By Dr. Jeff Farnham
Sword of the Lord Publishers, 2019, 139 pp.
I saw this short book advertised in “The Sword of the Lord” recently and thought it might be interesting to read independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) pastor, Dr.* Jeff Farnham’s (formerly of LaGrange Baptist Church, LaGrange, Indiana) views on IFB churches that he contends have compromised their status from being fundamentalist to “fundamental-ish,” i.e., still teaching the fundamentals of the faith, but compromising on important secondaries.
In his opening section, Farnham rebuts the appeal to “Christian liberty” as an excuse to compromise fundamentalist principles. He argues that wise and mature fundamentalists must continue to uphold their convictions even more strongly so as not to be stumbling blocks to the weaker, less mature brethren.
Farnham then gets into the meat of the book; the specific areas where he believes compromising fundamentalists have become fundamental-ish:
Worship Music – Farnham is distressed that some compromising IFB pastors are incorporating Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and drums into their worship music. Farnham notes that CCM music employs “a syncopated thumping that accents the off-beat and diminishes the downbeat and creates agitation.” He judges all such music to be “spiritually oppressing and sensually provocative” (p.61). Farnham notes that IFB pastors in the past commonly referred to such music as “jungle music,” and while he acknowledges that many would find that term to be “racially insensitive,” he believes it is accurate.
Attire – Farnham judges that compromising IFB churches are allowing and encouraging people to wear inappropriate clothing. Amidst some other, superfluous examples, the PRIMARY issue for Farnham boils down to whether women should be able to wear pants. Farnham doesn’t believe so, citing Deuteronomy 22:5. He attempts to rebut all opposing rationale.
Education, Entertainment, Employment – Farnham contends that fundamental-ish compromisers allow their children to be educated at godless public schools and that they prioritize worldly entertainment and employment (working on Sundays) over God, church, and an obedient Christian lifestyle.
Church Names – Farnham bemoans the fact that some IFB churches have removed “Baptist” and/or “Church” from their names, opting instead for such compromised, culture-pleasing titles as “The Potter’s House” or “Messiah Fellowship.”
As Christians, we all have beliefs and opinions regarding these secondary issues. The IFB movement no doubt represents the most conservative of viewpoints. I attended an IFB church from 1983 to 1991 and the focus and constant brow-beating over the “dos and don’ts” is a bitter memory. The IFB is no doubt in steep decline compared to those days and this book testifies to the increasing squabbling and infighting as the movement struggles to survive and an ever-growing number of IFB pastors fail to “hold the line.” Some readers of this review may be surprised that pants and short hair on women are still issues. Yup, they are in the IFB. Farnham doesn’t mention it in this book, but another disturbing characteristic of IFB churches is their idolatrous propagation of American Christian nationalism. Whether IFB pastors like it or not, the term, “fundamentalist,” is resoundingly understood as a pejorative by the general public these days. The movement’s prideful loyalty to that other-era term is a stumbling block to the Gospel it professes to desire to sow.
Farnham has a few good points. As Christians we can rationalize and become too chummy with the world. But the IFB’s extremism and “majoring on the minors” breeds a “bunker mentality” that pits the Christian against the world rather than fostering an emissarial approach to the world.
Recommended only for those curious about the current state of the IFB movement.
*IFB pastors stereotypically love to append their honorary doctorate titles to their names.