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NLC 2008, #2 – A Fundamentalist Conference – What One Can Learn.

Thanks to Mark Dever’s Nine Marks Ministry there is a fresh round of conversation entertaining many evangelicals and fundamentalists on the merits and demerits of American Fundamentalism. Nineteen men, most of them leaders, were asked the simple question, “What can we learn from the Christian Fundamentalists?” and directed to give a brief response. It’s good reading. Check it out here. The best summary of various answers can be found on Chris Anderson’s blog.

It may shock my readers, but I have opinions on the matter. However, I think that it would be beneficial to contribute to the noise of evangelical/fundamentalist palavering over a relatively easy question some was-there reporting of a real conference among real fundamentalists. I’d like to add to the venerable colloquium who carefully crafted answers to the question “what can we learn from fundamentalists?” an actual observation and an answer or two of what one can learn by a normal guy at a fundamentalist conference. A respectable conference. No snake handling. No stupidity either. At least not officially.

I’m allergic to stupidity. I react strongly, whether it’s my own or somebody else’s. But I dare say that if stupidity were an odor, I’d pass out cold at some fundamental conferences. So I’m careful about where I go.

Therefore, being the fundamentalist that I am, I decided to go to the National Leadership Conference. Take a look at their workshops. You’ll find plenty of provocative subject matter with qualified speakers (for the most part). You will not find, as at the KJV-only conference, a workshop entitled “Combating the Craze of Contemporary ‘Scholarship.'”

That is not to say, however, that the NLC was not sprinkled with we/they and us/them rhetoric. It could hardly be a fundamentalist conference if there were not some self-congratulatory self-definition as distinctly not them. Separation must be discussed. And in order to be distinctly fundamentalist it must be discussed in such a way to assure the auditory that the particular brand of separation with its minute details is the only balanced practice.

Thus, the first workshop that I attended was Dave Doran’s lecture on the application of ecclesiastical separation. Dave Doran was one of the nineteen men questioned by Nine Marks. He is, of course, a fundamentalist. One will never hear a non-fundamentalist speak at a fundamentalist conference. (Just in case you didn’t know). Anyway, the advertisement for the conference had billed the workshop as “a new grid for the application of ecclesiastical separation,” but by the time the handouts had been prepared the word “new” had been modestly deleted. Thus, “Where the Rubber Meets the Road: A Grid for the Application of Ecclesiastical Separation” was the first subject of the day after Kevin Bauder’s tremendous opening session.

Many of my readers do not know who Dave Doran is, so it is important that I preface what I am about to say by saying that I pretty much agree with Dave on most things and I think he’s a good guy. There are guys who fall either in my “like” or “dislike” category. Dave fits nicely in the “like” category (please forgive the syrupy sappiness). Dr. Doran is a President of a Baptist theological seminary that is widely respected for its academics. He also pastors a solid church with great missionary zeal. Doran is a four-point Calvinist with a healthy respect for real Calvinism and is very involved in the discussion about contemporary fundamentalism whether it is in back rooms or in cyberspace. I respect Dave even though I have been lacerated and decimated on a few occasions in the blogosphere by his superior intellect. But I have always been very comfortable in disagreeing with Dave so I didn’t walk into his workshop to drink his kool-aid.

I was baited by the word “new,” because I have said before that fundamentalism has large sub-groups that are denominational in culture and that the NLC reminds me of a convention with the speaking roles carefully allocated to the principle players in the sub-group, usually representing the favored schools.

This year, for example, the list was once again very representative. The Dean of Heart of America Seminary, the President of Central Baptist Seminary, the President of International Baptist College, the Vice-president of Appalachian Bible College, the President of Detroit Theological Baptist Seminary, the President of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary, a professor of Bob Jones University, and so forth. Other schools and groups have been represented in past conferences and so far as I can tell everything is fair.

Thus, when I found the notion that a “new” grid of eccesiastical separation would be propounded by one of the denomination’s most articulate speakers you can be assured that I had no intention of missing it. I wanted to know how everybody was going to think once the new way had been opened up to them.

I was sorely disappointed. It was much better than I expected.

Doran introduced his lecture with three simple and obvious premises:

1. The Great Commission mandate is larger than any one local assembly. 

2. It is clear from the NT that not all cooperation is acceptable.

3. The line between separation and isolation seems to be getting blurred.


That last point is a very subtle way of saying, “separation is complicated.” That, my friends, is new. More on that later.

Doran laid out the biblical basis of separation and got plenty of atta-boys from the suited sector of the congregation. I had not quibble with anything he said. I agreed. I have fully embraced the fundamentalist insistence that separation is necessary. It’s the application part that gets interesting.

For the purpose of explanation, Dave offered a simple taxonomy. There are three categories of people, he said:

1. Those who are in error on essential doctrines.

2. Those who hold the truth and oppose error.

3. Those who hold the truth and cooperate with those in error on essential doctrines.

It’s a bit simplistic, but I’m not sure how to improve on it so I locked my mind on his taxonomy for the duration of the workshop in order to follow this line of reasoning. That categorization, he said, places two questions before us:

1. Can we have fellowship with those who are in error on essential doctrine?

2. Can we have fellowship with those who refuse to obey God’s commands regarding separation.

“I believe the answer to both of those is ‘No,” said Dave.

At this point, I’m in the familiar situation of agreeing in principle with the thrust of Doran’s argument, but finding the language problematic. The words “refuse” and “God’s commands” and “separation” are loaded words. The proof texts for God’s commands are given as 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 and Romans 16:17. The conclusion is obvious to Dave. It says “separate.” But the separation discussed is not separation from those who refuse to obey God’s commands but from those who refuse to obey God’s commands about separation.

Doran then gave practical applications. “We must recognize the different levels of fellowship and interaction, ” he said. He suggested four levels of “fellowship and interaction”:

1. Personal level

2. Educational and/or recreational level

3. Professional or commercial level

4. Ecclesiastical level (which is “chiefly the local church level”).

I found this discussion to be confusing. First of all, I could not decide if he was using the conjunction “and” in the “fellowship and interaction” phrase in a copulative sense or in a correlative sense. Sometimes Doran used the two words interchangeably. At other times his application clearly distinguished the two. Sometimes he was very confusing. It became embarrassing.

I actually wrote those words in my notes: “it’s embarrassing.” Here is an intelligent man with a Ph.D. from TEDS justifying watching a basketball game with pastors of different persuasions. That any of us should need to be assured that watching a game with an Evangelical was okay is enough to make a thoughtful person blush. But when Doran justified watching the game with them by saying (get the recording) “in fact we should probably admonish them” and making reference to 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 I just shook my head.

At a basketball game???

Dave is smarter than that. But one got the impression that he felt he was walking on thin ice with his fundamentalist audience so he just had to be sure they understood that his “interaction” was only the kind of low-level “fellowship” that could feasibly be justified by his responsibility to admonish them.

It’s a language/semantic problem again.

Doran was right to explain the difficulty of the separation conversation because, as he said, “the language of separation was crafted, rightly so, when we were parts of things – – it’s a little bit difficult to talk about separating from somebody that you have no connection with.”

True enough, but I think the current explanation of “levels” of fellowship is not very helpful. Particularly when one “level” of fellowship is actually mere interaction. This seemed like it was obvious to Dave most of the time throughout his session. At one point he opined, “I don’t think selling a book is like having someone to preach.”

