Keeping Young Fundamentalists In The Camp: A Response


Last week fundamentalist pastor and writer Jeff Amsbaugh created a stir with his article entitled “Keeping Young Fundamentalists In The Camp.” In this article Jeff opines that the reason young fundamentalists are fleeing from the IFB movement is due to the inability of fundamentalists to draw a distinction between mainstream fundamentalism and the “lunatic fringe” which is defined by its perpetual scandals and its pursuit of ever-stricter standards. He then takes on the issues of hyper-separation, pastor worship, isolationism, standards, and pride.

I’ve seen many people both in and outside of fundamentalism who are pleased with Amsbaugh’s article because they see it as a sort of Agrippian Declaration: “almost thou persuadest me to be a [mainstream] Christian.” To be sure it is refreshing to see any kind of indictment against the IFB movement from one of their own instead of the usual response of Deny, Deflect, and Defend.

Yet, for all that Jeff has written here there remain three unanswered questions that will determine whether or not this article is effective or just so much more noise.

1. Who are these “normal” fundamentalists?

If we’re going to try to draw lines between mainstream fundamentalism and the “lunatic fringe” in trying to keep young fundamentalists “in the camp” then it’s important to define exactly which camp they should stay in. As fundamentalism shrinks, the lines are growing increasingly blurry between the fringe and the supposed middle.

BJU now has speakers on its platform that are also welcomed at Hyles-Anderson. West Coast administrators like Paul Chappell (for whom Jeff Amsbaugh writes) are also making the journey to the Fundamentalist Mecca in Hammond, Indiana. Sword of the Lord conferences are full of the very worst of fundamentalism who are roundly embraced by those we’re told are reasonable. Tony Hutson is still out there being paid to prance and scream at churches; so is John Hamblin. And so are many, many others of their ilk. Can anybody point me to the border between “Normal Fundyland” and “Crazy Town”? Does one even exist?

Since nobody seems to be able to tell exactly where the crazy stops and normalcy begins, every fundamentalist who reads this article can heartily agree with the notion that “lunatics are bad.” As long as each person ascribes to some other group the title of “lunatic fringe” then nothing has to change. Which, I suspect, is rather the point.

2. What causes the lunacy?

It’s all well and good to point out that there are abuses, sex scandals, ridiculous standards, and the glorification of pastors to the point of idolatry but if you’re not going be honest about the root cause of these problems then you can’t possibly hope for positive change.

Here’s the truth: when you centralize the power in one man and isolate your congregation from the world outside then abuses inevitably follow within a generation. We’ve seen this model since days of J. Frank Norris and down through the next generations. If fundamentalism keeps doing the same things they cannot possibly hope for a different result.

Amsbaugh pays lip service to the notion that “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” If he really believed that then what would be the result?

3. What is the call to action?

I’ve sat in Jeff Amsbaugh’s former church and listened to him speak. In those sermons I’ve heard him give a very clear call to action for some wrong that he thought needed to be addressed. In fact, one Father’s Day I heard him preach an entire sermon from a text on the Crucifixion about turning our backs on our children and abandoning them if they insist on living in sin. His point was wrongheaded and his exegesis was abysmal and yet nobody there that day could say he wasn’t clear in his call to action. In this article, however, it remains unclear exactly what needs to be done to fix fundamentalism.

His big finish ends with “God help us to keep the baby but get rid of the bath water, for the bath water is indeed dirty.” I suppose we can then add “keep on keeping on” and “stick by the stuff” and a thousand other platitudes and powerless cliches.

I challenge Jeff to name the names of who the crazies are instead of just alluding to their misdeeds. Let him tell us that he will no longer attend conferences or be part of associations where these people are honored. Let us hear him say that he will practice his own standard of separation against actual evil instead of against the bugaboos of Calvinism and beer and then I believe that he may be part of a camp that young fundamentalists may find worth staying in.

Until then, I hope to see both young and old fundamentalists fleeing as if their lives depended on it. The truth is that their souls very well may.

155 thoughts on “Keeping Young Fundamentalists In The Camp: A Response”

  1. There are easy names to name regarding who are wackos (see the previous post on Phil Kidd). But I would rather see him name issues instead of names, because there is a little craziness in every camp.

    I would like to see him denounce separating with people because they like CCM, the ESV, or a little bit of reformed theology. Otherwise…it’s just a meaningless blog post…and probably is anyways.

    1. Dr. Amsbaugh would not consider those who have a strong stance on separation “the fringe”. Separation is the very definition of fundamentalism. For people to say “Good Job Ambaugh, but your article is meaningless because you didn’t conform it to my idea of what is “fringe” is ridiculous. This article wasn’t written to all of you who are “outside the camp”, who already fail to understand the need for Biblical separation, scoff at us, and look down upon us as if we are some lesser form of Christian legalism, and assume our blog posts are meaningless, just because they don’t address what you believe are the problems in fundamentalism. Ecclesiastical separation over compromise in the church has nothing to do with the kind of stuff he talked about in his article. We who are fundamentalists know and understand this. For us, it was a blessing because we CAN distinguish real fundamentalism (which is wonderful, and joyful, and a blessing to all who come in contact with it), and false fundamentalism.

      1. “Separation is the very definition of fundamentalism.”

        “Ecclesiastical separation over compromise in the church has nothing to do with the kind of stuff he talked about in his article.”

        John, these two comments are self-contradictory, unless you’re saying Amsbaugh’s article had nothing to do with fundamentalism. I appreciate the tone of your comment — you’re not a hateful bomb-thrower like most fundies who post here — but if I were you I would take some serious inventory of where I am and what I believe, just to make sure I wasn’t deceiving myself.

      2. The issue is not just seperation, its the over-emphasis of seperation to the point of glorification. Righteousness is not the fruit of seperation as it is taught in IFB “There is none righteous no not one”. I seperate fom many things such as drugs, critical people, etc. Does that make me better than them ? More righteous?

      3. Real fundamentalism would be great. But real fundamentalism is not separating from another church because they listen to Casting Crowns, their women wear pants, or they use a different Bible version.

        We all have ecclesiastical separation, which is why we join different types of churches. The issue is craziness over personal separation that is unnecessary and pharisaical.

        And the reason the blog post is irrelevant isn’t because I have a moral or intellectual superiority to you. It’s irrelevant because the majority of your pastors are of the age demographic that does not know what a blog is, much less what Amsbaugh said. So why would anything change if they don’t even read it?

        1. Didn’t you just elude to your presumed intellectual superiority by assuming that a “majority” of that age demographic doesn’t know what a blog is. Come on guys, let’s be consistent in our judgment. Let’s not make ourselves look foolish by striving to hard to look smart. The fact is, you believe it to be irrelevant because it was written by an IFB pastor, end of argument pretty much. There is no debate because your reasoning is circular… He’s an IFB pastor… stone him… Period! (Sarcasm)

    1. It’s a good thing for everyone to exit fundamentalism – physically, financially, and emotionally.

  2. So many fundies insist that they aren’t the crazy ones, while having some of the major problems fundamentalism causes. Yeah, some of the churches look more normal and healthy. My old church did – until you found out what was going on behind the scenes.

    1. Sometimes I think Fundamentalism (and not only Baptist Fundamentalism) is a giant circle of people pointing at each other and saying, “Stay away from those people– they’re cray-cray!)

    2. You know, one of the discussion threads from the last six months that disappeared, had to do with this very subject: The “my church was not as bad” myth.

      If we give responsibility to our MoG to be the go-between from us to God, it doesn’t matter how good the current MoG is, we have given up our response-ability. we are simply puppets from then on.

      1. “If we give responsibility to our MoG to be the go-between from us to God, it doesn’t matter how good the current MoG is, we have given up our response-ability. we are simply puppets from then on.”

        …and so the diminishing of the priesthood of the believer continues. This notion of an Mog in light of the new covenant is contrary to the teaching of our Lord and the apostles where every believer is a man of God or a woman of God. No man is set above the other. Jesus Christ is the head of the body, the church.


