The Future of Fundamentalism: A Forum for Leaders

Welcome to SI’s first Featured Discussion. On January 28, an important conversation about the future of fundamentalism began in response to Kevin Bauder’s “Nick of Time” essay, “An Open Letter to Lance Ketchum.” During the ensuing discussion, an idea emerged: how about if we attempt an extended discussion involving limited participants (and a somewhat narrower topical focus)?

Hence, this post. 

What apears below is a much-shortened version of the conversation so far—just as a starting point. We’re hoping Kevin Bauder, Don Johnson and others will continue the conversation here “amongst themselves,” so to speak—somewhat in the vein of a panel discussion.

So, with that as introduction, gentlemen, you have the floor.

Kevin T. Bauder:

Then let me put the ball in your court

Don,

Let me ask you a question. In an ideal world (by your understanding of ideal), what would you want Kevin Bauder to do? Other than drop off the face of the earth, how could he best invest his time and gifts?

This is not a trick question. I’ve given you my reasons for doing what I do.

Now, tell me what you think I should do.

Kevin

Don Johnson:

Touche

Kevin Bauder wrote …

Don,

Let me ask you a question. In an ideal world (by your understanding of ideal), what would you want Kevin Bauder to do? Other than drop off the face of the earth, how could he best invest his time and gifts?

This is not a trick question. I’ve given you my reasons for doing what I do.

Now, tell me what you think I should do.

Kevin

Man, way to go….

Now the glare of the flashlight is squarely in my eyes! I’ll have to think that over and get back to you on it, but a fair challenge.

I do have to get back to the study for tonight, though.

Don Johnson:

to be or not to be…

Kevin Bauder wrote …

Let me ask you a question. In an ideal world (by your understanding of ideal), what would you want Kevin Bauder to do? Other than drop off the face of the earth, how could he best invest his time and gifts?

An interesting question. Really makes me put up or shut up, eh? Criticism is easy, counsel is not so easy.

In a nutshell, I have two problems with the approach so far. First, the interaction with evangelicals gets very close to cooperative ministry with men who are in serious error. I think your term for them is “indifferentists”. Perhaps a Dever isn’t totally indifferent, but he remains in the same convention as Rick Warren, for example. So the first problem is one of unwise cooperation. Obviously, you have felt justified in your participation so far, but my recommendation for you or anyone in a position similar to yours is to keep such interaction on a much less formal and less public stage. I’d love to see Dever persuaded about separation and actually see him come out and separate from the many entanglements that surround his ministry. I doubt that persuasion will come from giving him a public platform, if it will ever come at all. It might come if you or someone like you were able to have private interaction with the fundamentalist idea prevailing after due consideration and leadership of the Holy Spirit. (I say that while conceding that any such opportunities are a judgement call and it is easy to criticize from the sidelines.)

In this regard, I don’t mind so much the book writing. The “four views” concept is a means of having a public debate in a neutral setting, so to speak.

Perhaps the bigger problem is the problem of influence. I think that your influence has tended to make the evangelicals not seem so bad and certainly has made fundamentalists seem like abusive demagogues, except for a select few. What would I counsel you to do here? I would counsel you to to speak more forthrightly about why you are so different from the evangelicals and why you can’t go there to join with them.

For example, you mentioned in one of the posts Al Mohler and his repentance concerning the Manhattan Declaration. His repentance comes from one line in one of the four views books you participated in, correct? Does the whole context of that line bear out the sense of repentance you report? I have not read the book, but I have read reports that make it seem that Mohler is still generally favorable to the MD, even in the context of the quote you cite. Furthermore, the MD web page still lists Mohler as a signatory. Do you know if he has made any effort to “de-list” himself? What about Mohler’s own web pages? Do you know if he has made any public statement there saying that it was an error for him to sign the MD? His justification for signing it still appears on his website with no disclaimer or qualifier.

Do you think that young people should attend Southern Seminary in preparation for ministry in fundamentalist churches?

I would also have you refrain from rehearsing the litany of fundamentalist offenses and excesses whenever you talk about fundamentalism. It is not that we should not be self-critical. But we don’t need to be self-trashical (I know, no such word). The way you talk about fundamentalism reinforces the caricature many disaffected people hold. I simply don’t believe it is an accurate picture of fundamentalism. The errors you mention really did happen, I agree. But that is not all there is to fundamentalism and fundamentalists. For every error you point out, there are faithful fundamentalists laboring outside the spotlight, serving the Lord with integrity and spending their lives building disciples.

Please remember, I am not saying fundamentalists are immune from criticism. But the way the criticism is made has more than one effect, and I would have you encouraging young people to be fundamentalists. That is not because I think fundamentalism as a movement or a label needs to be  preserved, but because I believe that fundamentalism is Biblical Christianity.

Mike Harding:

Don, We are friends and

Don,

We are friends and serve together in the FBFI.  My evaluation of Kevin’s admonitions to us is that he is endeavoring to help us.  His rhetoric is to the point, humorous, logical, and candid.  Men such as Kevin are good for fundamentalism.  Almost twelve years ago I said publicly at the national FBFI meeting that fundamentalism wasn’t certain as to what the gospel was nor was it certain as to what the Bible was; other than that we were in great shape.  I quoted Dr. McCune and said that fundamentalism is bleeding on these issues; let it bleed.  King James Onlyism and rampant easy believism characterize a large segment of fundamentalism.  You see elements of it in Ketchum’s blog.  Those elements are heterodox. 

The FBFI has since addressed both of those issues in their resolutions.  The FBFI needs to remain militant on the big issues.  Dr. Minnick has exhorted us to be harder on ourselves than we are on others.  Personally, I keep up my ecclesiastical fences between myself and the evangelical world.  However, I know the difference between a departing “brother” (apostasy), a disobedient brother (willful disobedience to the clear dictates of the Word of God), and a disagreeing brother (someone with whom I disagree with enough not to partner with, but nevertheless see a great deal of good in their ministry).  When we throw good men like Bauder or Doran under the bus, we are making a horrible mistake.  I know these men pretty well (particularly Doran), and I assure you that there is a great deal of truth and ministry that we (myself particularly) can and should emulate.  None of us are above evaluation.  Nevertheless, maintaining a defensive posture when good men like Doran and Bauder have been admonishing us to be more self-critical than others-critical will not help us be the kind of thoughtful, godly, theologically sound fundamentalists that we ought to be.  MacArthur was never heretical on the blood, but some mainline fundamentalists were.  MacArthur was never heretical on easy believism, but many fundamentalists were.  MacArthur was never heterodox on inspiration or preservation, but many fundamentalists were and are.  Mac certainly had his problems as has been pointed out, but we had much bigger problems.  I am strongly favorable in maintaining our ecclesiastical fences between ourselves and the conservative evangelicals.  Nevertheless, men like Doran and Bauder are on our side and we need them.

Don Johnson:

Thanks for the note Mike

Mike Harding wrote …

We are friends and serve together in the FBFI.  

This is a great blessing and I’m still holding out hope that we could squeeze a little time in your visit to the northwest for Victoria.

Mike Harding wrote …Dr. Minnick has exhorted us to be harder on ourselves than we are on others.

I agree, but that is part of what I am doing with Kevin, no?

Mike Harding wrote …MacArthur was never heretical on the blood, but some mainline fundamentalists were.  MacArthur was never heretical on easy believism, but many fundamentalists were.  MacArthur was never heterodox on inspiration or preservation, but many fundamentalists were and are.  Mac certainly had his problems as has been pointed out, but we had much bigger problems.  I am strongly favorable in maintaining our ecclesiastical fences between ourselves and the conservative evangelicals.

I don’t think I brought up MacArthur in this discussion. I have some problems with MacArthur, but far less than with the Southern Baptists.

It isn’t easy navigating these waters because the men we are criticizing here are brothers who do good work in many ways. There are still serious issues between them and us and I think they preclude cooperative ministry. I’d like Kevin to be more forthright in pointing that out and less inflammatory in his criticism of fundamentalism. Criticism is not the problem, but inflammatory rhetoric is a problem. I have a hard time seeing how that is different from the rhetoric of some of the past, the very ones now being criticized. Surely criticism, when warranted, can be offered without rhetoric.

Kevin T. Bauder:

While I’m thinking…

Don,

I have read through your advice several times. Thank you for putting in the time and thought to write it. While I think you deserve a reply, I want to consider what I intend to say rather more carefully than usual. While you are waiting, however, you might help to crystallize my thoughts if you would answer another question, or (depending on your answer) perhaps two.

I’ll ask the first question in a few different ways, but I see it as all one question. This question presumes that I am disposed to take your advice.

What do you intend to see accomplished if I take your advice? What will changes will occur in evangelicalism and in Fundamentalism? How do you think the change in my approach will affect and be received by younger Fundamentalists, both those that are committed to the idea of Fundamentalism and those that are wavering between Fundamentalism and some version of evangelicalism? How do you think the change will affect and be received by the leadership of the FBFI? Of other Fundamentalist organizations?

Again, these are meant as serious questions and not as debating points.

Kevin

Kevin T. Bauder:

Asking again

Don,

Let me ask the same question in yet other words.

If I follow your advice, in detail as you give it, how will the world be different? In what ways do you imagine that it will be better, and in what ways do you imagine that it will be worse?

Kevin

Don Johnson:

answers to questions

Kevin Bauder wrote … What do you intend to see accomplished if I take your advice? What will changes will occur in evangelicalism and in Fundamentalism? How do you think the change in my approach will affect and be received by younger Fundamentalists, both those that are committed to the idea of Fundamentalism and those that are wavering between Fundamentalism and some version of evangelicalism? How do you think the change will affect and be received by the leadership of the FBFI? Of other Fundamentalist organizations?

As I see it there are roughly four groups that you influence. 1) There are evangelicals who are open/interested in fundamentalism and dissatisfied to disgusted with the evangelical left. 2) There are those from a fundamentalist background who are actively pursuing an evangelical identification/connection. 3) There are those who are dissatisfied with fundamentalism for various reasons and are wondering whether the evangelicals offer a better alternative. 4) There are convinced fundamentalists who are not hyper fundamentalists but are dismayed at the changes being seen in groups 2 and 3.

Of course, there are individuals who don’t fit exactly into any of the four groups – I am pointing at characteristics on a spectrum of ideas.

If you modify your approach along the lines I advocate there could be some changes in the way these groups respond to you. I could see those in group 2, the fundies pursuing an evangelical identification, simply tuning you out. However, I don’t think that would be true of the other groups. Those who are committed fundamentalists would be more willing to hear what you have to say. I can’t speak for the whole of the FBFI, for example, but if you appeared less as an antagonist and more as an ally, it is my opinion that you would get a better hearing amongst them.

I am not omniscient, so there may be other ramifications that I haven’t considered. As it stands, I think your corrections tend to fall on deaf ears for many fundamentalists because they are not sure whether you really stand with them or not.

Kevin T. Bauder:

Last question for Don (and Mike)

Don,

Thank you for your responses thus far. Before I offer any response, I would like to ask you one further question.

To what extent do you believe that your answers reflect the thinking of the FBFI board and membership as a whole? You’re on the board, right? You’ve been privy to the behind-closed-doors conversations. I’m assuming that you’re in a position to know.

