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February 5, 2009

“Guest post?! Another guest post?! What’s wrong with you, frankly!”

Ok, not enough people read my blog to get that response, but that’s what’s going on in my own head (welcome to the wonderful whacky world of frank!).

But this one was too good to pass up. It’s not as devotional as usual, but it hits the nail on the head for where I am at personally, especially the last line. This is a post written by Dr. Chuck Wood, a retired pastor who sends out an awesome e-zine with great comments. If you’re interested in subscribing, tell him I passed you along to him from here, sending him an email at Thank you Dr. Wood for this post.



The work of Dr. Charles “Chuck” Wood, Retired pastor and educator, Current husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, Bible teacher, writer and contrarian, now hidden away in Mishawaka, Indiana

January 28, 2009

Many people seem to think that evangelicals and fundamentalists are essentially the same, separated only by a few minor issues of practice, etc. In so far as doctrine or basic beliefs are concerned, this is essentially true (with some exceptions), but it is hardly the whole picture in my mind.

As I see it, there are enormous differences within the two movements that make the usual “identification” invalid. Both evangelicalism and fundamentalism are divided into two groups and they are highly divergent. Both are definable, but in the case of evangelicalism, the line of demarcation is not nearly as clear as it is in fundamentalism.

In previous posts, I have detailed the division within fundamentalism and tried to identify the points of difference that mark the divergent “watersheds.” The dividing line appears to be centered on such practices as music, Bible Versions, music, degrees of separation, music, styles of worship, music, “standards,'” music, and a few other preferential peripheral practices. It is usually quite clear whether a fundamentalist is left-of-center or right-of-center. I have no proof whatever, but my impression is that the left-of-center is larger than its right-handed counterpart (although some of those on the right tend to be much more condemnatory and outspoken with their criticism than those on the left – which tends to give the impression that the right may be larger than the left).

Evangelicalism also has its left and right, but the dividing line is a bit more difficult to determine. I likely struggle with this as I am not very familiar with the evangelical territory. After all, I spent about half my ministry in right-of-center fundamentalism and am a relative newcomer to evangelicalism. As I see it, however, evangelicals are divided over substantive issues such as inerrancy, the role of doctrine, whether social welfare is more important than evangelism, incipient universalism, toning down opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, etc.

My buddy, Dan Burrell, wrote in his recent “rant” that he doesn’t know what exactly to call himself. I share that dilemma, and I am further bothered by the fact that I sometimes feel like a man without a country. I made the switch right about the time I retired from active pastoral ministry. Someone saw to it that all my former contacts were cut off, and I was not really in a position to make many new ones. Most of my associations are with old friends who have refused to reject me and a few new friends in the Willow Creek Association and the Southern Baptist Convention (and I belong to neither).

My own take on the situation, however, is that I am really part of a very large movement, and it even has a name. In my opinion, it would be correct to lump left-of-center fundamentalists with right-of-center evangelicals because they are much closer to each other than they are to the other side of their own movements. For instance, I am much more comfortable being associated with Al Mohler, Paige Patterson, Johnny Hunt, David Jeremiah, Randy Ray, Chuck Swindoll, Andy Stanley and other such men than I am to being identified with those on the right of center. I think the men I have mentioned (the only ones of them I really know are Johnny Hunt, Dave Jeremiah and Randy Ray) would be much more comfortable with me than they would be with Leith Anderson, Tony Compolo, maybe the recent Rick Warren and most of the remaining National Association of Evangelicals.

There is a name with which I am really comfortable. It is “conservative evangelical.” I am willing to cede the name “fundamentalist” to those on the right as I think they have loaded it down with so much baggage that they are welcome to it. I want to stand with the many others who have walked the same pathway as I and with the good and godly men who have essentially rescued the Southern Baptist Convention from its liberal captivity. I see Cedarville University as a conservative evangelical school (and that statement is “enough to gag a maggot” to those who wish it were still right-of-center). I find Southern Seminary (Louisville) a very acceptable choice (but also find other seminaries with which I am comfortable).

You are perfectly free to believe as you wish and to call yourself anything you want. I just got tired of using a term that actually did describe me but which required a five minute explanation when I used it. I am what I am, but most of all, I try to be what I believe the Lord would have me be. Bottom line: I am a Bible-believing Christian whose primary allegiance is to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ rather than to men or institutions.

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