Random Thoughts about SI

SI is the townhall of a small fundamentalist village. In my opinion, it is foolish of the uppercrust aristocracy of the establishment to ignore the fact that there is a townhall, a crowd has gathered, and it is going to make a difference.


I have argued that Fundamentalism has become denominationalized in previous articles. The purging of that unhealthy element will take some time and I am personally digging in for the long haul. I have already written sequels to the aforelinked article and will one day post them if I think they will be helpful, but since then interesting things have been happening with the emergence of Sharperiron. This is a good thing, IMO, and I am personally thrilled by most of what I see. The noise from the townhall is shaking things up.

I am also concerned. I hope that you are aware of the fact that some of the people who post often on SI are not fundamentalists. Many are spiritually immature. Some even have a barely disguised determination to undermine fundamentalism. If you are from my congregation, I would like you to be alert to this. It is interesting to me that, in some cases, the non-fundamentalists lead in the number of posts. It is interesting that a certain “walsup” has more posts than almost anyone else and she is clearly not a fundamentalist in her perspective. The same could be said of the posts of a “DGus” (although it is my understanding that he no longer posts). He racked up some 200 posts before he wandered off. SI also allows the questionable (IMO) ethic of certain anonymous posters who are in strong “old-style” fundamentalist institutions yet almost consistently take on “progressive” or “critical” or outright “non-fundamentalist” positions. This is the achilles heel of SI. (If any of those type read this, I would remind them that “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully” – Jer. 48:20).

The articles on the blog side of SI are valuable. Read them. The value of the forum is still up in the air as far as I am concerned, although I have posted my share of comments. Among commenters there are a number of insightful people.

The best comment contributions to SI, IMO, are from pastors or men in pastoral ministry. Joel Tetreau, NeoFundy, Chris Anderson, Brian McCrorie, Scott Aniol to name only a few. On the issues surrounding fundamentalism, you should pay attention to Anderson, Tetreau, NeoFundy, MBFPastor, and the like. I’d encourage you to read anything that Chris Anderson writes. Even though he will sometimes “take it to me,” I am personally impressed by his insight. In reading him on other subjects, I sometimes wonder if we aren’t blood brothers. Having said that, I don’t agree with him on a number of issues.

Chris Anderson’s most recent article on Fundamentalism was a good read. I chose to stay out of the fray this time and I was personally embarrassed by the response of some of the so-called young fundamentalists to Anderson’s article. Their knee-jerk reactions seemed (to me anyway) to enforce Anderson’s criticism. Let me be clear that is not the case for all of the responders who disagreed. Some brought up legitimate problems, and there were legitmate problems. I have been forging a response to that article and will save some of my more pithy comments for that post, but today an article appeared on SI that really impressed me. As I read it I wondered who it was and about fell out of my swivel chair to see it had been composed by a lad. His response to Chris Anderson (who he respectfully addressed as “Pastor Anderson” consistently throughout the article) was reasoned and thoughtful. I am going to sit back and watch the fireworks for now. I wonder if the boy will be blown off as an upstart that is too smart for his britches, or if he will get the respect he deserves. I’m not sure I fully agree with Buchanan either. In fact, Anderson’s six criticisms were legitimate, though perhaps a little off the mark.

The townhall is in session.

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22 Responses

  1. It is interesting to me that, in some cases, the non-fundamentalists lead in the number of posts. It is interesting that a certain “walsup” has more posts than almost anyone else and she is clearly not a fundamentalist in her perspective. The same could be said of the posts of a “DGus” (although it is my understanding that he no longer posts).

    Bob,
    to me it’s not as obvious that so many posters at SharperIron are not fundamentalists. What do you see as the criteria they have violated?
    PS Does Jer. 48:10 really mean what you think, or is it just a KJV idiom?

  2. “to me it’s not as obvious that so many posters at SharperIron are not fundamentalists.”

    The beer threads are telling. And not just because everyone who claims the name of Fundamentalist MUST be a Teetoler (or whatever that term is that describes me).

  3. The SI website gives this information on being a fundamentalist.

    “Curtis Lee Laws coined the term “fundamentalist” in 1920 when he said, “We suggest that those who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal for the fundamentals shall be called ‘Fundamentalists’.” ”

    In that sense, I am a fundamentalist. The concern has always been over defining the fundamentals of the faith for which we will fight.

