the brandenberger reports on ETS

Kent Brandenburg has a commenter who frequently addresses him as Pastor Brandenberger, so I hope Kent will forgive my liberties with his name.

I commend to you his recent series of blogs reporting on goings on at the ETS. Very interesting. You might not agree with everything Kent says about it (I don’t disagree with much, if any of it), but if you are interested in the issues we usually address in this space, you will find Kent’s reports quite interesting. Here are the links:

My Field Trip to the Evangelical Theological Society Meeting part one

My Field Trip to the Evangelical Theological Society Meeting part two

My Field Trip to the Evangelical Theological Society Meeting part three

My Field Trip to the Evangelical Theological Society Meeting part four

My Field Trip to the Evangelical Theological Society Meeting part five

My Field Trip to the Evangelical Theological Society Meeting part six



  1. Thanks for posting links to all of Kent’s series on and from ETS. There was much I agreed with as well and a great deal that reconfirms the grave concerns we have with the new direction certain men, who still circulate in fundamental Baptist circles, are headed.

    Just one of the disconcerting reports from Kent was this from Part 4,

    As I walked around, I found some of the exhibits very curious. There was the Seventh Day Adventist exhibit.

    7th Day Adventists, deadly enemies of the gospel and the cross of Christ, were official and approved vendors at the ETS conference. Kent reported on Kevin Bauder and Andy Naselli who were active participants in a scheduled session with Al Mohler. Jeff Straub was a spectator.

    Troubling enough that Kevin Bauder and Andy Naselli willingly appeared in joint ministry alongside an unrepentant ecumenical, Al Mohler. Add to that Bauder/Naselli and Jeff Straub knowingly participated in a conference that featured and promoted (7th Day Adventism) a true heresy of the first order.

    One can only wonder where this slide away from authentic biblical separation is going to end for men who claim fidelity to the whole counsel of God.


    • Lou, I don’t think being a spectator is a problem. Kent was a spectator too.

      However, I have long argued against participation in ETS. Those fundamentalists who do participate claim it is not an ecclesiastical effort. I can’t do the mental gymnastics to come to that conclusion.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. Don:

    I am on the road so I will have to respond in sections as I am able. For now, I can concede the “spectator” issue. Kent was careful to point out he was there essentially as a spectator. Bauder and Naselli are a completely different case.

    As for the “mental gymnastics,” that heavy lifting was done two years ago by Dave Doran. He did an article at his blog on separation in academic contexts. I produced a major review and commentary on what was a new paradigm shift that has lead some away from separation for the sake of a pure church. From here I can’t do the hyper-link, but in my top picks from the archives is the article on separation in academic contexts.

    It is from this new way of doing separation that some men can now open their college/seminary doors to compromised men in evangelicalism. It is how Bauder justifies a joint ministry with Mohler at ETS. It is how Bauder, Doran and Jordan justify Mark Dever at Lansdale, of course forgetting that the seminary was founded as and remains a ministry of that local church. It is how Haddon Robinson is invited to Lansdale. And how NIU exposes young, impressionable students to a growing list of non-separatist, compromising evangelicals.

    More later?


  3. I see it as an Agora that you can go to and argue for your position, provided you have the academic credentials to participate. The problem with ETS is not that it is a non-fundamentalist gathering, it’s that they don’t enforce their doctrinal statement. I don’t think that compromises those who participate as much as it vitiates the boundaries in which those discussions are supposed to take place. If you have Roman Catholics, 7th Day Adventists, and open theists, then how have they limited the participation from what happens at, say, SBL (Society of Biblical Literature)? SBL is also an agora, just one that lets more people into the marketplace of ideas. Anyway, that is my perspective. FWIW. I regret not going when ETS was in Atlanta last year.

    I, too, would like to know what Dr. Brown’s take on 1 Cor 11 is.

  4. d4v34x says:

    I found Bro. B.’s (see what I did there?) reports fascinating as well.

    The biggest surprise to me was the Catholic presenter, but dissidens and Scott A. were probably unavailable. :^)

    The seemingly incongrous element of Brandenburg’s (and Trueman’s, to an extent) critique of evangelicalism is the degree to which we rely on their products to facilitate our ministry. Even Bro. B. says its worth going just to get the discount on the books. Those books likely don’t happen if the $$ aren’t there.

  5. Hi everyone,

    I have thought through what “fellowship” is and am convinced it isn’t being with people, but working together with them. With that clear in my mind, I went. As to whether Kevin Bauder should have been there, I thought it would be fine for him to go if he repudiated evangelicalism, because that would have been reproving a work of darkness. I’m interested on everyone’s take on that, however.


    I’m open to critique on looking for a deal on their books. If we give money to the books, are we perpetuating evangelicalism? I have to answer the same question when I buy Pensacola curriculum. I don’t think buying the book is fellowship. I believe love rejoices in the truth for whoever says it. We can be what we read, so we need to be choosy.

