2Marks on 9Marks

I’ve been eager to hear Mark Dever’s interview of Mark Minnick ever since I heard that it was going to take place. It features two pastors for whom I have a great deal of admiration and who have influenced my own philosophy of local church ministry for good. I appreciate both men, particularly Pastor Minnick, who I believe has been an unofficial “pastor’s pastor” for a large number of fundamentalists. I’m a Mark Minnick fan, and I can’t imagine a better spokesman for thinking, gracious fundamentalists. Had I been asked to choose a representative of the fundamentalism with which I associate, he would have been on my very short list.

So, what did I think of the interview?

First, I appreciate that Dever extended the invitation and that Minnick accepted it. In particular, Minnick had to know that appearing in such a forum would automatically invite criticism from someone, somewhere, no matter what he said. Further, he had the burden of speaking as a representative of fundamentalism, which is a daunting task. By way of contrast, when someone like Carl Trueman is interviewed, he speaks as a representative of…well, Carl Trueman. Minnick was carrying a much greater burden.

That said, I was quite disappointed with the interview, perhaps because my expectations were too high. I certainly don’t think I could have done better, and I know it’s easy to play “Monday morning quarterback.” There’s no profit in that. However, the conversation did address some important issues that deserve further attention. Here are my two cents:

1. The two-party system is outdated and inaccurate. For too long, fundamentalists have categorized all believers as either fundamentalists or new evangelicals. Now, I reject new evangelicalism out of hand. It’s call for social activism, repudiation of separation, and desire to interact with theological liberals were the seeds that have come to fruition in the mess that is broad evangelicalism in the 21st century. That said, the term new evangelical has become a junk drawer into which fundamentalists file all non-fundamentalists, whether they align with the ideals of early new evangelicalism or not. Both Dever and Minnick admitted in the interview that neither fundamentalism nor evangelicalism are monolithic. Thus, to use the term new evangelical (or even fundamentalist) without qualification is misleading. Put it this way: lumping John MacArthur with Rick Warren or Joel Osteen and calling them new evangelicals is no more accurate than lumping Dave Doran with Peter Ruckman or Jack Hyles and calling them fundamentalists. Whether or not we agree with conservatives like Mark Dever or John MacArthur, they’re not new evangelicals in the historic sense of the label. Specifically, they are careful not to entangle the church in social activism, and they spend time and energy critiquing and battling theological liberalism rather than pandering to it. So whatever they are, they’re not classic new evangelicals, and it doesn’t advance any conversation to label them as such.

2. Modern fundamentalists’ insistence that all believers practice separation by pulling out of fellowships and denominations isn’t necessarily backed by Scripture or the history of fundamentalism’s controversies with modernism and new evangelicalism. Lest I be misunderstood, I’m not advocating staying in a fellowship that tolerates unorthodox doctrine or practice. For example, I couldn’t be in the BGC or the SBC. However, we should be willing to allow time for members of some fellowships to contend for the faith from within. Perhaps they will be able to practice separation by putting out rather than pulling out. I’m not necessarily confident that such a strategy will be successful; it wasn’t successful in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy. However, the fundamentalists did try to purify from within before pulling out, and it may be disingenuous to insist that others not even make the attempt. That said, long-term attempts at purifying a denomination can easily morph into comfortable co-existence with error. Should they choose to stay in, conservatives must indeed do “battle royal,” aggressively and tirelessly working to put the unbelievers and erring brothers out. And if they fail to win that battle (which in many instances is already the case), they should come out rather than continuing in fellowship with error. When they do not, their failure to either put out or pull out over a significant period of time would seem to indicate that they are not practicing separation because they do not believe in it—not as a biblical mandate, anyway. With that qualification, the assumption that biblical principles of separation demand immediate withdrawal from denominations and relationships is far from being a slam dunk.

3. Fundamentalists must do a better job explaining separation. Again, Dr. Minnick is as fine a mind and as fine a man as we can offer. However, I was disappointed that (a) he avoided naming names and citing examples which would have clarified his position, (b) he relied upon examples of separation like Jehoshaphat’s ties (which Dever dismissed and which I think bogged down the conversation) and Paul’s rebuke of Peter (which Dever turned around as an example of Peter’s unwarranted separation). Granted, allusions like the one to Jehoshaphat demonstrate a principle that God is indeed concerned with alliances—a point which Dever might have more readily grasped and conceded—but they don’t establish separation as a mandate for New Testament believers sufficiently. Citing biblical imperatives instead of narratives would be wise, I think. For example, there are didactic passages such as 2 John 7-10 which make the need to separate from non-evangelicals very clear. Nor is it helpful to say that we’ve studied separation longer and therefore understand it better. That assumes a point without proving it. Frankly, I think that we are all used to discussing the matter of separation in-house—of preaching to the choir, if you will. Dever didn’t just assume that the allusions and illustrations proved the points Minnick was trying to make. Whether or not we think Dever’s reservations were warranted, we must get used to addressing skeptical audiences and do so more convincingly. We should be able to make our point with clarity, if indeed our position is significantly different than the conservative evangelicals’.

