Thursday, November 01, 2007

Praise God for Fundamentalists?

John Piper posts a response to a Fundamentalist resolution on his ministry. I commend John for being gracious in his response. I hope this leads Fundamentalists to start reading or to keep reading Piper's books, his sermons, and attend his conferences. But I cannot praise God for them. Here's why:
1. Shall we praise God for their legalistic approach to the faith which (for example) makes one's views of alcohol a basis for fellowship and discipline (I was raised in a house with alchol abuse so don't anyone even think about getting up on their high horse and lecturing me about alcholism and its effects)? [Note: Piper has an excellent sermon on this topic in DG archives].
2. Shall we praise God for the racism of some Fundamentalists who believe in racial segregation and prohibit inter-racial marraiges and so deny the great Reformed doctrine of justification by faith where God vindicates Jews and Gentiles from sin and calls them into one fellowship and into one family of faith?
3. Shall we praise God for the KJV-only crowd among Fundamentalists whose views are based on a mixture of historical ignorance and cultural arrogance?
4. Shall we praise God for Landmarkers whose views are based on doctrinal innovation and historical revisionism and pervert the sacrament of God?
5. Shall we praise God for the eschatology of some Fundamentalists and how they support the state sponsored persecution of our Arab Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land in the name of their esoteric reading of Revelation? [Note: I am told that 1 Kings 21 about Naboth's Vineyard is the most frequently preached text in Palestinian Christian churches!!!]
6. Shall we praise God for their separation (sometimes even two degrees of separation) from those who maintain a biblical and orthodox faith over secondary matters and so destroy the unity of the body of Christ?
Short answer: Not on my watch! These things I'm ranting about aren't just little quirks we can shrug off and roll our eyes about, it is really bad stuff. We need to protect the flock from this stuff.
As a shepherd of my students and as a servant in my church, I have to guard against serious errors and aberrations of the faith from both the left and the right. Now I can tolerate people more moderate than I am and I can tolerate people more conservative than I am. But there are extremists of the left and the right who are not playing with a full theological deck. Less I seem too harsh, I have met Fundamentalists, I have heard them preach, and I have seen what they do to people, churches, and families. It is slavery to the traditions of men and it is captivity to a certain culture. My Bible says that "For freedom Christ has set us free" and we are free from such slavery.
A qualification. Not all Fundamentalists are KJV-only, Landmarker, pro-segregationists. Many are just highly conservative individuals who grew up in a certain religious tradition. Some are more "liberal" on separation than others. Neither are they devoid of love or compassion, let it be known that I never said that. But on the whole, the ethos and dynamics of the movement, as well as its distinctive beliefs, can be a very dangerous threat to the fabric of the gospel and the mission of the church. We should guard the good deposit of the gospel against errors, from both liberals and fundamentalists.


Jonathan Robinson said...

tankyou Mike,
i've been feeling recently that we are too shy in critising fundamentalists- who are really just as culturally bound as the liberals. i wonder if we need a clearer deliniation between fundies and evangelical as often the lines seem blurred and fundamentalist rhetoric is very dangerous and often persuasive for young evangelicals. additionaly evangelicals have to accept that fundamentalist is now a technical definition of a certain type of religion (be it Xian, Muslim or Hindu, etc) that is exclusive, anti-dialogue and literalistic (over and against literal) in interpretation of text and tradition- and isnt a label to be proud of or try to reclaim!

Kelly Kerr said...

What do you say to Fundamentalists who say that God has "spoken" these things to them? I've found that it's almost impossible to talk to them.

Larry said...

To those fundamentalists, you offer graceful and tactful rebuke. To fundamentalists who are not guilty of these things, you thank God for them.

But let's face it, the reason there is an evangelical faith today is because the mindset of the nonfundamentalists did not win in the last fifty years.

Your grace here is not so charming.

Eric Rowe said...

