Monday, January 02, 2006

Some remarks on the 9-Marks interview "Cooperation in the Church"

No matter how carefully I try to word this or voice my concerns with it, I am sure that these remarks may sound like I am some kind of incipient neo-evangelical. Let me thus begin by assuring the readership that I am not. I am full five-point fundamentalist (a phrase I like to use, but has no real meaning), and have no desire to turn over any fundamentalist apple cart. I realize that even though I say this, there is the distinct possibility that my remarks below may cause me to be regarded as a nonfundamentalist, which is unfortunate. I am a fundamentalist, fully espouse separatism (even the oft maligned "secondary" sort), and would consider myself a fundamentalist patriot. Anyway. I have listened somewhat closely to the recent 9 Marks interview, Cooperation in the Church. It is a conversation between Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, and C. J. Mahaney on how and when evangelicals should fellowship together. I have just a few observations concerning this discussion:

1) Some evangelicals separate. I will be using the term "evangelical" to speak of those who are not "fundamentalist." Some may understand better what I mean if I were to say that these "evangelicals" are those in the lineage of the "neo-evangelicals" of Okenga, Henry, and the like. Some fundamentalists do not acknowledge that evangelicals separate. They are wrong. They should listen to this interview.

2) Some conservative evangelicals are more and more embracing "secondary separation." The irony for me is that some fundamentalists are more and more rejecting it. Dever himself names two occasions where he has separated, or "not cooperated." In an example of what some fundamentalists would call "first degree" separation, he notes that he refused to take part in an interfaith service following September 11, 2001. In an example of what some fundamentalists would call "second-degree separation," Dever says at the end of the interview that he refused to take part in an evangelistic crusade because it involved Catholics (at which point the group expressed their dismay over ECT stuff). Mohler says that he wished Baptists would again embrace their heritage of "associationalism," where pastors would personally confront other pastors they heard proclaiming error, and, if the pastor or assembly did not respond, that church would be cut off from the association. Modern evangelicalism, he laments, is not very good at this. By the way, fundamentalists are not always adept at this either.

3) Some conservative evangelicals are becoming more and more careful about cooperation. One of them, for example, (I think it was Mahaney) urged pastors to research other pastors' stand on the gospel before cooperating with them. They agreed that the persons with whom they most enjoy fellowshipping are those who hold the areas of disagreement firmly. Dever (who is a Baptist), for example, said he enjoyed fellowship with Duncan (a Presbyterian) because he knows that Duncan holds his Presbyterian convictions strongly. These kinds of individuals, who are "thick" (that must be a neo-evangelical word for "solid") on doctrinal matters, know that certain doctrines are important, even though it is a point of doctrinal disagreement.

4) The group seemed to misunderstand fundamentalism. Their critiques are probably warranted, for their exposure to fundamentalists are probably much different than the kind with whom I usually associate. Dever, for instance, gave an example of a fundamentalist deacon who was removed from his deaconate because his daughter elected to attend Liberty. I would hope that this is not the trend among fundamentalists, but these types, as we all know, are out there. Dever, though I hesitate to add this with the risk of misrepresenting him, seemed to boil fundamentalist separatism down to those who will not cooperate in evangelistic crusades. Mohler had this response to fundamentalist separatism: "That is a dying phenomenon. That is not the growth edge of conservative, gospel-loving Christianity in American. That's kind of an antiquarian remnant. So I wouldn't waste too much time worrying about it." This is a regrettable analysis, and shows a real ignorance of the fundamentalist concern with the purity of the gospel, including those who appear to be indifferent to it.

5) Some conservative evangelicals are moving away from their Neo-evangelical past. I use the term "neo-evangelical" here on purpose. Consider this exchange (slightly condensed), which I found to be terribly interesting:

Mohler: "I think the whole idea of the evangelical dream of Carl Henry and Harold John Okenga [Mark Dever adds, "Christianity Today, the National Association of Evangelicals"] in the whole period right after World War II is one of those critical points we need to go back and look at. I just have to acknowledge that Carl Henry is a mentor to me. . . . I have to admit that the evangelicals of that generation had a far too optimistic understanding of how easy it would be to stand on the gospel. And because of this, they just abdicated ecclesiology. . . . I think they saw themselves in a moment of cultural opportunity, and my thesis is that we are now in a moment of cultural crisis. . . . We are not going to be seduced by that false impression, but we can be very much seduced by things we're not seeing in our own times as the danger."

Dever: "[Local churches loving the gospel] is going to display different lives that are then going to begin to address some of those issues [of the cultural crisis]. Not a full-blown Anabaptist separatism, but it is saying that the best way we can witness to the world and the culture, or one of the best ways--an indispensable part of it and the trunk of it--is by having disciplined communities of people who are effectively demonstrating the gospel."

Mohler: "The lack of that discipline was the fatal absence in the evangelical structure. In other words, there was no way to say who was and wasn't. There still isn't any way to say who is and isn't an evangelical, and therein lies the problem."

Ligon: "In a sense, the evangelicals of that generation shared something of that dream that those that started the World Council of Churches before them shared."

6) Conservative evangelicals are not as separatist as fundamentalists. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but I need to add this for my young fundamentalist readers out there. I do not think we can yet impose upon these men the label "fundamentalist." I believe that these men would still be hesitant about separating from some of those whom most fundamentalists separate. For example, I do not believe that J. I. Packer's work in the ECT is enough pause for these men to separate from him. I would assume that they would still consider Packer "strong on the gospel" (let me reiterate that is an assumption on my part). I would have a serious problem with someone like Packer who has seen fit to damage (in my opinion) the gospel in his ECT work, even though he personally may rigidly affirm a strong conservative evangelical articulation of it and even defend it from time to time.

In summary, this interview is helpful in that it shows the times are, indeed, changing. Although there are certain trends in American evangelicalism that are troubling, it is encouraging that some are again recognizing the value of fundamentalist separatism. We should not yet try to make them into fundamentalists, but it is certainly not the 1940's anymore.

43 Comments:

Blogger Don said...

Ryan,

This is interesting:

Dever says at the end of the interview that he refused to take part in an evangelistic crusade because it involved Catholics

In his book, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Dever says that the light turned on for him about the "absolute centrality of the Word" while having a conversation with his Roman Catholic HOST prior to speaking for him. No qualifiers are mentioned in the book, it is all very matter of fact. Pages 42-43. It's all very odd in light of these comments.

For example, I do not believe that J. I. Packer's work in the ECT is enough pause for these men to separate from him.

I suspect that Packer's Calvinism means that he isn't compromising the gospel to these dudes. That is the common thread, I believe.

I agree with you that times are changing, but I am with Minnick on saying that for these guys to come to a right position will require wholesale repentance from the evangelical error. Since they are dismissive of fundamentalism, I would say that they are a long way from getting it yet.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/03/2006 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Aside from lineage, is it only particulars of separatism that distinguishes these gentlemen from fundamentalists?

1/03/2006 03:23:00 AM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

Ryan, that was thick.

1/03/2006 05:37:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

RE: "I am with Minnick on saying that for these guys to come to a right position will require wholesale repentance from the evangelical error."

Don, I sympathize with Minnick here, but I think we ought to also realize that these are, in a certain sense, doing that. I mean, when we do something wrong to our wives or children, do we dress in ashes and rags and fast for a week? Perhaps we should, but I would venture to guess that our admitting that they were right is coming close to this. I am not sure how much these men know of our "doctrine of separation" or of how much it come to define who we are as a movement. This is all much more complex than that. I am not sure that I, were I not already a fundamentalist and sympathetic to the movement, would repent and ask fundamentalism into my heart, with all our warts.

Todd, I am not sure if this is a sign of mere difference in particulars or if greater differences still exist.

1/03/2006 07:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

It sounds as if these boys would go for a book on separation that explained the touchstone as the Gospel, eh?

1/03/2006 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

That book needs to be written.

1/03/2006 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

I wonder if that book might include a test of fellowship that took reverence into consideration?

