Earlier this month I was directed to a pair of blogs* that are promoting a new book. The book is titled, Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism (Author/Editors: Andrew Naselli, Collin Hansen). Normally, I would not have been drawn to the, Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. What caught my attention, however, was that Dr. Kevin Bauder is one of the four contributors. Still I was not particularly interested until I found that Dr. Bauder’s primary contribution is in the form of an essay on Fundamentalism. My concern heightened when I read that Dr. Bauder intended to “argue for biblical separation.”
Dr. Bauder’s track record in recent years of redefining and/or castigating Fundamentalism with a broad brush would, for many in Fundamental circles, disqualify him from speaking for or on behalf of them. Especially disconcerting would be his speaking on behalf of the fundamentalists’ application of separation principles defined in Scripture. Dr. Bauder has, furthermore, been highly allergic to presenting and especially applying the principles of biblical separation to his new acquaintances in evangelical circles.
Kevin Bauder is one of a select few men who have introduced and aggressively advocated a redefinition of one of the hallmarks of historic Fundamentalism, which is authentic biblical separation. Dr. Bauder is attempting to influence a paradigm shift away from separation, for the sake of a pure church, long practiced as taught from the Scriptures by balanced Fundamentalists.1 Instead his replacement theology is one of tolerance and accommodation for those who reject in practice the God-given mandates for separation. Men who share and likewise propagate Kevin Bauder’s new “gospel driven separation” and/or “gospel-centric fellowship” paradigms are becoming more like evangelicals in principle and the application of separation. A theology, which in his own practice of, he repeatedly allows for, tolerates, excuses or ignores doctrinal aberrations, ecumenical compromises, cultural relativism and worldliness in ministry of the evangelicals. He gives great leeway for evangelicals who run rough shod over the Scriptural principles of admonishing, withdrawing from, marking and avoiding (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15; Romans 16:17-18) the disobedient among us and separation from unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14-17; Eph. 5:11; 2 John 7-11). Another example would be the new twist on separation known as “separation in academic contexts.”2 Hence, the reasons why one editor of the new book (Collin Hansen) notes very little difference between Kevin Bauder and Al Mohler who has gone well beyond any “single episode” of ecumenical compromise.
1) His incendiary article, Let’s Get Clear on This.Those things are not representative of one who would presume to champion separatist Fundamentalism! Those things are what unbiased editors would consider non-starters for consideration of an author to argue for biblical separatism in Fundamentalism.
Let’s Get “CRYSTAL” Clear on This: A Response to Kevin Bauder’s “Cannonball” Cogitations
2) A pattern of castigating Fundamentalism while heaping lavish praise on the star personalities of the so-called “conservative” evangelicalism apart from any serious discussion of or admonition to them for the numerous doctrinal aberrations, ecumenical compromises, cultural relativism and worldliness in ministry among them.
3) His 2009 three part attack (jointly from his blog and Sharper Iron) on the legacy of Bob Jones, Jr. and John R. Rice.
“Again, I am very disappointed at the language Bauder uses against his fellow fundamentalists, evidently chiefly against [John R] Rice: ‘pugilistic and bellicose,’ ‘alpha males,’ ‘the big boys,’ ‘bullies,’ ‘chieftains,’ etc. Is this the kind of language a fundamentalist leader should use? With an opportunity before him to promote unity, healing and reconciliation in the IFB community Dr. Bauder chose to pursue a different tact. Instead he further polarized factions, alienated many and fueled further division among men in and around the FBFI.”(Kevin Bauder: A Call for His Removal From the Platform of the FBFI Annual Fellowship)4) His unprovoked attack on Bob Jones University policy from the platform of the 2009 FBFI Annual Fellowship.
5) His misrepresentation that fundamentalists and evangelicals “believe, preach and defend the [same] gospel.”
“There is no universal ‘mutuality in the gospel’ among evangelicals and fundamentalists. ‘Evangelicals and fundamentalists are [NOT] united in their allegiance to the gospel,’ because there is a vast difference between what evangelicals and non-Calvinists in Fundamentalism believe to be the one true Gospel. Kevin Bauder is well aware, that many men in Fundamentalism reject Calvinistic soteriology in the form of Lordship Salvation as a false, works based gospel. It is, furthermore, indisputable that virtually every man in “conservative” evangelicalism is a passionate advocate for Lordship Salvation, which Dr. Bauder is also well aware of.”( Do Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, “Believe, Preach and Defend the [Same] Gospel?)6) Excusing Al Mohler signing the Manhattan Declaration, which gave Christian recognition to the deadly enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18) and compromised the gospel as nothing more than a “single episode…occasional inconsistency.”**
Kevin Bauder Discussing: Al Mohler’s “Occasional Inconsistency?”
