The Fundamentalist Challenge for the 21st Century: Do We Have a Future? Part 3

The following is a portion of a paper Dr. Straub read at the Bible Faculty Leadership Summit last summer (he also read a variation at the Conference on the Church for God’s Glory last May). It appears here with light editing. The paper will appear here in four parts. See Part 1 and Part 2. -Editor

So what of the future for fundamentalism? Is there hope?

Having defined fundamentalism and having set it in the context of the evangelical right, I will devote the rest of this presentation to discussing where fundamentalism is going and what its future may be. We are less than a decade into the new millennium. It’s impossible to predict where we will be at the end of the century, but I am not too optimistic. A few months back I said some disparaging remarks about the current state of fundamentalism on a semi-private listserve I moderate. Word of what I said got out to a well-respected pastor in our circles and he contacted me to encourage me to be careful about dissing fundamentalism. He felt that I might hurt myself and ultimately Central Seminary. My response? I am a historian. We look at the past to understand the present. We look at the present to suggest what the future might be. Arnold Toynbee said once that “the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.” I think we need to be honest with our past, realistic about our present and reflective about our future. Only then can we hope to remain faithful to God. I did not create the state that fundamentalism is in, but I think that glossing over our problems will help no one. Young men will continue to leave and the old men will continue to sit smug in self-denial. A real future demands serious reflection.

So what about historic fundamentalism in the 21st century? Do we have a future? Last May, my son graduated from Central with his M.Div. He is currently enrolled in our ThM program. When he finishes, he will go out into the Lord’s work. I wonder where he will land? What movement will he identify with in the next decade, or 30 years? Will he follow my path and remain within this movement called fundamentalism? Will there even be a fundamentalism as we know it? Some of these questions, I cannot answer. But the one I raised in my subtitle—Does Fundamentalism Have a Future?—I do wish to try to answer.

Ultimately, only the Lord knows the real answer. While God knows the future (contra open theism) I certainly do not. But let me suggest a possible answer. The simple answer is yes. Fundamentalism has a future because, at its core, it is rooted in biblical truth. This is not to say it is without need of correction. But the essential ideas are biblical. Curtis Lee Laws did not invent it in 1920. Nor did the Stewart brothers in 1909. Nor is separatism a novel idea. The Donatists advocated it at the time of Augustine and Baptists were birthed in English separatism in the early 17th century. Baptists are by orientation separatists.

Before we answer the question in detail, let me offer a response to one non-answer for this question. Some suggest that it doesn’t really matter if fundamentalism has a future. Whether or not fundamentalism survives really doesn’t matter. Men suggest that they will simply go their own direction and do their own thing. Fundamentalism is a movement and they do not want to be a part of any movement. So it can prosper or fail and they simply don’t care. Ultimately this is where every local church pastor must stand. Whether a movement survives or collapses, we all stand before God and must give an account for our stewardship. If we believe in certain biblical principles, those ideas, by whatever name, should endure.

So though each one of us may end up there at some point, we still need to ask, “Does fundamentalism have a future today?” If it does, and if that future is to be bright, there are at least four things we must do—we must work toward greater interdependence, we must improve our preaching, we must be more be more biblical in our separation and we must demonstrate a greater spirit of true humility.

1. Great interdependence

We pride ourselves as being independents. Most of us are not connected to any major group. We stand on our own feet! I think this attitude identifies one of our core weaknesses—over independency. We think we don’t need anyone but God. “One man and God make a majority” we are told. Well, this may be true in the lion’s den or in the valley facing a Philistine, but quite often Israel found strength in unity. There were 12 tribes, not one—and 12 apostles. Paul had a whole company of associates and though he sometimes was lonely, it wasn’t because he wished to be alone. He worked with others throughout his ministry. And so should we.

In our fear of the slippery slope into liberalism, we have too often worked in isolation from others—pastors and churches. We are not very good at working together, making common cause for the work of Christ. As Americans, we have a “Yes We Can,” “Can Do” attitude. I don’t need you. Our church is large enough to do this on our own!

This is an absurd attitude. This independence may be a strength but I think it is also often a glaring weakness. Unless you are a Landmarker, you are a part of the Body of Christ! We are in union with other believers through Spirit baptism. We are a family. It’s odd that we seldom act like one. We need one another and we ought to work in partnership with like-minded believers. This is the Lord’s work, not our own. It’s His mission and His vineyard. The “I don’t need you” attitude is ineffectual at best and unbiblical at worst. It is also one reason why Together for the Gospel and the Gospel Coalition attract such large crowds. There is a sense of a greater mission that we seem to be unable to project. Often our “big” conferences are little more than meetings of self-promotion.

