04 December 2007

Fire!

by Dan Phillips

Our blog-title surely must raise some eyebrows, particularly among those who don't notice the Scriptural basis in Jeremiah 23:29 ("Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?"). I suppose we might have called it "Hammermaniacs." In fact, on second thought, maybe that would have been a better.... Oh, wait, no: people would have thought of the wrong Hammer.

But I digress.

Each of us in the Pyro Triumvirate of Terror has lamented the pathetic state of "evangelicalism," and I think the three of us agree that the term has become almost useless, nearly as bad as "family values."

But now I have begun to wonder whether a little distinguishing phrase could redeem the venerable old label.

Perhaps it would help if we distinguished two kinds of evangelicals:
  1. "Fire-in-the-belly evangelicals"
  2. "Fire-sale evangelicals."
To elucidate:

Fire-in-the-belly evangelicals
This term would describe those gripped with the Biblical vision of God's holiness and man's sinfulness, humbled by their own depravity to the point where inerrancy is not an inconvenient doctrine but God's indispensable lifeline, awed by the atonement of Christ to the extent that its doctrines are neither periphera nor adiaphora, but life itself.

Fire-in-the-belly evangelicals don't sign confessions with an arched brow, a smug smile, and crossed fingers. They never condescendingly view the exercise as a silly formality that they'll loftily condescend to endure, in order to keep their tenure, or their membership, or their association. No; in fact, you couldn't physically stop them from confessing their faith, because the Object of their confession is everything to them. They take to heart the writer to the Hebrews' exhortation, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering," for the very reason that the author himself provides: "for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23). They see clearly that an abandonment of the confession, or even a wavering or tentative confession itself, necessarily impugns the very nature and person of God.

These are the folks who don't view Jude's overriding concern ("I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints," Jude 3b) as an antiquarian reflection of a bygone era. It isn't that they love to fight. Like Jude, they are also "very eager to write ...about our common salvation" (Jude 3a). But, also like Jude, they find it necessary to take up arms for the saving and sanctifying truth of God, when that truth is under siege from without, or from within.

And so, like Paul, when they view a landscape laden down with false doctrines and false gods (κατείδωλον [kateidōlon], Acts 17:16), they don't break out their cameras to take pictures of the lovely statuary, and start taking notes for cozy, adoring little travelogues on multiculturalism and the many paths different people take "to God." They don't take heretical blasphemy and "round it up" to the nearest orthodox position. Their spirits don't soar at the thought of how admired they will be, how grand and broad-minded their "generous orthodoxy" will appear to the world, what delightful niche they can carve out for themselves as "a different sort of evangelical."

No, again like Paul, their spirits are provoked within them (sharply and painfully so; incensed; παρωξύνετο [parōxuneto]), and they engage the opponent by proclaiming the truth (17:16ff.). They'll do this even if it gets them called to an inquisition (vv. 19ff.), even if it gets them mocked at (17:32a), or driven out of town (17:10, 14), or even beaten almost to death (14:19) and imprisoned (16:19ff.). When this happens, they do not regroup and decide to tone down or moderate their message; they rejoice and praise God for the privilege of suffering for the truth (16:25).

Can anyone imagine a fire-sale evangelical enduring such treatment?

Not once we know what they are. And so now we turn a sad eye to...

Fire-sale evangelicals
These are "everything-must-go" evangelicals, who will sell out on the cheap. Nothing is too precious to retain, everything is on the auction block, for a pittance. Perhaps this (h-t Justin Taylor) provides an example?

It's hard to imagine that these folks could happily echo Jeremiah's exclamation about the nature of God's Word. Their more honest version might be, "Is not my word like Jello, declares the LORD, and like a comfy chair that lulls the world's paramours to sleep?" They've certainly forgotten the Lord's words, "For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15); to say nothing of His step-brother's hammer-blow:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
I find it impossible to envision Fire-sale evangelicals being able, in good conscience, to say, "My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law" (Psalm 119:136). What must they think, when they read "Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law" (v. 53), or "I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands" (v. 158)? It appears that these elite and refined souls are strangers to such passions.

How do they regard the wise man's words, "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them" (Proverbs 28:4)?

They make it their practice to do the very opposite!

How do fire-sale evangelicals respond when someone they regard as part of their guild commits what their elders-and-betters would have regarded as apostasy, or cozily entertains what would have seen as compromise at best or heresy at worst? Do they weep, do they strive, do they show indignation and repugnance for the defection? Or do they not rather offer warm collegial tea-room praise and support — while directing rivers of fiery wrath on anyone who would dare to take the traitors to task?

