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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Mike Harding's picture

Kevin,

 

As I have said before, my disagreements with JM and his ministry have to do with music, speakers, associations, church polity, and previously unwise, over-the-top statements on issues like the blood and the Lordship issue. By the way, I thought your comments on the Lordship issue were very helpful and balanced. Other than those matters, I think JM and company have been very helpful on many doctrinal issues including young earth, cessationism, dispensationalism.  JM and company are somewhat in a unique category.  However, T4G and GC, as you have wisely pointed out, are very broad when it comes to those kinds of issues, while being militant on covenant theology.  The FBFI is not guilty in my opinion, however, of tolerating CCM (the wedding of pop-rock genres to Christian lyrics for worship and edification), being anti-dispensational in any way, tolerating continuationism, dumbing down the gospel, being off on the blood, promoting or encouraging KJV onlyism, or encouraging/tolerating ecumenism.  We have had our problems in the distant past with some issues I just mentioned.  We have corrected those problems.  The IFBF is different than the FBF.  It is unfair to load us with their baggage and I think Don gave a reasonable explanation for the IFBF.

 

I agree with you that there are men outside of fundamentalism who at times take equally conservative or more conservative positions on these issues.  I thank God for their work.  I benefit from their books and respect them for going against the tide of evangelicalism in regard to those specific subjects.  Most of my arguments deal with substance, not mere associations.  Nevertheless, associations are still important.  Substance---what a man actually believes, teaches, and lives, is more important.  Therefore, we have to be very careful when passing broad-brush resolutions and accusing people of fellowshiping with those who deny the cardinal truths of Scripture when there is no substantial evidence that they do.  I think your criticism along that line of reasoning is constructive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Mike Harding

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

. . . but I'll try to respond in the morning.

KTB

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Nobody is more aware than me of how limited and situated my perspective is. Truthfully, I would love to welcome your assessment and to agree that I have simply been making unwarranted assumptions. My life would be considerably easier because the universe would be simpler if I could only perceive it in terms of more straightforward contrasts.

Your last post contains so much that I can’t respond to everything, so I’ve chosen to focus upon your rebuke. I’ve tried to swallow my pride and to revisit the whole question related to the IFBF, actually hoping that a more charitable reading of events would result in a change of perspective. Here is my re-assessment.

First, you credit me for having correctly understood that the IFBF calls for separation over the whole counsel of God, and not just the gospel. Evidently we have no disagreement here.

Second, you charge me with assuming that the IFBF does not recognize levels of fellowship and therefore advocates all-or-nothing separation. Actually, I don’t think I assumed that at all. Rather, I simply noted that the IFBF fails to address this question in principle.

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.

In the very next paragraph, however, I note that the IFBF does recognize levels of fellowship and separation in practice: “Such draconian separation is certainly not what the IFBF practices.” In other words, nothing is assumed here at all.

Third, you accuse me of charging the IFBF with inconsistency for practicing less-than-complete separation when they (as you suppose I have assumed) affirm all-or-nothing separation. But nowhere does this charge appear in my writing. To be sure, I do think the IFBF is inconsistent, but not in the way that you indicate.

Fourth, you suggest that Dr. Hufhand was not speaking in an official capacity, since (1) he no longer has any official capacity with the IFBF, and (2) his remarks appeared in a document entitled the “Hufhand Report.” It is immaterial whether Dr. Hufhand presently has any official capacity with the IFBF. What matters is that he did then—in fact, he was the official representative for the association. That his remarks appeared in the “Hufhand Report” is also immaterial. Does John Vaughn only speak for the FBFI when he issues an official document? I have re-read Dr. Hufhand’s words: he was making representations about the association, and he was its official representative. While I would like to think that Dr. Hufhand’s remarks did not actually represent the IFBF, I can’t see any reasonable way of reaching that conclusion.

Fifth, you charge me with assuming that Crown College elevates the exclusive acceptance and use of the KJV to the doctrinal level. Again, I would be happy to think otherwise. Nevertheless, here are the exact words from the Crown College “Statement of Faith”:

We believe that the Scriptures are inerrant, infallible, and God-breathed. The Masoretic Text of the Old Testament and the Received Text of the New Testament (Textus Receptus) are those texts of the original languages we accept and use; the King James Version of the Bible is the only English version we accept and use. The Bible is our sole and final authority for faith and practice.

These words do not appear in a position paper or in some professor’s class notes. They appear in the official doctrinal statement. Crown College begins by affirming belief in the inerrant, infallible, God-breathed Scriptures. It concludes by insisting that the Bible is its sole and final authority for faith and practice. But which Scriptures? What Bible? The answer appears in the middle of the statement. Sandwiched between its affirmation of biblical inspiration and its affirmation of biblical sufficiency, Crown College specifies that it accepts the Masoretic Text of the Old Testament, the Textus Receptus of the New Testament, and only the King James Version of the Bible. It’s not simply that these people choose not to use other versions. They do not accept other versions. Accept them as what? If they are saying what they mean, Crown College does not accept other versions as inerrant, infallible, God-breathed Scripture or as the Bible that is sufficient for faith and practice. That is part of their “Statement of Faith.” This is not an assumption, it is a straightforward reading of Crown College’s own confession.

Finally, you suggest that I’ve only assumed that Dr. Hufhand’s naming of the graduates of about half-a-dozen  KJVO institutions represents any endorsement of or concession to those institutions. Perhaps (you suggest) those graduates “think differently” from the schools from which they graduated. And I certainly would rejoice if they do. I readily acknowledge that graduates may not reflect the positions of the schools from which they have graduated. I’m actually one of those—at least with respect to the last couple of schools I attended.

Nevertheless, if that is so, then Dr. Hufhand neglected to mention that these pastors had abandoned the ideas that they had been taught. He failed to distance the IFBF from these institutions in any way. In fact, he cited these schools as evidence of the diversity that exists within the IFBF. Furthermore, while a graduate here or there might abandon the teachings of his alma mater, do you really find it plausible that all of the graduates of all of these schools who pastor in the IFBF have done so? To put it as kindly as possible, this suggestion seems overly sanguine.

Also, Dr. Hufhand mentioned no IFBF pastors who are graduates of Master’s, Southern, Southeastern, Cedarville, Cornerstone, Philadelphia, or comparable schools. In fact, he does not even mention graduates of Fundamentalist schools like Central, Calvary, or Detroit. It is not likely that he could have overlooked those schools while remembering the names of half-a-dozen KJVO institutions. What we do know is this: either the fellowship has pastors who have graduated from at least some of these schools, or it does not. If it does not, then we need to ask why not one of the churches in such a diverse fellowship has called any of the graduates of any of these institutions—such a significant omission cannot be accidental. If it does have pastors who are graduates of some of these schools (which is actually the case), then we can legitimately infer that Dr. Hufhand found it more convenient to name KJVO institutions than schools in the other categories I've listed. Whichever possibility is true, this list of names is certainly an indication of the kind of people the IFBF is most comfortable including in its fellowship.

