Kevin Bauder, former president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, is one of the most public voices defending historic fundamentalist ideals of careful and appropriate separatism. His recent contribution to the Zondervan Counterpoints series (The Spectrum of Evangelicalism) highlighted the reason for that: only by being willing to withdraw ourselves from false gospels can we have unity in the true gospel.
I personally also appreciated Dr. Bauder’s call at a Bible Faculty Leadership Summit for a church-serving Christian scholarship that “advances the discipline,” and I blogged about other helpful addresses of his here and here.
I’m reprinting his very recent (as in a few minutes ago!) In the Nick of Time article because, as other bloggers have found, it’s impossible to permanently link to Dr. Bauder’s articles.
This one praises my alma mater, and I want to give a hearty “Amen” to that praise by reposting it.
An Open Letter to Dr. Stephen Jones
Kevin T. Bauder
Because we occupy rather distinct corners of the Lord’s vineyard, it has been some time since I have given much thought to you or to the university that you lead. My attention was riveted a few weeks ago, however, by a public clamor that was being raised against Bob Jones University. It is not necessary to rehearse the details of that commotion here, except to say that it brought certain matters to my attention.
First, it made me aware that your ministry (by which I mean both yours personally and the university’s institutionally) is facing sustained and sometimes very harsh public censure. Second, it alerted me to the fact that, while your critics are of different kinds, the most vocal detractors will be satisfied with nothing short of the complete collapse of Bob Jones University. Third, it made me aware that some of the most vitriolic criticisms are being leveled through venues in which careful analysis and personal accountability are notably absent—namely, venues such as Internet weblogs and social media services.
While I am not close enough to Bob Jones University to judge much of what takes place in the institution, many of the criticisms themselves simply lacked credibility. Both the vehemence and the virtual incoherence of the critics left me thinking of a lynch mob. The degree of their speculation about what you must have known or done behind closed doors was—well, it was hardly the mark of fair-mindedness or even-handedness.
On the contrary, as I have thought about what has taken place at Bob Jones University over the past fifteen years, I find many reasons to rejoice. Beginning under your father’s presidency, the ministry seems to have followed a trajectory of moderation and increasing responsibility. It is a trajectory of which I sincerely approve.
Prior to the last decade, my exposure to the work of Bob Jones University was limited. What there was of it was mostly second hand. Just over ten years ago, however, I began to meet some of your professors at academic meetings. I was frankly impressed at the high level of academic and spiritual competence that they brought to their task. The opportunity to trade ideas with these men has become a true pleasure. I look forward to the occasions when our paths will cross. Because I know them, I can infer that the level of classroom instruction at Bob Jones University is always good and often superior. I cannot think of a single discipline in which a student would receive inferior instruction.
We’ve had a few of your graduates in our seminary. They have been sharp men. They know how to think. They speak and write clearly and charitably. They are gentlemen who know how to treat people kindly. They are a million miles away from the caricature that some of your critics attempt to draw.
Furthermore, I know that you’ve taken steps to ensure improvement in the academic and spiritual atmosphere of Bob Jones University. I know some of the people whom you have brought to your faculty—people who had no previous connection to the Bob Jones orbit. I know them to be bright, talented, and committed Christians who will challenge their students at many levels. Their influence, and the influence of people like them, will certainly strengthen the university.
One factor for which I am very grateful is the increased sensitivity of the university and its administration to counsel from outside. This sensitivity was evident in your father’s administration, for example, when he changed the policy on interracial dating. Within your world, that act took tremendous courage, but your father rose to the occasion, and he did it as gracefully as anyone could under the circumstances.
Under your administration, the university has continued to respond, for example, by issuing a formal apology for wrongs that were done under the old policy. The apology itself was a good thing. Better still was the sensitivity it displayed for godly counsel.
Of course, there is a difference between the counsel of friends and the fulminations of a mob. I do not believe that you are obligated to respond to every Facebook group or Internet petition. In fact, the more extreme your critics become, the more difficulty you must find it to hear whatever truth may be in their words. For my part, I would be disappointed if you were to change a policy every time somebody wears red for a day.
Nevertheless, I am glad of the improvements that the university is making. The decision to go after regional accreditation is a big one. Of course it took courage to acknowledge that some past commitments were overstated—but the process can only help and improve Bob Jones University in the future. This is a good move that will help your graduates in tangible ways.
As for the moves to allow ROTC and intercollegiate sports, I confess that these are of less interest to me personally. Still, I think that they are good decisions. ROTC in particular will prepare some students for leadership in the military—and our nation can only benefit from the presence of strong, ethical Christians in positions of command.
In short, I want you to know that I am deeply grateful for the trajectory that Bob Jones University has pursued over the past fifteen years. You can thank your critics for getting me to reflect upon the good things that have happened (and are still happening) at BJU. Personally, I would actually feel more comfortable recommending the university to prospective students today than ever before.
I want to do more than that. While I haven’t the means to become a huge supporter, I am sending a financial gift for the ministry of the university. If my word of encouragement carries any weight, then I would urge others to do the same. Be assured of my prayers for the ongoing prosperity and integrity of the ministry. Thank you for your careful, thoughtful leadership over Bob Jones University.
Kevin T. Bauder