1/03/2006 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

I remain suspicious. I have corresponded with a number of Southern Baptists in the past, some of whom now teach at Southern Seminary. They are part of the "conservative resurgence", and they have a fairly good understanding of separation as we define it. They repudiate it, but do of course separate to a certain extent as you have observed. (I think all true Christians separate to some extent, which is why I think it is much more of an essential doctrine than some give it credit for.)

I think these fellows are about reforming evangelicalism. I don't think they think evangelicalism is wrong in its philosophy, but they have recognized some errors in its application. Dever and Packer are cases in point. It is very odd that Dever would make this point about ECT, but would speak for a RC host. Not very consistent...

So I watch these developments hopefully, but expect my hopes to be dashed.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/03/2006 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

This discussion on evangelicals and fundamentalists and separation and fellowship fascinate us partly because we are part of a movement that defines itself in a certain way but sees the borders of definition blurred. We want to know who we are and what defines us. Because these people are so close to us (I am speaking "big picture" now--much closer than, say, liberalism or postliberalism or Catholicism or Greek Orthodoxy, etc), we struggle to define ourselves against them to give ourselves some coherence as a movement. We are not them, we correctly observe, so what makes us not them and what makes them them and us us?

Todd, I think ones idea of reverence will come into separation. I will be less able to cooperate with someone whose worship I consider blasphemy. This will most likely be reciprocal. For in calling their worship blasphemy, I am, to a great extent, remarking on the quality and veracity of their religion.

Don, I would probably not use the word "repudiate." I think what we should do, above all, is be honest with them. Look at where they are at, and evaluate it honestly. I think we ought to carefully consider the proper posture towards these men. I do not believe that Minnick is wrong (to be honest, I am not that familiar with his remarks on this), and you may be right that this may all come to naught. But these are good signs of evangelicals taking the gospel pretty seriously. I am going to come down much further to the right than they are, and I am certainly not going to run out and endorse their every move and articulation of separation. In some ways, I found their articulations of cooperation and separation deficient. But the lines and boundaries between the movements are becoming more complex.

1/03/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Hi Ryan, you're right, I should say they repudiate separation as we understand it if I were to use the word at all. I also do find it interesting and refreshing to have some interaction and fellowship with some of these more conservative evangelicals, but I am not optimistic that they are going to have a Damascus Road experience with respect to the errors of Graham/Ockenga/et al. I think they will see some problems with it, but merely tinker with the philosophy rather than throwing it out altogether.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/03/2006 11:01:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Don, you said, I also do find it interesting and refreshing to have some interaction and fellowship with some of these more conservative evangelicals.

See, you are already beginning to "fellowship" with them . . .

1/04/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Fellowship, yes, but only on a personal level.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/04/2006 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I am just giving you a hard time.

1/04/2006 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Joel Tetreau said...

Ryan and Don,

I really have appreciated the back and forth. By the way - you both have demonstrated the present tension we are feeling within fundamentalism. Don - as always you have done a great job of explaining the reasonableness of your hesitancy to allow former evangelicals into "your tent".

Ryan, you have done an outstanding job demonstrating that many of these guys may in fact be on a journey that may lead some of them "into our tent."

Don, the question is not "will we let them in the tent." The fact is this - some of us will let some of them in, once we are satisfied that they share enough of the Biblical "baseline" of what a fundamnentalist is. And you have done a great job on why you are hesitant about all of that.

The bigger question to me is how will the two groups contending for the direction of the movement (I call them group A [they will be less likely to allow a former evangelical into the tent] and group B [they will be more likely to allow a former evangelical into the tent] - how will the Don's and the Ryan's get along?

Will they get along?

Will this result in another internal split?

How would that split effect the movement?

Is that necesarily a bad thing?

My hope is this - that both groups will respect (even when they disagree with each other) without casting anathema's at each other. In other words my hope is that both groups can continue to co-exist with the realization that one group has a broder definition and the other group has a more narrow definition.

Don, I think your types may be tempted to pull the triger first against those of us who will be greeting an incoming "former evangelical." I hope I'm wrong.

Blessings!

Joel Tetreau - AZ

1/05/2006 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Joel,

thanks for stopping by. I just want to be clear that I would not necessarily lump myself into either group. In fact, I would probably line up closer to Don than, say, the so-called "YF's" (although Don's not a Calvinist, and I'm not sure what I think about that). My main purpose in writing this, and even my interaction with Don, is to try to make some observations on where some evangelicals are at, and, perhaps, more than anything, to demonstrate the complexity of the times.

Joel, have you listened to the audio yet?

1/05/2006 11:54:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Joel, let me add that I do find your questions about fundamentalists fellowshiping with fundamentalists ironic in light of what the topic of the 9marks interview is!

1/06/2006 12:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Ryan wrote:
"Don's not a Calvinist, and I'm not sure what I think about that."

You mean maybe, just maybe whether we believe in unconditional election or not has something to do with what we believe about the gospel? Perhaps even more than whether one uses contemporary music or believes in a pre-tribulational rapture? Impossible!

Seriously, great analysis of the conversation, Ryan.

1/06/2006 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Ben, I definitely think that "the doctrines of grace" (except for that 5th point) are more important than music or a pretrib rapture, but I do not want to negate the importance of those either. But I am sure you don't mean to say that.

I could fellowship with an Arminian (particularly one like Tozer), but it in great part depends on what kind of an Arminian they were and what the nature of the fellowship is.

1/06/2006 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Ryan,

You're reading me correctly. My point is that once you admit that perhaps doctrines of grace are issues that affect our levels of capacity for fellowship, then you have departed from the paradigm of "what are the doctrinal distinctions that fundamentalists have historically tolerated?" And that is a good thing.

Theology over movement.

By the way, I feel inadequate about having said your analysis was "great." It was actually "solid."

1/06/2006 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

No, Ben. You are obviously NOT a fundamentalist. Movement over theology, brother. Get it straight.

Yes, I am certainly SOLID. That's the way Jason Janz described my article when he asked to publish it on SI. It's nice to see that Unknowing, may it rest in peace, has had some lasting impact on the movement. After all the fun we had with the word "solid," I now cannot help but notice and smile when others use it. The other day I heard Dr. Bauder speaking, and he described something as "solid." I said to myself, "Dr Bauder just said that was 'solid.'"

1/06/2006 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

That must've been the moment when you knew that Phase 1 of the Unknowing Muppets' plan for world domination (Re-invent the Vocabulary) was complete. Now on to Phase 2 (Devolve, Diffuse, and Deceive).

1/06/2006 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

--Insert sinister laugh here--

1/06/2006 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Joel Tetreau said...

Ryan,

Thanks for your response - I have not listened to it yet - I was teaching all week and frankly just had time to quickly read and quickly comment - I will take the time to listen to the back and forth. I understood and share some of your reservations about what some in YF are about. Thanks again for your work here. I've stopped by here a few times to view your work. Ryan, I really appreciate your work - it is always reasoned, Biblical and encouraging - blessings on you!

JT

1/06/2006 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Thanks, Joel. Let me encourage you to listen to that particular audio and many of the others over at 9marks.org.

1/06/2006 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Joel,

I don't think it is a matter of 'letting them into the tent'... What tent??? Is there a tent??? If there is, it must have a sawdust floor, right?

My point is that I am dubious, especially about the Dever's, Mohler's et al. They are definitely separatists "lite". It would be interesting to ask Dever about the passage in his book I cited. Perhaps Jason can do it in round 2 of his interview series.

I think there may be some hope for younger conservative evangelicals to embrace a satisfactorily separatist position, and I would personally welcome into fellowship any who did (no matter what their age!!)

But the older one gets, the more vested you are in whatever movement you happen to be in. It is not just pension funds like it used to be in denominational battles, but there are many other ties that entangle a man. It is much harder to separate the longer you hang out with compromise.

Dever, for instance, would always have to be 'splainin pp42-43 of his book. That might get a little old, but his past associations clearly mark his philosophy, so we ought to be dubious about separatistic moves now.

Ben,

It does seem to me that a good bit of the movement shifting that is going on (or is contemplated) has to do with Calvinism. This is becoming the sina qua non for some. Thus, Mahaney, Packer, Dever, Mohler, MacArthur, Piper, are all viewed somewhat fondly by the burgeoning Calvinist. Other issues become less important, perhaps, to some.

