Anemia in Fundamentalism

Fundamental Christian colleges are challenged with what seems to be an increasing trend in carnality and worldliness in the current generation.

Historically the manifestations of carnality were revealed in superficial worldly conformity (immodesty, fleshly music, or careless social behavior). Such manifestations presented challenges, but the environment of many of the fundamental Christian colleges was relatively effective in helping Christian young people “reset” to biblical norms. Positive peer pressure and a semi-controlled environment presented positive socialization while exposure to godly examples (peers and adults) and the ministry of the Word and Spirit produced wondrous transformational changes in many Christian young people over the course of their march toward graduation and autonomy.

Recently, however, we are seeing something added to the mix of challenges facing Christian colleges and the local churches, as well. There is an increasing number of students who do not believe in what was at one time consensus morality among fundamental Baptists. Where before we would experience broken hearts and repentant spirits for those who were caught up in immorality or substance abuse, we are now hearing, “I really don’t believe drinking alcohol is wrong and neither do my parents.” For many Christian college students, pre-marital sexual abstinence is not rooted in clear scripture, but is rather a vestige of broken fundamentalism. Recently a wedding reception held at a Bible-believing church alcohol was served, and the church member parents were surprised that other members were offended.

What we are seeing is that the transmission of long-held fundamental Baptist norms, which flowed from biblical convictions, are now held by an older generation while newer or younger generations appear to be learning by parental instruction rather than from careful exegesis and passionately delivered biblical warnings and admonitions. In short, the question must be asked, “Have fundamental Baptist preachers lost their nerve?”

For purposes of beginning a conversation, let me suggest some possible places to look for what appears to be a counter-cultural anemia that is or has crept into the pulpits and pews of many fundamental Baptist churches.

Focus on the pulpit:

  1. No one wants to be the spiritual adult in the room.
    As a child, my parents would tell me, “John, do not stick the paper clip in electrical outlet;” at age four, “You cannot ride your bike in the busy street;” and later, “We do not drink liquor in the house because alcohol lowers your judgment and is the single greatest cause of death and destruction known to man,” “You are not going to that dance,” and “You will not leave this house dressed like that.” All of these statements were made with dramatic emphasis out of a heart of passionate love and with a conviction that the warnings were truth. Christians today appear paralyzed with self-doubt, and the intractable tentativeness of the scholar who is not yet finished testing all 1,000 possible hypotheses, so he cannot be dogmatic.
  2. Neutered view of the pastor.
    A correlation of “Nobody wants to be the spiritual adult” is the neutered view of the pastor. Contemporary pastors are often viewed in a liturgical or priestly sense as a separate “class” of Christian, rather than a prototypical norm. A Catholic teen sees the priest in his garb and stately demeanor as atypical. He is celibate, he has a vow of poverty, but “regular people” are not expected to be like a priest. “We are ‘regular people,’ after all! How the pastor lives does not relate to us.” Thus the pastoral aim to transmit biblical holiness by example is relatively ineffective. It does not matter that the preacher does not smoke, drink, cuss, gamble, dance, or go to wherever, because “He’s the preacher.” What he does or does not do is not for average Christians, and we aren’t expected to be abstinent like him. Without direct admonition, example alone is weak.
  3. Avoidance of subjective applications of objective truth.
    The modern evangelical has long been able to do a good job in preaching exposition messages. They are interesting and often accurate, but for 50 years it has been left to the fundamentalist to say, “So this is why we don’t                and why we as fundamental Baptists believe we must take a stand against               .” Currently it seems like there is less difference than ever between well-trained fundamental Baptist preaching and the less conservative evangelicals. In application they both fail to deliver plain talk related to worldliness, holiness, and purity. Sometimes the hearer has to be a mystic to discern what the practical relevance of the message is to his concrete behavior. Why not plainly apply the Scripture to areas of morality, dress, speech, and entertainment, and then challenge the listener to see if the application and principles are appropriate to the passage? Why let a good message drift 10 feet off the ground, when some simple straight talk will bring it home to everyday life?
  4. Fear of seeming to focus on externals.
    We can get caught up in focusing on mere external forms of spirituality rather than reaching the heart. Frankly, we have little danger of this with the younger generation of preachers. It is rare today to hear direct application of preaching on modesty, purity and avoidance of worldliness. So I chuckle on the “externalism” boogeyman. Besides, “fruit” is external. The manifestation of the heart is only known by men as they observe external behavior. People will have no problems being challenged on what they believe, but touch on what they do, and you have a fight.
  5. Intellectualism and self-doubt.
    The last point that focuses on spiritual leadership is what appears to be a doubting of historic standards. The embarrassment of personality wars and intemperate criticism of some in the prior generation may have caused a general embarrassment and tentativeness in forcefully opposing sin and compromise with worldliness and wickedness. There are also some whose study has caused them to question clear positions on drinking alcohol, sexual purity, and worldly activities. They become transfixed by “What exactly is worldliness?” or “Can we say drinking alcohol is sin?” When self-doubt enters the pulpit, is there any wonder why Christian college students cannot defend a position on alcohol or premarital sex? Intellectualism can lead to prideful and inordinate regard for so many different views that the person in the pew may wish to ask, “So what is the right view, Preacher? What is the safe view, the view that strengthens the weaker brother, the view that is most consistent with righteousness and holiness, the view that most opposes the agenda or purpose of Satan and the wicked?” If preachers will just think in these terms, they usually can see where their conclusion should fall. If the leadership is tentative, what kind of conviction can we expect from the pew?
  6. In the past we had a problem with people trying to be “holier than thou.” Today the problem is with people trying to be “free-er than thou.”

