Is Cedarville a new evangelical school?

Dr. Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minnesota, recently wrote an article regarding the GARBC and Cedarville University. The basic idea of the article is that “ecclesiastical separation from apostates must be complete and total, but separation from brethren is not an all-or-nothing proposition.” In other words, the differences between these two organizations need not result in a complete cutting off of fellowship. Consider Bauder’s explanation of the GARBC’s recent actions.

Then the fact surfaced that Cedarville University was unwilling to subscribe to the GARBC statement of purpose. Consequently, the Council of Eighteen determined that sufficient commonality did not exist between the GARBC and Cedarville University to allow the university to advertise itself through official GARBC channels. That decision was challenged by friends of Cedarville University and brought to a vote at the annual meeting this year. By a wide margin, the messengers adopted a statement upholding the formal position of the GARBC on separation. By a much narrower margin, they upheld the council’s decision not to allow Cedarville to advertise in the Baptist Bulletin or at the conference.

What does all of this mean? In the first place, it does not mean that Cedarville has become a neo‐evangelical institution. Neo‐evangelicals were people whose attitude toward apostates was to tolerate them in their organizations, to cooperate with them where necessary, and to infiltrate organizations that were controlled by them. Cedarville University has never displayed these attitudes. Its theology is thoroughly orthodox. It would not for a moment tolerate a theological liberal or any other apostate within the institution. If nearby Dayton were to host an ecumenical evangelistic campaign, Cedarville University would surely abstain. No, Cedarville is not neoevangelical and cannot rightly be treated as if it were.

Did that second paragraph catch your attention? It did mine. Bauder claims that Cedarville is not a new evangelical institution. Is that a true assessment of the school? By his definition, new evangelicals are “people whose attitude toward apostates was to tolerate them in their organizations, to cooperate with them where necessary, and to infiltrate organizations that were controlled by them.” He further clarifies that Cedarvile surely would not take part in an ecumenical evangelistic campaign.

I must admit that this last statement caused me to wonder. Wasn’t it Cedarville that broadcast an Ohio Promise Keepers rally? If so, that certainly would qualify as an ecumenical crusade. Sure enough, after an internet search, I came across an article documenting this very fact.

As the primary radio voice for the July 13-14, 2001 Promise Keepers (PK) Conference, the CDR Radio Network (The PATH, 90.3 FM in the Dayton/Springfield area) spread PK’s spiritual encouragement, teaching, and worship to countless CDR listeners. … The CDR Radio Network is an outreach ministry of Cedarville University, with nine affiliate stations in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.

Contrary to Bauder’s statement, Cedarville has unashamedly taken part in nearby ecumenical crusades. But does this indicate that Cedarville is a new evangelical school? The answer to that question depends on your definition.

Chapter Nine of Mark Sidwell’s The Dividing Line is helpful with a thorough explanation of Harold Ockenga’s vision for the new evangelicalism. After reviewing the first three of four tenants, the author explains the fourth and most important difference between fundamentalism and new evangelicalism.

Finally, and most important, Ockenga proclaimed a “ringing call for a repudiation of separation” and aimed for “the recapture of denominational leadership.” Rather than pulling out of compromised associations, the New Evangelicals wanted to stay in the denominations and even reenter those that Fundamentalists had left. … From the beginning, Fundamentalists protested that the New Evangelicalism was leading Christianity toward too close an identification with the world system. Unquestionably, the New Evangelicals were taking an attitude that although false teaching might be wrong, Christians could profitably work with false teachers themselves. The actions of these New Evangelical “reformers” led many Fundamentalists to reluctantly break fellowship with these Christians who rejected the scriptural teaching concerning separation from false teaching.

How does this relate to Cedarville University? My first concern is their relationship to the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC is a mixed bag containing believers and apostates. While a limited amount of change has taken place in recent years, there is still an unequal, unbiblical yoke. Unfortunately, Cedarville is not pushing the Convention to “come out and be separate.” Instead, they are more likely “to stay in the denominations and even reenter those that Fundamentalists had left.” This sounds an awful lot like new evangelicalism to me.

Other problematic areas include the school’s use of new evangelical speakers and Christian rock music. Pastor John Ashbrook provides an interesting quotation about these areas of compromise in his book, New Neutralism II.

Not long ago I found myself in conversation with a fellow pastor who had formerly been a leader in the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches and had served on the Council of Eighteen. As we discussed the position of two of the prominent schools in that movement, I asked my friend, “What factors were influential in moving those institutions from a fundamentalist stance to the new evangelical position?” He did not hesitate in his reply “The two most important factors were the use of contemporary Christian music and the use of a group of popular new evangelical speakers without any warning about their dangerous position.”

