Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 4

NickOfTime

Fundamentalism and Populism

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Prior to Thomas Reid and Scottish Common Sense Realism, people typically recognized a distinction between appearances (whether understood as perceptions, phenomena, or, in Locke’s case, ideas) and reality. From antiquity until the late Middle Ages, this distinction had produced two effects upon the way that most people thought about reality. First, they reckoned that whatever reality they encountered had to be interpreted—and not everyone was in an equally good position to do the interpreting. Second, they believed that reality possessed dimensions of meaning or significance that stretched well beyond sensory awareness. Grasping those levels of meaning was also something that not everyone was equally qualified to do.

Common Sense Realists denied the distinction between appearance and reality. They insisted that perceiving subjects have direct and unmediated access to reality itself. Consequently, reality does not need to be interpreted—it is as it appears to be. This move had the effect of placing every person on an equal footing for understanding any aspect of reality.

As presented by people like Reid and Dugald Stewart, Common Sense Realism was a responsible if misguided academic option. Ironically, however, many of the people who appropriated and applied Reid’s conclusions would not have been capable of understanding his arguments. Chief among them were Americans.

Even before Reid, Americans had begun to affirm the competence of the ordinary person in all matters. This perspective is called populism. The harshness of the American frontier and the necessity of individual accomplishment tended to negate aristocratic influences. The sense that they were starting anew gave Americans an antipathy toward traditions. The arrival of Common Sense Realism confirmed the populist prejudice and opened the throttle for its acceleration. This process continued throughout the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian periods.

At the time of the American Revolution, populism was widely (though not universally) assumed by American Christians. The influence of populism continued to grow during the first half of the Nineteenth Century. Under its sway, many expressions of American Christianity became anti-traditional, anti-clerical, and anti-intellectual. Branches of American evangelicalism rejected the value of creeds and confessions, of advanced study (sometimes of any specialized study), and of a trained ministry. The ideal became the individual who, without any particular theological training, read the Bible and came to his own convictions. Such individuals, if articulate, could become the leaders of significant communities and movements.

Some of those movements turned out to be less than evangelical. Seventh-Day Adventism owes its origins to this period, as does the Stone-Campbell movement. Indeed, this was a time when novel sects and cults were beginning to abound.

Among evangelicals, populism contributed to and was fed by the Second Great Awakening. It produced the camp-meeting movement, and, at a slightly later period, the urban revivalists. The most influential of these was Charles Grandison Finney.

Finney is widely remembered for the spectacular results of his meetings. His main contribution, however, lay in systematizing and nearly canonizing the methods of populistic revivalism. He spelled out his theological underpinnings in his Systematic Theology, but expounded most of his methodology in his Memoirs and his Revivals of Religion.

For Finney, the normal Christian life is one of decline. Left to themselves, believers are easily distracted by the cares of the world and they will quickly backslide. In order to interrupt this backsliding, their attention must be refocused from temporal things onto spiritual things.

In order to do that, the preacher first has to get their attention. On the one hand (according to Finney), this required him to eliminate the preaching of any doctrines that were not immediately practical in nature. On the other hand, gathering a crowd and gaining their attention required novelty.

Finney insisted that, since God has not ordained any specific methods, the preacher is free to develop his own methodology. Effectiveness is the key to choosing techniques. Finney argued for the necessity of novelty, and he suggested that Christians should look at techniques that had proven successful in the worlds of commerce, politics, and entertainment.

For Finney, appropriating these techniques was an aspect of spiritual wisdom. Indeed, the spiritual wisdom of any preacher or Christian leader could be gauged by counting the numbers who responded. Finney was quite explicit at this point: “The amount of a minister’s success in winning souls (other things being equal) invariably decides the amount of wisdom he has exercised in the discharge of his office.”1

These ideas put a new twist on the old populism. They had the effect of pegging the internal methods of the church to whatever techniques were dominant in the surrounding secular culture. They also linked, for the first time, Christian gathering to secular entertainment. The results of this move would prove to be profound.

The time when Finney was experimenting with his new measures and articulating his ideas was the very time when popular culture was emerging for the first time. A discussion of popular culture will require separate treatment. At this point, only two observations need to be offered. First, popular culture is mass-produced culture, and as such it could not exist before the invention of the steam-powered printing press in the early 1800s. Second, popular culture is commercial culture, and as such it is intrinsically secularizing and sensationalizing.

Finney’s methods were developed just prior to the explosion of popular culture. He could not have foreseen the wedding that was about to occur between his methods and the new direction in culture, nor could he have foreseen where the newly-invented popular culture was eventually going to lead. Even so, the adaptation to popular culture came to characterize American Christianity during the latter half of the Nineteenth Century.

All of this occurred long before Fundamentalism arose as an identifiable movement. Nevertheless, populism was a significant aspect of the milieu out of which Fundamentalism emerged. Certainly Fundamentalism reflected the evangelical context that gave it birth.

The results of populism can be traced throughout the history of the fundamentalist movement. Fundamentalism has typically displayed the populist contempt for tradition, for learning, and for an educated ministry. It has defined spiritual success in terms of numerical results. It has envisioned Christian gathering (one hesitates to call it worship) as a form of amusement, and it has struggled to maintain itself in the face of a continually-changing popular culture. Wherever Fundamentalism has flourished, it has done so by appealing to and building upon some aspect of the popular culture.

Many will object that this description does not fairly characterize all Fundamentalists, and that objection certainly carries weight. Nevertheless, as Les Ollila once observed, “The problem with pragmatism is that it does work.”2 When a less populist version of Fundamentalism has been forced to make common cause with a more populist version, the more populist version has almost always dominated through sheer force of numbers. The result is that today virtually all churches, and certainly all institutions within Fundamentalism, have been influenced by the populist outlook.

People like to pride themselves upon being able to make their own choices and develop their own opinions. The fact is, though, that not everyone is equally qualified to make every choice or to hold every opinion. When unqualified people are asked to develop opinions and to make choices, they invariably look for leadership—often, the kind of leadership that will lead them to believe that they are acting on their own, while manipulating or stampeding them into doing its will. That kind of demagoguery has come to typify some branches of Fundamentalism.

Fundamentalism is a great idea. It deserves to be preserved and defended. Almost universally, however, the Fundamentalist movement either began or has become populist. Indeed, many Fundamentalists defend populist perspectives as if they are important aspects of the Christian faith. The populist dynamic helps to explain how Fundamentalism has reached the point at which it stands today.

1 Charles Grandison Finney, Lectures on Revivals of Religion, Christian Classics reprint edition (Virginia Beach, VA: CBN University Press, 1978), 189.