4. Fundamentalists must acknowledge that application of separatist principles demands discernment. The question of when to separate is necessarily somewhat subjective. And knowing this, we must give one another a little space to make judgment calls with which we disagree.

5. Fundamentalists must be more specific regarding the term “disobedient brother.” As Dever pointed out, all of us are disobedient. So how do we determine which issues necessitate separation? I think the answer must include at least one of the following: separation is required when (a) there is disobedience that confuses the gospel, or (b) there is severe disobedience which is tenaciously continued even after biblical confrontation. I’m not suggesting that these simple criteria are sufficient in every instance, but I do think that we need to be more precise in our terminology. Too often, I fear that “disobedient brother” is another junk drawer alongside “new evangelical,” both of which essentially mean “non-fundamentalist.”

6. Thinking fundamentalists must be more willing to disassociate themselves from the crazies who claim the same title. Dr. Minnick may be gracious to a fault on this point, and I wish there were more genuinely meek men like him. However, I appreciate the willingness of T4G types to distance themselves from what Mohler once described as “squishy evangelicalism—but I repeat myself.” (Granted, I think some of these men are less than consistent on this point when they tolerate men like Graham, or even like Packer and Stott who, despite their wonderful literary contributions, have aligned themselves with causes that have muddied the gospel waters.) At any rate, fundamentalists should be willing to point to the Hyles and Sword crowd and say, “Make no mistake: that’s not me. In fact, that’s not authentic fundamentalism.” Further, we should separate from the portions of fundamentalism which we believe are unbiblical even as we call for conservative evangelicals to separate from the portions of their movement and denominations which are unbiblical. As I said in this article, doing so would demonstrate that separation is about truth, not turf.

7. Denominational ties are more troublesome than evangelicals realize. I disagree with Dever’s comments that ties to entities like the SBC aren’t spiritual entanglements since they deal only with issues like financial cooperation. John’s second epistle indicates that doing anything to assist the unorthodox—including wishing them well, much less providing them with financial support—makes one a partaker of their errors. At best, it seems that tolerating error for the sake of financial cooperation is pragmatic; at worst, it’s being complicit with error. Consider Dever’s own description of the SBC:

“Three models of the church are seen today in my own association of churches (Southern Baptist Convention) and in many other church associations as well. We might summarize these models as liberal, seeker-sensitive, and traditional.” (Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, p. 26)

Even if we eliminate from the discussion those he describes as seeker-sensitive, it seems that conservatives in fellowships like the SBC have a problem. Contrary to Dever’s suggestion in the interview, denominational ties which unite conservatives to liberal men, churches, and institutions are no minor issue.

8. It is a mistake to say that separation is mandated only within the context of the local church. Dever said a number of times during the interview that discipline within the local church has no necessary parallel outside of the church. He said the same in a personal conversation I had with him two years ago. He had preached a stellar message on church discipline from 1 Corinthians 4-5, and I expressed my appreciation. I asked him if he believes that Scripture requires the same sort of separation outside of the local church setting, and he said no. He acknowledged that practicing separation from a Graham crusade (for example) may be prudent for a church’s testimony, but he did not believe that it is biblically mandated. The problem is, why would a church want to cooperate with a non-member whom it would discipline were he in membership? To site an extreme example, why would one want to have a fornicator in to speak? To shrug and say that a local church can’t avoid fellowship with such a man—or expect others to do likewise—because he is a non-member would be ridiculous. Similarly, to say that Scripture is silent on the matter of cooperation with false teachers or perpetually disobedient believers as long as the union takes place outside of the boundaries of the local church is a mistake. If one is willing to admit the legitimacy of uniting with believers and churches outside of the local church for common cause under the name of Christ, one must also admit the legitimacy—indeed, the necessity—of applying biblical boundaries to such relationships.

Those are my thoughts. Whether or not they’re worth 2 cents is debatable. Again, I admire both Pastor Dever and Pastor Minnick, and I am well aware that both have forgotten more than I’ll ever know.


Note: If you intend to chime in, do so soon. The comments option at MTC will be turned off on Saturday evening and disabled for a few weeks.


