Fundamentalism


Growing up in a conservative Baptist church I was not intentionally exposed much to other faith traditions (though I am sure this is true for most Evangelicals). I say intentionally because there is a sense in which I was “protected” from them and their seemingly unbiblical doctrines. These other faith traditions, unlike my own of course (wink, wink), were fraught with extra-biblical beliefs that were shrouded in sheep’s clothing in order to cover the wolf of false man-made doctrine underneath.

As I grew up and went to college I began to learn more about these other faith traditions. To be honest, I struggled with the salvation of Catholics, had no idea what Eastern Orthodoxy was and Anglicans were just wrong Protestants because they weren’t evangelical Baptists like myself. I was woefully ignorant of much of their beliefs and, though I am still not convinced of them, I was utterly negative in my attitude towards them. Needless to say, I could have used a dose of gospel humility, even if I still disagreed with them in the end (and they with me for that matter).

Structure of the Book

In an effort to break down hollow walls of characterization of other faith traditions and to build new solid walls of respectful and informed understanding, Robert Plummer has assembled a number of top-notch representatives of various faith traditions (Catholic, Evangelical, Eastern Orthodox and Anglicanism) who have changed from one faith tradition to another in his newly edited book Journeys of Faith. The four major contributors are as follows:

  1. Wilbur Ellsworth turned Evangelical Southern Baptist to Eastern Orthodox.
  2. Francis J. Beckwith turned mildly Catholic to Evangelical to strong Catholic again.
  3. Chris Castaldo turned Catholic to Evangelical.
  4. Lyle W. Dorsett walked among the Evangelical spectrum where he eventually landed in Anglicanism.

Though this book gives the reasons for why each contributor changed from one faith tradition to another this is not a typical counter point book. The point is not to necessarily critique the reasons each person holds for changing, but as Plummer states:

It is my hope that persons reading this book will listen carefully to the persons who have converted to new faith traditions and will truly seek to understand the motivation behind such spiritual journeys. (p. 16)

Following each major chapter is a response by one person (three of them being Evangelical and one being Catholic), who is not a major contributor, in regards to both the positive they see in the contributors essays as well as the things that give pause or concern. Following the critiques the contributors are allowed a short response. What readers will see in this book is summed up well by Plummer:

The contributors to this volume recognize genuine differences among Christian faith traditions and see the value in making biblical, logical, historical, and experiential cases for what they believe are the most compelling expressions of Christian community. (p. 17)

Though differences are clearly evident and expressed, this book is not an exercise in public theological bashing. On the other hand, this is not an attempt to gloss over the differences between various faith traditions in an effort to flatten them all out so they can be presented as a unified front.

Summary of Major Contributors Changes

Wilbur Ellsworth grew up Southern Baptist, was trained as such and pastored as such. He sums up his long journey to Eastern Orthodoxy in the following initial words, “There was always a sense that we needed to discover and grow into something more, something greater, richer, and more compelling” (p. 24). The issue that sparked what would later land him in Eastern Orthodoxy was his inadequate experience in his first Baptist church in regards to its worship life. It was evident that there was “a lack of any theological basis” for what they as a church were doing (p. 26). This led to a series of theological and practical reexaminations of a number of major beliefs Ellsworth had learned. His desire for a deeper understanding and experience of communion and church worship played a major role. The lack of uniformity within Evangelical churches in regards to worship and theology led him to desire a more unified view of Scripture, tradition and church authority which he found in the Orthodox church. Much of this change in faith traditions centers around, what Ellsworth considers to be a turn back to the historic roots of the Christian church.

