Kevin T. Bauder is the president of Central Baptist Seminary just outside of Minneapolis. I highly recommend his weekly newsletter In The Nick of Time. In it he regularly raises questions about the believer's relationship with the culture that surrounds him, a subject near and dear to my heart. As important as this is, however, it is his regular critique of Fundamentalism as a movement that is so enlightening and leaves me hungry for more.
I have come to grips with the fact that I am a Fundamentalist. I say "come to grips" because this isn't a title that I would chose for myself. Much of fundamentalism I find repugnant. This is especially true of the cultural assumptions of fundamentalism, or at least the fundamentalism that I experienced early in life. Likewise, when I say I'm a Fundamentalist, most simply assume that I'm a member of the Flat Earth Society, a self-appointed constable intent on taking harmless pleasures and declaring them sinful, or a brutal, dictatorial leader intent on self-aggrandizement and power. All of these assumptions are without merit or evidence, but they remain nevertheless.
Thus I read with interest the latest newsletter entitled Conundrum. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite:
For instance, one of my earliest written pieces was a response to someone who was trying to impose the “no pants on women” theory on our church. I regarded Fundamentalist speculations about music as simply pathetic. In fact, the typical answers to the whole orbit of “cultural taboos” (as they were sometimes called) struck me as vacuous. The case that some Fundamentalists made for their version of separation was utterly unimpressive.
I have been surprised to discover a widespread assumption that to be a Fundamentalist leader is ipso facto to be authoritarian and abusive. This means that I am often assumed to be, and occasionally accused of being, the very things that I most despise. For some people, there seems to be no possible evidence that would contradict this assumption.
There is another side to my conundrum. By the mid-1980s, the weakness of fundamentalist argumentation had convinced me that certain “cultural taboos” were trivial. In some cases they really were. My subsequent study and thinking, however, has led me to believe that all cultural activities are far more freighted with meaning than Fundamentalists (or most other evangelicals) have realized. We cannot insist with Kuyper that Christ claims every area as His own, but then treat certain areas as if they are unimportant.
In other words, many of the things that I once considered trivial, I now see as greatly significant. But when I try to explain my conclusions, many people seem to assume that I am just repeating the same, old Fundamentalist presentation that I rejected twenty-five years ago. In a way, I can understand. Some of my present positions do bear similarities to practices that some Fundamentalists have advocated. In most cases, however, my reasons diverge, and in all cases the process of reaching my conclusions has been entirely different.
The conundrum is this: how do you speak to people who are already convinced that they know what you think, and who have already rejected your conclusions because they do not accept arguments that you never intended to use anyway? Furthermore, how do you explain conclusions to people who lack even the categories to frame the questions?
I encourage you to subscribe to his excellent newsletter. Also, thank you Dr. Bauder for having the courage of your convictions and the fortitude to brave the slings and arrows of fundamentalism while remaining fundamental yourself.