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Lessons Learned: Lunch with Thomas5 min read

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Today, I had lunch with my favorite neofundamentalist pastor, Thomas.  Over lunch, we discussed some things, and I wanted to record some topics and insights that came up.

Also, note that he and another Pastor are starting an online seminary called The Veritas School of Theology, which is just in it’s beginning stages. For this coming year, classes are free, so you might want to jump in.  I’ll be taking the first class in Hermeneutics (HM101) (Tom has focused his studies on this, having purchased and perhaps even read almost 200 books on the topic).

Topics and lessons learned at lunch today:

1. Premature Publication

I have at least 4, if not 5 books outlined, and am itching to work on them and publish them.  Tom warned that, in general, we should hesitate to publish books prematurely, because such books usually lack the depth of personal maturity, testing, reflection, and research, and often end up being a flash in the pan rather than an enduring work.

He intimated that I should blog on them (which I do, several of my series are actually books I would like to print), and to preach them through a couple of times.  Preparing, delivering, and reviewing my currently podcasted series on Finding God’s Call have really helped, and I suspect this discipline goes a long way towards bringing my ideas to maturity and fullness.

However, I would like to balance this need for waiting and maturity with recognizing when something is timely and a good enough first draft.   If it is good enough, you can always revise it in future printings and editions.

2. The Differences Between Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism

As I discussed in Three Definitions of “Neo-Fundamentalist”, within Christendom, fundamentalism and evangelicalism are not the same.  However, trying to define the difference between the two is so esoteric that even self-declared neo-fundies like my friend Thomas don’t make it clear to me, though it has something to do with our differences in hermeneutic and our praxis, esp. our view of culture as morally inert or not.

My understanding has always been that evangelicalism grew out of the evangelicals’ dislike for a few salient features of the original fundamentalists movement – that is, that they were anti-intellectual, and cultural isolationists, confusing modernity with worldliness.

Tom assures me that this is merely a straw man created by the Evangelical Publishing Industrial Complex, whose mouthpieces like Christianity Today and Charisma and the modern book-publishing houses, propagate with bias.  He also asks me, of all of the TV preachers you see on TV, how many are true, self-proclaimed fundamentalists?  Leaving out the small-time regional fringe elements, we agreed that only John MacArthur fits that description.

But if neo-fundamentalism has abandoned it’s historic anti-intellectual roots, and it’s isolation from adn rejection of modern cultural forms, how is it different from evangelicalism?    Tom thinks that modern evangelicalism has gotten very liberal on its hermeneutic view of scripture, and on its acceptance of culture as neutral.

I guess if you view the Emergent movement as evangelical, that is certainly true.  But has evangelicalism embraced culture indiscriminately, or begun to view the bible as a merely human document rather than an inspired one?  Have we been uncritical in our adoption of modern forms of worship, church structure and practice, and thinking without seeing that we have also accepted worldly values, attitudes, and views of scripture that are liberal and unorthodox?  Has our orthopraxy slipped to the point where we are no longer really being salt and light, but deceivers?  I don’t think so, but fundamentalism sure has a right to ask us, and we should pay attention.

3. What the heck is neo-fundamentalism, as compared to plain old fundamentalism?

How do neo-fundies differ from, if not anger, the traditional fundies?  I think it comes down to one esoteric idea – the Doctrine of Separation.

First order separation is separating from other Christians when they teach or practice bad essential doctrines or sin.  But what if they are good Christians in our view, but *they* fellowship with the *bad* Christians?   Should we separate from them because they refuse to obey the biblical doctrine of separation from unrepentant believers?  This latter separation is called Secondary Separation.  Is it important?  I would say that’s up to each believer.

So it has to do with whether or not they think we should fellowship with the unrepentant or heretical Christian.  Tom has articulated a graduated separation rather than a strict level one or level two separation.  I see this all as minutiae, even in light of the biblical commands.  And I still suspect that neo-fundies make some of the classic errors of fundamentalism, confusing the modern with the worldly, and rejecting culture outright rather than using logic and reason to cautiously discriminate.