Our associations can be too narrow. If we only work with people exactly like us, how many of us are there really? What are the central issues and what are the peripheral issues? Is immersion a central or peripheral issue? In terms of church life and associations we would say yes, central. In terms of fundamentalist identity, we would say no—it’s peripheral. Fundamentalism has historically been transdenominational.

Even in doctrine we Baptists can be excessively narrow. Usually, one may hold to no more of Calvinism than the group’s leader or he is dubbed a hyper-Calvinist. A three-pointer will not work with a four or five-pointer because anyone who holds more points than he does is a heretic. Calvinism is a very divisive issue in ecclesiastical life. Jacob Arminius broke from the Dutch Calvinists, John Wesley broke from George Whitefield and the Particular and General Baptists fell out over it in England. It is likely too much to hope that things will change in fundamentalism. However, in fundamentalism’s early history, not even five-point Calvinism was out of line. C. H. Spurgeon was an unapologetic Calvinist as was T. T. Shields. Fundamentalism had numerous Presbyterians in its early days who affirmed the Westminster Confession. The GARBC has been strongly Calvinistic with a number of prominent five-pointers over the years. Fundamentalism has had a robust history of diversity here, rejecting both hyper-Calvinism and hyper Arminianism.

Theological triage

It is here we ought to consider R. Albert Mohler’s concept of theological triage.1 We might have minor disputes concerning which doctrines fit into which categories but the concept is very helpful as are his three broad categories. Level one doctrines are central to the Christian faith—the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Substitutionary Atonement. Level two doctrines are things like denominational boundaries—baptism and church polity. Level three issues are minor doctrines over which we might agree and still be in close fellowship. At Central Seminary, we have several of these doctrines—not the least is our view of sanctification. Some men lean more toward a Keswisk view and others a Reformed view. We charitably disagree with one another. I am unapologetic about my premillenialism. But it is simply not as important as the impeccability of Christ. To deny one is to miss eternity. To deny the other is simply to be mistaken. Clearly Mohler has the right idea.

Some doctrines matter in certain contexts. I will not likely plant a church with my Free Presbyterian friend Mike Barrett. He was a professor at BJU in the 70s. I took him for more classes than any other professor and he was an excellent teacher. We renewed our acquaintance at various Bible faculty summits in recent years. We have some pretty significant theological differences—church polity among them. But we have some pretty close theological convictions also. Our view of church polity may keep us from “church” fellowship, but it need not hinder Christian fellowship.

And, by the way, when fundamentalists disagree on second and third tier issues, we need to do so charitably. If you disagree with me on the deity of Christ, then you are a heretic. But you are not a heretic if you don’t immerse. You are mistaken, but you are not a heretic. I am happy to say that we have at Central an environment for the students where they get to hear each of us make our case from the text and then decide which of us, if any, are right! Not about the core truths of the Gospel, mind you. There is unanimity there, and not even about second tier issues—we are all Baptists, but on some of these third tier issues, there are some interesting discussions in the breakroom!

If fundamentalism will have a future, we must renew our sense of identity. I am not suggesting that we try to reinvigorate a dead or dying movement, but I think the idea of biblical fundamentalism will not go away. Many today use the term Biblicism to mark a position that is somewhere in between Calvinism and Arminianism. However, in its classic sense, Biblicism simply means that a person seeks to be biblical in his orientation. Because fundamentalism is biblical, I don’t see how it will go away. It is a true Biblicism.

2. Better hermeneutics and preaching

It is odd that a movement that focuses on the Word of God should struggle with its interpretation and presentation of that Word. Unfortunately, however, this is the case in many parts of fundamentalism. Hermeneutics is the science of understanding the Bible in its context. The adage “a text without a context is a pretext” is too often evident among us. How many times have we heard messages that interpreted the text in ways that would have made the biblical authors fail to identify their own text?

