Now, About Those Differences, Part Twenty Four

The entire “Now About Those Differences” series is available here.

Fellowship and the Evangelical Spectrum

Finally we come to the hard part. I have been writing about fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. In the process, I have tried to articulate briefly a vision of Christian fellowship and separation. This vision involves a boundary (the gospel), outside of which no Christian fellowship is possible. It also involves a center, the whole counsel of God. Increasing levels of fellowship necessarily index to this center.

In my thinking, separation is simply the absence of fellowship. Outside of the boundary, separation is absolute. No Christian recognition should ever be given. Inside the boundary, separation is decided by the extent to which we Christians mutually hold the faith (the whole counsel of God) in its integrity.

Even among fundamentalists, certain separations are unavoidable. These separations are forced upon us when we cannot jointly hold the whole counsel of God in its integrity. In that sense, each separation includes some element of censure. Nevertheless, separation at one level does not necessarily require separation at every other level. Nor do these separations necessarily require that we adopt a contemptuous attitude toward one another. To the contrary, separations can and usually should be carried out with grace and charity.

At the risk of publicly embarrassing a friend, let me cite an example. Some years ago, God in His grace allowed me to make the acquaintance of Dr. Michael Barrett, president of Geneva Reformed Seminary. Dr. Barrett is a committed Presbyterian, while I am a Baptist by conviction. He is a covenant theologian (though a premillennialist), while I am a dispensationalist (though hardly of the Hal Lindsey variety).

It should go without saying that Dr. Barrett and I find our fellowship limited in a number of areas. Both our ecclesiology and our eschatology differ at important points. He is not going to ask me to lecture on baptism and I am not going to ask him to make speeches about pretribulationism.

More importantly, we cannot be pastors in the same church. Dr. Barrett probably could not in good conscience pastor a church that strictly forbade infant baptism. I could not pastor a church that allowed it. Consequently, Dr. Barrett and I are not likely to plant any churches together.

In other words, we separate from one another. We separate in every area that requires a commitment to those areas of eschatology or ecclesiology over which we differ. We cannot cooperate in any way that would require either of us to surrender his obedience (as he understands it) to Christ.

Do not make the mistake, however, of thinking that Dr. Barrett and I see one another as enemies or even opponents. Far from it. When it comes to an understanding of the beauty of holiness, of the majesty of God and the mercy of the Savior, of the importance of gracious affections and the role of sober worship, I find that I have far more in common with Dr. Barrett than I do with most Baptists or dispensationalists.

For the sake of those things, I have a deep respect and love for Dr. Barrett, and I am convinced that he reciprocates. Each of us shares concerns with the other that we share with few other people. We pray for one another. Both of us yearn for God’s best blessings in the ministry of the other. Most germanely, we are committed to fellowshipping and collaborating wherever it is legitimately possible.

To put it baldly, I grieve to be separated from Mike at any level. I see our separation as an evil, and I yearn for the day when our fellowship will be utterly unhindered. If there were a legitimate way of overcoming that separation now, I would pursue it.

Our separation is an evil (an evil circumstance, not an evil act), but it is a necessary evil in view of the alternatives. One alternative would be for one of us to abandon his commitment to obeying Christ. The other alternative would be for us to pretend hypocritically that we are not divided in those areas where divisions really exist. I would sin against Dr. Barrett by asking him to do either of these things.

Until one of us can convince the other of the error of his ways (not a likely prospect at this point in our lives), Dr. Barrett and I will continue to separate from one another where we must. We will also fellowship and work together where we can. We will do both to the glory of God, precisely because we care about one another.

This ought to be our attitude toward all fundamentalists with whom we differ. Indeed, it ought to be our attitude toward all other Christians who stand in some degree of error. We ought to separate where we must, fellowship where we can, and love one another withal.

In my opinion, the now-old new evangelicals were guilty of a very serious error. It was as serious as a Christian can commit. I also believe that hyper-fundamentalists are guilty of errors that are (nearly?) as serious. Very few levels exist at which I can overtly cooperate with exemplars of either group. Fellowship in both instances is severely truncated. Nevertheless, I find leaders in each group who challenge me spiritually and whose examples (at least in limited areas) I wish to emulate. Furthermore, where they are obedient to the Lord and genuinely trying to serve Him, I want them to succeed.

Other fundamentalists do not necessarily draw the lines where I do. On one hand, some are more willing than I am to cooperate on the neoevangelical side. For example, Carl F. H. Henry (one of the original neoevangelicals) would sometimes attend chapel at Maranatha Baptist Bible College, where he would be asked to lead students and faculty in prayer. On the other hand, some are more willing than I am to cooperate on the hyper-fundamentalist side. Bob Jones University, for instance, has featured Clarence Sexton (a King James Only advocate) on its platform.

