Monday, June 05, 2006

Why Would an Independent Fundamental Baptist Preach in a Reformed Presbyterian Seminary?

This is a terrific address delivered by Kevin Bauder at the commencement ceremonies of Geneva Reformed Seminary. I can think of nothing to which I've linked that I would commend to you more.

Bauder asks the question in the title. Here's his answer:
  • Because of our unity
    • In the gospel
    • By the gospel
    • For the gospel
    • Because of the gospel
  • Because we understand the limits of our unity
Sound familiar?

Here are a few of the particularly salient quotes stitched together (warning) with very little context. And by the way, my regurgitation of the above outline is probably not comprehensive.
There is a kind of popular philosophy within contemporary Christianity that seems to believe that unity or fellowship are all-or-nothing. I believe that is a disastrous philosophy. It has been disastrous both for evangelicals and for some fundamentalists . . . No one can implement that philosophy consistently.

Not every aspect of the faith is equally important.

There are certain activities and certain forms of fellowship that are not affected by the differences between us . . . It’s lamentable that we do not yet experience complete unity in the faith, but it is not nearly as lamentable as if we were to try to bury some aspect of the faith in order to achieve some sort of a contrived unity. You see, we are not only committed to the gospel. We are committed to the whole counsel of God.

I would not want you to stop being Presbyterians [while you believed in Presbyterian distinctives] just so we could enjoy some greater level of contrived unity. That would be wrong for you to do.

I love you too much to ask you to surrender or sacrifice your obedience to Christ . . . I love you enough that I want you to obey the Bible as you understand it, because you are going to have to give answer to God for your understanding of the Scripture someday . . . We love each other too much to let errors go unchallenged.
Near the conclusion, Bauder also addresses the point that has been kicked around on this blog recently—the need for people from different orthodox theological perspectives to listen and learn from each other.

Amen and amen.


tjp said...

I don't get all the hoopla over Bauder's address at GRS. What's the great step forward here? What milestone was reached? What chasm crossed? That I know of, there's never been a serious problem of fellowship among separatist Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists. BJ has promoted this kind of thing for years.

Isn't the ACCC a mixed lot? Hasn't Paisley spoken at BJ? Hasn't BJ had separatist Methodists and Presbyterians and Baptists on his faculty and conference platforms? So I guess I don't see why Bauder's speaking for a separatist fundamentalist Presbyterian is big deal. In one sense speaking at GRS is no different from speaking at BJ or PCC or World Congress of Fundamentalism.

There's always been a link among separatist denominational men, whether that link was direct (as Bauder and Barrett) or indirect (as sharing a platform, say, with Paisley). Again, I guess I'm missing the milestone here.

What'd really be interesting, though, is if Bauder would speak at a commencement at Master's. Now THAT'd be a red letter day, not that I'd find it exceptionally wonderful, but it'd certainly be news worthy.

Joel Tetreau said...

tjp fairness to Ben, my guess is he's heard the same "behind the door comments" I've heard from some of our more "Baptist" institutions about transdenominationalism. Some of our friends in Baptist institutions have shot a few "friendly-fire" comments at BJ because they have been trans-denominational.

Frankly, even though I'm Baptist, Dispensational, etc.....I'm thrilled that BJ has had the ability to do the transdenom. thing. I'm thrilled to see Bauder at GRS. I'm not saying that former presidents at Central would not have gone to GRS - but I'm not sure they would have gone to GRS. (Obviously you'd have to ask them).

No question - this is a big deal. Consider the following: Central is the Grand-Daddy of Seperatist Baptist Seminaries. Let me say this a different way: Central is the Grand-Daddy of Separatist, Dispensational Baptist Seminaries. And in case you don't know it - in the past there has been some ... how shall I say....strained relationships between separatist dispensationalists and separatist cov't types.

I remember a few years ago when separatist cov't types would question if separatist dispensationalists even believed the same gospel. I've heard more than a few dispensationalists question if cov't types have Biblical integrity in hermeneutics at all.

One of the theological developments that has helped in fundamentalism today is the explosion of separatist men and ministries who are Dispensational in hermeneutics while being Reformed in Soteriology. I think this is helping with bringing the two sides together.

For Bauder to be willing to do this - is Big. It strates that Central (As a Dispensational school) can have a good relationship with a historically fundamental school even though (in this case GRS) they are Presbyterian (not Baptist) and they are Cov't (not Dispensational).

It's a good day for Historic Fundamentalists - be they dispensational or cov't.

Joel Tetreau

PS - Time will tell if this sort of thing would be granted to Masters. My guess is that would happen before it would be granted to a Conservative SBC school - Again you'd have to ask them.

Ben said...

I agree with Joel's comments, but to me it's more about what he said than where he said it. I can't help but think how much Bauder sounds like these guys. Hopefully Bauder has established the separatist capital that will prevent him from taking the criticism that Doug McGlachlan did after writing Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism.

I'm not suggesting that they would apply their convictions in the same way by any means, but they get to their application through pretty much the same rationale.

To put it a different way, what Bauder is saying is substantially different from the way most (IMO) fundamentalists have dealt with these differences over the past few decades.

Ryan Martin said...

It's McLachlan, not McGlachlan.

You guys should go (should have gone) to CBTS.

Ben said...

Stink. I didn't take the time to check an official reference, but trusted an errant Google hit.

Care to elaborate, Ryan? Did I ever tell you I was a month from moving to the cities to go to CBTS?

tjp said...