2 Les Ollila, forward to Douglas R. McLachlan, Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism (Independence, Mo.: American Association of Christian Schools, 1993), vi.

Frescoes in an Old Church

Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

Six centuries now have gone
Since, one by one,
These stones were laid,
And in air’s vacancy
This beauty made.

They who thus reared them
Their long rest have won;
Ours now this heritage—
To guard, preserve, delight in, brood upon;
And in these transitory fragments scan
The immortal longings in the soul of Man.


This essay is by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). Not every professor, student, or alumnus of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.

 

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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First, thanks to Kevin for two essays I've found especially stimulating.

I do believe there is harm in Common Sense, common sense, and populism.
But I also believe there is good in them and that overreacting against them is as harmful as anything in them. Kevin is emphasizing the harm in them (perhaps for the best of reasons). In the interest of completing the picture, maybe I can point out some of the good in them.

Kevin Bauder wrote:
Prior to Thomas Reid and Scottish Common Sense Realism, people typically recognized a distinction between appearances (whether understood as perceptions, phenomena, or, in Locke’s case, ideas) and reality. From antiquity until the late Middle Ages, this distinction had produced two effects upon the way that most people thought about reality. First, they reckoned that whatever reality they encountered had to be interpreted—and not everyone was in an equally good position to do the interpreting.

I'm not disputing the gist of this, but it may be a bit overstated. It's not like the Common-Sense-Realist farm hand in 1935 went out into his field, saw a cow and thought "That's a cow," but a pre-Enlightenment farm hand in 1235 went out in to his field, saw a cow and thought "That sure looks like a cow. I wonder what it really is. Maybe I should ask someone more qualified to interpret it."

Yes, before Enlightenment philosophy came along, people were generally more inclined to distrust their perceptions and reasonings, and generally more inclined to value the judgment of their "betters." (It helped that most ordinary people were illiterate and only lived to be forty!)
But there has never been an era in history when people questioned their perception of most of the things they encountered in a typical day. (I'm talking about people here, not philosophers! Biggrin )

So, to the degree Common Sense Realism rejected some of the foolishness of the day and gave the 1935 farm boy "permission" to call a cow a cow without embarrasement, it was a good thing. Likewise for the Fundamentalist who read "In the beginning God created" and figured it meant pretty much what it said. For that, I salute Thomas Reid (but, really, did most farm hands care if any philosopher approved of their common sense... did most fundamentalists either?)

It's also not hard to see some good in populism, though I think I'm almost as averse to that as Kevin is (I would not have spent 4 years in college and 5 more in seminary if I believed I could do just as well without them).

It was egalitarianism--populism's close cousin--that said if the commoner may not kill his neighbor and take his wife, the aristocrat should not be permitted to kill the commoner's neighbor and take his wife either. And it is populism that has encouraged untold millions to believe that being a third generation son of a shoe shiner doesn't mean you can't become a lawyer, writer, statesman, musician, president, or anything else.
(It really does pain me to say anything good about populism, but there it is.)

Lets remember, too, that belief in "the competence of the ordinary person in all matters" is partly justified. The same printing press that made "pop culture" possible, also gave the increasingly literate "ordinary person" of that era much more knowledge and competence in thinking for himself than many generations of his predecessors. So the ordinary person is more competent in many matters than than he used to be (though I think this competence has been on the decline again for a while now).

Is every ordinary person competent in all matters? No way. (Anybody want the pizza guy to remove a tumor from your brain? I hear he's a real bargain!) Populism's confusion on what exactly all ordinary people are capable of is a real problem in our culture as well as in Fundamentalism (though I think evangelicalism in general is really no better off on that score).

All I'm saying is that there are elements of Common Sense Realism that corrected extremes that preceded it and that avoid extremes that have followed it. The same is true of populism.

To put it biblical terms, shouldn't we accept bits of wisdom regardless of what philosophical system happens to be mixing them in with their less helpful ideas? Let's just be careful not to throw out what's wise along with what's foolish.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Hey Kevin,

I hope your philosophy is pointed to what I think you want your conclusions to be. I would love to be able to respond at the end of all of this with........

"I wonder how you balance your commitment to a Biblical approach to congregationalism (you are a Baptist?) with your philosophical antipathy for "populism?" Sometimes you just have to hate exegesis. It ruins great philosophy and gets in the way of consistent theology. I wonder...did God make a mistake on the occasions he handed untrained congregants the ability to make decisions? Perhaps God should have just handed over decision-making to a selected few? Don't you think God really meant for more "votes" to go to the more educated? Certainly we should allow only the deepest of thinkers to chart the course....that's far better than anyone else. I mean you can't have just anyone lead....what would that do for the most important of us? Isn't that Presbyterianism? You are a Baptist...... right Kevin? I mean if just anyone could serve, lead or influence you might end up with simple "fishermen" serving as Apostles. No way God would allow that travisty! I'm enjoying the hole you're digging! It's beautiful....it's deep.....it's philosophical....very German of you! Go baby go!"

I'm sure I'll not be so lucky (As your friend Finney would say)....At the end you'll answer all your critics....and they will love you for it. You'll be the perfect picture of grace and logic. You'll have it all spelled just so....you'll use Latin.....the evangelicals will hail you as the perfect picture of a fundamentalism they agree with. The FBF will burn you in effigy! Young Fundamentalist will make songs of you. There will be new slogans, "I want to be like Kevin!" Beason will give you a degree this time. How do you do this? Do you actually ever sleep? On behalf of the masses of the illiterate...you are amazing! We like the idea of not having a voice in the face of overwhelming......."stuff" ("stuff" is very "hip" Kevin). Is it true that the Illuminati have asked you to join the Trilateral Commission? I'm sure you'll be the first fundamentalist to ever serve with them.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Joel,
I'm a bit unclear on what your point is there... (I don't have a good ear for sarcasm or irony so I often get confused when people use them... seriously). At the moment I'm feeling tempted to sort of switch sides and defend anti-populism again.
I personally believe congregationalism has been taken way too far in many churches and that the NT model does indeed concentrate more decisions in the hands of a few (but never a single individual) who are qualified to be leaders. Hence, the detailed and repeated qualifications in the pastoral epistles, and the injunctions to obey those who have the rule over you. So I'm not sure what you're your getting at there.