        1. “No man is set above the other” How does that reasoning work in a place of employment? Furthermore, where is that principle found in the scriptures? I’m not for man worship (just to clarify) but it seems like you’re suggesting that in a Church, no one is in charge but God and therefore it doesn’t matter what the leadership (or Pastor, I assume is your specific target) wants because we all are equal? I seems like something’s missing in this logic. Perhaps a clarification of terms, or an understanding of real authority. Also, why is it that it’s okay to have authority structures in a place of employment, government, military, family, etc? Even though individuals abuse that authority, is that grounds to do away with the entire structure across the board or just in the church?

  3. Such a great responding article. I had wondered those exact same questions. I think he didn’t want to name names because he wanted to still be accepted into that group.
    My husband and I have left the IFB church within this last year. I can’t even explain in words the relief, the joy etc.. that has come with leaving. There was such a feeling of opression being in the IFB church. But one thing that I don’t think he even touched on is one of the real reasons your people are leaving the IFB movement and it’s because they are staring to question what they are being taught and realizing that there is more to it than soul winning , soul winning and soul winning. There is so much more to the Christian life. I am beyond grateful for getting out.

    1. I’m 20, and that was part of the reason I left. I took my summer vacation after graduating fundy high and thought about what was going on religiously around me. What I found was horrifying. To elaborate on what you said, the soul-winning wasn’t the biggest problem– the method of it, yes, but not the idea. The biggest issue I had was the “standards.” Like no holding hands with my girlfriend til we were married, no wearing shorts (in Florida), and the atrocity of abuse towards women (in many forms). The only way I can see any of this beig changed is if they go through their Bibles and find– without the usual fundy bias– things they should actually preach rather than standards, standards, and a few more standards for good measure.

      The standards are really pointless too. I remember my girlfriend telling me that in HS we were both complete rebels, but out at our secular colleges, we are basically the tamest people there.

      Just my six cents on why kids are leaving.

      1. Unfortunately for the IFB movement once people really start to read their Bibles for understanding, and come to truth they are shunned in the church if they dare question the mog! It is ironic that they blame the Catholic church in the Middle Ages of making people go through the priests for the interpretations of scripture, but then do the same when someone reads about grace and wants it preached from an IFB pulpit. They are often told by the mog that their interpretations are wrong, I mean come on the mog has an honorary doctorate from Fundy U!

        Darrell once again spot on article! I can name only a few times subjects like grace, sanctification (true sanctification not fundy sanctification), preisthood of the believer, or the work of the Holy Spirit were preached.

        Of course the author can’t come out and name names and places of where the fundy wacko’s are because without the fundy bread circuit of preaching in these places his own pulpit probably doesn’t pay enough for him to love without the occasional Fundy U speaker circuit!

        The first step to knowing you have a problem is ackowledging the problem, the second step is naming the problem, and finally you do something about the problem. I pray Fundyism will have a come to Jesus moment because Jesus is missing in so many IFB pulpits and institutions.

        1. I meant live not love during the part of the fundy bread circuit, although put love in there and it suddenly makes sense why so many IFB pastors are so mean spirited and angry.

        2. It’s been observed that the people who rail against the empty forms and earthly hierarchy of Catholicism and other mainstream denominations tend to have “spontaneous” services that follow a predictable form, an amount of personal power invested in the MOG that would make a bishop’s eyes pop, and a set of unwritten Rules of Real True Christian Appearance that would fill a book.

        3. When Baptists have a worship service with no altar call, no sermon, and no offering taken up, I’ll believe they aren’t following a liturgy.

        4. Hey Shawn,
          I have a couple questions for you if you don’t mind? To help me understand what you mean between “fundy” doctrine and “true” doctrine, can you please explain the following? 1. What is true grace, true sanctification, true priesthood of the believer, & true work of the Holy Spirit? And in your experience how is it different from what’s being taught, say, in my church?
          2. Can you you name the problem specifically if any, in my church and if so , what should I do about it?
          Then of course if you could give me some biblical basis for your answers because I don’t believe in just following the ideas of a man, I’d rather study the facts for myself then come to an honest, unbiased opinion. Thanks.

    2. I left fundamentalism because I was tired of never being good enough. I could never keep the “fundy” laws that made you a good Christian. Not too mention that once I went to a Freewill Baptist College and got exposed to rational, loving, and welcoming faith how could I go back. Now truth be told I was still several years from coming to a true relationship with Christ, but the first steps out of the fundy mad house were glorious ones. I hope God takes you to a better place in grace and love, and my hope is that you will find a church where these things are practiced and not just alluded to from the pulpit!

    3. “There was such a feeling of oppression being in the IFB church.”

      When I trusted Christ at a prayer meeting in the early eighties, I felt an indescribable sense of relief. There was also a weight taken away in the sense that I felt I could simply put forth my best efforts and trust God with the results. After returning to the states and joining an ultra fundamentalist church, it was almost like being told (regarding that dropped burden), “Oh no you don’t! You pick that right back up!

      “…it’s because they are starting to question what they are being taught and realizing there is more to it than soul winning, soul winning and soul winning.”

      After getting back to base that night, one of the first things I did was to write a good friend a letter telling him that I had become a Christian and telling him that God loved him and that he could trust Him [God ]. I believe in the importance of evangelism. One of the big problems with a lot of fundy soul winning, however, is that people are often led not to The Lord, but to “The Prayer.” It is also almost possible to get the idea in many fundy churches that you can win someone’s soul without winning the rest of them. Job said, “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Ultimately, it isn’t possible for a person’s soul to get saved without their mind and (after the resurrection) their body getting saved as well. Maybe a soul would be better defined as being the totality of an individual. That’s probably a question better answered by the theologians on this site.

      Most Fundamentalist churches (even the ones with correct soteriology) do a poor job of ministering to peoples’ physical needs. At some fundy churches you could even walk away with the absurd (in my opinion) idea that it’s possible to love souls while at the same time hating actual people.

      Sorry for the long response and included rant.

  4. I’m glad I got out, but I know so many young people who are still wasting their time in this mess called the IFB, thinking it will change. I thought the same thing myself, we had a new pastor, and things seemed like they might turn around but once word gets around “the camp”, things go back to lunatic levels very quickly.

  5. I can only speak from my witness. I have seen no border between “Normal Fundyland” and “Crazytown,” as there are genuinely loving, Christ-like people in the same fundamentalist churches where the “fringe lunatics” are. Why they stay and suffer in silence and submission, supporting and apologizing for these psychotic whackos, is beyond me. What I have also noticed is the number of people who leave quietly, or have some other, “respectable” reason, like moving out of the area, when they leave. -I can’t help thinking that they intentionally took a job in another state, just to get away without confrontation. It is also difficult to show respect for the Christlike, who remain in the crazy camp. -It is a tough call.

    One word of caution, it is almost impossible to get your spiritual nourishment from a nut, without also ingesting the nuttiness.

    1. “…there are genuinely loving, Christ-like people in the same fundamentalist churches where the “fringe lunatics” are. Why they stay and suffer in silence and submission, supporting and apologizing for these psychotic whackos, is beyond me.”

      My thoughts exactly! But just like the previous post with Kidd, the crowds continue to swoon over the Mog while proclaiming their “AMENS!” and nodding their corporate heads in adoring approval. I don’t get it….but then, I too was one of them! ouch

  6. I suspect that every movement has a spectrum of believers that range from wacko to those who want to appear to be mainstream. Just where they are placed on that spectrum is evaluated by other members of the same group.

    Non-group members may see the entire group (in this case IFBs) as wackos. Some of us say that the dirty bathwater needs to be thrown out, and the baby buried.

    1. “Some of us say that the dirty bathwater needs to be thrown out, and the baby buried.”

      That’s funny. It seems to me defining the “baby” and the “bathwater” is. in large part, the problem.

      1. BRO,
        You’re exactly right. Defining the baby is the problem. Very perceptive. Over 30 years after leaving the IFB I’m still working on figuring out what ‘the baby’ is.

