In the September/October issue of Frontline magazine, the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International (FBFI) published a number of articles critical of what it called a “Convergent” form of fundamentalism. One article in particular stands out for its bluntness and its tone. That article is entitled, “Why I Left My Fundamental Baptist Church,” by Dan Unruh, Pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Greeley, CO. The FBFI observed Bro. Unruh’s article was “provocative.” Indeed!
Bro. Uhruh published his article openly, so I feel free to openly post these honest questions to him, John Vaughn (President, FBFI) and to the FBFI as an organization as a whole. These are honest questions, asked without malice or scorn. They are sincere questions from one Christian brother to another. They are questions from one Pastor to another. If you do not travel in fundamentalist Baptist circles, these questions and the linked teaser editorial (above) may not make too much sense to you. My apologies; this post is very much an “in-house” discussion.
The following questions are directly based off of Bro. Unruh’s article.
- What, precisely, is a “Convergent” fundamentalist? That is, what are the “marks” of a “Convergent” fundamentalist? Could you provide real-world examples, including names of men and their ministries?
You wrote, “How is it possible for a church to get to the place that it is being controlled by those who seem to have little appreciation, and in some cases even disdain, for the strong separatist Fundamental position upon which it was founded?”
- Does this indicate your complaint is directed only against churches which were deliberately founded as “fundamentalist?” If so, please describe what “fundamentalism” looks like, from your point of view. Would a Bible Presbyterian Church, for example, fit this category?
- What do you mean when you mention “strong separatist Fundamentalism?” Separation from what people, what groups and what organizations?
- When does a Pastor begin to have “little appreciation” for the separatist stand you mention? That is, when is the line crossed, from your point of view?
- At what point does a Pastor begin to have “disdain” for “strong separatist fundamentalism?” That is, which alleged compromises must occur before this line is crossed?
You wrote, “Some of the answers may be found by comparing those doing the ‘controlling’ with the Old Testament character of Absalom. His father, David, after many years of great trials, hard work, numerous battles, and miraculous victories, was used of God to unite and establish the great nation of Israel. And yet that which took him years of blood, sweat, and tears to establish was taken away from him by someone very close to him who, ‘stole the hearts of the men of Israel’ (2 Sam. 15:6b). To this day when Bible students hear the name ‘Absalom,’ they associate it with a heart-stealer.”
- How, precisely, does a “Convergent” Pastor “steal” hearts within a congregation?
- Does the use of the word “steal” indicate you believe a “Convergent” Pastor’s actions are deliberately motivated by deception and wickedness?
- How do you tell the difference between Biblical reformation (as understood by the autonomous congregation and their Pastor) and alleged “heart-stealing”? How can your readers better understand your distinction? Your critics?
- Absalom deliberately rebelled against the anointed King of God’s theocratic Kingdom. In this parallel, do you intend to suggest “Convergent” fundamentalists are rebelling against Jesus Christ? If so, how?
You wrote, “The purpose of this article is not to warn the heartstealer but rather to warn those who are susceptible to having their hearts stolen—a warning that must oft be repeated even as the apostle Paul ‘ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears’ (Acts 20:31) about those of their own assembly who would arise to attract disciples to come behind them. If there were heart-stealers in David’s day and in Paul’s day, it is certain they exist today.”
- In the passage you cited from Acts 20:29-31, the Apostle Paul was warning the Ephesians about false teachers, “fierce wolves” who will teach “perversions of the truth.” This “truth” is generally understood to be a synonym for “the Gospel.” Do you intend to suggest “convergent” fundamentalists are false teachers who pervert the Gospel?
- Do you intend to suggest “heart-stealing” and influencing congregations away from a particular flavor of Baptist fundamentalism is a perversion of the Gospel?
You wrote, “A fitting lesson is provided in the story of Absalom, a man whose methods seemed to be virtues but were actually vices. Absalom employed at least four vices that had the face of virtues.”
- By comparing “Convergent” fundamentalists to Absalom, you seem to be implying that, like Absalom, “Convergents” are motivated by deceit, wickedness, and a sinful lust for power which they do not have any legitimate claim to – is this correct? If so, why do you assume this?
Under the heading “The Vice of Laziness as the Virtue of Integrity and Privilege,” you wrote, “Absalom therefore had the privilege of growing up with perceived integrity and surrounded by royalty, facts that he effectively used as a means to avoid having to face difficulty.”
- Is this alleged “vice” only applicable to “Convergents” who have grown up in Baptist fundamentalism, since childhood? What about “Convergents” who were never raised in a Christian home and became believers and entered Baptist fundamentalism as adults?