Francis Beckwith was born into the Catholic Church but after high school he spent much of his life within Evangelical circles, churches and schools. The initial spark for his change from Evangelicalism to Catholicism began while he taught at UNLV. As he taught classes on ethical theory, applied ethics and politics he found that he “was drawn more to Catholic authors who seemed to have a better grasp of the underlying philosophical issues that percolated beneath many contemporary moral debates” (p. 84). Their biblical and theological arguments had more elegance and intellectual richness (p. 84). The great dividing line came when he wrote a paper addressing anticreedal Protestantism. A member of the listening audience made the comment that the necessity of creeds in the first six centuries of the church necessitated a magisterium that had the authority to make them and declare them normative for the church (p. 87). It is here that Beckwith felt the need to entertain returning to the Catholicism of his youth. As is characteristic for many Catholics, the four major issues he had to struggle with overcoming were the doctrine of justification, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the sacrament of penance and apostolic succession (p. 88). Beckwith concludes his findings on these four major doctrines to be

Defensible Christian beliefs and practices that not only could be supported scripturally but were also uncontroversially believed and practiced by the church universal during the times in which the most important early creeds and canons were penned and promulgated…..I could not legitimately isolate and insulate my Protestant reading of the New Testament from the practices of the church that fixed the canon of the New Testament without suggesting the counterintuitive notion that the church had enough of the Holy Spirit to know what books belong in Scripture but not enough of the Holy Spirit to know what practices and ecclesiology are consistent with, or legitimate derivations from, the Scripture. (p. 112).

All in all, one can see that Beckwith has turned to Catholicism for the very reasons that divide Catholics and Evangelicals, which Gregg Allison ably brings out in his response. He delves deeply into the early history of the church quoting numerous early church fathers in an effort to support the Catholic tradition. For Beckwith, Protestantism was let go because he felt it had isolated itself “from the practices of the church that fixed the canon of that New Testament without suggesting the counterintuitive notion that the church had enough of the Holy Spirit to know what books belong in Scripture but not enough of the Holy Spirit to know what practices and ecclesiology are consistent with, or legitimate derivation from, that Scripture.” (p. 112)

Chris Castaldo grew up Catholic but the tipping point for his turn to Protestantism was the issue of assurance

At the end of the day, I found Catholic faith to be frustrating because it never produced confidence that I was fully and finally accepted by God. Even when I successfully observed the Church’s precepts – regulation such as attending Mass weekly, observing holy days of obligation, or abstaining from eating mean on Lenten Fridays – I knew it was only a matter of time before I violated another religious stipulation and thus removed myself from God’s favor. (p. 139)

After tasting the teachings of some other religions it was the message the preacher preached at his father’s funeral that drove Chris to resting wholly in Jesus for his salvation – he had assurance (p. 143). “In retrospect, I believe this was the day I ceased to be a Catholic.” (p. 144) In contrast to Beckwith, Castaldo could no longer see the Catholic church as the hub of church authority for all belief and practice – it was the Bible. Along with the concerns of many other former Catholics in leaving, it was a “weariness with the vast array of religious rules, regulations, and traditions which seemed to have little or nothing to do with the gospel.” (p. 145) Though Catholics and Protestants begin with the same Bible and confess much the same creeds, it is where they go after there that the difference(s) begin to emerge

This divergence is based upon a different understanding of how the infallible revelation and authority of Jesus applies to his Church, and by extension to the world. In other words, when Catholics identify the tangible presence of Christ in the world, they normally point to the institution of one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Evangelicals, on the other hand, while acknowledging a union between Christ and his Church, are nonetheless more inclined to see the infallible manifestation of Christ’s revelation and authority in the text of Scripture. (p. 148).

This issue of the location of authority for Christians has been the watershed issue between Evangelical and Catholics and will by all accounts continue to be so. Throughout his discussion Castaldo takes on the major points of teaching on Catholic authority while conversely clarifying the Evangelical position.

Returning to his original struggle with the lack of assurance of salvation he felt within the Catholic tradition, Castaldo finishes out by addressing the issue of guilt. For Chris, it was the “oppressive imposition of unhealthy religious guilt” that perpetuated the lack of assurance of salvation (p. 160). Castaldo clears up the false notion held by many Evangelicals concerning Catholic Mass that the Eucharist is a repetition of the cross. Rather, “he is ‘immolated,’ which means that he is presented in a state of victimhood…..Because the death of Christ is ongoing, there is never a sense that justification ((being made right with God) has been finished in this life.” (p. 162) For Castaldo, if positional justification has not been accomplished by Christ for the believer then there is no assurance of salvation this side of the grave.