        I spent many years in evangelicalism (even took a Th.M. from DTS), tried the charismatic church, and found similarities in both those to IFB. Each of these alternatives (at least to me) contained their very own craziness. In all these, I observed a common unifying thread:

        Start with the best of intentions, but with time, it all gets back to their desire to feed the beast, at whatever cost.

        1. Feed the Beast!

          That seem like a vicious cycle, or an out-of-control freight train (to use another apt metaphor!).

        2. That’s actually an AA expression– similar to talk about the “monkey on your back.”
          There are a lot of parallels to some kinds of churches there.

  7. I applaude Amsbaugh’s courage in taking on a very controversial subject but I do find myself wondering if there are any “normal” fundy churches left at all. Even some three decades back, I was noticing the same problems in just about every baptist church I attended. IMHO, it’s hard to find normal in a system that has been so messed up for so long. Again ,IMHO, perhaps the best thing for fundamentalism and the church in general would be for them to die out altogether, but I don’t see it as being an easy death.

  8. I would kindly ask Jeff Amsbaugh to reevaluate his own associations and the people he retweets….ie John Hamblin,etc. Some of those people are often considered to be lunatic fringe. That’s probably why he doesn’t name names. It’s easier to best up on the invisible guy down the street. Nobody is going to look at themselves and recognize they are the lunatic fringe.

    1. Nearly 300 years ago, Dean Swift wrote:
      “Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.”

      The same could be said about any criticism that doesn’t name names.

    2. In 1992 I chose to attend Pensacola Christian College because I felt it was one of the more moderate institutions in Fundyism. After 2 and a half years there I realized it was every bit as radicalized as HAC, but they had a better packaging and PR campaign. Sometimes I wonder if that’s why Hyles himself hated PCC so much because they could dial back the crazy enough to look mainstream and built a nice sized empire and money making machine (aka A Beka Books).

      My fundy church seemed less radical until the Christian school that the church ran started making rules like:
      any teacher at ___________ Baptist Academy must be an active membe of the ____________ Baptist Church. We all know this meant attendence every time the doors were open type of attendence!

      When you surround yourself with so many different flavors of crazy in a movement you eventually absorb those flavors too! PCC in the 20 years since I have left has justified how radical I thought it to be. The latest post in response to the sex abuse scandal is more proof of that craziness. Amsbaugh must look hard in the mirror and realize fundyism is sick (terminally ill) and the cure may be to allow the patient to pass away because the radical medicine of Jesus will be hard for fundyism to take.

      1. Quick question Shawn,
        Not to defend the above mentioned Christian school but in reference to your apparent disdain for going to church at every given opportunity; when do you consider it acceptable to God (not to the Christian school or church) for you to miss church? Just curious to know if you think there’s any time God thinks it’s ok and even He is pleased with you not going to church. Please give specific examples if you would?

  9. The IFB cult requires someone go out and make a show of raging against the machine in order to give the appearance of standing up for change and reform in the ranks.

    I submit that this anti-crazy fundie talk is all sound and fury signifying nothing because as long as there is money, power, and control involved the new normal will be the same as the old normal which is now the new “Lunatic Fringe.”

    Circular reasoning works because circular reasoning works and the IFB Cult will always be the IFB cult because it is the IFB Cult.

    1. When circular reasoning circles back to your original argument and you adamantly proclaim that because you made an argument proves your side of the argument, proves nothing of the sort. Circular reason does not work for your argument for the following reasons. To reasonable people your “circular reasoning” only proves one of three things;
      1. Your position on the argument is weak and you know it.
      2. You are just too ignorant to debate the issue.
      3. You actually believe that your logic and reason are the final authorities on this issue – thereby you are inadvertently demonstrating the very “MOG” like features that you so passionately detest, making you, my friend, a hypocrite.

  10. Brother Darrell, until you receive an official response, please accept the following answers to your questions:

    1. Who are these “normal” fundamentalist? AHHHHhhhAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

    2. What causes the lunacy? Spiritual blindness. Inbreeding. Power-tripping. Regular ol’ soft-headedness. You gotta find your niche somewhere. The causes are legion.

    3. What is the call to action? We can still be complete asswipes, we just need to be a little nicer about it.

  11. Fundamentalists will separate from and name and shame mainstream evangelicals but they won’t do the same to their own nuts… Unless you are talking about the hard right fundamentalists who think BJU and PCC are liberal. Paul Chappell of Lancaster Baptist and West Coast Baptist College has a reputation for being a reasonable fundamentalist, but like the author of the reviewed article, all he does is pay lip service to the problems with fundamentalism.
    I warned a major IFB pastor close to Chappell about Hammond in 2007… But he didn’t listen and continued to fellowship with that crowd when he and many others should have separated… Then Schaap fell and it caused probably the church’s biggest giver to leave in disgust with that crowd.
    But yes fundamentalists need to start naming the right names not picking off mainstream evangelicals that are absolutely irrelevant to the health and success of fundamentalism.

    1. I noticed this too. They had no problem naming the names of evangelical pastors and contemporary Christian singers whom they dislike but never specified which fundamentalists they disagreed with.

      It seems to me very foolish to spend so much vitriol against people who share the same fundamental beliefs, but I guess they fear that their members will be attracted to that so they spend the most time warning against the dangers of evangelicals leaving young people growing up in the church a very warped idea of where the true dangers to faith lie.

    2. ” Paul Chappell of Lancaster Baptist and West Coast Baptist College has a reputation for being a reasonable fundamentalist,”

      Um, no.
      Not at all.

      1. My former fundy school considered them suspect, and not near as separated as they were. And that school was by no means as crazy as some I’ve heard of.

        1. Separation is not the only factor in Fundy abuse. Milking the congregation constantly while living lavishly, setting rules for the others that your own family can break, treating victims horribly, manipulating people, poorly handling Scripture – all of these can make a church/school dysfunctional.

    3. I previously wrote:

      ” Paul Chappell of Lancaster Baptist and West Coast Baptist College has a reputation for being a reasonable fundamentalist,”

      Um, no.
      Not at all.


      And after this week (Mike Zachary scandal), I rest my case.

  12. John the Baptist speaks about having the fruit of repentance. One can easily say we have done things wrong. There needs to be a change. But without specifics we simply are noise and cannot bring forth fruit. His letter had a lot of non-specifics and jargon. The real fruit will come not only when people are named but also the real sin at the heart of fundy theology is named out rightly.

  13. Articles about this mass exodus of young fundies have been popping up everywhere lately, and I appreciate this response. Well done! 🙂

  14. You are right, in that there are deficiencies in his article.

    However, I wish I had read something even remotely like this article ten years ago. His ability to begin to to see and name and to put into print some of the most dominant problems within fundamentalism shows some measure of the Spirit’s work.

    Yet, the article may just do more to continue to lead people out of fundamentalist associations completely. I’ve been around fundamentalists of every stripe in Canada, and they all bear some of these marks.

    I will say that some of his points still made me cringe with conviction, even several years after having stepped away from fundamentalism, and some of his points are still easily applicable to me, reminding me how regardless of my “label” I will always need God’s grace.

  15. The way I see it, the only way for the situation to be rectified is fir the entire movement to die completely. That is what I hope and wish for everytime I think of my family and my friends who are still trapped. I want them to be free (not morally free, as sone would believe I am now that I don’t give in to that stuff anymore), but free to find their own way in a personal religion. Maybe even mo religion at all whatever wirks to make them the best person they can be.

    Itmakes me eternally sad to say that I just learned my brother will be attending PCC in the fall (and working over the summer). I wish there was more I could do without appearing to actively oppose my fundy parents. They are some of the sane ones, but they still don’t recognize what PCC has become.

    1. I can sympathize. My parents have now “sent” two of my sisters to West Coast Baptist College and a third sister is in the pipeline to go this fall. It breaks my heart. Sister #1 is, quite frankly, an airhead Baptist fool and deserved to go there. But the other two sisters are phenomenally talented in music and theater and yet are throwing that all away to “serve the Lord.”