32 Responses

  1. Kudos to Minnick for his courage and willingness to meet with Dever. His kindness and engagement have too rarely been evident in fundamentalists — including those in Minnick’s circle. For years, many both within and without that circle have called for this type of engagement. So, Minnick should be given a lot of credit and some time to develop skill in this new arena.

    That said, if Minnick’s comments really represent the best defense/explanation of the fundamentalist’s doctrine of separation from one of the best and brightest men within fundamentalism, then it’s no wonder that movement is falling apart and most Christians can’t understand it.

    There really was no well developed doctrine presented at all. A principle was presented — something like “associations matter”. However, many/most non-fundamentalists would agree with this principle. The real issue — the issue which divides fundamentalists from evangelicals — is when and how to apply this principle faithfully? Very little help was given here.

    Some comments revealed hints that the determining factor for applying the “association principle” within fundamentalism is movement traditionalism (the suit discussion for example). Some comments seemed to reveal less than careful thought regarding realities of fellowship that have existed within fundamentalism (the membership of non-regenerate covenant children in fundamentalist presbyterian churches for example).

    It would seem that a movement that has been extremely devoted to the doctrine of separation for over 50 years would have actually developed the doctrine more thoroughly and precisely — if such thoroughness and precision were possible.

    But, again in closing, I appreciate the Christian love and pursuit of truth and unity demonstrated by both the interviewer and interviewee.

  2. I, too, appreciated the willingness of Dr. Minnick to speak with Pastor Dever on this subject. I agree that his character and meekness are those which any man (fundamentalist or not) would do well to emulate. As a man of God and a teacher of God’s Word, He is highly respected amongst his peers.

    I have also benefited from Dever’s literature as well and appreciate his thought and care for a biblical church. I admit I do not have as much familiarity with him as I do Dr. Minnic, since I attended MCBC for many years while in college.

    Having said this, I came away from the interview with mixed feelings. It seemed that Dr. Minnick articulated his thoughts as well as he wanted to in such a context. Let’s be honest, to settle the matter of separation and all its ramifications with a man who would disagree with several points of it in only an hour’s time is highly unlikely at best. It didn’t seem that this was the forum to name names or get to the nitty-gritties of fundamentalism, but to give a broad brush stroke.

    Dr. Minnick made it clear several times that the views he expressed were primarily based on Fundamentalism as he has been involved with it, rather than to give a broad scope of all Fundies.

    As a young fundamentalist, and in my limited knowledge and insight, it would seem helpful to have some sort of a central herald of fundamentalist truth. Dr. Bauder made mention of this in an article entitled “A Fundamentalism Worth Saving” which I found extremely beneficial.

    I don’t think this interview solved anything, but nor do I think it was meant to. Based on Dever’s questions (such as the one about suits), it would seem that Dever wanted to become more familiar with Dr. Minnick’s take on Fundamentalism and Separation. To that end the interview was successful. Perhaps an interview with you, Chris, or some other young Fundamentalist Pastor would be even more beneficial.

  3. […] Pastor-blogger extraordinaire Chris Anderson has posted his thoughts on the 9 Marks interview of Mark Dever interview of Mark Minnick in a post entitled, “2Marks on 9Marks.” […]

  4. FWIW, I don’t think the “suit” question was intended to be anything more than the sort of banter that Dever engages in all the time. He gives Lig Duncan and Al Mohler a hard time about suits, too, and they’re from the PCA and SBC. I don’t think Dever intended to be taken seriously by Minnick or listeners on that one.

    Not that it matters… :)

  5. Taigen,

    I hope that all is going well with you, your family, and your ministry. I also appreciated your thoughts, and I agree that there was no possible way to settle the matter of separation in an hour’s time. And I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of Dr. Minnick. He is a genuinely humble and uniquely gifted servant of the Lord and I am thankful for him and his ministry.

    All of that being said, I came away thinking that if the fundamentalist’s understanding of separation is a slam-dunk, certainly it could have been communicated more clearly even in just an hour of time. If fundamentalists have been the ones who have put more time and energy into the study of separation, as Dr. Minnick pointed out, certainly we can be more thorough than “associations matter to God.” If it really is that difficult to articulate separation after spending considerably more time on the study of the subject than our evangelical friends, perhaps we should be a little more lenient with those who do not separate the same way and to the same degree that we do in fundamentalism.

    A lot of us are looking for how separation works itself out in real life in a Christian culture in which the lines are blurred. And yet it seem as if every time we get down to the nitty gritty of the specific practice of separation, nobody can give very clear answers.

