Our promotional article for the latest issue of FrontLine was posted yesterday. Take a look at Dr, Vaughn’s editorial, it will give you a summary of our contents. This issue is one of the most important we have ever published. We’d like you to take a look at it. In order to encourage you to do that, this article will give you a bit of a taste of our most important articles this time around.
Our topic is Convergence. Dr. Vaughn defines the term this way:
“Convergence” is the antonym of separation. The antonym is needed now to avoid the confusion resulting from the lack of a clear term when striving to understand what is likely a new movement. … Something is going on … something that in its efforts to engage the culture seems to be, again, embracing the culture. Therein lies the danger of the pursuit of relevance as an end in itself. In seeking to stay in touch with the ever-changing culture, churches can think themselves separate from it while moving away from their moorings.
Each article in this issue touches on that theme in some way:
The Believer’s Certainty That the Scriptures Are the Final Authority for Belief and Behavior
Michael W. Harding
In light of the increasing biblical illiteracy in our culture and churches, the responsibility to include sound biblical content, interpretation, and application in preaching is greater now than it was in a more biblically literate culture. Yet the trend is toward skits and rock music in lieu of preaching and teaching. To the extent that people rely upon the presentation, whatever form it may take, it will be the functional authority. Eventually, dilution of belief in the authority of the Bible is inevitable.
Many churches are in poor health because they feed on junk food, artificial preservatives, and unnatural substitutes, instead of the milk and meat of the Word. Consequently, a worldwide spiritual famine has resulted from the absence of any genuine proclamation of the Word of God (Amos 8:11)—an absence that continues to run wild and unabated. Unless there is a serious correction, the NT Church of the Lord Jesus Christ will suffer increasingly from hazy preaching, muddled heads, fretful hearts, and paralyzing uncertainty.
An Interview with Dr. Vaughn on Current Trends in Fundamentalism
How would you define Historic Fundamentalism? That would depend on how you are using the term. If by “historic” you mean the Fundamentalism that declared itself in 1920, I think there would be general clarity and agreement that it refers to the stand for the fundamentals of the faith against liberalism. However, in my personal experience, I began to hear the term around ten to fifteen years ago as a way of differing pre-1948 Fundamentalism (essentially pre-separation Fundamentalism) from what some perceived to be the excesses of separatism. Certainly, within the last decade there has been a tendency to equate separatist Fundamentalism with the moral failures and dictatorial ecclesiology of the unbiblical Hyles movement. I believe that the term “Historic Fundamentalism” was a practical term some used to distance themselves from that error.
“Why I Left My Fundamental Baptist Church”
“Why I Left My Fundamental Baptist Church” may sound like the title of an article written by a Convergent believer or as a heading over the testimony of someone claiming to have been abused by a Fundamental church or ministry. On the contrary, it is used here in a very different way. In fact, the title of this article might more accurately have been, “Why I Left My Formerly Fundamental Baptist Church.” We are hearing these words more and more from many who are sorrowfully making the difficult decision to leave a church that was established as Fundamental but has been converging with the philosophy and methods of the New Evangelicalism. We are not describing a new church plant that is being established on “relaxed” practices on which the church planter and those that attend fully agree, but long-established churches that are being changed through the hidden agenda of Convergent leadership.
Why are heartbroken Fundamental Baptists having to leave their formerly Fundamental Baptist churches and ministries? Because men with the spirit of Absalom have arisen from within to steal hearts. There are at least four characteristics of that spirit of which to beware. Watch for those who consider themselves privileged and exempt from the difficulties of separation. Be on guard for those who, for pretense, invest much in advertising their supposed transparency. Be cautious about the one who wears the face of concern to conceal the vice of conspiring, gravitating to “yes-men” while ignoring or avoiding those who disagree with him. And be aware of the man who seems to “talk the talk” but not “walk the walk,” covering his craftiness with what appears to be patience.
Approving Things That Are Excellent: Discernment in Music
Tim Fisher and John C. Vaughn
Some within Fundamentalism, sadly, are questioning or even rejecting this ideal for discipleship. While there seems to be in some a genuine thirst for knowledge of the Word, it is increasingly accompanied by a rejection of discerning applications of Scripture. Fundamental churches are finding themselves at a crossroads. In fact, all too frequently, the very mention of “discernment” or “application” is met with the charge of “legalism.” After more than a decade of intense discussion, the subject of applications seems almost to have been silenced. Although this issue of FrontLine attempts to offer some explanation for this phenomenon, this article is essentially an appeal for a biblical model for discipleship, a model based not just on the teaching of knowledge so much as on the careful and discerning application of that knowledge—discernment—particularly in music.
Currently, the same discussions are taking place over another personality and the movement it has spawned— Sovereign Grace (SG). SG is led by C. J. Mahaney and based in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It is rooted in both Reformed Theology and Charismatic/Pentecostal experience. If you doubt this, please visit the SG website and read the doctrinal statement. SG is clearly ecumenical in its roots, and it embraces pop music styles in its worship. The main musical figures promoted by or associated with the Sovereign Grace movement are Bob Kauflin and Steve and Vikki Cook. But also included in this discussion are musicians who, although not specifically associated with SG, are nonetheless closely identified with the movement because of their presence on SG recordings: Stuart Townend and Keith and Kristyn Getty, who are becoming favorites of some independent Fundamental Baptists. Including the names Townend and Getty in this discussion does not imply that they are in complete theological agreement with SG, but the similarity of their musical style as well as their collaborative efforts over the years with SG are reasons for concern. The history of the development of Sovereign Grace Ministries is a subject worthy of a separate article. However, it is probable that most pastors and churches that have embraced SG music are unaware of or unconcerned with its roots. A brief summary is in order, and it necessarily raises the much-despised argument of associations, but it is important to review.
It is never enjoyable to be part of a controversy. We take no pleasure in the unpopular position. Our remarks are offered mostly as an appeal to ministry leaders—leaders of churches and colleges—our friends, whom we hold dear. We are deeply concerned for the upcoming generation they are influencing, failing to warn them of the danger Convergence certainly brings. The paradox we see in this is the probable source of this music’s popularity. We understand the feeling among our peers, that “finally some music has come along that is both fresh in its sound and rich in its doctrine!” Our initial reaction was the same. We understand why folks are frustrated when something comes along that is, in so many ways, so good and someone else comes along and opposes it! We should never oppose anything just because it is popular or new. Neither should we reject a sincere appeal just because we are biased against what it would require of us.
In the final analysis, the paradox exists in the probable reason that the younger generation is embracing so much of the SG music. Dear reader, simply put, this is another fad. In the same way that giving permission to use Steve Green’s music a generation ago opened the door for stumbling, a new stumbling block is being set before a new generation.
We offer these excerpts to “whet your appetite.” We think you will find this issue to be provocative in the Hebrews 10.24 sense, stirring the brethren to love and good works. We live in very troubling times. We need a clear message. We hope our thoughts in this issue may bring some of that needed clarity.
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