      (Incidentally, a fourth sister [we were a quiverfull family] decided not to go because when she went to WCBC for sister #1’s graduation, one of the older men on staff took her aside, alone, and gave her this creepy lecture about all his wonderful plans for her at WCBC. It weirded her out and, fortunately, she decided not to go, although this meant no college for her at all, unfortunately.)

      1. What would happen if the fourth sister applied to a secular college or one affiliated with a non-Baptist denomination–especially if she is given a scholarship?

        1. Sister #1 took correspondence classes with Moody, got fine grades, and then chose West Coast because my parents told her she wasn’t smart enough to handle the “rigor” of Moody. (A/k/a for the only time in her life, during the Moody classes she briefly flirted with jettisoning some IFB teachings. That was, of course, unacceptable and my parents put a stop to that at once.) She is now graduated, unemployed (which she refers to as being a keeper at home of course) and is married to a WCBC grad who lost his job at a grocery warehouse and now works as a carpet cleaner.

          Sister #2 got a scholarship for piano at a local state school and gave that up because my parents convinced her that young men at state schools see all girls as pieces of meat to be pawed over. She graduates next year and has zero employment prospects although she recently posted on her Pintarest that she wanted a minimum 2-carat engagement ring, so of course the right kind of guys will come running now that they have seen she is a lady of refined tastes!

          Sister #3 is the one that was creeped out by Dr. Rasmussen at WCBC and is currently working at a local bakery trying to save enough to pay cash to take the vet tech program at Texas A&M (but not the vet program because that is not a suitable profession for ladies). She must work and save because my parents will not fill out a FAFSA for her in order to hinder her from going to college (their excuse is they don’t want her to take out student loans – but they aren’t offering to help her pay either!).

          Sister #4 was prohibited by my parents from taking part in any more local little theater productions because she was starting to think about colleges that had theater programs. After she took her PSAT she was in the running for national merit but my parents refused to let her take the SAT until my wife threatened to report them to DHS for educational neglect. Unfortunately, she didn’t get national merit which delighted my parents to no end. Even though her SAT score was still excellent, they told her there was zero chance of getting a scholarship at any college. Then, God magically called her to go to WCBC so that solved that problem!!

          Yeah, my parents are real winners as you can see!

        2. Deacon’s Son, it is a matter of control. And of course, in fundamentalism, authority figures NEVER admit they are wrong.

          I was put down by my parents, too, years (and years, and years …) ago. It made me angry. Though I didn’t dare show it outwardly, I swore I would show my parents that I could learn more and do more than they had. Eventually it led me out of fundamentalism.

          I have met many people who have been similarly told by their parents that they “couldn’t,” and so they would be dependent upon their parents who would always know best. In that way I suppose my educational work is subversive. I teach people that they can learn and think for themselves and make their own decisions.

          Your sister #3 will have a tough time, but she will make it. Your other sisters are trapped in Hell unless they decide to simply walk away. It is unlikely they will do so. I am glad you made it out. Keep reaching toward your sisters and offering them love and support and encouragement to think for themselves.

          I have been willing to tell my children when I am wrong. I have encouraged them to learn, to think for themselves, to find their paths. And I have to trust that they can and will. It isn’t easy, but it is best.

        3. Geez DS. That’s horrible. Kudos to your sister though! I really wish there was some way I could help her out. That is one of the many things that also drove me out of that mess. The intense desire to keep kids in rather than let them explore the world. And in some cases, financially hindering them from realizing their potential.

          I know people who would get no help from their parents unless they went to pcc ($7000, big sacrifice). They end up going there and chugging the purple drink. Their only other option is to join the military.

          I consider muself lucky in that 1. No christian colleges offered my major and 2. I am able to live on scholarships and put myself through school. I was told to put in an app to pcc, but I could not finish it because they wanted a picture of me to judge who I was. The voice reminding me about “outward appearance” made me livid.

        1. The decision to stay away from the creep was a sound one. But not to go to college at all was not a wise choice.

      2. Thank God at least one sister will be spared. My wife and I argue constantly about the fact I don’t want our children to go anywhere near PCC. She did not have the same experiences I did and her memories of it are more pleasant for her than mine are. However I know I will put my foot down firmly before I allow my daughter to attend a IFB college! I’d rather she go to secular school than IFB schools.

        I know some here have a low opinion of Liberty University (my alma mater) but I’d rather she go there. All schools have problems, but I can think of nothing worse than my daughter wanting to marry some young Hyles or Schaap wanna be!

        The real war on women can be found in most IFB churches and colleges!

        1. Wait a minute… “Firmly put your foot down”? That kind of sounds like the spirit that you are so adamantly exposing in the IFB movement. Why not let you wife or daughter choose for themselves. I think that’s the sentiment I’ve been getting from you all. That these “MOG’s or these horrible parents are unreasonably controlling for not letting their wives or children “explore” or choose for themselves. Are you not much better than those you condemn?

      3. But the other two sisters are phenomenally talented in music and theater and yet are throwing that all away to “serve the Lord.”

        Should it not be a good thing that this wish to serve the Lord God with their talents?

        Granted, it would be better to serve Him outside of a cult-of-personality church, or an overly authoritarian church. But their talents offered in service to God will be remember and rewarded by Him, even if they aren’t in the best church.

        1. I used the term “serve the Lord” advisedly, as I don’t think devoting one’s gifts to the IFB involves much service to God, unfortunately. I also think that when one is gifted with a talent, one should do everything one can to perfect and improve that talent. Going to Bible college to get preached at for four years will do nothing to improve, refine, or otherwise polish either of my sisters’ talents.

        2. Granted, that 4 years of yelling won’t help them, but everyone should serve the Lord with his talent.

          Even if they stay in IFB churches, but truly use their voice to light up the Lord (and not the MOG or the church or any of the other idols), they won’t lose their reward.

        3. You might remember that Paul testified of Israel that “they have a zeal toward God, but not according to knowledge.” This zeal was in effect an establishing of their own self-righteousness instead of the righteousness of Christ.

          Caught in the system as they are, they are in real danger of being turned into “twice the child of hell” as those Pharisaical ones who caught them.

          So no. I do not think that their desire to serve God means that God will bless them, “even if they aren’t in the best church.” To be honest, they aren’t in a real church so much as they are in a cult. Would you be okay with your daughters becoming Moonies out of their desire to serve God? Or how about joining an offshoot of Mormonism that requires polygamy? The ladies there think they are serving God, too.

          Frankly, it may take me yielding completely to unbelief before I can dare trust the idea of God to believe again. I may just have to take a few years off. But you can bet that I will still try to live right and to do right to others as Christians ought to do (and too often don’t).

          Still, I haven’t stopped believing yet. My heart would hurt less if I could, I think.

          The ends do not justify the means.

    2. I can sympathise, too. My parents sent all six of us Schaefer girls to BJU. We had the choice: attend and graduate from BJU, or be cast out from the family. So far, four have graduated and one got kicked out for going to the movies. She’s the luckiest of us all. Despite being now estranged from our parents, she gets to attend a real college, and, even though she has to pay for it all herself, she’ll be rewarded with an actual accredited degree, something none of the rest of us have. The youngest is slated to attend BJU in the fall, and I admit, I hope she gets kicked out too. Or that BJU closes.

  16. Amsbaugh wrote:

    “I have, however, come to a startling realization that the biggest factor in driving young ministers into the progressive movement may not be new evangelicals or neo-fundamentalists.”

    Once again, the emphasis is on “ministers.” This is a problem. The traditional church culture is about the separation of believers into hierarchies . Terminology like, “rank and file,” and “clergy/laity” have no place in the church. Further, it’s not just “ministers” that are leaving the fundamentalist movement.

    So, is Amsbaugh saying that as long as “we” can keep the young ministers onboard everthing will be swell?

    1. How about the words, presbytery, bishop, deacon, etc.? Are you suggesting that God did not intend for there to be any superintending in the church? No one (human) is to be at the lead? If so, can you please provide any biblical basis for your notion?