Focus on the pew:

  1. Abhorrence of the battle.
    Whether one is a pastor or a parent, fighting a war is unpleasant and nasty business. Only a fool looks for a battle, but excessive avoidance of a battle is what we call cowardice. Many parents have just plain given up. There is little support from the pulpit. The schools, society, and television all seem to be against righteousness. Goliath is standing in the valley thundering, and the children of Israel are cowering. Along comes David: “Is there not a cause?”
  2. Lowering of spiritual expectations on the part of parents.
    Many Christian parents have minimalist goals for their children. For many church members, the following represents the goals they have for their children:

    1. Just don’t make a baby before you are married.
    2. Marry someone who says they are a Christian.
    3. Nominally attend an Evangelical church.
    4. Be able to support yourself at a reasonable level.

For these parents, sacrifices to send children to a fundamental Christian college seem like an unnecessary extravagance. The norm for Christian parents ought to be to rear children mighty in faith, leaders in the cause of Christ, and those who will rear godly children who can turn the world upside-down for God! Of course, just because you go to a Christian college doesn’t guarantee spiritual strength, but it surely can be a cog in the engine of God’s providence. Where would the fundamental Baptist community be today were there no fundamental colleges and seminaries? Fundamental Baptist churches and fundamental Christian colleges need to partner in communicating a robust, confident and biblical fundamentalist world view to an uncertain, tentative and anemic evangelical culture.

25 thoughts on “Anemia in Fundamentalism

  1. Although I heartily agree with your article Brother Brock, my concern is that much of the problem you describe is coming from young pastors trained in our so-called fundamental Baptist Bible colleges and seminaries. I have had discussions with many “Young Fundamentalists” who are guilty of everything you describe.

    Many of our Baptist churches are no longer requiring abstinence from alcohol as a test of fellowship in their By-Laws and Doctrinal Statements. I could name a few that would shock you. They were led to that position by pastors who have graduated from our so called “fundamental” Baptist colleges and seminaries.

    The pulpits may be weak on all of the issues you speak of, but why are they weak? “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Matthew 7:17).

    • Lance: I’m sorry I took so long to respond. I tried twice, but my blogging skills were not sufficient to keep my response from vanishing into the ether.

      As I stated in my post, the fundamental Christian colleges and seminaries are strongest in preserving a biblical and Baptist heritage when they work in partnership, reinforcing each other.

