cart before the horse [2]

In light of comments to the first edition of this article, I have decided to rewrite what I wrote. My original article including the comments can be found here. After reviewing my earlier article, I find that, as is often the case, I am too reactionary and too sarcastic. Hopefully this effort will prove to be at least less sarcastic.

In Kevin Bauder’s ongoing series purporting to retell the story of fundamentalism, he makes two charges against Fundamentalism, one that Fundamentalism settles for an abbreviated form of Christianity and the other that Fundamentalism is guilty of adding elements that are not necessary to Christianity.

The charges are stated thus:

On one hand, as an actual, historical movement, Fundamentalism has often tended to settle for an abbreviated form of Christianity. Though clear exceptions exist, it has often sacrificed doctrinal breadth and detail. On the other hand, Fundamentalism has also tended to add elements that are not necessary to any form of biblical Christianity. Over the next few essays, I wish to explore three of these additions: Common Sense Realism, populism, and sentimentalism.

This paragraph is the premise for the article that follows dealing with the philosophy of Scottish Common Sense Realism and the next article  which focuses on populism. We will shortly see an article about sentimentalism (presumably).

The way this premise is stated, it appears that these flaws are intrinsic to Fundamentalism. They are stated as if they are uniquely Fundamentalist problems and as if they are major stumbling blocks to Fundamentalist success.

The first charge is not the subject of the current set of essays. Its main point seems to be that Fundamentalism is a kind of minimalist philosophy that is not all that occupied with ‘doctrinal breadth and detail’. When viewed as a broad movement (Baptists and Presbyterians plus a few assorted others), there is a sense in which this is true. Fundamentalism, broadly speaking, is about contending for essentials while tolerating some divergence outside the essentials. I would suggest, however, that this is part of the strength of Fundamentalism. I would also suggest that as you narrow the subsets of Fundamentalism, you will find increasing breadth and depth. Baptists in particular are very concerned to define the church and how it operates. Within the confines of Baptist fellowship and ministry we are quite ready to be thorough in our thinking and teaching. In that sense, the charge is not true.

The second charge is the focus of the current essays, however, and is much more objectionable to me.

After having stated that Fundamentalism tends to add elements unnecessary to any form of Biblical Christianity, Bauder says:

Many Christians embraced Common Sense Realism, particularly in America. It became a powerful force in American theology before the Civil War. It was still influential in the proto-Fundamentalist milieu of the 1870s through the 1910s. Proto-Fundamentalism is the social and ecclesiastical environment out of which the Fundamentalist movement emerged around 1920.

Please note that Common Sense Realism is said to be a powerful force in American theology before the American Civil War. This is long before Fundamentalism came along. Bauder himself says that this philosophy affects more than just Fundamentalism:

Common Sense Realism is now more than two centuries old. So thoroughly did Christians accept its categories, however, that it remains influential among many evangelicals and most Fundamentalists.

In the next essay (#4 of the series), populism is addressed as an element unnecessary to any form of of Biblical Christianity. Here we find that like the supposed influence of Common Sense Realism, populism supposedly was widely assumed by American Christians across the board well before Fundamentalism ever existed.

At the time of the American Revolution, populism was widely (though not universally) assumed by American Christians. The influence of populism continued to grow during the first half of the Nineteenth Century. Under its sway, many expressions of American Christianity became anti-traditional, anti-clerical, and anti-intellectual. Branches of American evangelicalism rejected the value of creeds and confessions, of advanced study (sometimes of any specialized study), and of a trained ministry. The ideal became the individual who, without any particular theological training, read the Bible and came to his own convictions.

What is my point in laying this out? Writing on this earlier, I scoffed at the notion that Fundamentalism was adding these things to Christianity, since they were already present. It was pointed out that there is a sense in which it could be said that Fundamentalism was indeed adding these things simply by allowing them to persist when in fact they were unnecessary. Their presence is thus tantamount to an addition since the form of Christianity that includes them is not the pure form of Christianity it purports to be.

Perhaps that is what Mr. Bauder is intending by his essays. Perhaps not. He seems to be intending to say that these alleged additions are problems and he seems to be saying that in particular they are Fundamentalist problems.

At one point in essay #3 (the one on Common Sense), he says:

Fundamentalism is a great idea. In the actual development of the Fundamentalist movement, however, the idea of Fundamentalism was confounded with other ideas. One of those ideas was Scottish Common Sense Realism. To the extent that Fundamentalists were (and are) committed to defending the categories of Common Sense, they were (and are) adding something to the Faith. They are confusing their Christianity with a very recent philosophy.

