22 May 2009

Sweattin' with the Fundies

by Phil Johnson

ne thing I have tried to keep an eye on whilst teaching theology in Sicily is this rumble among some of my fundamentalist friends.

It seems that at a recent meeting of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International (FBFI), Dr. Dan Sweatt inveighed against Calvinism. Apparently, he let loose in particular against the "Young and Restless" fundamentalists who are embracing the doctrines of grace. I haven't been able to listen to Brother Sweatt's message yet. I've downloaded it for my listening pleasure between Rome and Atlanta this weekend.

Anyway, our longtime friend and sometime critic Bob Bixby commented on the sermon, and Brother Bixby's blog has unleashed a flurry of discussion in the fundamentalist blogosphere not seen since—well, maybe since Dr. Dave Doran dissected one of my Shepherds' Conference seminars on fundamentalism.

Speaking of Dr. Doran, he has also weighed in admirably on the FBFI controversy. In fact, the subject has dominated the early posts on his new blog. (Trust me: that's definitely a blog to bookmark.)

Dr. Kevin Bauder, a true classic fundamentalist in the best sense of that term, has addressed the issues raised by brother Sweatt. (Virtually anything Dr. Bauder writes is worth reading.)

And last but by no means least, even Dr. Piper lobbed a blogpost into the mix.

So the whole brouhaha has been the subject of much dialogue at Sharperiron.org, the most active and interesting of all the fundamentalist blogs.

Read up; listen up; and when I get home, let's talk about it.

Phil's signature


Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I love that retro comic book graphic! It's hysterical.

Traveling mercies for you.

~Mark said...

Sometimes I am very glad that I was saved later in life and didn't grow up in the church aside from a few very bad years.

I say that because I have no idea what people consider a fundamentalist in this usage and I'm pretty glad about it!

I know, I'll have to learn just to know what other people are packing into the word, but at least for now, I'm glad that I don't.

I know it isn't enough anymore to say "I trust what the Bible says", but I dearly wish it were.

DJP said...

M'man Pastor Chris Anderson also offered some excellent posts on the subject:

HERE; and

HERE; and

HERE; and finally


Chris is a good guy, and his contribution also worth pondering.

greglong said...

I read Bob's post and listened to the "sermon" right away.

Wow. I'm a fundamentalist, but I thank God I was not brought up in that kind of fundamentalism.

I would summarize the sermon, but others have done so much better than I. Bauder's article is a must-read.

Bob Bixby said...

Hey! I've repented of my criticism of your graphics. Thanks for dredging up my sordid past. (But you have to admit it was brilliantly written!) I've become much more frolicsome since and I still have not gotten the t-shirt that I think you guys promised. I think. If you didn't, it would've been gracious of you.

Jugulum said...


"I say that because I have no idea what people consider a fundamentalist in this usage and I'm pretty glad about it!"

Do you mean in the non-swear-word usage?

It has to do with the doctrine of separation. Fundamentalists go further in separating more completely over more things. (9Marks has a good interview on it.)

Which really isn't the same as the stereotype of closed-minded ignorance.

And figuring out when we should or shouldn't break fellowship is pretty important!

greglong said...

By the way, if you would like to read some of the more controversial parts of Pastor Sweatt's sermon, I (unofficially) transcribed parts of it here.

Sheldon said...

I have read some of the postings at SI. How are they defining the term "fundamental"? What are the criteria for being a fundamentalist? What are the fundamentals? I looked around some but did not stumble upon these answers. Thanks in advance for the info.

greglong said...

Sheldon, see their FAQ here.

donsands said...

"Dr. Kevin Bauder, a true classic fundamentalist in the best sense of that term"


Buona sera!

Daniel said...

Loved the article by Bauder, but didn't care for Dr. Sweatts misinformed message. Laughed at the title of this post after I did all the reading...

Aaron B. said...

"I have read some of the postings at SI. How are they defining the term "fundamental"? What are the criteria for being a fundamentalist? What are the fundamentals? I looked around some but did not stumble upon these answers. Thanks in advance for the info."

SI's about to upgrade... "3.0" should be online June 1 (and we'll be down starting May 28). All the "why's and wherefore's" stuff is much easier to find at the new site.

(But we will absolutely never be as "cool" as pyro!)

As for "most active and interesting"... there are days when less active and interesting wd be fine with me! :) Hopefully the net effect is positive.
-Aaron (si site publisher)

Rick Frueh said...

"I'm a fundamentalist!"

"No, I'M a fundamentalist!"

"You certainly are not!"

"Get my tapes, I prove you are not."