    • Right off the top I have to agree with Kent on fellowship. He’s absolutely right. In this particular case, I don’t have a problem with KTB participating in this discussion with Mohler et al. It was an opportunity to promote separatism. I can’t comment whether I think he did a particularly good job of it, all I have so far is Kent’s report. I think Kent did a good job reporting, but given the nature of the case it is inevitable that some ‘scribal errors’ may have crept in to his reports. It would really be nice if you could get audio for just that one session, sure wouldn’t want the whole conference.

      Now for some specifics to the other guys:

      @d4 dave

      I think you have a play on words in that first line that I am not getting. I’m a little slow, I guess, but did I mention I’m a grandpa now? (And she’s arriving here in three weeks!!!! woohoo!!)

      I think this business of books and money is complicated. I’m not against capitalism, I’m a big fan. But I suspect that a good deal of the lust for ‘scholarship’ has a lot to do with the money angle (and the power/influence angle), although you would never get folks to admit that. On the other hand, there is a lot of good thinking going on in the world and I am quite happy to pay for it … up to a point. I don’t have a problem using evangelical or secular books in my study. And I am glad there is a good enough market for the ideas of many so that we can find the books they produce and buy them.

      @ Andy

      If the ETS were a true agora, there would be no doctrinal statement and no attempts at discipline. But I’ve pounded away on this before so I’ll leave it alone for now.

      @ Lou

      Why do you have to bring DMD into this conversation? He wasn’t there, he’s not part of the mix at all. Why do you continue to put words in his mouth concerning his participation at Lansdale? He has clearly stated he was not making the academic liberty argument for Lansdale, yet you insist on bringing it up again and again. Why are you mentioning Lansdale? This thread isn’t about Lansdale.

      I posted your most recent comment simply to give this answer. I won’t publish future comments if you continue on this line. Please stay on topic.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. Kent:

    You wrote, “ As to whether Kevin Bauder should have been there, I thought it would be fine for him to go if he repudiated evangelicalism, because that would have been reproving a work of darkness. I’m interested on everyone’s take on that, however.

    Relying on your first had account it appears Kevin Bauder not only did not repudiate any of the disconcerting issues in evangelicalism, he barely gave a defense of biblical separation, which he is supposed to be representative of.

    An opportunity was lost to reprove certain dark aspects of evangelicalism. However, what IMO is worse is that the room must have had a vast majority of non-separatists in attendance who needed to hear a call for obedience to God’s mandates for separation and not receiving it from one who claims to stand for biblical separation is quite tragic.


  7. So, assuming that participation in a wide-open agora is OK. What would be wrong with participation in one that is self-limiting — only those who meet certain academic and theological requirements? It’s just a subset of the whole agora.

    I don’t think the ETS leadership has done a very good job of limiting the discussion to only those who believe in inerrancy, though. I don’t see how you can deny an historical Adam and literal fall and still sign the ETS doctrinal statement, as broad as that statement is. It all goes back to back to not knowing what an evangelical is.

    Anyway, I don’t see the discipline fights within ETS as engaging in classical separation but in trying to maintain the parameters of their self-limiting agora. It’s saying in this room of the agora, only those who believe in inerrancy and the trinity may participate. Those who set up the room that way are naturally not going to like it if their rules have been violated.

    In the end I think the question hinges on what is fellowship and does ETS membership/participation imply partnership in ministry. There are plenty of things that cause me consternation regarding the current state of affairs within fundamentalism…this just isn’t one of them.

    • @ Andy

      Interesting points. Well, let’s stipulate that it is legitimate for Christians to belong to self-limiting groups in the agora, at least to some extent. For example, when I was a Realtor I was a member of the local board and attended board functions and participated in board activities. Membership was limited to those with valid licenses. I think we can allow for that kind of activity. (But what about the bartender’s association?)

      On the other hand, we have a local ministerial committee, in our area it is all evangelical guys, I don’t think there are out and out liberals involved or the Catholics. Typically in fundamentalism we have frowned on these types of associations. Could we compare ETS to the ministerial association? To my mind, once the association is for a religious purpose it has meaning to which the doctrine of separation needs to be applied. There is a cooperative effort to produce something (JETS) and a linking of one’s name and support as such in participation with that effort. That’s where it gets dicey for me.

      There are things that cause me more consternation than this one thing, but it does seem to create links and associations that ultimately leads to a weakening of the fundamentalist stand of the participants. While there are some good things produced by the ETS, it is mostly chaff, very little wheat.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  8. d4v34x says:

    Hi Bro. B.,

    I’m not critiquing you for buying evangelical or fundamentalist materials. I affirm we need some of these materials for ministry. It’s just that the $ you say evangelicalism is about helps fund the work that produces the resources. Because Carson has access to funding for a research assistant he is able to provide more in the way of resources. We may have fewer truthful resources to rejoice in without the $ going were they go.

    As for my Bro. B. thing/comment to Don, I was just showing off my (hopefully respectful) solution to not having to type out Pastor Brandenburg every time I address him.

