May 6, 2013

Transitional Fundamentalism by Dr. Milton Jones

There are many non-negotiables for New Testament believers. Most certainly the fundamentals of the faith are never open for dialogue or debate. Even those who are currently in transition away from the Fundamentalism of the past admit that there are some issues upon which there can be no compromise without departing from the Word of God. The emphasis of Scripture for believers is not upon change but upon stability.
Pastor Milton Jones

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.  
1 Peter 5:8, 9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.  
Colossians 2:5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.
We are continuously warned to be aware of the temptation to compromise and accommodate the ever present pressure to change.
2 Peter 3:11-18 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 
Jude 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
This is not to suggest that Biblical faith is static. Quite the contrary, it is very dynamic! This dynamic however does not lie in finding ways to be flexible with truth in order to fit a changing culture. The dynamic of Biblical faith lies in its unchangeableness and eternal power to confront the culture demanding a submissive response. In other words, Biblical Christianity is not about making the Bible fit the culture; it is about calling upon people in the culture to submit to the authority of Scripture.

The Winds of Change
There is a sense in which people have always been in motion away from Biblical faith. It is the result of the strong vacuum pull of unbelief. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s Fundamentalism saw a significant defection centered in Lynchburg, Virginia and spreading through the sphere of influence dominated by Jerry Falwell. At that time those who were in motion were called “Pseudo-Fundamentalists” and then “embryonic New Evangelicals.” Those who shifted during that time frame have now arrived as full-fledged New Evangelicals. Then as now, decisions were made, sides were chosen, and separations in fellowship followed.

Rather than trying to coin a phrase to describe what has been going on in Fundamentalism over the last number of years, we would serve a better purpose by simply referring to those who are in motion as Transitional Fundamentalists. The very word “transition” indicates movement. Motion is not inherently evil. Walking with God (Genesis 5:22, 24) implies motion. The real question has to do with direction. In what direction are the feet of Transitional Fundamentalists pointed?

One of the spokesmen for those in transition has called for a “radical center” in which conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists in transition can find a home.1 The vision articulated indicates that Conservative Evangelicals are moving to the right and certain fundamentalists which the author characterizes as “mainstream” are moving to the left to meet in the “radical center.”

The problem with that model is the reality that Conservative Evangelicals are not moving at all. While they have become more vocal in decrying the radical shift to the left within the evangelical world, conservatives within that world stand exactly where the movement has stood since its inception. The only people who are actually moving are the Transitional Fundamentalists. There really is no “radical center.”

The New Direction
The evidence of movement toward New Evangelicalism is found in the very spirit of accommodation that has long characterized that movement. There is little question that many from the fundamentalist camp have embraced various forms of Contemporary Christian Music. Some have attempted to alter the scores from Sovereign Grace Music in order to utilize the lyrics. Others have succumbed to the sirenic allurement of new sounds. Others are responding to consumer demand for music that emulates that which the world produces. As controversial as music issues often are, the direction in which the musical feet are pointed have historically been telling of where the theological feet will soon follow.

Another characteristic of this movement is the increasingly casual atmosphere created in previously fundamental ministries. No real fundamentalist insists upon a dead somber approach to the worship of God; but neither is he looking to soften edges by dressing casually for church or opting for entertaining environments. A tuxedo is hardly required for the pulpit but a reasonable suit and tie would be nice. The attire is not the issue; the attitude is the issue.

In no area is the fact of transition more apparent than the willingness to closely associate with the Scripturally disobedient.

Increasingly there is “pulpit swap” between Conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalist ministries. In that process the evangelical is promoted and the resolute Fundamentalist is vilified. Every pastor of an autonomous church is free to bring whomever he will to his pulpit but he must realize that in the choices he makes he is also authenticating the position of every guest speaker. A willingness to become participants in the Together for the Gospel and Gospel Coalition movements are clear indications of a change in method as well as direction.

Fundamentalists do not have anything theologically that New Evangelicals want or think that they need. They want access to our people, institutions, and finances to be utilized for purposes other than those for which they were established.

