In my evangelistic travels I have always enjoyed the opportunity to meet and visit with people and to hear about life in the communities where they live. Strange stories about how some people think have always caught my attention and stayed with me. One man related to me that he knew a man in his community that had a prized axe that had been in the family for many years. The man viewed it as an heirloom. It was said that as the old man reminisces about the axe, he includes a story about how he had to replace its handle after it had broken. Then there is also the story about how years ago during the time his father used it the axe head itself had been lost and replaced. The implication and significance of those two merely incidental replacements were lost upon the old man because in his thinking he had the axe his family had always used.
When the present presidential leadership of Central Baptist Theological Seminary speaks of continuing the heritage and vision of that institution, he can only do so in the same way that the above old man did of his “family’s” axe. There was nothing original left of the old axe, but since the individual parts had been changed out separately with much time elapsing between the events it was possible to think that the axe was something that it no longer was. So is the case with CBTS.
Since the institution was founded upon a separatistic Fundamentalist foundation and firmly set by its founders to maintain that same course, any current claims of continuing in that heritage coupled to an attached statement that expresses a desire to have “careful, limited fellowship” with Evangelicals, albeit those who believe that they are somehow conservative, is nothing more than imaginative thinking.
A quick review of the “changed out parts” of Fundamentalism at CBTS by Dr. Bauder
It is generally acknowledged that Fundamentalism has three essentials. The first is Biblical doctrine, the second is Biblical militancy, and the third, is Biblical separation. In each of these three vital areas, Dr. Bauder has made alterations that are inconsistent with and subvert CBTS’ Fundamental heritage. In order to make these changes seem necessary, he has set on a course to systematically redefine Fundamentalism by changing its history and terms and maligning many of its leaders. I covered many of the historical issues in my nine part series entitled “Considerations Concerning the Proclamation of a Post-Fundamentalism Era and the Foundations for Paleo-Evangelicalism” [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9] so I will refrain from repeating that material in this post.
I subsequently followed up that series with two articles covering his replacement definition of ecclesiastical separation as he narrowed it from being church-purity focused to instead being Gospel-purity focused. The first of these was “Is Ecclesiastical Separation about a Pure Church or a Pure Gospel?” which was an introduction at my blog to my article “A Pure Church or a Pure Gospel: Does it Really Matter?” guest published at In Defense of the Gospel blog. The second piece was “There Is a Difference and It’s a Name Changer.“
Fundamentalism’s position on personal separation has greatly suffered as well falling victim to Dr. Bauder’s declared inability for the Scriptures to have any direct application to anyone not personally addressed in the Biblical text thus making any and all of the Bible’s applications totally and undeniable dependent upon the relative strengths or weaknesses of extra-Biblical means. There is more detail about this further down in this post.
I will not be taking the time in this post to examine what changes Dr. Bauder may have made to CBTS’s educational approach or its understanding of revival or spiritual power. [BTW, Don Johnson has posted an article which includes a discussion about CBTS’s ethos statement on “revivalism” at his blog an ox goad, eh? in “A New Fundamentalist Manifesto?“]
I do want to add some pertinent remarks concerning a change in emphasis regarding leadership qualities. Dr. Bauder views with contempt the strong leadership represented by many of Fundamentalism’s leaders and promotes instead servant-leadership. Dr. Rolland McCune commented on the rising servant-leadership issue within Fundamentalism in his review of Dr. Doug McLachlan’s book Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism. About this leadership issue Dr. McCune wrote,
The idea of “servant leadership” as it is propagated in the New Evangelical community was severely criticized by David F. Wells, a fellow New Evangelical. He says that the term “has the ring of piety about it. But it is false piety, or it plays on an understanding of servanthood that is antithetical to biblical understanding. Contemporary servant leaders are typically individuals without any ideas of their own, people whose convictions shift with the popular opinion to which they assiduously attune themselves, people who bow to the wishes of “the body” from which their direction and standing derive” (No Place For Truth [Eermans, 1993]’ pp. 214-15). His attack was directed at the lack of convictions and biblical/doctrinal truth that has overtaken the New Evangelical movement and that has displaced theology with psychology and the prescriptions of the modern self movement. This is not the case with the author of Reclaiming . . . Fundamentalism, but a word of caution is in order. Without forceful leadership and the aggressive prosecution of a biblical philosophy and agenda, the Fundamentalist will find his vision being challenged by another who is quite militant about his own proposal. Well’s point is well taken: Servant leadership does not necessitate a benign, non-aggressive stance. [Emphasis added] 1
A closer look at some other strange “cuts” left by Dr. Bauder’s new axe
Here are some strange “cuts” left from what is supposed to be a Fundamentalist axe.
1. I do not believe that a Fundamentalist axe speaks of the Gospel as having assumptions and implication as part of its essence.