We know the answer to that last question, don't we? To fire-sale evangelicals, those who advocate (or model) defection from evangelicalism's central, Biblical, distinguishing doctrines are dearly-beloved and highly-regarded brothers and sisters — colleagues! — to be appreciated, lionized, and protected. But, by contrast, anyone who brings Biblical discernment and reproof to bear is a basher, a hater, an attacker; he is divisive, and has committed the Unpardonable Sin of "poor tone."

Contempt for God's truth, we observe, is forgivable. Contempt for those who display such contempt? Not so much.

"Ah, now," we hear, "we mustn't judge." And you know, on one level, I'm actually okay with that. Certainly none of us is qualified to invent truth, and then judge others by truths thus invented.

But is it okay for God to judge? Is that permissible? See, because I think He has judged. I think He has given us a preview of how He will find, in His court. Consider:
"...those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed" (1 Samuel 2:30b)

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16 CSB)

"How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us'? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. 9 The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them? 10 Therefore I will give their wives to others and their fields to conquerors, because from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. 11 They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace. 12 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the LORD" (Jeremiah 8:8-12)

"...the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction" (Malachi 2:7-9)
Knowing His judgment, may we embrace, and affirm, and echo, and apply it? Is that permissible today?

"Permissible"? Dare we do otherwise?

Dan Phillips's signature


70 comments:

Mike Riccardi said...

I feel privileged to be the first to sound a ringing Amen in response to this. It's so refreshing to read something like this, Dan. It's like a shower that washes off the postmodern muck that, being in the world (albeit not of the world), we have swim in and wade through every day. Praise God for His Truth, and for the gifts of pastors and teachers that He's given unto men!

And that last point is really outstanding. Those who like to say that we can't judge anything blatantly disregard that we don't claim to judge anything, but that God has judged everything, and has said clearly in His Word how things are and aren't. When someone sympathetic to universalism (Joel Osteen, Doug Pagitt, or Rob Bell for example) is asked if non-Christians are saved from the wrath of God in hell without knowing Jesus, they say something like, "Well, I'm gonna let God decide that one." But it's like... "Hey! God has already decided! And He even told us about it!" Why would God decisively declare something, and then the possibility open that He might not do what He's decisively declared that He will do? Doesn't that make Him dishonest, and therefore not God?

There's my little rant. Thanks again, Dan.

SolaMeanie said...

My! I wouldn't add anything to that even if I could. You have also graduated from the frozen meat chub to the frozen Rock Cornish game hen launched by catapult.

Now that I think about it, I wonder if the title is right for the second category. Perhaps "Fire-destined 'evangelicals?'" And I don't mean that in the Arminian sense, but rather so-called evangelicals who were never saved in the first place.

DJP said...

Mike — ah, yes. You speak of The "It's not for me to say" dodge.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Amen to Dan Phillips! Excellent, superb, great analysis! Naturally, I would say that since I'm a fire-in-the-belly evangelical.

Dan, you have articulated something that has been percolating within me for a long time. In evangelical Christendom, we have an elephant-in-the-middle-of-the-room civil war between fire-in-the-belly evangelicals and fire-sale evangelicals. LibProts and Emergents are utterly convinced that TeamPyro evangelicals damage the body and the corporate witness of the Bride. Diametric 180, fire-in-the-belly evangelicals are utterly convinced that LibProts, Emergents, and some Charismatic Chaotics are damaging the body and corporate witness of the Bride.

In the meantime, the divisive Adversary is laughing his head off.

And I see three bottom-line choices: (A) Negotiate a cease fire on the internal civil war. (B) Maintain civil war. (C) Get the fire-sale evangelicals to realize that they are selling out Christ and the faith once delivered to all the saints on the cheap and convert them to fire-in-the-belly evangelicals.

[Options B and C are essentially the same. I just removed the phrase "civil war"].

My recommendation: Options B or C. Option A is unfaithful to Christ.

candyinsierras said...

Great post Dan!

In a half-way unrelated comment, I saw a video the other day about a church that was out evangelizing, so to speak, and the pastor laid his hand on the head of a homosexual and his prayer was a simple emphatic exclamation of "FIRE!". The homosexual claimed he was delivered at that very moment, and as of a week later (I think), had no desires for other men. :)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Just read the "It's not for me to say - dodge" essay that DJP wrote. (Didn't read the comment thread though).

And that's another terrific post!

