This morning’s post raised some significant questions which I feel deserve a thoughtful answer.

In this follow-up post, I’ll try to address some of the concerns that were raised.

An unfair assessment?

I agree that my assessment of the movement had serious implications. I can also see how it could come across as unfair and/or “pompous.” So I’ll try to give a fuller explanation of why I wrote what I wrote.

Additionally, I concede that I am indeed making some very broad generalisations. Perhaps I can give a better sense of why I believe the generalisations are generally accurate.


The evidence I gave for my conclusions was brief:

the declining enrolment in our colleges, the declining interest in our fellowships, and the explosion of conservative evangelical influence among our young men.

I’ll take these in turns.

1) The declining enrolment in our colleges.

Several Fundamentalist institutions of higher learning in the US have recently either closed down or begun the process of merging. I think it is fairly common knowledge in the US context that colleges are struggling for students. This is leading toward expansion overseas and in distance programmes.

Here in Australia, our colleges generally have a dozen or so full-time students max. That’s a far cry from the 100 odd students at SBBC in previous decades.

2) The declining interest in our fellowships.

When I said “fellowships,” I was referring to such loose bodies as the FBF or SBF in the US or the NBF here. Attendance and participation in these types of organisations is down in my understanding of the facts. For instance, the Adelaide NBF in 1996 drew 1,000 people on a single night. In 2008, there was probably closer to half that number in the same city.

As far as attendance at churches (again, note that I wasn’t referring to that in the article, but I’ll address it anyway), I have watched a pattern of IB churches growing and then imploding in Australia over the years. I rejoice to see this pattern seems to be decreasing in severity (I presume due to the maturing of our movement), still, I can’t think of any church that has really accomplished anything in terms of attendance that wasn’t accomplished in the 80’s and 90’s in our movement here in Australia.

3) The explosion of conservative evangelical influence among our young men.

I don’t think this can really be contested. The “New Calvinism” made Time Magazine’s list of top ten ideas that are changing the world today. Men like John Piper, Paul Washer, and John MacArthur as well as blogging personalities like Phil Johnson and James White are drawing the attention of those who are serious about theology in our day.

Pastors in idolatry?

I think the most crucial issue raised was this question:

Do you really think there are pastors in doctrinally sound churches out there, giving their all to the Lord, living holy lives as best they can, who need to repent of idolatry? That’s the implication of what you’re saying—and that’s a very big call to make.

While I agree that our pastors are generally giving their all to the Lord and living holy lives as best they can, my response to this question is, yes, all of us are chronic idolaters. That is the basis of the gospel.

That I would call our movement to repent of its tendency to idolatry in this area should be neither surprising nor scandalous.

Do our churches really have this tendency?

The statement was made:

It is rather a sweeping statement to say that [excessive commitment to cultural manifestations of Christianity] characterises the movement as a whole, or much of the movement in the Australian context.

It is indeed a sweeping statement.

Again, I would never want to suggest that the problem is universal. On the other hand, I would not want to suggest that it is not generally true.

I hesitate to do this, for fear of getting side-tracked on these issues, but I’ll give examples of just two areas in which our movement generally puts culture/tradition above truth.

1) Dress.

While this is not a universal trait, and less and less so as time goes by, it is still common in IB circles for dress to be an issue beyond what God says.

God says we are to carry ourselves modestly.

Our churches have added much to that. To highlight the point, let me ask several questions:

  • If your pastor showed up to preach Sunday night in shorts and thongs, would it cause a stir in your church? If so, why?
  • If your pastors wife were to show up at prayer meeting wearing shorts, would anyone notice? If so, why?
  • If a young man regularly wore jeans to church, would that affect your decision to give him ministry opportunities? If so, why?
  • If a visitor showed up wearing shorts and a t-shirt, would you assume they were unchurched or from a Liberal church? If so, why?

None of these scenarios are addressed in Scripture except the last one (addressed in James) where people treat a visitor differently based on his clothes and presentation.

Still, you will be pressed to find a photo in an Australian Fundamentalist publication that shows women in pants or men in church wearing less than a tie. Not necessarily because the publisher has any issue with it, but because of a general sensitivity to this issue.

