The Litmus Test is the Real Test of Faith in the Neo-Fundamentalist and Evangelical Movements of Our Age.
by Rev. Dennis Hartman
Published Sept 15, 2010
Fundamentalism has in recent years received a bad name from the liberals and the media. The movement has been equated to be equal with the radicals of Islam. Yet at no time do I know of any Fundamentalists walking into large gatherings and blowing up people. While this movement may have a few faults, they are not murders. Nor does Fundamentalism try to stop freedom speech, by calling certain ideas expressed as hate speech, except that is, for their litmus tests. Fundamentalism originally grew out of the need to defend the orthodox doctrines of the faith. You know, the virgin birth, the divine creation and those concepts which we recite every Sunday in the Apostles Creed. Those are the fundamentals of the faith. The doctrines in that Creed is the base line of all Christian belief. If any of them are denied, it doubtful that they can be called the followers of Christ.
In the early years this movement it included preachers from almost every protestant denomination across the United States and England. They came together in a common need to defend the faith from the spread of liberal orthodoxy. They agreed on the idea that denominational doctrines would be laid aside in this effort. As a result, a lot of good men worked together in early fundamentalism.
There was a healthy diversity of views among these men. And those views were part of their denominational heritage which could have divided them at the out set. In this group there were some Post- millennialists, Amillennialists, and of course Premillenialists. You could also find men who baptized by sprinkling, pouring, and immersion. Men who believe in Calvinism and Arminianism worked together. For what reason did they embrace this diversity? Again to defend the faith delivered to the saints. This then was the make up of those early fundamentalists. They were good and brave men although in denominational doctrines they did not agree.
Over the years the same war kept on raging. Liberal theology kept denying the faith while the Fundamentalists kept defending the faith. But something changed during this time. It was an important change which most of us who are real Bible Believing Methodists have painfully noticed. Fundamentalism morphed into something more. It morphed into a new Independent Baptist movement. The fundamentals have become secondary to the secondary. That is, the real fundamentalists where Christian enough to lay aside their denominational doctrines. Today this is clearly not the case.
What we have today I call the Neo-Fundamentalist movement. The meaning here is clear. The Baptists are the new owners of this movement. And while they do not write into the creed of the Neo-Fundamentalist movement the particulars of their Baptist doctrines they do become a silent litmus test of fellowship and even orthodoxy. Schools such as Bob Jones University some years back has identified with the Baptists when once they were proudly none-denominational and was started as more Methodist then anything else. The American Council of Christian Churches is largely composed of Baptists. There too, there is a litmus test.
What is a litmus test? Do you need a number 2 lead pencil to take it? Is there a study guide for such a test? No. It is a silent test. It test that you can not prove, but you can feel it, see it, and discern what is going on because of it. It is this test that all fundamental and most evangelical leaders expect and demand you pass to belong to their horde. If you don't bow to certain doctrinal particulars they really do question your salvation in a real subtle way. Now what are some of those doctrinal particulars a Methodist or anyone else must bow to who is not Baptist? Let's look and see.
The first is eternal security. This is the little guy or doctrine comes on the tale end of Calvin's five points. This doctrine, by the Biblical standard of real Methodism is rejected out of hand. That is, unless you want to be accepted by the Fundamental or Evangelical movements. Is eternal security a orthodox doctrine. No! At one time even the Bob Jones University would have agreed that it is was not an orthodox doctrine. But to belong to the Neo-fundamental movement of today, the same school along with many others conceded. This doctrine is a Baptist particular. Not a fundamental of the faith. This was not so when either movement started so many years ago.
The second is the idea of "believers baptism" commonly known as immersion only. If you are a Biblical Methodist this one is easy to get around if you want to "belong." After all, we believe that modes do not matter anyway. However, there are still those of us who also believe that baptism by immersion could lead baptismal regeneration. Not only do we understand that immersion can not be proven dogmatically from the scripture, it should not be considered a fundamental mode which we must accept in the guise of "believers baptism." If one believes, it does not matter the mode because all modes then could be called "believers baptism." DUH! But still many Methodist pastors who want acceptance by the mainstream hucksters of Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism bow and pay homage to their water god. This was not so when either started so many years ago.