Curiously, what would you say to a person who says that he wants to be both a fire-in-the-belly evangelical AND a fire-sale evangelical? S/he will decide for themselves when they want to change colors as the situation warrants.

What say thee to the chameleon?

DJP said...

Well, the first thing I think is "How long will you go limping between two different opinions?" (1 Kings 18:21).

The second is a line from Louis L'Amour about fence-straddling, but I don't think it would pass The Darlene Standard, so I refrain.

The third is that a man who walks in the middle of the street gets hit by traffic going in both directions.

The fourth is that someone who doesn't stand for something will fall for anything.

The fifth is that an uncertain trumpet doesn't rally many troops.

I think you see the trend.

Certainly, no one should accept a leadership position withou pretty sound, certain, TRIED, TESTED AND PROVEN core convictions.

Johnny Dialectic said...

What a great couple of terms, Dan! Love this post. It's why I hang at TeamPyro. I'd much rather be with fire-in-the-belly evangelicals who I disagree with on occasion, than fire-sale e's who only disagree with fire-in-the-belly e's.

Burn on!

Writing and Living said...

Great post. Thanks for the links, too.

I've been thinking of this in light of yesterday's post about The Golden Compass at Biblical Christianity. I personally am more worried about the damage done to the church by a person claiming to be a believer but yet is willing to compromise the truth than I am about an atheist with a blatant agenda.

DJP said...

Agreed, W&L.

You make me think of how warfare has changed. Was the day when an enemy would declare itself, put on its uniforms, mass its troops, and start marching.

But what when they have no one single country, no uniform, no single geographical location? What when they live among you, dress like you, use your own freedoms to kill you?

The mindset that insists on prosecuting warfare (and national defense) exactly as it was fought in the 1700s is, I think, a very vulnerable mindset. To say the least.

Chris Anderson said...

I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you, Dan, but you sound almost like (ahem) a fundamentalist.

I know. That smarts. Sorry.

stratagem said...

Dan, you can't fool me: You are talking about those Emerg***'s again, ain't ye? Since they spend so much time sitting on couches eating donuts and sipping fair-trade coffee, why can't we call them "POT-BELLY Evangelicals"? (OK, on 2nd thought, perhaps these 20-somes just need a few more years under their 'belts' like the rest of us, before they are deserving of that name).

"FIRE-SALE Evangelicals" I love it. Trade a lot of truth for a lot of popularity and adulation.
For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

S.J. Walker said...

Dan,

It is posts like this that make me link Pyro to my own blog.

I think something telling as well is what we find in Paul's various letters. How often does he liken the Christian walk to Soldiery? When Ephesians speaks of the Gospel of Peace, it is not talking of peace BEFORE the fight, but during.

Thanks Brothers, you all are such an encouragement. Almost the entire association of Baptist churches out here in Grand Junction Colorado has gone the way of the Fire-salers.

Keep it up, God Bless

S.J. Walker said...

If you ever run short on tent spikes, let me know, I'll lend you some of mine.

donsands said...

"awed by the atonement of Christ to the extent that its doctrines are neither periphera nor adiaphora, but life itself."

All for the Cross. Gal. 6:14

This was such an encouraging post. Impeccable teaching. Thanks.

ps I had to look up adiaphora. Good word.

SolaMeanie said...

Don't you think a reading of George Orwell's "1984" would be appropo? The similarities of the "Ministry of Truth" and Em***nt theology are uncanny. Remember O'Brien dropping the slip of paper down the memory hole and then saying it never existed? Or his lectures to poor Winston Smith that truth was whatever the Party determined it to be? And your final destination was Room 101?

O'Brien McLaren, with pictures of Derrida as "Big Brother." I could have lots of fun with this. (Snicker, chortle, guffaw)

centuri0n said...

Fundamentalism isn't all bad. It's only bad when it becomes an institution which must be somehow preserved.

Gospel anyone? Gospel here -- Get ya Gospel HERE!

Kevin said...

Excellent post Dan!
I get your point, but how can the Fire Saler's even be called evangelicals? The term is so abused today. Just like the term Christian.
Spot on brother. Thank you.

donsands said...

"The term is so abused today."

Amen. The salt has lost it's saltiness.

For they are not all the Evangelical Church who are the Evangelical Church.

SolaMeanie said...

Fundamentalism.

Frank, my turban is just as starched, and my scimitar is just as sharp as yours. Nyah nyah.

Besides, the turban helps cover up my growing bald spot, which has been known to trigger FAA warnings at airports.

Stefan said...

Dan, I was thinking of exactly that passage from Malachi, before I scrolled down and saw you quoting it!