This is really a departure from fundamentalism, since fundamentalism did involve cooperation across theological lines. Orthodoxy was the issue, not systematics.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/07/2006 04:13:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Don, and here I thought that we were close to having you join our field of Tulips.

The point is that in some cases your nonCalvinism will limit my fellowship with you, just as my Calvinism will your fellowship with me. For instance, we would probably be unable to start a church together; you would not hire me as an assistant. There are other instances where it would come up, I am sure. But I don't even know what nonCalvinist you are, so I probably should keep my mouth shut.

1/07/2006 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Hi Ryan

Well... I like Hutson's title: "Why I disagree with all 5 points of Calvinism"... or something like that. I have no idea what he says in the book, but I like the title.

It is true that systematics will limit fellowship in some ways. But one of my objections to a lot of the saber rattling that is going on is that systematics seems to be the central issue for some, one for which they are willing to ignore serious separation problems. If a guy is a Calvinist, he can teach false doctrine about tongues, or get a pass to some extent even about ECT (Packer), and that's all OK, because he hasn't compromised 'the gospel' (i.e., The System).

I don't know what kind of non-Calvinist I am either. I disagree with a good bit of what Arminians say also, so perhaps I am just confused. But I do fellowship with Calvinists. I have a friend here who pastors a church across the water who is a Calvinist. We get together in a reading group where we read books together and then discuss them. We have a good time, and only rarely cross swords over systematics. We couldn't plant a church together, as you say, but we do promote the gospel together, fellowship together, pray together, seek each other's advice, and refer people to each other's churches.

This is where we should be. Crusadign for Christ, not for Calvin or Arminius, or whoever.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/07/2006 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

No Don. It's not about Calvinism or systematics. It's about theology. This statement from you illustrates my point:

"This is really a departure from fundamentalism, since fundamentalism did involve cooperation across theological lines. Orthodoxy was the issue, not systematics."

I'm just not concerned what historic fundamentalists separated over and whether I'm departing from their grid. Some historic fundamentalists maintained fellowship with Pentecostals. My guess is that those Pentecostals were less theologically sound than C.J. Mahaney. Other historic fundamentalists tolerated diverse views on the historicity of Genesis 1-11.

I am concerned that we draw our lines of fellowship in accord with the proximity of theological issues to the gospel. In my understanding of Scripture, an affirmation of some form of conditional election is more directly in opposition to the gospel than other issues that are far more important to many fundamentalists.

To choose our hierarchy of doctrine based on 100 years of the history of a movement rather than our exegetical conclusions is to put movement over theology. My convictions put (to the best of my ability and by the grace of God) theology over movement. I don't have it all figured out, to be sure, but I can't stop believing what I believe.

1/07/2006 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Don, the point is that some doctrines are more important than others, and I believe that the importance of the doctrine is determined by its relationship to the doctrine. All doctrines are, to a greater or lesser degree, related to the gospel. Which doctrines are more important than others, or more connected to the gospel, is an important question, but one of no little controversy. For example, I believe that the virgin birth, diety of Christ (and all Trinitarian teaching), and substitutionary atonement all receive their importance due to their relationship to the gospel. For someone to deny them means they are denying the gospel. I could list many others: inerrancy is very important, as is the future return of Christ. But this also means that some others are not as important, though still important. Things like baptism, church government, etc. The important thing to realize here is that in my making some doctrines more crucial I am negating the importance of other doctrines. I simply recognize that they can still be believers and hold these things with which I disagree. Moreover, in saying that the gospel is the touchstone for all of this, I am not saying that the gospel is Calvinism, though I believe that some forms of nonCalvinism do great damage to the gospel. One more point: anyone who really takes the gospel seriously will not be eager to fellowship with those who do not. So when Bill Bright goes and signs the ECT or Richard Mouw meets with the Mormons, I take the gospel too seriously to seek out opportunities to fellowship with him over the gospel. They have, in effect, damaged the thing which we most hold in common. They have shown little regard for the thing most important to me, (and the gospel, by the way, receives its importance not not as an end in itself, but as the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ; we prize the gospel because of its content--it is the message of the one we worship, Jesus Christ). Were someone to make a greatly slanderous remark about your wife, you would not invite him to your church to talk about marriage. This is why "secondary separation" (or whatever you want to call it) is so important.

I am not going to go on, though I am very tempted to. I have a great deal of schoolwork to accomplish today.

1/07/2006 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Hi guys.

I think I am saying what Ryan is saying, mostly, and I think Ben makes my point. See this comment:

In my understanding of Scripture, an affirmation of some form of conditional election is more directly in opposition to the gospel than other issues that are far more important to many fundamentalists.

Exactly.

So the issue is systematics, or at least, your version of it.

BTW, did you notice how subjective your comment sounds? "In my understanding ..."

Ryan said:
The important thing to realize here is that in my making some doctrines more crucial I am negating the importance of other doctrines. I simply recognize that they can still be believers and hold these things with which I disagree.

This is true. I agree completely. But I recall seeing some young Calvinist turks saying that if you don't agree with our system you are not a Christian.

I know you are not saying such things, and I am sure Ben is not saying such things. But I think you can see how offensive such a statement would be.

I am just saying that SOME are making Calvinism THE DOCTRINE, and are thus willing to cross lines that fundamentalism has heretofore been unwilling to cross. This is a great error in my opinion. (See, I'm subjective too! Who can escape it?)

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/07/2006 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

btw, this makes 31 comments... Ryan, now that Joel has quit, are you going to offer prizes if we hit 100? Maybe you could get Joel to guest write them for you...

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/07/2006 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Joel Tetreau said...

Don,

Sawdust not withstanding - There is a tent. We might not be to agree as to it's present dimension - but there is no question a tent.

I've appreciated your thoughts on this thread.

Ryan, thanks for letting me visit over here - I have not yet listend to the Dever stuff - I will.

Straight Ahead friends!

Joel

1/09/2006 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Joel Tetreau said...

Don,

One more point - what's up with the satire in relation to my writing ability. Why you turkey!

Frankly I think we could find more helium in your posts - You Canadian trouble-maker you! You know it's guys like you that made Tetreau's like us leave Canada in the first place!

So there!

Joel

(having fun Don!)

1/09/2006 05:05:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Don, you said, "I am just saying that SOME are making Calvinism THE DOCTRINE, and are thus willing to cross lines that fundamentalism has heretofore been unwilling to cross. This is a great error in my opinion."

Just realize here that although that may be true of some, realize that Ben does not seem to be making that argument. I said to him, "I definitely think that "the doctrines of grace" (except for that 5th point) are more important than music or a pretrib rapture, but I do not want to negate the importance of those either. But I am sure you don't mean to say that." Ben replied, You're reading me correctly.

Let me reiterate how imporant it is for us, in speaking of fellowship, to realize that there are manifold levels of fellowship: from going out to lunch with some conservative evangelical or Calvinist (like Don does) to starting a church together to joining a para-church organization or Fellowship or Association or what have you. The extent to which we engage in any of these "levels of fellowship" or whatever you want to call it will depend on many factors.

1/09/2006 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Joel,

Satire??? I missed it. What did I say?

As for:
You know it's guys like you that made Tetreau's like us leave Canada in the first place!

Ohhhhh... you're one of those, are you? I'm so sorry, I didn't know!

Actually, that was a rather sorry episode, but ancient history now.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/10/2006 12:59:00 AM  
Blogger Joel Tetreau said...

Blessings on you Don

We love our Canadian friends! Stay warm!

Joel

1/10/2006 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Don,

Maybe we have different understandings of systematics. When I think of unconditional election, I don't think of a systematized doctrine. I think of specific texts as they stand on their own within their immediate contexts.

I do not say that non-Calvinists are unbelievers. I agree completely with Ryan's solid analysis of levels of fellowship. I also agree with what I once heard Kevin Bauder say in a conversation about soteriology: "We are redeemed by our capacity for inconsistency." I think that's true of non-Calvinists, and I think it's also true of me. Every time I sin, I am essentially saying that I am god, not God. That is obviously idolatry, and it's inconsistent with the gospel. That doesn't make me an unbeliever. It just makes me inconsistent.

