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My Two Cents on the T4G Conference

T4GLast week I had the opportunity to take in the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, Kentucky (mp3's are available here). I've heard and read the seven speakers, but I was both eager and curious to hear them in person. While there, I also enjoyed meeting Bob and Tim Bixby, renewing acquaintances with Ben Wright and other "blasts from the past" and catching up with my big brother, Jeff, who flew in from Colorado. Here are some initial reflections:

As a Christian, I was stirred. I was moved by the "Truth-focus" of the worship. Although (or, better, because) Bob Kauflin was put in a straightjacket regarding the instrumentation and selection of songs, the worship was both theologically sound and stylistically reverent. There was a blessed passion about the singing. Honestly. The songs selected were filled with truth about our great sin and Christ's great sacrifice, and men sang at the tops of their voices–not to compete with a praise band (only a piano accompanied us) and not because they had been stirred to a frenzy by a leader (Kauflin was generally invisible and inconspicuous), but because they were challenged by Biblical truth and were thrilled to be able to respond in song. For example, the highlight of the congregation's singing of Just As I Am It Is Well–for once in my life!!–was not the sound, or the "echoes" in the chorus, or the song's heritage, but the amazing truth that "My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more!!!"

Quick rabbit trail: As I compared the simplicity and beauty of the singing with the raucous (rock-us?) sounds that came from the sound system between sessions and which every attendee took home via a gift CD from Sovereign Grace (they shouldn't have), I was left shaking my head: why would a man and fellowship capable of heart-stirring worship like we experienced stoop to such distracting and irreverent music like this? That aside, my heart was encouraged and I was genuinely edified.

As a Pastor, I was challenged. I appreciated the clear proclamation and defense of the Gospel message. I was rebuked that much of my preaching neglects the central place of the Gospel–not only for the lost, but also for believers. I appreciated the examples of and exhortations to expository preaching. I admired the warm-hearted scholarship of Ligon Duncan as he hit a home run with his message on Preaching from the OT. (Listen to that one. Wow.) I was convicted by Piper's passionate call for serious-mindedness regarding the Gospel ministry. In my brother's words, it was as though a man battling cancer had reached out of his own coffin to shake us into sobriety. I was convicted by Mahaney's call for genuine humility and self-watch.

As a Fundamentalist, I was encouraged. I was glad to see many fundamentalist leaders in attendance, not because it indicates some sort of "new middle" between fundamentalism and evangelicalism (for I don't believe it does), but because I believe that there is much good that we can learn from the seven speakers. I was encouraged to speak with some of these men about the many positives of the conference and its sessions. I believe–I hope–that their presence, like my own, did not indicate a softening of separatist conviction, but rather indicates an honest admission that these men are not our enemies, that although we differ from them regarding some crucial issues and will therefore refuse cooperation with them, we recognize the truth when we hear it, are thankful for it, and are willing to learn those who teach it. I was glad to hear from fundamental leaders who had the same perspective.

Frankly, I was envious of some of what I saw and heard: the clear understanding of the Gospel, the intentional focus on the Gospel as the "main thing," the passion for truth, the fervency of the theologically-based worship. These elements are, I fear, too often lacking in the fundamental movement which I agree with and love. Most of what took place at this conference rings true in hearts and minds of those who love Christ and the Gospel. To deny such would be sectarian, indeed. The conference was a blessing in these ways.

As a Separatist, I was struck by a number of things.

First, as Ben points out on His blog, I noticed the obvious lack of separatism, even when dealing with those who are not "Together" with them regarding the Gospel. Was I surprised? Of course not. Most of these men have gone on record saying that they don't believe that separation from disobedient brothers is a biblical mandate. Some have written off separatism as a dead or dying idea. Yet, their posture toward broad evangelicalism was interesting to me. Unless I'm mistaken, each of the seven speakers severely criticized evangelicalism, often unmercifully. Here are some examples:

  • Mohler spoke of "squishy evangelicalism," then quipped, "but I repeat myself."
  • Mohler stated that we were "meeting in the midst of a very tepid evangelicalism."
  • Duncan said, "Clearly, evangelicalism in America is antinomian in its nature."
  • Piper lamented that church growth experts are urging preachers to lighten up. He bemoaned the slapstick services that are all too common today. He recalled a time in his own denomination's meetings when the convicting work of the Spirit was intentionally broken by the speaker's use of a pun. He ridiculed the frivolity of Veggie Tales, apparently as a representative of the lightness of evangelicalism in general.
  • One speaker–Sproul, if memory serves–complained that evangelicalism has all too often lost "the evangel."

I was glad to hear it. Yet, they all stopped short of calling for the breaking of fellowship with those who are distorting the Gospel and ignoring sound doctrine. Why? Well, I imagine that for some–especially for the denominational men–it may be because the worst of the errors of evangelicalism are rampant within their own fellowships, specifically the SBC, PCA and BGC. They admit (and lament) as much. What they don't do is take the next step: separating from these men and organizations, be it through a "come out" separatism or a "put out" separatism. I'm not suggesting that they have never done so, but they have not done so or called for the same as a consistent policy or as a biblical mandate. And I believe that this is their Achilles heal.

The other point that struck me is that these remarkably intelligent and insightful men don't seem to realize (or at least did not mention) the fact that this "tepid evangelicalism" did not fall from the sky. There is a cause of the current state of evangelicalism–a trigger–and it is the inclusivism, non-separatism and gospel-ignoring social activism of the early new evangelicals who are the fathers of today's motley crew. The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, but has since rolled on down the hill. While I genuinely admire the willingness of these seven men to fight against the errors that seem to have taken over evangelicalism, I wish they would consider from whence it arose–specifically, from a repudiation of separation.

Finally, as a Young Man, I was concerned. First, I was and am concerned that older fundamentalists have sometimes misrepresented these men (think "MacArthur is a heretic") and have ignored the fact that they are offering much good meat. I fear that some have so misrepresented these men and others like them that when fundamentalists of my generation have discovered that most of what these men say is right, they are prone to write off fundamentalism and separatism as dishonest and out of touch. I lament the fact that fundamentalism has too often black-balled these men rather than teaching discernment by pointing out their strengths and warning of their errors. (Michael Riley's just treatment of Piper's ministry is an excellent example of what this should look like.)

Second, I was and am concerned that younger fundamentalists are prone to the opposite error of imbibing the meat of these men's ministries without carefully finding and eschewing the bones. Whereas our forebears may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater, many of us appear ready to pour the bathwater into the crib along with the baby. Apparently, it's not enough to learn from these men; too many, IMO, are becoming enamored with them. Whereas our forebears refused to acknowledge their strengths, we are ignoring or explaining away their weaknesses.

For my part, I don't see these men as "the Big Bad Wolf." Not at all. However, I don't think they are "Grandma" either, Little Red Riding Hood. I call on my peers and on fundamental students to read these men and profit from their sound teaching, but to do so with caution; to appreciate these men for their tremendous contributions, but to carefully discern their errors; to "grow up" and get over what can sometimes be a boyish "crush" on these men, and learn that appreciation and non-cooperation can co-exist, and in this case, should.

The defense of the Gospel these men are making in speech and in print is a blessing. By God's grace, I pray– I honestly pray–that they will follow through by defending the Gospel which they love in practice, as well, by coming out from the midst of error. In the meantime, I pray that fundamentalists will have the integrity to acknowledge and appreciate these men's contributions while also maintaining the conviction to hold firmly to biblical principles of separation.

101 Responses

  1. […] OBF pastor Chris Anderson shares his perspective. […]

  2. Chris,

    Both you and Bob, and I think Ben, have mentioned the presense of fundamentalist leaders at this conference. Who was there?

  3. Chris, it was great to see you there and to spend some time together.

    For the record, in the post to which you link I was not decrying an “obvious lack of separatism.” As I wrote, I think there is an implicit separatism in the idea of “Together for the Gospel” that should be made explicit. I think this is the portion to which we’re referring:

    “I do think it’s important to clarify that the refusal of professing believers (evangelicals) to express agreement with this statement must have profound implications for our ability to fellowship and cooperate with them. During the conference I found myself wondering how many people in the crowd were ‘together for the gospel’ for a couple days, but would be ‘together for an evangelistic crusade’ or ‘together for youth ministry’ or ‘together for whatever’ a few weeks later with folks who would reject the T4G statement.

    “One might argue that the essential idea of T4G implies that the gospel must be primary in every aspect of our ministry and relationships, and that is true. On the other hand, it seems to me that even conservative evangelicals would be well-suited to receive reminders that not all who claim the name of Christ are genuinely of Christ.”

    I disagree with your statement that “they don’t believe that separation from disobedient brothers is a biblical mandate.” Although they would not articulate their separatism in the way that you would, there are plenty of very specific examples of how these men have refused cooperation with believers.

    Also, I know that it’s just your revivalist roots coming out, but “My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more!!!” is a line from “It Is Well,” not “Just as I Am.” ;-)

    Glad you enjoyed it, and I appreciate your perspective, as always.

  4. Chris-
    I too was deeply moved and challenged by T4G. I did notice that your article was lacking any mention of John MacArthur. Is this because he is completely independant, and therefore in a bit of a different class than the other speakers, who are part of official demoninantions?
    Because MacArthur chooses carefully (IMO) who he aligns himself with and is not part of any denomination which would include a wide aray of men and churches who would differ signifigantly with what he personally believes (thinking of SBC, BGC and PCA), shouldn’t we view him in a different light than the other men at T4G?

    Just wondering…


  5. Ben said:

    Also, I know that it’s just your revivalist roots coming out, but “My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to His cross and I bear it no more!!!” is a line from “It Is Well,” not “Just as I Am.” ;-)

    I figured the mistake was because Chris treasures Billy Graham’s biography so. :D

  6. My fault on the hymn. :)

    Ben, I don’t think I suggested that you “decried” the lack of separatism, just that you “pointed it out.” I didn’t intend to put words in your mouth.

    As to my statement that “they don’t believe that separation from disobedient brothers is a biblical mandate,” it was based primarily on a conversation which I had with Dever a few months back. I specifically asked him if he believed that the NT requires separation from Christians outside of the local church level (church discipline), and he gave an emphatic “No.” He did say that he sometimes refuses participation, say with a Graham crusade, but that it is his choice to do so in order to avoid sending mixed messages–it is not because Scripture requires such a position. I don’t want to misrepresent their positions on that.

    Hope that clarifies things. I enjoyed meeting/remeeting you. Astoundingly, none of those in attendance seemed interested in paying to hear the 6 of us chat. Go figure. Perhaps if we had had a catchy title, like “Together for Spaghetti.”

    Greg, if I were going to quote from a Graham book, it would be Angels, and I would provide commentary on angelic appearances by Mohler. (Don’t ask.)

  7. Thanks for this, Chris. Very helpful. Were I not in the last few weeks of grad school, I would have been there! :)

  8. Andy,

    Who was there? Well, since they weren’t wearing Groucho Marx noses & mustaches, I suppose I can tell you. :D

    I saw Doran from Detroit, Horn from Northland, Davey from Central East (apparently with some students & faculty), Jordan & Harbin from Calvary.

  9. Chris,

    Thanks for your review of the conference. I have heard for so many years how “young fundamentalists” are enamored with these men. People, much like yourself, who don’t want “young fundys” to leave the movement, automatically assume that any appreciation of the ministry of these men is a “boyish crush”. While I was in college one teacher accused some guys of worshiping Macarthur. I would just caution you about assuming you know the motivation of “younger fundamentalists”. I have never met anyone who believed any of these men was sinless or who had a “boyish crush” on any of them. Perhaps, these guys leave the “fold of fundamentalism” because they believe differently, not because they are man-worshiping.

  10. Chris, it doesn’t sound like you were a good fit for this conference as you constantly rail on the minors – though you use parentheses and cute phrases like “rabbit trail.” It is because of men like you that Fundamentalism leaves such a bitter taste in my mouth. Sorry, I only made it through the first couple paragraphs. It may have gotten better if I had kept going, but I would rather have a less-biased report from a more evangelical perspective.

