Taking a Stand: A Rant

standPlease excuse the incoherency and lack of flow in this post, but I’ve got a few things to say.

I’ve been slacking a bit in blogging, but I think that’s ok. In the meantime, I have posted a few things on the King James Only blog, and, as a result, posts about that topic will be exclusive to that website, for the most part. This will allow me to focus on other topics. I’ve also been lurking around other blogs recently, and a few things have come to my attention. So I’ll make some comments. After all, small-fry bloggers like me have opinions that really matter, right?

The concern over the “YF Reformation” (if I can coin the term) is not diminishing at all. The demographic of 18-35 year old Christians who are tied to fundamentalism in some way (the Young Fundamentalists, “YFs”) is undergoing a major facelift in recent years.

And we YFs haven’t been silent about it. Those who are against the shift haven’t been either. The blogosphere has added significant volume to all our insignificant voices, as well as popularized diatribes and analyses by influential leaders of both camps. Currently, there’s much ado over Dan Sweatt and the FBFI. John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll. Peter Masters’ assessment of this movement. Colin Hansen’s Young, Restless, and Reformed is still being discussed. And of course, commentary on all of these issues abound from pastors and lay leaders alike.

Certainly, a reformation of sorts is underway. It’s both a privilege and a scary thing to be living in these times. I don’t know how this all will conclude, but God does. He is still in control. And we must remember, reformation is never easy.

Generaly speaking, there are two points of view: this reformation is a blessing from the Lord; or this reformation is a worldly mistake on the part of Christians which will take some serious damage control from the Lord when it’s over. Specifically speaking, there are views in between as well as views which mix a little of each. Personally, I believe that the reformation is, over all, a God-initiated revival of sorts. I see it (especially the reformed aspect of it) as more than just young fundamentalists leaving fundamentalism, but young liberals becoming more conservative and meeting us YFs right there in the middle. The latter isn’t being discussed much, and reasonably so – it’s not as noticeable. But it’s out there. And yes, the middle, or common, ground for both sides is Calvinism. Rightly implemented, this resurgence of Calvinism should glorify God to the utmost degree and leave shallow, man-centeredness in the trash.

But this isn’t always the case, is it? That’s why I’d say I’m somewhere in the middle. Though I see this, over all, as a move of God, men are still involved. Like the Protestant Reformation, there are many prevalent errors. There are double-standards and oversights. There are inconsistencies and just a whole bunch of humanity. It’s these issues that those who are opposed to the YF reformation seek to emphasize.

So, upset that many of the most promising men and women are leaving the fold, they harp on those things. Not only that, they are retaliating (perhaps not as much) against the things being said on the behalf of the YFs. We’ve all got our own blogs. Then we’ve got the older fundamentalistic crowd that is sympathetic to us, like Sharper Iron. Then there’s our conservative evangelical friends, the Phil Johnsons and such. Well, just take a look at the links I’ve got and then the links they’ve got and then the links they’ve. . . . .you get the point. In return, Dan Sweatt preaches an ill-informed attack upon the doctrines of grace. Preachers in fundamentalist conferences continue to criticize what we’re doing. David Cloud continues in his ministry of warning. The JackHammer guys continue to write against it. And they all charge us with double standards, inconsistencies, worldliness, ignorance, and various other errors. We, then, the YF’s, must raise a bigger army and counter their attacks so that this becomes an all out war. Right?

Absolutely not. What we need to do is listen. Do you know that a lot of those guys have earned a lot more air time than we have? Or that we are a lot more immature than we think at times? If we want them to listen to us, we must listen to them. If we want them to respect us, we must respect them. If anything, these guys have served the Lord faithfully, and I believe that God has given them discernment that needs to be listened to.

I am in no way advocating giving up the Berean spirit. They searched the scriptures over and against Paul, we can do it to our fundamentalist brothers. But for most of us, where did we even catch that Berean spirit? Fundamentalism!

Forgive me, if what I have done on this blog at times seems like taking potshots at fundamentalists. I mean no slander against them. I do think there are double standards. But we’ve got plenty of them too. I do think there are false teachings, again, as we have as well. But there’s little complacency. There’s a lot of zeal. And if you think I’m going to slander my brothers and sisters because their zeal has gotten the best of them, you’re wrong. I’ll take an over-the-top fundamentalist preacher who knows where he stands over an apathetic, envelope-pushing evangelical any day. And I mean any day.

I have to ask myself, what’s worse, zeal without knowledge or knowledge without zeal?

Zeal without knowledge could be destructive, of course. But when it comes to fundamentalism, not the cults, how terrible is it, really? Take the gospel. I, for one, am very serious about the issue of gospel presentation, and all the controversies involved therein: Lordship, repentance, assurance, etc. I think that fundamentalists, by and large, have dropped the ball. I know that most who read this blog would agree. Most of who I link to would agree. Even those on the fringe of fundamentalism (whether or not they wish to wear the label) like David Cloud and Kent Brandenburg would agree. Yet, all of us must wonder: are they therefore preaching a false gospel? Did everyone of us who left fundamentalism need to be converted?