It would only be by a gratuitous redefinition of terms that I could ever avoid the charge of being a fundamentalist. But I don't believe a single one of the dogmas for which you won't praise God. It looks like you went through a list of bad things which are each in one way or another held by some fundamentalists somewhere and charged all fundamentalists guilty by association, when truth be told, no such association even exists between each of these crowds and other fundamentalists. And, by the way, each of your dogmas is also held by plenty of non-fundamentalists.

Tim Bergen said...

I am a fundamentalist, matter of fact I am a member of IFCA International. I am troubled by this stereotyping. None of the 6 things you have mentioned are a basis of any of the fundamentalists' theology or practicum I know or associate with. By far, the majority of fundamentalists are not this way and serve the Lord in a Biblical manner.

Just for the record--John MacArthur is a fundamentalist.

So here is my "remonstrance" against the 6 Birdisms.
1. I am not a legalist, but believe that the Biblical way of living is to interpret Scripture using a literal-grammatical-historical hermeneutic and then apply it in our lives. Therefore, I abstain from Alcohol on personal conviction, but do not abstain from fellowshipping with those who use it. (Oh, I almost forgot. I do use alcohol, Nyquil works wonders for my colds)
2. I am a bi-racial man married to a caucasian woman. We have a wonderful marriage and have not experienced any type of racism from Fundamental circles. For a picture of me you can go to or if you would like to see my family, please go to
3. Our fundamentalist church uses a potpourri of translations including the NIV, NASB and the ESV. I personally like the NASB the best, but it is just preference and I believe one of the better translations out there.
4. Wow, I can't even respond to that one.
5. I don't know where that one came from, although I believe in a distinction between the church and Israel and even though now Israel has rejected God, someday God will deal with them again and bring them to himself. I am not aware of any Israel hating fundamentalists on my side of the world.
6. I am a separatist and do not apologize for that. When we blur lines having to do with Soteriology (Child Baptism, Baptismal regeneration etc...), Bibliology and Christology to me that is a huge issue. I believe these are primary issues. Eschatology is secondary. We have to be careful when we throw out terms like separation and define exactly what we mean.

Lastly, I would like to say that I appreciate my fundamentalist brothers and their stand for truth.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for these comments. I cannot understand what value John Piper would see in the group he is validating. Is he blind? I grew up in separatist Fundamentalism and it needs to be exposed for what it is. People have exposed the Mormons, the Catholics, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Scientologists and I could go on but this group is in need of exposure. They have a false doctrine that you cannot justify from the Bible. They are in my opinion the modern day pharisees at the very least.

I have been around long enough to see the movement consistently exposed for its "cover-ups" -- most often with money and many of them sexual abuse in nature (i.e. Bob Gray, etc. and I could go on). Even though the more moderate Fundamentalists would not trump the "touch not God's anointed" speech they practice the philosphy by allowing their leaders to abuse people with no accountability. Some "yes men" will even go so far as to say "if you were abused its your fault because you weren't spiritual enough to take it." Give me a break! I personally think God is nauseated at the hypocrisy and sickness in their self-righteous towers. I do not feel bad about saying these things because I know they are true and it cannot be denied. Sure, there are good people in some of the sects of Fundamentalism, but that doesn't mean they haven't been brainwashed by its false doctrines.

You will hear endless accusations from them about how every other religion is a cult-- in psychology this is called projection-- project the thought to other groups to avoid exposure of oneself. If you ever try to tell them these things they accuse you of all kinds of things under the sun like being bitter, angry, vengeful, etc. This is done to avoid any accountability. In recent days their "cult" mentalty has been exposed for what it is and I have never seen such venom come pouring out all over the blogs. It only proves what is in their hearts! To me this group is no different then the radical muslims, the radical mormons, etc. that are all consistently exposed around the world. They are not the exception and they are not beyond scrutiny -- although I think they believe they are.

When I left this group I felt free for the first time in my life to think for myself. I no longer had to submit my mind, will, and emotions to the group. I went through all the radical emotional issues outlined by cult experts- obviously John Piper has never gone through this himself or he would not praise them as he is doing. He has disappointed me in this and I realize he's trying to be gracious but we need to be bold and call a spade a spade.