Al Mohler Signs The Manhattan Declaration: Was This a First Time Foray Toward Ecumenism?
7) In a sometimes bloviated 20+ part Differences (between fundamentalism and evangelicalism) series Dr. Bauder never made a serious attempt to present the principles of separation and make a decisive application of them to any of the evangelicals who disregard biblical principles to hobnob with unbelievers, apostates and those who preach/practice egregious forms of aberrant theology and worldliness.
What we do know is that those things are representative of a man who has set in motion a paradigm shift away from that kind of authentic biblical separation preached and especially practiced by godly, balanced Fundamentalists for decades. If one would like to become familiar with the kind of biblical separatism that balanced, charitable Fundamentalists have practiced I would refer any reader to two books by Dr. Ernest Pickering. Those books are: 1) Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church, and 2) The Tragedy of Compromise: The Origin and Impact of the New Evangelicalism. I would also recommend three additional books for your consideration. They are: Be Ye Holy: The Call to Christian Separation and Contending for the Faith by Dr. Fred Moritz and The Dividing Line: Understanding and Applying Biblical Separation by Dr. Mark Sidwell. For the best of what the Fundamentalist would define, from the Scriptures, as his stance on and for separation those volumes by Drs. Pickering, Moritz and Sidwell are a must read.
“Gospel driven” separatism or “Gospel centric” fellowship is the new mantra coming from men who circulate in Fundamental circles, some of whom claim to be “militant” separatists. When like-mindedness on a particular interpretation of the gospel becomes the near sole reason for fellowship and/or separatism the whole counsel of God is seriously negated, and the door is opened to tolerate, allow for, ignore and excuse all sorts of aberrant theology, ecumenical compromise, cultural relativism and worldliness.
Dr. Bob Jones III in the Spring 2011 BJU chapel shared these timely remarks with the student body,
“We have been talking in some of the last messages about the error that can result from those whose credo is, ‘Well, it’s all about the gospel, as long as a man is preaching the gospel I can go to that church…and I don’t have to worry about all the rest of it….’ If we take the attitude that it’s only about the preaching of the gospel and that makes everything else acceptable we’re going to embrace a lot of error.” (March 3, 2011- The Faith of the Gospel)Tolerating, ignoring or excusing “a lot of error” for the sake of the so-called “gospel centric” fellowship is not representative of genuine fidelity or militancy to the God-given mandates for separation.
Many Fundamentalists do not appreciate, do not accept and will not recognize Kevin Bauder as an appropriate ambassador for genuine, balanced Fundamentalism especially on the principles and practice of separation. In what I still consider being one of the most concise and cogent responses to Kevin Bauder’s incendiary article, Let’s Get Clear on This Dr. Gerald Priest wrote,
“Kevin has been quite lavish in his praise of conservative evangelicals while castigating so-called fundamentalists…. What I fear is that we may be allowing a Trojan horse into the fundamentalist camp. And after a while, if we keep going down this track, any significant difference between conservative evangelical and the fundamentalist institutions may disappear.”Dr. Priest’s fear is well founded. We are well down that track. The primary significant difference is fidelity to biblical separatism. “Significant differences” are being blurred and beginning to evaporate. I’d like to tell you that lines are blurring because evangelicals are at long last beginning to obey the God-given mandates, but sadly that is not the case. Instead we have certain men who identify with and circulate in Fundamental circles who through their colleges, seminaries, through their blogs, through Sharper Iron and by their actions are influencing this and the next generation of Fundamentalists to relax on militancy in separatism.
Self-described “militant” separatists are moving away from the principles of separation by redefining and loosening the boundaries. They will not admonish compromisers in evangelicalism whom they are seeking out to fellowship and cooperate with in ministerial settings. That segment of men within fundamentalist circles is moving toward evangelicalism and consequently, whether they recognize their shift or not, are becoming non-separatist evangelicals.
Do we wait for the release of Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism before rendering a final judgment on Kevin Bauder’s contribution? Of course! All things considered, including the personal bias of the editors: The choice of Kevin Bauder gives the appearance of a political move to advance the cause of blurring the lines of distinction between separatist Fundamentalism and so-called “conservative” evangelicalism.
