Now, About Those Differences, Part Thirteen

NickOfTimeRead Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, and Part 12.

A Response to Bauder


Your last essay raised the question of the gospel as a basis of fellowship. I think you would agree that the gospel is essential to all Christian fellowship. The question that you raise is how much cooperative effort is possible on the basis of the gospel alone.

By the way, who do you think you’re addressing? Are you trying to convince conservative evangelicals of the error of their ways? Are you trying to persuade young fundamentalists to stay in the FBF? What’s going on here?

I appreciate the fact that you phrased your essay in terms of testing ideas rather than positing absolute conclusions. The form that you chose invites response. If you meant to construct an argument that would satisfy all enquiries and answer all objections, however, then you have fallen seriously short of your goal.

Having acknowledged the importance of the gospel—unquestionably it is the most important thing in the world—you then seek to diminish its importance by arguing that Christians do not pay attention to it except under certain circumstances. The two circumstances that you mention are evangelism and polemics, i.e., when the gospel is being offered or when it is being defended.

This assumption seems to overlook a great deal of the New Testament evidence. In the New Testament, the gospel is not merely a way of being justified. It is the foundation of and motivation for the entire life of faith. Everything that we need in order to live for God is provided in the gospel. Even as believers we need to continue to preach the gospel to one another.

You need to look no further than the epistles to see this dynamic at work. The epistles are, after all, written to Christians. They are not addressed either to the lost or to false teachers. Their recipients no longer need to be evangelized and they are not denying the faith.

Yet the epistles are filled with the gospel. For example, 1 Corinthians 15 gives an extended exposition of the gospel. The entire epistle to the Galatians is arguably an elaborate explanation of the gospel and its implications. And what shall we say of Romans, where Paul devotes five entire chapters to the task of explaining the gospel to believers?

In view of the New Testament’s massive concentration on the gospel, it seems absurd to maintain that the gospel is simply assumed by Christians until it needs to be propagated or defended. Unquestionably there is a time and place for Christians to focus upon the gospel alone.

Your argument about the “Together for the Gospel” and “The Gospel Coalition” crowd seems somewhat misbegotten. In the first place, let us suppose your observation is correct and these leaders do include more than the gospel as a qualification for their organizational fellowship. Even so, your argument looks like an example of the tu quoque fallacy. Perhaps they do include more, but that does not mean that they ought to. Perhaps they and we really should be “together for the gospel” alone. It is possible that they and we need to amend our practice.

Second, you sound perilously close to equating conservative evangelicalism with the T4G-GC crowd. Don’t you realize that conservative evangelicalism has as many branches and permutations as fundamentalism, and perhaps more? I know several of the T4G-GC leaders. Some of them were even my teachers. But I would not limit conservative evangelicalism to their influence. Don’t you think you’re being a bit narrow in your definitions?

Third, when you do introduce other names, their relevance is not altogether clear. Why even bring up Rick Warren? He would not be classified as a conservative evangelical in anybody’s book. Nor is he a Calvinist, or any of the other things that you listed—other than presumably being a gospel believer. So Piper has him in to a meeting! Warren has not been invited to T4G or The Gospel Coalition. So what’s your point?

In short, it would seem that there is a time and place to confer, or write, or converse, or whatever—for the gospel per se. The gospel needs to be explored. It contains riches beyond our wildest imagination. Most believers never appreciate the wealth of truth that the gospel assumes, implies, and expressly teaches.

The gospel also needs to be applied, not merely to the lives of the lost, but to the lives of believers. A grasp of the gospel is absolutely crucial for making the right choices in a perplexing world. A love for the gospel is crucial for making the right choices in a truth-rejecting world.

