Wednesday, May 06, 2015

An Honest Basic Assessment of Independent Baptists, pt. 4

The labels or designations for churches could be reduced to something like "the church," and that would exclude almost no one.  "The Church of Christ" denomination makes a big deal about the name, as if not having the right name alone disqualifies a church.  If you know Baptist history, you know that "Baptist" isn't a name that New Testament churches gave themselves.  They were most differentiated by their separatism from the state church and their immersion of believers, distinct from the sprinkling of infants.  Roman Catholicism and Protestants both saw these independents as different and labeled them based upon what distinguished them.  All of these Bible believing and practicing churches would have been independent and Baptist in that sense especially.

Independent Baptist churches decided to organize into associations and fellowships and conventions. Many stayed independent of these groups, but then many others later separated to independence once again for the sake of purity.  However, every church, as we read in scripture, must take responsibility for its own purity through discipline and separation, because of the world, the flesh, and the devil, prone to move away from the straight belief and practice of the truth.

In this series, I offer an honest basic assessment of how independent Baptists have strayed the most. In the last post, I started the first one, that is, the....

PERVERSION OF THE GOSPEL

By Preaching a False Gospel

I believe most independent Baptist churches now preach a false gospel, and when I say most, I mean over 50%.  Almost all of these are the revivalist churches, which I believe outnumber all other independent Baptist churches, and these pervert the gospel mainly in their false teaching and belief about repentance.  To do this, they have twisted numbers of salvation passages, turning those biblical texts that teach the gospel into something post-salvation, Christian living, or practical sanctification.

Some of these churches say repentance is post-justification (even though you'll rarely hear them use the word "justification" -- they think it is after salvation).  Repentance to them is a doctrine for believers.   To them, believers repent, people already saved, not unbelievers.  They see repentance as a post-salvation work for believers.

Others misdefine repentance, essentially dumb it down, so that it isn't even repentance any more.  The life of the "repentant one" won't necessarily change, because it is an intellectual repentance, merely a change of mind.  It really is a game its adherents play.   Most of these say that an unbeliever repents of his unbelief.  He wasn't believing before, but now he is believing, so he has repented of unbelief -- that is repentance.

I've also heard the following.  A person who repents is willing to change, so those with this view say the will is involved -- yes, the will is involved.  He wants to change, but he won't necessarily change, so if he doesn't change, he still repented, because he wanted to change.  The point here, however, is that someone who wants to change, the one who believes and repents, will change.  If he doesn't change, then he didn't want to change, so he didn't repent.  This post and series is not to lay out all the doctrine and the answers to every one of problems -- I'm just reporting, folks.

All of the above are about a perversion of repentance, but that is one side of the equation.  Those wrong about repentance are wrong on the other side of the equation too.  They minimize Who Jesus is.  They believe He is Savior.  They believe that He is God, the Second Person of the Trinity, to a certain extent.  I think they diminish Deity of Christ with their exclusion of the Lordship of Christ.  You can't stay in rebellion against Jesus and actually believe in Him.  I'm saying they don't believe in Him either, minus His reign.  Jesus said, "Repent for the kingdom is at hand," and the kingdom was at hand, because the King, Jesus was there.  The above leave that out to various degrees.

How did the above happen?  The purpose again of this post and series isn't about how or why so much, but I will give a small summary of my assessment here.  Quite a few factors came together into a poisonous elixir.   Some relate to the distortion of Keswick Theology, Finney, Moody, Torrey, Scofield, Scofield's Reference Bible, early ecumenical evangelism, Dallas Theological Seminary, then Rice, the Sword of the Lord, and then Hyles.  These influences spread to independent Baptists through their colleges and conferences.   An undermining theological problem mixed with bad church growth methodology.   They lowered the bar of salvation until it wasn't salvation.  More got "saved," but they were receiving the placebo.  The distortion multiplied and continues to this day with numerous false teachers.