Someone said, “Amen!” I chuckled. It’s so obvious. At what point does saying the obvious start sounding ridiculous? Maybe that’s why there were not many pastors my age at the conference. And, frankly, I don’t think many of us fault Dave and others for having to state the obvious. It’s just astounding that anyone thinks it’s necessary. I think it is partly because fundamentalists in the main have no doctrine of unity. Thus, necessarily, their doctrine of separation is warped.

Fellowship is a spiritual exercise. It is a means of grace. In a theological sense we have fellowship with every believer in the world. Christians have fellowship with one another in spite of themselves. Watching a game, talking about sports, riding in a car together, or eating dinner together is not necessarily fellowship. It is, necessarily, interaction. If the other person happens to be a believer there is fellowship already with that person in in the noun sense of the word even though there may be no fellowship in the verb sense.

Doran knows this. He said, for example, “Music is not an issue of separation. It might affect our relationship,” but it is not an issues of separation. In other words, our level of interaction may be impeded by our different views of music.

This makes sense to me. In my mind, there can be multiple levels of interaction, but varying kinds of fellowship. I prefer the word “kind” even though it as well is problematic. Theologically, I have fellowship with a brother, but my interaction with him is determined by all kinds of variables. Of the many variables that would affect my interaction with a believing brother are known sin, differences of our understanding of 2 Thessalonians, philosophy of ministry, and personal tastes, but not all non-cooperation can be called separation just as not all interaction can be rightly called a “level” of fellowship. But that is the doctrine of Biblical unity and fundamentalists have for so long avoided that clear teaching that they cannot even begin to articulate it.

In the main, I think Doran’s explanation was well-reasoned and practical. I also was very blessed by his obvious effort to make sure that he was not issuing an opinion that he thought was biblical dogma for everyone else to comply with. Often he said that it was his private opinion. In this sense, his talk on separation was given with a real sense of humility and an obvious understanding of the complexity of the matter, and that, my non-fundamentalist friends, is so unusual it could possibly be called “new.”

In the final segment of his workshop, Dave gave five points to ponder. These are points that many of us have discussed for years and have ceased pondering, but now some in the NLC orb are admitting out loud in workshops:

1. Are all disagreements of equal weight and significance?

You non-fundies may marvel that this is a point to ponder.

But we ponder – PONDER! – deeply. We are not sure. We have not been sure. But lately a revolution has been rocking large sections of the fundamentalist sub-culture because some, after much pondering, have come to the bold conclusion that not all disagreements are of equal weight. This is truly history in the making. (Excuse the sarcasm.)

2. What about when we agree on the principles, but disagree on the application?

Now this was significant. (No sarcasm here.) I think at this point Dave tacitly rejected tertiary separation. This is important. He did not blow off the argument that secondary separation could logically lead to tertiary separation and so forth. Doran allowed for Christian liberty and autonomy of the local church and said that he could fellowship with friends who fellowshipped with people he would not fellowship with as long as those people were not fellowshipping with heretics. (I think that makes sense.)

In other words, by a tacit rejection of tertiary separation he, in my opinion, positively stated that fellowship can be had among people who disagree on the application of secondary separation.

In other words again, hypothetically (all other things being equal), Dave may invite me to preach in his church even though I had John MacArthur speak in my church even though Dave would not feel comfortable with John MacArthur’s more lenient application of separation from those who don’t separate from heretics.

3. How much room should we allow for differing convictions on separation issues?

I’m fine with pondering on that one, but I want to scream out why do we have to groupthink and collectively wring our hands over this? Why can’t we just let each man decide for himself?

4. Is there a difference between aberrations and patterns?

After a great deal of pondering, I have to say “Yes.”

5. Are we in need of new definitions and labels?

I don’t care.

In summary, Doran’s explanation of how he decides who he will fellowship was not very different than what conservative evangelicals have been doing for a long time. In that sense there was little that was new. Nor was it new that a group of fundamentalists should be in a classroom soberly weighing the various levels of fellowship between basketball games, selling books by “new-evangelicals,” and groping for an easy answer.

But there was something new. Doran refused to give an easy answer. Doran did something that is rare in fundamentalist circles and has been almost unheard of in the past fifty years when the hallmark of fundamentalism, ecclesiastical separation, is discussed: he humbly offered his opinions, admitted its complexity, and closed with questions! That, my friends, was a blessing! The tone in this meeting and in all the meetings of the conference (except for one) was clear: we’re not going to come to a consensus, but maybe we don’t need to.

Now, I could say “Amen” to that!


45 Responses

  1. Bob,

    Not much time to say much this evening, but I thought I’d just share a quote made recently on a blog that pertains to the issue of using/selling books vis-a-vis having a speaker in:

    “in some sense, fundamentalists have been willing to learn openly from evangelicals for a while, at least in the sense that they use their textbooks prolifically in the classroom. But it does seem as though there’s an inexplicable disjunct between inviting them into your classroom on the written page and inviting them into your classroom podium. Fundamentalists try to make a distinction, but it smacks of a distinction in search of a coherent rationale.”

    I guess what has been quite apparent to you and me is not so to others–in fact, I’ve encountered this argument more times by those who are critical of fundamentalist separatism than by those who argue against using or selling the books. That is, they charge folks like us with inconsistency, so my point in the workshop was to express my disagreement with that charge.

    Oh, and I don’t have PhD, just a DMin, not that this probably affects your assessment at all.

  2. Dave,

    Pretty sure you’re quoting me, right? I stand by the statement, and I don’t think Bob and you are talking about the same thing I was. I’m clearly talking about an educational setting, not a preaching setting, as Bob reports you were doing in the NLC workshop.

    Also, it sounds as if you are allowing for some sort of educational level of fellowship with non-fundamentalists, if I’m reading Bob’s summary right. That’s where I just see no difference between using Don Carson’s John commentary as an assigned seminary text and having Carson deliver a lecture in one’s classroom. In either situation, one is acknowledging Carson as an authority.

    This is a side issue, but if educational levels of fellowship with evangelicals are impermissible, then some schools have a real problem with accreditation.

    In any case, preaching at the local church level wasn’t at all what I was talking about. Clearly, there’s overlap, but the matrix of issues are not identical, and it seems as though your lecture acknowledged that. Am I missing something?


    Can I just put on record here that I was the only person I could find at the 2004 NLC who was not wearing a coat and tie? Anybody want to claim 2002 or 2003?

  3. Bob and Ben,

    You guys rock (I hope that using that colloquialism still allows you to fellowship with me at the blog level).

    Bob perceives that there’s a new approach developing in at least one denomination (thanks for the new usage Bob) of fundamentalism — which is what I’ve been saying. I just want to know who approved it and why, but no one will tell me.

    Ben sees similarities between the written word and the spoken word — which is another thing I’ve been saying but keep getting told it’s not.

    My only complaint is the ongoing tie joke. You’ll know you’re really free when it’s not even a jokeworthy issue.

    Let us ponder.

  4. Ben,

    The short answer is that I said in the workshop that ministerial training really fits more closely under the ecclesiastical to me, although I concede some overlap and recognize others will think differently than me on this point.