I will grant you that there is subjectivity in my stance. I think that has something to do with the historic doctrines of soul liberty or priesthood of the believer. I could be wrong. I'm an idiot on church history, but I am working on it. Despite the potential for subjectivity that enters in, I think the problems are greater for those who define levels of cooperation and separation based on historic fundamentalism. First, you're relying on 100 years of history. Second, you're relying on just one movement that was responding to a specific problem in a specific time. I do realize that much of our doctrinal formulations result from responding to specific errors, but I'm uncomfortable defining primary issues on just one response in one time. Third, as I've said before, whether this is a line fundamentalism has been willing to cross is a non-issue to me. Nothing personal, but I think your approach of defining doctrine based on a movement is more consistent with denominationalism and the new evangelical tendency to reduce doctrine to the least common denominator, regardless of whether one believes it is true.

1/10/2006 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Hi Ben

Alas, the blog format does make discussion lose its steam over time. I have been busy the last couple of days and not had time to keep up with this.

As for understanding systematics differently, I suppose that is true. For example, I don't think unconditional election is established without systematic thought, but that is probably a topic for another day.

You also said:
Despite the potential for subjectivity that enters in, I think the problems are greater for those who define levels of cooperation and separation based on historic fundamentalism.

I think I agree with this, but you write as if I don't. To me, separation is simply an application of the direct passages like 2 Cor 6, etc, and the overarching doctrine of holiness in the Scriptures. Separation is a given, and in fact, a fundamental of the Christian faith, in my view. Even fairly soft evangelicals separate at some point, which establishes the essential nature of separation.

The differences about separation exist over application, not so much on interpretation.

I think that I have consistently argued against the idea of separation defined in terms of the positions of the applications of X, Y or "Zed" (a little Canajun lingo for you!!), way back in the "historic fundamentalist" era, but rather in terms of holiness and biblical obedience. Of course, I may have been inconsistent in stating this somewhere, who knows?

So I guess I am having a little trouble understanding how your last paragraph represents a reply to me. Are we talking about the same things?

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/13/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan DeBarr said...

Ryan,

Evangelicals and Fundamentalists of your stripe think of Secondary Separation differently. When a Southern Baptist hears the term, he thinks "guilt by association." To us, that's really what Secondary Separation is. Al Mohler wouldn't let Billy Graham include Catholics in his Louisville crusade (we would call that primary separation). But Al Mohler won't separate from Billy Graham because of Billy's association with Catholics in other venues (we would call that secondary separation).

Conservative evangelical leaders do know what Secondary Separation is. Several of the professors at Southern are former Fundamentalists; at least one has an M.Div. from Bob Jones. Mark Dever's church has a good number of Bob Jones and Pensacola grads in its membership. I believe that Maheney's church also has quite a few former Fundies in it. For that matter, even Saddleback has at least two pastors with Fundamentalist upbringing currently serving on staff.

Don't hold your breath waiting on conservative evangelicals to embrace Secondary Separation. We know what it is and it does get mentioned in class at Southern Seminary. It's held up as an example of really bad exegesis and serves as fodder for jokes.

As far as Mohler's desire to see a return to "associationalism", he is talking about expelling people from local Baptist associations. I would not take that to mean he believes churches should leave troubled organizations. The conservative resurgence in the SBC was about kicking moderates out, but it was lead by people who refused to leave the Convention. I personally believe that Scripture teaches us to disfellowship those in gross unrepentent sin and those who teach heresy. I'm sure Mohler, Mahaney, Dever, etc., believe the same thing. What I don't believe is that we're commanded to leave a church where heresy is present (although that may be wise in certain situations). The command is to fight, not flee.

Don is correct when he says that Mohler & Co. are more interested in reforming evangelicalism than they are abandoning it. Mohler and Moore see the serious problems with New Evangelicalism, but they view Fundamentalism as the wrong answer to those problems. An entire issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was devoted to critiquing Carl Henry, yet the campus still hosts the Henry Institute. as well as the Billy Graham School of Evangelism.

1/15/2006 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Ryan, thank you for stopping by and your comments. Again, I did say that these men are not fundamentalists. I am not "holding my breath" waiting for anything. What you have shown me is that evangelicalism is as guilty at creating straw men as we are. In seminary, I was never presented a view of separation of "guilt by association." Instead, I was presented with a portrait of separation that happens over many differing circumstances and situations. I would certainly have problems with the way you describe Al Mohler's cooperation with Billy Graham, but that is because those who indifferent concerning the teachings most closely connected with the gospel should be shunned. My love for the gospel is such that I find it difficult to make a pretense of fellowship through external cooperation with someone who has treated the gospel in a degrading manner. The man who sits on the edge of the street defaming my mother will not be invited to speak at her birthday party. My union with others is based on our commonality over the gospel. I am not eager to answer hypotheticals about how this takes place. But I would encourage all Christian men, and teachers in particular, to consider how much they love the gospel; to love it even to the extent to which we will do away with the pretense of unity. As a man departs from the gospel, so wanes my union with him. We may or may not agree on these points, or even the way I choose to flesh them out. You can call it a doctrine based on "guilt by association." I choose to call it a doctrine based on the nature of spiritual union around the gospel.

You said, As far as Mohler's desire to see a return to "associationalism", he is talking about expelling people from local Baptist associations. I would not take that to mean he believes churches should leave troubled organizations. I understood him to be saying the same thing.

You also said, Don is correct when he says that Mohler & Co. are more interested in reforming evangelicalism than they are abandoning it. Mohler and Moore see the serious problems with New Evangelicalism, but they view Fundamentalism as the wrong answer to those problems. An entire issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was devoted to critiquing Carl Henry, yet the campus still hosts the Henry Institute. as well as the Billy Graham School of Evangelism. I saw that issue of the SBJT, and even cited it in a recent paper. You are right, I am sure, about your assessment of the position of these men to the original New Evangelicalism (reformation, not abandonment), and I appreciate your adding this and your other comments to our conversation. I am merely encouraged to see them notice these problems. I am encouraged to see that fundamentalists are not the only ones who see the problems with it. I am sure (and did not doubt) that they are aware of the differences between the two sub-cultures/movements. Let me reiterate that these men are not fundamentalists, though the things they were saying (in a certain respect) sounded at certain points in this discussion like some of the fundamentalists with whom I am familiar. The point of my post was two fold: 1) that fundamentalists often mischaracterize these men, and what they call "Neo-evangelicalism" or "evangelicalism," and 2) that these men, at the same time, are not fundamentalists (I believe that some "young fundamentalists" err on this point).

1/15/2006 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan DeBarr said...

Ryan:

I agree with both of your last points.

I am, however, not quite sure that the evangelical view of secondary separation is that much of a straw man. I do realize it's a little more nuanced than "guilt by association." However, when I hear people demanding separation from Al Mohler because he worked with Billy Graham in a Crusade, I can't figure out how that isn't guilt by association. Not that Mohler doesn't have some guilt for working with Billy Graham, but that Graham's guilt (and the penalty of that guilt) rolls over onto Mohler. And some would say that anyone who attends Southern should also bear the penalty of Billy Graham's guilt.

But I'm not here to debate secondary separation with you. I think we're probably in close agreement. You're also right about evangelicals painting strawmen- but I don't think we paint as many. Perhaps only because we don't talk about Fundamentalists nearly as much as you guys talk about New Evangelicals.

1/19/2006 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Funny, Ryan.

1/19/2006 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

This is very late in the conversation, but I just got here, so please forgive me.

Don, I was surprised by your comment about the quote from Dever about the Catholic host. The book is clear that he was at a reception, not a church service, when the conversation broke out. Are you suggesting that Dever was compromising in some way to attend a reception that was put on by a Catholic? There is nothing in the section you cite, at least that I can see, that suggests this was a cooperative religious event. You misread the part about speaking--he said he had read a book that he was going to be giving a speech about, not that he was going to be speaking at the reception.

For the record, my bringing this up is not to defend Dever beyond the point at hand, namely that there is no contradiction between what he said in the interview and the anecdote in the book.

