not indifferent, but not allies

We are in a series of posts which serve as commentary on Kevin Bauder’s tenth lecture on the subject of Biblical Separation, delivered at International Baptist College September 15-17, 2008. This is post number 3. Earlier posts on the lecture series can be found here:

Posts specifically regarding Lecture 10:

  1. is separation a fundamental doctrine
  2. indifferentists defined

This is the third in my series of posts concerning Kevin Bauder’s tenth lecture. The clips in this section are going to mark out a distinction between conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists. In the last post, we defined indifferentism, the attitude of New Evangelicalism, which thinks it is just fine for true Christians to cooperate with people who deny the essential doctrines of Christianity and to accredit them as ‘our Christian brothers’. Bro. Bauder says the activities of Indifferentists are very serious and very damaging to Christianity itself. I agree with him!

The next point, and the subject of this post, describes the distinctions between the Indifferentists (formerly known as New Evangelicals), Conservative Evangelicals, and Fundamentalists.

I appreciate one aspect of these clips in particular. Bauder makes it clear that there is a distinct difference between Conservative Evangelicals (CEs) and Fundamentalists. He will say that this difference amounts to an insurmountable barrier which precludes almost all fellowship. I agree in the main, but likely see the barrier as larger and the opportunities for fellowship as much, much smaller.The importance of the distinction between CEs and Fundies must, however, be underscored. Many today are arguing no such distinction exists, or if one does, it is essentially minor, base, and political, not worthy of mention or barring significant fellowship. This is not the case.

But now to the next selection of clips:

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First, in this clip, [35:38] This points to the difference with CEs

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Bauder describes the profound problem we (as Christians, not just as Fundamentalists) have with an Indifferentist. The Indifferentist is so wrong we can hardly enjoy any measure of Christian fellowship with him at all, except perhaps some marginal personal fellowship [but this is essentially the same as I may have with a lost person!]. This appropriate Christian attitude to the Indifferentist, however, is what points to the difference between CEs and Fundies.

How so? This will be developed in the next several clips.

The next clip…

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[36:38] New Evangelicalism is Evangelicalism is Indifferentism…, describes this equation: Old New Evangelicalism = Mainstream Evangelicals = Indifferentists. The mainstream Evangelical institutions are unable to break their ties with some who are apostates. Bauder cites the Evangelical Theological Society, for example, who are unable to oust the Open Theists, essentially because of Indifferentism. (It is interesting to hear him cite this example when Fundamentalists continue to hold memberships and publish papers in the ETS. But that is another post!) In this clip, Bauder is asserting that Indifferentism has become the Evangelical mainstream.

After discussing the CE battles with some of the contemporary theological issues and comparing it to the relative silence of Fundamentalists on these subjects, Bauder picks up his argument in a clip I call [40:04] CEs closer to apostasy, seem more competent in the fight, so join ’em.

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My title refers to the attitude of some who think there is no significant difference with CEs and that CEs seem more competent, so maybe we should join them. But Bauder argues that the ’emerging middle’ doesn’t look like a synthesis of CE and Fundie but Fundie becoming CE. [Note, in this clip, Bauder is referring to a diagram he had on an overhead or a whiteboard, so one has to infer his meaning at points.] In this clip, it is very important to discern what this ’emerging middle’ really is. If it meant change for the CE, it might actually be worth something (though I am not sure I want to change my philosophy!). But the fact is the CEs aren’t changing. They instead are willing to welcome disenfranchised Fundies to their ranks, but their essential philosophy and practice remains unchanged. Don’t miss that point!

In the next clip…

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[42:12] There is a Difference with CEs, Bauder makes this concession: If there is no real difference, only political, only my background vs. their background, then there is no reason to stay in Fundamentalism. One could escape the ‘baggage’ of Hyper-Fundamentalism [my term] and be a lot more comfortable in some ways about one’s associations. But, having made that concession, he goes on to say, there is a much more significant difference than mere politics or background. The difference is significant enough to maintain continuing barriers to fellowship.

Well, what is that difference?

