By the request of a number of telephone calls and correspondences to the editor of Straightway, the following article is the exact message written by Dr. O. Talmadge Spence for the panel. It was read by his son, Dr. H. T. Spence, in his father's absence because of a voice problem of recent months. We are presenting it in this issue by those requests.
July 7, Wednesday Afternoon, 1:30 PM - Panel: "Pastors/Preachers: Facing the Future Trends"
My father, Dr. O. Talmadge Spence, wanted me to preface his written presentation for this Congress with his regrets of being absent. Although he is blessed with unusually good health, he is presently suffering from a throat condition that hinders him from public speaking. He requests your prayers for a complete recovery. Also, as his son, I welcome the opportunity of filling in for him. His remarks are as follows:
The appearance of the human happenings in history may be understood in only a few ways: one, history tends to be a series of driftings as it did for over sixteen hundred years after Adam; or, two, history may appear to man through a catastrophe as it did between the days of Noah and the Tower of Babel; or three, history may appear to man as only a trend or turning point in human affairs. However, behind all human history stands our sovereign Lord in complete control, directing all things.
It is the "trends," however, the smaller tendencies in history, which deceive mankind the most. I quickly outline five major trends which we, as Fundamentalists, must face around the world in our time.
First, we must remember that historic Fundamentalism began about one hundred years ago. It was a magnificent hour. Men took a stand with such conviction that they were either defrocked by their denomination and seminary, or they made a voluntary exodus of separation for the fundamentals of the Bible. In those same days, men of different denominations laid aside the denominational agenda and sought an agenda from God. In a personal study I made of only 218 early Fundamentalists, 91 were Baptists; 59 were Presbyterians; 20, Non-denominational; 15, Methodists; 11, Congregationalists; 17, Brethren; 6, Anglicans; 4, Lutherans; 3, Salvation Army; and 2, Missionary Alliance.
There is a trend now, and it is not evil, that after paying the price of being successful in church planting, building, and programs, to think of Fundamentalism only in a denominational context. We must be sure, at this point in our history, that we do not view Fundamentalism as denominationalism. The denominational trend is dangerous for our future as a pattern to follow in these ecumenical times when a host of heresies has permeated the entire protestant system. There also remains the Body of Christ around the world. This is said to strengthen the need of fundamentalists.
Bob Jones University, a place where I, as a freshman student, was saved by the grace of God, was founded with a precious "interdenominational" identity, and it has been a great leader in our cause. Students came from a number of denominations and then became fundamentalists. I was one of them.
The fellowships between John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards would be an example of this spirit in the Body of Christ. There is a great need of our returning to that first spirit in Fundamentalism. This trend needs to return to us in full force as it was when the battle was so thick we needed the fellowship and strength of every possible member of the Body of Christ to fight the war. Will Fundamentalism die because of the lack of warriors. Our testimony of this spirit could restrain confusion among some denominations that we are a cult. This spirit keeps the "hyper" position of theological systems from rising up and getting away from the balanced fundamentals of the infallible, inspired, and inerrant Word of God.
Second, there is already a definite trend to soften the precious Biblical teaching of "separation." This is appearing in several ways. The standards in many Christian schools are completely gone. Often this has been the result of parents. Of course, there have been some among us who have changed from an earlier position in musical standards. There is no united definition among us of what is to be our scriptural and separatist position concerning music as a testimony in our contemporary world. Every fundamentalist must be involved in the musical catastrophe: music is too tragedian in our time for silence or compromise. There has been no direct action taken by any Congress in the matter of music as far as a principle to follow for fundamentalists. Many at the grassroots are actually floundering in the sea of a contemporary Christian music. Still others no longer care for the burden of choice in the matter because we have neglected a position on music by the Congresses and they know not what to do. The breakdown has now appeared on both sides of the Atlantic concerning music in our fellowship. We seem to be getting further and further away in our testimony for the noble practice and meaning of music. Performance and the chordality-arrangement of the music itself has often overwhelmed the congregation in simple worship with music. We must not follow certain composers, arrangers, and personalities in Christian music who are drunkards or on drugs, or those who fellowship the apostasy. We pray for a return to the classical and traditional hymns of our English and American musical heritage without the modern attachments, extensions, arrangements, and fashions of this art form. We must not change the theme and chord-progression of our historical hymns. It is unethical to change the composer's song. Brethren, we should choose musicians like we do preachers.
The third trend is most encouraging to us. There is the trend among a considerable number, we believe, to keep faith and spirit with the men of the past who went before us, who are now our best examples. Some of those men still live among us; a number have already gone to heaven. But while they lived with us we imbibed their ministries, their hopes, their messages, their love. Fundamentalism is the most recent remnant movement God has chosen for our time. We must respect its historical place in all of church history. History, today, is a fragile entity everywhere. Men are rewriting history—or trying to—to suit their own modern purpose. We must not rewrite Fundamentalism to suit our own changes and/or presuppositions. Rather, we must plead for its revival and survival today. This will identify us with former remnants who stood tall and true for the Word of God in their time when trends and tangents were adverse to the ways of God. We must remember them: the Pilgrims and the Puritans, against the Church of England; the Reformers, against Rome; the Revivalists, against lukewarmness and backsliding of the church; and the pious divines who were against mere scholarship without holy living and holy dying. Let us not forget their obedience to Christ in all.
The fourth trend concerns a direct evangelism of the lost into the teaching and training of young people to fill the ranks as Fundamentalists. This is our greatest challenge. The young men among us today have not been in the battle yet. They were only born when we were in the battle. We do not expect them to be fully aware of the war of the past, but we must teach them to use the sling and the bow. The battle before us now is greater than the battle behind us, and the artistry of error increases. We must train the young to be both militant against the apostasy and magnificent for the Lord. There still remains in our generation the apostasy of neo-orthodoxy, neo-pentecostalists, the charismatics, the neo-evangelicals, cults, as well as the ecumenical movement in its larger proliferation. There is no indication that this will change in the immediate future unless God uses us. The push is on: (quote) "return all protestants back to Rome" (unquote). Dr. Billy Graham has gone into still deeper excursions with his ecumenical movement. When he dies, it will still live. He has fallen in love with his generation. We have carefully watched this development in him since the 1950s. The Promise Keepers are typical of fellowships with Romanism. The Charismatics continue to follow their own extant "revelations" and "voices," in their famine of the hearing of the Word of God.
The fifth and final trend is already standing in the wings of the modern stage of our world. It is the fact that we are indeed nearing a global world. Everywhere in the Holy Scriptures we are warned of the Empires—that they are empowered by both antichrist personalities and false prophets. Many things are already in place—international legal channels, monetary money systems, and political compromises which edge us on to the destruction of the nations. In reaction to this, we must maintain our Biblical view of national government as God ordained it in total contrast against the empires. We need to respect and preserve love for God, home, and country, with especial emphasis upon the distinctive culture, custom, and Christianity of the unique nations of earth. America has had such a past; Northern Ireland has one; England has had one; and Europe and Germany have lost one. This return to national government must be brought about in a pluralistic society announcing to all mankind that God so loved the world, and Christ so loved the Church.
In conclusion, let no one of us take these trends in our time lightly. Let no one think of these trends to stir controversy or trouble among ourselves. I have faithfully loved all six Congresses and our leaders since 1976. I cannot measure the blessing it has been of knowing you in such a testimony of our time during a universal apostasy. God has been very gracious to me in this since I quit being a puritan in an apostate system and became a pilgrim as a fundamentalist. I want to die with these duties and delights.
O. Talmadge Spence