      As you can imagine, many young people coming to college today are totally ignorant of any doctrinal basis for practicing biblical separation. That is a far cry from my youth group days. My pastor was an excellent apologeticist for biblical separation. I remember moving to a new geographic area and going to a youth group where no such training existed. I was so well-equipped that I was able to teach (as a high school junior) the youth group a couple of lesson on the doctrine of separation using nothing but the Bible! Even though my effort was, no doubt, crude and immature, it was as least something. Today many young people come to our colleges thinking that biblical separation is a fictional doctrine. They have never heard of it!

      Churches and godly homes will always have great impact. My parents were two of the finest Christians I ever met. My Baptist church was pastored by a man who was very skilled and practiced in using balanced/well-reasoned apologetics. There was no hollow pulpit pounding or screaming, but passage by passage followed by appropriate application and examples he used to explained Biblical responses to the issues of the day. Then . . . I went to a non-denominational college that had covenant leanings in its Bible Department. I was not fazed by those teachings, but the fundamentalist position of the college augmented and reinforced my home and church teachings, and I developed even stronger biblical apologetics for addressing the issues of life. The point I’m making, Lance, is that colleges and seminaries are often not able to overcome weak home and church influences. These are powerful. And, as you know, Lance, colleges and seminaries are not supposed to lead churches. It should be the churches that set the tone for the defense of the gospel. Nevertheless Maranatha Baptist Seminary seeks to do all it can to assure that graduate students are prepared to engage the world for Christ.

      Frankly, it is surprising that many students make it to our fundamental colleges at all. The homes they come from are more broken, worldly, and spiritually weak than ever before. I suppose one contributor to the anemia I lament is that many pastors are so inundated with issues related to spiritual urgent care that issues related to the long-term survival of fundamentalism become secondary. Our Pastors are burdened by the care of their flocks, but we can’t let those burdens justify an exemption from their duty to watch and warn.

  2. Honestly, You have corrretly identified that many parents and pastors are weak or cowardly in taking a stand in their homes and pulpits. As Christians we must be prepared to stand on and apply Biblical principles. However as a relattively young person, I need to stand on Biblical principles, not fundamentalist principles. As a graduate of a fundamentalist college, I was taught that Scripture is our sole rule for faith and practice. Therefore, when it comes to issues like alcohol or per-marital sex, I must look to scripture, not denominational tradition for guidance.

    Incidentally I don’t drink, but I am concerned when a test of fellowship is tee-totalling- or suggesting that drinking is sin. Jesus drank. In tjis article, The alcohol issue was also linked with premarital sex. However, Scripture is clear on fornication, so a stand on this should be made from the Bible alone – not generational tradition.

  3. The real “anemia” in fundamentalism is, at bottom, not about a new generation of Baptists having wine with dinner. It is the rank hypocrisy of leadership nearly everywhere now, countless pastors with secret porn habits, seminary presidents who are nothing more than ambitious politicians, pastors who create corrupt little kingdoms and wield their power no differently than a scion of business, pastors who roar about the Law without any Gospel, churches that emphasize external standards (like good Mormons or Catholics) at the expense of true humility and godliness. The newest generation has seen through it—the thin veneer of religiosity that covers a world of iniquity. Fundamental Baptists just offer another brand, and this generation is no longer buying the fraud.

    • Grieved: I think there is some truth that in recent past there were leaders in the movement who may have been duplicitous, but to use terms like “rank hypocrisy . . . everywhere” is overbroad. Even in the worst of the external conformity days, you could count the really “big shots” on the fingers of both hands. It is sad that the theological mandate for personal holiness/separation from worldliness and Paul’s instructions on ecumenical separation were undercut by the excesses of some. But really, Grieved, there were few “who roar about the law without any gospel.” That is a caricature that represented only a tiny minority. I never saw a “thin veneer of religiosity.” What I saw were fallible men with human frailties who are constantly humbled by the failure of the flesh. I certainly know that when I preach on holiness it is with great fear, knowing that I am far short of the image of Christ.