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His fundamentalists.

~Mark said...

Hi Jugulum, and thanks.

I dunno if it makes me goofy to say so but I think Scripture is pretty clear about when to break fellowship (considering fellowship as a high level of personal interaction), particularly in 1 Corinthians 5.

Zachary Bartels said...

Okay, I suffered through the recording.
My thoughts/observations:

1. That was one of the WORST "sermons" I've ever heard! On what text was he expounding? He forgot his notes? Wandered down a million rabbit trails... ugh.

2. I couldn't stop hearing "Now, that ain't my cultcha n' haah-tidge." (O Brother Where Art Thou?) The broom and the midget would make it easier to take this silliness seriously.

3. There wasn't really much rebuttal of Calvinism, mostly just a bunch of longing for the good ol' days when [blacks couldn't drink out of white folks' water fountains and] fundie "colleges and camps" were booming. Yeah, if only we could get back to the golden age...

4. When he finally did get around to "refuting" Calvinism, he trotted out the weakest, tiredest, most ill-informed and ignorant non-arguments that we've all heard a million times. If God decreed everything from eternity past, then He's not holy. If we believe in election, then we won't win souls. If we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, then clearly we'll all jump on the PelagionWagon. YAWN. This is me being unimpressed.

5. David "did something" to make himself right with God. Not King David, but some kid that Sweatt knows. He did something that resulted in him walking into church saved the next morning. According to Sweat, he was apparently saved BY WORKS. Who gets the glory?!

THIS NONSENSE IS NOT WORTH THE WIDE DISCUSSION IT'S GETTING. There are better challenges to the doctrines of grace out there than this drivel.

Goodbye, fundamentalism. Good riddance. Don't call; don't write. Don't go away mad. Or do go away mad. I don't care. Just go away.

The Christians in their midst will transcend fundamentalism's emphasizing of LAW over and against GOSPEL and find churches that uphold the five solas. Wait, did I just suggest that some are saved and some aren't? Why, that's almost as scandalous as using the word "elect" (a word that Paul uses again and again in Scripture).


Solameanie said...

The title of this post is clever, but I still have to object strenously. Anything that brings Richard Simmons to mind is objectionable, especially first thing in the morning.

Michael R. Jones said...


I guess there is reason to boast:

God made you so much better than those of us who grew up in church.

John said...

Solameanie, I have to agree :-) And as strident as ZSB sounds, I have to agree with him. I was born and raised in fundamentalism (and have since parted ways, tyvm), and am still amazed at the lack of regeneration in the churches I once attended. Say the magic prayer and follow our rules and you are a "good old boy". But the sins of lust, bitterness, and hatred are the primary fruits, usually wrapped in a self-righteous pretty foil wrapper. Then one day I started reading my Bible. By the time I got done with my first two years of Greek in college, I was a Calvinist.

Mark said...

@ZSB - I couldn't agree with you more in your assessment of Sweatt's message. I am a Calvinist in a fundamentalist church that is part of the FBFI. A while back I was ready to walk away. Then Frank Turk got into my head and I've been contemplating staying to try to be an influence for what I think is a Biblical approach to ministry. I think that if you associate Fundamentalism with Dan Sweatt, yeah, that fundamentalism needs to go away. But if you associate fundamentalism with guys like Kevin Bauder, that's something I can get on board with. So fundamentalism has some redeeming (or redeemable) value. As far as the FBFI is concerned, if they're serious about confronting error and standing for truth, we need to make sure that what Sweatt did doesn't happen again.

Michael R. Jones said...

ZSB loses all the punch in his otherwise thoughtful comment when he all but calls Pastor Sweatt and other fundamentalists, even those who disagree with Sweatt, racists who long for the days when blacks were oppressed. Hasty generalization anyone?

Maybe fundamentalism doesn't want you, either, ZSB. Take your own advice.

I wonder is ZSB even knows a real fundamentalist.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I wonder about this statement being able to stand here without deletion:

"There wasn't really much rebuttal of Calvinism, mostly just a bunch of longing for the good ol' days when [blacks couldn't drink out of white folks' water fountains and] fundie "colleges and camps" were booming. Yeah, if only we could get back to the golden age..."

The comment is much worse than even Sweatt's sermon. It's slanderous and allowed to stay here. Hmmmm.

Fred Butler said...

The comment is much worse than even Sweatt's sermon. It's slanderous and allowed to stay here. Hmmmm.

Well, being someone who comes from the fundamentalist south, its pretty much true. Any black folks who attends this pastor's church can feel free to set me straight.

Kent Brandenburg said...

