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Why I am not a Recovering Fundamentalist

I recently stumbled across an article by Evangelist Dave Young by this title that encapsulated the burden of my heart lately. I reached out to him and got permission to reproduce that article here for our readers to see because I think it is a burden that many of us have had. But to make it clear why this topic is important to me let me tell my story.

My family first heard the preaching of the gospel when we were stationed in Misawa, Japan. Pastor Mike Harrell was faithfully pastoring Faith Baptist Church at the time and our only experience with Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB) came from his example. He was a balanced, kind and compassionate man who sought to teach rather than lead by edicts. Our family thrived and grew under this ministry. Three years later my dad got transferred to Oklahoma city; and so, we started looking for churches in the area. We knew nothing about the dynamics of churches in America. We didn't know about the different circles of Fundamentalism in the States. We were only exposed to our one good example.

We ended up going to a very large IFB church in Oklahoma city that was affiliated closely with Hyles Anderson university in Indiana. This was the worst decision we ever made. The preaching was filled with anger and abuse, mocking and ridicule. Sin was swept under the rug by those who were accepted by the movement. The pastor led with an iron fist. He even made statements like, "If you don't like what I'm preaching you can stand behind my car as I back out of the parking lot after the service." People were ruled with fear that we would be ridiculed and publicly shamed before the congregation. In fact, when we did leave it was preached publicly that my sister and I would never do anything for God because we left that church. As a 14 year old, I struggled with my faith after this and if it wasn't for the church that we went to next, and I now attend, my spiritual walk would have been shipwrecked. The seeds of destruction had been planted in our family. The way the church was ruled became the way my dad ruled. Not long after this, my parents ended up getting divorced.

So when I listen and read from people who have left the IFB movement; I understand their pain and why they feel like running away. Many of my friends have not been in these circles and haven't faced the same things; so they don't see this. In many circles, Pastors have abused their authority and fleeced the sheep. They have elevated conformity on the outside while ignoring the true heart on the inside. But, I found churches who were not like this. I believe many of the churches affiliated with the college I went to are not like this. On deputation, I was in some great churches that were not like this; and so, I have hope.

I don't want to throw out all the good things that I received. I want to hold fast to that which is true and throw out that which was evil. Ultimately, we are all Independent Baptists so we don't have to be defined by what the rest of the movement does. Below I have reproduced Dave Young's article and then at the bottom I added one more point that I thought was important.

Why I am not a recovering Fundamentalist

By Dave Young

Perhaps you too have heard about those who call themselves “recovering fundamentalists.” I don’t personally know those in this new “camp” but assume that they know and love the Lord just like I do. That being said, I am not in their camp and below are five reasons why.

I am not a Recovering Fundamentalist because I believe some doctrines are essential (fundamental) to the Christian faith.

Being a fundamentalist means that I believe some doctrines are essential to our faith and that without them there is no faith. Fundamentalism, in its original and purest sense, is about essential doctrines and therefore is not a movement. I don’t need to recover or reform from the essentials which I believe the Scriptures teach.

I am not a Recovering Fundamentalist because there is a difference in being a Fundamentalist and being part of a particular group within the Independent Baptist movement.

Sometimes good people equate the word fundamentalist with a specific “camp” within the Independent Baptist World. As an evangelist, I preach in a variety of “camps” and for a variety of pastors and churches. Every church where I preach would believe in the fundamentals and, at the same time, many would have varying positions on everything from dress to music to beards. We can agree to disagree on these and many other positions and still serve together. There are other pastors and churches, however, that would embrace ideologies and positions that I absolutely reject. In that case, I choose not to preach for or recommend those men and their churches. Regarding such specific errors, see the next point below.

I am not a Recovering Fundamentalist because sin needs repentance, correction, and separation instead of ridicule and humor.

Within parts of the Independent Baptist world, there are several sins that have, on occasion, been tolerated, overlooked, and practiced. Some have been guilty of racism. Some have taught errors regarding who is to blame for a man’s lust (they preach that the woman who is immodest and “out of line” is to blame). Some have overlooked fornication and adultery and even continued to promote and serve with men who were blatantly guilty of such sins. Others have taught a “Man-of-God-theology” that basically says the “Man-of-God” is always the absolute authority, and when he is wrong, simply refer back to the first statement. In regards to such matters the Bible response should be repentance, correction, and separation. We should call men (and women) to repent (and we should repent ourselves if we are guilty). We should correct these matters in our own lives and challenge everyone within our influence to do likewise. Finally, we should separate from those who practice these sins and who refuse to repent and be corrected.

I am not a Recovering Fundamentalist because some of the issues mentioned by recovering fundamentalists are somewhat silly to address.

This week, I listened to some conversations by those who consider themselves to be recovering fundamentalists. Although they did eventually and rightly mention several areas of “error,” they spent a majority of time listing and ridiculing things that are in fact silly to address. Wearing culottes may not be a preference for many, but it isn’t hurtful that some wear them or believe they should, in fact, be worn by all. Having to swim in long pants (I did), being asked not to wear beards (I was), and believing that shorts on men is carnal and worldly (I was there too), may be foreign and problematic to many, but I never felt a need to “recover” from these standards. I have changed my view of them, but I wasn’t “hurt” by them at all. Many of the other “humorous” references by the recovering fundamentalists crowd are held by some very godly and very sincere people. I believe that it is entirely Biblical for people to have personal standards, to embrace them, teach them, and even raise their families by them. I do believe in loving and giving grace to those who differ, but I have no issue with people who have standards that I don’t like, don’t prefer, or don’t practice any longer. In the spirit of Romans 14, I still honor them and receive them. That is the Biblical response we are to have.

I am not a Recovering Fundamentalist because GROWTH is a better word than recovery.

Instead of ridiculing and being condescending, each of us should seek to grow in grace as we allow the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly in all wisdom. Keep applying God’s Word to your life. Live by Biblical truth and seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit to help you live truth. If you have been hurt by the sins of a particular “camp,” then the key to your overcoming the hurt will also be spiritual growth. A legal matter, of course, should be handled legally. A personal hurt, however, will only be overcome as you grow in grace and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into truth. If counseling is needed, get it. Biblical counseling is not a matter of “airing” our disagreements and ridiculing those with whom we disagree. Politicians do that. Biblical counseling is a matter of learning truth so that we can apply it to our lives and become more and more Christlike every step of our Christian journey.

So what do you think? Are my thoughts valid? Am I right? Am I wrong? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Your sincere friend,

Dave Young

I am not a Recovering Fundamentalist because I still believe that the principles of scripture should influence our life choices and not only the direct commands of scripture. (Jason Shirk)

One of the biggest arguments that people give to reject the teachings of many IFB churches is that there are no specific commands in scripture saying we should or shouldn't do some of the things that IFB churches teach. In many cases, they are right, but often they forget that behind the direct statements of scriptures are principles that we need to apply to our lives on a personal level. The problem that some IFB churches have is that they take these principles out of context or try to stretch them too far; some even impose their personal preferences onto scripture, but that does not mean that the bible does not deal with some of these issues.

I challenge my friends on both sides of this issue to treat each other with grace and realize that the problems of one movement are systemic in all churches that walk in the flesh. A contemporary church can have hyper-authoritarian, legalistic preaching just as much as an IFB church could. As well, don't run from one extreme to another. The only solution to these problems is for all churches to throw themselves at the feet of Jesus and seek to walk in the Spirit as we are commanded.


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