None of this constitutes a statement about the personal godliness of the pastors or officers of the IFBF. I do not see them as evil men or conspirators (how could you have suggested such a thing?). I do not question their sincerity. But I do question the judgment of some leaders. To the extent that their resolution and Dr. Hufhand’s interpretation represent the position of the association, I do not believe that they are in a position to offer a credible advice regarding boundaries of fellowship. What is more, to the extent that you commit yourself to defend their perspective, I wonder whether your counsel can be taken without a grain—if not a whole shaker—of salt. That is why I think this conversation is relevant, not only to the third question, but also to the first two.

Don Johnson's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
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."

I'm not going to get into a further back and forth about the IFBF (or, by extension the FBFI) at this point in the conversation. We've already discussed the idea of dealing with errors of fundamentalism. I don't know that we can add much more to this discussion.

In answering this objection, you are asking how evangelical error could be more serious than fundamentalist error as a means of answering my suggestions to you. The point, quite frankly, is irrelevant to the question. Let's posit, for sake of argument that fundamentalist error is as black and serious as can be. Fine. But now let's deal with my suggestions about moderating your public statements about evangelicals so that young people aren't influenced in that direction, at least without due consideration of their serious errors. And again, for sake of argument, we can posit that evangelical errors are less serious than ours.

Now, having said that, please note that I am only supposing these value judgements for the sake of argument. The question of whose errors are more serious is a matter of perspective and one we have been debating in these parts for a long time. I am not sure that we are getting anywhere with that discussion.

If we are talking about the idea of fundamentalism vs. the idea of evangelicalism, I would suggest that the idea of fundamentalism is far superior to that of evangelicalism. My suggestions to you come from the perspective that your promotion of the idea of fundamentalism seems more pro-evangelicalism at some points than not.

One more caveat, then I'm done for now: Your recent articles about TGC and T4G sound the right note in my mind. I think you have done well in those pieces. Give us more of the same.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Whatever else it is, separation is always a rejection, truncation, or limitation of fellowship. Consequently, a discussion of separation is meaningless unless we have a strong doctrine of church unity and fellowship. Probably the clearest text that discusses church unity and fellowship is the epistle to the Ephesians.

There Paul spends three chapters arguing that all believers have been raised from the same depth, to the same height. The inclusion of Gentiles in these privileges was a mystery that was hidden in the Old Testament, but it has now been revealed through the apostles—especially Paul, to whom was committed an administration of the mystery.

The last half of Eph. 2 strongly emphasizes that unity that the gospel has produced among believers in spite of previous hostility. Jews and Gentiles used to be two nationalities or humanities, opposed to each other and filled with hostility. But Christ has taken some who were Jews and some who were gentiles, and out of these he has fashioned a single new humanity. The new humanity transcends previous categories: in the new humanity a Jew is no longer reckoned as a Jew and a Gentile is no longer reckoned as a Gentile. Both are reckoned as something new.

Not only are they united in one humanity, they have been united in one body. They have been given access to the Father by one Spirit. They are being built into one building, a holy temple (naos). These statements describe a fundamental, overarching unity that the gospel creates between all believers. They describe the Universal Church. It is neither the Fundamentalist church nor the evangelical church, but the Church which is His body.

After a digression personal and doxological in chapter 3, Paul brings the lesson home with force in chapter 4. Having spent three chapters describing our calling, he implores us to walk worthy of it. How do we do that? We do it by humbly, gently, patiently, tolerantly loving each other. We do it by earnestly endeavoring to preserve (not create) the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The failure to preserve the unity of the Spirit is significant, because unity is actually a gospel issue. The oneness of the new humanity, of the body, of the Spirit, and of the temple is at stake. A failure to recognize, acknowledge, and practice unity where it actually exists is a very serious failure indeed. In some sense, the gospel is at stake.

Consequently, unity and fellowship should always be the “default state” among believers. That is to say, we should be prepared to work with one another unless some other factor gets in the way. That factor might be as simple as geography or chronology (it would be difficult to cooperate personally with Calvin or Wesley right now), it might involve different directions in ministry (e.g, Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15), or it might involve some difference over the meaning of the faith.

In any case, the burden of proof always rests upon the individual who rejects some level of fellowship. Sometimes separations (understood as deliberate limitations of fellowship) are necessary within the household of faith. We cannot justify them, however, simply by stating that another Christian is guilty of serious error. We have some responsibility to show why it is serious and just how serious it is. We must also show how it affects the particular level of fellowship that is under consideration.

External fellowship or cooperation must always rest upon a foundation of internal fellowship or commonality. The requirements for internal commonality will be determined by the level of fellowship that is being attempted. All other things being equal, where the necessary internal commonality is lacking, the attempt to join in external cooperation is contrived, hypocritical, and sinful. On the other hand, where the necessary internal commonality is present, the rejection of participation is also contrived, hypocritical, and sinful.

In order to avoid hypocrisy, we may well have to separate from a brother at one level while participating with him at another. We are going to have to make decisions about fellowship and separation on a case-by-case basis. The level of fellowship will vary. The requirements for fellowship will vary. The potential partners in fellowship will vary. All of these things need to be evaluated in every fellowship decision.

These observations could be qualified in certain ways, but as generalizations I think they hold true. Furthermore, they provide the foundation for a genuinely Fundamentalist theory of separation. They also explain why I do not think that separation (in the sense of complete non-cooperation) from all conservative evangelicals is always necessary at every level, any more than I think that separation from certain kinds of fundamentalists is always necessary at every level.

I am a Baptist, but at some levels I would just as soon work with some Presbyterians as with some Baptists. Indeed, for some things I would rather work with most Presbyterians than with most Baptists.

By the same token, I am a fundamentalist, but at some levels I would just as soon work with some conservative evangelicals than with some fundamentalists. Indeed, for some things I would rather work with many conservative evangelicals than with many fundamentalists.

In both cases the decisions should be made carefully and targeted to the level at which fellowship is intended.

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

In response to your request that I “focus,” let me point you to the title of this conversation. It is not “The Future of Kevin Bauder.” It is “The Future of Fundamentalism.” Of course, my own future is tied to that of fundamentalism, but we are discussing the larger topic. Indeed, you may recall that I interrupted a planned presentation (I think you said you were looking forward to it) on what the FBFI could do to increase its chances of an effective future. I’ve already given you my first, and hinted at my second, recommendation.