  11. Nik, did you mean a “differently-biased” report?

  12. Why did you go Chris? I can only imagine. It seems it was just to pick apart and sow discord. Such arrogance!

  13. Different could equal less I suppose.

  14. Nik,
    Mercy. What were you looking for? All I promised was my own “reflections.” I said much that was positive. If I thought it was all good, I would have said so. I didn’t think so, so I didn’t say so. Nor did I say it was all bad. If what you’re looking for is an advertisement about how wonderful it was, go to T4G’s own site. “Railing”? You’ve got to be kidding.

    Thanks for your comments. FWIW, I don’t “assume that any appreciation of the ministry of these men is a ‘boyish crush’.” I expressed my own apprication of these men and of the conference. I also expressed my concerns. I also expressed my frustrations that these men are sometimes unfairly black-balled by fundamentalists, and I urged that they be read with discernment. Seems reasonable.

    Wondering: why are we so threatened by critiques and cautions…especially from a guy as amiable and gracious as ME???? :D

  15. The concerns clouded any appreciation that may have tried to shine through.

  16. My new review:

    It was wonderful. All of it. Without exception. Amazing. Too good to be true. Almost like heaven. The speakers and attendees have nothing to learn and no room for improvement. I humbly recant of my concerns, especially the one about “crushes,” which was obviously unfounded.

    C’mon guys. Don’t be afraid to think through something. Don’t label disagreement as “sowing discord” and “arrogance.” Think of the implications of that kind of reasoning. God forbid that anyone should attend a conference, think about it and offer reflections.

    Actually, I thought I practically “gushed” about it in my first review.

  17. 1) If you can learn the truth from guys like these — putting yourself in the role of student to master — why on earth could you not cooperate with them — putting yourself in the role of peer to peer?

    2) Dont’ you think that your presence there, and the presence of the fundamentalist dream team mentioned above, would have been regarded as a softening of separatist conviction by the last generation of fundamentalists? A true fundamentalist is a fightin fundamentalist after all.

    3) If the tepidness of evangelicalism is the fruit of the non-separatism of the original New-evangelicals, what’s the cause fundamentalism’s tepidness? For every Veggie Tale there’s a Patch the Pirate. You even admit that “the clear understanding of the Gospel, the intentional focus on the Gospel as the ‘main thing’, the passion for truth, the fervency of the theologically-based worship” are too often lacking in the fundamental movement — that can’t be blamed on non-separatism or the neos, can it?

    4) Do you advise your peers and fundamental students to read and profit from Doran, Horn, Davey, and Jordan with caution? If not, why not, and why do you feel the need to caution in regards to Mohler, Dever, Duncan, and Mahaney?


  18. Keith, great queries. Are you the same Keith that asks thought-provoking questions for Bob Bixby that he never seems to get around to commenting on?

  19. Chris,

    After reading your post and then the comments, there is something to commend about the “Together for the Gospel” blog–it has no comment section!

    Now, if I were to engage in a discussion with you about what you have posted, I suppose I would want some clarification on at least this one point. I am not sure that it is correct to suggest that Dever, Mohler, and Duncan are not seeking to implement some form of separation from what you call “the worst of errors” within evangelicalism that are rampant in their denominations. I could be mistaken on this, but I would imagine that this men would counter by saying that they have removed and/or disciplined false teachers, etc. To be sure, their answer would be based on their understanding of “the worst of errors” and that may not be the same understanding as yours. In other words, if you define “the worst of errors” as abandonment of the gospel, then is it true that they have not pursured separation (push or pull out)?

    Oh, regarding Keith’s question about putting warnings on the writings of Doran, etc. I would definitely encourage you to do that.

  20. Keith,

    I could be wrong but I don’t think the dynamics that produced T4G existed a generation ago within New Evangelicalism. We are living in a differnet era with different factors in play Given the change in landscape, I don’t know that your question #2 is relevant.

  21. [quote]Quick rabbit trail: As I compared the simplicity and beauty of the singing with the raucous (rock-us?) sounds that came from the sound system between sessions and which every attendee took home via a gift CD from Sovereign Grace (they shouldn’t have), I was left shaking my head: why would a man and fellowship capable of heart-stirring worship like we experienced stoop to such distracting and irreverent music like this? That aside, my heart was encouraged and I was genuinely edified.[/quote]

    No offense to you intended at all, as I’m sure you are much wiser and experienced than I, but as a very young man attending a Fundamentalist school, it is attitudes like this that are extremely frustrating for the younger generation. Perhaps what seems “distracting” and “irreverent” to you does not seem so to everyone. I personally have found great encouragement and blessing in the Sovereign Grace cds, because they have great doctrinally rich lyrics with music that resonates with my soul.

    [quote]Most of these men have gone on record saying that they don’t believe that separation from disobedient brothers is a biblical mandate.[/quote]

    I would be interested to see if you could cite these men as actually saying that. Perhaps it isn’t that they don’t believe in separation from disobedient brothers, but rather that their understanding of what that means Biblically is different than your understanding of it. It is very frustrating when Fundamentalists seem to think that these men just don’t care about preserving the gospel in practice and just choose to ignore clear Biblical directives about separation, when in reality, they just don’t understand separation the same way and are very “militant” about preserving the integrity of the gospel, although it may not be in the same way that the fundamentalists are.

  22. Andy,

    The PCA was founded a generation ago — a group of pastors and churches standing together for the gospel against liberalism.

    The fight to get the SBC back on track started a generation ago — an amazingly successful fight in many ways.

    MacArthur is a part of the previous generation — and he’s not recently changed his dynamic.

    Sproul is also part of the previous generation and Ligonier has been around for a generation.

    Perhaps the Mahaney group is a new factor.

    Nevertheless, the previous generation of fundamentalists did nothing to help the PCA or the SBC or MacArthur or Ligonier. Instead, they went out of their way to make life difficult for any fundamentalist who did anything other than openly fight guys and groups like these.

    I too could be wrong, but I think my question is very relevant.

    But don’t get me wrong — I’m glad to see fundamentalists learning from these guys. I hope they learn alot more than they’ll initially want to allow themselves to learn. I was just interacting with Chris’ comment that he hopes his presence at this conference doens’t indicate a softening of separatist convictions. I think it does, and I hope those convictions soften up a lot more.


    I have posted on Bob Bixby’s blog a few times. I don’t know if I’ve asked thought provoking questions there or not. I have disagreed with him on beverage alcohol and agreed with him about the value of creativity (which does not mean the same thing as inovation or originality).

  23. FYI – In addition to the music CD from Sovereign Grace, we (attendees) received the following.

    Always Singing One Note, Why William Tyndale Lived AND Died – a biographical message by John Piper on DVD

    Why One Way? Defending an Exclusive Claim in an Inclusive World – John MacArthur

    Speaking Truth in Love, Counsel in Community – David Powlison

    The Reformed Pastor – Richard Baxter

    Humility – C.J. Mahaney

    Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God – C.J. Mahaney

    ESV Bible

    Give Praise to God, A Vision for Reforming Worship – Philip Graham Ryken, ed.

    Women’s Ministry in the Local Church – J. Ligon Duncan & Susan Hunt

    Getting the Gospel Right, The Tie That Binds Evangelicals Together – R.C. Sproul

    God is the Gospel, Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself – John Piper

    The Deliberate Church, Building Your Ministry on the Gospel – Mark Dever and Paul Alexander

    Counted Righteous in Christ, Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness? – John Piper

    The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB Updated edition

    World magazine, April 22. 2006

    Christianity Today, May 2006

    Southern Seminary, Winter

  24. Wow, Chris. I was going to comment on some of the stuff, but after the beating you’ve started taking :), I’ll just say this – it was good to hear fantastic teaching, good to be encouraged by the word, the singing, and the fellowship.

    Wish we had had more time to chat. Maybe we can catch up in ’08?!?!?!

  25. Mike,

    They were indeed very generous. I’m grateful for the good resources they provided, and I’m glad you pointed that out. Thanks.

    As I said, I was “stirred” and “moved” and “challenged” and “encouraged” and “glad” and “rebuked” and “convicted” and even “envious” of much–even most–that I saw and heard. I said the conference was a “blessing.” I defended these men against what I think have been unfair attacks. I expressed my appreciation for what I’ve learned from them.

    Yet, I’m caustic and arrogant because I expressed some things with which I disagree? Go figure.

  26. Hi Chris,
    It was good to see you there. You and I talked breifly with Brent Brewer. I had much of the same thoughts you did. I was encouraged by ad large. This is the second Evangelical conference that I went to in as many years (Last year it was Piper’s Pastor’s conference). I learned much from Piper’s conference last year as well. I share your concern about some of our fellow young fundie bretheren. We do have our problems, but I will take our problems any day to theirs. And our Fundie problems aren’t as big we truly remain independant anyway :)
    I did get the sense though that the 08 confernece might be one in which we may see something more. Will it be the Watershed conference that Chicago was? I don’t know. But when MacArthur and Sproul asked to sign the document, I was encouraged. We will just have to wait and see. If they do start some sort of new movement, it won’t change me from being a fundie, but it will encourage me if we see a clear break from the enemic part of evangelicalsim.

  27. The more I have reflected on the reaction of some to Chris’s post it seems impossible for me to remain silent.

    Specifically, Nik, how is it that you can condemn so vehemently what Chris has written while seeming to ignore that the T4G men have said and written the same kinds of things about evangelicalism? As one who was in attendance, The very kinds of comments that you chide Chris about where made by Mohler, Dever, Duncan, Piper, and MacArthur toward evangelicalism. Perhaps both groups are wrong, or perhaps bitter is not just a taste in your mouth. There is no group in America which is only saying positive things about other groups believed to have defects, and it seems as if every group criticized has defenders who try to minimize the criticisms by discounting them as minor, nitpicky or coming from a critical spirit–just read the comment section of Phil Johnson’s blog to see men from the BHT or NT Wright groups saying things to Phil that sound eerily familiar to your beef about Chirs.

    Likewise, Nate, you have overreacted to Chris’s comment about some guys blindly following these leaders. It is certainly true of some, just as it is true among some fundamentalists. Again, I point to the discussion on blogs like PJ’s to show that this kind of accusation-counter happens whenever a new movement starts to capture people’s attention. I recognize that it can be very frustrating for men, who have made their decisions because of common convictions, but, human nature being what it is, the warning still must be given. Two things bother me in this regard: (1) people who follow a guru blindly, and (2) people who accuse anyone of holding a common position with some guru of following that guru. I think a careful reading of what Chis wrote does not lead to the conclusion that he was doing the second. He was simply urging men not to do the first.

    All who nitpick about warnings being given to those who read, listen, or put themselves under the influence of new voices or movements, lighten up. Can’t you see that any conscientious believer assumes that a warning is always present, but that new times, new challenges, or new voices (for some) calls for an explicit, rather than implicit warning? My sons know that they live under a 24/7 warning from dad to be wise and not do foolish things, but when they head out to a party with some of their teen friends, they get a specialized warning. Does the specialized warning mean that I don’t care or expect them to be wise all of the other time? No. In a similar way, Chris’s appeal to be careful and discerning is a specialized one given the current circumstances–popular books, conferences, etc. Just like a gathering of teens presents unique challenges for my sons, so a new movement within evangelicalism presents unique challenges for pastors, etc. Take separation, in the historic sense, of the table and you still have questions regardng cessationism vs. continuationism raise by T4G, and it is not only fundies that are calling for discernment there.

    To all those who respond to criticisms with emotive language of frustration, please get control of this before you enter the ministry. You will be ulcerating before your time if you respond to the view points of other so viscerally. And our emotional states really don’t matter in terms of web discourse, do they? Constrain them and enter into the argument with reasons, not feelings.

    Chris, although it really doesn’t matter, I appreciate the balance with which you summarized your thoughts. Enough on both sides of the ledger to make everybody unhappy–way to go!