      Your comment does point out one tendency, however. There ought to be, and I believe there is, a huge population of fundamental Baptists whose position is between the poles of “external only” holiness and booze justification. It is the balanced, solid fundamentalists that must once again raise their voices in brave resistance against the onslaught of worldliness and compromise that is becoming too common in churches that once practiced biblically informed separation.

      Finally, Grieved it is important to know that on one ever gets away with anything. God is just and anyone who abuses the pastoral position for personal power or a private agenda will suffer loss. We must not despair in our positions simply because some misuse their authority. The First will be last. This is a haunting reminder for those of us in spiritual leadership. But, to repeat, I do not personally see the excesses you describe as being common today. My concern is that the pendulum has swung to the point where the pulpit is now silent on such issues as ecumenical compromise, personal separation from worldliness and the importance of Christian education during one’s formative years through College.

  4. Excellent analysis of the problem! We need some real preachers back in the pulpits. These wanna-be theologians/professor types are killing both church and colleges

    • This preacher vs. theologian dichotomy which is being promoted by fundamentalists only hurts their cause. Fundamentalists need to be able to back up their beliefs not simply by shouting them from a pulpit, but by arguing them with solid logic from the Word of God. Perhaps this dichotomy is offered because fewer and fewer of the fundamentalist ideals can be argued with solid logic from the Scriptures?

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  6. Your courage and clarity are commendable. This is a small example of why I am excited that my son will begin his college career at MBBC in just a few weeks. Well done!

  7. Dr. Brock,

    You have presented some valid observations.

    I too, am noticing among my peers (preachers) an unwillingness to identify worldly actions as sin. I sense that many of these men don’t want to be identified as “different,” but rather they want to be accepted by people as down-to-earth buddies (some even want to be identified as drinking buddies).

    It seems to me, from my limited understanding, that history is repeating itself. There are some within fundamentalism who want to gain the esteem of the Christian and unbelieving community. They are trying hard to shed anything that makes them look unusual in order to gain the the world’s approval.These men seem to be transitioning positionally (as opposed to
    doctrinally). Their hearts are leading them in a different direction.
    They are unwilling to identify with Christ fully, in the sense of being willing to be labelled as different in order to take a stand for truth (even in issues regarding personal sanctification).

    We all are tempted to give in to the fear of men. We naturally do not want to be considered odd, or even “old fashioned.” However, the absolutes of Scripture call us to resist the temptation to seek man’s approval. This is Paul’s basic lesson for the Corinthians (1 Cor 3:8-16), and it is still a very valid lesson for us today.

  8. Could it be that the real anemia is in our lack of real knowledge of God? Could it be that much of what is disturbing about Christianity today is not sourced in courage (a man-centered problem), but in real understanding of the Holiness, Love, judgement and mercy of the Almighty? Could it be that spiritual anemia is really a lack of spiritual truth being understood and applied? Could it be that people who have not spent adequate time meditating on who God is and developed a drive to glorify Him out of a holy fear and humble love for Him? Could it be that the problem is not one of inner strength, but absolute dependence on a God Who is being known and being adored? Seems like much of the complaints proffered here both in the article and the comments would be solved with a good healthy dose of the Knowledge of God (Hosea 4:1-11).

  9. This post begs the question, “How is Fundamentalism any different than Evangelicalism?” We cannot claim an exclusive theology, for we share that theology with many conservative evangelicals. The real difference has been in our separation from the world. We fundamentalists have become weak on our distinctive, separation, and that weakness leaves us not looking that much different from the evangelical movement.

    • Dr. Brock, the opening paragraphs of your article reminded me of my years at Maranatha (mid-’70′s). I entered as a fundamental, independent, separated Baptist, and I graduated as a much stronger fundamental, independent, separated Baptist! What I learned at MBBC (and other places), I have both preached and practiced through the years–in my home, in Christian schools, and in churches where I have ministered. However, when it came to my own children going to good, fundamental, separated colleges, my oldest two as much as said, “Save your breath and your money, Dad; I’m not going to any of those colleges!” My third child agreed to attend one of the colleges I recommend; but, at the end of his freshman year, instead of coming out with stronger, separatist, fundamentalist convictions, he announced on the drive home that he doesn’t want to be a fundamentalist! He said that fundamentalists add too much to Scripture (rather than recognizing separation standards as an application of Biblical principles). How that grieved my heart! What is going on in the chapel pulpits, classrooms, and dorms at these schools??

