11 March 2010

Why I'm Not Looking for a Movement to Join

by Phil Johnson



What follows is a short excerpt from a message I gave 5 years ago at the Shepherds' Conference. The session was titled, "Dead Right: The Failure of Fundamentalism," and it unleashed a firestorm in the blogosphere. (That was a couple of months before I actually began blogging in earnest.) A transcript of my message was posted at SharperIron.org (an always-interesting fundamentalist blog) just a day or so after I delivered it. A prolonged and very active discussion began at that blog even before the Shepherds' Conference ended that year.

When I heard about the SharperIron.org conversation, I visited that blog to supply a more accurate transcript, provide some documentation, and clarify a few of my comments. There I encountered Dave Doran, president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. He was an articulate and patient critic of my message, and we had an extended conversation on that blog, lasting several weeks. Someone saved most of those posts, and the document (available here) makes fascinating reading even now.

Dr. Doran reminisced about that exchange on his blog today, and SharperIron also posted links to the original article and the Doran-Johnson discussion. That led me to the transcript of my message, and the following section stood out to me as blog-worthy. Since I need to do another "Redneck Atheism" post tomorrow, I'm stepping on Dan Phillips's excellent post this afternoon in order to get this online whilst it's still in my head. Enjoy.


   have always preferred independency. I consider myself an independent in every sense. I'm not looking for a movement to join. I belong to [Grace Community] church. That's enough for me. And I'm willing to work alongside anyone and everyone who shares my essential biblical convictions, whether the label they would slap on themselves is "fundamentalist," "evangelical," "strict and particular Baptist," or just plain old "Christian."

Think about the fruits of the various twentieth-century movements. Liberals and theological radicals never did anything but kill churches and turn denominations into spiritual wastelands.

"Fundamentalists" who tied themselves to the movement got sidetracked into fighting and dividing into ever-smaller and less significant factions. They managed to start with the all the right ideas, all the right enemies, and all the best men—and reduce their movement to virtual insignificance in less than a hundred years.

"Moderates" never did anything, period, except gum up the works of denominational discipline, while compromising and clouding everything that ought to be kept crystal-clear.

If you think about it, the twentieth century saw the same pattern repeated that you see throughout all of church history. The true vitality of the church is traceable through the nonconformists, the independents, the true biblical separatists. The true secret of their power is not—and never has been—in earthly organizations, political clout, or visible movements of any kind. Their power is derived from the biblical truth they preach. And the influence of that kind of power has always been what determines the relative health and spiritual vigor of the church.

Phil's signature

23 comments:

JG said...

Brief, concise, eloquent. You hit it on the head. And I'm not trying to say you are saying anything you aren't (if that makes sense) but this is, in part, my reasoning for being s Southern Baptist - the stated autonomy of each individual believer and each individual congregation, the freedom to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling, while at the same time having the community and accountability of the Church to participate in. I don't see the controversy in that.

Pooka said...

Unity under Biblical principle. The Word seems like a good place to start. And end up.
So, the more men, labels and figureheads are put before the Bible the less things are going to work, right?

SamWise said...

The most amazing confirmation of Phil's main point was an amazing book by none other than Jerry Falwell's "The Fundamentalist Phenomenon." I read this several years ago and found it be more of an appeal to Evangelicals to get their acts together theologically (not an unfamiliar theme at this site). The tone is very much a Phil Johnson tone than the standard fare that usually you get from the more "Redneck Fundamentalist" to co-opt Phil, DJP, and Turk!

SamWise said...

I should add that Jerry specifically said what Phil said, "Fundamentalists" who tied themselves to the movement got sidetracked into fighting and dividing into ever-smaller and less significant factions."

Jerry said they kept drawing their circles smaller and smaller till they were alone.

Phil is echoing what Augustine called "The City of God" the Church Universal has always been only One Church, under One Head, Christ, for all time! So you and I are standing with Paul, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Latimer, Knox...under our Solus Christus united by the one gospel of grace (see Spurgeon quote from last week)!

Caleb Kolstad said...

Agreed!

Zaphon said...

I actually read Phil's article on his website last night, so I found it coincidental that a portion of it appeared today.

This assessment of the fundamentalist movement is dead on. I've seen it myself. I had a friend who was once a thoughtful, well read Calvinist. His beliefs were sound, and he sought to live godly.

