Recently, while visiting several theological sites, I came across Michael Patton’s Reclaiming the Mind Ministry’s blog. Though New Evangelical in doctrine, I respect the individual and use his writing to get me to think about my own positions. While listening to his podcast regarding a [New] Evangelical’s view of Fundamentalism, I started thinking about the differences between New Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. We both believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We both hold to the Bible as being the Word of God. So what keeps me from becoming a New Evangelical?
Over the next couple of posts, I would like to lay out the reasons why I am a Fundamentalist. We are going to try and show that while there are two forms of Fundamentalism (Theological and Cultural Fundamentalism), to try and be one without the other usually leads to self-deception.
If I may, I would like start off this series of posts and give you a bit of background about myself. My goal is to be able to explain one of my primary stances, and that of presuppositions.
I was born John Calvin Hall. No, I am not named after the famous theologian John Calvin, but rather, I pick up the names of my two grandfathers: John Lindsey Hall and Calvin Edwin Fuller. My mother was brought up in the Presbyterian Church, under the teaching of the late great Donald Grey Barnhouse, of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA. When she became a teen, she joined a local Baptist church because of their large youth group, where she came to know the Lord as her savior. My father grew up in the Lutheran Church, and was gloriously saved through my mother’s witnessing.
The first few years of my life were at St Pauls United Methodist Church in Willingboro, NJ and was christened there as a babe. My Scottish Presbyterian grandmother laughed every time she would tell me how an Arminian Methodist minister gagged on my name when he christened me. Later on, when our family moved to the town of Indian Mills, NJ I was brought up and catechized at the Indian Mills United Methodist Church under Rev. William “Reb” Yates. So, looking back over my Christian heritage, I have a foundation of Lutheranism, Presbyterianism and Baptist, with a structure derived from the United Methodist Church. In all intents and purposes, I should be rather eclectic. But God had other plans for me.
At the age of 21, I was saved under the ministry of Pastor Robert Dyer Jr. of Shawnee Baptist Church. Since Shawnee was a G.A.R.B. church (General Association of Baptist Churches), I sat under some of the strongest Calvinist teachings I could recall. It wasn’t until almost 6-7 years later that I recognized certain discrepancies in the doctrine of Calvinism and ultimately rejected the whole concept of Reprobation. So, when I entered Bible College, I was pretty much a theological mongrel. I saw nothing wrong with the differing doctrines between these denominations, and I was comfortable with doctrines that I grew up with, even though they conflicted (at that time) with other truths I was learning from God’s Word as a new believer. Yet above all of this mish-mash of dogmas and doctrines, I had personally developed a very important presupposition. This presupposition was that the Bible was the very Word of God, and that mankind in his fallen state does not contain nor is able to possess the abilities to understand nor interpret Scripture without God’s Holy Spirit. As a young child, I saw the creeping liberalism in the Methodist Church. I listened to my godly grandmother weep over the Presbyterian Church’s movement away from Scripture. When I was saved by God’s loving hand, I committed to myself to take a hard line with regards to the Bible. And the stand I took planted my feet on the solid rock of Scripture.
In February 1987, God placed in my heart to go into full time ministry. I didn’t know if He was calling me to be a pastor or a missionary, but I was willing to do anything as long as I could serve Him.
While finishing my first college degree at a local community college, I prepared myself for the ministry, by building a theological library that would suffice my thirst for knowledge. Even though I wasn’t very fond of learning while growing up, all of this changed after I was saved. I became veraciously hungry to learn as much as I could realting to the Bible. I found one book store, just on the other side of the state line, where I spent all of my earnings on books. One day, I bought several copies of the Greek New Testament. Though at the time I didn’t know a thimble-full of Greek, I had a burning desire to study it. In my excitement, I bought several copies of the dark blue book, and gave them out to my friends and pastor. I did n’t mind the loss at that time: I would just purchase another copy when I could. Upon later returning to the bookstore, I found the dark blue copies were all gone, and the only one left was a burgundy colored copy. So I gladly bought that one.
When I got home, I discovered that the burgundy copy was much nicer than the dark blue copy I had purchased earlier. The font was nicer; it had a beautiful golden ribbon bookmark, and at the bottom of the page were special notes and comments. Well, that dark blue copy didn’t have all of this, so I took a shining to this copy. It was then that my friend, of whom I gave one of the original books to, returned his dark blue Greek New Testament to me. He didn’t read Greek and he knew I could use it when I went off to Bible College. That night, while stretched out on the family room rug, I opened both copies and compared the two.
It is important to keep in mind, I knew extremely little about Greek at this time. I could read the letters, and make out the spellings, but nothing more. When I opened to the first book, I was horrified at what I saw! I look back now and laugh over the relative insignificance, but to me as a new Christian who was completely sold out to stand for the Bible, it rocked the very core of my world! In the dark blue book, The Gospel of Matthew was spelled, ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ. In the burgundy book, the gospel was spelled, ΜΑΘΘΑΙΟΝ! Now, though I didn’t know much theologically, I believed with all of my heart and soul that the Bible was God’s Word. I believed that God Himself preserved His word throughout the ages. Yet when I saw the slightest of misspellings of ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ vs. ΜΑΘΘΑΙΟΝ, I realized that one of these books was wrong. And I didn’t know which one.
