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Dressy fundies

Have you people been checking out this new 9 Marks thing? Wow. That’s really all I can say. I mean, I know that regular displays of fundamentalist-evangelical craziness are constant in the United States. But this little self-styled bunch of prophets really seem to take the cake. Its like they’re fighting the battles of nineteenth-century liberalism in the twenty-first century on purpose.

Now of course the essays reflect a complete lack of scholarly acumen or even biblical literacy in most cases, but what’s amazing is the kind of smarminess that oozes off of every page. I mean, what do you make of quotes like this:

For most of my adult life, I have been a pastor among the highly educated, the materially successful, and the politically powerful. It’s not that I sought these people out as more strategic than others. It’s simply where God’s providence placed me.

Wow, that sure is great for you, isn’t it? Gee wasn’t it nice of God’s providence drop you miraculously among the super rich and the politically powerful? Thanks God!

Yeah, its no accident that the majority of this little movement’s contributors are ruling elites of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, which sits but a couple blocks from the U.S. Capitol building.

And then there’s the “9 marks” themselves which consist of expository preaching and then, well, 8 things that start with the word “biblical” (well I guess one of them is actually “promotion of Christian discipleship and growth”).

Couldn’t they just narrow down the list by just having one mark called “biblicalness in all things” or something? Why try to make up a movement just to display your church’s sense of superiority?

Anyways, if you’re looking for some woefully bad reasoning, odd martyr complexes, and general theological dyslexia, check out the 9 Marks. Its a treasure trove of fundamentalist dumbshittery.

Edited to add: I deeply apologize if my language in the last paragraph offended any people with dyslexia. I by no means meant to compare you to orangutans that run the 9 Marks. Please accept my apologies.


  1. melissa f-b wrote:

    Be ye wary of any organization solving churchy “methodological vertigo” that’s run by 14 brothers.

    There’s a lot Southern Seminary training in that mix. Sign number 2 of trouble ahead.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Permalink
  2. Halden wrote:

    Wait, are they actual brothers?

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Permalink
  3. Keljeck wrote:

    I think you’re being too flippant. You never know when we might have to deal with zombie Schleiermacher.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Permalink
  4. Derrick wrote:

    Pretty funny that one of the articles was criticizing evangelicals for wanting academic credulity by accepting standards of evaluation exterior to “orthodoxy” (the subtitle of the article is “why do evangelicals crave worldly acceptance?”) while nonetheless the site and the author in question hold unswervingly to inerrancy, which is another way of saying the bible shouldnt be dismissed because it measures up in every way to the (modern) historicist claim on what counts as true generally. Sweet sweet irony

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Permalink
  5. melissa f-b wrote:

    Not those kind of brothers. Those kind of brothers. As in “bros before hoes.”

    Was any else hoping that they were all named Mark?

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    Yeah, if they eschew academic credibility so much why do they take up so much friggin space listing all their degrees? Such lunacy.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    Kinda. It would at least make things . . . predictable.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  8. Liesl wrote:

    If the word “Biblical” takes the most abuse here, “liberal” is a close second. I couldn’t stop myself from skimming the article “How to Become a Liberal without Attending Harvard Divinity School.” I kept waiting for the author to define a liberal but this is all I got:

    “I’m a pastor who loves Jesus because he’s God Incarnate and who loves the gospel because it’s true, regardless of how my life turns out. But I’m also a pastor at risk of becoming a liberal, because I don’t just love God. I also love the sheep. And I love myself. And it’s those two loves, wrongly focused, that tempt me down a gospel-denying path.”

    Fortunately, Godly love for “the sheep” or for self will never bring us in conflict with the Gospel. But if by loving he means ‘a desire to appease,’ most call this sin, not becoming a liberal. Apparently at Nine Marks the two are synonymous.

