he’s at it again

Kevin Bauder has come out with another disappointing broadside against fundamentalism. He fills a recent article of Central Seminaries online publication, In the Nick of Time, with a series of scandalous charges against Fundamentalism.

I have summarized the charges as they appear in the article. I attempt to represent them accurately, working my way through the article paragraph by paragraph. If my summaries are inaccurate in any way, I invite correction where I may have erred.

The summary follows:

  • Fundamentalists are not representatives of historic Christian doctrine.
  • Fundamentalists crave identity and significance.
  • Fundamentalists are badly misguided in thinking Kirsopp Lake’s famous quotation compliments them (including such men as Fred Moritz, Mark Sidwell, David Beale, the FBF as represented by Wayne Bley et al).
  • Fundamentalist theology is only a partial preservation of historic Christian doctrine (according to Lake and Bauder).
  • Fundamentalists are ignoramuses – they haven’t even read the ancient creeds, much less studied them.
  • Fundamentalists are naive in this respect: they assume their ideas (i.e., doctrine) are derived directly from Scripture [the horror!] without mediation [i.e., the intervention of tradition].
  • Fundamentalists have little sense of history.
  • Fundamentalists have no sense of indebtedness to Christians of the past.
  • Fundamentalists do not value the richness of traditional Christian faith and practice.
  • Most fundamentalists have little or no awareness of history.
  • Fundamentalists are theologically shallow.
  • Fundamentalists have truncated the whole counsel of God.
  • Fundamentalists love the Bible as an object but detest studying the Bible in depth.
  • Fundamentalist thought compared to historic Christianity is like comparing a hamburger to a steak. [Hint: fundamentalist thought is the hamburger.]

Bauder concludes his assault with this charge:

Kirsopp Lake said that Fundamentalism is the “partial . . . survival of a theology which was once universally held by all Christians.” To the extent that he is correct, Fundamentalists should probably be a little less enthralled with his description. And I think that he is right.

Fundamentalists have preserved and defended something less than the whole counsel of God.

His whole argument is based on an edited version of Lake’s remarks. Note the ellipsis. The full statement Bauder offers at the beginning of his piece:

It is nothing of the kind: it is the partial and uneducated survival of a theology which was once universally held by all Christians.

Lake appears to be saying something different than Bauder is alleging. It is obviously a slur. “Fundamentalists are uneducated boobs, but, as such, we must admit that perhaps at least partially, they hold to the historic doctrines.” [That’s my paraphrase of Lake’s remarks.] Bauder wants to take off on this and make it out that Fundamentalists are partially the representatives of historic Christian doctrine. Partially???? So are they also partially representative of non-historic doctrine? Of unbiblical doctrine, perhaps? Exactly which parts of Fundamentalist thought is historic and which is not? He doesn’t say. The charges are general, offensive, slanderous and without any substance.

One has to wonder:

  • How does someone who appears to so dislike fundamentalism manage to be invited to fundamentalist platforms to speak?
  • How is it constructive to attack fundamentalism as ignorant and partially Christian?
  • What is gained within fundamentalism if such attacks from an alleged insider are allowed to go unanswered?

One would hope that, at the very least, this article would be pulled and a more charitable and constructive one be put in its place.

don_sig2

Comments

  1. Jeremy says:

    It is perfectly fair to disagree with Dr. Bauder’s assessment of fundamentalism. However, you aren’t so much disagreeing with his assessment as you are latching on to a defense of a movement with little regard for the particulars of the movement.

    You list 14 “scandalous charges” against fundamentalism. However, you then go on to address one of those charges without giving any sound reason. Your reasoning for attacking Bauder’s article is that he misquotes Lake. I disagree; however, I think it is fair to bring up the issue which you address.

    Unfortunately it appears you have missed the entire point of the article. You offer here no defense from a single one of Dr. Bauder’s accusations. If you can defend the movement from these attacks, by all means, do so. It appears that you are unable to do so because you do not.

    • Jeremy,

      My article isn’t intended as a defense of anything. It is intended to call attention to an offensive slur cast on those who have laboured for the Lord as fundamentalists for many years. It is intended to ask whether fundamentalists should continue to give the right hand of fellowship to one who thinks (apparently) that they are representatives of only a partially Christian theology. It is intended to protest the offensiveness of slurs cast upon men and ministries that have faithfully laboured for the Lord for many years.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. Christian Markle says:

    Brother Johnson,

    One knee jerk reaction deserves another. What if for instance/hypothetically/in some other universe, some of the accusations that Brother Bauder makes are true. Is it wrong to call out the errors (or what you percieve to be errors) of your own group, to point out the sins of past and present leaders as a warning not to repeat them, or to identify weaknesses that need to be shored up?