  9. d4v34x says:

    And I totally missed the BrandenbergER thing up top.

    Ha on me.

  10. Larry says:

    Those fundamentalists who do participate claim it is not an ecclesiastical effort. I can’t do the mental gymnastics to come to that conclusion.

    Assuming that by “ecclesiastical” we mean something like the NT use of the word (church), how is an academic conference with two criteria for membership ecclesiastical? It does not claim to be an ekklesia. It bears no marks of an ekklesia. It does nothing that an ekklesia does. It has no elders and deacons, no preaching, no baptism, no communion, no discipline (obviously, since they can’t even get rid of people). It’s not even a fellowship of churches, or people representing churches. They share no common commitments to do anything that resembles the mission of the church.

    So how is this ecclesiastical?

    To me the mental gymnastics required is the ability to argue that this is somehow a church.

    • Hi Larry

      Interesting. Is a Ministerial Association ecclesiastical or not ecclesiastical? It is an association of individuals as far as I know. Ministers are not bound to participate simply because their predecessor at their church participated. There is no (or little) disciplinary process that I know of.

      As for this:

      They share no common commitments to do anything that resembles the mission of the church.

      Isn’t teaching what the Scripture means part of the disciple-making command of the Great Commission? Which was issued to ??? the church, right? And is encapsulated in the mission of the church expressed in Eph 4.11-13, right?

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  11. Larry says:

    To the first point, a ministerial association is generally made up of “ministers” are they not? And those ministers represent churches, do they not? I have never been a part of one, so I don’t know much about them. But I think they are pretty closely tied to local churches.

    But ETS is not a ministerial association.

    To the second point, teaching the Scriptures is part of the disciplemaking mandate, but nowhere does the Bible limit the teaching of Scripture to the church. In the NT it was done individually (e.g., one on one as in Paul with Timothy), small groups (e.g., two on one as in Priscilla and Aquila with Apollos), families, etc. None of those teaching opportunities/examples make teaching alone a church. A church is not one thing. It is a composite of things.

    If your point had been merely “separation,” then you could have tried to sustain it, though I don’t think with much success given the nature of ETS. ETS is about theological discussions within certain parameters. There is nothing about biblical separation that I know of that forbids theological discussions within certain parameters.

    But once you labeled “ecclesiastical separation,” I don’t think you have any defense of it with respect to ETS because there is nothing “ecclesiastical” about ETS so far as I know.

    • Larry, you’re shifting the terms of debate.

      You said:

      But ETS is not a ministerial association.

      Well, duh!

      But my point was to compare the ETS to a ministerial association since you were making the point that there are other organizations that Christians belong to that don’t bear the marks of a church but where principles of separation have long been considered to apply.

      And I will stipulate that though the ETS is not simply a group of ministers, it is a group of churchmen.

      Your argument against the second point is nonsense. The ETS functions as a support for the church as a whole in its ministry. If it doesn’t do that, then all the more reason fundamentalists shouldn’t participate. If it isn’t a supportive organization for the church in its work, then it is a waste of time and energy and is more about ego-stroking than anything else. (And it IS a LOT about ego-stroking.)

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  12. Larry says:

    A quick response here …

    1. I am not changing terms. You are the one who used “ecclesiastical,” not me. I was simply pointing out that ecclesiastical means “church.” ETS is not church, so whatever our response might be, it has nothing to do with “ecclesiastical separation.” A ministerial association is, I believe, made up of pastors representing their churches. That seems a very clear difference to me.

    I think your approach really devalues the centrality of the local church by expanding its definition. As I said, if you had simply said “separation” then I think you have somewhat of an argument, though even then I think it would be very difficult to sustain in a serious way given the nature of ETS and the interaction there.

    2. The ETS may function as support, but so what? A lot of things support the church. I am not sure how that is relevant in the least. To be a member of ETS you must subscribe to inerrancy and the trinity. Beyond that, there are no doctrinal requirements. That clearly defines its purpose and clearly distinguishes from a church. That may be problemmatic for you (it is low), but that’s their requirements.

    To me, I wonder if fundamentalists should not be more involved, not less. After all, where there is a conversation about theology, should not fundamentalists be speaking up, speaking to the people who may be in error?

    So I think you have a complete misunderstanding of ETS (or I do). But where theology is being discussed, we ought to try to have a voice of some sort. The requirements are a low bar, which means that there is very little being affirmed simply by showing up. And showing up (either as a participant or spectator) is no sponsorship or agreement with anyone else. In fact, one of the point is to create or express dissension. Which is a good thing, given some of the stuff that is being said.

    • Well, whatever. We disagree. Nothing new.

      I can’t imagine why it would be necessary or even desirable for fundamentalists to be involved in the ETS. There are clearly some quite unorthodox people involved and that kind of networking, even if I were to concede that it is not ‘ecclesiastical’ (which I don’t), we have seen how ‘evil communications corrupt good morals’ over and over again as men fellowship outside the ‘bounds’ of fundamentalism. Gradually their separatism weakens because of their friendships and entanglements with less orthodox people. Why do we think that continued or increased involvement in ETS or any other similar venues will produce different results?