In fact, the gospel is precisely what reveals the character of God-in-Christ to us, and at the most fundamental level. That is why it is the most important thing in the world. We do not see either God’s justice or His mercy in their correct proportions until they are displayed on the cross. God’s wisdom and power become truly evident in the death and resurrection of Christ. The only God we know, and the only Christ we serve, is the One Who is given to us in the gospel. And this is the chief end of the gospel, is it not? The gospel is not simply about getting sinners into heaven. It is about magnifying a triune God whose perfections are infinitely glorious and utterly praiseworthy.

We do not need less of the gospel. We need more of it. True, we need to proclaim it and to defend it. But we also need to hear it, learn it, explore it, apply it, and love it.

You say that the gospel is to be assumed. What—do you want us just to take the gospel for granted? We can’t afford that! The gospel was never more needed by God’s people than it is today.

If you do not take these matters into consideration, I think that you will never understand how important it is to be together for the gospel. You will always have a limited and shallow approach to Christianity. Perhaps you should reconsider.

Argumentatively yours,

Kevin T. Bauder, D.Min., Ph.D.
Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis

William Cowper (1731-1800)

My song shall bless the Lord of all,
My praise shall climb to His abode;
Thee, Saviour, by that name I call,
The great Supreme, the mighty God.

Without beginning or decline,
Object of faith and not of sense;
Eternal ages saw Him shine,
He shines eternal ages hence.

As much when in the manger laid,
Almighty Ruler of the sky,
As when the six days’ work He made,
Fill’d all the morning stars with joy.

Of all the crowns Jehovah bears,
Salvation is His dearest claim;
That gracious sound well pleased He hears
And owns Emmanuel for His name.

A cheerful confidence I feel,
My well placed hopes with joy I see;
My bosom glows with heavenly zeal,
To worship Him who died for me.

As man He pities my complaint,
His power and truth are all divine;
He will not fail, He cannot faint;
Salvation’s sure, and must be mine.

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

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There are 15 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture


This is a bit of curve ball.
But FWIW, I think you were right last week.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Susan R's picture


that this topic, among many others, has much more to it than meets the eye. It reminds me of the human body- which can be disassembled down to the leukocytes (and further), but most of us are satisfied with knowing the major organs and skeletal structure. We think we know enough about the body because we've taken a biology class or two. But we could study for the rest of our lives and dissect and operate and experiment and write papers, and still not fully understand how each body system works with the others to create a healthy, fully-functioning human.

Since the church is the body of Christ, I like that analogy. We think we've got it all down, and then we discover other layers and elements we hadn't known about before. I've enjoyed all this exploration, and am glad that there is always more to consider and learn.

Greg Long's picture

Surprised he didn't quote Bill Murray's character in What About Bob?

"Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I'm a schizophrenic,
And so am I."

Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

schaitel's picture

Schizophrenia is characterized by manic episodes, hallucinations, suicidal tendencies, delusions, racing thoughts, difficulty consentrating, lack of emotion, apathy, etc.
I want to be the first to clear Dr. Bauder of that misdiagnosis.
Whether he has multiple personality disorder, I am not going to comment on that


Jason Schaitel
Teva Neuroscience

Jason E. Schaitel MCP


student at Veritas School of Theology

Joseph Leavell's picture

It appears that the other shoe has fallen? Not sure what to make of this, except to say that I'm in complete agreement with this refutation.

It just makes me wonder if he had this article planned before he wrote the last one as a way to complete the last one or if he realized that he left a few things out of the last one and needed to clarify a few things, or if he realized he was wrong and this is his way of stating so without stating the actual words. It may also have been that there were some things in there that he agreed with and some that he does not for sake of disussion. I have seen this form of argument employed in order to bait people to agree for the purpose of refuting the position later, but I doubt that's what he's doing here. Now that we have two contradictory articles from Bauder, it is hard to know which one Bauder actually holds to - his alter ego hasn't agreed to this refutation letter (though that may supposed to have been assumed), so it may have been more about getting discussion going on this subject more than anything. Pehaps I'm over thinking it. Not sure which category this letter would fall into, but I was glad to read this article on the importance of the Gospel!

Thanks Dr. Bauder! Right on!

