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The 20/20 IFB Controversy

July 21, 2011

This I had written on a board in response to the reactions to a 20/20 program about an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor accused of sexual misconduct. As the Andrew Himes book discussions were ongoing (especially with his brother being a common poster there), in the discussions of this story, there were a few people, mostly females who grew up in an IFB background, who stepped up and testified different kinds of abuse, including how power is abused.

I noticed that the argument generally goes back and forth between whether the entire IFB movement should be painted or not, I had some comments about the whole thing, from an outsider’s perspective.

This basically highlights my overall concern with what has become known as the “separatist” movement in fundamentalism.


Growing up in an agnostic family, fundamentalism as a whole appeared to be just a hostile group that condemned the world, mostly for evolution and other wrong beliefs regarding God, as well as the sex sins becoming more open in society (yet they were completely silent on stuff like racism, which was strange, and instead favored political views that seemed to go along with race and class division).

So coming of age in the 80’s, the sense I got was “WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE”? These people telling me and everyone else how to live, mind you!

They appeal to the prophets and apostles of scripture who were commanded to “reprove, rebuke, exhort”, etc. But the big difference was that those leaders were apart of the communities they were called to correct.

So it seems as fundamentalism, like everything else, became more moderate as time went on, a split developed and widened between “new evangelicalism” and “old-line fundamentalism”, (or “separationists”) which has become pretty much embodied in the IFB movement.

The old-liners were the ones still condemning rock music and psychology, as others accepted these things more. (I even remember some book condemning every single kids show on TV. The Smurfs, for instance were said to be demons!) And then, the growing KJVO [King James Onlyism] rally. All under the banner of following “the old paths”, that everyone else, both in the world, and now even in the Church, were being condemned for abandoning the faith or at least “compromising”.

So even as I myself finally became a Christian, the question that still loomed was “who are these people?”

I finally got some experience with them through [the pastor who also brought me to the board], and he was nice and sensible, though I did get to attend the classes of an associated church that taught the music and psychology criticisms, and get the full sense of their philosophy. This prompted me to write what became my web articles on those subjects.

Pretty soon, I joined the board, and immediately jumped into the ring with people over the music issue.

My observation is that IFB-types have in fact made themselves big targets.
People cite stuff like Satanic attack against believers, Ps. 2:2, etc. but scripture says to give him no occasion (1Tim. 5:14)

For one thing, there seems to be a possible misunderstanding of regeneration and sanctification that promotes a lot of this hardness towards “sinners” and even other Christians (e.g. “compromisers”) through an overestimation of one’s own achivements in this “transformation”. (Whether it’s by “free will choice” or attributed to God through “unconditional election”).
This even comes out in the arguments against psychology. It becomes the whole premise of why it is [supposedly] always an “unbiblical addition” to scripture.

It’s a formulaic picture of “growth” that assumes all your problems and sins go away if you just follow the proper steps or disciplines (prayer, Bible reading, the work of the Gospel, “think about others and not yourself”, etc. I see, one IFB defender [in one of the discussions] even said, essentially, if you’ve been abused “just pray, and the pain will eventually go away”).
Even particular music rhythms were said to cause sin or “feed the flesh” (evidenced by them being enjoyable enough to cause one to tap one’s foot), so to really stay pure, those must be avoided.

But the truth is, no one’s sin nature has been wiped away like that. What’s wiped away is the condemnation, and hopefully, the guilt.
But what happens, is we set up extremely high ideals with this, and impose them on others we see falling short, and then try to live up to them ourselves, by putting on this air of perfection. So it ends up looking like we’re leaning up against God’s throne shouting to everyone else, “OK, all you sinners get in line with us”!

So people put themselves out there as these super Christians whose lives have been totally “changed” by God, and it’s so “simple”; it ‘worked’ for us, so there’s no excuse for anyone else, but at the same time, it’s so “hard” (“the offense of the Cross”, etc) it also makes them look good, and likely boosts the ego as well.