If you want to praise the true "Fundamentalists" then praise John MacArthur or J.I. Packer, etc. But for PETE'S SAKE DON'T PRAISE FALSE DOCTRINE!!!

My rant is ended! Thanks for the space!

Larry said...


Having been a fundamentalist my whole life, I can say without fear of contradiction that you are simply incorrect. There are fundamentalists who do those things, just as there are non-fundamentalists who do them. But that is not fundamentalism.

I say this only because you say we need to call a spade a spade. Your post is a spade. It is ridiculous and without merit to tag all of fundamentalism with the sins of some. Such can only be said by not understanding what fundamentalism actually is.

I have been in fundamentalism my whole life and have been thinking for myself since I was able to think. I never had to subject my mind to someone else. I feel bad that you experienced what you claim to have experienced. But that is not the fault of fundamentalism. It is the fault of sinful fundamentalists. And we should note the difference. The vast majority of fundamentalists are not like Bob Gray, and should not be accused of being. I wouldn't even call Bob Gray a fundamentalist because fundamentalism is first and foremost about doctrine, and Gray did not hold right doctrine and certainly did not live it.

Reforming Baptist said...

"Shall we praise God for the eschatology of some Fundamentalists and how they support the state sponsored persecution of our Arab Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land in the name of their esoteric reading of Revelation? "

uhhh...when's the last time you heard about a Jewish suicide bomber in Palestine? When's the last time you heard about a Jew blowing up a bus full of Palestinians? the Jews are the persecuted ones!

I don't know what kind of eschatology you are referring to , but Jesus will return and national Israel does have a special place in God's plan. For that reason, I whole heartedly support Israel and Palestinian Muslims are not my brothers either.

Michael F. Bird said...

It appears that I have hit a nerve! Some of you guys who took offence to my post should go back and read my post again and look at what I did say and what I did not say. I never said that all Fundamentalists were Landmarkers etc. I say this is true of "some" but not all.

Fellas, I've come across many Fundamentalists and seen what they do to a church. I've seen a bunch of Fundies move into a church and start demanding that everyone become tee-tottlers. I've heard ridiculous arguments for singing only hymns vs. choruses and why we must only home-school our children. You wanna believe that stuff, fine, but if you start trying to impose it on others and telling me this is what Bible "clearly" teaches, then I'm gonna kick you out of my church.

On separation, there are websites telling us how dangerous D.A. Carson is by Fundamentalists. Soem of the people you separate from and label as heretics are quite orthdox and are leading teachers of the faith. And this two-degrees of separation thing is about as biblical as the Left-Behind series or the GOP taxation policy.

And William D, what about "Arab Christians"? If you were paying attention you'd note that I said "Arab Christians" not "Arab Muslims". Are you quite happy for the secular government of Israel to displace these Christians, to destroy their villages, and force them to go to Lebanon! Are they your brothers and sisters in Christ? Or, I am sad to ask, is their skin is the wrong colour?

On racism, fellas, do you expel and discipline pastors that believe in racial segregation and believe that inter-racial marriages are wrong? You tolerate these people even if you don't agree with them. These are the groups you should "separate from". They deny justification by faith!!!

So to you Fundamentalist guys and gals. God bless you. May you all grow in faith and godliness and hold fast to the good confession of Jesus Christ. But I don't want to be like you, I'll fight tooth and nail against SOME of your views, and I guess the feeling is probably mutual.

Larry said...

On racism, fellas, do you expel and discipline pastors that believe in racial segregation and believe that inter-racial marriages are wrong? You tolerate these people even if you don't agree with them. These are the groups you should "separate from". They deny justification by faith!!!

This is the type of comment that hits a nerve because it is just wrong. Racism is wrong; Period. But it is not denying justification by faith. That type of argumentation is what I expect out of some fundamentalists, and it is clear that such bad argumentation is not limited to them.

