Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Label of "Fundamentalism" Part 1 by Dan Davey

In July of 2004 I heard Dr. Davey deliver this message concerning what he believed to be the current condition of Fundamentalism. He communicated the lecture with passion and an obvious burden for a return to historic Fundamentalism. No doubt there will be some things here that we all will not agree on, but I believe that this is a great conversation starter in regards to true Fundamentalism. Feel free to share your concerns and/or observations. BTW, I sent Dr. Davey an email asking for his permission to post this and he responded within 24 hours with a very gracious and humble spirit--much more than I can say for some others.

We will post this in two installments since it is rather lengthy--please do not let that keep you from reading it as I believe it is worth your careful consideration. You can check out Colonial Baptist Church and Central Baptist Theological Seminary for some more background on the ministry that the LORD has entrusted to Dr. Davey.

Phineas Taylor Barnum

I, too was present when this lecture was given in Indianapolis. It was and still is like a refreshing breath of spring to see articulated what I have now come to realize regarding "hysteric fundamentalism". For me personally, this was one of those conferences and lectures that will most likely never be forgotten, which is more than I can say for the many Hammond Pastors' Schools that I attended as a youth.

Would to God that many would read this and be willing by God's grace to reconsider what they have always assumed to be true fundamentalism and the Biblical philosophy of ministry.

Joshua Richards

The Label of "Fundamentalism"”
Dr. Daniel K. Davey
Presented: Young Fundamentalists Conference, July 2004
Indianapolis, Indiana

I have been assigned several questions that relate to the use or nonuse of the label "fundamentalism." There seems to be swirling around in our orbit a surface discussion of how we should or should not label ourselves; however, the deeper issue remains dormant. The real discussion is not the label as much as it is the definition of that label. Who we are as fundamentalists is not determined by how we verbally cloak ourselves, but how we publicly and privately exercise our biblical convictions. Labels are inescapable--—whether in a grocery store or in a theological discussion--—but the authentic matter is how we understand our history, and how we define and implement our biblical persuasion.

I have been at Colonial Baptist Church for the past 22 years, and very early in my ministry I came to the realization that people hold labels and titles without understanding a proper definition of that label or title. In effect, they may call themselves a fundamentalist, but they are unable to articulate what that means to their neighbors and friends, and more importantly, they do not seem to fully comprehend the core beliefs of their assumed title. This has been heightened for me since I assumed the Presidency of CBTS of Virginia Beach. For the past eight years I have dealt with Christian college graduates preparing for formal ministry of the Gospel who, like many in our orbit, seem unable to accurately identify the historic movement to which they ascribe. This has been a great shock, and I am saddened by what I witness.

Since I live in a town that houses the world's largest naval base, our church--—like our town--—must deal with the constant flow of military personal being moved into or out of our city. Many folks who move in are looking for a local church that has certain comfort markers. They want a church to be independent, fundamental, Baptist, pre-millennial, and, of course, have the red AWANA letters somewhere on its literature. Though many are looking for a church which embraces these necessities, few will agree on how these theological and historic terms are to be circumscribed. For some, a church that is "“independent"” means that there are to be no ties of any kind to any other local church, group of churches, or church fellowships (incredibly, some churches refuse to even accept another church'’s baptism); however, for others, they seem to understand the term "“independent"” in light of the term "“autonomous." So, as long as a church retains its self-government it is independent. Some arrive at our church with a view that all Baptists are like their former church. This means that the KJV of the Bible will be in constant use and that all dynamic equivalent translations or, for some, all other formal equivalent translations, are not the Word of God. Also, some will come with the idea that an independent Baptist church will always sing from the same hymnbook, and that hymnbook--—be it green, blue, or red on its cover (a matter of long debate and church vote)--—will be titled, Great Hymns of the Faith. Any thought that another hymnbook would be used, or that a hymn or chorus might be projected on a screen from a powerpoint presentation is a sure sign that this church is succumbing to neo-evangelicalism--—whatever and however they see fit to define that term. Happily, others in the church, hold an entirely different view of these subjects.