Pastor Harding, if you’re still out there, I would appreciate it if you would also answer this question. I believe that you and Don represent slightly different perspectives. It would be interesting to me to know if the two of you are reading the FBFI in the same way.

My thanks in advance to both of you.

Kevin

Don Johnson:

I can’t speak for the board

The comments I make here are my opinion, the board speaks through Dr. Vaughn and our Polycy and Position statements.

But I will say that this specific question has not been discussed (as far as I can recall) by the board. I have had some correspondence with other preachers since this thread began, one of them a board member. From that correspondence, at least that handful of people appears to agree with me.

But really, does it matter what the board thinks? I think that the kind of thing I am calling for is simply the right thing to do.

Mike Harding:

Kevin, Your question has to

Kevin,

Your question has to do with the overall opinion and disposition of the FBFI board toward the changes we have seen in fundamental seminaries and colleges as well as the aberrant segments of fundamentalism.  Kevin Schaal is our current chairman.  I find him a knowledgeable and fair minded man.  I have known Kevin for 28 years.  He is a grad from BJU, Calvary Seminary, and has a D. Min. from IBS (Sproul’s seminary).  He and I would favor strongly keeping up our ecclesiastical fences between mainline fundamentalists and the conservative evangelicals, yet recognize their helpful contributions to defending the gospel and fighting certain kinds of error.  Personally, I don’t attend or endorse conferences in the evangelical world.  I believe I have a stewardship of influence (Mark Minnick’s terminology) over my own staff and many young men in the ministry who observe what I do.  I would not have brought in Bruce Ware to speak on Open Theism to impressionable undergrad students.  Bruce is a continuationist and a progressive creationist.  Would I use some of his writings on the subject of Open Theism with my class?  Yes.  It is easy to qualify one’s use of a resource.  I would not have brought in Holland to speak to my undergrad students in chapel.  Holland is reasonably solid theologically, but clearly crosses the orthopathy line at his RESOLVED conference.  I wouldn’t advertise at the Desiring God conference either.  Piper, for all his good points, is a strong advocate of continuationism and positively interviews people like Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll giving credence to their ministries and philosophies.  I certainty wouldn’t take a large segment of my student body to hear a Big Daddy Weave concert or tacitly endorse the CCM world that is filled with theological and ethical problems.  My educated guess is that most of the men on the board would be in basic agreement with what I have just written. I thought that your interaction with Dever along with Doran was helpful to clarify our view of church government over against his view.  Nor did I object to Minnick being interviewed by Dever regarding questions of where Fundamentalists stood on separation.  

Where there is disagreement regards our disposition toward the aberrant segments of Fundamentalism.  I have already stated my opposition to the KJVO, easy-believism, anti-intellectual, externally eccentric elements in Fundamentalism.  There are some men who are tolerant of those elements.  Such toleration is not defensible in my estimation.  When good men resign the FBFI board over the toleration of those elements, it makes our job more difficult.  We need to hear their voices of theological accuracy and fair-minded judgment.  The FBFI board is in better condition today than it was before.  We have had our problems internally and have dealt with them honestly.  We are a fellowship, not a denomination, and we must resist acting as if we were a denomination.  Where we have done wrong (and we have), we as godly men should honestly repent.  Nevertheless, overall we are a group of sincere separatists who have signed a very strong doctrinal statement and endeavor to stand against the theological, cultural, and philosophical compromise that appears as a tsunami to engulf biblical Christianity.

Kevin T. Bauder:

Let’s try this again

Don and Mike,

Thank you for taking the time to reply. While I appreciate your replies, I think that I must have failed to communicate clearly what I was asking.

Don, by no means do I want you to speak for the board of the FBFI or to become its voice. We both understand that Dr. Vaughn has that job (though we can both remember one incident in the recent past in which another official assumed the responsibility).

Mike, I largely agree with your assessment of the current condition of Fundamentalism, especially as expressed in the first paragraph. I’m sure there are some small wrinkles of difference, but we both understand that there are times and places in which important aspects of the faith must not be de-emphasized, even for the sake of the gospel. Having said that, as helpful as your evaluation was, it really wasn’t what I was looking for.

I had previously asked Don for his recommendation of what he thought I ought to do. Then I asked for his assessment of how the world would be different and better if I were to follow his advice. He gave pretty clear answers to those questions.

Now I am asking each of you to give me your best guess as to the response that the various parties within the FBFI (both the board and the larger constituency) might make to his advice? What percentage do you think is likely to say, “Yes! Don nailed it, and that’s exactly what Bauder needs to do!”

What percentage is likely to say, “Don has some good points, but to make this advice workable it’s going to have to have something added or taken away.”

What percentage do you think will be saying “I sure hope that Bauder ignores Johnson’s advice, because we need him to be doing approximately what he’s doing now?”

Is this more clear?

Neither one of you can speak for the FBFI. But you both have some sense of who the major players are and how my acceptance of Don’s advice would be likely to affect the give-and-take within the organization.

Kevin

Don Johnson:

I’ll get back to you on this

I’ve got to get out the door and make five visits, so my answer will have to be delayed.

Mike Harding:

Kevin, What should you do? 

Kevin,

What should you do?  First of all, keep writing!  Your lengthy posts and current articles are helpful to us.  You are an articulate and thoughtful fundamentalist.  Our fundamentalist movement, though very fractured, needs well-spoken, articulate, educated, and theologically accurate spokesmen to help navigate the theological, cultural, and philosophical issues that are inundating the average fundamental pastor.  Second, please attend our fundamentalist meetings when feasible.  This will help good men to get to know you as I do.  Third, let some of our brethren who are considering crossing over to the Evangelical world know that the grass may not be nearly as green as it looks.  I will not mention any names at this point.  Fourth, be careful to maintain clear ecclesiastical fences between healthy fundamentalism and the evangelical world.  In my opinion, the good and reasonable men in the FBFI will be open to your constructive criticism.  If we are not, then shame on us. 

Don Johnson:

percentages?

Kevin Bauder wrote …What percentage do you think is likely to say, “Yes! Don nailed it, and that’s exactly what Bauder needs to do!”

What percentage is likely to say, “Don has some good points, but to make this advice workable it’s going to have to have something added or taken away.”

What percentage do you think will be saying “I sure hope that Bauder ignores Johnson’s advice, because we need him to be doing approximately what he’s doing now?”

I’ve been on the board for just the last two years, so I am not sure how accurate my sense of the whole board might be. The wider FBFI constituency would be even harder to evaluate since I am not as well traveled as some would be. However, let me make an effort at a response.

I think virtually no one would choose door number 3, whether they are “pro-Bauder” presently, or “something-else-Bauder”… No one likes to see division, and I get a sense that almost all of the men in the FBFI room are pro-fundamentalism in the post Graham era sense of the word, if that makes sense.

I suspect there might be some who think they could modify my suggestions. Often I am among that number. However, I think most would warmly receive a changed approach something along the lines I suggested.

I would also like to echo Mike’s suggestions, especially if you could get out to more meetings and get to know the men who support the FBFI’s efforts and values. I realize that isn’t always feasible, given the cost of travel. But it would do you and us good if we could see you more often.

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Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Rolland McCune on the Blood of Christ

from the Systematic Theology

Matthew indicates that Jesus “yielded up His spirit” on the cross (Matt 27:50). The order is first abandonment by the Father, then physical death. Jesus’ literal blood was shed on the cross (John 19:33–34). Although one is not saved by touching the molecules of the blood of Jesus (if such were even possible), it is not wise or Scriptural to deprecate His literal blood. The literal blood that was poured out was representative or symbolic of His perfect obedience. Blood always deals with the judicial, forensic, or legal aspects of the atonement. It deals with guilt. The physical blood of Jesus (corpuscles, glucose, plasma, etc.) had no sacramental value. In short, the term “blood of Christ” stands for the sacrificial death of Christ, a violent termination of life. In fact, Paul puts “blood” and “death” in parallel in Romans 5:9–10. (2:168)

If saving efficacy is attributed to the literal molecules of Christ’s blood, His true humanity is denied at that point and thus His natures are confounded. The Logos did not deify His red and white corpuscles or any other aspect of His human nature. (2:168)

The shedding of blood in the Bible speaks fundamentally of death. However, this is not the mere act of dying or the simple exit of one’s life principle. A sacrificial death is the extraction, or the yielding up, of a life. “Blood” in sacrifice equals the violent termination of a life that has atoning moral value before God. (2:179)

The theological rationale of the Old Testament sacrificial system is given in Leviticus 17:11—“For the life [nephesh] of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” The nephesh of the animal was its source of life, the animating or driving principle, and God had “given” (nathan, to appoint, set) this arrangement in approaching Him. The animal was not capable of accountability, personality, or freedom; it was moved by instinct or the necessities of nature. Morally, the sacrificial victim was sinless or guiltless and became the vehicle of the forgiveness of the sin of the offerer. Atonement was “by reason of” (preposition beth) the nephesh, which was the innocent life that was taken in death, and on that basis God, granted an expiation for the sin of the people.

This does not mean that the animal blood itself (the chemical components) secured the atonement; it was the blood “by reason of the life.” Yet there was no atonement until the animal blood was offered, so that the sacrifice was not merely a symbolical charade or theological pantomime. (2:180)

 By the efficacy of the atonement of Christ is meant that which enables and causes His blood to produce its divinely intended effects. What does Christ’s blood possess or represent that enables it to satisfy God’s holy demands in the areas of guilt, slavery, wrath, and enmity? What unifying factor is there that can comprehend the four categories? The answer is the obedience of Christ. This is the integrating principle that permeates atonement and makes the blood of Jesus efficacious with respect to sin and the exigencies sin creates because of offended holiness. (2:198)

 

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin,

A golden opportunity? For what? To accomplish exactly nothing.

Let's just say I wrote some answer denouncing all past attacks on MacA over the blood issue, including the statements of the FBFI. Would that result in any of these pages being taken down? Any less claims being made against MacArthur on the internet?

The page you especially called our attention to isn't even a live page - it's an archive of a page abandoned by a former user:

Quote:
This Page is an outdated, user-generated website brought to you by an archive.It was mirrored from Geocities at the end of October, 2009.

As long as Geocities lasts, the page isn't going away. And Google likely has it cached as well.

Let's say the FBFI published some kind of response to all this. Would any change result? Not one.

Furthermore, who are the people who publish these pages? Are they a threat to MacArthur? Do they influence any significant number of people? Hardly. They aren't worth worrying about. Every public figure in the world must have pages of vitriol on the internet, solely dedicated to them. Perhaps the way to look at such pages is as a badge of honor.

A certain internet pamphleteer once listed my name on his church directory. He has since deleted me (oh, the horror!) but others still have the old list on their sites. It lists me as "very opposed to King James onlyism". He meant it as a warning, I take it as a compliment.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
As a member of the FBFI, I certainly want people to know that these past statements of the fellowship do not reflect my perspective.

Do you approach all organizations you belong to with this zeal to correct the past?

How about Central Seminary? A past president published a pamphlet on the MacArthur blood issue and said that MacArthur was "changing the terms of the gospel". What have you done about that? That would be Dr. Pickering, a man I highly respect and greatly admire. I don't think anyone at Central needs to dig up this episode and make any statement of apology or amends, but if you are going to be consistent, surely you should push for something of the sort. Especially since you are much more tightly connected to Central than you are to the FBFI.

