New Testament Baptist Confession
In accordance with God’s Holy Spirit, we do hereby declare our allegiance and devotion to God’s Holy Word and proclaim our intention to abide by the dictates of the Bible and preserve its doctrines for coming generations, and all the world’s benefit. We furthermore believe that the New Testament Baptist Church is the vehicle by which God expects His Word to be disseminated throughout the nations (Acts 1:8).
We do also maintain that any religious order that departs from the teachings of Scripture can be and should be abandoned for the purpose of preserving pure doctrine. When refinement is impossible, abandonment serves dually as a rebuke and as an admonition to brethren who are knotted in poor or unsubstantiated doctrines and/or practices that are deteriorating into counterproductive associations and traditions.
We are convinced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many Independent Baptist Churches and among many Fundamentalists who claim the name of Christ. Compromise of the Gospel has led to the preaching of false gospels, the seduction of many minds and movements, and the weakening of the Church’s Gospel witness. This confession is in defense of the Gospel.
We do believe that this abandonment is necessitated by the decay, disintegration and/or nonexistence of true fruitful results. Such fruitful results are promised to us in Scripture (Matt. 16:18), and therefore, any religious order that is fruitless must be deemed worthy of abandonment when the fundamentals of said religious order are discovered to be unsupported in Scripture.
For many decades sober Baptist Christians walking in the wisdom of Scripture have sensed the great need to confess our sole allegiance to the words of Scripture, while simultaneously identifying and denying the evolution of false teaching. False teaching and error, regretfully, are evident and common among Independent Fundamental Baptists. This confession is for the information and satisfaction of those that do not thoroughly understand what our principles are, or who have entertained prejudices against our teachings by reason of the strange misrepresentation of the fundamentals of the faith by some men of note who have taken very wrong measures and led others into misapprehension against the Baptist Church. Our lingering desire is to testify that many Baptists are in the way guilty of those errors which are frequently charged upon us due to the militant false teachings of many Fundamental Baptists of the past and present.
We hope that the publication of this confession will be widely circulated, and that many others will embrace the same truth which is written herein. We judge it necessary to join in giving a testimony to the world of our firm adherence to the wholesome principles of the Bible. We are glad to freely provide to any reader the reason and occasion for this confession. Our utmost desire is the provision of instruction and the establishment of great truths in clear understanding and belief which will provide a biblical walk with God and fruitfulness before Him in all our ways. We deem it to be needful that we express ourselves more fully and distinctly regarding the defects of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism. We have no desire to clog religion with new terminologies, but we rather choose to set forth our intentions, and in consent with the Holy Scriptures, to record our protest.
Our hearts are open to our wayward brethren in this matter! With scriptural grounds and practices, no professing brother will be denied opportunity and occasion to consider and debate the contents of this confession. We do desire that contentions be laid to rest in the name of Christ so that we all may walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). We do not desire to spend our breath in fruitless complaints about the evils of others, but we seek to begin at home, to reform our own hearts and ways. Then, we pray, that others of like faith will be inspired to influence precious brethren who may have deceived themselves by trusting to a form of godliness without power (II Tim. 3:5).
May not the ignorance and instability of many coupled with profaneness rule our confession. We intend to disburse this confession in the spirit of diligent Christianity even to those who arise in judgment against and condemn much of its content.
There is a new version of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism masquerading as “old time religion” that in no way resembles what our forefathers believed or intended for Fundamentalism to be. This new and radical version of fundamentalism is changing the character of our spiritual culture, and there are many who do not want it to change. If the original fundamentalists were alive today, they would not identify with this new sectarian order. There must be a spiritual cohesion and solidarity that unites in the declaration that this new version of Independent Fundamental Baptists are neither independent, nor fundamental and are barely Baptist. Our skepticism and our suspicions must serve to preserve the Gospel that is being jeopardized by this sectarianism.
Preservation and/or reformation depends on changing people’s minds. Unfortunately, the claims of those galvanized in Independent Fundamentalism pride themselves in the fact that their minds are made up and cannot be changed. Furthermore, if all the rules of biblical persuasion were applied, the heritage and testimony of Independent Fundamentalism, as we know it, has been so sullied by scandal, radicalism and extremism that it is unsalvageable.
Those who oppose this confession will certainly look for the slightest excuse to discredit it, so we, therefore, seek to saturate our speech with Scripture that overwhelmingly proves the thesis of this confession. We must be generous to those who oppose this confession. We must acknowledge their sincerity. Even those who will appear to be working for the destruction of this confession should still be viewed as a part of the family of God, our family, and to affect any kind of efficacious change, there must be enough of us speaking the truth of Scripture in the right spirit. We cannot try to crush or humiliate our brethren. While we point out their errors, we must remember that what we want is for them to ultimately see the light that we are walking in a become our allies.
Due to the aforementioned conclusions, we hereby declare Independent Fundamental Baptists to have deteriorated into a sectarian order that warrants abandonment. Due to the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of “independence” and “fundamentalism” and poorly defined doctrinal mandates, we find that the Independent Fundamental Baptist displays of doctrine have evolved into a flagrant contradiction of the teachings of God’s Word. We also recognize that numerous Independent Fundamental Baptist teachings were never in full accordance with the Bible from their inception.
It is recognized that Independent Baptist Fundamentalism is a large and diverse movement. There is more than one Independent Fundamental Baptist movement – in fact, there may be hundreds who adopt the spirit of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism worldwide. Many smaller groups exist within Independent Baptist Fundamentalism and, sadly, most of them are averse to one another. Independent Baptist Fundamentalism, therefore, is not a monolithic movement that can be critiqued fairly without specificity. In fact, there are hundreds of Independent Fundamental Baptists who would love to identify as something else, if they only knew that something truly independent and fundamental existed. We intend in this confession to offer that alternative.
One great emancipator of years gone by stated that she was able to free a thousand slaves. She also stated that she could have freed a thousand more if they had only known they were slaves. This confession is intended to be the enlightenment that some Baptists need to find their way out of the bondage of man-made religious designations and into the liberty of God’s Word.
