This was going to be just a comment on the last post. But seeing as how the last post is getting so much traffic, I decided that I should turn it into a short post all its own.

I get it. I was wrong. I recant.

I wrote a blog post yesterday criticizing the wisdom of John Piper’s tweet from a couple of days ago:

He said: “An easy way to gather a wimpy army is to summon all the soldiers who are boldly determined not to sound like Fundamentalists.”

I called into question the tactfulness of using the word “Fundamentalist” in such a way proclaiming that I myself don’t want to sound like a Fundamentalist, yet I am not a wimp. I then explained what Fundamentalism has come to mean in distinction to Evangelicalism (that part of the post I stand behind as absolute fact that is beyond question something I believe to be true).

However, on my 30+ minute commute to work, on I35 it hit me…

I think I “get” Piper’s quote now. He is saying that if your goal is not to sound like a fundamentalist, then you have the wrong goal set. Our goal should be to proclaim the truth, not to keep from sounding like a group that people associate with imbalance and intolerance. In other words, whatever the truth is, we should not be shy about proclaiming it. Those shy about the proclamation of truth are wimpy and, often, simply don’t want to sound like Fundamentalists!

I agree. We are weak when we are so scared of wrong associations that we keep silent. We are wimpy when we won’t stand up for what we believe because we are scared we might be wrong. We are impotent when we cover our mouths because we are scared that the truth will offend someone.

Amen Piper.

Also (i.e. however, but, etc.), I would add something that is just the opposite to balance it out and let you know how I am thinking about this. Here is a new pithy statement that I would stand behind just as much as Piper’s for the same reasons:

“An easy way to gather a scared army is to summon all the soldiers who are boldly determined not to sound like Liberals.”

What do I mean here? The same thing. When your pursuit of truth becomes defined by a preset notion of who you want to be and who you don’t want to be, then it is impotent, sterile and timid. If you are scared that you are going to look like a liberal, it means that you have made camp and are afraid of offending your other comrades in your camp.  A liberal, in this case, is someone who is going to progress beyond the status quo to advance the cause, for good or for ill. Theologically, if you are too scared to sound like a liberal, you are probably going to maintain a life and career of confirming prejudice. You will never challenge the status quo, even if you are convicted of its truth.

I am glad that Martin Luther was not scared of sounding like a liberal. 

We need those who are not scared of sounding like a Fundamentalist, Liberal, Evangelical, Emerger or whatever. We need those who follow truth and conviction without shame or fear of reprisal. We need those who defend the camp and those who are scouts. Above all, we need those who proclaim the Gospel without fear of wrongful association.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    12 replies to "I Get it . . . I Was Wrong . . . I Recant"

    • Cadis

      You know somehow you don’t sound like you were wrong and miraculously somehow you turn out to be right. 🙂

    • Michael T

      We should always speak the Truth regardless of if it is going to make us look good, bad, liberal, conservative, or whatever. The Truth is greater then how we appear.

    • Jeremy

      I’m with you here. I’m sure you picked this up yesterday, but there is nothing to get Fundamentalists talking quite like mentioning the relationship between them and conservative evangelicals. Especially us young guys. We could talk (and do talk) about that until the day we die 🙂

    • C Skiles

      Michael, from day 1 this is what I love about your approach to theology: irenic and yet not afraid to go against the status quo.
      Being Biblical is so much more important that fitting into a particular theological camp or for that matter being accepted by those who have there own set of spiritual rules.

      Call me what you will, Liberal, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Emergening, whatever. Let us just be as honestly Biblical and as Christ like as possible.

    • Susan

      By George, I think you’ve GOT IT, Michael!!
      Amen to this post. We need not be afraid when we stand for God’s truth!

    • Michael

      This post doesn’t change anything except that you didn’t get Piper’s point before and now you do. You still think fundamentalists are closed-minded, anti-intellectual nasties.

      God forbid someone call you a “fundamentalist.” Nevermind the fact that to much of the non-Christian world all conservative Christians (evangelical and fundamentalist alike) are “associated with imbalance and intolerance.”

