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Kevin Bauder on the core idea of fundamentalism

December 10, 2007

I recently listened to a sermon from Kevin Bauder at the 2006 Central Baptist Theological Seminary Foundation’s Conference. The sermon is Guarding the Gospel, preached from the 2d epistle of John. You must needs listen to this sermon.

For emphasis sake, let me say that again: listen to this sermon.

Bauder does an excellent job, I think, of making the case for separatism and fundamentalism. The case is quite compelling (I say that realizing that since I am already convinced by it, I naturally find the case compelling). Here are some excerpts:

What is the least that [this passage] requires of us. Well, at the very least it seems that we are required to extend absolutely no recognition to an apostate that would imply that we view him as a fellow Christian. We are obligated to do nothing that would lead other people to think that he is a Christian leader or a good Christian teacher. Is this so difficult to comprehend? Is this so difficult to grasp? The guy denies the gospel, how can he be treated as a Christian? The guy denies the gospel, how can he be recognized as a Christian teacher? The guy denies the gospel, how can we put him beside us on the platform of a Christian meeting? The guy denies the gospel, how can we ask him to lead in prayer? The guy denies the gospel, there is no common ground! Somebody who denies the gospel is attacking the most important thing, not just in the world, but in all the universe, in all time, because it is in the gospel that the whole character of God and the whole truth about God comes into focus, that the whole character and need of humans, the truth about humans and the provision for humans, comes in focus. You attack the gospel, we have nothing left! How can there be fellowship with an apostate? And yet John says, you extend recognition to this person, even to the point of bidding him chairein, you become a shareholder in his evil deeds. . . .

There are plenty of people in our world who are going to say the gospel is true and they believe it and they mean it, and they believe it and they are genuinely brothers and sister in Christ, but when it comes to the question “How important is it?”, their answer is going to be “Not important enough to pull away from the apostates.” Is open theism apostasy? If you say that it is, how can you possibly remain in a denomination with open theists? Is New Perspective on Paul apostasy? If you say that it is, how can you possibly remain in an ostensibly Christian organization, lending your name and influence to that organization, which permits the propagation of New Perspective on Paul? . . .

This, I think, has huge implications, not only for the way that we treat apostates, but also for the way we treat Christian indifferentists. Here’s a brother, he’s genuinely a Christian, he believes the gospel, perhaps has devoted his life to preaching the gospel, maybe even at some level has defended the propositional truth of the gospel, and yet he is willing to make common cause with people who deny the gospel. Should we look at that person as a model of Christian wisdom and insight? I remind you what John says on that person. He has become partaker, he has become fellowshipper, he has become a shareholder in the evil deeds. Does that mean that we write him off as an unbeliever? No! But I think it certainly restricts the degree to which we can endorse and participate in his ministry.*

________

*Please see Kevin’s helpful and clarifying comments below in the comments of this thread.

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36 Comments leave one →
  1. December 10, 2007 8:04 pm

    Hi Ryan

    I am downloading the message as I type so I can give it a listen soon.

    Can I quibble a little? In making ‘the gospel’ the issue over which separation is exercised, what is meant? Unfortunately, ‘the gospel’ is an ambiguous term in our world. So, while agreeing in principle with what Bauder is saying here, it is critical to define what is meant as the core issue.

    I have been teaching our people the doctrine of inerrancy lately. Where would this doctrine fit in? It is not at the core, I don’t think, but I would have a real problem cooperating with errantists in any way.

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. December 10, 2007 8:27 pm

    Ryan,

    Can you speak to Dr. Bauder’s definition of “indifferentists.” What I’m getting at is, would he consider Piper an indifferentist for remaining in the BGC while it tolerated open theists, even though he was aggressively engaging to expose the theological bankruptcy of the doctrine and working to change attitudes towards it within the BGC?

    That doesn’t seem like genuine indifferentism to me, though I wouldn’t suggest that questioning such a strategy is inappropriate.