When he departed to Korea to teach English, he had formed new views. He rejected Calvinism entirely. the King James Version became his only bible. And he developed a set of seemingly petty rules about women's clothing.

His fundamentalism is cultic, ahistorical, and blindly accepting of the ideas of KJonlyism.

I've been to a fundamentalist Baptist church, which is Calvinist too. This fellowship has been trying to "get off the ground" for over 20 years now. It's an excellent ministry, but unfortunately, it's militantly 2nd and 3rd degree separationism feels almost isolationist and overly strict. The Pastor is a street preacher, and his attitue can be harsh, caustic, and unncessarily judgmental. Furthermore, this group has gone from using the KJV as their standard bible, to becoming King James Only.

Consequently, this fellowship is not conidered a church by it's very few members.It's too small in number. I recall being the only person to show up in the Sunday evening meetings at times.

I get the feeling that it's the kind of fundamentalism it promotes that has killed the growth of that group.

I think the biblical way of describing these types is they are those who have "zeal without knowledge".

SamWise said...

These KJV only types are cultic (see James White's http://vintage.aomin.org/kjvo.html).

They have a shortcut to the truth that is the ultimate sign of Legalism. To see where it can end up just look at Jack Chick (Chick tracts). He ended up in Jesus Only heresy but was an avid KJV only for a while!

Solameanie said...

Wow. Excellent. Makes me want to hear the original message.

Ben said...

AMEN!!! Thank you for bringing in so much good insights. it has been a huge blessing in my life.
In Christ's love,
Ben

...me said...

"Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing." ...And there you have it, movements in a nutshell.

Frank Turk said...

We need TeamPyro suits like those guys in the top graphic.

Mike Riccardi said...

Really enjoyed the transcript to the talk, Phil. Especially helpful for a guy taking Historical Theology II. Thanks for posting it.

fightinfundy said...

Enjoyed listening, both 5 years ago and even today...I enjoy being a fundamental"ist" yet suspicious of fundamental"ism" - "t" or "m"...hmmm.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Why I'm Not Looking for a Movement to Join"

I'd like to join the movement called "Why I'm Not Looking for a Movement to Join."

Are sign-up sheets available at TeamPyro?

;-)

olan strickland said...

Phil, your definition of modern day fundamentalism and evangelicalism as opposed to their historical definition is clear. What a FAIL from both of the modern equivalents!

Evangelicalism - In the essentials; liberty. The perfect recipe for an ungodly ecumenism.

Fundamentalism - In the non-essentials; unity. The perfect recipe for an ungodly isolationism.

Patrick Eaks said...

Thanks Phil for the links and the post. I think your words are key for the church today. As an Elder in an independent church, this is a very good reminder.

I liked this line, "Their power is derived from the biblical truth they preach."

If the church would hold to this truth we would all be better for it.

Continue to preach the word!

donsands said...

"And I'm willing to work alongside anyone and everyone who shares my essential biblical convictions"

Me too.

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." -Paul

"Love...does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth." -Paul

"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. ....I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one" -Our Lord Jesus Christ

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Phil Johnson: "And I'm willing to work alongside anyone and everyone who shares my essential biblical convictions"

Don Sands: "Me too."

Me three. Where do I sign up to join the movement called "Why I'm Not Looking for a Movement to Join."

Are sign-up sheets available at TeamPyro?

;-)

P.S. Alright, I'll stop kidding around.

donsands said...

"We need TeamPyro suits like those guys in the top graphic."

I'd love to see that: The Three Amigos.

http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=6t-U9lCzE4Q&feature=related

Have an awesome Lord's day.

stratagem said...

"Start a movement: Eat a prune"

Speaking of Jerry Falwell, we all know what happened to the Moral Majority. 25 years later, the majority is no longer moral. Oops.

Which brings up the question: Did Jesus start a movement? I'm sure a lot of people would say so, but I'm sure it was much more than a movement.

Mike Riccardi said...

Evangelicalism - In the essentials; liberty. The perfect recipe for an ungodly ecumenism.

Fundamentalism - In the non-essentials; unity. The perfect recipe for an ungodly isolationism
.

Now that's good. Thanks for that, Olan.

Stefan said...

Yes, Olan, you summed it up very succinctly!

Penn Tomassetti said...

Did you manipulate a Gringo into joining that group of hombres?