      I noticed that none of the comments made on your article have mentioned the “post-modern generation”. Is that the problem?? My kids don’t think like I do, and they don’t accept what I so willingly accepted when it was preached and taught to me as a young person.

      • Daniel your story is sad, especially if your children have turned away from Biblical Christianity. I have written numbers of articles on these topics. One longer work is called “Taboos versus Convictions”. It is a long article, too long to recap here, but I argue that many parents simply lay down edicts and standards without convincing evidence. Convictions are forensic outcomes based on solid evidence. ) “Prove all things, hold fast that which is Good” They should be objective rather than subjective. Alcohol for example is discussed negatively in the Bible by a large ratio. It is the most costly substance in the world in terms of sociological negative impact in ruined lives, property damage, injury and death. It is innately habit forming and dangerously addictive to a significant portion of the public. It lowers judgment and inhibition far sooner than motor functioning. Why someone wants to justify or promote this substance for God fearing people is beyond me. If there were not one verse in the Bible on alcohol I would oppose it as extremely unwise and a having potentially devastating outcomes for the family (one in ten people who ever take a drink of booze have significant problem with control). Beliefs with no objective evidence from the Bible or other sources can become hollow taboos that are soon rejected by children when they become autonomous. The point my article is that we must develop apologetical skill in defending the faith and in warning about issues that can lead to loss of testimony or dilution of doctrinal fidelity. After all of our efforts, individuals must choose the path they take and the consequences both practical and eternal that follow in the train of such decisions.

      • What’s going on in “the chapel pulpits, classrooms, and dorms” is that students have had enough with the hypocritical approach of the IFB circle. Although I cannot blanket everyone, the truth is that this post reveals the misplaced focus of institutions like Maranatha (at least coming from the top– it was somewhat different in the classrooms).
        The fact is that students aren’t enamoured with Postmodern thinking any more than they are abhorrent of IFB rationale. Students want Scripture, and one can say “we need to preach Scripture zealously and with back bone” all we want, but when you read all of your positions and self-salvation methods onto the text of Scripture you don’t really believe what you say.
        Students want Gospel centered truth and there is a resurgence to “cleanse” themselves from the pathetic pendulum swing of the 30′s-90′s.
        Finally people have realized that typical IFB ploys include comparing alcohol consumption alongside sexual purity as if the two of them are incredible problems in the minds of those desiring God. The fact is that within the evangelical community at large no leader is saying that premarital sex is okay. This post simply equates the two to make something like alcohol consumption seem *gasp* wicked!
        This post definitely says one or two accurate things, but for everything accurate it says about Fundamentalist Baptist schools and churches (in this stripe), it says ten poor or downright ignorant things about Gospel believing evangelical culture..
        One final word…
        How do you define “worldliness”?

  10. Dr. Brock, first I want to say I appreciate the fact that you are analyzing Fundamentalism’s problems. I have found that one of Fundamentalism’s greatest plagues is its tendency to always point the finger at evangelicals (most always in an uninformed and slanderous manner) rather than concern themselves with the countless planks in their own eyes.

    Secondly, much of what you said, and what others are saying in the comments, is based on a presupposition. You seem to come down non various actions, activities, activities, whatever they be that you consider to be worldly and sinful, for example, drinking alcohol. On that presupposition you conclude that those who, for example, drink alcohol, are compromising. However, I allow me to pose a more accurate picture–they aren’t compromising the presupposed Biblical mandate against drinking alcohol; they simply disagree with your presupposition. And this is the case with quite a few other practical areas (i.e., music, dress, etc.) You might disagree with them. Okay, that’s perfectly acceptable. But these issues aren’t as clear cut as you might be thinking. And simply because they disagree with you (just as you disagree with them, mind you), is no ground to judge their motives. Therefore, again to restate my point, it would appear that your argument is based on a shaky presupposition.

