Aren’t All Baptists the Same?
By Lighthouse Baptist Church Reno, NV
One of the most frequently asked questions from visitors is “What kind of Baptist church is Fellowship BAPTIST CHURCH?” I would like to answer that question in this article.
Many years ago, Jesus said of the church in Sardis, “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Rev. 3:1). Jesus looked at this assembly and saw something that man could not see. In man’s eyes, this church had a good reputation, yet, under the divine scrutiny of Christ, we see that their reputation was without reality. The Word of God proclaims that the last days will be characterized by those who have “a FORM OF GODLINESS, but deny the power thereof” (2 Tim. 2:5); those who “profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him” (Titus 1:16). Our world today is filled with many professors, but only a few possessors. This is also true among those who call themselves Baptists. There are many who possess the name, but there are only a few who possess the nature of a true, scriptural Baptist. I know many who are wearing the name “Baptist” who ought to be honest with themselves and others and take the name off their signs. They do not believe and practice what Baptists have stood for and practiced throughout history. Peter told us “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Pet. 3:15). That is a good reason why every Baptist ought to be able to tell why he is a Baptist as well as what kind of Baptist. Currently, there are over 64 separate Baptist denominations in the United States and the diversity is often very obvious.
In light of this diversity, what kind of Baptist church is Fellowship BAPTIST CHURCH? I believe that the church started by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry was by ‘belief and practice’ an Independent Fundamental Baptist church and that it has existed from the time of His ministry until today. The man God sent, to make ready a people out of whom the Lord Jesus organized His church, was called by God Himself ‘the Baptist’ (Matt 3:1). John was not called ‘the Baptist’ because he baptized. He was called ‘the Baptist’ by the Lord before he ever baptized anybody or ever preached a sermon. He was called ‘the Baptist’ because of the work God sent him to do (John 4:1). His mission was the same kind of a mission that Baptists have always had. John was a Baptist because of his mission to make and baptize disciples; ‘…teaching them to observe ALL THINGS whatsoever I have commanded you’ (Matt. 28:20). Baptist doctrine includes ‘all things’ commanded and practiced by Christ and His apostles and excludes everything else. If it isn’t in the Bible it isn’t Baptist doctrine.
2 Tim 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, THE SAME commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Paul was admonishing young Timothy that he was a part of a 5-fold generation of faith. Those five generations were the (1) “many witnesses” before Paul, then (2) Paul, “the things that thou hast heard of me”, then (3) Timothy, “the same commit thou.” (4) “To faithful men” is the fourth generation. (5) “Who shall be able to teach others also” is the fifth generation. Timothy must take “the same” and commit it to others. Not something different, not Timothy’s version, not something he heard from some other source or place, but “the same” as he had received it. That is a simple, two-word explanation of what an independent, fundamental Baptist is. We have been entrusted with a certain set of beliefs and practices and if we are true to what we have received, we must keep them ‘the same’ and pass them on ‘the same’ way we received them. Staying fundamental in a liberal world is not just rejecting liberalism, it is also being loyal to what we were taught that came from God’s Word, and thereby we will fulfill our part in the five-fold generation of belief in 2 Timothy 2:2.
The name Independent Fundamental Baptist is of recent origin and came into being due to many Baptist churches compromising the Word of God by not teaching and practicing ‘…ALL the counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27). There are, however, many Baptist churches that have loved the Word of God and have held true to Its teachings. These Baptist churches that have refused to abandon the teaching of the New Testament have found it necessary, to distinguish themselves from doctrinally unsound Baptist churches. To make this distinction, true Baptists were forced to add certain adjectives to their Baptist name, so as to avoid being identified with the modernism/liberalism that was being widely accepted by so many Baptist churches. The adjectives that were added to these Baptist churches identified them as being separate and distinct from other unsound and compromising Baptist groups.
BECAUSE OF THE BIBLE
We live in a day where people are hesitant to associate themselves with a name or a term. I am not a Baptist just because it is the way I was raised. I am not a Baptist just because I went to a church with Baptist on the sign. I am a Baptist because I am convinced that the Baptist teachings are in line to what the Bible teaches. The Bible is God’s final and absolute authority concerning His description of a New Testament church. If a person only had a New Testament, and as a church practiced what the New Testament taught, that church would be identified as a Baptist church. I don’t hold to certain beliefs because I am a Baptist, I am a Baptist because I hold certain beliefs. The doctrines that are in the Bible are what Baptists have proclaimed for years.
BECAUSE OF MODERNISM & LIBERALISM
I’m a…FUNDAMENTAL Baptist.
Modernists claim to know God or to be spiritual; but, they deny some of the foundational fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. Modernism elevates reason above revelation and experience above tradition. Liberals denied biblical literalism and inerrancy and sought to reformulate traditional theological concepts to make them more palatable to the modern scientific mind. Fundamentalism saw liberalism/modernism as a threat to the essence of Christianity. Therefore, fundamentalists instituted a militant program to rid Baptist churches of what they perceived as liberal tendencies in the two major national denominations (Southern/Northern Baptist Conventions).
BECAUSE OF DENOMINATIONALISM
I’m an…INDEPENDENT, Fundamental Baptist.