I think not. Sure, I’ve heard stories. And I believe them. Some came from very extreme IFBx circles of the Hyles or Ruckmanite stripe. But for those us of who have embraced the doctrines of grace, we know that the Holy Spirit will bless the gospel (even if watered down) and quicken us to life with it. So what should that make us concerning fundamentalism and its role in preaching the gospel to us initially? Thankful.

And thankful I am. Not only for salvation through the influence of fundamentalists, but sanctification as well. Sometimes, we’re ignorant that the very system we attack allows us to attack it in the first place.

Ravi Zacaharias was interviewed concerning Sam Harris’ lecture on atheism:

“I challenge Sam Harris in my book, ‘if you really think there’s no difference between Christianity and Islam, well I dare you to go and give your talk in Saudi Arabia.  He won’t take us up on it, because the chances are it will be his farewell speech.  It is only the Judeo-Christian worldview that gives the possibility to all of these worldviews to have free access to the marketplace. So the very system they’re attacking gives them even the voice in order to attack it. I think that’s the irony of all of this.”

How did most of us even come to the conclusion that we ought to weigh what fundamentalists say against the scriptures? From fundamentalism! Where did we get our zeal for defending the faith? Our passion for souls? Our motivation to live godly lives? Please do not forget that.

Now there are those of you out there who have been burned by extreme fundamentalism. I am sympathetic toward you. I don’t want to minimize your stories, either. And perhaps you have gained nothing good from your time within fundamentalism, and were it not but for the grace of God, you wouldn’t even be a believer. But let’s determine to keep the distinction clear between the destructive, rabid, type of extreme fundamentalism and the more moderate form. The latter has its share of problems, and doctrines with which we all disagree, but God is definitely working there.

Within fundamentalism, we hear a lot about taking a stand. You’ve got to take a stand on this issue, they say. Or that issue. Oftentimes we’ve become to caught up in the moment that we take stands on things that aren’t spelled out in scripture. But there’s a reaction to that that’s equally, if not more so, dangerous. And that’s taking no stand at all. I’m afraid that’s where many are headed within the YF reformation. I don’t want to be there.

Zero tolerance: Dr. Clarence Sexton of Crown College preached at the FBFI a couple years ago. Dr. Sexton preached at Bob Jones this year. Both caused uproar. The former caused ado because he is King James Only. The latter did so for similar reasons. Controversy surrounded all this, and guess what? No matter how controversial either move may have been, Dr. Sexton isn’t really that far removed from the strictest form of fundamentalism, a form we often criticize for its unspoken zero tolerance rule. Yet how much tolerance do we give to them? Why did I run into blog posts a few years back criticizing the FBFI for having a KJVO guy in its conference? This is one of many examples of blatant double standards on our part.

Discernment? I went to a church in my area a few months ago. I walked in to be greeted by  “Beautiful Day” by U2 playing in the background and Sex God by Rod Bell on the book table. Great! Another church in my area was supporting the ministry of “XXX Church” (I can’t link to it because my filter won’t let me go to it – wonder why) and was hosting a men’s breakfast called “Porn and Pancakes.” Porn and Pancakes?! Sad thing is, both of these churches I would agree with doctrinally, at least for the most part, but my little toe has more discernment.

Great witnessing opportunity, eh? “Hey, Fred, want to go clubbin’ tonight?”

“No, man. I”m a Christian, ya know. I don’t do that sort of thing. Plus, I gotta get up early for Porn and Pancakes!”

ugh.

Anyway, this kind of thinking, regardless of how popular it is, exists, and feeds into the fundamentalist’s fear (and understandable fear) about letting down his guard. See, I’m the first to say that being less constrictive doesn’t necessarily mean that “anything goes.” But the way things are going, you can see their point.

Anti-church: I visited a newer church in my area and the pastor was kind enough to take me to lunch that week so we can talk. When I asked about evangelism, he said, “the church has lost its right to the public square.” I think I know what he meant, but I’m not sure I agree. The Great Commission didn’t end with, “I’ll be with you always, even until the end of the age. . .unless, of course, you screw up, then you lose your right to evangelize.” If that were the case, the “church” by and large lost it during the Dark Ages, or the Crusades, or the Inquisition, or the Salem Witch Trials. But why should any of us pay for the sins of others? Fiery evangelistic preachers such as Baptists and even Anglicans like George Whitfield weren’t stopped because of the oppression of the Church of England those days. Can you imagine Martin Luther saying, “Forget these 95 theses, Rome has forfeited the right of every Christian to preach” or Jonathan Edwards refusing to preach because he realized that imposed Congregationalism was an unholy union between church and state?