In this paragraph the assertion is not just that Fundamentalism is adding an element that is unnecessary, it is that Fundamentalism is adding something to the Faith. Note the capital letter on “Faith”. That speaks to the “faith” for which we are called to contend in Jude 1.3. That Faith is the truth of the gospel embodied in the teaching of the apostles. And Fundamentalism is said to be adding this philosophy to the Faith, as if it were a bad thing, and as if it were a problem endemic to Fundamentalism.

If, however, SCSR (and populism) is a problem, and is a problem that pre-existed Fundamentalism (and continues outside Fundamentalism), then it cannot be intrinsically a problem in Fundamentalism. Instead, it is a  problem in American Christianity, not Fundamentalism per se.

It is hard to imagine someone thinking Fundamentalism is such a good idea if it is and always has been rife with such problems. How could an idea that tolerates an addition to the Faith be a good idea?

And how is this helpful to Fundamentalism if one of its current leaders makes such serious charges against it?

I readily agree that there are many problem Fundamentalists. I will even agree that I am likely one of them from time to time. But to say that Fundamentalism has tended to add unnecessary, even dangerous things to the Faith it purports to defend is to say that the essential idea of Fundamentalism is hardly as good an idea as it is cracked up to be.


I hope this new article expresses my disagreements more clearly and less sarcastically.



  1. Keith says:

    But Don, I don’t see him saying these are ONLY Fundamentalist problems. Rather, he is saying that they ARE Fundamentalist problems. The fact that a problem is shared with others (these particular problems are shared with Evangelicalism more broadly for sure), does not cause it to cease to be problematic.

    Also, any movement — not matter how good — is always rife with problems. I’d say that the fundamentalist tendency to think that there is a problem free approach to anything is part of their problem.


    • Keith, it is true that he is not saying that these are only Fundamentalist problems, but he is writing, supposedly, the “story of Fundamentalism” as if these problems are endemic to the idea. In other words, in my view, he wants to change the idea of Fundamentalism and is manufacturing these problems (so-called) as if they are the fatal flaws from the beginning. I don’t agree that the idea of Fundamentalism is flawed. I don’t agree that these problems, if they are problems, are any worse in Fundamentalism than anywhere else. And I don’t agree that they should be highlighted as a part of the Fundamentalist story as if there is something wrong with the Fundamentalist story and has been all along.

      I’m off for the rest of the day, so any further interaction will have to wait till I get back.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. Keith says:

    I think he’s saying just the opposite Don.

    I think he’s saying he likes the idea of fundamentalism and that the idea is not inherently and fataly flawed, BUT the actual historical working out of that idea picked up and too often made central certain unnecessary or harmful “additions”. Among these additions would be: Doctrinal minimalism, SCSR, and Populism.

    Abusus non tollit usus — the abuse does not abolish the use. IF, the idea of fundamentalism itself is not problematic (which is I think Bauder’s position), then abuses in the application of the idea do not abolish proper use.

    Of course, everyone is welcome to debate whether or not the idea itself is valid. They can also debate whether/when doctrinal minimalism, SCSR, and/or populism ARE abuses.


    • Well, the focus seems to be that almost everyone in Fundamentalism errs in these categories.

      From essay 4, he says:

      The result is that today virtually all churches, and certainly all institutions within Fundamentalism, have been influenced by the populist outlook.

      From essay 3, there is this:

      Therein lies one of the great ironies of the Fundamentalist movement. Common Sense is simply a slightly older form of Modernism. It is an Enlightenment philosophy that accepts all of the modern assumptions about detached, objective observers, clear and distinct foundations for knowledge, and neutral common ground as a starting point for discourse. Like nearly all evangelicals of the early Twentieth Century, most Fundamentalists were Modernists. If they objected to the Modernism of William Rainey Harper and Shailer Mathews, it was only because they wished to assert an alternative Modernism in its place.

      So you see these ideas are a blanket condemnation of the Fundamentalism that is.

      What Bauder is after is a new kind of Fundamentalism, one that eschews these errors, so-called.

      He hasn’t established to my satisfaction that these ideas are errors or that they are universally characteristic of Fundamentalism as a whole.

      But what do you think is behind these essays? Is he just ‘telling the story’ once again? Or is he pushing for change in the Fundamentalism that is? If you have been paying attention to his essays and public statements in the last couple of years, I think you have to say that he is pushing for a change. He hasn’t fully laid out what he thinks that change should be, but the hints he has offered make it something I couldn’t support.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. Keith says:

    Per the quotations you provide:

    1) They have all been “influenced” — quite different from “an essential, inherent component of the idea.”

