It has been 7 years since I have walked away from the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement, and while I am very (let me emphasize that again.. VERY) different than I was on the day I walked away; I am grateful for every struggle, the seemingly unbearable paradigm shifting, the sleepless nights, even the lost or strained friendships that resulted. Why, after 7 years am I just now writing something like this? Some people very dear to me are embarking, or on the precipice of doing so, on the very same journey I began 7 years ago and it has given me pause to reflect on these past 7 years.
I don’t think I’ve ever shared on this blog what started it all. I remember it vividly – where I was, what I was wearing, the friend I was having a conversation with (I won’t name him as he is now a pastor of an IFB church) and the turning point in my mind. He and I were discussing some implications a specific passage could have on changing a belief that we were both taught by the churches we grew up in (different churches) as well as the college we graduated from (same college). I looked at him and stated that I just want to believe the Bible, no matter what it said and no matter how extreme it may be; I wanted to believe it. He looked at me and stated that he wished he could say the same thing. That was when I was determined to place every belief I had been taught to hold under scrutiny of Scripture. If it didn’t hold up then I wouldn’t hold it.
Talk about scary! The next 3 years were terrifying’ for as I began to examine the things that I had been told all my life were “fundamentals” to being a Christian; nearly every single one of them were not founded on Scripture. It was very early on discovering this fact that I had to deal with the feelings of being lied to (even though many of those doing the lying were, I’m now convinced, sincere in their teaching false doctrine), feelings of wondering if there was anything true at all, feelings of wondering if I was becoming an atheist (seeing as I was told that changing anything at all would lead me down the slippery slope to denying God altogether). Looking back on it I can see how the evil one was, I’m certain of it, hoping these fears would crush me; while God had a plan to weave something wonderful out of them. I decided to seek truth, regardless of where it took me – whether deeper in faith or denying the faith. I came through that time more firm in my faith than ever; but I digress.
I was raised in a church environment where questioning the accepted position on issues was a no no. Manipulative tactics of fear and social pressure were used to keep me accepting “the truth”. When I went to college, it was no different. This was a movement mentality, a method used to “defend the faith” and keep out wolves. Some of these tactics weren’t employed as manipulation because those doing it were only doing what had been done to them.When fear becomes the thing that keeps you “on track” and it’s labeled as love, you don’t recognize it as fear. Thus when you use fear to keep someone else “on track” you mistake it for love.
I was having a discussion with someone I love who is in this movement when this very thing was used. I was told that I had lost my moorings, and that I had left the truth I had been taught as a child/youth/young adult. Now, I believe this person meant well, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was the use of fear to bring me back to a thing because it was where I started. Honestly, no one wants to lose their way, especially someone who was on the right way to begin with. She was lovingly wanting me to return “home”. But I know that running back into that burning barn would be running back to the death of my soul. I would have to deny my intellect. I would have to deny ever honestly reading Scripture and letting it define my life. I would have to deny freedom in Christ and enter back into the bondage of Phariseeism. I couldn’t do that. I knew that in a very real sense that person was right. I was forsaking my moorings. Yet, in another sense they were wrong; because I had been told, amidst all the unbiblical teaching, to follow Jesus. So while I was forsaking my moorings, I was doing so in order to follow The Messiah. This wasn’t apparent to this person, or anyone else deep in the movement, because the movement has a propensity to anchor itself in the insignificant and make it seem significant. So not being KJV-only, listening to music with a beat, not being pre-tribulational, not thinking the moderate consumption of alcohol is sinful, etc. These were my departing from my anchor. It should be apparent that these things are not the anchor of Christianity. The Independent Fundamental Baptist movement (as it is today) is moored to the wrong anchor. Not only have I found nearly everything taught in the movement to be biblically unwarranted, but it is also without historical support (as much as they would like to try to tie themselves to the “old paths” of Jeremiah 6:16, they are far from it).
While the journey has not been easy, and is not over, I can attest that it is worth it! If you are in the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement, or one like it, I would urge you to be willing to forsake your “moorings” to follow The Messiah.