Perhaps the most difficult word in Christendom to define is Evangelical. Just what is an Evangelical? Dr. Kevin Bauder of Central Theological Seminary, right here in the Twin Cities, recently contributed his view on the subject in a book entitled Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. Dr. Bauder brings the Fundamentalist perspective on what constitutes Evangelicalism. In this episode, Dr. Bauder joins me to discuss both the book (in general), and the view that he presented in the book (specifically).
Other views expressed in the book are: Confessional Evangelicalism (Al Mohler), Generic Evangelicalism (John Stackhouse), and Post-Conservative Evangelicalism (Roger Olson). We briefly describe the other views before moving into the view expressed by Kevin Bauder.
Kevin is a research professor of systematic and historical theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as President of Central Seminary from 2003-2011, and is general editor of One Bible Only? Examining Exclusive Claims for the King James Bible.
- The discussion is framed around the book “Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism,” which features essays from Kevin Bauder, representing “Fundamentalism”; Al Mohler, representing “Confessional Evangelicalism”; John Stackhouse, representing “Generic Evangelicalism”; and Roger Olson, representing “Post-Conservative Evangelicalism.”
- The book almost breaks down to two major views of Evangelicalism, with two distinct sub-views within each major view. Kevin Bauder’s view shares many similarities to Al Mohler’s view, and John Stackhouse’s view shares many similarities to Roger Olson’s view.
- John and Roger’s views represent different versions of “Big Tent” Evangelicalism, in that they have more vague boundaries of what they would consider to be inclusive in Evangelicalism.
- Roger Olson sees Evangelicalism more as a social phenomenon or a movement, whereas Kevin Bauder – at the opposite side of the spectrum, sees it more as a theological phenomenon.
- While Al Mohler introduced the idea of defining Evangelicalism in the mathematical terms of centered, bound, or center-bound, Olson states clearly that he sees it as centered. Stackhouse shares that view. (Mohler sees it as center-bound – defined by both the center and the boundaries.)
- John Stackhouse states that he doesn’t see Evangelicalism as merely a doctrinal phenomena. He introduces the idea that it needs to be right not only in orthodoxy (right doctrine, but also in orthopraxy (right practice), and orthopathy (right affections).
- Al Mohler’s view is that Evangelicalsim needs boundaries. The Gospel sets boundaries, and that Christians should not have common-cause with those who place themselves outside of those boundaries.
- Al Mohler signed the Manhattan Declaration, which a Fundamentalist would not have done. However, he has since expressed a change of mind on the matter and publicly called it a mistake.
- Bauder’s view was titled “Fundamentalism”, rather than “Fundamentalist Evangelicalism” as one would expect, seeing the pattern of the other titles. Bauder would include Fundamentalism in Evangelicalism, considering it a subset. He says that some Fundamentalists would disagree, and consider Fundamentalism separate from Evangelicalism.
- Bauder describes Fundamentalism, from the point of view of a self-professed Fundamentalist. It’s primarily an attitude toward the Gospel. Fundamentalists have a strong fidelity toward the Gospel, and wish not to associate with people who deny the Gospel. The have an attitude of “Ecclesiastical non-cooperation with people who deny the Gospel.”
- Kevin makes the case for what he calls “Minimal Christian Fellowship.” It amounts to the minimum amount of orthodox doctrine that a person professing faith in Christ should have before we should consider them a believer and extend fellowship to them.
- Kevin describes that a minimum orthodoxy for fellowship entails both what you should affirm, as well as what you should or should not deny,
- From “Minimal Christian Fellowship”, we move on to discuss “Maximal Christian Fellowship.” The idea being that the more we have in common, the better our fellowship will be. Disagreeing over eschatology or whom should we should baptize or how we should baptism doesn’t preclude fellowship between believers, but it does introduce friction or frustration between believers that effectively reduces the amount of fellowship between believers.
- The divisions we have often result in denominational differences and splits. Kevin sees denominationalism as a good thing because it allows believers to seek out other believers that share their views on issues that tend to be considered non-essential (as far as salvation is concerned) and worship and practice within the confines of their own consciences. For example, Baptists and Presbyterians can worship within their own denominations without being concerned over each other’s views on baptism.
- Though Kevin and Al Mohler share many common views on Evangelicalism, we also discussed their differences. The two disagree about how to handle fellowship with Christians who in-turn extend fellowship to others outside of the boundaries of Christianity. The example Kevin gives is that Fundamentalists view Billy Graham to be a genuine believer, but have serious concerns over the people with whom Graham has cooperated in his crusades. Al Mohler, on the other hand, was willing to work with Graham, despite their differences over including Liberals and Catholics in Graham’s crusades (though Mohler did succeed in limiting co-sponsorship of Graham’s Louisville crusade to Conservatives only.)
- “Evangelicalism” is presented as synonymous with “Christian”.
- Kevin shares some of the history of American Evangelicalism. He talks about the “Fundamentalist Controversy” of the 1920s, as well as the birth of “Neo-Evangelicalism” in 1947, as well as other major developments in the 20th century that define American Evangelicalism.
- I Corinthians 5
- I Corinthians 12
- John 10
- I Corinthians 15
- Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism (Amazon Affiliate Link)
- Phil Johnson: What is an Evangelical? – Grace Life Pulpit (2009 Shepherds’ Conference)
- John Gerstner: Primer on Justification – Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6
- Scott Oakland: Reformedcast, Episode 73 – Though Scott’s interview of Dr. Bauder had the same basis, the discussion was quite different.