Of course, out of all the above has come very emotional altar calls and manipulation and then other very strange perversions, like 1-2-3 pray with me, easy prayerism, and "soul winning" where the winners come back with 50 to 100 saved.  After that, whole strategies were developed to get them into the tank.  Evangelicals have had their own offshoot of this and I see them all as dovetailing in all sorts of corruption in evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

By Not Separating from a False Gospel

Some have been in hell for decades now, who prayed prayers led by the above "evangelists."  We can't say bad enough things about all of it, and yet many put up with it for years and still do.  I believe that the people who don't say anything about these people, who allow it by their associations and accommodation, help spread it.

Before I delve into the lack of separation, you should know that I'm not saying the lack of separation equals preaching the false gospel.  This is not a moral equivalency there.  I'm explaining why the perversion of the gospel abounds among independent Baptists.  Neither should you conclude that independent Baptists are worse than evangelicals on this.  This is all over in evangelicalism and fundamentalism, but I'm narrowing it out of love to independent Baptists, and I am an independent Baptist.

I went to Maranatha for college and grad school, and I put Maranatha on the BJU side, the non-revivalist side of independent Baptists.  I would think they're happy with that.  However, when I was there for many years, because my family moved to Watertown, Wisconsin when I was 12 years old, Maranatha brought in Jack Hyles every year.  He preached something different than what I thought was right, but it was very confusing, because they first had John R. Rice and then Jack Hyles every year.  Many Maranatha grads went the Hyles route.  Bob Jones University had Hyles in too.  The present president of BJU, Steve Pettit, served at a Hyles church for awhile and early in evangelism, he encouraged a pastor I know very well to be like that, to take on those characteristics.

Both Bob Jones and Maranatha, and most fundamental Baptists, used Neighborhood Bible Time, that taught a false gospel.  I'm not saying that there weren't some saved under the influence of Charles Homscher and NBT, but many preachers learned their craft through the manipulation of that program.  They took on the same characteristics in their churches.  Many BJU and Maranatha pastors went to pastor's school in Hammond, Indiana.  This was like a pilgrimage to Mecca.  I can tell you that I never heard any sermon repudiating the doctrine of Jack Hyles at Maranatha.  Kids loved him.  None, the entire time I was there said anything officially against him.  That includes men like Larry Oats.

I remember attending the Wisconsin State Youth Conclave and then working in it, and we had Jack Hyles.  I remember standing at the front when kids were streaming forward, and because I didn't move up fast enough to meet them as they walked to the front, Hyles yelled at me to step forward as part of the invitation philosophy.  It was all part of his strategy, that was laid out in one of his manuals.

There is a lot of confusion out there, because you've got this same doctrine spread all over the place.  I mentioned in the last post the big independent Baptist meeting in Arizona.  One of the speakers is Clarence Sexton.  If you look at Clarence Sexton's page at the Crown College website, you don't see repudiation of all these shenanigans, but exaltation of them, including the Curtis Hutson center for local church ministry, who wrote the book against repentance for salvation.   Bob Jones University just had Sexton.  What is the dialogue with him all about?

At Clarence Sexton's Baptist Friends conference, he had Jack Schaap, Jack Trieber, and then president of the FBFI, John Vaughn. There has for a long time been an acceptance of all of this among both sides of independent Baptists, in that men don't separate over it.  And this is with separation being a common emphasis among independent Baptists.  Separation, separation, separation, and then no separation over a false gospel?  Is the Bible the basis for this separation teaching, or is it independent Baptist politics?

