Kevin Bauder—A Fundamentalism Worth Saving Takes the Human Condition Seriously

I know this is a bit late, but the breaks were so short at the Preserving the Truth Conference that I had a hard time getting to the gym to post my updates. And then I let this sit… Anyway, here are my notes from one of Kevin Bauder’s plenary sessions, the one at 9 am on Saturday.

All believers are called; there is no clergy-laity distinction. Every vocation is a ministry, from pastor to factory worker. In the eyes of God all legitimate jobs have honor.

A fundamentalism worth saving takes the human condition seriously. Our world lives in perplexity about a host of issues. We need people interested enough in the important questions of our day that they are willing to invest themselves in providing truly Christian answers to those questions.

"Human Concerns Worth Honoring/Addressing"

1. What sort of concerns do I have in mind?

The concerns that fill newspapers, radio, and political debates. The created order, the use of nature, the environment: should Christians be conservationists, preservationists? There is not a single fundamentalist voice articulating a full-orbed Christian ecology.

Is capitalism God-ordained? Some evangelicals will argue for socialism, but I’m not convinced that wealth-creation is the answer.

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Class
  • Christians and national/international politics
  • Christian jurisprudence
  • Christian justice
  • marriage, divorce, sexuality
  • Christian participation in the humanities/arts/sciences
  • the ethics of war (undeclared wars, enemy combatants, torture, intelligence gathering)
  • the use of technology, cyberethics (friendship in a Facebook era, privacy, the appropriate use of social media, intellectual property, electronic piracy)
  • Bioethics
  • Civility, humaneness

2. Why does a fundamentalism worth saving need to occupy itself with these human concerns? Aren’t we supposed to be making disciples? Why not let the world worry about these things?

  1. First, these things are important in themselves. We have a management over the created order, and to the extent that we love God we ought to be concerned that we have a right management. You cannot claim to love God while you are cursing humanity. You can’t say you love humanity and be callous to questions such as the ones he just raised. These questions are pressed upon us, saved and unsaved alike. Are we really going to say that the Bible has nothing that will help us in answering these questions?
  2. Second, we are going to have a prejudice with respect to the answers of these questions. It is not true that everyone has the right to an opinion; only those who have bothered to inform themselves have that right. Is it safe to trust them to Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck? Neither one is going to give a Christian perspective. Will our prejudices be well enough informed to constitute a legitimate opinion?
  3. Third, Christ is Lord. There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is Lord is all, does not cry, "Mine!"

3. How are we going to do this? We often feel that our business is preaching sermons, winning souls—can’t we leave these questions to someone else? Well, remember the doctrine of calling. We need to reclaim this doctrine, because it teaches that every area of life is Christian business. That doesn’t mean that Christians have to be in the majority in any area in order to have influence. One stick can turn a stream.

We can’t trust evangelicals to write or talk about culture; they’ve been trying for 50 years and they’ve botched it. [Editor’s note: Eh… Andy Crouch has a number of valuable things to say, even self-critical things. So does Carson, so does Ken Myers, so does Al Wolters, so does John Frame. But Bauder still has a valuable point to make here—even many evangelicals are saying that evangelicalism has been influenced by the world more than the other way around.]

We don’t want to de-emphasize the importance of Christian vocational ministry—pastors, missionaries, etc.—but it’s up to those Christian leaders to model a valuing of these other areas. We want to think seriously about the perplexing issues of our day. We might work on an issue ourselves or make it possible for someone else to do so.

As individual fundamentalists, we need to be involved in all the important questions and disciplines. We need to foster that and encourage it. But what burden does that place on churches and their auxiliary agencies? Do churches train artists, scientists, or politicians? No, we disciple Christians. We can do first-rate equipping of the saints. If a believer is well-grounded, solid in the faith, knows the Word of God, then he can work with rabid evolutionists. If they’re firmly grounded in the Word of God, they’re not going to be swept away. As God gives us people, we build them up in the faith so that no matter what venue they’re in, they bring their Christian perspective so that it becomes genuine ministry. Everything they do is shaped by their relationship with God and their understanding of Scripture. A Christian WalMart greeter should be different from a non-Christian one.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

3 thoughts on “Kevin Bauder—A Fundamentalism Worth Saving Takes the Human Condition Seriously”

  1. Mark, I’ve listened to most of the messages/presentations at the conference now and I have to say this one was completely wrong. The mission of the church is clearly stated in the Bible. These issues are not part of them.

    Bauder had NO Scripture to support his argument, other than an oblique reference to the human mandate to be stewards of the earth. A whole lot of water has gone under the bridge since that mandate was given.

    The mission of the church and the individual Christian is quite clear: Mt 28.19-20, Eph 4.11-13. We don’t need much more than that. If Christians aren’t actively busying themselves about these needs, they are disobedient. If they are, they won’t have much time for ‘human concerns’.

    I found the message to be completely unbiblical.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. I don’t know how, but I’ve avoided disagreeing publicly with Don Johnson ever since he started commenting here. I may possibly have avoided it longer than any living blogger! Now the time has come to change that spotless record. I have been ox-goaded. =)

    Ok, Mr. Johnson, a whole lot of water has gone under the bridge since God created Adam and Eve, too, and we—along with Jesus and Paul (Matt 19:8; 1 Cor 11:8–9)—still believe that the pattern God established in their union was foundational to human society and is still fully binding.

    The dominion theme that God established in Genesis 1 is kept alive throughout the whole Bible in the kingdom theme (which we see most clearly in the Gospels). The perfect rule that Adam and his race have failed to exercise Christ, the Perfect King, is now exercising. And one day, the Father will put all things under His feet (1 Cor 15; Eph 1:21–22).

    But this does not abrogate the dominion mandate in Gen 1:26–28. We are still meant to exercise wise dominion as God’s representatives, just like we are meant to be fruitful and multiply and to marry one and only one member of the opposite sex.

    Here’s a heuristic that helped me: How do you disciple a newly saved politician? Is there a scriptural way to do his job, or do you tell him to leave it? Is his job worth anything aside from being a means for him to provide for his family? Most Christians have to spend most of their daylight hours working a “secular” job. Why not point to love for neighbor and the creation mandate as God-given reasons to work? Do you have better reasons?

    And how about Christian cultural efforts? Is there anything good and lasting in a Bach cantata or a C.S. Lewis novel like Perelandra? “All beauty speaks of Thee,” I say, and “All truth is God’s truth.”

    It is possible that Christians would so value good things in creation (including the fields of music, art, fiction, and horticulture) that they would comparatively devalue other biblical commands. But the answer is not to eliminate Gen 1:26-28 from the canon. I suspect that you’re throwing the baby of a Bible command out with the bathwater of theonomic abuses.

    I recommend that you read Creation Regained by Al Wolters, a fellow Canadian, I believe.

  3. Well, first some caveats.

    1. I am NOT advocating that we just trash the planet or fail to be good stewards.

    2. I am NOT suggesting that Christians who are in secular employ should not excel at what they do.

    But Kevin was advocating much more than that, suggesting that it is the mission of the church to think about the humanities and how to foster and develop them. I don’t think so. I see no Biblical warrant for it and he didn’t offer any.

    No problem with individuals excelling in their callings (as long as they don’t neglect their Christian duties as salt and light in the world), but that is a far cry from being a mandate for the church.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

    P.S. I have no problem being disagreed with, it happens all the time! Just ask Duncan if he agrees with me all the time. He has trained me well.

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