Your comment on Arab Christians and their homes is the same kind of argument. Being a Christian doesn't exempt you from the political and national struggles that go on in a foreign world. And if you are living in someone else's country without permission, you have to leave, even if you are a Christian. That's a political debate, not a theological one. And we need to recognize that.

Which brings me back to my original point ... The problems you list are not problems with fundamentalism, but with some fundamentalists and with some non-fundamentalists.

The truth is that if you are a true believer, you have much more in common with fundamentalism, and most fundamentalists, than you have differences with them. So I would urge refrain from the type of vitriol demonstrated here. I don't think it is helps the body of Christ. It certainly doesn't bring unity. And it shows that you are willing to separate over secondary issues like alcohol use, homeschooling, eschatology, and the like.

Eric Rowe said...

If people misread your original post, you've clarified yourself well in your comment, you're indeed as bigoted as you initially came across. Where are you getting this stuff? Racism? Anti-Arab-Christianity? KJV Onlyism? Second Degree Separation? Landmarker? I've never even heard of a Landmarker before! Most of these items are things I've encountered much more frequently among nonfundamentalists than among fundamentalists, and the only fundamentalists I have encountered who do believe them, apparently like the ones you've encountered, were on the internet, which does not exactly create confidence that they are a representative sample.

Samuel Sutter said...

This post is like arguing with author of Hebrews 11 by pointing out the flaws of say Jacob and asking how anyone could praise or endorse someone who was a deceiver. I think we can (and should) thank God for Fundamentalist because many of them were faithful to God and God clearly used them in shaping his Church (which oddly maybe bigger than they think, but whatever.) But i think we're missing the point to suggest that you can't praise God for people because we disagree with some of them.

Michael F. Bird said...

Larry: (1) Justification by faith was used as Paul's antidote to racism and legalism - in Galatians and Romans they are intermixed. God justifies Jews and Gentiles, Blacks and Whites, American and Arabs. And they belong in one church linked by one Faith, one Lord, one Baptism. So if you split them up, you are denying justification. They are linked! Go read Galatians, this isn't a refutation of medieval legalism, but of Jewish ethnocentrism and merit theology. (2) I would object that the Arab Christians are "living in someone elses country without permission". They were there before 1948 and before the Jewish tanks rolled in. Do you have no compassion and no sense of justice and no sense of solidarity with these people: for the love of GWBush they are Christians! What gives a secular state the right to destroy their homes and exile them from their land on the basis of their race? What do you suppose doing with them? Kill them in the name of a new conquest or send them to Lebanon or Syria so that the Muslims can kill them? (3) Let me concede that my objections only apply to some Fundamentalist and not all - as I said from the start!!!

Eric: (1) When you've had to adress the pastoral care issues I've had to deal with in helping friends and students recover from Fundamentalist legalism then maybe you'll appreciate my angst. Not all Fundamentalists are legalists, but their theological fabric, sociological dynamics, and cultural disposition gives them a strong propensity to being so. I ain't gonna let that infiltrate my church. (2) There are Fundamentalists who hold these positions and many Fundamentalists have been emailing me to say "yes", but "they are a minority now". (3) Ronald Reagan once told someone I knew: "Never write in anger". Advice you might consider taking.

Stephen said...

Dr Bird,
Could you do a post on the difference betweeen a conservative biblie believing Evangelical and a Fundamentalist? Showing why historically the two are different.

God Bless

Tim Bergen said...

Michael F. Bird said... … Not all Fundamentalists are legalists, but their theological fabric, sociological dynamics, and cultural disposition gives them a strong propensity to being so. I ain't gonna let that infiltrate my church…

Now I understand the problem why you disagree!!! It is YOUR church. We fundamentalists believe in the church, but we believe it is God’s church.

Eric Rowe said...