  6. I completely agree that we need to be more articulate with how separation plays out in real life. Being a relatively new senior pastor (9 months) this question has already confronted me and I don’t feel I gave an adequate answer (to my own shame, proving the point of this thread). My point is that the forum in which this discussion took place didn’t seem like the kind of forum to make all those delineations. Maybe I am wrong in that thinking, I don’t know. Any thoughts?

    I, too would like to hear a lot more discussion of this matter, since it is obviously of great importance to those of us young spucks who want to practice a biblically balanced (emphasis on the biblically part) fundamentalism. I want an authentic fundamentalism that emphasizes the holiness and glory of God while communicating the love and grace of God. We can all think of “fightin’ fundies” who hardly did either of those things. It would be great if there could be a forum where we could sit down with the older, respected men in Fundamentalism today to try to hash some of these things out. But maybe I am being too idealistic.

    I admit that my voice in the blogosphere is weak and could use some refining. I appreciate the “iron sharpening” direction of this thread. I need it very much and appreciate the time and thought that goes into it.

    (BTW, Andy, say hello to Melinda for us.)

  7. Whether or not we agree with conservatives like Mark Dever or John MacArthur, they’re not new evangelicals in the historic sense of the label. Specifically, they are careful not to entangle the church in social activism, and they spend time and energy critiquing and battling theological liberalism rather than pandering to it. So whatever they are, they’re not classic new evangelicals, and it doesn’t advance any conversation to label them as such.

    Been chewing on this a little, Chris. To some degree, I think you’re right… but then I see things like this and this., and realize that perhaps it is somewhat wishful thinking to think of them as other than “classic new evangelicals.” Conservative ones, sure- but they still fit the mold in ways those who cling to “the idea of Fundamentalism” do not.

  8. Hey Chris,

    I haven’t listened to the interview, but had a couple of quick questions for you regarding a couple of your points of assessment:

    You state in your first point that one of the sine qua non of new evangelicalism was a “repudiation of separation.” In your last point you state that Dever’s view of separation (i.e. only in the context of a local church) is wrong, which sounds like a repudiation of separation.

    In what way is Dever’s belief and practice re separation (#8 ) different from new evangelicalism (#1)? How would you then identify Dever?

    I could follow with more Q’s, but thought I’d start here :-)

  9. Hey, Dan.

    Good question. Honestly, I’ll have to think about it.

    At this point, I would say generally that Dever isn’t repudiating separation in the way a Billy Graham (for example) did in the 50’s and 60’s and beyond. He’d not work with mainline denominations, for example, and I think his hope is to purify the SBC (as Mohler did at Southern), not just shrug about the liberals. That’s not to say that I agree with him, or that I think they’re as aggressive as they should be, or whatever. But I think his spirit regarding falsehood is different than the spirit of early NE’s.

    Beyond that, I think point #1 is dealing primarily with separation from unbelievers (which classic NE’s rejected, as I understand it), whereas point #8 is dealing with separation from erring believers.

    Perhaps it would be accurate to say that he doesn’t understand separation vs. that he repudiates it?

    Sorry if my thinking is inconsistent or unclear.

  10. Chris, I think both Greg and Dan point out a weakness in your argument. I had intended to do so myself, but they beat me to it!!

    Would you say Minnick represents a “classic fundamentalist” in keeping with the best ideals of the “fundamentalist idea”? How would he differ from a 1950s/1960s fundamentalist? There are some ways in which he surely would because of the passage of time and all the water under the bridge, no?

    In the same way while it is quite clear Dever et al are not exactly the same as the “classic new evangelical” it is also quite evident that he and others of his ilk are committed to the essential new evangelical philosophy, as I have been complaining on my blog for weeks. The link Greg provides to an interview by Ed Stetzer is following Dever’s appearance at something called the Whiteboard Sessions, a gathering of emergent, church growth oriented pastors plus Dever. In the second interview, Stetzer puts Dever on the spot about separation specifically, as in, “why are you here?” Dever’s choice to lend his name to this conference is exhibit A about what he would have to change in order to be acceptable to fundamentalists. It isn’t the only thing, but it is one thing.

    For more links on that interview, you can check my site and the post “so what to make of all this?” if you are interested.

    I do agree with a good deal of what you wrote here, but Dever touched on the essential question at the end of the interview and it wasn’t answered. That makes the whole effort completely disappointing to me.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  11. The Dever/Stetzer interview was interesting in that Dever was pretty clear that for him separation was a matter of sending mixed messages about the gospel. He answered the question of why he was there, and I didn’t think it was that bad of an answer, as I recall. I didn’t see who all was at the Whiteboard Sessions (or whatever they were called), but I don’t think there was a gospel issue there.