    FWIW, the appearance and disappearance of the “new” is a mystery to me too. I don’t believe I used it, so it must have been injected into the promo literature by someone trying to spice things up. I wrote the notes, so it wasn’t in the title on the notes. Not really anything new in it.

  5. This reminds me of a conundrum I had last year with our church youth group. We went to a pro wrestling event and the way the tickets had been distributed all the groups somehow got seated in the same section. My youth got stuck quite literally in the middle between an Assembly of God church and a no-name “Community” church youth group. I didn’t want my young people to be exposed to that kind of thing so we were able to find an empty section with some extra seats. The kids got beer spilled all over them and were exposed to some salty language, but it was better than the alternative.

  6. Bob,

    I had intended to ignore the comment you made in connection to the basketball game illustration, but in light of the last comment I probably should qualify.

    I disagree with the way you have used what I said. I made a larger point, namely that on a personal level two believers may have fellowship with one another (in the absence of church disciplinable type sin).

    I then offered a light hearted illustration–four pastors sitting watching their sons play basketball–to state what is obvious to me (but my experience has revealed it is not to others), namely that this involves no ecclesiastical fellowship and is not a matter of separation.

    I returned to my original point by saying that it’s not a problem to have a personal relationship and suggested that in some ways we ought since we claim 2 Ths 3 and it calls on us to admonish others. I’ll be glad to go back to listen to the audio, but I am sure that I said nothing about admonishing anyone at a basketball game or justified sitting with them at the game in order to admonish. I think you have misrepresented me.

  7. Dave,

    This is Mr. Jackson. I don’t know you and I don’t know Bob, either. Although I check out his blog sometimes. Just for the record, my post was made because I thought it was relevant to the conversation. But in case anyone here wonders, it represents my views and I was not trying to specifically represent anyone here. I just thought it was germaine to the conversation at hand. It was simply my anecdotal story of how I’ve used separation.

  8. Dave,

    I appreciate your openness to people seeing these things differently. I certainly wouldn’t want to compel someone to use Don Carson as a guest lecturer or his books as required texts, particularly if it would violate his conscience (not Don’s, the fundamentalist’s).

    But I certainly don’t see a qualitative difference between the two. Let me put it this way. It’s far more difficult for me to see the difference between written and spoken words from NE’s in fundamentalist classrooms than it is for me to suppose that fundamentalists realized a long time ago that they didn’t have any seminary-level texts and constructed a theology (or at least a matrix of application) that permitted them to use evangelical texts rather than limit themselves to books written prior to 1950.

  9. Ben,

    It seems that you do view using a book and having the person in to speak as equivalent, and my point in the lecture was to disagree with that equivalency. This isn’t a fundamentalist matrix of application. It’s common sense–a book is a book, and using it involves no relationship to its author.

    Fundamentalists have used the written works of liberals and evangelicals for decades. My observation is that it has only been the most right wing of fundamentalism and those who want fundamentalism to broaden who ever make this argument. The one wants, in my view, a foolish consistency, and the other wants, again just my view, to make something out of the appearance of inconsistency. My point was that it’s not an inconsistency–it a case of people comparing apples to oranges.

    I will grant that some fundamentalists have argued against using new evangelical literature on the basis of its potential influence toward new evangelicalism, but that is not the same as arguing that it is a violation of separation to use it. My point was about the issue of separation, not influence, etc.

    Well, it’s a beautiful snow-covered day in Michigan (6-10 inches where we live and a snow day for the boys), and I’ve got to get rolling on things here. You all have fun!

  10. Dave,

    I don’t think Ben is saying that having a book on a reading list is the same as having fellowship, or an endorsing relationship, or an unequal yoke (you get the point) with the author. If he is, I would disagree with him too.

    I just think that neither of us can see the difference between allowing someone to speak authoritatively through a book — let’s say THE class text that is not being used to familiarize the students with some historical error or to teach analysis and discernment but rather to provide positive teaching — and allowing him to speak authoritatively from the lectern.

    I also do not see, at all, how you can defend the position that using a book involves no relationship to the author — unless it’s being used as a doorstop or something. If it is actually being read, it would seem to require full or partial agreement or disagreement, confusion, indiference or some other response to the author’s ideas. If the institution/class/teacher intends for the students to agree with the author’s ideas, how is that not some kind of a relationship?

    Nevertheless, I understand that relationships, fellowship, institutional hiring eligibility etc. are complex. I am not arguing that you can only read books by men who could be ordained in your denomination or church, and I am not arguing that an instition must be willing to hire anyone who’s books they use. I accept the concept of levels of fellowship. I can see why a Christian college might not hire the author of the freshman English grammar textbook because, although he’s a valid authority on English, he won’t sign the college’s statment of faith. I can see why a Baptist college might use a textbook written by a Presbyterian but not be willing to hire the Presby. I can even see why you might not let an author speak because, even though hes’ a good writer, he’s a poor public speaker, or a jerk in person, or the teacher just doens’t like him.

    What I can’t see is how you can have a guy be the teacher in writing (as described above) who is on priciple, categorically inelligble to teach in person — even as a guest lecturer with the approved institutional teacher in attendance.

    I don’t want foolish consistency or to go wild with the inconsistent label. I just don’t see how these things are different.

  11. Very entertaining stuff Bob. I think I would actually enjoy those conferences if I was sitting next to you. I think I actually heard that lecture by Dr. Doran at his conference in 2002. Only then he was explaining why he could have AWANA in his church but couldn’t go to a conference at a PCA church across town to hear D.A. Carson speak, but could go to Trinity and get a D.Min–even though Carson is a teacher there, and could go to BJU where there are Free Presbyterians. Great stuff.

  12. Scott,

    You’re wrong in your report of what I said. You’ve got basic facts wrong (it was a Baptist church, not PCA), but more importantly, I never said I couldn’t go to hear Carson speak. Never have and never would.

    This, folks, is what gets frustrating for people like me. Those who have their conclusions about separatists already drawn don’t really listen, they cherry pick statements which confirm their prejudices and bolster their arguments.

    Let me qualify that. When I talk to conservative evangelicals who are moving toward a stronger stance on separatism, they are usually sympathetic to this kind of discussion, i.e., how does this apply in varying circumstances. And separatists who are struggling with how to make fresh applications to the current landscape appreciate it. I realize it’s probably foolish and infantile to those who have everything figured out, but not all of us do.

  13. Scott,

    Unless there is something that I am completely missing here, I cannot imagine that an apology is not due Dr. Doran from you. Either that or produce the transcript clearly showing that is what he said. That statement appears to be nothing short of slanderous.


    I always appreciate reading your thoughts. You are constantly challenging my thinking. Thank you.

  14. Strike that grammatical mistake. I should have said “libelous” not “slanderous”, unless, of course, you said it as well 🙂

  15. I’m a little surprised by the ferocity of the response from Dr. Doran and Andrew, but I’m fairly certain that was the gist of the application. Granted it was 6 years ago, but it certainly struck a chord with this young fundamentalist.


    You don’t me, you weren’t there, and yet you feel you have the right to call me a liar and demand an apology? Why?


    I wasn’t clearly thinking through the public nature of the comment and regret the posting and its mocking tone. I do stand by the accuracy of my statement however. I remember it quite clearly even though I can’t produce a transcript. I suppose it is possible that my memory has failed me–it has happened before.