You wrote, “It is often observed that one who has a life of privilege strives to avoid work, struggle, and difficulty. One of the self-admitted characteristics of some of the misnamed ‘young fundamentalists’ is that they ‘are products of Christian schools’ and, as used in an illustrated case, ‘have no idea how to relate to lost people.’ Sadly, the spirituality they were perceived to have possessed from the privilege of having a lifetime of Christian education was also the cause of many of them being isolated from the difficulty of head-on confrontation with sin and brazen sinners, an adversity that previous generations of Fundamentalists met, with the welcomed reinforcement of their Fundamental churches, by having to take a noticeable stand in secular schools.”
- Again, it seems as if you are only targeting “Convergents” who were raised in Baptist fundamentalism. What about “Convergents” who came to Baptist fundamentalism as adults?
- What do you say to “Convergent” fundamentalists who work in the secular world every single day, maintain a godly testimony and Christian witness among these “brazen sinners,” and yet still honestly disagree with you? For example, as an insurance fraud investigator, I interview criminals on a daily basis, speak to victims on a daily basis who have had their life savings swindled from them, and still maintain a historic fundamentalist philosophy to ministry and my Christian life.
- Why do you capitalize “fundamentalist’? Does the movement function as a defacto denomination, from your point of view?
You wrote, “The fact that a lot of these privileged individuals did not have to challenge worldliness during their growing-up years may explain why today, as adults, they are so eager to experiment with and sometimes defend the beverage use of alcohol, accept any style of music in home and even in worship, join hands with rebels in so-called ‘social justice’ causes, consider the battles against sexual perversions as ‘lost,’ and generally poke fun at the practice of biblical separation that was so clear-cut to their predecessors.”
- Please explain what a “privileged individual” is, in this context.
- Again, it seems you assume all “Convergents” grew up in Christian homes. What do you say to “Convergents” who did not grow up as Christians, and yet still “challenge worldliness” in their own lives and in their local churches on a daily basis?
- Please explain who the “rebels” are, in this context.
- Which “social justice” causes do you refer to?
- Which self-identified “Convergent” fundamentalists consider the battles against sexual perversions as ‘lost’?
- How do you define “biblical separation,” in this context? Separation from what, precisely? What aspects of biblical separation do the “Convergents” poke fun at?
- Do you distinguish between the practice of biblical separation in general, and your particular implementation of this doctrine? That is, is it possible for men to believe in the doctrine of separation but apply it differently than you do?
- Have you, the FBFI, or Dr. Vaughn publically condemned the heresy of (for example) the re-inspiration view of the King James Bible, semi-pelagianism, or Charles Finney? If not, why not?
Under the heading, “The Vice of Hypocrisy as the Virtue of Transparency,” you wrote, “Absalom’s second vice was hypocrisy, a hypocrisy he concealed behind efforts to give the impression that he was transparent. Absalom did not state his intentions up front. He had a hidden agenda . . .”
- Do you mean to imply all “Convergent” fundamentalists are motivated by deceit and wickedness? Why do you appear to assume that is the case?
- Is it possible, from your point of view, to legitimately and honestly disagree with your position? If so, why do you appear to assume all “Convergent” fundamentalists are hypocritical?
You wrote about Absalom, “From this strategic location Absalom was able to send his spies throughout his father’s kingdom to incite a successful rebellion.”
- Do you mean to suggest all “Convergent” fundamentalists are strategically plotting to incite rebellions in local churches?
- What, precisely, is the alleged orthodoxy “Convergent” fundamentalists are inciting rebellion against? Where can one go to find a concise statement of this alleged orthodoxy to weigh suspected “Convergent” fundamentalists against?
You presented a hypothetical “unethical” Pastor, and wrote, “Instead of truly being transparent up front by honestly informing a church or institution about his philosophy of ministry and the changes he would make, a candidate for a leading position can couch his hidden agenda with boisterous talk of ‘transparency.’”
- Please explain what you mean by your hypothetical “Convergent” fundamentalist hiding his alleged “hidden agenda,” and provide real-world examples.
- Do you mean to suggest all “Convergent” fundamentalists deliberately hide their “hidden agendas” behind a smokescreen of alleged “transparency?” Why do you assume their motives are sinful?
- How would the reader you seek to influence distinguish whether a Pastor is motivated by (1) an ongoing spiritual growth and maturity through study and prayer, or (2) an alleged “hidden agenda” intended to deceive the congregation?
Under the heading, “The Vice of Conspiracy as the Virtue of Concern,” you wrote, “The fact that a heart-stealer cannot accomplish his work alone brings us to Absalom’s third vice: conspiracy with the virtuous face of concern. Absalom’s concern for his father’s subjects was a camouflage for the formation of a conspiracy.”
