

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