In last week’s In the Nick of Time Dr. Kevin Bauder, President of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, issued what appears to be a needed challenge to the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. It concerns whether or not the FBFI’s notion of fundamentalism in the one articulated by Pastor Dan Sweatt. Pastor Sweatt preached a sermon on April 7 at the South Regional Fellowship of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. In it he shares a vision of what true fundamentalism should be and what is should not be . What Pastor Sweatt presented, and by implication the FBFI, does not allow me entrance into their fundamentalist “fold.” Frankly, I don’t want “in” if Pastor Sweatt spoke for the FBFI.
I also observed that the FBFI’s home page made a statement concerning the discussion presumably generated by Pastor Sweatt’s sermon and Dr. Bauder’s publication. Here is their statement:
There has been a lot of interaction and discussion over the past few days related to fundamentalism, Calvinism, and how men who disagree with one another ought to express those disagreements. The FBFI has always included both Calvinists and non-Calvinists because we recognize that godly men can agree with one another on the fundamentals of the faith while disagreeing with one another in this area. In any disagreement, we must represent one another fairly and treat one another charitably. To make this a test of fellowship among fundamentalists has not been the position of the FBFI and will not be our position.
The only way we can maintain unity on the fundamentals of the faith is if we learn how to express our disagreements on other points in a way that does not damage that fellowship through unbiblical communication. We must honor our biblical responsibility to use speech that edifies and displays Christ-like love. We must demonstrate an unwavering commitment to humble integrity. Caricatures and personal attacks do not honor the Lord or advance His work. Neither pulpit nor keyboard exempt us from these biblical obligations.
It is rather tepid and frankly, disappointing. In summary it basically says that we can disagree to disagree about the relationship between fundamentalism and Calvinism, but let’s represent one another fairly and interact charitably. I couldn’t agree more with the importance of intellectual honesty and Christlike demeanor in these discussions. But they seem to miss the point of the discussion. The statement fails to address whether or not Pastor Sweatt’s vision is aligned with their vision or if it misses the mark.
FBFI leaders–please be bold, and take a stand. Do better than the very intentionally moderated statement on the home page. All I want to know is if your brand of fundamentalism is what Pastor Sweatt expressed. I might add that having heard Sweatt’s sermon, he did not represent the other side accurately. Since Dr. Bauder has already expressed where Pastor Sweatt fell short, I will simply commend his article for your perusal.
It might also interest you to read Piper’s words of praise on the Desiring God Blog for Bauder’s article. He states that Bauder is among the best of fundamentalists. Indeed. What Bauder articulates and models is a fundamentalism worth saving. One element of this appeal is that Bauder is willing to take a stand. So FBFI, please, be bold–and transparent–by clearly expressing what you mean by the term “fundamentalist.”