  28. […] Some good thoughts on T4G by Dave Doran in the comments of Chris Anderson’s blog. […]

  29. Dave,

    Of course it is legitimate for Chris to critique evangelicalism, just as it ought to be legitimate for others to critique fundamentalism. Both movements have their problems, and I think those problems are, in many cases, a lot more similar than most care to notice or admit.

    Nevertheless, Chris claims to be giving his two cents on the T4G conference, not evangelicalism generally. You are probably correct that some need to calm their emotions. However, I don’t think it is unreasonable to point out that, with the exception of his dislike for the Sovereign Grace music, Chris’s criticisms were not of the conference.

    Was there any inappropriate lack of separatism at the conference? Did the conference speakers encourage any truth neglecting ecumenism at the conference? Was there anything presented at the conference that required separation?

    Chris merely revealed his view that the denominations in which some of these men minister ought to be separated from. He thinks that these men shouldn’t be in their denominations or cooperate with certain groups — he could have said that without attending the conference.

    Much the same could be said about Chris’s “boyish crush” comment. If he wanted to caution folks against celebrity worship, fine. But did anything at the conference encouarge such foolish behavior?

    As to Chris’s cautions . . . Elswhere on his blog, he refers to Dave Doran and his sermons on church discipline, by writing: “Each week I try to listen to men I respect preach on the topic or passage I am addressing . . . I enjoyed both messages and commend them to you.” Where’s all the cautioning? Where’s all the thoughtful engagement? Where’s the critique?

    I know, you’d say, your voice isn’t a new one and it’s not part of “popular books, conference, etc.” so it falls under the always present warning and it doesn’t need a specialized warning like this conference. Point taken.

    However, I think you guys really ought to consider (a) That your voice is a popular one in Chris’s world. People go to conferences at which you speak — just like your kids go to parties. (b) That people naturally tend to be more cautious in new and different settings than in old, comfortable ones. (c) And, that these T4G guys’ voices aren’t new to most people.

    Frankly, I think that these kinds of warnings and cautions are just a euphamistic way of saying, “They’re not part of us, so don’t run off and become part of them.”

    Finally, I would like to point out that I have tried to enter this argument with questions and reasons. You had some fun with one of my questions, and Chris hasn’t addressed any of them. Instead, he has responded by writing, “My new review . . . It was wonderful. All of it . . .” Now that’s a reasonable argument.

  30. Okay, Keith. Questions & Answers:

    1) If you can learn the truth from guys like these — putting yourself in the role of student to master — why on earth could you not cooperate with them — putting yourself in the role of peer to peer?

    That’s not reasonable. To suggest that we can only learn from people with whom we would cooperate would necessitate either emptying our bookshelves or welcoming anyone who has ever said something true into full cooperation with us. Your question is absurd. For example, I learn from liberals who are expert linguists. Would I have them in my pulpit? Of course not. It’s not a matter of student-master or peer-peer relationships.

    2) Dont’ you think that your presence there, and the presence of the fundamentalist dream team mentioned above, would have been regarded as a softening of separatist conviction by the last generation of fundamentalists? A true fundamentalist is a fightin fundamentalist after all.

    No, I don’t think so.

    3) If the tepidness of evangelicalism is the fruit of the non-separatism of the original New-evangelicals, what’s the cause fundamentalism’s tepidness? For every Veggie Tale there’s a Patch the Pirate. You even admit that “the clear understanding of the Gospel, the intentional focus on the Gospel as the ‘main thing’, the passion for truth, the fervency of the theologically-based worship” are too often lacking in the fundamental movement — that can’t be blamed on non-separatism or the neos, can it?

    I think many of the problems of evangelicalism can be traced to their lack of separatism. I’m not sure that’s even debateable. But I will grant you that there are similar problems in fundamentalism (easy-believism, etc.). Whether those go back to a common cause (say, the Finneyism that pre-dates the movements) is open for discussion. I think many of our problems have a common cause from our common history…or at least our common sin natures.

    4) Do you advise your peers and fundamental students to read and profit from Doran, Horn, Davey, and Jordan with caution? If not, why not, and why do you feel the need to caution in regards to Mohler, Dever, Duncan, and Mahaney?

    You’re reading me selectively. I said much that was critical of fundamentalism in this very post. So yes, when I think fundamentalists are wrong (as in their black-balling of these men), I’ll say so. But you want to have it both ways: you cite my critique of fundamentalism as proof that separatism is not a cure-all (and I agree), then turn around and paint me as a “good ole boy” who is giving free passes to fundamentalists. Which is it? I was pretty tough on both movements, I believe.

    BTW, I’ve not been averse to critiquing & cautioning about fundamentalists here and elsewhere.

  31. Dave,

    Thanks for your comments. Something good to think about. When Chris uses phrases like “boyish crush” to describe young guys I just wanted to warn him about falling into category 2 in your comment. Maybe that wasn’t his goal, but I felt like something needed to be said. The idea of following blindly may be true in some cases, but to often men use it as a sweeping accusation against anyone who follows Mahaney, Macarthur or Piper. The warning not to be “star struck” certainly needs to be given and if that is all Chris was doing…fine…

  32. Keith,

    Attempting to keep it short and quick:

    1. When someone writes an article, generally the best approach is to interact with what they have written, not what one thinks they should have written. Chris chose to interact with the conference in light of the broader issue of evangelicalism. By addressing what he believes is the effect or influence of the conference, he is offering his two cents on the conference. This is particularly so since the conference was a call for unity, and that of necessity raises the separation question.

    2. To criticize Chris for saying things that he could have said without going to the conference seems particularly odd. The point is that the conference piqued certain concerns that Chris addresses. Yours seems to be an irrelevant point.

    3. I have already noted above that Chris would be wise to put a disclaimer on all of my teaching and writing–plenty of others already do this. Your point, however, is valid enough that I will add something to my earlier comment for clarification–people offer the explicit warning when they have concerns about something that is happening. My sons always know that I want them to be wise, and, after years of interaction, they know they will get firm reminders prior to events which I perceive to be a concern. Yes, since Chris is generally not a fan of the SBC, PCA, or BGC, his warning does mean don’t just run over ther without care. So what’s wrong with that? It seems biblical to me.

    4. To be clear, I directed nothing of my comments about emotion, frustration toward you specifically. The part that was aimed at your earlier comments was about the warnings. Given your antipathy toward fundamentalism, I don’t know why you spend your time engaging this discussion, but I have not found you to be overly emotive, etc.

    I dread the thought that I will get pulled into another protracted round of blog interactions. I meant what I said way above about the comment section at the T4G blog; a wise move on their part. Chris acquits himself well enough without my help, but since the comments were fairly personal (by some), I felt it appropriate to do for him what he might feel uncomfortable doing for himself.

    Keep writing Chris, it is good stuff.

  33. Chris and Dave,

    I’ll keep it short and quick too. I also don’t want to begin a protracted round of blog interactions — if the interactions aren’t proving productive. If it looks like we’re getting somewhere, well then maybe I could find some time.

    But for now, Chris:

    1) In general, I agree with your answer to my question number one. Thanks for the clarification. I think it might prove helpful, though, for you to begin thinking of levels of cooperation instead of cooperation vs. separation.

    2) I think you are dead wrong in regards to my question number two. I think I’m probably a bit older than you, and I’m confident that the previous generation of fundamentalist leaders would not have attended an event like this one to learn.

    3) Agreed.

    4) You criticized fundamentalism as a movement — generally. You cautioned against the seven men at the conference — specifically. My question here was really intended to point out that the impression given by fundamentalists is that good men from other circles are still dangerous — because they’re from other circles. Whereas good men from your circles are totally safe.

    If you have criticized specific fundamentalist leaders or conferences in the past, then I retract my question.


    1. My comments about Chris’s critique of evangelicalism generally instead of the conference specifically were not intended to imply that Chris isn’t free to write about whatever he wants. I was trying to point out why I think some reacted to his post. In general, I’d say that he was doing what you’re telling me not to do. His complaints were about what the conference didn’t do/say instead of interacting with what it did do/say.

    2. I don’t think I criticized Chris for what he could have said. I asked some questions.

    3. My point was not to call for disclaimers on everyting. My point was that such disclaimers ought to be unneccesary. Read and profit with discernment — really, I should do that? And, yes, Chris is free to warn against any denomination he wants. Some of us just can’t help wondering why some of you find so much to envy about these guys but you still are afraid of them.

    4. I did not think you were directing your emotionalism comments at me. I think you were very clear initially. Thank you. I’m not sure why I engage the discussion either, but I could likewise ask you and Chris the following: Given your antipathy towards evangelicalism, why do you engage our discussions?

  34. Keith,

    Regarding #3, my answer is simply that the NT offers plenty of calls for discernement and warnings about a lack of it, e.g., Paul’s strong exhortation to the Ephesians elders to “be on guard.” I know you wouldn’t do it, but it seems like you would say, “Paul, really, I should do that?” How is it that when Chris follows Paul’s example it is somehow wrong or immature? For that matter, when the men who spoke at the T4G conference do it, should we reply with, “Really, we should do that?”

    Regaridng #4, I don’t think thet Chris has primarily engaged the evangelical discussion (other than when evangelicals show up in his comments section). He is has engaged in a discussion among fundamentalists about the evangelical discussion. These are two distinct things. He is writing as a fundamentalist to fundamentalists about something being said in evangelicalism. You, on the other hand, have come into a fundamentalist discussion with virtually nothing but scorn for fundamentalists. Surely the difference between these two is obvious.

  35. Last try, then I’ll go talk about fundamentalists behind their backs in an evangelical forum.

    Of course it is fine to admonish people to be on their guard. Furthermore, I didn’t scold Chris for being wrong or immature. I asked why he gives such admonition about these good men and not other good men.

    Finally, I don’t think I have exhibited a generalized scorn for fundamentalists. I have engaged the discussion. These habits of equating challenge with scorn and being suspicious of non-fundamentalist voices is exactly why you see some people begin to weigh in with emotion and frustration.

  36. Thanks Chris for the summary. I am tempted to touch on everything but will not. I think that there is something to be said for Chris’s warning against “stargazing” – my term for the “guru” thing. You know, I would like to be at all these events, just to learn and see and such, but there is one thing that bothers me sometimes about all this running about and talking about and showing up where it’s at – (dare I say it?) Maybe we are just too important to dwell with men and women of low estate, even when we spend shepherdly time with the members of our flock its always “counseling” or in some other official capacity as “pastor”. Something about all this bothers me. Its not the Jesus’ style, if you ask me, and sometimes we are just too important in the schemem of things – our habits betray us. Paul was a great shepherd – so great that people hugged his neck and wept when he went away. Do I work as hard at getting lost in the lives or ordinary saints and sinners as I do staying abreast of where its at? Do I work as hard at being a down to earth brother to my brothers and sisters in the flock as I do being the pastor, the preacher, the teacher and the man near the latest lights in the sky and if not a mover and a shaker, at least part of the moving and the shaking?
    I think those guys at TG4 are generally fine guys. I am not here to delve into the issues of separation, music, etc. You guys are talking it out just fine. We can see that some things are changing. How and to what end? We’ll see. But I think that often what God sees as a great thing is probably a bit too low for us to notice sometimes. God bless your ministries indeed! Mike Rake

  37. First, as Ben points out on His blog, I noticed the obvious lack of separatism, even when dealing with those who are not “Together” with them regarding the Gospel….Yet, their posture toward broad evangelicalism was interesting to me. Unless I’m mistaken, each of the seven speakers severely criticized evangelicalism, often unmercifully. Here are some examples:

    * Mohler spoke of “squishy evangelicalism,” then quipped, “but I repeat myself.”
    * Mohler stated that we were “meeting in the midst of a very tepid evangelicalism.”
    * Duncan said, “Clearly, evangelicalism in America is antinomian in its nature.”
    * Piper lamented that church growth experts are urging preachers to lighten up. He bemoaned the slapstick services that are all too common today. He recalled a time in his own denomination’s meetings when the convicting work of the Spirit was intentionally broken by the speaker’s use of a pun. He ridiculed the frivolity of Veggie Tales, apparently as a representative of the lightness of evangelicalism in general.
    * One speaker–Sproul, if memory serves–complained that evangelicalism has all too often lost “the evangel.”

