Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Unaffiliated Baptist Churches: Analysis of the Emphasis, pt. 4

part one      part two      part three

The emphasis of unaffiliated Baptist churches relates to history.  These churches, like true churches all the way back to the first church in Jerusalem, have believed in the autonomy of each church with Jesus as the Head of each.  Each church was sufficient.  Each independent, Bible believing and practicing church saw the error infiltrating the church through extra-scriptural associations, boards, colleges, and camps, all augmentations to the biblical and historical practice. To ensure no leaven was leavening their lump (1 Cor 5), they pared back to just each church in fellowship with other churches of the same faith and practice alone.  The doctrine of the church took prominence in light of this history.

Other doctrines besides church related doctrines are important.  The church is God's institution for preserving all of the truth, not just church doctrine.   For instance, the gospel is important.  Unaffiliated Baptist churches should not affiliate with churches indifferent to a false gospel.  The gospel should get more attention than whether someone is closed communion.  Baptist churches are built on true conversions, not on whether they practice closed or close communion.  By saying that, I don't mean at all to disrespect the truth about the Lord's Table.

Baptist churches, including unaffiliated ones, have been greatly affected by two related false doctrines, which have spread a false gospel and a faulty doctrine of sanctification:  Keswick theology and revivalism.  Thomas Ross has written much about the former, and it's worth reading everything (it's free).  At some point, if you want to understand revivalism, read Ian Murray's Revival and Revivalism.  You can learn at Thomas Ross's site about revivalism (here again), but also in what I've written (here, here, here, herehere, here, here, here, here, and here) much on it.  Another good book to understand is Jonathan Edward's criticism of the first Great Awakening, Treatise on the Religious Affections (free all over online).  I left revivalism when I left fundamentalism, but I've come back to it again in a sense with unaffiliated Baptist churches.  It's intolerable to me.  I left it.  I'm not going back.  Unaffiliateds do not have to affiliate but with any church of the same belief and practice, but I want to affiliate, and these posts are about affiliation, not unaffiliation.

Keswick theology is second-blessing theology, the two blessings being salvation, when someone accepts Jesus as Savior, and then later, when he gets serious and makes Jesus to be Lord of his life.   Almost always the latter comes through a crisis situation, perhaps a "revival," which is where revivalism dovetails.  Because there are so  many "carnal Christians," they need revival, and churches are constantly looking and preaching and praying for this experience.  This is not biblical or historical Christianity.  Even though both are related to perversions seen in scripture, especially in 1 and 2 Corinthians, they began in the nineteenth century in Great Britain and then America.

Not necessarily in any order, the following is an enumeration of how I see Keswick theology and revivalism among unaffiliated Baptist churches.  Churches have been affected to varying degrees, but I can't say to what degree any one unaffiliated Baptist church has been affected.  I hear it, read it, and see it.

  1. Evangelism Methodology
  2. Content and Style of Preaching
  3. Admission of God Still Speaking or Showing a Message
  4. Music or Worship Philosophy and Practice
  5. Church Growth Innovation
  6. Pattern of Prayer
  7. Pastoral or Missionary Call
  8. Tolerance of Keswick and Revivalism
  9. Tolerance of Churches Not Preaching a True Gospel
  10. Keswick Presentation or Language of Sanctification
There are others.  I'm not saying that the above list is more rampant than in evangelicalism and fundamentalism and among independent Baptists.  It's there though, and I want unaffiliated Baptist churches to think about it.  I'm not going to take the time right now to talk about all the ways I believe I see the above ten.  I'm just leaving the list for now.

I'm hearing and reading some very good thinking and doctrine among unaffiliated Baptist churches. That could become the norm and grow, or the churches could regress.  Part of our cooperation with other churches, our love, is the willingness to listen to one another, to open ourselves up for correction.  I am willing to do that.  I don't think it's nosy to care about one another.  We have to be able to bring up subjects.

We shouldn't wait until things get bad and then just cut each other off.  We need to be willing to listen.  Part of getting together and cooperating should be sanctification. If we're going to support one another, we've got to be willing to discuss doctrine and practice for the glory of God.  We should not find a few areas we agree and ignore where we don't.  That is not "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."


Tyler Robbins said...

Bro. Brandenburg:

How much of the problems and influences from Keswick theology do you feel are a result of real doctrinal conviction? In other words, when I see the real and undeniable problems you're bringing up, I chalk it up to lack of real theological education. I just don't think most Pastors have a clue what they're talking about, theologically. That doesn't mean they're stupid; it just means they're uneducated. There is a difference.

