Conservative Fundamentalism and the Independent Baptist Movement of our day has formulated a set of unwritten rules and regulations which men and women are expected to abide by. These have no Biblical foundation, or have been ‘tweaked’ and misinterpreted to promote these extra-biblical or non-Biblical standards. Although these ‘laws,’ for the most part, cannot be found in a formalised document, anyone who attends or has ever been a part of a conservative IB church is aware of their existence. The list below below, though not exhaustive, identifies most of the areas which pose a non-biblical, or misinterpreted view, or are not even remotely found in the pages of Scripture. Please be very careful not to judge the author’s personal position on each item as the intention here is not to tear down each point, but to challenge the reader regarding the Biblical validity of such edicts.
The 10 (unwritten) commandments of the conservative Independent Baptist
1) Thou shalt only use the KJV Bible.
- Some IB churches state that the KJV is the inspired Word of God.
- Some IB church constitutions even state that it must be a 1611 version (have you ever read an excerpt from a 1611 copy?)
2) Thou shalt only sing hymns.
3) Thou shalt not discuss controversial topics.
- Some of these topics include: Calvinism, The Holy Spirit, Women’s Role in the Church, etc.
4) Thou shalt not make reference to controversial people outside the movement.
- Some of these people include: John McArthur, A.W. Pink, R.C. Sproul, John Calvin, John Piper, Paul Washer etc.
5) Thou shalt only array thyself in the “highest” standards of clothing for church.
- This usually means that the men wear suits, shirts and ties and the ladies wear skirts.
- There are many instances where a lady in particular, is not permitted to be involved in a ministry due to her wearing slacks.
6) Thou shalt attend the Sunday morning and evening church services along with the mid-week Bible study.
- Although not always verbalised, it is generally intimated that a person who does not attend these services is not right with God.
- It is also inferred that a church which does not hold to this paradigm is not fulfilling its purpose.
7) Thou shalt never disagree with the leadership of the church.
- To challenge a comment or doctrinal position of one in leadership within the IB churches is often considered to be fighting against God Himself.
- In most cases, a dictatorial position is held by the Pastor and leadership instead of an approachable, theocratic system of rule.
8) Thou shalt not use drums or any electrical instruments in the church.
- Some IB churches state that drums, electric guitars and Jazz instruments were the invention of the Devil and his demons.
9) Thou shalt only transfer thy membership to another Independent Baptist church.
- Although not always verbalised, it is generally considered a grave error to transfer your membership to a church outside the movement.
10) Thou shalt only fellowship with those of like faith and practice within the Independent Baptist movement.
- There is a significant population of people within conservative Independent Baptist Churches who believe that they are the only true Christians.
Although each point above requires conscientious consideration and biblical research, let us consider for a few moments the last of this list: Thou shalt only fellowship with those of like faith and practice within the Independent Baptist Movement.
I have had the privilege of preaching for over 12 years around Australia and have seen the way ‘church is done’ in many different places. For the majority of that time, I was a ‘hard-nosed, die-hard, Independent Baptist preacher’ who quite often mounted the hobby horses of music, versions, apparel etc. My ministry also consisted of identifying those men and women outside our movement who are ‘heretics’ and this ’20-something-year-old-preacher’ was wiser than them all and ‘knew’ that they were wrong. I have since been challenged by the Holy Spirit in recent times regarding the ‘non-biblical’ positions that I have held to, and I realise now that I have been wearing the ‘Independent Baptist Blinkers’ which have obstructed my view of real Christianity to some extent. Please do not misunderstand that last statement. I am very thankful for the teaching, preaching and training that I have received at the hand of many an Independent Baptist. I am, however, extremely concerned about our views regarding those who live, breathe and move outside the IB circles.
Fundamentalists are not the only Christians
‘For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ Romans 10:13
This verse carries no prejudice, nor does it include any categories of people who form an exception to this clear-cut statement. There is a myriad of passages in Scripture which clearly define the elements of saving faith (repentance etc.), but in this verse alone we find that the only prerequisite of salvation is the ‘calling upon the name of the Lord.’ God does not say “I will save you because I foresee that you will attend an IB church.” God saves sinners who call upon Him! It is interesting how conservative Christians will pray earnestly for an unbeliever to be saved, and then when they are saved and attend a church denomination other than their own, they disown them and label them as a ‘false convert.’ They say things like “they can’t be a Christian because they attend a Lutheran church.” This is disgraceful as it attacks the heart of the gospel and alters the doctrine of Soteriology. I wonder how many unsaved people are on the membership roles of Independent Baptist Churches in our land – only Heaven will tell!
The confusion of doctrine and the gospel
There appears to be a great confusion between doctrine and the Gospel. This becomes apparent when we analyse our thinking regarding those who differ from our doctrinal positions on areas not directly related to the gospel message. For example, some IB Christians would automatically place a person who does not believe in water baptism in the ‘unsaved basket.’ Others would judge a man’s salvation (or lack thereof) by his adhesion to the relevance of sign gifts for this age. Our primary concern for any individual must be regarding faith in the gospel and the work of justification in their life. If it is apparent that the man who attends the local Presbyterian or Charismatic church has a personal relationship with my Saviour then I can have fellowship with him around the gospel. Granted, there may be other areas of grave concern which I would disagree with and at some points separate over, but these form a doctrinal difference NOT a GOSPEL difference! Let us not hate those who differ from us in doctrine or practice but rather seek to teach them the truth from God’s Word (not our statements of faith!)
The importance of doctrine
At this juncture I see the importance of inserting a paragraph regarding the importance of doctrine for those in particular who look for an opportunity to criticise this article. There is no question that the doctrines of Scripture are essential for a believer to know and to spend their lives in the pursuit of. It is imperative that we study the Word and seek to correctly exegete its contents and I in no way wish to minimise or de-emphasise the importance of such pursuits. Let us be diligent students and ‘hold fast the faithful Word (Titus 1:9).’
Let us not be quick to pass judgment or sentence upon those who do not dot the ‘I’s and cross the ‘T’s like we do. Let us be proactive in teaching, training and discipling whomever God brings across our path. Do not hastily say ‘But he is not a Baptist!’