To be ‘independent’ means the church is autonomous; autonomy is defined as the power or right of self-government apart from any outside agency. The autonomy of a local church is at the very heart of what constitutes a true Baptist church. This belief, in the autonomy of the church, is why Fellowship is an ‘independent’ Baptist Church. The Biblical example of a New Testament church is one that is not ruled by any board, hierarchical system or an organization of churches tied together under any kind of ecclesiastical government. Baptists believe that the local church is to be governed by the Word of God, and the local church does not need, nor does the Scripture teach that the local body rests under the authority of any earthy outside group. It is a group unto itself, under the authority of God (Eph 1:20-23), and solely responsible unto Him for its conduct, direction and affairs. The acceptance or rejection of this Bible doctrine will influence all other decisions that a congregation makes because rejection of this doctrine turns over decisions of a local congregation to the will of a higher, earthly body.
The ‘independent’ Baptist Church came under attack when denominationalism attempted to redefine the church. This attack, upon the autonomy of the local church, gave rise to what became known as the independent Baptist ‘movement’. Autonomy is not having a central, controlling board to maintain the doctrinal and moral purity of each local church within that union (typical denominationalism). Such a practice is emphatically in complete violation to the autonomy taught in the scriptures. In the early 20th Century, when a well-organized group of fundamentalists, failing to purge either of the two major Baptist denominational bodies from liberal persuasions, withdrew from the denominations and either established their own separated churches or refused to allow their churches to fellowship or associate with any entity beyond the local church level. The independent Baptist ‘movement’ therefore, arose as a principal sub-group within fundamentalism during the fundamentalist-modernist controversy concerning church polity. It is a sad fact that many of today’s most carnal and worldly churches still call themselves ‘Baptists’, but in fact they do not believe or practice what true Baptists have historically believed and more importantly, what the Word of God says. The true Independent Fundamental Baptists have no association or fellowship with these churches or of those that may be on the ‘fringe’ because they teach or practice things contrary to the sound doctrine (1 Tim 1:10, 2 Tim 4:3, Titus 1:9, Titus 2:1).
BECAUSE OF WORLDLINESS
I’m a…SEPARATED, Independent, Fundamental Baptist.
Separation is a divinely-ordained wall of spiritual protection against apostasy and worldliness. (2 Thes 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.) To reject “separatism” is to tear down this important wall so that God’s people are no longer kept protected. Failure to separate from error leaves one open to the influence of error (1 Cor 15:3 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.) Knowing the importance of separation, I am deeply concerned about the next generation. The old backslidden prophet in 1 Kings 13 taught the young prophet to disobey God by taking the commandments of God lightly. God told the young prophet to preach against the idolatrous altar at Bethel and then to leave and not to even eat there. The prophet obeyed for a while. He ran a good race for a distance. He proclaimed God’s message against the altar boldly, refusing the king’s offer of a reward, and headed away from Bethel for a time. BUT instead of continuing to get away from there as fast as he could, he decided to take a rest under an oak tree. There an old compromised prophet, who had become comfortable in Bethel, met him and encouraged him that he didn’t need to take God’s commandments ‘so strictly’, that he could go to his house and enjoy a meal before leaving the idolatrous city. That sounded reasonable…surely God would understand…that “little bit” of compromise didn’t work out for him, though. As a result of his association with an old backslidden prophet, the foolish young prophet was killed. By the way, we see in this account that backslidden preachers can lie! (1 Kings 13:8 And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place:) There are a lot of compromised preachers in Independent Baptist churches who are saying it is OK to lighten up on separation…back off on being so controversial and narrow-minded. They say that music is more an issue of taste, that teaching the biblical principles of modest dress is legalism; let’s be separatists BUT let’s not go overboard with it. Let’s not be fanatics. I am convinced that this thinking is wrong, that it is compromise and I don’t want to be affected by it. Even if I could associate with such men without being personally affected, which is probably not possible, what about those who observe my example? Good churches are being ruined by bad associations…soft separatism builds bridges to the wrong churches and the wrong preachers and that acts as conduits for other areas of compromise to enter the congregation. The problem with many otherwise good independent fundamental Baptist churches is their associations. The problem lies in the matter of with whom the pastors of these churches associate and who they invite in to speak and whose books they recommend and what schools they promote and what conferences they attend and who they refuse to warn about. In light of what is happening and the widespread compromise and rapid change that is evident throughout independent Baptist churches, it is time for a ‘come-out’ from among them movement much more than a broad independent Baptist friends movement. The next generation will not only be influenced by us; they will be influenced by those with whom we associate. The question is whether or not we are allowing bridges to be built to the wrong things, bridges that the next generation will undoubtedly cross.
The world around us is becoming progressively more morally degenerate and the church is becoming progressively more accommodating to worldliness. The distinctions between Christians and worldly conduct—once so clear—have been blurred beyond recognition. The greater our difference from the world, the more true our testimony for Christ and the more potent our witness against sin. While remaining in the world we’re not to become like the world. Over the past 50-years, Independent Fundamental Baptists have composed the largest part of the separatist movement, but Independent Fundamental Baptist churches today, in general, are very much different in character from what they were when I was saved in 1973. What is happening now among Independent Fundamental Baptist churches is exactly what happened in Evangelicalism* in the 1950’s. It is the rejection of “separatism.” When I was saved in 1973, the major thing that distinguished Independent Fundamental Baptists from most other Baptist churches was biblical separation (i.e. personal standards of separation and ecclesiastical separation), but that distinction is disappearing and there is now a ‘merging philosophy’ (i.e. emerging church movement) that is eroding the Biblical difference that was once a hallmark of the Independent Fundamental Baptist churches. Since the early 1990’s a rapidly growing number of Independent Baptist churches are no different in character than the majority of most Baptist churches (i.e. Southern Baptist, etc.) meaning they have given up on biblical separation, in practice if not in profession, and this change is reflected in the area of music, dress, bible versions, associations, the type of literature that is used, etc.