    I’m new to the discussion and don’t have the time to sit and read the entire thing, so please bear with my questions.

    Is it possible that maybe what we have here are Christians who are practicing “separation” even though they don’t use the exact word? Isn’t it entirely possible to separate from something without using the magic word?

    It is disheartening to me, anyway, that these men – I’m referring to Sproul, Piper, et al – will not remove themselves from their denominations, especially in light of the obvious concerns that they mentioned. But I’m not necessarily convinced that we have to practice second degree separation here – by which I mean that we would/should disassociate from them [again, Sproul, Piper, et al.] because they will not disassociate from the denominations. Apparently, Doran, Horn, Davey, Jordan, and Harbin agree with that.

    Let’s not amputate the entire leg if the toes have gangrene in them, OK?

  38. With Jay’s comments in mind, let me ask this question: If not with Piper. MacArthur, Sproul, etc., when should secondary separation be practiced?

  39. Keith,

    In case you delayed your departure, you seem to be seriously downplaying your comments regarding fundamentalism made here and other places on the web. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love a good discussion, even debate, so I am not adverse to being challenged–there’s plenty of cyberspace material to prove my willingness to interact with those who disagree with me. I don’t, however, care to spend time interacting with people who are dismissive or condescending nor with those who never seem to concede anything. When I encounter these, I am generally try to bow out of the conversation, and I would encourage anyone who thinks I display these at any time to refrain from wasting their time talking to me.

    There just really isn’t much point in banging heads together. Most good conversations happen between people who are trying to understand each other and help each other. To be blunt, I don’t think I have read anything you have written that indicates a desire to understand, only to correct or pass judgment on. I suppose I would do the same if I hung out in the comment sections of groups with which I disagreed completely, but why would I do that?

  40. I will gladly answer questions:

    In this discourse, I don’t see where I’ve been condescending. If I have been, I’m fairly confident that it was not as condescending as Chris implying that these guys think evangelicalisms problems fell from the sky.

    I also think that I conceded several things. For example: “In general, I agree with your answer to my question number one.” “3) Agreed.” “I retract my question.” “Thank you.” What have you conceded?

    Is my disagreement with fundamentalism more severe than yours or Chris’s disagreement with evangelicalism? Why do you guys spend hundreds of dollars to hang out in the conferences of groups with which you disagree?

  41. I thoroughly enjoyed the time in Louisville – finding the sweet fellowship particularly edifying! It was a blessing to be with friends – true friends – from varying locations on the spectrum of conservative, Bible-believing, God-centered, Gospel-preaching Christianity. What a joy to see and hear brothers “prefer one another” and genuinely love one another. Agreeing with Chris, it was great to see fundamentalist leaders not attending to criticize (not a hint of arrogance or self-righteousness that I witnessed) but participating and being blessed. It was also encouraging to see non-fundamentalist brothers appreciating their interactions (not a hint of gloating or scorn that I witnessed). I brought a young man from our church who didn’t understand some of the dialogue between my friends from varying “camps” over meals – but he sure appreciated the spirit of the interaction and the significant discussion of meaningful topics. Praise the Lord that JD is excited about ministry and prayerfully considering God’s call to vocational Gospel ministry as a result!

    Agreeing that “greatness” is in serving (Matt. 20) and that obscure, faithful shepherds are among the “greatest of these,” I found tremendous refreshment and encouragement in “coming apart” to be with my friends, hear the Word, be led in worshipping the Lord, and participate in iron-sharpening-iron discussion (even though it produces sparks, at times). Those two days flew by too fast!

    Now, I am back in Colorado Springs – market-driven philosophy central – where sometimes one can feel alone and insignificantly small… but encouraged how many pastors and churches are rejecting man-centered ministry! I pray for those standing for (“fighting,” “defending” I think they called it) the Gospel in various circles, as I covet their prayers for me and Grace Bible Church. And by the way – I don’t even agree with myself sometimes – so the call for discernment is always appropriate.

    A bit of personal testimony: in the early 90’s I attended a leadership conference and weekend men’s gathering in Boulder. Enthused as I was for what I had witnessed, it was a good thing that some more experienced men graciously warned me to be discerning even as they commended my heart for discipling men! Their hint to be discerning, though initially resented by me, turned out to be necessary in subsequent years. I don’t believe that I was “star struck” or anything else – just genuinely excited about something happening… but I needed to pay attention. Youthful excitement tends to LEAP (I still have it) – but experience appreciates those who remind me to keep an eye open to LOOK.

    Chris, it was a good thing we offered some ice cream to Pastor Doran, even though he didn’t acquiesce. Next time, Dave, I owe you a 2 liter of Diet Coke … and hope to see you in Colorado, as you had hinted.

  42. Thanks for the reflections on the conference, Chris–very interesting. As one who grew up in New Evangelicalism, I can echo your general critique of the movement. Doesn’t apply to every person in the movement, but I guess you’ve said that a few times already in this discussion…

    Your original “boyish crush” comment is accurate, IMO. I recently read a blog of a fellow grad who said that he had spent his afternoon listening to Piper, which he followed with the phrase “(pure truth)”. It’s not an isoloted post, nor is he alone in the kind of praise he heaps on.

    In one of the courses I teach (Christian Masterworks, in which we read works by Bunyan, Lewis, and Tozer), the course surveys at the end of the semester often include glowing recommendations (sometimes almost demands!) for me to add books by Piper, MacArthur, etc. I grew up listening to MacArthur (pretty much every weekday from 6th grade through 12th grade), and visited Masters when considering colleges, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy Piper’s works (I’ll get to them someday), but the gushing recommendations that I receive baffle me. Every generation finds its key speakers, but no generation knows whether its key guys will have a ministry much beyond his own lifetime. (i.e. we really don’t know whether anyone will be reading these men in 50 years). Appreciating and benefitting from superior teaching (and recommending others to do so) doesn’t make one a “groupee”, but there is certainly more of that kind of attitude out there than is good for either the fundamentalist or evangelical camps. I have ministerial students who look absolutely shocked (I’m not exagerating) when I tell them that I haven’t read any of Piper’s books yet. I’m not sure what’s going on inside their heads, but the expression on their face seems to wonder whether I’m even qualified to teach them anything about Christian literature with such a gaping hole in my experience!

    I should mention that no person who gathers a following should necessarily be blamed for the attitudes of those who follow. It’s not Piper’s or MacArthur’s (or Gothard’s, etc.) fault if people go off the deep end in their admiration for them. With all the hero-worship of sports figures and entertainers, it’s actually nice to see people look up to men of good caliber who have dedicated their lives to the proclamation and practical ramifications of the gospel.

    Now where’s that copy of “Desiring God”…

  43. Ted,

    You don’t really have to read Piper if you have read Jonathan Edwards. I’ve read Piper; he got me hooked on Edwards and now I would rather just read JE. If your students think you are strange for not reading Piper, I’d hate to think what they would think of someone like me who has never read any of MacArthur’s books. I’m probably the only person in the Christian blogsphere in that category.

    Ironically (or maybe not), I grew up in the shadow of GCC in Sun Valley, CA. His kids went to the same Christian school that I did for a time. We went to his church a few times when I was in Junior High, and I have a younger brother who is a Master’s grad. So, I have exposure but I can’t get myself to read him….

  44. Andy–thanks for the advice. I’ve heard other friends who’ve made the same observation. This reminds me a little of what Tozer says in the beginning of The Knowledge of the Holy, where he laments that his book is necessary only because people don’t read the old books anymore! I’m all in favor of reading both (when I can find the time to do it)! Maybe I need to increase my ability to mutitask like Chris can–I’ll listen to Doran, mow my lawn, and read Edwards all while holding my son as he naps!

  45. If I could get Doran to help mow my lawn, then I could do more reading, too. And here I thought the servant leaders where coming out of Northland…

  46. :(

  47. Brothers,

    This discussion about the infatuation of younger men (or older men) with certain key leaders has always been a bit baffling to me. I understand the obvious failure of spiritually blind loyalty or following without Biblical discernment. I do not believe that any thinking person would disagree with those cautions toward following any leader, spiritual or otherwise.

    The confusion comes when men, like those who have joined this particular thread, throw up these cautions as some danger that is isolated to young men and especially young Fundamentalist who follow spiritual leaders who are outside of the “circle.” I find it ironic at best and hypocritical as worst to denounce the affection of followers for spiritual leaders. All men follow leaders whom God has raised up for His people. Furthermore, God has historically raised up special leaders who lead other leaders, young and old alike.

    This is the overwhelming testimony of the Old Testament people of God. The kings that God had ordained and the prophets He had commissioned were loved and followed. Younger men, like Elisha and David, were guilty of having “stars in their eyes” toward the God-established leaders of their day. The New Testament backs this natural leaders-to-followers relationship. The twelve followed in allegiance to our Lord. Under Christ they followed the leadership of Peter at Pentecost and in the early church. James and Peter were raised to an elevated level of leadership over leaders in the Jerusalem Council. Timothy was “infatuated” with Paul and his leadership under God. Silas, Barnabas, and others could also be indicted with having “boyish crushes” on the God-ordained leader of their time.

    Brothers, your people often view you in the perspectives that you are pointing out in the younger men. They love to be near you, listen to you teach, read what you right, and talk about your instruction to their friends and family. You and I, likewise, act differently in the presence of men like Dr. Minnick, Dr. Bob, Dr. Doran, Dr. Jordan, and Dr. Bauder. We read and listen to everything we can get your hands on from these leaders that God has raised up. This is not sinful or foolish, but rather it is the natural and God-pleasing imitation of those who imitate Christ.

    So…if there are young men in your churches or classrooms who have been blessed and edified by men like Pastor John, Mohler, Mahaney, Dever, or Piper, why do you decry their affection and allegiance? It is not sinful or foolish to follow the teaching ministry, written or spoken, of any of the men mentioned. It is no more dangerous than the affection and allegiance toward Pastor Doran, Minnick, or Jordan. All of these men are professed and proven sinners who are saved and raised up to leadership by God’s design and gracious purpose. Each man has shortcomings and failures, as did Elijah, Peter, Paul, Luther, Calvin, Whitfield, Spurgeon, Edwards, or whichever leader of the past you choose.

    So why is this discussion such a hot topic in our day?

    The answer is found in our sinful hearts. We are prone to move from the natural and healthy following of God-ordained leaders to an unhealthy and unrighteous party spirit among God’s people and even God’s leaders, like you men. I believe that this thread is another testimony that the truths of 1 Cor. 3:21-23 are not relegated to the church at Corinth. Brothers, we are not of men, but of Christ. Those men who follow our Christ in the most maturity and zeal should be loved and followed, but only as they lead our hearts to a deeper affection to Christ.

    Can we stop the ridiculous game of using these arguments against only those whose allegiance is toward men outside of our smaller “circles” inside of the broader circle of Biblical Christianity? When these valid arguments are isolated to young men who follow leaders outside of our smaller “circle,” it can be nothing less than a straw-man argument. The cautions are valid, but they are universal. So, I warn you men of your allegiance to the leaders that God has raised up in your spiritual growth. They along with the leaders from T4G are not to be blindly loved. Their teaching, along with the leaders of T4G, has holes and blind spots.

    Let’s put the party line straw man away once and for all. We all need to be cautioned to give Christ alone our blind loyalty and endless affection.

    Grace and peace.

  48. Adam,

    Thanks. I have been watching this discussion with interest. My heart is with Chris and Dave, but my mind is with many of the challenges. I told my wife that I despair of ever understanding the sectarian spirit that pervades this culture, the we/them mentality. This is particularly disconcerting since neither “we” nor “them” has ever been well-defined.