It is impossible to conduct a useful conversation about the future of fundamentalism without paying attention to some of its past and present faults. In discussing those faults, I believe that we ought to be at least as frank about ourselves as we are about our opponents. Our unwillingness to subject ourselves to blunt self-criticism accounts for a great deal of the skepticism with which younger fundamentalists regard our generation of leadership (or at least my generation—I believe you may be a bit younger than me).

Blunt discussions of faults are not the same as attacks. I know that you believe this—you advertise your own blog as “fundamentalism by blunt instrument.” You’re certainly not afraid of tackling issues and naming names, even to the point of telling parents and pastors (bluntly!) “Don’t send your kids to Northland.” While I know that decisions of Northland International University have provoked controversy, I don’t think that anyone has decided that that NIU is no longer a fundamentalist institution—and I don’t believe that you perceive yourself as attacking them.

In view of the foregoing, I am going to have to decline your ultimatum. If conversation with you comes at the cost of being able to speak frankly (bluntly?) about the disasters that fundamentalists create for themselves, then the price is too high. I would hate to see you bow out, however, because I believe this could become an important conversation. On my view, you ought to stick around for it. You wouldn’t want to miss the rest of the recommendations, would you? Still, you know your own business best.

 

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Mike,

I actually agree with you about most of what the FBFI isn't guilty of and most of what they've corrected. I'm not sure it's as clean-cut as you're perceiving it, but perhaps that's because you're in the inside where you can see nuances that I can't. But I am willing to accept your assurances, as much as I'm willing to accept anybody's.

There may be some parallel between MacArthur's initial statements on the blood and on Lordship Salvation. As I understand it, in both cases his words were edited by staff members who may not have represented his view exactly. The difference would be this: his statements on Lordship Salvation appeared in a book that was released by a major publisher, while his statements on the blood appeared in a decade-old church bulletin, long forgotten, that somebody dug up and used against him. And I actually don't think that there was that much lack of clarity in the bulletin.

Anyway, I'm interested in your thoughts about using MacArthur's people in the areas where they are most like us. Do I recall that Doran has had Vlach in to talk about dispensationalism? Our administration just had Bill Barrick lecture on young-earth creationism. The program committee of the Minnesota Baptist Association has arranged for Phil Johnson to speak at the annual meeting this year. I'm interested in your perception of these associations. Are they sufficiently careful? Are they giving away too much? Is there some difference between these venues that ought to be taken into account?

This is simply a request for your thinking on these matters. The door between the two camps is open just a crack. What principles should guide us as we consider different levels of participation?

Kevin

Mike Harding's picture

Kevin,

 

As I said before, I think JM and company are in a unique category.  Doctrinally we line up in most areas.  They are sound on the gospel, the blood, dispensational, Calvinistic (not Hyper), Baptistic (not Baptist per se), conservative in deportment, and evangelistic.  The Master's seminary is very conservative theologically. They are cessationist, young-earth creationists, and have been willing to stand against Romanism, Charismaticism, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Mark Driscoll, modern Christian Psychology and a host of other religious ills.  They have pulled back from T4G and GC on account of celebrity-hero worship and speakers.  Those are the strong points.  The overall ministry is weak on music (particularly college and youth ministry), maintains a broader level of associations and speakers that I would not be comfortable with, aggressively advocates elder rule.  I also think JM falsely accuses of legalism those churches and schools who maintain institutional and personal standards.  Actual legalism in Galatians is apostasy.  Looking at the big picture I would not personally bring them in to speak.

 

On the other side, I have gone to hear Michael Vlach on dispensationalism.  Vlach is outstanding on the subject of dispensationalism and is an expert in the field.  There are no significant doctrinal flaws or weaknesses with him that I am aware of. If an educational institution used a man such as Vlach for such a purpose, personally I have no problem with it.

 

 

Pastor Mike Harding

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Mike,

You're actually bringing up a new topic--legalism. That may be worth exploring on its own. Maybe the Site Administrator would start us a new topic dealing with it.

I think we're in about the same place on MacArthur. It's probably worth noting that at least two of his profs are (or were, last I knew) in a GARBC church. Maybe Kevin could comment on whether that tells us more about MacArthur or about the GARBC--or neither. I do know, however, that in certain areas Barrick is more conservative than many or most fundamentalist scholars. I think that Thomas probably is as well.

On the other hand, I think you may be giving MacArthur too much credit for being Baptistic. Believer immersion is not our only distinctive. Congregational polity is somewhere near the top of the list--and MacArthur definitely doesn't like that. In fact, when it comes to issues of church order, I'd take Dever over MacArthur any day. Which raises a question: who do you think are the best Fundamentalist figures to whom we can point young men for an understanding of New Testament church order or (to use the trendy phrase) healthy churches? I grew up in the Regular Baptist movement, where Robert T. Ketcham and Paul R. Jackson had a pretty good vision of what it meant to be a Baptist. Sadly, they are little known today. Who would you suggest?

Kevin

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Soon joining our conversation will be Reginald C. Kimbro. I'm working from memory here, but I believe that Reg is Minister of the Word at Grace Free Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He also teaches at Geneva Reformed Seminary and is moderator of the American version of the Free Presbyterian Church. He is a convicted fundamentalist who has published a volume refuting dispensationalism.

It may take Reg a while to get caught up on the conversation. When he chooses to participate, however, he will bring a different perspective to the table.

Welcome, Reg (or do you prefer Reggie? Or the Rev. Kimbro?)

Kevin

Don Johnson's picture

My week has suddenly been filled up with the passing of a long time church member. The funeral is Friday at 1pm. So lots of extra duties this week. Our dear brother was 91.

just to let you know I'm not running away, just busy.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Understood. What we are doing here is a very tangential hobby. What you are doing as a pastor is reality. There's no hurry. I'll be asking the Lord to open doors of ministry to the gentleman's family and friends.

I've got distractions of my own. A theft over the weekend is requiring Debbie and I to close and reopen all financial accounts. It's a distraction, but the Lord has so far graciously protected us from any severe loss.

By the way, I had a call today from an FBF pastor (you would know the name) asking about plural eldership. I take the view that the New Testament requires only a single pastor/bishop/elder for each congregation, though a church is clearly permitted to have more than one. It might be interesting to talk about that subject at some point--it definitely plays into the future of fundamentalism. Can you think of anyone who would be willing to make the case for plurality of elders as a norm?

