September 18, 2017

Archival Series- Kevin Bauder: There He Goes Again, Redefining Fundamentalism

Pastor Marc Monte
In his recent [3/6/15] essay, “Another One Bites the Dust,” Dr. Kevin Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, analyzes the unfortunate trend of the dissolution of Fundamentalist institutions of higher learning.  Dr. Bauder is a brilliant man and prolific writer who has bequeathed a wealth of thought-provoking material to the Lord’s church.  His book, Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order, is a poignant defense of the Baptist position concerning both the polity and the practice of Baptist churches.  This author uses Dr. Bauder’s book and he recommends it widely.

Dr. Bauder’s recent article seeks to address reasons for the demise of many prominent Fundamentalist colleges and seminaries.  Going beyond the standard arguments of cultural shift and constituency alienation (both of which, he postulates, are legitimate issues), Dr. Bauder presents additional, not-often-considered factors pertinent to the death of these institutions.  His analysis deserves thoughtful consideration as Fundamentalist institutions move into the “brave, new world” of the 21st Century. 

In such a thoughtful article, it is unfortunate that Dr. Bauder could not resist his penchant for trashing what he describes as the “King James Only orbit.”  It appears to this avid Bauder reader that the good professor harbors unreasonable angst toward fellow fundamentalists who hold to a view of manuscript evidences different from his own.  His classification, “King James Only orbit,” paints with a broad brush, thereby unfairly dismissing legitimate theological positions within that orbit.

More than most men, Dr. Bauder understands that precise theology is nuanced theology.   For example, Dr. Bauder would not accept the tenants of every form and presentation of Calvinism.  He would be careful to distinguish his brand of Calvinism from others, emphasizing the nuances of his position as opposed to others.  This author contends that the same careful, nuanced approach should apply to the “King James Only orbit.”  There are some within the “orbit” who hold to a false theory of double inspiration.  There are others, however, who simply appeal to the Textus Receptus manuscripts as their authority, rejecting other differing manuscripts as spurious.  Such a view is not heterodox.  It is a legitimate, nuanced theological position.  To hold such a position does not place one outside the fundamentalist theological sphere.  Indeed, the Lord’s church held to the infallibility of those apographs (manuscript copies) for over 1800 years.  Only in the late 1800’s did the text of the New Testament suffer significant destabilization with the publication of newly discovered, variant manuscripts.

Dr. Bauder’s most jarring and politically charged statement appears with his textual position playing loudly in the background:
The King James Only crowd likes to boast that schools like Pensacola Christian College and West Coast Baptist College are thriving, and that may be true. These colleges, however, are not representative of fundamentalist institutions, and their prosperity does not do anything to help normal fundamentalism.” (Emphasis added.)
Herein, Dr. Bauder grievously errs. To say that Pensacola and West Coast are not “representative of fundamentalist institutions” redefines, once again, fundamentalism.  Neither school denies nor do they adulterate any point of the classical fundamentalist credo.  Their doctrinal statements are readily available for anyone’s inspection.  In addition, both schools practice personal and ecclesiastical separation, the hallmark of fundamentalism. The fact that these schools specify allegiance to a specific Greek text in no way diminishes their fundamentalist credentials.  In addition, both schools have a strong fundamentalist heritage.  In the case of Pensacola, it has flourished within the sphere of fundamentalism for decades.  Many fundamentalist churches recommend both Pensacola and Bob Jones as options within the fundamentalist realm.  Dr. Bauder’s needlessly divisive statement lacks both theological and historical support.

The second portion of his statement is even more troubling:  The prosperity of these colleges “does not do anything to help normal fundamentalism.”  Frankly, this author could scarcely believe a man of Dr. Bauder’s intellectual stature would make such an all-encompassing, condemnatory statement.  To claim disagreement with a nuanced theological issue is one thing; but to claim that these schools do “not do anything to help normal fundamentalism” demeans the work and dedication of sincere servants of Christ.  His statement slanders thousands of pastors who recommend Pensacola and West Coast, classifying godly men as somehow as not “normal.” And his statement simply isn’t true.  Thousands of fundamentalist pastors find in these schools a place of believing scholarship for their students.  Both of these schools have sent out thousands of Christian workers into the harvest fields of the world.  Both of these schools proclaim and defend the “faith once delivered to the saints,” (Jude 3).  Both take missions, church planting, and evangelism seriously and both have seen stellar success in these areas.  Both are filling the fundamentalist pulpits of America with men sound in the faith and zealous for the redemption of the lost. 
Succinctly stated, Dr. Bauder’s declaration is both irresponsible and indefensible. 
While Dr. Bauder has presented much good analytical material in his article—material that deserves thoughtful consideration—he has, once again, marred his work with an unnecessary rant against Christian people—fellow fundamentalists—who love and serve the Lord.  He seems bent on making enemies where he could have found friends, and, in so doing, he repeats an error plaguing fundamentalism from its inception—an error which increasingly alienates intelligent young men and women from the fundamentalist movement.

Ps. Marc Monte (Originally published March 9, 2015)
Faith Baptist Church, Avon

For a continuation of this discussion from Pastor Monte, please see:

Previous Articles by Ps. Monte:
Muddying the Clearwaters 
Bauders position differs markedly from the strong stance of R.V. Clearaters. Doc, as he was called, had no trouble calling a spade and spade. Bauder struggles with that…. For reasons known only to himself, Bauder mocks those whose doctrinal concerns include bibliology, the blood atonement and sovereignty/free will.
Kevin Bauder: It Wont Fly With Those of Us Who Know
If Kevin desires to take Dr. Clearwaters venerable institution a different direction from the founder, he should do so without pretending to be the 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 Bauders leading.  Its bad enough that his school is headed in a decidedly leftward direction. Please, Dr. Bauder, dont make it any worse by pretending some affinity with one of the greatest separatist Christians of the last century.
 Genuine Integrity Demands a Simple Admission 
What troubles [me], however, is the nagging feeling that Jeff Straub was attempting to convey more than just mere admiration for stands well taken. His not-so-subtle mention that both of these pastors are entrenched in the SBC appears to lend tacit approval to the denominational organization…. Dr. Clearwaters was not one to speak well of the denominational machine.” Genuine integrity demands a simple admission from institutional leadership that they are moving from the separatist principles of their founders.
Related Reading:
A Letter From Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters to Kevin Bauder
Kevin, while reading your articles I have observed an inordinate affection towards pseudo-intellectual teaching, and a disdain for old-fashioned, confrontational Bible preaching.  Make no mistake, old fashioned, confrontational Bible preaching is exactly why I founded Central Seminary.  My burden was to train men with an air-tight understanding of the Scriptures, with the ability to stand in pulpits across the land and preach, thus saith the Lord,” with the desire to start churches and win souls to Christ.  To the contrary, I did not start the school over which you [Bauder] preside, for men to flounder in unbelief, for them to wonder for decades where they stand, or for them to be given to counseling, teaching and academic idolatry.  I often told the men I was training, We use the mind here, but we do not worship it.” Dr. Bauder, all given appearances seem to indicate that you are intentionally trying to lead those who follow your writings…away from the testimony upon which [Central Seminary] was founded and into the compromising orbit of protestant evangelicalism.
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