October 25, 2012

Archival Series: Should We Abandon the Name “BAPTIST?”

In light of the previous articles’ discussion of both the Highland Park Baptist Church* and the former Northland Baptist Bible College dropping “Baptist” from their names I present to you the following from Dr. Ernest Pickering (1928-2000).

Many colleges and seminaries were brought into existence by the prayers and sacrificial giving of fundamental Baptist people. There has developed in some of these schools an “itch” to distance themselves as far as possible from their Baptist roots (the “denominational walls” as some have called them), become more broadly “evangelical” in their posture, while retaining, insofar as possible, the support of their Baptist constituency.  One such school, long part of the Baptist movement in the United States, embarked on a course to change its name.  While publicly asserting they were not really changing anything essential, and while “pushing the right buttons” so as to assure their long-time constituents that everything was all right, the president of this institution had a definite agenda in mind which did not coincide with the historic position of the college. It was the president’s intent to move the school away from the separatist Baptist position it had historically occupied.

In a set of notes distributed only to the Executive Committee of the institution, the president, who had only recently come from a position in an interdenominational, new evangelical school, lamented that for all these years the college had been cut off from the “conservative evangelical community” due to its Baptist image.  Since he believed this “evangelical community” needed a liberal arts college to which they could send their students, he proposed to his Executive Committee (and later to the Board of Trustees) that the Baptist school make the changes necessary in order to enable them to fill that need.  One of his principal declared goals was to “broaden the student and supporting constituency to include all conservative evangelicals.” He suggested the school pattern itself after the Moody Bible Institute and “de-emphasize denominational walls.”  In other words, for all practical purposes, the school would cease to be a Baptist institution in the sense that its founders originally intended.  Those who began the school never envisioned it to be training ground for “evangelicals.”  They purposed for it to be a center for the training of people who would have Baptist convictions to serve in fundamental Baptist churches.
The entire purpose of the founders has now been perverted.
Part of the plan to change the institution involved the creation of a special board of reference apart from the regular governing board.  Members of this board would not have to meet the same doctrinal and ecclesiastical requirements as members of the regular board, so that “prominent evangelical Christians whose church membership might otherwise exclude them from the Board of Trustees” could serve.  The name of the college was to be changed and the name “Baptist” removed from the publicized title in order to give it the desired broader image.  The proposed program has now been completed. The name is changed, the college is moving in a broader sphere, and yet it still retains its approval as an official Baptist training institution by a national body of Baptist churches.

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.  Let us not apologize for them, but preach them and teach them in the power of the Spirit so that future generations may continue to faithfully stand by them.

Dr. Ernest D. Pickering, Th.D.
Copyright 2004 by Baptist World Mission
Reprinted by permission (excerpt pp. 6-8, 12; bold added)
*What Do Pillsbury, Tennessee Temple & Northland Have in Common?

Site Publisher Commentary
From nearly 20 years ago Dr. Pickering, in seemingly prophetic imagery, was articulating what we see unfolding in fundamental Baptist circles today.  An example such as: Under the direction of Dr. Matt Olson the former Northland “Baptist” Bible Collegeembarked on a course to change its name while publicly asserting they were not really changing anything essential.” See, Is NIU “Unchanged?” Northland Baptist Bible College Position Statement on Contemporary Issues in Christianity

Dr. Pickering concluded his article with this statement, “…a larger problem in the church today—the effort to minimize differences and magnify similarities.”