  4. Wendy (walsup),

    By the SI Curtis Lee Law definition, I will grant that you are what you say you are. Hence, the ubiquitous problem of definition. I must affirm that I do not wish to imply that you are dishonest by participating on SI. I have no reason but to think the best of your character. I am merely pointing out that I do not think that you are anywhere near the mainstream of fundamentalism or even most conservative evangelicals (and I know many of them well) in your comprehension and view of doctrine and its corresponding relation to social issues.

  5. On Jeremiah 48:10 –

    I just quoted it by memory and did not research it before using it, but after a quick investigation I found that the word, translated “negligently” in NASB means “laxness, slackness, slackening, deceit, or treachery.” If you prefer slackness or negligence or “by halves” (as JFB pointed out to me), fine. In the context of my complaint, I think it is ethically negligent or ethically slack to do as some anonymous posters are doing while in bastions of fundamentalism.

    To me, the whole discussion of fundamentalism is more than dorm room banter, it is “the Lord’s work.” Choose your word: negligent, slack, or deceitful. It’s still wrong.

    But again, I was shooting from the hip. If my selection of verse was wrong, the notion that God’s work ought to be done the right way has to be agreed by all. Whether or not one wants to agree with me that discussing fundamentalism as a critic anonymously while in the shadow of fundamental fortresses is wrong doesn’t matter to me. It’s my opinion. And, in my opinion, it is the achilles heel of SI. That’s all.

  6. I agree with your analysis of the problem with anonymous posters.

  7. Bob,

    I always enjoy reading your articles. It has been a very special privilege to be a part of SharperIron and to see the way it has brought community to so many of us who would otherwise not have had the chance for fellowship and discussion.

    I will say that at SharperIron we make a distinction between the blog and the forums. The blog is regulated–not just anyone can post–and reflects the true spirit of the site. The forums, on the other hand, are much more difficult to regulate. We do regularly contact posters who do not identify themselves, as well as those who do not espouse the fundamentals. We always tell people that SharperIron is a blog by fundamentalists for fundamentalists. Guests are welcome of any persuasion, but members should be committed to fundamentalism

    Regarding the allowed anonymity, I do agree with you that it does provide an ethical dilemma. I personally would like to see all posters identify themselves; however, in some strains of fundamentalism, fear rules supreme. It is easy to say “Grow up and get out” of that environment but more difficult for many of those in that position to personally apply as it could result in loss of position or employment.

    I think as SharperIron grows and gains credibility over time that some of these initial processes will no longer be necessary. I think you will find that SharperIron will go through a number of stages as we “learn” the ins and outs of Internet blogging.

    Although I like to banter as much as the next guy, SharperIron has indeed sharpened me. It has driven me time and time again to the Scriptures and to my knees as I am challenged on many issues. I have learned and have made mistakes. And, as a result, I have grown. It’s been a tremendous blessing.

  8. I HATE anonymous posters. One of the great evils of our day.

  9. Bob, I find it curious that you (and others) brandish the term “Fundamentalist” as if it were a shiny steel sword rightly dividing any issue into black and white.

    If your readers choose to browse SI, they would do well to start by researching what the patrons of SI actually agree on with regard to the question of what is a “Fundamentalist”. Here is one of many threads on the topic.

    The lack of consensus on the term (in this the Town Hall of all places!) should be troubling if the label is to be worn with such distinction.

    If I understand your conclusion, I happen to agree that this forum will attract much needed discussion on the future of the “Fundamentalist” movement. Where we would differ I’d speculate is that I think this forum will in part serve to reflect the inherently divisive nature of the movement. Through this, many who hold the term dearly may find they have less in common than they had previously thought, which will in some cases lead to more division. The fact that this phenomenon will likely be defended as healthy pruning only affirms the unhealthy state of unity that many think the term implies. The presence of anonymous participants you referred to would seem to support my conclusion that division will come from the simple exchange of ideas. Doesn’t the concept of iron sharpening iron seem defeated by this? How about iron sharpening irony?

    No disrespect intended to those I count as friends who identify with this movement and this term, but perhaps the unifying theme of the new resulting movement will be a person and not a word.

    Eph 4:14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

  10. Wendy,

    I think that the reason you concur with me about the anonymity is because you have taken blows (i.e. from me) for who you are and what you think. I have too. That is one reason why, though I am seriously concerned about your views, I sense some camaraderie with you as you are, to use the words of Amy Carmiceal, in the “community of the criticized.” But you are often wrong and you show a distressing lack of understanding and, as you expect, when one speaks out in public she will be spoken back to in public.

    Andy,

    I actually concur. I find myself in the same predicament that I often place other fundamentalists that I challenge. I know that they are in a trap. Frankly, you got me. You are absolutely right that “brandishing” the fundamentalist name as a decisive marker between those who are in and those who are out is particularly problematic when there is absolutely no consensus on the meaning of the term.