  17. Amsbaugh also writes:

    “We are independent Baptists for a reason. We have been historically opposed to denominationalism.”

    What? Did I read that right? How can one be opposed to denominationalism and yet be denominational?

    “We believe that every pastor has the right under the Holy Spirit to make decisions for his church without suffering reprisal from a hierarchy.”

    Strange. I don’t believe I’ve read that anywhere in the New Testament. Maybe he’s paralleling a pastor with the Old Testament King?

    Now concerning this “hierarchy:” Again, very strange considering a pastor in the IFB is THE hierarchy. This way the lofty Mog, aka “pastor,” doesn’t have to answer to anyone.


    1. Of COURSE they conflate pastors with OT kings.

      As far as I can tell after a quick study, “The Anointed” is an exclusively OT principle, applied exclusively to the kings of Israel (1Sam. 12:3,5; 24:6,10; 26:9,11,16,23; 2 Sam. 1:14,16; 19:21; Psalm 20:6; Lam. 4:20) and to the Patriarchs (Psalm 105:8-15; 1Chron. 16:15-22).

    2. “We believe that every pastor has the right under the Holy Spirit to make decisions for his church

      That sums it up as well as anything that can be said about the IFB.

      Of course since they are Baptist and sanctificationally separated from the Charismatics I doubt very seriously the pastor consults the Holy Spirit for much other than to request a movement during the Altar Call™.

      1. Don – You have it backward. In the IFB, the Holy Spirit consults with the pastor as to when it is appropriate for Him to move.

    3. I dug through the darker side of the internet to dredge up this article I read years ago when a Bible college professor was pushing me to go to a seminary in CT. Thomas Stouse’s son wrote an article for the seminary entitled “What Is Biblical Scholarship.” He does this weirdly blasphemous thing where he confers on God the degree O.O.C (omnipotent & omniscient creator), and proceeds to refer to God as God, O.O.C. He then argues that an individual local church pastor is more scholarly than any trained scholar for “his” church.

      The cognitive dissonance is bizarre. I’m a local church pastor. I declare everything Strouse wrote to be wrong. I have more authority & scholarship because I’m a pastor and he’s a petty teacher. So, everything he said is therefore wrong. Whee, I’m so powerful!

      Here’s the link if you want a theological acid trip:

      1. Oh, I forgot to add: The article was written when Strouse & Son were leading the seminary at Emmanuel Baptist in Newington, CT. Within a few years of the seminary’s founding, the pastor himself resigned in a big hush-hush, we-must-not-speak-of-these-things-for-fear-of-harming-the-body-of-Christ kind of way. So… where does that fit in the grand unifying theory of pastoral authority?

        1. Where are the Strouses today? Of course, there is not enough time to mention all of their children. They had at least nine of them when they were at Maranatha. Tom, did seem like a nice guy, although you could tell he was big on the KJV issue and the Dean Burgeon Society. I bet you they have had that “dry as dust” Dr. Donald Waite of the Bible for Today, as a guest speaker at Emmanuel.

          A fellow student at mbbc shared with me a story about a class he took about School Administration/Finance. The instructor mentioned that often in a Christian School the fourth child (and on) in a family go free. One student responded, “Wow, the Strouses must really make out!”

        2. the unintentional Freudian responses are the best ones.

          That name sounds familiar, maybe I heard about him during his MBBC tenure since that was more my camp.

        3. I’m not sure where they are today, although I’m on an email list from a pastor who still has him come teach classes that earn credits for some seminary, so I’m guessing he’s still spinning his steaming load of ____ elsewhere.

          I had the exact opposite experience with Tommy-boy. I happened to be in CT on a Wednesday night years ago and dropped in to see what all the Emmanuel hype from my fundy Bible “college” was about. Strouse happened to be preaching that night, a dry-as-dust ramble about 3 John. I went up after the message and introduced myself, saying that I had studied at _______ College and one of my professors knew Strouse well. He just stared at me, grunted, turned his back and walked away. Jackass.

      2. Theological acid trip, indeed.

        That Strouse theory is a really bizarre take on the “priesthood of all believers.”

    4. BRO wrote:

      “We are independent Baptists for a reason. We have been historically opposed to denominationalism.”

      What? Did I read that right? How can one be opposed to denominationalism and yet be denominational?

      I believe that he means that a Baptist church (historically) does not have a central Baptist authority to please or to declare a church “not” Baptist. My understanding is that there is such an authority in the Presbyterian Church, and the Episcopal church, and (I think) the Methodist church.

      As he pointed out over the last several decades, some Baptist pastors feared what Hyles or Gray or SOTL would say about them, and have ceded such authority.

      It’s a valid point, in my opinion.

      1. No governance above the local congregation level also means no accountability and nothing to reign in excess or rank heresy.

        Within the local church, some IFBs have an effective church governance through a democratic polity of some sort, but many are in effect absolute monarchies. Bodies such as parish councils or boards of deacons either don’t exist or have no decision-making power, or they are stacked in such a way as to be a mere rubber stamp for the pastor’s priorities and whims.

        In churches with a connectional structure (Lutherans, Prebyterians, Episcopaliand, Methodists, Catholics, Orthodox, and numerous others), it’s much more difficult for some of these abuses to happen, and much easier to stop them when they do happen.

        My point is that without some kind of community exercising collective discernment, anybody’s bad idea is likely to become an entrenched institution. Getting rid of the Pope doesn’t help much if you elevate a thousand little popes in the process.

        1. True.

          As another has noted, in many IFB churches, a pastor spends his first several years conforming the people to his image; once he has done that, he can get away with anything.

          A real pastor seeks to conform people to the image of Christ, not mold people to himself.

        2. Whoa! My old MoG said something to that effect when he first came. His plan was to spend the first 5-10 years “making people like him”. Makes total sense to me now that I’m out.

        3. BG wrote:

          “My point is that without some kind of community exercising collective discernment, anybody’s bad idea is likely to become an entrenched institution. Getting rid of the Pope doesn’t help much if you elevate a thousand little popes in the process.”

          I wish I would have read this sooner, particularly, “community exercising collective discernment.” This is so true and in keeping with the New Testament way of functioning as a church! CONSENSUS.

          We’ve substituted popes for pastors and therefore have placed mere men over us as lords. This is so different from the servant-leadership demonstrated by the apostles and other leaders in the New Testament.

          Does Diotrephes ring any bells?


    1. in what way? Was the tin foil hatted nuttiness of the IFB part of God’s sovereign plan before the foundation of the World?

      Are Mogs elected to their lofty thrones? Is there a divine right of pastors? Maybe the chosen generation are the leavers?

      There is no question that much of fundamentalism is a clear cautionary tale graphically illustrating the true depravity of the human heart.

      Perhaps the grace that is drawing the young ministers (and many many others) out of the morass of the IFB is irresistable?

      Could it be that once a person is delivered from the miry clay that is works salvation/sanctification by another name and into the Grace of God that they are forever free from the grasp of a sinful and perverse man-centered theology and will persevere firmly in the gracious grip of their powerful saviour?

      1. “Could it be that once a person is delivered from the miry clay that is works salvation/sanctification by another name”
        I think you have put your finger on it. I know these aren’t generally theology threads, but what led me out of Fundystan was discovering the actual gospel of grace. The IFB I was raised in talked about grace, but it apparently only applied to the “sinners’ prayer”. Ever after it was always a vicious hamster wheel of getting God angry at you for sinning, and then repenting and being back in his favor – only to sin again as the wheel spun ever faster. There are all kinds of common sense reasons to exit the IFB, but I do hope the major reason is that young people are discovering the gospel of grace laid down by the apostles.

        1. I know many people at my former church like this who are utterly worn out trying to “please” God.

          My heart aches for them to realize the true freedom.

  18. This guy is trying to do what they all try to do: preserve the rotten core by compromising on the externals somewhat. Paul Chappell is currently the Big Baptist Pooh-Bah doing this. Dr. Tim Levendusky, the interim president of Bill Gothard’s organizations will do the same. Then, after some crusts have been tossed to the peasants, they can pull back in and reinstate all the old rules and regulations and call it “revival.”