* From its inception, the hallmark of New Evangelicalism was the rejection of separation. Harold Ockenga, who claimed to have coined the term “neo-evangelicalism” in 1948, defined it as “a rejection of separatism”. The New Evangelicalism aimed at a more positive and pragmatic philosophy as opposed to the “negativism and isolation” of fundamentalism. (Pragmatism is being practiced in the place of biblical teaching accompanied by faith – if it works it is accepted.) In a speech he gave in 1947 at the founding of Fuller Theological Seminary, Ockenga said: “We repudiate the ‘Come-outist’ movement which brands all denominations as apostate. We expect to be positive in our emphasis, except where error so exists that it is necessary for us to point it out in order to declare the truth”. Ockenga represented the changing mood of the sons of the old fundamentalists who were tired of exposing error and separating from compromised denominations and churches. They were tired of fighting. This new generation of evangelicals determined to abandon a militant Bible stance. They wanted a more positive face on their Christianity. Ockenga’s designation of the new movement as New or Neo-Evangelical was abbreviated to Evangelical. Thus, today we speak of this branch of conservative Christianity simply as the Evangelical movement. What happened to evangelical churches in the 1950’s is happening to fundamental Baptist churches today.
The doctrine of biblical separatism is being rejected at breathtaking speed and the bridges that are subsequently built are resulting in spiritual corruption which has caused a widespread collapse of separatism. The doctrine of separation, especially ecclesiastical separation, is not a popular doctrine among many, for it sometimes carries the idea of one being belligerent, being superior, unloving, and of course being overly negative. Admittedly, there may be some like this, but this does not cancel the necessity and importance of the doctrine. Peter may have thought Paul could have been more tactful and caring when Paul “…withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal 2:11). Again, saying the truth in love does not always mean the person hears or responds to it that way. Biblical ecclesiastical separation means the refusal to collaborate with or the withdrawal of fellowship from those who walk contrary to the Word of God. There are at least (2) elements that make the doctrine.
The Bible is clear that Fundamental, Bible-believers can have no fellowship with those who are unbelievers, apostates, or Bible-deniers.
The Bible also teaches separation from professing Christians/churches that are doctrinally careless and that deviate from the unchangeable standards of Scripture.
When professing Independent Fundamental Baptists recognize or have some kind of common cause with those whose alliances or positions are unscriptural, or at least questionable, they lend their influence to the cause of compromise. Therefore, we must be constantly on guard, lest we end up promoting an organization or group against which we would otherwise take a stand against (2 Chron 19:2 And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD.) God’s means of preserving the Truth of the Gospel and of all the Word of God has been and will continue to be, that of separation. Otherwise, a gradualism sets in that eventually will leave the church with no pure doctrine left to preserve, much less any vitality with which to preserve and defend it.
We are told that unity is more important than doctrine and that we should bury our doctrinal differences and present the gospel of Christ to a lost world. Campus Crusade for Christ represents this philosophy: “We are to put aside the peripheral issues that divide us…Men were reminded that the real issue is Jesus Christ, and that we are to love one another even if we do not agree theologically or philosophically. I encourage you to apply this principle of love and acceptance with all of your Christian friends, and help make Christ the real issue.” (Worldwide Impact, May 1972) According to this philosophy…doctrine divides but love unites! We are told that we need to bury our doctrinal differences and make Christ the real issue, because it doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you love one another. Must we really seek unity at the expense of Truth for the sake of evangelism and reaching the world for Christ? Is this really what the Great Commission is all about? Is this really God’s plan and program for His Church? We would certainly agree that believers need to make every effort ‘…to keep the UNITY of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (Eph 4:3) but we should also be very careful to note what kind of unity Paul is talking about. It is a unity which involves a common knowledge and understanding of the faith and the Person of Jesus Christ: (Eph 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of THE FAITH, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:) Notice also that it is “…the UNITY of THE FAITH.” It is a unity that is based upon the Truth of God’s Word. Paul never taught that Truth should be sacrificed or compromised for the sake of unity. Indeed, in this very context we are told what God’s method involves: “…speaking THE TRUTH in love” (Eph 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:). What does love rejoice in? (1 Cor 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth IN THE TRUTH;). Who are the divisive ones? This is made very clear in Rom 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences CONTRARY TO THE DOCTRINE which ye have learned; and avoid them. Notice carefully who causes such divisions. The divisive ones are those who teach ‘…CONTRARY to the doctrine’. True unity is only realized and enjoyed as believers walk in ‘…the Truth’. The only basis for the enjoyment of true Christian unity (Eph 4:1-6) is a common understanding of and obedience to the Word of God.
When believers present the gospel to the unsaved, the goal, whether recognized or not, is separation. (Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and TO TURN THEM FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.) Luke 9 relates an occurrence in the life of the Lord’s disciples that may serve as an example of ecclesiastical separation during this gospel age. (Luke 9:49-50 And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.) Note, Jesus told the disciples not to forbid the man from ministering BUT He did not tell His disciples, to join the man in ministry! There is no doubt, there are many Baptists, that love the Lord and desire to honour Him and His Word, BUT it must be understood…Bible Truth declares that true Biblical local New Testament Church fellowship and cooperation is based solely on doctrine. (Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ DOCTRINE AND FELLOWSHIP, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.) Doctrine and Christian fellowship are mutual friends. It is also important to notice that doctrine always precedes fellowship; for doctrine is the basis, the foundation for the fellowship! Doctrine is simply Bible Truth and Bible Truth is doctrine! In 1 Tim 1:3 Paul says to Timothy “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they TEACH NO OTHER DOCTRINE.” What one believes, teaches AND practices is important and must be based on sound biblical doctrine. Doctrine is foundational to fellowship when it comes to ecclesiastical cooperation or ecclesiastical separation. With the absence of doctrine, we have lost responsible militancy (“militancy” does not mean violent; It means aggressive/pro-active).
