Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Label of "Fundamentalism" Part 2 by Dan Davey

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.


rabbi-philosopher said...

Fundamentalist's "separation" is analogous to the "celibacy" of the Catholics. It is their unique distinctive and their poison.

I liked brother Davey's article until he criticizes John Piper over Gregory Boyd. He feels Piper must "separate" from any denomination that would have Gregory Boyd. But then he criticizes the cultural fundamentalists for petty separation politics.

"Separation" is the poison that fundamentalists have drunk time, after time, after time. But they lift up their vial of poison proudly; it is their distinctive.

(Now if J. Piper were to invite Greg Boyd to preach in his pulpit I would think there is something wrong. But in my own relatively conservative denomination there's lots of people who I think are wrong in parts of their theology but I'm not going to leave the denomination because of them!)

Oh, and obviously Satan's greatest triumph within the Catholic Church was to establish the "celibacy of the priesthood." It has cost them their soul but they hold on to their vial of poison with resolute hands.

Fundamentalists and Catholics; their distinctives have turned them inside out.

PT Barnum said...


You are certainly entitled to your opinion as we all have one. I stated very clearly in the introduction to these posts that we definitely would not agree with everything contained in this message.

Do you believe that the Scriptures teach separation from a brother in doctrinal error? Would you not have an issue with someone holding to a doctrine that you described as "scriptural heresy" or "a direct attack on the God of Scripture" in your denominational orbit? Is "Open Theism" such a minor issue that it has no bearing on fellowship? You have to remember that I come from Hylesland and his view of separation was messed up to say the least.

As far as the Catholics go I really do not see the connection--I am sure that it is just over my head.

rabbi-philosopher said...

Quoting brother Davey quoting Scripture "Now I urge you brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them."

So does "avoid them" require that J. Piper desert his denomination? Frankly, that seems like somewhat of a stretch of Scripture. For goodness sakes, don't invite him into your pulpit but do you have to quit your denomination and move across country?

The whole "separation" issue has always been, and will ALWAYS BE, hijacked by the hardcore, cultural fundamentalists until you need a scorecard to know with whom you can sup and with whom you must turn your back.

Like the Catholic "celibacy" issue; it cannot be controlled and it will always be abused.

(BTW, an interesting book by a catholic priest/psychologist from a couple of years ago gave his own statistics. 50 per cent of the priests he personally surveyed have not been sexually celebate. This guarantees they will live hypocritically and that will destroy their faith and their souls.)

Like brother Davey, the thoughtful fundamentalists think the separation issue can be controlled and applied sanely. The last 50 years shows they are wrong. As long as separation is a fundamental distinctive it will chronically be misapplied, abused, misused and be the real source of disunity and schism.

Radicals will always hijack the "separation" issue. To believe otherwise is to live in a fantasy.

Personally I believe how fundamentalist practice separation is far removed from what the Apostle Paul envisioned. But that's my opinion -- for what it's worth.

jb (not a rabbi in the Jewish sense).

Fundamentally Reformed said...

As a former "cultural fundamentalist" (who thought of himself as more of a "historic fundamentalist" at the time) I was very interested in Davey's lecture. [Thanks Matt and Josh for posting it!] For what it's worth, here are my thoughts concerning it.

First, I am impressed that he used three general categories, rather than two. He separated between the Billy Grahams and the John MacArthurs within Evangelicalism. Some would rather conveniently prefer to just lump them all in together and mark poison on the pot.

Second, like the "rabbi-philosopher" I was disappointed by Davey's dismissal of Piper. I think "rabbi" made a good point when he stressed that "avoid" does not necessarily mean "leave a denomination that they are in". Several things frustrate me about the "historic fundamentalist (HF)"'s treatment of conservative evangelicals.

First and foremost, they conclude that if anyone does not apply the doctrine of separation exactly like they (HF's) do such a person or group is not separating at all and hence does not believe in separation. Thus this person or group becomes worthy of separation since they are obviously disobedient. In fact, however, the person or group is only disobedient to the fundamentalist's application of separation, not the principle of separation itself.

Second, they refuse to be as polite to others as they are to anyone in their own movement. What I am getting at here is that it took almost 40 years for HFs to leave some of their denominations completely (for example the history of the FBF). It took years before those trying to save the Southern or Northern Baptist Conventions finally left. For some of the HFs it was against their will that they finally decided to leave. Now the HFs of today expect Piper to leave the BGC at the drop of a hat! Talk about inconsistency.