So what? My conscience, my attempt to apply biblical principles, does not govern the ministries of others. I am perfectly willing to concede that they may have the best reasons for making the decisions that they have made. Our ability to apply the principles of Scripture is often influenced by the circumstances in which we find ourselves and by the perceptions that control us. We need to allow each other a measure of latitude to apply those principles differently.

Limits still exist, of course. Even if we recognize that we are making judgment calls, we know that some judgments are better than others. A consistent pattern of poor judgments may lead us to rethink our relationship with a leader or an institution. We may even be constrained to offer a rebuke or a warning. Even then, however, we need to discipline ourselves to act with grace and charity, lest our separations become an endless round of one-upmanship and self promotion.

So what about my own actual choices? Two are worth mentioning.

The first occurred several years ago when I was invited to preach for the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, International. After I had accepted, I learned that I was to share the platform with Clarence Sexton. Some fundamentalists encouraged me to withdraw my name from the conference (i.e., to separate from the FBFI because of its affiliation with Pastor Sexton).

On my view, sharing a platform constitutes a relatively low level of mutuality and commitment, ceteris paribus. I believe that one’s presence on a platform entails little if any endorsement of the other speakers or of their positions. Reasonable people of all sorts are able to understand the differences between individuals who happen to be speaking at the same event. In my estimation, so-called “platform fellowship” is only a notch above personal fellowship in terms of its requirements.

Other fundamentalists weigh platform fellowship more seriously. This is probably not the place for a full discussion of that subject, though I believe that the interaction would be very useful. Whatever our conclusions, we do need to bear one factor in mind: we must apply our principles consistently. Those who believe that platform fellowship does constitute a significant endorsement are responsible to separate from friends as well as from opponents, from those on their Right as well as those to their Left. The greatest argument against the fundamentalists’ insistence upon highlighting platform fellowship is the inconsistency of the very fundamentalists who are most likely to make that argument.

At any rate, I did not believe that I should withdraw from the FBFI platform over the presence of Pastor Sexton. My presence there was no endorsement of his views in the King James debate, nor was his presence any endorsement of mine. In other words, I was not prepared to separate from the FBFI over the invitation of Clarence Sexton (who, I must add, I appreciate at several levels).

More recently, I have applied the same principle in a different direction. I was asked to speak this coming February at a conference being hosted by Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary. This is a conference at which I have spoken many times in the past. This time, I was told that Dr. Mark Dever would be on the platform. In many ways I am a great admirer of Pastor Dever, but the differences between us are quite real. We differ markedly over dispensationalism, over limited atonement, and over the value of the Southern Baptist Convention. Pastor Dever is a committed Southern Baptist, while I question the value of affiliating with a convention that will not respect at least the fundamentals as a test of fellowship (I am speaking here of convention membership and participation, not of institutional employment).

These differences limit the possibility of cooperation with Pastor Dever at more than one level. Nevertheless, appearing on the same platform does not (as I see it) constitute an endorsement of his views in those areas over which we differ. If it did, Mark would be as eager to avoid endorsing my views as I am to avoid endorsing his!

The issues over which I differ with Dever are less serious than the issues over which I differ with Sexton. In both cases, however, my thinking is essentially the same. We cannot cooperate in areas where we really have no fellowship. Our actual fellowship is limited wherever we do not hold the whole counsel of God together. Where we do, the fellowship is real and cooperation ought to be possible. Platform presence generally constitutes a very low level of cooperation and requires minimal agreement in the faith. I was not willing to separate from the FBFI over Clarence Sexton, and I am even less willing to separate from Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary over Mark Dever.

As I write these words, I do so with full awareness that either Calvary Seminary or the FBFI may see things differently. One or the other (or both!) might very well choose to separate from me. That, too, is part of the judgment that they must make, and I must grant them liberty to make it. I am not the one to whom they will answer.

For my part, the dictum is pretty simple. Let us separate where we must. Let us fellowship where we can. Let us love one another withal.

Advent, 2
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Earth grown old, yet still so green,
Deep beneath her crust of cold
Nurses fire unfelt, unseen:
Earth grown old.

We who live are quickly told:
Millions more lie hid between
Inner swathings of her fold.

When will fire break up her screen?
When will life burst thro’ her mould?
Earth, earth, earth, thy cold is keen,
Earth grown old.

[node:bio/kevin-t-bauder body]

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There are 57 Comments

Ron Bean's picture

When I entered graduate school at BJU 30 years ago, I discovered the Free Presbyterian Church after a year of visiting churches. That was the start of a friendship in the Gospel that continues to this day and I wish to add my personal "Amen" to what Dr. Bauder has written. When I preached for them they would refer to me as "Ron the Baptist" and our differences were never seen as reasons for separation. These people encouraged me in the ministry and challenged me to pray and to preach Christ; often to a greater extent than some of my Baptist brethren. I thank God for my brothers who are not my twins.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

G. N. Barkman's picture

Thanks, Dr. Bauder, for this latest article in a series of excellent aticles. You have thought through and articulated common sense and Bible truth in an area where many of us have wrestled without coming to final clarity.

I hope you will consider publishing these articles as a book. Any chance?

Warm regards,
Greg

G. N. Barkman

RPittman's picture

Dr. Bauder is somewhat of an enigma--he is neither the Patron Saint that his adorers portray nor is he the wretched deceitful sinner that his opponents depict. He is a man like the rest of us. In this article, Dr. Bauder shows good sense. He demonstrates an obvious attempt for fairness and a moderate approach to a heated subject. Although I don't agree with some of his points, I must give him a thumbs-up for his approach and effort.

There are, however, several points that I would like to discuss. Dr. Bauder is leaving out something, I think, in his definition of separation.

Dr. Bauder wrote:
In my thinking, separation is simply the absence of fellowship. Outside of the boundary, separation is absolute. No Christian recognition should ever be given. Inside the boundary, separation is decided by the extent to which we Christians mutually hold the faith (the whole counsel of God) in its integrity.
IMHO, this definition needs to specify that separation, as we are speaking of it, is a choice base on a reason. We are separated from many ministries because of distance or knowledge. There are, no doubt, many ministries or individuals with whom I would gladly fellowship if I only knew them. We are separated, not by doctrine or practice, but separation is by lack of opportunity. I doubt that Dr. Bauder intended to imply incidental separation but let the man speak for himself.

Biblically, separation is a matter of choice and intent. Separation is based on some difference that precludes cooperation and fellowship. This parting does not necessarily have to be belligerent but it usually is. It simply means no fellowship and no cooperation. The kicker is that there is no consensus on what constitutes grounds for separation and we are separated on our views of separation.

My other point is to suggest consideration from another point of view. As I understand Dr. Bauder, he would separate (i.e. not fellowship with) Dr. Clarence Sexton based on Dr. Sexton's KJV position. Judge Learned Hand said, "Do not judge another man until you've walked a day in his shoes." That's very good advice. Let's stand in Dr. Sexton's shoes. For some who believe that the KJV is the Word of God (and Dr. Bauder says that he believes this too), it would a denial of this belief if they believed that other MV's were also the Word of God. So, in being consistent with their own belief, which Dr. Bauder apparently believes as well, they must say that they are KJVO. If the KJV is the Word of God, how can there be other differing versions that are also the Word of God? It is the answer to this one question that is the major demarcation between Bauder and Sexton. Does this one answer constitute grounds for general separation? Now, admittedly, there are extremists who grab the headlines and lambaste MV's but the vast majority are moderates who simply believe. Is it right to judge all who believe the KJV is the Word of God by the extremists? Is it right to judge independent Baptists by Fred Phelps?

JG's picture

I think Dr. Bauder has provided a pretty good working model of how limiting fellowship works in this article, and I thank him for it. What I don't understand is how it fits with the previous one.

In the prior article, Dr. Sexton was labeled as a hyper-fundamentalist because he is part of the KJVO "movement" (if there really is such a thing). Notice that Crown College is specifically mentioned:

Quote:
Neoevangelicalism and hyper-fundamentalism are equal errors. Whatever we should have done in response to the new evangelicals is the same thing that we should do now in response to hyper-fundamentalists. Historic, mainstream, biblical fundamentalism has no more in common with Pensacola, Crown, and West Coast than it had with Ockenga, Carnell, and Graham.

As such, we are "Biblically obligated" to separate from them, just as much as we are to separate from neo-evangelicals:
Quote:
In my opinion, fundamentalists are biblically obligated to separate from brethren who practice the neoevangelical philosophy. In the same way, and for much the same reasons, we are also obligated to separate from hyper-fundamentalists. We should not separate from either group as if they are apostates or enemies. Nevertheless, our ability to work with them is limited by their errors.

In fact:
Quote:
If we believe in separation, we ought to be separating from hyper-fundamentalists more quickly and more publicly than we do from conservative evangelicals.

Then we come to this article, in which we learn that actually, complete separation from Clarence Sexton is not appropriate or justified. In fact, separation from Clarence Sexton is just the same as it is from Michael Barrett (another fundamentalist) or from Mark Devers (a conservative evangelicall) -- fellowship where you can, and separate in those areas where you must.

In other words, all the assertions in the prior article that we must particularly separate (and publicly, too) from KJVOers were simply sound and fury, signifying nothing. Dr. Bauder doesn't believe we are Biblically obligated to separate from them in general any more than we are Biblically obligated to separate from anyone else. He may feel that he is closer akin to the conservative evangelicals, and so does not need to separate from them in as many areas as he needs to separate from Clarence Sexton. But there is no lesser or greater "Biblical obligation" with them than with any other believer -- just more areas where he personally must apply that Biblical obligation.

In other words, the whole premise of the prior article, by Dr. Bauder's words in this article, is shown to be deeply flawed. There is no great difference between separation from conservative evangelicals and separation from hyper-fundies. The need to limit fellowship is the same for all believers, and we apply it as we must. For Dr. Bauder, that permits "platform-sharing" with both Mark Devers and Clarence Sexton. It would presumably prevent even platform sharing with Grady, perhaps. You fellowship where you can, you limit fellowship where you must.

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin Bauder wrote:
The issues over which I differ with Dever are less serious than the issues over which I differ with Sexton. In both cases, however, my thinking is essentially the same. We cannot cooperate in areas where we really have no fellowship. Our actual fellowship is limited wherever we do not hold the whole counsel of God together. Where we do, the fellowship is real and cooperation ought to be possible. Platform presence generally constitutes a very low level of cooperation and requires minimal agreement in the faith. I was not willing to separate from the FBFI over Clarence Sexton, and I am even less willing to separate from Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary over Mark Dever.

You know, there are a lot of things we hold in common with Billy Graham. Using Kevin's rationale, "the fellowship is real and cooperation ought to be possible." And since platform presence is a very low level of cooperation, I think we should see how we can get Billy Graham and Kevin Bauder to share a platform, don't you?

Well, I realize that isn't likely to happen, especially since Billy isn't doing much platform sharing even with himself these days. Perhaps we could get Franklin to substitute. Or pick a name from the evangelical spectrum. We hold a lot of truth in common with these men. We should seek to find where we ought to be able to fellowship, don't you think?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

DavidO's picture

JG,

Dr. Bauder is making clear that few of his separation choices would be simply binary. He might not have Sexton speak at Central, but would share a conference platform, depending.

Don,

If Bauder sees Dever as less problematic than Sexton, I imagine Graham would have his own, more severe, level of problematicism (heh).

His point is separation by gradiation, dependant on level of error. You can't throw in a Hitler figure (Graham) and ask why he'd treat him like Dever or Sexton. He wouldn't/we shouldn't.

Bob Hayton's picture

My question concerns non-fellowship being equated as separation. This doesn't seem to include the "mark and avoid" or the "reject" elements of separation, or does it? With fellow believers who are wrong on points of doctrine, I see separation being much less than with blatant apostates and heretics. I think there is more going on with separation than just non-fellowship.

That being said, there is much to commend Bauder's model here, from my perspective. And I totally agree with him about the level of agreement needed for speaking at a conference with another person is different than having that same speaker at your church.

Personally, given the complexity of implementing separation commands into local church ministry and practice, we ought to allow latitude in how others implement separation too, rather than saying because so-and-so doesn't separate in the same manner that we do, they don't practice separation and thus are worthy of being written off.

Anyway, my impression is that the 24 part series has reached it's conclusion. I kind of hope a few more parts are in store though. Nevertheless, thanks for a thought provoking series!

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

Don Johnson's picture

DavidO wrote:
If Bauder sees Dever as less problematic than Sexton, I imagine Graham would have his own, more severe, level of problematicism (heh).

His point is separation by gradiation, dependant on level of error. You can't throw in a Hitler figure (Graham) and ask why he'd treat him like Dever or Sexton. He wouldn't/we shouldn't.

I can't believe you used the H-word! If I was a sensitive 90s kind of a guy, I would demand an apology.

Listen, Bauder's logic is that where we hold things in common, fellowship OUGHT to be possible. We have a LOT of things in common with Billy Graham.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

JG's picture

DavidO wrote:
Dr. Bauder is making clear that few of his separation choices would be simply binary. He might not have Sexton speak at Central, but would share a conference platform, depending.

Very good. Like I said, this article treats the "limited fellowship" aspect of ministry relationships well. It doesn't address the "mark and avoid" situations which demand complete separation (I Corinthians 5, Titus 3:10, etc.). But for many of our relationships, this is a very good treatment of the problem.

What I don't understand is the prior article. If separation is not simply binary for men like Sexton, why call on us to quickly and publicly separate from him? That sounded awfully "binary", more like Titus 3 or Romans 16. But if Sexton is in the Titus 3 or Romans 16 category, we shouldn't platform share, either, should we?

Charlie's picture

I echo Roland and Bob here. I don't think defining separation as "absence of fellowship" makes any sense. If a church in Oklahoma doesn't know that a church in Wyoming exists, then there isn't any fellowship going on between them. Yet, it would be absurd to say, merely on that basis, that they are practicing separation. If that were so, then all Christians are practicing much more separation than any of us have supposed!

Rather, it makes much more sense to say that separation is the refusal to fellowship, either totally or in limited respects. It's not until Barrett asks Bauder to plant a church with him that Bauder has to say, "Sorry, I can't do that." It's that decision, or the pre-commitment to make that decision should the situation ever arise, that makes separation.

On another point, I still find it strange to hear Baptists talk about separation. I mean, if you're independent and autonomous, being "separate" seems to be the default mode. Why should separation be such a grievous thing?

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Mike Harding's picture

I appreciated the spirit in this article and agree with JG that it differs from the previous one. I grant Dr. Bauder the benefit of the doubt that he has thought through this current article more carefully. Dr. Bauder has preached in our pulpit on several occasions in the past and I have deeply appreciated his messages and personal fellowship. He has courage to tackle difficult issues publicly.

Platform fellowship is determined in part by the nature of the platform itself. The World Congress of Fundamentlists will have a much broader platform than a typical FBFI national meeting. Part of the misunderstanding regarding fellowship is that we mistakenly try to fit too many ideas into the word "fundamental". I am a fundamentalist; however, the term fundamental only describes in part what I am. I am also a Baptist, a dispensationalist, Calvinistic (not Calvinist), cultural conservative, etc. When one endeavors to squeeze the latter descriptions into the term fundamentalist, it does create the misconception that fundamentalism is literally "everythingism," to borrow KB's nomenclature.

Personally, I have spoken side by side with Free Presbyterians on a WCF platform. However, I don't invite FP's to preach at FBCT. I view them similarly as does KB to Dr. Michael Barret, one of my former biblical language professors at BJU. The platform itself normally helps to define the implications of sharing the platform together. In the case of the FBFI, KB was preaching on the FBFI platform which specifically defines its position on bibliology, translations, and preservation. KB identified himself with that platform both by his membership in the FBFI and his preaching at the Conference. Had KB spoken with favorability at a KJVO conference where the platform directly represented the errors and distortions so commonly propagated by that movement, then the identification would be significantly different.

Pastor Mike Harding

DavidO's picture

I should be clear that I don't pretend to speak for Dr. Bauder. I just pretend to understand him. Wink

JG, my assumption is that Bauder here gives anecdotal explanation for what he thinks the separation from Sexton should look like.

Don, Graham has played the part of Hitler in these discussions for a long time. Your nutshell of Bauder there omits "some form of limited" before "fellowship OUGHT". That may simply play out as, "I will not refuse to return your phone calls."

Roland et al, I think Bauder's definition of boundary and center in the paragraphs prior render your concerns moot. He's talking about intentional separation.

I'll step out of this now. Dr. Bauder has an SI account, and I could be misreading . . .

Ted Bigelow's picture

Charlie wrote:

On another point, I still find it strange to hear Baptists talk about separation. I mean, if you're independent and autonomous, being "separate" seems to be the default mode. Why should separation be such a grievous thing?

Charlie, do you (or your presbytery) fellowship with the presbyteries that hold to the Federal Vision?

Steve Davis's picture

Mike Harding wrote:
Personally, I have spoken side by side with Free Presbyterians on a WCF platform. However, I don't invite FP's to preach at FBCT.

This seems to be personal application and not have anything to do with biblical separation per se. So someone can speak with someone else on a platform in one venue (conference, college) who they would not invite to speak in their church pulpit or would not accept an invitation to speak in the other’s church pulpit. It comes down to how far we believe we can go with a brother in gospel-centered fellowship. Pastors and churches may differ on their application of who to invite to their church. That should be expected but we should grant great liberty to others to disagree with our application and choices. I can’t think of many men with whom I would speak at a conference who I couldn’t invite to speak at my church or couldn’t accept an invitation to their church. Of course, there may be reasons for which I wouldn’t invite them or wouldn’t go – like they can’t preach or I don’t have the time to go away – but couldn’t and wouldn’t are not the same.

Charlie's picture

Ted Bigelow ][quote=Charlie wrote:

Charlie, do you (or your presbytery) fellowship with the presbyteries that hold to the Federal Vision?

Well, I don't know that any presbyteries officially hold to the FV. Many of the FV people believe that they are interpreting the WCF correctly. However, in 2007 the PCA adopted resolutions against FV teaching. There may be individual pastors in the PCA who hold to FV ideas, but my impression is that most of them have been cordially shown the way out.

http://www.federal-vision.com/pdf/pcafvreport.pdf

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Ted Bigelow's picture

Charlie wrote:
Ted Bigelow wrote:
Charlie wrote:

Charlie, do you (or your presbytery) fellowship with the presbyteries that hold to the Federal Vision?

Well, I don't know that any presbyteries officially hold to the FV. Many of the FV people believe that they are interpreting the WCF correctly. However, in 2007 the PCA adopted resolutions against FV teaching. There may be individual pastors in the PCA who hold to FV ideas, but my impression is that most of them have been cordially shown the way out.

http://www.federal-vision.com/pdf/pcafvreport.pdf

Charlie, would you (or your presbytery) be in fellowship, or separation, with the CREC presbyteries: http://crechurches.org/churches/

Follow - up question -

What passage(s) in Scripture lead you to a Presbyterian (i.e. Connectional-Representational) view of polity. Thanks.

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Several members of SI have posted relevant questions, caveats, and even objections in the followup to this essay. I'd actually like to interact a bit, but it's going to be tough. The next few days are pretty packed. I won't be able to respond to every enquiry, but I'll try to keep the conversation flowing a bit at a time. At some point we shall have worn this subject out, not because it will be exhausted, but because we shall be.

First, a response to JG. I believe that the same principles ought to guide our decisions about fellowship and its obverse, separation, under all circumstances. These principles are:

1) Fellowship is gospel-bounded. No Christian fellowship of any sort exists where the gospel is not held in common.

2) Fellowship is whole-counsel-of-God centered. To the extent that we hold the whole counsel of God together in its integrity, the actuality of our objective or real fellowship is increased. To the extent that we do not hold it together in its integrity, the actuality of our objective or real fellowship is decreased.

3) Experiential fellowship may be limited by any number of factors, one of which is the extent or degree of our actual fellowship. It is hypocritical to engaged in joint effort when it assumes a level of commonality that we do not share.

4) When we weigh decisions about subjective or experiential fellowship, our goal should be to fellowship where we can, separate where we must, and love withal.

These principles are identical in every instance. It is there application that may vary from one circumstance to another. I apply these principles to Dr. Barrett, to pastor Dever, and to pastor Sexton. What I find is that I do actually hold some things in common with Dever and Sexton that I do not hold in common with Barrett (ordinances and church order). I hold some things in common with Sexton and Barrett that I do not hold in common with Dever (millennialism). I hold some things in common with Barrett and Dever that I do not hold with Sexton (acknowledgment of non-KJV version as the Word of God).

These things do not weigh the same theologically. Mutatis mutandis, Baptism rightly administered is more important and more urgent than millennialism, and so (I think) is church order. I think that respect for the Word of God is more important than either. Again mutatis mutandis, (considering these three issues only), I could be a member at Capitol Hill. I could not become a Free Presbyterian or seek membership at Temple Baptist. I could preach for Dever (but not on eschatology) or Barrett (but not on church order, the ordinances, or eschatology). I could not preach for Sexton.

If we introduce the issue of separatism, I find that I have much more in common with Barrett than I do with either Dever or Sexton. Dever maintains connections to his Left with which I am quite uncomfortable. Sexton does the same with people to his Right. In principle, Barrett seeks to balance his separatism in much the same way that I do (though I do not mean to make him liable for my applications by saying that). As a separatist, I am much more comfortable with Barrett than with either of the other two.

The most egregious error is the one that Sexton advocates. The New American Standard Version is the Word of God. The New International Version is the Word of God. The English Standard Version is the Word of God. For someone to insist that they are not is to show contempt for the Word of God. I believe that this is grave error, every bit as serious as anything that Billy Graham has done.

Now, please notice that I apply the same principles in each case, but the outcome is different. The different outcomes occur because (a) the situations are different, and (b) I don't think that either fellowship or separation is necessarily all-or-nothing.

Several years ago I was invited by Dr. Barrett to preach for a commencement at Geneva Reformed Seminary. I was happy to do that, and would do it again if asked. In the case of Crown College, however, Dr. Sexton is not likely to extend an invitation, and if he does I am not likely to accept it. It would be easier to justify preaching at Capitol Hill (where I am not likely to be invited) than it would be to justify preaching at Temple or Crown.

I weigh involvement with KJO in almost exactly the same way that I weigh involvement with neoevangelicals (and by that use of the term, I mean real ones, not people like Carson or Piper). Again, however, fellowship is not necessarily all-or-nothing. Because neoevangelicals are (or were) inside the gospel boundary, some level of fellowship is possible.

In fact, I will go a step further. Not only is some fellowship possible with neoevangelicals, but I have actually engaged in it. So have many other Fundamentalists, even very conservative, separatistic ones. But that's another story. Probably I should cite a specific instance in one of these posts.

Are you beginning to see how, in my thinking, the same principles produce different results under different circumstances?

To be clear, I am not claiming that either my principles or my applications are above being challenged. What I am trying to do is to give you a glimpse inside my mind. You can't really argue with either my principles or my applications if you don't understand what I'm thinking. (Well, you could, but then you'd become another caricature of Fundamentalism--a regular Cartooniac).

My method in all three cases is the same: fellowship where I can, separate where I must, love withal. This method, however, does not ineluctably produce identical results.

More later.

Todd Wood's picture

Thanks for the article.

I have recently been enjoying fellowship with an OPC minister . . . (1) sitting under him in a Greek class, and (2) last Sunday evening, relishing his church family's presentation of 9 Christmas lessons through Scripture reading and serious sacred music. My heart was stirred in affections toward the Savior.

I could not become a member there; but I think I have more in common with this dear brother than the independent Baptist church across town. But I love some of the brothers and sisters, too, at that Baptist church where I grew up as a child.

"Fellowship where I can, separate where I must, love withal"
- I understand this statement.

thanks again,
et

JG's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
First, a response to JG. I believe that the same principles ought to guide our decisions about fellowship and its obverse, separation, under all circumstances.

Thank you, Dr. Bauder. I believe your response is sound and Biblical. The difficulty is always in proper and consistent application, but the principles do not change. I appreciate the time you have taken to answer.

Your previous article left me with a distinctly different impression. If you do as someone suggested and put these articles into book form, I would urge you to give that chapter some serious consideration -- at best, it confused some of your readers as to your intent.

I came out of conservative evangelicalism. I know what it is, and I could never go back. There are very serious problems in conservative evangelicalism -- their "camp" is (amazingly) a bigger mess than the fundamentalist "camp". But "mark and avoid" is not a Biblical response to conservative evangelicalism. Many of these men are godly men who love the Lord and it is manifest in their lives and ministries.

We differ somewhat on neoevangelicalism, because I am persuaded that the nature of their error makes almost absolute ecclesiastical separation necessary (it would distract from this thread to elaborate, but if you write an article on neoevangelicals I will try to comment). As to conservative evangelicals, we are in broad agreement on principle, if not on application. I appreciate your efforts to grapple with the question of how and where we should draw the lines in our ministry relationships with these men. It is something I have had to consider extensively since becoming a fundamentalist, and the answers are not always as simple as some make them out to be.

Charlie's picture

I don't think I made a point very well earlier, so here is another try. When I was a Baptist, I never understood separation. As a Presbyterian, I still can't really wrap my head around what separation means for Baptists. It seems like half a doctrine. After 24 installments, I still don't have any clarity on the issues that have always confused me. Here is my confusion:

1) Separation seems to imply prior unity, or at least the duty to be unified. When a man and his wife stop living together, we say they are separated. We don't say that about two strangers.

2) Baptist polity, which features the independence and autonomy of the local church, does not seem to establish a duty to be unified. All things necessary to the government and function of the church are supposed to reside at the local level. So, the local church does not need any external ties to be a church.

3) Does the local church have any duty to cooperate with other churches in its endeavors? Must it combine resources with other churches for church planting? Must it join with other churches to support a college? May it do those things? There does not seem to be clarity in Baptist theology about the requirements and permissions of unity.

4) If local churches have significant duties to cooperate with one another in gospel endeavors, that pushes us toward connectionalism. Apparently, the local church does need other churches to carry out its business. On the other hand, if there are no significant duties, only permission, then the choice not to use that permission is not so grievous. No one is violating a duty by refusing to cooperate. It's just an option not exercised.

Ted, if you want to talk more about Presbyterian separation, I'd suggest opening a new thread.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

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

Aaron Blumer's picture

Charlie wrote:
I echo Roland and Bob here. I don't think defining separation as "absence of fellowship" makes any sense. If a church in Oklahoma doesn't know that a church in Wyoming exists, then there isn't any fellowship going on between them. Yet, it would be absurd to say, merely on that basis, that they are practicing separation. If that were so, then all Christians are practicing much more separation than any of us have supposed!

Rather, it makes much more sense to say that separation is the refusal to fellowship, either totally or in limited respects. It's not until Barrett asks Bauder to plant a church with him that Bauder has to say, "Sorry, I can't do that." It's that decision, or the pre-commitment to make that decision should the situation ever arise, that makes separation.

I'm inclined to agree but would take it even further. There's pretty much always been a punitive (or at least censorious) aspect to separation, seems to me. It can be pretty mild, but it is supposed to be a way of saying "I/we believe your faith and/or practice are wrong in area A to the extent that we can't work together as we otherwise would."
Intentional non-fellowship is an even broader category (would include the above, but more). There are ministries our church would not do certain things with simply because we have a strong difference of opinion that impacts how we would do those things. But we intend nothing punitive at all by our non-fellowship. It's intentional but not a claim to rightness in contrast to wrongness.

Charlie wrote:
2) Baptist polity, which features the independence and autonomy of the local church, does not seem to establish a duty to be unified. All things necessary to the government and function of the church are supposed to reside at the local level. So, the local church does not need any external ties to be a church.