BECAUSE OF LIFESTYLE EVANGELISM
I’m a…SOULWINNING, Separated, Independent, Fundamental Baptist.
There are those that have replaced the Christians responsibility to boldly speak the Word of God to those that are lost with a non-confrontational approach called ‘lifestyle evangelism’. This teaching is popular in ecumenical circles today which say that you don’t have to confront people with the gospel; no, just live for Christ and people will want what you have. It may sound good, but that’s not what the Bible teaches. Confrontational soul-winning is when we as believers, take the initiative to witness to people concerning Jesus Christ. It means that we bring the Gospel to them instead of waiting for them to come to us. Thus, we are “confronting” them in a gentle and appropriate manner regarding their soul’s salvation. One of the subtle attacks Satan is unleashing against our independent Baptist churches is our infatuation with ‘marketing’ the gospel. Churches are replacing soulwinning with canvassing, social networking, mailing campaigns, etc. In and of themselves, these may not be wrong but when they are used to minimize our confrontational approach to soulwinning, they are wrong.
BECAUSE OF HIGHER CRITICISM
I’m a…KING JAMES BIBLE, Soulwinning, Separated,
Independent, Fundamental Baptist.
Since the Bible claims to be the inerrant Word of God, it has become the focus of many attacks. Biblical inerrancy is really just a phrase that means the Bible is ‘without error’—an idea that is part of our foundation for being able to fully trust God’s Word. Since the rise of liberal scholarship and higher criticism, ruthless attacks have been leveled from within Christendom on the integrity of the Bible, trying to discredit It by chipping away at Its authority and credibility. The creation and propagation of false Bible translations is one of the most obvious ways in which the integrity of the Word of God has come under attack. Since Christ started His church in the 1st Century, Baptists have never questioned the authenticity or authority of the Word of God. The Baptists have never changed the Scriptures to conform to their beliefs. Rather, they have submitted to the Scriptures and have organized and governed their churches under the authority of the Word of God. The preserved Word of God in English is the King James Bible (1611). The King James Version was translated from the Textus Receptus manuscripts. All of the other manuscripts have been altered and perverted so that the translations which do not align with the Textus Receptus are in actuality perversions of the Word of God. True Baptists “are not as many, which corrupt the Word of God” (2 Cor. 2:17); instead, they reject the perversions and wholly accept the Authorized Version of 1611 as the preserved, sole authority for all faith and practice.
BECAUSE OF PSEUDO-FUNDAMENTALISM
I’m an…INSPIRED King James Bible, Soulwinning, Separated,
Independent, Fundamental Baptist.
Pseudo means, ‘counterfeit, imitation, phony’. There is a subtle undermining of historic Baptist Fundamentalism that is known as progressive and/or pseudo-Fundamentalism. It is nothing more than New Evangelicalism in embryonic form. Pseudo-Fundamentalism is a movement away from our roots in Baptist fundamentalism emphasizing the inspiration of the ‘originals’ and preservation of the Bible, while denying that the King James Bible is the preserved ‘inspired’ Words of God. You don’t have to read very far in contemporary, fundamentalist, Baptist literature to come across scoffers who attack the ‘King James only’ position and degrade those of us who would dare call the King James Bible ‘inspired.’ Whatever the naysayers may say…the King James Bible is the inspired AND the preserved, word-for-word, Words of God! (Ps 12:6-7, 2 Tim. 3:16).
Example of the ‘originals only’ argument:
Theologically, ‘inspiration’ is used for the condition of being directly under divine influence. In any discussion of the Bible’s inspiration, two words generally are used to amplify the meaning of the term: verbal and plenary. By ‘verbal,’ it is meant that every Word in the Bible is there because God permitted It by the direction of the Holy Spirit. By ‘plenary’ (from the Latin, plenus—full), it is meant that each and every part of the Bible is inspired, with nothing having been omitted. In other words, by employing what we today call verbal (word-for-word), plenary (full) inspiration, God ensured that the Writings were correct and consistent with His will. This view holds that men wrote exactly what God wanted them to write, without errors or mistakes. We should note, however, that this inspiration process applied only to the original autographs of the sacred writings (i.e., the actual document as penned initially by the writer) creates obvious inconsistencies.
Note: The inspiration of the ‘originals only’ argument is what was being promoted when churches were denying the inerrancy of Scripture (i.e. popularity of the modern versions) which gave rise to the ‘King James only’ position that emphasized the ‘preservation’ of God’s perfect and inerrant and infallible Word to the English speaking people in the King James Bible.
