Central Baptist Theological Seminary: Affiliations with FBBC and NBBC


Most of you who will read this will not know who I am, as I am what the young people in my church refer to as a "lurker" on social media. During the tumultuous circumstances of the past year, I have developed a voracious appetite for Fundamental Baptist history. Large portions of my free time have been spent scouring websites for biographies, histories, and informational texts pertaining to Baptist Fundamentalism. This search led me to Dr. Kevin Bauder. Perusing the website of Central Baptist Theological Seminary revealed that a majority (or so it seemed to me) of its faculty received at least one degree from either Faith Baptist Bible College or Northland Baptist Bible College. All of my reading has indicated that CBTS was founded by one Dr. R. V. Clearwaters, an accomplished minister who also founded an institution named "Pillsbury Baptist Bible College." I am no expert on the intricacies of Baptist Fundamentalism, so I thought that I would ask the veterans that frequent Sharper Iron my questions.

1). If Pillsbury and Central were "sister institutions," why do more graduates of the College not teach in the Seminary?

2). Had Central developed its own independent identity after Dr. Clearwaters' retirement that enabled it to forge relationships with other Fundamental educational institutions?

3). Did the affiliation with Faith rise out of Dr. Bauder's influence within the Seminary? (I believe he graduated from Faith and presided over the Seminary for several years, if my reading sources are factual.)

4). How did Northland become a part of Central's recruitment pipeline?

5). Now that Pillsbury and Northland have both folded, where do the majority of CBTS students receive their undergraduate training?

I look forward to gleaning much from your collective knowledge.

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josh p's picture

I’m sorry I can’t answer your questions but have you tried emailing Central directly? I have done so with questions in the past (as well as calling) and always got answers. That being said, I’m interested in those questions too and I know there are some here who can answer many/all of them.

Aaron Blumer's picture


About ties with FBBC, even during my years at Central, back in the 1990's, there were a number of Faith graduates at Central. These included John Hartog, who, after graduation from Central, returned to involvement at Faith in a variety of key roles. At the time, I believe his father was president at Faith.

So, to contribute some perspective to #3, no it was not all about Dr. Bauder, though he has certainly been influential.

Regarding #4, it's a similar case of ordinary relationships and institutional cross-polination. Doug MacLachlan was pastor at Fourth and president of Central just before my years there. By the time I signed up, he had taken leadership roles at Northland. But I also recall students at Central in the 90's who had graduated from Northland.

So, in general, these connections form through relationships in both directions: (a) students coming from these other schools, gaining their degrees at Central, then returning to leadership roles at the schools they previously attended, and (b) leaders at Central moving on to leadership roles at these other schools.

The same things increasingly happen with Maranatha and BJU. In the case of BJU, it was feeding other institutions for many decades before my time there, but that continued for a long time after. Judging from conference speaker lists and such, ties among "fundamentalist heritage" institutions are tighter than they used to be. Which is healthy, I think. (There was an unhealthy climate of near-paranoid suspicion of "compromise" in the 80's and somewhat into the 90's that seemed to isolate institutions more in those days. Glad that's no longer the dynamic!)

Edit: I second Josh's advice to reach out to someone at Central. Ron Gotzman would love to talk with you I'm sure, as would Matt Morrell. I don't know Shrader or Williams personally, but I think I may have swapped some friendly emails with one or the other a couple of times.

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

W. T. O'Harver's picture

Why would declaring such a doctrinal stance at Maranatha produce any kind of "abnormal" effect? Both Maranatha and Central run in the same "branch" of Baptist Fundamentalism, as Maranatha was a "split" from Pillsbury.

Would anything happen if this statement were made at Pensacola Christian College, Bob Jones University, or West Coast Baptist College?

(Not that I would ever make such a claim. Culturally and doctrinally, I am squarely in the "Arminian" segment of the spectrum.)

TylerR's picture


MBU and Central are not theologically identical!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

W. T. O'Harver's picture

Has the difference always existed since the Cedarholm/Clearwaters days, or is it a more recent development? If so, why?

This is hard to understand for someone who is not a Northerner. Crown College of the Bible, Commonwealth Baptist College, and West Coast Baptist College are "our" schools that our church kids have used; however, all of them have virtually identical theology. It appears that the major differences between them are in their emphases and ministry styles.

TylerR's picture


All those schools you mentioned come from the same strand of Baptist fundamentalism; what I believe Bauder would label the "Sword Movement" or (more colloquially) the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. MBU is a legacy of the hard-core split from the Conservative Baptist movement, as is Central. There are differences in Northern Baptist fundamentalism.

  • MBU is more of an FBFI-style fundamentalism, which has some affinities to the Sword Crowd.
  • Central certainly does not - it has some sympathies with the Regular Baptist movement but has never been "part" of that movement even when the GARBC had official "schools."
  • Faith is a solidly Regular Baptist institution.
  • Northland was, I believe it's safe to say (but someone correct me if necessary) an FBFI-ish, hard-core Conservative Baptist institution.

At this point you're getting into different taxonomies of Baptist fundamentalism, which is always delicate territory. Still, I think my comments are generally accurate. You should read Bauder's book One in Hope and Doctrine. He has a helpful flowchart at the beginning which attempts to label the Baptist fundamentalist movement. You should also call Central and chat with someone; I'm certain they'd talk. Barring that, you should contact Central and ask for the audio for the 2014 MacDonald Lecture series, where Bauder essentially presented his book. Or, forget that, just call Central and ask to chat with Bauder and you'll get a Cliff-Notes explanation of everything you want to know.

I'm a graduate from Maranatha Seminary and a doctoral student at Central.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture


I knew the taxonomy charts were a'coming! Here is Bauder's chart which explains the origin of the various flavors of Baptist fundamentalism. For more, you must read his book!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

pvawter's picture

Jim wrote:

Try this as a student at Maranatha Baptist University  ... 

Be public with this position: "I'm a 5 point Calvinist"

It would be a key learning experience


I don't recall this being a controversial issue when I was a student there (other than debates in the dorm between students of different persuasions). Has there been a significant change on campus in recent years?

JD Miller's picture

Yes, call Central Seminary.  Brett Williams and Ron Gotzman are about as Minnesota nice as you can get.  Kevin Bauder has done a lot of writing and is somewhat of a "big name" in these circles.  The circles are small and Kevin is fine with that.  He is just an ordinary guy who loves his fellow Christians is is willing to talk to anyone.  He is extremely kind and approachable even with those he disagrees with.  I don't know Matt Morrel very well, but he has always been friendly.  Both his parents taught at Pillsbury and they became great friends when I was a student there (I guess you could call that a Pillsbury connection once removed?).   Whether you are doing research or considering taking classes at Central, realize that the people there are very serious about academics and the scripture, but they are also very approachable.