Generations of observation now offer the unfortunate perspective and conclusion that the current state of many Independent Fundamental Baptist teachings are indeed unfruitful. Even if our core skills do not include theology, observation tells us that the empirical evidence concludes that Independent Baptists are lacking in certain areas. While there remains lingering merit among Independent Fundamental Baptists, it is obvious that the denomination in general is suffering from a pervasive removal of God’s blessing resulting in scandal, severe attrition, spiritual lethargy, waste and mass exodus.
The merit of pioneering must be exercised in response to the downward evolution of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism. In decades past, Christ-honoring men have been willing to chart courses that steer them away from doctrinal error and present to the body of Christ pure alternatives. The true definition of doctrinal independence means that we who discern error are not bound by a compulsory bond to those who refuse to amend their erroneous deportment. Militant Independent Fundamentalists have confirmed their aversion to changing error and, therefore, we must show a brave and confident willingness to diagnose and classify that error, appointing it to be left in its troubled state.
Shortly after the original colonies were founded, Baptists were already doing their part to reproduce themselves far and wide. South Carolina, for example, became a colony in 1663, but it was already being influenced by the presence of Baptists. In South Carolina, the earliest instance in which the name Baptist occurs as a denominational designation, so far as reliable information provides, was in the year 1644. This was three years after immersion had been introduced as a mode of baptism in that area. There were no historians among those first Baptists. What prevailed were practical theologians who put what they saw in Scripture into practice. However, even in their earliest days, Baptists understood that they were debtors, not only to divine guidance, but to a long line of men and movements.
Beliefs regarding the Trinity, heaven and hell, and the resurrection of the body belong to the entire Baptist body, not just Independent Fundamentalists. In fact, they belong to almost all professing believers who call themselves Christian and are not traceable to any single group or movement.
The point needs to be made that the adoption of a name or denominational designation was functional. Early Baptists in South Carolina and other colonies were also called “dippers” because of their mode of baptism. That identified their practice. Others were called Particular Baptists because of their Calvinistic belief that only certain ones would be saved. Their names served as a method of identification. In much the same way, Independent Fundamentalism identifies a functional methodology that has an unfortunate reputation.
Another example is the name Puritan. Puritans were rigid and inflexible, and their influence was penetrating. Puritans tried their members in church conferences and excommunicated them for dancing, fiddling, drinking, card-playing, etc. Baptists did likewise for nearly three-hundred years. Many Baptist young people began to challenge their spiritual leaders for the source of their stern position on worldly amusements. It was discovered that the source was not the Bible that the Baptists claimed to believe solely, but from the influence of nearby Puritans.
Independent Fundamental Baptists are similarly influential. Ultra-seperatists have an addictive presence. This is often unchallenged, but we are seeing again that waves of youths are becoming discontent with the inability of religious leaders to defend their restrictions with Scripture. Youths see this as an imposition upon their soul liberties and their individual priesthood, and they are right. Someone must bravely pioneer an abdication of the terms independent and fundamental.
Our fellow South Carolinian Baptists understood that designations served a functional role. They altered their terms until they arrived at a destination that best described their doctrinal convictions. They were Baptist because that term served to describe them best. We believe that term still describes Bible believers, but like our colonial brothers and sisters we understand that the terms that augment or modify that body of beliefs are part of an evolution. As terms became obsolete or inaccurate, they were dropped by colonials so that they could be replaced by more descriptive, or accurate designations.
FLAWS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES
The Independent Fundamental Baptist denomination has evolved into a sectarian aberration of what the Bible teaches that the New Testament Church should be. The good intentions of Independent Fundamental Baptist founders have now effectively been eclipsed by unsubstantiated ideas and claims that cannot be supported by Scripture. The early fundamentals have slowly eroded, and we now have their pitiful remnants, which cannot support themselves when isolated individually.
Due to this erosion, it is now clear that what Independent Fundamental Baptists hold as distinctives are now patently toxic and corrosive, being alone. For example, biblical holiness cannot exist without the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God and the Scriptures. Yet many Independent Fundamental Baptists have operated on an aberrant “holiness” that is not derived from these essential and supernatural sources. This version of “holiness” completely bypasses the general definition of true holiness as taught in the Bible, and has sought to define holiness based on feeling, practicality, environment and questionable human example. Thus, the sacred doctrine of holiness has been contaminated by the methodology of Independent Fundamentalism, rather than the biblical method of Independent Fundamentalism being controlled by the biblical concept of scriptural holiness. Holiness is imputed to the believer through faith alone, and it is the only righteousness that justifies.
This is only one example. There are numerous other examples of how Independent Fundamental Baptists have abandoned the precepts of the Word of God and have rushed headlong into misguided viewpoints. This routine has prevented much of an entire generation of Independent Fundamental Baptists from knowing what the Bible teaches on indispensable doctrines. This new generation of Independent Fundamental Baptists are second-guessing their heritage, and so they should.
A dissection of Independent Fundamentalism reveals that their understanding of the Word of God is profoundly flawed. This is not a new pattern of doctrinal behavior. As early as the record of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, corrections were being made to what Jesus called, what had been “heard.” “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time . . .” (or some version of it) is used to introduce a correction to the false teachings of the Pharisees five times in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt. 5:21, 27, 33, 38 & 43). This suggests that a system of religion can become flawed, or in the case of the Pharisees, be erroneous from its inception.
In the case of the Pharisees, Christ taught that their system of doctrine was so flawed and riddled with ruinous pride, harshness and rigidity that it was obsolete and worthy of abandonment. Every generation has the potential to misquote, misuse, distort, misunderstand, or misrepresent the Word of God. Some of these things happen due to ignorance, but some are intentional and deliberate. Any combination of these are fertile ground for antinomianism, legalism or pharisaeism. Strangely, all three of these spiritual errors exist in Independent Fundamental Baptist churches. This shows the diversity of the movement and proves positively that little doctrinal and principled credence exists among Independent Fundamentalists. These same conditions existed during the times of John the Baptist, which prompted John to leave the confines of the religious establishment of his day and seek the truth elsewhere. We conclude that the abandonment and renunciation of a religious movement that has lost focus on God’s Word is not forbidden. Not only did John the Baptist practice this, but this was also the practice of Elijah, Amos, Obadiah, Nahum, Malachi, the Apostle Paul and others.
