The Leaven of the Independent "Fundamental" Baptists
I've been gone from the Independent Baptist ("IFB") denomination for some time now. I witnessed many things I cannot agree with, when it comes to the Christian faith. And recent events have reminded me of what I came out from. So I believe it's time for me to write about this.
As an introduction, many of the character traits and qualities of people I am about to discuss could apply to almost any Christian denomination. So I am not targeting the Independent Baptists, per se. However, I am pointing out that the ethos of the Independent Baptist denomination is in many ways contributing to these character defects I see.
Really, the problem is that the Independent Baptist movement has lost its moorings. Instead of working with other Christians who are not in sin, they refuse to work with mostly any other denomination. Most of them, instead of doing what Jesus said, to leave their gift at the altar and make peace with others (Matt. 5:23-24), they form clicks. Thus they not only fail to make peace (even if this does not mean fellowship, because not all Christians are in what could be considered a compatible denomination) but they encourage discord.
If you are reading this and you are IFB, I
do not accuse you of all these behaviors. I am only
putting forward this specific denomination (though others engage
in these toxic behaviors) because the toxicity of the IFB has
reached epic proportions. Ask God what to do with
it. He may call you to heal your own denomination.
Or He may call you to find a better denomination.
Fallacy 1: Too Quick to Call People Heretics
I think the first notable character problem I see is that Independent Baptists are too quick to label those they disagree with as heretics. In researching this, I noticed that, ironically, heresy is defined as "belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine." The problem here is that we Baptists are not Orthodox. Hence the definition of heresy may have a little bit of leeway depending on who is using it.
So then how should we Baptists define heresy? I would say heresy should be loosely defined as that which makes one not truly saved or truly Christian. Now here's where the rubber meets the road: watch how the person defines heresy. It is rather often that the IFB will define it in such a way as to use heresy as a word to beat people or label people with, not in a way that is actually legitimate. For instance, I've watched IFBs call Methodists "heretics" simply because they do not hold Eternal Security of the Believer. Sure, I believe in Eternal Security, but many IFBs would claim that Methodists are heretics for this reason. Someone can believe they can lose their salvation but still have believed what is biblical about salvation when they got saved. Eternal Security is what you believe about salvation, not a salvation tenet if that makes sense.
This behavior pattern of labeling people heretics is highly divisive. And because they are labeling their fellow Christians as heretics, I am reminded of Eph. 4:32, where we are told to be kind and tenderhearted, not abrasive and divisive. To the IFB, I would ask them to think, how does God treat you when you are wrong? Does He call you heretic and excommunicate you? Does God get abrasive or verbally abusive with you? Then why do you fail to be kind to others (Eph. 4:32)?
Fallacy 2: Cannot Be Friends with Those They Disagree With
I think this is perhaps one of the most horrible things IFBs do. Basically, if you friend them on social media, they will maybe let you, but as soon as you sound even a little bit like you don't agree with their denomination, they will unfriend and block you. This is sort of the "circle the wagons" type of mentality that is protectionist and defensive to a flaw. Here's why.
First, they miss the opportunity to do apologetics online. They could use friendships with others who are not IFB to gently do apologetics just like in person. Yet they won't. It's almost like they fear being exposed to anything that even remotely looks improper.
While it is not wrong to want to prevent being influenced by the world in many ways, it is also a bad idea to engage in a behavior pattern that isolates one's self from the world, because that's precisely where we are called to be: to live and interact (John 17:21). How are the lost going to know that Jesus wants to save them? How are they going to see true Christianity play out in real life? The internet is full of many atheist and agnostic websites that want to say derogatory things about Christianity. But what is the solution?
The solution should be to reject that which is obviously bad, but also not isolate one's self from the world, for the world is where the lost currently are. And the solution is not normally street preachers because most those I've witnessed are IFB and are highly intentionally offensive. They are highly judgmental and abrasive towards the lost, and quite often they get the societal reaction that they deserve: rejection. I think if one studies the life of Jesus and how He interacted with sinners versus the Pharisees, one should learn why we should be a lot more cordial and polite to the lost. A gospel focuses on God's available forgiveness, not how horrible we are as people. Jesus barely mentions the sin of the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, and the woman who anointed His feet.
The second reason this is problematic is this: what are you going to say in Heaven when you are now spending eternity with many Christians you disagreed with and cut out of your life? For better or for worse, we will spend eternity with all the other Christians who existed in all time. Are you really going to cut someone out of your life over a minor issue just to then have to apologize for it in eternity? Are we not commanded to make things right with our brother or sister in Christ even if it means we have to postpone our worship to God (Matt. 18:15-17)? Would it not be better to make right with your brother or sister in Christ before you end up in Heaven with them?