    2) “Most” — those that swallowed SCSR — brought a big dosage of moderninsm with them into the fight against “Modernism/Liberalism.”

    I think Bauder’s made it perfectly clear that he does not believe that everyone in fundamentalism has been scandously marred by these errors. He just thinks that they are exceedingly common. So common that it is not inappropriate to say that they have become identifying marks of the movement in spite of notable exceptions.

    That said, I certainly agree with you that he is pushing for a change to the status quo. He doesn’t think that these particular influences/traits of actual/historical fundamentalism (as opposed to the idea/concept of fundamentalism) are completely necessary or helpful to the idea.

    Nevertheless, pushing for change or refinement in actual practice is not the same as oposing the entirety of an idea/concept/movement.

    I don’t have time to offer persuasion that he is correct about these things characterizing fundamentalism, but I think there is an abundance of evidence out there to support his claims.

    What exactly about his hints could you not support?


    • My first disagreement with this is on points of substance. I don’t agree that Fundamentalism is a form of Modernism, or adopted a form of Modernism in order to fight liberalism. I don’t agree that populism as Bauder appears to mean it within Fundamentalism is a bad thing. I don’t agree with his elitism.

      I am much more in favour of the status quo – or perhaps the status quo of twenty years ago.

      I think the notion of submitting to elites as our guiding stars is every bit as egocentric and dictatorial as he claims fundamentalism has always been. He criticises a caricature he calls “Doc”. I submit that he just wants to be the new “Doc”.

      I think that he is waffling on the influence and errors of conservative evangelicalism and wants to embrace a change that will allow greater cooperation between fundies and c-e people than is scripturally warranted.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. Don:

    You wrote, “I think that he is waffling on the influence and errors of conservative evangelicalism and wants to embrace a change that will allow greater cooperation between fundies and c-e people than is scripturally warranted.”

    It is IMO this is irrefutable, based on an abundance of evidence, that Bauder is eager to formalize ties and fellowship with the “conservative” evangelicals and encourage other IFB men to move in that direction.

    Sharper Iron (SI) has been his willing medium and participant to disseminate this agenda. From its inception SI has and continues to aggressively promote the star personalities and fellowships of the ce camp.

    It is obvious that some men in IFB circles will tolerate and/or ignore the obvious doctrinal concerns and worldliness in methods of ministry that is rife in the ce camp. These same IFB men would never allow for or tolerate these doctrines and practices in their own ministries, but for their desire close ranks with the ce men they will look past those things in the ce camp.

    As I noted in your previous thread on this subject:
    …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 am not (convinced) of that yet, but after the events of this past summer a growing number are coming to that opinion.”


  5. Don, you say that you do not agree with Bauder’s elitism. What elitism would that be? Please explain.

    • Hi Brent

      Thanks for the question. Some of Bauder’s comments on populism seem to indicate that the people shouldn’t be trusted with making theological decisions. I infer from that a weakening of the ideas of congregational government as others have also suggested (see comments on SI). I also disagree with Bauder’s views on music, his dismissal of the music of revivalism and so on. He seems to put too much emphasis on experts here also. And the earlier article saying Fundamentalism has no appreciation of historical Christianity seems also to tend towards a ‘trust the experts’ mentality.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. Brent:

    I can provide you with an example of Bauder’s elitism.

    It is from an article he did at SI and I addressed it at SI and from my own blog. The links to the old SI are disabled so you’ll need to read it at my article titled,

    Kevin Bauder: Theological Pedigree to Gain a Hearing


    • The SI discussion can be found here.

      A thread Lou started on SI separate from that discussion can be found here.

      The original article can be found here.

      I haven’t read through all the discussion again, I did read it the first time it came through. Personally, I don’t find the original article quite as objectionable as Lou does. While it isn’t absolutely necessary to have a graduate degree to be pastor or a leader among pastors, it certainly is helpful and advisable if you have the time and opportunity to get one.

      In general, I don’t think the original article is an example of the elitism I spoke of earlier.


      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  7. Don and Lou, thanks for responding.

    Don, it is not clear how you get from populism to congregational polity, which leads me to wonder how you understand “populism.” Regardless, your apparent inferences that Dr. Bauder does not trust believers in the church to make decisions in the church and that he is weakening on congregational polity do not match what I have personally heard him teach on those exact topics. But you need not take my word for it. Ask him.