Jesus, Himself, called for a new authority that would not supplement, but would rather replace the spurious authority that had been tailored by the Pharisees and other religious groups of the day. Note that this was not an abandonment of all authority, but rather an awareness of, an acceptance of, and an adherence to a superior authority. Every time Jesus stated that ye have heard that it was said by them of old time in the Sermon on the Mount was followed by Him saying but I say unto you. His words were superior to the earlier ignorance of the religious elites.
On a more drastic note, Jesus condemned the practices of the religious Pharisees by stating that their system of religion was not good enough to obtain salvation. In Matthew 5:20 Jesus said, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” I greatly fear that this same religious bankruptcy exists among many Independent Fundamental Baptists. This makes this confession not only important, but also crucial.
The true doctrines we would deem fundamental include (but are not limited to): 1) the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures; 2) the doctrine of Christ’s virgin birth; 3) the principle of substitutionary atonement; 4) the bodily resurrection of Christ; and 5) the literal truth of all the miraculous elements of Scripture. Historically, all authentic Fundamentalists have been united in their affirmation of these five doctrines as truths that are essential to the gospel. These creeds were once known as the “Five Fundamentals.” However, those foundations have now been overpowered by pragmatism and a false “fundamentalism”.
The original fundamentals have, in many cases, been replaced by peripheral and nonessential emphases. This has become a shameful and costly practice. If the five aforementioned fundamentals were currently the foundations of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism, then none would have a reason to protest. However, contemporary Independent Baptist Fundamentalism has become dysfunctional despite its five original fundamentals. The five original fundamentals have been added to, modified and amended to such a degree that many Independent Fundamental Baptist churches cannot survive with them as their sole governing doctrines. This has resulted in core doctrines becoming subservient to unscriptural pragmatic methodologies.
Independent Baptist Fundamentalism now more resembles cultic pharisaeism than historic biblical Christianity. Independent Baptist Fundamentalism is seriously and perhaps irretrievably in error. The movement, in general, is in serious trouble doctrinally, morally and spiritually.
Due to its doctrinal abandonment of Scripture, the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement has been dominated by personality cults, easy-believism, man-centered doctrine, an unbiblical pragmatism in methodology, a carnal kind of superficiality in worship, petty bickering at the highest levels of leadership, deliberate anti-intellectualism, even in so-called institutions of higher learning, and moral rot and decay on almost every level. One can only wonder what would have happened if Independent Fundamental Baptists had clung to the original five fundamentals.
The Independent Fundamental Baptist movement has ceased to be a theological movement and has eroded into a cultural phenomenon. It has become a bizarre and ingrown subculture of its own. Often, those who are devout Independent Fundamental Baptists seem overtly hostile to everyone outside of their boundaries. This has isolated their churches and made them pariahs in the communities that desperately need biblical ministry.
Proliferation of unscriptural stands have been made available in this age which serve as examples of Fundamental Baptist departures from Scripture. A simple assessment of the top Independent Fundamental Baptist personalities (especially some of those in the past) display the shameful false doctrines that have been created by Independent Baptist Fundamentalism. To be clear, these false teachings were made possible by the flawed and erroneous foundations of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism.
The visible and identifiable movement made up of men and churches who proudly label themselves as historic Independent Baptist Fundamentalists are seriously and grossly dysfunctional. There were many sober-minded Fundamentalists of yesteryear who saw the error of these tendencies and rejected them early in the second half of the twentieth century. However, those admonitions and rejections were silenced by the uproar of those who were vying for the spotlight and would do or say almost anything to get it. This led to a sensationalism that took the place of scriptural exposition, and the cost was high.
Those who foolishly led the charge to maintain the destructive behavior of Fundamentalism did so without adequate citation of Scripture and Independent Baptist Fundamentalism was then led by tyrants instead of truth – consequently, personalities trumped principles. The loathsome fruit of this militant practice was a lack of brotherly kindness, and a focus on peripheral doctrines instead of the true fundamentals. It also produced the adoption of petty preferences and man-made rules instead of advocating foundational biblical doctrine. Due to these errors, ecclesiastical isolation has ruled Independent Baptist Fundamentalism for decades and the militant defense of erroneous concepts and principles have caused countless breaches of fellowship.
The ultimate failure of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism was guaranteed from its very inception because there was no widespread understanding about what fundamental doctrine really was and is. There has been a pervasive collapse of priority when it comes to doctrine, and few Independent Baptists can define which doctrines are essential and primary and which doctrines are secondary. This made clinging to the fundamentals virtually impossible.
With a designation like “Fundamentalism”, one would think that Independent Baptists would be doctrinally accurate and devoted to the preservation of sound doctrine. One would also assume from the name that Fundamentalism would have been a literate movement, theological in nature and devoted to doctrinal instruction, but that has not been the case. On the contrary, most traditional Fundamentalists have been known more for their histrionics than their doctrine. Independent Baptist Fundamentalism has always seemed to favor men who were doctrinally shallow, but flamboyant and aggressive in their delivery. These men would often get louder on the points that were the most indefensible. This unsound state has led to endless doctrinal error, and moral decay.
To get a clear picture of how people who call themselves Independent Fundamental Baptist care so little about actual fundamental doctrine consider that it is nearly impossible to find a single doctrinally significant and sound piece of literature that has been produced by a well-known Independent Fundamental Baptist. When those works are rarely discovered they can almost always be traced to some Fundamental headquarters that is riddled with doctrinal inaccuracy and moral rot. This is due in part to an anti-intellectual strain in American fundamentalism that has dominated the movement for the past fifty years or more. Many Fundamentalists are openly skeptical of scholarship and suspicious of anything overtly academic. The norm is for Independent Fundamental Baptist colleges and seminaries to be patently simplistic. There are, however, some blessed exceptions to this. This has also produced numerous institutions that repeatedly issue honorary degrees and substandard degrees to men who are not qualified to receive either. This has allowed unlettered men to be reported as academic authorities on subjects that they themselves have never studied. In many cases study of issues is slanted by Independent Fundamental biases that act as a contagion to the whole analysis.
