how should we proceed

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 4. Earlier posts on the lecture series can be found here:

Posts specifically regarding Lecture 10:

  1. is separation a fundamental doctrine
  2. indifferentists defined
  3. not indifferent, but not allies

This is my fourth post considering Kevin Bauder’s tenth lecture at International Baptist College. This post is entitled: ‘how should we proceed‘.

Our analysis of the situation is essentially similar (see especially post #2 and post #3). The New Evangelical Indifferentism that now characterizes the majority of evangelicalism is a travesty that demeans the gospel. The Conservative Evangelicals are not Indifferentists, but they remain closely connected to Indifferentists and even see themselves as ‘indebted’ to them. They are willing to endorse Indifferentists. This attitude constitutes a significant difference between Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals. It precludes unfettered fellowship between them.

Nevertheless, Bauder is going to suggest that some fellowship with Conservative Evangelicals (CEs) is possible for Fundamentalists (Fundies). I will let Bauder speak for himself, but it is here where his viewpoint and mine begin to diverge.

First…

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[49:57] Bauder’s attitude – some levels of fellowship but mustn’t confuse my flock, Bauder argues that we shouldn’t treat a CE the same way we would treat an Indifferentist. That means there can be fellowship on some levels in ways that we couldn’t fellowship with the old New Evangelicals, i.e., the Indifferentists. But because Indifferentism is such a serious matter, that “when it comes to ‘ordinary people’, I want my message about Indifferentism to be very clear, very plain, and unconfused.” [Note that term, ‘ordinary people’!] In other words, it is important to be very clear that one is maintaining a separated stance towards Indifferentism. Since CEs are ambiguous in their relationship to Indifferentism, we who are separated Fundies must be very careful about the kinds of public fellowship we engage in with CEs.

Second…

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[51:45] Two recent fundie-CE fellowship examples, Bauder mentions Pastor Mark Minnick’s interview by Mark Dever, published by 9Marks ministries. He also mentions Dave Doran’s attendance at conferences such as ‘Together for the Gospel’ and his efforts at influencing some in this crowd towards a more separatistic point of view. Bauder expresses that he ‘has no problem’ with any of the examples he gives in this clip. He also points out that he is sure both Minnick and Doran would be very careful to explain that they don’t agree with everything a CE individual might stand for and that they are careful to separate themselves from the CE connections with Indifferentism.

Third…

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[53:16] The Need for Care about Appearances, Bauder explains in a little more detail why care is needed in the kinds of fellowship practiced with CEs. A local Fundamentalist pastor may have some CE churches in competition down the street. He is faithfully preaching the Bible, attempting to make disciples, maintaining a distinct testimony from the apostate, the Indifferentist, and in general, even the CE pastor down the street. So when a well-known Fundie figure (like a Doran, a Minnick, a Bauder) is seen in cooperation in some way with the CEs, it can undermine the credibility of the Fundie pastor and his attempt to disciple people in a separated ministry. It can produce a flight out of Fundie churches to CE churches. [I am elaborating on Bauder’s comment to some extent, but I think I am consistent with what he means.]

Bauder suggests that the solution to this problem is better articulation of the differences between CE and Fundie by the prominent Fundie leaders. He doesn’t want to cut off all avenues of fellowship, but he has a ‘world of sympathy’ for local pastors and thinks we should be ‘somewhat careful here.’