This sensitivity is based solely on culture and tradition. God’s word does not address it in the least. But that is not important. What is important is culture and tradition.

2) Texts/translations.

I completely agree that each church should make their own decisions on matters such as what translation to use and what approach to take toward preservation.

Therefore, I have no problem with a church coming down in a different place from me. As long as the decision is based on God’s word and the truth, not culture and tradition.

Of course to do that, you have to discuss the issues. And yet time and time again, such discussion is hailed as divisive. The power brokers of the movement often work behind the scenes to see that those who open such discussion are shut down. This is not conjecture or guessing. I see these types of transactions occurring on a regular basis.

So I have no concern with people holding a different position from me on this issue. So what is my concern? My concern is that the arguments that are given are not valid. In other words, pastors routinely use factually inaccurate, misleading, logically invalid arguments for their positions and seem impervious to those who would point out the problems.

I’ll give you one example. One book that is widely used in our movement seeks to point out the serious omissions in the New International Version. But almost the whole of the book is spent addressing comparative differences in translation rather than addressing the textual variants or grammatical issues that underlie those differing translations. Instead, the omissions are generally presented as being merely the attempt of wicked men to pervert God’s word.

Now I have no interest in defending that particular translation. But an honest person with their eyes half open can see that the above mentioned book is openly misleading. It relies on the ignorance of its readers to mask the fact that it isn’t even addressing the real issue (which is the underlying textual variants, grammar/syntax issues, etc.).

And yet the author of this book is in good standing with the movement and the book is still provided in even the more moderate of our institutions.

A word about Fundamentalism

Many argue that “Fundamentalism” doesn’t matter because it is too hard to define and no two Fundamentalists agree on what it means. While there is some validity to those points, I am firmly convinced that movements and labels are an inescapable part of human existence. Those who walk away from the movements and ignore labels invariably wind up grouping and taking on a new label, whether by intention or not.


I would never want to cast doubt on the “legitimacy of people’s love for the Lord or zeal for His church.” On the other hand, neither of those things preclude the human tendency toward idolatry and error.

As a general note, please note that I have not named any church/individual/etc. in a negative context and will remove any such references that are made in comments.

I very much appreciate those who challenge my thinking. It benefits me because it forces me to think through my points more carefully and it also forces me to consider the evidence for my views.

Finally, I want to say briefly that my heart is for the welfare of all those who faithfully preach the gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. If I seem to be tearing down in this post, know that it is only in order that it might be rebuilt aright.


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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at


  1. PJ 27 July, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Jason, thank you for this very generous reply. I appreciate your time and consideration. Your points are well made – this is the kind of mature and reasoned debate that we need.

    While there’s more I could say on the points you’ve put forward, but I’ll leave it to others to pick up the thread.

    Thanks again and more power to you and this site!

  2. Steve 27 July, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Interesting post Jason, you have obviously been thinking about these things for awhile.

    I think some self evaluation and critique is a good thing, and perhaps needs to be done more often. I take it this was your intention.

    I agree with some of the points you make, especially the former glory of the idependent baptist movement here in Australia. While that was before my time, with the benefit of hindsight and detachment, I will say that the failure of the movement in many places was solely due to a lack of focus on the word of God. There was no depth in the teaching/preaching and when adversity came, the churches withered away. This comes as no surprise, as this principle is seen time and time again in the Bible.

    I can only comment on the present state of the churches in our immediate vicinity here, and I am not as pessimistic as you are. I see young pastors who preach the word faithfully, who are building up their congregations not just in numbers (which can be deceptive) but in spiritual maturity. I see expositional preaching and thorough exegesis of the word of God the likes of which I have not seen before.
    Young men who love the word and who love God’s people.

    Issues like dress and bible translations are not even issues because the people are busy feeding on the word. That’s the way it should be.

    Sure there are still problems but God willing they will be solved using God’s wisdom, as found in His word.

    I really can’t comment on the state of churches in other areas but as long as there are people like you who are willing to take a good, hard, honest look at where the church is at, then things will be OK.