    –The following vent does not apply to Dave and Chris who I consider friends, but to a palpable, tangible, real sub-culture of fundamentalism. Dave and Chris, of course, will probably disagree with me, which is fine. But I wish they could see that it too often appears that the gospel fundamentalists preach is separation, not, well, the gospel. I have lost my taste for these kinds of conversations, but I think the conversation is important–

    I personally think that because fundamentalists have tolerated baptist ayatollahs and allowed for blind loyalty within their own circle they now have an unneccessary paranoia about the appreciation that people have toward real leaders, leaders worth listening to. Because separation was used as a weapon, or rather a fence to keep the loyal hemmed in (I have hundreds of anecdotes to illustrate), and because loyalty was taught as a preeminent virtue of Christian service for the plebes in the ranks, there is an unrealistic wringing of hands by the movement as a whole about the appreciation men show toward real leaders.

    In contrast, I would say it is precisely because I listen to all of them (the good leaders from Minnick to MacArthur and everyone inbetween) that I am not likely to succumb to the blind loyalty that defined/does define many fundamentalist ministries. And I think this applies to most young men that independently absorb, ponder, critique, meditate on the teaching of the leaders that God has obviously placed in the forefront of His Church’s attention.

    There is too great a fear about a “blind loyalty” to these leaders when they themselves do not model a blind loyalty to each other and do not ask for it from us. But the fear of blind loyalty, it seems to me, is coming from corners that are blindly loyal to anachronistic language, a movement-approved, institutinally-guided application of a vague, albeit often reasonable, concept (i.e. secondary separation), and outdated categorizations of men and ministries that were problematic even when they were contextually relevant (i.e. neo-evangelicalism in the 50’s). People who are blindly loyal to a not-universally accepted exegesis of a singular passage that supposedly requires the exclusively-held practise of ecclesiastical secondary separation by a small circle of believers in a very small pocket of time are people who will be too nervous about the happy effect of positive influence of obviously God-blessed leaders.

    They seem to miss the obvious effect of real leaders: real leaders inspire loyalty to Christ, not to a movement. I walked away from the conference, more fired up about the Gospel. I also happily enjoyed the absence of a pep-rally for the uniquely-held teaching of a particular movement which I invariably sense when I go to a fundamentalist conference that will almost assuredly have several messages, workshops, and lectures on – you guessed it – secondary separation.

    I think Adam is right. Even while God is clearly doing a unique work to break down the unbiblical partisanship among true “Gospelizers,” some are desparately trying to maintain it with poor argumentation and with the clearest evidence of no argument – fear-mongering.

    Call me whatever, but this fundamentalist baptist wished that every person in his church was with him for the conference. I’m not all that terrified of the Gospel. And neither am I concerned that we will all come back and ditch our distinctives.

  49. Adam and Bob,

    I have to admit that my first response to your posts was a sense of cluelessness–what did I say to come close to inviting this interpretation of it? Fearmongering? Party spirit? Wow.

    Does the Bible urge us to follow godly examples? Absolutely. Does it warn us about not following the wrong examples? Absolutely. Is there ample justification for these warnings found in Scripture and history? Absolutely.

    If Barnabas can follow Peter into hypocrisy, should each of us keep the closest of watch on our own souls and steps? Should any of us think that we will be guarded from missteps simply because we think we are being careful and we are beholden to no particular group? Doesn’t this run the risk of being self-confidence masked as spiritual maturity?

    You men are free to pass whatever judgment you deem appropriate on my counsel above and my deliberate practice of warning anyone and everyone that will hear not to elevate any man above the Scriptures, but I believe it is eminently biblical and wise. I stand in the chapel of DBTS at least once a year and challenge our students to forge their own convictions from the Scriptures and never to accept a position simply because a godly and gifted professor teaches it. I teach the people of this congregation to test everything that is taught by the Word as obedience to the Scriptures (1 Ths 5:21). What I have said here I have said to myself, those over whom God has given me shepherding responsibility, and as many others as God gives opportunity. After twenty years of pastoral ministry, I see the importance of this now even more than I did when I started.

    I believe the use of 1 Cor 3 is exact the opposite of what we are discussing on this blog. The problem at Corinth was that men were hiding their insubordination to the apostle behind the banner of a well-known teacher. Their claim to be “of Apollos” was an excuse to not follow Paul. Paul did not answer by saying, “It’s okay to make a big deal of Apollos or Paul.” No, Paul confronted them with these words, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul?” (v. 5). His answer: “servants” (v. 5) who are not “anything” (v. 7).

    I am grateful that the men who have been named on this blog, as far as I can tell, would all with one voice say don’t accept anything that I say simply because I say it. And because they would say that. I also believe they would say that we must all be careful about accepting things simply because they come from a credible source. Now, if every one actually takes the same position on this, then how is it that this is some great fundamentalist flaw? Come on, men.

    No one is saying t hat anyone is asking for blind loyalty. At least two of us are saying that the history of Christianity is so replete with its occurrence that we all should guard our hearts so that we don’t fall prey to one of the most subtle sins known to man. The 20th century is veritable hall of shame in this regard.

    What a sad mess the whole of evangelicalism and fundamentalism is in if we cannot discourse about ideas without becoming such a silly spat about who is guilty of politics. We have imbibed the culture at levels far deeper than I think we realize, and I use the we deliberately. No finger pointing, just hand wriinging.

  50. […] Adam Bailie, Bob Bixby, and Dave Doran are having a compelling conversation in the comments of My Two Cents. Some guy named Chris chimes in once in a while, too… […]

  51. Dave,

    You said:

    I have to admit that my first response to your posts was a sense of cluelessness–what did I say to come close to inviting this interpretation of it? Fearmongering? Party spirit? Wow.

    Whereas I said:

    The following vent does not apply to Dave and Chris who I consider friends, but to a palpable, tangible, real sub-culture of fundamentalism.

    It seems that you are feeling personally attacked and that was not my intention. My intention is very simply to point out what seems obvious to many of us: there is a circling of the wagons “we” vs. “them” paranoia in the concern over the influence leaders like MacArthur and others have without adequate enough explanation as to why certain fundamentalist leaders deserve a monopoly of the influence on young men except for the panacean description – “he sees secondary separation as a fundamental of the faith.”

    As I clearly forewarned in my post, I did not see this attitude as applying to you. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. In fairness, I think that you could acknowledge that neither Adam or I are sucking our own observations out of our thumbs. I have to re-read Adam’s post again, but I don’t recall anything that gave me the impression that he was attacking you personally. And, if he was, that certainly wasn’t the part of his post that I agreed with. My fault for not clarifying exactly what parts I agreed with.

    I regret my post was apparently read as a personal attack.

  52. Hi Guys,

    Interesting conversation. I am writing from Mecca… uh.. Greenville awaiting my son’s graduation on Saturday AM. Saw a few grand poobah’s (Dave note spelling!) tonight, shook hands with a few of them.

    Listen, we all have men we respect and love. That is certainly not what I hear Chris and Dave arguing against. The danger is “hero worship” and the “fan” or “groupie” mentality. Young men are particularly prone to this, being young, but older men can be just as enanamoured.

    Over the years, hopefully our ‘hero worship’ will wane. We will hopefully read wider. We will doubtless see the feet of clay that every leader has. We will realize that the way “X” does things is not the only way to do things. And, may it be so more and more, we will see that it is The King to whom we are accountable and to whom our affections – all of them – are due.

    I know you know this.

    But if you protest against a warning against hero worship, has the warning hit too close to home?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  53. Adam,

    The 3rd paragraph of your post has two problems:

    (1) The biblical examples you cite do not support the position you argue for (that the OT and NT provide examples of followers who exhibite “infatuation” and “boyish crushes” of their leaders). If they do, can you please clarify exactly how Elisha, David, Timothy, Barnabas, and Silas exhibited “infatuation” or “boyish crushes” towards their leaders. Elisha is the closest one I can think of, I suppose (2 Kings 2), but the loyalty he exhibits could be legitimately explained in ways other than these terms.

    (2) Even if these examples do support the position you’re defending, please explain how the relationship between young fundamentalists and evangelicals who exhibit “infatuation” and “boyish crushes” towards their leaders (saying that they hear “pure truth” when a particular leader speaks and so on–I can provide evidence of this kind of attitude if you doubt that it exists) are analagous to the leaders God appointed in the OT and NT and their followers

    I’ve enjoyed reading your group “Faith and Practice” blog. This is not a personal attack–just a response (possibly rebuttal) to one part of your post. I for one am happy with the overall direction of increasing recognitions of Christian unity between some strands of fundamentalism and some conservative evangelicals. It may yield good fruit during the next generation.

  54. Bob,

    You missed it by miles. I do not for a minute think that either Adam or you attacked me personally. I think you disagreed with me based on your own colored lenses. My point about the misinterpretation is because, to my recollection, the only ones who have substantively addressed the issue that you both targeted were Christ and me. All of the other comments are almost passing in nature. Chris and I were engaging in a conversation with Nate and mainly Keith. Adam chose to address the issue directly in terms of whether it was right or wrong to do, and you chose to address indirectly in terms of fundamentalist fear-mongering, and my point is that I can’t see how what was said in this thread warrants these two responses.

    So you are clear, when I refer to passing judgment I mean deciding whether I am right or wrong, nothing more. Perhaps I am simplistic about this, but if I decide you are wrong about something you have said and done, I am putting it to the test and making a decision about it. That’s passing judgment in the biblical discernment aspect of it. I can see that the use of the term may have caused you to think I thought you were doing something wrong (as in “do not go on passing judgment”). That wasn’t what I meant and I apologize if it was unclear. To put it succintly, I think your judgment in this case is wrong, but I have no problem with you passing judgment on what I wrote above or how I approach this issue.

    Any references to myself in my previous post were to demonstrate that this is not some trump card that I pull out whenever I think some young guy needs to be frightened away from evangelicals. It is a deliberate effort on my part to put discernment nto practice for myself, my family, the sheep I shepherd, and the students I teach. I was addresssing the argument that this tactic is used to preserve fundamentalism. My point is that it is a biblical practice in which everyone engages (think Reckless Faith and Ashamed of the Gospel; think Together for the Gospel conference; think Al Mohler’s web commentaries).

    Bob, your post, by suggesting that my response was triggered by a perceived personal attack, essentially changed the subject without addressing the issues. I don’t think this was your intent, but it was the product. My response had nothing to do with me beyond my ideas and actions, and those are completely open to review and critique. If I didn’t feel this way, I certainly wouldn’t post in these venues. Stick with those and we have a discussion.

  55. Dave said, to my recollection, the only ones who have substantively addressed the issue that you both targeted were Christ and me.

    That’s pretty good company and should drive the final nail in the coffin. :D

  56. Don,

    I hope the graduation goes well.

    If I may be blunt, you have the most unhelpful way of engaging conversations. Of what value is tossing in a question which impugns the motives of those with whom you are interacting? Do you really expect them to respond with, “Well Don, know that you asked, yes I do think that I have been guilty of this?” Has anyone that you have skewered like this on the internet ever responded like that? I haven’t seen it yet, but what I have seen is you turn discussions into arguments regularly.

    Can I ask a favor? Whenever I am involved in a discussion, please do not come into it on my side. You are welcome to join the other side, but whenever you come in on my side I feel like my task just grew exponentially tougher. In this case, you demonstrated exactly the kind of spirit that triggers the appropriate anger of men like Nate, Adam, and Bob. That leaves people like me stuck defending a principle with co-defendents that seem to agree, but really don’t. I apply this principle to everyone, and you seem to apply it only to those who follow people you don’t care for (at least that is when you pull out the trump card). I would venture to say that I have seen as many men blindly follow fundamentalists as evangelicals–it is a sin problem that is not restricted to one movement or circle.

    Enjoy the graduation. Take some time off the blogs, at least don’t “help” like you do.

  57. I think highly of Chris, but not quite that much. Sorry about that.

  58. Ted,

    What exactly did you mean by your statement:

    “If for one am happy with the overall direction of increasing recognitions of Christian unity between some strands of fundamentalism and some conservative evangelicals. It may yeild good fruit during the next generation.”

    Are you saying that unity with conservative evangelicals is a good thing despite their lack of separation? IMHO, this entire conversation lends itself to cooperation in worship and instruction with men with whom most fundamentalists would not cooperate because of their lack of separation.