ELittle's picture

At 1 A. M. I began to read Differences 13 and went from "this is a very astute person', to 'wow they forgot to post the name', to 'is he schiz?" I was up and troubled about going over to hear Lee Strobel at a huge mega church with 9 campuses. His presentation was incredible-he gave his testimony which was wonderful-but sometning was wrong and it was hard for me to put my finger on it-FYI I would identify with Chris Rosebrough and Dewaay on seeker sensitive-I began to reread Wells Above Earthly Powers and Losing Virtue for a couple of hours then I began to realize the preciousness of the Gospel - men seek Him wrongly on their terms and it is so tempting to avoid the confrontational scandal of God's holiness, man's lostness and hell's horrible reality. The four books Wells wrote under the Pew grant are priceless to me in my search for truth.
I bumped into SI reading the Doran/Johnson Dead Right discussion. began to read most of the articles at Nick of Time-realized in the Captain logs series that Kevin and I share some history though indirectly.
This was a fantastic article. What a heart was revealed-a transparency, a willingness to suffer if necessary the loss of all things for the precious Gospels sake!
One other personal thought-I was part of Southern Fundie and walked away 25 years ago-because of parachurch connections (legal, Christian schools) was able to look into group after group-about a year ago wonderfully blessed by MacArthur, T4G, etc but still looking- recently found Fundamentalist Idea (worth saving)--unfamiliar with GARB et al-SI great help-but after reading SI wondered about helping me escape being an armchair web theologian-I am trying to perfect my understanding of the Gospel (which is priceless) but I quit sharing the gospel!
I am helping (web sites listed below) my 80 year old Brother in law who in spite of incredible health problems coupled with 103 degree heat has to get kids to help him on Sat/Sun give out hundreds of thousands of John/Roman bilinguals as fundamental churches refuse to help- not even willing to put their name on the literature
This 50 year missionary veteran who started hundreds of churches grieves over the sad state all over the Fundamentalist Movement but has never lost the soulwinners fire to share the gospel. In 1957 I was called to preach under his ministry and he got me preaching on the street and sharing the gospel. How could I have gotten away from that!?! Since he was 19 he has never stopped sharing the gospel. I am personally convicted as I publish the reports of his unspeakable joy when God opens heart after heart to the Gospel.
He has never solicited support and has seen God continually, wonderfully provide. He is beginning to speak out
He has a driving desire to get other churches to get involved in sharing bilingual John/Romans in markets throughout the country,


Aaron Blumer's picture


I was glad to read this article on the importance of the Gospel!

Number 12 was also about the importance of the gospel. I think many are not seeing the connection. If we do not give due attention to what the gospel demands (which is distinct from itself) we are shortchanging the gospel.

Maybe it would help to illustrate it this way:
Suppose I die and leave a Last Will and Testament in which I bequeath my (quite fictional) millions to several organizations on the condition that they use them to further their work.
The millions are one thing, the work is another. But what if they have a big celebration about the millions and just keep doing that year after year and never do the work the millions are for? It would be silly to say they are honoring the gift if they are not using it.

It's an imperfect analogy, as all analogies are, but we do not honor the gospel if we neglect the "in additional to the gospel" things it demands. So the argument in part 12 that much of the time we assume the gospel and do what the gospel demands, is in fact a gospel-honoring argument. It even fits "gospel centered" quite well in the sense of "gospel at the core." It doesn't fit the "gospel focused" moniker very well. But I don't see that as a bad thing. There are times to be focused on the gospel and times to be focused on where the gospel points. Even the gospel serves the larger purpose of the glory of God, as do all the "gospel-demanded" features of Christian living that are distinct from the gospel.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

AndrewSuttles's picture

Aaron -

I loaded my guns in order to refute what I think you may be implying in your reply, but I like what you said in the following quote so much, that I am compelled to set that aside and just simply say 'amen' and thanks for posting it.

If we do not give due attention to what the gospel demands we are shortchanging the gospel.

