By Matt Recker
I want to thank Dr. Kevin Bauder for his recent series of articles in which he interacted with my own series, “New Evangelicalism and the New Calvinism: The Same Disaster.” I am honored that Dr. Bauder would take the time to give his perspective of these vital issues as well as to state that his “strongest note has been one of agreement” with the articles I wrote. He indicated as well that some of the parallels between New Evangelicalism and New Calvinism are “quite marked” and that some of my evaluations were “spot on.”
It was especially edifying to read Dr. Bauder’s analysis of Tim Keller’s theistic evolutionary position and his bold challenge to The Gospel Coalition (TGC) that if they were fully committed to a defense of the Gospel, that there would be “no room” for Keller’s views.
Dr. Bauder’s refreshing analysis of Biblical inspiration from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21 was a benefit for all. Furthermore, any expression of disagreement with my posts was done with charity and fairness, and he sent his essays to me before publishing them on line.
I appreciate Dr. Bauder’s ministry of training Fundamentalist preachers in the Gospel at Central Seminary. I am thoroughly convinced that we want the same thing: a healthy and growing fundamentalism for the glory of God. It is a blessing standing alongside Dr. Bauder as he fights the good fight of faith, and I am truly grateful for him.
If there was an area where I should have been clearer was that in writing this series, I did not intend to imply that everyone in the New Calvinism repeats every principle of the New Evangelicalism. For example, Dr. Bauder rightly said that TGC includes many leaders who do not pursue respectability in this world. His essays were motivated by a desire to insure that we Fundamentalists represent the NC in a just manner. This is also my desire. I appreciate his efforts to give balance to what I wrote.
I will still have to kindly disagree with Dr. Bauder on two points. These are not points crucial to our fundamentalism, but to an evaluation of a movement. I am sure that we can disagree and still remain friends as we continue this discussion in working through complicated issues.
First, Dr. Bauder says that some of my evaluations are based upon a “flawed appropriation” of a 1956 article from Christian Life magazine, Is Evangelical Theology Changing. ((Christian Life, “Is Evangelical Theology Changing,” March, 1956.)) I did not mean that the points in the article defined New Evangelicalism, but that they enumerated key principles of the New Evangelicalism, and this to my understanding is how I have always read them. Rolland McCune called that article “landmark, famous, and groundbreaking.” This important article is also referenced by David Beale in In Pursuit of Purity and by Ernest Pickering in The Tragedy of Compromise. According to these faithful historians, the article accurately summarized the various emphases of the New Evangelicalism, and I have never heard anyone refute that notion. I sought to use those points in the same way these respected men have done in the past as I compared the principles of the New Evangelicalism with some of the present practices of the New Calvinism. As I considered those New Evangelical tenets it was apparent to me that there are remarkable similarities to the New Calvinism that has become so popular in broad evangelicalism. Dr. Bauder agreed that some of those similarities were “quite marked.” I do agree that some of the comparisons have more noticeable similarities than others and although I did attempt to bring that out in my articles, I am sure I could have done more to clarify that not every point lines up with equal strength.
I am not alone in this assessment that the New Calvinism and New Evangelicalism have striking similarities. E.S. Williams, who wrote The New Calvinists: Changing the Gospel, agrees that they bear a close relationship. One such resemblance is that the publication Christianity Today, which became the voice of New Evangelicalism, “now seems to have evolved into the mouthpiece of New Calvinism.” Williams states that these movements “have much in common.”
Secondly, Dr. Bauder expressed his strongest disagreement with my blogs in my evaluation of The Gospel Coalition statements on Scripture. He concluded his series by stating, “In short, The Gospel Coalition is properly erecting barriers against at least two dangers. The first is the danger of confusing one’s understanding of the truth with the truth itself. The other is the danger of substituting intellectualism for a life-altering knowledge of God Himself. These barriers should be seen as bulwarks of conservatism rather than as concessions to postmodernism.”