I will say this cautiously, but the Bible does not say we must be friends with everyone on social media. And social media is becoming increasingly anti-social. However, if for you, blocking someone on social media is the equivalent of removing them from your life, but you never engaged in Matt. 18, you may be sinning. Of course, this is between you and God, so I'm not here to tell you what to do. The Bible does not discuss social media, though its many principles should apply within social media as well as real life.
Indeed, the behaviors of street preachers that are so abrasive, like "if you don't agree with my sign, you aren't a Christian" likely have their source in the IFB and its ethos. Basically, in an IFB environment, if you go against something everyone else believes, you get labeled and ostracized. It could be something as simple as listening to Christian music, playing guitar, etc. But they do this while also supporting things "everyone else" does within their doors, such as listening to secular music or watching MTV. Yep, in my childhood, I was ostracized in IFB high school for listening to Christian music, even though everyone else was listening to MTV and secular music, and for driving the speed limit rather than 5-10 over, etc. So it's more of a cultish in-group type environment where you are rewarded socially by how much you adhere to the group norms. They call it loyalty but it's really not.
I write this hoping that some within the IFB
will obey scripture (Matt.
5:24) and reconcile with others, even if they don't want
to join their denomination. But though I've tried gently
talking about this to many within the IFB, they mostly refuse to
do so. I would wish to save them from having a very long
list of people with whom they must reconcile when they get to
heaven, but it's up to them.
Fallacy 3: KJV-Only
While people who are IFB are not all "King James Version Only" (KJV-O), a high percentage of them are. This is a rather alarming trend, given the state of Bible translation.
A caveat though, before we begin: while Bible translation is good, some of what people think is "Bible translation" in modern times often seems to be more engineered to make money than to result in new or profound insights. Other translations seem to be geared towards soothing people into a false "politically correct" narrative (like several of the paraphrases that are not true translations). So I will say that I do not believe every translation that comes out is legitimate or worthy of my money. I have also said before that I do not like the NLT translation because it takes too many liberties with the text in certain places (even though it is not entirely broken).
However, KJV-O has many of the characteristics of a cult. While many have written good articles about why KJV-O is controversial, here is my own take.
- The "1611" KJV doesn't exist in print. It is a museum piece. If you see one, you should recognize it by the old-English "s" letters that look like violin sound holes similar to the letter "f" without a stave. It also was printed in 1611 with the Apocryphal texts included, which should be the first and primary reason not to ever refer to your modern KJV as "1611." I've seen a legitimate 1611 in a museum under glass. It's not the same Bible.
- Pointing to the KJV as being the best because it is among the oldest is a fallacy called "argument from tradition."
- Supporters will call it the "authorized" version as if this is some sort of "appeal to authority" fallacy. King James himself was likely a homosexual and was not a very good person: why would we appeal to his authority at all?
- They claim the use of italics to designate English words that were inserted to provide good English grammar isn't really that helpful. I've never sat and read the KJV, omitting the italics, and concluded that this makes the text more understandable. The use of italics is appreciated but I don't really see any benefit from it that I couldn't get from an interlinear Bible. And even then, why would I buy an interlinear Bible if I don't read or speak Greek and have no intention (at the moment) of learning?
- People will claim the KJV is more readable or beautiful. These are not valid reasons to use the KJV, as the Bible never says anything about the best reading being the one we like the most. "Readable" and "Beautiful" are subjective, and indeed, arguments could be made that the best personal study Bible is the one that focuses more on word-for-word translation rather than a beautiful result. (Indeed, my own personal preference would be a literal translation paired alongside a translation that is more thought-for-thought, but not fully to that extreme, like YLT, ESV or interlinear paired with CSB or HCSB.)
- As for the KJV being "English prose," that's not even a valid reason to use it. You see, it's not English prose at all, since it often lacks meter and rhyme. And Hebrew poetry (Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, etc.) is often thought-based linking rather than rhyme, which is sound-based linking. So trying to shoehorn Hebrew poetry into English prose, both of which are radically different, is an exercise in failure. Translation does not include, strictly speaking, making things into prose. But if that were the argument, some have undertaken already to do this in other translations than the KJV, so if you wanted English prose, the KJV would be one of the last translations to use for this.
- As for the archaic language in the KJV, this is, I believe, the most strong argument against it. I did over a year in jail counseling (assistant chaplain basically) and without a single exception, those who believed conspiracy theories or cult type beliefs preferred the KJV because the way the archaic English is rendered makes it easier for them to twist it to justify their cultish beliefs. And especially the 1 Peter 2:9 "peculiar" people (KJV meant it in the Engineering sense, i.e. that we are God's property). 1 Peter 2:9 was repeatedly used to justify themselves when someone pointed out why their cultish beliefs were incorrect. If anything, a better and/or newer translation would help bury this type of cult scripture twisting.
