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Some more reflections - in response to a question

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Andy Rupert, a friend and OBF member who blogs over at Isle Kerguelen, made a comment on my post regarding the Pillsbury situation and then followed up his comment with an email request for me to elaborate. Since the comments of old posts often get ignored and since the length of this is really more of a post than a comment, I thought I would go ahead and make this comment a post (as well as including it in the comments of the Reflections post).

Before I do so, I would remind you of two things I said in the post in which Andy's comments are found.

I am saddened to hear of the demise of Pillsbury. It has had a great heritage and I am concerned for the students, faculty, and staff members of the institution. I imagine it is especially difficult for some who have poured their hearts and lives into this ministry and have prayed for them during this time.


Historically it has often been the institutions of the movement who have been used of God to propagate, promote, defend and expand the idea. While I recognize that God does not need a particular institution, I believe it would be wise for those of us who hold to the idea of Fundamentalism to seek to do what we can to pray for, encourage, support and strengthen (including providing correction where necessary) those institutions that also hold to the idea.
Now for the comment and the reply.

Andy's comment was the following:

From my quick read through Dr. Bauder's article, I think I agree with his assessment. For instance, when he writes about the idea being greater than what the movement created, I think he has it right. See the following quotation:

"If we are going to talk about saving fundamentalism, then let us be clear that the thing we need to save is the idea. All of our associations, colleges, seminaries, mission agencies, preachers’ fellowships, networks, alignments, and coalitions are of value only to the extent that they maintain and perpetuate the idea. If they are not propagating the idea, then let them perish."

In the follow-up email, he asked about my concerns regarding the Bauder article on Pillsbury Baptist Bible College. Below is my response (with some slight alterations).


I think a couple relevant quotes may help here.

From my post: Even though I would agree with Dr. Bauder that the "idea" is more important than the "movement", I think we may be jumping the gun on the movement.

To use the Pillsbury demise as a chance to claim even the "movement" is dead is a stretch that seems unsupportable in light of the three evidences I included in my post.

Also, from my post that I linked to in this post:

I am not arguing for the movement, so much as the idea, as properly understood. I would say, however, and this is important, that those who genuinely subscribe to the idea of Fundamentalism will not find themselves without some fellowship within the "movement" of Fundamentalism (as broadly understood). I would also say that often (not necessarily always) those guys who claim to be retaining the "idea" of Fundamentalism while shedding the "movement" tend to reveal that they have abandoned more than the "movement" when one examines their ministries and considers the associations that they do make.

While Bauder is not an example of this personally, my experience has been that the YFs are eating up the "anti-movement" comments from Bauder and others, while not holding to the idea - resulting in the worst of both worlds.

My initial reading of quotes like the one you gave by Bauder was also favorable, until I begin to think through them more.

It sounds great and elicits an initial "Amen" when Bauder writes, "If we are going to talk about saving fundamentalism, then let us be clear that the thing we need to save is the idea. All of our associations, colleges, seminaries, mission agencies, preachers’ fellowships, networks, alignments, and coalitions are of value only to the extent that they maintain and perpetuate the idea. If they are not propagating the idea, then let them perish."

However, upon further reflection, I think statements like this may actually be part of the problem, because of what it implies and what it leaves out.

First, the implication of the statement:

It implies that Fundamentalists are interested in saving Fundamentalist institutions no matter whether they support the idea of Fundamentalism or not. This seems to be creating an animal that doesn't exist - or at least exists so rarely as to be listed on the endangered species list. Are people in the OBF clamoring for Cedarville to be preserved? Of course not? Fundamentalist are not interested in saving the historically Fundamentalists institutions that are no longer Fundamentalist - either the ones like Cedarville that have headed in the direction of repudiating Biblical separation or the ones like HAC that are off on a KJVO/easy believism tangent. There may be interest in RESCUING them by some, but not just in preserving them in their current wrong direction. I would hope that there is interest amongst those in the OBF of strengthening the OBF and of preserving the Visitor, etc., not because the OBF wants to be "king of the hill of Fundamentalism", but because it recognizes that it has an important role in presenting a united and outspoken voice for Biblical Fundamentalism. No one fits the description that Bauder is arguing against - no one in "mainstream Fundamentalism" is clamoring to save the bad institutions just for the sake of saving them.