Lyle Dorsett began as a moderate Lutheran and turned Anglican. Though feeling a call to ministry at the age of thirteen, Dorsett did not act on this “calling” until much later in life. In the meantime he pursued studies and teaching in history. After several years of not walking with the Lord, the prayers of his wife and the influence of others, Dorsett finally came to a place in his life in which he called on the Lord. Here his call for ministry was rekindled and he began to pursue theological education and ordination. Dorsett wove in and out of a few different denominations because, as he puts in, he and his wife were “looking for something more” than what they found where they were at presently. He finally found his home in the Anglican tradition because

Historically it has been the via media that emerged from the English Reformation. It is the middle way between the austerity of some radical Puritans who determined to cleanse the Church from all “vestiges of popery,” going so far as to call for the abolition of everything not expressly required in the Bible, and the Catholics on the other hand who placed Tradition and the Church above Scripture to an extreme where they promulgated some doctrines that stand in contradistinction to Holy Writ. (p. 208)

For Dorsett, Anglicanism has a variety of Evangelical beliefs in which he believes represent the best of Evangelical theology and practice.

Final Observations

There are a few observations I made while reading these various journeys of changing faith traditions.

  1. Worship Through Liturgy – The predominate theme that ran throughout these four accounts is the desire for a liturgy and worship that accurately expresses the theological beliefs of ones tradition in regards to Scripture. For Ellsworth and Beckwith liturgy is driven by the authority and tradition of the churches interpretation of Scripture. For Castaldo Scripture is the center of authority which governs ones worship (though this is expressed through tradition(s)). And for Dorsett, there is a mix of traditional interpretation and Scripture to guide the liturgy.
  2. Honesty, Forthrightness and Charitable About Disagreements – One of the nice things about each contributors chapter was that they did not pretend for a minute that there was little to no difference between each faith traditions beliefs. Each person was clear on why they believe their tradition has it right and the others don’t. One can see the no-mincing-of-words about our differences in the responses to each main contribution. However, this dialogue of disagreement was done very charitably.
  3. Genuine Desire for Truth – If there is one thing I learned by reading this book is that these kinds of changes do not usually happen overnight (at least not the lasting reflective ones). Each contributor’s journey took many years of hard thoughtful reflection and inner struggle. Even though we may disagree on where one lands down the road, we must respect the fact that the decision was not made in haste or in overnight reaction to something.
  4. Theology Matters – Because the contributors were very clear about their differences one cannot help but see that the differences can be watershed issues. For instance, the age old disagreement between Catholics and evangelicals on justification is still in existence – and it matters what you believe. Along the same lines, the issue of the location of continued authority is still an issue – is it the church or Christ through Scripture?
  5. Respect for Tradition – There was a great sense of desire to be rooted in the history and tradition of the church over the last 2,000 years. Beckwith had the most discussion on tradition as it was most relevant for him. Ellsworth was a close second with Dorsett coming in at third. Castaldo had the least but not to his detriment. For the first three, they are naturally more tradition based because of their view of the authority of the church and Scripture. Castaldo is responding to this misplaced view and thus focuses on the Authority of Scripture with the authority of tradition/church in second place.

Conclusion

Journeys of Faith is a raw and clarifying look at what drives people to move from one faith tradition to another. The arguments are clear, the personal journeys are genuine, the spirit of disagreement is charitable and there is much to learn for the wiling mind without having to feel threatened. This is a good book in which to gain a greater appreciation for different faith traditions and your own as well.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for a review. I was not paid and the views expressed here are my own.

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The Sword of the Lord publication was founded by John R. Rice and has been around for over 80 years. John R. Rice has been a staple name among fundamentalists as a result of his evangelistic preaching and proliferation of books and other various publications. Rice has a long family history stretching all the way back to before the Civil War. Rice moved among the great evangelists and fundamentalists of his day including Bob Jones Sr., William Bell Riley, Stephen Paine and J. Frank Norris.

Most, if not all, of the Rice family members followed the family tradition of ministry save one – Andrew Himes. Andrew is the self proclaimed black sheep of the Rice family. Though he grew up with his grandfather John R. Rice and the other Rice family members, Andrew left the family fold when he went to college in an effort to find what he felt he had never found in the God of his family.

