Thursday, February 02, 2006

David Currie's prophecy: "Fundamentalism ... will pass in time."

Last week I got my January 2006 issue of the National Mainstream, the Mainstream Baptist Network Journal in the mail and was struck by David Currie’s opinion article in which he makes this astounding prediction:

"Fundamentalism is a cultural movement that will pass in time. Baptists will not be dominated by Fundamentalism, historically speaking for very long at all. It is a temporary movement brought about by the rapid social changes that have occurred in America over the last 120 years that lead many people to embrace fear as their primary worldview. Their children are not afraid of progress and growth. Fundamentalism in America will die out in two generations. It has no foundation in Scripture, despite all the Bible talk, and no grounding in the real world. It is a temporary, primarily-political movement, grounded in fear, that will sooner than later, be a footnote in American and Baptist history."

That is, indeed, a bold prediction. Given Deuteronomy 18:20-22, we should remember that prophecy is dangerous business. Currie’s prediction defies so many historical, sociological, and biblical standards it is hard to know where to begin in refuting it. Just to dip in at one point, we might take a look at Jude’s exhortation that the believers "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) and come to the conclusion that a desire to conserve the fundamental doctrines of the faith is at least as old as the New Testament and hardly a recent phenomena of the past 120 years! The assertion that traditional Christianity will be eclipsed in two generations is as implausible as the notion that liberal Christianity will fade in coming years (proviso: Should the Lord tarry!).

The Mainstreamers are coming to Richmond for their fifth annual national convocation Feb. 24-25. Last year a "groundswell" of 150 attendees gathered to see the BGAV’s Executive Director John Upton ushered into the Mainstream Baptist hall of fame for his commitment to fighting fundies. This year’s theme is "Celebrating Freedom: Another Look at Religion in America." It will feature break-out sessions on topics like "Who’s Who in the Religious Right" and a breakfast with Fred Anderson, Executive Director of the BGAV’s Virginia Baptist Historical Society.

A close consideration of the Mainstream Baptists and others on the post-SBC-renewal left fringe (Alliance of Baptists, CBF) demonstrates that the left can create as doctrinaire and extremist a variety of "fundamentalism" as the right any day.

I think Tom Nettles hit the nail on the head in his book Ready for Reformation when he noted that Southern Baptist are no longer so much threatened by moderate or liberal Baptists (who are ever-dwindling in number, influence, and relevance) as they are by pragmatic evangelicals. Two quotes from Nettles:

"While vigilance must endure in every area that was threatened by the insidious impact of the moderate contingency, many difficulties confront the church that have little or nothing to do with that influence" (130).

"Though lip service is given to biblical authority, that which seems most dominant is the simple observation of success in terms of the immediate gratification of visible increase.
This practical pragmatism leads to theological minimalism" (130).

The Mainstream Baptist Network is now largely irrelevant. What we need to pay attention to is the upcoming SBC Pastor’s Conference in Greensboro, NC at which Paige Patterson and Al Mohler will discuss differing views on election in the SBC (see Ascol’s blog article).

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