Tuesday, January 9, 2018
An Evaluation Of The Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement
Independent Fundamental Baptist congregations comprise a group that schismatized from the traditional Baptist denominations as a result of some deviating from biblically orthodox doctrine. This movement had its beginning in the late eighteen hundreds, and was done for the purpose of defending essential Christian doctrines such as the inerrancy of Scripture. Professing Christians who have affiliated themselves with the Independent Baptist label describe their worldview as being highly conservative, nondenominational, and usually express belief in the divine inspiration of the King James Version. While there are a great number of Independent Fundamental Baptist churches that faithfully preach the Word of God, there are also many circles categorized under the same umbrella which have wrongfully caused division throughout the church as a whole. This article is not meant to serve as hate literature, but rather aims to highlight the main problems existing among these autonomous Christian sects. It is an overview critique of the current state of the Independent Fundamental Baptist churches.
The primary issue that should be addressed is the manner in which some Independent Fundamental Baptist congregations present the gospel. In many Independent Baptist churches, a watered down version of the gospel is preached. In other words, they tend to spread a gospel message of salvation by faith but forget to emphasize the aspects of repentance and Jesus Christ's Lordship over the believer's life. The Scriptures emphatically teach that obedience to Christ goes hand-in-hand with faith in what He has done for us (Matthew 7:15-23; Romans 1:5; Romans 10:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; James 2:14-26). Though justification comes by faith apart from the merit of any and all works, a changed heart will by definition result in godly living (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Good works spring forth from saving faith. Despite there being nothing that we can do to save ourselves from the wrath of God, conversion involves repentance and a change of heart. It occurs when we surrender our ways to Christ. It occurs when we recognize the absolute futility of our pride. It is God who saves man. It is God who deserves all the credit for saving us. But it still holds true that Jesus Christ is both our Lord and our Savior. If we are Christians, then we also need to act like Christians. A lot of times, Independent Fundamental Baptists do not speak much of repentance and obedience to Christ when presenting the gospel. This is most probably a result of their legalistic view of righteousness, which focuses more on external behavior than internal change. People who do not fit personal standards are viewed as inferior. Authentic change comes from the heart; actions are symptomatic of what is happening from within. God looks at a person's heart.
The second important issue that should be taken into account is the fact that many Independent Fundamental Baptist churches do not really display a high view of the Bible. Many Independent Baptist pastors tend to invest too much time into merely discussing the cover of their Bibles. In other words, these people oftentimes praise the Bible for being an impeccable spiritual standard of authority without even delving into the text of Scripture itself. They rail their so-called perfect, divinely inspired King James Version down the throats of members of the Independent Baptist congregations. But one of the things that the Christian church needs the most is expository Bible teaching. We need to illustrate the divine inspiration of the Scripture by preaching it in its respective context. We need to teach the practical application of scriptural principles so that others can learn to develop a solidly biblical worldview. The Word of God imparts wisdom to those who diligently study it (Psalm 119). Scripture interprets Scripture. Scripture illustrates Scripture. Independent Fundamental Baptists need to focus on serving the God of the Word, rather than debating over which translation is the Word of God. These people oftentimes have misplaced priorities. The Bible is not like a bag of trail mix where various proof-texts can be cited at one's own whim. Neither are the sermons of the pastor meant to be stories where they themselves are the heroes. The Bible is not an idol. God gave it to us so that we can discern His will (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We should handle Scripture carefully. We should treat it with utmost respect. The Bible should be studied in context.
Other problems rampant in the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement that should warrant our concern are how the pastors tend to be elevated and that outside fellow brethren are essentially viewed as unbelievers. In many cases, the pastor of the congregation demands unquestioned obedience. Anybody who dares to make an inquiry is viewed as essentially standing in rebellion against God. These individuals are oftentimes adored, and given titles such as the "man of God" and the "Lord's anointed." He is treated as though he is king over the entire congregation. Critical thinking is often despised in Independent Fundamental Baptist churches. There is much mind control. People are oftentimes coerced into blind submission, lest they get shunned by all their loved ones. The Independent Fundamental Baptist movement tends to be rather anti-intellectual. Pastors should not strive to be lords over God's heritage, but rather should be good moral examples for the flock to emulate (Luke 22:24-26; 1 Peter 5:1-5). Christian churches are supposed to be governed by a plurality of elders. Leaders are to be held accountable for their actions (1 Timothy 5:19-20), in the same way that we are to be held accountable for our own. The constant pattern found in Scripture is to evaluate the quality of ministry (Acts 17:11-12; Ephesians 5:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22; 1 John 4:1-4). We are all a royal priesthood, according to Scripture (1 Peter 2:5-9). The church encompasses all believers across the globe without distinction (1 Corinthians 1:2; Colossians 1:17-18). It is not limited to a group of elitist saints. This mindset is rooted in pride, as well as hypocrisy. This "holier than thou" and "us verses them" mentality that many Independent Fundamental Baptists display is disgusting and arrogant. In fact, the majority of Independent Fundamental Baptist congregations are so obsessed with the concept of separation that they bitterly divide themselves against each other over the smallest of preferential variances!
So, should people attend Independent Fundamental Baptist congregations? The answer depends entirely on whether the church is faithfully preaching the Word of God. It depends entirely on whether the church accurately presents and lives in accordance to the gospel. Discernment is needed before joining an Independent Fundamental Baptist church. This is true of any professing Christian congregation. While there are Independent Fundamental Baptist churches that are for the most part doctrinally sound, the fact nevertheless remains that many of these congregations are cultic and man-centered. At the same time, there are also wonderful Independent Baptist churches. It is indeed a terrible misfortune that the liberals have made painstaking efforts to portray all congregations that identify under this label as being unbelievably wicked and vile. Such could not be further from the truth. Independent Fundamental Baptist churches (as do other nondenominational groups) tend to have variances in doctrine, custom, and practice.