Since the funeral of John r. Rice in 1980, Andrew has been on a thirty year journey “back” to God. In an effort to understand his family heritage better Himes began to dig deep. The result is his new book The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family. His digging took him all the way back to before the Civil War with the migration of the Scots-Irish immigrants during the early half of the 18th century. Himes felt that in order to better understand the fundamentalist roots of his family he had to go all the way back to the beginning. He states:

My intention is to explore the roots of Fundamentalism in America in a critical, thoughtful, and honest way, using the history of my own family of Baptist fundamentalists as a rich source of insight (p. v).

In the second part of the book Himes painstakingly documents minute details about the early American history of the Rice family. Throughout the book Himes beautifully weaves his own history in the Rice family with that of the entire Rice family. Reaching all the way back to the transition from the 16th to 17th century, Himes gives a short history of how the Rice family wove their way through some of the most major historical movements in American history and how they played a role in some of the most influential events that shaped the American religious, social and political landscape.

Historically, Himes points out that the Rice family came from what might have otherwise been thought of as an unlikely mix. He states:

The children of the English Puritans and the children of the Scots-Irish Presbyterians in the south found common ground in the struggle to create a new democratic republic and oppose a monarchy that was working at cross-purposes to the evident will of God. The roots of the 20th century American fundamentalism can be discerned in the confluence of these two streams of immigration, culture, and history. A unique American expression of evangelical Christianity emerged – profoundly democratic, anti-royalist and anti-clerical, militant and missional, convinced that Gods was on the side of Americans (p. 29).

Of particular interest to readers, especially contemporary self-identified Fundamentalist, is the deep seeded involvement of the Rice family (and pre-fundamentalists for that matter) in the slave trade of the 1700′s. The Rice family moved from anti-slavery Tennessee to Missouri in order to live out their pro-slavery mindset and theology (p. 37). Eventually by the late 1800′s it seems the Rice’s removed themselves from the slave trade only because of the results of the Civil War (p. 78). However, while the Rice family may have been out of the slave trade, the racism that supported it would follow them for years to come.

Part three of the book deals with the pre-history of the Fundamentalism and role the Rice family played in shaping it. Himes traces a number of theological factors that he feels played a role in founding and moving early Fundamentalism forward amidst the rise of modernism.

First, premilliennialism was the eschatological view that shaped the way fundamentalist Christians engaged within the cultural evils of their day. Himes labors to show how historically new premillennial eschatology was compared to more historically received views like amillennialism. Himes fells that this kind of eschatology necessarily downplays the involvement of Christians in and concern for societal and cultural reform. He states,

Darby’s followers assumed that any attempt to reform society according to Christian principles was both fruitless and heretical. They believed the Kingdom of Heaven to be a literal place where God reigned on a literal golden throne and where Christians went to live for eternity after death (p. 106).

Therefore, according to Himes, this new eschatological view turned Christians away from seeking to bring cultural renewal through the gospel to focusing primarily on the fate of one’s soul. Himes attempts to note what he might call a fair distinction among premillennialists in this regard:

For many premillennialists, God was both an angry God and a God of love, a God intolerant of sin and eager to forgive. They believed Christians should be concerned both with social reform on earth and the fate of one’s soul in the afterlife. For the most extreme premillennialists, however, no other problem on earth truly mattered compared to saving souls from a literal and eternal hell – not poverty, injustice, hunger, inequality, ignorance, disease, slavery or war (p. 108).

Another notable foundational shaping factor to early fundamentalism was the rise of modernism and theological liberalism. While the fruit of the 16th and 17th century scientific revolution had produced great economic, social and cultural progress, it also had effects on Christianity and the interpretation of the Bible. Himes feels that the higher critical method of interpretation was actually a “broadening” of Biblical understanding (p. 115). This higher critical method influenced many Christians who were “more willing to accept new ideas that had emerged” from it and “tended to be more politically progressive, more attuned to the ‘social gospel,’ and more intent on the message of social justice they discern in the teaching and life of Jesus (p. 117).”

Perhaps the event that had the most notable negative impact on Christianity at this time was the Scopes Money Trial of 1925. The unfortunate results of this trial had a devastating blow on conservative Christianity. Himes notes:

Over the next several years many in the fundamentalist movement in America embarked on a sorrowful and indignant, half-century-long retreat from public life. Within a few years after the death of William Jennings Bryan, the view among fundamentalists had become more consolidated (173).

