I get so many comments and emails complaining that the IFB can’t be considered a denomination because they are “Independent” Fundamental Baptists with an obvious emphasis on the “independent” part. I really can’t believe the number if people who take offense to my calling the IFB a denomination. Well, I guess I can believe it because I was taught this as well in my IFB experience. I guess it was just unexpected how many emails and comments I would get related to the defense of the IFB as “Independent”. There are so many thing’s wrong with the IFB that this seems minor in comparison.
I’ve discussed this topic at length with several folks who have asked me for a debate. The same argument keeps coming up over and over again, so I thought I’d write a post explaining my position on this. That way when someone else wants to argue this point I can just refer them to this page and they can take it or leave it.
Lets take the emotions out of the equation. IFBers are emotionally tied to the idea that they are “independent” – free of any governing body, autonomous and self sustaining. If we take the emotions out of the equation we can think logically about it and apply some much needed critical thinking I think we will see that this idea of “independence” is really nothing more than slight of hand.
The IFB teaches, as I was taught when I was in the throws of this cult-like denomination, that because they are “Independent” they are somehow exempt from scrutiny because each church operates and governs itself “independently” from any other organization or church. As an example, a recent visitor commented on the ABC’s 20/20 investigation of the IFB by stating
“I find it ironic that the term IFB is used rather than the whole name, INDEPENDENT Fundamental Baptist. The key word is Independent. You cannot judge all Independent Baptist churches by one. church because they are INDEPENDENT of each other.”
This is a perfect example of the thinking of the IFB. This is nothing more than mere hand waving and it is crammed down the throats of every IFB congregation (well, OK, MOST IFB congregations – there are you happy those of you who would blame me for sweeping generalizations?).
Personally, I think this issue is a con game. It’s a slight of hand misdirection to keep people from thinking that the IFB as a whole – the IFB “group” for lack of a better term – is connected in many ways (which I will talk about so keep reading). I also think it’s this is an area of focus for leaders so that other major issues are kept in the background, unnoticed – or what we call in Philosophy 101, a Red Herring fallacy.
Majoring on the minors
I plan to write an article on the topic of “majoring on the minors” at a later date, but this issue can serve as an example for now. The logical side of me wonders if the IFB focuses on this issue to distract from more pressing issues. This is certainly evident on this site. Out of all the problems and horror stories presented on this site, the most frequent complaint I get is this issue of calling the IFB a denomination.
Child sexual abuse, mental manipulation, financial cons/scams (i.e., tithing), etc. all happen withing the IFB and people are worried about me calling the IFB a denomination. If that’s not telling about the false teachings and brainwashing that happens withing the IFB I honestly don’t know what is.
So lets think logically about this for a moment. The definition of a denomination is simply “a religious group, usually including many local churches…” and “a name or designation, especially one for a class of things” The American Heritage Dictionary. According to those definitions, the IFB would be considered a denomination.
But lets not only step outside of our emotions for a moment, lets even go a step further and step outside of the dictionary definition of a denomination and think completely logically for a moment. If there are several church/religious meeting congregations (to use a church word) around the country that teach similar beliefs, traditions, doctrines, etc., and each use THE SAME NAME to identify themselves, what else would you call it? a group? a congregation?, a union?, an organization? or can we not just use the typical word that’s used in our society to identify a like minded group of people with a religious preference – a denomination?
Logic dictates that ultimately this is nothing more than a semantics game that the IFBer use. The word “Independent” is really a misnomer if you think logically about it.
If a person accused me of sweeping generalizations I must insist that it is not me who is making the comparison. As already stated on this site, I’m simply sharing my experiences. So the association with all things IFB is the IFBer’s association not mine. A person who is an Independent Fundamental Baptist calls himself/herself such because they WANT to associate with a certain set of beliefs and values. IFBers are associating with the IFB because that’s what they WANT to be – and for all reasons that they have. This is THEIR association not mine. I didn’t choose that association for them.
The same is true for a particular church. If a particular church or congregation call themselves Independent Fundamental Baptist then they are associating with all that represents an Independent Fundamental Baptist church. That’s their association not mine.
One disgruntled visitor picked a fight about this topic with me and stated
“The “I” in IFB is supposed to stand for independent. Therefore we are not or at least are not supposed to be chained or linked together in any way. The idea of multiple Churches banding together a pooling their financial and clergical resources together is absolutely in no way scriptural. This idea was originally started by the Roman Catholic Church and due to the Protestant reformation these flawed and unbiblical practices carried on with those who left the Catholic Church. I can say for fact though that a true IFB Church does not claim to be Protestant because we were never in anyway associated with the RCC.”
This simply isn’t true. The IFB would like you to think that of course, but most IFB churches are started as a “sister or daughter church” of another IFB church. My family helped start three of them. They weren’t allowed to operate unless they did things the exact same way as the “sending” church. There may not be a national convention that each church answers to or a corporate identity, but there is certainly not “independence” in the sense that the IFB would have you think. The term “Independent” is truly a misnomer. The idea that the IFB church is “independent” is a blatant lie at best and manipulation at worst.
The IFB really is a brand – for lack of a better term. To think otherwise is nothing short of delusional. If a church doesn’t want the association of Independent, Fundamental, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian or whatever, then they shouldn’t associate as such. The error in association is the church’s not mine. This isn’t blame shifting, but simple common sense. If a church calls itself Independent Fundamental Baptist then it needs to be willing to accept the associations that go along with it – both good and bad.
It came to my attention by an astute reader that there actually does exist a “fellowship” of Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches in each individual state. Upon further investigation I’ve found at least 42 states have an organizational body called a “Fellowship of Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches” and two Global organizations.
The first one is the Global Independent Fundamental Baptist Fellowship www.gifb.org and the second one is the Independent Fundamental Baptist International www.fbfi.org.
So much for “Independent” eh?
It would be interesting some day to do a comparison of Arv Edgworth’s arguments about the IFB being “independent from any organizational body” and the mission of those global/international “fellowships”.
By the way, isn’t it interesting to see the word play here? The use of “fellowship” is a nice way to disguise an organizational body isn’t it? Hmmm…