  16. Scott,

    There really was not any ferocity. I guess some things get lost in translation in the blogosphere. I did not call you a liar, although I suppose I could see how someone might come to that conclusion. My encouragement for you to apologize was based not only on possible wrong information given (as was evidenced by Dr. Doran’s response). It was also based on the caricature that you drew of him with your words. You made him out to look like a bumbling fool, which is the farthest thing from the truth. Perhaps I read too much into it. Perhaps.

    No, I was not there, although I have no idea how you know I was not there, but I think that it beside the point. I was going based upon what Dr. Doran said about his own presentation. If he is wrong about about what he said in his own presentation, then I am certainly sorry.

  17. If you guys separate from each other, will I be able to fellowship with both of you anyway?

    (I feel so wishy-washy).

  18. I am trying hard to listen Dave, and I am glad for much of what I am hearing.

    I continue, however, to think that it would go a long way toward opening ears even further were fundamentalists like you to openly admit that your current paradigm/strategy of interaction/engagement is different than that of previous fundamentalists because of the flaws in the previous paradigm/strategy.

    I think I hear hints of this when you write: “And separatists who are struggling with how to make fresh applications to the current landscape appreciate it.” But you seem to want to hold on to the position that what you are doing now is nothing new, so maybe I am still hearing wrong.

    Could part of the problem be that admitting to a new strategy would mean that there is (or will soon be) no distinction between the new strategy fundamentalists and the current “conservative evangelicals”? For me, that would seem like a “no problem” proposition — we’re just talking about labels. However, for some reason, even a straight talker like Bob doesn’t want to completely give up the title, network, and distinction of fundamentalism.

  19. Bob,
    Did you really think he was talking about admonishing a disobedient brother in the middle of a basketball game? Now, maybe at halftime over some cheesy nachos (that isn’t eating with him, just snacking), but during the action of the game?

  20. However, for some reason, even a straight talker like Bob doesn’t want to completely give up the title, network, and distinction of fundamentalism

    Keith, speaking for myself, I have gone on the record as rejecting the old paradigm and I concur that much of what I view as a biblically rational practice of “secondary separation” is practiced by conservative evangelicals. Thus, I have gone on the record that I think there is an “emerging middle.”

    However, you are absolutely right that I don’t want to give up the “title, network, and distinction of fundamentalism.”

    The Title: “Fundamentalist” is a better than “Fundamentalism.” The “-ism” part is problematic. But the title is good. I’ve always thought so. I could care less if there is a stigma attached to it. “Evangelical” is a meaningless title and “Conservative Evangelical” is, in my opinion, hardly anymore descriptive. While I don’t mind if others don’t like the title, I certainly am not going to shrink away from it just because it isn’t in vogue.

    The Network: Well, most of the network has disintegrated for me, but I have a simple commitment to “not forsake thy father’s friends.” My effort is to “bloom where God planted me” and, frankly, I have little patience for the weaklings who scurry off to another camp where they can co-exist freely in another sub-culture without having to be singularly distinct. Granted, some circles are so erroneous that the only option is, in fact, to separate. But it seems incongruous of me to question the validity of the Fundamentalists’ practice of hyper-separation by separating myself from them for peripheral differences. Thus, I’ll speak my mind and stay in the camp. If possible.

    The Distinction: The distinction of the earliest fundamentalists is an uncompromising commitment to core doctrine. The distinction of the fundamentalists of the 40s and 50s in response to Ockenga, et. al. was secondary separation. I embrace both distinctions.

    The -ism of the movement is fraught with problems. The practice of secondary separation has denominationalized across the board and group practice has trumped church autonomy and individual soul liberty. I’ve been saying this for years. But the distinction is right. And that distinction is being vindicated as each year goes by.

  21. Bob,

    Thanks for the reply — I’ve been asking you for a long time why you want to hang on to the title of “fundamentalist”, and I finally get something of an answer in response to an offhand comment in a post addressed to someone else. Cool!

    Some follow up (of course) . . . Your responses would be interesting, and appreciated, but I can’t presume to expect them:

    1) The Title

    If you reject the old paradigm, why not come up with a new title for your new paradigm? If the problem with the old title were only an undeserved stigma, then sure, no need to cave and appear to validate a misperception/mischaracterization. However, if you acknowledge that the old paradigm was flawed, and that flawed paradigm is what’s brought to mind by the old title, why keep the truly flawed paradigm’s name?

    I don’t see how “evangelical” is anymore meaningless than “fundamentalist.” Both titles are used by such a wide spectrum of groups that one could argue they are both meaningless. You might say, “Yeah, but I use fundamentalist to mean an emphasis on the essential truth of the gospel.” But I could say, “Yeah, but I use evangelical to mean an emphasis on the essential truth of the gospel — and it has nothing to do with being in vogue.”

    Anyway, this one’s no biggie, I don’t care that you and others hold on to the name, I just don’t understand the attachement.

    2) The Network

    You write: “I have a simple commitment to ‘not forsake thy father’s friends.’ My effort is to ‘bloom where God planted me.'”

    I respect that very much.

    You also write: “Frankly, I have little patience for the weaklings who scurry off to another camp where they can co-exist freely in another sub-culture without having to be singularly distinct.”

    I don’t understand what you mean here. The willingness of someone within the fundamentalist world to throw off certain extrabiblical or unbiblical fundamentalist restraints or to fellowship with Christians outside the fundamentalist subculture in a fashion which results in their bannishment from fundamentalism hardly seems like scurrying off. Such actions are not free and they don’t require the abandonment of distinctly Christian living.

    You write: “It seems incongruous of me to question the validity of the Fundamentalists’ practice of hyper-separation by separating myself from them for peripheral differences. Thus, I’ll speak my mind and stay in the camp. If possible.”

    I respect that very much too. But don’t be surprised if it won’t be possible.

    3) The Distinction

    I agree that uncompromising committment to core doctrine was and is praiseworthy — I respect it.

    You seem to think that secondary separation was originally practiced properly and only over time, or recently, got out of control and “denominationalized” (I don’t like that as a pejorative — I think denominations are good and independency is bad — but I can work with your term).

    I, on the other hand, think that the secondary separation was misused and botched up right from the start — way back in the 40s and 50s. Just one example: Way back in the 50s and earlier, guys like Francis Schaeffer went through something similar to what you “young fundamentalists” are going through now. The distinction they drew for themselves from fundamentalism is also being vindicated as each year goes by.

    Thanks for the interaction, I do appreciate it.

  22. Bob,
    Do you understand the basketball game illustration now? I think you need to be clear that it was you that misunderstood it, not Doran that was “embarrassing” in his illustration.
    On the positive side, most of what you said was a very good and helpful summary of the points made.

  23. I understand that Dr. Doran has recently preached at the “Conservative Evangelical” Grace Immanuel Bible Church’s missions conference (Jupiter, FL). I wonder how his platform fellowship with these “MacArthurite” brothers fit into his paradigm of separation?

    These discussions seem to never end, but I really enjoy the interaction with you all. Thanks, Bob for including your impressions about the Leadership Conference.

  24. Pastor Steve,

    It fits in just as I laid it out in the workshop, i.e., as far as I am able to tell these men will have no fellowship with those who deny essential doctines and also do not embrace the new evangelical agenda.

    Pretty simple answer.