Finally…

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[58:37] Bauder’s attitude – first, appreciation, [this clip from near the end of the lecture], Bauder expresses his concluding thoughts concerning Fundamentalist relationships towards Conservative Evangelicalism. He says he is not mad at the CEs. He does not see them as enemies, indeed, he is indebted to them. He appreciates their thoughts, their contributions, and has benefited from them. He doesn’t want anything he has said to seem as an attack on CEs, but in spite of their positive contributions, there is yet a significant difference between us.

~~~

Well.

Now we are at a point where we begin to differ. When it comes to ‘some levels of fellowship’, I ask, ‘What are those levels of fellowship that can be engaged in, really?’ This whole question of ‘fellowship’ needs to be wrestled out a good deal more than Bauder has in this lecture series. He says some things about fellowship that makes me think he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the term. Could we use, instead, the terms ‘cooperation’ or ‘partnership’? [I plan to talk a good deal more about fellowship in a subsequent post.] Using these terms, let me ask exactly how we can cooperate with a Conservative Evangelical without compromising our own fidelity to our Lord Jesus? What kind of partnerships can we enter?

  • Can we sit on their platforms or have them sit on ours?
  • Can we join as board members of a Mission Board, college, Christian school, or the board of a city-wide evangelistic crusade?
  • Can we make common cause in some kind of social action? [Careful, careful… isn’t that what is going on in some cities now with crisis pregnancy centers, etc? Please Note: I am not against crisis pregnancy centers per se!]
  • Can we be featured as regular contributors to their magazines and publications?

It is all well and good to say that we can have ‘some levels’ of fellowship in the most general sort of terms. It would be very helpful to know what that means. There still remain significant differences, on that we agree. But what kind of fellowship is allowed? On that point, I don’t see much clarity or specificity.

The Two Examples

Bauder gives us two examples of recent events as possible expressions of legitimate fellowship between CEs and Fundies. These examples are the Minnick 9Marks interview and the efforts of Doran with essentially the same crowd, culminating in a published article in the 9Marks e-journal. [Please note, Bauder didn’t directly mention Doran’s article in the e-journal.]

When speaking of these examples, Bauder expresses cautions about the effect even legitimate fellowship with CEs can have. He is right to raise the pastoral concerns of many who are trying to build disciples in separatist Fundamentalist ministries. The actions of prominent men can have a negative influence on them. An unwise association by a prominent Fundamentalist can undermine the discipleship ministries of less well known men in their local churches. Bauder has ‘a world of sympathy’ for such men, he says. We have to be careful here, he says. We must not confuse.

Well, let’s consider Bauder’s positive examples of Minnick and Doran. They don’t particularly impact me, my people are not even aware of them. They do impact young men in seminaries. They impact a host of pastors around the continent. And the actions themselves are not without their confusing elements. Just what do they mean and how close can we get to the CEs in public forums and cooperative efforts?

As I understand him, Bauder says that the answers to these questions must come by a better explanation of the differences between CEs and Fundies from the prominent leaders. He is quick to say that he thinks both men would carefully explain themselves as still seeing a difference between themselves and the CEs they have been connected with and that they would clarify that there still remains a significant difference between CEs and Fundies.

Having discussed this personally and in detail with my friend, Mark Minnick, I know this is true of his position. I am certain that his motivations and intentions in the 9Marks interview were to influence CEs towards a more separated position. I don’t think he intended to confuse any Fundamentalists by his action. His subsequent statements made his views very clear. I assume that the same is true of Doran being published in the 9Marks e-journal, etc.

But.

But the fact that questions have been raised (and not just by me) speaks to the fact that these examples of public association with these Conservative Evangelicals tend to confuse. The perception of the ‘ordinary people’ is that we have an emerging middle about to happen here. (Hallelujah, bless God, etc.)

And as efforts at influencing the Conservative Evangelicals towards separatism, I don’t think the efforts have been particularly successful. What movement our way has happened in the ranks of the CEs? Is there any evidence of it? And rather than seeing CEs move just a tad our way, don’t these actions actually further embolden our younger set towards closer and closer ties with CEs? If the differences are still significant, don’t such actions really only serve to confuse the ‘ordinary people’?

If there is a significant difference, does that not imply more a level of separation than a level of fellowship? If the difference is significant, should not the distance also be significant?

~~~

A few odds and ends:

  • This is perhaps a small point, but what is meant by the term ‘ordinary people’? Bauder has been taken to task in a couple of places recently for being ‘elitist’. Isn’t the term ‘ordinary people’ just a tad elitist?
  • I will say more in the next post about the ‘indebtedness’ thing. But let me say this: I am a debtor of Christ. If our Lord works through a donkey to teach me something, I am indebted to the Lord, not the donkey. Let’s not be followers of men, but of The True Man.
  • One more thing. I am not at all concerned about someone’s attendance at a T4G event or any other conference or speaking engagement one might attend. I am not personally going to go out of my way to attend such events, but if it were convenient I wouldn’t have a problem attending to hear some of these prominent figures in person.
    But we aren’t really talking about attending things here. We are talking about cooperating and partnerships. That’s the ‘kind’ of fellowship that we must decide about. In what way can we be partners with a Conservative Evangelical?

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