Sadly, when those who are academically qualified are discovered within the ranks of Independent Fundamental Baptists, the mainstream of the movement often regards them with deep suspicion because they are deemed too academic. This has also led many who have pursued academic lettering to choose other denominational affiliation.
Another example of dangerous method employed by Independent Baptists is what could be called the application of doctrinal replacement. For example, while the need to preach against worldliness remains urgent, it is apparent that Independent Baptists have offered their people a steady diet of preaching about the evils of the contemporary culture, while neglecting the timeless truths of Scripture. This has trivialized the importance of the fundamental doctrines that we profess to love. It has created an entire culture of shallow preaching among Fundamental Baptists and has left entire generations of Independent Baptists in barren wastelands of spiritual drought.
Among other great flaws that exist in the Independent, Fundamental Baptist movement is the establishment of a form of ecclesiastical excommunication without due process. In many cases fundamentalist circles have made their publications into a negative platform for the circulation of unsubstantiated rumors and false accusations against others in the movement. This practice has encouraged secondary separation, and even multiple levels of separation that extend to endless degrees. While the Scripture teaches that we should have no fellowship with people who deny the essentials of the Gospel (II John 10-11; II Cor. 6:14-17; Eph. 5:11; Rom. 16:17), the Bible also teaches and explicitly instructs us to admonish brethren to turn from false teaching. We are forbidden to be rash and impulsive and the way that we separate from other brethren without any effort of admonition and without due process. This practice alone has so harmed the testimony of Independent Baptists that it has cost irretrievable loss.
Typically, when a denomination fractures and splits, there are normally a small number of issues that are present at the point of the divide. One of those common issues happens to be the role of women in the church. This is a very visible point of contention among Independent Fundamental Baptists. The poor treatment of women has been flagrant. It has left many churches handicapped by the limitations and spiritual injustices that have been perpetrated against women. The role of women in Baptist churches continues to be such a controversial subject, that we cannot exhaustively discuss the matter in this confession. The biblical standard for the submission of women has been exaggerated by many Independent Baptists, leaving precious ladies in a state of subservience that is not supported in Scripture. This was done under the noble banner of gender specificity, but it quickly became abusive.
For illustration purposes, understand that if we made the role of women in the church the focus of this document, the debate would be so heated by the avowed Independent Baptist readers of this confession that the greater issues at hand would be dismissed and forgotten. This would only serve to destroy the purpose of this confession. However, it needs to be understood that far greater social issues are facing the church today, but they cannot be addressed by Independent Fundamental Baptists because of infighting on issues like the rights and privileges of women. Therefore, our society’s questions go unanswered.
This is only one illustration that represents a multitude of unsettled issues that exist among Fundamental Baptists. Each of these issues is taking up precious time and resources that could be devoted to more worthy causes.
It is furthermore very unlikely and doubtful that such a climate would produce conditions conducive to survival when persecution becomes a reality in the life of the American church again. We all anticipate and see the coming storms of persecution lingering on the horizon. The fragmented, militant Independent Fundamental movement will not survive such conditions. This is due in part to the reality that under conditions of state, or religious persecution, Independent Baptist Fundamentalism, as it exists and operates today, would incite persecution because of its volatile and militant nature. This is in true contradiction to the instructions of our Savior to avoid persecution when possible: Matthew 10:23, But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another . . . Sadly, fleeing is not something that Fundamentalism often allows for, so the outcome would be disastrous unless major changes are made that serve to remove the militant tendencies of Independent Fundamentalism. Jesus even fled when persecution approached (John 10:39). He fled because in wisdom He knew that it was not time to make a stand and fight just for the sake of fighting. On occasion, the Apostle Paul found it need to escape rather than fight (II Cor. 11:23). The writer of Hebrews spoke of those who, “Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong . . .” (Heb. 11:34a). It is not always necessary to fight, but many Independent Fundamental Baptists pride themselves in being uncompromising fighters. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah understood that there were certain things that could justifiably be compromised for the sake of surviving the Babylonian Captivity. They compromised in the areas of language, education and occupation. They even allowed themselves to be castrated by the Babylonians, and never protested. They certainly knew that eating the meat of the king that was sacrificed to idols and bowing to the image of the colossus were clearly forbidden, so they abstained in those areas, but they saw some things as hills not worth dying on.
In I Timothy 2:8, Paul said, “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” In its context, this verse is located in a Pastoral Epistle. It comes from the Apostle Paul for the benefit of we who struggle with countless battles that have been lost because of the flawed weapon of pastoral wrath and the flawed impediment of pastoral doubt. Pastoral wrath is common among Independent Baptists. In the Civil War, as much as 85 percent of soldiers on both sides would not pull the trigger when brought face to face with their opponents. Why? Because they knew deep inside that if they fired their weapons they were shooting at their own American brothers. Soldiers on the side of the North and the South knew that ultimately the cause of the Civil War was destructive to the nation as a whole. That lesson has not been learned by Independent Baptists.
Brethren, when we open fire upon each other, we are losing the battle. When we preach with wrath toward others, we are defeating ourselves. Preaching with wrath is the product of self-doubt. Self-doubt is what causes many men to shift the focus from themselves, and onto someone else in the form of wrath. These are only corrected when men pray. Division, wrath and doubting can only be remedied by prayer according to Paul.
A PLEA FOR DOCTRINAL FIDELITY
For those observing the direction of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism, one of the most alarming trends that we have seen is the tendency for doctrine to be given a lesser role than preaching. This habit is fertile ground for doctrinal error and even heresy because the act of preaching can be a-theological and/or a-doctrinal.
There is a dangerous path that many Fundamental Baptist sermons walk: experimenting with doctrine while preaching. This includes allowing doctrine to serve in a support role for preaching instead of preaching that supports doctrinal accuracy. In many cases, it literally manifests itself in preaching that offers itself as an end goal, and not a result of doctrine. Many practice the philosophy that what I preach is doctrine. It is as if preaching something makes it valid, or if it has been preached, it qualifies as doctrine.
Because this has been tolerated, we are seeing the infiltration of a host of doctrinal errors that have turned saints toward poisonous error. Some of these errors are insignificant minutiae that exists on the fringes. Much of it, however, is not.