  25. Dave,

    I’m sure your new position on separation gives you more breathing room and ease of conscience than the old secondary and tertiary strictures endemic to your circle of fellowship.

    But, seriously, to leave the impression you’ve always followed the dictum you presently lay out is hilarious. To say you’ve only refused fellowship to believers connected to unbelief or supportive of the neo-evangelical agenda is stunning and flies into the ugly teeth of history.

    What about Jerry Falwell? In the early days, your click had nothing to do with him. And at the time he wasn’t even leaning toward the Southern Baptists. Yet the fundy complaint was he was befriending those who were befriending those who were befriending unbelivers. In the latter years he strayed from the path, but that has nothing to do with the way you and yours treated him early on, a treatment that clearly reflected your views of separation, which were nothing like your current asserting.

    And then there’s the sticky issue of the GARB (and BBF). For years your school and those you group with (BJU, etc) cursed the GARB for tolerating men who were even then more separated than J-Mac or anyone in the T4G gang. No, sir, your kind had NOTHING to do with GARBers, even though they neither countenenced unbelief nor those who did. Yet your “primary separation doctrine” repeatedly condemned them on principle of SECONDARY SEPARATION.

    But now you’ve changed your tune and apparently your ways (which is a good thing!). Now you say those who don’t fellowship with unbelievers aren’t perforce unclean but are candidates for fellowship If this is so, why haven’t you practiced this dictum with the GARBers? Even today the vast majority of Regular Baptist men remain taboo to you, not fitting your notions of ecclesiastical purity.

    If you and yours are making adjustments in your separation doctrine, well and fine. That’s great. And I wish you the best. But, please, don’t entertain fellowship with conservative evangelicals and say you’re not changing.

    Have a good one.

    What’s brought about the change?

    Just currious.

  26. dear tjp,

    I’m not Dave. But I am a grateful member of the DBTS Alumni. I am loyal, but not blindly so. As a matter of fact I’ve publicly disagreed from time to time with Dave and my dear brothers at DBTS on a few issues, including the scope and application of separation from militant evangelicals like Mac, Dever, etc… I have to tell you, challenging Dave Doran with this notion that he has been less than genuine or consistent is nearly “nuts.” Dave is not perfect but one thing has marked his ministry and leadership over the years, consistency and principle! A few observations about your charge.

    First, Mac and many of the constituency found with TG4 are far more conservative and consistent with historic fundamentalism than many in the GARBC today and yesterday. Don’t forget, Inter-City Baptist Church was at one point in time a member of the GARBC and they pulled out of it because of what they saw. Frankly I am to the left of Dave Doran on a variety of issues. A vocal proponent of some cooperation between Exegetical fundamentalists and militant evangelicals and frankly I’m a bit leery of where many are headed within the GARBC World. Gratefully in AZ the GARB guys are very solid. That frankly is not universally the case in Michigan….the context of Doran’s ministry.

    Second, When you accuse Dave of being inconsistent with his separation with Falwell, “back in the day” you have to remember that Dave was involved with two things in those days: First, he was playing ice-hockey with his fellow 8 year olds. Second, he was just a normal lad, living life at Inter-City under the former leader, William Rice who may or may not have been found of “Falwell and friends.” I’m not sure I would want to be blamed for every decision made by a former leader who had been there for four decades before I took over the helm. Come on man….let’s be fair here.

    Third, the beef with the BBF has nothing to do with the sacred cow of secondary separation. It has everything to do with an avoidance of heresy. The crack-pot theology coming out of much of BBF-ville is nothing less than scary. At least here in the West, the heresy you get in BBF churches includes Bibliological (KJV onlyism), Christological (Christ blood was not human but mystical!) and Soteriological (Easy bus-believism!) to just name three.

    Finally, If Doran believes, as I believe, that indeed some evangelicals are coming to the position that separation ecclesiastically is accurate for sake of the gospel, don’t wine about past positions. It’s my own view that militant evangelicalism really wasn’t birthed until the late 70’s, early 80’s and is just now coming into it’s own. I’m not sure that it would have been responsible “back in the day,” to offer the look at increased cooperation. In those days even the “good guys” of evangelicalism were far more and strangely quiet toward the main of evangelicalism which was largely engrossed in eccuminicalism.

    Just a few thoughts from the shadow of the cacti.

    Straight Ahead!
    Phil 3:12-14

    Joel Tetreau

  27. Joel

    Just one correction… Dave would have been a student at BJU when the Falwell issues came to the fore, not an eight yeaar old.

    Not that it matters.

    And not that I agree with anything you said!

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  28. Joel,

    Hey, I’m not whining about anything, really. I’m simply saying the same set of “separatist convictions” currently fielded by the BJU-DBTS nexus are the same convictions that virtually unchristianized every conservative evangelical in the 60’s and 70’s who were THEN at least as conservative in theology and practice as anything CURRENTLY practiced by J-Mac or T4G men.

    And, yes, I find it surprising (and I’m sure many within the separatist community do as well) that Dorn would leave the impression that “separatist fundamentalism” has always looked fondly at people like J-Mac and his cohorts. But that’s simply NOT the case. In fact, in the early days, separatism has anathematized such men as Warren Wiersbe, Jack Wertzen, Wilbert Welch, Jerry Falwell, John R. Rice, Robert Sumner, Henry Morris, Theodore Epp, J. Vernon McGee, and on and on it goes (and we could name many current men, as well)..

    No, the truth is, if Doran is now acknowledging the possibility of fellowship with men like J-Mac, then it seems to me he and his fellow travellers have some ‘splainin’ to do. And I don’t say this out of hatred, but out of surprise. I use to run with many separatist fundamentalists, but I parted company with most of them when they found it easier to condemn men like MacArthur and remain silent on men like Hyles.

    I agree that some within the GARB and BBF have strayed and embraced things which they ought not, but there are THOUSANDS of pastors in both those organizations who are solid, fundamental men who’ve suffered the wrath of separatist fundamentalists for no other reason than they’ve refused to hate and ostracize the same men as the BJU orbit.

    Don’t misread me. I’m all for Dave reaching out to conservative evangelicals, but I’m afraid such a gesture is not indicative of the BJU-brand of separatism; and, yes, it does run contrary to its past practices.

    Have a good one.

  29. Joel,

    You wrote, “When you accuse Dave of being inconsistent with his separation with Falwell, “back in the day” you have to remember that Dave was involved with two things in those days: First, he was playing ice-hockey with his fellow 8 year olds.”

    This is a good point. At roughly the same time Dave was 8, Mark Dever was carrying a briefcase and wearing a tie to his 8th grade math classes. That’s why it feels a bit anachronistic for contemporary theological fundamentalists (and I’m not implying that Dave does this) to expect contemporary militant evangelicals of roughly the same age to apologize for the neo-evangelicalism of the 1950s and 60s.

    It’s like asking fundamentalist pastors and college presidents to apologize because their predecessors had KJVO friend and accepted KJVO speaking engagements and tolerated chapel sermons that said “God’s voting for you, Satan’s voting against you, and you have to break the tie.

    On second thought, maybe those apologies would be kinda nice.

  30. Ben, I completely agree with your assertion that you have just made here and at other places that Fundamentalists are anachronistic to demand that Evangelicals admit the failed policies of the neo-evangelicals. Or rather, confess.

