Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Dealing with Conservative Evangelicalism Part VI

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dealing with Conservative Evangelicalism Part VI

Hyper-Fundamentalism - Really?
Theological Off-Roading 

The irresponsibility and divisiveness that comes out of the Neo-fundamentalism that calls itself Conservative Evangelicalism never cease to amaze me. One such irresponsible and divisive term being bantered around on the blogosphere is the term Hyper-fundamentalists. I can understand why those who are not independent Baptists use this term. They define Fundamentalism as a movement that began out of the Modernist Controversy of the early 1900’s. They define Fundamentalism as a list of cardinal doctrines

Fundamentalism, as a Movement, was born out of the battle against Liberalism and Liberalism’s denial of the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures and the cardinal doctrines of the Faith (the results of German Rationalism and Higher Criticism). However, Fundamentalism as a theology existed long before this. Independent Baptists have never limited their fundamentals to the very basic, but inclusivistic, list of cardinal doctrines that defines the Fundamentalist Movement. Therefore, in the redefining of Fundamentalism within the main stream of independent Baptist churches, this is another form of reductionism regarding what defines fundamental or New Testament Christianity. As far as what defines an independent Baptist, this is Theological Off-Roading

The Fundamentalist Movement has always been interdenominational and broadly more inclusivistic regarding what is tolerated theologically in the definition of true Christianity than what fundamental Baptists have ever allowed. Therefore, we must conclude that those who call themselves independent Baptists, and who are trying to redefine Fundamentalism more inclusivistically according to the list of cardinal doctrines of the Fundamentalist Movement, are really no longer fundamental Baptists. If that is the direction they want to go, so be it. As Baptists, we believe in Individual Soul Liberty. Therefore, we say Bon Voyage! However, as you leave the dock, please remove the word Baptist from the side of your ship. At least Northland International University was honest regarding this in their name change. Let me suggest that Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, and Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary consider doing the same thing. Can I get an Amen? 

In reading the little, four volume set entitled The Fundamentals issued by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles in 1917; “edited by R.A. Torrey, A.C. Dixon and Others” (later reprinted by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan), we find the articles dealing mainly with the arguments of Higher Criticism and the resulting denial of various cardinal doctrines. A basic reading of the Table of Contents on the opening pages of these four volumes should reveal to us that the unity of the authors of each of the chapters centered more on their disagreement with their opposition than it did with theological unity on many important theological arenas of discussion. 

  • Volume One deals mainly with Higher Criticism 
  • Volume Two deals mainly with the inspiration of the Bible and the Deity of Christ 
  • Volume Three deals with Anthropology and Soteriological (the most doctrinally definitive articles are “Is Romanism Christianity?” by T.W. Medhurst and “Rome, The Antagonist of the Nation” by Rev. J.M. Foster) 
  • Volume Four deals with various “modern” Philosophies and the Cults (“ISMS”)

Although most fundamental Baptists would agree with a great deal of what is written in these four volumes, they would not fellowship with the vast majority of the authors. The vast majority of the authors of the various articles in this publication are Reformed/Covenant in their theology and from diverse denominational backgrounds. This also is a defining factor of what is happening among professing Baptists trying to redefine Fundamentalism. They want to fellowship with men and churches who hold to a wide diversity of doctrines that are part of Reformed Theology. 

The great difficulty in defining Fundamentalism is due to the attempt to define a theological position with one word. However, the difficulty is in the presumption of agreement on all areas of theology. The central and uniting area of agreement within the Fundamentalist Movement has never been much more than its agreement on the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible and, perhaps, a literal interpretation of the Bible (even though interpretation is often influenced by suppositions that are imposed upon the text; i.e. eisegesis). 