    Now, I have my own problems with Brother Bauder’s view of the value of history as compares to the value of the Scriptures. Frankly, although he treats the accusation negatively, I embrace some level of devaluing of historical theology as compared to the scriptures themselves. I actually think the scriptures would have this done (Isaiah 8:20). I think Bauder places too much value on historical theology. At times he sounds like he might be leaning towards the position of one Greek Orthodox I remember having a discussion with online one time (Please note: I purposefully used the phrases “he sounds like” and “leaning towards” to avoid appearing like I was accusing him of actually being Greek Orthodox).

    Now, for those who will use the above paragraph as a quote to prove Brother Bauders’ point, I will say (and I expect possibly will be edited out) that I value historical theology, but not as equal to or in priority over the scriptures. I will further caveat my original disagreement by asserting that I recognize that I would likely not believe what I believe today without the historical theology that Brother Bauder values, but it still is not as important as the scriptures themselves.

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

    • Christian, I agree with what you are saying here.

      I am not against criticizing ourselves as such. It is true that fundamentalism has had and still has problems. But to me, accusing us of being partial representatives of historic Christian doctrine is over the top.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. tjp says:

    Don,

    Are you following the new posting taking place here http://systematicsmatters.blogspot.com/

    Apparently there’s another attempt, in addition to Bauder’s, to address fundamentalism.

    tjp

  4. Hi Tracy

    I hadn’t seen the latest post there, thank you for the link.

    Mark seems to be taking a more reasonable approach, although he seems to be infected with a too optimistic view of conservative evangelicals, IMO. This is apparently a fairly common problem among some pretty vocal fundamentalists.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  5. tjp says:

    Don,

    I think schools like Central Seminary have been leaning toward conservative evangelicals for years. If I recall correctly, over the past dozen years or so, Central has had several of its professors leave for J-Mac’s school and for Northwestern.

    tjp

  6. Anvil says:

    Don,

    I have no idea what your church is like, but with what you are stating here, it would seem you have absolutely no experience with the types of fundamentalism mentioned in Bauder’s article (and that doesn’t seem too likely to me). Given that I’ve experienced a number of different churches which demonstrate one or more of the characteristics Bauder mentions, I find what he is saying to hit home. If you have experienced mostly a carefulness given to deep study of the word, full teaching of the word, rather than a revivalistic, every sermon mostly evangelistic kind of preaching, careful preaching of biblical positions rather than fundamental tradition, careful attention to the history of the church, and so on, I could understand why you would feel everything Bauder is saying is an attack.

    I believe the reason that people give attention to what he is saying, and still have him speak in fundamental circles is that many recognize what he is saying as the fundamentalism they know and have experience with. Even some of the best churches I’ve been in seem to have a congregation that shuns any kind of deep, systematic doctrinal teaching. People usually want a sermon they can apply “right now.” However, a fundamentalism that represents glorying in a pastor not being thoroughly educated in the Bible, including systematic theology, history, etc. would seem to me to be exactly what he is describing — a *partial* representation and preservation (at best) of historic Christian doctrine.

    You seem to equate fundamentalism with biblical Christianity. While that would certainly be the stated goal of most or even all fundamental Christians, I would say the movement, and many of the churches that name fundamentalism, have fallen short enough of that goal to warrant Bauder’s characterization of the movement as a whole. Even Pastor Brandenburg and company see fundamentalism as falling short of biblical Christianity (though often for reasons mainstream fundamentalists would disagree with) to the point they don’t claim the title of fundamental either.

    You may think that Dr. Bauder’s criticism is harsh, but even if that is true, I think we need to pay careful attention to someone who claims the name in spite of the problems (because he sees ideal fundamentalism the same way I think you do), and wants the movement to fully represent the Christianity of the Bible. He may not be right in every single point, but rather than throw out the whole critique or the messenger himself, we ought to carefully evaluate “whether these things are so.”

  7. To TJP: How does a professor going to J-Mac’s school or Northwestern make Central leaning towards C/E?

    To Don: Your blog entry was posted on SharperIron

    http://www.sharperiron.org/forum/thread-don-johnson-responds-to-dr-bauders-articles

  8. About your wonderings: “How does someone who appears to so dislike fundamentalism …”

    I know Dr Bauder and I am convinced he is a fundamentalist. His mind runs my little pea brain in circles but know where he stands! I don’t think he dislikes fundamentalism. I think he sees our (note use of OUR) foibles and faults and seeks to help us do a rudder set!

  9. It’s always important to read Bauder in context. What he’s up to here mainly is a history of how the movement got to be in the shape it’s in.
    I do share some of the concerns that have mentioned here (and expressed them at SI also), but it’ll take a few installments in this series to see where he’s really going with this.
    Since he’s written in the past about how to test historical theology and filter, etc., it would be an odd departure at this point if he were suddenly embracing “old is good, new is bad” or “tradition is good and a fresh reading of Scripture is bad,” etc.
    Give it some time.