  3. December 10, 2007 9:45 pm

    Don,

    I would say that the question of the veracity and inspiration of Holy Scripture both are connected with the truthfulness of the gospel. I think that point can be made theologically (similar to the way Kevin showed in the sermon that Arianism and Pelagianism contradicted the gospel). Even more explicit are Paul’s plain words in 1 Corinthians 15, that the gospel is that Christ died and rose again according to the Scriptures.

    Ben,

    I don’t want to start naming names where Kevin does not, at least not in a public forum. I know that he takes the implications of 2 John and other scriptures quite seriously and broadly.

  4. December 10, 2007 9:55 pm

    Thanks for the link, Ryan. I appreciated the message very, very much. I’ll recommend it and listen to it again myself.

    I too was surprised by Bauder’s barely-veiled reference (IMO) to a guy like Piper. I’m not disagreeing with his assessment of the need to separate—how Piper can stay within the BGC is beyond me. I just made an audible “wow” when he spoke so candidly of “the indifferentists.” This statement especially surprised me:

    “Should we look at that person as a model of Christian wisdom and insight?”

    Many influential fundamentalist leaders have distanced themselves from Piper and some of his positions (BGC, non-cessationism, etc.) while still learning from and even openly commending his books and sermons, precisely because of his “Christian wisdom and insight” in other areas. I was surprised to hear Dr. Bauder say (if I understood the implications of his statement correctly) that this is wrongheaded, or at least ill-advised.

    I’ve learned much from Piper—not on separation or non-cessationism, to be sure, but on many other areas, including exegesis of particular passages, theology and Christian living. Does/should his failure to separate necessitate that I disregard his biblical insights? Is that what Bauder was suggesting?

  5. December 10, 2007 10:05 pm

    Chris, while I hesitate to speak on Kevin’s behalf, I think you may have taken what he said a bit too far. I cannot recall Kevin ever saying that we should “disregard [Piper’s] biblical insights.” We do not even know for sure he was referring to Piper, though you may be right.

  6. December 10, 2007 10:26 pm

    If I misrepresented him, it wasn’t my intent. The last two paragraphs you quoted seem to point most clearly to Piper.

    Perhaps you can encourage the good Doctor to represent himself in the conversation?

    Thanks again for the post.

  7. December 10, 2007 10:33 pm

    Clarification: whether or not KTB was speaking of Piper personally, it does seem that applying the principles KTB voiced would lead one to include a guy like Piper in the group being described. In other words, whether the discussion includes Piper explicitly or implicitly, it seems like he’s in it.

  8. December 10, 2007 11:10 pm

    It would seem that the descriptions he gave would include someone like Piper.

    Let’s start here, Chris. You said:

    Many influential fundamentalist leaders have distanced themselves from Piper and some of his positions (BGC, non-cessationism, etc.) while still learning from and even openly commending his books and sermons, precisely because of his “Christian wisdom and insight” in other areas. I was surprised to hear Dr. Bauder say (if I understood the implications of his statement correctly) that this is wrongheaded, or at least ill-advised.

    I am not sure Kevin would say that what you describe above is “wrongheaded” or even “ill-advised.”

    At the same time, I do believe that there should be a degree of caution before looking at any indifferentist as a model of Christian wisdom and insight. That is a long way away from saying that we should not profit from their ministry in any way. I’m not sure you’re trying to interpret Kevin that way, but it kind of sounds like it. I think Kevin is calling us all to be careful how we regard indifferentists, whether or not it includes Piper. Hopefully he can come and clarify matters himself. I am sure that is a million times better than my attempting to do it. 🙂

  9. December 11, 2007 8:00 am

    Ryan,

    Fair enough on the personalities.

    But on the other hand, you posted the quote, so I’m assuming you must have some sense of what it means. So speak principially. What does KTB mean by “indifferentist”? Would he understand someone to be an indifferentist who actively contends against error but is unwilling to sever all associations with it (non because he wants to remain associated with it, but because he wants to continue to influence others to contend against it)? Would this understanding of the term be consistent with its normal usage, which I understand to be essentially apathy or willful ignorance?