    I don’t think Dever is a classic New Evangelical because he does draw lines of separation; he simply doesn’t do it the way Minnick does, or someone else would.

    I thought the end was a let down when Dever asked what they would have to do to get Minnick to come and speak and Dr. Minnick basically punted. I would have liked to have heard a more clear answer to that.

  12. I think one of the hang ups is the idea of separation must always mean a total cutting off – counting someone as a heathen and a publican. When that is the only definition of separation, then it gets pretty tense. It would be more helpful to speak of separation in terms of levels or degrees of cooperation. Obviously, Minnick had not totally separated from Dever since he was willing to meet up for dialoge. The SOTL fundies would never do that. In fact, they’d never answer Dever’s invitation let alone talk to him.

    So, Fundamentalism needs to get a new definition and criteria of separation to follow instead of using the fear of associations to guide us. I just blogged about it myself and used a little diagram that I borrowed from the NeoFundamentalist blog to illustrate it.

  13. Larry, just because Dever separates on some levels doesn’t mean he isn’t new evangelical in his philosophy. There are even lines Christianity Today won’t cross. (Not many, but there are some.) My contention is that separation is a fundamental of the faith in that sense, true Christians do separate from error at some point, although weak and confused Christians of various sorts don’t separate as much as they should.

    Also, you should research the Whiteboard Sessions speakers. It might help to see if the gospel was compromised or not. You should also look at some of the other videos to get more of a sense of who they were and what was being said. Perhaps your assessment might change.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  14. Larry,

    I understand what you are saying, but here’s a question- how many of the guys at the WiBo would have been able or willing to sign the T4G affirmations and denials? As I recall, those were considered to be “gospel issues.”

    My point is that Dever exhibits the classic NE mindset of leaning to the side of engaging with professing brethren who take a weak (or in this case, ambiguous/unknown) position on the gospel, while a Fundamentalist separatist position would typically avoid such cooperation if positions were even somewhat unknown. Both positions applied may have their errors, but I think Dever would feel very comfortable looking to men like Henry and Ockenga as role models on engaging and cooperating with professing brethren. On that note, it seems you have what you need to identify him as a “classic” (though conservative) NE.

  15. Greg and others,

    I would love to say more. All I can do right now is to ask you, if you seriously believe that Dever holds a “classic NE mindset,” to read George Marsden’s Reforming Fundamentalism. The book is a sympathetic history of Fuller Seminary, but it is devastating in its documentation of the “classic NE mindset” and the attitudes and aspirations of men like Henry and Ockenga in relationship to classic liberalism.

    Not church growth evangelicals. Not evangelical emerging types of the stripe at Whiteboard. Bona fide classic liberals.

    They can speak for themselves, and they may yet prove me wrong, but based on the interaction I’ve observed, I can’t imagine even Doran and Minnick would agree with your assessments articulated here.

    That doesn’t mean they would reject with all your criticisms, but the “classic NE mindset” is just way off base in my view.

  16. Ben, I think you are confusing application/action with mindset/philosophy.

    The actions are not identical, but the philosophy is the same.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  17. I understand what both of you (Don and Greg) are saying, but I think it is undermined at least by my understanding of what a “classic new evangelical” is. I think if you use Marsden’s definition, Dever doesn’t fit. My history is limited to be sure, but “Dever=Ockenga” is not a valid comparison in my mind. I am not saying Dever is a fundamentalist, but it seems to me, that he is moving towards more separation, not towards less.

    Furthermore, I think fundamentalists generally need to give more thought to the kinds of ways in which we dialogue with non-fundamentalists. Our typical approach of recent decades (we won’t talk to them but will call them names) has led to more misunderstanding and less defense of the doctrine of separation. Is it the best stance to say “I won’t go anywhere except where people already agree with me totally”? My vast number of speaking invitations has not given me opportunity to fully interact with this on a personal level, but how will we make a case for separatism to people to whom we do not talk?

    I don’t have all the answers to that (please don’t take my fundamentalist card away). But I think it is worthy of thought.

  18. Ben & Larry,

    Would it at least be fair to argue that Dever is working from a “classic” NE mindset (and heritage, too, especially since he’s in Carl F.H. Henry’s church), but refining it? I don’t mean to disparage Dever- I consider him to be exemplary and admirable in many ways. I think he’s concerned about many of the same things (serious) Fundamentalists are. However, it’s the way these concerns are applied and parsed out that has making the statements I am.

    That being said, I certainly do not speak here as if Fundamentalism is not in need of some refining of its own. One of the more obvious characteristics of the present state of the movement is a lack of unifying prinicple- “we” are loyal to a label and its culture more than the “idea.”

