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Why is this News?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Ben over at PaleoEvangelical asks "Why Would an Independent Fundamental Baptist Preach in a Reformed Presbyterian Seminary?" and comments on Dr. Kevin Bauder's recent address to the graduating students at Geneva Reformed Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina where former BJU professor (and a teacher I endjoyed very much at school) Dr. Michael P.V. Barrett is the president. There are also some comments going on about this at SharperIron.

My take:

Why is this news?

Now, if it is news because it is a great message. That is fine. I have downloaded it, but have not yet had the opportunity to listen to it. I hope to do so tomorrow.

What I don't understand, however, is why some like Ben and some of the commentators over at SI seem to think this is unusual or that this is some kind of "shift" in the practice of separation among Fundamentalism.

Fundamentalism has always been a multi-denominational movement/idea. From the Niagra Bible Conferences to the writing of The Fundamentals to today includes a continued history of this type of multi-denominational emphasis at places and organizations such as BJU and The World Congress of Fundamentals and the American Council of Christian Churches.

Fundamentalists fellowshiping with other Fundamentalists across denominational lines has happened for years. In fact, Dr. Barrett, the President of the Seminary that hosted this event, taught alongside a number of Baptist and Bible church guys for years at BJU.

It seems to me, that some are hoping that this will somehow open up fellowship with "conservative evangelicals" using the logic that "we can fellowship with those with whom we disagree, so let's fellowship with them, too." The problem with this thinking is that Dr. Bauder is not advocating fellowship with those who involved in compromising relationships, but rather with other separated believers with whom we have differences. It is important to understand about Bauder at this seminary is that it is a Fundamentalist at a Fundamentalist seminary. He is not by action or word advocating acceptance of compromise and that seems to be what the people who are wanting to make this out to be unusual are wanting to push.

Me thinks this is not what some are wanting to make it out to be.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

13 comments:

Andy Rupert said...

Exactly.

Greg Linscott said...

Couple of observations:

1. You sound like some of the guys who get maligned for wanting to appeal to historic fundamentalism, without taking to account recent developments. BJU notwithstanding, Fundamentalism as a whole has been dominated in recent days by Independent Baptists with a dispensational hermeneutic. This has been a great emphasis among many who would see fellowship outside those parameters as compromise. Consider why men like Dr. Barrett are becoming less frequently found on the BJU Bible faculty...

2. Bauder also notes that the fellowship he has with the Free Pres church he is in has much to do with how they worship, even going so far as to say that the fellowship and commonality he shares with them is greater than he would find in many IFB churches "the unity is real." One really should watch the video of the worship service preceding the message in order to appreciate the full context of when and where Bauder makes this statement.

However, what we must also consider is levels of fellowship. Bauder, while a separatist president of a separatist institution, also holds a post-graduate degree from Dallas. He oversees men who participate in organized theological conversation under the auspices of the Evangelical Theological Society. Dr. Minnick, in his interview recently posted on SI, notes that we need to be conversing with Evangelicals with whom we share doctrinal affinity, but with whom we may not share the doctrine (or full practice and application) of separation.

Why is this news? The news is that people are realizing separation is not an all-or-nothing proposition- a misguided perception, but nevertheless, a perception that has existed in recent times. If that is the case, it also means that there is going to be some wrestling with where unity will be shared and where separation must be applied.

Ben’s questions and conclusions will be a natural result- because many in Fundamentalism share their values and have similar methods (or interest in some of the methods, certainly), philosophy, and practices.

Frank Sansone said...

Greg,

Thank you for stopping by. I don't have a lot of time this morning, but will make a couple quick comments here and reserve the right to add to it later.

Regarding your number 1, I do not think this is anyway like trying to redefine Fundamentalism. If you will notice, I commented that this has not only been true historically, but continually up to today. Barrett at BJU was not something from ancient history, it was in the last five to ten years.

I would guess that part of the difference is the orbits of Fundamentalism (for lack of a better term). I have never been in an orbit that included Independent Baptist as part of the distinctives of Fundamentalism.

My home church was a Baptistic Bible church and when David Mook moved to Phoenix to start a Free Prebyterian church, he often attended our church when they did not have services at the beginning (e.g. Sunday night, I think). When my sister graduated from high school, the speaker for her graduation was that same Free Pres pastor - David Mook (he did a great job, btw, and spoke of open doors). At BJU I was often exposed to guys like Paisley (FP) and McKnight (EM). In the ACCC (of which the church where I last served hosted their Annual Conference in 1999 while I was there), you have guys Fundamental Methodists, Free Presbyterians, Independent Baptists, Bible Church, etc. all represented.

The ACCC is not a new organization and is not different from what it has been historically. It has always been multi-denominational and I have never heard it claimed to be anything other than Fundamental.

I guess what I am saying is that to call what has CONTINUED to be true some type of redefinition is to deny not only the early history of Fundamentalims, but also to deny the CONTINUED history of Fundamentalism.