1/26/2006 08:32:00 AM  

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Immoderate: Some remarks on the 9-Marks interview "Cooperation in the Church"

Monday, January 02, 2006

Some remarks on the 9-Marks interview "Cooperation in the Church"

No matter how carefully I try to word this or voice my concerns with it, I am sure that these remarks may sound like I am some kind of incipient neo-evangelical. Let me thus begin by assuring the readership that I am not. I am full five-point fundamentalist (a phrase I like to use, but has no real meaning), and have no desire to turn over any fundamentalist apple cart. I realize that even though I say this, there is the distinct possibility that my remarks below may cause me to be regarded as a nonfundamentalist, which is unfortunate. I am a fundamentalist, fully espouse separatism (even the oft maligned "secondary" sort), and would consider myself a fundamentalist patriot. Anyway. I have listened somewhat closely to the recent 9 Marks interview, Cooperation in the Church. It is a conversation between Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, and C. J. Mahaney on how and when evangelicals should fellowship together. I have just a few observations concerning this discussion:

1) Some evangelicals separate. I will be using the term "evangelical" to speak of those who are not "fundamentalist." Some may understand better what I mean if I were to say that these "evangelicals" are those in the lineage of the "neo-evangelicals" of Okenga, Henry, and the like. Some fundamentalists do not acknowledge that evangelicals separate. They are wrong. They should listen to this interview.

2) Some conservative evangelicals are more and more embracing "secondary separation." The irony for me is that some fundamentalists are more and more rejecting it. Dever himself names two occasions where he has separated, or "not cooperated." In an example of what some fundamentalists would call "first degree" separation, he notes that he refused to take part in an interfaith service following September 11, 2001. In an example of what some fundamentalists would call "second-degree separation," Dever says at the end of the interview that he refused to take part in an evangelistic crusade because it involved Catholics (at which point the group expressed their dismay over ECT stuff). Mohler says that he wished Baptists would again embrace their heritage of "associationalism," where pastors would personally confront other pastors they heard proclaiming error, and, if the pastor or assembly did not respond, that church would be cut off from the association. Modern evangelicalism, he laments, is not very good at this. By the way, fundamentalists are not always adept at this either.

3) Some conservative evangelicals are becoming more and more careful about cooperation. One of them, for example, (I think it was Mahaney) urged pastors to research other pastors' stand on the gospel before cooperating with them. They agreed that the persons with whom they most enjoy fellowshipping are those who hold the areas of disagreement firmly. Dever (who is a Baptist), for example, said he enjoyed fellowship with Duncan (a Presbyterian) because he knows that Duncan holds his Presbyterian convictions strongly. These kinds of individuals, who are "thick" (that must be a neo-evangelical word for "solid") on doctrinal matters, know that certain doctrines are important, even though it is a point of doctrinal disagreement.

4) The group seemed to misunderstand fundamentalism. Their critiques are probably warranted, for their exposure to fundamentalists are probably much different than the kind with whom I usually associate. Dever, for instance, gave an example of a fundamentalist deacon who was removed from his deaconate because his daughter elected to attend Liberty. I would hope that this is not the trend among fundamentalists, but these types, as we all know, are out there. Dever, though I hesitate to add this with the risk of misrepresenting him, seemed to boil fundamentalist separatism down to those who will not cooperate in evangelistic crusades. Mohler had this response to fundamentalist separatism: "That is a dying phenomenon. That is not the growth edge of conservative, gospel-loving Christianity in American. That's kind of an antiquarian remnant. So I wouldn't waste too much time worrying about it." This is a regrettable analysis, and shows a real ignorance of the fundamentalist concern with the purity of the gospel, including those who appear to be indifferent to it.

5) Some conservative evangelicals are moving away from their Neo-evangelical past. I use the term "neo-evangelical" here on purpose. Consider this exchange (slightly condensed), which I found to be terribly interesting:

Mohler: "I think the whole idea of the evangelical dream of Carl Henry and Harold John Okenga [Mark Dever adds, "Christianity Today, the National Association of Evangelicals"] in the whole period right after World War II is one of those critical points we need to go back and look at. I just have to acknowledge that Carl Henry is a mentor to me. . . . I have to admit that the evangelicals of that generation had a far too optimistic understanding of how easy it would be to stand on the gospel. And because of this, they just abdicated ecclesiology. . . . I think they saw themselves in a moment of cultural opportunity, and my thesis is that we are now in a moment of cultural crisis. . . . We are not going to be seduced by that false impression, but we can be very much seduced by things we're not seeing in our own times as the danger."

Dever: "[Local churches loving the gospel] is going to display different lives that are then going to begin to address some of those issues [of the cultural crisis]. Not a full-blown Anabaptist separatism, but it is saying that the best way we can witness to the world and the culture, or one of the best ways--an indispensable part of it and the trunk of it--is by having disciplined communities of people who are effectively demonstrating the gospel."

Mohler: "The lack of that discipline was the fatal absence in the evangelical structure. In other words, there was no way to say who was and wasn't. There still isn't any way to say who is and isn't an evangelical, and therein lies the problem."

Ligon: "In a sense, the evangelicals of that generation shared something of that dream that those that started the World Council of Churches before them shared."

6) Conservative evangelicals are not as separatist as fundamentalists. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but I need to add this for my young fundamentalist readers out there. I do not think we can yet impose upon these men the label "fundamentalist." I believe that these men would still be hesitant about separating from some of those whom most fundamentalists separate. For example, I do not believe that J. I. Packer's work in the ECT is enough pause for these men to separate from him. I would assume that they would still consider Packer "strong on the gospel" (let me reiterate that is an assumption on my part). I would have a serious problem with someone like Packer who has seen fit to damage (in my opinion) the gospel in his ECT work, even though he personally may rigidly affirm a strong conservative evangelical articulation of it and even defend it from time to time.

In summary, this interview is helpful in that it shows the times are, indeed, changing. Although there are certain trends in American evangelicalism that are troubling, it is encouraging that some are again recognizing the value of fundamentalist separatism. We should not yet try to make them into fundamentalists, but it is certainly not the 1940's anymore.

43 Comments:

Blogger Don said...

Ryan,

This is interesting:

Dever says at the end of the interview that he refused to take part in an evangelistic crusade because it involved Catholics

In his book, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Dever says that the light turned on for him about the "absolute centrality of the Word" while having a conversation with his Roman Catholic HOST prior to speaking for him. No qualifiers are mentioned in the book, it is all very matter of fact. Pages 42-43. It's all very odd in light of these comments.

For example, I do not believe that J. I. Packer's work in the ECT is enough pause for these men to separate from him.

I suspect that Packer's Calvinism means that he isn't compromising the gospel to these dudes. That is the common thread, I believe.

I agree with you that times are changing, but I am with Minnick on saying that for these guys to come to a right position will require wholesale repentance from the evangelical error. Since they are dismissive of fundamentalism, I would say that they are a long way from getting it yet.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/03/2006 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

Aside from lineage, is it only particulars of separatism that distinguishes these gentlemen from fundamentalists?

1/03/2006 03:23:00 AM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

Ryan, that was thick.

1/03/2006 05:37:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

RE: "I am with Minnick on saying that for these guys to come to a right position will require wholesale repentance from the evangelical error."

Don, I sympathize with Minnick here, but I think we ought to also realize that these are, in a certain sense, doing that. I mean, when we do something wrong to our wives or children, do we dress in ashes and rags and fast for a week? Perhaps we should, but I would venture to guess that our admitting that they were right is coming close to this. I am not sure how much these men know of our "doctrine of separation" or of how much it come to define who we are as a movement. This is all much more complex than that. I am not sure that I, were I not already a fundamentalist and sympathetic to the movement, would repent and ask fundamentalism into my heart, with all our warts.

Todd, I am not sure if this is a sign of mere difference in particulars or if greater differences still exist.

1/03/2006 07:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Joel said...

It sounds as if these boys would go for a book on separation that explained the touchstone as the Gospel, eh?

1/03/2006 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

That book needs to be written.

1/03/2006 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

I wonder if that book might include a test of fellowship that took reverence into consideration?