What is the gospel? Paul described it as the message that Christ died for our sins and rose again (1 Cor. 15:1-8). The gospel assumes that we have sinned, that our sins have placed us under God’s wrath, and that we cannot save ourselves. It assumes that Christ is returning to execute God’s judgment upon the living and the dead. It assumes that Christ is a qualified sin-bearer, i.e., that He is truly divine and truly human, born of a virgin, sinless in His person, and righteous in all His acts. It assumes that we have an authoritative, inerrant source from which to learn all of these things. The list of truths that are assumed in or implied by the gospel is quite long, and we do not yet know everything that belongs on it. What we do know, however, is that these assumptions and implications are extremely important, so important that to deny any one of them is to deny the gospel itself. These necessary assumptions and implications of the gospel are called the fundamentals. A fundamental doctrine is precisely a doctrine that is essential to the gospel. 2
With all due respect given to whom it is due, but making such statements in regards to the Gospel on the assumed basis that 1 Corinthians 15 provides the singular, limited, definition of the Gospel reveals an incredibly, ineffective exegesis ability for a seminary president. The Gospel of Mark itself begins with these instructive words, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Let it be stated without equivocation that the assumptions or implications concerning the Gospel, as Dr. Bauder speaks, are themselves a part of the actual Gospel.
Fundamentalism rejects a theology that says that the Bible contains the Word of God. It should also reject a theology that places the Gospel on a slippery slope of assumptions and implications.
2. I do not believe that a Fundamentalist axe would come to these conclusions about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ in response to the Da Vinci Code.
Getting married and begetting children are human activities. If Jesus had married, He would have been a husband according to His human nature. If He had begotten children, He would have been a father according to His human nature. Since the properties of the divine nature do not display themselves in the human nature, Jesus’ children would not have received anything from His divine nature. They could, perhaps, be called “children of God” in the same sense that Mary can be called “mother of God,” but their nature and constitution would be purely and simply human. They would not have been miraculous beings. Since they would have been born from a purely human mother, and since they would not have received Jesus’ divine nature, they would have been sinners, standing in need of salvation.
Some might find it odd to suggest that Jesus’ children (if He had begotten any) would need Him to be their Savior. Is that really any more unusual, however, than the fact that His mother, Mary, needed Him to be her Savior? Yet the Bible explicitly states that she acknowledged her need of a Savior (Luke 1:47).
The conclusion seems to be inescapable. As a genuinely human being, Jesus could have married. Nothing about His deity would have made a marriage unthinkable. No moral precept would have prohibited it. A married Jesus would not be incompatible with biblical Christianity in any way.
Neither would Jesus as a parent. As a true human, Jesus could have fathered children. Parenthood would not have contradicted His deity. No moral precept would have prohibited His fatherhood. His children would have been ordinary human beings, sinners like all others, standing in need of a Savior. A Jesus who begat children would not contradict biblical Christianity in any way. 3
My Bible tells me,
For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. Matthew 19:12
Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. 7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Hebrews 10:5-7
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. Titus 3:9
Years ago while I visited a prominent Washington DC area IFB church, the assistant pastor who led the Sunday School class substituted a video portrayal of the life of Christ in place of a lesson. The “Christ” in the video was a laughing, prankster type who stepped back out of the reach of a women coming to touch him for healing only then to smile and laugh as he came back close enough for her to be healed. In the discussion that ensued I noted two important comments. The first was from a wise old man who said he was offended at such a light, profane portrayal of Christ. He reminded the class that according to the Scriptures Christ was the Man of Sorrow and also that we are never told in the Scriptures that He laughed. The second remark was that of a foolish women who retorted, “In my own mind that is how I like to think of Jesus.” To that retort of hers and to what Dr. Bauder has written I say, “None of us are allowed to think of the Lord Jesus Christ other than as He is revealed in the Scriptures.”
It was not God’s will for Christ to marry; therefore, it is foolishness to discuss its pros or cons.
Furthermore, while Christ was in the flesh, in no way was He given to the experience of being in the flesh. Being in the flesh was for Him a humiliation not any what a fulfillment. Yes, He ate food like we must eat food, but I doubt that He ever remarked that anything He ate was exquisitely good. Things which pertained to His flesh were things to be endured not things to be sought after.
Finally about this subject, there is a direct contradiction in thought to assert as true both that Christ had to be born of a virgin to be sinless and that if He were to reproduce His offspring would be sinful. If the second part is true, then Christ’s own sinlessness is brought into question because the same thing that would make His own children sinners would have made Him a sinner though He were born of virgin with no earthly father. If the first part is true, then stating that He would produce sinful offspring likewise brings direct questions against His own sinlessness because that sinful nature in His offspring could only come from Him.
3. I do not believe that a Fundamentalist axe would opine like this on same-gender attraction.
As we conduct that conversation, one distinction needs to be made clearly. Same-sex attraction is a different matter from homosexuality. Being tempted with the sin and being a sinner are two different things.
The same is true of opposite-sex attractions, of course. Married people may find themselves being drawn to individuals other than their spouses. Such temptations are not in themselves necessarily lustful, nor are they necessarily sinful. The temptations become sin when they are harbored and acted upon.
My response is that same-sex attractions by themselves are no disqualification from church membership. They are no disqualification from church office. They should be no disqualification from the friendship of God’s people. In fact, same-sex attractions by themselves should not even hinder Christians from entering the marriage covenant and bearing children.