    I do think that your wish for a movement around a person (I am assuming, of course, that you mean the Glorious Person) is, in fact, shaping. Within fundamentalism and every other denomination there are dead, self-righteous churches and ministries. But among them are a growing number of ministries (most of them small) that are enjoying the blessings of true Christ-centeredness. It is called revival. If there are other churches that are experiencing what my church is experiencing then a great work is happening in the land. For some reason it has always been hard for the true 7000 who have never bowed the kneed to Baal to network.

    Nonetheless, the complexity of association and fellowship will always be with us until we get to glory and therefore this conversation, though always important, will probably never die.

    Anonymous,

    I’m leaving your post up because it made me laugh. The obvious sarcasm or satire or whatever is worth it. However, I am not saying that all anonymity is equally wrong. I am trying to say that those who are in places where “fear” rules (as McCrorie said)are unethical to be undermining that institutions positions while they are in it (whether the positions are right or wrong).

    My thoughts on that subject are not popular with many of my anonymous enemies. But since I don’t know who they are I sleep well every night anyway.

  11. Also posted at remonstrans.com

    Can someone–anyone– tell me how the rhetoric between so-called fundamentalists and new evangelicals is not, at least metaphorically, akin to civil war? After all, was it not Lincoln who said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Is is not true, though, that it is indeed an echo from another more potent authority?

    How are members of the classes, both “fundamentalist” and “new evangelicals,” as (a) creatures created in the image of God, moreover, as (b) now possessing the same ontological essence or nature as it were (redeemed, saved, justified, sanctified, members of the church, the body of Christ–all by grace) not wearing the same jersey at the end of the day?

    How is it that in the theological protocols or methods of fundamentalists thinkers that the resulting form of separatism ranks so high on the rung of truth relevance? Please, don’t retort, “All truth is God’s truth, and it ALL equally matters.” Even with respect to biblical propositions, surely it is not equally significant that “Christ died for sinners” and that “Jehoahas was twenty three years old when he became king.” Doubtless, they are both of the same material essence, “the Word of God.” But, it is hard to see how they are equally relevant.

    What would this Platonic notion of an “ideal” or “idea” of fundamentalism look like? Don’t misunderstand, please; Plato is an ally to the Christian worldview.

    What would be the admonition to John MacArthur, Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, et. al? How could they finally come into compliance with or obtain to a “right” standing with God? Should they all slouch toward Greenville (I indeed speak as a sophist fool)? Alas, have I committed the fallacy of “too many questions”?

  12. Sir Capdoctor,
    A much more significant Person than Abraham Lincoln said “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25)

  13. I agree with your perspective.

    “My thoughts on that subject are not popular with many of my anonymous enemies.”

    That is a great line!

  14. Bob, you are of course free to state your own opinion about who is right and who is wrong and who lacks understanding. It would bear more weight however, if you could defend that assertation, even among your peers at SI. Perhaps is would be more accurate to say that while you and walsup disagree often, her arguments are logical, biblical and gracious, and busy guys like you don’t have time to maintain your position in the debate. She may not always be 100% right, but you should offer her the respect of challenging her position where it is made rather than disparaging the person from your chair on the sidelines.

    The debate about what are indeed the true fundamentals is a worthy one, and one that I hope will eventually find some biblical consensus at SI and in the Christ centered church at large. In the mean time, lets put away what you now agree to be a blunt sword before you put an eye out. If you desire to reach concensus on the true fundamentals, I believe you will have far more than just walsup to contend with. Make that the crux of your displeasure with SI, and then at least we can agree on the problem.

  15. Andy,

    I can understand why you would want to come to the defense of your wife, but if her arguments were logical and biblical I would agree with her and as a “busy guy” let her champion a good cause. Since she is the one that is “logical and biblical” and the busy guys like me (men in pastorates) don’t have time to maintain our position in debate with her (as you suggested), it is assumed that you think our views are neither logical or biblical otherwise we would not have any position to maintain that was not already being held by your wife.

    Though I am busy, I am not a person who sits on the sidelines and makes inexperienced calls about someone. Your appeal for “more weight” doesn’t seem to work when debating your wife. And though you suggest that I have not tried to confront your wife’s arguments at SI, I have had a couple of online discussion with your wife and, like others, have decided that it is sometimes not profitable to argue with someone who will completely ignore (as she has did in a discussion on “The Passion” on an SI thread) the plethora of research and quotes from reputable theologians (both Catholic and Protestant – “weight”) who support what I said and contradict what she said. She never responded with research. Her attitude and mood in that argument as well as quite a few others is postmodern (in mood), wishy-washy, shallow, and misguided basically saying that we should ignore scholars and research and go with her gut instincts. Her final argument in that particular thread was something along the line, “well, my husband and leaders in my church believe I have the spiritual wisdom to speak with authority on this issue” which says more about her husband and her church than herself. Nor is it actually an argument.

