What is an Independent, Fundamental Baptist?

by MBG

There are many, many "stripes" of Baptists today.  Mostly, these are categorized by stands on particular doctrines or by association with a convention or fellowship.  It would be probably impossible to list them all, even after long hours of research do to many factors such as regional peculiarities.

The specific group of Baptists that I claim to be a part of is that of the Independent, Fundamental Baptists.  "Independent" deals with church government, and "Fundamental" deals with doctrine.  We will deal with these two adjectives and their meaning and importance.

However, let me first give a brief history of this movement.  I contend that their have always been independent churches from the earliest days of the church.  It became quite popular in the 1700's and 1800's in America for Baptist churches to form conventions and associations to consolidate the efforts of many small churches.  In response to growing modernism and increased power taken by these conventions and associations in the early 20th century, many Baptist leaders led their congregations out of these groups.  These churches held loose ties of fellowship with one another; some even formed fellowships based on their beliefs.  Some early leaders in this movement were W.B. Riley, J. Frank Norris, and T.T. Shields.

The term "Independent" means that each local church is free to govern itself as it sees fit.  They are free to call their own pastor, elect their own deacon, oversee the ordinances, and control all of their own decisions. There is no hierarchy greater than the local church making these decisions for the local congregations.  Thus the destiny and effectiveness of each local congregation is up to themselves.  

"Fundamental" means that we hold to the "fundamental" doctrines of the Bible.  Many define these a little differently, but some of these include: the virgin birth of Christ, the deity of Christ, the second coming of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, and the Genesis account of creation.  Essentially, these and doctrines are so vital that they cannot be done away with without compromising the very foundation of Christianity.  

Sometimes this term is used in a very derogatory manner.  It has developed a connotation today that implies being backwards, simplistic, radical, militant, separatist, and unintelligent.  In this permissive society that tries to make all viewpoints right, someone who is unbending in their beliefs is often ridiculed for being simple-minded and bigoted.  I will admit that there are certain people who have held up the banner of Fundamentalism who have been quite guilty of some of these, but these exceptions have not and do not justify these stereotypes.  It is similar in logic to saying that all blondes are "intellectually challenged" because you knew one that was when you where in school.

There are many other things that I could go into here, but I'd like this as a quick overview.  Hopefully we'll be able to go deeper into history, leaders, and beliefs, but for that is not for this time.