Is It Helping?

I have actually been reading over at the Internet Roach Motel recently because for some reason Bauder has been posting in the discussion threads and that’s always interesting. I don’t know if you’ve been following, but they’ve even set aside a thread for him and a few others.

He’s been talking to our own Don Johnson–apparently now a bigwig in one of the fundamentalist groups of persons.

Let me pause to extend my congratulations to Don, a communicant here of long standing.

And it has been an interesting exchange. One of the things they’re still talking about (8 years later) is how to keep the young people in the movement (in that time, I also quit waiting for a fundamentalism worth saving and now I’m wondering about an OPC worth saving). One point of disagreement is that Bauder thinks fundamentalists should openly acknowledge their shortcomings and failures and take personal responsibility for dealing with them with no statute of limitations. He thinks that will win over hearts and minds.

Well, even if it doesn’t win over hearts and minds, it ought to be done, right? One would think so. When it comes to the honor of one’s own house, a greater zeal ought to be driven by a deeper shame. I understand there are things one in charity covers, but there are things one does not, and things which one ought to distance oneself from, however painfully close to one these may be. I think Bauder means these latter.

But there is a countervailing proposal. It begins with this concession:

“Let’s posit, for sake of argument that fundamentalist error is as black and serious as can be. Fine.”

All right, skip over the troubling word ‘posit’ and read on. That looks like dialogue, at last perhaps they’re talking. “As serious as can be.” Like ABWE child-molesting cover-up allegations serious, say, which even if they aren’t true ought at least to be cleared up with serious zeal, right? But let us posit for the sake of argument that they’re true. Now, take a multiple choice stab at what follows:

1 – it continues by suggesting that it ought to be condemned in terms that correspond to the blackness and seriousness of any proven errors and in ways that correspond to how public and destructive the errors were.

2 – it continues by suggesting that whatever the cost of dealing with past errors, dealing with them is the thing to do no matter what since, after all, presumably, the honor of God is at stake.

3 – it blames it all on demonic possession and suggests that a resolution of exorcism be passed.

If you were to guess any of the above, you would be wrong. This is how it continues right after the word ‘Fine’: “But now let’s deal with my suggestions about moderating your public statements about evangelicals so that young people aren’t influenced in that direction, at least without due consideration of their serious errors.”


Because generous as they are, fundamentalists are sadly guilty of never mentioning the serious errors of those who are not them . . . They ought to be glad that they’re swelling the ranks of the neos because if the neos should cease to exist, where would that leave fundamentalists as far as a self-identity goes?

Returning to the quotation, one sentence is about assuming there are serious errors and the next is about whatever errors there may be at home, let us never forget the error abroad. That’s the kind of thinking of the countervailing proposal.

It is a curious position the one Bauder is trying to occupy, also known as damned if you do and damned if you don’t. But then, it is him that is saying fundamentalism is not ok but it is still the place to be. (I got the part about it not being ok–which I suppose proves that Don’s got a point, whatever we may say about the integrity of his proposals.)

Once a few years back there was an OBF resolution that surfaced on their website and somehow (cough, cough) ended up in the hands of dissidens at Remonstrans. It was something similar, to the effect that no neo ought to be mentioned in a positive way without a good strong warning.

Because people in the pew can’t sort that sort of thing out–apparently not being all that great at basic discernment. Because the neos are so wiley and seductive that a mere mention of them could empty your church. Because you’re so bad at leading that you can’t even mention the good in someone without people running clean out of your church to find another where at least something good can be said of them. I remember at the time the whole thing lit up at Remonstrans because someone in the peanut gallery suggested that all it amounted to was an admission of poor leadership.

I still think it is the kind of leadership persons who can think might find difficult to follow. Call me an elitist snob and burn me at an intricately carved and polished stake to the sounds of a string quartet, the fire kindled with pages ripped from The Republic of the divine Plato.

And no, I don’t really think for a moment Bauder is really talking to Don Johnson. Maybe he is; I’d be very surprised. But he is getting his point across awfully well that there needs to exist an alternative still within fundamentalism. Desperately needed if there is going to be any fundamentalism decent people would go for. What if there was no alternative? What if what Bauder is doing is too much and that kind of self-criticism were toned down and muzzled and put out to graze.

Would you stay? Would you join up?


11 thoughts on “Is It Helping?

  1. To be honest, I’m not sure “leadership” issues, or fundamentalists’ glaring personal mistakes, are why folks are leaving fundamentalism. At least, the folks we know who have left fundamentalism don’t complain about that stuff. What they complain about are the services and the songs and the rules against drinking alcohol–i.e., the cultural elements. The Anglican church we go to with all its smells and bells is stocked with folks who were originally die-hard Baptists, Brethren, and Pentacostals. You never see the opposite happening: converted high-church folks never wind up at Fourth.

    1. That is a good point. That I have seen in the RB circles and the Presbyterian.

      But I think the conversation being overheard is not about the lay people who leave, but the leaders they’re training. It’s a bit different, though it would be interesting to compare both sets and draw some conclusions.