    Thirdly, I full-heartedly agree with you that my generation lacks holiness. Holiness needs to be preached (although I would not go about doing so by legalistically prescribing specific regulations for people as Fundamentalism has a tendency of doing).

    Fourthly, I think you may be painting an inaccurate picture at several points. Much of what you say is true at times but completely false in other circumstances. In other words, you do a lot of generalizing. I also think you simply are missing reality at a few points. For example, I don’t think you will find many genuinely conservative Fundamentalists (and conservative evangelicals) who question whether premarital-sex is wrong.

    Finally, I don’t think Fundamentalism’s great problem is a lack of preaching standards of holiness. It’s problems are many and I feel overwhelmed at the idea of listing them… so I won’t. But I feel that it’ safe to say that many of those individuals you believe are compromising are simply seeking to move away from those problem areas while still remain faithful to the Gospel and the core values and belief’s of historic Christianity. I know personally, as a graduate from MBBC, a large group of your students, in particular your students training for pastoral ministry, are moving away from this “troubled” side of Fundamentalism towards a more balanced Fundamentalism (often without using the term “Fundamentalist”) or even conservative evangelicalism.

    • Hi Alumni:

      Thank you for your response. I respect your
      thoughtful and balanced effort at analyzing my post. You place much
      emphasis on pre-suppositions. I suppose everyone writes with certain
      assumptions, and that colors their writing—as they should. I try not to
      be too complicated in my writing. That may lead to
      simplistic/reductionist thinking. Even so, arriving at a conclusion may
      be preferred to excessive scholarly paralysis as I talked about in the
      main blog. Here are the main presuppositions I make with regard to
      living out our Faith:

      1. God is omniscient and therefore
      there are no “gray areas” with God. This does not mean that the same
      behavior is right in all cases. It does make a difference when shooting
      a gun if there is a paper target or a person in front of the firearm!
      2.
      The Bible is sufficient. We can discern and differentiate what
      God’s will is in any situation where we must act or are likely to need
      to act.
      3. We are to “Prove all things”, “Hold fast that which
      is good”, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” but
      to “reprove” the same. By honestly and objectively examining the
      characteristic of each activity we can usually tell whether something is
      commendable or condemnable. There are areas of doubt– not doubt by
      God, but doubt because we have not sufficiently looked at an issue
      through the lens of scripture until we clearly discern God’s will. An
      error of all believers (not merely fundamentalists) is that we are lazy
      and we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and call it liberty.
      Secularists call this tendency “resolving ambiguity in one’s favor”.
      God has different guidance for doubt (Rom 14:23).

      The reason I
      focus on application as much as I do is not because I believe one can
      ever merit favor or grace with God through external means, but because a
      major defining difference between authentic believers that manifests
      itself in the spectrum of evangelicals and fundamentalists is the
      willingness to use of the Bible and its legitimately derived principles
      to evaluate contemporary and common issues. Ideally it is an inside-out
      sanctification process that begins with an honest heart and works
      itself out in practical holiness. The point of my Blog post is that the
      evidence, Biblical arguments and process used to discerns God’s will are
      often not shared with our congregations. We let (novice to mature)
      believers mindless mimic the pastor until they move to another church
      and then they “adapt” rather than acquire a personal understanding of
      God’s will that endures. Borrowed convictions are poor teaching tools
      (especially to children) and worse communicators of a Biblical ethos.
      They also tend to have an exceedingly short half-life.

      Dr. Brock

      • I agree with what you have just said. And yes, all in all, Christianity of any sort should strive to improve their ability to take the theological truths of scripture, which are inherently practical, and reveal these practical implications for the contemporary setting. This involves interpreting the text properly so as to show the congregation its legitimate connection with the contemporary application. In other words, pastor-teachers must not simply getting up and sharing their taboo-ish opinions but actually interpret the text properly.