Have you scoured the records of Dr. Clearwaters or Dr. Dollar, two men not known as shinking violets, and had Central make apologies for any errors they may have made in their militancy for fundamentalism?

I didn't think so.

But if we are going to pursue this game, what is fair for the goose is fair for the gander, don't you think?

Quite frankly, this looks less like a zeal for righteousness and more like a vendetta. Maybe I'm wrong to see it that way, and if so, please correct me.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

Pickering made his comment with respect to Lordship Salvation, not the blood issue. Just want to clarify that, otherwise my point still stands, I think.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

You’ve raised several interesting issues, and I can’t respond to them all at once. There are two that are of particular interest to me.

First, as you note, the web page that corresponds to the FBF News Bulletin is an archived page and it’s not going away. In my mind, that only reinforces the point. Isn’t it important to have a permanent, public record that anyone can point to, demonstrating the FBFI’s present rejection of this past sin?

Second, you raise the issue of past sins committed by leaders of Central Seminary. That is indeed a question worthy of addressing. I’ve got a responsibility that’s pulling me away right now, but I respond to this question when I can. It is a worthwhile question.

Kevin

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Here are your statements to which I wish to respond:

Have you scoured the records of Dr. Clearwaters or Dr. Dollar, two men not known as shinking violets, and had Central make apologies for any errors they may have made in their militancy for fundamentalism?

I didn't think so.

But if we are going to pursue this game, what is fair for the goose is fair for the gander, don't you think?

You are raising several related issues, so my reply is going to have several parts.

First, you ask whether I (we?) have “scoured the records” for the transgressions of Clearwaters and Dollar. But that misses the point and introduces an element that has not been part of the conversation. I have not asked the FBFI to scour the records looking for past transgressions. I merely hinted at a very public transgression that everybody already knows about and talks about. You yourself recognized the hint immediately, which is further evidence that the episode does not belong to the distant past. No, we have not scoured the records, but when somebody brings up a sin (public or private) from the past, we are willing to deal with it.

Second, there is a difference between the way that public and private sins ought to be addressed. We are to confess our faults to one another, which I understand to mean that we acknowledge our faults within the circle of those who have reason to know them. Supposing Clearwaters or Dollar sinned privately against some student or professor, Central Seminary has an obligation to correct the wrong privately as far as we can. Supposing Clearwaters or Dollar sinned publicly in the same way that the FBFI did, then Central Seminary has an obligation to distance itself publicly from the deed that was done and to try to correct the wrong.

Third, Central Seminary has done lots of distancing and correcting for public faults. Probably the clearest example was the apology to Doug McLachlan and his restoration to the pastorate of Fourth Baptist Church and the presidency of Central Seminary. Everyone knew that a wrong had been done; both church and seminary united in seeking to correct that wrong. Forgiveness was asked and received. Restoration occurred. It was a rare moment in Fundamentalism, and in my opinion it established a beautiful example of the way that such things ought to be handled. If we don’t often bring the episode up now, that’s only because it actually is a closed chapter. It was closed by confession and restoration.

Fourth, we have tried very hard to distance ourselves from past transgressions when they have been brought to our attention. On multiple occasions we have brought men back to our campus as part of the effort to try to repair hurts that were, in some cases, decades old. We have also tried to correct past wrongs to the best of our ability. There are actually people who think we've done too much of this.

It is not always easy to judge whether a wrong was done, but we have generally tried to err on the side of possible victims. For example, an alumnus came to us a couple of years ago, alleging that his thesis had been “mislaid” at an administrator’s direction and that he had consequently been denied graduation from a particular program. We did our best to talk to the principals, but too many of them were now dead for us to be able to determine exactly what happened. Nevertheless, we gave this alumnus the option of completing the requirements for the degree and graduating decades late. We had to bend a few academic standards, but we thought that it was important to correct an (possible) injustice.

I could give you a listing of specific events in which we’ve tried to live by the very same standard I’ve articulated for you. Of course, there may still be things that we don’t know about or have not taken seriously enough. That’s why we try to listen carefully when people approach us with concerns. But to answer your question directly, yes, if somebody comes to me with a legitimate concern about some past episode of character assassination or other public transgression, I’ll be happy to advocate that it be addressed. What’s fair for the goose is indeed fair for the gander.

Finally, I’ve tried to make a personal practice of public confession when I’ve become convinced that I’ve committed public sins. I’ve had to do this more than once. Members of the Central Seminary faculty can bear witness. In fact, there should be members of SI who can remember when I’ve acknowledged my faults in public. We’ve seen Mike Harding do something similar as part of this discussion. You yourself have come close to it by distancing yourself from some of your past behavior as a blogger. Well, it’s hardly a vendetta to suggest that what’s fair for the gander certainly ought to be fair for the goose.

Kevin

 

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Just a few personal reflections here regarding two of the men whose names you mentioned: Clearwaters and Dollar. I did not know either of them well, but it seems to me that some distinction ought to be drawn. Both could be confrontational, but they were not equally careful.

For the most part, Clearwaters was a very careful man. At least in terms of his public actions, he normally avoided stepping over the line. At minimum, he knew how not to leave himself open to obvious accusations. He also could show a charitable side that was nearly absent in Dollar's demeanor, at least after the Piedmont debacle.

Something seemed to die in Dollar after this crucifixion at Piedmont. He had never been as careful as Clearwaters, and over the years of his public ministry he seemed to grow worse rather than better. That carelessness is exactly what led to his departure from Central Seminary. Clearwaters himself had to deal with some of the public things that Dollar had said and done while here. The very worst, however, at least in terms of public infelicities, came after his years at Central Seminary. Dollar failed in rather spectacular ways that Clearwaters did not.

This is not the final word for either man, though. During his later years, Clearwaters did his best to reconcile with at least some of his erstwhile opponents--and in at least some cases, was successful. Dollar, though broken by the compounded tragedy of his personal failures, was still trying to serve the Lord at the time of his death, filling pulpits whenever he could. As he said to one friend of mine, "You can almost always do something for Jesus."

Personally, I doubt that I'll ever accomplish half the good that either of these men did.

I am so grateful for a Lord who never gives up on us. I am so grateful that He is able to work in us and through us, in spite of our intransigence.

Don Johnson's picture

First of all, let me commend you on the actions taken by you and/or Central for righting wrongs. No disagreement there.

Second, I don't think anything would be gained by dredging up the MacArthur blood issue once again. All of the links you selected as evidence of the pressing need for dealing with it once again are from obscure, non-influential, and even 'dead' sites (in the internet sense). I presume you selected the better examples of what you could find? If that is all there is, it would seem to indicate that the only people continuing to raise it are not worth dealing with.

Now, I do note that you didn't address the comment by Pickering regarding MacArthur's Lordship Salvation - "changing the terms of the gospel". According to a paper published by Jeff Straub the pamphlet was originally published by Central Seminary. That's a pretty serious charge - was it right or wrong? If wrong, has Central done anything about it?

But I don't want to attempt to go back and forth trading stories about how one institution did this and another did that. We could cite examples of errors and misjudgements as well as examples of handling ethical misdeeds in a godly way, both by Central and the FBFI. I am not sure what we would gain by rehearsing more of these.

However, the bottom line of this discussion, it seems to me, is this:

If we are to promote the fundamentalist idea, what is the best way to do it?

  • Should we rally men to the fundamentalist idea, as the FBFI attempts to do through its publications and fellowships?
  • Or should we discourage men from promoting the fundamentalist idea by regularly rehearsing the errors of the past?

The path forward seems pretty clear to me.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Back in the early 1950s, Robert Clausen and Martin Marty were students at Concordia Seminary. They made up a fictitious theologian, Franz Bibfeldt, and began to reference his equally fictitious works. Eventually a whole history grew up around the Bibfeldt persona. He was supposed to be the great theologian of reconciliation who labored to bring conflicting theologies into concord. He was alleged to have responded to Kierkegaard's Either/Or with a work of his own entitled Both/And. Then, concerned that perhaps he had emphasized the antithesis too strongly, he published a second work, Both/And And/Or Either/Or.

What you have set forth as an adversative, I see as a conjunctive. We must both make the positive case for Fundamentalist ideals, and deal with the past abuses of Fundamentalism. Why? First, because this is a simple matter of honesty--it is the right thing to do. Second, because the past is not genuinely dead, but often lives on in the present. Third, the effort to sweep these things under the rug (to avoid talking about the elephant in the room) inevitably leads to dysfunctional organizations and movements. Fourth, the way to get past scandals off the table is simply to address them once for all. Put them to rest, not by ignoring them, but by dealing with them.

A very good example is BJU's dealing with past racial policies. By acknowledging the wrong and apologizing, they simply took the issue off the table for reasonable people. The topic may come up as a matter of history, but most of us are not sitting out here blaming BJU. In fact, we celebrate the good that has taken place and are willing to defend the university against unjust critics. BJU is currently doing the same thing with its complete transparency over an episode of alleged sexual abuse. There's no cover-up, no alibi, no blame-shifting. As nearly as I can tell, the attitude is simply, "let's deal with the problem."

That attitude is what we need to see throughout Fundamentalism. I'm not for a moment suggesting that we need to dredge up every fault of every past leader. When it comes to major scandals or evils, however, they are better faced and acknowledged than buried. This is especially true when they affect the present. An attitude of, "You know, we really blew it there," can go a long way toward reassuring followers that issues will be dealt with rightly in the future.

I actually do think that we need to "get over it" in terms of some of Fundamentalism's past ugliness. In at least some cases, however, the best way to get over it is to deal with it.

It appears to me that you and I simply have different understandings of how public sins--and especially the sins of the past--ought to be handled. We can address that difference at the level of principle, and there it appears that we disagree about what is the right thing to do. We can also address it at the pragmatic level. At the pragmatic level, I have to tell you--completely apart from the question of whether I bring these things up, they are not going away. Until you (e.g., the FBFI leadership) take them off the table, they are going to continue to plague you.

At some point, this becomes a separation issue. Young men must ask whether their conscience will permit them to enter, and older men have to ask whether their conscience will permit them to remain in, an institution or movement that will not rightly address its own sins. At some point, you are likely to see godly men being forced to separate from the FBFI because of its moral compromise. In fact, my guess is that a good many already have.

It seems that we have said about all that is useful to say on this topic. I'm prepared to leave it and to discuss your other counsel to me. If anything, that discussion promises to be even more interesting than this.

Through Sunday, I have almost nonstop responsibilities. It'll take me a while to get another serious post up.

Kevin

Mike Harding's picture

Kevin,

I have been away from my computer preaching at a Christian college.  I would like to make a few comments about the MacArthur issue.  The author of those FBF bulletins you cited was wrong.  McCune states the issue on the blood accurately.  The Divine Blood theory is heterodoxy because it denies the true humanity of Christ which by implication nullifies the true nature of the substitutionary, various sacrifice of Christ.  If the humanity of Christ is not truly human, then his humanity is a hybrid of sorts (i.e. not 100% man).  Whoever wrote those articles in the bulletin decades ago was terribly mistaken.  If I remember correctly, I recall that Dave Doran addressed this issue publicly (blood and the humanity of Christ) about a dozen or more years ago at the National FBFI meeting in a message he delivered at Faith Baptist in Taylors, SC.  I thought that message put the issue to rest.  JM made some confusing statements and in my opinion, some poorly worded, unwise statements, upon which some with an agenda took advantage in order to discredit him.  Others who were theologically ignorant or confused simply misunderstood JM and jumped to a wrong conclusion.  For the most part the same people who misunderstood the blood issue are the people who misunderstand the translation issue.