  19. For my part, I don’t know what “mindset” he is working from. I think we can see what he is doing, and it seems to me that, generally speaking, he is more separatist than any New Evangelical would have been. To get into his “mindset” takes more charismata than I have.

    Of course the application is always a sticking point. And that’s what was clear in the interview, in the comments here, and in comments in other places.

  20. I’ll apologize in advance for the scattershot nature of this post, but since I was mentioned above, I felt I probably should toss in my two cents on the question regarding classic new evangelicals.

    I am not sure there is real agreement on what a classic new evangelical is (or that there ever has been). Most see the roots of the new evangelicalism as extending to the early 1940s, but the compromising identity of the movement not becoming fully clear until the late 50s. That, and the fact that you immediately had divergent streams of the movement defy a pristine classic identity.

    If one accepts Ockenga as the template, then I think Dever has many traits that are quite similar. Contrary to popular lore among fundamentalists, Ockenga was not a full blown ecumenicist (e.g., Marsden was very clear in pointing out Ockenga’s anti-Catholicism) and he also did the forward for “The Battle for the Bible” which was pretty confrontational. IOW, Ockenga took a stand on doctrinal matters, but he did not demand complete separation from those who help differently. In some ways, this is precisely what some of us struggle with about Dever. So, if one picks the late 40s, early 50s version of new evangelicalism, he shares a lot of similarities.

    But one very signficant diference, that, from my perspective, has far reaching ramifications, is that Dever does not embrace the new evangelical commitment to a social agenda. I know this would bea debated point, but I think a good case can be made that this is the sina qua non of the new evangelicalism (vs. separation). I say this because the NE anti-separatism served the desire to build a coalition to change the culture and society. They argued the fundamentalist isolation had abandoned our social responsibility, so we need to stop the retreat. That’s why “The Uneasy Conscience of Fundamentalism” was the center book for the call to a new evangelicalism. So, if one agrees with me on this point, then it is hard to see Dever as a classic new evangelical since he is out of step with that plank of the movement.

    I suppose, too, that I’d actually reverse the answer given above about mindset and application. Whereas, it was stated above that Dever has the same mindset, bur different applications, I’d state it just the opposite. I believe he has a different mindset than class new evangelicalism, but still retains some of the applications. That’s why he is confusing to us–he often talks just like we do, but then he does things that look, from our vantage point, as contradictory or at least inconsistent to what he says. Based on my interactions, his mindset is very different from what I read in the non-separatist arguments that surrounded the rise of new evangelicalism. Because he has run in completely different circles for all of his life, he does not apply things the way that I have applied them.

    That said, I do believe there still are some important places of disagreement, or at least of perceived disagreement. How he limits the application of separation outside of the local church is one, although I personally don’t agree with Chris’s restatement of Dever’s position. In fairness to Chris, it may be because Mark hasn’t been clear or consistent on this point (or we’ve misunderstood him).

    Last word…Greg, I don’t believe it is correct to say that the T4G affirmations are the boundaries of separation for those who produced them. They are not even saying that those affirmations are all, using Mohler’s triage approach, level one doctrinal issues. it seems like the most one can say about those affirmations is that they are viewed by the principals as important doctrinal issues for our day, but not an affirmation of what the Gospel is and entails and not a boundary for their fellowship and basis for separation.

  21. Thanks for the comments, all. Interesting.

    Two quick points and a wish on a busy day:

    1. I’m not intending to defend Dever or MacArthur or the decisions they make. I appreciate them, and I think we should be careful not to lump them together with broad evangelicalism (which happens often), but I’m not trying to paint them as fundamentalists. (Which is the point of my critiquing the binary two-party system.) Nor am I wanting to find myself in the strange position of defending their recent speaking engagements (cited above), all of which I disagree with.

    2. It may very well be, Dave, that Dever has altered his perspective on the separation issue since I had the personal conversation with him to which I refer in the original post. At that time (in early 2006, if memory serves) he said that separation outside of the local church may sometimes be prudent, but that it is not biblically mandatory. He may be describe that differently today, especially since I believe his interaction with fundamentalist men and writings seems to have effected his thinking somewhat.

    Or I could just be misunderstanding him.

    As for the wish…I’d love to hear Dever’s take on these issues, particularly how he would compare himself to early new evangelicals and whether he sees separation outside of the local church as a biblical necessity (whether from believers or unbelievers). In other words, he says that he had a mixed reaction to McCune’s book, Promise Unfulfilled, and I’d like to know which parts of it he accepts and which he rejects.