    Would you consider someone like that to be an indifferentist?

  10. December 11, 2007 8:04 am

    Andy by the way, I don’t think that whether or not a person is specifically identified as an indifferentist is the foundational question. If we agree that the person in my hypothetical question is NOT an indifferentist, I wouldn’t suggest that that fact alone means he’s acting prudently or even rightly.

    Hey, one more question. If I’m a pastor, and I allow my youth pastor to take the teens to a camp that uses manipulative invitations, the kind of music you hate, non-expositional preaching, and occasionally bad soteriology, am I an indifferentist?

  11. December 11, 2007 9:00 am

    Ben asks,

    What does KTB mean by “indifferentist”? Would he understand someone to be an indifferentist who actively contends against error but is unwilling to sever all associations with it (non because he wants to remain associated with it, but because he wants to continue to influence others to contend against it)? Would this understanding of the term be consistent with its normal usage, which I understand to be essentially apathy or willful ignorance?

    Would you consider someone like that to be an indifferentist?

    I do not believe that the desire to influence others to contend against apostasy is a great enough reason to continue associations with apostasy. (This is one of the areas I think the New Evangelicalism of the 1940’s was in error.) The fellowship is a sham. There is no Christian communion with those who deny the gospel, and we both debase the gospel and disobey the words of the blessed apostle John when we continue in what is in name “Christian fellowship” with those who repudiate the Christian faith.

    If I’m a pastor, and I allow my youth pastor to take the teens to a camp that uses manipulative invitations, the kind of music you hate, non-expositional preaching, and occasionally bad soteriology, am I an indifferentist?

    At very least, you don’t seem to be a very good pastor. The question (of course) is whether or not the gospel is being denied. If it is, you are. If it is not, you are not. How’s that for an answer? 🙂

  12. December 11, 2007 9:42 am

    Ryan,

    It seems like you’re answering a question I’m not asking. My question is whether that sort of approach could appropriately be called “indifferentism.”

    I think your answer to the second question is skirting a key point. Indifferentism seems to me to be more essentially connected to an attitude toward error than to the content of the error itself. I think you’re confusing indifferentism with a more difficult discussion of when separation is required.

    In other words, one can be more or less indifferent to a relatively insignificant error, or indifferent to a serious error. Indifferentism, at least in any usage I’ve ever encountered, is not innately linked to gospel error.

  13. December 11, 2007 9:43 am

    Just to clarify, by “second question” I mean the final question in post #10.

  14. December 11, 2007 9:59 am

    In the sermon Kevin defines indifferentism (borrowing off Machen, if I’m not mistaken) as those who believe the gospel but are unwilling to demonstrate their belief through severing communion with apostates. In other words, one may in all points believe himself to be rigidly standing against error, but the Scriptures in fact lay out very clearly how such deniers of the gospel are to be handled. If one does not sever fellowship (as, for instance, 2 John says we should), then they may rightly be considered indifferent to the importance of the gospel, even if they are firmly defending it and boldly proclaiming it.

    It’s kind of like the teenager who thinks he’s living a pure life if he only makes out with his girlfriend but doesn’t go all the way. He may even speak out against impurity. But, contrary to his own ideas of what purity entails, he’s really not living in purity.

  15. brad permalink
    December 11, 2007 12:00 pm

    Thanks Ryan. I was most impressed by the time he spent on what the loss of our reward means eternally. Greatly moving thought.

    And I will never understand the infatuation so many have with Piper.

  16. December 11, 2007 9:44 pm

    Ryan,

    Machen was certainly no indifferentist. So because of liberalism in the Presbyterian denomination, he started a seminary and a missions board. But he didn’t leave the denomination until it tried and convicted him and suspended him from ministry.

    So suppose a church started its own pastoral training institute, acted independently on missions, and the pastor affirmed his willingness to be expelled from the denomination for opposing doctrinal error within it? Is he still an indifferentist in the Machen usage of the term?