 

In defense of the FBFI we avoided the error of the divine blood theory in our own re-written doctrinal statement and we defined the meaning of the blood of Christ shed on the cross as his his substitutionary, sacrificial death.  We agree with McCune who agrees with the Bible.  McCune was also correct when stating that we have to be very careful in our wording to not give the impression that we are deprecating the blood of Christ.  Christ's blood is precious because it is the real human blood of the God-man; nevertheless, his blood is part of his humanity not his deity.  God is Spirit and we who worship him worship him in spirit and in truth.  God incarnate, however, has blood by virtue of his virgin birth and genuine humanity and therefore could actually die and be raised again.  The Sacramental view of the blood, on the other hand, is Romish and must be rejected by all Bible-believing protestants.

 

A letter to JM on this issue is not out of line.  I am for it and would be glad to write it, if that will help settle the issue.  However, I have also read Pickering's booklet on Lordship Salvation where he accuses JM of changing the gospel.  That booklet is still available.  I highly respect Pickering, but some of the non-sense in free grace theology out of Dallas via Hodges and to some degree Ryrie, may have influenced Pickering when he wrote that booklet.  Again, JM makes some over-the-top statements in his polemics about the nature of saving faith, but in principle I think he is right.  Saving faith implicitly involves submission and explicitly involves repentance.  I think Pickering would actually agree with this concept regarding the true condition for being declared righteous on the merits of Christ.  Nevertheless, he misunderstood and thereby misrepresented JM on this issue which was just as serious as the FBF bulletin's misrepresentation of JM on the blood. 

 

We do not regard JM as heretical or heterodox on the gospel or the blood.  I dare say that JM has moved to the right over the last 30 years on many issues and has been quite militant on many doctrinal issues.  I disagree with JM on church polity, music to some degree (i.e. Holland), his view of legalism, an occasional speaker, and some associations he maintains.  Other than that I think he has made many helpful contributions via his books and messages.

 

 

Pastor Mike Harding

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

 (to avoid talking about the elephant in the room)

First, I can't believe you're talking about elephant rooms! Don't you know that elephant rooms are separation issues???? (Ok, lame, lame joke)

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

It appears to me that you and I simply have different understandings of how public sins--and especially the sins of the past--ought to be handled. 

I wonder if this is really the crux of the difference between us. Part of the problem in considering the question lies in the specific instance that has become a bone of contention in this debate, the MacArthur 'blood controversy'. If you search this thread, you will see that it was first raised by Mike Harding in the OP. The next instance is also in the OP where I respond to Mike, quoting his reference to it. The next reference is when you pick it up as an example of the sins that fundamentalists cover up - it is in the post headed "Equal Time" and numbered 52557. (I don't know why this thread isn't counting posts consecutively.)

We have devolved into quite a bit of back and forth on this issue which has perhaps interested us but no one else much. Here are some questions I have about this particular issue:

  • Was the issue about nothing? In other words, didn't MacArthur have some blame for his initial statements on the topic? He later clarified his views, that suggests that at least he was partly to blame for the controversy.

Perhaps the problem we are having coming to agreement on this issue is that I don't see it as a crystal clear example of fundamentalist error alone. (That is not to say we shouldn't correct our part in that error and I am open to further discussion of that point.)

I also wonder, given the amount of back and forth we have had on this point, if this isn't the tip of an iceberg. Suppose we were to address the MacArthur issue to your satisfaction. Would that be enough for you to grant us absolution? Or would it only open the flood-gate of more offenses the nasty fundamentalists must repent of?

On the other hand, I raised the issue of Dr. Pickering's statement about MacArthur while he was president of Central - it seems to me to be a parallel issue. You haven't addressed it at all.

It is all very well to say that we must deal with sins of the past as a general principle, but the reason we sidestep them, it seems to me, is that 1) we think the issue is presently a non-issue because it is long in the past; 2) we think the issue is a non-issue for us because we weren't a party to it; 3) we think that there are some aspects of the issue that were merited on the "sinning side" (as it were).