Attractions are things to be managed. They can be rejected, or they can be dwelt upon and acted upon. They can be learned and unlearned. Those who reject them and seek to unlearn them are not to be judged as if they had acted upon them. 4
The Bible clearly states that to arrive at such a place men have first walked a long way from God and so corrupted themselves that God has given them up to a reprobate mind to do things they otherwise would not do.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient. Romans 1:26-28
Dr. Bauder appears to be giving credence to evolutionary science whose consensus is that people are born with same-gender attractions. The Scripture gives no support to the notion of natural same-gender attraction.
Furthermore, sin is not to be managed and indeed it cannot be. It is a master over men, and never mastered by them. Christ’s death and resurrection are the basis for present victory over sin for believers because the power of sin has been broken.
4. Finally, I do not believe that a Fundamentalist axe denies the ability of the Scriptures to be authoritative in respect to its applications.
Without second-premise arguments, we would not be able to apply Scripture at all. Because our names do not occur in the text, the applicability of virtually every biblical promise, command, prohibition, and principle depends upon some version of the second-premise argument. This is true even in the matter of salvation. Here is an example.
Biblical principle: God commands all humans everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
Outside premise: I am a human.
Conclusion: God commands me to repent.
This argument is so natural for us that we do not even realize that we are making it. Unless we did, however, we could not apply the text to our own situation. The strength of the argument depends upon the certainty of the assertion that we are humans. Since our confidence in this assertion is unshakable, we regard the application of the text as certain.
Precisely because they do not come from Scripture, second premises are always subject to evaluation. To question a second premise is not to question biblical authority. Second premises can and should be examined. 5
Let us pay strict attention to what is being said. If the Scriptures cannot be applied at all without some second premise arguments, if all second premise arguments are formed extra-Biblically upon mere human frameworks whether that is our faulty human reasonings, our imperfect human sciences, or our deceitful human experiences, and if all applications made thereby are necessarily always subject to human re-evaluation, does it all amount to nothing more than a novel way of undermining Biblical authority? Confessing that the Scriptures are authoritative but then hedging all of its applications upon human weaknesses makes the confession useless in the end. Where is the “old axe” whose “cut” left a confident “Thus saith the LORD” in its preaching and teaching?
The failure of the second premise argument can be seen even in the simple, undisputable example provided by Dr. Bauder. Being a human according to extra-Biblical standards is not as certain as he suggests. African-Americans (and Native Americans among other groups) were not viewed as humans during a shameful period of American history. The Constitution did not view them fully human. There was published science which affirmed they were not. Sadly, many churches and Christians felt the same way, If African-Americans were to have relied on Dr. Bauder’s second premise argument to know whether they could be saved, they would have had no confidence in the matter. (By the way, even today evolutionary science teaches men that they are only a type of animal rather than created in the likeness of God.) As for me, I am completely confident in my own humanity but not because of science, the testimony of others, or even self-awareness. I know beyond a shadow of any doubt that I am human in need of salvation because the Bible itself and the witness of the Holy Spirit to the Bible’s truth tell me that I am.
What do all these strange “cuts” by his axe reveal concerning its nature?
Affirming that the Scriptures have absolutely no authoritative application is a “cut” left from an axe, though eerily familiarly to me, it is definitely not the axe of Biblical Fundamentalism. I remember who it was that taught that the Scriptures were to be subjected to human reasoning, do you? I also remember what the reaction to that premise was, do you? Now that some men, who desire to creep in unawares within Biblical Fundamentalism, are attempting to attach a sanitized human reasoning to a novel “ideal” Fundamentalism and promote its prudent use in theology, discerning men see it for what it really is. It is not the axe that used to be wielded at CBTS and there are more than a few people who knew that this is true.
My brethren, these are serious matters that the faithful Christian cannot ignore. A fervent and robust defense of the Biblical Faith is still in order especially in light of certain men now publicly declaring that they want the pens and voices of the critics to be silenced.
- Dr. Rolland McCune, “A Review Article by Rolland D. McCune, Th.D. of Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism by Douglas R. McLachlan (American Association of Christian Schools, 1992),” Detroit Theological Baptist Seminary, Allen Park , MI, November 1994.
Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, “The Importance of Separation,” In the Nick of Time, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Minneapolis, 4 August 2006. Viewed at http://www.centralseminary.edu/publications/20060804.pdf.
Dr. Bauder, “The Da Vinci Code, Part Eight – Could Jesus Marry?” In the Nick of Time, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Minneapolis, 28 April 2006. Viewed at http://www.centralseminary.edu/publications/20060421.pdf.
Dr. Bauder,”A Brief Interruption: Reflections on an Outing,” In the Nick of Time, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Minneapolis, 2 July 2010. Viewed then at http://www.centralseminary.edu/resources/nick-of-time/222-reflections-on-an-outing. Updated link: http://www.centralseminary.edu/resources/nick-of-time/267-a-brief-interruption-reflections-on-an-outing
Dr. Bauder, “Now About Those Differences, Part 7 -Second Premise Arguments,” In the Nick of Time, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Minneapolis, 16 July 2010. Viewed at http://www.centralseminary.edu/resources/nick-of-time/226-now-about-those-differences-pt-7.