You see strange partnerships everywhere and this adds to more confusion.  John Goetsch is at West Coast and at Camp Joy.  Do the churches that attend that camp think that the West Coast gospel is their gospel?  That is very strange to me.  As an aside, does the Camp Joy music camp like the West Coast music?  Why is that ignored?  Isn't that false worship?  Does worship relate to the gospel?  Of course it does (John 4:23-24; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

I would be remiss if I didn't mention unaffiliateds.  There is an unaffiliated college, at least I think it claims to be unaffiliated, Master's Baptist College and Fargo Baptist Church (look under North Dakota), and yet this church and school bring in for its main conference speaker for its college days this year in September -- this is a big deal -- R. B. Ouellette and David Gibbs.  These are Hyles people.   Also, if you look at their promotional materials, they are full of Hyles supporters.  These men never repudiated Hyles's message.  They were right with him.  If you listen to Ouellette preach, he sounds just like Jack Hyles.  I've written about Ouellette and his views on repentance here before (here and then here).  If you treat this like it doesn't matter, then it doesn't matter.

Look at Old Testament Israel.  Israel became what it allowed.  Israel didn't start believing wrong. First, they allowed wrong teaching and practice.  Then they did it.  Then it was who they were. Finally, they persecuted the true prophets.  I don't want to have anything to do with someone who doesn't preach a true gospel.

Methods That Obviously Distort the Gospel

Some say they teach repentance, but they bring in one to two thousand on the bus every week.  By the time these kids get to 8th grade, most of them dropped out, but they all made professions of faith, and were all "saved."  They were lured in with gimmicks, made professions, were even baptized, but they completely turn away from the Lord, and are still out there professing to be saved.  They think what they did at those churches was enough for them.  Even if these churches say they are right on repentance, they can't be.  They're preaching something wrong.  They're practicing wrong.  I could go more in depth about this and tell you how they're wrong in the doctrine, but they are.

I don't think someone should treat churches that use the above methods like they are preaching a true gospel to these kids.  They should treat them like they are distorting the gospel.  By ignoring it, the gospel keeps getting perverted.  They should lose fellowship for what they are doing.  It not only is ruining those children and the workers, who think that is the work of the Lord, but it then spreads everywhere else as a method, because people won't say it's wrong.  They treat it like it is a secondary issue, not worth separating over, when it is a gospel issue.

Part of why I am writing this is to teach.  Another is to warn.  I also want to make it clear where I stand.  I am not with the people who teach and preach a false gospel.  I wish you would join me.  I'm afraid that today people do not care.  I am barely scratching the surface above.  I could say much more and it is already very long for a blog post.  There are men on the FBFI boards that do exactly what I've written about here, so this is mixed in all over the place.

I stop at independent Baptist churches now and then on vacation and it's easy to see that they are proud of their Bible version and their dress standards, but they preach a horrible gospel.   On a few occasions, the best I could do was attend an evangelical church, non-denominational, instead of the independent Baptist church, for many reasons, but because at least the evangelical church preached a true gospel.  I'm not in fellowship with something like that, but it was the best I could do.  I try not to do this and am not planning to do it in the future, but it's happened.  I don't think you're justified for joining one of these other churches just because so many independent Baptists are like this.  But folks, the Mormons use the King James Version.   Independent Baptists, you've got to change on this! You've got to change! You've got to change!  Please change!

More to Come.

21 comments:

Jim Peet said...

Thanks Kent. We continue to link to in the original thread.

here

Tyler Robbins said...

Kent - excellent article.

When you mention Dallas Seminary, I assume you're mentioning Ryrie and, to a much greater extent, Hodges. Chafer was a solid 4-pt Calvinist, and certainly did not agree in a repentance-less Gospel. I've read his soteriology. Ihaven't read Ryrie's position on this, but I've heard that it's not as awful as Hodges. I do agree with the Kesiwck influences at Dallas; you can see that in Chafer.

I can't speak to MBU now, but I believe they're quite different now than they were in your day. I can't imagine them trucking with the Hyles folks anymore. At least, the Seminary isn't like that. However, I've heard from many folks that there are two "Maranatha's" - the faculty and the board. I get the sense that they have some constituients from the Hyles-esque camp, and they're trying to quietly tip-toe away from that arena. I think they've succeeded. However, I can only offer the Seminary perspective - I didn't go to Bible College there.