Are any of those the reasons why you keep avoiding the Central published pamphlet that said MacArthur changed the terms of the gospel?

~~~

This whole conversation really got rolling when you asked me to offer you suggestions for what you should do. You spent a lot of time reshaping my suggestions. I have to say that I was surprised at this effort since I don't think my suggestions were that unclear in the first place. I'd like to reiterate them here.

With respect to evangelicalism I suggested:

Quote:
I would counsel you to to speak more forthrightly about why you are so different from the evangelicals and why you can’t go there to join with them.

With respect to fundamentalism, I suggested:

Quote:
I would also have you refrain from rehearsing the litany of fundamentalist offenses and excesses whenever you talk about fundamentalism. It is not that we should not be self-critical. But we don’t need to be self-trashical (I know, no such word). The way you talk about fundamentalism reinforces the caricature many disaffected people hold. I simply don’t believe it is an accurate picture of fundamentalism. The errors you mention really did happen, I agree. But that is not all there is to fundamentalism and fundamentalists. For every error you point out, there are faithful fundamentalists laboring outside the spotlight, serving the Lord with integrity and spending their lives building disciples.

Please remember, I am not saying fundamentalists are immune from criticism. But the way the criticism is made has more than one effect, and I would have you encouraging young people to be fundamentalists. That is not because I think fundamentalism as a movement or a label needs to be  preserved, but because I believe that fundamentalism is Biblical Christianity.

Are these points really so difficult to understand?

You want us to clearly deal with past outstanding sins of fundamentalism. I'll concede that point as a worthy suggestion. We'll have to have some discussion as to how that should take place. But, having conceded that point, let me point out that there are a whole lot more than just me that you must persuade. How do you propose to do that when you use terms that attack those you seek to convince? You broad-brush them as "muckety mucks" who "fulminate". You imply that they are imperial, etc.

If you want to convince men that these corrective steps should be taken, you need to get involved with them, speak with them, persuade them. I have sat in the room with the other leaders of the FBFI. There are a lot of strong personalities in that room. They are quite willing to work through issues very frankly. I don't see anyone in that room who is an empire builder. They are all interested in promoting fundamentalism because it is Biblical Christianity. They are lending their support to ministries intended to promote these ideas. These are the men you need to influence if you think something should be done about the past. Well... how will that happen if they are wondering if you will sit on the sidelines and cast stones at them if they don't all jump to your suggestions?

We are now coming back full circle in this discussion. I am a bit puzzled at the direction it has taken, and at the length of time. I am not really sure if we have accomplished anything. As often happens with conversations, we have gotten sidetracked on tangential issues.

That is all for now. I look forward to leaving SI alone until after Sunday!

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mike Harding's picture

As with Christ's Deity, so his humanity is a test of fellowship.  Christ's whole person with two natures necessitates that that we not deny or diminish either one of the natures without casting aspersion regarding his person--otherwise known as the Theanthropic person.  It is neo-platonic or at worse, gnosticism, to deny any aspect of the humanity of Christ, including his blood.  Unless Jesus was fully and completely man, no man could be saved.  "Only what God became can be saved."  He didn't become an angel or an animal; he became a full, complete, 100% man while simultaneously remaining 100% God.  Thus, Jesus, the eternal Son of God, took upon himself, perfectly and completely, sinless human nature in human flesh, blood, and form.  His humanity is completely, absolutely genuine.  Christ said, "Take eat, this is my body...this is my blood of the covenant" (Matt 26:26-28 NASB). The Word became Flesh (Jn 1:14).  This refers to his body and blood--all a part of genuine human nature.  Prior to the incarnation Christ was not human in any sense.  After the incarnation he added full, complete, perfect, sinless human nature to his personhood, without confounding the natures or dividing the person, equaling his hypostatic union--the God-Man (Phil 2:5-11).  His flesh and blood speak of a human being (Matt 16:17).  Even Christ exercised human emotion on the Cross in connection with his sweat which became like great drops of blood (Luke 22:44). 

Human nature includes the sum total of all the essential qualities that make something genuinely what it is.  A nature is not a person, but rather is a complexity of attributes that gives definition to the reality of something.  Jesus is one, eternal divine person who now has two complexes of attributes--divine and human.  Yet the natures though united in the one person, still remain distinct (Rom 1:3-4; Rom 9:5 ESV).  There is no transmutation of one nature into the other to form a hybrid third nature.  The theanthropic person does not have theanthropic natures.  Therefore, it is important to realize that the Divine Logos did not deify the sinless, genuine, human nature of Christ.  This would be the ancient heterodoxy of Eutychianism that fused the two natures into a unity of nature with the divine nature absorbing the human nature. 

We enthusiastically must affirm that Jesus' literal blood was shed on the cross to make atonement for the sins of the world (Jn 19:33-34).  His blood is inseparable from his person, but is not confounded in its nature.  As Christ poured out his blood in his sacrificial, atoning death it represented his perfect life of obedience to the Father, the true satisfaction of the Mosaic Law, and the obedience unto death, even the death of the cross which paid both the positive price of imputed righteousness and the infinitively negative price of a true and just punishment for our sins.  Unlike the Romanist heresy, however, we clearly affirm that the physical properties of the blood's corpuscles, glucose, plasma do not have any mystical, sacramental value (Rom 5:9-10; Col 1:20; Heb 9:14-15).  Thus we don't literally "eat his flesh" or "drink his blood" as the papacy affirms.  If we assign the efficacy of Christ's blood to the literal molecules as does Rome, we deny his true humanity and confound his natures.  In light of this further explanation, I have asked Aaron Blumer to remove my sarcastic note on this issue in my previous post.  It was unnecessarily pejorative and a poor attempt at humor.  Nevertheless, for a more complete explanation of this issue, read Leon Morris in "The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross" (pp. 108-24).

Pastor Mike Harding

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Sorry for the delay, but it’s been an intense weekend. I taught Friday night and all day Saturday, then preached in a church out-of-state on Sunday. I’m tired, but rejoicing in what the Lord has been doing.

I think your last post raises two smaller issues and a larger one. Let me knock out the two smaller ones here.

First, you express bemusement that I spent time rewording your suggestions. I felt that I had to because I wanted to eliminate what I thought was an unfair personal element. For example, you began a key paragraph with these words: “I would also have you refrain from rehearsing the litany of fundamentalist offenses and excesses whenever you talk about fundamentalism.” But I have never, ever rehearsed anything approaching the whole litany of Fundamentalist offenses. At most, I have mentioned only a few of the most egregious and obvious ones, and those have always been the offenses that remain unresolved. And I certainly don’t bring them up “whenever [I] talk about fundamentalism.” But there is little point in wrangling over how many words I write in defense of separatism, dispensationalism, Baptist ecclesiology, etc., within Fundamentalism as over against the number of words that I spend criticizing Fundamentalists. So I tried to recast the statement in a more objective way. In other words, I tried not to be offended by what I thought was an unfair accusation, but rather to understand the principled critique that you wanted to make.

Second, you ask why I have not said anything about Pickering’s statement concerning MacArthur during the controversy over Lordship Salvation. There are two reasons. The first is simple. You yourself suggested that I should not. You said, “I don't think anyone at Central needs to dig up this episode and make any statement of apology or amends.” So I took you at your word.

The second reason is that I have not yet found a copy of the pamphlet. I’m still looking. Until I do, I’m reluctant to comment about a single statement that may or may not have been understood rightly in its context.

“Changing the terms” can be understood in multiple ways. If it means, “Altering the conditions for reception of the gospel,” then it is a much more serious charge than if it means, “Adjusting the expressions that one uses in describing the gospel.” You seem to be assuming that it means the former, and that Pickering was implying that MacArthur was somehow denying the gospel. That may be the case, but if so, it does not match Pickering’s conduct. While he was president of Central Seminary, Pickering retained faculty members who advocated Lordship Salvation. Not only that, one of the prominent voices in the history of Central Seminary is Rolland McCune, who has never been hesitant to express himself on this subject. For these reasons, it does not seem likely that Pickering would simply denounce Lordship Salvation as a denial of the gospel.

That’s why I would very much like to see a copy of the pamphlet before responding. I’m working on finding one.

Your last post also begins to address a bigger issue, and I think it is the next one that we need to address. It is specifically raised by your other recommendation to me—the recommendation that I avoid situations that look like cooperative ministry with conservative evangelicals in view of their serious error. We’ll have to break that one out for separate discussion.

 

-->

 

Don Johnson's picture

Thanks for the note.

I understand how my words initially contained "an unfair personal element", but perhaps it would have been easier to simply point to those words and ask if that was the best way to express it? This is not meant critically, I do see what you mean in criticizing my comments. Hyperbolic expression is habit-forming and isn't helpful in discussion.

Secondly, on thinking this over, I am not that anxious to pursue the Pickering pamphlet. I personally don't think it is a matter you or Central need to clear up. I offered it as an example of a past controversy that is outstanding, but one that doesn't really need to be answered, just as I don't think the FBFI needs to answer, in the present time, errors that are long past and not really germaine to the present discussion.

Look forward to addressing a larger issue. In some ways, the discussion has taken us down a path of dealing with what I see as minor or petty issues that really aren't the main point of where we need to go.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mike Harding's picture

Kevin,

 

Now that I have given a more complete explanation of the blood issue, I certainly understand its importance.  I will suggest to Kevin Schaal that we clear this matter with JM in a more definitive fashion than we have.  There still are men in "Fundamentalism" that doggedly hold to a Sacramentarian view of the blood.  I don't want to be connected with that view which I consider heterodox at best.  Those of us on the positions and policies committee need to remove some of the old resolutions that are in error. 

 

Even with some of our historical baggage, I think the FBFI organization is worthwhile for a healthy fundamentalism.  I want to encourage our young men who wish to remain identified as historical, biblical, orthodox, separatists as well as baptists to join in with us for the perpetuation of the ideals of a healthy fundamental baptist movement and its practical implementation.

Pastor Mike Harding

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Now it’s time to get to your other word of advice, which is to avoid public conversations with evangelicals when these conversations could be mistaken for cooperative ministry, because these evangelicals (Dever, MacArthur, Mohler, etc.) are in "serious error." This advice actually raises substantial issues. It forces us to ask three questions.

First, how do we gauge the gravity of any given error? Presumably we agree that we have an obligation to affirm all and only those doctrines that Scripture affirms, and to implement all and only those moral and ecclesiastical practices that Scripture requires. We commit error whenever we hold a wrong view on a biblical topic or whenever we fail to implement some moral or ecclesiastical practice that Scripture requires (or, for that matter, when we implement as a matter of morality or ecclesiastical practice something that Scripture does not require). The upshot is that whenever two brethren disagree about what the faith actually affirms of requires, at least one of them must be in error (and, since we are obligated to avoid error, to be disobedient).

Requirements of the faith, however, are different from applications of the faith. Applications involve particular circumstances, and because circumstances differ, applications require an element of judgment. Differences in judgment do not necessarily imply biblical error disobedience on the part of either party, while differences over doctrines and practices do. In other words, errors in judgment are not necessarily matters of disobedience.

But how do we determine whether our disagreement is over a matter of obedience or a matter of judgment? When it is over a matter of obedience, how do we determine which forms of disobedience are more serious and which are less so? Evidently you would distinguish levels of seriousness for disobedience, since you charge conservative evangelicals with serious (rather than mild or moderate) error. What is the mechanism for making that determiniation?

Second, do all instances of disobedience (let alone errors of judgment) require the same reaction, or do different levels of disobedience require different levels of response? In other words, are there levels of fellowship at which we can tolerate greater disobedience (or errors of judgment) in our brethren than at other levels? Different levels of public ministry? Of platform participation? If so, how do we know which levels of fellowship, ministry, or platform participation are broader and which are narrower? Is it possible to answer this question biblically and theologically, rather than simply on the basis of personal prejudices?

Third, what would lead you to believe that the errors of conservative evangelicals (with whom you do not wish me to engage in public ministry) are any more serious than the errors of some Fundamentalists with whom leaders of the FBFI actually have engaged in public ministry? In fact, don’t we find a range of errors being committed by both conservative evangelicals and Fundamentalists? Until we have a mechanism for gauging the gravity of these errors, it seems presumptuous to insist that the errors of the one are necessarily worse than the errors of the other.

In this post, I am simply trying to frame the questions, not to answer them. In my next post, I hope to put up some ideas that are not my own, in order to show that even some very separatistic Fundamentalists recognize the legitimacy of these concerns.

 

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Mike,

Thanks for the review of Chalcedonian Christology and its application to the blood of Jesus. Like you, I affirm that the shedding of Jesus' blood was essential for the forgiveness of our sins. Like you, I deny that the efficacy of the blood consisted in any chemical (let alone mystical or magical) divine property, but derived from the power of His endless life. A hypodermic syringe of Jesus' blood would not have secured our redemption.

