March 18, 2010

Muddying the Clearwaters by Pastor Marc Monte

There is a sad irony in Kevin Bauder’s recent article “Let’s Get Clear on This.” As president of *Central Seminary in Minneapolis, Bauder is the heir to the fundamentalist, separatist legacy of Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters. Clearwaters was many things to many people, but he was preeminently a fundamental Baptist separatist who preferred the label Biblicist above all others. He was a scholar, pastor, and champion of local church ideology. He often spoke of the “lengthened shadow of a man,” meaning the legacy a man leaves after he is gone. Central Seminary is part of Doc’s “lengthened shadow;” but, sadly, the shadow bears little resemblance to the man who cast it.

Bauder’s position differs markedly from the strong separatist stance of R.V. Clearwaters. “
Doc,” as he was called, had no trouble “calling a spade a spade.” Bauder struggles with that. For example, Bauder distinguishes the conservative evangelicals (CE) from the fundamentalists by admitting their “anti-dispensationalism,” toleration of “Third-Wave charismatic theology,” accommodation of contemporary pop culture, and toleration of “apostates.” Yet, with that significant admission, Kevin hesitates to label any of these men “New Evangelicals.” If tolerating charismatic theology, adopting contemporary culture and tolerating apostates is not “New Evangelical,” I don’t know what is. Those who knew Clearwaters realize that he would have no problem naming these traits as characteristic of the New Evangelicalism. The idea that these men don’t practice “infiltration” techniques does not mean they are not New Evangelicals. For the most part, they don’t need to “infiltrate” anything; they have their own avowedly New Evangelical institutions over which they preside.

Having charitably distinguished CE’s from fundamentalists, Bauder immediately attacks fundamentalists as doctrinal obscurantists. For reasons known only to himself, Bauder mocks those whose doctrinal concerns include bibliology, the blood atonement, and sovereignty/freewill. Apparently Bauder feels that the doctrinal concerns of fundamentalists are illegitimate and ill-informed. He goes as far as stating that fundamentalists “
have lost their doctrinal sobriety.”

Quite to the contrary, serious fundamentalist scholars have engaged in vital theological debate. While the text of Scripture appears of little consequence to Bauder, many fundamentalists recognize a settled, pristine text as essential to the “
faith once delivered.” (Jude 3) The nature of the blood atonement of Christ, a central theme of the Gospel, has been vigorously defended against those who would repudiate “slaughterhouse theology.” Far from being fringe issues, these matters strike at the heart of Biblical Christianity, and fundamentalists take these things very seriously.

Kevin’s charge that “
the most forceful defenders of the gospel are no longer to be found within the Fundamentalist camp” constitutes nothing short of slander. Perhaps Dr. Bauder does not know the fundamentalists I know. I can name scores of pastors who regularly and rigorously defend the gospel. Ah, but therein lies the rub. Note, I said “pastors.” You see, Bauder’s concern is that professional scholars defend the gospel, not lowly pastors. And here is the crux of the issue: Dr. Bauder sees it as the job of the Christian scholar (college and seminary professors) to defend the Gospel. The Bible, however, knows of no such thing. Paul said that the local church is the “pillar and ground of the truth.” In other words, the local church—not the college or seminary—is the first line of defense for the truth. Fundamentalist pulpits have not surrendered the Gospel. Fundamentalist pastors defend the Gospel every week. Pastors, not seminary professors, are responsible for the conservation and proclamation of the Gospel. By and large, the fundamentalist brethren are doing a splendid job at this—most without even referencing the latest book by John Piper.

The real issue with Bauder’s article is not whether fundamentalists should refrain from calling his beloved CE’s “New Evangelicals.” The real issue is an intellectual elitism that minimizes the importance of the local church and its pastor in defense of the faith.

Dr. Clearwaters understood that the local church was charged with the propagation of the truth. He founded a seminary, not to undermine local church authority, but to bolster the prestige of pastors in their efforts of defending the faith.

The bottom line is simple enough: Fundamentalist pastors are doing a superb job of defending the Gospel in their pulpits. They’re doing so without worrying about such foreign errors as “
Third-Wave Charismatic Theology” and “Open Theism.” They’re boldly preaching Christ and Him crucified. They’re not known among the scholars, and most don’t have widely-read blogs. But they’re getting the job done for God.

Rather than fawn over the intellectual elites of our day, Dr. Bauder would better serve his constituency by turning out an army of seminary graduates who love souls, preach the Gospel fearlessly, defend the faith, separate from error, and boldly hold forth fundamentalist, Baptist convictions. And he should honor his godly predecessor by an unapologetic, thoroughgoing Biblicist stance.

In short, Dr. Bauder,
Don’t Muddy the Clearwaters!

Pastor Marc Monte
Faith Baptist Church (Avon)

*See Thread for History of Central with emphasis on Doc Clearwaters.

Please continue to- A Response to Kevin Bauder’s “Cannonball” Cogitation: “Foremost Defenders of the Gospel Today?”

Site Publisher Note:
This article by Pastor Monte is the latest in a series of responses to Kevin Bauder's Let’s Get Clear on This. Some sites such as the pseudo-fundamentalist Sharper Iron have a tendency of intolerance toward some commentary that is critical of Kevin Bauder’s article(s) and the so-called conservative evangelicalism he advocates on behalf of. I am, however, willing to make various reactions, recollections and/or perspectives available, such as Pastor Monte’s above, to my guests for their consideration.

For the first two from my series, which reviews Kevin Bauder’s Let’s Get Clear on This see- Let’s Get “CRYSTAL” Clear on This: A Response to Kevin Bauder’s “Cannonball” Cogitations

Let’s Get “CRYSTAL” Clear on This: A Response to Kevin Bauder’s “Cannonball” Cogitations Part 2

You may also read A Letter from Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters to Kevin Bauder submitted by Evangelist Dwight Smith.

1 comment:

  1. Excerpt from CBTS Web site

    Northwestern Theological Seminary, a part of Northwestern Schools, was founded in Minneapolis in 1935 by Dr. William Bell Riley, a noted fundamentalist leader. In the decade after Dr. Riley's passing, financial pressures forced Northwestern's Board of Trustees to close the seminary. Students, seminary faculty, and other supporters urged Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters, pastor of the Fourth Baptist Church of Minneapolis, to fill this vacuum in ministry through the establishment of a fundamental Baptist seminary.

    With the knowledge and encouragement of the administration of Northwestern Schools, this was done. The Fourth Baptist Church agreed to provide accommodations for the fledgling school within its own facilities. Thus Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis was born, opening on September 11, 1956, with a student body of thirty-one students from ten states and a faculty of seven.

    Within its first decade, Central Seminary grew to a student body of over 100 students. As Fourth Baptist Church prospered, the seminary enjoyed expanded facilities. In 1965, Central Seminary established a radio station and began a radio ministry.

    Dr. Douglas R. McLachlan succeeded Dr. Clearwaters as pastor of Fourth Baptist Church in 1982 and succeeded him as president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary during the 1986-1987 school year.