3) Does the local church have any duty to cooperate with other churches in its endeavors? Must it combine resources with other churches for church planting? Must it join with other churches to support a college? May it do those things? There does not seem to be clarity in Baptist theology about the requirements and permissions of unity.

4) If local churches have significant duties to cooperate with one another in gospel endeavors, that pushes us toward connectionalism. Apparently, the local church does need other churches to carry out its business. On the other hand, if there are no significant duties, only permission, then the choice not to use that permission is not so grievous. No one is violating a duty by refusing to cooperate. It's just an option not exercised.

I think these are really good questions. Perhaps someone involved in the Preserving the Truth event coming up will take note of them? I intend to be there so maybe there will be an opportunity to put these out there and chew on them a bit.

Off hand, I have to say that in my own experience as a Baptist, we have not felt much of an obligation to do stuff jointly with other churches. But many Baptists I know do feel that obligation very strongly. It's just that the extent, form, frequency etc. of the fellowship/joint endeavor is not formalized. In a denominational situation, or a presbyterian polity, you have some "outside the local level" relationships that are quite formalized--all spelled out. There is the main difference. With independent Baptists, the degree and form of connection with other churches is a matter of liberty--each participating church charts its own course.

mounty's picture

DavidO wrote:
If Bauder sees Dever as less problematic than Sexton, I imagine Graham would have his own, more severe, level of problematicism (heh).

His point is separation by gradiation, dependant on level of error. You can't throw in a Hitler figure (Graham) and ask why he'd treat him like Dever or Sexton. He wouldn't/we shouldn't.

Ladies and Gents, the SI Godwin Award goes to DavidO and that may be the fastest manifestation of Godwin's Law I've ever seen in a serious discussion. By the commonly-accepted rules of internet argumentation, DavidO has officially lost the debate.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law ][img=224x224 ]/sites/default/files/images/10_02/godwin.jpg[/img ]

We now return to your regularly-scheduled scholarly debate.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Thanks mounty - never hear of Godwin's Law before (had to look it up).

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Ron Bean's picture

What is the purpose of separating from a brother in Christ?

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jay's picture

The purpose of separation is correction for the erring brother.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Don Johnson's picture

Jay C. wrote:
The purpose of separation is correction for the erring brother.

No, Jay, that is not true. The purpose of separation is to protect the flock. Acts 20. The purpose of discipline is for correcting an erring brother in the local assembly. Mt 18 and 1 Cor 5.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

mounty wrote:
Ladies and Gents, the SI Godwin Award goes to DavidO and that may be the fastest manifestation of Godwin's Law I've ever seen in a serious discussion. By the commonly-accepted rules of internet argumentation, DavidO has officially lost the debate.

Actually, though, I was the one that brought up Graham, which in fundamentalist argumentation might be the same kind of argument. In which case David would be right and I would have lost.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

DavidO's picture

Obviously I'd agree with Don on who actually pulled the (so-called) Godwin, and the supposed loss of debate is only a corollary to the actual law.

Nuances, people. :bigsmile:

mounty's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
mounty wrote:
Ladies and Gents, the SI Godwin Award goes to DavidO and that may be the fastest manifestation of Godwin's Law I've ever seen in a serious discussion. By the commonly-accepted rules of internet argumentation, DavidO has officially lost the debate.

Actually, though, I was the one that brought up Graham, which in fundamentalist argumentation might be the same kind of argument. In which case David would be right and I would have lost.

DavidO wrote:
Obviously I'd agree with Don on who actually pulled the (so-called) Godwin, and the supposed loss of debate is only a corollary to the actual law.

Nuances, people. :bigsmile:

The ruling on the field was a personal foul. That foul is under review.

The way I see it, when discussion issues of separation, referencing Billy Graham is to be expected since the modern model of separation is based squarely upon the separation reaction when Graham did his thing. So in the context of this discussion, I wouldn't consider bringing up Graham to be an A-bomb-caliber event, any more than comparisons to Hitler would be shocking in a thread about mass murderers. So if we were talking about, say, our favorite sports teams, and I dropped the H-bomb after learning you were a Dallas Cowboys fan (or compared Jerry Jones to Hitler), I would automatically lose the argument; likewise if we were discussing our favorite brand of communion cracker (?) and I dropped the G-bomb after finding out you used kosher matzo wafers instead of Keeblers, I think you could rightfully claim Godwin's Law on me and shut me down. In this case, though, I think the initial introduction of Graham to the discussion was bound to happen and acceptable in the context. Casting Graham as the Hitler of the theological realm, though, is what drew the penalty.

After further review, the ruling on the field stands. The foul carries 15-yard penalty and results in an automatic first down. Play on! Biggrin

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