In my experience, the Hyles/Fairhavern/Providence churches I've went to didn't preach a false Gospel. They were Arminian, to be sure, and obsessed with Bible versions and dress codes, but they preached a true Gospel. Perhaps your experience has been different, or maybe I just got lucky. The Pastors I had at these churches fell into two camps: (1) Biblically uneducated (e.g. Hyles-esque institute certificate or diploma) and proud of it, or (2) uneasy with that brand of fundamentalism and agonizing over whether to tip-toe away from it.

Thanks for the series so far! An important call to action.

d4v34x said...

I have a real hard time accepting your categorization of MBBC/Calavary as not revivalist as much as they had Hyles and those like him in for their meetings.

KJB1611 said...

“[I]t is clear that the New Testament does not impose repentance upon the unsaved as a condition of salvation” (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 376).

Tyler Robbins said...

Bro. Ross:

The entire tenor of Chafer's soteriology clearly includes repentance. He was simply a bit weird in that he included repentance as an integral part of saving faith, not a seperate act:

“It is as dogmatically stated as language can declare, that repentance is essential to salvation and that none can be saved apart from repentance, but it is included in believing and could not be separated from it,” (3:373).

I'm not sure if you can draw a straight line from Chafer - Ryrie - Hodges and prove a de-evolution of this issue. I think it would be pretty simplistic to do that. All I'm saying is that Chafer was a good Calvinist, a former Presbyterian, and would not tolerate or truck with a repentance-less Gospel. Whatever Hodges and Wilkins may mean today, Chafer would not have agreed with them.

Tyler Robbins said...

I don't want to be known as a "Chafer apologist," but no man did more to encite the holy rage (pun intended) of the old-time revivalists than Chafer did. John R. Rice tried to intimidate Chafer's publisher into withdrawing "True Evengelism" from print. That book by Chafer is an all-out assault on revivalistic, shallow, manipulative evangelism tactics.

My point in defending Chhafer is that I don't think that shallow fundamentalism owes anything to him. Chafer wasn't their friend. If anything, they inherited a weak Keswick-esque view of sanctification, but you could hardly pin that on Chafer alone. Torrey helped quite a bit, too!

Rice confuses me. Have you read his book "Come Out or Stay In?" His inclusivism makes TGC's mushiness look tame. No "fiery fundamentalist" would ever agree with Rice in that book. He hated separation from brethren.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Bro Robbins,

Thanks for the comment. Chafer was certainly better than Hodges, but I do not believe that there is much distance between him and Ryrie. His section on repentance is very weak in his systematic theology, and his Keswick doctrine makes him able to say that some believers do not change. Those who are interested can, of course, simply read the entire section in his work, where he both makes the statement that you quote and the one that I quote. In terms of his methodology in giving the gospel, this is what Chafer taught:

“God’s call to the unsaved is never said to be unto the Lordship of Christ . . . no more important obligation rests on the preacher than that of preaching the Lordship of Christ to Christians exclusively, and the Saviorhood of Christ to those who are unsaved. A suggestion born of this theme is that in all gospel preaching every reference to the life to be lived beyond regeneration should be avoided as far as possible. To attend to this is not a deception nor a withholding of the truth from those to whom it applies” (pgs. 385-388, Systematic Theology, vol. 3, Lewis Sperry Chafer. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993).

Being a Calvinist and a Presbyterian by no means whatsoever protected Chafer from a false gospel – nor does it protect anyone else, as things that are false, such as Calvinism and Presbyterianism do not protect people from error.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Tyler,

I don't know on the history. I read that Finney was a Presbyterian and Chafer was a Congregationalist, and the Congregational church was meant to different itself from the Presbyterians. These are quibbles, likely. Chafer traveled as an "evangelist" with his wife, an organ player. Finney was president of Oberlin in the late 1800s and Chafer attended Oberlin. You likely know all this. Chafer and Scofield were forged together, and they both popularized the idea that someone received Jesus as Savior at the point of justification, and then at some later point was "dedicated" in his "He That Is Spiritual." He popularized Keswick. His teaching led to the idea that at the point of salvation someone received Jesus, and at some later point, Jesus became Lord. He was a carnal Christian up until that point. This is all the repentance issue.

