History falls prey not only to revisionism; it also suffers at the hands of those who seek to slant its record to their own benefit. In Kevin Bauder’s current article1 at his In the Nick of Time blog, he relates Dr. Clearwaters’s supposed delay in finally breaking with the Northern Baptist Convention (NBC). Though left largely without explanation, Kevin doubtless relayed the story in order to illustrate the idea that even the great separatists differed as to the timing of separation. While different men arrived at different conclusions at different times, the point that must be emphasized is that all of the separatists ultimately separated.
Was Clearwaters’s separatist impetus flawed because he fought for the “furniture” of the NBC? No! He obviously understood that the legal wrangling was a precursor to his ultimate departure, with the furniture in tow. “Doc,” as he was called, was a separatist through and through. He was also, to his great credit a contender, a fighter. Perhaps his relish for a worthwhile fight delayed his separatism in relation to the NBC, but no one would argue that he held out any hope for the restoration of the convention. Doc fought the good fight, got the furniture, and departed a convinced separatist.
Dr. Bauder would do well to remember Dr. Clearwaters’s “round two” in the separatist battles. I had only been saved a year when I came across a copy of Dr. Clearwaters’s book, The Great Conservative Baptist Compromise.2 I remember reading that classic separatist work as a mere youngster and, though I didn’t understand all of the implications, I set the book down with the understanding that there are some things worth fighting for and that my pastor (Dr. Clearwaters) was a premier warrior of the faith. I’m sure Dr. Bauder will recall that, along with his crack about the furniture, Dr. Clearwaters delighted in saying of the Conservative Baptist Association, “I was the first to join it, and I was the first to leave it.” That being Doc’s personal separatist testimony, I hardly think anyone could fault his separatist impulses.
If Kevin desires to take Dr. Clearwaters’s venerable institution3 a different direction from the founder, he should do so without pretending to be guardian of the legacy. I knew Doc well enough to know that he would not be at all happy with the direction of Central Seminary under Bauder’s leading. It’s bad enough that his school is headed in a decidedly leftward direction.
It has become crystal clear to discerning men that Central, Detroit, Lansdale, and Northland4 are making a decisive break from fundamentalism. Are these moves born out love for and loyalty to the Bible? Calvinism is the magnetic attraction, but I also see their new found emphasis on Calvinism as pragmatic. They are riding a theological wave in order to attract a new constituency and thus students. Is it possible these new moves stem, in part, from desperation for students and the operating funds they infuse into an educational institution? These schools have largely lost their constituency. The student numbers simply are not present within their shrinking circle of fundamentalism to continue to perpetuate their institutions. Could this be a reason why they have decided to appeal to a different crowd? When survival becomes the name of the game pragmatism reigns supreme. How do I know? Ask yourself: Would these institutions be making such dramatic changes if they were thriving? No! Their impending failure drives them into compromise as a means of survival. It’s just that simple.
Reacting to Bauder’s previous installment Don Johnson in Show Me the Silent Majority (see link below) wrote,
“And I am astonished that credulous readers of Kevin Bauder seem to swallow this revisionism as if it were entirely accurate.”Dr. Bauder, please don’t cast a shadow over the separatist stance of Dr. Clearwaters. You and I both know he was a man among men. He was a giant of the faith. And he was a premier loyalist to biblical separatism. Do as you like; but don’t use the Clearwaters name to justify it. It won’t fly with those of us who know, and I know.
Pastor Marc Monte
Faith Baptist Church, Avon
1) Now, About Those Differences, Part 19, Applying Separatist Principles
2) The Great Conservative Baptist Compromise, Dr. R. V. Clearwaters
3) Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Minneapolis, MN.
4) Northland International University Presents Executive Pastor of Grace Community Church to It’s Student Body
For related reading see the following articles:
Show Me the Silent Majority by Don Johnson. For example,
“Kevin Bauder’s latest installment [Differences, Part 18] tells the history of separation from a point of view totally foreign to me…. And I am astonished that credulous readers of Kevin Bauder seem to swallow this revisionism as if it were entirely accurate…. Kevin seems to be leading us to a conclusion that the conservative evangelicals are good fellows, really, and people whom we should cooperate with. Their heritage isn’t the heritage of compromisers and betrayers of the gospel, it is the noble heritage of the moderate middle. The moderate middle cost the fundamentalists their denominations, schools, mission boards, etc., in the 1920s and 1930s. The moderate middle cost the Christian church most of its impact on the culture of our day through the new-evangelical compromise. What is the moderate middle going to cost us today?”Muddying the Clearwaters, by Pastor Marc Monte.
“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…. 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.”A Letter From Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters to Kevin Bauder, by Evangelist Dwight Smith.
“It is astounding to me that in many of your recent writings on a professedly fundamental, Baptist site, you seem to constantly extol the ‘virtues’ of evangelical Protestants while, at the same time, deriding the ‘vices’ of Fundamental Baptists…. I have observed an inordinate affection towards pseudo-intellectual teaching and a disdain for old-fashioned, confrontational, Bible preaching…. I am grieved when I see you lauding extreme Calvinists who are not even Baptists. Brother Bauder, they and their ilk are not responsible for founding the school called Central…. Dr. Bauder, all given appearances seem to indicate you are intentionally trying to lead those who follow your writings, the students of Central, and even Central itself away from the Testimony upon which it was founded and into the compromising orbit of protestant evangelicalism.”