Here is the second part of the post we made a couple days ago--a message delivered by Dr. Dan Davey who is pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. If you have not had a chance to read Part 1 I would encourage you to read it before jumping into the second half. I trust that this will be a catalyst for some good discussions on fundamentalism.
The Label of "Fundamentalism" Part 2 by Dr. Dan Davey
The second category is made-up of conservative evangelicals. These are well-written men who take a strong stand on certain--and I underscore "certain"--cultural and theological issues. They are well-respected men and speak with an air of authority. This group includes such men as John MacArthur, John Piper, Philip Graham Ryken, R. Kent Hughes, D. A. Carson, and a few in the conservative movement of the Southern Baptist Denomination. These men speak with one accord on the integrity of Scripture and the necessity of this written truth being foundational in the church today. They are decrying the culturally-relevant church as the modern-day Laodicean church, and are calling all evangelicals back to the Word. However, this group--as powerful as it is--finds itself with major flaws, of which one of their own, David Wells, has carefully crafted in an extensive and well-written expose entitled No Place for Truth, subtitled, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? Their major problem is actually a crisis of implementation--the effecting of boundaries, or better termed, ecclesiastical separation. For example, John Piper takes a proper and strong stand against "open theism." He forcefully takes on Greg Boyd, a fellow pastor just a few miles away from his church in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Though Piper says Boyd's view is scriptural heresy and a direct attack on the God of Scripture, he stays in the same Baptist denomination with Greg Boyd who openly espouses Piper's theological aggravation. Piper is to be commended for his public debate and well-written position, but his lack of Spurgeonic conviction allows him to remain in a denomination that, in his words, holds a view that is a direct attack on the God of Scripture. This category of evangelicalism does not seem willing to follow the apostle Paul's directive which concludes his most formidable statement on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when he plainly writes, "Now I urge you brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them." Therefore, the net result is that this category has some excellent proponents who write eloquently on certain subjects, but confuse an innumerable host of followers because their written word is not precisely illustrated in their daily word. In sum, the disciples of their ministries and works have not been able to clearly mark the difference between anaginosis and epiginosis.
The final category relates to our question today, and is the category in which most of us in this auditorium find ourselves. As a formal term, "Fundamentalist" was first put into literary usage on July 1, 1920--exactly 84 years ago this month. Curtis Lee Laws wrote in the Watchman-Examiner:
"We here and now move that a new word be adopted to describe the men
among us who insist that the landmarks shall not be removed... We suggest that those who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal for the fundamentals shall be called 'Fundamentalists'."
Laws' definition has marked our movement by three distinct pillars: First, fundamentalists hold to the integrity of Scripture. Second, they will do battle royal over these biblical truths. Silence is not an alternative. Interestingly, the conservative evangelical group finds great commonality with fundamentalism on these first two pillars. By way of illustration, I would submit to you John MacArthur's article, "What are the fundamentals of Christianity", in his 35th anniversary anthology entitled, Truth Matters. Clearly, in this article he embraces these two historic pillars.
The third pillar is actually the inevitable outgrowth of Laws' penmanship. Those in the major denominations who "did battle royal" for the truth in the first half of the 1900s, eventually were forced to embrace the New Testament doctrine of separation. After the Bible Conferences were over, and the denominational floors sat silent from debate, and small church prayer meetings asking for God's wisdom were concluded, many denominational fundamentalist men did what only what was left for them to do--much like Spurgeon did before them with his beloved Baptist Union--and that was to separate from those who practice doctrinal inclusivism. If heresy was to be tolerated by their denomination, then, with tears and sackcloth, they slowly but methodically left their beloved denominations, colleges, seminaries, in some cases, life-long friends, and most excruciatingly, their pulpits.
Now, as I fast forward the fundamentalist movement to the present day we find our beloved movement facing two clear issues--one of international concern and the other more germane to our conference. Internationally, the term "fundamentalist" has militant, cultural overtones. Often, missionaries prefer to delete this term from their vocabulary since the nationals with which they work do not have the mental strength to understand the difference between a "theological fundamentalist" and a "Moslem fundamentalist." In such cases, we must allow our missionaries the freedom to use or strike this term from their vocabulary depending on their cultural judgment. Such an international challenge may cause us pause in American terminology, but not abandonment--at least as of today.