    Besides, it has already been admitted in many publications. What about Murray’s “Evangelicalism Divided?”

    Didn’t you get a degree from Bob Jones University? I would like you to apologize/repent/confess your attitude toward blacks in the 1960s and the institution’s failure to ever actually repent of it. It really doesn’t matter to me that you weren’t born then. Nor does it matter to me that you have actually repudiated it in your own ministry. I want you to take ownership of it. I want you to tear your clothes as if you actually personally capitulated to the racism of the day and personally decided black students shouldn’t attend the institution. Then, and only then, will I be able to fellowship with you.

  31. If I’ve asked any conservative evangelical to repent over what the new evangelicals did, I can’t recall doing so and would gladly recant of it. That’s never been my point. My point is that they need to reject the view or position. It’s not completely clear that this has happened–hence my article about T4G. MacArthur expected something different, something more clear than what was produced, and so did I. So did Ben. They had a chance to express their views clearly and did not.

    And on the video promos for T4G, Dever promotes Murray’s book and Mohler backs away from it. So which is it? Mine is a sincere question, is yours about fundamentalism such?

    Also, to follow through on your point, many of us have publicly stated our disagreement with earlier decisions by fundamentalists on the issues that you’ve pointed out. If there is anyone out there that doubts where I stand on the KJV, racism, etc., I’ll gladly point them to sermons and articles which openly declare my views about what I believe the Bible teaches, including expressing disagreement with positions held previously.

    It is not wrong to ask conservative evangelicals to do this. It is wise to do so. I have no problem with them asking me what I believe and in what ways I am to be differentiated from other professing fundamentalists. I have a hunch, based on my experiences with them, that they don’t mind being asked the same kinds of questions. You shouldn’t let it bother you.

  32. Dave,

    I agree in the main. Nor am I implying that you personally have issued such calls either explicitly or implicitly. But, nonetheless, fundamentalists who tend to view fundamentalism as a movement (in spite of many claims to the contrary), not just an idea seem to pretend that all evangelicals who are not fundamentalist in name are also part of a movement – the new-evangelical movement.

    I have no problem asking you or any evangelical to show what their views have been on whatever issue. I agree with you. That’s prudent.

    However, I am completely sincere in this question (no baiting or agenda):

    How do you not see Murray’s book, for example, as a repudiation of the new-evangelicalism?

    It seems to me that, in fact, you do. If you do and the Mark DeverS (his kind), for example, strongly endorse it, are you going to not affiliate with the Mark DeverS because he affiliates with the Al MohlerS (his kind) who are less enthusiastic about it?

    As you know, many fundamentalists repudiate KJV-onlyism, but still have active fellowship with those who have not yet repudiated it or who maintain some fellowship with those who haven’t repudiated it. Seems to me that there is a double standard. It seems that many get a pass just because they embraced the self-definition of fundamentalism.

    You maintain tight ties with Bob Jones University. That’s fine, but you know as well as I do that BJU has all kinds of ties that would disturb you. When you have Mark Dever speak at your conference then many of us will know that you really have abandoned the “denominationalism” of fundamentalism and are practicing separatism exactly as aptly described it.

  33. Bob,

    You mix and match categories for your arguments too easily. Liking a book is the litmus test for one’s position on ecclesiastical separation? Wouldn’t perhaps something like ecclesiastical affiliation be a better choice?

    I’ve told Mark Dever, and Ben can verify this, that my concern with CHBC is it’s affiliation with the SBC. I readily and gladly acknowledge that both Mark and CHBC are unique within the SBC, a point which they concede (something which speaks volumes by itself). Perhaps you are prepared to equate being in the SBC with having someone preach in chapel, etc., but I am not. You don’t have to even think being in the SBC is a problem to see that there is a difference between an official ecclesiastical relationship and something like that. You’ve really over-reached on this one.

    So, to your question, I take Murray’s book as a very good sign, yet I wouldn’t be too optimistic on that point yet. For instance, my initial draft of the 9Marks article referenced it and the editor didn’t believe that enough people would know what I was referring to. As I already mentioned, Al Mohler disagreed with Dever about the book on the T4G video. Paul Helm, another influential evangelical scholar, recently challenged Murray’s take in that book as it relates to Packer and Stott. I think it fair to say that I’ve done a little thinking and looking into how representative of evangelical thought Murray is, and I think it would be naive to think that his book is anywhere near to a consensus opinion on the old new evangelical philosophy.

    I wonder if anyone else notices the irony of these conversations. On one hand, if someone like me points out, in defense of fundamentalism, that there are problems in evangelicalism, a cry rings out that we need to stop “justifying” our problems by pointing out the other guy’s. At the same time, when a point of critical assessment is made about evangelicalism, the same people throw the problems of fundamentalism up in people’s faces. Seems like trying to have it both ways.

    Bob, if you think that fundamentalism is a denomination, fine. That rhetorical device works for you, so use it. In one sense you are completely right and I embrace the concept, i.e., it denominates those with whom I hold certain truths in agreement. In that sense, I have no problem saying I am part of the Baptist denomination too. But we all know there’s a sense in which fundamentalism isn’t anything close to a denomination (what my dictionary calls an organized group of religious congregations). Organized and fundamentalism don’t work well together in many sentences.

  34. Bob,

    I repent.


    As I tried to clarify, I’m not suggesting you have done that personally. But would I be wrong to say that the idea has been articulated at MACP?

    Is there a reason why Bob and I should not have a similar stance toward BJU or MBBC or other people or churches with a variety of unhelpful associations to the stance that you would have toward Dever or MacArthur? Or is it simply a wisdom/prudence issue? Is MacArthur different from Dever because he’s independent? And to follow up Bob’s question, would it be wrong to preach in the pulpit of a person who never publicly repented of previous racist statements that were made publicly?

  35. Dave,

    There are many Southern Baptists who would fight against the SBC being viewed as a denomination as much as you would reject fundamentalism being viewed as such. That’s part of the problem. Many Southern Baptists misunderstand the essence of the SBC as much as fundamentalists do. In fact, I don’t ever think I’ve met a fundamentalist who really grasped the nature of the cooperative efforts of the SBC, and I’m not suggesting that I fully understand it yet.

    It’s more than a fundamentalist missions board, but less than a denomination. I believe the difference is that the SBC appears to be a denomination because it has some of the structures that are characteristic of denominations, whereas fundamentalism functions more as a denomination because so many men are slaves to the fear of man. I think a better model would be for both groups to be constructively interdependent, while maintaining biblical autonomy unequivocally.

  36. Ben,

    No, I don’t think it’s been done at the MACP, but I can’t say that I have instant recall or even knowledge of everything that has been said over the course 15+ years of conferences. I do believe that a call has been made for acknowledgement of what’s at stake and addressing the present stance. Call it whatever you want, but without the acknowledgement that the previous and prevailing position was wrong, it’s an impasse. I am not sure what’s so hard to see about this or why it’s considered improper to ask for it.

    As an analogy, I wouldn’t ask any current American to repent of the fact that his great-great grandparent owned a slave, but I have no problem asking him whether he believes that descendent was wrong and if, since it may raise questions, he’d be willing to state that publicly. If he will agree privately, but won’t do so publicly, then it would cause me concern.