HERE’S THE PROBLEM: If God only inspired the ‘originals only’…then only a select group of people in a very isolated geographical location was able to derive any benefit from those inspired ‘originals’…because there are no ‘originals only’ in existence today. Though we may feel helpless in not having access to the ‘originals only’…through God’s promise of divine preservation we do have the verbal and plenary Words of God. Ps 12:6-7 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt KEEP THEM, O LORD, thou shalt PRESERVE THEM from this generation for ever. Then we read in Psalm 100:5 that “…his truth endureth TO ALL GENERATIONS,” and Jesus said in John 17:17 that God’s ‘…WORD is truth’. These verses state very clearly that God’s preserved Word must be available to us today, because God PROMISED to preserve It for us. There must be an infallible Book somewhere. According to the Scriptures, there must be a single Book that is the infallible Word of God and that Book is the Authorized Version 1611 King James Bible; thus, the ‘King James only’ position was firmly established in opposition to the ‘originals only’ attack upon God’s Word. Matt 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but MY WORDS SHALL NOT PASS AWAY. If His Words didn’t pass away, then where are they? I want to read them. There has to be a perfect volume somewhere. I know the King James Bible is the Word of God because God promised to preserve His Words. Never did it occur to those churches that uncompromisingly took a strong stand for the preservation of God’s Word as given in the King James Bible that they would ever have to clarify, even further, their position concerning the King James Bible. Well, the unthinkable did happen…and the ‘King James only’ position was once again under attack and had to be clarified even more by answering the question: Is the King James Bible inspired OR is it preserved? And the answer was: It is both, It is inspired AND It is preserved. There are some churches today that say that the King James Bible is not preserved. There are other churches that say that the King James Bible is not inspired. And some churches deny both preservation and inspiration. You don’t have to read very far in contemporary, fundamentalist, Baptist literature to come across scoffers who attack the ‘King James only’ position and degrade those of us who would dare call the King James Bible ‘inspired.’ Whatever the naysayers may say…the King James Bible is the inspired AND the preserved, word-for-word, Words of God!
Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for THE FAITH which was once delivered unto the saints.
There is only one generation between old-time fundamentalism and compromise! As a biblical fundamentalist and pastor of an independent, fundamental Baptist church, I am very concerned about the subtle and seemingly insignificant changes taking place within modern fundamentalism. Such changes may appear, to the casual observer, as being petty and minor in relation to the big picture of loving God more, having a greater heart of service for God and seeing those outside of Christ trusting Him as Saviour. This concern, of this new generation of fundamentalists, may seem to only be a hesitation to embrace modern technology or a reluctance to incorporate new and creative ideas…but that is not the concern. The threat to fundamentalism is the new generation of fundamentalisms unwillingness to fight for and defend ‘the faith’. ‘THE FAITH’ is the body of Truths to be believed as given to us in the Bible. More specifically ‘the faith’ is Christianity itself. To ask, “what is ‘the faith’?” is to ask, “What is Christianity?” Our fundamentalist Baptist forefathers were neither wrong nor unloving to give first place to matters of ‘the faith’. Not what you felt, not who your friends were, not how much money your church contributed to the denominational machine, but what did you believe? The historic Baptist faith is synonymous with New Testament Christianity. A New Testament Christian will not just believe biblical Truths in his heart; more importantly, he will also practice, protect, preserve, and propagate these beliefs for which his forefathers valiantly stood.
‘The faith’ is under attack, and one way it is under attack is by Satan’s attempt to divide ‘the faith’ categorically into things that are either ‘major’ or ‘minor’. Fellowship Baptist Church repudiates the position of those who identify with historic Fundamentalism and who wish to claim identity with it merely by stating their belief in 5 ‘core’ fundamentals. A catch phrase that is often used to accommodate inclusion amongst churches is: In essentials unity; in non-essentials grace; in all things Jesus Christ. Though this may seem to the uninformed Christian to be a spiritual cliché, it is not scriptural. Yes, there are ‘essentials’ that one must believe if they want to be saved, but that doesn’t make all other doctrine ‘non-essential’. Though there are many ‘non-essentials’ recorded in Scripture that are not necessary for one’s salvation, such ‘non-essentials’ are not to be minimized or ignored when it comes to their ‘essentialness’ in living a Christ-honoring Christian life. Likewise, a person cannot reject any one of the ‘non-essentials’ that are ‘essential’ in living the Christian life and consider themselves to be a true Baptist fundamentalist. The danger of those who are using the terms ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ is that they refuse to tell us exactly what they mean and exactly where lines should be drawn. The sole authority for faith and practice must be the Bible, and the fact is that there is no support for ‘in essentials unity’ in the Bible. It is a man-made philosophy created to further a pragmatic agenda. And anything man-made will be in a constant state of change. We need to be careful about slogans, realizing that these may not accurately express scriptural truths and thus, can cause great harm to individuals and the Church. A better slogan may be…”In Biblical issues, unity. In non-Biblical issues, liberty. In all things, love.”
The Bible position is an ‘ALL THINGS essential’ position. Gal 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in ALL THINGS which are written in the book of the law to do them. Ps 119:127-128 Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold. 128 Therefore I esteem ALL THY PRECEPTS concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way. Observe that the Psalmist did not merely hate those things that were contrary to the ‘essential’ doctrines of God’s Word. He hated ‘…every false way’. There are no ‘non-essentials’ in the Bible; yet, if there were, man would then have the authority to decide what were and were not essential. Matt 28:20 Teaching them to OBSERVE ALL THINGS whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Acts 20:27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you ALL THE COUNSEL of God. The more plainly and fervently you preach the whole counsel of God, the less likely it will be that you will join hands in ministry with those who hold different doctrinal views. When God’s Word speaks, our liberty ends–when God’s Word speaks on any matter, our liberty ends. Paul instructed Timothy to “…keep this commandment WITHOUT SPOT, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:14). A ‘spot’ is a small, seemingly insignificant smudge. The only ‘non-essential’ doctrine is a doctrine not taught in Scripture. When we are dealing with such things as diet or holy days or the order of service or the time and the day of prayer meetings or the number of deacons or the time and frequency of the Lord’s Supper or a number of other such things, we are dealing with opinion and tradition and practicality rather than the clear teaching of God’s Word, and each church must make up its own mind in these matters. These are examples of things that would be considered “non-essentials.” The list of “non-essentials” though tends to grow as time passes and as one’s associations broaden. Consider the statement by Chuck Swindoll: “There was a time in my life when I had a position that life was so rigid I would fight for every jot and tittle. I mean, I couldn’t list enough things that I’d die for. The older I get, the shorter that list gets” (Grace Awakening, p. 189). Those who preach ‘in essentials unity’ tend to speak less and less about separation. They might give lip service to separation, especially at first, but in practice they say little about it and think little about it and act little on it. The emphasis of their lives and ministries is not on separation from error but on unity. The emphasis becomes positive focused. You won’t find them writing much about separation in their blogs. They don’t preach much on separation from their pulpits. I don’t know of any Bible Colleges that push the ‘in essentials unity’ philosophy that also has a strong emphasis on separation. The churches and schools that still emphasize separation are those who reject the ‘in essentials unity’ philosophy.