Part four addresses the beginning of Fundamentalism. With all of the blows conservative Christianity was dealt, it is from this that Fundamentalism as a movement emerged. It is within Fundamentalism that the Rice family is most remembered. It is on the heels of the Scopes Monkey Trial that “John R. Rice began his full-time career as a revival evangelist in 1926 (p. 174).” It was from his first church in Dallas, Texas that Rice rose to fame and eight years later, in 1934, founded The Sword of the Lord publication. While Rice was close friends with J. Frank Norris, noted famous fundamentalist preacher of the Southern states, it was the success Rice received from his new publication that eventually drove them to part ways (p. 194).

Interestingly enough, in the early days of Rice and The Sword of the Lord publication, Rice was close friends and ministry partners with Billy Graham. Rice and Graham met each other in 1940 at Wheaton and Rice became Graham’s mentor (p. 202). Though these two men enjoyed great success together, they eventually were driven apart as Graham would later join forces with what was known as the ‘new evangelicals’ and men like Carl F. Henry and Harold Ockenga through Graham’s new publication Christianity Today (p. 229-30). Despite much pleading with Rice, Graham was unable to convince him to remain ministry partners. That Graham was a public figure, his separation from Rice dealt a devastating blow to Fundamentalism and Rice’s famous publication, The Sword of the Lord. The fall out resulted in the subscription of The Sword to plunge from 106,000 to 66,000 (p. 230). “Fundamentalists themselves were back in the wilderness (p. 230).”

Over time though, The Sword was able to regain their support and by 1970 they had over 130,000 subscribers (p. 257) and would later reach over 300,00 (p. 259). Rice was back in business. Despite fall out with Bob Jones Sr. (p. 260), Rice was able to make alliances with Jerry Falwell and became a shaping force behind the founding of the Moral Majority (p. 266).

At the end of Rice’s career he seemed to be torn over the mass separation that Fundamentalism had produced. During his last message in 1980, Rice preached from John 10:16 in which he reminded The Sword of the Lord conference listeners that Jesus had other sheep from other folds. Rice said,

The truth is there are a lot of other people who are God’s people and they’re my people too…..What about all those others, the people you don’t like very much? Do you love the people of God who don’t see things like you do? How about Billy Graham? I pray for him every day (p. 270).

As Himes has shown us, the Rice family has a long and deeply American history which touches some of America’s greatest political, social and religious aspects.

There are a few concluding thoughts I have on the book and Himes presentation of his family and Fundamentalism.

First, while some of the facts that Himes presents may not sit well with some ardent Fundamentalist supporters, they are true. They did own slaves and were supporters of segregation. No one is free of things they or their family has done and neither is Fundamentalism or the Rice family. Himes tries to bring both the bad and the good to light as it pertains to his family.

Second, while Rice does attempt to offer a balanced view of his family history, there is clearly a race agenda for Himes. In fact, the race issue appears in almost every chapter in the book. I assume that it would have been almost impossible for Himes not to do this because he was/is a strong defender of racial equality which began when he was 14 and has been a driving issue in his life (p. 40-41; 155-56). Himes fight for racial equality is definitely good but his families opposing view on it dominates his account of their history (p. 35-68; 156-62).

Third, while at times I was literally laughing at the descriptions of Fundamentalism as Himes experienced it (p. 8-15 – especially since much of it was true in my experience), at other times I was in total disagreement and even shocked at the inaccuracies. This inaccuracy is most clearly seen in the chapters called “Billy Sunday and the Premillennials” and “The Fundamentals“. In these two chapters Himes gives his summary of the modernist and conservative view of theology especially as it pertains to the doctrine of Scripture. Himes says,

The final list of canonical books was still being sharply disputed in the 16th century during the Reformation, and to this day Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox theologians disagree about the list. Most of the manuscripts that formed the basis of the Bible we have today date from the Middle Ages, and almost none of these were fully identical (p. 115).

