DANGEROUS TRENDS WITHIN PROFESSING FUNDAMENTALISM
"earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints"
In this short terse epistle, Jude exhorts believers to vigorously contend for the faith that was divinely delivered by the Holy Spirit from heaven via the pens of the O. T. and N.T writers whose written words were inerrantly recorded as the sacred content called the "Holy Scriptures." According to Jude, this "faith" can never be altered or changed, since its divine contents were birthed in heaven.
Accepting this indisputable faith, the late Dr. M. H. Reynolds Jr. noted that Biblical Fundamentalists have diligently historically sought "to be obedient to that Word regardless of the cost." Upon this incontestable rock of the Scriptures, Fundamentalists of past generations have poured out their lives in its dissemination and defense.
Unfortunately, a weakening of that ardent defense is occurring within the ranks of the professing Fundamentalist camp. E. L. Bynum aptly delineated this weakness when he wrote in the May 2008 issue of the Plains Baptist Challenger: "We hear of pastors who are tired of fighting and trying to be more positive and successful. They simply want to be a part of a kinder and gentler religious movement." This posture change can be noted in three dangerous trends the writer has observed among some men within the Fundamentalist ranks
The Softening Trend
Todd Brainard pinpointed this trend in The Projector, fall 2007 with a perceptive article entitled "Fundamentalism's Great Softness." This softening process can be observed in the decreasing lack of Biblical militancy among some formerly staunch defenders of the faith who have capitulated to the verbal assaults of compromisers who equate militancy with meanness.
From its apostolic N.T. days, militancy has been the hallmark of Fundamentalism. The Apostle Paul's ministry was characterized by a militancy in language, a militancy in labors and a militancy in his last will and testament. Both Fundamentalism's friends and foes concur that militancy has been Fundamentalism's distinguishing trait: The FBF at its 1982 annual meeting stated: "A true Fundamentalist is militant in his posture," while Barry Hankins wrote in his book, God's Rascal [a biased biography of J. Frank Norris] that "militancy was the indispensable characteristic of Fundamentalism."
Dr. H. T. Spence discerningly termed this weakening trend a "corrosion" of the faith by such men who have a "greater acceptance of worldliness" and "a softness toward sin and apostasy." In another perceptive article, Spence stated that these men "want to be…kinder, gentler leader[s] with a growing indifference towards the militancy of Fundamentalism's past. They do not want to be known for their valor on the battlefield." According to Spence, "militancy against the apostasy is no longer to be a part of the Fundamentalist's 'style' of living and preaching."
One staunch defender of the faith, now in glory, wrote: "we are witnessing a deterioration in Fundamental ranks, the old militancy is gone. Positivism has taken over and New-Evangelicalism is the popular mood. Seldom do we have of a warrior of the faith who is willing to fight sin and apostasy. As a result, the present and upcoming generation does not know the issues." Dr. Richard Clearwaters, now with the Lord, perceptively stated that "the non-militant attitude of the rank and file of Christian leaders today is surrendering the N. T. witness to Satan."
The Straddling Trend
This non-militant softening process has produced a fence-straddling on the part of former contenders for the truth, where these conciliatory preachers endeavor to be on both sides of the theological fence. They desire the best of both religious worlds, the approval of fellow Fundamentalists as well as the acclamation of the accommodating New-Evangelicals. They naively believe that they can blend the Word with the World, that they can unscripturally appease and oppose at the same time.
These men frequently straddle the fence not always by what they say, but often by what they do not say on key vital concerns such as the Bible Text issue, personal and ecclesiastical separation and the unscriptural cultural drifts of modern society. Chas. Haddon Spurgeon, the "Prince of Preachers" of the 19th century wisely observed that "a man may transgress by holding his tongue as by speaking unadvisedly with his lips."
This compromising straddling is often resorted to by officials at professing conservative educational entities, who when they are challenged by concerned financial patrons, resort to written documents delineating doctrinal statements that are no longer accentuated in classroom settings, as well as traditional life-style standards that have been practically abandoned and discarded. One Fundamentalist editor stated it well when he wrote that "a little relaxing of separation standards may well lead to greater relaxation," and that the Fundamentalist position is "lost, not by catastrophe, but by gradual erosion."
This straddling is part of a drifting process that characterizes these shifting Fundamentalists. Describing this drift as it relates to professing Fundamentalist entities, Dr. George Houghton wrote: "The longer an organization is in existence and the larger and more prosperous it becomes, the greater the tendency is to shift the organizational emphasis and one's loyalty from the original distinctive convictions to support for and loyalty to the organization itself."
:"This de-emphasis on convictions allows for the toleration of attitudes and views which in previous times would have been unthinkable. This shift in emphasis is often unintentional; and because the organizational drift is very gradual, it usually goes undetected until the change is quite pronounced."
The Switching Trend
As this softening and straddling process continues over an indefinite time period, there is a gradual switching of theological camps from historic Fundamentalism to compromising New-Evangelicalism. America's religious landscapes are littered with accommodating New-Evangelical churches, schools, mission societies, and organizations that were Fundamentalist bastions of the faith just two or three generations ago.
This switching can be noticed in the change regarding Scripture. The NASB, NKJV, ESV and the NIV regularly replace the KJV which is relegated to the archives of historical oblivion as an outdated written antique of English history. This switching can also be noted in the diminution and deletion of Biblical separation in these compromising brethren's ministries. There is almost a total absence of emphasis upon ecclesiastical separation, while obedient saints are characterized as bigoted narrow minded believers who lack compassion and love. Finally, there is a pathetic decrease in standards, as church congregations look more and more like the ungodly world and less and less like godly, holy separated saints.