  3. Alen Basic 27 July, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    2 posts by Jason in a single day? I must be dreaming! Thanks for the posts Jason, they’re as usual very thought provoking.

  4. TheOlderMen_1611KJVonly_NoPantsOnWomen 29 July, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    The only “crisis” is in Jason’s mind. These rants are masterpieces of ignorance.

    To help confused readers, let me define some terms that Jason uses:

    “Young men”: Not young men, but individuals who have been influenced by writers such as Piper, and institutions such as BJU, and who have departed from fundamentalism. That is, people who Jason hangs out with.

    “Older men”: Not old men, but those who have remained steadfast to militant Biblical fundamentalism. That is, the people who Jason used to hang out with.

    “The truth”: Anything Jason Harris believes.

    Now, as to some of the points raised:

    The “decline” in fundamental education institutions and fellowships, and the “explosion” of “conservative” (now THERE’S a relative term) evangelical influence amongst the “young men”. If it is true, then what does it prove? Are we saying that popularity equates to God’s blessing? Should we reprove Paul for the “decline” in his popularity? (2 Timothy 4:16). If anything, we should be wary of those religious movements that “explode” into popularity, and the leaders of these movements who receive the adulation of the world (Luke 6:26). (See the reference to Time magazine.)

    With regards to the accusations of idolatry, the greatest idolatry I have seen is amongst the “young men” (1 Kings 12:10) who hang on every word of their “prophets” like Piper, White and MacArthur. (Note the name dropping in Jason’s rant.)

    With regards to dress standards, the argument that certain scenarios are “not addressed in Scripture” is the same one used by the CCM movement when justifying “christian rock”. “The Bible doesn’t specifically say that rock music is bad, so let’s use it,” they say. “But,” we reply, “there are principles regarding music in the Bible that show us what is godly and what is ungodly.” The same can be said for dress. There are principles throughout the Bible that demonstrate we can glorify God through our dress, and dishonour Him through it also. (Eg, you can recognise a harlot by simply looking at her attire (Proverbs 7:10)). The people I know don’t have a problem weaing their “Sunday best” to church, because they love the Lord and want to honour Him in every way, including in how they adorn their bodies.

    As for Texts/Translations, this one goes beyond ignorance to outright dishonesty. The book refered to: [REMOVED FOR VIOLATION OF RULES], is available online through the [REMOVED] website. Jason’s assertion that “almost the whole of the book is spent addressing comparative differences in translation rather than addressing the textual variants or grammatical issues that underly those differing translations” is plainly false. I would encourage readers to download the pdf of the book and see for themselves that [REMOVED] does indeed make comparisons between the KJV and the NIV, but explains the background of many of these variations with reference to textual evidence. The fact is that numerous chapters in the book deal in detail with manuscript evidence and related issues. To say, as Jason did, that the book relies on readers’ ignorance and does not adrdress issues such as “underlying textual variants, grammar/syntax issues, etc” really relies more on Jason’s readers’ ignorance than anyone’s.

    There are many scholarly works that provide the arguments Jason is pining for. See books by Dean John Burgon, David Otis Fuller, Thomas Holland, Sam Gipp, Donald Waite, David Cloud, William Grady, etc. Jason says, “My concern is that the arguments that are given are not valid.” No, his concern is that these men reject the textual criticism that he embraces.

    It is a tragedy to see anyone who once stood for the truth, become beguiled by error, and then seek to tear down those he once stood with, but the more I read of Jason, the more I support his blacklisting among the independent baptist churches of Australia. (Romans 16:17-18).

    The Older Men (Jeremiah 6:16)

  5. Jason Harris 29 July, 2010 at 11:12 pm


    Much is left up to perception I suppose. If good things are happening in your corner of the country, I’m thankful to hear it.


    Thanks for the comment, though it does seem a bit jaundiced. I could be forgiven for feeling that there was a personal edge to your comments. Since I don’t know who you are, I can’t really address that with you privately. Perhaps you could drop me an email if there are personal offences to be addressed. Otherwise, if you feel you need to publicly call for my “blacklisting,” I feel it would be honourable to do so under your real name rather than anonymously.