1/03/2006 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

I remain suspicious. I have corresponded with a number of Southern Baptists in the past, some of whom now teach at Southern Seminary. They are part of the "conservative resurgence", and they have a fairly good understanding of separation as we define it. They repudiate it, but do of course separate to a certain extent as you have observed. (I think all true Christians separate to some extent, which is why I think it is much more of an essential doctrine than some give it credit for.)

I think these fellows are about reforming evangelicalism. I don't think they think evangelicalism is wrong in its philosophy, but they have recognized some errors in its application. Dever and Packer are cases in point. It is very odd that Dever would make this point about ECT, but would speak for a RC host. Not very consistent...

So I watch these developments hopefully, but expect my hopes to be dashed.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/03/2006 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

This discussion on evangelicals and fundamentalists and separation and fellowship fascinate us partly because we are part of a movement that defines itself in a certain way but sees the borders of definition blurred. We want to know who we are and what defines us. Because these people are so close to us (I am speaking "big picture" now--much closer than, say, liberalism or postliberalism or Catholicism or Greek Orthodoxy, etc), we struggle to define ourselves against them to give ourselves some coherence as a movement. We are not them, we correctly observe, so what makes us not them and what makes them them and us us?

Todd, I think ones idea of reverence will come into separation. I will be less able to cooperate with someone whose worship I consider blasphemy. This will most likely be reciprocal. For in calling their worship blasphemy, I am, to a great extent, remarking on the quality and veracity of their religion.

Don, I would probably not use the word "repudiate." I think what we should do, above all, is be honest with them. Look at where they are at, and evaluate it honestly. I think we ought to carefully consider the proper posture towards these men. I do not believe that Minnick is wrong (to be honest, I am not that familiar with his remarks on this), and you may be right that this may all come to naught. But these are good signs of evangelicals taking the gospel pretty seriously. I am going to come down much further to the right than they are, and I am certainly not going to run out and endorse their every move and articulation of separation. In some ways, I found their articulations of cooperation and separation deficient. But the lines and boundaries between the movements are becoming more complex.

1/03/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Hi Ryan, you're right, I should say they repudiate separation as we understand it if I were to use the word at all. I also do find it interesting and refreshing to have some interaction and fellowship with some of these more conservative evangelicals, but I am not optimistic that they are going to have a Damascus Road experience with respect to the errors of Graham/Ockenga/et al. I think they will see some problems with it, but merely tinker with the philosophy rather than throwing it out altogether.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/03/2006 11:01:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Don, you said, I also do find it interesting and refreshing to have some interaction and fellowship with some of these more conservative evangelicals.

See, you are already beginning to "fellowship" with them . . .

1/04/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Fellowship, yes, but only on a personal level.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/04/2006 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

I am just giving you a hard time.

1/04/2006 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Joel Tetreau said...

Ryan and Don,

I really have appreciated the back and forth. By the way - you both have demonstrated the present tension we are feeling within fundamentalism. Don - as always you have done a great job of explaining the reasonableness of your hesitancy to allow former evangelicals into "your tent".

Ryan, you have done an outstanding job demonstrating that many of these guys may in fact be on a journey that may lead some of them "into our tent."

Don, the question is not "will we let them in the tent." The fact is this - some of us will let some of them in, once we are satisfied that they share enough of the Biblical "baseline" of what a fundamnentalist is. And you have done a great job on why you are hesitant about all of that.

The bigger question to me is how will the two groups contending for the direction of the movement (I call them group A [they will be less likely to allow a former evangelical into the tent] and group B [they will be more likely to allow a former evangelical into the tent] - how will the Don's and the Ryan's get along?

Will they get along?

Will this result in another internal split?

How would that split effect the movement?

Is that necesarily a bad thing?

My hope is this - that both groups will respect (even when they disagree with each other) without casting anathema's at each other. In other words my hope is that both groups can continue to co-exist with the realization that one group has a broder definition and the other group has a more narrow definition.

Don, I think your types may be tempted to pull the triger first against those of us who will be greeting an incoming "former evangelical." I hope I'm wrong.

Blessings!

Joel Tetreau - AZ

1/05/2006 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Joel,

thanks for stopping by. I just want to be clear that I would not necessarily lump myself into either group. In fact, I would probably line up closer to Don than, say, the so-called "YF's" (although Don's not a Calvinist, and I'm not sure what I think about that). My main purpose in writing this, and even my interaction with Don, is to try to make some observations on where some evangelicals are at, and, perhaps, more than anything, to demonstrate the complexity of the times.

Joel, have you listened to the audio yet?

1/05/2006 11:54:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Joel, let me add that I do find your questions about fundamentalists fellowshiping with fundamentalists ironic in light of what the topic of the 9marks interview is!

1/06/2006 12:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Ryan wrote:
"Don's not a Calvinist, and I'm not sure what I think about that."

You mean maybe, just maybe whether we believe in unconditional election or not has something to do with what we believe about the gospel? Perhaps even more than whether one uses contemporary music or believes in a pre-tribulational rapture? Impossible!

Seriously, great analysis of the conversation, Ryan.

1/06/2006 07:43:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Ben, I definitely think that "the doctrines of grace" (except for that 5th point) are more important than music or a pretrib rapture, but I do not want to negate the importance of those either. But I am sure you don't mean to say that.

I could fellowship with an Arminian (particularly one like Tozer), but it in great part depends on what kind of an Arminian they were and what the nature of the fellowship is.

1/06/2006 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Ryan,

You're reading me correctly. My point is that once you admit that perhaps doctrines of grace are issues that affect our levels of capacity for fellowship, then you have departed from the paradigm of "what are the doctrinal distinctions that fundamentalists have historically tolerated?" And that is a good thing.

Theology over movement.

By the way, I feel inadequate about having said your analysis was "great." It was actually "solid."

1/06/2006 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

No, Ben. You are obviously NOT a fundamentalist. Movement over theology, brother. Get it straight.

Yes, I am certainly SOLID. That's the way Jason Janz described my article when he asked to publish it on SI. It's nice to see that Unknowing, may it rest in peace, has had some lasting impact on the movement. After all the fun we had with the word "solid," I now cannot help but notice and smile when others use it. The other day I heard Dr. Bauder speaking, and he described something as "solid." I said to myself, "Dr Bauder just said that was 'solid.'"

1/06/2006 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

That must've been the moment when you knew that Phase 1 of the Unknowing Muppets' plan for world domination (Re-invent the Vocabulary) was complete. Now on to Phase 2 (Devolve, Diffuse, and Deceive).

1/06/2006 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

--Insert sinister laugh here--

1/06/2006 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Joel Tetreau said...

Ryan,

Thanks for your response - I have not listened to it yet - I was teaching all week and frankly just had time to quickly read and quickly comment - I will take the time to listen to the back and forth. I understood and share some of your reservations about what some in YF are about. Thanks again for your work here. I've stopped by here a few times to view your work. Ryan, I really appreciate your work - it is always reasoned, Biblical and encouraging - blessings on you!

JT

1/06/2006 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Thanks, Joel. Let me encourage you to listen to that particular audio and many of the others over at 9marks.org.

1/06/2006 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Joel,

I don't think it is a matter of 'letting them into the tent'... What tent??? Is there a tent??? If there is, it must have a sawdust floor, right?

My point is that I am dubious, especially about the Dever's, Mohler's et al. They are definitely separatists "lite". It would be interesting to ask Dever about the passage in his book I cited. Perhaps Jason can do it in round 2 of his interview series.

I think there may be some hope for younger conservative evangelicals to embrace a satisfactorily separatist position, and I would personally welcome into fellowship any who did (no matter what their age!!)

But the older one gets, the more vested you are in whatever movement you happen to be in. It is not just pension funds like it used to be in denominational battles, but there are many other ties that entangle a man. It is much harder to separate the longer you hang out with compromise.

Dever, for instance, would always have to be 'splainin pp42-43 of his book. That might get a little old, but his past associations clearly mark his philosophy, so we ought to be dubious about separatistic moves now.

Ben,

It does seem to me that a good bit of the movement shifting that is going on (or is contemplated) has to do with Calvinism. This is becoming the sina qua non for some. Thus, Mahaney, Packer, Dever, Mohler, MacArthur, Piper, are all viewed somewhat fondly by the burgeoning Calvinist. Other issues become less important, perhaps, to some.

