Posts Tagged T4G

Louisville or Knoxville?

The “big” conferences (IBFI and T4G) have come and gone. I didn’t attend either, so I can’t offer and first-hand reports. I watched Matt Chandler’s testimony (from T4G) and part of a daily highlight from the IBFI conference, so I can’t even comment on the messages that were delivered. I have already commented on the bizarre church registry turned directory thing, and I’ll only add that others have expressed concern about it too, even to the point of complaining to them about it. (Wonder if I should demand a hat tip?) As of writing this, our church is still listed in the directory. I’m anxiously waiting for PCC to do a video about the leaven in the IBFI!

There are a lot of things that could be said about the respective conferences, roster of speakers, and the implications for the ecclesiastical landscape, but for this post I will limit myself to just one avenue of thought. In February of 2005, I did a presentation at the American Association of Christian Colleges and Seminaries annual meeting in which I tried to make the case that a decision probably needs to be made about how unity among separatists will be pursued. I believed then, and still do, that the two main options were ideological/theological (some set of beliefs to defend and promote) or pragmatic/practical (some cause to pursue). It seems to me that these two conferences represent those two options. T4G is rallying people around a theological core and IBFI is attempting to gather people around a practical one (world evangelism).

Of course, I’ve set this up as poles and don’t mean to suggest that the former is impractical or the latter in atheological (although in the IBFI’s case, perhaps). If, though, one asks the questions, “What goal is this meeting pursuing?” then I think you can see the difference. T4G isn’t attempting to launch a missions movement—the participants all have church contexts where they are engaged in that. The leaders of that conference are trying to rally people around ideas—very big, theological ideas. What I’ve seen reported of the IBFI conference points in a very different direction, basically a call to stop disagreeing with one another and get busy reaching the world.

Nobody really lives at the poles—theology and practice can never be divorced completely. Also, every time unity is pursued it involves some negotiation regarding the differences that might divide people. The T4G guys have to minimize some doctrines in order to gather the groups they do. The IBFI guys clearly have limited their proposed cooperation to those who share their own theological ticks. But you can clearly see the difference in purpose between the two efforts.

Five years ago I tried to make the case for a theologically driven core. In fact, here’s a portion of the notes that I used that day:

                It probably will not come as a surprise that I favor the choice of being an ideological/theological movement that is engaged in accomplishing worthy things (instead of being a pragmatic movement that defends and promotes things). Hopefully I am not splitting hairs here, but it seems that something must be the dominant reason or else the movement will lack focus. I believe an ideological-theological center should be the core reason for existence for several reasons:

(1) This is our historical identity and provided our strongest, best days. It establishes a clear vision of who we are and what we believe, which always makes plain who we aren’t and what we do not believe.

(2) A pragmatic-practical core has almost always required compromises that eventually send the movement into decline. The amount of resources needed for cooperative efforts almost always leads to a bigger tent than is wise.

(3) The pragmatic-practical core faces a couple of significant obstacles: (a) finding something big enough yet specific enough and enduring enough to capture widespread attention (not to mention biblical basis!), and (b) all of the already existing activity centers will feel threatened by some new super cause that may overshadow them or draw away their resources.

(4) The time is ripe for a clear statement of beliefs to capture the hearts and minds of younger fundamentalists—that is why we are losing many of them. The time is overripe for us to shake off some of the defective and divisive theology that has crept into our movement.

 If I may nervously suggest a proposal: We should aggressively pursue the renewal of Fundamentalism through development of a confessional movement within it. By confessional movement I mean that the unifying center would be established by agreement on a common confession that declares what we belief to the point of defending and promoting. Since this would be a Fundamentalist confession, it would be broader than my own personal beliefs in some areas. That was not a problem historically and is not for me personally. I don’t believe that the old Five Fundamentals or something that broad would cut it, since we face new challenges that would have to be addressed. But some fresh, crisp, clear statement of essential biblical doctrine would go a long way toward drawing people together and, since it is needed, splitting some people off.

I’ll probably follow up on this some later, but for now I’ll just pause to wonder which of these two conferences had more 20-50 year old men who graduated from schools connected to the AACCS? Where do you think they were, Louisville or Knoxville?

, ,

No Comments