The Bible warns that “A LITTLE leaven leaveneth the whole lump”. (Gal 5:9) When it comes to spiritual compromise, little is big. If error is not stopped early, it cannot be stopped at all. Those who are promoting this ‘in essentials unity’ philosophy are building bridges to very dangerous things, and this compromise will bring unintended changes. I would rather err on the side of being too strict than not strict enough, too separated than not separated enough. We are living in the end-time of the end times. We are witnessing the greatest explosion of apostasy and compromise the church age has ever witnessed. If ever there were a time to strengthen the walls of separation, it is today. A distinction therefore can be drawn between a FUNDAMENTALIST (that is, someone who embraces ‘ALL’ of the doctrines in God’s Word as being essential and of utmost importance) and FUNDAMENTALISM (that is, someone who embraces ‘SOME’ of the doctrines in God’s Word as being essential.) Therefore, an independent, fundamental Baptist church might embrace fundamentalism, without being considered a true fundamentalist. Many independent Baptists are ‘fundamentalish’, but not necessarily a fundamentalist. A term being used today for those who are more ‘fundamentalish’ than fundamental is ‘pseudo-fundamentalism’ and ‘progressive fundamentalism’. ‘Pseudo/progressive-fundamentalism’ is a philosophical shift that is becoming more prevalent in the modern day fundamental Baptist church in contrast to the traditional fundamental Baptist church. ‘Pseudo/progressive-fundamentalism’ is for people who embody a ‘fundamentalist’ sentiment but have wedged their way into neo-evangelical circles calling themselves ‘conservative evangelicals’ and finding acceptance as such. We do not believe that a position of Fundamentalism can be maintained without contending publicly for ‘the Faith’. While affirming that we should “…speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), we argue that Truth should not be sacrificed or compromised on the altar of love.
OLD-TIME RELIGION UNDER ATTACK
There is a prevalent and persuasive enemy of the Truth that we need spiritual discernment, if we are to avoid succumbing to its compromising influence. That enemy is a mindset and philosophy called ‘pragmatism’. Pragmatism is defined as “a non-speculative system of philosophy which regards the practical consequences and useful results of ideas as a test of their truthfulness, and which considers truth itself as a process.” The basic tenet of pragmatism is…“If it works, it is true.” Pragmatism is the notion that meaning or worth is determined by practical consequences. It is closely akin to utilitarianism, the belief that usefulness is the standard of what is good. To a pragmatist/utilitarian, if a technique or course of action has the desired effect, it is good. If it doesn’t seem to work, it must be wrong. The end results of an idea or practice or method, therefore, determine its ultimate truthfulness and validity. This kind of thinking appeals to our logical and practical approach to life. It permeates our culture and has also found its home within the Church. The truth of any idea is its ability to produce desirable results. If it can show no such results it is false. On the surface, pragmatism doesn’t appear to be an enemy, however when we take a deeper look, we discover its subtle deception. Pragmatism starts at the end of the process of truth, and then works its way backwards. It starts with the results of an idea or method. If the results are desirable, then it validates the truthfulness of the concept and methods that led to that end. Truth, therefore, is subjective and changeable depending on the judgment of the one assessing the outcome. Through this process, man ends up ‘creating truth’ as it suits or seems reasonable to him. ‘Whatever works’ is a denial of the sufficiency and authority of inerrant Scripture to guide both our message and our methods.
Biblical Truth, contrary to pragmatism, starts at the beginning of the process of Truth, and then works forwards to its outcome. The beginning or source of all Truth is God Himself. Out of His mouth come all wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Because it begins with Him, it is eternal, unchanging and absolute. It does not shift or bend to the approval or disapproval of its recipients. It is not evolving or progressive with time depending on social, cultural, scientific or intellectual advancements. It is true when its outcomes are favorable to man, and it is true when they are not favorable to man. It is true when its results are positive, and it is true when the results are not negative. It is true when it’s a church is growing numerically, and it is true when a church is not growing numerically. Its validity is based on its Source, not its ends! Pragmatic thinking found its introduction into the human race in the Garden of Eden. It was Satan’s master weapon to deceive and bring down mankind. His primary objective was to discredit the validity of God’s Word to Adam and Eve so as to take them captive to do his will. His plan was to get them looking at the result of obedience to God’s commandment. If he could cast this in an unfavorable light then he could get them to question the integrity of God and His Word. (Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?) Satan begins to cast doubt on what God has said. (Genesis 3:2-3) Eve is still focused on the Source of the Word (“God hath said…”). (Genesis 3:4-5) Satan focuses her on the end-result of the Word in order to get her to question the validity of what God has said. (Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.) When the woman focused on the beneficial results of partaking of the fruit, pragmatism made its final plea, and she succumbed to the serpent’s lie. It was a pragmatic approach to truth that caused Adam and Eve to fall. Its seductive seeds were forever sown in the heart of fallen mankind.