RPittman's picture

Okay, Dr. Bauder, we have followed your musings and are intrigued. Now, put it in shoe leather. What does it all mean? We are ready to hear some conclusions. Like a wily old foxhound, I have been watching your cutbacks to see where you going before joining the chase in this series.

Steve Newman's picture

I'm going to go back to my roots in Fundamentalism and ask about the "Gospel-centeredness" of the argument.
The assertion has been made for years of the doxological center of Christianity that was/is supposed to be different within Fundamentalism. Are you saying this is a red herring? I guess while I can potentially derive all these things from the Gospel, I can more directly derive them from the character of God Himself.
In addition, there are presuppositions to the Gospel that must be established. For example, there are the creation of man in the image of God, the fallen state of man, the inability of man to save himself. Are you wrapping these issues up with the Gospel, or are you recognizing there are things beyond the Gospel? In other words, Fundamentalism for many years has said there is more than the Gospel to consider. Are you saying this is not true? I'm interested to hear more about this.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

With all due respect to Dr. Bauder and the great work he has done on critiquing the fundamentalist movement with boldness and clarity, I humbly suggest that it is time to move on to something else.
This philosophical approach to the development and practice of fundamentalism is a vast improvement over what most fundamentalist leaders have previously offered, but it still pales in comparison to the great themes of Scripture, where our minds need to be focused.
I understand that this essay is talking about the gospel, but it is still doing so for the express purpose of delineating the limits of fundamentalist fellowship with conservative evangelicals. Here is a new thought -- maybe there just ain't that much "there" there to build on as far as "historical fundamentalism" as a human movement is concerned.
Christ's Kingdom -- the ultimate thing which we await -- is NOT YET. That which is ALREADY -- even our best attempts at fleshing out some type of fundamental implementation of what He has called us to do -- is flawed and sinful at best. I would place my stake on the former.
It is time to move on, lest we gain an unhealthy fascinatation with that which is merely temporal and fleeting (Heb. 13:9).
(BTW -- I would say the same thing about discussions about the KJV - both pro and con. Time to move on...)

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Aaron Blumer's picture


It's about application, Paul. Personally, I'm in no hurry to see him move on. If we love the Bible, we never tire of thinking about how it ought to affect the choices we're facing and the whole fundamentalism & its boundaries question is one many are facing.
And it's potentially edifying to see how a thinker struggles w/the issues involved.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Personally, I'm in no hurry to see him move on. If we love the Bible, we never tire of thinking about how it ought to affect the choices we're facing and the whole fundamentalism & its boundaries question is one many are facing.
And it's potentially edifying to see how a thinker struggles w/the issues involved.

In post #1 you called this a curve ball!
When it comes to issues like critiquing the limits of fundamentalist fellowship with CE's, I am with you as long as you are throwing fastballs that are blowing the hitters away. Smile
If you have to paint the edges with curves and sliders, I start to lose interest really quickly. :cry:
As I said, I am just not sure there is that much "there" there.
I know that it is in vogue to talk about being a "historic fundamentalist." But, as someone said here recently on SI, who really were the "historic fundamentalists"? If they were here today, would we even associate with them?
Many of the early fundamentalists were heroic figures for separating from liberalism and apostasy, but that was a snapshot. From there they went a thousand directions -- from which they also came.
I think there is a gold mine out there for someone who wants to write a D.Min. dissertation on the inherent flaws of the fundamentalist movement.
(BTW - Don't try to read too much into what I am saying. My basic message is simple -- I am on "overload mode" right now with regard to defining and refining fundamentalism, Central's ethos, KJVO, etc. Maybe I should take a few days away from SI and watch "This Old House" re-runs until everything calms down. Wink )

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Aaron Blumer's picture


By "curve ball," I meant I didn't see this one coming. And the format is obviously a bit unusual.
But perhaps it is not possible to judge the value of some pieces of writing until they are at least a week old? Wink

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

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