There were peripheral areas of agreement on certain cardinal doctrines, but these were expected areas of agreement and even that agreement was not total. These would include such basic things as Creation as opposed to evolution (even though there was considerable diversity here such as the Gap Theory of the Scofield Reference Bible and a few who held to Theistic Evolution), the Deity of Christ and the Trinity of God (although there was considerable diversity in regards to the ministry of the Holy Spirit between the Holiness/Keswickian people, Pentecostals, and Dispensationalists), salvation/justification by grace through faith (although considerable diversity about what these terms mean between such SYSTEMS of theology such as Calvinism/Arminianism and some that practiced paedo-baptism, such as the fundamentalist Congregationalists, Methodists and Presbyterians), and their opposition to Roman Catholicism (primarily Papalism). Conservative Evangelicalism wants to establish criteria for inclusivistic fellowship that would include the wide diversity of positions listed above. 

Therefore, the ambiguity of the term Fundamentalism that defines the Fundamentalist Movement stems from a lack of theological definitiveness regarding the fundamental doctrines of “the faith.” There was really no specific agreement on those fundamentals of the faith within the movement. I believe that the result of this was that the movement was pre-programmed to be inclusivistic. New Evangelicalism was intrinsic to the Fundamentalist Movement and, without the theological definitiveness necessary from keeping this ingrained New Evangelicalism from coming forth, every new generation of the Fundamentalist Movement gives birth to new New Evangelicals. The new New Evangelicals of our generation call themselves Young Fundamentalists or Conservative Evangelicals

By the very nature of the doctrinal statements of independent Baptists, they have ALWAYS been exclusivistic. Our doctrinal statements have always been more definitive regarding what defines true Christianity. Independent Baptists have always separated from those who held to aberrant views of Soteriology, Ecclesiology, Pneumatology, and Eschatology. In most part, independent Baptists have historically held to the inspiration and the preservation of Scripture only in the original languages and in the Traditional Greek Text and Masoretic Hebrew Text. However, now we have men who call themselves Baptists, who are redefining Fundamentalism according to the list of cardinal doctrines from the inclusivistic and interdenominational Fundamentalist Movement. 

These same men are calling independent Baptists, who continue to hold to their ancient and exclusivistic definitions of fundamental Christianity, Hyper-fundamentalists. Although they are telling us they are reclaiming authentic fundamentalism (where have I heard that phrase before), they are really telling us they are no longer independent Baptists. I say let’s listen to their message and agree with it. They are saying, WE ARE NO LONGER INDEPENDENT FUNDAMENTAL BAPTISTS. They have abandoned their Baptist’ militancy and have decided to join the singing of Kum-Ba-Yah around the camp fire of the more inclusivistic Fundamentalist Movement. 

In the Position Statement of Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, they have included what they have entitled; Ethos Statement on Fundamentalism & Evangelicalism. We might refer to this Position Statement as the Imprimatur of Conservative Evangelicalism that embodies a Reformed Position Statement regarding the purpose of the Church and especially how the methodology of preaching is to be defined (actually redefined). This is very much a major aspect of redefining Fundamentalism. As you read this statement, notice the broad-brush it paints with and the divisiveness of the statement. In this broad and sweeping statement, the vast majority of the world’s greatest preachers are repudiated in their methodology and denigrated in their motivation including the Lord Jesus Christ and all the Apostles as revealed by the Epistles. 

“Another version of Fundamentalism that we repudiate is revivalistic and decisionistic. It typically rejects expository preaching in favor of manipulative exhortation. It bases spirituality upon crisis decisions rather than steady, incremental growth in grace. By design, its worship is shallow or non-existent. Its philosophy of leadership is highly authoritarian and its theology is vitriolic in its opposition to Calvinism. While this version of Fundamentalism has always been a significant aspect of the movement, we nevertheless see it as a threat to biblical Christianity.”[1] 

First of all, the statement is false. “Revivalistic and decisionistic” Fundamentalism does not typically reject expository preaching. The statement that “revivalistic and decisionistic” preaching is nothing more than “manipulative exhortation” is an insult against every preacher who believes that true preaching of the Word of God is intent upon persuading people through the preaching of Spirit filled men. This statement is essentially a denigration of Synergism in God’s use of the human agent (Rom. 10:14-21 & II Cor. 5:11-21) in the “foolishness of preaching.” The denigration is necessary in order to establish Monergism as the standard by which all preaching is to be measured. 