Of course, I'm pretty sure that brother Kimbro is persuaded of plural eldership! But I mean a Baptist.

Kevin

KevinM's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

(...to Mike....) It's probably worth noting that at least two of [MacArthur's] profs are (or were, last I knew) in a GARBC church. Maybe Kevin could comment on whether that tells us more about MacArthur or about the GARBC--or neither. I do know, however, that in certain areas Barrick is more conservative than many or most fundamentalist scholars. 

Kevin Bauder already understands my response here—I just wanted to say it again to answer his question. As an association of churches, the GARBC defines fellowship at a church level. I’m a “member” of the GARBC because I’m a member of a church in fellowship with the GARBC (not because of my current job title).

For outsiders who are not as familiar with this model, it sure makes for some fun ironies. Bill Barrick (a respected OT scholar who teaches at The Master’s Seminary) is an elder at a GARBC church. Paul Plew (a gifted choral conductor and music department chair at The Master’s College) is worship pastor at a GARBC church. Daniel Estes (distinguished professor of OT at Cedarville) is a member of a GARBC church. Michael Wittmer (professor of systematic theology at Grand Rapids Seminary and best-selling Zondervan author) is a member of a GARBC church. Over the years, noted GARBC church members have served at any number of institutions (Radio Bible Class, Back to the Bible, Moody Bible Institute, Grand Rapids School of the Bible and Music, Davis College, the Cleveland Browns). And yes, my use of parenthesis is deliberate here, indicating which relationship we considered to be the most important!

Throw all of these people together in the same room and what do you get? A whole bunch of people who have very similar ideas about what a church should be. Framing the relationship as a logical extension of church fellowship seems brutally simple. It only gets complicated later, when one starts to reflect on the differences among the (parenthetical) organizations.

Yes, other corners of Baptist fundamentalism were organized as a “preacher’s fellowship,” but to be honest, their functional ties came as fellow alumni of regional educational institutions. Because these pastors were unified around a single university, they had trouble understanding movements that were glued together with something other than alumni loyalty.

While some might complain that the GARBC’s “enforcement mechanism” seemed too loose at times, the same was true of the “preacher’s fellowship” model, where a person could retain membership by merely signing a doctrinal statement and paying annual dues. The real power of excommunication came from the Alumni Association!

Now, before the charge is leveled, let me plead guilty ahead of time for offering a badly truncated summary. If all of these groups were on Facebook and had to post their relationship status, they’d be clicking on “It’s Complicated.”

 

Mike Harding's picture

Kevin B,

 

No argument on the "ic" regarding baptistic.  This is why I cited one of my disagreements with JM on elder rule.  Which churches today are good role models?  Mount Calvary comes to my mind.  He has congregational rule with a plurality of elders.  Practically, however, no one disputes who is THE pastor of that church.  Inter-City Baptist Church is an excellent church with good theology, proper church government, excellent preaching, a great sense of mission, conservative in deportment and music, militant on major doctrinal issues.  I think Pastor Dave Whitcomb at Community Baptist in Greer, SC also serves as a tremendous example of a healthy church. Ken Endean has an outstanding church in Scarborough, Maine.  Like Ken, the church is just about perfect.  Guys like him make me sick! Steve Thomas at Huron Baptist also has an outstanding work. I would like to reference our own church, but I am afraid I would be struck by lightning.

 

I read Kimbro's book years ago.  We spoke together after a service at BJU.  Nice guy and solid on the gospel.  I have always appreciated the Free Pres guys.  I traveled with Paisley's son to Chile many years ago.  We had a great time.  I am not a Presbyterian; however, at a World Congress of Fundamentalists where the parameters for such a meeting were laid out similar to the ACCC, I had no problem participating with him in such a meeting.  Different levels of fellowship are in order based on the parameters and purposes for the meeting.  For my own church pulpit the parameters are more narrow.

Pastor Mike Harding

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Mike,

Since you're probably not going to say it, I think I'd add First Baptist of Troy, MI to the list of churches that provide good models. Of the churches that you mention, I'm probably best acquainted with Inter-City, and I agree that it provides a good model. Steve Thomas's insight on church discipline is exceptional. From what I know of Endean and Minnick, I would expect their congregations to be exemplary. I don't recall that I know Dave Whitcomb or Community Baptist, but I'll take your word for that ministry as well.

How are these guys trying to communicate Baptist order and polity to younger pastors? I know that Doran deals with it piece-by-piece at his conferences. How are the rest of the guys getting the word out? (I suppose my question was geared more toward the written word, though I didn't make that clear. Both Ketcham and Jackson wrote constantly on aspects of Baptist church order, particularly about Baptist associationalism.)

It seems to me that in the areas where Dever is strongest (i.e., his discussions of church health), he is not saying anything that is not typically practiced by the better churches among us. I think that he would admit he's not saying anything new. I once heard him refer to himself as something like "an ambassador from your grandparents."

On the matter of platform appearances, you've made me curious--you hint that you wouldn't have a Presbyterian in your pulpit. How about a strong, amillennial covenant Baptist like Peter Masters? This is not entirely an academic question. When I was a student at Faith, David Nettleton invited Masters to preach to the college. It raised some eyebrows (and some hackles).

One final question: to what extent do you believe that New Testament polity should be reflected in Baptist organization that extends beyond the church? Kevin Mungons pointed out the difference between associations and preacher's fellowships. There are other models that Baptists have used. Is it possible to make a principled decision about which, if any, is superior?

I'd also like to hear Don's response to these questions when he is able to get back to us.

Kevin

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Kevin,

Wasn't Wendell Kempton once chaplain for the Giants? And I know that Bill Edmonson used to be chaplain for the Patriots, though I'm not sure whether his membership was in a GARBC church at the time. But we (and the we is meant broadly) seem to grant somewhat wider boundaries for chaplaincies than we do for other kinds of ministries.

KTB

Mike Harding's picture

Kevin,

 

I will try to answer your questions as best I can.  I belong to two fellowships, FBFI and IFBFM.  The FBFI is a fellowship of individual pastors/parishioners and the IFBFM is a fellowship of churches.  IFBFM behaves more consistently with Baptist principles of polity.  All the churches vote on major initiatives each year.  Most of our combined work revolves around the camp.  We also have a Baptist Builders org. that assists  in church planting and a youth org. that helps to organize some statewide youth rallies.  The FBFI is run mostly by the executive committee consisting of the officers.  We also have several other committees on the board which also contribute ideas and policy regarding the Frontline magazine, regional and national meetings, position statements, and the military chaplaincy.  The majority of the power rests in the hands of the elected officers and the full-time president.  We have two board meetings a year for the executive board and cooperative board.  We discuss matters more openly now than in years past.  The FBFI rank and file members virtually have no official voice other than private conversation with officers and board members. To what extent should Baptist polity be practiced by these orgs.?  They are not churches; therefore, I don't expect them to act just like a church in their government.  In the spirit of a democratic consensus, the leaders should not act as if they were imperial kings or backroom politicians where all the key decisions are already made in smoke-filled rooms (visions of the SBC).  My opinion is that the form here is less important than the substance of the leaders themselves.  The best system with poor leaders will fail.  A less than perfect system with a plurality of very good leaders will succeed.