Minimize differences and magnify similarities.”  Isn’t that exactly what Matt Olson, Tim Jordan, Doug MacLachlan, Sam Horn, Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran and others like them have been attempting these many months with the “conservative” evangelicals.  Kevin Bauder’s 24 part Now, About Those Differences series was nearly an exercise in futility for readers trying to discern first, where he was noting any real differences, and second, identify any differences that might preclude cooperative efforts between fundamental Baptists and evangelicals.  Al Mohler signing the Manhattan Declaration was excused by Drs. Bauder and Doran.  John Piper’s embrace of Rick Warren has been ignored by both men.  Catchy phrases and ideas such as, “separation in academic contexts, it’s all about the gospel, gospel-driven separation and gospel-centric fellowship” are the rallying cries for minimizing the differences.  Men who have adopted the new paradigm shift toward a “gospel-centric” fellowship seek common ground with non-separatist evangelicals by magnifying similarities they share, which at its core is Calvinistic soteriology in the form of the Lordship Salvation* interpretation of the gospel.  When, however, they come to aberrant theology, worldliness, cultural relativism and ecumenical compromises of the evangelicals those differences are minimized, tolerated, allowed for, ignored and/or excused for the sake of  “community.”

Community” the very word that Dr. Pickering cited as the motive for a course change that included abandoning the name “Baptist.” And away with the name went the application of a core fundamentalist Baptistic principle, namely biblical separation.  The very same course change Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, Matt Olson, Tim Jordan, et.al., have embarked on and attempting to influence others to follow.  The difference today is simply a reverse order. With the exception of Matt Olson at Northland “International” University they, their institutions retain the name “Baptist, but the principles and application of fundamental, separatist Baptists are going away ahead of the name for the sake of “community” with non-separatist, compromising so-called “conservative” evangelicals.

In the face of a growing mood for change among certain men who claim a heritage to biblical separation we thank God there are men who are going to put God and His Word first and ahead of the influence to adopt the new fashion compromise.  To the purveyors of compromising Scripture for the sake of community: We will not follow you down the jagged path of tolerance for the sake of “community” with non-separatist, compromised and erring believers in evangelicalism. We will instead continue to “admonish” our brethren in evangelicalism to obey the Scriptures and remain withdrawn from (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15) them until they move toward obeying the Lord and His eternal mandates. We will, instead, “preach them (divinely revealed truth [including biblical separation]) and teach them in the power of the Spirit so that future generations may continue to faithfully stand by them.

* See, Summary of Lordship Salvation From a Single Page

Related Reading:
Community is Being Elevated Above Theology, by Dr. Doug McLachlan
Dr.McLachlan wrote, “specifics’ of doctrine are dismissed or unimportant.” In Matt Olson’s Confidence in the Next Generation article on the Grace Bible Church, a member of CJ Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries, a major specific of doctrine is not even mentioned. A doctrine that the current official NIU doctrinal position states was “temporary,” must be “rejected, opposed” and “cannot accept.” That major doctrine is Charismatic theology, which teaches that the sign gifts of tongues, prophecy and healings are active and should be sought after today. Yet, Matt Olson praised this church and its pastor.
Has God Changed the “Old Paths” for a new “Radical Center?” by Dr. Lance Ketchum.
Apparently, there are now certain acceptable deviations from the pathway of righteousness and doctrinal purity. These new degrees of acceptable deviations are not based upon an accusation regarding the fallibility of Scripture, but the fallibility of theological dogmatism. Apparently, we can never be certain about anything any longer. Oh yes, there are certainly theological absolutes, but they fall into a very narrow category we will call the fundamentals. Apparently, now the only real fundamental worth separating over is the Gospel. Of course, this Gospel Only view must be very broadly defined to include Lordship Salvation, Easy Believism, Only Believism, Monergism, and even the Pentecostal Full Gospel. These New Centrists are no longer going to separate over unimportant doctrines such as false Ecclesiology, false Eschatology, false Cessationism, or even over what defines acceptable spiritual music in the worship of God.
Is This Really Authentic? by Pastor Brian Ernsberger.
Dr. McLachlan is laying down the claim that these men “and others like them” are bringing about what he wrote in his book. I would disagree. What these and others are doing is what Dr. McLachlan is articulating in his article, not what he articulated in his book. Dr. McLachlan has shifted his criteria for reclamation.
Has Converging With Evangelicals Been a Dangerous and Failed Experiment?

Dr. Rick Arrowood: Answering Questions About the Changes We Are Seeing in Fundamentalism

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