So Fred, you're on record that this is Pastor Sweatt's thinking, belief, and philosophy? That above statement? Wow. You know fundamentalist churches in the south that well.

And your proof:

"Any black folks who attends (sic) this pastor's church can feel free to set me straight."

And someone else above made this blanket statement about fundamentalists:

"Say the magic prayer and follow our rules and you are a "good old boy"."

I don't think the magic prayer is exclusive to fundamentalists. And I would say that there are far more non-fundamentalist evangelicals who utilize it than there are fundamentalists. I would say it was invented by evangelicals.

And the "good old boy" is also wrought with racist undertones.

Fred Butler said...

So Fred, you're on record that this is Pastor Sweatt's thinking, belief, and philosophy? That above statement? Wow. You know fundamentalist churches in the south that well.

Well, the original commenter was pointing out the tone of the message suggested a return to the good ole' days, when the fundy heroes this pastor mentions were in their hey day. Pretty much when segregation was the norm in the Bible belt. If I am not mistaken, it was BJU that had some asinine rule about no inter-racial dating, correct?

And yes, I know fundamentalist churches in the south that well.

Jon said...

Reading some of that transcribed sermon by Pastor Sweatt's makes my blood boil. I've only come to know the Doctrines of Grace since last fall and I've heard those same tired arguments over and over again.

I'm assuming that Pastor Sweatt is an older gentleman and that makes it all the more unbearable to understand he's blatant misrepresentations of Calvinistic Soteriology. He should be ashamed of himself.

I now understand why James White loses his patience when debating people over this topic, as they bring up the same old arguments that have been answered over and over again.

Kent Brandenburg said...


You know fundamentalist churches in the south to the degree that you know that Danny Sweatt and his church yearn for segregation in the south and that is truly what he had in mind in his sermon, was a return to segregation? You know that? And you are willing to say that his state of mind was yearning for racism? That is what you are presently saying.

And actually Fred, most of the south a little over a century ago had a bit of a problem in that area. It wasn't just a "fundamentalist" problem. I'm not from the south myself, but I've visited and I read books. And I would think that there are Calvinistic, evangelical, non-fundamentalist churches in the south that have no integration. And their pastors never attended BJU, nor have they been affiliated with that university.

Jon said...


Don't get caught up in the comments about racism. They are taking the focus away from the real issue at heart here.

I believe there is a serious problem when someone in pastoral ministry who disagrees with Calvinistic Soteriology and instead of denying it's teaching and supplying biblical verses to support their view they create silly straw men arguments that have been refuted many times throughout the ages.

They are either in serious denial of the straight forward passages of scripture that deal with God's sovereignty and/or they are caught up in their tradition of what they believe God to be and not what the Bible actually teaches on the subject.

What still amazes me is that Pastor Sweatt's conclusions are almost all wrong. He infers conclusions that are absolutely ridiculous. I would be very surprised if not a few people would have gotten up and left. I'm pretty sure I would have.

DJP said...

Kent, I get that you object to ZSB's comment based on your reading of it, but I'm not sure which of the rules you think ZSB broke.

As to your comments, however, keeping Rule 4 in mind, is there an observation you'd like to offer about the subject of Phil's post?

FX Turk said...

The words, "until I got Frank Turk in my head" are humbling and horrifying.

And why are we arguing with Kent? He has never been wrong in spite of history and experience, so my thought is that we either bow down to him or ignore him.

Kent Brandenburg said...


First, I don't see myself as a fundamentalist in movement as much as a fundamentalist in idea. I'm not a part of the FBF. With that in mind, I believe Sweatt's sermon was poor in content and delivery. He had a wrong diagnosis of the problem and its solution. I don't think that is a uniquely fundamentalist problem (in idea especially). However, I don't believe that all of that has anything to do with him or other southern fundamentalists wishing for a return to slavery or a Jim Crow south. I would assume that some latitude is possible in the comment section to correct error in other people's view of the situation. As to what rule was broken by them---#3. Thanks, Dan.

Unknown said...

What was that bit about speaking the truth in love? Eph 4:15 Cryomanicas (cryo-=cold) is a more appropriate name, as one of the greatest manifestations of ungodliness here, as at aomin.org and some other similarly proudly arridly intellectual "calvinist/reformed" sites is the incessant infantile and manifestly anti-Spirit-of-Christ cackling and self-justifying (vs Job 9:20 & Luk 10:29) mocking of opponents (vs Mat 23:37), returning evil for evil, evidently blind to weeping, omnipresent Jesus grievingly watching every key we type. Rom 2:3.
How sad that as much godly reflection seems as present in the verbal content as in the odious, infantile "cutesy" pics that would never VOLUNTARILY be shown to Jesus in the Judgment; the fear of the Lord is the beginning or principal part of wisdom.
God save us all.