This is really a departure from fundamentalism, since fundamentalism did involve cooperation across theological lines. Orthodoxy was the issue, not systematics.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/07/2006 04:13:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Don, and here I thought that we were close to having you join our field of Tulips.

The point is that in some cases your nonCalvinism will limit my fellowship with you, just as my Calvinism will your fellowship with me. For instance, we would probably be unable to start a church together; you would not hire me as an assistant. There are other instances where it would come up, I am sure. But I don't even know what nonCalvinist you are, so I probably should keep my mouth shut.

1/07/2006 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Hi Ryan

Well... I like Hutson's title: "Why I disagree with all 5 points of Calvinism"... or something like that. I have no idea what he says in the book, but I like the title.

It is true that systematics will limit fellowship in some ways. But one of my objections to a lot of the saber rattling that is going on is that systematics seems to be the central issue for some, one for which they are willing to ignore serious separation problems. If a guy is a Calvinist, he can teach false doctrine about tongues, or get a pass to some extent even about ECT (Packer), and that's all OK, because he hasn't compromised 'the gospel' (i.e., The System).

I don't know what kind of non-Calvinist I am either. I disagree with a good bit of what Arminians say also, so perhaps I am just confused. But I do fellowship with Calvinists. I have a friend here who pastors a church across the water who is a Calvinist. We get together in a reading group where we read books together and then discuss them. We have a good time, and only rarely cross swords over systematics. We couldn't plant a church together, as you say, but we do promote the gospel together, fellowship together, pray together, seek each other's advice, and refer people to each other's churches.

This is where we should be. Crusadign for Christ, not for Calvin or Arminius, or whoever.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/07/2006 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

No Don. It's not about Calvinism or systematics. It's about theology. This statement from you illustrates my point:

"This is really a departure from fundamentalism, since fundamentalism did involve cooperation across theological lines. Orthodoxy was the issue, not systematics."

I'm just not concerned what historic fundamentalists separated over and whether I'm departing from their grid. Some historic fundamentalists maintained fellowship with Pentecostals. My guess is that those Pentecostals were less theologically sound than C.J. Mahaney. Other historic fundamentalists tolerated diverse views on the historicity of Genesis 1-11.

I am concerned that we draw our lines of fellowship in accord with the proximity of theological issues to the gospel. In my understanding of Scripture, an affirmation of some form of conditional election is more directly in opposition to the gospel than other issues that are far more important to many fundamentalists.

To choose our hierarchy of doctrine based on 100 years of the history of a movement rather than our exegetical conclusions is to put movement over theology. My convictions put (to the best of my ability and by the grace of God) theology over movement. I don't have it all figured out, to be sure, but I can't stop believing what I believe.

1/07/2006 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Don, the point is that some doctrines are more important than others, and I believe that the importance of the doctrine is determined by its relationship to the doctrine. All doctrines are, to a greater or lesser degree, related to the gospel. Which doctrines are more important than others, or more connected to the gospel, is an important question, but one of no little controversy. For example, I believe that the virgin birth, diety of Christ (and all Trinitarian teaching), and substitutionary atonement all receive their importance due to their relationship to the gospel. For someone to deny them means they are denying the gospel. I could list many others: inerrancy is very important, as is the future return of Christ. But this also means that some others are not as important, though still important. Things like baptism, church government, etc. The important thing to realize here is that in my making some doctrines more crucial I am negating the importance of other doctrines. I simply recognize that they can still be believers and hold these things with which I disagree. Moreover, in saying that the gospel is the touchstone for all of this, I am not saying that the gospel is Calvinism, though I believe that some forms of nonCalvinism do great damage to the gospel. One more point: anyone who really takes the gospel seriously will not be eager to fellowship with those who do not. So when Bill Bright goes and signs the ECT or Richard Mouw meets with the Mormons, I take the gospel too seriously to seek out opportunities to fellowship with him over the gospel. They have, in effect, damaged the thing which we most hold in common. They have shown little regard for the thing most important to me, (and the gospel, by the way, receives its importance not not as an end in itself, but as the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ; we prize the gospel because of its content--it is the message of the one we worship, Jesus Christ). Were someone to make a greatly slanderous remark about your wife, you would not invite him to your church to talk about marriage. This is why "secondary separation" (or whatever you want to call it) is so important.

I am not going to go on, though I am very tempted to. I have a great deal of schoolwork to accomplish today.

1/07/2006 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Hi guys.

I think I am saying what Ryan is saying, mostly, and I think Ben makes my point. See this comment:

In my understanding of Scripture, an affirmation of some form of conditional election is more directly in opposition to the gospel than other issues that are far more important to many fundamentalists.

Exactly.

So the issue is systematics, or at least, your version of it.

BTW, did you notice how subjective your comment sounds? "In my understanding ..."

Ryan said:
The important thing to realize here is that in my making some doctrines more crucial I am negating the importance of other doctrines. I simply recognize that they can still be believers and hold these things with which I disagree.

This is true. I agree completely. But I recall seeing some young Calvinist turks saying that if you don't agree with our system you are not a Christian.

I know you are not saying such things, and I am sure Ben is not saying such things. But I think you can see how offensive such a statement would be.

I am just saying that SOME are making Calvinism THE DOCTRINE, and are thus willing to cross lines that fundamentalism has heretofore been unwilling to cross. This is a great error in my opinion. (See, I'm subjective too! Who can escape it?)

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/07/2006 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

btw, this makes 31 comments... Ryan, now that Joel has quit, are you going to offer prizes if we hit 100? Maybe you could get Joel to guest write them for you...

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/07/2006 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Joel Tetreau said...

Don,

Sawdust not withstanding - There is a tent. We might not be to agree as to it's present dimension - but there is no question a tent.

I've appreciated your thoughts on this thread.

Ryan, thanks for letting me visit over here - I have not yet listend to the Dever stuff - I will.

Straight Ahead friends!

Joel

1/09/2006 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Joel Tetreau said...

Don,

One more point - what's up with the satire in relation to my writing ability. Why you turkey!

Frankly I think we could find more helium in your posts - You Canadian trouble-maker you! You know it's guys like you that made Tetreau's like us leave Canada in the first place!

So there!

Joel

(having fun Don!)

1/09/2006 05:05:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Don, you said, "I am just saying that SOME are making Calvinism THE DOCTRINE, and are thus willing to cross lines that fundamentalism has heretofore been unwilling to cross. This is a great error in my opinion."

Just realize here that although that may be true of some, realize that Ben does not seem to be making that argument. I said to him, "I definitely think that "the doctrines of grace" (except for that 5th point) are more important than music or a pretrib rapture, but I do not want to negate the importance of those either. But I am sure you don't mean to say that." Ben replied, You're reading me correctly.

Let me reiterate how imporant it is for us, in speaking of fellowship, to realize that there are manifold levels of fellowship: from going out to lunch with some conservative evangelical or Calvinist (like Don does) to starting a church together to joining a para-church organization or Fellowship or Association or what have you. The extent to which we engage in any of these "levels of fellowship" or whatever you want to call it will depend on many factors.

1/09/2006 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Joel,

Satire??? I missed it. What did I say?

As for:
You know it's guys like you that made Tetreau's like us leave Canada in the first place!

Ohhhhh... you're one of those, are you? I'm so sorry, I didn't know!

Actually, that was a rather sorry episode, but ancient history now.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/10/2006 12:59:00 AM  
Blogger Joel Tetreau said...

Blessings on you Don

We love our Canadian friends! Stay warm!

Joel

1/10/2006 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Don,

Maybe we have different understandings of systematics. When I think of unconditional election, I don't think of a systematized doctrine. I think of specific texts as they stand on their own within their immediate contexts.

I do not say that non-Calvinists are unbelievers. I agree completely with Ryan's solid analysis of levels of fellowship. I also agree with what I once heard Kevin Bauder say in a conversation about soteriology: "We are redeemed by our capacity for inconsistency." I think that's true of non-Calvinists, and I think it's also true of me. Every time I sin, I am essentially saying that I am god, not God. That is obviously idolatry, and it's inconsistent with the gospel. That doesn't make me an unbeliever. It just makes me inconsistent.