The fishermen --> apostles phenomenon is a good case study. What happened is that Jesus spent 3 1/2 yrs training them so they would be qualified. The elitist attitudes of, say, 18th century Great Britain would have tended to say that your birth is a huge factor in your abilities so no fisherman can become a church leader. In that sense, the populism of later times softened these attitudes and said it's not about your breeding, where you grew up, etc.
But modern populism tends to bristle at the idea that Jesus selected twelve to "be with Him" and be trained for some decision-making that would not be shared by the rest of the disciples.

So elitism sort of says "Your background means you cannot become qualified." Modern populist confusion tends to say "You don't even have to be qualified."
Neither of these is wisdom. (And congregational polity--with biblical limits--does not depend on populism)

SDHaynie's picture

I have always enjoyed Dr. Bauder's essays. They are good for producing some heavy-duty thinking in me. I need that! As a teacher of church history, I am very interested in this set of lectures.
However, as I read this essay a few questions came to mind.
Joel T. beat me to the first one:

Joel Tetreau wrote:

"I wonder how you balance your commitment to a Biblical approach to congregationalism (you are a Baptist?) with your philosophical antipathy for "populism?" Sometimes you just have to hate exegesis. It ruins great philosophy and gets in the way of consistent theology.

The second one, related to Joel's question is:
Where does this leave the doctrine of the "body." At the very least, an extreme interpretation of the essay would seem to eliminate this. For example, in a church we may have an ordained, seminary-trained individual who has been saved for 40 plus years...we may also have a new member who has been saved and baptized and in the membership for less than a month. In the context of the "body" shouldn't they each contribute to the spiritual life and growth of one another? Obviously, the former ought to contribute much more to the relationship because he is hopefully more mature. But by the same token, the more mature Christian should not shun the possibility of gaining something from his fellowship with the new believer simply because he philosophically rejects populism. The new believer is still a part of the "body" and as such can make significant contributions.
The third:
Where does the Illumination of the Holy Spirit in the reading, interpreting, and application of Scripture come into this? I, as Aaron B. said of himself...am not a thorough-going populist...I did go to Bible College and Seminary and would love to further my formal education. But the doctrines of the indwelling and illumination of the Holy Spirit, at least as I learned and believe them, force me to conclude that all believers have the capacity to read, interpret, and apply Scriptures for themselves. Certainly, God has also ordained preaching. Furthermore, I think a proper understanding of the Inspiration of Scriptures, as well as their Preservation and Transmission, behooves us to sharpen our interpretative tools whenever and wherever possible. However, we cannot escape the fact that ALL have the right and privilege of reading, interpreting, and applying Scriptures for themselves.
Dr. Bauder is a thorough thinker. Perhaps these questions will be answered in a future essay. Perhaps I am taking too extreme an interpretation of what he is saying in this essay. Certainly, I agree with his take on Finney in this and other essays in which Finney has been mentioned. I have very little appreciation for the influence of Finney on the modern church. But I just thought I would share these questions because I believe they are important to keep in mind as we digest this article on Fundamentalism.

Shawn Haynie

Joseph's picture

Aaron,

I can't speak for Bauder' s intentions, but my own reading of what he's saying as well as my own understanding of populism, etc. is such that your responses are not directly relevant to what is being said here. The dominance of Common Sense realism and populism are not significant in relation to the everyman's taking his perceptions as generally reliable; so, all the stuff about the cow is simply missing the point. Immanuel Kant, for crying out loud, would have agreed with what you said there, because he saw himself as defending "common sense" against skepticism (the way he did that, and whether it worked, is what's so tricky), and he, like most philosophers, held to the general reliability of our knowledge-giving faculties. That's a non-issue. Philosophers have insisted that, speaking strictly, our perceptions are never faulty - rather ourjudgments are. Perceptions are the kinds of things that can be true or false; judgments based on perceptions are. That "I am being appeared to treely," as the jargon as it, is indubitably; that "There is a tree over there" is far from undubitable, and it's the move from the first to the second proposition that rightly comes in for much interrogation and criticism in philosophy and theology.

And one of the significant aspets of CSR and populism is precisely its undermining of a very proper care, attention, and, depending on the context and object, suspicion from philosophers and theologians directed towards human's capacity to judge accurately and with competence. The flattening of distinctions between different objects of knowledge and different modes of judgment (e.g. empirical, aesthetic, theoretical, etc.) and the consequent suspicion towards the notion that judgment as a faculty most be trained, that there is such a thing as good or bad judgment is one of the pernicious ways that populism, etc. shaped American culture, and it that kind of thing, I believe, that Bauder is rightly targeting. For, in this sense, there is no "good side" to populism because populism is affirming something inaccurate about human beings.

The nub of the matter is that general reliability of faculties like sight, etc. with respect to everyday activities leads to no determinate philosophical position regarding far more difficult matters, like how one properly reads a single book composed of 66 books that were canonized by the Christian church and held to be its foundational authority, or how it's possible for human beings, who by all appearences completely decay as material entities after death, to be immortal or to be bodily resurrected. In all of these issues one must not only take great care about matters philosophical and theological, but one must also manifest an attitude towards the issues commensurate with their nature, and part of that attitude, often resulting in divergent philosohpical positions, is that the process whereby humans acquire, justify, and can know that they have knowledge is exceedingly more complex than the man in the cow field's experience suggests.

One way of dealing with this complexity is to ignore it, to functionally deny it, and this is what most Americans do, and it's certainly what populism encourages, and that is an unmitigated disaster for responsible and careful thinking about anything: the Bible, theology, philosophy, politics, education - anything.

KevinM's picture

I love reading these. Maybe we’re reading the first draft of a good book?

I have one fear so far. One hand, we must embrace Bauder’s plan to rightly name and categorize our own history. His writing is a mirror that reveals both our gray hair and our acne. But as he writes on our behalf, we must also be wary. At times, a zeal for sermonic language can wander past naming and fall into mere pigeonholes. George Dollar made this mistake in his category-laden A History of Fundamentalism in America. Yes, George, it was possible to describe our movement with certain labels! But as we do this, we should also seek to understand the excluded middle (where many of us live and minister).

For instance, if we vilify revivalism as mere populism—or if we replace it with an intellectual opposite (elitism? aristocracy?)—we may miss the opportunity to learn why revival was necessary. Is there a place for a modified, chastened revivalism that (in intellectual humility) recognizes the failings of pragmatism but also searches for “effective” methods that are faithful to Scripture?