Allegorical interpretation was popular among the ancient biblical commentators. Origen, the great 4th century father of Alexandria, said that the text held four levels of meaning. There was the obvious literal—grammatical meaning. But then there was an allegorical, a moral and an anagogical meaning.2 This made understanding the Scripture something that only someone with an insider’s knowledge could do. In the same way, when our church members hear us mishandle the text and leave a sermon thinking, “Wow, I would never have understood this passage if I hadn’t heard that sermon,” we do them a great injustice. Our preaching needs to be biblical yet simple—simple so that we lead them through a passage unfolding the obvious meaning that is available to all who are willing to study.

Once our hermeneutics improves, our preaching will follow. Today fundamentalism is known for preaching marked as shallow and unbiblical. Students attend Bible colleges across our movement and hear men preach from the platform who are loyal friends of their institutions but who are careless in their handling of the Scripture. Volume, passion, exhortation or humor are substituted for content. Anecdotes take the place of exegesis. This is improving, slowly, but improving nonetheless. Thanks to meetings like The Mid-America Conference on Preaching and the emphasis of some of the schools, expository preaching is on the rise. But still, at national meetings of fundamentalists, the preaching is often weak. This is another big draw for meetings like Together for the Gospel and the Gospel Coalition. Whatever one thinks of a particular speaker, nearly all can be expected to address the audience from the Scripture.

The final step in the process is application. Many us us start our sermon preparation with the idea, “What do I want my church to do?” Should we not start by asking, “What does this text say about God?” Once we understand that, then we ask, “How should this truth be communicated?” Only after we decide these two questions can we ask the third: “What should people do?” We simply must demand better preaching shaped by better hermeneutics and ending in better application. It simply does not help the next generation when they attend our churches and our schools only to be assaulted by unbiblical preaching.

Notes

1 R. Albert Mohler, “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity,” published online at http://www.albertmohler.com/commentary_read.php?cdate=2004-05-20. Accessed 29 April 2009.

2 There are numerous good books on interpretation, many of which discuss its history. See William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg and Robert L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (rev. ed. Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2004). This text has an anti-dispensational tone so it has its limitations. But many of its chapters are excellent.


Dr. Jeffrey Straub has served as adjunct professor at Central Seminary, as well as at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Moscow, the Ukraine, and Romania, at Piedmont Baptist College, and at LIFTS Institute, Kitchener, Ontario. He has been a senior pastor and church planter in Canada, and was a missionary among the Ojibway Indians in Wanipigow, Manitoba. He has had several articles published in the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, as well as in Frontline. Dr. Straub is a member of the Evangelical Missiological Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the American Society of Church History. Dr. Straub is married to Rebecca, and they have 3 children. He enjoys books, golf, hunting, and fishing.
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There are 27 Comments

jhorneck3723's picture

I agree particularly strongly with solution #2. If solid preaching is taking place in churches most other things will change after. I also agree that preaching is changing, slowly, in fundamental circles. The source of this stems largely from improvements in homiletics classes at Bible college. My problem is with the word "slowly." Maybe it's because I am young (mid-twenties) and impatient, but it seems that this improvement is occurring at a glacial pace. My greatest concern right now relates to my current situation. I am attending a seminary affiliated with a Bible college. I hear (and heard in undergrad) a lot of teaching about good preaching, but then I attend chapel and see that teaching contradicted by the preaching there.

I think that it is important for Bible colleges and universities to turn their back on politics and start modeling good preaching with more regularity. If change is going to happen it needs to happen in the formative years of the next generation. There are two dangers with the current lack of sound preaching in colleges and universities.

1) There is a mixed message being sent. Teachers say one thing while pastors model another. In a movement where respect for the pastor is rightly emphasized this conflict can be very confusing to a young man. We are taught to be suspicious of academics and embrace the pastorate, but our schools show that there is a conflict between what we are learning in academia and what happens in the church. In this situation academia is right and is being undermined by the overwhelming trend of what actually happens in churches.

2) The non-ministry students are trained to expect funny, trite, unbiblical preaching as the norm. I remember when I was a younger how much I hated good preaching because I had been trained my whole life that it was boring. It is then hard for a layperson to accept good preaching because they have been trained to appreciate bad preaching.

As long as were are implying an endorsement of bad preaching by allowing it to occur regularly in our academic pulpits good preaching will bot be present in our ecclesiastic pulpits.