I’m just tired of seeing books about “repainting” the Christian faith. We’ve got it wrong for 2,000 years. We’re not a church. We’re a discussion. And I’m not just talking about emergents, I’m seeing this all over. I guess I can relate to my fundamentalist brothers. When I hear someone talking about fresh perspectives and new light and re-doing the whole deal I get the same feeling that they probably get when we talk about reforming. I do think there’s a difference between always reforming back to the Word of God and rebuilding the whole thing with the connotation that we’ve never got it right in any area.

I hate billboards that say “the dress is casual, the music rocks, we have cup holders in our seats, etc.” What in the world? Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less if your church dresses casually. No one seeks after God. Ever read that?

I’m not getting into the music debate here, but let me say I do accept lots of CCM. That being said, if I ever come to the point in which I think I need it, draw a permanent “slap me” sign on my forehead. That’s just ridiculous – churches splitting over music. And in this case, I’m not talking about the pastor who didn’t want to conform. I’m talking about the group within the church that wanted the music so bad that they left because the pastor didn’t conform. Remember that the arguments for CCM are only arguments for its acceptance, never its necessity. I am totally comfortable with traditional hymns. The church has been for quite sometime. If you can’t serve God effectively and minister to your surrounding community for the glory of Christ and His gospel because you’re not getting the music you want, something is wrong with you.

“We’re not antinomians.” Yes you are. Well, obviously not all of you. In fact, most of you (us) are not. But still many are. I’m just meeting all kinds of people who are deathly afraid of what they think is legalism. Oh, we can’t do Bible memory because it’s too legalistic. Kids now need a 3 point, outlined answer for every command they’re given, complete with proof texts, otherwise taking out the garbage is legalistic. The word legalistic deals with law. So does nom. Anti-nom = anti-law. Hmmmm.

Hey I’m just as against legalism as the next guy, and of course, I’ve seen it rear its ugly head in modern fundamentalism. But don’t generalize. Legalistic is one of the worst things you can call a brother in Christ.

See, being outside modern fundamentalism isn’t about attacking modern fundamentalism.

Ok, so you’re thinking, isn’t that what this blog is about? No. No matter how much I clarify that, it’s hard to . . . well, clarify. Just as a fundamentalist website might write a defense of King James Onlyism, or pretribulationalism, or strict separationism, or conservative music onlyism, etc etc, I’m writing about positions from a different perspective. This is about issues. I’m sincerely against King James Onlyism. I think it’s wrong biblically, logically, and historically. I think it’s unnecessarily divisive. So I write against it. That doesn’t mean I’m against people who are King James Only. I hope the churches with which I used to be involved continue to be blessed. I hope my Bible college is as well. I hope D.A. Waite experiences more blessing. I mean no harm to any of these men or ministries.

I’ve come to realize that those in fundamentalism with whom I disagree aren’t great apostates. They’re seriously misguided. It’s becoming more evident as I talk with them about issues. Especially Calvinism, which seems to be a big topic these days. Without my asking for it, I’ve been engaged in a few ongoing discussions/debates about the doctrines of grace. I welcome them, of course. but when I hear the other side, I realize how little they know about this issue and how long it will take to shake off their presuppositions in order for them to see the truths being presented in an unbiased light. When I behold their ignorance, I am only reminded of myself.

So everyone’s got their sins, their shortcomings, their theological deficiencies, their hypocrisies. None of it is justified or acceptable, but we have to cope with the reality of the situation. The fundamentalists are right – there is considerable inconsistency on the part of the evangelical who will refuse to tolerate a King James onlyist yet dialogue with an Open Theist or New Perspective. . . ist. But why is this? Yeah, it’s inexcusable, but why is it so?

The question of “why” is, in my opinion, is the problem. Fundamentalists (generalizing here) aren’t asking it of themselves. Little self-evaluation is taking place (I don’t mean the evaluation of little people). Fundamentalists have made themselves offensive. Liberals are, by and large, nice. This is no biblical justification, but let’s face it – human nature speaking – I like hanging out with nice people!

When someone criticizes John Dominic Crossan, James White is quick to point out that Crossan is the nicest apostate you’ll ever meet. He never shows the same attitude toward Texe Marrs. Crossan is a true apostate – he is not on the side of Christ. Yet, Marrs at least is orthodox enough to prove he is our brother. As is Ruckman. And Riplinger (sister in this case). But they don’t get the same words spoken of them. And why? Crossan is nicer. Is it right for White to be inconsistent here? Probably not. So White, a favorite apologist of mine, is wrong. I don’t use him to call him out, but as an example of what we all do. It’s easier to hang with nice people. So ok, we establish that that’s wrong. But here’s my point: fundamentalists of the Marrs/Riplinger type aren’t trying to fix the problem on their side, either. And there’s the issue on the fundamentalist side. They can point fingers all they want, and even be right in doing so, but it seems like they aren’t lifting a finger to correct their own problems. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, ya know.