Charlie's picture

SDHaynie wrote:

Where does the Illumination of the Holy Spirit in the reading, interpreting, and application of Scripture come into this? I, as Aaron B. said of himself...am not a thorough-going populist...I did go to Bible College and Seminary and would love to further my formal education. But the doctrines of the indwelling and illumination of the Holy Spirit, at least as I learned and believe them, force me to conclude that all believers have the capacity to read, interpret, and apply Scriptures for themselves. Certainly, God has also ordained preaching. Furthermore, I think a proper understanding of the Inspiration of Scriptures, as well as their Preservation and Transmission, behooves us to sharpen our interpretative tools whenever and wherever possible. However, we cannot escape the fact that ALL have the right and privilege of reading, interpreting, and applying Scriptures for themselves.

I have been mulling over this for a few years; I am strongly considering doing my doctoral research on this topic (or on something that includes it). From the perspective of my current position, I would agree with something you said and disagree with something else. First, I agree that the Holy Spirit is our ultimate hope for understanding the Scripture and knowing God. In fact, everyone who has the Spirit does know God, and therefore understands at least a little bit of Scripture. Now, the disagreement. I think you are making the same mistake that is talked about here - a kind of hermeneutical populism. The mistake is failing to recognize the stratified nature of Christian theology and Scriptural teaching, as well as failing to consider that the Spirit 's guidance may be mediated indirectly, rather than directly to the individual.

So, first, the stratified nature of the Scripture. We all know that there are different levels of complexity to questions about Scripture. "Who were the twelve disciples?" is at the most basic level, sheer content with minimal interpretation. "What is the purpose of the book of Romans?" is at another level, requiring the analysis and digestion of a significant body of material, with quite a bit of induction, deduction, and rhetorical analysis. The question, "Why the Incarnation?" is at perhaps the highest level, considering the whole sweep of revelation, including meditation on God's nature and purposes. More "levels" could be adduced if we really wished.

OK, enough of that. We realize that not everyone is at the same point in their ability, yet every Christian has the same Spirit. What makes the difference, or, how do we move up levels? My answer and yours, I assume: the Holy Spirit. So, we've stated that every Christian has the same Holy Spirit, yet the Spirit is what differentiates people's understanding. Here's the harmonization - the Spirit works through gradual transformation, and He does this usually through mediate agents. We can think of Romans 12, where we are told that we are conformed to Christ by the transforming of our minds. This transformation, surely, is a lifelong process and includes both mental improvement and the removal of sinful impediments to our proper thinking about God. So, God is not at the same place with everyone.

But what we really need to discuss, to answer your question, is what methods the Spirit uses to accomplish this transformation. I submit a very non-populist, non-pietist answer to that question. The Holy Spirit does not pour knowledge into your head like an "inner light," or like a computer download. Rather, Ephesians 4 tells us that God gave us gifts to build us up in our doctrine - teachers (among others). God, then, works through these people to build up other people so that we "all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son" (v. 13). Now, God has given teachers to the church in every age, and if we neglect the witness of the teachers of the past, we are missing out on that much of the Spirit's work.

Now, obviously, God Spirit does work in other ways. I merely stress the above because it receives virtually no emphasis in the American "personal devotions" culture. I believe in personal Bible study, but I also note that the New Testament has a far greater emphasis on the corporate body and the teaching function of the elders, a hard thing for individualist Americans to swallow. So, in summary, I believe a person's understanding of Scripture will grow to the extent that the Spirit is working in him, and that a person can hinder the work of the Spirit in him by refusing to partake of ALL the Spirit's work, which is mediated through church teachers past and present, the Scripture, the edification of the body, family, and the Sacraments.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Seems relevant to observe at this point that students of philosophy here have been quick to remind us (as has Kevin Cool that we don't have a truly objective point of view to approach the Scriptures (or anything else) from.

I agree. What that means, though, in one very practical case, is anyone who has found his vocation tends to see it as having more value than those without that vocation do. Someone who sells vitamin brand x tends to believe it's the absolute most important stuff in the world. Athletes tend to see sports as really, really important to life. People with musical gifts tend to see music as the highest calling. Pastors tend to think of being a pastor as the highest of callings (I don't look at it that way myself, but most pastors I know do).

So here's my point: academics and students of philosophy tend to see academics and philosophy as having enormous importance. Especially if your whole life is centered on the ivory tower, you lose touch with where every one else (which happens to be the vast majority of people alive) lives and how they think.
I believe academics and philosophy are both very important and do shape the thinking of many people. But I do not see the internal disputes of philosophers and academicians as having the impact on society as whole (i.e., the rest of us) that those who live and work in these fields believe.

That SCSR and populism were influential in the Fundamentalist movement (and every other movement of that era) is quite evident. That there is an extremely strong and important link ... far less so.

I don't think anybody's denying that there are excesses in relying on/appealing to common sense and excesses in populistic thinking that infected the fund. movement and greatly weakened it. And really, its those excesses that matter, not whether they are attributable to particular philosophical currents. Not labels, as Kevin M put it.

Todd Wood's picture

I've been reading The Independent, the New York religious weekly. This weekly showcases President Charles G. Finney (135 years ago).

1. I read Finney's article on January 1, 1874. In "How to Overcome Sin", he takes to task the prominent professors of theology and President Edward's view on sanctification. He thinks that resolutions are terrible.

2. January 22, 1874 - There is an article, "The Revival Season" (unknown author) - ". . . Pastors, teachers, elders, deacons, classleaders, members, our most earnest word as Christian teachers is to you. For your church, for each one of you there is a blessing ready. It only needs to be taken. We believe there is to be this season a more than ordinary outpouring of God's Spirit and revival of his work. The churches in this city already begin to experience it. This is the way that error and infidelity are to be met, not so much by great champions who shall defend the truth of the Christian system as by an advance along the line. Christianity is to conquer by a soldiers' and not a generals' war. If you, believer, want your religion to gain the victory, you must gain it where you are, through your own church, in your own community. Remember, if you do not have a revival of religion in your own parish, it is all your fault. . . .

And it goes on in an awful way

"Nor do we say this simply for our so-called Evangelical readers. We speak to not a few who are members of what they may call a "Liberal" congregation. If you hold the Christian faith, though it be after the style of Origen or Arius, our message to you is yet the same. Prove that the spirit of Pentecost is in your churches. . . "

3. January 29, 1874 - In the article, "The Conditions of a Revival", here is the opening paragraph, "That old story of the Methodist circuit-rider who posted a notice on the door of the Western school-house to the effect that a revival would begin in that place the next Sunday evening at 7 o'clock has often been quoted as an illustration of pious presumption. But the error into which this good brother fell was much less prevalent and not much more dishonoring to God than the opposite error, which leads men to postpone all concerted and hopeful effort for the conversion of their neighbors until some unusual tokens of the presence of the Divine Spirit shall have been shown them. It is better to trust God too much than too little. The faith which borders on presumption is surely wiser than the unbelief which results in apathy."