  19. Baby…bathwater….just nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

  20. Jeff opines that the reason young fundamentalists are fleeing from the IFB movement is due to the inability of fundamentalists to draw a distinction between mainstream fundamentalism and the “lunatic fringe”

    What Jeff does not understand is that every fundamentalist has been infected with the same terminal disease. They see faith as egocentric, with themselves at the Center. Thus in their relationship with God, God teaches them. God speaks to them. God convicts their heart. God shows them the TRUTH.

    Call it inerrancy. Call it literalism. These are manifestations of this egocentric faith. All of them have decided that the Scripture was written somehow out of time and space by God with no human fallibility present. They make salvation contingent upon this premise. If you doubt any part, they will string together a scenario asserting you cannot believe Christ died for you.

    And they believe that *they* understand it perfectly. God has willed it so. Egocentrism demands that everything be understandable and accessible to the self.

    It is all or nothing. The “mainstream” fundamentalists are infected with this every bit as much as the “lunatic fringe.” The difference is in how much of the intellect has been destroyed and what parts of the scripture have been most impressed on the individual as a command of God that MUST be obeyed at all cost.

    So for some fundies, their focus is on attempting to convince everyone that the Flood of Noah was a real, historical event, worldwide in extent, and that God created the earth only about 6000 years ago. For others, it is the nationalistic zeal of early Israel to put out of the country all non-Israelites, or else reduce them to slavery. For others, it is a hatred of science and change. For many, it is a mix of anything and everything. But all are convinced that God has made their conviction plain to all, and those who are not in agreement somehow are actively and consciously in opposition to God.

    Yes, even lunatics can be “nice people” at times and in certain situations. They are still lunatics, and every fundamentalist carries that infection. Sadly, even those we love. Even ex-fundamentalists still carry it, and our spiritual immune systems have to work overtime to fight against it.

    The largest number of fundamentalists are, of course, the non-theologians who believe what they have been told to believe, who parrot the pat answers, who are afraid of thought and questions. They sit in the pews, they have their friends, they get angry at what they are told to be angry about and they say Amen where they are told to say Amen. Their hearts are filled with satisfaction at being right with God and they either pity or revile (or both) those who aren’t.

    The leaders, of course, believe that they will somehow rule the world even as God has called them to rule over the Church. Even when preaching against pride, Pride is an integral part of their egocentric faith.

    Which also explains why they continue to support each other even in their various sins. Each person sees himself as complete. There is no faith in community. Allies are temporary, used to help maintain control. God will deal with the others in His time. And by not pointing the finger at others’ sins, they avoid pointing the finger at his. And that is right, since he believes God has Forgiven him all his sins and there is no payment to be made. That molestation was so last week! God forgave that! He is still God’s chosen, anointed for the Work, on the throne.

    Perhaps egocentrism is something we cannot avoid. I see it in me. Each of us can find it in ourselves. Which means that fundamentalism is an inherent evil in the human personality, and thus in our faith structures. We have to struggle as we try to see things through the perspectives of others, but it is a struggle well worth making.

    1. Good points, Rtgmath.
      I find your theory that egocentrism is the core of the problem to be completely persuasive. I think you’re absolutely right.

      Footnote on “nice people”: Some of my favorite people are thoroughly nutty. They’re good-hearted, and fun to be around. But I wouldn’t take their word about anything reality-based for a second.

  21. Fundamentalism was always a coalition that had older bluebloods alongside vulgar stage perfor– preachers. In the 1920’s, Fundamentalists decided they needed all the help they could get and held their noses at the Elmer Gantry types.

    They’re still paying the price for that decision.

  22. The Dr Paul Chappell tweeted out the Amsbaugh blog so I would assume he thinks he is a normal IFB and he is there to help the young spend money at his school and hopefully not murder someone in the future. There is no fringe only a normal way to be an IBF

    1. He has preached that way before…back when the book Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse was making the rounds. He did not name the book (did not want to encourage anyone to buy it!) but took the themes, gave off-the-wall examples of that behavior, and then would basically declare, ‘Glad we are not like that!’.

      Only we were like that at LBC. The book described our church too!

      IMHO, LBC and WCBC are very dysfunctional places. If they have become the model for the IFB, well then…the IFB is continuing down the same sad path.

      1. My Bible “college” did the same thing with that book. Teachers talked it up in every class, emphasizing how bad things could be in those Hyles-type of churches with man-centered ministries. Then they turned around and did the same exact things the book talked about!

        1. Yes, these guys are masters of double-speak. They manipulate the congregation to keep them in the pews and paying their bills.

  23. The first big step out of Fundamentalism for me was realizing that there was no baby in the bathwater. I looked and looked and looked for Him, but couldn’t find Him…

    1. I find that when people say “Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water,” or any equivalent, the vessel under discussion usually turns out not to be a wash tub, but a big stinking vat of toxic waste. If there ever was a baby in there, it has been dead and decomposing for a long, long time.

      Similarly, when someone uses the phrase “Just a few bad apples,” more often than not the repository turns out to be not a barrel of fruit, but a wagonload of manure.

  24. And now that I read the original article…

    Seriously? He thinks he’s not part of the reason they’re leaving? Mr. Alliteration (Gurus, gauchos, and gossip)? He still seems to approve of Hyles – or at least intimate that the reason he strayed was because of his congregation’s adoration (that Hyles himself whipped to frenetic levels).

    And he continues to make all the important issues about standards. Even when saying that standards “cage lust” rather than “kill it” and admitting that “it is always easier to monitor hem length than it is heart attitudes, he doesn’t take the next step and own up to the fact that standards are NOT what God meant by righteousness. Righteousness to God is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bring justice for the powerless, and to treat others as we would want to be treated.

    Even people who are brave enough to admit there is a problem are still so blind. And that, my dear Mr. Amsbaugh, is *really* why we left. We saw the blind leading and making everyone fall in the ditch.

    1. If you’re going to come anywhere near Hyles, I think you have to deal with the fact that Hyles substituted bizarre idolatry and witchcraft (especially his “sinner’s prayer,” which he claimed was a magic incantation that could bring about salvation) for the Gospel. That’s not a problem in the details, it’s a problem with the whole project at its core.

      Hyles’ narcissism is another huge thing, but that you can find in some people in almost any movement.

    2. Excellent points, Clara.

      I really liked the article, but now I realize that it’s because I wasn’t thinking about it deeply enough to recognize what Darrell said: that he doesn’t name names, hasn’t dealt with the root causes, and he doesn’t have any concrete steps. What I liked was that he didn’t demonize those who left and that he specified several clear issues (instead of vaguely saying, “Sure, there are some issues, but we’re still more godly than everyone else so anyone who leaves us is in rebellion and sin” like most fundies do). I’m so used to being hated, smeared, and mocked by the IFB that it was refreshing to see someone articulate some of the serious problems we saw.

      I appreciated Darrell’s insight because I hadn’t thought about the article that way, but he’s right.

  25. We all have a rebel heart. The fundamentalist as well as the non-fundamentalist.
    There is danger in believing that your own heart is the exception, that you know what is right, and everyone else is wrong. It seems very sad to me that members of both sides make the same accusations.

  26. The difference between the lunatic fringe and mainstream fundamentalism? The mainstream doesn’t yell as much.

  27. Darrell, You brought up some good questions regarding the IFB movement and Mr. Amsbaugh’s statements. These are questions that I have been asking myself recently, especially here of late. With my limited knowledge, I will attempt to answer these.

    Who are the “normal” ones?
    That’s a great question: “What should we be like?” I think it is easier to ask, “Who are the lunatics?”, take note of their qualities and offenses against God’s Word, and go forward from there. I have a hard time listing a Bible college that I want my children attending (and I went to Crown) or finding an influential church that I want my people to be influenced by.
    To me, the offenses are great, but ignoring the offenses in the name of being a Baptist may be greater. Through my cursory examination, the current active offenders include Clarence Sexton (ecumenism, politicizing, love of money, etc.), Jack Treiber (making the church a business, love of money, etc.), Paul Chappell (cover-ups), Jeff Fugate (pragmatism, promotionalism, quick-prayerism, etc.), the Sword of the Lord (Shelton Smith) (theft, pragmatism, quick-prayerism, etc.), and honorable mentions going to the evangelists Justin Cooper, Tony Hutson, and John Hamblin (quick-prayerism, lack of biblical preaching, etc.).