    I’d also love to hear or read Minnick’s answer to Dever’s last question.

    Someone (besides me) should work on that.

  22. I will propose this. New Evangelicalism is as fractured as Fundamentalism, if not more so. Could we say (or speculate) that Dever seeks to get back to the great “idea” of NE, as some in Fundamentalism are seeking to get back to the idea of Fundamentalism?

  23. Ok, I’m going to pull a Doran here . . . I should be working on other things, but I lack self discipline and the shelf life of this kind of thing is too short. ;-)

    First, Chris, in your original post, you write:
    “John’s second epistle indicates that doing anything to assist the unorthodox—including wishing them well, much less providing them with financial support—makes one a partaker of their errors. At best, it seems that tolerating error for the sake of financial cooperation is pragmatic; at worst, it’s being complicit with error.”

    You then cite Dever’s assessment of the contemporary condition of the SBC, which includes liberals, seeker-sensitives, and traditionals.

    I agree with both Dever’s assessment and your interpretation of 2 John. I don’t think your implication that Dever is a partaker of error necessarily follow. I can’t go into as much detail as I’d like right now, but the bottom line is that participation in the SBC Cooperative Program (CP) doesn’t mean one is assisting the unorthodox UNLESS the CP takes the money it receives and funds unorthodox missionaries or seminary professors or whatever. I believe Dever argued in the interview that is not the case, which dovetails with my understanding. Has the CP ever funded unorthodox causes? Absolutely. That was what the Conservative Resurgence was all about–getting rid of them. Five years or so ago the SBC International Mission Board de-funded several dozen missionaries who refused to teach in accordance with the SBC theological statement.

    So there can (theoretically) be liberal churches in the SBC that give money to the CP to fund orthodox missionaries. I don’t know how often that’s the case. From what I’ve been told, it’s most often a reflection of older folks in liberal congregations who’ve designated $100 every Christmas to the Lottie Moon (missions) offering. That designated gift effectively makes a liberal church an SBC church because that’s all it means to be an SBC church. There’s no more support of unorthodoxy than you would be guilty of if your church gave a gift to the same fundamentalist academic institution that also received a gift from some liberal church (for whatever inexplicable reason).

    What I do know is that when unorthodox causes have been exposed, over the past 30 years, they’ve been de-funded. Not always immediately. Sometimes that process took some time, since evidence and education was necessary. The de-funding of the Baptist World Alliance is a good example.

    Hope that clarifies a bit. If I’ve misinterpreted you please explain.

  24. Greg,

    Here’s my take on Dever vs. Henry.

    Anyone who’s read Henry would know that Henry thought fundamentalism had become too isolated and were no longer speaking to anyone but themselves. Henry wanted them to engage culture with the gospel. FULL STOP.

    Dever seems to me to share that mindset–not that he gripes about the isolation of fundamentalism–but it seems fair to conclude that he wants to speak his message to people and groups that are not like him theologically and methodologically. You can see that through T4G, Whiteboard, and not least, his outreach to the SBC.

    I think that’s a virtue. And I actually agree with Henry that fundamentalism is too isolated. Fundamentalism isn’t even convincing all its own children. You guys might look at me as a borderline apostate, but if you survey the whole spectrum of fundamentalist alumni, I’m guessing I’m well to the right.

    Now, we should say more about Henry. His desire to engage broader culture had some flawed theological baggage attached to it.

    Henry led evangelicals to adopt a strategy that presupposed American culture and the apostate mainline denominations could be won if only evangelicals would engage in a scholarly academic dialogue. They were convinced that the force of their arguments would carry the day. They believed that unregenerate minds would respond to superior intellectual arguments. (How this squared with their Calvinistic convictions, I cannot explain.) They unabashedly pursued academic prestige to advance this strategy. They wanted to make the gospel attractive to the world in order to make it more likely to be accepted. They pursued evangelistic success through institutions and succumbed to movement politics to sustain those institutions. As Dave already pointed out, they elevated social action to a priority near or equal to evangelism. And finally, they repudiated separation from apostate mainline denominations as an essential part of their strategy. They wanted to dialogue with apostasy in order to win it.

    If someone could describe to me how Dever practices any of that strategy or the theology behind it, I’d be very curious to hear it. I haven’t heard everything he’s spoken on these issues, but I’ve heard a fair bit, and time after time I’ve heard him repudiate each of these points. CHBC doesn’t record its Wednesday evening Bible studies, but Dever’s been working through 1 Cor 1-2 over the past couple years, and his repudiation of the kinds of strategies NE’s embraced has been crystal clear. At least to me.