I have just finished reading Dr. Tom Farrell’s new book, Preaching That Pleases God. (I highly recommend the book.) I would conclude that the vast majority of everything in Brother Farrell’s book would be denigrated by the above Position Statement of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. In fact, the vast majority of what is written in about 20 other books I have in my library on Homiletics would be denigrated by this Position Statement. 

Apparently, according to Conservative Evangelicalism, if you opposed Calvinism today you are “a threat to biblical Christianity.” Therefore, we can only conclude that such a broad, sweeping statement must mean that Calvinism defines “biblical Christianity.” Apparently, this is something we are just not allowed to talk about any longer. I guess, if we are going to talk about it, we should at least not be allowed be dogmatic about it. As long as we agree to be inclusivistic and accepting, we can talk about Calvinism. This comes from the silly notion that if we talk about Calvinism, this talk will divide our fellowships and associations of churches. This is silly because it already divides our fellowships. In fact, the above Position Statement of Central Baptist Theological Seminary tells us that they are the very ones making the division and doing the dividing. 

Well, I think we should talk about it! I know a lot of Baptists who think we should talk about it. This is the Central issue (pun intended) that is defining Conservative Evangelicalism and the one point that no one is willing to talk about. Within Conservative Evangelicalism, we hear the phrase Gospel Driven Separation. In most cases, this Gospel Driven Separation is really defined as Calvinism or Calvinistic Soteriology (the reason why I say Calvinistic is because a number of these men do not want to be identified with all of Calvin’s Soteriology and certainly not with his Eschatology, Ecclesiology, or Replacement Theology). Although the first evaluation regarding a working cooperation with another local church must be an agreement upon the message of salvation and the Biblical accepted response to the Gospel in order to receive God’s gift of salvation, there are a number of equally important factors that must be considered as well. Without these other equally important areas of agreement, a Gospel Driven Separation is little more than Theological Off-Roading.  

Let me state up front; I do not believe Calvinists are evil. In fact, I have a number of friends who are Calvinistic and with whom I fellowship. I am not “vitriolic” against Calvinists. Yet in many cases, Calvinists have separated from me because I am not a Calvinist and because I oppose Calvinism as a Systematic Theology. In fact, a number of years ago, after a discussion with Dr. Dave Doran about his positions on Calvinism at the Heart Conference at the then Northland Baptist Bible College, he told me that because of our differences we would not be able to fellowship together. I would have been willing to have limited fellowship with him even with our differences. He stated his separation from me because of our differences. I do not hold that against him. It was his choice and I accept it. That same scenario has been repeated with a number of Calvinists since then. They are separating over this issue and Central Baptist Theological Seminary’s Position Statement is the criterion for that separation. However, they just do not want anyone to separate from them over this issue. 

We do not need to look much further than the list of speakers at conferences like the T4G Conference 2010[2], the Ligonier 2011 National Conference[3], the Gospel Centered Church Conference[4], and Preserving the Truth Conference[5] to find our common denominator. What is the common denominator in all of these conferences? The common denominator is the Imprimatur of Conservative Evangelicalism as stated in Central Baptist Seminary’s Ethos Statement on Fundamentalism & Evangelicalism. Although this is very apparent, we are being told not to point it out or not to talk about it. Let’s talk about it! 

[1] Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, ETHOS STATEMENT ON FUNDAMENTALISM & EVANGELICALISM; 
[2] http://t4g.org/conference/t4g-2010/ 
[4]http://www.truechurchconference.org/preachers/and http://www.truechurchconference.org/distinctives/ listing the New Hampshire Confession of Faith as their foundational doctrinal statement 
[5] http://truthconference.org/resources/ 

Anonymous comments will not be allowed. 

Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

No comments: