The Future of Fundamentalism: A Forum for Leaders

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

Hence, this post. 

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

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

Kevin T. Bauder:

Then let me put the ball in your court

Don,

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

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

Now, tell me what you think I should do.

Kevin

Don Johnson:

Touche

Kevin Bauder wrote …

Don,

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

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

Now, tell me what you think I should do.

Kevin

Man, way to go….

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

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

Don Johnson:

to be or not to be…

Kevin Bauder wrote …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Harding:

Don, We are friends and

Don,

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

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

Don Johnson:

Thanks for the note Mike

Mike Harding wrote …

We are friends and serve together in the FBFI.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin T. Bauder:

While I’m thinking…

Don,

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

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

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

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

Kevin

Kevin T. Bauder:

Asking again

Don,

Let me ask the same question in yet other words.

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

Kevin

Don Johnson:

answers to questions

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin T. Bauder:

Last question for Don (and Mike)

Don,

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

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

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

My thanks in advance to both of you.

Kevin

Don Johnson:

I can’t speak for the board

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

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

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

Mike Harding:

Kevin, Your question has to

Kevin,

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

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

Kevin T. Bauder:

Let’s try this again

Don and Mike,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this more clear?

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

Kevin

Don Johnson:

I’ll get back to you on this

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

Mike Harding:

Kevin, What should you do? 

Kevin,

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

Don Johnson:

percentages?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Evidently we've changed our residence for the duration of this conversation.

My thanks to Don for taking his best shot at an answer to my last question. My communication with certain FBFI board members indicates that there may be a dynamic at work of which you are unaware. How strong it may be, I am not sure. Something is brewing beneath the surface, however, as the number of recent departures from the board also indicates. But that's a different discussion, and it probably wouldn't be useful for us to go down that road yet.

Also, my thanks to Mike. You still did not answer just the question I wanted to ask, which is most likely an indication of my own lack of clarity in asking. You did, however, anticipate another question that really should be addressed. You offered an alternative proposal to Don's. Actually, I'm very glad that you did. My original question to Don was, "Other than drop off the face of the earth, what should I do. . . ." I really took Don's reply to be a way of saying, "Go ahead and drop off the face of the earth." Perhaps mistakenly, and because he presented no positive agenda, I took Don to be saying the he simply wished that I would cease to trouble the counsels of the FBFI board. You at least have provided an alternative in which I do not simply dry up and blow away.

And now both of you have suggested that things would be better if I would attend more meetings. Well, I did attend several meetings, and was grateful for the fellowship that I experienced. Sadly, some of the people whom I most looked forward to seeing have given up on the FBFI, so I wouldn't expect to see them there. Having been publicly blasted by several leaders within the FBFI--not to mention misrepresented and even lied about some some members--I think I might be excused for thinking that I am less than welcome at any given meeting. But the real problem is this: I am no longer my own boss. I am a man under authority, and my authority consistently schedules me to teach during the week when the FBFI consistently schedules its national meeting. Perhaps when it is held close to home (as I believe it is this summer) I will be able to find a way to break free and attend a few sessions.

By the way, I have been able to make it to more of the GARBC meetings recently, simply because the GARBC meets on a different week. I've also been able to attend the Rockford conference pretty consistently, just because of when it occurs. And I love to see those ex-HACers who show up there!

Let's review. Don said that I should:

  1. 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."
  2. Perhaps continue to write books (though Don doesn't say of what sort).
  3. Stop talking about evangelicals in a way that makes them seem less bad than the FBFI wants them to seem, focusing on my difference with them and explaining why I cannot work with them.
  4. Stop talking about Fundamentalists in such a way that they seem like abusive demagogues.
  5. Stop talking about Fundamentalists offenses and excesses.

Have I summarized these correctly?

Mike said that I should:

  1. Keep writing blog posts and articles.
  2. Attend Fundamentalist meetings when possible.
  3. Share my reasons for thinking that evangelicalism has problems that are as serious as Fundamentalist problems.
  4. Maintain definite fences with evangelicals of all sorts.

I would like to respond to these suggestions. Before I do, however, I want to make sure that I've got a clear idea of your agendas. Please feel free to correct the above summaries where you think they are badly stated.

Also, before I begin my response, I want to put the ball in Kevin Mungons's court. First, Kevin, it would be useful if you would examine my summaries with your editor's eye. Tell me where they need to be corrected.

Then I'm going to ask you to do this. Suppose I were to follow Don's agenda just as he proposes it. What do you think would happen? What if I were to follow Mike's agenda? What would likely happen?

Finally, Kevin, if I were to ask you the same question that I asked Don, how would you answer it? Any differently? I probably have more contact with the GARBC than I do with the FBFI anyway. If it were an individual organization, I'd sign up! So how do you think I might best invest my time and gifts?

[By the way, I assume that you've all figured out that the question isn't just about me.]

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

Let's review. Don said that I should:

  1. 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."
  2. Perhaps continue to write books (though Don doesn't say of what sort).
  3. Stop talking about evangelicals in a way that makes them seem less bad than the FBFI wants them to seem, focusing on my difference with them and explaining why I cannot work with them.
  4. Stop talking about Fundamentalists in such a way that they seem like abusive demagogues.
  5. Stop talking about Fundamentalists offenses and excesses.

Have I summarized these correctly?

For some reason the forum doesn't appear to show posts under this new format in the Foundry or the New Posts section. Or else I missed it, which is entirely possible.

#1  - close enough

#2 - any sort will do. I don't have a problem with writing with things like the "Four Views" book, although I might quibble with content of course

#3 - NOT "less bad than the FBFI wants them to seem" but not speaking about them in such a way as to make them seem like an acceptable alternative for wavering fundamentalists. There are good things they do, I don't mind noting that, but the fact is there are serious problems that preclude ecclesiastical cooperation.

#4 and #5 - no, criticism is fine - it is the rhetoric I object to, as I illustrated in the post #72 in the original thread from which this new start has been drawn.

That's all for now. If Mike doesn't reply before Tuesday, I expect to see him in person then. I am sure we will discuss this. (Back room plotting and all that...)

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

Ok, the forum feature I mentioned in the previous post is all fixed now. Thanks Aaron.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Alright, let’s see whether I can get any closer. I don’t wish to respond to any recommendation that you do not actually intend to make.

1.      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."

2.      Perhaps write books, even books in which the Fundamentalist position is debated with other individuals.

3.      Do not talk about conservative evangelicals in any way that is so favorable as to suggest that they might be suitable partners for any kind of ecclesiastical cooperation.

4.      When addressing Fundamentalist abuses, offenses, and excesses, use only bland language.

I’ve condensed the previous numbers 4 and 5 into a single point. I’m pretty sure you’re still not going to be happy with the way I’ve worded it, but I’m not sure how else to say this. The net effect of 3 and 4 is that I think you want me to be meaner to conservative evangelicals and nicer to Fundamentalists—but that sounds like a pretty pejorative way to say it. I’m seriously trying to reduce your recommendations to manageable statements that are not front-loaded.

This will be the last thing that I write tonight as my focus turns fully toward the Lord's day. May God grant you fruitful ministry tomorrow.

Kevin

Don Johnson's picture

You can use colorful language all you want - but let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.

But remember these admonitions:

Jude 1:9 But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"

2 Peter 2:10-11 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

A friend of mine sent me a note about this conversation that put things more succinctly and perhaps more clearly than I have done so far.

What I am after is equal treatment: There are worthy things that evangelicals do. I don't mind pointing them out and getting benefit from them. The same is true of fundamentalism.

There are also things worth criticizing in both groups. I would just ask for equal treatment. If you want to use 'colorful' language about fundamentalist errors, colour the evangelicals to the same degree.

You still haven't answered my question about Mohler - don't have the post number handy, but you say that his apology, confession, what have you is evidence of his "seeing the light" on the subject. Why then does his justification still appears on his web-site, with no apparent contradiction or update? What is the context of his apology, reversal, whatever... in the four views book? Does it display real change of mind?

So I am looking for equal treatment, as hard as you are on Fundamentalists, are you equally hard on evangelicals? As complimentary as  you are to evangelicals, are you equally complimentary to fundamentalists?

When the compliments or hard words are earned and deserved, of course.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

KevinM's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

How should Kevin Bauder best invest his time and gifts?

Let’s start with the easy answer. Everyone seems to agree he should keep writing.

[Insider alert: Regular Baptist Press is publishing a new history of Northern Baptists, coauthored by Kevin Bauder and Robert Delnay. And, we’ve discussed publishing a collection of Bauder’s essays on fundamentalism. Ah, but which to work on first?]

Sure, we’d be happy if Kevin could crank out a book a year with us, while keeping up his weekly blog essays, and perhaps contributing to other projects with mainstream publishers. Oh, and everyone would like him to continue his teaching ministry. And speaking engagements. Lots of those, making sure he gets to every conference in the fundamentalist orbit.

And I’m glad that Debbie is 400 miles away as I type this. She would be kicking me under the table right about now, except she’s too nice to do such a thing. Yes, all of this is too much. Part of Kevin’s original question is motivated by the obvious problem: his time is limited.

So here’s hoping that—whatever else Kevin is able to accomplish in his remaining days—he is able to make a substantive contribution to our literature. If he agrees to this “write more” goal, we’ll all need to help him. He’ll need administrative support, research support, editorial support. And he’ll need financial donors willing to fund important projects that wouldn’t otherwise get off the ground.

Anyone?

KevinM's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

How should Kevin Bauder best invest his time and gifts?

By continuing to build relationships with conservative evangelicals such as Mark Dever, Al Mohler, and John MacArthur, including more of the “public conversations” that have been criticized by some in fundamentalism.

Yes, my advice to Kevin is directly opposite to the advice he is hearing in his other ear. [Best wishes on sorting that out, buddy!]

Here’s why. The matter of “public conversations” (or “sharing the platform” or “building relationships”) has always been a controversial application of separation. The fundamentalists were able to reach consensus on five basic doctrines, and were able to agree (conceptually, at least) on the importance of militancy and separation.

But when it came to exact applications, the fundamentalists were not able to agree. Among Regular Baptists, for example, the leaders modeled more than one answer. As a decentralized movement where churches could join but individuals could not, Regular Baptists did not insist on a singular “toe the line” answer to every question. Separation was important and mandatory—but it was always expressed as a range of ideas.

Meanwhile, other fundamentalists came to express their application of separation as if it was not a range of ideas, more like a pinpoint dot on the map (say, Greenville).

Is it fair to make Bauder toe the line on this question when fundamentalism itself has never been able to reach a consensus?

If the 2011 Lansdale Conference or the recent Spectrum of Evangelicalism book is the model for “public conversations,” I’m suggesting we look for ways to continue.

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

I'm going to keep trying to frame (4) in the list above until I get it worded concisely, but in a way that you're happy with. There is absolutely no sense in my responding to a point that you weren't trying to make. So let's try this one:

(4) Speak no more negatively about Fundamentalists than about conservative evangelicals, and speak no more positively about conservative evangelicals than about Fundamentalists.

After reading your last reply, it seems to me that what you're really doing is bringing the "equal time" factor into play.

Are you really sure that you want to bring Jude 9 and 2 Peter 2:1-10 into play here? Several questions occur to me.

(1) In what sense do you think that have I ever published denunciations of anyone who was one of my authorities? For that matter, what manner of biblical authority do people like editors, bloggers, publishers, agency presidents, institutional board members, etc., actually exercise (except over their own employees)? How far does a pastor's authority extend beyond his own congregation, and to what extent are outsiders bound to show him respect when he lapses into public error or (equally seriously) public stupidity? How respectful do you expect us all to be of Fred Phelps?

(2) Are you equally prepared to bring this principle to bear on Fundamentalist pronouncements against conservative evangelicals, neo-evangelicals, and even liberal churchmen? Are you willing to hold other Fundamentalists as accountable for their speech toward these figures as you are willing to hold me for my speech about Fundamentalist figures?

(3) Specifically, what shall we say about those Fundamentalists who have uttered vicious attacks against other Fundamentalists such as Doran, Jordan, etc? Some of these seem to think that you have sided with them. What are you personally willing to do to distance yourself from them? What are you willing to do to bring them to account?

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Kevin,

I laughed out loud when you wrote me privately about us voting you off the island. I'm pretty sure that a few people will now think that you are at least off the reservation!

Honestly, this is the kind of difference that I believe needs to be expressed. Too many people have a tendency to think that the FBFI and its kindred organizations are and speak for Fundamentalism. This is especially true of people who have grown up in those circles. As you know, however, they are rather a small minority within the overall Fundamentalist landscape,

One of the things that we need to do is to get at least one voice from both the BBF and the WBF into this conversation. I know a couple of really sane guys who are in those movements--perhaps they'll be willing to contribute.

Furthermore, I think that even the FBFI/BJU/Wilds orbit is much more fragmented than Don seems to realize. Indeed, their end of Fundamentalism seems to be hemorrhaging more badly than about any other right now. I think that's too bad, because I really do think that on balance the bulk of these people hold a pretty defensible position. Their orbit definitely doesn't stand where it used to back in the 1970s and 1980s (that is not a criticism--just a statement of fact).

As for your specific recommendations, I'll get around to responding to some of those.

Kevin

Don Johnson's picture

By that I refer to the fact that I am running on very little sleep, caught a red-eye flight out of SeaTac to get to Greenville for the FBFI board meeting. Came a day early to celebrate one of my daughters birthday at a great Mexican restaurant. So I'm fed up (not hungry anymore) and a bit sleepy.

That is meant to offer a lame excuse for any misstatements or misspeaks that occur in what follows...

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

(4) Speak no more negatively about Fundamentalists than about conservative evangelicals, and speak no more positively about conservative evangelicals than about Fundamentalists.

After reading your last reply, it seems to me that what you're really doing is bringing the "equal time" factor into play.

Close enough, I am mainly not wanting you to alienate fundamentalists you profess to be wanting to help and not encourage the bitterness/discontent of the wavering or disgruntled.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
Are you really sure that you want to bring Jude 9 and 2 Peter 2:1-10 into play here? Several questions occur to me.

(1) In what sense do you think that have I ever published denunciations of anyone who was one of my authorities?

I was referencing the angels who are careful what they say against the demons... did I miss verse 11 in my citation above? No, I didn't... went back and checked. So don't miss my point. My point is that if angels are careful about what they say about demons, how much more ought we to be careful about what we say about one another.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
For that matter, what manner of biblical authority do people like editors, bloggers, publishers, agency presidents, institutional board members, etc., actually exercise (except over their own employees)? How far does a pastor's authority extend beyond his own congregation, and to what extent are outsiders bound to show him respect when he lapses into public error or (equally seriously) public stupidity? How respectful do you expect us all to be of Fred Phelps?

(2) Are you equally prepared to bring this principle to bear on Fundamentalist pronouncements against conservative evangelicals, neo-evangelicals, and even liberal churchmen? Are you willing to hold other Fundamentalists as accountable for their speech toward these figures as you are willing to hold me for my speech about Fundamentalist figures?

(3) Specifically, what shall we say about those Fundamentalists who have uttered vicious attacks against other Fundamentalists such as Doran, Jordan, etc? Some of these seem to think that you have sided with them. What are you personally willing to do to distance yourself from them? What are you willing to do to bring them to account?

These points are good questions, but I will point out that in the conversation we are having you asked me what you should do, not what others should do. I didn't volunteer my suggestions without your promptings. So it does seem that these questions, while fair questions will only serve to distract us from the subject at hand at this time. Perhaps we could deal with them in depth later.

However, lest anyone think I am simply dodging the questions, let me say this about what I am personally doing. (1) I am trying to reform my own practices and be more careful about what I say and how I say it. (2) Sometimes others comment on my own blog in ways that I think cross the line. I often delete these comments out of hand. I sometimes will publish them and then try to rebuke them (and I am sure that I have let some go through that I shouldn't have). (3) I think it is a worthy question that we should address regularly and publicly: how to disagree with brothers. Let's leave the works of the flesh out of our disagreements. Unanimity of opinion seems impossible, but we would all do well to have less sarcasm and rumour and inuendo flying around the internet. I will pledge to take some proactive roles in countering this in the future (after I get some sleep!)

Last thing I'd like to comment on is Kevin M's ideas of the differences of GARB style and other styles of fundamentalism. I think this might be an important point in understanding the differences  among fundamentalists. Too tired to work on this now, and I think it will take us off our topic as well. But, as someone - maybe it was you? - said, it's not fundamentalism but fundamentalisms. Differing approaches to the same problem. It might help explain some of the frustration various parties within broader fundamentalism have with one another.

Ok, more later. I've got to crash.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Sounds like we're getting there. Let me try one more revision.

(3) Do not speak either so positively about conservative evangelicals or so negatively about Fundamentalists that I either (a) alienate the Fundamentalists whom I wish to help, or else (b) encourage the discontent of wavering and disgruntled Fundamentalists.

Am I finally saying this in about the way you would like it to be said?

I have not forgotten your question about Mohler, but I'm trying to get this straight first. I promise to come back to it. Remind me again if I don't.

And yes, I do think you're right about multiple Fundamentalisms. Having said that, I do not see the GARBC and the FBFI belonging to radically different camps, as witnessed by the location of the FBFI meetings this summer. If you (the FBFI board) can pick a good topic and put up a good slate of speakers, I'll do my best to encourage the pastors and people of the Iowa Association of Regular Baptist Churches to come and hear them. I think they'll be pleased. Maybe we can even truck a few folks down from Minnesota. My first FBFI meeting reminded me very much of some GARBC meetings that I attended 30 years or so ago.

Kevin

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

I just looked up the docket for the conference in June. Wow! On balance, this is a terrific lineup, and a topic that certainly needs to be addressed. You've probably got some of the best expertise anywhere to address it.

Because of my teaching schedule, I still do not know if I can make it. What I do know is that the conference should be well worth attending.

Kevin

Don Johnson's picture

The whole schedule is not set yet, but it is shaping up to be a great conference. BTW, I sat in chapel at BJU today. Dr Bob III gave a great message and mentioned Faith and their recent decision. Good to hear.

And yes, I would say you have stated my suggestion quite well now.

And last... spent some time with Mike Harding tonight. He will join in this discussion as he is able, but doesn't travel with a computer. See, he's older than me so obviously a dinosaur. Only has one computer?? Man!!

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

If we're agreed on the wording for the last item, I think we can put your recommendations in final form. Since you are ambivalent about my writing books--it's OK with you, but not really important--it seems that your recommendations are really two in number.

  1. 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."
  2. Do not speak either so positively about conservative evangelicals or so negatively about Fundamentalists that I either (a) alienate the Fundamentalists whom I wish to help, or else (b) encourage the discontent of wavering and disgruntled Fundamentalists.

If you agree that these to points represent a fair summation of your counsel to me, then we are now in a position to the discuss them. I think that something can be said about each recommendation individually, and I think that something more can be said about them taken together. I'm prepared to do that if you see no further modifications that need to be made to the summary.

In the meanwhile, back to your question about Mohler. Yes, I take his change of mind about the Manhattan Declaration quite seriously. In the Spectrum book, all four authors were asked to apply their principles to ECT and the MD (among other things). By this time, Mohler had already tried to defend his actions in public, and he had already received significant criticism from other evangelicals. The book was really his opportunity to double down (which is what I really expected him to do) or to reverse course entirely. To nearly everyone's surprise, he did the latter.

In the book, Mohler reiterates his reasons for originally signing the MD--reasons that I believe are actually grounded in legitimate concerns. While those concerns had not changed, something else had. Mohler now recognized that the MD "crossed the line into an unwarranted and unbiblical recognition of the Roman Catholic Church.”

In the context of the book, Mohler's reversal on this issue could not have been more clear. I still remember gaping with astonishment when I first saw the draft of his chapter. It is pretty rare for a major leader within evangelicalism to make this kind of reversal, or to express this kind of repentance, in such a public forum. Almost as rare as within Fundamentalism.

Furthermore, Mohler did not simply express his change of view quietly and privately. This is a major volume issued by one of the most significant evangelical publishers. It is not an obscure work form some vanity press. The book is likely to be around long after the web sites have been taken down. If Mohler wanted to announce his change of position in a public, durable way, then he chose the best possible way of doing it. It would be one thing if Mohler repented in the virtual reality of the Internet, but he has actually done it in the real world.

Why does Mohler's defense of the MD still appear? Why hasn't he tried to remove his name from the MD? Why hasn't his change of mind been more widely circulated? Well, I can't really speak for Mohler on all of these points. As a rule, however, public people recognize the futility of trying to alter the past. Whatever is public stays public, sometimes unfortunately. It often cannot be eliminated, and so there is little use in trying. What you can do--and what Mohler has done--is to state where you now stand as opposed to where you once stood.

Remember when Joe Zichterman decided to ditch Fundamentalism a few years ago? He wrote to us at Central Seminary and asked us to remove all references to a lecture series that he had done for us at one point. I remember thinking at the time that his request was just goofy--the whole world (or as much of it as cared about him) already knew his change of position. He had told us. Who you are may not be who you were, but you can't erase who you were, either.

If you think that Mohler's repentance should be more widely circulated, then I invite you to circulate it. He has given you his own words. I can think of no reason that he would be reluctant for his statements to be as widely distributed as possible. Here's what I would suggest. Buy a case of Spectrum. Highlight the section in which Mohler deals with the Manhattan Declaration. Then, every time people ask you whether he has really changed his mind, give them a copy of the book.

In fact, you might even try reading it yourself! If nothing else, it has a pretty good chapter on Fundamentalism.

At the end of the day, I think that Al was as serious as a heart attack in his turnaround.

Kevin

Don Johnson's picture

I'm happy with the way you have stated my suggestions at this point.

As to Mohler, well, I guess I'll have to get the book and maybe write to Mohler himself after I read the relevant portion.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Now I'm going to begin to reply to your recommendations. By way of review, here is my original question to you:

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?

Here is our best condensation of your answer:

 

  1. 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."
  2. Do not speak either so positively about conservative evangelicals or so negatively about Fundamentalists that I either (a) alienate the Fundamentalists whom I wish to help, or else (b) encourage the discontent of wavering and disgruntled Fundamentalists.

As I said, I think that each point in this reply merits examination. More than that, the replies together deserve a response, particularly in view of the question that I asked.

Here is how the reply as a whole strikes me: I asked what I could do other than to drop off the face of the earth, and you have told me to go ahead and drop off the face of the earth! You have said nothing about what I might actually do, but have only articulated a couple of things that I should stop doing. The net effect is to suggest that the world (or at least the Fundamentalist world) would be a better place if I were simply to dry up and blow away. You're basically asking me just to sit down and shut up.

I'm pretty sure that's not what you meant to communicate, but I do think it's the impression that you've left.

Remember when I said that my question was not just about me? Here's why.

The response you've given is is, I think, rather typical of what younger Fundamentalists believe they are hearing from the leadership of institutions like the FBFI. It does not help when "sit down and shut up" (as they hear it) is coupled with words like, discontent, wavering, and disgruntled.

Many younger Fundamentalists have questions about and see problems with Fundamentalism, but are not really looking to leave. This kind of answer, however, leaves them feeling like they are unwelcome. They've been taught to sing Just As I Am, but they feel that they will be accepted only if they are just as they want me to be.

I've tried to word this response in as non-inflammatory a way as I know how. I'm just telling you how I am hearing what you've said, and how I think this is reflected in what many other Fundamentalists hear what is said by some leaders of Fundamentalist institutions.

OK, it's your turn now.

Kevin

P.S. One question that comes out of these observations is the following: What responsibility do institutional and church leaders have for actually bringing younger leaders and voices into engagement with Fundamentalism, and how can they do that?

I think that Kevin and Mike may also have some ideas about how this should and can be done. They should feel free to comment.

Don Johnson's picture

I can't see where my suggestions can be interpreted as "Sit down and shut up", so perhaps you can enlighten me as to how they can be construed that way at all.

i can assure you that the meeting I just attended was filled with men who would like to work with you to influence Fundamentalists and Fundamentalism in a godly direction. Yet many of us are mystified as to why you use inflammatory language in attempting to offer correctives to us. From this side of the fence it looks like you want to be at odds with us. 

I want you to do what you are doing, to write, to teach, to speak.  What we’ve talked about here is modifications I’d like to see in >how< you do them.

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Mike Harding's picture

Kevin Bauder,

 

I just returned from our three day board meeting for the FBFI.  We had an excellent time together and dealt with many important issues.  I think the up-coming national meeting will be excellent.   I don't sense from the men in the meeting that we are the voice of fundamentalism.  We are not under that kind of illusion.  The FBFI is highly involved in the military chaplaincy and much of our meeting dealt with the problems our chaplains are facing now in light of the policy changes from the federal government.  We no longer are passing "resolutions".  Instead, we will simply publish position and policy statements.  Frankly, I would welcome your input on our positions and policies committee.  We need all the brain power we can get.  I appreciate you and Sam Horn at Central as well as your faculty.  Our Fundamental seminaries are facing challenges today that are unique.  Their very survival is on the line.  I send a good number of students to DBTS and even pay their tuition.  I do my best to support our fundamental seminaries.

 

I have an infamous sermon entitled "The Cure for Factionalism in Fundamentalism".  In that message I go after KJV Onlyism, Keswick Arminianism, Easy Believism, Softer-gentler fundamentalism, eccentric externalism, and young-restless reformationalism.  The sermon hits both the left ditch and the right ditch.  When the dirt road gets wet, it is easy to inadvertently drive one's car into either ditch.  Regardless of what ditch one's car is in, one still needs a tow truck. My belief is that godly, doctrinally sound fundamentalists endeavor to avoid both ditches.  Without being idealistic, when I perceive that heart in our fundamental brethren, then our fellowship and cooperation is deeper and more meaningful.  I perceive that heart in you and Sam.  Thank you for keeping Central strong.  At DBTS where I completed my M.Div. and Th.M., I have a deep love and appreciation for my professors as well.  They represent to me some of the best men I have ever known in Fundamentalism, McCune being near the top of the list.  Rolland McCune represents to me the quintessential fundamentalist.  He, more than any other professor or pastor, has helped shape my view of a healthy fundamentalism.  I took every class he offered.  I wish every pastor could have taken his three systematics, Dispensationalism, Kingdom of God, Apologetics, OT Theology, and History of New Evangelicalism courses to name just a few.

 

When it comes to our relationships with the Evangelicals, I believe we have to be honest about their strengths and weaknesses and realize that they operate in a much broader environment.  I try to speak the truth in love and be candid about the differences.  By the way, I was mistaken about Bruce Ware.  Andy Naselli, whose family were former members of our church, conducted a recent interview with Bruce, and Andy informed me that Bruce was not a continuationist.  I apologize for that mistake.  The same goes for the Fundamentalists with whom I have been associated my entire ministry.  Borrowing the taxonomy from Nine Marks, we should write a book entitled, "Nine Marks of a Healthy Fundamentalism" in order to improve the Fundamental institutions already in existence.

Pastor Mike Harding

KevinM's picture

Mike Harding wrote:

We should write a book entitled, "Nine Marks of a Healthy Fundamentalism" in order to improve the Fundamental institutions already in existence.

Need a publisher? 

Actually, the idea of a group project is quite a attractive. This was also the impetus behind the RBP's recent agreement to publish a book on Northern Baptist history. Rather than following just one strand (namely, our own!), we're grateful that Dr. Delnay and Dr. Bauder are going to trace all of the main branches that developed after 1932, including Conservative Baptists and the FBFI.

In a similar way, it may be more healthy to view fundamentalism as a family of overlapping constituencies, rather than a single unified viewpoint. At some point we may be able to figure out a way to write about "the ideas of fundamentalism" in a way that reflects the whole picture.

Mike seems to be pleading for a bit of charity, pointing out that his organization has now taken positions against previous problems such as KJV Onlyism, Keswick Arminianism, and Easy Believism. If so, great. And Don seems to be asking Kevin B to be more charitable in his phraseology (to borrow a made-up word from The Music Man.) If so, I guess I should confess to some mixed feelings here; the FBFI has consistently offered less-than-charitable critiques of the GARBC.

("Mom, he hit me." "No I didn't. Besides, he hit me first.")

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

My apologies for a couple of days’ hiatus. I trust your Lord’s Day has been a blessing. I’m traveling back and forth to a town near Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to preach each weekend. The Lord is granting us some sweet fellowship.

I remember an embarrassing episode when my son was small—walking and talking, but not yet two years old. It was a Sunday afternoon, we had guests in the house, and it seemed like everything Joshua tried to do resulted in trouble of one kind or another. I giving vent to my frustration by exclaiming, “Joshua! Just don’t do anything!” The boy gave me the most perplexed look, and the other adults the room laughed out loud at the stupidity of what I had just said.

I’ve tried to think about how to reply to your last post, but I really don’t know what I can say. I did my best to explain—without “inflammatory language”—how I thought you were coming across. I am perfectly willing to grant the benefit of the doubt: I don’t think you meant it the way it sounded. But when I asked you what you thought I should do, you told me only things I should stop doing. What I heard was, “Kevin! Just don’t do anything!”

You certainly don’t have to take my word for it, but I do believe that younger leaders often feel they are getting this kind of answer from older Fundamentalists. I’m not talking about what you (or others) mean to say, but about how you are being heard. You may believe me or not, as you wish.

So I’m now prepared to go on and offer a specific response to each of the two points that summarize your advice. I’ll try to tackle one of them tomorrow.

This is the point at which I think that the conversation might begin to get sticky. You say that the FBFI leadership is “filled with men who would like to work with [me] to influence Fundamentalists and Fundamentalism in a godly direction.” Maybe, but that sort of depends upon what we all mean by a “godly direction.” It will be interesting to see how much agreement we really enjoy. We’re going to be able to tell pretty quickly, I think, when I begin to address your specific recommendations.

Until then!

Kevin

 

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Mike,

Thank you for your post, which I deeply appreciate. Particularly, thank you for telling us what you have learned about Bruce Ware. Any of us can make this kind of mistake. I am grateful for the way that you corrected it—i.e., within the same circle of influence in which the mistake was made. I truly believe that the kind of humility you have shown is one of the most appealing things about true religion and undefiled. It adorns the gospel.

What you say about the FBFI going to position and policy statements instead of resolutions is interesting. Could you clarify what the difference will be? I always thought that the purpose of resolutions was to express a position, so I’m not completely clear on the nature of the change. Also, I’m assuming that these will still be issued by the board rather than by consent of the membership. Is that correct?

Military chaplaincy is one of the most important contributions that organizations like the FBFI can make. I’m on the fringes of this discussion because I serve as a chaplain in the USAF Auxiliary (the Civil Air Patrol). CAP chaplains work under DOD requirements, so we are encountering the same things that are challenging active duty, reserve, and guard chaplains. For example, my squadron commander recently tasked me to inform the squadron how our policies against discrimination and harassment applied to the treatment of homosexual members—especially now that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been rescinded. We’re headed for much worse, I believe.

We need organizations like the FBFI and the GARBC who will help their chaplains to work through the thorny issues and who will stand by their chaplains at the difficult moments. This is an important responsibility, and it is part of the justification for the existence of these groups.

Oh—I’m happy to provide any help that I can in working through position and policy statements. On this kind of thing I prefer to work quietly and behind the scenes. Hard to believe, no? But P&P statements are not the place for rattling sabers. They need to be carefully considered and meticulously worded. I’d be willing to help with that.

In fact, let me offer a suggestion here, especially since Kevin M. is eavesdropping. When the issues are of the sort that confront all Fundamentalists (or all Fundamental Baptists), it might be worth getting the FBFI and the GARBC to work together to issue joint statements. Obviously, that won’t be appropriate all the time, but sometimes the combined effort might result in a statement that produces a synergistic effect. That’s one place that a little synergism might be good.

Kevin

 

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Kevin,

Let's think out loud about this. Suppose we were to go with the theme, "Marks of a Healthy Fundamentalism," leaving the number open. In your opinion, what might be some marks that would deserve a chapter-length treatment?

Don and Mike ought to chip in on this topic as well.

(The other) Kevin

P.S. When I was a child, I never knew another person named Kevin. In fact, I didn't meet another Kevin until I was in college. I certainly didn't know any adults who were named Kevin, so I simply assumed that the name was inappropriate for adults. Naturally, I wondered when my name was going to change and what people were going to call me when I grew up.

I never guessed it would be "doctor." And I wish I could get them to stop! (I'd much prefer Grand Exalted Imperial Pubah. Or, among my friends, simply "Eminence"). JUST JOKING!!! But not about dropping the "doctor" business.

KTB

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Now it’s time for me to address your specific recommendations. I’ll take the second one first. Here it is.

Do not speak either so positively about conservative evangelicals or so negatively about Fundamentalists that I either (a) alienate the Fundamentalists whom I wish to help, or else (b) encourage the discontent of wavering and disgruntled Fundamentalists.

Do you remember back in the 1990s when Rush Limbaugh had burst on the scene as a wildly popular radio voice for conservatism? Liberals were hyperventilating because so many people were listening to him, so they pushed the FCC to apply the so-called “fairness doctrine” to radio talk shows. The effect would have been to force the networks to give equal time to a liberal for every hour Rush was on the air.

Rush’s reply was simple and straightforward: “I am equal time.”

Well, I am equal time within Fundamentalism. On the one hand, some Fundamentalists dismiss the very real contributions of conservative evangelicals while magnifying their faults. Some Fundamentalists even repeat falsehoods. Many times when a Fundamentalist does mention the accomplishments of conservative evangelicals, he does it simply to damn with faint praise before getting down to the real business of explaining how very, very wrong conservative evangelicals actually are.

At the same time, some Fundamentalists are diligent to cover their own sins, and they expect their friends to help them. While many recognize that Fundamentalism has “warts” (that’s the usual word for it), few are willing to say or do anything about the real injustices that have been perpetrated in the name of Fundamentalism. Serious public transgressions are sometimes treated, not as sins to be confronted, but as minor flaws to be hushed up and eventually forgotten about. The perpetrators often continue to occupy positions as respected leaders within certain segments of the Fundamentalism.

If you wonder what kind of things I’m talking about, just Google “John MacArthur Blood.” That’s an episode that combines both of the above features: picking away (in this case, dishonestly) at conservative evangelicals while ignoring the public transgressions of Fundamentalists.

As long as we behave like this, nobody has reason to believe us. Nobody even has reason to take us seriously.

By the way, I do credit the FBFI for trying to offer more balanced criticisms in recent years. For example, I recall the explanatory essay that Michael Riley wrote for Frontline about John Piper. I believe that Michael did his best to present fairly both Piper’s virtues and his liabilities. If more Fundamentalists would speak more knowledgeably and truthfully about conservative evangelicals (or less adoringly of abusive Fundamentalists), then I could spend less time setting the record straight.

For the moment, however, I am equal time.

If you can think of some other way to correct the imbalance, I'd be glad to hear it. I'm ready to be convinced.

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin, I will grant you that serious mistakes have been made over the years by fundamentalists. Nolo contendere!

The example you give, however... when did it happen? The offending statement was in a MacArthur newsletter in 1976, the issue erupted in 1989, it was clarified by MacArthur in a later restatement, published by Phil Johnson on the internet in 2000. (See the Soteriology section of the Wikipedia article on MacArthur - I know, I know, it's Wikipedia, take it for what it's worth.)

Interestingly, the Wikipedia article mentions BBN, not fundamentalists as a major player in this conflict. I don't know if that is an accurate picture or not. But I do know that many fundamentalists "piled on" once the controversy came to light. I don't excuse the pack mentality with which we went after MacA at that point.

But you will note that we are talking about something that is almost twenty-five years ago. I remember all the discussion about it during the early days of Sharper Iron. Phil Johnson was involved in some of it, if I recall correctly. During some of that discussion, it was mentioned that Dr. Bob III made some contact with MacArthur to make amends in some way for his part in the issue. I don't recall if it was a phone call or a letter, or what it was. The issue was an issue between the two of them, apparently it has been settled between them for some time. MacArthur isn't calling for further action on it, is he? He probably hardly ever thinks about it.

But whenever a list of the egregious fundamentalist lapses is trotted out, this one is often one of the first ones cited.

What are we supposed to do? Do we need to make an annual apology for a shopping list of past offenses? Perhaps we should do that on the Jewish Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement every year. We could have a special ceremony somewhere, get Dr. Bob, Dr. Vaughn, Paul Hartog, you, Dave, Mike Harding, you know, a gathering of fundamentalist leaders, drape you in sackcloth and ashes and have our annual recital of our past many and great sins. We could list every sin from J. Frank Norris to the two Jacks to the BLOOD, to who knows what, put it on a great scroll and offer it up on a pyre every year, confessing that we are unworthy.

Is that what we should do? Or something like it?

It gets rather tiresome to hear these issues being constantly thrown in one's face when they are ancient history and, in this case, as far as I know the principals have dealt with it. It isn't my offense - and it probably isn't your offense either, so why bring it up?

Now please don't suppose that by saying all that I mean we should just forget about issues that involve fundamentalists. Things happen and they should be dealt with as they happen. Dr. Vaughn made an error a couple of years ago, there was a hue and cry on the blogs and there was some straight talk in the FBFI board room. Things changed. Issue over. Let's move on. That is how things should be dealt with.

There are a few things swirling around right now that may deserve some public comment in the next few months. You could compare speakers lists at upcoming major Baptist meetings and see if some eyebrows should be raised about one or two of them. On both sides of the fence, so to speak. But they are, or are about to become, current controversies.

The time for dealing with the old controversies has pretty well passed. When folks keep bringing them up, I wonder about their spirit. Nobody likes me to use the word "bitter", but I wonder if someone isn't bitter about something and is nursing these old offenses like a bad grudge. It isn't just you that does that.

Earlier I talked about a fundamentalist "Day of Atonement". I was being partly farcical, but it does seem that some would want us to be constantly apologizing for sins of the past that I never committed. I should start with the blood controversy (or controversies), then move on to a host of other offenses. Where would this stop? Should I apologize for the sin of Adam?

Well, that's enough of that. I hope I have made myself clear.

I have to say, though, that you made me laugh with your "equal time" comment. Couple that with your "last best hope" comment earlier and I have come up with a new name for you. Instead of referring to you as KTB, I think I should refer to you as GWH - the Great White Hope!

Seriously, you've got to stop referring to your self that way. The only hope of Christians is Jesus Christ. It isn't up to you or me to solve all the problems of fundamentalism or evangelicalism. We should be willing to serve and try to have influence where we can to solve what problems we can, but we need to do that as servants of Christ, not as the "Doc" of fundamentalism.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Evidently I touched a nerve by referencing the “blood” controversy. You make it sound as if this controversy is something that occurred in a corner in the distant past, that was dealt with adequately at the time, and that could be resolved by a merely private exchange (though I don’t believe that anything approaching an apology was ever offered to MacArthur). Perhaps the reason that the blood controversy still comes up is because none of these things is true. It has never been dealt with, and it has not gone away.

If you take the trouble to Google® “John MacArthur Blood,” you’ll find that the accusations are still being repeated. You may search all you wish for any public retraction of the accusations: you’ll never find it because it was never done. In fact, the original accuser kept repeating his charges, at least in private. The last word that he said on the subject was, “I believe that the position [MacArthur] has taken in this matter is an heretical position, and all of the correspondence in the world is not going to affect my convictions on that point.” Furthermore, if you look at your old copies of the FBF News Bulletin, you’ll find that the FBF participated in advancing the accusations. Let me quote from the FBF News Bulletin of March, 1989.

The watershed of Fundamentalism is the doctrine of the Blood of Christ. The current imbroglio hinges on whether Christ’s blood was human or divine. A popular radio preacher initiated this recent controversy by stating expressions such as “Nothing in His human blood saves” [footnote to MacArthur]. This concept reflects the coeval thinking of New Evangelicalism. Liberalism has influenced New Evangelicalism in many doctrinal areas, even in the doctrine of the Blood of Christ. . . . If Christ’s blood was mere human blood it could not save sinners; however, it is unique and it does save sinners and cleanse Christians because it is Divine Blood. [page 4]

Here are more quotations from the FBF News Bulletin of May, 1990.

MacArthur creates an issue that doesn’t exist by seeking to separate the death of Christ from the blood of Christ. On page 237 of his commentary on Hebrews, MacArthur states that is [sic] is “not Jesus’ physical blood that saves us, but His dying on our behalf.” In a letter to Mr. Tim Weidlich, dated April 4, 1986, MacArthur writes, “Obviously, it was not the blood of Jesus that saves or He could have bled for us without dying . . . . Yes, the blood of Christ is precious—but as precious as it is—it could not save.” [page 7]

MacArthur reduces the blood of Christ to a mere symbol of death. In this same letter of Mr. Weidlich he writes, “I admit that because of some traditional hymns there is an emotional attachment to the blood—but that should not pose a problem when one is dealing with theological or textual specificity. I can sing hymns about the blood and rejoice in them—but I understand that reference to be a metonym for His death.” [page 7]

The Scriptures speak again and again about our salvation being accomplished through the shed blood of Christ. Verses such as Romans 5:9 could scarcely be more clear, “. . . being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” MacArthur is equally clear if we can take his words at face value: “Nothing in His human blood saves. His shed blood represents His sacrificial, physical and spiritual death for us.” (“Grace to You,” 1976) . . . The Scriptures and MacArthur cannot both be right. [page 7]

Do Fundamentalists need another reminder that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? The cost of compromise is the loss of God’s blessing on our ministries and the eventual removal of our candlesticks from their places of service in God’s work. Why toy with disaster by becoming enamored with a compromiser regardless of how charming he might be? We must fight with tenacity our tendencies to follow gifted and charismatic personalities. [page 8]

Let’s not play games with the precious doctrines of God’s Word. There are no good reasons to tamper with truth. I was saved by the blood of the Crucified One. We need no other message. [page 8]

This edition of the FBF News Bulletin was issued in the summer of 1990. That is fourteen years after MacArthur’s church bulletin printed his original comments about the blood. It is also four years after Bob Jones III told MacArthur, “John, let me assure you that neither I nor anyone else has any desire to misrepresent you or anyone else. We would shudder to think of participating in an effort to malign, gossip, or slander. That is just not the way we do things. I am sure Dad will be happy to print excerpts of your letter in order to let your statements speak for themselves. . . . We never want to shoot someone who is fighting in faithfulness on the same side we are.” (June 20, 1986)

About a year after the publication of the article in the FBF New Bulletin, Jones III wrote again to MacArthur, “We felt that yours was an extremely dangerous and liberal position; but once you published in your own paper an article stating that the blood was “efficacious and meritorious,” we have never said another word about it. The issue was resolved at that point; and it has been our joy to tell people who continue to be concerned that they can be at ease, and refer them to your own published statements as evidence.” (July3, 1991)

Evidently the FBF didn’t get the memo. It jumped on the bandwagon of those who were assaulting MacArthur over the blood of Christ. At the time, more than a few people were accusing MacArthur of being heretical and liberal. Not only did the FBF fail to defend MacArthur from those false accusations, it actually piled on and repeated them.

So let me ask you several questions.

Did the leadership of the FBF sin when it joined in the attack instead of defending MacArthur against false accusations?

When a member of your church transgresses in a very public way, how do you counsel that person? Does public transgression require public acknowledgement, or is private confession sufficient?

Has the FBF ever issued any public statement acknowledging that its attack upon MacArthur was sinful? Has it ever even publicly expressed regret that the attack took place?

Are any of the people who were board members or other leaders of the FBF in 1990 still in positions of respect and leadership within the FBFI?

Do you think that a statement from the FBFI would help to put to rest the continuing rumors and accusations that MacArthur takes a heretical view of the blood?

You’re right that John is not asking for an apology or even a retraction or clarification. He quit asking after 1987, because it had become embarrassingly clear that he was not going to get one. The last word on the subject was, “I believe that the position [MacArthur] has taken in this matter is an heretical position, and all of the correspondence in the world is not going to affect my convictions on that point.”

You’re right—you didn’t do these things. But you are now in a position of responsibility in at least one of the organizations that did. I agree that you can’t apologize for a sin you didn’t commit, but you can (1) distance yourself from the accusations by publicly acknowledging them to be false, (2) publicly acknowledge that it was a sin for the FBF to level these accusations in the first place, and (3) express regret to John MacArthur that the accusations were ever made.

If this has ever been done by the FBFI, I would love to hear about it. My respect would skyrocket.

If the FBFI leadership, acting in concert, would do these things, what would happen?

First, the episode would be taken off the table. While it would still be a matter of historical record, the FBFI could no longer be accused of covering up the sin.

Second, while MacArthur is not asking for an apology, I think that he would receive such an expression of acknowledgement and regret as a sweet breeze out of paradise. It would finally lay to rest an unnecessary and sinful cause of division.

Third, the FBFI would be more believable when it discussed the differences that still remain between it and MacArthur. People would have greater assurance that we weren’t just making it up, eh?

Fourth, this kind of humility would go far toward removing one of the perceived impediments that dampen the enthusiasm of young men for organizations like the FBFI.

Fifth, if my reading of the New Testament is anywhere near correct, then the Lord would be pleased.

So how about it?

Kevin

P.S. Yes, I am guilty of Adam's sin. I was there in him committing it with him. I acknowledge it to be sin, and I offer no excuse or alibi. Had it not have been for the cross of Christ my Savior, my sin in Adam would have been sufficient by itself to condemn me to an eternal hell.

 

Don Johnson's picture

Check the dates of those bulletins again... 1989 and 1990. You wish to perpetuate an issue that is over 23 years old? There are precious few guys who were on the board then that are on the board now.

In a somewhat relevant resolution that came after that date, the FBFI said this:

Quote:
The FBF appreciates John MacArthur's expositional ministry of the Bible, but believes that his trumpet would give a more certain sound if he separated himself from speaking in places such as Moody Bible Institute, which has given support to past Billy Graham crusades and puts its stamp of approval on an upcoming Luis Palau crusade, and at Southern Baptist meetings in which he is on the same platform as Charles Colson, whose leadership in the movement known as Evangelicals and Catholics Together represents a betrayal of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone. We differ with the evaluation made by James Stitzinger, faculty member at Master's Seminary, in a recent book Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, in which he portrays MacArthur as being in the tradition of a Charles Spurgeon in the Downgrade Controversy since in an article written in 1888 as to why he separated from the compromising London Baptist Association the "prince of preachers" contended that the only complete protest was separation. While contending for the truth MacArthur continues to associate with those who by their actions and associations aid those who dilute and destroy the truth. We believe that those who follow the MacArthur line of reasoning and practice will produce a second generation of New Evangelicals.

I have bolded the positive part, just so no one will miss it.

Now, that is still old, 18 years ago. It is the last mention of MacArthur that I can find in my set of resolutions. (I don't have any resolutions on my computer after 2009 for some reason and something is funky with the FBFI site where they are stored - hopefully that will get fixed soon.)

My point is:

  • First, we have said something positive since the blood issue of 1989/1990.
  • Second, this is still old news.

If you want to live in the past, be my guest, but I am interested in promoting fundamentalism in the present. I like a lot of what you have said on "The Fundamentalist Idea" and want to promote that.

But I'm not interested in working up a lather about long past issues.

And re the PS: I agree with what you say. I am simply saying we don't need to be offering a prominent Public Apology for things that are in the past. It's time to move on.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Sometimes our recollection of an event or exchange does not match the reality. At an early stage of this conversation, I said this:

"People like me are the last and best hope for Old Fundamentalist institutions like the FBFI. The trouble is that most of my kind have just given up. They don’t think it’s worth the effort, because they are convinced that the house is beyond cleaning."

Your crack about the Great White Hope indicates that you are understanding me to say that I personally am the hope of Fundamentalism.

"Seriously, you've got to stop referring to your self that way. The only hope of Christians is Jesus Christ."

Well, I am a Christian and I cherish a hope (among other things) for supper tonight. If supper arrives, I shall certainly thank the Lord. Still, I hardly believe that Jesus is going to supply my supper without the mediation of secondary causes and the agency of human actors.

Admittedly, I am a proud, vain person. But even I am not so conceited as to suppose that I can save Fundamentalism single-handedly. Or at all, for that matter. I question whether anybody can.

What I do mean is that Fundamentalism will not go forward without people who are willing to do what I do. And that is not to become Doc. We do not need Doc. We never needed Doc. What we need (among other things) is people who will tell the truth about Doc. Of course, we need a good bit more than that. If we don't have at least that, however, then Fundamentalism is not worth saving.

[NOTICE TO READERS: "Doc" is a label for a category of Fundamentalist leadership. All Docs appearing in this post are fictitious. Any resemblance to real Docs, living, dead, or (in the case of Zombie or Vampire Docs) undead is purely coincidental. Please do not write long posts defending the reputation or expatiating upon the virtues of whichever Doc you may personally admire. If you are a resident of North America, and you hold the copyright to any Doc-related materials appearing in this posting, you may contact the author to request their removal. Doc must be taken in recommended dosages. Excessive exposure to Doc may result in rash, hypertension, difficulty in breathing, or unemployment. Side effects of Doc may include nausea, vomiting, heartburn, dry mouth and wet pants. Author specifically disclaims all warranties, express or implied, including without limitation warranties of the fitness or usability of Doc. When handling Doc, the manufacturer recommends the use of kid gloves.]

Don Johnson's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:

"People like me are the last and best hope for Old Fundamentalist institutions like the FBFI. The trouble is that most of my kind have just given up. They don’t think it’s worth the effort, because they are convinced that the house is beyond cleaning."

Your crack about the Great White Hope indicates that you are understanding me to say that I personally am the hope of Fundamentalism.

Well, yes, but above you did say "I am equal time", citing the precedence of Rush.

I see that you didn't explicitly say you were the last and best hope, but "people like me". A difference, but only slight.

I see how you are qualifying it, yet I don't see how these references are helpful to the discussion in the main. I'm not the only one who took it the way I did, and you did follow it with the Rush reference.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin T. Bauder's picture

Don,

Well, I've seen a job that needs to be done. Nobody else seems to be interested in doing it. So I will.

You were handed a golden opportunity to provide a balanced perspective on the Great John MacArthur Scandal. I asked you specific questions. All you had to do was to answer them. I think that your answers might have carried some weight. The fact that you refused to answer them is the reason that somebody within Fundamentalism needs to be equal time.

Tell me, what is the biblical statute of limitations on character assassination? I must've missed that verse in my study.

It's not just old news. Here is a web site that is still attacking MacArthur over this issue. Here is another. And another. And yet another. This book is still out there. This guy calls MacArthur a "bloodless cult." This one also uses cult language. Beginning to get the idea? It hardly seems worthwhile to keep going. But there's more. And more. But I tire of this sport.

This one, however, is one to look at. It reproduces verbatim the very same article that appeared in the FBF News Bulletin in 1990. The article is still out there, still doing damage. It hardly seems defensible to suggest that this sin can be relegated to the distant past when it is so clearly exerting its effects at this moment.

Don, I genuinely wish that you would reconsider your answer. You could use your influence to get the FBFI to do something official about this. It is a shameful chapter in Fundamentalist history--and the problem is that the chapter has never really been closed. That is why people keep bringing it up.

As a member of the FBFI, I certainly want people to know that these past statements of the fellowship do not reflect my perspective. I believe that they were sinful then and they are sinful now. Like you, I cannot apologize for a sin that I did not commit, but I can do what lies in my power to stop the damage that the injustice is still doing. I do regret that these statements were ever published, and I am appalled that they are still affecting the ministry of a man of God. I sincerely wish that you--and the rest of the FBFI board--would join me in getting this episode off the table once for all.

Part of your fear is that other sins of the past might be raised. My response is, Let them! Where comparable wrongs were done (official acts that constituted pubic injustices), they can be addressed in the same way. Get the skeletons out of the closet. Dig up grandpa from the basement and given him a decent burial.

In fact, this is the very first and most important point in my counsel to the FBFI. You want to go forward? It really starts here.

By the way, in a separate post I am going to reproduce what Rolland McCune says about the blood of Christ in his impressive Systematic Theology. Then, as far as I am concerned, I have said all that I plan to say on this subject. I would love to hear that the FBFI board has made this a topic for one of its position and policy statements.

Kevin

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