Monday, June 25, 2007

Phil Johnson and Kevin Bauder on Doctrines Worth (and not worth) Fighting Over

I'm catching up a bit tonight on some reading I missed during a couple really busy weeks with some vacation sandwiched in the middle. The hands-down highlight is this post from the Shepherd's Fellowship blog. I've never seen anyone articulate better than Johnson does in the following words the reasons for the frustration that only grows in my mind the more I read about historical theology, particularly the history of fundamentalism:
But search for serious material that carefully discusses biblical guidelines for making [distinctions between core and peripheral doctrines] wisely, and you’ll come up mostly dry. This is an issue I fear most Christians have not considered as soberly and carefully as we should, and it would be my assessment that one of the crying needs of the church in this age of mindless postmodern subjectivity is a clear, careful, and thorough biblical understanding of when it’s time to fight and when it’s time to fellowship.

Few subjects interest me more than this. It seems a pretty obvious and foundational issue for the church and her leaders to settle. You might think the early fundamentalists ought to have done extensive work on the subject, but as far as I can see, they didn’t. They treated several key doctrines as fundamental, based mainly on what happened to be under attack by the modernists, and they declared themselves devoted to “the fundamentals.”

But they didn’t always keep very clear focus on the distinction between what was fundamental and what was not. As a result, later generations of fundamentalists often fought and fragmented over issues no one could rationally argue were “fundamental.” Predictably, the fundamentalist movement slowly collapsed on itself.
It's also great to see Kevin Bauder back in the blogosphere with his comment to Johnson's post. In part of that comment, he says:
The fact remains that mainstream fundamentalists today have as much (more?) in common with conservative evangelicals as they do with professed fundamentalists who proclaim the re-inspiration of the King James, who hold a magical view of the blood of Jesus, or who engage in the tactics of personal destruction (whispering campaigns, half-truths, and innuendos) against their opponents.
Though I wouldn't want to minimize the differences between Johnson and Bauder, I can think of few things that would be more profitable for the future of confessional fundamentalism and evangelicalism than to build personal relationships, think through these differences together, identify those levels of fellowship at which cooperation is possible, and work together for the recovery of the gospel in both evangelicalism and fundamentalism.


Lou Martuneac said...

I think Bob Topartzer got it right with this to Johnson:

"It is too bad that the Fundamentalists cannot be as balanced as your “Reformed Baptist” denomination. Based on the Reformed Baptist history and present practice, the Fundamentals to them are the council of Dort and all others are marginal heretics. Perhaps you should be more concerned with them, since that is your group, than Fundamentalists. Your own writings have been far more pugilistic than the historic Fundamentalists.

Kevin Bauder, President of Central Baptist Seminary, Minneapolis, makes some very good points."


Ben said...


Though I disagreed with you on some significant points, I really do appreciate the way you carried out your debate with Nate Busenitz last year. From what I can remember (and I hope my memory serves correctly), it was a pretty good model for charitable disagreement.

But let's please not toss Phil Johnson in with the history of fundamentalist pugilism. I don't think it would serve anyone well to post some of the quotes from the history of fundamentalism (and we're not talking about ancient history here) that would demonstrate without doubt just how inaccurate that accusation would be.

Lou Martuneac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lou Martuneac said...

Thanks for your note about my discussions with Nathan. Though we disagreed sharply we did so charitably. Others made the same observation you have.

As for Topartzer's comment at Pulpit Magazine, he is right on target. I have interacted with some men in Phil's camp who are sympathetic to the doctrinal positions of Phil Johnson. They get frustrated with the way Phil goes about debating those who disagree with him. They believe he can be a spiritualized thug, and I agree.

Now, I was not around for the article/presentation Phil wrote abut Fundamentalism. By all accounts, however, Phil badly misrepresented historic Fundamentalism. I have read some of this at SI.

I also heard that Dr. Doran and Dr. Minnick sought to discuss this with Phil, but Phil declined.


William D said...

I actually heard on a CD by Dr. Minnick that Phil didn't decline, he actually did go to Greenville and check out MCBC. Phil mentioned it on his "Dead Right 2" lecture last year. He was pretty delighted to see some sanity in fundyism of the Minnick brand.

Dave said...

Also to clarify the record, Phil and I had a quite lengthy interaction about all of this on SI and via email. He has not declined interaction with me at any point that I can recall.

Ben said...

Will and Dave,

Thanks for your clarifications.

I trust the bad information that Lou was given does not distract from the main point.

Perhaps, were there to be some meaningful relationship-building between fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, today's more amiable fundamentalists might even be able to encourage these strident, hyper-separatistic evangelicals to be a bit more charitable! ;-)

Dave said...

Not likely.

Lou Martuneac said...

Also add my thanks for the clarification.


d4v34x said...

Confessional fundamentalists.

Is that even a real thing?

Ben said...

Was that bouncing around in cyberspace for 5 years, or are you really bored?