For more information on these subjects, see Dan Greenfield’s article “Cedarville University and the New Evangelicalism.” But suffice it to say that I disagree with Dr. Bauder about Cedarville. There is enough evidence to indicate that the school has a new evangelical philosophy which is affecting those under its influence. Should we continue to fellowship with such an institution on a limited basis? For example, would it be right to allow a Cedarville professor to speak at a fundamental school as Bauder suggests? Not at all. Continued fellowship with a compromising, new evangelical school like Cedarville would only lead to confusion. Instead, let those who wish to be clear in their denunciation of the new evangelical mindset speak out and officially separate from such compromise in obedience to biblical commands.

11 thoughts on “Is Cedarville a new evangelical school?

  1. Matt Austin

    The few points mentioned were outstanding. My history with the school and those who have attended and continue to maintain some level of contact are all in the new evangelical camp-hands down (and both feet firmly planted).
    Another issue that is related to this topic has to deal with two resolutions that were voted on at the most recent GARBC convention. One addressing biblical separation. The vote was 500+ vs. 26+ in favor of maintaining biblical separation. The other resolution was addressing the Cedarville issue regarding their entering into “fellowship” with the SBC and should the GARBC sever ties. The vote was about 50/50. This clearly tells me that the GARBC doesn’t understand
    “BIBLICAL” separation.
    It is sad, however, that the leadership of Central Baptist Seminary will not see any problems with GARBC, nor Cedarville. Maybe that’s why Dr. Douglas R. McLachlan did not have a problem speaking at a New York (Empire State) GARBC meeting a few years ago.
    This is not where the school stood as late as 1993 under McLachlan’s predecessor Dr. Ernest Pickering.
    We live in strange days. Thanks Andy for your research.

  2. Chris Anderson

    In fairness, I don’t think Bauder is giving Cedarville a free pass or encouraging fundamentalists to fellowship with the school. He said in an email to me that he would not speak there himself. In other words, his hesitancy to label them as new evangelicals doesn’t mean he’s embracing them.

    Now, I agree that much of what Cedarville stands for is typical new evangelicalism. But I wouldn’t write off Dr. Bauder for failing to use the terminology, nor would I assume that it means he’s soft on separation. I think a “wait and see” posture is probably in order. That’s my opinion, at least.

  3. Andy Rupert

    Chris,

    Unfortunately, his article does not communicate what his email to you indicated. Saying something in a personal email is one thing. But publishing a statement like this is much different:

    “Others, however, are to be avoided, yet treated as brothers and not as enemies. In other words, even though a formal check has been placed upon the institutional relationship between Cedarville University and the GARBC, this check does not necessarily constitute an air‐tight bulkhead. It is not unthinkable that the National Representative of the GARBC could preach in chapel at Cedarville University. It is not impossible that the president of Cedarville University might be invited to preach at the GARBC. It is not unimaginable that Faith Baptist Bible College (a very separatist institution) could use a professor from Cedarville to teach a course. None of these things is very likely under the present spirit of controversy, but these are different levels of involvement that do not necessarily carry the same connotations as a formal advertisement.”

    What are his readers to think when examples such as this are given? The Scriptures say avoid my brother who continues in sin, but it’s still okay to have him speak at my college? That’s quite odd.

  4. Ben

    “I wouldn’t write off Dr. Bauder for failing to use the terminology, nor would I assume that it means he’s soft on separation. I think a “wait and see” posture is probably in order.”

    Ok, what’s the official line? We’re not separating from Bauder yet, are we? He’s just on the “watch list,” right?

    Now THAT is serious fundamentalism.

  5. Andy Rupert

    Yes, Dr. Bauder and I have communicated via email regarding his article. My hope was that he simply was unaware that Cedarville’s problems were so extensive. His comment about Cedarville “surely” not taking part in an ecumenical crusade seemed to indicate that.

    I think this all goes back to the levels of fellowship idea. While there is some merit in that idea, it becomes dangerous when biblical separation should be practiced and is not. From my perspective, suggesting that some relationship can still exist between a separatist school and Cedarville crosses that line.

  6. Greg Linscott

    Did it ever occur to you, Andy, that Bauder is recognizing a difference in terms than the ones you have embraced? That doesn’t make him wrong- but it may mean you need to ponder what he is trying to communicate.

    Have you ever seen his chart on Major Fundamentalist Movements?

