Separation Points

Dr. Lance Ketchum, director of Midwest Independent Baptist Pastors’ Fellowship, laid out some “defining points” for distinguishing between various expressions of “Fundamentalism” and “who” and “what” any good IFBer worth his salt should separate from.  He writes,

However, when it comes to separation, I would separate from MacArthur simply because of his Resolve Conference if nothing else.  I would separate from him because of his Lordship Salvation.  I would separate from him because he rejects Congregational Polity.

I certainly am speaking only for myself, and in no official capacity, but as one who attends Grace Community Church and has worked closely with John MacArthur’s ministries for at least 20 years, I believe I can confidently say we would welcome his separation.

That is because Dr. Ketchum represents that crude form of fundamentalism that we at GCC have come to recognize is insidious, producing nothing but disaster for any genuine spiritual growth and maturity.

Sadly, the adherents to Dr. Ketchum’s form of “Fundamentalism” have been duped into embracing a largely phony spirituality that weighs a person down with personal preference convictions that masquerade as genuine holiness.

Additionally, individuals who practice his “Fundamentalism” have created an imaginary “concentration camp” of sorts that is governed by pastoral strong men who rule over souls with an iron fist insisting folks adopt and work out every one of those preference issues or face the severe displeasure of God almighty.

Ultimately, this view of sanctification leads the practitioner to paranoid despair, because it is believed that if a person doesn’t read the KJV 1611, or dress a certain way, or spend every moment of free-time attending church, or listens to any “unapproved” preachers, or reads any “banned” authors, etc, God will scowl down at him from heaven and the person risks a nasty smiting or a severe divine wedgie.

Regrettably, a number of those individuals who have the fortitude to free themselves from such sanctified tyranny, grow into bitterness. They abandon Christianity all together, or develop a proctologist view of fundamentalism by either joining the ranks of disgruntled survivor blogger types or adopting heterodox views of the Faith that is found among the so-called Emergent “fellowships.” Of course, those groups are just as damaging to their souls as the Independent Fundamentalism they fled, but years of scarring by their legalistic shackles have desensitized them to that reality.

Thankfully, there are others, however, who realize Dr. Ketchum’s view of “Fundamentalism” doesn’t truly reflect biblical “Fundamentalism” and so they strike out to where they can find true solace in the teaching and preaching of sound men.  They have a lot of detox to go through in order to retrain their minds for thinking rightly, but God graciously helps them.

Knowing a handful of those folks who came from that level of oppressive spirituality and seeing the significant toll it has taken upon their lives and that of their families, you can understand when I say to Dr. Ketchum, “Don’t let the fellowship hall door bump your bottom on the way out.”

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13 thoughts on “Separation Points

  1. I left an IFB church (BBF) on good terms and currently go to a church called the “Gospel Center.” We have independent fundamental baptist roots (those words uncapitalized for a reason) but strive to keep the Gospel central. When I first came the church I started spouting off about Neo-Evangelicals. My pastor asked me, “but do they believe the Gospel?” Since then I have grown immensely in my understanding of the Gospel as central and the basis for fellowship.

    That said, I find that we are in a unique place, caught between two hostile camps. The more contemporary evangelicals don’t care for us, because we’re too tight – hymns, KJV, homeschooling, whatever. The strict IFBs cast a suspicious glance because we don’t have “Baptist” in the name, we don’t wear suits, and we have a broad spectrum of guest preachers through the doors, including EVFreers, and (gasp) calvinists.

    I find that as a church we are open to fellowship with the IFBers and the Gellyfish to the degree that they preach Christ alone, but find few on either side who reflect the openness back. I get weary of the snark on both sides, but realize that there are genuine and often serious weaknesses on both sides and that my own church is in serious need of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit to make us more holy, more loving, and more useful.

    IFB churches are those for whom Christ died. Same with the Gellyfish.

  2. I find it odd, that even among my circle of acquaintances, who are hardly IFB, my wife and I get a look because we do homeschool instead of sending our kids to public school where they can be missionaries. Or at least that is how they frame the reason for why they send their kids to public school. Then on the other hand, are those integrated church family folks who grumble about the worldiness of Sunday School. It’s a “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” moment.

  3. Heh. We homeschool our children, too, and sometimes get that response. Although there is no doubt a child can be used by the Lord for His purposes, I find it odd that folks would use the “missionary” argument.

    To say that a child (who is, by the way, merely a child) is prepared and equipped to take on the secular humanist education system is a bit concerning. Many adult believers I know would have trouble doing that.

    A child can be used by God to slay Goliaths, but I don’t know that I’d go throwing my children out in front of every Goliath that comes along.

    Mind you, although I do not think sending one’s children to public schools is a good idea, I am not saying that doing so is, in and of itself, sinful or any such thing. My point here is about the “missionary” mentality.

    Justin

  4. Fred and Justin – have to agree with you on the ‘missionary’ thing. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, and I don’t think people who send their kids to public school are sinning. However, when I’ve had this comment directed to me, I often wonder if the parents really know how their kids are behaving in school and elsewhere (and I’ll leave it at that.) Most of the time I have to really work to suppress out-and-out laughter.

    (Not that a kid in school is not capable of affecting his/her surroundings instead of the other way around, but I’ve met *very* few. Most of the ones who do are older — juniors and seniors.)

  5. You speak of people leaving fundamentalism for various bad outcomes as if no one has ever left Grace Community, for example, for the very same places.

    Your description of fundamentalism, however, is a caricature. I suspect you don’t know Ketcham nor what his ministry is like. Or what countless other fundamentalist ministries are like.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  6. Don writes,
    You speak of people leaving fundamentalism for various bad outcomes as if no one has ever left Grace Community, for example, for the very same places.