Ask Fundamental Baptists about pneumatology, and because there is no cohesive unity, you will discover that various sects of Independent Fundamental Baptists represent their views based on the preaching they have been exposed to on that subject. This is evidence that the doctrinal fragmentation of Fundamentalism is due, much in part, to scattered and disorganized preaching. Ask Fundamental Baptists about soteriology, angelology, hamartiology, Christology, eschatology and theology, or even theology proper, and you will experience similar results.
There are actual Fundamental Baptists who are declaring error on soteriology in particular. The question “What must I do to be saved (Acts 16:30)?” cannot be bungled with numerous answers. This damages the very message of the cross itself. Readers might find it astonishing to know that whole regions are being saturated with preaching from Independent Fundamental Baptists who are making statements that resemble Pentecostal works religion (i.e. working to get saved or working to stay saved).
As stated earlier, some regions of the country are even suffering form poor pneumatology that also resembles Pentecostalism. It is not unusual to hear preaching that fronts the idea that a person who is saved may not possess the Holy Spirit and needs to be filled again and again to be able to claim certain privileges. The Bible teaches that those who do not possess the Holy Spirit are not converted (Rom. 8:9). There is no second dose of the Holy Spirit, or a second work of grace with evidences. Yet, versions of this false doctrine are being offered up routinely, and when connected with the Fundamental Baptist demands for unquestioned pastoral authority, they go unchecked and unopposed.
Eschatology is no exception to this fragmentation. Fundamental Baptists are experiencing a variety of views on this critical matter. There are pre-tribulation, post-tribulation and mid-tribulation rapturists among the ranks of Fundamentalists. There are even aberrant views that have been tailored to particular churches and they are, in many cases, very bizarre. Due to the lack of doctrinal accountability, Independent Fundamentalism has no way of defrocking such doctrines among their ranks. Every church is subject to its own interpretations.
An inquiry into the doctrines of hamartiology are equally troubling. People who experiment with doctrine in preaching are especially dangerous when it comes to the doctrine of sin. This leads to regions where some things that are considered sinful, but they are not sinful in other areas. This is not a consistent representation of the true nature of sin. Even the clearly identified sins spoken of in Scripture are subject to interpretation among many Fundamental Baptists, while other sins that are less important are given undue emphasis among Fundamentalists. Sometimes that means that sins of commission and omission, internal sins and external sins may be exaggerated or underemphasized based almost solely on the preacher and his preferences on the matter.
These are only a handful of illustrations. There are numerous others, but the point remains that Fundamental Baptists are disunited doctrinally. This doctrinal permissiveness has been created in part by the fact that no actual doctrinal identifications have been produced for Independent Baptist Fundamentalism. It is a sort of “wild west” of crude interpretation.
Traditional Independent Fundamental Baptists have assumed the responsibility of protesting in the past when doctrine was at stake. The designation “Independent Fundamental Baptist” is used traditionally by churches which pattern themselves strictly after the example of the early church, as found in the New Testament. Today the name Baptist is used by many churches that are not following the teachings of the New Testament. Thus, the words "Independent" and "Fundamental" were added by many Baptist churches to further identify themselves as true Bible-believing churches and to show a distinction between themselves and Baptist churches that were not following God’s word.
The church, however, cannot be primarily defined by the adjectives of its name. The nouns are the more important part of our distinction. Independent (adj.) Fundamental (adj.) Baptist (noun) is an unfortunate ordering when it comes to the sheer priority. It is, however, impossible to rearrange the terms without doing damage to the priorities of Baptist Fundamentalism. The movement in general cannot survive without the identification that those terms create. The terms “Independent” and “Fundamental” are certainly where the sensitivity lies.
Most Independent Baptist churches of the distant past were founded on the sound doctrinal teachings of the New Testament. However, many of them have in varying degrees, drifted away from the teachings of the Scriptures. Some of these churches have gone so far to even deny the doctrines of the Bible, such as the deity of Christ, the virgin birth and salvation by the Grace of God, through faith. Others have, to a lesser degree, compromised the Word of God by their teaching, practices, and church polity by trying to conform to popular and/or sectarian religious trends. These churches still call themselves “Fundamental”, but in fact they do not believe or practice what true Baptists have historically believed and, more importantly, what the Word of God teaches.
This has created an oppressive bondage that has become the norm for many Independent Fundamental Baptists. The doctrine of the new birth opposes this bondage. Babies are born free; they must learn to be in bondage. Likewise, those born from the womb of the church are born in the state of Christian freedom and liberty. Other behaviors are learned from false-teaching.
We therefore confess that, in many cases, the Gospel itself is at stake among professing Independent Fundamental Baptists. This is our single, most important motive: the preservation of the Gospel among Baptists who are being slowly hardened by the misrepresentation of the most basic and fundamental of issues – the Gospel. If there is one question that we cannot afford to get wrong it is, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30b) The answer must be, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31b)
Declarations and Refutations
The following portions of this confession are intended to offer a general survey and a sample of the greatest needs among professing New Testament Baptists. Each affirmation will be followed by a denial of earlier existing errors that Independent Fundamentalism has produced either recently or in the history of the movement. This is not an exhaustive diagnosis but is intended rather to serve as examples of virulent doctrinal policies that linger among Fundamentalists, and why these falsehoods should be abandoned.
1. We declare that the Lord Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the church’s theology, practice and message (i.e. christocentricity). Therefore, we refute that the substitutionary character of Christ’s atonement for sin can be compromised without serious injury to the Gospel or denied without repudiating the Gospel. When Christ is eclipsed by human personalities or methods, immediate spiritual lethargy, atrophy and atrocities will ensue.
2. We declare that sacred articles and designations that distinguish the church should, by all means, be defined, preserved and defended (Jude 3). Therefore, we
refute the imposition of vulnerable designations that are unprotected by the intellectual property rights of Scripture. The Bible reveals God to be infinite in all His perfections, and thus truly omniscient, omnipotent, timeless, and self-existent. The designations “independent” and “fundamental” are neither found, nor protected in Scripture and therefore do not align themselves with the very nature of God Himself. Excessive attempts to defend those terms are spurious and can become a treacherous distraction from the weightier articles of faith. The terms are not subject to the preservation of Scripture, nor do they possess the quality of timeless preservation that more biblical designations have. Loyalty to any denomination or fellowship of churches cannot take precedence over the claims of truth and faithfulness to the Gospel.