Burrito34 said...

Can't we all just get along??

While Bro. Sweatt's understanding of Calvinism is flawed, he would agree with the following as would I. "Jesus died to save sinners and now He offers Himself to you for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life if you will surrender your all to Him as Lord and Savior." I spent some of my formative new Christian years in a fundamental Baptist church and I received some good effects in my life from the experience. Even now, I could attend this church and it doesn't bother me if they want to use the KJV, I'm okay with that. I believe Sweatt is in error about some things and I wish he would come to the place where he would recognize and acknowledge those errors, but he's not all wrong.

And PJ was right to call him on that. But I think we need to remember to be gracious to other Christians who at least get the essentials of the faith correctly (you too, Bro.Sweatt). Lord knows we need all the friends we can get as we're surrounded by non-Christian religions, cultists, emergents and aggressive atheists on all sides. I know it's been said before but it bears repeating: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity."

Coram Deo said...

I'm sorry but this is just too good not to share.

I know the rules and this is going to be slightly off topic so if the Pyro guys want to delete this, no problem.

Anyway I went to do a little web research on Danny Sweatt and found his church's website where his "Young and Restless" mp3 is prominently displayed.

Directly below his mp3 lies a link to a .pdf document described as "a biblical, scholarly evaluation of Calvinism", all this under the heading "DECONSTRUCTING CALVINISM"Clearly pastor Sweatt has already demonstrated his personal dearth of knowledge on the subject so I decided to read this "scholarly analysis" - and this is the really fun part - it was written by a guy named Hutson Smelley!

Are you kidding me!?!

Look, I know we're grown men and Christian brethren, but that's just funny right there, I'm sorry, but it is. Sweatt & Smelley deconstructing Calvinism?

No way!

Can you imagine if Calvin had been John "Smelley"? Would we doctrines of gracers label ourselves as "Smelleyists"? Or "Sweattists"? Would we have theological opponents deconstructing "Smelleyism"?

Again if a Pyro wants to torch this comment I won't take any personal offense, but sometimes a little levity is a good thing.

In Christ,

Burrito34 said...

Coram Deo:


I am for one thankful, John Calvin's last name was "Calvin", not either of those names you mentioned.

Thanks for the laugh.

DJP said...

Ahh, that Russ. Like one of those perky little mints you get after a meal at finer restaurants.

~Mark said...


I guess there is reason to boast:

God made you so much better than those of us who grew up in church.
~Nah, not better than anyone, just fresh eyes is all. :)

Phil Johnson said...

Russ: "the odious, infantile 'cutesy' pics that would never VOLUNTARILY be shown to Jesus in the Judgment"


I never cease to be amazed that so many people who read our blog seem to think satirical images constitute a more deadly evil than false doctrine.

For the record, we strive to keep Psalm 139 in mind at all times--verses 21-22 as well as verses 3-4.

I'd have to admit that I've made some hasty and overly-terse comments in our comment-threads. And occasionally I regret some of those comments for their tone. But my blog-posts and the images that go with them are pretty carefully thought through as to tone, content, and rationale. To characterize our blogposts or graphics as overtly and deliberately sinful (and to suggest that we're fully conscious of this but do it anyway) without giving any biblical rationale for such a judgment sounds like pietistic arrogance to me.

I'd be interested in knowing which aspect of the biblical definition of "love" rules out comic-book art but permits supercilious comments like yours in the name of "speaking the truth in love."

Lou Martuneac said...


Just a few thoughts to share if I may.

I am a member of the FBFI. My home church (since 1984) was pastored by the late Dr. Wayne VanGelderen, Sr.

Just as the debate over Calvinism is never going to end this side of Heaven from time to time a man will preach or print something that will sting other men to fury.

Some elements of Sweatt’s message might have had me squirming in my seat a bit if I were in attendance. I understand and can appreciate how my Reformed brethren have reacted. The level of reaction from some of the offended parties, however, has been such that one might think the deity or virgin birth of Christ had been brought into question.

Anyway, since the message was presented at an FBFI regional meeting the FBFI leadership responded with a statement to address the issue.

You may read Speaking the Truth in Love at the FBFI site.

Kind regards,


DJP said...

Yes, I for one read that earlier, Lou. Thanks for the direct link.

But I think Pastor Chris Anderson already responded pretty well and fairly to it in the link I provided four days ago: here.