That the books of the canon were still being “sharply disputed” during the Reformation is grossly exaggerated if not totally false. Sure, Luther thought the book of James was not inspired and other fringe groups/people disputed the authenticity of other books of the Bible. But the majority of the church recognized the 66 books of the Bible as inspired and authentic by the end of the 4th century as any Orthodox Church historian will attest to. There are other places within the pages of “The Fundamentals” that characteristics of both conservatives and liberals are inaccurately mixed and confused. In light of how well much of the research is done for most of the book this part is severely lacking. However, the way some things are worded causes me to think Himes has sympathies for modernists and liberals. Presenting facts is one thing, but how you present them can show your hand which I think is what Himes does.

Fourth, akin to Himes emphasis on the race issue, Himes greatly emphasizes the social involvement and non-involvement of the Rice family and Fundamentalism. Again, this coincides with Himes personal life journey of seeking to bring social reform where needed. Social reform is good but readers need to pay attention to Himes own life as a backdrop to how some of the Rice family history is presented.

Overall I enjoyed the book and learned a number of things about the Rice family, The Sword and Fundamentalism that I never knew. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of their Fundamentalist roots from one who both lived on the inside of the story but clearly writes as one on the outside looking in. This is not a primer on Fundamentalist history but rather a unique view on a unique family and movement from a genuinely unique person.

Thank you Andrew Himes for opening us to a part of Fundamentalist and American history that is perhaps sadly unknown to many within the movement and yet needs to be remembered and learned from.

You can purchase this book from Amazon or Himes site.

NOTE: This book was provided for free and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

A few weeks ago I posted about the recent sex scandals that were finally being exposed within certain (note – not all) IFB churches and organizations. Well, Christina Anderson is getting her day in court reports MSNBC.com. Ernest Willis will be charged for raping Anderson twice in 97′ and Pastor Charles Phelps is on the prosecutors list of witnesses.

The trial will begin May 23rd once the jury has been selected. I am glad Anderson will get her day in court and I pray justice is done. I am saddened that this is another case where unchecked sin is putting a stain on the name of Jesus Christ and His bride the church – but we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Read the whole thing here.

Depending on the kind of church you grew up in you might or might not have heard of The Sword of the Lord and its newspaper. Since its inception in 1934, The Sword of the Lord (TSL) has been a major publisher and influence within many Fundamentalist churches (also known as Independent Fundamental Baptist).

TSL was founded by the famous Fundamentalist pastor and evangelist John R. Rice. Author Andrew Himes, the grandson of John R. Rice, has written a new book called The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family in an effort to understand the history of his family and a movement.

Since Andrew Himes grew up in the thick if its beginnings as a Rice family member, he has a unique perspective on TSL, John R. Rice and the roots of Fundamentalism. For those who are familiar with TSL and John R. Rice or who have grown up within Fundamentalism, this will be a welcome book as it seeks to provide an historical grounding of all three as set within the context of American history. The chapters in the book are manageable and contain many helpful illustrations and discussion questions.

Once I have finished my review copy I will provide a review on this blog. Until then get your own copy here and check The Sword of the Lord Book web site for more info not in the book.

I grew up within Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches my whole life. I went to an IFB college and seminary. Many of the IFB churches I attended were part of General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC). This is my denominational heritage. My experience with them was mostly positive. Most notable was the youth pastor I had from 10-12th grade who has continued to be an influence and source of wisdom in my life, and I pray will continue for the rest of our lives.

Unfortunately, IFB churches are not impervious to sin and its sometimes public stains. This will be the case as long as sinners inhabit IFB churches (and any church for that matter) and until Christ returns. Since we are all sinners and Christ hasn’t returned, churches will have sinners regardless of their denominational stripe.

While I never knew of any accusations of abuse (let alone sexual abuse) in the IFB churches I attended, I later came to know that it has happened frequently in other similar churches and within our organizations.

There have been two instances of sexual abuse in the news recently that have created a lot of discussion and questioning of the integrity of certain IFB churches. I emphasize certain because this does not happen in all IFB churches but it does happen in many. For it to happen at all or anywhere is too much.