  59. From SI’s “filings” column: […] Adam Bailie, Bob Bixby, and Dave Doran are having a compelling conversation in the comments of My Two Cents. Some guy named Chris chimes in once in a while, too… […]

    Nice, Greg. I’ll jump in sometime, probably when the dust has settled. In the meantime, I got 12 hours of sleep last night for the first time since I was 2, enjoyed a nice breakfast with my girls this morning, have plans to take my 3rd out for a Daddy-Daughter-Date in a while, need to mow my lawn again (probably with Barrett’s help, this time), and have a 7:30 appointment to watch Lebron eliminate the Wizards. Besides, I don’t want a “stop helping me” note from Doran.

    One quick thought: though I have warned against blind loyalty, I’ve also warned against blind criticism. As Doran said, I’ve said enough to make everybody mad, and it seems that most are prone to pay attention only to the parts of the post that step on their own toes. So I’m left trying to figure out if I’m a legalist or a compromiser.

    (Don’t answer that. Talk about leading with your chin.)

    Anyway, you guys will have to save fundamentalism without me for a while.

    p.s. Does anyone else think it’s demeaning to be called a “filing” from SI’s sword?

  60. Dave,

    Ok. I was concerned that you had taken it as a personal attack and am relieved to be informed otherwise. I highly value yours (and others) ability to absorb tough questions and criticisms and, unfortunately, sometimes those tough questions and criticisms may unintentionally appear personal.

    I appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt that I was not intending to change the subject without addressing the issues because I was trying (clumsily obviously) to keep the subject on track. When I perceived that you had taken it personally I wanted to make it crystal clear that

    1/There are a number of men (i.e. Adam and me) who have great personal respect for many leaders within fundamentalism (i.e. you), and
    2/In spite of that great respect, there is a very real experience within fundamentalism of a clannish, we/them, motive-reading (i.e. Don), fear-mongering about the appreciation men have toward non-fundamentlists. (Both points, I thought, speak to the issue). You are clearly proving yourself to not be of that ilk and I, for one, am very grateful.

    The way you disassociated yourself from Don was perfectly timed and very helpful to your cause. The Dons of Fundamentalism are some of the only Fundamentalists many have ever known. That might be the “colored lenses” you refer to. Anyway, your defense of “our” motives speaks volumes. Thanks.

    I’ll bow out for now.

  61. I would appreciate some thoughts or comments about my earlier observation regarding the men who went to the T4G conference and separation.

    I’m not trying to puff myself, just to get some advice as I begin to work through this whole ‘secondary separation’ issue.


  62. Yes, right. Now the Grand Poobah has spoken and I am just supposed to roll over and shut up.

    Is this not exactly the kind of Fundamentalist Ayatollahism that all the complainers are complaining about. Come on Dave, grow up. You are making it personal. Do you think you bombast helps any more than my questions?

    I will argue my way, you argue yours. This appears to be a public forum and I will post when and where I please and I will NOT kow-tow to someone who seems to be somewhat among us.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  63. I have found that, at least in my life, those who set the terms re from what or whom they are separating usually find it or create it when not found. Is it not our mission to preach Christ and Him crucified to a lost world? How many lost and energy wasted while we argue in forums like this. Not overly helpful to those of us who find among it the same reason we distanced ourselves from the “fundamentalist movement” in the first place.

  64. When the defense of “separatism” overshadows the defense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, have we not gone too far? “Separatism” does not save, the Gospel does.

  65. Bob,

    For the record, I am not assigning motives to you. I am asking a question. The first part of my post describes what I think Chris is saying. (Maybe it describes what Dave is saying, who knows?) I think it describes advice that you yourself would give to a young fellow starting out in his studies, wouldn’t it?

    If yes, then my next question is simply asking, what are you complaining about?

    I think it is quite amusing to see you attempt to paint me as a kool-aid drinking, blind eyed follower of fundamentalist leaders when it is quite obvious that I maintain my independence from Dave and others. I don’t belong to the fundamentalist party machine. I am willing to criticise when I think it necessary. But I am not willing to dump on fundamentalism the idea (or movement, take your pick). I grew up in evangelicalism and left it for fundamentalism because I think fundamentalism is right. I have no desire to go back to evangelicalism. The current crop of leaders as represented by the T4G conference don’t impress me over much. Some of them say some good things, but they are hardly untouchable.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  66. Don,

    I am sorry if I gave the impression that I was in some position of authority over you. That was not my intent, and that is why I asked for you to do me a favor. You can think whatever you would like to think about Ayatollahism. Let the readers draw their conclusions.

    I am not sure that I have ever seen you back off of a position or action or statement, so I won’t expect you to do so now. At some point, however, you should seriously evaluate whether it is your views that alienate people or the way you chose to express them. If pointing this out to you is bombast, then I am guilty.

    Although you ddn’t say it to me, I got a chuckle out of your inclusion of me in the fundamentalist machine. You need to get out more. People across the spectrum from Rick Flanders to Phil Johnson don’t think I am fit into the apparatus.

    Since I don’t think we will be having tea together any time soon, have you ever considered that Jeremiah 33:3 refers to special revelation?

  67. Don, just to prove that I give warnings about fundamentalists as well, I think you should be careful about having a “boyish crush” that makes you swallow everything Doran says. Read with caution. He’s just a man. I get the sense that you’ve become enamored with him. Be careful.

  68. Andy,

    I appreciate the question. I am a fundamentalist by conviction and (to the best of my knowledge) in practice as well. Here’s the background to what I meant.

    (1) It’s encouraging to see some conservative evangelicals react against the kinds of results that a non-separatist philosophy has produced in the last several decades. They’re not exactly separatists, but they’ve made a big step in the right direction. Sometimes they actually begin to practice quasi-separatist behavior. I believe this can be attributed to a genuine leading of the Scripture and the Spirit away from overt compromise and worldliness, and should be considered by fundamentalists as a good thing.

    (2) Likewise, it’s encouraging that some fundamentalists have begun to distance themselves from belligerent, caustic, and unscripturally factious individuals simply because they held to a Scriptural principle of separation. Some who called themselves fundamentalists are the epitome of the warnings in 3 John. Giving these individuals a pass simply because they practiced separation marred the testimony and effectiveness of the fundamentalist movement as a whole.

    By the phrase “increasing recognitions of Christian unity,” I simply meant that it appears that some conservative evangelicals and some fundamentalists are finding that they share certain common ground in theology and practice that may not have existed recently. Of course, some fundamentalists may consciously or unconsciously use this common ground to embrace evangelicalism and abandon fundamentalism. This is unfortunate and unnecessary, and fundamentalists ought to issue warnings to those (young and old) who would use the common ground in this way.

    Nevertheless, I believe that when individuals (in this case, some conservative evangelicals) make steps in the right direction, acknowledging this is worthwhile to encourage rather than discourage this. I believe that Chris’ original post gave a good balance between (1) emphasizing/maintaining the Scripture differences that we as fundamentalists have with evangelicals, and (2) recognizing/enjoying the enormous common ground that all true believers inherently share in Christ our Savior.

    Hope that clarifies what I meant.

  69. Dale,

    You said, “When the defense of ‘separatism’ overshadows the defense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, have we not gone too far? ‘Separatism’ does not save, the Gospel does.”

    While I understand the sentiment of this statement, I think it shows a lack of understanding about what separation is all about. Separation is a Biblically mandated part of the defense of the Gospel of Jesus Chrsit. Separation is not something off on its own, it is intrinsically tied to the understanding and realization that the purity of the Gospel is essential and that God’s Word has instructed that part of the means for maintaining that purity of the Gospel is to separate from those who would corrupt it, whether through denials of key aspects of that Gospel or through compromising with those who deny key aspects of that Gospel. Thus, in a sense, to argue against a defense of separation and for a defense of the Gospel seems to be, in a sense, akin to arguing for the proper use of a sword while arguing against keeping the sword sharp. As the sharpening of the sword is part of the essence of using the sword properly, so also is the practice of separation paramount to the defense of the Gospel.

    In Christ,

    Pastor Frank Sansone

  70. Hey guys! I appreciate the concerns and comments made so far. I want to chime in on the “idol” worship comments. For me (I am a big fan of Piper) the draw is not Piper it is more the God who Piper bathes in. You cannnot read Piper or listen to Piper without feeling the weight of God’s glory. It is not necessarily idol worship, but for me in a lot of the “fundamental” churches and groups I had grown up in, I had never heard preaching like that. Thanks for the conversation. May God be glorified even while we hash this issue out.

    Mathew Sims~Soli Deo Gloria

  71. Pastor Sansone:

    Thank you for your response. I do understand “come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (I grew up in a fundamentalist church and attended BJU many years ago). What I think is a better way to ask the question: in what ratio “separatism” to “gospel”? If Christ’s command emphasis is to proclaim the Gospel, and praise God it is, does the continual emphasis on defending “separation” get in the way when criticism of others proclaiming the same Gospel is perceived by the layity? We all know the compromising ways of folk like Billy Graham and the Gaithers and similar, but constant criticism tends to turn off those who hear it on a continuous basis. “Can two walk together unless they agree” could also be understood as “agreement to disagree can in itself be agreement”. I am not proposing affiliation with the unfruitful works of darkness (the Corinthian christians were certainly from a debased society), but when do we draw the line if it becomes so obscure over differences rather than doctrine? Separation, as a doctrine, is scripturally taught, yes, but there are so many interpretive determinations that we argue and accuse to the glory of none except advancing our own agenda and importance as if we had the corner on interpretive scripture. Where does it end this side of eternity?

  72. One quick PS: I think we have put “separation” off by itself, IMHO. I think separation should be a natural flow of our following Christ, not a “flaunt it in your face” attitude, however (walk humbly with our God). Some of us have perceived it that way. Maybe I’m wrong. I love the church in which I was raised, and God is working in my heart to be more conformed to His image. Thanks.

  73. Dale,

    Thanks for the response.

    As far as the “ratio”, I am not completely I understand what you are asking.

    I think that a lot of what happens on the blogosphere tends to present a distortion of what occurs in real-life ministry. By this, I mean, in the blogosphere, the discussions that seem to get the most interest are those discussions that focus on the issues that are most in contention among those with whom we communicate, and thus, by default, it looks like those things are the focus of the bloggers life. In real life, I have preached many more messages on the Gospel (or even on forgiveness for that matter) than I have preached on separation. In fact, I cannot remember a single message in which the focus was on separation, albeit I am sure that there were instances where it was mentioned in the context of other points – and I do think that separation is very important (obviously). So, if your comment on “ratio” was in relation to how much time is spent on the two, I think it is important to realize that the blogosphere does tend to give an unbalanced perspective on what really consumes people’s time and thought.

    If you meant something else by “ratio”, please clarify that for me.

    In regards to something else you said (HEY, CHRIS – is there any way to select text on this blog so that things can be copied and pasted??), I am not sure that I am agreement with your distinction between “differences” and “doctrine.” My problems with BG are not concerns over “differences”, but concerns over “doctrine.” If the only problem was that he had a diiference over whether we should wear a tie when preaching or not, then we are wasting our time. If the problem is over doctrine, however (and I believe there is a doctrinal issue over a Gospel that has been watered-down in message as well as in associations), then it is not a waste of time. Again, I may be reading your statement about differences and doctrines incorrectly, so, if I am, please clarify for me.