Third, they fail to consider the nature of a Baptist denomination. Baptists by their very nature are independent and autonomous and this is respected in most of their denominations. On the one hand, independent Baptist fundamentalists criticize Southern Baptists, for instance, for being a convention or a denomination. Then on the other hand they criticize the convention when it does not immediately step in and intervene in the autonomous affairs of a local congregation. The truth is that almost all Baptist denominations are not much different from the independent Baptist fellowships. They do not have a lot of authority by themselves: they require the authority of other churches. To do any disciplinary action, it takes a long process and the cooperation of other autonomous churches.

Before moving on, I should point out that Piper (I have been going to his church for almost a year and a half now, by the way) has been influential in trying to get the Baptist General Conference to take a position on Open Theism. It has not happened yet. Clearly not every BGC church is open theist. Piper reasons that he can continue to have an influence for good in the BGC by remaining in it. And Bethlehem Baptist Church retains autonomy, so he is not losing too much by staying. This is not to say that at some point in the future that Piper and the BBC elders will determine it is best for the church to just leave the BGC. But for now, they autonomously choose to remain.

Third, I am glad he does stress that "cultural fundamentalists" (CFs) are a problem and schism to the HFs (and the church at large). Yet I wonder if the HFs and CFs are not closer together organically then HFs might be willing to admit. Now I respect the HFs, and I am happy for any of the Fs who are genuinely serving God and trying to please Him according to their conscience (wrong though some of them may be). But I think that the CFs come from the same root as the HFs. Yes, some of the positions of the CFs are culturally based, but then so are some of the positions of some HFs (think music). Further, both groups practice secondary separation often to the nth degree. And further, as Davey's speech admits, the HFs practically conclude that anyone not organically connected to their movement is not really a fundamentalist and does not really do battle royal for the fundamentals. CFs share this same movement-oriented, us vs. them mentality.

To conclude, I hope that Davey and other voices like his do prompt the HFs to clearly separate from the CFs. But I hope that they go one step further, that they take pains to go out of their way to say that people outside of their movement are faithful to the Scriptural commands concerning separation. In other words, that they refuse to act and operate as if they are the only ones who practice separation, and that if you really did practice separation you would run from conservative evangelicalism into historic fundamentalism's open arms. They should own up to the fact that their main difference is in application of separation. And they should welcome and affirm those without their group as Bible lovers too. Then, perhaps, HFs might be able to truly distance themselves from their CF brethren. And they may be listened to and respected. After all, when the HFs go out of their way to cast stones at any and EVERY one outside of their group, how can you blame outsiders if they choose to ignore such a group?

Ultimately faithfulness to the truth is more important than influence, I know. But they need to be honest by admitting that HFs do not have a corner on the truth.

Joshua R said...

I have enjoyed reading the commentary here so far. Thanks, fellas.

Bob, regarding the CFs and HFs---having been involved in both in recent years, I am of the opinion that they are indeed light years apart. I think that one of the first glaring differences that I can think of is that most HFs are committed to exegetical preaching of the Word, while the CFs (Hammond,IN, Longview,TX, etc.) basically despise this kind of preaching and thrive solely upon topical and pep rally-styled "preaching". Just a thought. I will try to add to this later.

Mike Y said...


I'm thankful for the 2nd half of the article. I'm in TX currently, and without my easy Internet access.

Anyway, I don't think Davey's push for separation necessitates rejection of one's denomination. In some cases, that may be exactly what's called for. In his example, references Spurgeon and the Baptist Union. You recall what happened there, right? Did Spurgeon stop being a Baptist? Nope. But he did conclude that he and the other Baptist churches around him had only 1% common doctrine. So, he pulled out of the union he spent much of his life trying to create.

It is my belief and position that Spurgeon was spot on in his disassociation.

This form of separation is distictly different than what we see amongst Cultural Fundys. They separate, not over doctrine, but over preferences. In fact, one of the things we often argue on this and similar Blogsites is their violation of scripture and clear doctrine to continue their cause. And they refuse to be rebuked by the word of God.

Now, there are more than a few folks like us who have pulled out of this movement. This, in itself, is a form of separation. And I think it's a good thing. I can't comment too much on the Piper/Boyd issue as I have never listened to or followed either of these men.