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  13. Hmm. Biblically, ETS doesn’t exist, right? But we can plug it in by saying it supports the church in its teaching ministry. So therefore, it is something that has been put together to help the church. That’s why this Brandenberger guy :) found books there that he wanted to own. Presumably, those books will help him in his teaching. So — a support mechanism to aid the church.

    I don’t see mission boards, Bible schools, Christian schools (elementary & high school), or seminaries in the Bible. Not there anywhere.

    But we can plug them in by saying they support the church in its tasks.

    So, if ecclesiastical separation doesn’t apply to ETS, why does it apply to schools and/or mission boards? If we’re talking para-church groups that are supposed to aid the church, why is one different from another?

    If someone wants to argue that separation should be applied differently to different types of organisations, I’m all ears. But to say it shouldn’t apply at all seems pretty dubious.

  14. Brian Ernsberger says:

    With these self-professed fundamentalists attending ETS (Dr. Bauder to defend his chapter in the book) and Dr. Straub as an observer, and Larry bringing up the idea that fundamentalists should be out there in the theological debate articulating the truth; it begs the questions, why is there not a FTS (Fundamental Theological Society)?
    I know that this is moving off subject a bit, so I ask for your indulgence, Don. Personally, like you have already noted, the influence of wrong hurts any efforts by those who hold the truth to seek to engage in these venues.

    • Well, I don’t protest about attendance, it’s the participation that bothers me.

      However, there is a sort of Fundamental Theological Society. The guys from BJU, Detroit, Central, Maranatha, et al, get together annually and present papers and such. I think it was Dr Bob’s idea. What do they call it? Faculty Summit? Something like that. Of course it doesn’t get the press that ETS does and nobody offers books for half off. I suppose it is useful in some ways, but I’m not sure what is accomplished long term from it.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  15. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Don, am aware of that and the AACCS as well, though they may be one in the same. But those are strictly academic and from what I know about ETS, it is not, so we are back to where I started with the question.

  16. Keith says:

    So, we can’t be sure if anything good is accomplished through theological societies or summits, but somehow we can be certain that bad things happen.

    Curious how that epistemic certainity waxes and wanes.

  17. Keith says:

    As to the dread, oh the horror, of 7th Day Adventists hanging out with Evangelicals . . . Why is it that fundamentalists didn’t mind hanging out with Adventists back in the day in order to be influenced by and the Adventists’ flood geology theory in support of a young earth? And why don’t fundamentalists today mind propogating that adventist view more widely than anyone ever?

    I’m no Adventist — I don’t even buy their flood geology stuff — but why do those who share so much in common act horrified that Evangelicals are hanging out with them?

    • @ Keith,

      I’ll just let your posts stand. I don’t agree, think you are deliberately misunderstanding my views, but I don’t have time or interest in going at it with you.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  18. Hi everyone again,

    I’ve been thinking about this again and talked to someone on the phone. I may not have given enough of a disclaimer to attending ETS. I would call myself an observer. In my last post, I said that it could be help to go. And it could. That was true. But it could also be a big hurt to go and overall it hurts, I believe, to try to be woven into the ETS. So I’m planning on writing one more, sort of a postscript, that will put a major disclaimer on it. I actually don’t want to encourage people to go and if they do, they should see it as enemy territory. I don’t think anyone suspected that I was chummy, but I still want to be clear.

    I am helped by their books. That’s an honest call. I really don’t think we need ETS for books. But that’s where the money comes in again. Money is connected to the organization, so that people can earn a living at doing this. I’m happy that someone can make some money, but it’s a major explanation, I think, for nothing about separation. But these organizations are how they’ve chosen to accomplish the book production, and so if we want to read them, right now that’s who we’re buying them from.

    By the way, Brian, without attempting to be silly, we’ve got our ETS, the church. Our church is an ETS. Hopefully every church can be an ETS.

  19. Brian Ernsberger says:

    To Kent, yes, this is true. Our TS is our local assembly and was thinking of this as I was writing that last comment. I would say this is more true of those of us who are independent Baptist and articulate the B-A-P-T-I-S-T acrostic. With our Bible for all faith and practice, Priesthood of every believer and our independence, our looking for theology tends to remain rather localized.

  20. Larry says:

    Thanks Don. As always, I am fine with disagreement. I was going to make this my last but I see a few others have responded to me, so with your permission I will respond to them.

    To the ecclesiastical point, if we use biblical ideas of ekklesia, then I still can’t see anyway to call ETS ecclesiastical. That is just beyond me. IMO, we can only call it “ecclesiastical” if we don’t use anything resembling a biblical definition. And my concern at this point is to maintain a proper view of the church and not confuse it with the parachurch groups.