The Twelve Minor Prophets can easily be read through in a day of diligent, hard reading. They'd be a pretty quick fix to anyone who thinks straying from the narrow path is a-okay. But they also ring with the promise of God's grace, and his calling out of a holy remnant from all nations. How much sweeter is God's grace when we know that what we justly deserve is not grace but condemnation! Instead, we have a movement today that rejects God's holy righteousness, and in turn cannot appreciate His grace and mercy.

And how about the Ecclesiastes? Chapter after chapter about the futility and vanity of every possible philosophical approach to life, and what's the conclusion? "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (12:13b).

By the way, I loved this: "Is not my word like Jello, declares the LORD, and like a comfy chair that lulls the world's paramours to sleep?"

stratagem said...

"sweet five minutes of prayer, sweet five minutes of prayer, that bids me from my easy chair..."

John Haller said...

Dan's talking about Fire and Phil about a Christian ashtray. What's going on here?

DJP said...

Pyro is ssssssssssssssmokin'.

jbuck21 said...

Dan,

Great post...the concerning thing is that so many are being bound up into all this nonsense.

We need to be actively seeking to present the true gospel to the Fire Sale types, and we ought to be praying for their leaders to repent and turn to Christ.

Stefan said...

To pick up on one of S.J. Walker's comments:

Yes, the Christian life is one of work, commitment, and obedience—not works by which one may be saved, but works as the fruits of the Holy Spirit—and not obedience to man, but to Christ alone.

Too bad much of the church doesn't teach that. When I was an atheist, God have mercy on me, but I thought Christianity was all about false piety, self-righteousness, and salvation by being "a good person"!

But should we be surprised this core teaching is so neglected? We have prophets in the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ and the apostles in the new testament teaching that justification is by grace through faith in God alone, resulting in sanctification and a life of obedience to God. But why do they repeat the message over and over again? Because the widespread opposition to and dilution of that message is attested to over and over again in the very pages of Holy Scripture.

"I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them," said Paul to the Ephesians in Acts 20:29-30.

How easy it is to stray off the narrow path. How easy it is to seek salvation on the world's terms, which is not salvation at all, but a false promise and a false hope! Lord, protect your flock, and open the eyes of those who have fallen prey to the wolves!

SolaMeanie said...

The tone of these posts troubles me.

Not.

Mike Riccardi said...

The tone of these posts troubles me.

You're being uncharitable, Sola.

pastorbrianculver said...

Where do the comfusing teachings come from on proper evangelicalism? Uncommitted pastors who are not themselves obedient to Gods Word. Also, our youth are being tortured with poor teaching. I got an email from YS (Youth Specialties) and was shocked at what they thought was funny and added as a "favorite" video for their site. You can view it on my blog. I love your blog here. Great comments!
God bless
Brian

Stefan said...

Like you said a week ago, Dan, you never know which posts are going to attract a lot of comments and which are not. (In TP terms, "a lot" being "a hundred or more"....)

DJP said...

You read my mind.

Pastor Christopher said...

It's so good to know that there are men and women out there who are still contending "earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." (Jude 3).

Unfortunately, the fluff out there is like a cultured pearl - controlled by man for desired output. Preachers no longer confident in the power of the Word (Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). "7-11" songs with catchy melodic tunes and choreographed dance moves. Micromanaged worship services down to the second. Large screens with Dolby THX so you can really "feel" the service. Smoke, strobe lights, laser shows and so on...all for the sake of what?

Basically, the church is using a new Bible, "The Purpose Driven Church."

One church I used to attend is now trying to do things the right way after doing things the Rick Warren way for 9 years since now the methods are failing. The tension is intense, just like trying to overthrow one government to start another type.

Keep doing what you do. Stand for the truth. I stand with you.

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth." But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a youth'; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD." Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, "Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."

2 Corinthians 10:3-6
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

bethany p. morse said...

awesome post!

carolczech said...

Pastor Christopher said "Unfortunately, the fluff out there is like a cultured pearl - controlled by man for desired output. Preachers no longer confident in the power of the Word (Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 4:1-5). "7-11" songs with catchy melodic tunes and choreographed dance moves. Micromanaged worship services down to the second. Large screens with Dolby THX so you can really "feel" the service. Smoke, strobe lights, laser shows and so on...all for the sake of what?"

I heard a great line from a kid in my 9th grade history class today. We were a discussing an assignment on witnessing to Muslims and he joked that he had decided to convert to Islam. Knowing that his father is a pastor (a small church, about 30 families) I said that his parents must be disappointed. He said, "They'd be more disappointed if I converted to a Mega-Church!"

