Several months ago I received a letter from a missionary that I support who told me that he was changing his position and that he was no longer an independent, fundamental Baptist. He then went on to say that he changed in various positions in such things as dress code, Bible translations, music, and even his view on election. Later in that same month, I was told about another man who we had help begin a church who had declared on a blog that he was no longer a fundamentalist.
When I hear statements like these being made, I wonder exactly what they think it means to be a fundamental, independent Baptist. Here is my definition.
I am a fundamentalist
2 Timothy 2:15-19, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: …Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
This passage is very clear that as Christians we should develop what we believe through careful study of the Word of God. Our beliefs should be based completely on the teachings of God’s Word. This is what historical fundamentalists do. A fundamentalist is one who believes in the fundamentals of the faith. Those fundamentals were outlined in a twelve-volume series publish between 1909 and 1915. These volumes were later put in a four-volume set and published by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA) in 1917.
The fundamentals of the faith include the following basic doctrines:
- The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ- Volume 1
- The Deity of Christ- Volume 2
- Justification by Faith- Volume 2
- The Inspiration of Scripture- Volume 3
- The Bodily Resurrection of Christ- Volume 5
- The Personal Literal Return of Jesus Christ- Volume 11
I am a fundamentalist because I believe in these basic doctrines.
There are certain beliefs that are essential to the Christian faith. They are the fundamentals. I guess I could rename myself an essentialist or a Biblicist but the term chosen then was fundamentalist. If you believe these fundamentals of the faith you are a fundamentalist whether you want to claim the name or not.
Let me make it clear, I am not a fundamentalist because I am mean. I am not a fundamentalist because I do not drink, or smoke, or chew tobacco. I am not a fundamentalist because I make my wife wear dresses to church. I am not a fundamentalist because I wear a suit when I preach. I am not a fundamentalist because I like ties and I do like ties but that doesn’t make me a fundamentalist. I am not a fundamentalist because I have a short haircut. I am not a fundamentalist because my music is slow or because my music is old, or a certain college picks out the type of music I can listen to. I am not a fundamentalist because I don’t cuss in the pulpit. It is sad to say that some of our fundamentalist fathers did. I am not a fundamentalist because I carry a King James Bible. I am not a fundamentalist because I am a Baptist and I am not a fundamentalist because I am an independent Baptist.
In my library I have books written by Presbyterians and Southern Baptists. I have books written by people of many different stripes but they are all fundamentalist because they believe in the fundamentals of the faith. When the fundamentals were written in the early 1900’s there was a wide variety of writers, very intellectual writers, in all twelve volumes from different backgrounds. They did not agree on everything but they did agree on these fundamentals. I am a fundamentalist because I believe in the fundamentals of the faith.
I am Independent
Romans 14:10, “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”
I am an independent because I believe in the autonomy of the local church. I believe the New Testament pattern is outlined in Revelation 1:9-20, “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”
Notice in this passage several things:
- Each local church was in a unique situation
- Each local church had a pastor who was given a message, from Christ, for that particular church
- Each of these seven churches was answerable to God
- There were no denominations
- There were no spiritual hierarchies
- They were independent from each other answerable to the same head
- It is clear that these churches interacted with each other throughout the New Testament
- It is clear also that they were self governing. The Biblical pattern for the local church is to be independent
So, if I do not call myself independent, what do I call myself? Am I unaffiliated? Am I unaligned? Am I unassociated? Am I non-denominational? If I am any of the above, I am independent. So why change the name. As an independent I have freedom. I preach what God leads me to preach. I answer to God for my actions. I fellowship with whom I want to fellowship. I set standards that I believe are from God. I preach from the Bible I feel is preserved. I dress in a fashion I feel honors God. I have music I think reflects the glory of God. I read who I want to read. I go where I want to go. I support whom I want to support and I don’t fellowship with those who I don’t want to fellowship with. That is what independent Baptists do. By the way if I do these things then I should allow other independent Baptists to do the same.
Next week I will finish this series…