3. We declare that it is possible to be a Bible believer without being an Independent Baptist. Therefore, we refute the notion that the only sound denomination on earth are Independent, Fundamental Baptists. We do believe that being a Baptist is the single most efficacious and accurate system of theology that encompasses the scope of biblical theology, and that being Baptist by conviction remains a state of blessing and salvation. The term “Baptist” is not in question in this confession, but rather the designations “Independent” and “Fundamental” in connection with Baptist. The latter terms have become a blight on the blessed Baptist doctrines that are taught in Scripture.
The late prayer warrior E.M. Bounds was familiar with the scourge of what man-made designations can cost. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South clergy. Bounds was thought to be a confederate sympathizer because the name of his church contained the regional designation “South” in it. E.M. Bounds saw unspeakable atrocities perpetrated against his own congregation and others with the designation “South” (like Southern Baptists) in the State of Missouri who were unfortunately tied to an extra-biblical classification.
Men like E.M. Bounds were forced to assess whether keeping “South” in their name was worth it. I would contend that a similar assessment warrants our attention today in connection to the terms “Independent” and “Fundamental.” Bounds was able to minister to soldiers on the North and the South sides of the Civil War, but he found that his ministry to those who desperately needed the truth on the North was hindered by the name of his church.
4. We declare that matters of adiaphorous (i.e. undefined, or “gray” areas of Christian living) have neither the emphasis, nor the prominence in Scripture to be the focus of what can be defined as sanctified and/or holy living. Therefore, we refute the notion that major emphasis should be placed on matters that are not clearly defined (to be approved, or forbidden) in the pages of Scripture. It is, however, important that the state of the weaker brother be persistently considered, so as to avoid the offence of conscience on the part of those who have not liberty to experience the areas of adiaphorous. Those brethren whose conscience is held captive by their limited understanding of liberty are still our brethren, even though they are weak in liberty. We will not violate the Bible by flaunting our liberty in their presence. Nevertheless, Scripture is violated by the tyranny imposed upon liberties granted in the Bible in areas of ambiguous sanctification (cf. I Cor. 8:11-13; 10:23-33). The said tyranny rejected also includes any employment of secondary separation in which calls for the discontinuance of fellowship with a brother who associates with another that is deemed substandard.
Weaker brethren who elevate their unsubstantiated standards to a level of qualification for salvation, or a qualification for membership in good standing, or a qualification for church office are to be reminded that their scruples do not align with Scripture and that growth is expected. The standards that are enforceable in the church must be biblical and not our own traditional scruples.
It should also be stated that much of our problems in this area are since weaker brothers have been elevated to positions that they themselves are unqualified to hold namely, pastors, preachers, elders and teachers. These positions cannot be satisfactorily filled by those who are weak in their interpretation of Scripture and allow that weakness to translate into a life of tyranny toward those who have liberty and are exercising it. In other words, weaker brethren who are preaching or teaching God’s Word will misrepresent what the Bible says due to their weak liberty.
The Apostle Paul rebuked Peter for infringing upon the liberties of New Testament Saints: Galatians 2:11, But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. Paul’s confrontation in this case was since Peter was a titan of the Christian faith but was sliding backward into a tyrannical methodology that represented the New Testament erroneously. In Paul’s confrontation, he understood that it was no longer trivial scruples that were at stake, but it was literally a matter of the integrity of the Gospel itself (Gal. 2:21). This proves that when the weaker brethren extend their tyranny beyond the arena of personal convictions and attempt to make their scruples the law of the church, they must be resisted.
We furthermore declare that no personal list of convictions or preferences can be justly imposed upon another believer. The possession of a listing of standards (written or unwritten) must be understood as intimate and particular in nature. These listings are often unique to the individual and are therefore, never to be listed as a demand for holiness or sanctification in another believer’s life. The lists of Scripture are not personal and are not tailored to individuals, they are the standard of God’s Word and are enforceable in the local church.
5. We declare that, in the spirit of contending for the faith, we must abandon the errors of traditional Independent Baptist Fundamentalism. Therefore, we refute that Independent, Fundamental Baptists are entirely biblical. While some solid truths remain, much of Independent Baptist dogma has created unsustainable confusion and error. This error has led to a disenchantment among students of Scripture and it has caused the movement’s deterioration to accelerate because these students are abandoning Fundamentalism entirely.
6. We declare that the New Testament Baptist Church should be known by its theology and not its methodology. Therefore, we refute any denominational affiliation with any and all religions/denominations that will not adhere to God’s Word as their final authority in all matters of faith and practice.
7. We declare that the church is evangelistic by its very nature. Therefore, we refute that any Church can accept racial prejudice, discrimination, or division without betraying the Gospel. God calls His people to display His glory in the reconciliation of the nations within the church, and that God’s pleasure in this reconciliation is evident in the gathering of believers from every tongue, tribe, people and nation. We also deny that no church can justifiably call itself a New Testament Church if it does not support and facilitate global evangelism.
8. We declare that the Bible and its doctrines are intellectually engaging and therefore must be digested by the believer with both spiritual insight and intellectual insight. Therefore, we refute the aversion to intellectualism that Independent Fundamental Baptists have often displayed. It is apparent that the spiritual and the intellectual appeal to hearers are both necessary for lasting fruit that remains. Much of the exodus that is occurring among Independent Fundamentalists is due in part to the fact that intellect has been abandoned for spiritual insight, which has proven to be a temporary fix to life’s greatest questions.
9. We declare that the sixty-six books of the King James Version of the Bible are the completed and closed revelation of the Word of God. Therefore, we refute that any pastor, preacher, teacher, or communicator who testifies that he is receiving new revelation or special information from God is possibly cultic. Extra-biblical revelation is a sure sign of error and false doctrine. God’s Word has been sufficiently and finally completed, and any attempt to add to or take away destroys the sufficiency of Scripture. Understand that we can love the Bible of the Independent Baptist but hate the way that it is being used.