    Of course, I’m leaving personalities out as best I can.

  17. December 11, 2007 11:50 pm

    Whether or not he is “an indifferentist in the Machen usage of the term,” I cannot answer. Possibly not. Is this a discussion about separation or indifferentism? I believe a good case can be made that those who do not separate from professing Christians who deny the gospel are to some extent indifferentists, so I nearly equate the two, whether or not Machen (who I simply said coined the term) used the term that way. Being willing to get kicked out is not the same as walking out the door.

  18. December 12, 2007 12:53 am

    You’ll find essays which give Kevin’s perspective on indifferentism here:

    http://www.centralseminary.edu/publications/Nick/Nick126.html
    http://www.centralseminary.edu/publications/Nick/Nick127.html

  19. Kevin T. Bauder permalink
    December 12, 2007 10:19 am

    All,

    Since the name of John Piper has come up, perhaps I should offer a few clarifying remarks.

    (1) The comment about remaining in denominational fellowship with open theists was not directed against Piper. It was a statement of principle. You need to weigh whether the principle applies to Piper. There are at least two reasons why it may not.

    (2) There are two ways to separate. Fundamentalists today usually think that separation means “come out.” Fundamentalists of the 20s and 30s usually thought that separation meant “purge out.” As I understand it, Piper is still involved in an effort to “purge out” Open Theism from the BGC. It’s always difficult to know precisely when such an effort has failed. Clearly, Piper thinks that there is still hope for success within the BGC. Some may disagree (as I do)–but that’s a disagreement over timing, not a disagreement over the basic principle.

    Incidentally, though successes against apostates have been few, they have occasionally occurred. One such success occurred here in the state of Minnesota, where the fundamentalists within the Minnesota Baptist Convention succeeded in puttin out the liberals and maintaining coltrol of the convention. They severed the MBC away from the Northern Baptist Convention, executing “put out” and “come out” separation almost simultaneously. Thus, I do not discount the efforts of those who wish to “put out,” if that is really what they want to do. At some point, however, a reasonable person has to know that the effort has failed. To maintain ties beyond that point is to run afoul of 2 John.

    (3) Piper sincerely does not see involvement in the BGC as a form of Christian fellowship. Bethlehem (he says) does not send any support to the BGC. In charity to Piper, therefore, it is fair to say that he does not see involvement in the BGC as a violation of 2 John, since it is not a form of Christian recognition. My respose: this seems like a strained and overly-finical distinction. If the BGC is not supposed to be a form of Christian fellowship, then why should a church be in it at all? Given the gravity of 2 John, I cannot understand a willingness to take this risk.

    (4) As for Machen, he did not simply “start a seminary.” He SEPARATED from a seminary–and one in which there were no liberals. For Machen, the issue was that Princeton had conceded too much to the indifferentists. He did not simply “start a mission board.” He separated from the established Presbyterian denominational board, and he pulled missionaries out of it. This was the action that precipitated his unfrocking by the PC-USA, and his writings clearly indicate that it was his intention to create a separate Presbyterian church if the PC-USA could not be cleaned out. His trial was the test case to determine whether the cleaning out could take place. Therefore, it is not possible to appeal to Machen as an example of a non-separatist. He was clearly committed both to “put out” and to “come out” separatism.

  20. Kevin T. Bauder permalink
    December 12, 2007 11:34 am

    One more word, on a practical note.

    Conservative evangelicals are allies, and not enemies, of historic (mainstream) fundamentalists. I disapprove of the myopia that sees no distinction between conservative evangelicals such as Piper, and the now-old New Evangelicalism of Ockega, Carnell, Graham, etc. While there are issues to discuss between mainstream fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, attacks and recriminations are out of order.

    Since one paragraph from my sermon can be and has been construed as an attack upon John Piper, I have had the message pulled from our web site. The message will not be reposted until the offending paragraph has been edited out.

