November 14, 2011

Dr. Douglas McLachlan, “Community is Being Elevated Above Theology

In 1998 Dr. Douglas McLachlan wrote an article titled, Theology, Community and Naming Your Church. The following is an excerpt.

In recent years there has developed a “tendency toward generic Christianity.” (Millard Erikson and James Heflin in Old Wine in New Wineskins, pp. 50-ff.) The trend, these authors say, is toward a “doctrinally generic Christianity” where the “specifics” of doctrine are dismissed or unimportant. One of the most visible symbols of this trend is the deletion of denominational tags from the church name. In my mind this is a dangerous trend.

It seems to me that the engine driving such name change is the belief that specific labels inhibit church growth i.e., the expansion of community.
Community is being elevated above theology, growth becomes more important than truth.
In earlier times the theology of a church was reflected in its name. To me, that approach still has great merit. The reason is this: generality in name often leads to a loss of specificity in belief. Covering our beliefs, hiding our theology by masking our identity and camouflaging our name may indeed attract a larger crowd (most contemporary consumers think little of “brand loyalty”), but it has great potential to jeopardize and weaken our doctrine, our truth-claims. It produces an environment where beliefs tend to be minimized, changed and in some cases even abandoned as irrelevant to mission, unimportant to ministry (Erikson and Heflin).

Whatever their liabilities (and there are some), names reflect our belief-system. They say something about us. They announce to others who we are and what we believe. Even today, in our postmodern world, names like Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and baptist alert us to a basic set of beliefs. The name becomes a summary statement of certain basic theological commitments. One of the reasons our name “Baptist” still has merit is because it identifies for honest seekers who we are and what we believe. And it represents our belief-system, the theological bedrock which is the enduring ground of our belonging. (The President’s Page, 1998, Italics his.)
Dr. Kevin Bauder, in a recent article On Not Singing (9/19/11), introduced the term “community.”
“Three times Kevin Bauder calls for tolerance of evil. Kevin Bauder is telling us that we need to tolerate what we think to be evil for the sake of fellowship. Isn’t that exactly the new way of doing separation being advocated by Kevin Bauder these many months now? Tolerance of evil for the sake of fellowship.” (See, Are We Forced to Tolerate Evils Within the Community?)
Clearly, from his expanding ministry with non-separatists and ecumenical compromisers, Kevin Bauder has personally “elevated community above theology.” The true danger, however, is in his writing to influence this and the next generation to join him in a “community” of compromise. Along with Kevin Bauder men like Dave Doran, Matt Olson, Tim Jordan have “elevated community above theology.” They are blurring the lines of denominational and/or doctrinal distinctions, to jointly minister with so-called “conservative” evangelicals for whom certain specifics of doctrine are dismissed or unimportant, primarily authentic biblical separation. Yet, Dr. McLachlan recently named these men as leaders in birthing an authentic fundamentalism. (See, Moving Toward Authenticity: Musings on Fundamentalism, Part 1) Based on what they are doing to expand “community” at the expense abandoning absolute fidelity to the doctrine one is hard pressed to recognize any authenticity to a historic, balanced separatist Independent, Baptistic Fundamentalism.
The current infatuation with abandoning the name “Baptist” is but part of a larger problem in the church today—the effort to minimize differences and magnify similarities. It is also propelled by the enormous pressures of the evangelical ecumenical movement which is gathering people of various denominational persuasions in large meetings with the express purpose of breaking down denominational prejudices (a la “Promise Keepers”). True Baptists cannot and ought not be part of such efforts. The convictions we hold are not merely “denominational prejudices.” They are divinely—revealed truths rooted in the Holy Scriptures.
From Dr. McLachlan’s 1998 article above it appeared he held a similar position to that of Dr. Pickering noted here, but does he still? Dr. McLachlan stated that dropping denominational tags “is a dangerous trend”. Did he feel that way at the former Northland Baptist Bible College (NBBC) when the administration discussed dropping the denominational tag “Baptist” from the name of the school? Did Dr. McLachlan voice opposition to that proposal, did he advise the NBBC administration that it would be a visible sign of the trend where specifics of doctrine are dismissed or unimportant?

Dr. McLachlan, furthermore, accompanied Matt Olson, Les Ollila and Sam Horn on the April 2010 trip to meet and confer with Dr. John MacArthur, Phil Johnson and Rick Holland. The result was opening the doors of the NIU classrooms and chapel pulpit to non-separatist, compromised, worldly evangelicals. Recent news out of Central Baptist Theological Seminary indicates that the “trend toward generic Christianity” has become the fashion at Central. See- Will Central Seminary Continue the Drift Away From It’s Historic Moorings?

Comparing Dr. McLachlan’s 1998 Theology, Community and Naming Your Church to his recent Moving Toward Authenticity: Musings on Fundamentalism, Part 1 we recognize that Dr. McLachlan has drifted. He is drifting away from the firm convictions he articulated in the 1998 article.

Dr. McLachlan wrote, “Community is being elevated above theology, growth becomes more important than truth.” Tragically we are seeing unmistakeable signs that he is becoming an advocate for community and growth at the expense of theology and truth. His unqualified endorsement of Kevin Bauder (Doran, Olson, Jordan) and consequently their compromised theology for the sake of community confirms an unfortunate change of conviction and direction.


Related Reading:
Is the former Northland Baptist Bible College, “Unchanged?” See Is NIU “Unchanged?” Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity

Calvary Baptist Seminary (Lansdale) to Host Dr. Haddon Robinson


  1. In the quotations, he said his concern was about churches dropping the denominational tag. I don't know how NBBC/NIU has anything to do with that. Is it possible you did not properly understand the point he was making back then since you seem to have missed this one?


  2. Michael:

    Thanks for the mention. I was/am aware. When the denominational tag is dropped "specifics of doctrine are dismissed or unimportant." Be it a church or college once "Baptist" is dropped the meaning and message are the same.