    I think we start talking apples and oranges when we reduce ecclesiastical affiliation to the same level as “unhelpful associations.” But, I think I’ve been trying to make the case (as Bob noted in the post about which we are ostenisbly commenting) that it is necessary for us to address the question of associations more carefully than has been done.

    I personally am in favor of applying the same standards to both sides of the equation, so if you don’t feel comfortable with BJU or MBBC because of some “unhelpful associations,’ more power to you. You may think that’s an adequate description for the basis for the division between fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, but I very strongly disagree. But you’ve got to make the call for yourself, and I am content to let you do it.

    I’ve stated my non-negotiables, and I am content to do my best to work them out for God’s glory with the wisdom that He supplies.

  37. Dave,

    I’m going to take another round at this. It’s nuanced, obviously, and I don’t want it to undermine our basic agreement which I acknowledged in the original post. But, in response (your statements in black, mine in light):

    You mix and match categories for your arguments too easily.

    This is precisely my complaint about most fundamentalists, including you sometimes. More on that later.

    Liking a book is the litmus test for one’s position on ecclesiastical separation?

    Of course not. Never implied such. My point was that I think the book is essentially a repudiation of the evangelical decisions of the last fifty years. Many people embrace not only the book’s assessment, but also in practice reject the new evangelical philosophy. You said in the above comment to Ben: I do believe that a call has been made for acknowledgement of what’s at stake and addressing the present stance. Call it whatever you want, but without the acknowledgement that the previous and prevailing position was wrong, it’s an impasse. I am not sure what’s so hard to see about this or why it’s considered improper to ask for it.

    What is Murray’s book if it isn’t an “acknowledgement that the previous and prevailing position was wrong”? And the fact that many conservative evangelicals not only agree with the book, but disassociate themselves from theological liberals is evidence that they are “fundamentalists” in their approach to ecclesiastical separation. Now some of them maintain, nurture, or put up with relationships that they have had for years. You do the same thing in fundamentalism. I don’t see how they are any more inconsistent than you. You and I agree that you don’t have to have a “biblical reason” to not affiliate/cooperate. That decision doesn’t need biblical justification. Distance, personality, variables in ministerial philosophy, etc. may affect the relationship, but it doesn’t necessarily call for a biblical practice of separation. You said as much in your workshop. However, you seem to insist that very conservative evangelicals like Dever and MacArthur are still off limits for a consistent fundamentalist to fellowship with on the basis of a biblical understanding of separation.

    While I’m willing to concede your point about Dever’s affiliation with the SBC as being problematic, I’m not quite sure how

    a. such an affiliation by cooperation with parts of the SBC equals an outright endorsement of all that is SBC, or

    b. how such an affiliation is much different than your affiliation by cooperation with parts of your particular fundamentalist movement is an endorsement of all that is that movement. I don’t have to dig but a few minutes and I can come up with plenty of interesting connections between you and CBTS, BJU, NBBC, the NLC group and all of their connections. I dare say that the Devers and the MacArthurs of the world would refuse to fellowship with some of their connections (if not some of them!) on the basis of biblical separation.

    Perhaps you are prepared to equate being in the SBC with having someone preach in chapel, etc., but I am not. You don’t have to even think being in the SBC is a problem to see that there is a difference between an official ecclesiastical relationship and something like that. You’ve really over-reached on this one.

    I never said “speaking in chapel” is the same as “ecclesiastical relationship.” But assuming you’re responding to my pointing out your affiliation with BJU then I think it’s choosing to be naive that the problematic affiliations are as limited as “speaking in chapel.” Now, it seems like you are making “ecclesiastical relationship” a wax nose so that whatever anyone suggests you simply say that that is nothing like the “ecclesiastical relationship” of, say, Dever in the SBC. One cannot win with your chameleonic definitions.

    And, since we are agreed that speaking in chapel is not the same as “ecclesiastical relationship” then why not have a MacArthur or Dever speak at your conference?

    As I already mentioned, Al Mohler disagreed with Dever about the book on the T4G video. Paul Helm, another influential evangelical scholar, recently challenged Murray’s take in that book as it relates to Packer and Stott. I think it fair to say that I’ve done a little thinking and looking into how representative of evangelical thought Murray is, and I think it would be naive to think that his book is anywhere near to a consensus opinion on the old new evangelical philosophy.

    This is the problem. You don’t want to talk about fundamentalists as a monolithic group. (That was obvious back in your online debate with Phil Johnson in 2005. You deem it to be wholly unfair and completely misguided). But you keep referring to evangelicalism as if “they” are a group. Therefore, as long as there is no consensus (which there will never be), you maintain there can be no real reason for fellowship with any of them. Yet you seem to be happy that the only consensus that really binds fundamentalists is that neo-evangelicals were wrong back in 1940s which is therefore sufficient to justify the we/they rhetoric.

    Now, per your workshop, I understand you to say that you could choose not to cooperate with them for practical reasons (and I concur). If you don’t want to have a conservative speak at your conference or seminary just because you don’t like him, fine. But to imply that “they” are not “us” is exactly the kind of sectarian spirit that fundamentalists should be sorry for because there is no denying that some of “us” have more in common with some of “they” than we do with some of “us.” It’s that dogged commitment to the we/they rhetoric even to the point of including bizarre fundies in the “we” that I view as a denomination-like loyalty.

    It’s weird because the litmus test, you seem to say, is that they admit that the new evangelical policy failed. Weird because:

    1. Most fundamentalists don’t even know what the new evangelical policy was. For many of them a new evangelical is someone who wears pants and reads the NIV.

    2. A growing number of conservative evangelicals are actually practicing separation they way the more rational fundamentalists (like you) have been defining it for years.

    3. Thus, some of us have more in common with the biblical separatists in the conservative evangelicals than we do with the heretics in the fundamentalist circles. Sometimes it is even more simple than that: Philosophically, we are more on the same page.

    For example, I have a lot more in common with Mark Dever and his mission to radically influence the SBC with his view of the church than I do with this church that is heavily supported by Calvary in Lansdale. It is not inconsistent for me to fellowship with Calvary of Lansdale even though I may not like the ecclesiology (from what I gather) or the worship style of a church that they are clearly “ecclesiastically related” to because I don’t think it is inconsistent of me to fellowship with Mark Dever who is “ecclesiastically related” to churches I would not agree with.

    The conversation goes on. But I need to say this, not for your sake, but for the sake of some who are reading this and may be getting lost in the nuance:

    In the main I think your workshop was well-stated and I found it to be helpful to the on-going conversation about separation as it is fleshed-out in the nitty-gritty of the realities that we live in. The willingness to admit its huge complexity and the fact that much of it is determined on a case by case basis within the context of the autonomy of the local church came across as a humble and thoughtful delivery of how you see things. I think it would be very good for my evangelical friends to listen to carefully because, as I have said, I agree with it almost entirely. Thanks.

  38. Dave,

    You’re clearly wanting to avoid specifics, so I will not press you on those. So let me try to ask a more principial question to you and Bob. You both express concerns with the SBC. Just to clarify my perspective on the SBC, I agree with a well-known SBC pastor who said a couple years ago that the cause of the gospel would be served if the majority of SBC churches would close their doors.