Joel, Ben:

Evidently you men have a better understanding of the inner workings here, but I still don't see the milestone, unless of course it was a personal one for Bauder.

From the start Fundyism has united separatist Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists. It was so at the beginning of the movement, and it's still so long into its history. Denominational separatists have regularly shared pulpits and platforms. Nothing frontpage here.

I'm sure there are a few hard-core Baptists and hard-core Presbyterians who cringed at the Bauder and Barrett unity dance (I'm sure Lance Ketchum fell into a blue funk), but I think the cavilers reflect only the fringe, and not the very heart and soul, of separatist fundyism.

Personally I think Bauder and Barrett were simply following through on long-standing fundy principles: play down the ordinances, play down eschatology, play down dogmatics, play down hermeneutical specialties, play down soteriological peculiarities, and play down church government. Fundies have done this for years. That's why Bob Jones, for instance, can hold hands with men like H.T. Spence and Ian Paisley at the same time, one a radical Arminian and the other an extreme Calvinist.

Instead of seeing Bauder as spearheading a breakthrough in Christian unity, I see him as a fundamentalist acting like a fundamentalist and acting in concert with historic fundamentalist principles. No revolution here. Perhaps instead of gaining some new ground, he simply recovered some old ground.

P.S. Joel, you mentioned Central as being the heart of Dispensationalism. Maybe, maybe not. I think in the '80s the seminary may have experienced some slippage here. Whether they've regained that ground, I can't say. But I do believe some at Central were casting amorous eyes at progressive dispensationalism, or something akin to it. Those who were may have left Central and since migrated to Master's or even Northwestern. Maybe someone there can fill us in.

I think Detroit is perhaps the strongest dispensational school. And certainly Faith Baptist Seminary ranks up there as well. I believe Bauder is a strong dispensationalist. I've heard his two people theory messages, and they were very good. Rolland McCune is perhaps the leading dispensational teacher-scholar today. Anything he has to say on Dispensationalism is well worth your time and attention (get his notes on Dispensationalism; they are excellent).

Joel Tetreau said...


Good notes - You are right about the transdenominational history of the movement. You are also right about there being recent internal "discussions" at Central about "which" dispensationalism. Even though Detroit may be the present "heavy-weight" champ dispensationally - Central is still "Grampa!"

If you don't believe that just visit Central's Library and read the dates and names of the terminal projects in the reference section.

For me, that was never a problem. I loved hearing a variety of views on the Kingdom, New Covenant,etc... especially after being at Detroit Seminary [where there is no diversity in dispensationalism - at all! - Detroit's motto should be - "In the beginning God created McClain!" (said with love!)] -

At Central I had a different experience - I enjoyed bouncing from Ed (spelled Darrell) to Roy (spelled Rolland) and back again!

"The Kingdom is here - no, it's there - hey it's everywhere!"

Unfortunatly, I think Central is mostly back to being somewhat monolithic in their view of the Kingdom with the recent staff changes - Again, you'd have to speak to them to get the absolute accurate view of that.

For the record, I'm thrilled to have graduated from both schools. I imagine both institutions are happy I'm in Arizona now. I am too!

Love and Blessings to all!


PS - Ben, I don't think Bauder will be hit with the same "angst" that Doug did. Most of the guys that made most of the noise are on with the Lord now.

bob said...

I don't know TJP and Ben and Joel are my friends, but I have to admit that I sympathize with TJP. I am a little bit mystified by all the hype around Bauder's speaking at GRS.

Of course, I am a confirmed pan-millenialist (It'll all pan out in the end), so to me it is hardly noteworthy that a dispy would speak among covenantalists.

On the other hand, it is noteworthy that Bauder declined (so I've understood) a visit to the seminary several years ago, but was able to go this time. That does indicate some change is in the air.

Maybe there should be hype...

I remain, therefore, completely wishy-washy on the subject. Carry on, friends. I enjoy your discussions.

Joel Tetreau said...


I would agree that Bauder's address at GRS should not result in "hype."

I think it should at least score a "that's cool!" from the "on-lookers."


bob said...

That's cool

Ben said...

Sorry to return so late to this. Blogspot had some serious problems yesterday.

I'll still maintain that the significance of this is not the fact that Bauder DID speak at GRS, but rather what he SAID, particularly his rationale for why he said it.

tjp and bob are of course correct to point out that fundamentalism is historically interdenominational. On the other hand, I think you guys would agree that Baptists in recent decades have been more parochial than the early fundamentalist Baptists.

The real significance is not that Bauder argues for interdenominationalism. That's been around for a while. But haven't we all heard people defend this interdenominationalism primarily on the grounds that it "reflects historic fundamentalism"?

Who cares? How is that justification for fellowshipping with people who are disobeying Scripture (according to Baptist doctrine) by baptizing unbelievers?

The justification Bauder offers is that the gospel is the center of our unity. I may have missed something, but I simply haven't heard fundamentalists return to the gospel when we flesh out our relationships with other believers who differ from us on substantial (or insubstantial) areas of faith and practice. Maybe last fall's MACP on "Guarding the Gospel" was an exception. As I remember, the workshop titles didn't seem to include anything on this specific topic, but maybe the plenary sessions addressed it.

Three other specific points are crucial. One is his pointed attack on the binary separation position. The other is his recognition that people from different perspectives have things to learn from one another. The third, and most important, is his statement that in some ways he has more in common with Presbyterians than Baptists. One might wish he had elaborated on this point, but I suspect we could all make a pretty good guess.