    So much confusion packed into three sentences. It’s bad reasoning coupled with bad writing, and in addition to making my blood boil it just gives me a headache.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Permalink
  9. Halden wrote:

    I almost quoted that one too. Because apparently, loving people can lead you to deny the Gospel! Careful how much you love, folks. It might make you go to hell.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  10. Austin Eisele wrote:

    This is par for the course in Evangelical circles though. I’m an evangelical (trying to get my first pastor job), and I graduated from Harvard Div, and the first question I get is, “why did you go there?” Never mind that Harvard Div itself is becoming more evangelical (the number of us there was really increasing, and they have a new Evangelical chair – the excellent David Hempton). It’s really annoying because evangelicals have always been so focused on the individual (as in conversion, a personal call to a personal relationship), that you would think what group you belong to, or were you went to school wouldn’t matter…

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 6:15 am | Permalink
  11. Brad A. wrote:

    On their “Problem Defined” page, it’s interesting that I’d probably agree with 90% of what they describe as the individualist, consumerist, corporatist, therapeutic church. It’s their other theological readings, as well as their solutions, that are so bothersome.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 6:26 am | Permalink
  12. Tyler wrote:

    Listen, I’m all for diversity of opinion and disagreement sometimes, but listen to yourselves.

    You’re denigrating the supposed ignorance and elitist affectation of these pastors at 9Marks using language like “disturbing,” “bothersome,” “lunacy,” etc. It all sounds to me like the same thing you’re all accusing them of, just from the opposite viewpoint.

    @ melissa, oh come off it.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 7:13 am | Permalink
  13. Zack Allen wrote:

    I don’t understand how a group of individuals whose primary task is to aid the church in America ‘affect’ rather than ‘reflect’ our culture can be so completely oblivious to how much their own mentalities and ideologies have been co-opted (if not completely formed) by their USAmerican-ness. It’s almost as if the equate the ‘church’ with this nation.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 7:36 am | Permalink
  14. JM wrote:

    Tyler, I think anyone who knows anything about real liberalism and anyone who is aware of the history of evangelicalism itself (all one would need to have done is read Marsden’s Fundamentalism and American Culture) is right to see these articles are absurd, insane, not rooted in reality. What they’re decrying as liberal is nothing of the sort, and in fact has more in common with classic evangelicalism than with this fundamentalist variety.

    I appreciate that you don’t feel scandalized by 9Marks, that you see it as a legitimate position to take. But seriously, you need to get out more, theologically, culturally, and ecclesially.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 9:14 am | Permalink
  15. Okay…I understand that we (and by that I mean white guys in their 20-30s who have some theological training, left evangelical churches and cling to some sort of ‘catholic’ orthodoxy) are afraid of Baptists. I really do.

    Nevertheless, I’m going to say that we’re off the mark by being so critical.

    Yes they’re using fundie code language like ‘biblical’, promote a congregational ecclesiology (plurality of elders) and they describe the gospel strictly in substitutionary penal atonement terms. We are afraid of those things. I get it. We’ve gone over this.

    But there’s a lot to commend this if you look at it from within the culture which it is clearly from and for.

    It looks like a Southern Baptist critique of church growth, taking discipleship seriously, a rejection of emotionalism and a rejection of liberalism in favor of taking Jesus seriously. We may disagree with a lot of their terms, but it seems there’s too much common ground here to write it all off rather than see opportunity for a decent partnership.

    After all, while fundamentalism may be just another side of the modernist liberal coin, some of us ‘radical orthodox’-type believers get along with fundies better than people who think that religious belief is necessarily private or doesn’t really make a difference.

    In other words, fundies may be blind to their own liberalism, but hell…we’re all blind to how saturated we are by the world. Just because I go to an Episcopal church now doesn’t mean I can’t find common ground with my southern brothers.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  16. Tyler wrote:

    But my cave is so much fun . . . and do you really need more than Grudem? I think not!

    Thanks for the backhanded advice, but I’m not sure what people are attacking here: the organization or the eJournal? If people are really tuned in to who these guys are conversing with, none of this is really surprising or “scandalous.” Their efforts are primarily directed toward churches who have abandoned some of the tenets of traditional ecclesiology (Dever himself is a Southern Baptist). They want churches doing things like taking membership seriously and practicing church discipline. Like any organization, they’ve got a vision for what this looks like.

