Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Wisdom of Years

The younger generation too often seems to be eager to learn the hard way. Too many of us act like we are the first to ever wrestle with the issues of life, theology, and ministry. How easy we forget ... or how ignorant of history we really are.

There is a generation who has been there and done that long before it was popular to have "been there, done that," and long before there was a T-shirt for it. But the voice of that generation has fallen on deaf ears. I was reminded of this phenomenon this morning while reading 2 Chronicles 10. Rehoboam sought advice from two generations. He took the advice of the younger because it indulged his personal preferences. In so doing, he split the kingdom. It was in God's providence to be sure, but it was a dumb thing to do.

Someone once said, "The problem with experience is that it is wasted on those who don't need it anymore." Such a conundrum need not exist. The wisdom of elders can and should be passed down to the younger generation. And the younger generation should learn in humility. The quest to reinvent the wheel is a useless quest that wastes time and energy only to learn that the wheel worked just fine to begin with.

In the current evangelical/fundamental landscape, there are many who want to ignore the lessons of history from the past fifty years. My theology professor, Dr. McCune, in his recent book title summed it up succinctly: Promise Unfulfilled. In other words, it didn't work the first time; why try it again? Other men inside the evangelical movement have begun to recognize the failures. We need not fight those battles again. Fundamentalism has its share of problems which should not be minimized. But evangelicalism has the same problems. While some complain about the breadth of fundamentalism (and I am troubled by the breadth of it), we must remember that Joel Osteen and John MacArthur are both "evangelicals." Our breadth is certainly not that wide.

My plea is that we not refight those battles. Let's be dumb enough to learn from those who have gone before.


Scott Aniol said...

Thank you for this, Larry. You reflected my thoughts exactly.

Chris Anderson said...

Ditto. Good stuff. Wondering: why did you pick apart my article that said essentially the same thing. :-)

Speaking of the wisdom of the hoary head, I'm enjoying the ACCC Conference here in Cleveland this week. So far Dr. Bob Jones III, Dr. Roland McCune, Dr. Al Griffith and Dr. John Ashbrook have spoken on Contemporary Evangelicalism. I know...the only thing these guys have to offer is Bible exegesis, sound theology and years of experience dealing first-hand with the issues about which our peers offer mere conjecture. However, despite their lack of credentials, it seems like these 4 kids have had some good things to say. More novices like Pastor Robert Potter, Dr. Ralph Colas, Dr. John McKnight and others tomorrow.

Larry said...


I don't remember the conversation to which you are referring. I don't recall having changed my position on this but perhaps we missed connections somewhere. And I certainly may have spoken out in error.

I do think younger guys need to come to their own convictions rather than simply adopting the older guys positions. It simply seems to me that many are coming to their own convictions in silly and unthinking ways. (Is that redundant?) To ignore the wisdom of the past generations is simply foolish. Likewise, to adopt that wisdom with personal conviction driven by the Word is likewise unwise.

Scott Aniol said...

Well said.

kevin mcfadden said...


Good post. We younger types are too quick to arogantly write off those who went before us.

I think your point about the breadth in fundamentalism and evangelicalism is a bit flawed, because fundamentalism is much more of a movemement than evangelicalism. Thus, we fundamentalists tend to (generally) accept or at least "let slide" anyone who goes by the label "fundamentlist." But MacArthur would outright reject many who go by the label "evangelical." The name "evangelical" is so broad and sloppy--in fact, even what we know as "fundamentlism" is really a subset of evangelicalism is it not? So is the comparison really valid?

Do you think I have a point here?

Kevin McFadden

Larry said...

I don't really see fundamentalism as a movement per se. I think those days are past. It is an idea to which we subscribe. Evangelicalism is much the same, IMO.

Subset? Not really. IMO, it is hard for the original to be a subset of that which follows. Fundamentalism is the father of evangelicalism.

I think some fundamentalists are weak on "letting slide" those who are aberrant in some major areas. That concerns me ... so I try not to do it. Ultimately, I can only make decisions for me and how I lead this church. But I, and others, must take into account the message we send by what we do. To me, that is the great failure on both sides.