In response, I respectfully ask, if the The Gospel Coalition statement is so pristinely conservative by establishing strong barriers to defend the faith and protect itself against accommodation to post-modernism, then how does Tim Keller jump with ease the barricades he himself has erected? In Engaging with Keller, the authors (who are quite appreciative of Keller in many ways), nevertheless provide an accumulation of evidence against his teaching that demonstrates a serious and continuous breaking through of the bulwarks of theological truth. Those authors analyze Keller on a broad range of theological issues. They conclude that Keller does make serious concessions to post modernism. These include:
- Keller’s rebranding of sin leads to the “foundational truths of the Gospel” being obscured.
- His removal of the fire from hell is deemed “postmodern.”
- The divine dance motif of the Trinity sets the church on a dangerous trajectory.
- Keller’s social emphasis is founded on a defective handling of Scripture.
- In His evolutionary views he partners with those “outside the biblical faith.”
In nearly each of Keller’s deficiencies he attempts to be relevant but he ends up compromising Scripture in order to appeal to contemporary culture. Most glaringly, he defies the wall Dr. Bauder alleges that he established by substituting the science of theistic evolutionary intellectualism with the clear teaching of Scripture. While claiming to believe in inerrancy, in taking some of these positions, Keller functionally denies inerrancy. The work of the authors of Engaging with Keller, kind yet bold, is a strong reproof of Keller as they summarize his teachings as being “better at being relevant than … conveying the fullness of biblical truth.” Therefore, I still believe that The Gospel Coalition statement on inerrancy leaves room for loopholes, for Keller (who authored the Theological Vision for Ministry statement) himself has evidently found them. As Dr. Bauder argued, “Keller is determined to torture the Genesis narratives on the rack of evolution.” Dr. Bauder rightly concluded that Keller has undermined the gospel itself. So although Keller may say he has not denied inerrancy, his teachings so seriously distort Scripture that even Dr. Bauder is left wondering, “One is tempted to ask whether inerrancy, pressed in the way Keller does, means anything anymore.” This is exactly my point, and Dr. Bauder says it better than I could. The Gospel Coalition statements erect a wall too weak to stand against the acumen of Tim Keller.
Finally, I say in love to my Fundamentalist brethren, let us fight the good fight of faith. In Pursuit of Purity, Dr. Beale writes that the philosophy of Harold Ockenga, the father of New Evangelicalism, “captured many organizations, fellowship, associations, and denominations that originated as strictly Fundamentalist groups.” That statement burdens my heart, for it seems that in a similar fashion, the philosophy and practice of the New Calvinists is capturing our young people as well as some fundamental churches and schools. This underscores again in my heart that the New Calvinism bears strong similarities to the New Evangelicalism. Let us evangelize with love, life, and boldness. Let us be continuously cleansed in our conscience with Christ’s blood, remain controlled and filled with Christ’s Spirit, and ever seek to be conformed to Christ’s image, for the glory of our God. May God give us wisdom to stand and power to serve the Lord with gladness in these last days.
Matt Recker is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in New York City.
- These blogs can be accessed at: https://www.proclaimanddefend.org/2014/07/15/new-evangelicalism-and-new-calvinism-the-same-disaster/ [↩]
- You can access Dr. Bauder’s series, Matt Recker and the Gospel Coalition, at: http://www.centralseminary.edu/resources/nick-of-time [↩]
- Rolland McCune, Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism, p. 338, 41, 103, 354. [↩]
- David Beale, In Pursuit of Purity, p. 265-266; Ernest Pickering,The Tragedy of Compromise, pp.14-20. [↩]
- E. S. Williams, The New Calvinists: Changing the Gospel, p. 15. [↩]
- Iain D. Campbell, William M. Schweitzer, eds. Engaging with Keller, Thinking Through the Theology of an Influential Evangelical, p. 61. [↩]
- Ibid, p. 89, 91. [↩]
- Ibid, p. 128-129. [↩]
- Ibid, p. 162. [↩]
- Ibid, p. 208. [↩]
- I wrote a book review on Engaging with Keller which you can access at: https://www.proclaimanddefend.org/2014/11/13/engaging-with-keller-thinking-through-the-theology-of-an-influential-evangelical-a-review/ [↩]
- Ibid, p. 239. [↩]
- David Beale, Pursuit of Purity, p. 263. [↩]