REDEFINING THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
One of the great dangers facing our independent Baptist churches today is the belief that methodology is neutral and at worst amoral…methods are preferential and subjective. For a church to grow, church growth experts tell us that the church must change. It does not need to change in theology, but it will need to change in methodology. Either humans can come to the true God by any means that they see fit or God restricts the means by which we can come to Him. There are restrictions. The question is, “Who determines them?” The options are: (1) individuals determine them for themselves, (2) church traditions determine the restrictions, or (3) the Scriptures determine the restrictions. I argue that if individuals determine the restrictions for themselves, there are no restrictions. I believe that Scripture alone determines the valid means of coming to God. The Scripture reveals one obvious restriction: (John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.) The Bible not only reveals the ONLY WAY to salvation, but it also provides the ONLY WAY to worship God. God does not leave this up to man’s ingenuity. He has not left us to sift through the religious practices of the cultures of the world in order to choose how one should worship God. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. Traditional methodology—most notably preaching, hymns, confrontational soulwinning, standards and separation—are being discarded or downplayed in favor of newer means of ‘doing church’. The new methods supposedly are more “effective”—that is, they draw a bigger crowd. And since the chief criterion for gauging the success of a church has become attendance figures, whatever pulls in the most people is accepted without further analysis as good. That is pragmatism. The greatest danger of pragmatism is that methodology has taken precedence over theology. Formerly, a doctrinal statement (theology) represented the reason for a churches existence. Today, a statement of ministry (methodology) defines a church and their reason for existence. Pastors have shifted their emphasis from Bible curriculum and theology and instead are turning to books on marketing methods in search of new techniques to help churches grow. All these trends reflect the church’s growing commitment to pragmatism. The church growth movement has convinced the majority of church leaders that if their church is not growing, this is a sure sign there church is “unhealthy” and failing. Rick Warren says, “Forget church growth, Church health is the key to church growth. All living things grow if they’re healthy. You don’t have to make them grow — it’s just natural for living organisms.” So, according to this thinking, failure to grow is a sign of disease or sickness. Having convinced pastors and other church leaders that they are failing, Warren and others leave them desperate for a solution. The problem is that church leaders end up feeling like SOMETHING has to change. To meet this challenge, leaders usually create a plan of their own or buy someone else’s plan that promises to give the congregation appeal in the community. The plan, whatever it is, becomes the “vision” for the church. Pastors present a mission statement that reflects this vision; then all the remaining resources of the congregation, financial and human, are poured into the vision. The Church Growth Movement offers a modern, scientific, solution to the apparent problem of minimal growth.
There was a king in Israel who decided that he could set up his own way of coming to God. This king’s story will provide a needed warning for those today that do likewise. The king was Jeroboam. Jeroboam received a prophecy that God was going to tear 10-tribes away from Solomon and give them to him (1 Kings 11:31) because of the idolatry of Solomon (1 Kings 11:33). Solomon then decided to put Jeroboam to death, but Jeroboam fled to Egypt until Solomon died (1 Kings 11:40). At Solomon’s death, the prophecy came true and Jeroboam became king over the 10-Northern tribes. However, once God had made Jeroboam king, Jeroboam became concerned. He reasoned: “If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah” (1 Kings 12:27). So, being a pragmatist (i.e. looking at the end result as the basis of Truth), he set up two convenient houses of worship: Dan in the northern part of the realm and Bethel in the southern. Then he made priests out of non-Levites and instituted his own feast day, hoping to keep the people from going to Jerusalem as required by God’s Law. To further make the new way of worshiping God amenable to the people, he placed a golden calf in each place of worship: (1 Kings 12:28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.) His words reminded the people of Aaron’s words. What Jeroboam meant to say by the words, (‘…Behold thy gods,’), was, ‘this is no new religion, but this was the form of worship which our fathers used in the desert, with Aaron himself leading the way.’ He did not mean that the calves literally brought them out, but that they were representative of God who had brought them out. Rather than instituting an entirely different religion, Jeroboam was ‘altering the worship’ of God to suit his religious and political needs. The sin of which Jeroboam was guilty consisted in the fact that he no longer allowed the people to go to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, but induced or compelled them to worship Jehovah before one or the other of the calves which he had set up. Jeroboam thought he could come to God anyway that he saw fit, that he could institute his own version of worshiping God. Jeroboam saw no need to follow the prescriptions of God’s Law concerning ‘HOW’ Israel was to worship God. How wrong he was! I believe that God reveals though His Word the only means by which we can legitimately come to Him for salvation AND for worship. At some point, style of presentation (method) affects the substance of Christian identity and teaching. When is the Christian mission irretrievably compromised by a passion for making the gospel relevant? When the church becomes essentially a purveyor of religious goods and services, it reinforces the believer’s own consumerist habits, allowing him to pick and choose according to taste or functionality. What we find is that the gospel itself is softened to appeal to what they call ‘spiritual consumers’ in order to enlarge the churches borders. Lest we have forgotten…Jesus is still God and He still knows how to build His church, as He has been continually building now for almost 2,000 years. Our trying to implement successful ‘business practices’ to help this growth seems pathetic to the One who is “…before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col 1:17) and ‘…upholding all things by the word of his power’ (Heb. 1:3). Church growth pioneers are always looking for a reason why one church is growing and another is not growing. If they can find a method, a reason why, they can duplicate it and make it happen elsewhere. Many look to expand the membership of their church quickly…and sad to say, it is always at the cost of compromise.