    I think participation is desirable, or at least acceptable, because ETS is a place where truth is being discussed and at times being attacked. Why would lovers of truth not want to be in the battle? How can we just sit back and say nothing? Say what you want about Bauder and his supposed compromise, but at least he is willing to be in the battle and make his distinctions well known. Take Kent for example. Because he was there, he was able to ask a question that pointed the conversation in a particular way, perhaps bringing something up that would not have otherwise been brought up. In other words, his presence brought something he considers positive (and you probably consider it positive as well).

    I also think participation is desirable, or at least acceptable, because we are to be students of the word, and the fact is that much worthy theology is taught and learned at ETS. Why would lovers of the truth not want to learn more? How can we just sit back and be content? If we acknowledge that these guys know what they are talking about (and if one doesn’t acknowledge this then there is clearly a problem), why not learn from them? Maybe many of the theological problems in fundamentalism would be helped by a good dose of learning.

    As for people, sure there are unorthodox people. But that is true of fundamentalism, and often the unorthodoxy is far worse. I doubt that ETS has people who compromise bibliology like fundamentalism does. But this sounds like an old refrain that if we get to know these people we will find out that they are just real people who love God and differ with us on some issues, and then we won’t be able to attack them and call them names. (I am not at all saying that is your point, intent, or concern. But I think it is true of others.) It is much easier to criticize, even harshly, someone we don’t know.

  21. Larry says:

    Jon, I wonder if you were addressing me with your comments when you said “Biblically ETS doesn’t exist, right?” I didn’t say that at all. ETS’s existence has nothing to do with being biblical. It is reality. It exists.

    My point is that ETS is not a church, and therefore the designation “ecclesiastical separation” does not apply. You might have missed where I said if Don had left off the “ecclesiastical” designation, he could have made a case. Admittedly, I think it would be weak because of the nature of ETS, but it could at least be made.

    I don’t think ecclesiastical separation applies to schools or missions boards either for the exact same reason … they aren’t biblical ekklesias.

    Should we separate from some of them? Sure. But let’s not call it ecclesiastical unless it involves an ekklesia.

    Strangely enough though I find Kent’s disclaimer humorous (since I can’t imagine any read who would think that Kent was the least bit sympathetic to ETS), he is right on the fact that churches should be theological societies.

    So my heart is to return to the point that the pillar and ground of the truth is the church, not a ministerial association, a school, a movement, a society, or even a family.

    If you are going to use “ecclesiastical,” then use it about a church.

    I think what no one here is talking about is what is the nature of professional organizations, which is what ETS actually is, IMO. Christian doctors belong to doctor’s groups, businessmen to businessmen’s groups, etc. How is this different because the topic is different? I don’t get that. To be at ETS, the only thing it requires is inerrancy and trinitarianism. So it doesn’t really make any other statement of agreement. In fact, it is widely presumed that there will be disagreement. It is expected.

    Why should not fundamentalists be a part of that?

    • Larry, have you ever heard of straining at gnats? Sheesh!

      I think part of the problem is that you may agree more with Kent on ecclesiology than with me. Of course, I agree with the apostles, so …

      In any case, I find the basic premise of ETS a bit ridiculous anyway. I think your last question is put the wrong way. Why would we want to be a part of that? It’s mostly a waste of time. But it is also one of the ways that fundamentalism is breaking down.

      However, I think I’ve beat that horse enough.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  22. Thanks, Larry. I was addressing the general idea that ecclesiastical separation doesn’t apply. As far as I know, you aren’t the only advocate of that view :).

    I don’t care whether we call it ecclesiastical separation or ministry separation or whatever. From a Biblical standpoint, all parachurch organisations are in the same bucket, to an extent. They aren’t defined Biblically, they aren’t churches, but (from my theological viewpoint, anyway, and I suspect you’d agree) they have validity as an aid to the church. As such, if they are functioning as an arm of the church or an aid to the church, the same principles of separation apply.

    We can talk about “ecclesiastical separation”, but that term isn’t in the Bible. There are, we might say, principles of purity and vigilance / leadership which are expressed in separation. When applied to the church, we call it “ecclesiastical separation”.

    I can’t see any reason for excluding any ministry that purports to be an aid to the church from those principles. I am open to discussion as to whether those principles result in different decisions for “para-ecclesiastical separation” compared to “ecclesiastical separation”. I can’t see any reason to say the principles don’t apply. I’m not sure I see those who partake in ETS wrestling with that question, or enunciating why the principles apply in different ways.

    It’s not enough to say, “It’s not a church,” because then you would throw separation out the window for other “not a church” organisations.

    As to your penultimate paragraph, ministers are part of ministers’ groups, but there are plenty of ministers’ groups that I wouldn’t join, a statement with which I would guess you concur. And the level of disagreement at ETS calls into question the clarity of the Gospel, and Galatians 1 has some things to say about that.