All of man is tinged with the guilt of sin, so, the basic inclination is to take down anyone who attempts to rise from among the ranks of humanity and claim to be better. You can complain of “persecution”, or whatever, but that’s what’s going to happen.

Jimmy Swaggart is one who had a strong moralistic message, and had preached many of the same things on music and psychology, in addition to emphasizing “the baptism/filling of the Spirit”, yet no one could see what was going on in his life until it erupted to the surface. So then what did all those lofty ideals he preached really mean, then? After all that, he proved to be still a sinful human just like everyone else.
Of course, people like him IFB’s can conveniently distance themselves from for being charismatic (whom they seem to totally reject), and/or new evangelical.

He too, like every other religious leader caught in sin blamed the media for its “attacks”. What do we really expect from a world we have condemned so hard for its sexual sins? “Oh, well that’s fine. It’s OK when he does it, but wrong for us”. No; they’re going to take it as the ultimate proof that we’re just human like they are, and in their minds, since Hell has been so connected to bad deeds, if they go, so should we; if we manage to escape it, so should they. (Or, that the whole thing is not real at all).

People are complaining that the IFB’s are being portrayed as a “cult”. But we freely call some other groups cults, but the world does not recognize any difference between them. They do not know about the doctrinal nuances that lead us to reject the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, and even to some extent, the Catholics (My father used to refer to the Pope when I witnessed to him, as if I followed him or something).
So IFB’s, SBC, Westboro, Pat Robertson, and charismatics are seen as part of this broad category called “fundamentalists”. And they tend to judge all of them hard, because they feel they have been judged by them.

When I became Christian, I quickly learned all the distinctions, but still, was very put off by the more conservative, who seemed the most serious with the Bible, but just pushed things into unbiblical proportions, but refused to realize it, because their lives are changed, and they’re just right. It became what the Reconstructionists call “presuppositionalism”.

So that left me wondering, with the IFB’s I was around, the pastors with their lofty teachings on doctrine and holiness, the submissive looking wives with the long a-line dresses, etc. plus the respected leaders in the movement, such as David Cloud, Biblical Discernment Ministries, the Sword of the Lord people, Chick and his associates, and the BJU circle.

What were these people really like? They had not had any kind of real scandal —yet. The closest thing was the division caused by [KJVO leader Peter] Ruckman and his followers. But would they ever have sex scandals as had ripped through the televangelists, Catholic priests and others?
They could say anything from behind a pulpit, or a radio, TV, or tape microphone, where you could not see their day to day living. And it’s true that their families did look like they were so pressed into submission that they would never dare go against the father/husband. [A familiar complaint by people in the discussions].
With that air these people put on, I mean, it’s sometimes hard to believe they go to the bathroom or perform “marital duties” and other such mundane aspects of living!

But now, something has finally entered the public eye, though it’s not anyone I had ever heard of before.

Overall, the ones I was around did seem like fairly nice people. And they were human like everyone else. They were not super Christians, and a few even fell into different sins. (Even despite the “flesh”-denying melody centered traditional music).

So I think the movement needs to take a really hard look at itself, and perhaps turn the focus from what everyone else is doing wrong for a bit, and just admit that they are sinners saved by grace. Not just recite that as a doctrinal protocol, but really grasp it. I may have lashed out at the movement my time here, but this is really what my concern is.

Much of what people practice as “denying sinful urges” or “crucifying the flesh”, is more accurately just suppressing it. Again; just “pray”; do this, this, that, the other, and it will go away. If it doesn’t, then “by faith” you believe you’ve overcome it. With some things, you just deny it’s sin. (Hence, acting like sin first entered America in the 1960’s and ignoring everything else but sexual morality and religious belief or atheism). Especially if any worldling or worldly contemporary Christians DARES to accuse you or your movement of any sin. Or it creeps up, and you get caught in the passion of the moment.
So to us too, it becomes a matter of Prov.28:13.

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