Many Fundamentalists reject Kevin Bauder as an ambassador for or a personal representative of Fundamentalism. If Dr. Bauder champions authentic biblical separation in this book and calls on the evangelicals to obey God’s mandates for separation we will be grateful. We would, however, then have a huge disconnect between what he wrote for this book and what we have observed him advocating and doing in practice. What we expect instead is another attempt to force authentic biblical separation into conformity with the new mantra of a paradigm shift toward a “Gospel-Driven” separation and/or “Gospel-Centric” fellowship.4 We expect an on-going attempt to blur the lines of distinction of a clear divide along Scriptural lines of separation between Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism.
The selection of Dr. Kevin Bauder to represent separatist fundamentalism raises legitimate questions about the credibility of this volume. The book will suffer among many in IFB circles primarily due to Kevin Bauder being chosen to represent what he has often been redefining, castigating, insensitive and/or hostile toward with a broad brush.
Update: For another critical review of Kevin Bauder’s contribution to this new book I urge you to read This Does Not Bode Well by Pastor Brian Ernsberger.
1) A Pure Church or a Pure Gospel: Does It Really Matter?
“I see at least two possible gaps created by focusing on a pure Gospel as opposed to a pure church. First, it seems that it would encourage far ranging fellowship and unity with all groups and sects within professing Christianity. While it is true that all professing believers would by default be on record concerning the Gospel, we are not even remotely rowing in the same direction after that point.... Secondly, if ecclesiastical separation is focused on the purity of the Gospel, then it would seem that believers could join with non-believers in endeavors under a larger religious banner where the purity of the Gospel is perceived to not be at risk.”2) Is There a Second Definition for “Separation” in Academic Contexts?
“Should men be any less militant about ‘guarding the gospel through biblical separation’ in the ministry of a local church than guarding the church itself? The desire to have scholarship presented and/or accepted by others in your field has the potential to pull one away from the local church and toward an institutional focus. My concern is that this completely opposed to the biblical focus, which centers on the church’s role in maintaining sound doctrine and separation from error or disobedient brethren. Unfortunately, there can exist a natural tendency in the institutional setting to make scholarship preeminent, creating an ongoing temptation toward tolerance of error in the pursuit of credentials, academia and recognition.”3) See- Is NIU “Unchanged?”
“Has NIU remained unchanged? In 2010-11 school year would NIU hand the Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity to a visiting pastor and/or parent and state that the university still abides by the philosophy and practice it defines? Is the NBBC Position Statement still in force, or has it been set aside to allow for what has the appearance of a change in direction for NIU? Did the name change from NBBC to NIU negate and dissolve the Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity?”4) In the early pages of Dr. Bauder’s essay there are several indications that the new paradigm of Gospel Driven separation and Gospel Centric fellowship will be the main theme of his essay. See the subsection, The Idea of Fundamentalism and Minimal Christian Fellow
For Related Reading:
Are we Recognizing the “NEW” New Evangelicalism?
“All over America and the world at this hour there are churches that are drifting into New Evangelicalism without the remotest knowledge that they are doing so. They are being carried along with the shifting winds of compromise and have long since departed from the solid biblical position established by their predecessors. Young pastors, many without firm doctrinal underpinnings, have led their churches to believe that in order to reach the masses they must abandon the strict biblical principles of yore and embrace more fluid and attractive positions. They have changed, but they do not realize that they have changed”.Kevin Bauder, “It Won’t Fly With Those of Us Who Know” by Ps. Marc Monte.
“If Kevin desires to take Dr. Clearwaters’s venerable institution 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. Please, Dr. Bauder, don’t make it any worse by pretending some affinity with one of the greatest separatist Christians of the last century.”A Letter From Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters to Kevin Bauder
“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.”*Portions of the above are drawn from comments I posted at the blogs I refer to above. They are Roger E. Olson and Justin Taylor’s Between Two Worlds. The former I never heard of until this month, but Roger E. Olson is one of the four men who contributed an essay/chapter to the book. Taylor’s blog I have visited rarely. Kevin Bauder posted an article at his blog (In the Nick of Time) regarding the upcoming release of this new book.
** I am aware that in the new book Dr. Al Mohler included a statement on his having signed the Manhattan Declaration. He expresses some regret, but has he repented? That is a subject for an upcoming article.