Unaffiliated Baptists are conservative in theology. They believe in salvation by grace through faith, the biblical and historical doctrine of the Trinity, which includes the deity of Christ, and the inspiration, infallibility, and a literal interpretation of scripture. I provide these only as a sample. On what conservative evangelicals call the essentials, unaffiliated Baptists are orthodox and historic.
Since unaffiliated Baptists are the same in large numbers of ways as fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, I'm narrowing down to what differentiates them. They are biblical. They are Baptist. They are separatist. When it comes to the gospel, I have noticed that unaffiliated Baptists as a whole are better than independent Baptists. I'm not speaking for every unaffiliated Baptist when I say that they are very good on the gospel. I don't believe that I am, but I am saying that I have seen them to be better as a whole than others. I have enjoyed my time with these churches and their pastors, which has been much different than I had experienced before.
It's obvious why certain beliefs and practices distinguish unaffiliated Baptists from merely independent Baptists, especially the ones I listed in part one: local only ecclesiology, closed communion, and the perfect preservation of God's Word. More should draw unaffiliated Baptists together than the elevation of these qualifications -- to a somewhat dismissing of others. The danger here is that men get a pass for doctrinal and practical deviation, which ought to be a concern. Among many troubles that proceed from this lapse is a loss of discernment. Men see things as fine, which are very much not fine. The errors continue, because the small list of elevated distinctions are adhered to, which safeguard from deserved censure. There has developed almost an "unaffiliated card," that someone can pull as a countermeasure.
Unaffiliated Baptists do coalesce around common work. The small group of churches rely on each other for support of missionaries that each church sends out. Like I've noticed in other spheres of life, a familiar adage can come true, that is, "the big fish in a small pond." Men start tip-toeing around the "top men," afraid that the wrong person, the big fish, will be offended. This is also where an unaffiliated "fundamental" might come into play -- local only ecclesiology -- in particular with an abuse of the truth of individual church autonomy. You can't question a biblical deviation because that is to violate autonomy, attempting to exert authority from the outside. In reality, it should be about fellowship in the truth, something that needs elevation among unaffiliated Baptists. False doctrine and practice is established, preserved, and spread through this means that I'm describing. I'm imploring -- be aware.
With everything I've written before, which I don't want you to miss, I now want to move to other issues. I've already stated a concern in part one with the acceptance of bad preaching. There is good preaching. Don't get me wrong. There is, however, a lot of bad preaching still, and that's not even my biggest concern with it. Unaffiliated Baptist men can't accept it. We need to have a quality control, where we are disturbed by it enough that we won't allow it to continue.
Further, unaffiliated Baptists, and I include myself in their number, should wonder why there is so much bad preaching. Bad preaching doesn't stand alone. It originates from other flaws. Unaffiliated Baptists believe in the sufficiency of the church. This is good. The church is sufficient. Because they believe the church is sufficient, they train their own men. Again, I think that is fine. The reason the preaching is bad in a major way proceeds from inadequate training of these men. They can't exegete scripture. They don't even know how in many cases. Because they don't know how to approach scripture with a sound hermeneutic, people are not hearing from the Word of God what they need to hear. This can change, but for that to happen, men must understand the need.
Something else relates to bad preaching that comes from deficient instruction. This is a huge subject, but it is foundational to what I'm talking about here. There are reasons, I believe, that men are fine with the bad preaching. They have a fundamental misunderstanding of true spirituality, which has been influenced by keswick theology. Keswick theology is a poison that has infiltrated almost every realm of Christianity that has not avoided unafffiliated Baptists.
I have witnessed several elements of the influence of Keswick theology that unaffiliated Baptists either don't comprehend or they accept as true. Men are "called," that is, they have received some kind of post justification spiritual movement of the Holy Spirit, that has informed them that they should be preaching. It goes back to an experience, usually an emotional one. Then the Lord "speaks" to men and "gives them a message." Bad exegesis is permitted because it has a kind of spiritual endowment. The spirituality is actually a kind of mysticism that is also anti-intellectual. For something to be spiritual or powerful, 'it won't be intellectual.' Somehow the Holy Spirit works while bypassing the mind. Scripture doesn't teach this. This is all Keswick. This infiltrates every doctrine and practice.
I'm going to delineate how I see Keswick affecting unaffiliated Baptists in the way I've described in future posts.