    As for the eJournal . . . I’m not going to try and defend that. But “real liberalism”? Liberal, conservative, moderate, these are relative terms. From where these guys are standing, emergents certainly are liberal. You’re calling them fundamentalists! If you knew anything about real fundamentalism . . . .

    Listen, I’m not an apologist for 9Marks, but I know some of the guys and they’re alright. Most of them are very well educated, DC-types. That’s not me (I’m poorly educated and politicians tick me off). But that doesn’t mean they’re flying American flags in their churches and setting up committees to write bills for Congress.

    Dever refuses to put the flags up in the church and refuses to give political advice to the few politicians in his congregation. Sounds pretty sane to me.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  17. Tyler wrote:

    I think this is a measured posture to take. As a considerably conservative Southern Baptist who spends his free time reading Barth, Vanhoozer and radical orthodox-type stuff, I don’t like it when conservative evangelicals get lumped in with the 9Marks crowd, or the Driscoll crowd, or the Piper crowd, or whatever.

    What transpires in these little tissy-fits is the same type of crap that goes on all day long on cable news.

    Where’s John Stewart when you need him?

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  18. Lee wrote:

    It’s funny how, depending on the rhetorical needs of the moment, “liberals” are either an irrelevant minority on the verge of dying out or an insidious omni-present threat to the True Gospel.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink
  19. JM wrote:

    Neither the 9Marks authors nor I am using the term “liberal” in the relative sense, but in the sense of Protestant liberalism of the 19th and 20th centuries, you know, the stuff Machen got all worked up about, Schleiermacher and Harnack in Germany, Rauschenbusch and Fodstick in the US. My point is that the missional evangelicals are not classical liberals, just like Tom Wright is not an “Anglo-Catholic.”

    I do think they are rightfully called fundamentalists as historically and theologically described by Ernest Sandeen, George Marsden and James Barr. In fact, I think that e-journal perfectly displays the marks of fundamentalism, anxiety about “liberalism,” strong dichotomy between doctrine and practice, strong dichotomy between Gospel and social justice, flattened literalist reading of scripture, modern scientific understanding of biblical authority as inerrancy.

    I’m not upset at the e-journal because I think it is evidence they wave American flags in their churches or tell people to vote Republican; I’m outraged that the journal is (a) inaccurate and irresponsible; (b) woefully intolerant of anything but a very narrow, very novel, very selective understanding of the Gospel; and (c) calls “liberal” very biblical and traditional convictions and impulses.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink
  20. Tyler wrote:

    Well, I think we’re closer than it appears here.

    The e-Journal may be an instantiation of fundamentalist memes, but I’m not about to label Dever a fundamentalist. The fundamentalists don’t make enough noise, so I think we often forget what they really look like. I DO understand why you see him and the men under his purview in such a light, though.

    I’m really close to them in a lot of ways, but I too share concern when my brothers are standing around casting stones.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  21. nick wrote:

    “We may disagree with a lot of their terms, but it seems there’s too much common ground here to write it all off rather than see opportunity for a decent partnership.”

    A nice sentiment, but it’s too bad they have no interest in partnering with you. :)

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Permalink
  22. Well, I start with this: “One holy, catholic and apostolic church.”

    I’m already partnered with them, whether I or they like it or not.

    That’s the thing that I’m defending. It’s not as if I’m going to go volunteer for 9 Marks.

    Part of that partnership is pointing out their BS. Part of that partnership is to recognize whatever is noble, excellent or praiseworthy. I only meant that 9 Marks might not be the scariest wing of the Church, nor the smelliest part of the body of Christ.

    I’m guilty of hating this stuff only because I was so recently a part of it. The zeal of recent converts is strong. But we can speak the truth charitably, especially when we’re speaking of family members.

    Friday, January 22, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink
  23. JM wrote:

    Tyler, that’s fair enough. Sorry for the tongue-in-cheek rebuff earlier on. All the best.

    Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 1:48 am | Permalink
  24. Nathan Smith wrote:

    I’m curious about the affirmation of expository preaching. There are many modes of preaching modeled in the scriptures, and expository is only one. Additionally, I think there could be appropriate modes of preaching which are not found in scripture (I think I’d like to hear a mockumentary sermon, for example). It’s an odd thing to have a preaching-orthodoxy which is not “biblical.”

    Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink
  25. A mockumentary sermon! Who would the role of pastor be based on? Michael Scott from the Office? Any of Fred Willard’s characters?

    Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink
  26. roger flyer wrote:

    One mark we can most certainly leave out–the expository sermon. How many hundreds of thousands of gasbag sermons have people been subjected to. (Oh I know–the word of God shall not return void, blah blah blah…)

    Monday, January 25, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  27. Matt Elia wrote:

    I know 30 Rock isn’t a mockumentary, but I’d love to hear a Tracy Jordan-esque sermon at a M.B. church: “Passive resistance! I learned that from Dr. King…I’m brave!”

    Anyway, Charismanglican, I identify closely with the perspective of your first comment and appreciate your willingness not to trample over our fundamentalist brethren in our mad dash toward Rome or Canterbury. As one of the ‘us’ you well described (I personally self-identify as baptocathlodox, but I like charismanglican), I too find the fundamentalist who genuinely seeks to conform her whole life to a living, active Jesus Christ within particular, conservative parameters much more tolerable than the liberal who has domesticated her religion into a suitable part of her identity.

    Yet, Nick’s point above is actually more than snarkiness (and I don’t think he intended it that way). Much of the evidence for this is largely anecdotal, but in my experience friends of fundamentalist conviction, particularly reformed, ‘Sovereign Grace’ types, not only differ with regard to terminology, but with the very possibility that terms and grammars of theology different from theirs might merit consideration, rather than dismissed as ‘unbiblical.’ An Augustinian belief that language is always at least somewhat provisional, always bound by its horizon of representation before reaching the mystery of the Trinity, seems to be a prerequisite for the kind of meaningful dialogue you and I both would want to have with our conservative evangelical family. But for them, the very terms of their particular theologies (Jesus as ‘personal Savior’, penal substitutionary atonement, a very specific understanding of the creation narrative, etc.) are typically taken in practice if not in official confession to be just as ‘inerrant’ and thus irrefutable as the Bible which prompted them. To note this view of the language of theology is to say that until the ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church’ is a phase found in the Bible, it will always be viewed with a degree of suspicion in those types of circles.

    I don’t say that to disagree with your conclusion that we should be pursuing partnership with such folks, only to note one of the many difficulties I’ve experienced in that pursuit.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 9:55 am | Permalink
  28. Halden wrote:

    We didn’t land on Plymouth rock! Plymouth rock landed on Mars!

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink
  29. Philipp wrote:

    Sometimes, this blog is highly interesting to read. Sometimes, the aimless hit-and-run posts are breathtakingly nonsensical.
    You could have found literally hundred(s) of truly fundamentalist organisations that would have made a far better fundamentalist, preposterous and blown-up target for the shooting you want to do. Hundreds! 9 Marks is totally middle of the road within the SBC and Dever is in fact one of the few voices that are able to speak up against the intermingling of party politics and preaching in the SBC. See his speech at the latest convention. And his “expository preaching” is miles away from the sentimental, Bible-thumping altar-call sermons Southern baptists normally get to hear on Sundays. You seem to hardly know anything about Dever, who has taken on the pastorate at Capitol Hill Baptist when 30 gray-haired heads sat in the pews, in context.
    Sure, none of us here can probably find their language or their weirdly structured tactique of building “biblical” churches very helpful. But come on… this kind of post is just unnecessary.

    Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  30. Olu wrote:

    “Amen Philip” ( this is coming from an African blessed with a formidable ( at least to western tongues), multi-syllabic first and last name,who also happens to be a member of CHBC. Believe me Halden, there are bigger fundies to fry. I should know, I live in the District…

    Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 11:32 pm | Permalink
  31. By the way, let’s all go to Halden’s for a ‘Fundie Fry’. I’ll bring the Doritos.

    Friday, January 29, 2010 at 12:55 am | Permalink

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