    I am very much aware of folks who leave GCC, thought typically it is because the person(s) don’t like a particular view of Scripture we teach. For instance, there was a group of guys who left Grace because they embraced Unitarian and Christological heresies. There have been a few folks leave because they don’t like us inviting Al Mohler to the pulpit. And certainly there are those who left because they hated some decision the elders made either in general or toward them specifically.

    To my knowledge, however, I know of no person who left because we told him he can only read one particular English translation,or he wasn’t allowed to listen to some preacher on a banned list, or that he didn’t wear a suit on Sunday, or was dating a black girl. I do know folks who have come to us from every one of those experiences.

    Continuing,
    Your description of fundamentalism, however, is a caricature.

    Indeed it is, but I believe it is largely accurate. I have too many individuals who can back me up on it.

    I suspect you don’t know Ketcham nor what his ministry is like.

    And you would be correct. I know him primarily from his internet persona. If his ministry is characterized by what he outlines in that post I referenced, it is a ministry I would not care to be a part of.

    Or what countless other fundamentalist ministries are like.

    I consider myself a practicing fundamentalist, in the historic definition of the word. I believe I practice a biblical fundamentalism, not an institutionalized fundamentalism.

  7. Some think we should all be institutionalized!

    My point regarding people leaving ministries, especially, as you mentioned, for emergent type groups and other heretical positions is that the excuse for leaving rarely has anything to do with the real reason. The problem is the heart.

    Granted, if there is an over-emphasis on externals as a means to holiness, some will leave (and should) for a healthier spiritual environment.

    I don’t actually know bro. Ketcham personally either, but travel in circles of folks who do know him. My impression is that his ministry is effective and spiritual, not of the caricature that you pose. Some fundamentalists have long had concerns about various aspects of John MacArthur’s ministry. Some of those concerns have been ill-founded, and some folks have had a hard time realizing they should move on on those points. However, there remain concerns that fundamentalists have that have not been addressed. The Resolved Conference is just one of them. MacArthur does not answer to us, of course, but we also have a responsibility to warn our people of concerns we have over these areas. Ultimately the Lord will be the judge of all of us.

  8. Don writes,
    My point regarding people leaving ministries, especially, as you mentioned, for emergent type groups and other heretical positions is that the excuse for leaving rarely has anything to do with the real reason. The problem is the heart.

    I certainly agree that ultimately the heart is the issue. However, a unhealthy spiritual environment that is poisonous to the person doesn’t help.

    However, there remain concerns that fundamentalists have that have not been addressed. The Resolved Conference is just one of them.

    The Resolve Conferences have discontinued. Primarily because the particulars who helped organize them have moved onto to other ministries. That being, I thought “the concerns” I read were a tad hysterical and a bit contrived. People didn’t like the music or CJ Mahaney or John Piper participating. Those are preference matters and honestly, don’t reflect genuine “concerns” in my mind. Do you have something else I am missing?

  9. If you see association with men like Mahaney or Piper as mere preference, we’ll likely just talk past one another.

    Even the secular world knows associations matter. Who you are photographed with, who you sit down with, it all matters.

    It is confusing for MacArthur to write a strong book against Charismatism then embrace a Charismatic who has called himself an apostle and believes in ongoing prophecy.

    But as I say, we are not likely to agree on these things. I only posted because I wanted you to think about what you are saying and realize that you are looking at the situation from a very narrow perspective.

  10. Don writes,
    If you see association with men like Mahaney or Piper as mere preference…Even the secular world knows associations matter. Who you are photographed with, who you sit down with, it all matters.

    Actually, I do see those “associations” as mere preferences. Do you think John is completely oblivious to Mahaney and Piper’s odd-ball views? The thing is is there are degrees of “association.” John recognizes those guys have good things to say 75 percent of the time and the good things are really good things. He’s willing to be gracious in light of those prickly areas Fundamentalists tend to nit-pick over with the lack of serious discernment.

    Additionally those guys came to a conference that was for college aged kids. They had a specific message they preached. They didn’t promote their odd-ball beliefs. Hence, there was a context to our “association” with them.

    While it is true that “even the secular world recognizes associations” the secular world lacks severe discernment in those areas. Those whose “associations” should raise alarms the world doesn’t see as a problem (Obama and his racist pastor of 20 years) where as a person who is just photographed with a person the world has stupidly declared problematic, automatically smears a person’s character. In this fashion, Christians should not emulate the world in those matters.

    It is confusing for MacArthur to write a strong book against Charismatism then embrace a Charismatic who has called himself an apostle and believes in ongoing prophecy.

    How are you defining “embrace?” Having a guy who for the most part has a solid view of the Gospel speak at a conference doesn’t automatically equate a full unquestioned affirmation of all that he teaches and believes. RC Sproul is an amillennialist and a baby baptizer. Is it “confusing” for people when John speaks at Sproul’s conferences? Honestly, “confusion” of this sort only exists among the lazy and weak-minded who don’t want to exercise any discernment and by default thinks the absolute worst of a person in these “associations.” If John began to have a more pronounced presence at Piper’s conferences or Mahaney’s conferences and welcomed deeper problematic person’s affiliated with those men to our pulpit and Shepherd’s Conferences and began to demonstrate an unbroken pattern of “embracing” similar personalities as Piper and Mahaney, you may have reason for concern, but that isn’t happening, is it? Nor has it happened. So these “concerns” are a bit “fever-minded” and should be evaluated with wisdom.

    Fred

  11. What the what? People left GCC b/c Al Mohler preached from the pulpit?

    They were loosely affiliated with our church and were regular attenders. Only a handful, like less than 4 or so, but yes, they left.

  12. Pingback: What A Fellowship! | hipandthigh

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