We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the verbally and plenary inspired Word of God. The Scriptures are inerrant, infallible, preserved and God-breathed and, therefore, are the final authority for faith and practice. The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments are the complete and divine revelation of God to Man. The Scriptures shall be interpreted according to their normal grammatical/historical meaning, and all issues of interpretation and meaning shall be determined by the pastor. The King James Version of the Bible shall be the official and only translation used by the church (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:20-21). We teach that God spoke in His written Word by a process of dual authorship. The Holy Spirit so superintended the human authors that, through their individual personalities and different styles of writing, they composed and recorded God’s Word to man (II Peter 1:20-21) without error in the whole or in the part (Matthew 5:18; II Timothy 3:16). We teach that, whereas there may be several applications of any given passage of Scripture, there is but one true interpretation. The meaning of Scripture is to be found as one diligently applies the literal grammatical-historical method of interpretation under the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit (John 7:17; 16:12-15; I Corinthians 2:7-15; I John 2:20). It is the responsibility of believers to ascertain carefully the true intent and meaning of Scripture, recognizing that proper application is binding on all generations. Yet the truth of Scripture stands in judgment of men; never do men stand in judgment of it.
10. We declare that true scriptural independence is the biblical pattern and that there is no evidence of any denominational hierarchy in the Bible. Therefore, we refute the overreach of those who are making attempts to organize individual churches into a denominational network. However, we do recognize the danger of dividing into smaller and less significant factions. When the spirit of independence flourishes, the church thrives. When the Gospel is preached and human personalities are kept to a minimum, the church flourishes. When organizations, hierarchies, and human personalities become the emphasis, the Baptist church’s effectiveness is diminished. In this effort to emphasize our independence, we must recognize that untying the hands of a multitude of godly men who are currently in bondage to other people’s opinions, in no way contradicts traditional fundamentalism.
Independence means that the church is not a member of any council, convention nor is a part of any hierarchy outside the local congregation. A true Baptist church governs itself apart from any outside agency and would not be a part of a national or an international denomination that would exercise authority over the local church. Thus, the church patterns itself after the New Testament example and stands alone under the authority of the Scriptures. New Testament Baptist churches are autonomous assemblies having no organization over them in authority. Free from outside interference, they direct their own affairs under the authority of the New Testament Scriptures.
11. We declare that the example of the life and ministry of Christ trumps all productions of systemic religious practice or aberrant pragmatism. Therefore, we refute that the life, work and words of Christ can be willfully ignored without consequence. Those consequences may include (but are not limited to) the disintegration of foundational spiritual stability, the breakdown of practical sanctification, the forfeiture of heavenly blessing and the culling of historical nomenclature.
12. We declare that worldliness and carnality are to be vigorously opposed by any church. Therefore, we refute the notion that the church should accommodate worldly trends as a way of growing relevant in society. This is one of the most sensitive points of this confession. There will be those who will label this confession as a departure from biblical sanctification. However, it is the exact opposite. We are determined to teach what the New Testament actually teaches about sanctification and separation, but we will do so with the Judgment Seat of Christ as the sole motivator for sanctification. The employment of threats, shame, insults, excommunication and any other forceful method that has been used by Independent Fundamentalists in the past is discouraged by this confession based on the poor results it has produced. Only the Judgment Seat of Christ can be used as a motivation for sanctification.
13. We declare that biblical preaching is the chosen method that God intended to be the vehicle that transports the Gospel to every creature. Therefore, we refute the inferior methods of sensationalism, anecdotal, episodic and topical or trendy sermons. The centrality of expository preaching in the Church and the urgent need for a recovery of biblical exposition and the public reading of Scripture in worship must be rediscovered for effective change to be realized. God-honoring worship cannot marginalize or neglect the ministry of the Word as manifested through exposition and public reading.
14. We declare that the oversight of the church should be trusted in the hands of faithful men who are biblically qualified (I Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-11) and are surrounded by saints and other Men of God who will hold them accountable for their interpretation, preaching, teaching and implementation of God’s Word. Therefore, we refute the Independent Fundamental Baptist belief that because they have been established by God as the one correct church, the leaders claim to be an extension of the authority of God. The authority of the Man of God extends solely to his declaration of God’s Word. The sole authority for the Church is the Bible, verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible, and totally sufficient and trustworthy.
15. We declare that God’s grace is commensurate and satisfactory in meeting the spiritual needs of believers. Therefore, we deny any effort to minimize the importance of the grace of God ecclesiastically or personally. Showcasing the grace of God offers liberty and wonderful freedom. This liberty is indeed risky to those who insist on having overt control over the lives of believers. This control is an affront to the Lordship of Christ and is incompatible with grace and soul liberty. Believers have no biblical reason to bow to the personal demands of other believers. This servitude focuses on failure because of the ever-changing standards of religious bondage.
God’s grace demands that we listen more to God and less to other believers. God’s grace is the answer to the over-sensitive conscience that seeks to please others. We do not continue in sin that Grace can be exercised (Rom. 6:1-2). However, we have freedom to break free from servitude to sin and servitude to those who use the label of sin to control the behavior of others. The Word of God alone has the right to define sin.
We do not commonly hear about the grace of God in churches today, so we must be carefully taught how to handle it with care. You belong to the power which you choose to obey. Romans 6:18 says, “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” The believer must consciously link himself/herself to righteousness. Living under the dictatorial bondage of another believer’s assessment of righteousness is a synthetic way to experience supposed freedom. That is simply changing from one false master to another.
Standing up for grace and liberty means that we will often have to resist the high-control personalities that seek to dominate and oppress us. Our souls naturally crave grace and freedom. The choices of who we will serve are not numerous: you can serve sin (bondage), you can serve religious despots (tyranny), or you can serve Christ (grace).
To those who have felt the scourge of an offended conscience because you are persuaded that Independent Baptist Fundamentalism no longer represents the scriptural beliefs that you hold dear, join our cause. Do not cast yourself into the flames of liberal heresy because you do not think that an alternative exists. Bear in mind that brothers and sisters like you are uniting as New Testament Baptists and our faith and practices are foursquare based on God’s Word.
