Thoughts on Dr. Bauder’s Message at GRS

Bauder Michael Barrett

I have made it clear that I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr. Michael Barrett, the President of Geneva Reformed Seminary of the Free Presbyterian Church. I have also grown to appreciate Dr. Kevin Bauder, the President of Central Baptist Seminary. Well, Dr. Presbyterian asked Dr. Baptist to speak for commencement at GRS a few years back, and the invitation was declined with regret–not out of conviction, but to avoid rocking the Baptist boats on the many lakes in Minnesota. The boats have now been rocked. :D Dr. Baptist recently delivered this message at Geneva’s commencement. I know that others are already discussing the message on their blogs, or soon will be. I’d like to offer a few of my thoughts and invite some discussion on (a) the message and (b) the broader topic of unity and disunity which it inevitably raises.

What I liked:

* I liked that the invitation was extended.

* I liked that the invitation was accepted.

* I like that these very intelligent and godly leaders and others like them are sharpening and encouraging one another. This is good for fundamentalism.

* I liked the message. It was tremendous. “Bravo!” Listen to it, and don’t wait until your lawn needs mowing.

* I liked the fact that Dr. Baptist was gracious. He respected his Presbyterian hearers, but he did so without ignoring their differences. He was forthright, but he was also a gentleman.

* I liked the focus on uniting around the gospel.

* I liked the summary of his message from Ephesians 4. Why could he preach there?

(1) Because unity and fellowship has been given to us as a gift.

(2) Because we mutually understand the limits of our unity and fellowship.

(3) Because of Ephesians 4:1-2–because we love each other.

* I liked the explanation of what these men could and could not do together on the basis of their similarities and differences. I’ve heard & understood this principle before, but it was very clear in this message.

* I liked this: “We fellowship where we can. We separate where we must.”

* I liked this: “We can respect one another in our differences and rejoice in the things we hold in common.”

* I liked this: Though I don’t have the specific quotation, he explained the concept of partial unity and cooperation rather than an “all-or-nothing” fellowship that has hurt the evangelicals by leading them to be inclusive of gross error and has hurt some fundamentalists by leading them into isolationism or inconsistency. It’s a good observation.

What I didn’t like:

Can’t think of a thing.

What I wonder:

Here’s the kicker: guys like Ben and me have a very different understanding of how biblical principles of separation should be applied–yet we both appreciate the message very much. So let’s cut to the chase: Dr. Bauder’s idea of degrees of fellowship vs. an all-or-nothing fellowship (a concept I accept and compare [probably not originally] to a “dimmer light switch” vs. an “on-off light switch”) has been perceived by some to suggest that degrees of fellowship can be enjoyed between fundamentalists and evangelicals in the same manner in which it was just enjoyed by these two fundamentalists. My question:

Would Dr. Bauder preach the same message under the same premise (limited fellowship / graciously setting aside our differences) for MacArthur at Masters Seminary or Mohler at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary? Why or why not? What’s the difference?


6 Responses

  1. Frank Sansone’s take may be seen here.

  2. Talk about rocking the state of Minnesota! If he had to delay the GRS invitation, I can’t imagine he could go to either of those schools, even if it were to read John 3:16. Bauder took heat for going to Beeson when his purpose was to repudiate the new evangelical mindset.

    I think we ought to change our categories, Chris. The question, IMO, shouldn’t be whether fundamentalists and evangelicals can enjoy degrees of fellowship. The question should be to what degree BELIEVERS can fellowship when they have the gospel in common but differ on other matters of faith and practice. Another question ought to be whether the theological differences that fundamentalism has historically tolerated SHOULD be tolerated when they strike close to the heart of the gospel.

    It just seems like a dangerous thing to impose our modern categories of believers on the text of Scripture. That doesn’t mean fundamentalists ought to abandon all discernment and embrace all conservative evangelicals, but it does mean we should stop thinking about two camps as the essential test of fellowship is the identical grid for practicing separation.

    P.S. Two links in a week from you! And neither of them in Parody Pages, Ridiculous, or The Junk Drawer!

  3. Bauder 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.

  4. Ben,

    Since you requested an entry in Parody Pages (kind of), I’ll start working on one entitled “Is Ben Wright John McCain?” :)


    I’ll give it a watch sometime. I do think this statement was important:

    We are united in our zeal for the defense of the gospel….The Free Presbyterian Church is known as a separatist body. And we are at one with you in our commitment to separation and to militancy.” (about 16 minutes in)

  5. Yes- but in the quote I reference, Bauder also expresses greater unity with the Free Pres (and their approach to worship) than with many of his IF Baptist brethren (presumably, because of their differences in worship and soteriology).

    I understand your point, Chris (and agree)- but I do think that Bauder also would be a stronger separatist in some ways on particular issues (for instance, over youth ministry programs) than some of us would be.

  6. Chris,

    You really know how to hurt a guy.

    And I agree with Greg about the video.

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