Obviously, he was joking, but there is some wisdom and truth to the statement and it was sort of brilliant for a 15-year-old kid. You can certainly understand the frustration of the faithful pastor in a tiny church in the shadow of a mega-church that's drawing people in like a pied piper with smoke and mirrors and not much substance - or worse - straying from the truth.

carolczech said...

Two posts in a row - poor form, I know. At any rate, better than poor tone.

Speaking of YS...

I just read an article about Phyllis Tickle's talk at the YS National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta

http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=RELIGION-FAITH-11-28-07

This should stand as "Exhibit A" for the fire sale crowd. Tickle reportedly tickled so many ears that she received a standing ovation after her inspiring talk.

"The truly "emerging churches" are the ones that are opening their doors at the heart of this changing matrix, she said. Their leaders are determined not to be sucked into what they call "inherited church" life and the institutional ties that bind. They are willing to shed dogma and rethink doctrine, in an attempt to tell the Christian story in a new way.

"These emergent folks are enthusiastically steering toward the middle and embracing the whole post-denominational world," said Tickle. "We could end up with something like a new form of Pan-Protestantism. ... It's all kind of exciting and scary at the same time, but we can take some comfort in knowing that Christianity has been through this before."

Mark Oestricher blogged about the article (and the event) here (still basking in the afterglow)

http://www.ysmarko.com/?p=2202

In response to a commenter who questioned Mark's committment to the authority of scripture, Mark's response was (global warming alert: caps off):

" the one thing i just have to push back on, and ask you to not say, is that i do not believe in the authority of scripture. i am passionate about the centrality of jesus and the authority of scripture. i believe scripture is god’s primary means of revelation. your statement that i do not believe in the authority of scripture is just not true.

for your list of solas, i would encourage you to consider adding one that the original reformers were passionate about: sola reformada (always reforming). this was a central tenant of the reformation, but got lost (including the use of the phrase) in the last couple hundred years. i sure hope and pray that i am always reforming, always open to new revelation from god, always humble enough to be wrong, always expectant for how god will transform me next."

Sola Reformada? Who knew?

Maybe we can start a little inter-pyro pool to predict how soon and how often we're going to be seeing that term in the future.

Stefan said...

And here we were, thinking that semper reformanda was about being "always open to" the old revelation from God.

Thus says the Lord:
"Stand by the roads, and look,
     and ask for the
ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
     and find rest for your souls.

(Jeremiah 6:16)

Puritan said...

Great post.Thanks for that.

DJP said...

Maybe you want to do what I mean to do. Every now and then, Google "fire sale evangelical." I made the phrase up, so it will only refer to this, at first.

The wet wood (or wood-wetters) won't like the phrase, or the post, much.

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

Creating great and swelling labels that publicly let everyone know that (by God's grace of course) we have what it takes and God desires to endow a moniker on us that puts the attention on us and not Him.

Let us keep comparing ourselves with those who are falling away because against that backdrop we shine. If we compare ourselves with Christ...well...let's not go there, it changes the moniker.

DJP said...

We'll breathlessly await your proposal for a better way to make "evangelical" a meaningful term again. Unless it's your proposal to rebel against your own created and designed human nature, and refuse the responsibility to assign meaningful labels to things.

stratagem said...

Rick,

I think the most-useful labels are those that refer to belief systems and doctrines, rather than labeling groups of people. I believe the former is Dan's intent. There are lots of examples in the Bible where sects, cultures, and yes, even people are labeled. So, it's pretty hard to argue that labeling is, in itself, a sin or even unnecessary.

SolaMeanie said...

Stefan,

Unfortunately these days, when you talk about following the ancient paths they think you're talking about monasteries and labyrinths.

Sigh.

Norman said...

"The wet wood (or wood-wetters) won't like the phrase, or the post, much."

Hasn't it struck you that there is no "dissent" in your metas anymore?
It might be worth your while, if you really want to help ****gents get on the right track again, to try to engage them in such a way that you would have serious discussion with them, where now there is none.
It's a big change I've noticed the last months.

TheBlueRaja said...

[WHAT FOLLOWS IS OBLIGATORY WOOD WETTING BREATHLESS NAIVE AND SUSPICIOUS DISSENT: PLEASE POUNCE . . . NOW!]

Isn't the difference between a fundamentalist and an evangelical somewhere between the first position and the second?