    When I checked on July 5th, your wife had 466 posts, more than any other commenter on SI besides the anonymous Austin (473). In many of the posts she was arguing against men in full time pastorates with comprehensive training and spiritual discernment. If your wife is as logical and biblical as you say, then ninety percent of the pastors on SI ought to shut up and get a word from her. Most wives – no, most pastors – are more modest than that.

    She can post as often as she wants, but logical (and even Biblical) contemplation would not get bent out of shape if the one who talks the most gets rebuked, challenged, spotlighted, or marked out. You can start fighting for your wife now, but I would have done that about 300 posts ago.

    I’ll say it again, it is obviouse that she is free to post a million times on SI. I have championed the rights and pleasing results of women to speak online. But when one speaks (especially if one speaks often), one must remember that there are consequences. Ironically, you imply that she has more time, but suggest that I am the one sitting on the sidelines.

    Actually, maybe the problem SI faces is not becoming a gab session for people “in their chair on the sidelines” (your words) which is not what men called of God to the divine appointment of pastoring are generally doing when it comes to discussions that matter. If we are discussing, it is because we think it is important. Those in the chairs on the sidelines need to realize that. Your wife is not contributing to clear thinking on issues like “The Passion.” She would disagree with James White, Peter Masters, John MacArthur, and the list goes on and on. Yet, for whatever reason, you want to say that her arguments are logical and bilbical. Not even the makers of the movie would agree with her logic. (I only bring it up because you implied that I haven’t gone “face to face” with her in debate).

    I’m not on the sidelines. I’m in the thick of it. On my blog I promote SI. I encourage my people to read SI. And, as their pastor (and blogger who reccommends SI), I will say what I believe they need to know about the people who post the most on the site. That just happens to be your wife. There is sometimes no way of saying something without getting personal,and I regret that. But neither do I shrink from it. Nor am I her head that left her vulnerable to such public rebukes.

    You and your wife are very nice people. I’m sure of it. But you are misguided in doctrinal matters and outspoken about it.

    Truth matters.

    “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin”

  16. I do not need to come to the defense of my wife, she is quite capable of defending herself as you are aware. I involve myself now, because man to man, you need to be confronted.

    My position is simple, if you take issue with arguments proffered on SI, respond to them on SI. It is not honorable to disparage brother and sisters privately as you have done. Give them the opportunity to address your concerns in the context in which they occur.

    Bob: If your wife is as logical and biblical as you say, then ninety percent of the pastors on SI ought to shut up and get a word from her.

    A startling concession to come from you, but, your words not mine.

    With regard to the Passion, I don’t recall you found consensus on your position did you? Or did I miss something? I maintain, that if your challenge remained in the context of the debate on SI, it would be obvious to the readers that her reference to the wisdom her head finds in her has nothing to do with you or your position, but in fact, a response to an individual who questioned why she should think herself worthy of posting. To wit, context matters. Truth is many times tainted by the agenda of those who bring it.

    I have enjoyed sparring with you, but you are right, I, as you do, have better things to do. God bless, look us up next time you’re in Seattle and we can continue sparring over dinner.

  17. When you plan supper, keep in mind that I prefer hamburgers over chicken, unless the chicken is grilled. And if you do the vegetables in lots of butter, I’ll have a voracious appetite.

    In response (then I’m done): the little word “if” is a signifiant word. And. . .

    My blog is not private. It is also on the blogroll at SI. SI is public, this is public. So, I don’t buy the argument. I knew walsup would see it. But. . .

    I am always willing to argue the finer points of blogging ethics over corn on the cob. Or whatever it is you all eat in Seattle. My piece has been said.

  18. I can always respect a man for his choice of red meat.

    Burgers and corn ears it is! We might even enjoy the local delicassy of marionberry pie.

    Looking forward to it.

  19. Bob,
    I was looking forward to interacting w/ others…to a limited degree…on the Sharper Iron forums…but alas, I could not. Why? Because I am not a “self identified fundamentalist” (this is a requirement according to the forum rules). Why am I not? Because the title “fundamentalist” has historically (I’m speaking of my lifetime) been reserved for those who were SEPARATING against something (read, fighting something in a mean way).

