Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Study in Contrasts

Note: The original article has been edited for clarification for the reader to avoid misunderstanding of the point at hand. No substantive changes have been made to the article.

Much has been made, particularly among fundamentalists both “young” and “old,” about how we speak of our predecessors. Now, I write as a fundamentalist, but not one of those kind of fundamentalists.

And I write primarily to fundamentalists.

It is suggested by a few that we should not speak ill of the previous generation of fundamentalists because they were good men who did good things for the sake of the gospel. Sure they had their flaws we might admit, but let us not speak of them, and certainly not publicly.

Yet it seems this same group of people have no hesitations when it comes to speaking ill of other men of past generations. They will loudly condemn men like Billy Graham, and refuse to let anyone speak well of them. They will insist that any mention of John Piper or John MacArthur contain condemnations of their various flaws.

Here’s the contrast: The men on “our side” we must say nothing bad about; the men on “the other side” we must say nothing good about.

Now, let's be clear. This is not a widespread problem and I in no way intend to make any broad-brushed characterizations. In fact, it is a fairly narrow problem and decreasing to be sure, particularly as the truth about people on both sides of the issue becomes more public. But is a problem that needs to be considered because it is a problem. And it was demonstrated in a public forum in a way that made evident the severe problem in thinking that brought this about.

In recent months, one man was taken to task publicly because he dared to quote an old-time fundamentalist, and dared to say some things that were considered unflattering about other men from previous generations who were recognized as leaders in fundamentalism.

What is interesting is that almost no one stepped up to say that these “unflattering things” were untrue. The quote itself or the other charges made were not questioned for their accuracy. No one even said it was the passion of youth or an anomaly.

It was merely said that such criticisms should not be made.

But some of the loudest mouths about this have no problem saying all manner of things against other people, many of which are demonstrably untrue.

The problem seems that some people are more loyal to a movement than they are to Scripture and truth. 
Robert P. Lightner, in Neoevangelicalism Today, has a good reminder:
“Fundamentalism is basically a theological and doctrinal position, but since its beginning it has inherited groups [I would add individuals] who claim shelter in the name but have done the cause serious harm. … The honest fundamentalist will humbly admit that the message and witness of fundamentalism has had its black strands. He will use the failures of the past to guide him to success in the future” (p. 157).
Here’s the bottom line for me: Let’s stop with the foolishness. To say that someone wasn’t perfect is not the same as saying that they are useless or beyond our respect. To point out that certain fundamentalists were rather intemperate in their speech, lacked self-control both in in speech and action, is not wrong. It is in fact true.

Fundamentalists, both young and old, can be quite intemperate. But they are not alone. One need only to read Carnell, Henry, Fosdick, or others to see that intemperance spans the spectrum.

We have truly reached a bad spot when telling the truth about certain people has become taboo. In a movement committed to the truth and to confrontation of error, fundamentalists should not object to it, even when it strikes close to home.
 _________________________________

3/01/2010 – See Comment #11 for a clarification concerning this post. It is added as a comment so as not to clutter up the point of the article itself.

11 comments:

theologshmeolog said...

Larry,
I'd like to agree with you, but you might be outside my camp, so I should say nothing good about you. On the other hand, you may be in my camp, and I disagree with you, so I shouldn't say anything bad about you.

Ahh...balance!

Cheers!
Sam H

Lou Martuneac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lou Martuneac said...

Larry:

There are several issues with this article that are highly disconcerting.

You wrote, “In recent months, one man was taken to task publicly because he dared to quote an old-time fundamentalist, and dared to say some things that were considered unflattering about other men from previous generations who were recognized as leaders in fundamentalism.

You refer to Kevin Bauder, "being taken to task." When Bauder reacted to the controversial Sweatt message, he did so in part with an unprovoked public attack on the legacy and ministries of John R. Rice and Bob Jones Jr. John Himes, Rice’s grandson, objected to the characterizations.

He, (Bauder) “said some things that were unflattering?”

I’ll let John Himes react to that and speak for himself. You can read his first response to Bauder’s personal attack on the legacy of John R. Rice here.