Bob Hayton's picture

Quote:
And, by the way, when fundamentalists disagree on second and third tier issues, we need to do so charitably. If you disagree with me on the deity of Christ, then you are a heretic. But you are not a heretic if you don’t immerse. You are mistaken, but you are not a heretic. I am happy to say that we have at Central an environment for the students where they get to hear each of us make our case from the text and then decide which of us, if any, are right! Not about the core truths of the Gospel, mind you. There is unanimity there, and not even about second tier issues—we are all Baptists, but on some of these third tier issues, there are some interesting discussions in the breakroom!

I'm happy to hear of this kind of learning environment. But don't some of the rules and policies limit its effect? For instance I believe there is a rule that a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis (John Piper's church), cannot even take classes at Central. [At least that's how it was in 2003 when my brother looked into taking some classes from Central, then. ] This is the kind of thing that turns young fundamentalists off. What are fundamentalists afraid of?

The series has thus far spoken highly of T4G, The Gospel Coalition, and made use of Mohler's triage. But why then are all those groups still not fundamentalist enough? What makes the emphasis on the role of conservative, traditional music styles in "historic fundamentalist" schools different than the emphasis on the KJV in "hyper fundamentalist" institutions?

I'm happy that Dr. Straub is addressing these things, particularly the "humility" point to come. It seems in theory that the doctrinal core is all that historic fundamentalists care about. But the non-core issues like alcohol, music, and other social type issues or even some different takes on where to draw the line in separation -- these all are what many "historic fundamentalists" stress over as they negatively evaluate the young fundamentalist branch.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Tim Terpstra's picture

Bob

Obviously Fundamentalists range in their responses to Conservative Evangelicals. You are asking the question, many YF's are asking about. "How closely one can associate and benefit from the ministries of such men and still retain fellowship and "approval" of likeminded fundamentalists." In the Central situation, I believe there was a policy change after I graduated (I attended from 98-01). At a recent meeting at Central, Dr. Bauder was asked about this question. His comment was that there were students that were coming to Central with the purpose of attending Bethlehem. The desire of Central is not to just provide the theological education, but also a build marriage with a strong local church experience that would reflect the same values. While Dr.Piper is highly regarded, and the ministry of Bethlehem respected, there are some differences that they feel would inhibit the mission of the school, training separatist Baptist ministry leaders.

I don't recall the exact details of the policy, but I wonder if there is a distinction made of someone who is coming from Bethlehem as their home church or any other evangelical church and wants to attend Central, versus a student who moves to the area to attend Central and wants to select Bethlehem. It seems like a reasonable approach that is consistent with the spirit and purpose of the school.

Bob Hayton's picture

Tim Terpstra wrote:
Bob

Obviously Fundamentalists range in their responses to Conservative Evangelicals. You are asking the question, many YF's are asking about. "How closely one can associate and benefit from the ministries of such men and still retain fellowship and "approval" of likeminded fundamentalists." In the Central situation, I believe there was a policy change after I graduated (I attended from 98-01). At a recent meeting at Central, Dr. Bauder was asked about this question. His comment was that there were students that were coming to Central with the purpose of attending Bethlehem. The desire of Central is not to just provide the theological education, but also a build marriage with a strong local church experience that would reflect the same values. While Dr.Piper is highly regarded, and the ministry of Bethlehem respected, there are some differences that they feel would inhibit the mission of the school, training separatist Baptist ministry leaders.

I don't recall the exact details of the policy, but I wonder if there is a distinction made of someone who is coming from Bethlehem as their home church or any other evangelical church and wants to attend Central, versus a student who moves to the area to attend Central and wants to select Bethlehem. It seems like a reasonable approach that is consistent with the spirit and purpose of the school.


It does and it doesn't, Tim. It's reasonable if you are about reproducing separatist fundamentalists. It doesn't if you are about teaching separatist positions and trying to influence all who choose to come to your institution. Why couldn't the seminary so teach a young man that he wisens up a bit and sees the errors that Central sees in Bethlehem? To me, that is a fundamentalist rule which seeks to keep the seminary firmly fundamentalist and limits the influence of the school. It seems to be in opposition of the principles that I had quoted in my post.

Just my opinion, that's all. And I know as you say there are some reasons for it. It just seems inconsistent and I think I'm not the only one who would voice that concern.

For the record, I've been a member at Bethlehem for 4 years. It is things like this that make me think pursuing further academic training at an institution like Central would be fruitless for me.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Jeff Straub's picture

For the record . . . there is no rule that a student cannot be a member at Bethlehem and attend Central . . .or any other church for that matter.

