Friday, October 30, 2015

Was I Wrong About a Fundamentalist--Neo-Evangelical Detente?

Last week the most popular post at The Way of Improvement Leads Home was my reaction to Adam Laats's post about a visit that president Steven Pettit of Bob Jones University made to Wheaton College.  Read it here.

Apparently some folks on the fundamentalist side think I got this all wrong and seem to be offended that I (or Laats) would suggest that fundamentalists are softening their attitude towards "neo-evangelicalism."

Over at the blog of an organization called "Religious Affections Ministries" Kevin Bauder, a theology professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Plymouth, Minnesota, argues in no uncertain terms that Pettit's visit to Wheaton does not represent a detente.  Here is a taste of his post:

Years ago, I was in Virginia and stopped to see an acquaintance at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. While I was there, he showed me around the campus a bit, then introduced me to Pentecostal historian Vinson Synan. My visit was purely personal and had nothing to do with any endorsement of Pentecostalism in general or Pat Robertson in particular—and nobody thought that it had.
Apparently, if you’re Steve Pettit, you aren’t allowed to make personal visits. Steve was in Chicago and dropped by the campus of Wheaton College to greet a personal acquaintance. While he was there, this acquaintance showed him a bit of the campus (the C. S. Lewis shrine is worth visiting—I’ve been there, too). No endorsement of Wheaton or its policies was considered or implied.
But somebody snapped Steve’s picture, then wrote up an article in the Wheaton student paper. Next thing you know, bloggers like Adam Laats and John Fea were speculating about some sort of rapprochement between Wheaton and Bob Jones University. Oh, my.
It’s all bunk, of course. Laats and Fea are trading in guesswork and gossip over an event that has no significance at all. BJU is not moving toward neoevangelicalism, and Wheaton certainly isn’t moving toward fundamentalism. If anyone is moving at all, it would be Laats and Fea, since guesswork and gossip are the two most important contributions of some fundamentalist blogs. Perhaps we should welcome these men to the fold.
A couple of comments:

1.  Bauder's explanation makes sense to me.

2.  I can't speak for Adam Laats, but I would agree with Bauder that "speculation" is a fair word to describe my original post.  As a historian I think the presence of the BJU president on the campus of Wheaton is worth setting into historical context.  

3.  I do not consider myself a "fundamentalist," so I don't think I will be joining "the fold" anytime in the near future.  But I would love to open up dialogue with those "in the fold."  If Bauder or his colleagues want to invite me to campus for a visit or a lecture I would love to come.  I think we would have a lot to talk about.

4.  I want Bauder's mustache!