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Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Plymouth, Minnesota, recently concluded its Fall Conference. This used to be known as the Foundations Conference, and was a fairly “big event,” but the seminary decided to change the format a bit. It was still well attended (as far as I could tell), but they combined it with what they call a “Pastor’s Day” and made it into two “half-days” of lectures.

This year’s keynote speaker was the venerable Robert Delnay, the Chair of the Bible Faculty at Clearwater Christian College in Florida. I have great admiration for Delnay as a genuine man of God, as a man of great piety and love for God. His wisdom is like a rare jewel, and should be treated and handled as such.

Delnay introduced the conference with a discussion of what binds fundamentalists together. I have heard Delnay present this before (or something like it). What many consider most controversial in his understanding of fundamentalism is usually his assertion that all fundamentalists should be dispensationalists, but this is not enough for me to disregard his remarks altogether. The marks we fundamentalists do share are our love for the Scriptures, our proclivity towards separation, our conviction concerning the importance of our faith, and the importance of fellowship (including fellowship with God).

The second address was by Kevin Bauder; he addressed “Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals.” This lecture was important for a number of reasons. In many respects, it was one of the first times I had heard a fundamentalist publicly speak this candidly about the “issue” of conservative evangelicals. What Bauder stressed was that “conservative evangelicals” were not really a “new” problem. He listed the four biggest differences between fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals as:

  1. The prevalence of “anti-dispensationalism” among conservative evangelicals,
  2. Conservative evangelicals have an openness toward miraculous and sign gifts,
  3. Conservative evangelicals tend to be more trendy in their adoption of popular culture, and
  4. In how conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists appropriate and view “indifferentists.”

There are other remarks in this address that well be worth hearing and considering. He has some very good advice, I think, of how fundamentalists should relate to conservative evangelicals. I’m not going to run the risk (more than I already have) of misquoting or misrepresenting Kevin, but you would do well to seek out the recording of this message and hear it.

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On the second day of the conference, Jonathan Pratt gave a very thoughtful address on the history of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College. I wish every fundamentalist leader and minister would listen to Jon Pratt’s lecture. He offered many good lessons to learn from Pillsbury, and the lecture was delivered, even the controversial parts, with humility and conviction. (Jon Pratt has addressed some of these matters at the “Theology Central” blog in posts like “ethical dismissal” and “ethical departure“).

The second day of the conference also heard Robert Delnay address:

  1. “How We Lost our Good Name”
  2. “What Use Can We Be Now?” and
  3. “How We Lost Our Young People”

These were all very good. I was especially challenged by the third, the one on losing our young people. This is well worth your pursuing and hearing. It might be a bit different than you expect. It was not directed towards our enemies who are luring “our young people” away from us, but at us fundamentalists who have (if I may put it this way) “driven” away our young people through our “unreflectiveness” and hypocrisy. I will try to publicize its availability once I see the seminary has made it so. As I said earlier, I always enjoy listening to Robert Delnay.

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I could not help but get the impression during this conference–and this was striking to me–that fundamentalism the movement was either dead or dying. It was not so much in the “deadness” of the attendees (though some might have automatically accused of this, since we were far from “rocking the place out”), as much as from the comments of the presenters. For instance, Delnay referred to fundamentalism as “the shattered wreckage of what was once a movement.” Really, this perception should come as no surprise since Kevin has said as much in a recent In the Nick of Time article. David Doran has also recently made similar comments.

Although I tend to agree with this appraisal of the state of fundamentalism, the life or death of fundamentalism is not a question terribly important to me. What is most important is that we actually care very little whether the fundamentalist movement even exists or not. We believers should not be about movements, even movements like fundamentalism (though  there will differing amounts of love among my “many” [heh heh heh] readers for fundamentalism). Our main energy should be in faithfully doing our part to strengthen churches. God’s sovereign plan does not live or die with fundamentalism. I very much consider myself a fundamentalist, but I would much rather see individual “post-fundamentalist” churches thriving in holiness and the Christian faith than the fundamentalist movement thriving at its national conferences and youth rallies.

God’s plan for this age in his church, in healthy churches doing all that God tells them to. We know that these kinds of churches are rare, and it is by God’s grace we are involved in this great scheme of his for this age. Let us be about faithfully leading healthy and godly churches, and let the movements take care of themselves.

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