Another Five-Views Book

April 11, 2014
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Multiple-views books have become a bit of a fad. The format lends itself to comparison and contrast, allowing readers to weigh and judge the evidence for each position. Several publishers are now producing volumes covering a bewildering variety of theological disagreements. Indeed, one wonders whether new disputes aren’t being invented just to provide a platform for more books.

Fundamentalists have not often participated in these discussions. One concern is that joint publication is a form of Christian fellowship and requires a fairly high degree of fidelity. Since the books themselves assume significant disagreement, the requirement of commonality works against their basic premise.

By failing to present their views in such venues, fundamentalists create the impression that their position cannot survive in the marketplace of ideas. This view is reinforced by those who most stringently oppose such participation. Fundamentalists who choose to write for multi-views books can expect that some of their most vocal critics will be other fundamentalists.

This fundamentalist hesitation is what makes Robert Campbell’s volume, Spectrum of Protestant Beliefs, particularly remarkable. The editor represents a Roman Catholic—specifically, a Dominican—perspective. The publisher, Bruce Publishing Company of Milwaukee, claimed for many years to be the world’s largest Catholic publisher. The purpose of the book is to introduce Catholic readers to the varieties of Protestant theology, from most conservative to most liberal.

The book surveys five positions. The furthest to the left is a version of the radical Death-of-God theology. Next is liberal theology as it has developed after the collapse of Neo-Orthodoxy. Then comes what Bruce calls “confessional” Protestantism, by which he means liturgical churches such as high-church Anglicanism and Missouri Synod Lutheranism. Moving in what Bruce sees as a more conservative direction is the New Evangelicalism. Last and most conservative is fundamentalism.

The methodology of the volume is unique. Rather than contributing a single chapter, each author responds to twenty-one categories. Some of the categories are theological, some ecclesiastical, some social, and some political. The individual responses range in length from a single paragraph to a page or two. The authors articulate their views upon such matters as the nature and existence of God, the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, human sinfulness, heaven and hell, Satan, the way of salvation, divorce and remarriage, premarital sex, anti-Semitism, each others’ theology, and the Roman Catholic Church.

One of the most striking presentations in the book comes from the fundamentalist representative, who is always given the first word on every category. Effectively, he opens the entire volume with his response to the first category, which is “God.” He says,

I believe in a triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that God is Love. There are many facets to the jewel of His character—righteousness, holiness, truth, etc. You could name them all day; but His very nature is love. (9)

Such a strong emphasis upon God’s love is not what most readers would expect from a fundamentalist. In fact, many fundamentalists might have preferred to see a stronger focus upon God’s holiness as the opening salvo of the book. But there is—God is Love, with a capital L.

In other places, however, this author sounds more fundamentalistic. Of New Evangelicals he says, “there are no groups more dangerous” (29). Of eternal destiny he states, “I believe in a literal Heaven and a literal hell. . . a place of eternal suffering” (49). He believes that the “celibacy of the Catholic clergy is condemned” in 1 Timothy 3:2 (61). He opines that the ecumenical movement “is building a “unity of apostate ecclesiastical organizations” that will be headed by “apostates—often blasphemous, frequently unclean and evil men” (75). Concerning liberals he states that the “most bitter, uncharitable, and illiberal men are those who set themselves against the Word of God and who cannot tolerate opposition” (80). He names the Roman Catholic Church as the great whore of Revelation 17.

Dominican priest Robert Campbell is the editor of the book, but who are the authors? Particularly, what fundamentalist would agree to collaborate with liberal and neoevangelical authors? Indeed, what kind of fundamentalist would produce work for a Catholic editor and publisher?

The representative of radical theology is William Hamilton who, together with Thomas J. J. Altizer, was one of the two popularizers of Christian Atheism. The liberal is Bishop James A. Pike, widely recognized as one of the foremost spokesmen for religious liberalism during his generation. The Confessional Protestant is evangelical apologist, author, and educator John Warwick Montgomery. The New Evangelical is Carl F. H. Henry, one of the three most important figures in the history of the neoevangelical movement.

And the fundamentalist? Some compromiser from the IFCA or the left wing of the GARBC? No, the fundamentalist is Bob Jones—to be specific, Bob Jones, Jr. The publication date of the book is 1968. Yes, that’s what Bob Jones was doing forty-six years ago. He was contributing to a book for a Catholic editor, with coauthors who included a neoevangelical, a Confessional Protestant, a prominent liberal, and a radical Death-of-God theologian. He did it unabashedly, even proudly. Evidently, he did it without a word of reproof from other fundamentalists.

Maybe some of today’s fundamentalist pundits think that Jones was wrong to participate. But here’s the thing. Whatever else Bob Jones may have been, he was never timid. He had a tender side alright, but (and I mean none of this to be derogatory) he was a vigorous, robust, confident, assertive, tenacious, resilient, square-jawed, straight-backed, tough-as-nails, heavy-duty, industrial strength, hardnosed, bull moose, larger-than-life, uncompromising fundamentalist leader who most definitely did not suffer fools gladly. He was the captain of his team, the general of his armies, the chieftain of his tribe, the commander of his troops, the admiral of his fleet, and the master of his domain. You might second-guess his decision now, almost half a century later. But you wouldn’t have then—and if perchance you did, you wouldn’t have said so. And in this case, nobody did.

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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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Hark, My Soul! It Is the Lord
William Cowper (1731–1800)

Hark, my soul! it is the Lord.
’Tis thy Saviour, hear his word;
Jesus speaks and speaks to thee,
“Say, poor sinner, lovest thou me?

“I delivered thee when bound,
And when bleeding, healed thy wound;
Sought thee wandering, set thee right,
Turned thy darkness into light.

“Can a woman’s tender care
Cease towards the child she bear?
Yes, she may forgetful be,
Yet will I remember thee.

“Mine is an unchanging love,
Higher than the heights above,
Deeper than the depths beneath,
Free and faithful, strong as death.

“Thou shalt see my glory soon,
When the work of grace is done;
Partner of my throne shalt be,
Say, poor sinner, lovest thou me?”

Lord, it is my chief complaint,
That my love is weak and faint;
Yet I love thee and adore,
Oh for grace to love thee more!