The first case deals with the retirement of Donn Ketcham from the mission board of ABWE. In their open confession, ABWE admits that Ketcham’s acts of pedophilia extend as far back as 1975 and that he should have been let go no later than 1985. A number of investigations were started but never seen through even as recent as 2002 in which more allegations from alleged victims were made. ABWE has posted a plea for forgiveness on their blog and has opened themselves up to a third party investigation by G.R.A.C.E. to further explore the pedophilia accusations and how they handled the accusations. Those familiar with the GARBC will know that ABWE is one of their main mission boards. Further, Donn Ketcham’s father, Robert Ketcham, is the founder of the GARBC. That ABWE did not properly deal with Ketcham despite his relationship to the GARBC’s founder is inexcusable and bodes very poorly for them.

The second recent story dealing with sexual abuse within IFB churches stems from a recent 20/20 interview in which several women who were sexually and physically abused by IFB church members and pastors recount their stories. Listening to these women tell their horrific stories is heartbreaking to say the least. To further add to their horrific stories, it is angering to hear how their church leaders handled, or better did not handle the situations. In one case, a women confided in her youth pastor about what was happening to her and he in turn sexually abused her himself.

While I am thankful that ABWE is finally getting around to dealing with the Ketcham issue, there is no excuse that it took this long to deal with. Unfortunately, this is characteristic of too many IFB churches and their organizations. This habit of sweeping these accusations under the carpet has to stop. I realize that IFB churches and their organizations are not the only ones within Evangelical circles to do this. However, the fact that two instances have recently been made public and that they reveal years of cover up seems to point to the fact that this has been going on for a long time.

Some may think these statements to be too harsh, ill informed and uncalled for. I am not alone. Once I watched the 20/20 interview I quickly emailed one of the site organizers at Sharperiron.org and asked that someone with much more of a voice than I respond to the interview. Whether it was due to my request or not, SI posted a response yesterday on their blog. It came from none other than Dr. Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Bauder is no stranger to Fundamentalism. He has been a voice for Fundamentalism for years and is a contributing author to the to-be-released book Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. In his post Bauder begins and ends with these words,

We used to think that the problem of child molestation belonged to other people, but not to fundamental Baptists. Now we are learning otherwise. We are hearing more and more reports of sexual predation, pedophilia, and cover-ups on the part of fundamental Baptist leaders. The resulting impression upon the public is that the clergy of Baptist fundamentalism is unusually goatish, thuggish, and corrupt…….Baptist fundamentalism has endured dark episodes in the past, but none has been blacker or more ugly that the present hour. We have no one else to blame. We have been too lax for too long. If the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God, then we should welcome the purifying effect that the exposure of sin will have upon us, and we should respond rightly.

You can read the whole thing here which I would do carefully and thoughtfully.

If Bauder’s words are not enough for you, then consider the words of another leading Fundamentalist leader, Dave Doran, president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and senior pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church. In a post titled “You Get What You Honor“, Doran concludes his statements by saying,

I do not mean to endorse or excuse anything connected to the 20/20 report by this post. I’ve spoken very clearly in other places about some of it. My point here is to say that my reaction to the program wasn’t anger that people with grievances went to a secular news outlet or that they tried to tie a bunch of churches together that don’t really belong together. It was a sad, sick feeling. Most of that was about the horrible things that were done to girls and young ladies. Part of it was because I couldn’t help thinking that we have gotten what we honored. We created, or at least tolerated, a culture that permitted and produced this. We too often smiled when we should have been frowning. Perhaps before we start hurling accusations and making counter arguments, we ought to look in the mirror and mourn over what we see there.

Both Bauder and Doran see these instances for what they are as well as the 20/20 interview. Yes, 20/20 did seem to group all IFB churches together by using the phrase “the IFB” as if to say they are a declared denominational group like the GARBC when in fact no such thing exists. I have watched the 20/20 interview twice and for all of the smaller quibbles of how IFB churches were portrayed, I hope people can see it for what it is – a story that exposes the cover up within certain IFB churches in regards to sexual abuse.  It was an opportunity for these abused women to have a voice and seek the justice that they were denied by their own churches and organizations. Justice is God’s, but he has also put government in place to bring civil justice for victims of civil injustice (Rom. 13).

To all who are members and leaders of IFB churches and organizations, please see these remarks for what they are – a plea to purge the body of Jesus Christ from abusers of all kinds. Let this no longer be named among the body of Christ.