 

Have we been vocal in our leadership?  I confess that we have not been to the degree that we need to.  People like Dever have filled the void left by us.  Doran has probably done the best job in this area, but his conference is not that well-attended compared to the well-known CE conferences.

Pastor Mike Harding

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
In response to your request that I “focus,” let me point you to the title of this conversation. It is not “The Future of Kevin Bauder.” It is “The Future of Fundamentalism.” Of course, my own future is tied to that of fundamentalism, but we are discussing the larger topic. Indeed, you may recall that I interrupted a planned presentation (I think you said you were looking forward to it) on what the FBFI could do to increase its chances of an effective future. I’ve already given you my first, and hinted at my second, recommendation.

This quote comes from your post #53703 Focusing . . . focusing . . . focusing

I don't want to beat a dead horse (not too much anyway), so on this point I'll just remind you that I am objecting to the line of discussion you have taken following the statement that you now wished to move to my suggestions about your approach with Conservative Evangelicals. Last time I checked, neither the FBFI or IFBF fell under that category.

You are of course free to discuss whatever you like, but it seems to me that you haven't addressed the CE side of the question at all.

And I will reiterate that I am not against self-criticism in principle. The specific instance you mention here seems to me to be an unwarranted attack on men who aren't part of this conversation and can't really jump in to defend themselves and the basic complaint you raise fails to rise to any level of seriousness. When it takes as long to explain as your rationale for raising it... well, it's not much of a complaint.

I'll leave that point alone for now, I don't think we need to continue going back and forth on this.

I'd like to answer some of the questions you posed to Mike.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

How about a strong, amillennial covenant Baptist like Peter Masters? This is not entirely an academic question. When I was a student at Faith, David Nettleton invited Masters to preach to the college. It raised some eyebrows (and some hackles).

One final question: to what extent do you believe that New Testament polity should be reflected in Baptist organization that extends beyond the church? Kevin Mungons pointed out the difference between associations and preacher's fellowships. There are other models that Baptists have used. Is it possible to make a principled decision about which, if any, is superior?

I'd also like to hear Don's response to these questions when he is able to get back to us.

Kevin

Peter Masters is a very interesting guy. I heard him preach at the Metropolitan Tabernacle last May, fantastic message. He also graciously took our family up to his office and showed us some of his memorabilia of Spurgeon. He mentioned that he had spoken at BJU in the past. Personally, I wouldn't have too much of a problem with cooperating with him, although no doubt he would not preach on those areas where we had strong differences in our venues nor would we in his. (Not that I would ever expect such a thing to happen.)

With respect to the question about polity, I think Mike pretty well answered the question. I don't see a need for organizations that aren't local churches to follow NT local church polity. I don't really see that the GARBC follows NT polity to any great degree more than the FBFI does. Both organizations respect local church autonomy, but beyond that, what elements of polity do you see in their structure?

Speaking of the GARBC, I recall that you spoke at their national meeting a year or two ago. Do you hold any office or role in the GARBC? Are you a messenger to the meeting? I notice that this year a couple of prominent educators from Independent circles are scheduled as a speaker and a workshop presenter.

Beyond the GARBC, do you hold any office (like a board membership) in any other organization that serves to promote the fundamentalist idea? I know you are a member of the FBFI, and of course serve at Central, but I wonder if you serve in other areas that I am unaware of.

I am currently in the midst of enjoying the Northwest Regional fellowship of the FBFI. We've had a good meeting with excellent preaching and attendance of pastors from all over Washington, some from Oregon, and some from British Columbia.  Mike Harding is our main speaker. He is away from his computer while traveling (as usual) so can't post here just now. He was on fire tonight in his preaching, though. Fantastic message on "Our Incomparable God". Brought me to tears, it did.

I'll have audio on Proclaim & Defend at some point, the church here doesn't have digital recording equipment so it will take a little conversion process before I can get it up.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

You've asked a couple of questions that probably deserve answers. It's crunch time right now, but I'll try to address them briefly.

First, I agree that not every parachurch organization needs to be structured like a church. Having said that, I think there are specific reasons for preferring some forms of organization to others, especially when an organization exists for generalized fellowship amongst Baptists. I see three main considerations.

First, if an organization says that it is a fellowship, then it ought to be. A fellowship is by definition something that is held in common. Within a fellowship, a fellow has a piece of the action. He or she is part of the decision-making process. Consequently, any organization that really means to exist for the purpose of fellowship ought to be controlled by its constituents (whether they are called members or something else). To "fellowship with" an organization ought to mean to have a voice in its operation.

Second, the New Testament teaches not only the autonomy of the church, but also the centrality of the church. If we really believe that God purposes to do His work primarily in and through churches, then our primary endeavors ought to be answerable to churches. This does not mean that all parachurch organization is wrong--you can find it in the New Testament. It does mean, however, that the larger the scale of a supposed fellowship, the more important it is to make it formally accountable to churches.

Third, the New Testament presents a very strong pattern of churches cooperating with churches. They worked together, cared for each other, and counseled one another. There is a place for individual fellowship(s), but the most important work ought to involve churches helping churches.

In other words, I think that New Testament principles ought to propel us in the direction of associationalism. Preacher's fellowships and other organizations of individuals have a use as long as they are kept in their place, but they cannot replace the dynamic of churches cooperating with churches.

This is certainly a dynamic that has been grasped by some Fundamentalist Baptists. What is now the GARBC first organized with individual membership (1923-1932), but made a principled decision to restructure as a church fellowship. The NTAIBC experienced considerable debate over this question at Beth Eden and the Eagledale, then for a year or two afterward. But it, too, made a principled decision to organize as a church fellowship. I think those were good decisions.

The organization that is now the FBFI made the opposite decision. While it was never a church fellowship, it had been controlled by its members for decades. The control was taken away from the members and placed in the hands of a self-perpetuating board. There were reasons, to be sure. I'm just not convinced that they were good reasons.