The third forces a particular of prophecy. That view many cloak with a phrase something like this, "I just believe what the Bibles teaches." That's a rich come off. Mind you they really try hard to make it a fundamental or the center piece of evangelical doctrine. But when the truth becomes known this view is nothing more then a prophecy theory that has been popularized over the last 100 years. The name for it is Pre-millenial Dispensationalism. While there are elememts of truth to it, the same can be said of Post-millenialism as well as A-millennialism. Most who hold to any of these theories have a strong belief in the Lord's second coming. Yet not to believe in the Pre-millennial view is all but heresy in most of the Fundamental and Evangelical circles of our time. This is a fact. Can you find the other two views represented in your Christian book store in a positive manner? NO! That is unless the Pre-millenial Dispensationalists are explaining them away. This was not so when either started so many years ago. There was a wonderful diversity there too among them.
The original fundamentalists would have nothing to do with the foolishness of the above dogmatics. Nor would the early evangelicals have nothing to do with the arrogant Calvinism of today either. Yet today what do we see? Foolishness! None of these doctrines are fundamental. Calvinism, Pre-millenial Dispensationalism, eternal security, and immersion are being touted in most conservative Christian media as the only real truth to believe. They are theories at best presented as a fundamental of the faith. It overwhelms the average Christian, and stifles the God given ability to think more clearly or in any other terms except those set forward as mainstream Christian thought.
Now how did we get here? That conclusion is simple. In short, main line denominations dropped their candy, and the Baptists where there to picked it up. At first they were not the only contributors to Fundamentalism, or Evangelicalism. But over the years as denominations went left, and who was left holding the bag? The Baptists. Is this within itself wrong? No. However, Baptists do consider themselves more Biblical because of their exclusiveness in baptism, and their thinking that their history can be traced back to John the Baptist, which few today deny. But along the way they dogmatically clung to eternal security, which was not a universal at the out set of the Baptist movement in the mid 1600's, and of course Pre-millennial Dispensationalism. These doctrines then found their way into both movements. They quietly began to be used as a litmus test to prove loyalty to both movements. If you want to be a member either, you better play along with this litmus test.
Let me show you how a litmus test works. Let's look for example at the Bible Broadcasting Network (BBN) for a minute. A man by the name of Lowell Davy is in total control of it. Now Mr. Davy is a good man, but he is very much a Baptist. If he does not approve of a program, it does not get broadcast. This is Mr. Davy's philosophy. He will not allow anyone to have a program aired on his large network if they do not believe the Bible. Bully for him. I am cool with that. Right on I say. But wait, is that what he really means by believing the Bible?
Now let's ask a question. How many Methodists do you hear on BBN? NONE! Here we can only conclude one of two things. Either there are no Methodists that believe the Bible, or... Stop! I believe the Bible. I can list a host of Methodist pastors from many different Wesleyan affiliations that believe the Bible and even defend the faith. I can even happily find preachers in United Methodism that firmly believe the Bible. Well paint me red and call me a fire truck! I find a lot in the Bible Methodist Conference. The Congregational Methodists even have a college in the state of Mississippi that believes the Bible. And this list can include all of us in Wesley's vast family who are real believers of the Bible and defenders of the faith. So what is Mr. Davy's problem? Why don't we hear any Methodist preachers on the air at BBN? We met the condition.