    Hey, many of you guys were at T4G and heard his talk. If there was one thing he was addressing, it was the natural ends of the NE mindset.

  25. One more thing on Whiteboard.

    It was a diverse crowd with diverse speakers, hosted by one individual with no constituency and therefore no potential for endorsement of the ideology of the host institution. The 9Marks blog has been lit up for the past week with some pretty direct criticism of several of the other speakers. And Dever’s talk directly repudiated bad arguments that had been made by three of the four previous speakers. (The fourth, Darrin Patrick, was quite good.)

    So if all fundamentalists are going to turn down the opportunity to speak clearly, directly, and unapologetically in a forum like that, well, then do what you have to do I guess. But the logic that Dever somehow endorsed every other speaker at that event and everything about their ministries is just absurd. It’s a logic born out of marginalization and isolation. Speak the truth. Speak it boldly. Speak it often. And when that practice puts you on a platform with someone who’s adopted some dumb, unbibilical (though not explicitly gospel-denying) ideas, tell them they’re dumb. That leaves room for only the smallest of minds to misunderstand.

  26. I think Chris’s original point that the binary system is outdated and inacurate is spot on (I’d add that it was always inacurate and that it is ridiculous and wrong, but I digress).

    What on earth do you guys solve even if you are able to come to agreement on whether or not Dever is a classic New Evangelical — in mindset, application, or any other way?

    Okenga and Henry were not bad guys. Their movement went of the rails in various ways — just as most, if not all, movements, including fundamentalism, have at some point. Nevertheless, their critique of some of the fundamentalism of their day was well founded.

    And, if as Dave suggests, Dever is in favor of isolation and retreat from the culture and society, he’s grabbing on to the wrong plank from the old fundamentalist platform.

  27. Let’s clear a few things up.

    Ben, I do not think of you as “borderline apostate.” You’re definitely over the border and entrenched on the other side… :D

    Seriously, I am not saying any of these guys are “bad guys.” But there is a difference between what they (particularly Dever) does and what Fundamentalists (particularly those who hold the “unifying principles” ) do- because there is a difference in the underlying idea(s). The differences may not be as contrasting as they were in, say, the 1970s (and that’s probably a good thing), but they still are there.

    And all that being said, Dever is influential- and I am glad for his influence- but it remains to be seen how close those he influences will be to what we are discussing, too- as it also remains to be seen how many “fundamentalist alumni” (nice, Ben) will cling to the “idea.”

  28. Further on WiBo, the Stetzer interview with Dever put Dever on the hotseat a bit with the separation question (see part 2 of the video linked above). Stetzer was wondering why he was there. I thought Dever’s answer to the question was pretty vague as I recall. I don’t think he had a good answer.

    Secondly, the criticisms on the 9Marks site indicate that at best the decision to participate was doubtful.

    The point is: associations matter. When you associate with someone, you in some way lend your support to him and are in fellowship (partnership) with his deeds. That is what the Bible says. So speak the truth, yes, but be careful of where and with whom.


    Also, to Keith, the fundamentalist argument with the NEs had nothing to do with their character and little to do with doctrine. They objected to philosophy, which translated into compromised associations. And that resulted in the widespread mess we have today.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  29. And with that, the comments capability at MTC will be down for a few weeks. Thanks for reading, and thanks for the discussion.

  30. It’s clear that Dever is a new evangelical. Whether he is a “classical new evangelical” or not doesn’t really matter.

    Dr. Minnick could easily have told him that to become a fundamentalist he simply would have to agree with the doctrine of Biblical separation which I believe he (Dever) clearly knows and understands (after all the study he has done and interviews with fundamentalists) and then act accordingly by separating from the SBC and any other new evangelical disobedient brethren. Quite simple. You want to be a fundamentalist then separate. You want to be a fundamentalist now…separate now. What’s there to dialogue about. It’s a waste of time. Go out and preach the Gospel, disciple men etc. But the issue of separation as currently defined in the NE and Fundamentalist world is not confusing. It is simple and should be regarded as such. End of story. End of dialogue. Am I wrong?

    Derek Jung

  31. Just listened to the interview and I have to say that I thought Minnick did an excellent job. Clearly, an interview is not a lecture format or an article, but for this format it was tremendous. I think that Minnick made the case well and quite effectively secured Dever’s agreement on the points that matter most. To use the language of our day, he brilliantly stayed “on message” by returning consistently to the Murray title as a summary of the point.

    Personally, I hope folks on both sides listen carefully to it.

  32. […] Dever’s post is motivated, I think, by reactions to his interview with Mark Minnick (which can be heard here and which I blogged about here). […]

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