However, the other issue facing our beloved movement and more relevant to our current discussion, is the polarization of American fundamentalism into two distinct factions. This divide has rocked fundamentalism to its core so that now some are asking if we should throw off the old label and find a new one--as if a new garment will somehow heal our festering sores. I contend that just as a bandage will not heal a physical wound, so a fresh garment (i.e. a new label) will not heal the deep lesions of fundamentalism. I humbly, but strongly submit to this body of fundamentalists not to cast off our identifying historic label--at least not now. What is needed is to clearly dissect our current problem in fundamentalism, and, in Pauline metaphorical terminology, "cast out the bondwoman." In simple terms, I offer this short analysis.
Fundamentalism is viewed today through the eyes of not just the younger generation, but many in the evangelical movement, as a group of small thinkers, loud talkers, and silly teachers. Yet, what they really see is not, I repeat, not, those who identify themselves as "historic fundamentalists" but a loud, nt, vocal group of "cultural fundamentalists." This narrow subset of fundamentalists equates any change or moderation from the past as synonymous with spiritual compromise and worldliness. They are suspicious of anyone in their movement who reads from a different English translation, sings from a different hymnbook, embraces a different methodological principle for church visitation or church worship, or reaches out to someone of a different ethnicity. They are quick to denounce, and they emphasize a militant separation from those who do not see eye-to-eye with them on the external issues of culture. These have little regard for the significance of Spirit baptism--which is the judicious placement of all believers into the Body of Christ--and all its attendant blessings; rather, they quickly write off good brothers without personal investigation, personal contact, and personal prayer. In short, cultural fundamentalists treat anyone who does not agree with them on their cultural issues as an enemy of the faith. Therefore, they may be found immersed in their own form of Galatianism, or pure legalism; hence, they are identified by what they abrasively emphasize. Their self-created brand of fundamentalism is less than true to their historic roots, and they operate in an exegetical vacuum. They talk of Scripture, but they most often speak around the text or above the text, and not the full and accurate exposition of the text in its context. These non-exegetical, issue-orientated men have boldly, but wrongly hijacked our beloved term. They speak vociferously, but they do not speak for us.
Historic fundamentalism, on the other hand, functions as did their historic ancestors. Time will not allow me to identify all that this movement has done and is now doing, but it is my prayer that this conference will clearly identify who we are, and deal fully and accurately with the text of Scripture and the history of our movement so that like the men of Issachar, "we will have an understanding of our times." Yet, I cannot conclude without giving you seven words that have marked historic fundamentalism and will I pray continue to do so. These words are Christ, Scripture, church, grace, holiness, separation, and love. When these words are fully understood in their biblical framework and their historic application within our movement, one can easily distinguish between cultural fundamentalists and the historic fundamentalist. Simply put, one is marked by their dogmatic discussion of issues and their insistence that all true fundamentalists accept their position, while the other is marked by their insistence upon the exposition of Scripture and how it properly applies within its context to the full Body of Christ.
The younger generation of historic fundamentalists eagerly awaits our immediate action, and properly demands from us a unified, articulate voice--in both written and oral forms. Therefore, we must not abandon either our rich history nor our full label. In contrast with the past few decades, let us properly and resoundingly defend and promote historic fundamentalism with one heart and one voice. We stand at an incredible cross-roads within our movement, and we cannot pretend that silence will erase our problems. In addition, we must not allow our movement to be hustled by weak-thinking culturalists. Let us resolve here and now to stand together--shoulder-to-shoulder, church-to-church, ministry-to-ministry--on the theological issues of biblical truth. Make no mistake, neither open or conservative evangelicals properly understand us, and I strongly submit to you that cultural fundamentalists are in the same unlettered--or more directly--ignorant position. Surely, we fundamentalists will see cultural accessories in different lights--let's accept this about one another, and move on. These cultural issues do not divide us nor define us--either in history past or history present. Like our initiating forefathers, Jesus Christ, Holy Scripture, and pure theology inseparably bind us together.
I beg you, as a body of thinking fundamentalists, let us capture and master this opportunity history has handed to us. We must not fail, indeed, if I speak the truth and by the grace of Jesus Christ, we will not fail. May God help and empower us--as a Body of historic fundamentalists--to fully flesh-out Romans 15:5-6, which says, "Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Jesus Christ, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Amen.