    Matt Austin,

    Not sure where you are going with MacLachlan and the GARBC. When I was in the midwest, there was quite a bit of interaction with the GARBC and the “unaffiliated” types. When I was at Faith (still a GARBC approved agency/partner) in the late 1990s, we had Les Ollila, Dave Doran, Tom Farrell, Morris Gleiser, John Vaughn, Fred Moritz… just to name a few. GARBC men had a marked presence in the Men For Christ rallies, which have been hosted at Fourth, among other places. Pickering also was a regular presence at FBBC during his lifetime (and again, it was a GARBC approved agency all through that time).

    I would observe that just because some in the GARBC don’t understand Biblical Separation the same way you do, doesn’t mean they have NO understanding. Perhaps the association also has a stronger understanding of local church autonomy than you do.

  7. Andy Rupert

    My problem with the article, Greg, is that Dr. Bauder has misrepresented Cedarville to the world of Sharper Iron readers. He seems to lift Cedarville out of the disobedient column and place them into a nebulous, “not-new-evangelical-okay-to-have-them-in-chapel-but-the-GARBC-wouldn’t-endorse-them column” without stating that they are a definite problem.

    This misrepresentation affects those of us ministering in churches in Ohio. We have had several students from our church and school attend Cedarville despite our warnings. Has the school supported us? Not at all. They have undermined much of what we stand for.

    So, as you read my thoughts, consider how this would affect a pastor in Ohio. Does Dr. Bauder’s article encourage people toward or away from the school?

  8. Greg Linscott

    So you have people attending Cedarville. I have some frame of reference- my wife attended Cedarville for a year before we were married.

    Attending Cedarville, though problematic, is not the same as a student attending, say, Brigham Young. Having a Cedarville prof at BJU, for example, should not raise the same kind of ire as having in the Pope.

    One more thing- if some students were going there anyway, how is this damaging? I would think being challenged to think about the issues related to the decision (particularly because Bauder wholeheartedly endorses the GARBC’s action) would be a positive for you. Bauder does not oppose your opposition of Cedarville.

  9. Andy Rupert

    Greg,

    We may never agree about this, but I want to point out several things before going home today.

    1. The article downplayed Cedarville’s problems.

    Here is one SI reader’s opinion of Dr. Bauder’s view on Cedarville:

    “By the way, I applaud Dr. Bauder for pointing out that Cedarville has not become “neo-evangelical” despite his agreeing with the GARBC’s decision. Unfortunately, I was disappointed watching several people at the conference meeting who spoke against Cedarville-accusing them of being “neo-evangelical.” It seems that the GARBC has a hyper-fundamentalist group within its association that puts “neo-evangelicalism” on a different level than the 10 people from the council of 18 who recommended this action against Cedarville.

    “At least from the impression that I am getting, it seems to be more of a Paul-Barnabas separation rather than one that is because of sin and walking disorderly.”

    If Dr. Bauder opposes Cedarville, let him speak for himself. Others certainly aren’t getting that idea from what he wrote.

    2. Comparing Cedarville to Brigham Young detracts from the real issue.

    Cedarville is promoting worldliness and ecumenism alongside its “orthodox” teaching. It doesn’t matter how it compares to other colleges because it is wrong. To give the impression that a smaller amount of sin is more acceptable than a larger dose certainly doesn’t help the situation.

    This whole levels of fellowship scheme seems to open the door for unbiblical fellowship where God is calling for separation.

  10. Greg Linscott

    Andy,

    I must therefore separate from the OBF because it promotes Covenant Theology and Pedobaptism through its relationship with Dr. Barrett. Sure, it may have some historical support, and even coincide somewhat with the heritage of your fellowship churches. That does not detract from the fact that it is wrong– and “levels of fellowship” or not- sin is sin, error is error.

    I am exaggerating to make a point. I have Baptist brethren (even GARBC brethren) who would adopt that very reasoning in my fellowship with Pastor Ashbrook and others in the OBF through my membership in the ACCC. Yet, I have determined that it is an acceptable level of fellowship I can enjoy with you.

    The GARBC has wrestled with this issue for a while, because they do see many beliefs they share and have in common. Dr. Bauder’s point with exchanging professors, for example, is not a bad one. Search your libraries, folks- have any books by Robert Gromacki? Cedarville prof. Ever use anything from RBP? Chances are, you’ve benefited from the work of some Cedarville profs or grads. And just like when your fellowship had Dr. Barrett in, it didn’t mean everyone in the OBF had forsaken dispensationalism or baptism by immersion.

    As far as Dr. Bauder speaking for himself, I suggest you re-read the article and subsequent comments. I think Dr. Bauder’s avoidance of association with Cedarville is quite clear.

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