Dr. Joseph Stowell, the former National Representative of the GARBC [now in heaven] was right when he frankly said that "It is a short step from being a passive Fundamentalist to becoming a New-Evangelical."
Dr. Shelton Smith, the editor of The Sword of the Lord succinctly described these compromising brethren when he penned an article entitled in the Nov. 3, 2006 issue entitled "They Just Don't Want to Fight." Smith wrote: "Much of the diminishing of our Christian heritage and our Christian values has come at the hand of professing Christians. They want to be 'Christian,' but they want to maintain their 'worldly' ties. They're afraid to be different." In another article in the Mar. 7, 2008 issue, he called the compromising concessions of these vacillating brothers as a "contemporary sellout" that "shakes out short."
THE SCRIPTURAL ANSWER TO THESE UNWHOLESOME CHANGES
While accommodating Fundamentalists are traveling down a road that eventually leads not just to New-Evangelicalism but to the door of religious apostasy, a return to genuine Biblical Fundamentalism is still possible if these brethren are willing to pay the difficult price of reversal of direction and the complete abandonment of their compromising posture. The writer suggests the following actions:
A Renewed Embracement of Biblical Separation
Our compromising brethren must renew their former commitment to Biblical separation—II Cor. 6:14-18 and renounce all forms of compromising alliances and associations whether they be formal ties or informal fellowships-Eph. 5:7 & 11. Biblical separation must be viewed not as an option to consider but as an obligation to embrace; this includes both personal separation—Rom. 12:1-2, as well as ecclesiastical separation—II John 7-11.
While complete severance from all unscriptural relationships may sometimes require patience and time, and while all Fundamentalists do not make their imperative moves at the same time, a clear return to Biblical separatist directions must characterize the aims and goals of these reinvigorated brethren.
This writer concurs with Dr. H. T. Spence when he wrote that "Biblical separation is not to be viewed as a blight or a so-called necessary evil that hinders the Christian from having 'fun,' but instead it must be viewed as the guardian principle of the Christian life." Since spiritual light cannot co-exist with spiritual darkness—I John 1:6-7, believers can never experience genuine revival until there is a return to Biblical separation.
A Restored Emphasis upon Biblical Soul-Winning
The heartbeat and heartthrob of God is the evangelization of lost hell-bound souls. There can no better authoritative resource on any topic, then the words of God himself. In Ezekiel 18:23, the O.T. prophet quotes God who earnestly declares: "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?"
God reiterates this fact in Ezekiel 33:11 when He emphatically states: "As, I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live:" With loving plea, he exhorts the unconverted to "turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
Christ emphasized His priority concerns concerning the destiny of the world's eternal souls when He gave the Great Commission five times in the first five books of the N. T. In Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, John 20:28, and Acts 1:8, our Saviour repeated this mandate to His disciples—and also to us.. This writer has repeatedly stated that the only legitimate reason for a church's existence is the fulfillment of the Great Commission Mandate!
God's love for unconverted souls continues right through the last book and the last chapter of the Scriptures. In Rev. 22:17, just five verses before the divinely written revelation is forever concluded, the apostle John records the plea of the Holy Spirit, an appeal that includes the earnest entreaty of the bride—the church: "And the Spirit and the bride say come. And let him that heareth say come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will let him take of the water of life freely."
It is clear that the old paths of historic Biblical Christianity cannot be reclaimed apart from re-invigorated soul-winning endeavors—Prov. 11:30
A Restored Regard for Biblical Standards
Because many professing believers are conforming more and more to the world and being poured into its carnal mould, it is being increasingly difficult to tell the difference between saints and sinners. In these terminal days before the Rapture, the ungodly enemy has come in like a flood and there is a desperate need to lift up the Biblical standard of righteousness—Isaiah 59:19.
In an age when many saints are unfortunately learning the way of the heathen—Jer. 10:2, leaving for the way of the heathen—II Tim. 4:10 and loving the way of the heathen—James 4:4, the reinstatement of old fashioned Biblical standards and values is an urgent imperative.
There is a desperate need for a return both to outward standards and inward standards. All saints, male and female included, but particularly Christian women, must discard the sensual, sloppy, and shameless apparel of an ungodly culture and return to a modest appropriate attire that glorifies God—I Tim. 2:9. At the same time, they must manifest the spiritual traits of Christ-likeness and godliness in their spirits, and by so doing refute the repeated allegations of "legalism" by worldly-minded critics.
Children who have Christian parents should be taught from infancy that modesty is a commendable virtue, not some quaint clothing that represents an outmoded lifestyle. In every way that represents a distinctive difference from the ungodly world's sensual culture, believers must present a clear contrast in their mood, their methods, their message and their morals. It is this writer's earnest hopes that naïve and weak saints who have begun traveling the compromising road will reverse their concessionary course before they drift too far to return. D. J.
AN IMPORTANT POSTSCRIPT
For obedient Fundamentalists who are standing strong and have not accommodated themselves to these accommodating trends, the Projector editor, Todd Brainard, wisely advised: "It is far better never to start down the wrong road, than it is to go down the wrong road and try to turn around….The safe course is to never take one step down the wrong road…May God raise up a remnant of men and women who will not take one step down the wrong road."
Also in this issue:
|Editorial – August, September 2009 The Fundamentalist Digest; Permission granted for reprint, so long as proper credit is given.|