The WBF and BBF both reflect the Norris mentality. Power is concentrated in the hands of the pastors, usually in the churches and certainly in the fellowships. The same was true of the churches in the SWBF (which was never much more than a meeting for preaching).

There are several strong state and local associations of Baptist churches. The Hebron Association around Cleveland is a close-knit fellowship. Among Regular Baptists, I know that the Iowa, Mid-Continent, and Il-Mo associations offer good fellowship. From what I've seen the same is true of Wisconsin, though the Regular Baptist fellowship there is smaller than the Wisconsin Fellowship of Baptist Churches. Minnesota has a small but vigorous Regular Baptist association as well as the Minnesota Baptist Association--and the two are on better terms than ever.

No mode of extra-church organization is without problems. In church associations, however, those problems have a chance of getting worked out between churches rather than simply between leaders. I don't think it's any accident that the preponderance of cranks and power mongers within Fundamentalism have gravitated toward preacher's fellowships or executive-run organizations.

As for your second question, yes, I have sometimes served on boards. When I was president at Central Seminary I served on the board of the American Association of Christian Colleges and Seminaries. In fact, I was president of the AACCS for two years. I presently serve on the board of the Minnesota Baptist Association (this is an elected position, not an appointment). I'm also on the board of reference for Deo Cantamus (no authority, I just lend them my name). And I serve on the board of Religious Affections Ministries.

I left the presidency of the AACCS because I felt I could not do it justice. Frankly, I don't make a very good board member. If the "trellis and vine" analogy means anything, I'm much more a "vine" kind of person, while a board needs strong "trellis" people. Furthermore, I'm allergic to institutional politics and powerplays. Ideas are worth fighting for, but humanly-invented institutions usually aren't.

Don Johnson's picture

Your note seems to be a thinly veiled criticism of the FBFI vs. the GARBC. There are strengths to a denominational structure, especially with respect to financing missions, publishing houses, and possibly colleges. The weakness of the denominational structure is that you become ensnared in a denominational political machine which historically has created situations where denominational institutions (mission boards, publishing houses, colleges [e.g. Cedarville]) become entrenched with little accountability to local churches. Qhite frankly, there are problems with both structures. We have to do the best we can with the resources we have available.

Personally, I find it easier to promote fundamentalism through independent churches and genuine personal fellowship of individuals. I guess you don't, from what you say.

You did say some things that were kind of interesting at the end of your last piece:

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

As for your second question, yes, I have sometimes served on boards. When I was president at Central Seminary I served on the board of the American Association of Christian Colleges and Seminaries. In fact, I was president of the AACCS for two years. I presently serve on the board of the Minnesota Baptist Association (this is an elected position, not an appointment). I'm also on the board of reference for Deo Cantamus (no authority, I just lend them my name). And I serve on the board of Religious Affections Ministries.

I left the presidency of the AACCS because I felt I could not do it justice. Frankly, I don't make a very good board member. If the "trellis and vine" analogy means anything, I'm much more a "vine" kind of person, while a board needs strong "trellis" people. Furthermore, I'm allergic to institutional politics and powerplays. Ideas are worth fighting for, but humanly-invented institutions usually aren't.

When you say you are more of a "vine" type person, I wanted to be sure of what you meant. I looked up "Trellis and Vine" on the internet and saw references to a book by that name. Is that what you are referring to? One reviewer described it this way:

The main idea of 'The Trellis and the Vine' is an analogy between local church ministry and growing a vine. The 'trellis' corresponds to administration and structures, the 'vine' to the spiritual growth and life of Christians. The point is to counteract our common tendency to work on the trellis and neglect to work on the growth of the vine.

Then I looked for other definitions of vine and found this one on freedictionary.com:

A weak-stemmed plant that derives its support from climbing, twining, or creeping along a surface.

That one sounds kind of parasitic to me. I guess that wasn't what you mean.

In any case, I think it is better to use Biblical analogies for the church if we are going to talk about church work. The vine analogy is used by the Lord to talk about our personal relationship to him. I can't think of anywhere that it is used of the church.

One of the main metaphors for the church is the idea of a building - chief cornerstone, foundation stones, living stones. We are to build on the foundation, using the living stones of INDIVIDUALS, building an edifice for God's glory.

I wonder what you mean when you say "Frankly, I don't make a very good board member." Is that a virtue? Every building project I've ever been on required team work. That would be individuals, working together, to construct something.

We have a great idea in fundamentalism - I believe it is biblical Christianity. But we need more than an idea. We need individuals joining in the work. I am glad to work with other individuals as part of a team, trying to promote biblical Christianity in any way I can.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

RCKimbro's picture

Dear Brethren,

I want to thank you for the invitation to join this discussion, and apologize for the length of time it has taken me to actually offer a contribution after agreeing to do so.

Let me say at the outset that both my perspective and my participation may be limited. I do not possess knowledge or experience concerning many of the organizations being referenced. Having come through what I saw described in the thread as the Fundamental Baptist/BJU/Wilds orbit, I do have some familiarity with the major personalities in those circles stemming from the 1970s and 1980s. My adult ministry has been confined to the Free Presbyterian Church. I should also say that I do not speak for every minister or elder in my presbytery. Similar discussions about Conservative Evangelicals currently exist within our own body.

Of the contributors I should say that I know Kevin (having enjoyed several interactions with him over the last decade). I have met Mike (as he mentioned in the thread). My only knowledge of Don has come through reading the thread.

Here is a summary of my understanding of the conversation thus far:

1) There is an underlying given to the situation: Fundamentalism is losing an inordinate amount of young men to the Conservative Evangelical orbit, thus the major question of the Future of Fundamentalism.

2) Kevin has spoken objectively and openly about the problem. His observations have included a willingness to speak publically about the strengths of Conservative Evangelicals in areas where they are doing good work and where some Historic Fundamentalists would be in agreement with their teaching. He has not ignored their problems. He has suggested that Fundamentalism would be better served by confronting its own problems/sins as aggressively as it has been willing to confront the problems/sins of the Evangelicals. He has also defended and engaged in differing levels of fellowship outside of the local church/denominational setting.

3) Don is concerned that Kevin’s outspokenness is contributing to the problem and has asked him to reconsider his methodology. (Defining the specific parts or nature of the outspokenness that Don finds objectionable has occupied a considerable part of the discussion thus far. Kevin wanted to discover the impersonal root principles Don was concerned about).

4) Mike is appreciative of Kevin, and others like him, and believes they are seeking to help Fundamentalism by their methodology even if some Fundamentalists would not necessarily do everything Kevin is doing.