- As for the text the KJV was based on, the Texus Receptus (TR), it differs from the Majority Text (MT) in only two places. So the TR is essentially majority text. I actually like the MT principle. I used the New KJV (NKJV) for a long time, which is basically the only MT translation available. However, in comparing the TR and MT to the Critical Text (CT), I also disagree with the CT mentality of the shortest phrasing in extant texts is likely the best. However, even comparing CT to TR/MT has shown me that there's really not enough difference to even get up in arms about the differences. And most CT translations I've seen also list the TR/MT reading anywhere they deem it appropriate. In practice, it doesn't do anything. In theology, CT renderings don't even affect a single theological tenet that is part of Systematic Theology (Grudem, Strong, etc.) that I have seen.
- The accusation that some CT translations leave out "Christ"
or "Lord" in places is not fair when the CT also seems to have
"Christ" or "Lord" used in places the TR/MT do not.
- The accusation that there were heretics, occultists and homosexuals on translation boards is just preposterous. Only one of these even holds water, and it was one solitary translator on the first edition of the NIV. Besides, the work of translation is mainly textual: translations themselves are not inspired.
- Some KJV-O people have even claimed that the KJV itself was inspired by God. While God certainly could have set the events of KJV translation in motion, to say the translation itself is also inspired is simply untrue, and a dangerous belief (because KJV-O people will run around saying only the KJV is inspired and all other translations are demonic, etc.).
- Finally, KJV-O people will claim the translator footnotes in CT translations "confuse" the reader. First, if read at face value, they do not. But second, many Bibles include a preface that explains this. Indeed, the 1611 KJV had translator notes, so if your KJV doesn't, that's yet one more reason yours is not a 1611.
Fallacy 4: Trump Support
I've written extensively about this, so I'll
be brief. There's nothing in Scripture that says we must
all vote for the same person. And at the time of writing
this, Trump was facing legal charges for taking SCIF (Sensitive
Compartmented Information Facility) home with him. I also
won't belabor this point, but those out there who are former
military know exactly why Trump should be going to jail if he
took SCIF home. But who are we kidding? Trump lied
to us about abolishing the Affordable Care Act (very craftily
saying "remove or replace"), cheated on every wife he's had, and
was a Playboy Mansion regular before the fall of Bill Cosby and
the death of Hugh Heffner. Is this the person we want
flying the flag of Christianity? Sure, people can change,
and we should not hold someone's sins against them if they
confess, repent and change. But Trump has not hardly done
any of that, so where's my obligation to support him? Not
to say that I would vote for a Democrat, but still, the question
The point is more that may of those who are IFB will often claim that "we all must" vote for the same person, etc. And then they will justify and condone the sins of those they follow politically. Tell me, where does the Bible say we must even vote at all, much less for the same person?
Do we so easily forget that Herod executed
John the Baptist and both Herod and Pilate could be implicated
in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ? Do we not forget all
the persecution Nero and others inflicted on the early
church? Even if Christianity "prevailed," do we so quickly
try to become the friend of the political realm? We're to
obey the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ first, not the
world. While Rom.
13 is important and I agree with it, read Acts: the early
church violated the ungodly laws that forbade them from speaking
about Jesus. We are to obey the law and our politicians,
but only up until the point where their laws violate God's laws.
This is just another link in the chain of
divisiveness that is the IFB experience. Indeed, some of
this Trump-only-ism made its way into the Southern Baptist
Convention (SBC). No political leader should be telling
you who to vote for. We can and should discuss the points
of politics and vote with our Christian consciences.
However, we also should obey the law (Rom.
13) and preachers telling their churches who to vote for
has been discouraged in the law for some time now. Indeed,
what's ironic is that those who preach Trump (rather than Jesus)
in their churches will cite Rom.
13 as to why we should obey a horribly immoral President
like Trump while ignoring Rom.
13's authority to tell them to obey the laws against
endorsing political candidates.
We can have a discussion about how separation of church isn't constitutional (it's not) and how the state should not be controlling the church (to which I agree). However, we should also refrain from telling our people who specifically to vote for. Churches shouldn't be reported for telling us who to vote for because our churches shouldn't be doing it in the first place.
Fallacy 5: Anti-Vaccine
This is going to be difficult to explain, but please hear me out. There are a certain very small minority of people for whom vaccines are medically contraindicated. These are sensitive to ingredients in vaccines and should not receive vaccines. These are not the type of people I am talking about. And medically, I'm not talking about people for whom a vaccine made them "itchy." I'm talking about those who end up in a true anaphylactic shock that requires hospitalization or at least immediate medical intervention. For those of you in this situation, you have my empathy.