    As far as young/old men, I don’t mean to imply that age is the sole, or even the primary delineation in this issue. For instance, last week I gave several older men as examples of “Young Fundamentalists.” This isn’t about age primarily, but it does tend to be the younger generation that is sorting through these issues at this time.

    Your warning about explosive movements is well taken. The #1 response to that TIME article by the “new Calvinists” was fear that it would make Calvinism popular. They argued that the previous persecution was much better for them.

    I agree with you that all of our hearts are idol factories and we can idolise Piper, White, and MacArthur just as well as others idolise Hyles, Chappell, and Jones. That said, you will note that my “name dropping” was a question of fact. I gave no personal evaluation of these men.

    Again, I completely agree with you that we have principles by which to make our dress decisions. It’s just that your logic is invalid. Pants do not necessarily equal immodest (there are plenty of situations in which pants are inarguably more modest than dresses). Sunday best does not necessarily equal appropriate for Sunday (Can you afford a tux? Do you wear one?). It’s just bad logic. I believe we should “carefully exegete both the Scriptures and the culture and seek to apply the former to the latter in order to reach a geoculturally contemporary expression of Christianity.”

    I have indeed considered the writings of the men you mention. Some of it puts forward reasonable arguments that should be considered. Much of it is self-published rubbish. I’d be happy to discuss these books in more depth and even do a public debate provided that you are willing to read books of the opposite persuasion and carry your side of the argument (and of course do so under your real name).

    Grace to you.

  6. Al Garlando 30 July, 2010 at 12:53 am

    As one who has been previously “black listed” it still amazes me that anyone who asks honest questions with a view to genuinely “contend for the faith” is greeted with the same response.

    How on earth matters of education institutions, clothing etc constitute an offense contrary to the doctrine of the gospel (which is THE matter under discussion in Romans) is completely beyond me.

    Cowardly pot shots are not characteristic of the so-called “old men … who have remained steadfast to militant Biblical fundamentalism” in years past – so why would someone hiding behind an alias pretend to align themselves that way? IF you have legitimate feedback why not discuss and debate it openly? As a contemporary of King James once said, “truth will out”. Surely debate and discussion is a healthy thing, not to be feared or “black listed”?

  7. PJ 30 July, 2010 at 9:21 am

    “Answering Questions on the Current Crisis” is Jason’s reply to concerns I raised about his original post on the crisis in fundamentalism. I believe Jason gave my concerns fair consideration and was highly respectful in answering them.

    While I disagree with Jason on some points I believe the comments posted by ‘TheOlderMen_1611KJVonly_NoPantsOnWomen’ have significantly lowered the tone of the debate and are contrary to the spirit of exchange this site endeavours to maintain. Personal attack is the lowest form of argument and they are symptomatic of exactly the problems with fundamentalism that Jason raised.

  8. cecil 1 August, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Jason, I fondly recall several of the discussions we had together in Greenville. I rejoice that you are still passionately pursuing truth and charitably communicating it with others. Praying for you.

  9. Jason Harris 1 August, 2010 at 5:34 pm


    I rejoice often in the fellowship we had that year and pray for you as I do.

  10. Steve 4 August, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Just wanted to make a comment re. dress standards in churches. It is difficult, if not impossible to see matters like dress standards outside of the context of culture and tradition. What is acceptable in our culture is not acceptable in another culture. Examples abound as to this point.
    What I’m saying is that in these issues that the Bible does not address in much detail (eg modesty), it is left to us to make the decisions based on our own cultural norms and standards or traditions, as well as other factors like the weaker brethren principle, wisdom, etc.

    What do you think?

  11. Jason Harris 4 August, 2010 at 11:00 am


    Yes. Absolutely. And unfortunately what I think we’re seeing happen is that we’re applying Scripture to the culture of Fundamentalism instead of the culture we actually live in. This tends to perpetuate Fundamentalist culture instead of adapting to whatever culture it actually exists in.

    The application of biblical principles should look different in different places… Europe vs Australia, city vs country, warm climate vs cold climate, etc.

    If it just looks the same as it does when it’s applied on the campus of [insert favourite Fundamentalist college/church], then we’re probably confusing Scripture with culture.

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