Why are They Moving?
It must also be recognized that the nuclear glue for the new coalition that is forming is undoubtedly Reformed Theology. Reformed Theology with its covenant perspectives, open church membership, and increasingly radical Calvinism is the new impetus for a new brand of ecumenism. As surely as the foundation of New Evangelicalism found its roots in men from the Reformed Tradition, so is the appeal to Transitional Fundamentalists. The show of intellect and evident scholarship has captured a generation of younger preachers. There have always been Calvinists in the Fundamentalist Movement but their Calvinism has never been the cause. The greatest case in point was C. H. Spurgeon. In the last great battle of his life, the Downgrade Controversy, he demonstrated that fidelity to truth superseded his personal understanding of the mechanics of soteriology. It is not accidental that concurrent with the approachment of evangelicalism by those in transition from Fundamentalism there has been an acceptance of the Reformation Bible (ESV) on a broad scale.

Whatever your position on textual issues, it is a plain fact that this reworking of the old liberal Revised Standard Version has been designed to be the Bible of a renewal of Reformed Theology.

It is incredibly sad that we learn so very little from history. There has never been a more stridently Calvinistic pastor than John Gill in the eighteenth century. It is most revealing that charges of antinomianism were levied against those who were associated with him. Antinomianism refers to a rejection of rules of conduct. It is strange that a theology that purports to honor the majesty and holiness of God should be guilty of worldliness to excess.
It is very much a part of the Transitional Fundamentalist mindset to raise debate about issues that have been long settled in the hearts of godly people.
Fundamentalists have long believed in personal separation as well as ecclesiastical separation. This translates to a rejection of the use of alcohol as a beverage as well as other overtly worldly practices. Standards of modesty and conduct are as Biblical as the major doctrines. Increasingly Transitional Fundamentalists dismiss such discussions as irrelevant and characterized them as the restrictions of a past tense Fundamentalism. It should be noted that failures in ecclesiastical separation usually precede the erasure of standards of personal separation. The “spiritual pride” that would countenance worldliness as insignificant appears to parallel the pride of intellect too often found in Reformed circles.

The Danger
Fundamentalists cannot “live and let live” in this matter. Disastrous effects are already accruing. Several institutions, agencies, and many churches have already been delivered into the hands of compromise. It is to be feared that there will be no return for these because their leaders seem to think that they are doing God service (John 16:2) by “reclaiming authentic fundamentalism.”2

Sadly the “authentic fundamentalism” claimed is bereft of accurate history and intellectual integrity.

Worse, a whole new generation of believers will be influenced to embrace compromise as normative Christianity. This is especially true since the centers of learning that were previously well within the Fundamentalist Movement, are training a new generation of leaders to imbibe the transition to Evangelicalism as wholesome and desirable. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of this tragic transition is its drafting effect. Everyone who has experienced the rapid passage of a large vehicle has felt the motion effect in the direction the vehicle was travelling. The larger the vehicle and the greater the speed, the greater will be the effective draft. It is to be feared that more and more institutions, agencies, and churches will be drawn toward Conservative Evangelicalism. At the moment at least it has the appearance of some resurgent success in articulating conservative values and gaining the public ear. Beware of pragmatism that would ride the coattails of this compromise. Disobedience cannot bring about revival. Only God-sent Biblical renewal can stem the tide of political liberalism and religious apostasy. A major component in revival is repentance and restoration to obedience to the authority of Scripture.

We must also recognize the minimalism inherent in this movement. The core of the Bible is not the gospel! The core of the Bible is Christ! Much is being said about the gospel, its definition, and the need for its promulgation. Fundamentalists embrace the necessity of the gospel but do not reduce Biblical Christianity to a general agreement about the gospel. It is the old paradigm battle that has reappeared many times in the past. Will we be soteriological in approach or doxological? Preaching the gospel glorifies God but so does obedience. A gospel preached at the behest of disobedience will eventually become a compromised gospel. It has in the past and will be again.

As Transitional Fundamentalists crusade for change we must be aware that the change envisioned is not a return to orthodoxy and orthopraxy; it is a compromise of the truth. It is informative to note that mainstream evangelicals have gone on record as stating that there is no appreciable difference between Conservative Evangelicalism and Fundamentalists who are in transition.3

How Shall We Respond?
We must be found in the same heart and mind evidenced by our Lord in the first letter to the churches of Asia Minor.
Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
This is the ever present ministry of reproof and challenge to people who are genuinely saved, but sadly disobedient.

Further we must refuse to surrender resources to those institutions, agencies, and churches who are moving. It is not wise to continue to send our children to colleges, give our money to agencies, or support churches that are in transition while we wait to see where they will land. By then it is too late! Look at where their feet are pointing! At some point there must be separation from this disobedience. It is the only tool which God has given to us to police ourselves and to maintain the priority and purity of our position.