4. February 12, 1874 - "The Temperance Revival" - Listen to this: ". . . . Perhaps most prominent of all is the fact that it is a woman's war. . . . The women, trusting partly in masculine forbearance, partly in their knowledge that the men in the community sustain them and would avenge any insult, and partly in God, we suppose, enter the rumseller's saloon, and sit down till he agrees to leave the business. . . . Even if their prayers were to fail, their persistent interference with the business would be enough to drive any money-loving man out of it. The class that buys whisky does not feel attracted to a prayer-meeting. It is not their style. Meanwhile, the praying and singing go on day after day on the very premises or in a booth opposite the door, until the worn-out vender yields."

5. February 19, 1874 - "When Is The Fallow Ground of the Soul Broken Up?" by President Charles G. Finney. He gives 8 points for "acceptable confession".

I am immersed in the history of American populistic revivalism.

Todd Wood's picture

The Independent (March 5, 1874) cries Hurrah!

I read an article, "Common Sense in Religion" based from the literature, Common Sense in Religion. A Series of Essays. By James Freeman Clarke. Boston: James R. Osgood & Co. 1873.

Opening paragraph - "It is some encouragement to know that, whereas one hundred years ago common sense was supposed to be the enemy of religion, it is now in some quarters claimed as the witness for religion. Thomas Paine, who arrayed the one against the other, was scarcely met on his own ground. To prophecy and miracles the appeal of the believers was made; and the notion of accepting the testimony of so prosaic a witness as common sense in behalf of truths so transcendent as those contained in Christian mysteries was regarded with certain disdain. Such, indeed, was not the method of old Butler, whose "Analogy" is the best mixture of common sense and religion ever yet made. But it was, to a great extent, the method of many lesser men, who sought to defend the Christian faith by arguments that were remote from human life and that could not be verified in human experience. The sign which this volume gives of a change of venue in the great cause of religion against infidelity is to be received with thanksgiving."

The Independent praises Clarke for bringing out common sense, but they thoroughly critique him for his broadbrushing American Evangelical Christianity with the Calvinistic orthodoxy of Princeton and Hartford, etc. They do not like Calvinism's doctrine of total depravity. In fact, they detest it.

Joseph's picture

Aaron,

I agree humans have a tendency to privilege whatever activity they end up pursuing over other activities, even if that is stupid.

However, I don't have that view of any of the disciplines I work in, except theology in a non-academic sense, and even there I don't think it's "more important" in some brute sense; rather that for Christians it shapes other things - but that does not mean academic theology or academic theologians are more important than anyone else. Some areas truly are more important than others, viewed with respect to their intrinsic value, but people' 'value is irrespective of the areas they work in.

In philosophy, especially in the university, I have very little evidence direct or indirct of people taking a bloated conception of the significance of their work. Incidentally, if group does this more than others in our society, it's often natural scientists. Analytic philosophers especially have almost no influence on society.

Regarding the impact of disputes, etc. I don't think one can safely generalize. Depending on the place and time, ideas may have been much more important - or not. Some groups, although I'm loath to call them academics, depending on what's meant by the term, have an enormous impact on everyday life and its utterly disastrous for the church as a whole to ignore them, in particular: educationalists and people in pyschology/pyschiatry, who are actually defining certain moral behavior away into diseases, etc.

A concern I have, though, with your position is that it may, to Christians detriment, seriously undervalue the power of academics. As people like Os Guinness and many others have noted, when societies modernize, and hence develop massive bereaucracies and increasingly complex role-differentiation in society, you get the emergence of "experts" as a class of people who regulate their specific domains of knowledge: setting standards, educating, accrediting, etc. In a society like ours, these people exercise an enormous influence, far incommensurate to their number. This is one reason why Tim Keller, for example, says its so important to reach cities: they, like the universities, exercise a disproportionate infuence on broader culture: Culture moves downwind from the cities and academies, and thus if you want to lose cultural influence, you need only abandon the cities and academies; this Christians have done, much to our detriment.

I recognize this is slightly off-topic, but it's deeply important not to undervalue these areas, and I say that not out of self-interest but because the church needs to heed people like Keller and Guinness and realize these (cities, academics, etc.) are underserved by Christians yet hugely influential sectors in society. That's worth remembering in all of this, and it's not unrelated to populism and Bauder's topics because it is in these areas that conservative Protestants started to develop habits of mind that excluded them from have a good representation in these sectors of society.

Red Phillips's picture

"The sense that they were starting anew gave Americans an antipathy toward traditions."

It is very possible to overstate this. This has long been the belief of American liberals, that America was fundamentally new, and it is also the belief of neoconservatives and the American exceptionalism crowd. But it has not been the belief of traditionalist conservatives who emphasize the continuity of America with the Old World, particularly England. This was particularly true of the South which has always been demonized by progressive forces in America for not displaying enough antipathy toward tradition.

"Fundamentalism has typically displayed the populist contempt for tradition"

Is populism always anti-traditional? Today, populist would be much more likely to oppose gay marriage, for example, than are self-identified elitists. Was not Fundamentalism very much traditionalist on matters of fundamental doctrine against modernist revisionists? Also on morals and standards?

Ed Vasicek's picture

I got behind and just read articles 3 and 4. Man, do we need this stuff! Thanks, Dr. Bauder, for giving us such a big picture perspective. Fantastic!!!

I would point out that evangelicalism is perhaps even more populist.

"The Midrash Detective"

Brent Marshall's picture

Hey, Joel, did someone gore your ox? You throw quite a few barbs at Kevin, enough that I am having a hard time following your thought between them. It seems that underlying your comments is the notion that a belief in congregational polity somehow justifies an acceptance of populism. How do you figure that?

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

Ed Vasicek's picture

Brent Marshall wrote:
Hey, Joel, did someone gore your ox? You throw quite a few barbs at Kevin, enough that I am having a hard time following your thought between them. It seems that underlying your comments is the notion that a belief in congregational polity somehow justifies an acceptance of populism. How do you figure that?

IMO, Joel has some points if Dr. Bauder's comments are projected without restraint. I think Dr. Bauder is talking about matters of degree, not concept. I can see both perspectives. Bauder's position, projected along the same vector, would lead to what Joel is assuming him to be saying. But I don't think Bauder is going that far.