I would add one note to your discussion of the natures. In orthodox Christology, we speak of the communication of attributes or properties. The properties of each nature communicate to the person according to that nature. The properties do not communicate to the other nature. Consequently, we deny (against the Lutherans) that the human body of Jesus is ubiquitous, for the omnipresence of the divine nature does not communicate to the human body of Jesus. This understanding of the communication of properties is what allows us to recognize that the person could be tired, unaware, and spatially bounded according to the human nature, while at the same time being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent according to the divine nature.

But here's the thing. Since the properties of each nature are the properties of the person, it is appropriate to speak of one nature under the aspect of the other. That is why Paul, when talking to the Ephesian elders, could speak about Jesus' blood as God's own blood. It was God's blood, even though it was purely and only human as to its properties. It was the blood of the person, and the person was (is) God. Consequently, I believe you'll find many theologians who have referred to Jesus' blood as divine blood.

The problem with this expression is that it is ambiguous. Jesus' blood is divine in the sense that it is the blood of a divine person. It is certainly not divine in the sense that any property of the divine nature has been communicated to it. If we could smear it on a slide and put it under a microscope, we would find nothing that would distinguish it from other human blood. What is unique about the blood of Christ is whose it is, not what it is.

For similar reasons we are uncomfortable calling Mary theotokos, but we must never deny that she is. Over against Nestorianism, we insist that she carried and gave birth, not to a nature, but to a person. That person can never be divided, and the person is genuinely God. He possesses the full divine essence. While we don't like what you-know-who does with the idea, we have to admit that Mary gave birth to God.

The blood of Jesus is God's own blood in exactly the same sense and for exactly the same reason that Mary is rightly recognized as the mother of God. The truths are exactly parallel, and the risks are exactly parallel. It has always mystified me that some of us have been quick to react against errors in Mariology, but much slower to respond to an equally erroneous hematology. To reason from an erroneous understanding of Jesus' blood as divine to a doctrine of the indestructability of the blood (for example) is to fall into the Lutheran error of communicating the properties of the divine nature to the human nature. This is necessarily to overshadow the true humanity of Christ by His deity, resulting in a practical Eutychianism.

Having said all that, I cannot claim to understand how any of it works. To me, the hypostatic union is a mystery to be affirmed by faith because it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. I am staggered whenever I ponder these things, and, to tell you the truth, I cannot think of them for long without beginning to weep. Even though He subsisted in the form of God, He did not consider equality with God a thing to be selfishly grasped, but emptied himself, receiving the form of a slave and coming to be in the likeness of men. Then, when His external appearance was indistinguishable from the merely human, He humbled Himself to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Since blood is fittest, Lord to write
Thy sorrows in, and bloody fight;
My heart hath store, write there, where in
One box doth lie both ink and sin: 

(George Herbert)

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

IFBF Resolution – Concerning Ecclesiastical Separation

Forasmuch as the Indiana Fundamental Baptist Fellowship of Churches has from its inception adhered to Jude’s admonition to, “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints,” and,

Whereas, every generation faces its own unique and specific challenges to steadfastness and fidelity to the Scriptures, which are able to make one wise unto salvation; and,

Whereas there has in this generation arisen movements which have called for a merging of professing Christendom to gather under a Gospel banner, rallying ‘round a mantra of holding to and setting forth the gospel message, i.e. that Christ died for our sins and was buried and rose again the third day, as the only test of faith for fellowship and the standard for legitimacy in New Testament Christianity in this 21st century; and,

Whereas the IFBF has always been, and remains to this present hour, committed to the biblical principles of both personal and ecclesiastical separation, believing that the whole counsel of God’s Word is our imperative, and that erring brethren ought to be loved, yet admonished and even separated from when persisting in error;

Therefore, be it resolved at this IFBF annual meeting in the city of Indianapolis, Indiana, on the 12th day of April, 2011, that our constituency goes on record as affirming our commitment to these separatist principles and further,

Be it resolved that we, as a fellowship of Independent Baptists, reject the compromise of the present Together for the Gospel movement, the Southern Baptist Convention, Sovereign Grace Ministries, the Resolved Conference and similar current theological philosophies, associations, publications and trends impacting churches, colleges and seminaries which for the desired end of togetherness, cooperation and oneness in our understanding minimize doctrine and sacrifice faithfulness to our historic separatist, Biblicist stand, i.e. that of separation from Christian individuals or organizations that affiliate with those who deny the faith or are content to walk together with those who compromise the doctrine and practice of Scripture;

Be it further resolved that the IFBF affirms today that it stands as a separatist body where it stood at its inception when, rejecting the new evangelicalism of the 50’s, the IFBF was born and came into existence because of a need for a strong fundamental, separatist, independent and Baptistic fellowship to which men of conviction and churches of like faith could adhere; we stand now where we stood then, and we shall continue to steadfastly stand for, and upon, the once delivered faith, so help us God.

Respectfully submitted by the 2011 Resolution Committee:

Dr. Tony Slutz, Committee Chairman

Dr. Larry Hufhand, IFBF Secretary

Dr. Rick Arrowood, Board Member

 

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

The following paragraphs are taken from the Hufhand Report of April 18, 2011. This report is written by Lawrence D. Hufhand. At the time he wrote this report, Dr. Hufhand was the state representative of the Indiana Fundamental Baptist Fellowship. All spelling, grammar, and punctuation is sic. My thanks to Dr. Lance Ketcham who kindly notified me of this report.

Our Fellowship, the one we affectionately call the IFBF, consist of pastors from diverse backgrounds and educational esperiences from Bob Jones to Pensacola to Crown to Ambassador to Tennessee Temple, to Maranatha to Northland to Pillsbury, to West Coast to Heritage and IBC right here in Indianapolis, IN, and no doubt to other lesser known schools. Some of our pastors have been blessed with seminary training, as well as earned and conferred Doctor’s degrees, but when we meet together in fellowship, none of this matters. We love each other and are bound together by mutual respect and admiration. If a particular church has been singled out to be blessed by God in a special way, we rejoice and are glad. If a pastor or church is going thourgh a time of testing and trial we rally around them and pray for them to be encouraged and do whatever we can to help them through their trial. And most of our pastors stay a long time in their churches.

 Hardly any of us agree on everything, but we all agree on the fundamentals of the faith and are honored to be considered an Independent Fundamental Bible-believing Baptist. Although our methods of operation, our forms of service, our styles of preaching may differ, we all do our best to keep the main thing, the main thing, and the main thing is to preach the whole counsel of God; win the lost to Jesus Christ; baptize them into our churches; and then disciple them in Christian growth.

 

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

First, how do we gauge the gravity of any given error? ...

Differences in judgment do not necessarily imply biblical error disobedience on the part of either party, while differences over doctrines and practices do. In other words, errors in judgment are not necessarily matters of disobedience.

So far, so good. No disagreement that we can have differences over fundamental doctrine, denominational distinctives, theological systems, corporate (local church) and individual applications, or judgements, as you call them.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
But how do we determine whether our disagreement is over a matter of obedience or a matter of judgment? When it is over a matter of obedience, how do we determine which forms of disobedience are more serious and which are less so?

Now for a clarifying question of my own: in defining a 'serious error', must we limit it to matters  of disobedience only? Are not some judgements/applications of doctrine also serious errors?

For example, when Billy Graham joined with liberals in his evangelistic campaigns, I think we would agree that he was in disobedience to the doctrine of separation. There were some who didn't necessarily join with Graham in his crusades, but defended him, took up his cause, took issue with his critics, etc. Would we say they were in disobedience or making an error of judgement? Whatever we would call it, would it be a serious error or not?

In other words, I am not certain I want to concede that the only kinds of errors that are serious are errors that involve disobedience. There are other, more current issues that come to mind, but I'll hold off on those for the time being as we go through the process of defining terms.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
Second, do all instances of disobedience (let alone errors of judgment) require the same reaction, or do different levels of disobedience require different levels of response?

Simple answer: No.

I have long thought and often written that one of our problems in this discussion is the word "separation". In the purest meaning of the word, we are only separate from unbelievers. As far as I know, Billy Graham (our usual whipping boy) is a believer. If that is correct, we will all share eternity with him and others like him. We wouldn't cooperate with him in ministry, but all ties are not broken if his profession of faith is true - and I have no reason to suggest that it is not true.

Other men have committed errors far less egregious than his, yet both of us would still be unwilling to enter into ecclesiastical cooperation with them. I have seen you argue for limited cooperation with some, and as far as the argument goes, I agree in principle. Most likely, we will disagree in some applications and will therefore have to make decisions about each other, perhaps even at some point limiting the extent to which we could work with one another.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
If so, how do we know which levels of fellowship, ministry, or platform participation are broader and which are narrower? Is it possible to answer this question biblically and theologically, rather than simply on the basis of personal prejudices?

That last question: it remains to be seen...

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
Third, what would lead you to believe that the errors of conservative evangelicals (with whom you do not wish me to engage in public ministry) are any more serious than the errors of some Fundamentalists with whom leaders of the FBFI actually have engaged in public ministry? In fact, don’t we find a range of errors being committed by both conservative evangelicals and Fundamentalists? Until we have a mechanism for gauging the gravity of these errors, it seems presumptuous to insist that the errors of the one are necessarily worse than the errors of the other.

The argument, such as it is, is not about the right side of the ditch, but the left side of the ditch. If there are serious errors on the right side (and we know there are), they have no bearing on an argument about errors on the left side. One can't suggest that since there are some guys in the right ditch that I am given license to run headlong into (or even one tire in) the left ditch. The question is about the left side of the ditch not the right.

So I think your third issue is irrelevant.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
In this post, I am simply trying to frame the questions, not to answer them. In my next post, I hope to put up some ideas that are not my own, in order to show that even some very separatistic Fundamentalists recognize the legitimacy of these concerns.

In looking the following posts over, I am not sure I see why you posted them. So perhaps you could enlighten the dull plodders as to the points you want us to see!

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

What is the relevance of the IFBF resolution and of Dr. Hufhand's report?

Let's first consider the resolution entitled “IFBF Resolution on Compromise.” The resolution divides roughly into two parts. The first part attempts to articulate certain principles. The second part applies those principles to a particular situation. Here is the core of the first part.

Whereas there have in this generation arisen movements which have called for a merging of professing Christendom to gather under a Gospel banner, rallying ’round a mantra of holding to and setting forth the gospel message, i.e. that Christ died for our sins and was buried and rose again the third day, as the only test of faith for fellowship and the standard for legitimacy in New Testament Christianity in this 21st century; and,

Whereas the IFBF has always been and remains to this present hour committed to the biblical principles of both personal and ecclesiastical separation, believing that the whole counsel of God’s Word is our imperative and that erring brethren ought to be loved, yet admonished and even separated from when persisting in error. . . .

If you didn’t catch that, here is a paraphrase. Some Christians think that the gospel is a sufficient basis for Christian fellowship and joint labor, but the IFBF believes that separation needs to reflect the whole counsel of God. Consequently, the IFBF promises to love brothers who do not subscribe to the whole counsel of God, but also vows to warn and separate from them.

As far as it goes, this statement is rather unremarkable. While I would certainly wish to flesh out the core idea and to nuance it, I have argued much the same in other places. Here is the idea: profession of the true gospel is the fundamental requirement for minimal Christian fellowship, but substantial agreement in the whole counsel of God is necessary for maximal Christian fellowship. Like the IFBF, I am willing to love brothers from whom I must separate at many levels.

What is not clear is whether the IFBF recognizes the distinction between minimal and maximal fellowship, or whether it would recognize any intermediate levels. This is an important question, because separation (as the IFBF envisions it in this resolution) is inversely proportional to fellowship. If there are no levels of fellowship, then there are no levels of separation. If the IFBF does not recognize the existence of levels of fellowship, then the separation for which it calls must be all-or-nothing. In other words, no fellowship of any kind would be possible with any believer who fails in any way to affirm the whole counsel of God.

Such draconian separation is certainly not what the IFBF practices. Evidence is found in another section of the very same “Hufhand Report.” There, Dr. Hufhand speaks in his official capacity to discuss the differences within the IFBF itself. He affirms that the pastors and churches of the IFBF do actually disagree over certain areas of faith and practice. Here is what he says [spellings, grammar, punctuation, etc., are sic].

Our Fellowship, the one we affectionately call the IFBF, consist of pastors from diverse backgrounds and educational esperiences from Bob Jones to Pensacola to Crown to Ambassador to Tennessee Temple, to Maranatha to Northland to Pillsbury, to West Coast to Heritage and IBC right here in Indianapolis, IN, and no doubt to other lesser known schools. Some of our pastors have been blessed with seminary training, as well as earned and conferred Doctor’s degrees, but when we meet together in fellowship, none of this matters. We love each other and are bound together by mutual respect and admiration. If a particular church has been singled out to be blessed by God in a special way, we rejoice and are glad. If a pastor or church is going thourgh a time of testing and trial we rally around them and pray for them to be encouraged and do whatever we can to help them through their trial. And most of our pastors stay a long time in their churches.