      Maybe you should read D. A. Carson’s comments on Fundamentalists vs. Reformed (found here):

      …we often have a perspective on fundamentalism that is sociologically no longer quite valid–[that] fundamentalists are ignorant, bad-tempered, hate-filled; [that] they know more what they’re against than what they’re for; and so on and so on and so on and so on.


      You know what I’ve discovered? This new generation is amongst the most gentle, thoughtful, quiet, personally loving group of students we’ve got on our campus. What can I say? On all kinds of issues they are trying to be discerning and wise, and even when I disagree with them on this or that or the other—and some of them don’t leave us at quite the same place as when they came in—nevertheless, in terms of personal demeanor and so on, we think of fundamentalists as being hate-filled, bomb-throwing types, [but] it just isn’t my experience.

      You know some of the toughest customers we have to handle on our campus? Some brands of Reformed Baptists [laughter]. Because for some of them, you know, every issue is A MATTER OF CONSCIENCE. And then it’s very difficult to recognize that there are different degrees of importance within the Scripture itself. Otherwise why should the apostle Paul say, “As a matter of first importance”, and so on. And everything becomes an issue over which you divide.

      So our stereotypes are changing. Sociologically, our stereotypes are changing.

      And out of that framework to see [that] there is a new generation of young Christian thinkers [and] leaders who are coming out of the fundamentalist movement—many of whom are sliding towards a more Reformed theology and a more catholic theology in the best sense of “catholic”—and who are not giving up on the firmness with which they hold to allegiance to Scripture. My hat’s off to them, and if there are ways in which we can mutually benefit one another by thinking through what Scripture says on many, many issues then we ought to be trying to do that sort of thing.

    • Steve in Toronto

      My Dad (who is about the same age as Dr. Piper) and I have been fighting about the word “Fundamentalist” for years. The sad reality is that to most people younger than 40 the word means something completely different then to an older generation. As I have told my father many times this is not the result of a liberal conspiracy but the result of an entire generation of fundamentalist leadership (men like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson) who rendered the word radioactive. On a separate but related point I recently came across an interesting definition of the word Fundamentalist in a scholar history of American Fundamentalism by the reformed scholar Joel A. Carpenter, in his book “Revive us again” he quoted another writer whose name I have forgotten who said “Fundamentalism is Orthodox Christianity gone cultic”. Like Dr. Carpenter I can’t completely endorse this definition but it is illuminating. How different the narrow clanish world of fundamentalist Christianity is compared to the warm generosity of classical orthodoxy.
      God Bless
      Steve in Toronto

    • Cadis

      Jerry Falwell no longer goes by Fundamentalist. He is now an Evangelical. 🙂

    • Cadis

      I forgot Jerry Falwell died, I guess he is no longer either but he did drop the Fundamentalist title.

    • mbaker

      I agree with D.A. Carson’s observation. Mine has been similar in ministering in all kinds of churches. In fact, I notice some reformed folks are so militant that they have become the new fundamentalists as far legalism and narrowness goes. They are every bit as aggressive, in a more intellectual way, as the overbearing, anti-intellectual preachers that made fundamentalism a dirty word.

      That’s why I think we have to be careful when putting labels on ourselves or others. To some being called a Fundamentalist, or Fundie, is an insult, while others see it as the importance of having a moral and ethical code in an immoral world. However, too many Evangelicals nowadays see that coming from a strictly legalistic point of view, opposed to progress. Knowing all kinds of folks in ministry, of different denominations and backgrounds, ike D.A. Carson I see a much wider diversity and tolerance than Fundamentalists are given credit for by their modern Evangelical peers.

    • Ron Wolf

      Your perspective helps solidify the principal being taught by Piper, which is also summerized at the end of your post. I agree whole heartedly with having the intent to know the truth about whatever the subject and struggling through all information available to find it. Even to the point where we may never no the whole truth. We must use to our advantage what truth and what principals we have to work with. Glory to God!

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