the danger of theological drift

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 5. 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
  4. how should we proceed

We come now to my fifth post on Bauder’s tenth lecture [having fun with numbers, aren’t we? – ed.] I’ve given this one the heading “the danger of theological drift”. When I was learning to drive, my dad taught me that when approaching an oncoming vehicle on the highway at night I should keep my eyes on the white line at the shoulder on my side of the road. The idea was that you tend to steer in the direction your eyes are looking. If you become transfixed with the oncoming lights on the other side of the road… well, let’s just say it is better to watch your own side of the road!

In this post, I will replay two previous clips from previous posts and add one more. These clips raise the concern of theological drift. This is a concern for the CE crowd and their upcoming generations and it is also a concern for our own Fundie crowd.

What will be the ultimate influence of the leaders in both camps? Where will their followers end up, given the direction their most influential leaders are pointed today?

Note again this clip:

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[58:37] Bauder’s attitude – first, appreciation: Bauder expresses his concluding thoughts concerning Fundamentalist relationships with 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. [Here, especially note the word indebted.]

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[61:42] Theological drift from CE to Indifferentist: In the 1960s, what we now call Conservative Evangelicalism was the evangelical mainstream. The last forty years have seen mainstream evangelicalism become more ‘Indifferentist’ (Bauder’s point of view, I think it didn’t take much persuading and in fact the vast majority of evangelicalism was Indifferentist from the 50s on, certainly from the mid 60s on.) The current Conservative Evangelical leadership are unlikely to become Indifferentists, but where will those coming up under their ministry go? Since the CEs speak against apostates but not against Indifferentists, it will be easy for next generation to relocate in mainstream Evangelicalism, i.e., as Indifferentists of one flavour or another.

And note again this clip:

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[45:38] CE differences over Indifferentists still maintain a difference with Fundies. On this longish clip, near the end I want you to note the idea of ‘indebtedness’ Bauder mentions. Here it is the CEs who see themselves as indebted to the Indifferentists (for saving the church from the Fundies). Note in particular this notion of ‘indebtedness’.


All right, here Bauder sees a problem with the Conservative Evangelicals. Their reluctance to speak out against Indifferentists (and even to some extent against apostates, see ‘advice from minnick’) leads to the question: where will the disciples of the CEs end up? There seems to be a real danger of them sliding into an indifferentist sort of position in the future, given past history with the broad evangelical movement.

I agree with Bauder’s concern regarding the direction of ‘young CEs’. Could it possibly be a result of this feeling of indebtedness? Note again the word ‘indebted’. Notice how Bauder uses it of himself with respect to his attitude towards the CEs in [58:37]. This prompts my own question:

Where will disciples of Bauder end up? He is indebted to CEs, CEs see themselves as indebted to Indifferentists, so where will that attitude lead us?

In the previous post, I said:

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.

It seems to me that we need to be careful about this ‘indebtedness’ thing. We need to be careful about those whom we feel we owe a debt of gratitude. It is true that we can bond with godly pastors, Christian university professors, and others who may have influenced us for the Lord. We see ourselves as indebted to them. We will tend to defend them and overlook their flaws.

In some respects, such loyalties are good. But should they be unconditional? Before I entered the ministry myself, my last pastor was a much loved and godly man who had a good deal of influence on me. I owe him a good deal for my pastoral philosophy (though I think he was a much better pastor than I am). After I entered the ministry, my former pastor led his church completely and deliberately out of Fundamentalism and even way beyond Conservative Evangelicalism. It is a mystery to me how all this could happen. But my love for this man and my personal loyalty to him will not allow me to put him above criticism nor to warn the younger fellows following me from following in his path.

Currently it is popular to tout the Conservative Evangelical pastors and writers as ‘rock stars’ of conservative Bible-believing Christianity. It is almost as if they can do no wrong. Any criticism of them, any honest warnings of their flaws is met with scorn and ridicule. What is this? This isn’t God-centered, it is man-centered.

And it seems to me that several fairly prominent Fundamentalist leaders fall into the category of speaking no evil (or speaking very little evil) about Conservative Evangelicals and their errors. Some would dare to go beyond that, defending not just CEs but some fairly radical evangelical voices as well. Where will this take the next generation of fundamentalism? Will there be a next generation of fundamentalism?