Perhaps a good follow-up paper would be, "The Priesthood of All Believers before and after Populism." In a way, that is the doctrine that is the issue, but I don't see anyone denying that here. Equal access to the Father, equal status in Christ, and the right to challenge with the Word of God seems to be a given (at least, I hope it is!). That is not the same as claiming equal competence or equally weighted respect for an opinion. I personally have trouble with unmodified congregational government for this reason.

In my area (central or north-central Indiana), there are lots of guys who simply "go into the ministry" as pastors without any formal (and sometimes not much informal) training. I know one man who did this 25 years ago, but he knows his Bible and doctrine and is a better pastor than a number of seminary or Bible college grads I have met, IMO. But I know of a number of others who barely know Genesis from Revelation. But, because of a populous ethos, nobody in those churches seems to mind.

People who study a subject at great length generally do know more about that subject (or domain) than those who do not. As long as those who are trained are open to challenge from the Word, I think you can have both what Kevin and Joel imply.

"The Midrash Detective"

Joel Tetreau's picture

Brent,

I'm mixing humor with a point. Go back and read my post one more time. I start out by saying that it looks like Kevin is going to defend some kind of an anti-populist approach to leadership, wisdom, direction, etc....of NT believers, Christianity, ministry, in favor of giving an unequal wait to the "experts." Kevin is trying to show that guys like me believe the way we do because we've been conditioned by a certain philosophical bent that has impacted fundamentalism, evangelicalism as well as other "sub-groups" within American culture. He's brilliant and at many levels I'm sure he's right. I do believe that there is exegetical, theological and even philosophical reasons to not agree with where he's going or where he's leaning. So my response is "if you are saying this.....then I'm responding this way....."

But I know Kevin. Brent....I don't know if I know Kevin.....Perhaps only his mother and wife knows Kevin. Let me re-word that. I think I know Kevin.

I know he is a Baptist (at least in polity....I think in Worship he's more "high-brow Presbyterian!") and I know his "congregational" convictions will not let him go as far as he wants to go (IMO). Of course we don't know exactly where that is because he hasn't finished his series (a point I tried to allude to). Kevin has been at the same time my favorite former teacher and my least favorite! He is a philosophical purist.....He really dislikes pragmatism (To the point that he hands much of it to the likes of Finney-ism). At some level I am a pragmatist.....hopefully not on the line of John Dewey and hopefully not at the expense of truth and a Biblical Philosophy. If Kevin believes something to be philosophically so, it is an absolute with him. That drives me nuts. For Kevin there is white and there is black and there is almost no grey. That drives me nuts! Several of my closest friends I think believe he walks on water. That really drives me nuts! There were times when I was in his class at Central he would go off philosophically in some of these discussions and I wanted to wad up my paper into a little ball and throw it at him....but when one is in the postgrad department, you don't do that to the head of the post grad department....until after you have your degree! Especially when this guy is helping you finish your final project. So I nodded and smiled then like a Joel Tetreau Bobble head! God forgive my duplicity! No longer Brent!

So I'm getting a thought or two in and trying to have fun with him/this at the same time. There is a part of Kevin I really, really appreciate. But there is a part of his writings and approach that really, really bothers me. I worry about the guys that study under him. I don't want them to pick up everything that Kevin has to offer. My prayer is that if they have three years of Kevin, they are baptized into a church ministry to get the "real-life-issues" of ministry in their soul....otherwise they will come out of seminary blowing the average guy away with everything! I'm not suggesting he is at motive "an elitist"....but his approach will lead to elitism in a variety of ways IMO. I don't want that.....so I fight against his influence while trying not to fight against him (not easily done). On the other hand....there is so much he brings to the table historically, theologically and just great observations about ministry in general that I know have helped and will help those that study under him. Oh well....He's in Minnisota, I'm in Arizona, I like him from a distance......and he hears of me once every three years.....it's a beautiful thing.

I promise you, he'd understand because If I had the influence he did (and I don't), and he had a chance to present the "other side" specifically where he was/is uncomfortable with my approach....he would do the exact same thing.....In English, Latin and Logic. I have to use what few tools I have (which is not much compared to the Bauder Tool Box!) combined with humor (something I'm not sure Kevin has).

Don't read more into my friendly joust that you should. He referred to my leadership once as being a leader of the illiterate because of my lack of ability to spell....This sort of thing goes both ways. I'm sorry if you're uncomfortable....but I'll continue to do this even with you being uncomfortable. There's too much at stake here IMO. Even if my leadership is limited to the illiterate....I care deeply enough for them and their ability to understand and know God as well as Kevin does......to show up for this chat.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Joseph's picture

Joel,

I appreciated your lengthy response. Can I ask a question for clarification?

I see elitism in ministry; it's not uncommon among Presbyterians, for example, or any group that has high ordination requirements and prides itself on rigorous orthodoxy. However, I would not accuse PCA or OPC as groups of encouraging elitism (maybe they do, but I don't know enough to warrant such a charge); rather, I think every emphasis has trajectories that immature people are likely to realize. So, if you emphasis practicality, which is a good thing, and common sense, which is also good - even if you do this with balance and regard for theoretical knowledge - if those are your main emphases, your students/interns (whoever) will likely develop those traits into the immature and wrong-headed pragmatism and anti-intellectualism that characterizes so much of American religious life.

Essentially, then, I am wondering if you see Bauder's positions, or even Bauder's sensibilities, dispositions, etc. themselves as part of the problem, or rather that you think they, in themselves, are good and fine, but they will almost inevitably lead among many less mature seminarians and pastors to an elitism (not sure what exactly this means, but I'm assuming its pejorative, which is enough to go on)?

David King's picture

Not being personally acquainted with either you or Kevin, I came at your first post as a blank slate. I commented to my wife that your post was awfully snarky. Perhaps, if you wanted to tweak him and make a point, your post may have been better as an email, since at least some of it is based on your past experiences with him. Just a thought.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I remember an old saying that used to circulate, "It takes a pastor 10 years to get over seminary." Part of the problem is that, when you swell your brain with information and study and discipline -- and you have grasped some really deep perspectives -- you want to use what you learn, even if people do not want to hear it and cannot comprehend it. Bringing the cookies down to a lower shelf is a difficult task.

Joel's comments are based upon his perceptions from previous experiences. But I think it is important for the rest of us to look at the actual words Dr. Bauder has penned and respond to that. I do not think his actual words are as far "down the road" as Joel suggests, even if he is perhaps going too far in other writings. Sometimes an individual who is further away from the typical center is not seeking to bring people to his position, just nudge them more in that direction. I think that might be what is happening here.

I did find the second article off target and disappointing. Its logical fallacy was obvious (ancient church leaders are somehow to be more heavily weighted than current ones; it's the old problem of hagiography and undue reverence for the vintage).