KJB1611 said...

I would also like to point out that the confusion of the gospel among non-IFBs is far worse. For example, the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary periodical of the Southern Baptist Convention is mailed to me regularly, and it always includes a page with the number of people witnessed to in the number of professions of faith for the whole student body combined. The number of people witnessed to is always not very large considering the size of the student body, and the number of professions of faith (e. g., people who pray the sinner's prayer) is always huge compared to the number of people witnessed to. For example, at their New York campus they claim that they witnessed to 386 people over the course of the entire year for the entire student body (not very many!). Of these 386, 98 of them said the sinner's prayer. Anyone who gives the gospel out regularly knows perfectly well that 25% of those who hear the gospel are not born-again. It is noteworthy that their stats do not include the number of people baptized and continuing faithfully in the membership of the church.

KJB1611 said...

Finally, for Baptists who are concerned to give out the gospel in a clear and faithful way, let me commend the resources here:

http://faithsaves.net/soteriology/

about how to do it. The book:

Today’s Apostasy: How Decisionism is Destroying our Churches, by R. L. Hymers & Christopher Cagan

that is on that webpage also gives a good explanation of how we got to the point where we are.

Tyler Robbins said...

To come to the present-time, I suppose we need to get down to what a false gospel precisely is. Many things that fundamentalists react viscerally against are rooted in poor education and a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues. That may be harsh, but there it is. Let me begin with two simple issues:

1. Many fundamentalists believe in a basteridized, watered-down Keswick sanctification, where crisis decisions are stressed. They may not understand or appreciate what Keswick theology actually is; they only understand their diluted brand of it. Is such a person unsaved, or simply confused?

2. Many fundamentalists are against Lordship salvation, but correctly stress the obligation of a holy Christian life. They put Lordship as the inevitable fruit of salvation, not necessarily a knowing precondition. Is such a person unsaved, or simply confused?

This is where it may be unhelpful to paint with a broad brush, because it really depends on the person in question, doesn't it? It's so hard to be accurate when speaking in generalities.

H.A. Ironside's book "Holiness - The False and the True" is a frightening, first-hand look at the practical implications of Keswick sanctification. However, do all the Keswick-esque folks you know really fall into that category? Many of them would probably recoil in horror if they actually understood the tradition they were partial heirs of.

So, we're back to my original question - are such people necessarily unsaved, or perhaps just confused and wrong? Such a person MAY believe in a false gospel (in Ironside's case, I believe the Salvation Army was at that point). However, if all they've inherited is a weak and diluted version of Keswick sanctification, then they mnay very well be saved. It depends.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Tyler,

I'm fine with your disclaimer, but I think it might be worse on the ground than what I'm saying. The soil is being eviscerated and being too afraid to broad brush or overstatement might be the bigger problem here. Who is writing about this among independent Baptists? Why not? Thomas pointed to someone who has, and he has, but who else? Who among the leaders? Detroit has done work on this some, so I give them credit there.

Even here, people are too afraid to comment, or afraid that if they agree that someone might think they are KJV, because it's on my blog. I say, "Wow," to these types of conditions. People are way more into that, really the politics of it, than dealing with the doctrine and practice. This is just a blog. Are people too afraid of institutional suffering from stating what should be obvious?

The Keswick stuff attaches to salvation, as seen in Chafer and then a worse iteration, Hodges. We're just talking Bible here.

This doesn't mean individual people are not saved, which I said in the article, I believe.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Tyler,

This is a minor point, but I just thought I should mention that Ironside was actually dealing with the Salvation Army's mix of Wesleyan perfectionism rather than the specifically Keswick form of perfectionism.

Thanks.

Farmer Brown said...

Good post Kent. Really well presented. This is good information, thank you.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

I feel like I'm young to this history. I recognize many names mentioned, but I don't know much about a lot of them.