    Let me try to make myself more clear than I did in the sermon. John Piper is a brother whom I greatly respect and love. We hold different views on some matters, but that does not alter my appreciation of his ministry. While I may express disagreement from time to time, I have no desire to sit in judgment over Dr. Piper, and I have no intention of attacking his person or his ministry. The same is true of other leaders within conservative evangelicalism, such as Dever, Mohler, MacArthur, Sproule, etc.

    My choice of wording for that paragraph was unfortunate. It begs to be misunderstood. I stand in the position of one who meant no harm, but must apologize for being clumsy—in this case, very clumsy.

  21. December 12, 2007 3:24 pm

    Thank you, Dr. Bauder, for the explanation and for the spirit in which you gave it.

  22. December 12, 2007 6:26 pm

    Thanks Dr. Bauder. That’s really helpful. And to offer a little clarification myself, I didn’t intend to gloss Machen’s separatism in noting his work in founding new organizations. The two aspects of his actions are inextricably linked.

    I think your point about timing is pretty important, but it also introduces some questions. For example, the congregations that have recently left the ECUSA are practicing a form of separatism, but I think we’d all agree that the timing was a bit late, given the extent of ECUSA liberalism even prior to the recent points of conflict. Obviously, what these churches do with their new measure of independence will tell a great deal about their assessment of the depth and nature of the problems they’ve left behind.

  23. Kevin T. Bauder permalink
    December 13, 2007 11:37 am

    Ben,

    There are still evangelical movements in virtually all of the mainline, liberal denominations. What’s interesting is that they almost never become separatists over doctrinal issues, even when the gospel is explicitly denied. They only become separatists over things like the ordination of homosexuals. It seems to me that what they separate over tells you what’s really important to them.

    Kevin

  24. December 13, 2007 11:59 am

    “It seems to me that what they separate over tells you what’s really important to them.”

    Wow. What a perceptive statement. Applying it to various groups, including fundamentalists, would be interesting indeed.

  25. Kevin T. Bauder permalink
    December 13, 2007 3:01 pm

    Chris,

    I think I like your suggestion.

    KTB

  26. December 13, 2007 6:21 pm

    Dr. Bauder,

    I agree. This is where I think less theologically trained laymen in these denominations are far less culpable than the pastors who are responsible to shepherd them.

    Al Mohler talked about this phenomenon in his 12/10 radio program. He described his experience in the SBC of seeing the issues of abortion and, I think, egalitarianism, as the watershed issues that woke up a lot of people who had difficulty grasping the heresy in the doublespeak of the seminary professors and other leaders of the 70s and 80s. Once militant conservatives were able to get the attention of the average people in the pews on those issues, they were able to address inerrancy and other issues more effectively.

    Chris, great point. I’m embarrassed at myself for letting you beat me to the punch. 😉

  27. December 15, 2007 9:34 am

    Ryan,

    Thanks for the link to this inspiring, impassioned, biblical exhortation–and for your strong encouragement to your readership to listen to it.

    A thought FWIW: perhaps you should post Bauder’s comments (esp. #19 and #20 above) in a separate, related post. Had I not chosen to leave a comment, I would not have read his clarifications re: the matter of open theism within one’s denomination. I, apparently like others, assumed he was singling out Piper without naming him. Since that is not what Bauder desired, I’d encourage you to place his comments in a new post. Otherwise those like me who downloaded the message via your website before the editorial work was done might walk away with the wrong perception.

    Grace and peace to you,
    Matthew

  28. December 15, 2007 11:41 am

    Good point, Matthew. I will add another post pointing those who visit to read Kevin’s clarifying comments on this thread.