"The Midrash Detective"

SDHaynie's picture

Charlie,
I want to take a moment and thank you for your response. I would like to let you know that I stand very close to where you stand. You said,

Charlie wrote:

I think you are making the same mistake that is talked about here - a kind of hermeneutical populism. The mistake is failing to recognize the stratified nature of Christian theology and Scriptural teaching, as well as failing to consider that the Spirit 's guidance may be mediated indirectly, rather than directly to the individual...
So, first, the stratified nature of the Scripture...
What makes the difference, or, how do we move up levels? My answer and yours, I assume: the Holy Spirit. So, we've stated that every Christian has the same Holy Spirit, yet the Spirit is what differentiates people's understanding. Here's the harmonization - the Spirit works through gradual transformation, and He does this usually through mediate agents. We can think of Romans 12, where we are told that we are conformed to Christ by the transforming of our minds. This transformation, surely, is a lifelong process and includes both mental improvement and the removal of sinful impediments to our proper thinking about God. So, God is not at the same place with everyone...
But what we really need to discuss, to answer your question, is what methods the Spirit uses to accomplish this transformation. I submit a very non-populist, non-pietist answer to that question. The Holy Spirit does not pour knowledge into your head like an "inner light," or like a computer download. Rather, Ephesians 4 tells us that God gave us gifts to build us up in our doctrine - teachers (among others). God, then, works through these people to build up other people so that we "all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God's Son" (v. 13). Now, God has given teachers to the church in every age, and if we neglect the witness of the teachers of the past, we are missing out on that much of the Spirit's work.
Now, obviously, God Spirit does work in other ways. I merely stress the above because it receives virtually no emphasis in the American "personal devotions" culture. I believe in personal Bible study, but I also note that the New Testament has a far greater emphasis on the corporate body and the teaching function of the elders, a hard thing for individualist Americans to swallow. So, in summary, I believe a person's understanding of Scripture will grow to the extent that the Spirit is working in him, and that a person can hinder the work of the Spirit in him by refusing to partake of ALL the Spirit's work, which is mediated through church teachers past and present, the Scripture, the edification of the body, family, and the Sacraments.

I would agree with you point for point in this answer. Perhaps, in trying to counter what I believe to be an extreme, I overstated my case. But I do stand on the thought that an extreme interpretation and application of the anti-populist view would lead to an elitism in the same vein as medieval Roman Catholicism (only the priest and the church have the ability to rightly divide the Word of Truth).
I am a teacher, I have done everything my time and financial situation have allowed me to do in order to prepare myself to be the best teacher possible. I would say a hearty "AMEN" to your explanation of Ephesians 4 and the gift of teachers and teaching to the church. However, the point I hoped to get across in mentioning the doctrine of Illumination and the concept of the "body" is that, as a teacher, I need to realize that I am not the only one with answers. Certainly God has placed a greater responsibility and accountability upon me because of this gifting and preparation, but I must in humility recognize that I have something to learn and gain even from the "youngest" member of my church. That's what I was trying to say. An anti-populist view would negate this.
I also have to agree heartily with Joel T. and I thank him for his further explanation. As a Baptist, I accept a congregational form of church government. No matter what the populist roots of fundamentalism, and no matter what wrong there may be in populism, I cannot reject this distinctive which I hold dear solely on philosophical grounds. My doctrine must be derived from careful exegesis, not philosophy or rejection of philosophy.
Again, this all takes some private thinking and some interaction, but I believe this is all important for us to do. Thanks again to Dr. Bauder for this great series.

Shawn Haynie

Charlie's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

I did find the second article off target and disappointing. Its logical fallacy was obvious (ancient church leaders are somehow to be more heavily weighted than current ones; it's the old problem of hagiography and undue reverence for the vintage).

I don't think there is a single person on SI who actually believes that older is better. Bauder, as a Reformed-ish Baptist, obviously can't go back before the 17th century for a whole lot of support. As a Dispensationalist, he can't go back farther than the 19th. The point that has been made repeatedly by several people on this board is that a perspective on the past is necessary for a perspective on the present. Also, I think we would all agree that certain select authors of the past were so influential that they become significant for anyone wishing to study the groups and ideas that flowed from them. Bauder's explanation of Finney, for example, was not to imitate Finney, but to show how some of the problems of 20th century Fundamentalism got there. You also can't accuse him of hagiography, because he hasn't put up any person as a blameless ideal.

Bauder's point is that the past is important, not that it is good. His own writing and theological positions show a critical reception of history.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Joel Tetreau's picture

Joseph,

Good questions. Let me ponder them.

For the rest of you.

Bauder and I have a relationship. I think it's a good one. He can (and has) disagreed with me in various forums and that in no way has threated my love for him. In this forum we talk clearly. I happen to be passionate on a few items here. I don't think I've crossed lines. He speaks publically and is responded to publically. It's hard not to separate other discussions where these elements "touch" from the present one.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate Joseph's observation about emphases & trajectories. It's true that any emphasis goes a certain direction--eventually off track--if it's followed too closely for too long. Common sense takes you to bad places if you just run with it mindlessly. Populism: likewise but even faster. Reverencing historical theology? Different places but also damaging. Reverencing academic disciplines? Likewise (but I don't think all of these undisciplined emphases lead to equally bad places).

I cannot believe that an emphasis on common-sense reading of Scripture (by believers who always have more than mere common sense going for them), can ever lead to as spiritually unhealthy a place as an emphasis on academics that is inadequately disciplined by Scripture and (to a far lesser degree) the realities of life outside the ivory tower.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Charlie wrote:
Ed Vasicek wrote:

I did find the second article off target and disappointing. Its logical fallacy was obvious (ancient church leaders are somehow to be more heavily weighted than current ones; it's the old problem of hagiography and undue reverence for the vintage).

I don't think there is a single person on SI who actually believes that older is better. Bauder, as a Reformed-ish Baptist, obviously can't go back before the 17th century for a whole lot of support. As a Dispensationalist, he can't go back farther than the 19th. The point that has been made repeatedly by several people on this board is that a perspective on the past is necessary for a perspective on the present. Also, I think we would all agree that certain select authors of the past were so influential that they become significant for anyone wishing to study the groups and ideas that flowed from them. Bauder's explanation of Finney, for example, was not to imitate Finney, but to show how some of the problems of 20th century Fundamentalism got there. You also can't accuse him of hagiography, because he hasn't put up any person as a blameless ideal.

Bauder's point is that the past is important, not that it is good. His own writing and theological positions show a critical reception of history.