    The forum rules state that “Fundamentalist have been known throughout the last century as separatists.” I don’t think I’m known as a “separatist” although the denomination I am a part of (PCA) SEPARATED from the PCUSA. However, the word SEPARATION is not a lynchpin of who we are.

    I guess overall…I’m very disappointed w/ the site. I guess I continue to be baffled by fundamentalism…especially this supposedly new brand. To me it seems logical to do one of two things: 1) Just drop the name and be an evangelical, or 2) Get a definition of Fundamentalism that is real. The “new guys” I know of in this “new fundamentalism” are doctirnal evangelicals. They only separate from real liberalism…which is what evangelicals do (especially the “right side” of evangelicalism…still the largest part). Quit defining yourself by a practice…one that is not measurable to any great degree anyway. Why not say if you believe the fundamentalist you are one???????? Seems to me the “new fundamentalist” are saying if you believe the fundamentals, you are ALMOST a fundamentalist – you still have to be a self proclaimed SEPARATIST to really be a fundamentalist.

    Okay, enough of my rant…I’m not even a fundamentalist so why do I care??? Guess I care because I am one…even though I can’t chat on Shareper Iron…because I’m not one.

    Peace.

  20. Bob-

    You are exactly right when you say that there are people posting on Sharper Iron who are not fundamentalists. And I say this as someone who has become a Southern Baptist and is moving to Louisville to attend seminary in a couple weeks. I would consider myself a fundamentalist but not a Fundamentalist. That, too me, is how I think I’m going to describe myself.

    I have made about five posts on Sharper Iron. I wavered for the longest time, as I struggled with the very concerns you noted. I realized that while I might believe in all the fundamentals, I wasn’t Fundamentalist in the post-1960 definition of the term. I was invited by a moderator very early to join Sharper Iron and delayed a while because I didn’t think it was my place to be there. You guys that are still in the movement known as fundamentalism need to have an in-house discussion and work that stuff out.

    The reason I eventually joined is that I thought I could explain why people leave Fundamentalism, from the perspective of one who has left fundamentalism. I tried always to be informational and not polemical. I think I succeeded in that. But ultimately, I know that I don’t fit in with you guys and decided I would respect the forum for what it was. I’m not sure all the moderators I talked to agreed with my reasons for leaving, but I think they understood it and respected it.

    FWIW, I think one of the weaknesses with the Young Fundamentalists survey is that it did not adequately poll people who left fundamentalism. If you only talk to people who are thinking about leaving, you won’t get as full of a picture as you would if you talk to people who already left.

    I’m rambling, and it’s getting late. But I wanted to back you up on what you said. I’ve jumped ship. I don’t even have an interest in saving “Fundamentalism.” But I respect you guys for what you are, and I also respect that fact that it is your movement and you are the ones who need to work through this stuff. My opinions don’t matter any more.

  21. Bubba Hamrick,

    Don’t know if you’ll remember me. However, I think we went to BJU and worked at The Wilds at the same time.

    I found it interesting to learn that you are now in the PCA as I am.

    I also found it interesting to learn that you haven’t registered at SI for the same reason I haven’t.

    After leaving BJU, I earned a graduate degree from Ohio State University. Now I’m headmaster of Schaeffer Academy (as in Francis Schaeffer)in Rochester, MN.

    I’d be interested to hear what you’re doing these days?

    I found the SI site interesting — especially their “young fundamentalist” classification. I had been calling guys like that “happy fundamentalists” for several years before I stumbled onto their site. They’re a lot better than the old grumpy fundamentalists, but I agree with you that I don’t really see where this submovement can go.

    Keith Phillips

  22. Keith,
    I do remember a Keith from Bob Jones…although I didn’t work at the Wilds, but I was up there lots. Do you know a guy named Blake Jackson? I checked out your school’s website – NICE – classical education seems to be the bomb to me.

    Were you at BJU during the McAruthur wars??? Lol, seems he was the watershed guy back then…not much has changed I see. I left BJU, worked for my Dad for 2 years and then went to Duke Divinity School…and from there…long story skipped…I ended up in the PCA. I”m the youth pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Rock Hill, S.C. (www.wpcgo.com). It’s been a great adventure for me.

    So, I’ll send you an e-mail. I’m just wondering if you’re the Keith I’m thinking about…what more can you tell me about our BJU days? I was EZX with a bunch of Rocky Mount, N.C. boys…where were you from??? I graduaged in ’88, and I loved Dr. Charles Smith. Okay…cya.

    Peace.

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