The catalog states "all students are expected to be active members of a local church that endorses the statement of purpose of Central Seminary and affirms the system of teaching set forth in the doctrinal statement, specifically churches that are Baptist, fundamentalist, separatist, dispensationalist and cessationist." Catalog, 2009-2010, p. 23.

Some limited exceptions are made for students who come to Central from the Twin Cities area and who have an established history in a local evangelical church which may not fully conform to the above.

Why fault us for trying to train students for a particular kind of ministry.

Jeff Straub

Jeff Straub

Joseph's picture

Jeff Straub wrote:
For the record . . . there is no rule that a student cannot be a member at Bethlehem and attend Central . . .or any other church for that matter.

The catalog states "all students are expected to be active members of a local church that endorses the statement of purpose of Central Seminary and affirms the system of teaching set forth in the doctrinal statement, specifically churches that are Baptist, fundamentalist, separatist, dispensationalist and cessationist." Catalog, 2009-2010, p. 23.


Umm . . . right.

So, let's think about this:

1) No rule forbids students from being a member at Bethlehem Baptist or any other church.

2) Central expects students to be active members of a set of churches into which Bethlehem, and many other churches, do not fit.

So either this "expects" has no coercive force, and is intended along the lines of "It would be nice, or we prefer, that our students . . . " or it does have coercive force, such that students who attend churches that fall outside of the described set of appropriate churches are not welcome as students at Central.

Given the "exceptions," it's seems obvious that the former is not intended but the latter is, i.e., one is required, under normal circumstances, to attend a church that fits into the set described in the above statement.

So, proposition 1 is not exactly accurate.

I, by the way, have absolutely no problem with seminaries training certain types of people for certain types of churches, etc.

But that means the seminary, if it's Central, excludes other types of people from being students and does so in part based on the church in which they are active members. That's Central's right, obviously; but it seems a bit like fudging to then say Central does not have a rule etc. about churches.

Or, perhaps, I am wrong and Jeff will let me know that, yes, in fact, the"expects" does not affect a prospective or current's students status if they fail to meet Central's church expectations, such that, for example, a student, while at Central, could join Bethlehem or a similar church.

I am happy to be corrected, as I am trying to get clear Bob's complaint and Jeff's response.

Charlie's picture

Joseph wrote:

I am happy to be corrected, as I am trying to get clear Bob's complaint and Jeff's response.

Bob's post gave the impression (at least to me) that Bethlehem was the specific target of a Central policy. Jeff clarified that Central has a general policy which, on the face of it, does not seem to be motivated by a specific desire to exclude Bethlehem members from studies. This is an important distinction, as my alma mater, BJU, has several times called out by name churches in the community and added them to the "ban."

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Bob Hayton's picture

Not trying to go counter to the forum director's post here.

Just wanted to thank Jeff for the clarification. Not directed to one church, I get that.

My only point in bringing that matter up was to say it seemed odd given the post's mention of an open educational environment.

No more to say on the matter.

I am looking forward to the next post. I really have enjoyed this series, and especially the taxonomy chart. Helps all of us in thinking through things.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

KenFields's picture

Jeff Straub wrote:
There are numerous good books on interpretation, many of which discuss its history. See William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg and Robert L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (rev. ed. Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 2004). This text has an anti-dispensational tone so it has its limitations. But many of its chapters are excellent.

I think I see what Jeff was doing here! Dispensationalism must be a third-tier issue!!!!!

I agree!

Ken Fields

Jeff Straub's picture

Ok, here we go. I am violating my own rule of NOT commenting on this forum. I try to explain something as simple as a misunderstanding and I get kicked because Central is not something that someone else wants us to be. Then I get drawn in to a useless debate.

Joe, we live in a big world, and I am sure there is a seminary out there for everyone. I'm not sure any seminary is obligated to be all things to all men . . . We have a particular approach to life and ministry that we believe is important. So we ask our students who move to the Twin Cities to attend a church that is in sympathy with what we are doing. Frankly, why would a Roman Catholic move to Mpls and chose to go to Central? Or a Lutheran or even a Southern Baptist. There are lots of Roman Catholic seminaries, Lutheran and SBC.