I would also state that the burden of proof would seem to lay on those making the assertion that this kind of relationship is new. I have yet to see it, but have in fact seen just the opposite.

2. I would guess that I have a lot more in common with Chris or Andy (both Bible church guys) than I do with a lot of Independent Baptists, but I am not sure how that is relevant to the topic at hand (maybe I need to watch the video, I guess).

Regarding levels of fellowship, I think that there are indeed levels of fellowship - and that has always been the case. Now, I will admit that there has been a lot of discussion on this of late, but it is not a NEW concept (nothing true ever is). When Mook came to Phoenix, we did not send a group to help him plant his church (for instance). We (as a church) were not at that level of fellowship. We were never encouraged in Church Planting class to plant multi-denominatinal churches (the idea is absurd), but that does not mean that we were not encouraged to fellowship where fellowship was possible.

I have some things to say regarding the "all or nothing" concept, but I need to go.

Thanks for the time.

In Christ,

Frank Sansone

Greg Linscott said...

My observation is that many of the groups in the ACCC as it exists today would not be considered prominent as it was in its early days. Whether we agree with them or not, it has not been the "face" of Fundamentalism over say, the last 25 years or so- certainly not known like it was in its early days.

So by that, I'm not saying that you are redefining as much as ignoring the circumstances of the last 25 years or so.

Question: is covenant theology as likely to be held to by a BJU Bible faculty member today as it was 20 years ago?

Frank Sansone said...

Greg,

I would agree with you that the influence of the ACCC is probably not as great now as it once was, but I would think that it still has a significant reach. I do not think that the fact that it is not considered a "face" of Fundamentalism anymore (is there anything/anyone considered a "face" of Fundamentalism currently?) invalidates the point that this type of fellowship across denominational lines has been an ongoing thing. I also mentioned the World Congress of Fundamentalists and BJU as other examples.

I guess I have been in a whole the last twenty-five years (okay, I was not saved the first part of those twenty-five years), but I ask again, where is the group of Fundamentalists that provide the circumstances of those last 25 years that I am ignoring? Are we talking about some IFBx types or has this been actually promoted by some mainstream Fundamentalists?

I will admit that after I finally had the chance to the listen to the message today, I did find something newsworthy - namely, that he felt like he could not come when he was first asked to come. I would love to hear from him some more about that particular situation.

Regarding your question, I would guess that ultimately that would need to be answered by BJU, and I would say that the seminary is more clearly declared to be dispensational now than they were declared to be so in the past.

I would also say, however, that not employing a Bible teacher who holds to covenant theology is not the same as separating from all those who hold to covenant theology.

I also appreciated the repeated emphasis by Dr. Bauder on the fact that he was speaking not just at a Reformed Seminary, but that he was speaking at a Separated Reformed Seminary. I don't think the repeated statements to this effect were accidental. (He may even have anticipated those who would want to use this to promote an agenda to which he did not agree, which seems to be what is happening.)

Andy Efting said...

This would not be news or groundbreaking for us BJU-types. This type of Fundamentalist fellowship has been part of the BJU mission since its inception. My impression, though, is that many in the MN/WI wing of Fundamentalism have always looked at BJU as suspect in this area because they are not committed Baptists. I think someone coming out of that orbit and speaking at a Reformed, non-Baptist school is somewhat unusual -- not groundbreaking for Fundamentalism but maybe for the Minnesota Baptist Association.

Keith said...

I agree that this is nothing new within historic fundamentalism. And, it has been more prevalent in the BJU wing of fundamentalism than others. For pete's sake, Bob Jones was a Methodist who poked fun at BaBtists. Point to Frank.

However, I also think that this type of thing has been diminishing --even in the BJU wing -- over the last many decades. The independent baptists and baptistic independent bible church guys have been taking over the university and that wing. It depends on your perspective whether you think that is a good thing or a bad thing. Point to Greg.

It seems that the pressing question really ought to be: "Why should fundamentalists view the "doctrine" of separation as more important, more fundamental, than the doctrines of soteriology, sacramentology, etc?

Keith

Luther said...

I can't believe that a visit from an avowed fundamentalist at a Baptist Seminary to a Presbyterian Seminary has caused such a stir. I am a member of the Free Presbyterian Church. I grew up in the PCA church. I believe covenant theology. I believe Paul's gospel (or Calvinism). The reformers are my heroes. I owe much to both churches. I attended BJU as an avowed reformed presbyterian. I had no problems. I didn't always agree with what was preached in chapel or what was taught in bible class. I was looking for a conservative christian college. My parents attended BJU in the late 50s and 60s. During this time the Sunday School was divided up based on your denomination. There were Presbyterian classes, Baptist and Methodist classes. As of late BJU has really marked itself more as Baptist and Dispensational. Regardless of that why cant a fundamental Baptist, who by the way is a gifted speaker and one of the few true fundamentalist thinkers, not speak at a graduation that happens to be Presbyterian??? With all due respect to pastor Sansone, why could you not help plant a church from another denomination?? We on both sides have become so bound by what a seminary church planting class teaches that we lose sight of the mission. The mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity. Did you know that Dr. Bob Jones Jr. was very responsible for helping to start Faith Free Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC?? This fellowship should be normal, not something that causes jaws to drop on the floor. There are levels of fellowship that are easy others would be more difficult. However, as best we can, we should seek to minimize the differences as we seek to preach Christ. I hope this makes sense.