To those who are disenchanted with the anti-intellectual rubbish that refuses to be questioned, refuses to be examined and refuses self-diagnosis, do not walk away from Baptists altogether because your faith in God’s people has been weakened. We are Baptists who will shine the light of God’s Word for the world to see, but we will also willfully let that light shine on ourselves for examination, edification and education.
To the young men who are making exciting discoveries and taking great strides of faith and growth, but you find that Independent Baptist Fundamentalism’s intolerance inhibits your growth and development, do not abandon your dream to have a growing church that is unlimited in its potential and unfettered by ignorance. As a New Testament Baptist, you can claim the lessons of the Old Testament (Gal. 3:24) and the Grace of the New Testament (Heb. 6:1-6) as your foundation. This is a foundation that cannot be ignored, and you may build high because that foundation is so very deep and sure.
To the seasoned saints who, over the decades, have watched the evolution of Independent Baptist Fundamentalism from what it was to what it is today, we desire your input, wisdom, companionship and insight. You will not be ignored! You can remember where we once were, and you can help us chart the course to where we should be. You know firsthand how the erosion of a strong biblical foundation has cost us dearly. No one hurts over this more than you. Help us by reminding us of the former things that will inspire the weak-hearted and faint to press on in this noble cause. You heard, with your own ears, the words of the pioneers who led the charge against the error of their day and the more that we know about them, the more we can follow in their footsteps. There is no question that the Independent Fundamental Baptists of days-gone-by were courageous men who knew the gravity of what it meant to stand firm. We want to unite with you in the spirit of the heroes of the faith that you once knew and associated with, and who blazed our trail.
To the families who are finding Independent Baptist Fundamentalism insufferable and finding that your children are uninterested in attending church because of unscriptural policies or practices, please know that you are needed. New Testament Baptists will always have a place for your family to worship, to serve and to grow.
To Independent Baptists who feel powerless to make a change because your own church is entrenched in the valley of decision, we reach out to you as brothers and sisters in need. We admonish you to give this confession to your pastors, elders and church leaders. Give it to them in a spirit of concern and admonition – not as a means of confrontation, ultimatum and/or rebuke. Pray for your spiritual leaders. Pray for the Lord to soften their hearts and open their eyes to these truths. The results may astonish you.
The contents and context of the Book of Jude addresses the issues of heresy and apostasy. Though it is a brief epistle, Jude gives us both rebuke and admonition in connection to the issues of heresy and apostasy. However, the book of Jude does not relegate the heretic to the trash pile of the forsaken.
While addressing the need to recover those who were on the brink of doctrinal disaster, Jude said, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 21-23).”
There are four admonitions in these verses:
1) An admonition for love and mercy (v. 21).
2) An admonition to make a difference using compassion (v. 22).
3) An admonition to make a difference with the employment of dreaded consequences which pull those who err out of the fire (v. 23a).
4) An admonition to abandon the unrepentant apostate, discarding even his defiled garment (v. 23b).
These four admonitions are designed to both diagnose the degree of error and the measure of response needed to salvage those who err. No doubt, retrieving the erring brother is the ultimate goal of the passage.
Brethren, it all begins with love and mercy (Jude 21)! I admonish those who adopt this confession to show copious charity and mercy to our erring brothers until the light shines into their hearts. The warmth of our love for our brothers will thaw the icy heart. The light of God’s Word will attract their attention and arrest their wills. We will not revert into the harshness of Independent Fundamentalism to accomplish the goal of retrieving our brothers from the fires of error.
From love and mercy, we continue to compassion. Compassion for the brothers who are salvageable. Compassion in the form of patience and maturity. Compassion in word and deed. We pledge to admonish our brothers with biblical counsel and outstretched arms waiting to embrace those who have the courage to transition out of their error. We will not seek an admission of ignorance or guilt, but rather deeds that show that they do indeed love God’s Word more than anything.
From love and mercy, to compassion, and then on to firm warnings. If our brothers will not appreciate our love and mercy; if they are unreached by our compassion, then we will view the situation more urgently: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire (Jude 23a). Having been exposed to the counsel of truth, if our brothers persist down the wrong road, then we will match persistence with persistence. We will employ methods that open their eyes to the consequences that their error has on their marriages, their children, their churches, and ultimately, they themselves. Pulling them out of the fire may include invitations to experience the blessings of adherence to the Word of God, but it may also include warning them that they are approaching the threshold of apostasy from which they cannot be retrieved once they have crossed over. No true believer will insist on maintaining this course when such love, mercy, compassion, truth and concern have been shown.
However, If the earlier steps of admonition are ignored, we have confirmed the dreadful reality that they will not be admonished by Scripture or brethren, we are now at the final and most severe conclusion: hating even the garment spotted by the flesh (Jude 23b). The word “hating” simply means to “love less.” We will continue to love them, but we will love them less than we love the truth. By this point there is no denying that they are galvanized.
I do hereby pledge that the light of God’s Holy Word (Psa. 119:105) has cast its precious light into the whole of my spirit, and that I determine to walk to the best of my knowledge in its precepts and commandments. I pledge to walk humbly in this light and to shine it on the paths of others so that they too may grow to love it. I pledge to employ patience and to be longsuffering (Eph. 4:2; Col. 1:11; 3:12; II Tim. 3:10; II Tim. 4:2) regarding my brothers who have not the light that I have been graciously given. I pledge to persuade them through the biblical method of love and mercy, compassion and diligent effort early. I pledge to use biblical fear and separation only after my brothers have confirmed their disinterest in the admonitions of God’s Word. I pledge to change them by cherishing them.
I pledge to neither harm nor mock the scruples of weaker brethren who are entrenched in exaggerations, misrepresentations and/or misinterpretations of holiness and sanctification. I pledge to rather model the biblical example of responsible interpretation of Scripture and to display a lifestyle that reflects the precepts of God’s Word. In the Spirit of Paul’s admonitions, we pledge to give up meat altogether for the sake of our weaker brethren’s consciences (cf. I Cor. 8:11-13; 10:23-33).
I pledge to abandon harmful doctrines that contaminate the New Testament Baptist Church. I pledge to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things (Titus 2:10). I pledge to unite in fellowship with those who have shared this pledge.