Alright, Marrs and Riplinger represent a rather fringe sect in fundamentalism so it’s not fair to use them, you think. Yeah, maybe. But I find the same attitude with David Cloud and D.A. Waite, with Shelton Smith and Dennis Corle, and with the Jackhammer guys at times. They think they’re right and they’re so absolutely certain about every seeming nuance of doctrine.

Ok so in this rant I’ve criticized fundamentalists and evangelicals. What a critical meany-head I must be. Well, I’m not really singling anyone out. All I’m saying is the above attitudes exist and we must try to avoid them. Of course, we’ll have to work at it.

So, brothers, it is of utmost necessity that we examine ourselves and tread very carefully here. Just because this reformation can be a good thing, even a thing that God Himself is doing in our generation, doesn’t mean we can’t do wrong things along the way. Our immaturity will, unfortunately, speak louder than the good that we do. The older fundamentalists, by and large, aren’t going to write nice articles about the young “preacher boy” who dropped his KJV and became a Calvinist but is faithfully serving the Lord in a small, conservative, un-worldly (by fundamentalist standards) Reformed Baptist church. No, they will focus on the preacher boy who did all of the above, yet joined a more charismatic, rock and roll type of mega-church. And they will use the latter as an example for the rest of us.

They hate generalizing, as we all do. The mere fact that I mentioned Marrs, Riplinger, Hyles, and Ruckman in the same article is enough to make them cringe. But they have no problem generalizing with us. In their minds, none of this is of God. We’re all just worldly. We’re rebellious. We have no respect for our forefathers. We’re buying into post modernism and we’re so blinded we don’t see it.

I know that deep in our hearts what we want to do so badly is retaliate. Brothers, we cannot. Instead, we must listen. What else is electronic, semi-anonymous dialogue if not to sharpen iron? I pray that we’ll seriously consider the charges of the other side. We may learn from them more than we think.

So, I’m taking a stand: I am determined, by God’s grace, to do my absolute best for the Lord Jesus Christ. I refuse to be worldly, and will be transformed away from worldliness every day. I will respect those who differ from me. I will not be so afraid of legalism that I can’t have any sort of rules in my life. I will remain teachable. I will continue to fight for the faith. I will not drop my love and allegiance to my Lord.

As they say, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

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5 comments so far

  1. Travis Satterfield on

    Your toes have discernment?
    Anyways…Awsome post. Good stuff we must remember!

  2. phil on

    Porn and pancakes- That sounds pretty bad. The worst I’ve

    seen is Bar Church. They have church in a bar. They don’t

    drink they just have church there. The mothers day

    advertisement said “good kids take there mother to church

    at a bar!” The second worst has to be a mega-church in

    town that has a thirty minute service for those who do not

    have time to go to church. So you went to crown, did you

    have a class on Islam taught by Edgar M. Fegaly? He was at

    my church about two years ago. My dad bought his book

    Islam made easy.

  3. Damien T Garofalo on

    hey phil,

    I know I mentioned Crown in the article but don’t know how you know I went there. You’re perceptive. Anywho. . .I did not take a class with Brother Feghaly but I think I heard him preach at least once, as well as a few audio sermons I have.

  4. phil on

    Oops. I follow other blogs like Transformed by Grace and I

    When I read that you mentioned Crown it came to mind. And

    knowing that information and revisiting your post on

    Islam I asked that question because it came to mind and if

    I don’t ask right away I’ll lose the thought. Thanks for

    answering the question though.

  5. fundyreformed on

    Great post, Damien. I finally got around to reading it. I’ve been making the rounds at blogs less, lately.

    I agree with just about everything you said here. Except there comes a time when you have to move on. Some may have a calling to keep interacting with fundamentalist blogs like Jackhammer. For me, I was always having to defend myself and getting boiled about what was said of me. Or I would want to speak up and defend my position on something which was being spoken against harshly. Upon review of this after several years and various interchanges at different blogs like this, I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t good for me. I don’t need to worry about my reputation, and I don’t need to always be wondering what the latest gossip or blog war is these days.

    For me, I’m better off focusing on my own blog and some of the new team blogs and group sites. I’ll answer questions and interact. But where I am now is different from where I was at the beginning of this for me. I’ve grown and have to be careful to not relish the fight in blogging.

    We need more like you Damien who take the time to interact with hard line fundamentalists in a charitable way. Not everyone is gifted to do that, however.

    Anyway, I’m encouraged by what God is doing, and I’m thankful he is growing us all in the faith.

    In Christ,

    Bob


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