Lou Martuneac said...


Thanks for the reply. It was predictable that few who were offended by the message would be satisfied with the FBFI’s official response.

Bauder expressed support for the FBFI statement, but he was not fully satisfied with the statement, which I believe he referenced as a good intermediate step.

In the same article by Bauder (posted at SI) he also criticized the late Dr. John R. Rice with some rather harsh terms. That was IMO very unwise in the present situation.

John R. Himes, grandson of Dr. Rice, raised some important objections and questions for Dr. Bauder in the thread, which have not been address by Bauder. We are informed by SI that Bauder does not and they will not require him answer any questions about his article.

In any event, this was the initial reaction to Bauder’s remarks by Brother Himes. Some additional interaction followed.

However, SI moderators closed the discussion thread before Himes was given an opportunity to respond to a number of comments directed to him in the latter half of the thread legitimizing and/or supporting Bauder’s criticisms of Dr. Rice.

I asked and am particularly interested to hear from Bauder how he believes his harsh criticism of John R. Rice at this time promotes his alleged desire for heeling, unity and fellowship in the IFB community.

IMO, his criticism of Dr. Rice (justified or not, depending on who you ask) was ill-timed and served only to widen the fracture in the IFB community. Not a good thing just a few weeks away from the FBFI National Conference.We’ll sort it out.



Zachary Bartels said...

>I wonder is [SIC] ZSB even knows a real fundamentalist.Michael Jones et. al,

Well, let's see... for starters, I know ME for the first 22 years of my life. I know my fundamentalist college professors. I know my many former classmates who have gone on to pastor fundie churches.

Read my comment again. I don't have anything against most fundamentalists (although I would advice them to COME OUT); I do have something against law/Gospel confusion and Finneyism.

BTW, I'm sorry very few people got what I was saying with the water fountain comment and particularly my putting it in brackets. I thought I was being clever, but perhaps it was too clever and not quite clear. The point was not that Sweatt actually wants to go back to segregation. Of course he doesn't! It's that, when people get on the "we need to go back to the good ol' days" train, they tend to magnify what was good about those days and usually just briefly acknowledge that there was anything wrong with them. Let's not look back to "good old days" as the goal. Let's look to SCRIPTURE, to the faith once for all handed down to the saints--the faith reflected in the five solas of the Reformation.

Interestingly, no one has taken exception with my observation that it was quite simply a bad sermon (if it was, in fact, a sermon).

Zachary Bartels said...

Whoops. I just made one of the classic blunders. The most famous is "never get involved in a land war in Asia." But only slightly less well-known is this: Never use the [SIC] indicator when quoting someone else, and then type "advice" instead of "advise."


Michael R. Jones said...


Your comment that Pastor Sweatt's sermon was a bad sermon was inclusive in my comment "your otherwise thoughtful post" or something of that nature.

I wouldn't have mentioned it anyway because I agree with the assessment wholeheartedly.

As I stated on another blog, this is the kind of "preaching" that has made me not want to be associated with fundamentalism for years and years.

If not for men like Kevin Bauder and Dave Doran, who show how fundamentalism is supposed to be, I probably wouldn't bother now.

Michael R. Jones said...

Btw, ZSB, also with you on the following:

(1) two-plus decades in fundamentalism (my first almost thirty years)

(2) don't like law/gospel confusion (though we may differ on the proper use of the law for believers; I don't know)

(3) don't like Finneyism/revivalism

But I am not with you in thinking that 2 & and 3 represent what fundamentalism is supposed to be about (part of the reason I left), though there are many who call themselves fundies who are about those things.

Zachary Bartels said...

One problem in discussing this is that any five people probably have five different definitions of "f(F)undamentalist," largely colored by our own experiences. Admittedly, there are many who would call me and my church fundamentalist because we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, reject Darwinism, really expect Jesus to come back, etc. In fact, by the original definition (an adherent of the five fundamentals), I'm a hardcore, to-the-death fundamentalist (lower-case f).

However, I don't think many people use that definition anymore (including most self-professed Fundamentalists). When I hear the word, I don't think of those boneheads from Westboro "Baptist" Church. I don't think of some caricature created by the secular media. No, I think of the many sermons I've heard in IFCA, GARBC, and independent Bible churches. There is a definite trend toward intentional blending of City of God/City of Man and Law/Gospel. Finneyism, anticredalism, and a Zwinglian view of the sacraments also tend to go with it (from my experience.) Whether that was the original intent or not, that's been my experience in dozens of fundamentalist churches (particularly in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan) and quite a few fundamentalist sermons from sermonaudio.com.