You don’t need to read or watch any of these links for the blog to make sense, but here they are…there are more all over if you decide to search.
For those of you not watching the video, it portrays IFB churches as overly authoritarian and abusive. It shows actual “preachers” preaching things that would make us disgusted. There are interviews with those who have been victims of abuse in these circles. There is another pastor who handles the interview well and denies that all IFB churches are like this, and tries to make the point that the independent part separates us.
I grew up in a IFB church. I knew none of “this.” My family was actively involved. I was spanked, but I am thankful for it. It was never in anger, and one time that I recall my dad responding (not spanking) in anger, he apologized that same hour. My friends situations were very similar, and I grew up a proud IFB. I have read and studied the actual original Fundamentals, and so for me it was a simple label that meant something simple. Everyone should really be a fundamentalist, right?
Then I attended MBBC for my MA. My generation was abandoning Fundamentalism. I didn’t get it. I didn’t know names. I had been sheltered (in that way) as the few IFB churches were not “networked” churches. I didn’t know names (To the surprise of many of my fellow students) like Dr. Chuck Phelps and Dr. Kevin Bauder, etc. I found I was ignorant of quite a few names not just within fundamentalism, but evangelicalism as well. I worked at fixing this, but it isn’t easy to catch up. Despite this, I still didn’t know the culture that was so disgusting to so many. I like rules, but most, if not all of my rules had principle and Bible behind them. And the majority of what I had come to be taught I had accepted or discarded as I found it in Scripture, but never the baby with the bath water. So, I would defend fundamentalism. My generation was leaving something I found dear and throwing out things, some that were important.
But, I began to see things. I began dating while attending an “approved” church. I soon found out that my girlfriend (at the time) was abused by her parents. It was not sexual, but it was physical, emotional, and psychological. Her parents believed the preaching on “bruise your child” “it might take 100 whacks” etc. Her mom has bragged about how she broke one of her paddling instruments on one child, and how she had to spank another one over 240 times to “break the will.” They had to take yearly pictures to send to ATI so that they could “check to see if there was rebellion in their eyes.” In short, it was a horrible place to live for my wife as she grew up. We talked to the pastor and he did nothing substantive. As far as I know he did have a couple serious discussions with them. At the time, I was convinced that it was their good lying and hypocrisy. I still think that played a major role, but now I also wonder how hard he was looking. When a couple in your church you have known for years tells you it is just this young kid from out of state dating your daughter and causing her to rebel, then you take their side. I understand his position, but would like to think I would have done differently if for no other reason that that I knew the laws of the state to require the reporting of such in that pastor’s place.
I didn’t connect this with IFB. I saw a messed up family and a messed up church and pastor. I knew that these things happened. I was not purposefully trying to defend IFB, I was just not seeing the bigger picture. Soon after we were married, I received a job in FL and so we moved. It was my first time seriously “church shopping” where I was one of the primary decision makers. (At the college, I was the decision maker, but there was a list provided for me to choose from.)
We looked everywhere. I often specifically searched google with “fundamental baptist tampa.” We attended the few IFB churches we could find. We tried for a bit, but they did not work. (When I church-shop, I try to attend SS, SM, SE, and Wed. and then decide if we should go back for anther round.) There were a few that we attended multiple times(read as: every service for a month or more), but the yelling instead of preaching, or the rules that are no where to be found in the text, or the springboard text that allows you to say almost anything without opening your Bible again, the constant preaching on money, or the constant yelling at the teenagers on a weekly basis, all dissuaded us.
It was one of the most discouraging times of our life. Not having a church is hard. Still, I did not abandon my independent leanings. I did not give up the 5 fundamentals of the faith, and so titled myself a fundamentalist. I still held the baptist distinctives. I was recognizing that many IFB preached rules, not Christ. I was reading “In the Nick of Time” and I was following other blogs (most of which are in my links here). I was trying to keep up since my time of ignorance and so I was aware of what many knew IFB to be. My pastor was decidedly not fundamentalist and in our first real discussion when attending, he noted the distinction between what I was and what most are. It was another piece of the exit sign coming together.
My wife knows Tina Anderson, and it was a blow to us last summer when the story first made national news. I linked an article about it all before. It pushed me to the edge.