    Many, if not all of those listed above (and this is not a complete list) are guilty of pragmatism, having the love of money, and exhibiting promotionalism in the name of “bigness.” Now, they would all deny this, but their actions speak louder than words.

    What causes the lunacy? One word: pride. Pride is the root of all these things. It is the root of pastor-worship, love of money, cover-ups, doing anything to “see a soul saved”, and a desire for large churches. It is pride that keeps pastors from holding themselves accountable to other pastors and their own church family to actually be biblical pastors. It is pride that makes a pastor covet much more than God intended for him and assume that God would have his church go into large amounts of debt, though the Bible states to do otherwise. It is pride that makes him think that he is above the laws of the USA that Jesus said to follow (unless preaching the Gospel) to cover-up his own sin. It is pride that makes him reject loving, biblical criticism and raise himself above others. It is pride that makes him assume that he is the only church/college in an area that is doing/preaching/teaching the right things and it is pride that makes that man accumulate obscene amounts of people to him to hear him preach and teach, instead of starting churches around his area, discipling new believers, and training new pastors to teach those people (Pauline method of church planting).

    What is the call to action? I have a preacher friend that believes that we need a revolution in the IFB movement and not a separation. However, I believe this mistake was made by many that would not separate from the SBC. The call to action must be to separate from and publicly denounce (biblically) those that are the offenders. Many of the comments mentioned are right on. Preachers will denounce an ecumenical ministry, but not one of their own that offends against the scriptures. The IFBers state they are independent churches, but if one left the IFB movement, most of them would ostracize that pastor and church: even if they held to the same beliefs! This is not independence, but a cult/club mentality: separation based on affiliation; not beliefs. The Bible tells us to separate from specific groups of people: false teachers, unbelievers, carnal believers, etc. Never does it tell us to take a name and separate based upon affiliation.

    My opinion? I believe the time is coming where I will not be a Baptist anymore. I am not ready to present my case yet or bear the reproach, but the writing is on the wall. I believe there are enough “wackos” in influential positions that are running Baptist name and (more importantly) the name of Jesus Christ through the mud. Maybe the IFB has always been corrupt, I do not know (being only middle-aged myself), but if not, it is corrupt enough now. I want our church to be known for observing to do the scriptures and acting like the Lord Jesus Christ; not for being attached to a cancerous club, having others on the outside drawing their presuppositions from that association. Thanks for the great questions!

    1. “I believe the time is coming where I will not be a Baptist anymore.”
      “I want our church to be known for observing to do the scriptures and acting like the Lord Jesus Christ”

      After being baptist for 90% of my life, I no longer consider myself baptist in name, though I still adhere to the same beliefs I’ve always had. (The important ones like there is a God, we are sinners, Christ is the way to God.) What’s in a name, anyway? It’s what you do and what you actually believe that makes the difference. I’m content to be a Christian, and ignore labels.

    2. First question – what do you mean by “pragmatism”?

      Second question – you feel that the answer is *more* separation? Really?

      Can I ask that you consider Romans 16:17?

      Because the farther I get from fundamentalism, the more I realize that the vast majority of American “christianity” outside of mainstream churches is woefully and hopelessly schismatic. Don’t like what the church next to you is preaching/doing? Separate. Form a new denomination. Change your name. Paint the church sign a different color. Anything but admit that God doesn’t care about nearly as many particulars as He does about whether the Church demonstrates that He in whom we live and breathe is Love.

      I have learned more love and compassion and grace from 2 years among my Episcopal brethren than I did in 25 years of Fundamentalism – and the majority of that education has been simply un-learning what Fundamentalism taught me. And that has brought unbelievable unity with a vast body of believers with an astonishing diversity of nonessential beliefs.

      (Please don’t go off on a tangent and attempt to discredit the Episcopal Church as an apostate denomination unless you are prepared to advise me what portion of the Nicene Creed you find problematic. Thanks in advance.)

  28. It is my belief that the IFB was born out of a need to separate from the worldliness of the Southern Baptist, for the most part. As a resullt of making their identity in opposition the a “worldly” denomination they made thier identy more about moralism as they define it and not centered upon Jesus Christ. What we have today is multiple generations removed from having a church centered upon Jesus Christ, if it ever was. The IFB of today seems way more focused upon the separation from the world & preservation of the church than following Jesus Christ. If Jesus is not central to all you do then your “movement” will be out of balance. IFB’s I attended were centered around the local church doctrine, KJO, soulwinning or just plain worshipping the preacher with no real focus on Christ.
    I cannot see it getting better because the foundation is flawed. Churches & institutions may dress it up and make it more pallatable to the average joe to get him in the door but it is what it is, flawed…..

    1. I’ve said it here before, and at the risk of dwelling on it too much, I’ll say it again …

      Fundamentalism in general is a reaction against modernism and science (a huge topic for another day), but the IFB movement was born largely in reaction against the Civil Rights movement, integration, and notions of racial equality. Look at its roots and its growth in the early to mid 20th century, and that’s what you’ll find. That impetus was starting to run out of steam by the 1970s or so, so the movement latched onto opposing women’s liberation. Now it attempts another transfusion of energy by waving the banner against gay rights.

      As I get older, it now seems to me that any movement based only or mainly on opposing something has inherent weaknesses (I would not have said that when I was younger). If you’re fighting perceived evils more than you’re furthering God’s love, you may have your priorities skewed.

  29. I’ve been thinking about the author’s “number of pleats on culottes” example. The thing is, that having an argument about WHETHER we should make an issue out of the number of pleats on culottes is just as bad as having the argument about the correct number of pleats to have. BOTH arguments are rooted in the fundamentalist mindset that there MUST be a RULE for EVERYTHING. Someone who has been awakened to God’s grace will simply walk away from all such foolish disputations.

  30. Title: Hyles Shrugged

    Protagonist: Jeff Amsbaugh, “Reasonable” Fundy Pastor

    Major Conflict: Jeff must try to keep his movement together by finding the destroyer who is systematically removing the men of the mind from fundamentalism

    Themes: The evils of Calvinism, How to stay a legalist without looking like one, King James Onlyism is totally reasonable, Beating your head against a brick wall, Unrighteous judgement

    Motifs: Rhetorical questions, Babies and bathwater, Straw men, Annoying Alliteration

    Symbols: Pants on women, The movie house

    Foreshadowing: The young fundamentalists survey should have warned the fundies that their complex cultural and philosophical structure could be destroyed by someone’s simply naming the exact nature of what they are doing. In his Blog post, Darrell does just this.

    1. I’m reading over that survey.

      That was a piece of work. I do hope that he defined many of his terms. Like what “formally disciplined by another believer” meant ( because the high percentage of respondents who attended/graduated from BJU does not corellate with the low number of disciplinees). What is “focused” music? Why was there no pie wedge for people who attended or graduated from a secular institution? What is the definition of parents who are “exemplary believers”? Do they have the highest standards or something?

      And holy-St.-Francis-on-a-pogo-stick-with-a-horned-toad, is the survey writer serious that the only important church issues have to do with music style, preaching style/content, Bible translations, the existence of hell, the 5 points of calvinism, Lordship salvation, creation, tongues, millenial/rapture views, and what associations you talk to (but it’s not a network!) ?


      And he just doesn’t know why people are falling away…

      1. I just typed a big response to the survey and lost it. I’ll type it back in later when I’m at my computer, but the survey asked about “discipled,” not “disciplined.” I wondered the same thing at first but re-read it. Formal discipling is a big deal in the FBF-style of fundystan (which this poll is skewed toward). My home church has a big 1-on-1, 20 week discipling program they expect people to undergo after becoming members.