Its odd, but Southern had an interesting policy that they would give a serious discount (50%) to students who were a part of an SBC church. Non-SBC members paid double. Was I offended as a non-SBC. Of course not. Why not give the churches that support the seminary a break for their students. Now I understand that students sign some sort of pledge or covenant when they accept this reduction that they will in fact be open to working within the SBC. I guess Southern doesn't have much of an open policy either, charging more to non-SBC students is down right discriminatory! . . . On second thought, no its not. Its their school and they can make whatever rules they wish to make. Crossing over into another discussion, they also had a no drinking policy. Talk about narrow-minded. But you know what, no one held a gun to my head and forced me to go to Southern. I accepted them for what they were--narrow-minded and all (apologies RAM, I am speaking strictly en plaisantant)

As far as I know Central like Southern is free to make its own policies and students are free to go to whatever seminary they think will best help them prepare for ministry.

Jeff Straub

Jeff Straub's picture

Jim:

Let the dogs nip at our heels. We can defend ourselves. The comment was downright silly. Worse yet, I dignified it with a response.

Jeff Straub

Rob Fall's picture

Folks, as for the relationship between much of the "IFB" movement and the Southern Baptist Convention, remember much of it is based on the North\South Split of the Triennial Convention in the 1830s. That happened long before Fundamentalism was a gleam in any body's eye. The split happened essentially because the North held

Francis Wayland wrote:
"A Baptist Church can not be represented."

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jeff Straub wrote:
Jim:
Let the dogs nip at our heels. We can defend ourselves. The comment was downright silly. Worse yet, I dignified it with a response.

Dr. S., FWIW, I don't think the comment was silly or that you dignified anything... you just answered it, and I think answered it well (aside from the unnecessary emotional stuff).
(And Jim's post was just an effort to keep the thread on topic... and has no reference to how big any of the boys are. Though now I'm nudging the thread further off topic again by posting this.... sometimes unavoidable I guess)

I'm sure someone is doing an expensive taxpayer-funded study on the question, but someday I'd like to figure out what it is about questions in forums that get people irked when the same questions asked at--say, a conference workshop, wouldn't elicit that kind of irritation. Not jabbing at you Jeff--I've seen it over and over and over. (And, at least once, done it myself).
Anyway, that little digression to just say this: let's just take questions as questions and just answer them, eh?

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

While I don't want to ignore Jim's exhortation to drop the subject, it might be useful to have an explanation of Central Seminary's policy on church attendance.

Here is Bob Hayton's original statement and question:

"I believe there is a rule that a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis (John Piper's church), cannot even take classes at Central. [At least that's how it was in 2003 when my brother looked into taking some classes from Central, then. ] This is the kind of thing that turns young fundamentalists off. What are fundamentalists afraid of?"

I am afraid that this statement is mistaken on several counts. Now, here is my explanation--an explanation that is a close to "official" as you can get.

(1) We certainly will accept students from Bethlehem Baptist or from any other gospel-preaching church. Our student population is not limited either to Baptists or to Fundamentalists. We believe that our position is quite defensible and are more than happy to teach it to students who come from different kinds of evangelical backgrounds. If you come to Central Seminary, you will find yourself in class with people from a various sorts of evangelicals.

(2) Our mission is not to help people leave Fundamentalism for any less biblical version of Christianity. So if a person is coming to Minneapolis as a new student, then we require that person to find membership in a church that meets certain criteria. Our mission is to train Christian leaders for ministry that embodies certain practical and theological values. As a seminary, we cannot accomplish that mission without the help of the local church. In fact, it is really the other way 'round--we are the helpers, and the local churches are the primary trainers. We deliberately partner with churches and pastors that share certain values. If a student chooses to separate from those churches, we take that as an indication that he has already rejected those values. A student who refuses to consider and experience the values that we hold is probably not going profit greatly from his experience here. Therefore, we believe that we are justified in requiring new students coming from outside the area to settle in a church that holds our values.

(3) One reason that this is important is because our students pay less than twenty percent of the cost of their education. The rest of their education is a gift from the Lord's people. Those who provide that gift have done so in the belief that we are committed to fostering a particular set of doctrinal and practical values in our students, so that those values can be perpetuated by our graduates. If we were to make it our mission to assist young leaders in abandoning our values, then we would have to face a crisis of conscience when we faced our donors and supporters. In other words, there is an ethical dimension to our policy on church membership.