    • Anvil

      I recognize that some of what Bauder says could be said to characterize some who wear the label of fundamentalism.

      My objection to this article is the broad brush approach and the implication that the men Bauder associates with are actually diminishing or distorting historic Christianity. The implication of his piece, it seems to me, is that Moritz, Sidwell, and Beale (named in the article) are guilty of the same. In my view, the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship is by and large the most balanced and faithful group in fundamentalism. The FBF is likewise disdained by Bauder.

      As for what my church is like, unless I miss my guess, you should have some materials from me that would give you a taste. You can also listen to messages at our website, http://www.gbcvic.org. I recognize that we lack many things but we attempt to faithfully and systematically teach the Bible and build disciples.

      Jim

      Thanks for the comments. I am always surprised at notice over at SI, given my occasional barbs in that direction. I hope you are correct about Bauder, but I have heard him distort history before (see his lecture series at International Baptist Bible College last year). As a result, I don’t trust his analysis and certainly disagree with the things that he has done in the last few months to stir up controversy in fundamentalism.

      Aaron

      If Bauder is saying something different from what he appears to be saying, then he should pull his article and reframe it in more clear language. He is a master of indirect insults.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

      • I’d like to add to my comments in the article and here in the comment section a link to a very reasonable comment by Ed Vasicek on SI. My impression of Ed is that he would tend to lean towards the more favorable to evangelicals end of fundamentalism than me, so I think that makes his post significant.

        He critiques Bauder in a gentler way than I do. It is undoubtedly the more effective and spiritual way to do so.

        I will be away from the computer all day, so if you care to make further comments, they will be in the queue until I get back.

        Maranatha!
        Don Johnson
        Jer 33.3

  10. Christian Markle says:

    I am happy that our dear brothers at SI are finally seeking to practice Proverbs 18:13. Unfortunately, at times this benefit of the doubt that causes us to follow other passages like James 1:19, seems at times to be only practiced with those that are revered (ie Bauder, Piper, etc). It really sounds too much like what they say is wrong with Fundamentalism (man-centered, idolization etc) repackaged for a new set of leaders. While I think truths found in passages like Proverbs 18:13 and James 1:19 should be practiced…I think we should practice them as well as other truths without partiality toward our beloved leaders (or gurus, as the case may be).

    To be as clear: I think we should spend more time contemplating, mentally evaluating, praying (all found in 1 Peter 4:7), comparing claims with scripture (Isaiah 8:20), giving people the benefit of the doubt (1 Corinthians 13:7), being forbearing (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13), allowing love to cover the multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8) and then when a leader has clearly sinned (after careful evaluation and clear due process) rebuke him before all so as to warn the rest (1 Timothy 5:19-25) –expecting the cross and the Word to argue the man to confession and repentance (2 Timothy 2:25). Way too much opining (on many fronts) is happening these days and unfortunately we Christians are just as tainted with our opinion as the lost (Proverbs 16:25).

    For His glory,
    Christian Markle

  11. tjp says:

    DON: I posted an unfinished response to Jim (#15) that I thought was finished. Here is the complete post. I’d appreciate your removing #15 and putting this one in its place.

    Thanks

    tjp
    _________________

    Jim: [How does a professor going to J-Mac’s school or Northwestern make Central leaning towards C/E?]

    tjp: Only in a general sort of way. But it does strike me as odd that faculty at Central would feel just as comfortable, if not more so, at J-Mac’s. But this general feeling is not exclusive to me. If I recall correctly, a number of separatists had expressed similar sentiments in their reviews of Douglas McLachlan’s “Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism,” a book I very much liked.

    Don’t misread me, Jim. I’m not criticizing Central. I think there needs to be some level of cooperation with CEs, and perhaps faculty leaving Central for J-Mac’s are saying the same thing. Also, I think Bauder’s continued familiarity with the GARB, not exactly a polestar of separatism, suggests Central is at least considering a broader fellowship than it has historically practiced (I’m thinking of the Clearwaters era here).

    Personally, my separatism operates more along the lines of Rice and Jones, Sr. Thus I wouldn’t necessarily object to some level of cooperation with CEs, even though I’m not a J-Mac fan or a cheerleader for the T4G gang or a promoter of the Gospel Coalition or a Dever groupie. I think they have problems worth considering.

  12. Keith says:

    Don,

    I’ve got a brown paper bag you can breath into for a few minutes to help you calm down. Does FedEx have a few dog sleds for deliveries in the Great White North? (I hope such good natured ribbing is not out of place on a site named Ox Goad).