    His reasons may or may not be different from yours, but I wonder what you would suggest as a course of action for a pastor like this whose church is “in friendly cooperation with the SBC.” Should he lead his church to withdraw immediately? Should all conservative pastors withdraw immediately and leave the cooperative assets and agencies to the control of the thin smattering of churches that reject a historic fundamentalist understanding of essentials to the faith? Or should these pastors continue to work to reform their Convention, all the while pointing out the errors and investing immense resources of time, energy, and money to accomplish that reformation?

  39. My last trip round the merry-go-round.

    Please show me the equivalent “association” that I might have that is equal to Packer, Graham, Dobson, etc. I cannot for the life of me think of any connection that I have which is the equivalent of these. I have no doubt that you can connect me to someone that has a connection to someone else. But you and I both have argued that such tenuous connections cannot and should not be marshalled in this way. Please show me how our church is involved in cooperative funding of missionary work and church plants which align with the new evangelical philosophy of missions and ministry.The bottom line is that you can’t.

    So we’re very clear about it, I’ve practiced the same kind of separation with the wackos of fundamentalism that I’ve urged regarding non-separatist evangelicals, so I have no pangs of conscience about this matter. I’ve applied what is the equivalent of both primary (from the heterodox) and secondary separation (from those who refuse to break fellowship with the heterodox) to this matter.

    Ben, you’ve made up your mind on how to handle the SBC issue and I’ve done so as well. I see no point in going over this ground again. It’s not even the point I was making, which is that there is a definite difference between ecclesiastical affiliation and the kind of loose connecting that Bob was pointing to.

    Well, it’s time for me to land the plane. As much as I’d like to solve all of the problems of the ecclesiastical world, I’ve got my hands full enough with my own responsibilities. It’s a great day to serve the Lord!

  40. Sheesh! Dave’s bowing out just as we were about to solve all the problems of the ecclesiastical world! 😉

    I’m bowing out of this thread as well, but I’ll try to give you an answer, Ben.

    I don’t know.

    That’s the real answer. Now, I personally am wired to be a reformer. That’s why I haven’t left fundamentalism. I don’t mind being in the minority. However, I’d like to know exactly how our finances were being disbursed. It would disturb me to finance the “new evangelical” method. If I could have control over what I supported, I’d probably stay in. I don’t think the average person would be discombobulated by our association with the SBC. Really, only some fundamentalists would not fellowship with me. I could probably live with out that.

    Maybe I missed the point of your question. But I have the flu.

  41. 1) If memory serves, I think I usually drastically disagree with TJP. However, he makes some good points in this latest dust up. To be clear, I’m not accusing Dave himself of committing any of the extreme errors of fundamentalist history. I am saying that his participation in certain conversations and journals is different from that of his fundamentalist ancestors. I am also not asking him to “repent” of his ancestors sins. I am/have been asking when the change to his approach occurred and why.

    2) I also agree with tjp against more than one commenter that guys like MacArthur, Piper, Dever, Mohler, etc. did not drop from the sky in the 70s, 80s, or 90s. They’ve always been around. They may not have been as talented, or as famous, but they were there. I bet someone could make an argument that for many years they were the majority within the “evangelical” world. The original “New Evangelicals” proper were a small — even though extremely talented and successfully influential — group.

    3) Dave earlier said that his proposal to the t4g guys did not require withdrawal from denominations — but now he says that his main problem with Dever is that he is in the SBC.

    4) If speaking in chapel, Bible Conferences, etc. are not “ecclesiastical” fellowship or connection — then no such thing is possible in fundamentalism or any independent type church/movement. That being the case, why should fundamentalists (who are almost exclusively independents) even have these discussions?

    And, for what it’s worth — I offer these questions and comments with every bit as much sincerity as Dave’s questions to the evangelicals.

  42. This seriously is my last comment. I believe it is important to note the actual argument that I’ve made, i.e., it is wrong to equate ecclesiastical affiliation with these other kinds of associations. At no point did I say that the other kinds of association have no weight or bearing in separation decisions. My point is that they don’t have the same weight since the one is a formal relationship on the clearly ecclesiastical level and the others are generally less formal and often less clearly ecclesiastical.

    By stating clearly that I have in fact practiced separation from professing fundamentalists for the kinds of things that Bob mentioned, it should be clear that I am not discounting them entirely.

    I obviously must suffer from a blind spot because of bias of some sort, but I can’t understand how a valid comparison can be made between actual church affiliation and a connection to someone through a common connection with a school. Or, perhaps it reveals a bias on the part of those claiming that this was the position as set forth by men like Pickering, McCune, Bauder, Sidwell, etc.

    If anyone who has offered this argument (Bob or Ben) would like to show me that the schools mentioned have in fact done the equivalent of what I’ve expressed concern about, I’m prepared to listen.

    I reread (albeit quickly) all of my comments on this thread and I don’t see any mention by me of people not needing to pull out of their denominations, so I am assume you are referring to something I wrote at Ben’s place. If so, you should know that the very same paragraph to which you are referring also expressed concern about the SBC, so there’s no contradiction in my statements.

  43. Dave,

    You’re probably gone, but I’ll offer this anyway . . .

    I really am not trying — by any means possible — to make the label of “contradiction” stick to you. I am trying to understand. Everyone has or appears to have contradictions in their positions and/or actions. That doesn’t mean they have horns.

    I just really don’t understand at least two things, even after all of these exchanges (so you are probably right that these forums aren’t the most productive):

    1) The apparent change which is denied — why does it look like a change if it is not, and if it is why the need to deny it?

    2) How you position would allow participation in a denomination or official convention. Yes, you mentioned the SBC in your comment over at Ben’s but you said, “Taking a passive stance toward apostate pastors and congregations within the convention is short of what I think the NT teaches.” Is what Dever is doing a passive stance?

    These things will probably need to be sorted out in other venues — probably in the real world, in flesh and blood, instead of the virtual world.

  44. what a colossal waste of time…

  45. Bob,
    Greetings from France. I stumbled on your blog and since I‘m not much on blogging please forgive my late response to the comment below you made on March 11.

    “For example, I have a lot more in common with Mark Dever and his mission to radically influence the SBC with his view of the church than I do with this church that is heavily supported by Calvary in Lansdale.”

    I am the director of church planting at Calvary and it is true that we are helping this church with monthly support although “heavily” might be too strong a word. The men planting the church are grads from CBTS. They were members of a sister church while in seminary and we are not their mother church. I’ve been to the church in FL on one occasion when they were still meeting in a home. These guys are sound doctrinally but admittedly they are edgier than many CBTS grads. I had them both for a church planting class I taught but am not responsible for their excesses 🙂 Seriously, I’m not writing to apologize for them nor need to. They are probably doing things I never would’ve done or thought about. However we are thrilled to see how God is using them to plant a church in their region and have no expectation that their church look like a mini-Calvary. You might have more in common with them than you think although I don’t know or need to know how you have more in common with Mark Dever. From the little I know of Mark I’m sure I would have much in common with him as well. I’m just not sure how this fit into your verbal sparring with Dave. It seemed gratuitous in my opinion to drive home your point.

    BTW, once I read the interchange on the blog I understood why I’m not a blogger, not yet anyway, but I guess there’s hope. I trust you, your wife, and Patience (did I remember that right?) are well. We’ve been in France and Lebanon over the past few months so I didn’t attend the NLC. It would be great to see you some time and catch up.

    Que Dieu te bénisse, frère,
    Steve Davis

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