That night, while on my face before God, I pleaded with Him to reveal His truth to me. I didn’t want to promote a book that had errors. I didn’t want to have continual doubts about the words of the Bible. I knew that we had the Words of God preserved completely. I just didn’t know which one to trust.
Was God silent over this matter? At the time, I thought He was. But was He inactive? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
When I was preparing to look for a Bible College to attend, I had several criteria I wanted to meet. My pastor at Shawnee Baptist tried to encourage me to attend Cedarville, Wheaton, or even Philadelphia College of the Bible, but they were expensive. My parents told me that they would not be able to help me with the expenses, so I had to find the most cost effective school I could find. Another factor was distance. I had lived in New Jersey for the first 23 years of my life, and I wanted to flee as far away as possible! Another criteria was discipline. I sure didn’t want to go to a school where they had no disciple or structure. In the end, my choice of schools had boiled down to only two. The first one was Bob Jones University. Though I had heard a lot about BJU, I had never visited there. It was a good school, and it had the firm rules I was looking for. Yet, the tuition was high. If I recall correctly, it was around $6,000 per year. The other college I was looking at and praying over was an unknown school in Florida. I knew nothing about it and my pastor didn’t think much of the college, but tuition was only $4,000 a year! So I sent in my application and was approved to attend Pensacola Christian College (PCC), majoring in Bible.
Bear in mind now, I did not know what the stance was at Pensacola regarding the Greek Text. I knew it was strong on the issues relating to the Bible, the tuition was the best I could find, and it was 1,200 miles away from New Jersey. All of that was fine by me! Yet, God Almighty knew exactly what He was doing. And He directed me, as I later on found, to be one of the most fundamental Bible-believing colleges in the United States.
Bible majors at PCC usually waited for NT Greek (BL-101) until their Sophomore year. I was so excited about learning the language that I dove right in while only a Freshman. And even though they didn’t talk about the issues of textual criticism during this time, I camped out in the library and absorbed every single volume I could lay my hands on. By the end of my first year, I had come to my own conclusions on which Greek New Testament was the correct one. I rejected the burgundy colored book which is put out by liberal theologians from the United Bible Society, and embraced the Traditional Text: also known as the Textus Receptus.
Several factors brought me to this conclusion. Though the college was filled with godly men such as Dr. Joel Mullinex, Jerry Lucas, Dr. Mike Bere, and Brian Bucy, I had come to my own conclusions regarding the text, because of core presuppositions.
Down through the ages, Satan has time and time again, sought to create a division between God’s Word and man. Even back in the very Garden of Eden, his first question is, “Hath God said…?” (Genesis 3:1). That devil has tried to turn man away from Scripture, as with what he did with Israel. He has tried to pollute Scripture with Gnostic writings. He had tried to stamp the Bible out through the persecutions of Rome, the Catholic Church, and now through liberals and progressive theologians. Yet, that vile serpent has failed in the end, every single time.
I am a Fundamentalist because I believe:
1. The Bible is the Final Authority. Psalm 138:2 states, “…for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” The Bible doesn’t just contain the words of God; it IS the Word of God.
2. God, actively and divinely preserved His Word Himself, as He promised in Scripture. God used fallen man not because of who he is, but in spite of who he is, with all of his errors and short-comings, to preserve the very words, even the very jots and tittles down throughout the ages.
3. When an issue comes up that is divided between what the Bible says and what man teaches, the Bible wins out every single time. Man is completely corrupted by sin, and this includes his intellect. For an intellectual to critique the Bible, and claim it to contain errors, or to reject the spiritual impact of God’s Word is fatal. It’s not that they are judging the Bible, but ultimately the Bible is judging them.
I believe that the New Evangelical movement contains many beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. On the most part, the vast majority of them claim to believe that Jesus Christ is the resurrected Son of God. If they are truly trusting in Christ alone for their salvation, they are my brethren! Yet, the core differences between being a New Evangelical and a Fundamentalist are very distinct. As a whole, they have demonstrated that they embrace liberal and progressive theologians. They welcome into their churches those who claim to be Christian, yet deny the authority and truths of the Bible. They sit on podiums with theologians who believe in praying to Mary and saints rather than going directly to the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16). Numerous New Evangelicals walk like the world and talk like the world, believing that marketing tools and media gimmicks is the way to promote the Church, while Scripture tells us that though we are in the world, we are not of the world (John 17:14). Are many of them saved? Yes, I am convinced I will spend eternity with these beloved brothers and sisters, worshiping at the feet of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but they are wrong for their compromising.
Someday, John Calvin Hall will stand before a righteous and just God, and will be asked to give an account for what came out of the classroom and pen of this redeemed child. I will not have Bart Ehrman standing next to me, nor Bruce Metzger explaining to God why I taught doctrines that contradict the Bible. I will stand alone, and answer for my beliefs. When that time comes, my only response is that I taught the Bible to be the Word of God because it claims to be the Word of God. I take the Bible completely and unadulteratedly literal, unless otherwise told from Scripture itself. This is one of the reasons why I am a Fundamentalist.
“Unless I am convinced by the testimonies of the Holy Scriptures or evident reason…, I am bound by the Scriptures adduced by me, and my conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God, and I am neither able nor willing to recant, since it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience.
God help me. Amen”
– Martin Luther, Diet of Worms, 1521