Again, some view their theology, and especially their eschatology through the lens of their former Baptist church. Some, however, view the word "“eschatology"” much like the German term angst--—in both cases it is a foreign term. In short, what is not related directly to them is put into the box marked "“inconsequential."” Others, however, view theology as the rudder which guides the ship, and are vitally interested in the doctrinal stance of the church, and if the church'’s viewpoint is fully adopted by the pastor.

Finally, we come to the term "“fundamental."” Is this not why we are all here at this conference? Again, though this term is necessary on the sign of the church and somewhere on its letterhead for one to feel comfortable in his pew, a teaching, practice, or belief system from the past may cause an emotional cloud to pass over their hearts, and doubt begins its negative control when things are done differently in the "“new church."” Yet, what is often the case is one'’s belief system about the historicity or core values of fundamentalism is nothing but a sham, or a mere shell of the term'’s depth and embodiment. Sadly, their view has eroded fundamentalism from its oak-like reality into a fragile flower which is scarcely supported by the roots of historic and exegetical truth.

Now, having set the field in which I view with incredible sadness at the historic ignorance that is displayed by us who have such a high regard for the name, I must say that this question is not to be merely waged by academicians who write eloquently, but pastor none. The battle is to be fought one new member at a time in our local churches which are committed to orthodox, historic truth, and can truly say with Jude, "“I earnestly contend for the faith"--—and I emphasize the necessity of including the last prepositional phrase, "“for the faith."”

So, let me define for you my redactionist understanding of the Christian world in which we live. This is somewhat guided by the fallible "“lamp of experience"” a phrase which Patrick Henry made famous in his "“Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death"” speech. Yet, my lamp has been lit by biblical truth and its light illuminates certain facts of history--—so I want to "“stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance."” Again, I preface my words from the same speech of Patrick Henry I referred to before. As Henry rose to speak before the Virginia Convention of Delegates on March 28, 1775 he began with these words:
"Mr. President: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism and well abilities of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope that it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen, if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony."
In like manner, I esteem others in our movement to be good men with unsullied motives, and I have malice toward none, so I may speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. Indeed, this is no time for ceremony.

I see our current evangelical world in three manageable and distinct categories. These categories are as follows: The broad or open evangelical, the conservative evangelical, and the Fundamentalist. The fundamentalist category actually is made-up of two sub-groups: cultural fundamentalists and historic fundamentalists.

The open evangelical category is made up of men who affirm their personal salvation in Jesus Christ as outlined in Romans 1:16-17, but refuse to go further, especially when it relates to others--—both pagans and Christian brothers. It includes the Clark Pinnocks who depending on the day has a new view, the John Sanders and the Greg Boyds with their open theism heresy, the Christianity Today circle which cannot determine if ordained women in the pulpit are acceptable or not, or if Seventh Day Adventism fits their biblical framework or not, and finally the Willow-Creek gang which sees no such thing as cultural worldliness--—publicly embracing movies, and opening their churches to unprincipled theologies of grace. These broad evangelicals distinctly match their label. They revel in their expansive, non-confrontational, soft and pliable theological stance. Many wonder how their light is actually guided, or if it is really lit at all.
Stay tuned and we will post the remainder of the message in the next couple of days--comments or thoughts anyone?


Mike Y said...


I'm looking forward to the 2nd half. You cut this one off just as it was getting to the god part. I think you've been watching too much TV and are practicing the season cliff-hanger technique :-)

I really am looking forward to the rest.

Take care,


PT Barnum said...


Didn't mean to leave you hanging off the side of a cliff waiting for the rest of the story! I did not want to post the entire thing because it is rather lengthy. We will post the rest soon--we cannot say what day because it is top secret! Just kidding, we will probably have it up on Monday--I am about to go under and have my wisdom teeth yanked today--I will be down for most of the weekend. Take care and check out the bearded lady and take an elephant ride before you leave the circus!


Mike Y said...

Ouch! Actually, when I had mine removed, there really wasn't any pain. I was awake the whole time. Fortunately, I had folks bringing me Slurpees to help keep the soreness down.

Take care and don't worry about the 2nd half. Get feeling well again!


BeckyJoie said...

Good post. I enjoyed the depth of it.

Mike Hess said...

What a nice breath of fresh air. He presented this with a good amoung of wisdom and clarity along with a strong historical analysis as well. Thanks for the post guys!