  29. Bob Meredith permalink
    December 15, 2007 9:21 pm

    Dr. Bauder,
    I appreciate your tone in reference to John Piper. And I truly appreciate your comments. I have had this struggle. As a fundamentalist (Some would disagree with that assessment), I have had many questions and done much research with regard to Piper and the BGC, and Greg Boyd aka Woodland Hills Church, especially. When you taught us about separation in the Ecclesiology class, your structure of fellowship depending on the type of organization and the centrality of the doctrine was excellent, and I appreciate that foundation. I also appreciate the stand you are willing to take here in cyberspace from a biblical perspective. I am referring to the fruit of humility you express in being willing to admit that some statements may be taken wrong. The Evangelical world and the Fundamentalist world needs more leaders like this. The “I have never been wrong, and if you think I am, you have another thing coming” attitude is a blotch on fundamentalism that gave me grave reservations about many of the men and institutions within (WHATEVER THAT MEANS!!). Thank you,
    Bob Meredith

  30. Bob Meredith permalink
    December 15, 2007 9:27 pm

    One more point. I attended the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors in 2003 when Sinclair Ferguson did his messages on fences, which I interpreted as laying the foundation of separatism. See here http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByConference/8/
    When they had the pael discussion one of the questions addressed ended very close to Piper saying that Boyd was preaching another gospel and was not in the “circle,” as Ferguson had laid it out. They were amazing messages.

  31. Sam Hanna permalink
    December 24, 2007 4:31 pm

    Sorry, to break in on this unanimous love-in!

    It is distresing that someone who has the status and credibility within Fundamentalism as Dr. Kevin Bauder would pander such patent nonsense.

    As a Seminary President, Bauder of all people such be cognizant of the dangers in breaking down lines of separation with men like John Piper. Piper states on his own website that he believes Mother Theresa is a classic example of sanctification and cites uncritically as believers men like the Romanist, C K Chesterton and the drunken quasi-Romanist, CS Lewis. I can accept men like MacArthur are saved but I have have got grave doubts about Piper with his defective views of the basic gospel, open support for Rap music and the Toronto Curse (sorry blessing).

    Dr Bauder,

    Piper is no ally to the true Gospel – by your own definition he preaches a perverted one. You should be standing totally opposed to him in every way. Ironically, you imply Ockenga et al as worse than Piper. Whilst I have little time for Ockenga, I would have thought that Dr McCune’s book makes clear thart Ockenga at least discerned that Romanists were outside the pale of salvation and certainly I have never read him arguing for using tham to delineate sanctification!

  32. Hans permalink
    February 15, 2008 2:13 am

    Ryan,

    I followed your thoughts on here with interest, and appreciated Dr. Bauder’s clarification. I think it is probably the context within which Central operates that may have led many to draw the inference which they did.

    Having read the posts, I am quite interested in listening to the sermon. However, Dr. Bauder has been as good as his word, and the link has indeed been moved from the website. I have a feeling that it may be a rather long time before the sermon is reposted. I don’t suppose you have an mp3 file you could send me?

    I wonder if you could clarify a further point for me. How do you regard open theism? As a dangerous heresy or a denial of the gospel? And if it is an apostate position, what particular fundamentals does it deny? Given that there is variation within the open theist camp, perhaps you could address Boyd’s position.

  33. March 4, 2008 7:02 pm

    Hans,

    I know that it has been a long time, but let me give you an answer nonetheless.

    I believe that open theism is a denial of the gospel, in that it changes the nature of prophecy and God’s sovereign control of the world, all of which are intricately connected with the gospel. If God did not know and foreordain that Christ would die for the forgiveness of sins, then the point that Paul stresses in 1 Corinthians 15 that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures is stripped of its significance. I also sincerely believe that the God of open theism, particularly when the implications of open theism are laid bare, is so foreign to the God of Orthodox Christianity that it too betrays it as heterodoxy that denies the God of the gospel. I am not the only one who believes that open theism is “outside the bounds” of orthodoxy; a prominent evangelical so named his book.

    I would commend to all reading this comment who have further questions to read Edwards’ Freedom of the Will, Part 2, Section 11.

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  1. Kevin Bauder comments « Immoderate
  2. Quick Hits (12/20/07) « My Two Cents
  3. Indifferentism « Immoderate

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