Bro. Davy and crew at BBN are rather slick with their answer. They more or less say that a speaker needs to show some success in church size, printing, oral abilities and the such. They really play with things like that until you get the impression that he must prove his God given abilities in certain materialistic areas. The buzz word here means successful in BBN's understanding of success. This line of reasoning flies like a lead ballon. The Bible indicates that God's men many times were not popular, and still God considered them a success and a believer. This then moves us to the second reason. Do real Methodists believe in immersion only, eternal security, Premillennial Dispensationalism, and other doctrines currently identified with the Baptists of our time? Are Baptist doctrines fundamental to the Christian faith? NO! But they are very fundamental to good men like Mr. Davy. While some Methodist brothers may lean in those directions, none of them would make such doctrines the bases for fellowship or a test for Christian belief if they owned BBN. But Lowell Davy and BBN does. This is the real reason you hear no Wesleyan voice on BBN. It is because of their litmus test. An unspoken test for assumed orthodox particulars - like the three Baptist particulars described above. You must agree with him and his Baptist views to get on the air because that is Bible. Let me point out that they would air a calvinist Methodist quicker because they would not necessarily challenge the doctrinal particulars of eternal security and immersion. And this silent policy involved with this litmus test leads the listeners of BBN to the terrible conclusion at all Methodistic groups deny the fundamentals of the faith.
There is also a financial component. If they would air a Bible Believing Methodist who would differ over the air with eternal security, many who are Baptists would stop contributing to BBN. Because they need the money, only Methodists who have become Baptists would get aired, if aired at all. This then is not broadcasting by faith, but by sight. Just like Al Gore and his idea of a consensus, BBN seems to achieved the consensus that only those who do not differ with Baptist doctrinal particulars are true Bible Believers.
For BBN and many of the movers and shakers of Neo-Fundamentalism, such doctrines have become the cheif corner stone of faith and an unspoken test of orthodoxy. The problem is for them to come out and say it, and even now, it would still bring howls of condemnation from many in Christianity.
I conclude, and rightly so, what this amounts to is that the real Fundamental and Evangelical movements are dead. They were co-opted by our Baptist brothers who did not behave. They had the God given responsibility to keep things moving and they killed it with their proud dogmatic big B doctrines. What is left is nothing but a shell of what was once s noble movements of God. Those of us who differ are shown the door, or worse.
Today in both of these formally great movements, the Baptists are facing the emerging crises of hyper-Calvinism and baptismal regeneration. Many young Baptist pastors see that eternal security is the tail on the dog of Calvinism. With out it connected to that critter, the tail is useless. They are simply making the correct and honest connection. The same with "believers baptism." With the dogmatic given to the mode of only immersion, other young Baptists are now making it all but equal with salvation. Water is slowly becoming necessary to salvation again in Baptist theology. The Bible nor God put them in this mess. They put themselves there with their unloving dogmatics and their nasty litmus test. IMARC is Fundamental, and Evangelical. We do not apologize for it. But we are also Methodist Arminian and oppose the water god of our time without apology. We encourage all who are of Wesley's family to refuse the litmus tests of our time and stand for Christ our Lord as did Wesley and Bishop Asbury. No current Neo-Fundamentalist, or Evangelical denies that Wesley and Bishop Asbury and their followers were used of God. Why then are they accepted and we are rejected if we stand with our founders? We got to pass a test, that's why. The Neo-Fundamentalists litmus test is not about the fundamentals, but about doctrinal particulars which we as Methodists took exception to ever since our founding. It is not about the Fundamentals today but about forcing a scarlet letter, a big B, on every believers chest. If Neo-Fundamentalism is in any way close to Islam, it is in the fact that all must accept Baptist doctrine as fundamental or you get the ax. It is IMARC's prayer that such litmus tests will disappear in the future.
Pastor Hartman has been in the ministry for thirty seven years. He graduated from the Institute of Christian Service of Bob Jones University. He also holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Columbus State University and did post grad work at the same school. He has taught in the public school system for fifteen years, and is currently working with a small private academy. He has traveled once to Russia, three times to the Ukraine, twice to England in a humble effort to help the missionaries spread the Gospel of Christ. After resigning form his pastorate in 2005, he does supply work for other pastors in the community. While he is Independent Methodist, he is currently attending and working with a neat conservative United Methodist Church. If you wish to contact Pastor Hartman, about this article, please feel free to do so.