        With that said, I guess one of my points was that I don’t see Fundamentalism lacking in the area of making applications. On the contrary, many (the high majority, but certainly not all) of the sermons I heard in MBBC chapels, for example, and Fundamentalist circles at large were full of application… but application divorced of careful and precise articulated interpretation. In this case, applications then become based on traditionalism, human opinion, and Fundamentalist taboos rather than actually Biblical principles drawn from the text. This error is often manifested in preachers preaching specific standards as “thus saith the Lord” when the Lord in fact has not made these specific, contemporary decisions for us (areas that are humanly speaking, “gray areas”; cf. 1 Cor 8-10; Rom 14).

        Consequently, speaking of the need for application, I would hope that we could both heartily affirm that one of the
        broad areas of application in which Fundamentalism needs drastic
        improvement is found in texts like Matthew 15:1-9; Colossians 2:20-23; and Romans 14.

  11. Hi Alumni:

    Thank you for your response. I respect your thoughtful and balanced effort at analyzing my post. You place much emphasis on pre-suppositions. I suppose everyone writes with certain assumptions, and that colors their writing—as they should. I try not to be too complicated in my writing. That may lead to simplistic/reductionist thinking. Even so, arriving at a conclusion may be preferred to excessive scholarly paralysis as I talked about in the main blog. Here are the main presuppositions I make with regard to living out our Faith:

    1. God is omniscient and therefore there are no “gray areas” with God. This does not mean that the same behavior is right in all cases. It does make a difference when shooting a gun if there is a paper target or a person in front of the firearm!
    2. The Bible is sufficient. We can discern and differentiate what God’s will is in any situation where we must act or are likely to need to act.
    3. We are to “Prove all things”, “Hold fast that which is good”, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” but to “reprove” the same. By honestly and objectively examining the characteristic of each activity we can usually tell whether something is commendable or condemnable. There are areas of doubt– not doubt by God, but doubt because we have not sufficiently looked at an issue through the lens of scripture until we clearly discern God’s will. An error of all believers (not merely fundamentalists) is that we are lazy and we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and call it liberty. Secularists call this tendency “resolving ambiguity in one’s favor”. God has different guidance for doubt (Rom 14:23).

    The reason I focus on application as much as I do is not because I believe one can ever merit favor or grace with God through external means, but because a major defining difference between authentic believers that manifests itself in the spectrum of evangelicals and fundamentalists is the willingness to use of the Bible and its legitimately derived principles to evaluate contemporary and common issues. Ideally it is an inside-out sanctification process that begins with an honest heart and works itself out in practical holiness. The point of my Blog post is that the evidence, Biblical arguments and process used to discerns God’s will are often not shared with our congregations. We let (novice to mature) believers mindless mimic the pastor until they move to another church and then they “adapt” rather than acquire a personal understanding of God’s will that endures. Borrowed convictions are poor teaching tools (especially to children) and worse communicators of a Biblical ethos. They also tend to have an exceedingly short half-life.

  12. Dr. Brock,
    I really appreciate your post. However, I suspect that you may be over-analyzing the issue. There can be no true obeience to holiness without understanding, and understanding provides the strength to stand in holiness, becasue the truth sets free.
    What is needed is: 1. better Biblical support for some doctrines/positoins; 2. people who can explain it.
    Here is a friendly challenge: I have never heard a thoroughly convincing argument for prohibiting all alcoholic consumption. If you want to provide one or point me to one, I’m willing to explain why I agree or disagree.

  13. It is interesting. I’ve seen many students at MBBC who study the Bible when at college, but drink in the summer. I’ve met many people who blame their negative experiences at the college as inspirations to leave Christianity completely. Finally, I’ve met at least two dozen people who say their experience at the college was an influence in their struggle with self harm and thoughts of suicide.

    You know what I think? I think we never know people like we think we do. Here is a quote for the ages:

    “When we get to heaven we will first notice many people there we never expected to be there. After a while, we will start to notice many of the people we always thought would be there are no where to be found.”