I will grant you that there is subjectivity in my stance. I think that has something to do with the historic doctrines of soul liberty or priesthood of the believer. I could be wrong. I'm an idiot on church history, but I am working on it. Despite the potential for subjectivity that enters in, I think the problems are greater for those who define levels of cooperation and separation based on historic fundamentalism. First, you're relying on 100 years of history. Second, you're relying on just one movement that was responding to a specific problem in a specific time. I do realize that much of our doctrinal formulations result from responding to specific errors, but I'm uncomfortable defining primary issues on just one response in one time. Third, as I've said before, whether this is a line fundamentalism has been willing to cross is a non-issue to me. Nothing personal, but I think your approach of defining doctrine based on a movement is more consistent with denominationalism and the new evangelical tendency to reduce doctrine to the least common denominator, regardless of whether one believes it is true.

1/10/2006 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Don said...

Hi Ben

Alas, the blog format does make discussion lose its steam over time. I have been busy the last couple of days and not had time to keep up with this.

As for understanding systematics differently, I suppose that is true. For example, I don't think unconditional election is established without systematic thought, but that is probably a topic for another day.

You also said:
Despite the potential for subjectivity that enters in, I think the problems are greater for those who define levels of cooperation and separation based on historic fundamentalism.

I think I agree with this, but you write as if I don't. To me, separation is simply an application of the direct passages like 2 Cor 6, etc, and the overarching doctrine of holiness in the Scriptures. Separation is a given, and in fact, a fundamental of the Christian faith, in my view. Even fairly soft evangelicals separate at some point, which establishes the essential nature of separation.

The differences about separation exist over application, not so much on interpretation.

I think that I have consistently argued against the idea of separation defined in terms of the positions of the applications of X, Y or "Zed" (a little Canajun lingo for you!!), way back in the "historic fundamentalist" era, but rather in terms of holiness and biblical obedience. Of course, I may have been inconsistent in stating this somewhere, who knows?

So I guess I am having a little trouble understanding how your last paragraph represents a reply to me. Are we talking about the same things?

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1/13/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan DeBarr said...

Ryan,

Evangelicals and Fundamentalists of your stripe think of Secondary Separation differently. When a Southern Baptist hears the term, he thinks "guilt by association." To us, that's really what Secondary Separation is. Al Mohler wouldn't let Billy Graham include Catholics in his Louisville crusade (we would call that primary separation). But Al Mohler won't separate from Billy Graham because of Billy's association with Catholics in other venues (we would call that secondary separation).

Conservative evangelical leaders do know what Secondary Separation is. Several of the professors at Southern are former Fundamentalists; at least one has an M.Div. from Bob Jones. Mark Dever's church has a good number of Bob Jones and Pensacola grads in its membership. I believe that Maheney's church also has quite a few former Fundies in it. For that matter, even Saddleback has at least two pastors with Fundamentalist upbringing currently serving on staff.

Don't hold your breath waiting on conservative evangelicals to embrace Secondary Separation. We know what it is and it does get mentioned in class at Southern Seminary. It's held up as an example of really bad exegesis and serves as fodder for jokes.

As far as Mohler's desire to see a return to "associationalism", he is talking about expelling people from local Baptist associations. I would not take that to mean he believes churches should leave troubled organizations. The conservative resurgence in the SBC was about kicking moderates out, but it was lead by people who refused to leave the Convention. I personally believe that Scripture teaches us to disfellowship those in gross unrepentent sin and those who teach heresy. I'm sure Mohler, Mahaney, Dever, etc., believe the same thing. What I don't believe is that we're commanded to leave a church where heresy is present (although that may be wise in certain situations). The command is to fight, not flee.

Don is correct when he says that Mohler & Co. are more interested in reforming evangelicalism than they are abandoning it. Mohler and Moore see the serious problems with New Evangelicalism, but they view Fundamentalism as the wrong answer to those problems. An entire issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was devoted to critiquing Carl Henry, yet the campus still hosts the Henry Institute. as well as the Billy Graham School of Evangelism.

1/15/2006 04:52:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Ryan, thank you for stopping by and your comments. Again, I did say that these men are not fundamentalists. I am not "holding my breath" waiting for anything. What you have shown me is that evangelicalism is as guilty at creating straw men as we are. In seminary, I was never presented a view of separation of "guilt by association." Instead, I was presented with a portrait of separation that happens over many differing circumstances and situations. I would certainly have problems with the way you describe Al Mohler's cooperation with Billy Graham, but that is because those who indifferent concerning the teachings most closely connected with the gospel should be shunned. My love for the gospel is such that I find it difficult to make a pretense of fellowship through external cooperation with someone who has treated the gospel in a degrading manner. The man who sits on the edge of the street defaming my mother will not be invited to speak at her birthday party. My union with others is based on our commonality over the gospel. I am not eager to answer hypotheticals about how this takes place. But I would encourage all Christian men, and teachers in particular, to consider how much they love the gospel; to love it even to the extent to which we will do away with the pretense of unity. As a man departs from the gospel, so wanes my union with him. We may or may not agree on these points, or even the way I choose to flesh them out. You can call it a doctrine based on "guilt by association." I choose to call it a doctrine based on the nature of spiritual union around the gospel.

You said, As far as Mohler's desire to see a return to "associationalism", he is talking about expelling people from local Baptist associations. I would not take that to mean he believes churches should leave troubled organizations. I understood him to be saying the same thing.

You also said, Don is correct when he says that Mohler & Co. are more interested in reforming evangelicalism than they are abandoning it. Mohler and Moore see the serious problems with New Evangelicalism, but they view Fundamentalism as the wrong answer to those problems. An entire issue of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology was devoted to critiquing Carl Henry, yet the campus still hosts the Henry Institute. as well as the Billy Graham School of Evangelism. I saw that issue of the SBJT, and even cited it in a recent paper. You are right, I am sure, about your assessment of the position of these men to the original New Evangelicalism (reformation, not abandonment), and I appreciate your adding this and your other comments to our conversation. I am merely encouraged to see them notice these problems. I am encouraged to see that fundamentalists are not the only ones who see the problems with it. I am sure (and did not doubt) that they are aware of the differences between the two sub-cultures/movements. Let me reiterate that these men are not fundamentalists, though the things they were saying (in a certain respect) sounded at certain points in this discussion like some of the fundamentalists with whom I am familiar. The point of my post was two fold: 1) that fundamentalists often mischaracterize these men, and what they call "Neo-evangelicalism" or "evangelicalism," and 2) that these men, at the same time, are not fundamentalists (I believe that some "young fundamentalists" err on this point).

1/15/2006 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan DeBarr said...

Ryan:

I agree with both of your last points.

I am, however, not quite sure that the evangelical view of secondary separation is that much of a straw man. I do realize it's a little more nuanced than "guilt by association." However, when I hear people demanding separation from Al Mohler because he worked with Billy Graham in a Crusade, I can't figure out how that isn't guilt by association. Not that Mohler doesn't have some guilt for working with Billy Graham, but that Graham's guilt (and the penalty of that guilt) rolls over onto Mohler. And some would say that anyone who attends Southern should also bear the penalty of Billy Graham's guilt.

But I'm not here to debate secondary separation with you. I think we're probably in close agreement. You're also right about evangelicals painting strawmen- but I don't think we paint as many. Perhaps only because we don't talk about Fundamentalists nearly as much as you guys talk about New Evangelicals.

1/19/2006 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Funny, Ryan.

1/19/2006 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

This is very late in the conversation, but I just got here, so please forgive me.

Don, I was surprised by your comment about the quote from Dever about the Catholic host. The book is clear that he was at a reception, not a church service, when the conversation broke out. Are you suggesting that Dever was compromising in some way to attend a reception that was put on by a Catholic? There is nothing in the section you cite, at least that I can see, that suggests this was a cooperative religious event. You misread the part about speaking--he said he had read a book that he was going to be giving a speech about, not that he was going to be speaking at the reception.

For the record, my bringing this up is not to defend Dever beyond the point at hand, namely that there is no contradiction between what he said in the interview and the anecdote in the book.

1/26/2006 08:32:00 AM  

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