"If there was ever a product of an Independent Fundamental Baptist childhood, it was me. Those who know me know that my dad, who also happens to be my hero, has ministered in Independent Fundamental Baptist circles for the entirety of my lifetime. As a result, my childhood consisted attending an AACS school (K-12), getting the Timothy Award in AWANA, going to church three times a week (at least), and pretty much painting the picture of what it looked like to be a kid in the IFB orbit -- and I loved it. I loved the opportunities that it afforded me, I loved the friends that I made, and I loved the circles that I ran in. I got to meet some pretty cool people (at least in my mind), and I began to shape convictions, even at an early age, that I still carry with me today. Maybe it was my love for the way that I grew up, or maybe it was my simplistic and naive mindset. To be honest, I'm not really sure what it was that led to the shock of my lifetime when I went off to college at -- you guessed it -- Bob Jones University.
As a freshman at BJU, I was ready to tackle the world! I was quite literally stoked to rub shoulders with people that shared my affinity for Fundamentalist greatness! Actually, that initial excitement might have been what led to my shock. In fact, it didn't take me long at all to realize that I was more of an exception than a rule. People weren't in love with Fundamentalism. Read that last sentence again, because I know you're probably shocked too. I began to discover that there were many reasons for this, far to many to delve into in this forum, but make no mistake - there was a general dissatisfaction among many of my peers. Frankly, I began to be confused. That's when my pendulum began to swing.
The next year brought a change of scenery, but not a resolution to my confusion. Why didn't people love Fundamentalism the way that I did? I began to think that maybe I hated Fundamentalism too. One morning I would wake up and think that I liked Fundamentalism, and by nightfall a friend would have convinced me that I didn't. As I swung back and forth in my love-hate relationship, the Lord began to impress on me the importance of finding answers. If I was to be a vessel used by him, I needed to do my best to beg for grace and understand why I felt the way that I did, and why others felt the way that they did. Two particular concepts that the Lord seemed to bring to my mind offered some clarity to my confused thoughts.
Thought #1: "Either these people didn't grow up in the same Fundamentalism that I grew up in, or they're constructing arguments from the fringes in order to characterize the whole."
Let me explain this thought by talking about two of the anti-Fundamentalist arguments that I often heard.
Argument #1: Fundamentalists don't know how to preach. This one blew me away. People told me that if I wanted to learn how to preach, I needed to listen to guys like Piper, and MacArthur. Those guys know how to preach, but Fundamentalists can't preach their way out of a paper bag. Don't get me wrong -- eternity will only tell the debt that I owe to guys like Piper and MacArthur. I've spent hours listening to their sermons and consequently learning from their lives. But the Fundamentalists that I knew could preach, too. Names like Sam Horn, Steve Pettit, Mark Minnick, and Kevin Bauder were common around my house. All of those guys could preach. Let alone my dad, who in my unbiased opinion is an unbelievably gifted exegete of Scripture. Dad taught me to let the text of Scripture speak for itself. He warned me against "sky scraper preaching" -- story upon story. He told me to invest time learning the original languages, and to study the Word like my life depended upon it -- because it did. I watched my father spend upwards of 30 hours a week on his Sunday sermon weekly, and I knew that Fundamentalists could preach.
Argument #2: Fundamentalists don't care about the heart. They only care about standards. I didn't get this one either. I mean, I knew that we did care about standards, but the Fundamentalism that I was exposed to placed a premium on heart issues. I recently had an individual tell me that my dad cared more about musical standards than the deity of Christ. I was saddened by that terribly misguided statement, and I was truly sorry that he felt that way. I began to try to recall the number of times Dad even talked to me about music and music standards at home. Surely if it was that important, he would have beaten it into the head of his son. I racked and racked my brain, but I couldn't even come up with one. In fact, as I sat there I listed of several people who were close friends of my dad's but held vastly different music standards. I couldn't list one regenerate friend who denied the deity of Christ.
As a sophomore in college, a friend directed me to the website of a college called Hyles Anderson. I'd never heard of them before. He showed me their page on standards and I was blown away. There was line after line about things that they "liked", and things that they didn't "like." Then he took me to YouTube and we spend hours watching clips of the president of that college rip apart biblical texts and yell and scream about women wearing pants. My friend told me that this was why people didn't like Fundamentalism. But I didn't recognize this kind of Fundamentalism. I mean, sure, I knew that we had our problems at our small Christian school. I knew that there were people who found us to be way too strict. But the Fundamentalism that I learned at home took biblical texts with utmost concern for context and authorial intent, and drew conclusions based on those texts. The Fundamentalist pastor that I grew up under spent sleepless nights laboring in prayer over his flock. I watched my father weep over the hearts of his people; not their standards. In the grand scheme he could care less about those. He told me so. I watched him pour his life into his people, and I knew at least some Fundamentalists cared about people's hearts.
I know people reading this will disagree with me, or call me simplistic. They'll tell me I haven't seen the whole picture, or that my experience is vastly different than reality. Again, I'm not saying that these things can't or don't happen, but I couldn't buy these two particularly prominent arguments. Not based on the Fundamentalism that I grew up under."
Posted by Caleb