  14. Perhaps it is not a matter of lack of nerve or these other reasons is causing more and more pastors from preaching about “Baptist norms” or “Fundamentalist standards” but because they find them either biblically indefensible or insignificant. I see this as a positive trend towards focusing on what the Scriptures actually say and on the faith once delivered. Maybe more pastors see the importance of their young people following Christ rather than a set of rules that are derived from a cultural context that rose and fell 50+ years ago. Maybe more parents and pastors have realized that there is something more important than having young people that remain faithful to a “fundamentalist world view,” namely having a biblical worldview. I’m fine with pastors speaking loudly where the Bible speaks, but we dare not follow the Colossian heretics in shouting where it doesn’t. Perhaps being “tentative” and “uncertain” about some things is not quite the problem that you make it out to be. That’s just my own $0.02.

  15. Interesting thoughts. Your title, “No one wants to be the spiritual adult in the room,” is very true. There are some real issues that some churches are not dealing with (and pastors aren’t confronting) that are detrimental to the church. Yet, I found your application of that principle (and the some of the ones after that) somewhat lacking. Certainly, if a church did not teach against fornication, that would be a clear indication of anemia in fundamentalism. Yet, I seriously doubt that any church claiming the title “Fundamental” would not teach against fornication. (In fact, the lack of teaching on this subject would be hard to find in even Conservative Evangelical churches). Thus, this application does not seem to fit the argument. Then, you use drinking as another application. I have never tasted a sip of alcohol. I don’t find it very attractive. I don’t plan on drinking at any point in the future. But, I do not believe the Bible teaches no one should ever drink. There is simply no clear biblical command against alcohol. There are some serious warnings on alcohol in Proverbs, but those warnings must be taken in context (both canonical and historical context). So, I think the reason why so many young people are not tea-totaling is because they just don’t see the biblical proof (using a consistent historical-grammatical hermeneutic that is). Thus,

    Second, I would like to balance out your section titled, “Avoidance of Subjective Applications of Objective Truth.” I wholeheartedly agree the pastor should take care to make more subjective applications in his sermons. Again, I’m not sure that we could generalize saying this doesn’t happen among conservative evangelicals or young fundamentalists. Certainly, few in the aforementioned group would apply the objective command on modest as, “The Bible commands modesty so if you wear skirts above the middle of the calf you are immodest and sinning.” The reason for the hesitation of subjective application is because of sensitivity to Christian liberty. This sensitivity comes from the perception that pastors within fundamentalism occasionally apply subjective application in an objective way. For example, a new pastor in a fundamental church across town just recently sent a couple of his members packing when he applied the objective verse “Women shall not wear the apparel of a man,” to women in his church wearing pants.

    Overall, I agree with your challenge, but would have liked to see better application.

  16. What a spot on anlysis of what is happening in our churches today. This is quite a challenge to me as a pastor. Thank you for your words and the challenge here.

  17. I think there’s a difficulty introduced, though, when we see the two examples are social drinking and pre-marital sex. One can make an argument from scripture, as well as long-standing tradition over the centuries, that Christians across denominational lines have agreed that chastity is the standard for unmarried Christians. The argument that abstaining from alcohol is somehow on par with abstaining from sex outside of marriage is much weaker. It is, as I understand it, an argument that asks Christians to avoid the appearance of evil, and to avoid supporting the alcohol industry, but it is not clearly demanded by scripture, nor has there ever been the same kind of consensus across denominational lines.

    When a young person, possibly struggling in his or her faith, realizes that one of the things he or she has been taught (no drinking) is not a scriptural requirement then it is easy for that person to start to wonder what other teachings might be suspect.

    This is why I think it is important to distinguish between the two examples used. I have Christian friends who have wine with dinner. They are not backslidden. They are joyful, faithful, generous, and exhibit the fruit of the spirit. They love scripture. They love Jesus. Their habit of having wine with dinner is not a stumbling block for their non-Christian friends.

    What makes this a critical issue for our time?

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