In his book, the Purpose Driven Church Rick Warren says, “Never criticize any method that God is blessing”. Warren also stated, “I contend that when a church continues to use methods that no longer work it is being unfaithful to Christ.” Are we using methods that are passé, archaic or are we to be using God’s instructions from His book that are there for all time. Here’s what is happening…A change in the ‘methods’ has slowly ‘emerged’ into a change in the ‘message’. Many are not discerning what is now emerging; they are not using common sense to see–much less biblical sense to understand what is taking place. They have no idea what the church is changing to. By the time we arrive at the destination the emergent’s have for us, it will be too late. It is often argued that we should be willing to make changes as the peoples’ needs change. But if I understand my Bible correctly, man’s need has always been the same since the fall of man up to this present moment–a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. All change is not growth, just as all movement is not necessarily forward. I believe in making changes when needed and called for. But when it is in regards to our independent Baptist churches doctrines, beliefs, convictions, and standards, we cannot. I have a hard time believing that we should be flexible and open-minded to certain issues and doctrines when the Scriptures teach us to be otherwise. If we, as independent Baptists, do not see the importance and the need of remaining steadfast and unmovable, of digging in and holding our ground, then it won’t be long before our present existing churches will become a conglomeration of people believing in everything in general and standing for nothing in particular and principle.
The Bible teaches us that God does not change (James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.) The Bible teaches us that God’s Word does not change (Ps 12:7 Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. Ps 119:89 LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.)The Bible teaches us that God’s churches do not change (Matt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 1 Tim 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.) The day is here…when people ‘…will not endure sound doctrine’ (2 Tim 4:3). Many are ‘…turning away their ears away from the truth’ (2 Tim. 4:4); they are not enduring ‘…hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.’ (2 Tim. 2:3). I believe it is needful again, as it was in the days of Jude, to remind God’s people that we must ‘…earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.’ (Jude 1:3). Peter tells us, (2 Pet 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own STEDFASTNESS.) We are told in Heb 13:8-9 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. 9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart BE ESTABLISHED with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. I believe it is a sin to be flexible and changeable when it comes to the doctrines of the Word of God and the standards by which It prescribes for us to live by. This is neither popular nor easy but by God’s strength and grace we can and must remain unchangeable, steadfast, and unmovable as we have been taught, instructed, and grounded in the truth of God’s Holy Word. Heb 10:23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
HOW MANY ADJECTIVES DOES IT TAKE TO DESCRIBE A BAPTIST CHURCH?
As long as modernism, in all of its many disguises, continues to infiltrate Baptist churches, descriptive adjectives will need to continue to be added; thus, identifying the Baptist church staying true to the New Testament pattern of a true bible believing church. Most Baptist churches were in the past founded on the sound doctrinal teachings of the New Testament; however, many of them have in varying degrees drifted away from the sound teachings of the Scriptures. Thus, the adjectives… “Independent” and “Fundamental” and “Soulwinning” and “Separated” and “King James Bible” etc. have been added over the years by many Baptist churches wanting to stay true to God’s Word and to further identify themselves as being true Bible believing churches; unashamedly showing a distinction between themselves and other Baptist churches that are compromising God’s Word. Jer 6:16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for THE OLD PATHS, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. Every generation has to redefine for themselves what type of Christian they intend to be, as well as what type of Baptist they will be identified as. And the tragedy is that each generation is choosing to distant themselves further and further from the ‘old paths’ of their Biblical Christian heritage! Because of this continual decline of Baptists from their Biblical roots and Baptist heritage more and more adjectives have had to be added, and undoubtedly will need to continue to be added, to ensure that there are Baptist churches that are holding fast to the ‘old paths’.
1 Thess 5:21 Prove all things; HOLD FAST that which is good.
2 Tim 1:13 HOLD FAST the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
Titus 1:9 HOLDING FAST the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
Heb 10:23 Let us HOLD FAST the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
Rev 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou HOLDEST FAST my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
HOW MANY ADJECTIVES DOES IT TAKE TO DESCRIBE A BAPTIST CHURCH?
I really don’t know…only the future will tell what other adjectives will need to be added by those Baptist churches that want to stay true to their foundational Biblical heritage. Though these adjectives obviously distinguish Bible believing Baptists from doctrinally unsound churches; these adjectives also distinguish Bible believing Baptists from other Baptist churches that claim to also be Bible believing Baptist churches because of some of the adjectives that they also have attached to their names (i.e. independent, fundamental, etc.)…but have failed to live up to. Just because a Baptist church has added certain adjectives to their Baptist name…does not ensure that that Baptist church is ‘holding fast’ (Titus 1:9) to its Baptist heritage, to sound doctrine or to ‘the faith’. What most Christians fail to realize is that independency, fundamentalism, etc., does not consist in terms only, but in practice. A statement that I once heard that has stuck with me ever since is this: ‘If someone has to tell you how fundamental they are…they’re probably not as fundamental as they would like to think they are’. Faithfulness from generation-to-generation requires that we do not surrender the ground that has been defended by those who have gone before us lest those who come after us have no ground left to defend.
Fellowship BAPTIST CHURCH is unashamedly an…
inspired King James Bible, Soulwinning, Separated,
Independent, Fundamental Baptist Church.