Perhaps I have been overly general. That may characterize my contributions. I’m a big picture guy more than a name and date guy.

My initial observations contain an element that will almost certainly appear partisan and touch areas where I will most likely be in disagreement theologically with all of the other participants, so I must ask for understanding and patience as I contribute. That partisan fact, however, will play a major part in my initial comments. My contribution below will address an element Kevin has touched upon before that is not prominent in the current thread, but I believe it is most relevant to the larger topic of the future of Fundamentalism. I do not introduce what follows in an attempt to draw out debate concerning the doctrines where we may disagree, but nonetheless I believe the fact of these doctrinal disagreements deserves a place at the table in this discussion.

If I could first offer some general categories to the discussion as I see it…I will call them Associational, Attitudinal, and Theological. What I describe as associational matters obviously have the major principle of separation in view.  (Perhaps one crux of the situation is the difficulty of how men who agree on that scriptural principle, as Fundamentalists, may yet disagree on how and where to apply that principle). Offering just one comment in this large category, I would say that we must admit the fact that many young men are willing to move “left” on this principle, at least as it has been taught by the main line Fundamentalism of the recent past, with their eyes open. My observation would be that we cannot categorically criticize these men who are leaving Fundamentalism for doing so in an unprincipled way. Some doubtless may be doing so with a reactionary spirit or with degrees of rebellion on board. But others are doubtless moving “left” more deliberately. There are simply other principles in view that they are using to trump the principle of separation (or perhaps, as they see it, merely the principle of separation as applied by their former leaders).

Secondly, I would suggest that there are attitudinal matters that play a major role in this problem.  Perhaps this has occupied the largest part of the thread thus far. I would probably come down on Kevin’s side of this one. It’s possible to do the right thing in the wrong way and thereby give a bad name to a good principle. (It’s also possible even to do some wrong things and excuse them under the banner of the good principle of separatism, hence many of the problems of Fundamentalism). I have preached often that scripture demands at times that we separate from those who are true Brethren, but we should never enjoy it and never become or even appear to become self-righteous in our exercise of it. In matters of personal actions, demeanor, and integrity, it is entirely possible for Evangelicals, who may err on some principles of separation, to excel beyond some Fundamentalists who rightly maintain the principle of separation. This can even affect the content and depth of their teaching. This certainly does not help the separatist cause. (I remember hearing a Bible Conference speaker during my years at BJU once say that he knew some New Evangelicals that he liked better than some of his Fundamentalist colleagues. That really brought a hush to a large room).  I should also add the observation here that young Fundamentalists who have been put off by attitudinal problems they have observed within Fundamentalism should not entertain the delusion that Evangelical circles are entirely devoid of political maneuverings, personality conflicts, and attitudinal problems of their own. The Flesh does not observe ecclesiastical boundaries.

Thirdly, I would suggest that the discussion to this point has in my opinion omitted an important element—the theological matters that are in play currently. It cannot be overlooked that a common thread linking the most popular Conservative Evangelicals today is the resurgence of Reformed or Calvinistic theology. (This is true even of MacArthur’s “leaky Dispensationalism.” It is certainly true of those he has chosen to openly associate with in more recent years). In the evolution of the Fundamentalist movement, what began as an interdenominational movement in response to Liberalism, thus containing Reformed partisans, came to be dominated by the Dispensational/Baptistic party. Young men growing up in Fundamentalism who became interested in Reformed doctrine were then faced with a dilemma: “I can either be a Fundamentalist or be Reformed.” A century ago this would not have happened. A Reformed presence was gradually pushed outside the American Fundamentalist movement. (I found a happy haven within the originally European Free Presbyterian denomination). While Dispensationalism certainly had a presence within the Evangelical orbit, it was within the Evangelical orbit that the mid-20th century renaissance of Reformed theology began. The late 20th century brought the prominence of some articulate Bible teachers on the radio, along with some significant contributions in written and reprinted form (ala Banner of Truth, etc.), as well as the burgeoning internet media, thus allowing this renaissance to spread further as some Fundamentalists began to explore this newly rediscovered world safely and quietly. Some have entered that new world without sounding bells or whistles and remain within their Fundamentalist habitat, but many were convinced enough to make an open move theologically that was frowned upon by the majority of Fundamentalists, but they were so persuaded of the Reformed system (or some version thereof), that they were willing to break with former ties in order to fully embrace it. Other things, and some things that even as a Reformed minister I would disagree upon (i.e. music and some lifestyle choices), they came to see as secondary to their newfound theological views. Since Fundamentalism, as it had evolved, provided no apparent channel for the expression of their views they have chosen to move outside the camp even if it meant picking up new (or different) baggage. Sadly, (and it took me some time to actually be persuaded of this), some Fundamentalist leaders have been so antagonistic to any form of Calvinism, they have been happy enough to see these men leave the movement. I do not think this theological reality can be ignored as a significant factor in the current decline of Fundamentalism. Until Fundamentalism can genuinely welcome and allow the expression of views other than the Dispensational/Baptistic variety, I think the exodus will continue. Any future for separatism must include this as part of the discussion.

I apologize for the length and perhaps the uncomfortable nature of my initial comments, but as the thread has already displayed, hard times call for hard discussions. May they be pursued with charity and grace.

---Reggie Kimbro

Reggie Kimbro, Minister

Grace Free Presbyterian Church

Winston-Salem, NC

Mike Harding's picture

Reggie,

 

Good to hear from you.  It has been a long time.  Are you pastoring a church or teaching somewhere?  Regarding the doctrinal tensions you spoke of in your last post, I agree that there are some real tensions between many of the dispensational Baptists and the young Calvinists.  Based on the majors confessions of faith, it can be demonstrated that Baptists have had Calvinistic theology in their history.  I recently read the doctrinal statement and Constitution of a large church in the FBFI and it was both strongly dispensational and Calvinistic.  I am somewhat amazed that men with undergraduate and graduate degrees in the school of religion don't recognize or admit this candidly. I know these tensions exist in the SBC as well.  Just look at the differences between Paige Patterson and Al Mohler.  Thus, though the tensions exist in my brand of the fundamentalist movement, they also exist elsewhere.  As a strong dispensationalist, I have been Calvinistic in my preaching for decades.  As a result, we have quite a number of young Baptist fundamentalists who have identified with our church and are serving God today as missionaries, pastors, and Christian school teachers.  They are not hyper-Calvinisitic in doctrine or attitude.  I think that is important.  Was it Carl Truman who said that if a man becomes a Calvinist, you need to lock him up for about two years?  I do not consider myself reformed in ecclesiology or eschatology or hermeneutics, thus I do not take or accept the reformed label.  I also believe that the so-called "shibboleths" of fundamentalism are still important--music, alcohol consumption, dress standards, smoking, restrictions on certain kinds of popular entertainment.  My goal is to strengthen fundamentalism where we are weak, but not throw out the areas where we have been strong.  I may be beating a dead horse, but as H. Robinson once said, "No horse is too dead to beat."