I'm not using the word "fundamentalist" with negative connotations - but the historical divide between fundamentalists and evangelicals seems to be the disposition described under the first part.

Whoever truly fits the second description has it coming - but it seems like you're saying that evangelicals should be fundamentalists if they want to be true evangelicals. My understanding was that the evangelical movement was a middle way between accommodating theological liberalism and the isolationist fighting separatism of the fundamentalist movement.

I recently read someone (Jollyblogger) summarizing Tim Keller's talk at an EMA conference in London, which said:

"Evangelicalism used to occupy the middle ground between fundamentalism and liberalism. It was orthodox, pro-scholarship, and facing the world. Recently, evangelicalism has become more hostile and condemning of culture. A younger generation has given up on evangelicalism as a middle ground and are looking for a new consensus. This group goes by a number of names, such as post-evangelicals or the emerging church."





[THIS HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE FIRE SALE EVANGELICALS: COMMITTED TO ERODING THE CHURCH SINCE HELL SPAWNED US IN GENESIS 3, WHICH WE DO NOT INTERPRET LITERALLY]

Henry (Rick) Frueh said...

Stratagem - It would be appropriate to assign a label that might reveal your view of theology such as Calvinist or Arminian or reformed, but to assign yourself as a "Fire in the Belly" Christian is to use that moniker as a public commentary that you must be recognized as a Christian whose surrendered discipleship is of such magnitude that it elicits such a tag.

I believe Jesus made Himself of no reputation and Paul said he was the least of all the apostles and the chief of sinners. Something doesn't match.

Kevin said...

Rick,

As this blogs masthead states.

APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD

Jeremiah 23:29.

Now there is a label for ya!

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: "Whoever truly fits the second description has it coming - but it seems like you're saying that evangelicals should be fundamentalists if they want to be true evangelicals."

Yeah, that's absolutely true—if you're using the word fundamentalist in its historic sense (as opposed to all the post-1950s corruptions of the idea). An "evangelical" who is not committed to defending the fundamental doctrines of Christianity is no true evangelical.

Raja: "My understanding was that the evangelical movement was a middle way between accommodating theological liberalism and the isolationist fighting separatism of the fundamentalist movement."

A lot of people make that mistake, Raja. But you've confused historic evangelicalism with the neo-evangelicalism that hijacked and gradually gutted the evangelical movement. See this post, where I tried to straighten out the very same confusion in the iMonk's thinking. I don't think he ever really got it. You might.

Kristine said...

My, that was good.

stratagem said...

Rick - clearly, Dan is not trying to elevate himself with his somewhat tongue-in-cheek nomenclature. He is merely pointing out that there are a lot of people who call themselves by various Christian terms, who are all-too-willing to trade the truths of Scripture for a season of cultural popularity.

In fact, I didn't hear Dan addressing anything about the obedience level of the FITBE's. He was referring to their commitment to believing God's unchanging truths. Whether you like it or not, there is a big difference between those who are willing to lean unto God's understanding as revealed in His word, and those who want to discover truth via a conversation with other relativists. It is the difference between heaven and hell.

As far as your drawing a distinction between Calvinist & Arminian labels, and Dan's new labels, would you have felt better if he had simply descriptively called the FSE's "non-Biblical Evangelicals"? I doubt it.

TheBlueRaja said...

I completely accept the fact that the idea confessional evangelicalism existed before the 20th C. movement - but would you agree that the debate about engagement and what constitutes the "central principles" that must be confessionally retained (the topics taken up in this post) can be helpfully contextualized by the 20th C. debate between fundamentalism and evangelicalism?

It seems like the battles fought by someone like Carl Henry epitomize the confessional centrality of the older evangelicalism together with the spirit and concerns of the neo- evangelicalism of the 50's from which the modern movement derives its impetus (e.g. the place Henry gives inerrancy in his theology, for example -- in Is Inerrancy Enough . . . or Too Much?: A Consideration of Carl Henry's Position, a paper given by George M Coon at the 2005 ETS, it's detailed how Henry didn't view inerrancy as the defining characteristic for who should be counted an evangelical).

To clarify, then - what's the difference between modern fundamentalism and the older evangelicalism? And are these differences highlighted at all illuminated by the 1950's divide? And where do these modern evangelicals, such as EJ Carnell, Harold Ockenga and Carl Henry fit into the older evangelicalism of the Reformed confessions (i.e. are they evangelicals?)?

Thanks for the reply.

Strong Tower said...

Great Scott! Were now gonna be known as FIBS-

Whoa Nelly

DJP said...

Fitbees.