The interview pushed me over. The interview connected it all for me. I hate the abuse that my wife endured. I hate the abuse continuing in the house. I hate the constant erroneous exegesis or complete lack of any exegesis. I see in the years of “preacher boys” turned out from many of these colleges a lack of understanding of the Scriptures, and a firm grasp on the party line: separation, no rock, no tattoos, etc.
Is there not sin everywhere? Yes, but not all groups are so categorized by it.
Do I still believe the fundamentals of the faith? Well, yeah. The 5 fundamentals are necessary to be a Christian, that’s how fundamental they are. Evangelicals believe them too.
So, what truly defines a fundamentalist today? Is it the belief on these issues? Unfortunately, no, it is not. The majority of fundamentalism is negative.
Though IFB claims the independent part just as loudly, they have their South Regional Fellowships, and they have their “leaders of fundamentalism” like any other group. They are not separate. These leaders represent fundamentalism for the majority of those in the group. It is not me and others looking and saying, those guys are the leaders because they are bad and so the movement is bad. These guys are the claimed leaders within the camp.
They preach messages about the hair needing to cover women’s ears from 1 Cor. 11. They preach about how the bathroom door has a women in a skirt, and so women better not wear pants. Theaters are bad, and rock music is of the devil. A woman can’t know theology, because the one time Eve tried to convince Adam about something about God we all ended up condemned. Yes, I have heard all these things — the last from a prominent figure of the movement.
That is what fundamentalism is, and has been for decades. It has not been about single isolated churches believing the 5 fundamentals.
Fundies have made their main characteristic the doctrine of separation. Most of us that have claimed fundamentalism might be surprised they would separate with us over God’s sovereignty. Perhaps we wouldn’t when we consider it though. How many people do we know turned away from ministry positions for teaching the Bible, or making it plain beforehand that they believed God was sovereign? They (the top leaders of fundamentalism today) separate from everyone and anyone who dares suggest they are in error in a minor point. Is this a universal truth that happens every single time? No. Is it a commonality that happens quite often? Yes. Does it happen enough to define fundamentalism? Yes.
I am writing this blog because I grew up ignorant of this IFB. I think many of my family and friends also are ignorant. Perhaps it is willingly, but I think in general, we just did not know, or we thought the other churches were the exceptions. We were the exception.
Even within the churches I was brought up in, rules were preached and taught. They weren’t in the Scriptures. No pants on women; your music better not have a beat on the off notes; theaters are not right; cards are wrong. These, within a church that was exegetically preaching the Scriptures. All those that were not, had only rules. Further thought along this line might bring many of us personal hurt and discouragement.
What do we do? Well, let’s start simple. We still believe the fundamentals. That is obvious. Not all IFB churches are like this. The majority are. In this way, is it still profitable to define ourselves like this? That is a hard question, and one that I believe each person must answer for themselves and where they are. Is there another option? Yes, there is.
Evangelicals are evangelists. They preach the gospel. Certainly, we would not deny in our fundamentalism that we don’t evangelize. And conservative Evangelicals would affirm the fundamentals, perhaps more often then fundies do for all their rhetoric. (I am unsure what denying the fundamentals actually makes you… a complete liberal?)
There are good Godly men seen as leaders in that movement — Piper for one. Not to say there aren’t in fundamentalism today. I find Bauder to be a good read, and accurate, and though I have not heard him preach, from what I know of him I would recommend him. However, Bauder is the only present day Fundamentalist leader I can recommend that I am aware of. Others I know to be leaders, I would stay far away from.
We are not in a shell, and our sense of hyper-separation has hurt us as Christians from fellowshipping with other Christians. I frowned upon such gatherings as T4G and TGC when I first heard of them. However, after reading their statements, I realized I am more in line with them than I am with the fundamentalist leaders who believe that Calvinism is a damnable heresy that will send you to Hell. Yeah.
To be as open as possible, in general, you will not find in evangelicalism a commonality of dispensationalism. That is, they will dispute our eschatology. Piper, for example, is not dispensational, but does believe in a millennium.
Have we ever found ourselves exactly matched anywhere? Not really. In Fundamentalism we were frowned upon and considered abnormalities for believing God was sovereign; elsewhere, we will be frowned upon for our eschatology. Some where in all that, we will be seen as cult fanatics for our Bible. The point is, there is no extra strength or position in agreeing to be a fundamentalist…or changing.
But don’t be ignorant about it. Understand what a fundamentalist is if you are one. Understand that there are other options, too.
Here are more links…good stuff in general.