"There are Fundamentalists who hold these positions and many Fundamentalists have been emailing me to say 'yes', but 'they are a minority now'." Not only are those things a minority among fundamentalists, many of them are less common among fundamentalists than they are among nonfundamentalists. I have certainly met many people who were against interracial marriage. But none were fundies like me. They've all been either non-christians or Presbyterians (particularly of the Korean variety). Incidentally, those who believe that different races exist would claim that I'm in an interracial marriage, since I am of European decent and my wife is Vietnamese. For an alternative to that view of race, written from a strictly fundamentalist, creationist perspective, see the book One Blood, written by Ken Ham. When I lived in Jerusalem I attended the most conservative fundamentalist church I could find there. It was an Arab Christian church. It was a dispensational, separatistic, Bible Baptist church with strong ties to Bob Jones University. And, while I am a teetotaler, as are most other fundies I know, I've never heard of any who thought they were called to infiltrate a liberal or neo-evangelical church and convert them all to teetotalism. The suggestion is laughable. If it has ever happened it was as much of a fluke within fundamentalism as it would be in Catholicism. It isn't enough for you to admit that not all fundamentalists exhibit these things if you're going to turn around and say that there's something in the fabric of fundamentalism that leads to them. If merely your own experience has led you to attribute these characteristics to fundamentalists in general, why not just go all the way and refuse to praise God for Christianity on account of the very same experiences? Both your post and your repeated attempts to justify it are full of mischaracterizations, straw men, ad hominems, and myths. For fundamentalists these are taken personally. It would be like writing a post refusing to praise God for Reformed Christians with the excuse that Reformed Christians believe in dominion theology.

David R Kirk said...

I think you guys might be wrestling with semantics as well as theology and praxis. I trust that if you were to set the semantics straight, then the tone might come down a bit!

Groseys messages said...

WOW Mike, you sure stirred up a hornets nest.. now would you say (having come to know the Lord in a church I pastored) that I am a fundementalist or something else? I hope nothing worse. :)
I don't believe as you well know, in Racism... we were THE most racially mixed church at East hills in Sydney! I am not Anti-Arab-Christianity.. one of my parishioners these last many years is a Palestinian Christian who struggles with the scriptural truths in Zechariah 14. I am not KJV Only.. I use ESV and HCSB, but prefer NA 27 (and at Holsworthy only used NIV for preaching). Second Degree Separation.. wow I'd have left the baptist union of NSW long ago if I was that. Landmarker.. well no, although I will concede that there may have been Baptist-like churches among the Waldenses prior to 1609, and possibly some in England (where do you put Sir Francis Drake's dad?)
I don't think we're going to know the true history of Baptist churches until eternity, and then it wont matter anyway. :)
And yet, because I believe the fundementals (Trinity, Divinity of Christ, Atoning death and physical resurrection and promised return of the Lord Jesus), and hold to a high view of scripture, I am considered a fundementalist.
Maybe instead of using a comparaatively wide theological term "fundementalist" a narrower more precise term would have been more appropriate.. such as "overbearing" .. now that word I think probably sums up the problem more adequately.
Titus 1:7For an • overseer, as God’s manager, must be blameless, not arrogant, not quick tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.

Other wise, some of my more liberal theological college lecturers who demanded complete adherence and obedience to JEDP, adn the ABSOLUTE authority of Q, could be missed out in this list.
Bye the way, its the fundementalists in Australia (Moore college and the reformed element in the Baptist union) who have invited DA Carson and David Jackman out to our fairly dry isle!
The Lord bless you Mike, and lets coin a better word than "fundementalist."
I have been reading Michael Frost's Exiles, and have to laugh at how he encourages us to be more passionate about the truths of the gospel"(FUNDEMENTALS!) and then ravages the fundementalists with throw away lines about heir insanity!
But its ok,
my mum was schizophrenic and I'm used to seeing it. :)


Misha DX said...

This post is full of "straw-man arguments". In every category of Christianity, including Reformed branches, we can say "some _____ believe....". To condemn "Fundamentalists" because there is a KJV movement among some and legalistic teetotalers among others(and for all the other splinter theologies among this vast and varied movement) is to lack fairness.