On the issue of Christ's Lordship, I think you could add John MacArthur's name to the history.

Independent Baptists are very tentative to use the term that he championed.

[sarcasm]You know as IBs, we don't want to be perceived to be associated with a prominent New Evangelical that believes in elders, doesn't believe in the blood, doesn't know what he believes about the incarnation, etc. So, if he uses the term or idea "Lordship," it MUST be wrong.[/sarcasm]

I think you know what I'm trying to say.

Thanks,

Don said...

I'm weighing in a little late in the conversation, but I completely agree with this article. For a number of years, my family were members of a church that was pastored by a Hyles grad. Every week, at least twice a week, we would go out and knock on doors, and "witness" to people. In about two or three minutes, we would explain to a person that they were destined for hell, but if they prayed and asked Jesus into their hearts, they could be saved. It was pretty easy to convince people to repeat after us, mainly because they wanted us off their doorstep.

Sometime after this, we started attending an unaffiliated Baptist church, and our pastor really laid out what sin was, and how we were hopelessly condemned, and how we needed to truly turn from our sins and turn to God in faith. I was so steeped in the "Hyles" brand of salvation, that it took me several months to realize that I had never truly repented of my sin, or even fully understood what it meant to trust in Christ as my Saviour. I spent several months fighting the conviction of the Holy Spirit, because "I had already done that - I've already prayed that prayer." Finally, the power of the gospel broke through and the Lord showed me that I was lost and I opened my heart to receive Christ through repentance and faith.

The sad thing is, there are so many others out there who made a cheap profession of faith, but have never truly understood the gospel. They're kept so busy with various programs at most Baptist churches that they really don't even have the time to think about whether or not their salvation is real. And most members of IFB churches have never heard a Biblical gospel presentation.

Thanks for standing for this truth, Brother!

Farmer Brown said...

Don, what a frightening story. Imagine if you had never gotten away from that pernicious influence. You would one of the ones saying, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?" What a terrifying thought, and more so because you were one of millions in that system. Thank the Lord this is not your fate.

Don said...

Farmer - amen and amen!

George Calvas said...

Don,

If you would have said the same to me, I would not necessarily considered you lost, but possibly confused of the whole council of God. You might have needed to repent of your sins now as the Lord God revealed them (1 John 1:8-10), but to say you now have a "more perfect way" towards God might or might not be necessarily true (I being an advocate that repentance has its part in salvation, but just saying words that include "repentance of sin" does not make it so!).

In salvation, it is God who knows you and sanctification is you knowing the Lord. If your life prior to this knowledge was lived in self, rather than a disciple of Jesus Christ, I would agree that you salvation was "not of the Lord".

New understanding can be dangerous at times because you can easily use that (your new prayer) as a means similar to the 1-2-3 pray after me.

A man is known of God when he comes to him in a broken and contrite heart and that changes him into a new creature in Christ being proven by the fact that his faith is justified by his life as a new creature, "old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new".

pylgrym said...

Please visit our church worship services when you are in Florida along the Space Coast or in Orlando: Forest Hills Baptist, Titusville. Independent, 1689 LBCoF, Calvinistic, KJVO, missions-minded.

KJB1611 said...

George, just like your affirmations previously that people in the Campbellite denomination who believed in baptism for salvation could be saved, as well as your idolatrous rejection of the Trinity for the belief that Jesus is the Father and the Holy Spirit is like the spirit of a dead man, your comments on Don give fearful evidence that you are yourself unconverted and need to repent and believe the true gospel and in the true God.

You can attack me personally and call me even more names than what you have already called me if you want to, but it would be better to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath, and receive the engrafted Word, which is able to save your soul.

Dear Pylgrym,

Thanks for the invite. Just so you know, while we are thankful for all of our blog readers, whether Calvinists or non-Calvinists, neither of the men who post here are Calvinists. You can get a sense of our position by searching for "Calvinism" on this blog.