(4) The decision as to whether a church holds our values is left between the student and the pastor of that church. Central Seminary does not maintain a list of approved churches. We do not investigate churches. We do not intrude into churches except when we are asked. If a student wants to know whether a particular church is appropriate under our policy on church membership, we tell him to ask the pastor. If the pastor identifies with our values as described in the policy, then the student is welcome to take membership in that church. Perhaps it is worth pointing out that the policy affects certain versions of Fundamentalism as profoundly as it affects non-Fundamentalist evangelicalism.

(5) We are not really interested in turning out students who are loyal to the Fundamentalist name or movement. For one thing, there is no Fundamentalist movement to be loyal to any more. For another, the various splinter movements of Fundamentalism are not loyal to one another, so it would be impossible for one of our graduates to be loyal to all of them. For a third thing, not all Fundamentalists are equally loyal to the Word of God--in fact, some non-Fundamentalist evangelicals are more loyal to Scripture than some celebrated Fundamentalists. The only way to avoid confusion is to be driven by values and principles, not by partisan loyalties. In order for that to happen, one must learn the values and see the principles put to work. We want our students to do exactly that--hence, the policy.

Bob Hayton's picture

Thanks Dr. Bauder. And yes in my brother's case he had recently moved to Minneapolis (to come to Bethlehem), and he thought it would be great to take some of your classes, actually, too. He was convinced they were worth taking.

So the clarification is, if a prospective student, hails from Minneapolis area, and is in a non-fundamentalist church he would be allowed in, but for those moving into the area, it would be expected that they attend a church that would support and round out the training to be received at Central.

I can certainly respect that. And it is true other institutions have their own rules as well.

Sorry to have opened such a big can of worms here. It just struck me odd that this policy was in place. Having learned more of the background, I can understand where you're coming from. Adding "dispensationalist" to the list of descriptors for a qualified church for students to attend when coming in, does again seem contrary to the open-education policy. But that's my opinion. I can see the policy is consistent and that the investment made to turn out a certain type of student makes sense.

I'm also all for the importance of a local church in seminary education.

Thanks again for the official clarification. And Aaron is right that sometimes questions or concerns come across as challenges in a forum. I was challenging to some extent, but I meant it to be respectful and hoped for interaction. I certainly got that and a lot more.

Blessings in Christ,

Bob

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Also, if it helps anyone... going off topic is a "third tier" forum issue Smile
(So it may get some nudges but unless there are other factors it's not a cause for "primary or secondary separation")

Bob Hayton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Also, if it helps anyone... going off topic is a "third tier" forum issue Smile
(So it may get some nudges but unless there are other factors it's not a cause for "primary or secondary separation")

LOL! I was a bit worried, but now I can rest easy.....

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Horneck's post (number one) is extremely insightful and important. I am sorry that no one has followed up on it, as far as I can see.

"I think that it is important for Bible colleges and universities to turn their back on politics and start modeling good preaching with more regularity."

Both the points which he made in his post are incredibly important. I recognized this tension regarding preaching when I was in Bible college, and I see the trickle-down effect which poor preaching has in the churches also.

I never understood why Fundamentalists would want to be known for anything less than "preaching the Word."

Instead we get things like an infamous line I will never forget from a guest chapel speaker -- "It's time to take off our funny nose and glasses and go soul-winning!"

May God spare us.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think one reason the politics factor has been such a strong one is that when the movement began, it really was a tough fight for so many... so those trying to defend the Scriptures really needed to prop each other up, stick together and practice some loyalty. But once the battles ended due to defeats and withdrawals, the "we've got to be loyal to one another and the movement" part of things got unhealthy in many ways... and less reason for being at all.
So, I'm not whitewashing anything but there were reasons why this happened.

[br ] Edit: but the silly stuff... reasons for that, too, and I think much of it really does trace back to Finney's new measures and the cultural milieu K.Bauder's been writing about.

SuzetteT's picture

As a layperson, I would agree with the need for better hermeneutics. I especially see it in many of the travelling evangelists that have passed through the local churches and camps in recent years. They have us open our Bibles to a passage, read 1 verse, or even part of a verse, and proceed to preach on the topic chosen without a single reference to the context of the verse. Could the 'popularity' and 'results' of such preachers be contributing to the problem?