DJP said...

Bubba — ... to assign yourself as a "Fire in the Belly" Christian is to use that moniker as a public commentary that you must be recognized as a Christian whose surrendered discipleship is of such magnitude that it elicits such a tag

Yeah, that'd be pretty bad.

Did you read that somewhere?

Phil Johnson said...

Raja:

I'm not sure what you mean by "modern fundamentalism." But if you want a lively discussion and need something to fill your spare time at year-end, you should mosey over to SharperIron.org and tell them what you think are the characteristics of "modern fundamentalism." I've got five dollars which says that before that conversation ends they'll explode a few of the caricatures of fundamentalism you are carrying in your head.

My own perspective would be that "fundamentalism" as a movement (including the 1920s version of it) never actually gelled into any kind of viable force (and I think that's profoundly sad).

I've suggested many times before that fundamentalism's failure was probably guaranteed from the very start, because the earliest fundamentalists failed to invest enough energy and passion into arriving at a firm and workable consensus on the difficult question of what should be included in and/or excluded from a list of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. It's not an easy question, but it should not have been bungled as badly as the mid-twentieth-century fundamentalists bungled it.

Carl Henry had a lot of excellent things to say, but to be honest, I see him as a major player in the cadre of evangelical leaders who made such an idol out of academic respectability that they practically guaranteed the failure of their own movement.

In other words, as I've suggested before, the failure of 20th-century evangelicalism and the failure of 20th-century fundamentalism are mirrored opposites. Both failed ultimately because they were reactionary. And after 1950 (or thereabouts) they were reacting primarily to one another--which made the worst tendencies of each movement worse and worse with the passing of time.

If someone comes along who can retrieve the best principles from the two movements and cast a vision of reformation that is not primarily reactionary (keeping both evangelical and fundamentalist principles intact and not setting them at war with one another) I think a wonderful phoenix might arise out of the ashes of both movements. That's what I wish smart young guys like you were devoted to, rather than chasing whatever neo-fadodoxy is currently academically stylish.

And don't get me started on ETS and the currently-in-vogue apathy about inerrancy. I've got too much to do today to answer blog comments.

TheBlueRaja said...

In other words, as I've suggested before, the failure of 20th-century evangelicalism and the failure of 20th-century fundamentalism are mirrored opposites. Both failed ultimately because they were reactionary. And after 1950 (or thereabouts) they were reacting primarily to one another--which made the worst tendencies of each movement worse and worse with the passing of time.

That's an insightful comment - I totally agree.

If someone comes along who can retrieve the best principles from the two movements and cast a vision of reformation that is not primarily reactionary (keeping both evangelical and fundamentalist principles intact and not setting them at war with one another) I think a wonderful phoenix might arise out of the ashes of both movements.

I guess I see glimmers of that in more places than you do (I'll go ahead and make the connection to the possibility that I'm seeing "Fool's Gold" here so that you don't have to!) - but your comment here is my hope in a very well-said nutshell.

Given what it would take for that kind of thing to happen, I doubt I'll play any part in it; but I'll raise my glass to the ones who do (that is, if I have the sense to see who they are at the time - retrospect is always so much easier). I have to admit, though, that the ones in whom I tend to see such promise aren't the academicians or popular pastors as much as the seldom seen category of pastor-scholars like John Piper, Neal Plantinga, and "he who must not be named" (speaking of whom, Piper's new book critique belongs on your reading list if you haven't read it yet).

I've got too much to do today to answer blog comments.

Yeah. Thanks for reminding me to get back to work.

SolaMeanie said...

Phil,

I am waiting for a certain segment of fundie to jump all over your five-dollar bet. Have any graphic art of a slot machine just to stir the pot?

I'm kidding...I'm kidding....

S.J. Walker said...

Phil's a gambler!

Sorry, I slipped into "fundamentalism" there for as moment.

Rick, I am pretty sure that Jesus used labeled Himself as the Son of God. I am also recalling that Paul advised people to follow his example.

Pretty puffed up words right? Well, perhaps look at it this way:

"But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten." --Jeremiah 20:11

We must be ruthless within ourselves, Rick; "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?"--2 Corinthians 13:5

If we pass that test, we should and will have confidence in our condition, not pride, but confidence. Paul was the least of the apostles, he was the chief of sinners, as am I and you. Paul was also the "beloved of God"; Ephesians 1:1-6.

And he also explained why he and the other believers were indeed the the beloved and why unbelievers and false teachers are not.



It all matches.

Gilbert said...