Pastor Mike Harding

RCKimbro's picture

Mike,

Good to hear from you again too. And the answer to both questions is yes. I’m a full time minister at my church and teach as an adjunct at Geneva Reformed Seminary (usually one 2-3 week module a year).

I may get back to you on the issue of hermeneutics you mention, but for now I would like to ask Kevin to weigh in on his understanding of Machen’s relationship to Fundamentalism in its current expressions. Also, I wonder if the OPC/BP split by McIntire may have had an impact on the willingness of American Presbyterians to identify with Fundamentalism. (The gulf I point out between Fundamentalism and the Reformed faith may have included more of a mutual agreement to part ways than I indicate in my last post. I wonder if some ‘attitudinal’ issues might have been in play at the time).

I do not deny your observation that the tension between Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic theologies exists in other circles besides Fundamentalism. There has been a recent push back against resurgent Calvinism in the SBC. My point is that modern Fundamentalists, largely, have not been willing to allow a similar presence in their movement, thus those with openly Reformed convictions usually must look elsewhere for ecclesiastical identity. (Unless they want to look at Free Presbyterianism)! This is also largely true of those who identify with Baptistic Calvinism (in its full “5-Point”) expression but who do not prefer the title “Reformed,” and even those who take the title “Reformed Baptists.” They usually see themselves moving outside of Fundamentalism.

Reggie Kimbro, Minister

Grace Free Presbyterian Church

Winston-Salem, NC

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

My apologies for failing to respond in a timely fashion. Even how I have time only for the sketchiest of replies. But here goes.

No, my point was not to argue for the GARBC at the expense of the FBFI, though I do have a decided preference for structures that recognize not only the autonomy, but also the centrality, of the local church of the New Testament. I was particularly amused by your description of the problems with "denominations," for multiple reasons. First, the FBFI has as much claim to be called a denomination as the GARBC. Second, the specific things to which you object (e.g., dominance of institutions, lack of accountability, political machinations) are among the most central critiques that can be offered of the FBFI itself, particularly in terms of its historical record.

As you note, there is no organizational panacea (I devote a whole chapter to this discussion in my volume on Baptist distinctives). Either we work with flawed structures or we don't work together at all. Knowing that, however, should not stop us from constantly asking how our structures could be better.

Both the GARBC and the FBFI have made significant structural alterations during their history. The FBFI started out as an individual fellowship and moved toward being an executive-driven organization. During the 1980s you couldn't even become a member of the FBFI, you could only "identify with" it. Even now, membership is essentially a subscription to the magazine. I can't tell that it really means anything to be a member of FBFI. I've never even got a secret decoder ring.

The GARBC went in exactly the opposite direction. While always a fellowship of churches, the association originally functioned with a president, vice president, and executive committee. After Ketcham was elected president repeatedly, he foresaw the possibility of one individual coming to exert too much influence within the organization. The structure was deliberately modifed to a Council of Fourteen (later eighteen) who were to carry out the wishes of the fellowship. I believe that even now the constitution places restrictions upon the number of years that an individual can serve consecutively on the C-18.

The National Representative is not even an officer. As Donald Brong once put it, he is not the head of the association, but its feet. Neither he nor any other employee of the association is allowed a vote in its business. I can still remember when the chairman of the council asked Paul Tassell to chair a meeting in Ames, Iowa. A point of order was raised from the floor and a non-employee was instantly chosen to occupy the chair instead.

How would the FBFI be different if no board member could serve longer than four years without having to take a sabbatical?

How would the FBFI be different if the board and officers were elected by the members rather than by themselves?

To me, these are interesting questions to ponder.

Again, it's not so much about the GARBC as it is about the principle of the centrality of the local church. Other organizations besides the GARBC have recognized this principle (e.g., the WFBC, the NTAIBC, the IFBAM, the MBA)

Now, for the question with which you close. When I say that I do not make a very good board member, I do not consider that a virtue. It is a weakness. I honor those who possess both the interest and the organizational and administrative skills to function well on boards. What I lack is the interest.

I quite agree with you about employing biblical analogies when describing the church. It is a body, a bride, a nation, a priesthood, a flock (not a fold), a building. What I would question is the legitimacy of applying church analogies to parachurch institutions. The less centered upon the church these institutions are, the less appropriate the analogies become, no?

Kevin

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

As you note, there is no organizational panacea (I devote a whole chapter to this discussion in my volume on Baptist distinctives). Either we work with flawed structures or we don't work together at all. Knowing that, however, should not stop us from constantly asking how our structures could be better.

Fair enough. 

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
Even now, membership is essentially a subscription to the magazine. I can't tell that it really means anything to be a member of FBFI. I've never even got a secret decoder ring.
 

I'll see if we can arrange getting one to you.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

How would the FBFI be different if no board member could serve longer than four years without having to take a sabbatical?

How would the FBFI be different if the board and officers were elected by the members rather than by themselves?

To me, these are interesting questions to ponder.

I think you would change the entire idea of the organization, without a doubt. I think that the organization has a reason to exist as is, but that reason would disappear by making changes like this. Organizations of this kind are already available (example: GARBC). For those who wish to participate in such organizations, there are plenty of them around. I don't see a need for duplication.

I should note that I am expressing my own opinion here, I do NOT speak for the FBFI.

Beyond my statement in the paragraph above, however, I am not sure what else to say. I don't plan to say anything further on those questions at the moment.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

Now, for the question with which you close. When I say that I do not make a very good board member, I do not consider that a virtue. It is a weakness. I honor those who possess both the interest and the organizational and administrative skills to function well on boards. What I lack is the interest.

I quite agree with you about employing biblical analogies when describing the church. It is a body, a bride, a nation, a priesthood, a flock (not a fold), a building. What I would question is the legitimacy of applying church analogies to parachurch institutions. The less centered upon the church these institutions are, the less appropriate the analogies become, no?

I agree on the last sentence for sure.

Interesting comment in the first paragraph - We all only have so  much time and energy to invest in the cause of Christ. We have to decide where best to invest it.

Last, in this thread, at this point we seem to be meandering around a bit. Hopefully we can get things together in a new discussion that will regain a focus (for a while, at least) and be profitable to those who read.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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