- Absalom was involved in a criminal conspiracy against God’s appointed theocratic King. In this parallel, do you intend to suggest that, by disagreeing with the FBFI, “Convergent” fundamentalists are engaging in a criminal conspiracy against Jesus Christ?
- One of the elements of the criminal offense of conspiracy is deliberate intent; the conspirators intend to collude together to commit an act they know to be against the law. Do you mean to suggest all who agree with “Convergent” fundamentalists, and disagree with the FBFI’s particular flavor of Baptist fundamentalism, are criminal conspirators in active rebellion against Jesus Christ and His Father’s law?
You wrote, “There are those within churches and institutions who are easily flattered into facilitating the installation of a heart-stealer . . . Any of these types of people are ripe fruit for the picking by the heart-stealer.”
- Do you mean to suggest all people within autonomous local churches and Christian institutions who agree with “Convergent” fundamentalists do so only because they have been deliberately seduced (i.e. “flattered”) by these “Convergents” for sinful reasons?
- Do you mean to suggest somebody who disagrees with the FBFI’s particular flavor of Baptist fundamentalism has sinful and wicked intent?
Under the heading, “The Vice of Craftiness as the Virtue of Patience,” you wrote, “Lastly, Absalom was a man of patience, a virtue that allowed him to craftily scheme for two years until he found opportunity to murder his half-brother Amnon.”
- The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “crafty” as “clever in usually a deceptive or dishonest way.” Did you intend to suggest “Convergent” fundamentalists operate with a philosophy and mindset of deliberate dishonesty and deceptiveness? Why do you assume sinful intent?
- By use of the adjective “craftily,” did you intend to make an implicit comparison between “Convergent” fundamentalists and Satan as the serpent?
You wrote, “A heart-stealer never comes at his victim displaying who he really is. He will wear the garment of patience to make others think he has intentions of peace. And then once he is in power his patience morphs into impatience with those who are obstacles to his agenda.”
- Who are the victims, from your point of view?
- Why do you assume wicked, sinful intent on the part of “Convergent” fundamentalists?
You provide several quotations from an article Jason Janz wrote, then you remarked, “Then he becomes impatient to make the changes quickly. By not stating his intentions up front he can take the time to steal the hearts of as many people as possible, and when it is his time, his ‘moment in the sun,’ he can begin to institute his fundamental transformation.”
- Why do you assume sinful, wicked intent? That is, why do you not assume “Convergent” fundamentalists want to grow and learn from both sides and use their influence to effect positive change?
You wrote, “The Convergent can pretend he is sorry to see them go because he will by then have confederates like Shimei who will on their own shame the ‘old-time religion’ adherents for being hateful, intolerant, and men ‘of Belial’ (2 Sam. 16:7) . . . In essence they are saying, ‘You, your viewpoints, and your ways are old and worn out.’”
- Do you believe it is possible to disagree with you, and not be considered wicked and sinful? If so, what would that disagreement look like?
- Do you believe it is possible for a “Convergent” fundamentalist to not think your views are old and worn out, but to simply honestly disagree with you on some points of doctrine? If so, why do you appear to assume sinful and wicked intent on those who do disagree with you?
After explaining that you do not feel it is necessary to attempt to “keep” younger fundamentalists in the movement, you wrote, “Rather than letting them leave to endure on their own the hard work of founding their own ministries, there has instead been an ongoing, never-before-seen pandering that has resulted in their eventual installation in and transformation of Fundamental ministries.”
- Please define “pandering,” in this context.
- Please define “transformation,” in this context.
- Which fundamentalist ministries have been transformed, in your opinion?
- Who are the men responsible for this alleged “pandering,” which has resulted in “transformation” of certain fundamentalist ministries?
You wrote, “On the campaign trail in June of 2008 Barack Hussein Obama declared, ‘This is our moment. This is our time, our time to turn the page on the policies of the past . . . to offer a new direction for this country.’ Then five days before the election he spoke, not of restoring America, but of ‘fundamentally transforming the United States of America.’ How sad that Convergents have become to Fundamental churches and institutions what Barack Obama has become to the United States of America.”
- Why did you use President Obama’s middle name?
- Why do you believe “Convergent” fundamentalists are motivated by deliberate cunning, craftiness, deceit and wickedness?
Brethren, you wrote:
However, if anything in this issue comes as a rebuke to those who are dividing their churches over changes they promised not to make when they were called, or to those who have brought their churches to the brink of ruin with premature change, we pray it will be taken as a loving rebuke to be considered carefully.
I pray you’ll answer some of these honest questions, and help a confused brother better understand where you’re coming from. Bro. Unruh graciously agreed to have a telephone discussion with me in the next few days, and I look forward to it.