    I think that you aren’t reading Bauder carefully. He means something specific and historical by saying that Fundametalism is only a partial preservation of historic Christian doctrine. He wrote: “Christian Fundamentalist theology is represented in the Christian theology of antiquity, but not all of the older Christian theology has been preserved in fundamentalism.” This seems like an unarguable statement of fact. It also seems like something you would embrace not contest.

    I mean, when was the last time your congregation recited the Apostle’s Creed in worship? Do your baptismal candidates renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil? Would your congregants automatically understand and agree the ancient doctrinal declaration that “Christ descended into hell”? How about “One baptism for the remission of sins”?

    These observations/statements are not meant as insults by me. And, I don’t sense that Bauder meant them as insults. It’s just a matter of fact.

    Now, what some of this historical ignorance or disdain leads to is offensive to Bauder — AS A FUNDAMENTALIST it seems to me. It’s at times amusing, at times insulting, at times annoying to me as a non-fundamentalist. But Bauder and I are concerned for different reasons.

    Not sure why you can’t see the difference. Is your branch of Christianity really above factual critique?

    Peace

    Keith

    • Now, Keith, you need to learn your geography better. Where we live it hardly ever snows. Dogsleds get very poor mileage here.

      If preserving “historic Christian doctrine” means preserving the errors of the Church Fathers, then I am quite happy to be rid of it. If on the other hand it means preserving the doctrine of the New Testament, then I think that is what we are after and that is what we are doing.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  13. Keith says:

    Well than someone can put on a toque and drive it up!

    Don, you are “begging the question” in your reply. Many would argue that, properly understood, all the items I mentioned do preserve the doctrine of the New Testament. I think you are actually reinforcing Bauder’s point. You have rid yourself of many things that generations of Christians believed to be biblical with the only explanation being — we kept the truth and abandoned the error.

    Keith

    [Note: I fixed your spelling on toque… it is an odd word that almost no one knows how to spell, even up here. We all say it though.]

  14. Don:

    He’s At it Again? Clearly!

    Thanks for raising some legitimate concerns with Bauder’s current series, which Sharper Iron (SI) is featuring. While I share the essence of your concerns I would express them a little differently, less blunt force trauma. In any event…

    Fundamentalism, just as any movement and the men that make up movements have their shortcomings. The star personalities of the “conservative” evangelical movement have their particular shortcomings just as some in Fundamentalism do. That said, Bauder published three articles this summer (a reaction to the Sweatts’ message), which SI featured and its moderators, plus Aaron Blumer, vigorously defended, when men like John Himes (Rice’s grandson) objected to elements such as…

    In the series arguably the most egregious portion was Bauder’s comparing (equating) John R. Rice, Bob Jones Jr., to Hyles and Gray, which was a colossal injustice. To date Bauder has not found it within himself to reel in those inflammatory remarks with a redux and he shows no inclination to do so.

    Then during the FBFI Annual Fellowship symposium to intended to discuss the “conservative” evangelicals Bauder dodged John Vaughn’s question (on the ce men partly drawn from Dr. Masters’s article, The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness) to instead besmirch BJU over their inviting conservative politicians to address the student body during election cycles. Plus Bauder put Dr. Minnick in the hot-seat asking and pressing him twice to comment on the BJU administration’s decision to host these political figures. This was bad!

    As far as I can tell from the pulse out there, Bauder’s SI blog series, which targeted J.R. Rice and Jones, Jr. followed by his unwarranted criticism of BJU during the FBFI symposium, turned him (Bauder) into a polarizing figure and a lightning rod for controversy.

    FWIW, there are men in the IFB camp who now consider Bauder a Trojan horse in Fundamentalism on behalf of “conservative” evangelicalism. I’m not of that opinion yet, but after the events of this past summer a growing number are coming to that opinion.

    What transpired this summer pretty much settled things in regard to Bauder. What confidence in him as a leader or a conduit for helpful discussion to heal rifts in IFB circles can men have when he (Bauder) polarizes the discussion and factions as he has?

    LM

  15. Keith says:

    Yeah polarizing discussions and factions is something we just can’t have. Jones, Rice, and friends never did anything like that.

    Keith

  16. Keith:

    Men from our IFB heritage had their moments and no one I am aware of would claim perfection for any of them.

    Bauder’s hostility toward those men and their ministries, his besmirching BJU at the FBFI was wrong!

    Bauder has, on his own initiative, disqualified himself from any role that he might have played in healing the open fracture in IFB circles. This past summer he has in fact contributed significantly to widening that fracture. Bauder is, just as I stated, a lightning rod for controversy.

    Bauder is the friend of the conservative evangelicals. It is widely believed Bauder’s goal is to reshape fundamentalism into what the ce camp is and/or move as many young IFB men over to the ce community.

    Kind regards,

    Lou

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