      2. Re: the survey… a couple observations.

        First, it was badly dated in some parts (like questions about Mel Gibson’s Passion movie).

        Second, it was heavily skewed toward the FBF/BJU/MBBC/Northland part of fundystan, with little input from the Hyles or SotL or PCC camps. That’s not the poll’s fault, since its roots were in Central Seminary. Fundystan is so fragmented that anything from Central will be immediately discarded by most other groups. The demographic skewing can be seen by the heavy doses of Calvinist responses and the diversity in versions.

        Third, I would really like to see the survey updated and redone. I think the ESV’s would heavily influence it, and I wonder how opinions on the issues like social drinking, elder rule, and dress standards have changed in 10 years. I know my answers 10 years ago would be drastically different than the answers I would give now.

        1. Not having any real contact with fundamentalism outside the Northland/MBBC/FBFI/BJU camps I can’t be certain, but its likely that the “moderation” of those groups and the prevalence of more of an intellectually sophisticated fundamentalism common in those schools of thought likely has made the exodus even more pronounced there than in the more extreme man-of-god worship centered anti-intellectual world of HAC/Crown/Sword/SouthernIFB(even when located in the North)/Midwestern/WC-LBC fundamentalism where the stranglehold on truth is much tighter. I can tell you that the younger generation in the former camp is leaving in droves, and in some cases (Northland/Central/Calvary-
          Lansdale) those schools have radically shifted from where they were 10 years ago on many of the issues in the survey – at least partially as a result of influence from many of their younger alumni. I don’t know the stats, but that would be my assumption given how different and fragmented the various groups are.

  31. When I read the New Testament, I do see separatists. They did not associate with the unchurched. I’m sure they abandoned their children who would not conform. They made sure they never appeared to break the law. But they were not friends of Jesus; they were the Pharisees. The IFB fosters, nurtures, encourages and demands an environment where the New Testament Pharisees would have fit right in. I will NEVER lower my standards again to attend a church like that. I am so thankful that the little church I attend is made up of misfits who are oblivious to living under the law, but rather focus on loving their neighbor as themselves and giving Jesus all the honor and glory.

  32. I used to think the the reason students were leaving our fundy (former) church was because it wasn’t “contemporary” enough. I now feel that the reasons are much deeper…(1) our kids are exposed to humanistic thinking in public school, but most fundy pastors, and therefore parents, are too narrow in our responses to their questions…if an answer is given at all and (2) our students, when exposed to believers outside of the fundy camp, begin to question the genuineness of the Christian walk as espoused in many fundy churches when compared to the lives of believers they were taught to view with suspicion.

    1. Mountain Man “(1) our kids are exposed to humanistic thinking in public school, but most fundy pastors, and therefore parents, are too narrow in our responses to their questions…if an answer is given at all”

      With all due respect — and I realize I am touching on a particularly sore spot here — you talk as if “humanistic thinking” is a bad thing.

      Mind you, “humanism” is not the bogeyman fundamentalists have made it out to be. Fundamentalists exaggerate, lie, and use only the worst examples to make their case against “humanism.”

      Humanists have often been very devout believers. But they do not subscribe to the heresy that everything is about God and that his MOGs communicate His Will and Directives in Every Aspect of our Lives.

      Once we started thinking scientifically, looking at evidence instead of thinking magically, things began to go better to mankind.

      Imagine if you were a parent in 1918, and your daughter was dying from influenza. The epidemic killed 50 million people worldwide, and all the doctor could say is, “She is in God’s hands now.” At her funeral, the preacher says “God’s will be done” and your friends say, “God called her home.” Other people are sick, some live and some die and there are whispers that somehow God was punishing you by taking your daughter’s life.

      No humanism in that scenario. It is all about God. You don’t matter.

      But today, your daughter would be put into the hospital. IV fluids would help the dehydration. Doctors and scientists discovered that influenza was a virus, and they have developed anti-viral agents. They would do everything in their power to save your daughter, “God’s will be damned.” They don’t necessarily believe that it is God’s will for your daughter to die and they fight for you and her. Some still die. But most don’t. Even when new strains are discovered, science moves heaven and earth as it were to understand everything so they can affect the outcome.

      That is humanism in action. You do what you can, because you do matter. No scientist believes that man is the measure of all things. But we do believe that man is an integral part of the world, that he can understand it, he can change it, and he can make life better.

      Yes, I am a humanist. I am a believer. I am a liberal and a Christian. If God loves the world, then the world and those in it matter. If He graced us with memory, reason, and skill, then He should not be offended if we choose to use those tools.

      1. I definitely agree with this: “If God loves the world, then the world and those in it matter. If He graced us with memory, reason, and skill, then He should not be offended if we choose to use those tools.”

        I do think your painted the first scenario too bleakly, though, when you said, “It is all about God. You don’t matter.” While there were some very stoic (or cold) people who acted like individual grief and sorrow shouldn’t matter, Christians throughout time have existed who DID care for others and had compassion for them in times of grief. The words about God taking her to heaven were meant to comfort the grieving.

        I’m also uncomfortable with saying, “God’s will be damned” though I understand what I think you meant as in “I don’t care if you THINK this is God’s will. It’s not, and I will not passively allow this child to die but will fight to save her.”

        1. Hey, pastor’s wife!

          The first scenario actually was that bleak for millions of people. Not nice to think about, but the sense of helplessness, the disparity of outcomes, and the idea that God has all things under His Providential Control created nightmares for many parents.

          In the Puritan colonies it was preached that babies who died before they could establish a personal relationship by trust in Jesus went to hell. They were obviously not of the elect. One can only come to God in Faith, and if the baby hasn’t the ability to have faith in Christ, it still has the taint of original sin on it. Poor baby! The wrath of God abides on you. Records tell of distraught mothers committing suicide shortly after their babies died.

          As for my saying, “God’s will be damned,” I am distinctly uncomfortable saying it as well. Still, I am of the opinion that much of what is preached as “God’s Will” is false, or else was not intended to have authority outside of a cultural context. Interestingly, in Galatians the Law was given until we reached maturity, when, of course, we are able to make our own decisions. The Lessons have been learned, but so many situations fall outside of what we have been taught, and there are no pat answers.

          Paul, while putting away the law, still included a lot of “laws” in his instructions to the church. Instead of taking the “laws” as our responsibility to enforce in “Grace,” perhaps we should understand the intent and go from there.

          To say that “God never changes” is to write Him as an inalterable computer program without any Free Will of His own. It is to deny Him the ability to respond to the situation without a Script. And if everything has a Script, then there goes free will for you and for me, so I must be doing everything God wants me to do.

          So I vote for Christians and Christianity to “Grow Up” into God, with a creating and redeeming heart.

        2. Thanks for your reply!

          One of the things that I love is that Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” If we wonder what God is really like (especially based on certain passages in the OT), Jesus helped us know by saying that HE was the image of God – and how loving and patient and compassionate He was while He walked on this earth.

          (Galatians is an amazing book of the Bible, especially for those who grew up in legalistic churches – like the IFB, even if they try to narrowly define legalism so it doesn’t apply to them.)

    2. Mountain Man, I agree. I too used to think that people left the IFB because they wanted entertainment, because they were self-indulgent and lacked the self-discipline to deny themselves and REALLY live for Jesus the way we were. But now I do see that people who ask questions or don’t fit the mold are shamed or squelched instead of answered and loved. And, yes, love is huge. When you contrast love and peace and joy with legalism and condemnation, who wouldn’t want to choose joy?!

      1. Nice. We’ll just have to let the IFB crowd think that those who’ve left have forsaken “Jesus” for the world. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that they could be in error.


  33. I recently came across a power and control wheel used by domestic violence shelters to define abusive behavior. Changing a few words it easily can be turned into a fundy power and control wheel. I mean only changing a few words. It is very interesting the parallel that can be made.

  34. I haven’t seen Amsbaugh’s regular column in Sword of the Lord since this blog was published. Any details on what has happened?

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