Himes wrote, Again, I am very disappointed at the language Bauder uses against his fellow fundamentalists, evidently chiefly against Rice: “pugilistic and bellicose,” “alpha males,” “the big boys,” “bullies,” “chieftains,” etc. Is this the kind of language a fundamentalist leader should use? Here in Japan where I minister, we have several levels of respect language, to be used depending on who you are talking to or about. Bauder’s language smacks of the language one would use in speaking about a yakuza gangster.

Later, in reply to a question asking if his, “grandfather’s life and ministry is above criticism,” Himes replied,

Of course not. I displeased my grandfather when I turned dispensationalist and joined Baptist World Mission. He got over it. I’ve criticized him respectfully before and will do so again. Bauder was disrespectful and rude. My criticisms of his (Bauder’s) article still stand.”

Later, to Greg L, Himes wrote, “What I strongly objected to was how Bauder criticized, the words he used. Surely you can see that from what I wrote, can't you? I disagree completely with you that Bauder is not attacking John R. Rice's character. The language Bauder used was inflammatory and un-Christian.”


LM

Larry said...

Lou,

While we don't need to rehash that discussion here, you are exactly the type of person I am writing about. You were wrong then and you are wrong now. The criticisms are valid. They were not made in a particularly harsh way. They were simply made.

Why is it that Bauder or anyone else cannot criticize fundamentalist leaders? Are you seriously saying that fundamentalists leaders were never the kinds of things that Bauder said?

It is undeniable that some of my fundamentalist forbears were all the things that Bauder described. You know that. You are not deceived about. Your complaint is simply that such things should not be said.

But you have no problem making charges about John Piper, John MacArthur, C. J. Mahaney or the like. You have no problem traipsing around the blogosphere (apparently both under your name and fake names) making charges and accusations against people repeatedly.

Don't you see the inconsistency of that?

So I hope you will pardon me for considering that your remarks then as well as now ring a bit hollow.

Some objected to the characterizations, but so far as I know, no one ever questioned the truth of the quote that was made, or the truth of the characterizations. Why? Because those who know, know that they are true. John knows that his grandfather used intemperate language at times. He was around him. I knew a few of these men, and I heard and have read a number of them. We all know it's true. The simple matter is whether or not we are allowed to say so, to honor these men for the good that they did while pointing out the bad.

BTW, thanks for removing your original post with its inaccurate charge against me.

And you should read Carpenter's book.

Lou Martuneac said...

IMO, this article of yours includes over-statements, distortions and mischaracterizations. Disappointing, but not unexpected.

Never again will I waste any more of my or the Lord’s time disclosing facts (such as above) to one whom finds the facts inconvenient.


LM

Larry said...

You are certainly entitled to your opinion (as you start with). You are not (to quote someone else) entitled to your own facts (which is what you end with).

If you want to dispute any facts, please feel free to do so. Facts have never been an inconvenient issue for me. I welcome correction on anything that I am wrong about.

But the point of my article is not about anything Bauder said. It is about the inconsistency that treats "us" differently than "them."

And that's a problem, as I have pointed out, and as you have (unwittingly to be sure) demonstrated.

Jon from Bucksport said...

Larry, I agree completely. Bauder has been in considerable trouble not only with the Rice crowd but also with the Jones crowd. It is funny to me that (just as Lou showed) Bauder made a general list and then made some general comments but everyone who took umbrage applied EVERY bad comment to their guy! That was obviously not what Bauder was saying.

I (as well as you) had a good deal of personal knowledge about Bob Jones Jr. I still think of him a grand old preacher who was quick to laugh and smile and had a ready joke. But I also know that he could be sharp and rude and petty and I heard him preach some of the worst sermons I have ever heard. I love the man and will cheer for him when the Lord commends him at the last day but I also want to learn from his mistakes.

When we are commanded to love our neighbors by not speaking ill of them I find no way to scripturally include the dead in that prohibition. Rice, Jones et aliud are gone and are with the Lord. Well, I am not sure that Hyles is but I won't get into that. Their reward is fixed and their time is done. They cannot be hurt by our words so we should be able to autopsy their words, lifestyles and ministries and learn from them. Just as disection and vivisection are different, how we deal with the living and the dead is different.