I agree with your thinking, Charlie, but I disagree that "there is not a single person on SI who actually believes that older is better." I think there is often a certain aura associated with quoting Augustine that would not be there quoting F.F. Bruce, for example. I do not think that MOST of us at SI are there, however. In the greater evangelical world, it is almost rampant.

I do think that Bauder's second article was aimed not at recognizing we can learn from others -- but, particularly, that we could and should learn from others from centuries gone by. Did you not interpret him thusly? I am for looking into the Jewish roots of our faith, and trying to paint a Second Temple context to help me understand the New Testament, but I think we are in a much better position to interpret Scripture than, say, a 4th century leader.

Even Rick Warren quotes Catholic mystics.

"The Midrash Detective"

Brent Marshall's picture

Joel Tetreau wrote:
I'm mixing humor with a point.
[SNIP ]
So I'm getting a thought or two in and trying to have fun with him/this at the same time.
[SNIP ]
Don't read more into my friendly joust that you should.
I have come back to this several times this evening, thinking how to respond -- for the details that I snipped do not characterize Kevin fairly -- without turning the thread further into a discussion of Kevin rather than his ideas. (By the way, if you do not know that Kevin has a sense of humor, you do not know him well at all.) Not having identified a good path in that direction, I will simply say that what you are characterizing as humor is coming across as derision. This is particularly ironic because it sounds so much like what you term "Type A" fundamentalism.

Moreover, you are losing a real opportunity to do what you say that you want to do: warn folks about the ideas with which you disagree. I am one of the ones trying to figure much of this out, and to put it simply, what you are terming humor is getting in the way of the ideas. I do not want to come across as faulting you for having a concern or disagreeing, but your point is getting lost.

Now, to return to my prior observation, it seems that underlying your comments is the notion that a belief in congregational polity somehow justifies an acceptance of populism. Am I understanding you correctly? If not, please clarify, but if so, then how do you reach that conclusion? As a Baptist, I believe in soul liberty and the individual priesthood of the believer, and I believe in congregational polity. But I do not see how that would lead me to accept populism. For example, earlier in the thread, Ed writes:

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Equal access to the Father, equal status in Christ, and the right to challenge with the Word of God seems to be a given (at least, I hope it is!). That is not the same as claiming equal competence or equally weighted respect for an opinion.
I agree with both statements, and I think that they encapsulate a key issue here. It seems that the second statement runs counter to populism. Am I missing something?

Things That Matter

As the quantity of communication increases, so does its quality decline; and the most important sign of this is that it is no longer acceptable to say so.--RScruton

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Brent Marshall wrote:
it seems that underlying your comments is the notion that a belief in congregational polity somehow justifies an acceptance of populism. Am I understanding you correctly? If not, please clarify, but if so, then how do you reach that conclusion? As a Baptist, I believe in soul liberty and the individual priesthood of the believer, and I believe in congregational polity. But I do not see how that would lead me to accept populism.

I got the impression he was saying that utterly rejecting populism would require rejecting congregational polity... and Kevin does sound like he's rejecting it utterly (though I think that's not the case... either that or he would define it more narrowly and utterly reject the more narrowly defined idea).

I did have a similar thought myself, but I'd say it alot differently. That is, if one argues so passionately against (apparently) anything that smacks even a little bit of of Common Sense Realism or populism, how can you--at the end of the day--be a dispensationalist? But--as some have suggested--I may be incorrect in my impression that he is as down on these ideas as all that. But that he sees anything more than the tiniest bit of good in these ways of thinking seems unlikely to me given what he has written recently and also in the past. So I am intrigued to see, someday, how one can be diametrically opposed to Common Sense Realism (even in the watered down version in American Fundamentalism) and populism and still hold to dispensationalism.

As for congregationalism, though, I don't think it requires any populism. You don't have to believe that the masses have much of value to say/do in order to believe God instructed His church to make many decisions collectively. Since the "ordinary person" outside the church is not Spirit indwelt... well, what goes on when a congregation discusses and decides is something else.
Still, Kevin seems to see any populism among believers as a pretty unhealthy thing as well.

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Joel,

As you note, I am not at all offended by your disagreement with me. I remain very grateful for the pastoral contribution that you have made in the lives of my close family. I am also grateful for the personal encouragement that you have offered at difficult moments in my own life.

I am, however, concerned about the following statement:

"He referred to my leadership once as being a leader of the illiterate because of my lack of ability to spell....This sort of thing goes both ways."

If this is what is motivating your comments, we might need to take a step back. I do not wish to have any perception, either in public or private, that there exists some personal animus between us. Still, I cannot recall having ever connected your name with any such comments. If I have done so, then I am eager to apologize. Can you please remind me of when and where these comments were made?

I really, really hate to address private offenses in public, but this offense is now evidently a public matter. I would like to see it resolved.

Blessings, my brother.

Joel Tetreau's picture

Kevin,

Will call you. For sake of the public note, there is no "angst" just "disagreement" here. The comment you made is little concern but I'm thrilled you would go to the length you are. We will review this together. All is well.

If you think it is needed we can make a joint statement about what you said, how I took it and what our conclusion is.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Joel,

Thank you for your offer to call, but that is really not what is needed right now.

You have lit up a good many pixels in this thread talking about me personally. Most of what you say is not very flattering. That's alright--you are entitled to your opinion and you have a right to express it. Doubtless there are plenty of times when I am arrogant, obtuse, and humorless. For you to point these things out does not lead me to think less of you.

But then you also make a specific accusation. This accusation amounts to a charge of having slandered you. You cite this charge publicly as a justification for some of the rather harsh judgments that you have also expressed publicly. It is a serious accusation.

So we now have a public scandal. The best and most Christian way of dealing with the scandal is for me to apologize publicly for wrongs done. The problem is that I cannot remember having done the wrong! I cannot recall any occasion upon which I have connected your name with the ugly things that you say I said about you.

A private call would have been appropriate before the public accusation was made, but it is hardly the solution to a public scandal. Please tell me where I have directed these offensive comments against you. I have every wish to acknowledge a wrong and to ask forgiveness, but I find myself in the uncomfortable position of not even being able to remember committing the wrong! Was it in private conversation? Did you hear about this from a third party? Was it a public statement? How long ago did it occur?

Now that this has been made public, I do not see how we can try to resolve it simply behind closed doors.

For what it's worth, I think you're a better pastor than I have ever been (and you may recall that I was in pastoral ministry for fifteen years before coming to Central Seminary). I respect you for it. So let's get this squared away.

Kevin

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