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In [44:04] Essential difference is over Indifferentists, Bauder insists that the difference is over the scandalous conduct of Indifferentists. The Fundamentalist viewpoint is that we cannot be involved in the conduct of the Indifferentist. This has been the consistent position of Fundamentalism. Conservative Evangelicals have had a different attitude toward Indfferentists, though they are not entirely united. They differ among themselves about specific application.

The next clip…

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[45:38] CE differences over Indifferentists still maintain a difference with Fundies, continues the discussion of disunity among CEs over Indifferentists. Some CEs may not be willing to participate, for example, in a Graham Crusade, but would be unwilling to state their reasons publicly. Others will participate with such crusades and even host the ‘Billy Graham School of Evangelism’ on their campus [he’s talking about Mohler, here]. Nevertheless, the disunited applications of CEs marks a stark difference with the applications of Fundies. Fundies will not only refuse cooperation but will publicly warn against and rebuke such endeavours. A major factor in the difference is that CEs see themselves as indebted to Indifferentists. They have a view that if it weren’t for the Indifferentists, evangelicalism would have collapsed many years ago if it had been left in the hands of the Fundies, who had ‘taken it over’. So the Fundie warns against Indifferentists; the CE feels indebted to the Indifferentist.

The last clip for this post comes near the end of the lecture, in the question and answer time.

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I have called it [56:32] Attitude to Indifferentists clearly contrasted. In this clip, Bauder says Conservative Evangelicals have no problem at all with virtually untrammeled fellowship with people all over the Evangelical orbit and even with ‘the Indifferentists’. Fundamentalists on the other hand are not willing to have more than the most non-binding kind of fellowship with evangelicals and they will have nothing to do with recognizing an Indifferentists as a good Christian leader. CEs will have nothing to do with denouncing an Indifferentist and, generally speaking, will regularly endorse Indifferentists.

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There you have it. All these clips build the case for the notion that there still remains a significant difference between Conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. I am somewhat amazed that this needs to be spelled out. Many seem oblivious to the obvious differences between CEs and Fundies. Much evidence abounds pointing to an ongoing, significant difference.

In Myron Houghton’s expansion of Ernest Pickering’s book, Biblical Separation, the difference is emphasized from the CE side, this time through the voice of Southern Baptist, Jerry Sutton, in a book called The Baptist Reformation. Sutton, though a conservative, rejects the term fundamentalist and indeed the fundamentalist position. He lists these reasons: 1. Militancy. 2. Separation. 3. Dispensationalism. In the first reason, he actually links Christian fundamentalism with all kinds of ‘fundamentalism’ world-wide and raises the concern of ‘violence’. I would take that as a bit of slander, but it is true that the call to fundamentalism is to a kind of militancy (although I would expect 99.999% of Christian fundamentalists to eschew physical violence). [See Pickering and Houghton, Biblical Separation, p. 174.]

The third clip cited above notes that CEs are not moving in the Fundie direction. On the contrary, they are willing to welcome Fundies moving in their direction. I suspect this is because CEs share Sutton’s pejorative and negative views of Fundamentalism. In my opinion, it is naïve to think that fundamentalists are having much influence on Conservative Evangelicals, especially in their upper echelons. It may be that one or two local pastors may see the problem of the Indifferentists and thus take a more separated stand, but it is hard to see any of the ‘Togetherness’ boys coming around. Most of these men have a long term prejudice against Fundamentalism (as illustrated by Sutton’s book noted above) and have invested too much of their ministry years into the Evangelical world to break ties with it now. My friends who think otherwise are wasting their time, in my view.

The bottom line regarding the difference between Conservative Evangelicals and Fundamentalists? The difference is still significant, and the difference still precludes significant fellowship and cooperation.

don_sig2

Comments

  1. Good work Don. You broke it down well. You weren’t indifferent to Bauder’s lecture. I do believe Bauder has good points and they are expressed clear enough in this lecture ten for anyone to understand and make an informed decision about what they’re doing.

    As you would know, my concern is that fundamentalism doesn’t go far enough.