Derek Makri said...

Luther, though they have much in common, most Baptists and Presbyterians have much over which they differ. Some Baptist churches have become more reformed in theology, but most still stick to non-calvinist and non-covenant doctrines, and most Baptist churches baptize by immersion. That is why there are Baptists and Presbyterians. They have chosen their denominations based upon the teachings they agree with. The denominational name acts as a label to let others know what they believe in and stand for. For these reasons a Baptist church usually would not help start a Presbyterian church. The Great Commission is not just about preaching the gospel of Christ, but then "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" which includes critical things like baptism and theology (dispensationalism vs. covenant). You can't overlook those key differences just because you agree in the doctrine of salvation.

Frank Sansone said...

Mr. Luther,

Thank you for stopping by.

Just to clarify, I could not tell from your comments if you had understood this, but I do not think there is anything to cause a stir about Bauder speaking there. That was the point of what I said. Maybe you understood that, but tone is often hard to understand on these blogs and I could not tell if your tone was in agreement with my main point or if your response was directed at the concept that I was addressing in the first place.

Regarding not planting a church with someone of another denomination, I believe that Dr. Bauder and Dr. Barrett would both agree with me on that statement. In fact, I KNOW that Dr. Bauder would as he discussed in his presenation on Separation from Professing Brothers (I wrote about that in this post - Separation from Professing Brothers after he gave his presentation at the National Leadership Conference in Lansdale in February.

Without going into a lengthy discussion on a Saturday night, the basic concept is that there would be enough differences in what an Independent Baptist and an Free Presbyterian believe to make planting a church together unwise and unwieldy.

For instance, what would the church's position on Baptism be? or on Autonomy? or on elders? The list could go on and on. Barrett is a Free Presbyterian for a reason - he strongly believes to those things the FP Church holds to. If he was going to be involved in planting a church, would it not make sense that he would want that church to hold to the same things? I am not saying that I would not plant a church with Barrett (the idea of him wanting to plant a church with me is funny - I doubt that he even knows who I am - unlike some of my other friends who were Barrett "groupies" like Aaron Young) because Barrett is a disobedient brother, but because we hold to too many different views of things that would be important in the functioning of a church. I hope that makes sense. If not, ask me questions to help me clarify the areas I am cloudy.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

Luther said...

Gentelemen, I appreciate your response to my post. I fully understand the tone and the differences between dispensational and covenant theology. My point is biblical churches should support each other even if they belong to different denominations. Sure there are differences in church government, theology, history, etc., but scripture points us to the common ground in Christ. Man's sin in breaking God's law; Man's repentance and acceptance of Christ; Christ's imputed righteousness to believers; Our legal standing before God; Our security in Christ - any church would be happy to see another work started that upheld the gospel - or at least they should be. The kingdom of Christ needs a fire breathing dragon type enemy to draw it together. We are so proud and protective of our "distinctives" that it would prevent us from fellowshipping or assisting other bible believing works. We must not let non essential denominational differences impede the progress of Christ's kingdom.

Frank Sansone said...

Mr. Luther,

I think there may be a bit of a misunderstanding here.

You comment:
We are so proud and protective of our "distinctives" that it would prevent us from fellowshipping or assisting other bible believing works.

In saying that those who differ significantly on distinctives should not plant a church together, I am not saying that fellowshhip with or assistance to other Bible-believing works is not good. These are two different things. I think in the comments I made above about Pastor David Mook's planting of a church in Phoenix, I indicated that there was indeed "fellowship" between my home church and Pastor Mook.

I am saying, however, that to try to start a church in which you have conflicting views on such important areas as baptism, governance, and hermenuetics is not wise nor practical. As a Baptist, I would insist on believer's baptism by immersion for membership, which I would guess you would not want. As a FP, you would expect us to be under the authority of a Presbytery, which I would reject. The list would go on.

Not co-planting a church together is entirely different than being "so proud and protective of our "distinctives" that it would prevent us from fellowshipping or assisting other bible believing works."

Does that help clarify this a little better? I am not saying that we should not/could not have fellowship together. I am not even saying that we could not offer practical assistance (e.g. use of some office space temporarily as the FP church gets planted), but I am saying we could not join together and merge together as one church because the differences would be too great.

Luther said...

I appreciate your clarification. I think you get my point. I really just took a glimpse at the T4G website. I don't know much about them. In seeing MacArthur, Duncan and Sproul, I can imagine it might be a good thing. I listended to the video clips of the 4 men who organized this. Their dialogue and cooperation is exactly what I was speaking about. It really is time for both sides to learn what the other side is really about, cooperate where they can, and to discard the caricatures. Thanks for your clarification.