    It’s a little different, though. Doctor’s organisations don’t do doctoring together. Theological organisations do theology together. I’m not sure the Lord wants us to view theology in quite the same way as other pursuits. Those who don’t love Him enough to seek purity of life and doctrine are not, in general, good resources for forming our thoughts on the truths of the Word of God.

    A good doctor can be a good doctor even if he is a rank unbeliever and horribly immoral. It’s impossible for someone like that to be a good theologian. He’ll have horrible flaws somewhere in his theology.

  23. Larry says:

    Thank for the kind reply, Jon. Let me strain this gnat one more time (though I prefer to strain them out like Jesus said rather than strain at them :) But don’t tell Kent. He still thinks it’s “strain at”). Perhaps I will enlarge on this on my own blog.

    1. I think Bauder’s issue of fellowship being “things we hold in common” is helpful to some degree (though I think the poor old horse struggles some under the weight he puts on it). At ETS, the “things in common” are the Trinity and inerrancy. No one purports to hold anything else in common necessarily. So some there might not believe the gospel (though most would probably espouse the true gospel), but that is not the point of ETS, but being there makes doesn’t cause a participant to make a statement about the gospel; only about the Trinity and inerrancy. In other words, I would say it is not a “Christian” group, per se, because being a Christian is not a requirement for it. Contrast there with an evangelistic crusade where participation is making a statement on what we believe the gospel is, and what the right response to it is.

    2. I don’t agree that unbelievers or immoral people can’t do “good theology.” Truth is truth no matter how hypocritical the person might be who holds it or teaches it. He may have horrible flaws elsewhere. In fact, I probably have horrible flaws somewhere, but that doesn’t invalidate what I believe or teach that is right. There is no way I can testify to the salvation or sanctification of anyone (even myself sometimes, I feel). But I can judge what they say according to the Bible. And that is the standard of truth. Of course, truth should always be adorned by piety, but it is still truth when it isn’t.

    3. One point of ETS is to interact on theology. Therefore, disagreement is both welcome and expected, unlike an evangelistic crusade or ministerial association where disagreement is verboten. The whole point of the panel discussion involving Bauder was to publicly express disagreement with the others on the panel. Isn’t that the very point of fundamentalism, at least to some degree? If Bauder doesn’t go, then no one expresses what most of us would consider a biblical viewpoint (though some might differ on how consistent he is).

    4. The distinction between doctoring and theology that you make is one I am unconvinced of, as of now at least. It is true that doctors don’t doctor together, but they do teach, learn, and discuss doctoring in order to learn how to doctor better. If theology is primarily a feature of the church (and I think it is, and that was my primary point), then a theological group like ETS is where theologians learn better how to do theology in their local church. It is a teaching/learning session, just like a doctor’s association is a teaching/learning kind of group.

    Thanks again …

    • Larry, interesting. I like this one a lot better than what you said before because you fleshed out your reasons for your position in more detail. Of course, that takes more time than we usually have for blog comments. But I do appreciate what you have to say.

      I’ll wait for Jon to respond, but I want to make room for a possible concession on my part regarding point 3 (I think Bauder’s ‘things in common’ puts too much weight on ‘things in common’ – the separation question hinges on the differences and the weight we should put on those differences. The ‘things in common’ only establishes the fact that we have a need to examine whether we can work together or not.) On point 3, however, as Kevin was invited to this meeting specifically to speak on the fundamentalist position … well, I am not really objecting to that.

      Where I do object is to fundamentalist participation in ETS as a generic full-fledged member. I think it is all right to speak as a fundamentalist to evangelicals when it is understood that you are coming in to make the case for your point of view. But if you are going in to speak as a full partner in a joint effort on the things you ‘hold in common’, you are communicating the wrong message and forging alliances that can/will make separation more difficult in other arenas.

      What I mean by that is this: suppose someone goes in to give a paper on Open Theism, say. You are joined with a lot of evangelicals on that point, you have perhaps another paper at the same conference on Open Theism generally taking the same point of view but perhaps addressing a slightly different slant on it. At the conference both papers are presented, you meet the other presenter, you share many things in common. A certain amount of collegiality is established, you enjoy one another’s company at the conference and have an edifying time.

      Then a few months later, you get a note or a call from the other presenter. He is going to be holding meetings in an evangelical church in your town, has a few open dates after that meeting, wonders if you could schedule him at your church at that time. What do you do then? Say, “No, we don’t fellowship with that other church, we couldn’t possibly have you, but, hey, next year at ETS, hope we can have coffee?” Or do you try to weasel out of it some way, dates not convenient, something else going on… Or do you say, “Well, OK, but just don’t mention the other church.” Or???

      That’s what I see as the entanglement that comes from joint partnership in Christian work where we aren’t fully agreed with those we are partnering with. (And by ‘fully agreed’, I don’t mean it in the sense Kent does, where he would insist on a wide range of almost total agreement before entering ministry partnership.)

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  24. Thank you for taking the time, Larry. That was a profitable response in clarifying things. A few thoughts in reply.