Just my 2 cents worth,

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

SuzetteT wrote:
As a layperson, I would agree with the need for better hermeneutics. I especially see it in many of the travelling evangelists that have passed through the local churches and camps in recent years. They have us open our Bibles to a passage, read 1 verse, or even part of a verse, and proceed to preach on the topic chosen without a single reference to the context of the verse. Could the 'popularity' and 'results' of such preachers be contributing to the problem?

Just my 2 cents worth,


and worth more than 2 cents. Smile Topical preaching may be more enjoyable in some regards, but a steady diet of it results in an anorexic laity. If expository preaching is the milk and meat, topical preaching is usually Skittles.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Suzette... I'm with you there. I'm conflicted about the whole traveling evangelist situation. On one hand, some of these guys are the cream of the crop in terms of their passion for God and love for people. Better men than I.
On the other hand, I don't know how to use them at my church because the preaching often encourages a view of the Bible I don't want to nurture (in short, the view that it's OK to take a verse or two and make assertions from it that are not compatible with what the passage means in its context). So... we are hurting if we don't use their ministry but also hurting if we do. Hurting without them because my own preaching tends to be long on reflection and low on detectable passion! ... but we can't all be Jonathan Edwards I guess. (to understate the situation by quite a bit).

But @ Susan... I agree also because some guys take the "must preach expositionally" idea to an extreme and never preach topically, but there is great value in doing the latter on occasion provided you're aware of the risks (of abusing passages to back pet ideas) and are disciplined about honoring context.

BryanBice's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I'm conflicted about the whole traveling evangelist situation. On one hand, some of these guys are the cream of the crop in terms of their passion for God and love for people. Better men than I.
On the other hand, I don't know how to use them at my church because the preaching often encourages a view of the Bible I don't want to nurture (in short, the view that it's OK to take a verse or two and make assertions from it that are not compatible with what the passage means in its context). So... we are hurting if we don't use their ministry but also hurting if we do. Hurting without them because my own preaching tends to be long on reflection and low on detectable passion! ... but we can't all be Jonathan Edwards I guess. (to understate the situation by quite a bit).

I'm sure others could recommend itinerant preachers who don't fit the "springboard" stereotype, but a couple of men I've used with whom I've been pleased are Chuck Kempf and Mark Kittrell. Both are expository preachers (in the more classic def. of the term -- taking a passage & expounding it), passionate about preaching, exhibit a genuine love for God & others, and do not employ high pressure or manipulative tactics.

Incidentally, when I do have these men come, it's for an "Eternal Issues Bible Conference," rather than an evangelistic campaign or "revival."

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Back in Bible college when I used to hear lots of evangelists, I came up with a theory. In the spirit of James 3:1, would it not be true that any man who would be set apart for an itinerant ministry, going from church to church, should be the most experienced, most well-trained Bible teacher possible -- since he is going to be influencing many different people in a variety of settings? This would be true regardless of the title the man takes, be it evangelist or anything else.
Instead, fundamental "evangelists" are often known for taking Biblical passages out of context then making up for their lack of substance by using humor, tear-jerking stories, crowd control, psychological manipulation, etc. I do not believe these are neutral issues -- they are issues of spiritual subversion which do great damage to people.
Of course, many would debate whether such men should really be called "evangelists" anyway, or if there is any such a Biblical office. My point is that, regardless of your views on those issues, these men need to have their fuzzy little feet held to the Biblical fire.
If any speaker is not given to Biblical and theological integrity, I have no interest in him whatsoever.

Church Ministries Representative for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

BryanBice wrote:
I'm sure others could recommend itinerant preachers who don't fit the "springboard" stereotype, but a couple of men I've used with whom I've been pleased are Chuck Kempf and Mark Kittrell. Both are expository preachers (in the more classic def. of the term -- taking a passage & expounding it), passionate about preaching, exhibit a genuine love for God & others, and do not employ high pressure or manipulative tactics.

Incidentally, when I do have these men come, it's for an "Eternal Issues Bible Conference," rather than an evangelistic campaign or "revival."


Hey, thanks for the info... and I also love the "Eternal Issues" idea!

Joel Tetreau's picture

Well.....I've been out of town but I'm enjoying these articles. Jeff.....good job. I think the classifications are accurate. I might word the distinctions a bit differently but overall I like Jeff's suggestions on how things could improve in the future. I like the taxonomy. Not easy doing a taxonomy. I wish I had read this before trying to scratch out my own ideas in the past. Prayerful all is well there in Plymouth. My best to the Alum!

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;

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