Have you noticed that there seems to be less unity in fundamentalism than there used to be? It has often been bemoaned that fundamentalism is fragmenting. We have been cut into “camps,” fragmented into factions, and separated into splinters. While many of us consider ourselves (with justification) to be independent, fundamental, separated, Baptists, we nevertheless find ourselves unwilling to, unable to, or uninterested in fellowship with other segments of fundamentalism.
Why is this the case? It seems to me there are several reasons:
Some people don’t like each other. Therefore, they find reason to criticize, condemn, and fail to cooperate. I have a good friend who did not like me when I first met him. We did not “click.” There were plenty of opportunities for us to become adversaries. I decided, however, that whether or not my personality matched his was irrelevant to the cause of Christ.
The Bible says that wisdom is justified of her children and my friend was producing a great product. I went to him in person and asked, “My brother, have I offended you?” When he asked why, I gave him my reasons. As a result of this discussion, we understood each other better, appreciated each other more, and now support each other’s ministries well. Don’t let personalities keep you from helping the cause of Christ.
I once talked to a missionary who was friends with two pastors who violently opposed each other. One pastor believed that the other was a dishonest and dishonorable man. The missionary maintained his friendship with both pastors. In explaining the situation to me, he said of the pastor who doubted the integrity of the other, “You see, Brother Ouellette, he really believes it and I really don’t.” This wise missionary allowed one friend to have a different opinion of another friend than he did without ending the friendship.
There are any number of areas based on principle in which I will take a slightly different stand than my brothers. I must recognize that a man can be weaker or stronger than me in a particular area and still be a sincere, greatly used Christian.
I don’t use soundtracks. I have friends who do who love God and are sound fundamental men. While I will not permit them to use soundtracks in my church, I in no way allow this to lessen my appreciation for them or my fellowship with them. I have many friends whose music is considerably less conservative than ours. I believe they love God and are sincere. I do not let the music differences lessen our fellowship (of course, in these and other areas, it is possible that a person can go so far that I feel I would condone out-and-out evil by fellowshipping with them.) I don’t use playing cards. I have friends who are great Christians who do. I use dice in playing games like Monopoly. I know other Fundamentalists who don’t and believe that a spinner or some other device is more appropriate. I hope they will acknowledge that I still love the Lord and am a separated Christian even though I take my numbers from a cube instead of from a circle.
I believe that in most doctrinal issues, our basis of fellowship should not be a pinpoint, but a spectrum. You need not believe exactly what I believe about matters of personal or ecclesiastical separation for us to fellowship. I ought to be able to have friends a little bit to the right of me and a little bit to the left of me, whom I believe are taking essentially the correct position though they may not dot every “i” and cross every “t” precisely as I do.
I pray God will help us have wisdom to discern what issues require us separating and what issues require us accepting differences. It seems to me the issues will all fall in one of three categories:
There are some issues about which we must speak out.
I believe we must speak out when men who call themselves independent, fundamental Baptists run with Southern Baptists and other new evangelicals. I believe we must speak out when vile videos are being accepted (if not approved). I believe we must speak out when the Word of God is tampered with. There is an educational institution in our state which uses a different Bible and believes in all five points of Calvinism. They are my brothers. If they were hungry, I would feed them. If their van broke down near our church (as it once did) I would ask our mechanic to help fix the van. I could not however, encourage anyone to attend their institution. I believe they are wrong and do not wish for those whom I influence to be influenced by their doctrines. I do not wish to be their enemy, but I certainly cannot be their supporter.
There are some issues about which we should separate silently.
There are some men in whom I do not have confidence. Some of my dear friends have great confidence in some of those men. I never tell them about my lack of confidence. I never try to discourage them from their friendship. I believe that God can give to them the same information that He gave to me if He wants them to separate from their friends. I also believe there is a possibility I could be wrong. I don’t have any fellowship with these men, but I do not discourage others from having fellowship with them. I separate silently.
There are some issues about which, while we disagree, we should nonetheless
While we may support different colleges, if we agree on the Bible, have basic agreement on standards of separation, agree on the matter of soulwinning, and have similar philosophies on the local church, why couldn’t we be friends?
Why couldn’t I preach for someone whose members shout louder or not as loud as my own and still think they’re a good person? Why couldn’t I have a friend whose grammar is less precise or more refined than my own and still consider him a man of God? Why couldn’t I allow my brethren some of the same patience, time, and latitude that God allowed me in coming to a correct position? Love and encourage them, and perhaps be used as an instrument of God to instruct them while they are making their decision.
In conclusion, Let us never tolerate apostasy, error, or false doctrine. Let us allow room for others to be different than ourselves and still believe that they are God’s men, doing God’s work in the best way they know how.