    More generally, I think that you are reading too much into his writing. Where does he indicate that the rest of us should just “trust the experts,” as if we should just mindlessly fall in line? Now, does he believe that education and expertise are important? Of course. (I expect that you do, too.) But how is that elitism?

    Lou, a particular hurdle with the cited article is its clear and definite opening, “Let me talk to all you younger guys out there. I’m on your side—I agree that younger leaders have something to contribute and should be heard. I don’t think that they should have to wait until they’re forty to get people to listen to them.” That does not fit your point.

    Further, I am not so much looking for an example, which by itself may be susceptible to multiple interpretations, but rather for an explanation. I want to understand the chain of reasoning from particular statements to the final conclusion, “Therefore, Bauder is an elitist.”


  8. Keith says:


    Yes elitism is a terrible, terrible thing. It is awful for an academic to have a photo wearing academic regalia. It is unforgivable for an educated man speaking to other educated men to use a large vocabulary.

    I mean, some guys write books that they sell on their own webpages and then mention it regularly. Some drop it into comments that they’ve spoken in Bible College chapel services. Some have the temerity to commend a guy like G. Campbel Morgan who wears a clerical collar in his wikipedia photo! And some even go as far as to wear SUITS — like rich business men and famous preachers from history. Such elitism poses a serious threat to the one true stream of historic Independent Baptist Fundamentalism which flows all the way back to the New Testament.

    O.K. I’ll put the oxgoad away now.

    You guys just crack me up. You aren’t really against elitism, you’re just against any type of elitism different from your own.

    For what it’s worth, I think your type dominates fundamentalism (due to the underlying populism of the movement), and I have no idea why a guy like Bauder bothers to try and win the name from you to his type. I’d let you have it and move on to a new name/group.

    Oh well, I must just have my own form of elitism that blinds me.

    Adios, ouer revoir, auviderzein (using foreign words like this is NOT elitist for two reasons: 1) I doubt I’ve spelled them correctly, and 2) I learned them from Lawrence Welk in my granparents’ working class neighborhood)


  9. Keith says:

    And Don,

    Can you explain your simultaneous aversion to elitism and enthusiastic defence of Bob Jones Jr? Why was his elitism (coulda been a professional shakespearean, bought and displayed a vast collection of baroque art, brought opera into fundamentalism, drove Mercedes, etc.) ok?

    Don’t get me wrong. The things I’ve mentioned are, I think, commendable (except for the Mercedes maybe). I’m all for them. But . . . they are elitist.


  10. First to keith… I don’t quite follow you. Most of the things you are citing don’t smack of elitism to me.

    But I think you are not speaking seriously.

    To Brent

    I am not the only one who made a connection between the essay on populism and the idea of congregational government. Perhaps he views things differently, but he certainly seems suspicious of allowing the people to have their say in that essay.

    Some of my views of his position are related to past discussions and lectures I have listened to. To find specific citations would be more than I am interested in pursuing.

    In any case, I think it is quite clear he wants to change fundamentalism. I agree with him at some points, but in the main I think he wants to move fundamentalism in the wrong direction.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  11. Don, you are ducking. The issue is not what others said elsewhere but what you said here. If you do not care to explain, that is your choice, of course, but then it looks as if you are just name-calling.

    That goes to a key aspect of my concern. Too often the terms “elitism” or “elitist” are lobbed into a discussion without adequate understanding or explanation. The result can be, in effect, a slur (like other -isms and -ists that we could name). I am not saying that they are always intended as such, and let me be clear, I am not saying that this is what you intended. However, without explanation and justification, how can the result be otherwise?

    I do not want to come across as faulting you for having a concern or disagreeing. If you think Dr. Bauder wants to move fundamentalism in the wrong direction, then by all means warn him and other fundamentalists. Understand his terms, interact with his ideas, show where he goes astray, identify where we should all be going instead, and explain why this is so. This all requires careful analysis and explanation, not just conclusory statements.


    • Maybe I am ducking at this time, Brent. I don’t have time right now to search through my own posts on this site. I suggest that you click on the category Bauder and read some of my other articles related to Kevin’s public pronouncements. My discomfort and displeasure with his previous statements is readily available.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  12. Keith says:


    I am speaking with a less than formal/elitist accent. Nevertheless, I do mean what I say. In fact, when you say, “Most of the things you are citing don’t smack of elitism to me,” you make my point.

    You and Lou don’t think that suits are elitist, but plenty of people do find them elitist (who wears a suit at the factory? It ain’t Joe lunchbox). Apparently, Bauder doesn’t think it’s elitist for a seminary president to wear academic regalia, but you do. Who gets to decide in the fundamentalist world? Do you take a vote? Is the majority always right (truth by counting noses)? Is recognition of study, discernment, and wisdom irrelevant?