    1. It is interesting that an “evangelical” group is not a “Christian” group. I’ll have to think on that one for a few months or years or decades. What does “evangelical” mean? Doesn’t it have its very roots in “Gospel”? Doesn’t the very name imply, clearly send a message, that those who take part are Christians and have the Gospel right? This isn’t the “Trinitarian Biblical Inerrancy Society.” How many people would say it isn’t a “Christian” thing? I think you’ll be pretty lonesome on this one. This is a real weak point in what you are saying.

    2. We are to reject (Titus 3:9) and avoid (Rom. 16:17) those who teach a false Gospel, as some at ETS do. It’s hard to reconcile the strength of those comments with collegial discussions with them about theology.

    3. As to your #1, I think “fellowship in the things we hold in common” (with which I generally agree in principle) has to have further limits. II John or II Cor. 6:14-18 leave little ground for ANY fellowship with unbelievers, especially unbelieving teachers of a false gospel. I Cor. 5 and II Thess. 3 forbid what I’ll call “partial but limited” fellowship with blatantly disobedient brethren. We shouldn’t share a platform (ETS or elsewhere) to discuss Scripture and theology with a professing believer who is an unrepentant adulterer. I can’t square it with Scripture. Bauder’s principle applies only within the limitations of Scripture.

    4. As to your #2, it comes down to what you mean by “theology”. (BTW, I didn’t say unbelieving “or” immoral, I said “and”. My primary focus was on “unbelieving”.) For me, true theology is not getting some facts right, but knowing God, and knowing His truth in the way He means it to be known. Unbelievers don’t know God, and even if they get some facts right, they aren’t going to hold the right facts rightly. It will be skewed. I Corinthians 2 applies. John 17:3 directly links knowing God and eternal life. You can’t separate them. Eph. 4:18 says their understanding is darkened. Unbelievers may get a lot of things technically correct, but they won’t get them rightly.

    5. As to your #3, I’m with Don generally. There is a difference between going as a guest speaker to advocate a point and being a member of something.

    My focus is not specifically on Dr. Bauder’s involvement (I don’t know enough to speak about it, really), but on the general concept — whether or not the principles that we apply to separation in a church setting apply in parachurch settings, including ETS.

    6. Finally, your point #4 seems pretty sound. If ETS were a “Christian” organisation, I’d concede the point entirely. A doctor doesn’t have to be a good doctor in general to teach other doctors of things of value to them in doctoring. But if “believing the true Gospel” is left out of ETS membership qualifications, we’re in different territory.

    No doctor’s association is going to knowingly bring in a quack to teach doctors about doctoring. They might bring in an x-ray technician to tell them about new technology, but he won’t be claiming to be a doctor and doing it falsely. They won’t bring in someone who dispenses laetrile as a cancer treatment, because they believe it to be a poison rather than true medicine, bringing death rather than life.

    I don’t think your doctor’s association analogy really helps your case. It certainly would if ETS had tighter membership qualifications.

  25. Larry says:

    To Don,

    But if you are going in to speak as a full partner in a joint effort on the things you ‘hold in common’, you are communicating the wrong message and forging alliances that can/will make separation more difficult in other arenas.

    I think the issue is “things held in common.” On the matter of open theism, it is not a thing held in common. Again, this is not a pastor’s fellowship where agreement is expected. It is a theological forum where disagreement is expected. I don’t imagine that anyone thinks that everyone at ETS is okay with open theists because an open theist my speak. That’s not the nature of the group.

    As far as having a friendship with him, I could with no problem (assuming he isn’t a jerk otherwise). But as for having in him church, I would say no and explain why. No need to dance around about it.

    • Well, yes, but that’s an extreme example. It’s the guys who are otherwise orthodox who do have him in or go to speak for him. What do you do about them? What happens when you forge friendships with those guys, the guys who work with the heretics but aren’t heretics themselves? We are back to the new evangelical question.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  26. Larry says:

    To Jon, I don’t want to get too involved here for the sake of time, and I don’t want to be too pedantic, so there will probably be some nuance left unexpressed. Please forgive me in advance.

    1. I too find it odd that the “Evangelical Theological Society” doesn’t require one to be an evangelical, but it doesn’t according to their own page.

    2. I don’t think reject and avoid means avoid all contact or interaction. In fact, we are sometimes called to confront and challenge, and not just out of their presence but to their face. I think it means do not join them in ecclesiastical enterprises where you side with their doctrine or practice; reject as a partner in ministry. IMO, ETS is not partnership in ministry, and it is not the kind of place where people assume you agree just because you show up. Disagreement is expected and encouraged (it’s how they set it up), except on the Trinity and inerrancy. So I can reject and avoid someone while being a part of the same professional organization for study and learning purposes because membership is not partnership or expression of agreement except on the Trinity and inerrancy.