  2. What I’ve come to understand over the past decade or so is that I care most about the fact that every (true) local church is worth saving. As for the movements, associations, fellowships, conventions, the whole lot—I can take ’em or leave ’em. I may or may not be of some help in some way to local churches other than my own. But if I can’t help save my own church in some way, or if the time I allocate to internet activity suggests that I’m more interested in the Movement than my own church, then I ought to be doing something different to pay the grocery bill.

  3. I don’t know whether to do a series of comments, an extended comment, or a blog post in response.

    A blog post is least likely for the simple fact that I can’t get Ben to read my blog with any regularity.

  4. Just think “What Would Lou Dou?” and post a link to your blog.

    You should get on Twitter. There’s nothing worth saying in a blogpost that you can’t say in a tweet.

  5. The debate is not about preserving true churches. The debate is not even about preserving true churches that can be called fundamental because they have something unique that is worth saving. The debate is about how to do that second because that is already assumed–that fundamentalism has something unique and valuable worth saving. And I think, Ben, you’re talking, like commonstories, with the assumption that they merely care about true churches.

    It is not much of a conversation for us who do not think preserving whatever is unique about fundamentalism is worthwhile. It is for those who have to decide that still or have already decided for that. As commonstories intimates, most of the people in the pew don’t really understand, and those of us who have left have decided whatever makes fundamentalism fundamentalism is not something we are willing to fight to preserve. But the future of fundamentalism depends on preserving that–and if you think it is a great idea, or unique to fundamentalism and precious to God’s church, you have to deal with the kind of leadership you will exercise and how you will win hearts and minds.

    I’m saying that what Don says would not help me were I in there, and I can’t see how anybody who can think his way out of a wet paper bag could be helped either.

    1. I’m actually not convinced there’s anything unique to fundamentalism, except for the particular cocktail of convictions, sentiments, and priorities one finds there. And that cocktail, I’m quite certain, is not worth saving.

      And speaking of cocktails, I suspect that one so inclined could make quite the rousing drinking game out of that thread.

      1. Just to clarify, by “particular cocktail” I mean that everything in fundamentalism—good, bad and ugly—exists somewhere else. Just not all in the same place.

  6. In one “place” and within a specific tolearnce of proportion–that’s what makes fundamentalism unique. Critically so to those who must have it.

    But Don is right in that Bauder may ultimately work against painting the Fund. idea as valuable (especially given the traction his reform initiatives are likely to gain in the FBFI). If F-ism defends the Gospel, CE-ism and some Confessionalsm does as well and then some. If CE-ism is plagued with pop worshio music, F-ism is as well, yet ignorantly prides itself as above reproach on the isssue. If one must be wary of abusive elders and pugnacious movement leaders in both CEism and F-ism, and F-ism must extend its hand to those of errant doctrine just like some E’s and CE’s and ConfE’s do, well it all starts looking much less critical as to which side of the fence one grazes on.

    What Don is wrong about is that it can all be kept hidden from the kids. What Don is right about is his tacit implication that their institutions are sunk if it can’t be kept hidden.

  7. I should tweak my last comment there about the institutions being sunk. I think more accurately, the fellowships and other institutions cannot be reformed (and so preserved) on their own terms. It’s like the guy who realizes that he has no chance of saving his marriage unless he owns up to all the cheating he’s done. He may still lose the relationship, but had he managed to keep it by lying what value was there in what he kept? The offenses have to be dealt with in a definitive way, the unsupportable peculiarities jettisoned, and the power players turned out. As to how this might happen in a fellowship like the FBFI in which new leaders are chosen by existing leaders because they are likeminded, I have no idea. One gets the sense when reading the trilateral SI talks that should Bauder take Harding up on his (admittedly unofficial) invitation to leadership, Bauder would likely end up playing the part of John Galt held captive by the Rand’s looters:

    Looters: Tell us what to do!
    Galt: Repeal the income tax.
    Looters: You know we can’t do that.
    Galt: You asked me to help you fix your problems. If you won’t follow my instructions, I guess I can’t help you.
    Looters: No, you’re our only hope; tell us what to do!

    And etc.

  8. I don’t think that Kevin is talking or has ever been talking about saving the movement that is otherwise known as fundamentalism. He has always been encouraging us to take up the idea of fundamentalism. To me, that idea is worth preserving. That said, if one is a fundamentalist, he must certainly be a Christian. As a Christian, you should be interested in making past wrongs right (especially when political-type persons are concerned with ignoring those wrongs). As such, any true Christian who will identify himself as a fundamentalist should want to hear frank confessions of past wrongs. The belligerence of Don Johnson on this point is breathtaking. He actually does not want to make past wrongs right. For him, it is all about power. “What will it accomplish” “Will those blogs be taken down if we do this?” It is not about principle, but about politics. No Christian can countenance this kind of refusal to confess past wrongs. It is like hearing a man who beat his wife twenty-five years ago assume that it is now permissible to him to remain unapologetic because “he lives in the present.”

    So, to answer your question, I would presume that those interested in preserving fundamentalism must be true Christians (indeed, it is possible that some true Christians may not be interested in this project). True Christians should want to see those people who have wronged others acknowledge those wrongs and make them right, even if (especially if!) those wrongs have been committed with others who profess to embody fundamentalism, the idea of which you want to see preserved. So, yes, it helps to hear a fundamentalist leader call for the hard pious and Christian action to be taken by those fundamentalists who have sinned against others.

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