Hardly any of us agree on everything, but we all agree on the fundamentals of the faith and are honored to be considered an Independent Fundamental Bible-believing Baptist. Although our methods of operation, our forms of service, our styles of preaching may differ, we all do our best to keep the main thing, the main thing, and the main thing is to preach the whole counsel of God; win the lost to Jesus Christ; baptize them into our churches; and then disciple them in Christian growth.

According to Dr. Hufhand, some latitude must exist within the IFBF. As he says, “Hardly any of us agree on everything.” Yet these churches and their pastors (he says) love each other. They are bound together by mutual respect and (according to Dr. Hufhand) mutual admiration. The members of this fellowship rejoice when one is blessed, and they pray and encourage and help when one is tested. In other words, they are capable of fellowshipping and working together in spite of their differences.

Particularly interesting is Dr. Hufhand’s tabulation of schools. Of those listed, at least six are identifiable as King-James-Only institutions. One (Crown College) makes this very explicit. Its statement of faith includes an article “Concerning the Scriptures.” One of the points of this creed is that Crown College accepts and uses only the King James among all English translations. In other words, for Crown College, exclusive use of the King James is not merely a preference. It is a matter of doctrine, codified in its statement of faith. By its own profession, Crown College does not accept or use the American Standard Version of 1901, the New American Standard Bible, the English Standard Version, and the New International Version as the word of God.

The view of Crown College and similar institutions is a serious departure from the whole counsel of God. Their attitude toward versions other than the King James displays contempt for Scripture. To such people, a Nestle-Aland Greek text or a New American Standard Bible is not to be accepted as the word of God. According to Dr. Hufhand, however, the churches of the IFBF are sufficiently broad-minded to allow differences in this area. I happen to think that they are permitting a serious compromise of truth, but the IFBF must determine for itself how broad it wishes to be.

Dr. Hufhand makes it clear that the IFBF experiences yet other areas of disagreement. These churches disagree about methods of operation, forms of service, and styles of preaching. Also, according to the denomination’s web site, the IFBF is committed to a very Calvinistic statement of faith (the New Hampshire Confession) that places regeneration prior to faith in the ordo salutis. It would certainly be interesting to poll the pastors of the IFBF to see how many agree with that.

At any rate, what we discover is that the IFBF does not really mean to restrict fellowship only to those who embrace the whole counsel of God. As Dr. Hufhand tells us, hardly any of these churches and pastors agree on everything. And while I might disagree with some areas of latitude that the IFBF permits, in principle I do agree that Christian fellowship must allow room for disagreement about the whole counsel of God. I would add that the more responsible and accountable the level of fellowship becomes, the greater must be the level of agreement.

So the IFBF actually permits disagreement over the whole counsel of God. That is no problem, but then Dr. Hufhand goes on to tell us that in the IFBF “we all do our best to keep the main thing, the main thing, and the main thing is to preach the whole counsel of God. . . .” After so many assurances about the tolerance of the IFBF, this statement is jarring. Either the IFBF upholds the whole counsel of God, or else it allows latitude for differences. It cannot do both.

So what are we supposed to make of Dr. Hufhand’s remarks?

Simply this. The IFBF wishes to be known for upholding the whole counsel of God, and perhaps it even thinks of itself as doing so, but it also wishes to permit disagreement about certain aspects of the whole counsel of God. In other words, the IFBF wants to say one thing, but do another. It wishes to enjoy a reputation for something that it does not really mean to practice.

If Dr. Hufhand’s report is taken seriously, then the IFBF has a practice that is inconsistent with its profession. That does not mean that the IFBF is necessarily a bad organization or that its leaders are bad men. They may simply be inattentive. What is clear, however, is that the IFBF cannot really mean what it says as long as it does what it does.

Which brings us back to the “IFBF Resolution on Compromise.” As we have seen, the first part of the resolution stated a principle that the gospel itself is insufficient as a basis of Christian fellowship (at some levels?). Fellowship (at some levels?) must be based upon the whole counsel of God. But here is how the IFBF applies this principle in the second half of the resolution.

Be it resolved that we as a fellowship of Independent Baptists reject the compromise of the present Together 4 the Gospel movement, and similar current theological philosophies, associations, publications and trends impacting churches, colleges and seminaries which for the desired end of togetherness, cooperation and oneness in our understanding minimize doctrine and sacrifice faithfulness to our historic separatist, Biblicist stand, i.e. that of separation from Christian individuals or organizations that affiliate with those who deny the faith or are content to walk together with those who compromise the doctrine and practice of Scripture. . . .

This is a nearly impenetrable sentence, but its sense can be teased out. The members of the IFBF are upset with Together for the Gospel and comparable organizations. They are upset because T4G and others are guilty of compromise. Their compromise consists in the fact that they “minimize doctrine and sacrifice faithfulness to our [the IFBF’s] historic, separatist, Biblicist stand.” Exactly what stand is that? It is one that involves “separation from Christian individuals or organizations that affiliate with those who deny the faith,” which would be the Billy Grahams of this world, “or are content to walk together with those who compromise the doctrine and practice of Scripture.”

This is just puzzling. In the first place, the T4G crowd hardly minimizes doctrine—if anything, those people take doctrine far more seriously than many within Baptist fundamentalism. In the second place, nobody in the T4G crowd is looking to “affiliate with those who deny the faith.” Consequently, the only real objection that applies to the T4G crowd is that they “walk together with those who compromise the doctrine and practice of Scripture.”

The problem is that the IFBF is accusing T4G of doing precisely the thing that the IFBF itself does. The IFBF walks together with those who compromise the doctrine and practice of Scripture. Within the IFBF, there is significant toleration of erroneous teaching in the form of the King James Only movement. Within the IFBF, there is significant disagreement over practice (methods of operation, forms of service, styles of preaching). According to Dr. Hufhand, all of this is compatible with a fellowship that involves mutual respect, admiration, rejoicing, prayer, encouragement, and help.

So how, exactly, does this criticism apply to the T4G crowd but not to the IFBF crowd? I confess that I cannot see.

The business of the IFBF is its own, and that denomination is welcome to issue any public pronouncements that it wishes. As one who yearns to see a Fundamentalism worth saving, however, this sort of statement places me in an awkward position. I would like to explain to young men why they ought to invest their lives in Fundamentalism rather than in certain other forms of evangelicalism. When those young men read resolutions like this one, however, all that they perceive is the massive inconsistency of objecting to acne while excusing leprosy.

If we want to know why young men are leaving Fundamentalism, we need look no further. They can spot such inconsistency whilst it is yet afar off, and they have no wish to make it part of their lives. Every time some Fundamentalist launches into the kind of diatribe that the IFBF has given us, another class of collegians and seminarians decides to abandon Fundamentalism.

The irony is that I agree with the rationale of the resolution. Fully Christian fellowship must ultimately center upon the whole counsel of God. Furthermore, I do not throw in my lot with the conservative evangelical crowd because I think those men (perceptive as they are about some things) have missed a couple of important aspects of the whole counsel of God. In areas where we do not share the faith (the whole counsel of God) in common, fellowship does not exist. Yet we must distinguish levels of fellowship, just as we distinguish levels of agreement. Most of all, we must not excuse an error on one side that is worse than the error we accuse on the other.

 

Don Johnson's picture

While I can see your point, I fail to see the relevance. Neither you nor I are members of the IFBF, so these statements could serve as an illustration, I suppose, but I don't know the details so it is impossible for me to comment on them or use them in our discussion.

What we are discussing is my suggestions to you on avoiding the left ditch, not someone else who may or may not be in the right ditch.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mike Harding's picture

Kevin,

 

I see the point of the IFBF example.  It illustrates the over-reaction to those not in our circle with the simultaneous under-reaction to those within our circle.  I have read your three articles on why you don't join the gospel only organizations.  I think your articles are very helpful.  I do not join or attend those organizations for the same reasons you don't.  The GC seems to have been more careless than T4G.  For example, when the GC had Driscoll in as a featured, keynote speaker, I just shook my head with amazement, much like I shook my head when Schaap was invited to the Friend's conference.

 

The under-reaction to the KJV-onlyism, easy-believism, and other egregious error represented by some of the schools in your example reveals that the core of the problem really is doctrinal.  KJV onlyism reflects a misunderstanding of the doctrine of inspiration and the doctrine of preservation.  Easy-believism reflects a misunderstanding of faith, repentance, and perseverance.  I have already discussed the heterodoxy on the blood that still exists in certain segments of fundamentalism which deprecates the humanity of Christ. 

 

No organization will be perfect.  To cite one writer, "perfect consistency is the hobgoblin of Lilliputian minds".  We have to nuance our over-reactions and humbly confess our under-reactions.  This involves doctrinal precision, integrity, honesty, humility, as well as courageous confrontation.  My goal is to help strengthen the FBFI doctrinally and practically.  I think we need fundamentalist organizations to encourage fellowship, good doctrine and practice, and to speak in a unified sense to the issues of our day.

Pastor Mike Harding

Mike Harding's picture

Kevin,

 

I want to emphasize here that these are my personal assessments and not the assessment of the executive board.  I am one among many board members. 

Pastor Mike Harding

Mike Harding's picture

Kevin,

 

I think if leaders such as yourself, Doran, Horn, and many others would stay involved in organizations such as the FBFI, it would encourage young pastors over whom we have direct influence to consider uniting themselves to good fundamental organizations.  The reason I stay involved with the FBFI is because it has shown a willingness to deal with our own issues as well as the issues in the evangelical world.  Even the best of organizations have some level of inconsistency and we must remember that one leader doesn't necessarily speak for the whole organization.  McCune used to quote R.V. Clearwaters in class when he would occasionally say, "God is Almighty, Almost".  McCune would cringe in the pew when "Doc" occasionally uttered those words.  It would be unfair to characterize Fourth Baptist or Central by the theology represented in those inappropriate assertions.  All our organizations have had their Clearwater moments that can be easily used as ammunition to discredit the overall good of the organization.  I know you have been looking for Pickering's book on Lordship Salvation.  I had the book and read it twice.  I think he misrepresented and/or misunderstood JM. Yet I didn't draw the worst conclusions about Dr. Pickering or the church and seminary he led.  One has to look at the big picture and consider the aberrations as aberrations.  Where is the organization today compared to where it has been? 

 

What is the solution as to involving young men in our fundamentalist fellowships?  Let's strengthen our organizations doctrinally.  Let's root out our own errors and inconsistencies and then call the young men to join us.  Yes, I am strongly against the serious theological errors promoted and tolerated by some of our fundamental organizations, but I am also militantly opposed to the errors promoted and tolerated in the evangelical world.  I have a hearing in the fundamentalist world.  The evangelical world is so broad and large that changing it would be tantamount to changing the global temperature.

Pastor Mike Harding

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Mike,

I finally tracked down a copy of Pickering's booklet on Lordship Salvation. From the looks of it, he was responding to the original edition of The Gospel According to Jesus which, I think we agree, contained a few problems. I've heard that many of those were the result of MacArthur's editors who, in at least some cases, over-rode his own preferences. If that's so, then Pickering's (and others') reactions to the first edition may be more understandable.

On the one hand, Pickering does appear to be concerned that MacArthur is in danger of adding elements to the reception of the gospel. On the other hand, he is still very careful to treat MacArthur as a brother and respected leader. As far as I know, Pickering never engaged MacArthur's later writings, which certainly nuanced some of his original assertions.

If I could be given three theological wishes, one of them would be to turn down the temperature on the whole Lordship Salvation debate. On my view, none of the positions represents an actual denial of the gospel (leaving aside Hodges' later development of a crossless gospel). In terms of what they meant to challenge, each of the principals had an important truth at the core of his claims. Clearly errors were taught, and some of those errors were more serious than others. But not every error is a deadly error. Hodges and MacArthur in particular seemed to push each other further than either would otherwise have gone.

For myself, I have still not found a position that I'm entirely happy with. In my opinion, each of the major views does less-than-perfect justice to some aspect of biblical teaching. I suppose that means is that I presently hold what McCune would call a brushpile position. Bad as that may be, I just have not found the way to put all the elements together coherently.

  • Saving faith has to be more than intellectual assent. It involves a movement of the heart, a seizing of the promise of salvation grounded in the finished work of Christ.
  • Christ could not offer salvation if He did not hold authority (Lordship); consequently, implicit in every act of saving faith is an acknowledgement of the authority of Jesus.
  • God does not intend to save us merely from the penalty of our sins, but from our sins. Any exercise of faith that presumes to receive forgiveness so that one can continue to sin with impunity is an exercise in bad faith.
  • Sanctification begins in some meaningful sense at the moment of conversion and continues throughout the believer's life.
  • God will not allow His children to live permanently in sin, but will use means (including chastening) to provoke perseverence.

These are the points at which I agree with those who teach Lordship salvation. Where might (and I emphasize the subjunctive) I disagree? Over the definition of repentance. Over the possibility of Christians whose lives are for some period of time indistinguishable from those of unsaved people (i.e., carnal Christians). Over the degree to which the implicit recognition of and submission to the authority of Jesus must be made explicit in order for salvation to be applied.