I'm not sure there is a real committment to Keswick theology, or even an actual awareness of what "Keswick" even means. I think a lot of it is inherited tradition without any mature reflection. In short, I think independent Baptist Pastors are pretty uneducated, theologically. This doesn't mean we all must go to Seminary, but we must educate our young men better.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Earlier in this series. maybe part one, I said that not training was at the root. Why are people swept by winds of false doctrine? Because they are not filled up with right doctrine, and then they accept the false doctrine. You would be correct that there are now decades of establishing the false doctrine as true, so that it is emeshed. I'm writing for people to be thinking on this.

Whatever is the reason, it is still a problem. The thought, not from you, but I sense it from others at times, that people get a pass for ignorance, isn't acceptable to me. How will it change? It can't if no one can ask a question because the autonomy card is plopped down. I think seminary level training, even if it isn't formal per se, should be the level required. The dumbing down has occurred in part because of the mystical call and then some kind of mystical empowerment replaces study.

Kent Brandenburg said...

By the way. Tyler, your comment I think was the first comment on the subject at hand. Everything broke down into a discussion on authority, which is an interest subject, but I was writing on the igorance on these issues.

Tyler Robbins said...

If you believe in Baptist polity, then you believe that a local church recognizes, nurtures and encourages the ifts of teaching and preaching. It's the local church which recognizes God's call upon a young man's life and ordains him into the Gospel ministry. This means this is a serious responsibility - I actually can't think of a more serious responsibility.

But, the autonmous nature of local congregations also makes this process ripe for abuse. Baptists cannot appeal to a synod to cleanse a process. We can only worry about our own local churches, and encourage other Pastors to be doing the same. The de-centralization can be both a blessing and a hindrance, if the rot has spread far. I believe it has.

Local churches have much to answer for if they ordain and send out men who have no real education and are historically ignorant and theologically ignorant. This has been happening a lot, particularly in the Hyles-brand orbits. People just don't know what they're doing.

An anecdote from my own experience - I fellowship a large group of Regular Baptist pastors in my area. They are much better educated than their Fairhaven/Hyles/Providence peers. The GARBC has it's own problems, but from the small slice of the association I've seen here in rural Illinois, they're doing a good job at education.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

Bro. Robbins, I am interested in your Fairhaven/Hyles/Providence appraisal. I don't want to sidetrack this discussion because I'd much rather follow Kent's original thoughts here. Would you mind having an "offline" discussion about this? If so, my email is jvoegtlin@fairhavenbaptist.org

Thank you,

Jonathan Speer said...

Bro. Brandenburg,
I've enjoyed this series as well as the series on Keswick that TDR has compiled. I grew up in churches in the Greenville, SC area that were heavily influenced by this type of thinking and belief and practice, but I never heard the word "Keswick" until I was in my early 20s. There was always the carrot of some form of "higher Christianity" that was held out, seemingly beyond the grasp of anyone but a select few.

My experience also tells me that there is inevitably a stick of some sort lurking in the background. The broader revivalist movement also seems rife with abuses of one kind or another where men end up with the preeminence. They are the ones who wield the sticks. These sticks take many forms whether it is that you must attend college X or that you must develop an inordinate affection for your pastor.

That being said, it seemed like the majority of this type of belief was propagated by men who were excited, but woefully ignorant - of many things. That is not to say that they needed to attend some college or university and, as a result, align themselves with some "movement." (Are there higher education institutions that are not part of a movement that folks who care about proper ecclesiology would find objectionable?) I think the push for seminary education is a well-intentioned but wrong-headed solution to a misdiagnosed problem. Ignorance isn't the problem. It is a symptom of a problem: namely, churches that do not obey scripture.

One of the many good things about being unaffiliated is that it seeks to leave behind all of the "bigness" associated with the movements that have sprung out of revivalism at large.

Anonymous said...


I am trying to understand just exactly what is meant by "unaffiliated". For example, if a church is a member of a statewide fellowship of Baptist churches, would that mean that church is not "unaffiliated"? Or are statewide fellowships (at least of a certain kind) okay? Why or why not? Thanks!


Mat Dvorachek

Joe A. said...

Brother Brandenburg,
As a relatively new pastor, I am thankful for all of the wisdom in these articles. Scripturally, I do not believe that I fit in with the Sword of the Lord types. All kinds of wrong thinking, wrong doctrine, wrong evangelism has resulted because man's desire to continue to fellowship with their buddies to the exclusion of proper Bible teaching in the area of evangelism, music and church polity. It is my desire that my church stand on its own feet with the Word of God as our guide. God bless you.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Mat,

It's hard to judge what a "statewide fellowship" is. What is the fellowship based upon? Is it based on doctrine or practice? What are the boundaries? I wouldn't enter anymore into some kind of association with a pool of churches. Unaffiliated churches at least I know certain amount about them, but that they are not tied into an association right off the bat. Everything will be judged based upon belief and practice. The mission boards do bring you in to fellowship with churches that you should not fellowship with.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Joe. Glad they're a blessing.

KJB1611 said...

I have linked to this post here:


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