    And seriously, you’ve never heard BJU accused of elitism for all the Shakespeare, Classical Music, Expensive art collection (with nekkid pictures in it), etc? Again, I think those things are commendable. Perhaps they are elitist. If so, then there’s nothing wrong with elitism in my opinion. However, for those with a bone to pick re elitism — you got some ‘splainin to do.

    Anyway, enough from me.



    • Keith, what are you talking about? Where have I said anything about suits? Where have I said anything about academic regalia? If you are referring to Lou’s post, you will note, please, that I did not agree with his view of the article in question. If he said anything about suits and regalia in his own writing, that is his business, not mine. I provided links to the threads and articles he mentioned so any reader can see the context. That shouldn’t be considered agreement with content at all.

      Yes, I have heard BJU accused of elitism for those things. I said that I don’t find them elitist.

      To me, elitist is when you insist that the common people can’t be trusted and the elites need to tell you what to believe. That has nothing to do with what kind of car you drive, whether you where a suit at all times (or any time), or whatever.

      Please be serious in this discussion or I’ll quit approving your posts altogether. If you are just going to mock, you don’t advance any discussion. If you are just going to make assumptions or put words in my mouth, you aren’t helping the discussion either.

      And as far as the ‘nekkid pictures’, my understanding is that the Art Gallery has deliberately covered over parts of paintings in question. So, please, let’s be accurate when we speak, even on minor details like that.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  13. Keith says:


    Sorry for lumping you together with Lou regarding the regalia/suit issue. I see that in my post above I did do that inappropriately. You had made it clear that tar baby wasn’t yours.

    However, said lumping is the only thing I can see that I did wrong.

    You did say, in regards to BJUs cultural practices, “Most of the things you are citing don’t smack of elitism to me.” And, that was really the part of the discussion I was trying to advance — these things don’t smack of elitism to you, but they do to some, so who gets to decide?

    Furthermore, you haven’t really even established why elitism should be considered a bad thing. According to The definition you just offered, “The common people can’t be trusted and the elites need to tell you what to believe,” I would oppose elitism, and I bet Bauder would too. Experts are not always right and no one should just passively accept whatever the elites tell them.

    However, in a covenantal community where there has been trust established, surely it should not be too difficult to determine that some people are better qualified to serve as wise counsel on some issues. When I need help planning my finances, I don’t go to the guy whose family is in credit card debt over their heads. When I need help with the brown patch in my lawn, I don’t go to the guy who paved over his. So why is it that when I need help understanding the Scriptures or Christian history and practice, all of a sudden everyone is on equal footing?

    There are two different reasons for which someone could support democracy and/or congregational church government — (1) because “the common people” are so wise and good, or (2) because no one is wise and good and so there need to be checks and ballances. Of these two reasons, only the second is Christian.

    The Bible uses the metaphor of “the body” to speak of the Church. Not everyone has the same role. Is that elitist.


    • Hi Keith,

      I get to decide, of course!

      Seriously, the accoutrements of fine art, clothing, cars, etc are not elitist. They are individual choices. Elitism is an attitude of the heart.

      e·lit·ism or é·lit·ism n.

      1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.
      1. The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class.
      2. Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.

      e·lit’ist adj. & n.
      The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
      Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
      Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

      The concept of the Christian church is that every member of the body is filled with the Holy Spirit and is entrusted with the decision making process of the local church (while delegating certain individuals with day to day administrative and spiritual leadership responsibilities).

      In the 4th essay, Bauder said:

      People like to pride themselves upon being able to make their own choices and develop their own opinions. The fact is, though, that not everyone is equally qualified to make every choice or to hold every opinion. When unqualified people are asked to develop opinions and to make choices, they invariably look for leadership—often, the kind of leadership that will lead them to believe that they are acting on their own, while manipulating or stampeding them into doing its will. That kind of demagoguery has come to typify some branches of Fundamentalism.

      This paragraph, while not fully developing its ideas, does lend itself to the view that the common people can’t be trusted. It is the key part of the essay which gives rise to questions about elitism and strength of support for congregational rule.

      Your examples of consulting experts aren’t necessarily elitist. If your expert explained how to green up your lawn, and you questioned his reasoning or sought clarification of his explanation, and he huffed, “I’m the expert, just trust me” — that would be elitism. An attitude of superiority and condescension…

      The reason to support congregational government is because it was the New Testament practice. There is no other reason.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3