Where I think Davey is possibly disillusioned is in his rally cry to hold on to Historical Fundamentalism. I'm under the impression that no matter how well you define it, it's going to subjectively be held to by its proponents. Each will be convinced he's right and the other guy is wrong.

Instead, I'd simply prefer the emphasis on the fundamentals and a continuing drive towards peer review. By peer, I mean all within Conservative Evangelicalism, whether Baptist or other.

We need to get back to clearly stating our own positions on particular doctines and not merely quoting and relying on other men to speak on our behalf.

Don't get me wrong, there is much that John MacArthur has written, which has been a help to me. And, I have no problem recommending some of his material or even his seminary. But at the end of the day, if we were to dig deeply, he'd have issues with me and I with him. Again, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing.

Should we mark them who cause division? You bet! And should we note heresy? Absolutely! And should we remain separated from those who are doctrinally different from us, I believe it's healthy.

But at the end of the day, while I remain very separated from certain groups, I do distinguish between who I believe is Christian and who I believe isn't. I regard MacArthur as a tremendous Christian and whose work is helpful to the cause of Christ. And as such, I regard him as my brother and will love as such.

However, I do not observe any marks of grace in certain other men within Cultural Fundamentalism and therefore regard many as non-Christians and therefore not as my brother in Christ. While I do treat them differently, it's not with hatred either.

Christ mandated we not only love our neighbors, but our brothers and our enemies too. While scriptures are clear that God hates some men, we are not afforded the same luxury. We aren't to hate. We're to mark. We're to separate. And we're to remain focused on doctrine.

I think this is another reason I like my new church. They are known for their focus on doctrine. Sure the pastor may note something to watch out for. But it's quick and he doesn't dwell. It's merely a heads up.

Anyway, thanks for the post and I did really enjoy reading it. I don't know Davey at all, but he sounds like a good man and one, whom I'd like to know personally.


Joey said...

I'm in agreement with those disappointed in your dismissal of Piper. I certainly don't agree with him on everything, but I do agree with him enough that I went to his church for three years in college.

He very nearly left his denomination specifically because of Boyd's open theism. He didn't because, as Fundamentally Reformed pointed out, Baptists are by nature autonomous, allowing for each church to establish its own principles. If Piper were to leave because of Boyd - which I think he has a legitimate reason to - it would also send a message that denominations should be more hierarchical.

Additionally, it's dangerous to look at Spurgeon and say that if he did it, it must be right. I love Spurgeon; I have a ton of respect for Spurgeon. However, Spurgeon was also just a man with faults. I think it's important that we don't attempt to emulate him, but rather emulate Christ as we learn from men like Spurgeon.

PT Barnum said...


You are exactly correct in your statement about following Christ and not any man--even a good man like Spurgeon. I think that I personally would have a hard time being associated in any way with a church or pastor that I felt was heretical. That being said, I appreciate the fact that Pastor Piper is not going to rush out and abandon his denominational group just because other people think that he should. Certainly this would be a different story if Piper was having Boyd in to speak at his church--I would seriously doubt that this would ever happen.

Thanks for your thoughts and come and see us again here at the "Greatest Show On Earth!"


Bob Bixby said...

I take exception to Dan Davey's paper and analyze it in this paper, Unity vs. Unanimity. On etymological and historical grounds, I think it is a stretch to categorize men like John MacArthur as anything other than fundamentalist.

Anonymous said...

How can Davey be a fundamentalist of any sort and embrace perversions like the NIV? Checkout the small tip of the iceberg with one of many glaring problems with the NIV below and see for yourself. The NIV attacks all kinds of doctrine.Ask why he allows the use of it in his church services?

They Can’t Both Be Right

It is the purpose of this section to show that the difference between the Authorized King James Bible (KJB) and the NIV are irreconcilable. That is, they both can’t be right. For example, In Isaiah 9:3, the KJB says:

Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy ...

The NIV says:

You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy

You will notice that the main difference, apart from the rewording of the text, is that the KJB has the word not and the NIV doesn’t. So, the KJB says that God has not increased their joy. The NIV says that God has increased their joy.

You might find yourself saying, "Is it really that big of a difference? After all, we are only talking about one word here." I chose this verse to establish a point: They (the KJB and NIV) say the exact opposite. If one is right, then the other one is wrong. We can’t possibly say that they are both correct. Did God increase their joy or not? Which words did God give to the prophet Isaiah? (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21)