There is nothing wrong with being an “independent” Bible-believing Baptist!
Most all of them (English speaking) would be “King James only” in their choice of Scripture (believing that the KJV was correctly translated from the correct family of Scripture texts, and is without error). With the fundamental doctrine of Bible inspiration & preservation clearly understood, most independent Bible believers (and readers), are “KJV only”, and most would be “Baptist” (or, at least, “Baptistic”) in their faith & practice.
However, in my own mind, there is quite a difference between an “independent” Baptist, and an “Independent-Fundamental-Baptist” (IFB). Today, being an “IFB” is to identify with an established “denomination” of sorts. From my observation, the official IFB is a loose denomination of like-minded “Baptists” who fellowship exclusively together, within their own “camps”, and who rarely display that they actually do think for themselves, as “independents”. The above described IFBs tend to have their own short list of approved colleges/fellowships— run by some of the larger, more popular, churches/leaders within their particular fellowship.
These IFB camps can vary, depending on their preferences in certain pet doctrines—and what they choose to emphasize. There are several examples of this– the “Hyles camp”, the “Ruckman camp”, the “Sword of the Lord camp”, the “Bob Jones camp”, the “BIMI camp”, the “BBF camp”, the “Sexton camp”, the “Chappell camp”, the “Trieber camp”, the “Cloud camp”, the “Gipp camp”, and now, more recently, the “Anderson camp”. Although none of these “Independent Baptists” see themselves as a denomination, they really have become one. (A much more loosely controlled group, than the typical religious denomination— but a “denomination”, none the less.) Case in point, if one of the leaders of these camps were to “take a position” for/against a certain issue– virtually all of the other pastors (underlings) will follow them in lock step. After all, who wants to oppose the popular opinion? And, if they were to break ranks from the leader, who would they “fellowship” with? Who would invite them to preach at their churches/conferences/colleges? Or, where would they send their kids to college? Who would print their sermons in their IFB newspapers/magazines/online forums? …No, to question the majority opinion within the camp, is not expedient. One must NOT question “why” they believe—or do what they do—they just need to keep following!
Despite the above cynical description of IFBs– as an “independent” Baptist, myself, I still have some appreciation for most of the above listed “camps”. Not for these “camps” themselves, but for the various strengths that each one has— Yet, I am NOT affiliated with any of these “camps”. Once in awhile, I may attend one of their church’s “conferences”, or even visit their schools— And, I have (in some cases) come away from their conference/meeting with an appreciation for their ministry, however, I have yet to acquire a strong desire to “join their camp”… Being “independent” is healthy— Being locked into a certain “movement” is not!
Some examples of the various strengths within the above listed camps:
- strong on the King James Bible/Text issue (trusting in both the inspiration & preservation of Scripture—view this link for more explanation)
- strong on “standards” (usually in reference to modest apparel, and male & female distinctions— a crucial doctrine in this godless, immodest, “unisex” world!)
- strong on music separation (although, in some IFB cases, their particular music standard would seem to be more important to them than the KJV Scripture/Text issue!)
- strong on “Biblical separation” (staying separated from the other unbiblical, so-called, “christians” ; unfortunately the typical meaning has become = a hairsplitting separation from other “IFB camps” with whom they may disagree with — or, adhere to something a little different than— “their” camp!)
- strong on Evangelism & Missions (typically, these camps all emphasize the need for “soul-winning”– some better than others)
- strong desire for being literally accurate (example: emphasizing the need to explain the gospel as “repent of one’s sin” for salvation— vs. “repent of one’s sinS” — as if anyone could ever possibly “repent of ALL one’s sins” before being born again!) — “Turn from unbelief for salvation” = Yes! …. “Turn from all sinning in order to obtain one’s salvation” = Impossible! (I like this concise “repentance” explanation)
- strong emphasis on loving the brethren— vs. bashing/hating/vilifying/smearing/destroying/slandering the other “not-so-IFB-as-us” brethren within these gospel-preaching churches (sadly only a rare few of the above mentioned camps, exemplify this gracious spirit!)
Yet, after having been taught for years (by IFBs) that the KJV Bible is our final authority— what I have discovered, in actuality, is that a Dispensational-Zionism is really the final authority for much of their modern Eschatology. Their flawed systematic eschatology trumps the Scriptures, and most of them are unaware of it (because they’re encouraged to never question). Thankfully, there’s a growing number of “independent” Baptists who ARE questioning the “Pre-Trib Rapture” doctrine and the Zionism behind it. Sadly, the Established IFBs cannot afford to have this movement grow. Their own established schools and book publishers could suffer heavy financial losses, if they were to admit that their adopted system of eschatology is “less-than-biblical”. They’re not even open to an Eschatology debate, as they know it will cost them. And, although these Established IFBs denounce the “liberal, neo-evangelical, unseparated, non-KJV” crowd— the truth is, the systematic eschatology held by these two groups (IFB vs. neo-evangelical) is almost identical!
Yet, in spite of this— I can still appreciate the IFB’s general adherence to the Scriptures. After having grown up in the “independent, Bible-believing, Baptist” circles for years, I still love the general, over-all belief system of the independent Baptist people… WHY? Because, generally speaking, the KJV BIBLE is their common denominator— and, as long we “Bible-believers” will keep the main thing, the main thing (following the Word & the leading of the Holy Spirit)— we won’t get too far off track, no matter what our individual flaws & differences!
Endeavoring to remain ~
“Independent of man; Dependent on God”
~ Pastor, Soloist, & Author