Second, the omission of the statement:

While Bauder supports the idea of letting the institutions that don't hold to the idea of Fundamentalism perish, he makes little argument for supporting those institutions that do continue to hold strongly to true Fundamentalism. This omission leaves us with a vacuum. While the internet is starting to change some of this by giving the little guys a voice, the reality is that it has been historically the institutions of Fundamentalism that have had the "bully pulpit" to expound, promote, and encourage others in their understanding of the idea of Fundamentalism. It is the united voice of the OBF - a Fundamentalist institution - allows for this idea to be sounded out with a louder sound than the solo pastor of a small church would be able to sound it out. Historically, it has been those who have had a voice - either because they were representative of something larger than themselves (such as an institution like the OBF, the FFBC, the ACCC, or the mission boards or the various colleges or seminaries) or because their voice was somehow promoted and spread (e.g. Luther and the press - or even Ashbrook and Here I Stand) that have been able to promote the idea of Fundamentalism - or at least to have had effectiveness in doing so. Surely there have been plenty of small church pastors who have preached messages and taught their people the Biblical doctrine of separation, but which of those influenced you or the other young men out there? In general, no one even hears of these warriors and instead it is the ones who are somehow involved with an institution that have been used to articulate the position to a greater audience. I was influenced by Pastor Ashbrook through his writing long before I ever met him in person. I was influenced by Dr. Pickering even though I never met him personally. These men were able to make an influence on me, in part, because they had a voice - and it was, in part, their involvement with the institutions of Fundamentalism that gave them that voice - or at least allowed that voice to be able to be spread where I could hear it. When we make an argument that the institutions are not that important, we should think a little about the implication of such a point. Even Kevin Bauder, who writes much that I generally like and appreciate is being heard because of his role in a Fundamentalist institution.

Now that I have rambled, let me get back to my specifics in regards to the Pillsbury article.

I believe that Bauder's whole premise in the article is fatally flawed. Dr. Bauder wrote, "Pillsbury Baptist Bible College is a microcasm of what is happening within institutional fundamentalism everywhere." Really? He does not support this idea at all in his article, he just lays it out there as though it is self-evident. The problem with that is that ignores the facts right in Pillsbury's "back yard" - Maranatha and Northland have grown incredibly during the same time that Pillsbury has dwindled. Rather than use the Pillsbury situation to address the real issues with Pillsbury, it was used as an evidence that "the mainstream of historic fundamentalism is dwindling."

I don't have a problem with him not going after the issues that seem to have led to Pillsbury's demise - I probably would not have touched on them if I had been in his situation and would not have commented here or at SI if it were not for Dr. Bauder's article. I do have a problem with using that demise as an evidence for something that it is not.

If we were to see a similar pattern at the other schools, he may be able to make the case he tried to make. But as it stands, I think his premise is way off.

BTW, I seriously meant what I wrote about praying for the folks at Pillsbury. One of my groomsmen was a former teacher there and I believe the later presidents really tried to do a good job of turning the ship back around. Clearly there were multiple reasons for the demise of Pillsbury. I think Dr. McCune (or was it his son) is correct that part of the problem was probably the vacuum of leadership created by Clearwaters' departure. I think a large part of it was the alienation of its support base due to the (at least perceived) leftward lurch under Potter (which is not all on Potter, btw, it also raises questions about the board in general in selecting him). I am sure part of it was the fact that there was healthy competition nearby. I imagine some of it may have been due to various financial pressures - especially with the upkeep of a campus that was as old as Pillsbury.

For those who have tried to deny the effect of the leftward lurch, I think they need to recognize that this did play a key role. If we as a church gave out copies of The Visitor and then all of the sudden Chris started using it to espouse Open Theism, I would not put out copies of The Visitor anymore and I would be very wary of ordering it again unless I had complete confidence that Chris had gotten the axe and someone I really knew I could trust (e.g. Pastor Ashbrook himself) was back at the helm.

The same principle works the other way, btw. Notice the Democrats response to Joe Liberman. Eight years ago, he was their Vice Presidential nominee. Two years ago he was defeated in his own party's primary because he did not agree with the Dems radical anti-war sentiment. Now that he spoke at the Republican Convention and has campaigned for McCain, they are talking about putting him out of the caucus (unless they need his vote to prevent a filibuster). What do you think the chances would be of him speaking at the Democratic Convention in four years? Let alone being their Presidential or Vice Presidential Nominee.

Anyway, I have probably said too much. I hope this clarifies. Feel free to ask me if I did not answer part of what you were asking.

In Christ,

Frank Sansone