Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dead Right by Phil Johnson

This is a great article by Phil Johnson on the failure of fundamentalism. Both sides of the battle have failed to some degree. That's not the point. The point is his criticisms are right on. A sample:
Now, you might think that a movement that was devoted to making a defense of fundamental doctrines would become the most biblically literate and theologically astute movement since the time of the Puritans. Fundamentalists should have produced the finest theologians, the most skilled Bible teachers, and the best writers. Fundamentalism should have been a literate movement theological, devoted to doctrinal instruction, and (to borrow language from Titus 1:9) "able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." Fundamentalism as a movement has historically exemplified none of those things.
...
You can survey the landscape of the twentieth-century fundamentalist movement and look for important and influential doctrinal material produced by the movement works where the fundamental doctrines of Scripture are clearly taught and defended and you're going to come up mostly dry. It's hard to think of a single truly significant, lasting, definitive doctrinal work or biblical commentary written by anyone in the fundamentalist movement since the time of J. Gresham Machen. I suppose there are some exceptions to that rule somewhere, but I can't think of any.

3 comments:

Eilers said...

I agree with your assessment -- a great article. Here's my thoughts (on the article) for what they are worth.

1. Fundamentalists critique the evangelical or new evangelical movement as if it was a monolithic movement. When the same finger is turned on them they run like crazy to create a movement within a movement (or perhaps movements within a movement). This gives credence to Johnson's argument that there is no true fundamental "creed".

2. Following closely on the lack of a creed, we could say somewhat "tongue in cheek" that our creed (if we had one) would encompass our views of music, KJVO, and dress standards -- not doctrine but practice. This is more clearly seen when Phil makes the point that within the "movement" the ideas of Justification (positive imputation of righteousness) and original sin (ie. Federal or Seminal Headship) are practically denied (in application) if not actually denied (theologically). Along these same lines, while most fundamentalists deny the "pragmatism" of the Evangelical's perspective on music, they bitterly defend their views derived from such "biblical" pragmatists as Finney. These views lend themselves toward both perfectionism (keswick/holiness movement) and pietism (both hermeneutically and practically).

3. Lastly, his point on the anti-intellectualism of the fundamental movement is spot on (see quotation in original post). Unfortunately, the movement has certain presuppositions in place that perpetuate this ignorance (wrong definition of worldliness for starters). This alone is enough motivation to run like mad (I'll leave it there and beg you to allow me to not incriminate myself).

Justin said...

Interesting article that I am still digesting. Have you read the new Fundamentalism in the 21st Century on Sharper Iron by Dr. Davis?

Justin said...

Interesting article that I am still digesting. Have you read the new Fundamentalism in the 21st Century on Sharper Iron by Dr. Davis?