    Thank you,

    Pastor Frank Sansone

  74. I barely have time to sleep, let alone keep up with this thread and my flock and the trip to Greenville and back. I think that it is great when God uses men of all sorts to get the attention of preachers and stir them. I think that the men most responsible for the phenomenon of “stargazing” are the men who let themselves become “larger than life.” Close up, brothers, and their faults are there, just like yours. Jesus sought no glory for himself, but sometimes men are willing to let others give them glory that they should quake to receive. As much as you talk about God, when you allow yourself to become the word in every mouth, you have allowed it when you saw it coming, but you still allowed it. Preachers especially should not tell themselves it is God who has lifted them up…nor should they listen to others who wish to tell them that. I am not worried about the present infatuations because new ones will come along to replace them. Wise men who are burning lights for a short while will disappear into the lives of the lost and saved and work their proper field and their victories will be won in the loneliness of self-denial when no one cheers and no one hears. They also will want to make room for others, always, because they are not driven by ambition nor even the strange deisre to shine above others. There is no harm in the fact that some lead with great ability and some inspire with thrilling intensity, but the danger lies in forgetting that these are the surface movements on the seas of ministry. We all see them and rejoice in the good that such visible things can do, but not so that we can forget that the power lies under the surface in the deep channels and above us in the heavens. Mike Rake

  75. Pastor Sansone:

    You have been absolutely kind and wonderful (or wonderfully kind) in your responses to my inqueries. Thank you for your ministry to me on this blog. You certainly have keen insight into what I was asking (right on the nail), and I don’t find anything you said with which I would even remotely disagree. Wow! And you don’t even know me!

    Also, thank you for your anaology of the sword. It made a lot of sense.

    Chris, I actually understand what your original posting was conveying, and while there are still issues I need to chew over (thanks to Pastor Sansone), you also made a lot of sense. I know that we can love the Gospel and take to task the way it is sometimes presented (Paul certainly did), yet I still need to digest the method of our response to separation (in light of what Pastor Sansone has given). Thank you for this forum (still praying for your family in Brazil).

    Blessings to you both,


  76. Brothers,

    I apologize for my absence from the discussion after posting that long comment. I am in Texas trying to find a home to move into in July. I trust I will be able to comment further sometime this weekend.

    Grace and peace,


  77. […] Bob Kauflin has been reading Chris Anderson. […]

  78. Praying for each of you as you prepare for this Lord’s Day!

    Is “new evangelicalism” a movement or a philosophy of ministry? I know that the National Association of Evangelicals is an organization – but have no idea who belongs to it (except that Ted Haggard is the President). Do you become a “neo” by joining something or by holding to the unbiblical idea of cooperating with Gospel-denying liberals (Catholic, protestant, or other) for the sake of trying to win them when they show up (really an old school pragmatism)? The critical philosophy of ministry issues of our day distinguish market-driven / man-centered ministry (new school pragmatism) and Gospel-driven / God-centered ministry. This difference is being battled in numerous circles (SBC, PCA, IFCA, and even fundamental camps). It seems that the lines of agreement, at least on this critical issue are not at all by associations, fellowships, or denominations.

    So what has T4G asked us to do in response: join an association; sign a statement; or hold to a philosophy of ministry? There are too many things they disagree on to start a new group (baptism, gifts, music style, applications of separation, etc.). If we are being encouraged to hold fast to a Biblical ministry, it seems to be edifying. So I read books, attend conferences, and enjoy fellowship that strengthens my commitment to a philosophy … which is helpful when it feels a bit like swimming against the current in our day.

  79. I would like to make a few additional comments regarding my dust-up with Dave Doran. There are two issues I would like to address:

    1. My goal in posting in forums like this
    2. The appropriateness of Doran’s comments

    1. Dave asked if I had ever seen anyone ‘converted’ by my style of commenting. The answer is no. Quite frankly, I am not looking for ‘decisions’ and I have never given an invitation in my posting. (I am thinking about leading a few verses of ‘Just as I Am’ for my next post, though).

    I am not debating in on-line fora for the purpose of winning. I am not attempting to get anyone to see the light. I am debating to hone my own arguments and develop my own ability of discernment, such as it is. And I am writing for the sake of the ‘lurkers’, in order to present a point of view which it seems to me is not always represented in the places I post. I hope I am reasonable in my questions, and in this particular case, I think my question is reasonable. I stand by it and would be very interested in the answer.

    I am reading Murray’s biography of Lloyd-Jones at the moment. I ran across a quote by Lloyd-Jones that I think applies to the blog phenomenon. Lloyd-Jones is recollecting his participation in a Sunday School class when he was a young medical student in the years 1917-1924. The class was essentially a debating group:

    The arguing was keen an sometimes fierce every Sunday afternoon, and very often he and I were the main speakers. I have argued a lot, and with many men during my lifetime, but I can vouch that I have never seen his like from the point of view of debate and the swiftness of his mind. He, my brother Vincent, and Dr. David Phillips of Bala, are the three best debaters that I have ever met and my debt to the first two is very great. There is nothing better for the sharpening of wits and to help a man think clearly and orderly, than debating, and especially to debate on theological and philosophical topics.

    (Emphasis mine, p. 46 of Murray’s first volume)

    I am not quite sure what Dave expects to accomplish in online debating. I doubt very much that he has had any ‘converts’ either. The place to make converts is face to face.

    Thus, it seems to me rather churlish to chastise me for failing to achieve a result I am not after.

    2. I contend that my post prompting Doran’s rebuke did not cross the bounds of acceptable debate. If it did, please show me where it did.

    I do think that Doran himself crossed boundaries on several fronts. First, he took the focus away from the subject at hand and leveled a personal attack. That’s just bad netiquette. That’s how flame wars start

    Second, Doran took it upon himself to simply level a public broadside with no attempt to contact me personally. Now, I am not one to insist on Mt 18 as the ruling passage for all personal interactions. It did seem highly ironic, however, to see Bob chime in with his attaboy when he is the Mt 18 champion, see his postings in other places. In any case, Doran appeared to me to be simply trying to shut me up. I don’t think he was attempting to help me see my alleged error, nor restore me from my erring ways, etc. I just couldn’t ‘feel the love’. I could feel the bullying and intimidation, however.

    So… I have to wonder where this is coming from. I suspect that Doran has a bee in his bonnet from past exchanges between us, but I’ll leave that to him to address if he chooses to.

    In any case, in my opinion, Doran’s attack was uncalled for, uncharitable, and un-Christian.

    I have said all I care to say about it at this point. Dave can post again if he likes, but unless he has something new to discuss on the subject, I am happy to let him have the last word.

    Finally, I recognize that this is only a semi-public place. This is Chris’s blog, so I will defer to him if he would rather have me cease and desist. In fact, Chris, if you would prefer, please remove this and any other comment of mine on this thread that you deem inappropriate.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  80. Don,

    Good morning. Just a few comments regarding your post.

    You have missed my point. I never asked you whether you have had any “converts.” That is a word you chose and inserted into the discussion, and it also shifts it away from what I said. I made two points in the paragraph to which you are responding: (1) I have never seen you back down from any “position or action or statement” and you concede this. This is something that ought to cause you some reflection–have you never been wrong in all of your time on the internet? I suppose if the goal is debating, then one never concedes the weakness of his arguments, but certainly our goal for interaction like this must be higher than mere debate. And (2) I said that you should consider whether it is your views that alienate people or the way you choose to express them. Note the word I chose was “alienate” not “convert.” There is clearly a difference here which is significant. You can leave someone, in a debate among brothers and peers, “unconverted” to a position without having alienated them. Since it is your stated purpose to sharpen your debating skills and influence lurkers, this is why you should seriously consider why you consistently end up as you do.

    Your whole appeal to Matthew 18 ignores one glaring problem, you and I are not involved in a confrontation about private sin. I will grant that a case could be made for me emailing you to express my displeasure with your tactics, but I believe the case can be made that since you had just made a comment that is bad form in terms of debate (ad hominem) and that engages in dubious motive question, now would be the best time to challenge you about. It seems very curious to me that your stated goal does not include winning converts, yet you seem very prone to use a tactic which acts as if you believe your debate partner needs some kind of conversion.

    You ask what you did wrong. Assuming the question is sincere, here’s the condensed version: In the middle of a discussion about whether it is right to issue specialized warnings, you decided to shift that discussion away from the idea to the heart motives of those on one side of the discussion. By asking whether they are reacting to this because “the warning hits too close to home” is a thinly veiled accusation that they are guilty of hero worship. Sadly, this seems to be your regular mode of operation–you think you have right and discernment enough to make public guesses at people’s motives. You don’t need to wonder where people’s rejection of your ideas or rebuke of your actions come from; you just need to evaluate it to see if it is correct (for the record, the only bee in my bonnet is exactly what I expressed in my first post to you) .

    I should probably finish this and get on with things, but I can’t pass on the nonsense you have written about bullying and intimidating, Poobahs and Ayatollahs. All of this is a joke. I expressed my dislike for your tactics. How can I bully you? Did I threaten you with anything? I asked you to do me a favor. I disagreed with you. I said it earlier, and I say it again, let the reader judge whether I have done as you say. I would even take a step farther and suggest that the reader decide whether this is a cheap little manipulative trick on your part. Since this is the only forum (web) in which we interact with each other, and we have no organization ties at all, your comments are absurd.

    Since a good portion of this thread has focused on whether it is appropriate to warn people about the influence of other people, let me toss in one more warning. All of us should be careful not to assume that we know the hearts of other people (or even our own completely, Jer 17:9). Much too often, in my mind, fundamentalists have lost the debate precisely because they assume that disagreement with their position springs from some sinister motive (something which may or may not be true). There are many reasons why this is wrong-headed (not the least of which is that sometimes people take the wrong position for the right motive–still a bad thing).

    Who among us has not felt the irritation that comes with having someone discount the validity of your beliefs by assigning some evil or lesser motive to you? It is, in my mind, doubly irritating in that it: (1) ignores real, objective arguments to focus on conjecture, subjective ones; and (2) it often betrays an arrogance on the part of the one who uses it beause it assumes the only reason someone would disagree with their superior arguments is some sinister motive. In this case, Don, you shfted the argument away from what Adam and Bob had written to whether they were in fact guilty of hero worship (something you can’t know since only God can see the heart). I doubt you will agree, but by so doing, I believe you sent this message: “If it didn’t hit close to home, you obviously would agree with me/us.”

    To demonstrate that I am not the internet bully you think I am, instead of asking a favor from you, I will do myself one. I will leave you to argue as you like, where you like, and with whom you like. I will simply stay away from it. I have never come out here to sharpen my debating skills. My goal has been to engage in serious discussion about important ideas. I have been helped in my thinking by understanding something of how others who disagree with me think and where my ideas/thoughts are not as clear or correct as they ought to be. Hopefully, I have had the same effect on some others.

  81. And the age old debate rages on . . . Which one’s blacker? The pot or the kettle?

  82. This would probably be a good time to end the Ayatolla Skirmish. I do think the point about addressing positions/ideas rather than motives is extremely important.

    If Dr. Doran is bowing out, I’d like to thank him for the time invested in this discussion. You’ve been very helpful, and I appreciate your willingness to address separation issues in a public forum and with thoughtful conviction. On the other hand, if you’re keeping one eye on the thread, I hope you’ll feel free to jump back in.


    My original post has raised some concerns from separatists and non-separatists alike. I hope to clarify my position while also addressing some “dangling” questions from the thread soon.

  83. I am curious if anyone can contribute up definitions that would distinguish between holding a teacher/leader in high regard (definitely biblical) and “hero-worship” (questionable, IMO).

    In my short experience, it’s easy for those in one camp to accuse those who leave for another as engaging in “hero-worship” of their new leaders. It may be true, and may not be. I have found the accusation (I’m speaking only for myself) often to be either (1) a way to express a sense of rejection or (2) a rationalization for those in one camp to explain why they lost some who they really cared for or had great expectations for.

  84. Ted,

    My perspective on it would be that the wrong kind of deference to influential people is marked by the following kinds of things: (1) a tendency to adopt and repeat positions being taught by the respected person without demonstrating the ability to defend these positions biblically, i.e., their answers take the form of “So and so said or wrote” rather than citing biblical texts; (2) a tendency to embrace novel biblical and theological stances that are peculiarities of some teacher and can be (often are?) out of step with historical doctrinal formulations, e.g., eternal humanity of Christ, incarnational sonship, sarx = body; (3) a tendency to suspend critical faculties when listening to the person’s teaching or preaching, i.e., stop asking whether the text actually teaches what this person has said it teaches; and (4) a tendency to make that person’s teaching and ministry the benchmark by which all others are evaluated.