I'm talking about those who would claim (without justification) that God wants us all to be anti-vaccine. This is a difficult topic to flesh out, so please read this fully.
Some vaccines are made from fetal cells or tissue. Some are not. I can understand a Christian not wanting to get a vaccine that has fetal cells due to their stance against abortion. I would cautiously say that not all such vaccines are made from aborted fetus tissue (i.e. murdered babies). Some I have met claim that this is their reason to be against all vaccines, but only a few vaccines are manufactured this way because few require this. Faithful Citizens Network (FCN) has created a good write-up of this topic, and I agree mostly with their logic. I agree with their point that anyone who claims a religious exception to abortion-derived fetal cells should have a history of rejecting ALL such vaccines. I find it quite suspicious that this huge movement of religious exemption from vaccines coincided with the COVID-19 epidemic. And the FCN is right to call out those who are not objecting to all OTHER medicines that may include such fetal cells. I am against abortion, but I would point out that the abortions in question, from which these medicines and vaccines were derived, have already taken place, and would have taken place whether we chose to be vaccinated or not, so linking this to abortion isn't really a valid argument.
But my main problem, aside from the good points the FCN brings up, is that the Bible does not have any such statute. There's really no biblical case that can be made. So what really bothers me is that they are linking it to my religion without a biblical mandate. Indeed, 1 Cor. 8 allows us to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Some will then use 1 Cor. 8 to claim that because some Christians somewhere don't like vaccines, this means we all can't have vaccines. The problem is that 1 Cor. 8 claims that the person who is against meat sacrificed to idols has a weak conscience (v. 7, 12) and is weak (v. 11). I say this carefully, but the Bible saying this implies that the person who is in the state where meat sacrificed to idols needs to strengthen their faith because "an idol is nothing in the world" (v. 4). This doesn't mean our response to those who are anti-vaccine should be to tell them to "get over it."
Even less so, however, are vaccines, that are not mentioned in the Bible. So even if the anti-vaccine Christian would point to 1 Cor. 8 and claim that this means other Christians can't have vaccines due to them, 1) this implies they need to stop being weak in the faith and 2) this is still not meat sacrificed to idols. So even the closest analogy to vaccination isn't congruent enough to be valid.
But the problem really isn't even
anti-vaccine. Christians can live their lives however they
want and they answer to God, not me. The problem is that
this becomes their excuse to then engage in more exclusion and
divisive behavior rather than seeking to be at peace with their
It is because of these things that I believe, and honestly hope, that the IFB diminishes and ultimately ceases to exist, and that its membership flees these types of behaviors and ethos to other denominations who do not cause such unnecessary, unbiblical divisions. Not because I want to see the IFB "fall." Indeed, if the IFB can fix itself and right the ship, fixing its ethos and turning away from its deep divisive streak, this would be ideal. So I call the IFB to repent of the negative ethos it so often creates in its churches.
I went to an IFB high school when growing up. I know their ploys. And because I was never IFB (I'm SBC), I'm effectively shunned and barred from speaking to any of my high school class. Even though I approached all of them with a peace making attitude. It's sort of sad. I have forgiven in advance, but I imagine many are going to need to approach me in heaven and apologize. Apology accepted in advance. But what makes me sad is the lack of fellowship, as well as watching them continue to go down their toxic war path.
If you're IFB and you read all of this, understand that I am not telling you to leave the IFB. I am pointing to problems in the IFB. Every other denomination definitely has its own problems, and some more than others. I am not trying to get you to join the SBC either. But I ask you, please, try to heal the IFB. Please help them understand that they should be part of the body of Christians. Please help them see that they should at least make peace even if they prefer to stay in the IFB. Any Christian denomination that isolates itself is not obeying Scripture, for we are one church even if we don't attend the same physical building.
And if you have shunned a classmate simply
because they aren't IFB, please reach out to them. I
really hope my classmates reconcile with me before we get to
heaven. But so many of them have essentially gone off the
grid to the point where I'd have to hire a private investigator
to find them. Again, we don't have to agree on everything
or even attend the same church. But we need to at least
not be enemies by the time we get to heaven, because we must
The IFB is not the only denomination that
engages in these things. Again, like I said before, this
applies to many churches other than the IFB. However, the
IFB is my focus because the prevalence of these negative things
is extremely high. It's as if the IFB has become the
harbor of all things toxic. Many of them refuse to make
peace, despite Jesus' command (Matt.