These are points over which some of the more extreme statements of some defenders of Lordship Salvation have made me uncomfortable. But not as uncomfortable as those anti-Lordship types who want to insist that Lordship Salvation is a false gospel. That's just ridiculous.

Kevin

P.S. I can't speak for Dave or anyone else, but you'll notice that I have kept my membership in the FBFI. But I'll still leave the board work to people who are better at administration.

Mike Harding's picture

Kevin,

 

Thanks for responding.  I agree that JM when he gets polemical often overstates his case or makes unwise statements.  He did so on the blood issue which evoked some over reactions on the part of fundamentalists, some of whom went into error on the other side such as diminishing the humanity of Christ.  Here is where I am coming from regarding the FBFI.  I am willing to overlook or put in its larger context some of the mistakes that have occurred in times past regarding Central, because I know where you are today.  I don't hold you responsible for the baggage in the past such as statements by George Dollar or others.  I ask for the same consideration regarding the FBFI and other fundamental organizations.  We have had well-intentioned leaders in the past who were not careful theologians or exegetes.  They hurt us at times.  I don't think that is the case today generally speaking.  Organizations can change for the better.  We are by God's grace changing for the better. 

 

Without being caustic or unfair about the evangelical world, they tolerate a great deal of error in doctrine and practice.  Whether its anti-dispensationalism, continuationism, old-earth progressive creationism, or Christian rap, its a whole new world that I don't desire to participate in.  When I see some of our Christian colleges moving in that direction, it grieves me.  Those colleges were built by fundamental people with doctrinal/philosophical statements that are being abandoned or significantly ignored.  Colleges that could have been examples of a healthy fundamentalism are compromising their doctrine and practice.  The FBFI is honestly trying to be part of the solution not the problem.

 

All my remarks in this thread are my personal assessment.  I am not speaking for John Vaughn or Kevin Schaal, but I am speaking.  I hope some of our young assistant pastors and pastors will join us in what Dr. McCune often called "The Cause".  We need our young men to join us to become the King's Mighty Men who will do battle for biblical truth and righteousness by offensively, defensively, and devotedly serving God (2 Sam 23:1-17).  I pray that some of my friends who are considering vacating the FBFI and the board will not do so.  Often, they are the men we need the most.  Whether it is the FBFI or some other reputable fundamental organization, I want to encourage them to join, get involved, and make the cause of historical, biblical, orthodox, baptistic, separatist Christianity their cause.

 

Kevin, I want to thank you for your time and effort in this thread.  I personally view you as an ally in the CAUSE.  In the day and age we live in, we need all the allies we can get.

 

Mike Harding

Pastor Mike Harding

Don Johnson's picture

The one from Kevin "The Book" and the one from Mike "Kevin, Thanks for". In particular, I agree exactly with Kevin's statements concerning Lordship salvation. That wouldn't be a bad theme to expand into an article, if I may be so bold as to suggest a topic for you.

And I agree with Mike that we have to get over the mistakes of the past - we are all fallible and no organization is going to have a perfect history. Instead, we have an opportunity to do better and we should.

Having said that, I'd like to get back to discussing the topic of my suggestions to Kevin regarding relationships with evangelicals. I like what Mike just said in his last about that topic, but more could and should be said. I also think we have not finished discussing what, if anything, should be made of the quotes Kevin posted.

So what I am saying is that I am waiting for Kevin's response to my post #52867 and also to my post #52856. Kevin has responded partially to the last, but not completely, I think. And I'm thinking it is now his turn to respond (in case he is waiting for me to say something).

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Actually, I wasn’t waiting for you to post again, but for me to find a few moments. During the last two days I’ve had to work through a complete Th.M. thesis and a (nearly) complete doctoral dissertation. It’s taken a significant chunk of my time—and it’s what I actually get paid to do!

Anyway, I hardly have more than a moment or two to put into a post right now. Since you’re still wondering about the relevance of my interaction with the IFBF, let me start there.

First, as you yourself recognize, the IFBF is driving with at least two wheels in the ditch. In fact, they pride themselves on it. As far as they’re concerned, it’s not a ditch, it’s an eight-lane superhighway. They congratulate themselves on being bound to those in the ditch by “mutual respect and admiration.” When a driver makes a mistake this serious, you begin to wonder whether he’s really sober.

Second, no one should take driving lessons from people who aren’t sober. If we want to learn about ditch avoidance, we’ll seek out someone who has a clear idea where the ditch is and where the road is. In particular, when a person or institution can’t tell the difference between a ditch and a roadway, thoughtful people aren’t likely to take them seriously when they start pontificating about the opposite ditch.

Third, there is significant overlap between the IFBF and the FBFI. You and Mike may not be board members in the IFBF, but leaders in the IFBF are also leaders in the FBFI. Some of the same people have their hands on both steering wheels. If they’re willing to let their IFBF car run along in the ditch, I have to assume that they’ll also be willing to run the FBFI bus into the ditch. As a matter of fact, the FBFI bus did recently drop at least one big wheel into potholes in Hammond and Powell. Don’t misunderstand: I’m grateful that, as Mike has indicated, the FBFI has pulled back into its lane. Still, I have to wonder when I see that some of the hands that steer the IFBF are also gripping the FBFI stseering wheel.

Fourth, I acknowledge that the FBFI also has sober hands on the wheel. People like Mike clearly see the danger of both ditches, and I know he's not alone. The question is, who’s really steering the bus? There are lots of hands on the wheel, and it’s not clear to me whether the bus is going to stay out of the ditch or whether it is about to lurch back in again. Either way, much as I respect Harding, Schaal, Sproul, and people like them, I wonder whether drivers of the FBFI bus are in the strongest moral position to be warning about the other ditch.

Fifth, just because a car isn’t in our lane does not mean that it is in the ditch. This probably approaches the nub of the issue. You seem to think that people like John MacArthur, Michael Vlach, Bill Barrick, or Phil Johnson are in the opposite ditch, while others claim that they are simply in another lane. Let’s suppose I’m trying to decide which is true: why should I take the word of someone whose bus is being steered partly by people who put their own car in the ditch? Shouldn’t I prefer to take the word of people who have shown that they can tell whether a driver is sober?

The FBFI has been willing to name conservative evangelicals publicly, to analyze their putative errors, and to warn against them. Do you think that the FBFI would ever be willing to name the IFBF and to warn against its errors? If not, then why the imbalance?

If we cannot demonstrate an ability to stay between the lines with the shiny side up, why shouldn’t other drivers just ditch us?

 

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Mike,

You may not have noticed, but we have anti-dispesationalism in Fundamentalism, and we have for years. My valued friend Reg Kimbro wrote an entire book against dispensationalism. I'm actually trying to get him to join this conversation.

We have old-earth creationism (though not of the progressive variety) in Fundamentalism, and we have for years. The first theory of creation that I ever learned was the gap theory--and it's still in Larkin.

Fundamentalism was built upon music borrowed from popular culture, and it is now following the popular trends almost as rapidly as the evangelical world. Probably forty percent of the Fundamentalist churches that I visit use some version of CCM. Some of those churches have leaders who are affiliated with the FBFI.

As I said earlier, the only rock concert that my wife has ever attended was a chapel service at one of the Fundamentalist Bible colleges (and I do not mean one located in northern Wisconsin).

It seems that the "whole new world" is coming to a neighborhood near you.

On the other hand, there are Southern Baptists who are more musically conservative than the vast majority of Fundamentalists. You know at least one of them pretty well.

Young-earth creationism is being promoted primarily by evangelicals (ICR, AIG) who are much broader than the FBFI.

The primary voices defending dispensationalism today are located on the left edge of Fundamentalism and over into the conservative evangelical movement.

Not only that, the most important advocates of cessationism are also outside of Fundamentalism.

If these things are the cause, then what does the cause require us to do with Fundamentalism?

Kevin

Don Johnson's picture

Quite frankly, Kevin, I think you are trying to shift the focus of the discussion. In post # 52844 you started off with this:

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
Now it’s time to get to your other word of advice, which is to avoid public conversations with evangelicals when these conversations could be mistaken for cooperative ministry, because these evangelicals (Dever, MacArthur, Mohler, etc.) are in "serious error."

From there you asked three questions:

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
First, how do we gauge the gravity of any given error?

Second, do all instances of disobedience (let alone errors of judgment) require the same reaction, or do different levels of disobedience require different levels of response?\

Third, what would lead you to believe that the errors of conservative evangelicals (with whom you do not wish me to engage in public ministry) are any more serious than the errors of some Fundamentalists with whom leaders of the FBFI actually have engaged in public ministry?

Since there isn't much disagreement on the last two questions, you appear to be focusing on the third question. I ask "What does this have to do with my suggestion to you about the way you engage or discuss Conservative evangelicals?" You are turning a discussion about your actions or proposed actions to a discussion of the actions of "leaders of the FBFI".

I cry foul.

That's not the question at all, and with respect to the question of your actions, it would make no difference if the leaders of the FBFI were participating with the Illuminati or anyone else in the world. We aren't talking about the FBFI, we are talking about you. We are talking about you at your own request, I might add.

As to the IFBF, I would like to point out a few things where you are making some logical errors:

  1. You start by analyzing the IFBF separation statement and note that the IFBF calls for separation on the whole counsel of God, not just the gospel.
  2. You assume that the IFBF doesn't recognize levels of fellowship so therefore must advocate 'all or nothing' separation.
  3. You then imply they are inconsistent because they don't actually follow through on that. (Yet you admit that the question of levels of fellowship isn't clear - you really don't know what the IFBF means about separation from their statement. You are simply making assumptions.)
  4. You cite Dr. Hufhand providing evidence that the IFBF doesn't practice separation over the whole council of God. You attempt to make Dr. Hufhands statement an "official" pronouncement with Dr. Hufhand speaking in his "official capacity" for the IFBF, but one would think that a document named the Hufhand Report might just be the personal newsletter of Dr. Hufhand and not an official IFBF document. Scan his own website and see if he has any "official capacity" any longer - it would seem that his words are his own, not that of the IFBF.
  5. The evidence you cite for the alleged IFBF inconsistency is the numerous colleges Dr. Hufhand mentions including Crown College (the horror!). Since Crown College states in their doctrinal statement "that Crown College accepts and uses only the King James among all English translations", you assume they are elevating the exclusive acceptance and use of the KJV to a doctrinal level, thus violating the whole counsel of God.
  6. Then you assume that those Crown College graduates in the IFBF are mind-numbed robots who couldn't possibly think differently from their alma mater. Ergo, their very presence taints the organization because it tolerates error (contrary to the whole counsel of God) because (on your assumption) those Crown grads march in lockstep with their alma mater. Clearly they should be shunned forever because of their alma mater.

I don't know what can be said about such reasoning. It is an amazing structure of imagined conclusions -  that's about the best that can be said.

Now to respond to your latest post to me:

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

First, as you yourself recognize, the IFBF is driving with at least two wheels in the ditch.

I made no such statement.

For the sake of argument, if the IFBF were in the ditch (not something I conceded at all), their being in the ditch is completely irrelevant to the question of what you should do with the conservative evangelicals. Doesn't matter.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
Second, no one should take driving lessons from people who aren’t sober. If we want to learn about ditch avoidance, we’ll seek out someone who has a clear idea where the ditch is and where the road is. In particular, when a person or institution can’t tell the difference between a ditch and a roadway, thoughtful people aren’t likely to take them seriously when they start pontificating about the opposite ditch.

What is that supposed to mean? What does that have to do with you and your words about and actions towards Conservative Evangelicals? Nothing at all. 

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
Third, there is significant overlap between the IFBF and the FBFI. You and Mike may not be board members in the IFBF, but leaders in the IFBF are also leaders in the FBFI. Some of the same people have their hands on both steering wheels. If they’re willing to let their IFBF car run along in the ditch, I have to assume that they’ll also be willing to run the FBFI bus into the ditch.

Man, you are big on assumptions. You are assuming the IFBF is in the ditch based on a fairy-land logic trail. What rubbish. You are assuming the men in the IFBF leadership who are on the FBFI board (only two of them, by my count), are somehow evilly plotting to wrest control of the FBFI from the whole roomful of very INDEPENDENT Baptists and drive us off into some imagined similar error or compromise. Good grief.

I could go on, but I grow weary of it. You are going exactly counter to what I suggested. You are not dealing with the subject at hand, instead returning to the point we had finished discussing, and simply attacking the FBFI and now the IFBF. Your words will not build up anyone to have a positive view of the FBFI or, I would suggest, much of fundamentalism at all. You claim you want to help, yet you push away the men you say you want to help with your rhetoric. It is hard to imagine why any of them would want to listen to you at all.

Your recent articles on TGC and T4G have been excellent. That kind of plain talking is what I'd like to see from you.

You might think you are offering plain talk about fundamentalists as well. If you didn't base your argument on assumptions, then I might agree. But as it stands you are building up a very shoddy case. I don't know why. It makes no sense to me, and I know you can do better than this.

So... if you are simply going to use this thread to continue to attack fundamentalists, then I'll bow out of the conversation. I'm willing to participate if you'll stay on topic and address the question at hand.

Back to you, then, but I'm not overly optimistic...

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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