    This is only my perspective on it, and I will readily admit that most of them involve subjectivity. I could supply names for some of these things, but it would distract us and possibly lead to the wrong conclusion–the problem I am concerned about isn’t mainly in the preachers, it is in the hearers. Also, I have seen this problem in every circle, not just the ones I am not part of. Further, nothing I have written here or above, in my mind, militates against legitimate, well-deserved respect for godly and gifted men. It simply acknowledges the fact that we have no infallible teachers and leaders.

  85. I’d add an unwillingness to acknowledge the person’s error (e.g. expressing frustration when a prominent preacher is called out for lack of separatism and defending the person and his actions on the basis of the other legitimate contributions he has made to biblical scholarship…as though the latter cancels out the former). Mark Minnick addressed this well in his II Thes. 3 message at the MACP, specifically citing Paul’s just and public rebuke of someone as orthodox and respected as Peter as an example.

    Perhaps that would fit under your #3.

  86. Hi guys. I am a late bloomer in reading through this thread. Please pardon me for just butting in. Chris, first of all thanks for the thought-provoking article. Keep writing, bro.

    Secondly, reading through this thread, I have noticed a little more contentiousness rather than contending. Is there a difference? This past Saturday morning after breakfast, I spent an hour and a half with about ten of the brethren in my church discussing I Timothy 3:3. So when does our rightful “contending earnestly” become sinful contentiousness not even to be associated with an overseer of the saints? Sure, there must be ongoing confrontation among the brethren. Look at Paul with Peter in Galatians 2. But should we be typically characterized as “sons of thunder” in threads that follow blog articles?

    I am the first to admit blindness to my own contentiousness in certain debates. Just ask my wife. That is why we need others. So in the blogosphere, if good brothers would be continually charging us with contentiousness on specific matters, we need to stop and think.

    Where I have been mostly in the blogosphere of SI, good debate among brethren is fueled with longing for more conformity to Christ and compassionate reconciliation amongst each other. Bad debate is only for self, using others as guinea pigs. It stinks of the flesh and leaves one hollow.

    Just the observations of a brother lurking today.

    Thinking of heart issues.

  87. Thanks, Todd. I’m going to ask that any comments on the topic of our demeanor in these discussions be posted on a thread that addresses it more directly, over here.

  88. I am planning to have a separate thread addressing what I believe should be the relationship (or lack thereof) between fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. If I have not been clear on that point, I apologize. The reason I think we should avoid cooperation and fellowship of any formal kind is not political (e.g. “us and them” or “the party line” or “turf wars”) but biblical and philosophical: we disagree on important issues. I hope to explain more and give examples at another time. For now, let me address a couple of dangling questions:

    Many moons ago, Jason Wredburg wrote: “Because MacArthur chooses carefully (IMO) who he aligns himself with and is not part of any denomination which would include a wide aray of men and churches who would differ signifigantly with what he personally believes (thinking of SBC, BGC and PCA), shouldn’t we view him in a different light than the other men at T4G?”

    Jason, I can’t think of any reason why we would treat MacArthur differently. He was not at all out of his element there: these are the men whom he frequently fellowships and cooperates. He does indeed choose with whom he aligns himself, and that choice is perpetually ‘evangelicals.’ So no, though I appreciate and benefit from much of what he says and writes, I don’t see why I would “view him in a different light than the other men at T4G.” Good question, though.

    Jay C. asked, Is it possible that maybe what we have here are Christians who are practicing “separation” even though they don’t use the exact word? Isn’t it entirely possible to separate from something without using the magic word?

    As I stated earlier, these men have been clear in their rejection of separation from erring Christians as it has been understood in the fundamentalist-new evangelical controversy over the last 50 years. (I recognize, as I said earlier, that they have sometimes exercised it and that they rightly encourage it in the case of church discipline. But it is not their policy in dealing with believers outside of the local church.) Dever is probably the most conservative of the group (IMO), and he told me point blank that he doesn’t believe that the NT requires separation from disobedient Christians outside of the local church. I’m not black-balling these men, but I think the only way to figureout what they believe on the issue is to observe (a) what they say and (b) what they do. Their very participation in their denominations answers your question, I believe.

    Bob and Adam, my use of the emotionally-charged words “boyish crush” set the thread off for a time. My fault. That’s really not the point I was trying to make, though I think it’s a legitimate concern. My point is, those who have convictions regarding the importance of separating from error should be cautious about–should reject–cooperating with those who do not…even though they may learn some other good things from those men (which I have acknowledged). Whether or not you agree, that is what I believe.

    Jeff said this: It seems that the lines of agreement, at least on this critical issue are not at all by associations, fellowships, or denominations.

    So what has T4G asked us to do in response: join an association; sign a statement; or hold to a philosophy of ministry? There are too many things they disagree on to start a new group (baptism, gifts, music style, applications of separation, etc.). If we are being encouraged to hold fast to a Biblical ministry, it seems to be edifying. So I read books, attend conferences, and enjoy fellowship that strengthens my commitment to a philosophy … which is helpful when it feels a bit like swimming against the current in our day.

    Hey, big brother. I agree that the issue is much more complicated than to which denomination one belongs. However, I do think that’s a legitimate issue. What I’m cautioning against, however, is a mindset. I agree that we can learn good things from these men, and I’m not averse to giving them kudos when they get it right. But I still believe that their lack of separatism is (a) a biblical error, (b) a hindrance to their cause of defending the Gospel as they might otherwise, and (c) a reason why fundamentalists (by conviction, not turf) should avoid cooperating with them, minimizing their mistakes or following their example by wading in the pool of evangelicalism. Learn from them when they’re right? Sure. But I believe that separation is still in order.

    I reject the idea of misrepresenting these men, as I believe some have done. In the spirit of Philippians 1:18, I rejoice when Christ is preached. But I believe that these particular preachers have other problems that would limit my ability to cooperate with them.

    One more thought: has the inclusion of Mahaney in this group (along with his speaking for MacArthur, etc.) made non-cessationism seem like a less serious error than if he were not involved? I think it may. The issue has been joked about and everyone has been “good sports,” but I wonder if the seriousness of the issue is being minimized.

  89. Chris:

    Wow – a little bit of a turn there with that last question :)

    FWIW, I’m not sure that Mahaney’s inclusion would be much different than Piper’s in that Piper believes that the sign gifts are are valid and to be pursued today as well. While SG churches may pursue the gifts a bit more “passionately” than Bethlehem, there still a strong similarity.

    Even more than that, I’m not sure that it has much bearing on the purpose of the conference – or what is considered as the centrality of the gospel. Piper illustrated it this way in a message in 1991…

    “…is the experience of signs and wonders detrimental to the centrality of Scripture and preaching? In other words, does it depreciate the supernatural power of God’s written and preached word; does it contradict the sufficiency of the gospel to save sinners; does the search for signs signify a loss of confidence in the word of the cross?”

    Piper (obviously) goes on to answer that it is not at all detrimental to the centrality of the gospel – and I would assume that would go to the point of whether or not they/we should participate with others.

    In short, I don’t think that it’s been minimized. I just don’t think that it’s considered to be an issue.

  90. Dave–good criteria there (I’m on vacation and am ignoring the blogosphere as much as possible, but thought I’d stop by…)

  91. Hey, Richard. Thanks for chiming in. Wondering: what’s the difference between minimizing something and not considering it an issue? :-)

  92. […] Chris Anderson gives his take. Dave Doran comments as well there as well – the interaction is interesting. […]

  93. The point I was trying to make was that the “seriousness of the issue” of non-cessationism does not seem to be intentionally overlooked or diminished. The issue of non-cessationism doesn’t even seem to be on the map. Maybe I’m splitting hairs…

    I would illustrate it this way. If I’m driving somewhere and I have been given a map that has landmarks on it and I get lost because I don’t think the marks are important, I’ve minimized the importance of the landmarks. If I get lost because the landmarks aren’t even on the map , that’s a different situation. I admit it’s not a great illustration, but…

    When you said that “The issue has been joked about and everyone has been “good sports,” but I wonder if the seriousness of the issue is being minimized,” who were you referring to? Was it just people here at your site, Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, or just those that put together the conference? I took it to mean those that put together/participated in the conference, but thought I would try to clarify.

    Anyway, good thread – I’ve enjoyed reading it! Keep writing…

  94. Richard,

    I was thinking of the 4 organizers, or even the 7 speakers. There was much (very funny) joking about non-cessationism, about I Cor. 12-14, about apostleship & words from the Lord, etc. I am wondering if a serious issue–though admittedly not as serious as the Gospel–was kind of winked at for the sake of "togetherness." To use your illustration, does the fact that the issue wasn't even "on the map" indicate to cessationists (who are the overwhelming majority among those who care about the conference) that it's not really very important?

    I understand that the speakers agree on the essentials of the Gospel and that the Gospel was the "rallying point" of the conference. However, they also addressed issues as diverse as race and gender; I'm curious as to why something as important as cessationism was/is considered a non-issue.

    Though my question focused on Mahaney, you bring up a good point about Piper also espousing some non-cessationist positions.

  95. This goes back to the question about what constitutes fellowship. Or better yet, with whom should I be spending my time? I think my views on cessationism (among other things) would keep me from fellowshiping with these men or spending time under their teaching. No doubt their teaching has been beneficial to some, but I keep wondering “Why the sudden attraction to these men?”

  96. Chris:

    Is that your picture I see on the far right of new T4G website?


  97. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

  98. I feel a whole new discussion on separation coming on.

    This is gonna be fun!

  99. Yuk, yuk.

  100. I happened upon your blog by accident…and am glad I did. I enjoy reading the discussions about evangelicalism and fundamentalism. They sound like echoes of conversations I’ve had with myself (and others). The same points and arguments always come up. Having attended many different churches ranging from the stereotypical “fightin’ fundy” to Southern Baptist to PCA while growing up and moving from state to state, I’ve found that the problems that fundamentalism has and the problems evangelicalism has are either not that different or are just opposite extremes on the same spectrum.
    For instance, both sides have churches (that would categorize themselves as either Evangelical or Fundamental) that promote–intentionally or unintentionally–easy believism. Sign the decision card at invitation, maybe baptized the next week, and you’re good to go. No sanctification, no true turning away from self and sin. On the positive side, both branches of Christianity have their churches that preach the whole counsel of Scripture and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    In the Fundamentalist churches I have attended, I have found a more separated (dress, music, entertainment, etc.) position, but there was often a great lack of true agape love and grace and a seeming lack of dependence on the Holy Spirit to lead people in the area of personal standards. However, in the Evangelical churches I have attended I noticed a lack of desire to be more separated from the world. The people often wanted to be so relevant to today’s culture that they did not seem any different from the world. I think these are just opposite extremes on the same spectrum. The Biblical position is in the middle. As one Christian speaker put it, “If the Christian life is the narrow way, then being a relevant Christian is walking a tight rope. It won’t happen by accident.”
    Whenever I’m confronted with these issues, I just beg the LORD to please give me His mind about them. As I was reading the discussion on the T4G conference and the one regarding Dr. Barrett, God brought the Scripture to mind from Paul to the Corinthians: “Some say I am of Paul, or I am of Apollo, or of Peter.” Humans don’t change. We pick people to emulate, follow, admire, listen to. There’s nothing wrong with that until we start pitting them against who others listen to who are also orthodox in their Christianity. The best thing in the world for me was after attending BJU to be thrown in the den of lions at a state university. I was listening to any Gospel preaching person I could find. I just drank in R.C. Sproul, Ravi Zacharias, John MacArthur because I desperately needed to hear TRUTH. I couldn’t believe that these men who I had heard (and believed) so many bad things about were now the ones God was using to strengthen me and help me keep on my armor for the attacks of Satan.
    As far as being discerning when reading or listening to certain teachers, we should always be sifting everything through the Word of God, whether or not the person is in our “camp.” Christian women don’t seem to have this issue that you all have been discussing. I can hear or read Elisabeth Elliot, Kay Arthur, Beth Moore, or Nancy Wilson and not have to worry about what church are they with because they don’t represent (officially) any certain church. I only have to sift their teaching through Scripture.

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