The reaction to this reveals more about fundamentalism than is being said. The problem is not the someone is picking on my favorite dude A but the the ministry associated with dude A might get hurt. Of course the fact that someone might learn something bad about a man and still associate with his ministry descendants is very real.

I spent some time in the public safety sector. Whenever a law officer, fire fighter or paramedic gets killed in the line of duty there is a rush to make him/her a hero. In doing this it often becomes very difficult to learn what missteps were made that led to the demise of the officer. I see the same problem in ministry. We need to be able to look at men and analyze whether or not they are good men. Whether they are or not we can learn from their strengths and weaknesses.

For my record: Rice and Jones were good. Hyles and Grey were bad and I forget who else Bauder mentioned before the howls began.

Nathan Gerhart said...

Lou,

By implication you suggest that Larry is wasting the Lord's time. Am I mistaken about that implication? It seems to be exactly what your words imply. I could be wrong and would gladly admit it.

And so I ask you, IF I told you that what you say online is a waste of the Lord's time, would you take that kindly? (notice the "if").

I offer this extended quote from Greg Bahnsen's excellent introduction to his reader on Van Til as a response to this kind of approach to your discussion with Larry.

"'Contentious disputes arise,' wrote John Calvin, 'from the fact that many think less honorably than they ought of the greatness of divine wisdom, and are carried away by profane audacity.'"

Bahnsen follows that up on the next page with--"if the apologist is to rid himself of profane audacity, his faith in the greatness of divine wisdom must be championed by means of a procedure that itself honors the same wisdom."

And further down... "It is only to be expected that, in matters of ultimate commitment, the intended conclusion of one's line of argumentation will also be the presuppositional standard that governs one's manner of argumentation for that conclusion--or else the intended conclusion is not his ultimate commitment after all."

A beautiful argument for presuppositionalism. But I think also very fitting for bloging.

So I have a hard time buying your argument about Larry or Bauder being nice, because, as it seems, the same standard doesn't apply to you.

This all probably sounds very bold from someone you don't know and who knows only pixels about you.

I assure you I'm not mad or angry, and instead curious if you meant to carry such an implication? and how you might respond to my "presuppositional" concerns about what you imply (or I potentially wrongly infer?)

Of course, I don't want you to waste your time on me (tongue-in-cheek :-)

Sincerely, Nathan Gearhart

Lou Martuneac said...

Nathan:

You asked, "Am I mistaken about that implication?"

Contact me via e-mail for my reply.


LM
indefense06@gmail.com

Larry said...

In reviewing this this morning to make sure there are no unanswered questions, I noticed a strange irony: Lou rebukes Bauder but defends Himes. Himes actually actually called Bauder's language "unChristian," along with calling Bauder "disrespectful and rude" (which are just the things that Lou quoted here).

Here again we see the point of the post: Lou will tolerate this language from someone he perceives as on his side (Himes), but will condemn it from someone else (Bauder).

If Bauder is wrong, then so is Himes. If Himes is acceptable, then so is Bauder. What's the difference? Bauder "attacked" someone Lou likes; Himes "attacked" someone Lou doesn't like.

And that is exactly my point in my post. I could not have asked for a more clear demonstration.

Furthermore, I notice again that Lou, the most prolific commenter here, has yet to address the actual point of the post ... Why do we treat them differently? He has gone off an unrelated tangent.

Oh well ...

Larry said...

To all who may happen upon this post, I want to make it clear that I have edited my original post because it was apparently misunderstood in at least one case. At least one person read it and misrepresented it. I wrote to that person at least five separate times privately asking them to tell me how they arrived at his conclusion so that I could correct it.

He refused to tell me and instead let the misrepresentation and personal attack stand.

Such behavior will not be tolerated on this blog. It is unethical and unChristian. It does not represent the gospel well.

I have let Lou Martuneac speak here because I am not afraid of his comments. I think the comments demonstrate exactly the point that I was making and I think they have been well answered. I think that all who read the comments can see exactly what I was talking about, and the danger that such an attitude is for fundamentalism.