    3. I don’t think that ETS is much fellowship, biblically speaking. Fellowship means sharing or participating in ministry together. I am not sharing anything in terms of biblical ministry. This is, perhaps in some sense, in line with my objection to “ecclesiastical” being applied to ETS. “Ecclesiastical” has a meaning, and so does “fellowship.” I am not convinced that ETS is either “ecclesiastical” or “fellowship” except in the dumbed down version of the word. Perhaps I am wrong (and I am not a member and don’t intend to be, so I am not defending myself or anyone else here). I know people disagree with me on that, and I am fine with it. I simply would not look askance at someone participating in ETS on this basis alone.

    4. Knowing God is linked to eternal life, but it is possible to know and express true things about God while not knowing God. Many people know and express truth about God in a way that is helpful, but probably don’t know God in terms of salvation. I doubt many in ETS are unbelievers, at least in terms of profession. So I am not sure that is really valid. This is the point of gospel-driven separation at least for me. If someone is outside the gospel, Christian fellowship is forbidden (indeed, impossible by definition). But inside the gospel, Christian fellowship is not demanded, and various levels are evident. I would imagine that most in ETS are believers and not living in open rebellion and therefore some level of Christian fellowship is acceptable. And it’s the kind of thing where you pick and choose what you want to be a part of.

    5. As far as trusting unbelieving and immoral men, we do it all the time. Many of the standard resources for biblical study (such as lexicons, reference works, commentaries) were written by critical scholars. Understanding language, explaining paragraphs, correlating Scriptures requires no special spiritual understanding. I think that is a fallacy that has crept in over the years. Illumination, or the work of the Holy Spirit, is not in understanding words, sentences, paragraphs, and arguments. It is in the significance of it … doing what it calls us to do in terms of real belief and real repentance. So I think some tend to pick and choose how we apply this. To reject learning and interacting about theology at ETS because of the possibility of unbelievers in the midst and then to pick up BAGD, TDNT, BDB, or the like and learn from it seems a bit inconsistent in terms of the argument of learning from unbelievers. Again, we have no real way to testify to the spiritual state of anyone.

    There’s more than could be said but I have gone on too long already. Truth is I am probably more of a separatist than most that you run into in the blogosphere, even among fundamentalists.

    I have enjoyed the exchange and found it profitable. Thanks for your kindness. I will bow out here and give you the last word unless you direct some specific question to me.

  27. Thanks, Larry. I’ll just add that I see a huge difference between, on the one hand, technical matters like languages and, on the other hand, formulating expressions of theological truth which reflect the nature of God, salvation, etc.

    Again, it is like the difference between an x-ray technician and a doctor. An x-ray technician can provide valuable assistance in his area of expertise to a doctor. He can even say a lot of things about doctoring that are true — but I don’t want my doctors learning how to doctor from him, and I don’t want my pastor learning how to teach the knowledge of God from people who don’t know Him.

    Your point on what constitutes “fellowship” is well-founded.

    I never thought you weren’t separatist, BTW. It’s pretty obvious. :) I wouldn’t look askance at someone who participates in ETS, either. I would just say that a separatist who does is being inconsistent.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  28. Larry says:


    It’s the guys who are otherwise orthodox who do have him in or go to speak for him. What do you do about them? What happens when you forge friendships with those guys, the guys who work with the heretics but aren’t heretics themselves?

    In response to this question (and as my last word unless something is directed at me specifically), when someone reaches outside the box of the gospel to give Christian recognition to an unbeliever (to use Minnick’s illustration), I think he has participated in his evil deeds (2 John) and we must separate from him.

    The bigger question is what will I do with someone who doesn’t separate from the Christian who reaches outside the box (the guy who doesn’t separate from the guy who associates with an open theist)? That gets into the third and fourth degree separation, and my answer is that it depends on a lot of factors. I am not sure there is a one size fits all kind of response here, and I think we all know that whether we acknowledge it or not.

    I could construct hypotheticals and answer them, but any hypothetical is going to be particularly pointed one direction or another since they are usually constructed precisely to make a point rather than to deal with a real situation. And I can’t really use any real life examples because it just doesn’t affect me aside from the time 13 years ago when I turned down a request from a local group to participate in a United Men’s Christian Fellowship because the Roman Catholic priest was going to lead in prayer. And I think that is true for most of us little guys (no pejorative intended). We spend a lot of time thinking about things we will never really face.

    • As one little guy to another (metaphorically speaking in my case, alas), there are some occasions in which I am faced with such decisions as you have noted for yourself. They are mostly few and far between in a direct sort of way like that, but they are everyday issues of discipleship when trying to help
      Christians in our churches understand the ministry distance we keep from the friendly evangelicals across town.

      And for those guys who have the academic credentials to begin to participate in ETS, it isn’t at all thinking about things we will never really face. We send young preacher boys to schools where fundamentalist professors (allegedly) are willing, sometimes eager, participants. They build personal networks with evangelical scholars. It can’t but have an effect on them, and consequently an effect on the young men we send to them for training. That’s why it matters.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3