In doing these things, we need not expect to be applauded. Regardless of how lovingly we reprove and how carefully we withdraw fellowship we will be labeled as unloving and judgmental. We do not judge in order to condemn; that is God’s business. We judge righteous judgment to the end that we may maintain obedience and fidelity to the truth.

We will one day (short of the Rapture) become part of a new remnant. Every age has its remnants. We exist today as Fundamentalists because of previous remnants. We must not fear being marginalized, vilified, or even persecuted. We must fear to compromise. We must endeavor with all that is within us to honor God above men, truth above movements, and faithfulness above success. We must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that we can take our stand without a censorious spirit, without pride, and with compassing desire to see our brethren recovered from the error of their decisions.

Dr. Milton Jones
Senior Pastor of Heritage BaptistChurch, Frankfort, IL.

1) Douglas R. McLachlan, “Moving Toward Authenticity: Musings on Fundamentalism” posted on the website of Northland International University

2) Ibid.

3) See, Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism, edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.)

Reprinted with Permission:
Indiana Fundamental Baptist Fellowship
News & Views
March 2013 ~ Issue 31
Pastor Rick Arrowood, President


  1. I agree with much of this post. I personally do not have a problem with Sovereign Grace music (without the beat) in a church worship setting. But, I can see why it would be controversial.

    The attitude very often from the Reformed world towards fundamentalists is one of arrogance and superiority. This is especially true if the person is young. If there isn't an outright claim, there definitely is an undertone that says they "get it," those quaint Fundies don't have a clue.
    Fundamentalists aren't off the hook though about their attitudes towards evangelicals. Not always loving either.

    Fat chance on getting those on either side to think in a balanced manner. Everybody is too concerned about being right they can't see just how wrong they might be.

  2. "The attitude very often from the Reformed world towards fundamentalists is one of arrogance and superiority."

    Definitely! It is not from every man in the Calvinist/Reformed camp, not all the time, but many and often have an aire of elitism and arrogance about them. They view those who disagree with Calvinism and Lordship Salvation as unlearned bumpkins who haven't arrived. Seen this attitude for years.

    "Fat chance on getting those on either side to think in a balanced manner."

    Not everyone, there are good men on both sides of the equation who will reason things out, may not be persuaded, but will talk.


  3. Thanks Lou for posting this article. Bro. Milton has well articulated the truth in this shift we are witnessing. He well pointed out that the conservative element of Evangelicalism isn't moving toward their right but there are those within Fundamentalism who are moving (left) toward the CE's position.

    1. That's how its been: Who's moving? Who's changing?


  4. I hope that my Arminian friends would realize just how many Calvinists (presently and in the past history = Jonathan Edwards, many of the Puritans...) do/have contended for sanctified living separated from the world. I believe the doctrines I believe in SHOULD support the necessity of sanctification/separation.
    I know I'm in the minority, but there are some Calvinistic friends and leaders I know vehemently and vocally opposed to the trajectory of worldliness going on (note that I'm not reformed in theology; I'm dispensationalist and a 4 pt "Calvinist" if that's what you want to call me).

    The problem is that the paradigm has shifted (see following link).
    It used to be that the doctrine/philosophy of Fundamentalism/separation (e.g. holiness/sanctification) was more essential in forming fellowships than was the very specific doctrinal distinctives of Calvinism/Arminianism. I am perfectly fine working alongside Arminians in broader circles of fellowship (Liberal Arts Christian colleges, mission boards, bible conferences...). I have more fundamental things in common with you than I do with New Evangelicals that may be Calvinistic.

    The paradigm needs to return to look like this:

    1. Thanks for your input. Fwiw, many, most of the folks I know who reject Calvinism, and can give Bible reason for that rejection, also do not fall into an Arminian classification. There is a balance at the center.


  5. Dear Lou:

    Thank you for posting this excellent article. Brother Jones has hit the nail on the head. Voices desperately need to be raised against the downgrade we are witnessing in what is left of Fundamentalism.

    Thank you for taking the heat to expose the sin of compromise.

    Pastor Tod Brainard

    1. Pastor Brainard:

      Thanks for the input. It is an excellent article. Dr. Jones has done a real service to folks on both sides of the debate. I think he framed the issues and positions well and gave sound reasons for his conclusions and backed his polemic from the Word of God. I think this is an important read for all concerned and that is why I have brought it here.