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A Response to Pastor Kevin Hobi

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The two great calamities feared by every author are being ignored and being misrepresented. Of these two, most see the first as the greater calamity. Better to be distorted than not to be talked about at all. For that reason, I am grateful to Pastor Kevin Hobi, who has reviewed Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism (Zondervan, 2011). His review, “A Fundamentalist’s Reaction,” focuses especially upon my chapter (though it neglects my responses). I am delighted that he took the trouble to read the book and to write his review.

While Pastor Hobi has not ignored me, I believe that he has misrepresented me. My purpose in writing, however, is not to chastise Pastor Hobi. I am going to assume that his reservations stem from honest misreadings, and I am going to try to clear up at least some of them. Consequently, I wish to respond to some of the principal points in his critique.

Part of Pastor Hobi’s review consists, not in an evaluation of what I said or did, but in an evaluation of what the editors said or tried to do. In other words, Pastor Hobi wishes to hold me accountable for the editors’ opinions. But the editors’ opinions are just that: their opinions, which I may not (and sometimes do not) share.

Pastor Hobi also complains about my tone. He thinks that I am embarrassed or ashamed when I state that other evangelicals see fundamentalism as the “crypto-zoology of the theological world,” that fundamentalists have not written a critical history of their own movement, and that fundamentalism has not produced a sustained, scholarly, theological explanation of its ideas. But Pastor Hobi is quite mistaken: I am not at all embarrassed. These are mere statements of fact, best acknowledged at the outset. After all, how many evangelicals does he know who think that fundamentalism is a respectable theological option? How many critical histories of fundamentalism can he cite that were written by fundamentalists? How many sustained, scholarly, theological explanations of separatism can he recommend? So I must content myself with recommending the popular works that I cite in my footnotes—which I am not at all embarrassed or ashamed to do.

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Misdiagnosis

Evidently, Pastor Hobi thinks that I am somehow soft on Roman Catholicism because I admit that its traditional understanding of God and Christ is correct. Frankly, I am puzzled by his reaction. For all its errors (which are deadly), Catholicism teaches a Trinitarianism and a Christology that are Nicene and Chalcedonian. I cannot imagine why someone would think it wrong to acknowledge this fact. I am prepared to be corrected, but the structure of Catholic Trinitarianism and Christology seems virtually indistinguishable from that of, say, Calvin’s Institutes.

My discussion of hyper-fundamentalism especially disturbs Pastor Hobi. Here he offers four specific accusations, each of which seriously misconstrues my actual position. First, he charges me with condemning the use of the King James Bible as the only acceptable English version. What I actually say in the chapter, however, was that militancy over extra-biblical doctrines is the mark of a hyper-fundamentalist. As an example, I cite textual or translational theories that leave the KJV as the only acceptable English version. Think of it this way. The New American Standard Bible may rightly be called the Word of God. Consequently, someone who denounces it as a perversion and who denies it the respect that is due to Holy Scripture is a despiser of the Word of God. This contemptuous attitude is hardly an appropriate attribute for a fundamentalist. Furthermore, it is entirely out of keeping with the history of fundamentalism. Pastor Hobi suggests that “misunderstandings” in this area are simply “misguided attempts to defend the inerrancy of Scripture.” Perhaps—just as Arianism was a misguided attempt to defend the unity of the divine nature. Heresies often arise from imbalanced attempts to defend a truth.

Second, Pastor Hobi indicts me for believing that “loyalty to organizations and leaders is a bane of hyper-fundamentalism.” While I don’t quite understand how he is using the word bane, I do believe that personal and institutional loyalties can be virtuous when kept in the right place. Hyper-fundamentalists go further than this. They define fundamentalist standing in terms of loyalty to particular organizations and leaders. We may rightly value loyalty, but biblical loyalty does not require a godly man to follow Abraham into Egypt. Whether one is a fundamentalist should always be judged by loyalty to principles, never by loyalty to institutions or leaders.

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Matt Recker and the Gospel Coalition, Part 8: Charismatic Theology

Third, Pastor Hobi blames me for saying that “association should not be a consideration related to separation.” The truth is that I believe the opposite. In my chapter, I argue that certain kinds of associations cannot (and should not) be overlooked. My complaint with hyper-fundamentalism is that it understands separation in terms of guilt by association. “Guilt by association” means that to associate with someone who holds an error always entails identification with that error. Historically, fundamentalists have recognized that different levels of fellowship entail varying degrees of identification. All fundamentalists weigh associations, and they should—but guilt by association is a mark of hyper-fundamentalism.

Fourth, Pastor Hobi accuses me of saying that “the movement” does not receive criticism well. If by “the movement” he means fundamentalism, then his observation is false. The inability to receive criticism is a mark, not of fundamentalism, but of some hyper-fundamentalists. Some of them typically construe almost any criticism as an attack. If Pastor Hobi has never met any of these individuals, then he should consider himself blessed. Most of us have encountered plenty of them.

Pastor Hobi expresses grief that I would list these and other characteristics of hyper-fundamentalism. I do not see why he should be grieved. He cannot question that some who wear the fundamentalist label are guilty of each of these behaviors. And surely he cannot mean to justify the behaviors themselves. If Pastor Hobi is genuinely distressed by my description of hyper-fundamentalists, then perhaps he ought to consider admonishing them instead of me.

Good seminaries teach their students to be careful in their representation of others. This rule is especially important in disagreements—a student must disagree with what an opponent actually says and believes. It is always possible to wrest someone’s words and to distort their perspective. The test is whether, after reading the critique, the opponent actually recognizes him- or herself in the description. I suggest that Pastor Hobi’s review fails that test.

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Theories of Inspiration

Don’t take my word for it. Judge for yourselves. Borrow or buy a copy of the book and read both my chapter and my responses to the other chapters (they are as important as the chapter itself). If you disagree with me, that’s fine. I’d be happy to interact with you. All I ask is that you disagree with what I actually wrote.

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This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.

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Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah (Psalm 146)
The Psalter, 1912

Hallelujah, praise Jehovah,
O my soul, Jehovah praise;
I will sing the glorious praises
Of my God through all my days.
Put no confidence in princes,
Nor for help on man depend;
He shall die, to dust returning,
And his purposes shall end.

Happy is the man that chooses
Israel’s God to be his aid;
He is blessed whose hope of blessing
On the Lord his God is stayed.
Heaven and earth the Lord created,
Seas and all that they contain;
He delivers from oppression,
Righteousness he will maintain.

Food he daily gives the hungry,
Sets the mourning prisoner free,
Raises those bowed down with anguish,
Makes the sightless eyes to see.
Well Jehovah loves the righteous,
And the stranger he befriends,
Helps the fatherless and widow,
Judgment on the wicked sends.

Hallelujah, praise Jehovah,
O my soul, Jehovah praise;
I will sing the glorious praises
Of my God through all my days.
Over all God reigns for ever,
Through all ages he is king;
Unto him, thy God, O Zion,
Joyful hallelujahs sing.

Kevin T. Bauder

About Kevin Bauder

Kevin T. Bauder is Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that this post expresses.

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