Dan,

Great post! One comment...

A certain "best-life today" pastor from texas came up to Chicago this past summer. he and his wife came out on stage to wild cheers...and a puff of smoke.

And I think...you know, pro wrestlers do the same thing. But everyone knows pro wrestling isn't real. But the emergent church doctrine is passed off as such.

Game, set, match.

Phil Johnson said...

SJ Walker: "Phil's a gambler!"

I was just "contextualizing" for the Blue Raja's sake.

TheBlueRaja said...

Hey, Phil. I went to Sharper Iron and randomly clicked on a category.

This is the first thing that came up.

In any case, I have to say that so far, I'm guessing that your contextualizing is going to cost you 5 bucks.

Which should teach you to stop contextualizing this instant.

Brendt said...

Dan, is there a particular reason that almost all of the distinctives you cite for "fire-in-the-belly evangelicals" are negative things that they don't do (and, one would imagine, that the "fire-sale evangelicals" allegedly do)?

Is it your contention that the FitBE's life verse is Luke 18:11?

Les said...

Great post. I really wonder if the term evangelical has not run its rocky course. Way too much baggage today to have any real meaning.

one busy mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Johnson said...

Raja:

You win that one. Tell me where to send the check.

DJP said...

What an odd question, Brendt. I'm trying to figure out where it could come from.

Normally, a person reading a whole post would start at the beginning. If you had, you'd have read, "This term would describe those gripped with the Biblical vision of God's holiness and man's sinfulness, humbled by their own depravity to the point where inerrancy is not an inconvenient doctrine but God's indispensable lifeline, awed by the atonement of Christ to the extent that its doctrines are neither periphera nor adiaphora, but life itself."

Perhaps your monitor is upside-down?

Or maybe you just got your terms mixed up? I could see a fire-sale evangelical trying to comfort himself along the lines of, "At least I'm not like that fanatic over there, weeping and smiting his breast!"

Brendt said...

DJP: I'm trying to figure out where [that question] could come from.

From the 3 paragraphs that follow the one you repeated:

* Fire-in-the-belly evangelicals don't sign...
* They never condescendingly...
* They see clearly that an abandonment...
* These are the folks who don't view...
* ...they don't break out their cameras...
* They don't take heretical blasphemy...
* Their spirits don't soar...

If those aren't negative statements, then I guess my monitor is upside-down.

I actually agree with most of what you said on a slightly higher level -- i.e. I'm not in any way endorsing the actions (at least as you have laid them out) of "fire-sale evangelicals". But it bugs me no end that as many (if not more) ink is spilled on what FitBE's are not than on what they are.

The Luke 18:11 reference was unfair, and I apologize for the snark. But in looking more closely at the whole parable, there are some distinct parallels. I'm not saying that FitBE's map to the Pharisee and FSE's map to the tax collector (or "publican" for my King Jimmy brethren), nor am I saying that the parable is directly applicable, but I do note that:

* The Pharisee spills as much ink on defining what he is not as he does on defining what he is
* The Pharisee did cite the "positive" things that he did, but seemingly only in light of the contrast
* The tax collector's prayer (and one would think, his self-definition) involved only himself and God, and not how he stacked up to others

That third point was stated in a different way by Henry (Rick) Frueh, but it got totally lost in discussion of the issue that he raised in the previous paragraph about monikers. Allow me to repeat it, and hope that it doesn't get lost again:

Let us keep comparing ourselves with those who are falling away because against that backdrop we shine. If we compare ourselves with Christ...well...let's not go there...

DJP said...

I suppose I could save myself the trouble of writing the parts that people who want to be offended prefer to ignore, and get right to stuff that makes it easier to strike the pose. Because I've never actually found a way to prevent someone who wants to find offense from succeeding in doing so.

So, if that's the extent of your criticism, I'm still okay with the post. If one reads the whole post.

SolaMeanie said...

Gilbert,

LOL. Now THAT gives me an idea for some fun. The Emergent Church and pro wrestling. And who will the e-vill heel be?

Now, as to contextualizing. On second thought, nahh. I've got a headache.

Gilbert said...

>LOL. Now THAT gives me an idea
>for some fun. The Emergent Church
>and pro wrestling. And who will >the e-vill heel be?

"Brother Love"! A WWF mainstay in the 1980s, with ridiculous makeup on to make him look red-faced, and yet would, when the ref wasn't looking (although everyone else in the building and planet could see it), trip up, choke and beat his opponents when the ref wasn't looking.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnkMjJBy9Pc

Brendt said...

Uncle