By Dr. Jeff Farnham
Sword of the Lord Publishers, 2019, 139 pp.

2 Stars

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.

33 thoughts on “Fundamental-ish

  1. Titles, regulations, and control and smell like religious pride. I so dislike the posting of credentials and degrees. The godliest servants never needed or valued worldly acknowledgment.
    Press on brother Tom!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Lisa Beth!

      RE: Titles, regulations, and control

      Yup, a lot of that going on in the IFB. IFB pastors exert tremendous control over their members. I’ve joked with a few people that there are more “Dr.”s at an IFB convention than at a medical convention.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, David! I’m ambivalent about my time in the IFB because there were a lot of good things but also a lot of legalistic manipulation. I’m grateful to now be able to focus on the Lord’s grace and power rather than on my guilt and inability.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, sister. Independent Baptist Fundamentalism probably peaked as a movement in the 1970s before I became involved in the 80s. I imagine the “old school” IFB pastors are having an increasingly hard time keeping the movement going, which is why this book was written. The “moderate” IFB church we used to attend was turned into another cookie cutter, hipster, evangelical mega-church when the pastor’s son took over.


  2. Fascinating this was published in 2019. Seems hardcore IFB is a dying breed. Not an IFB myself but I think I rather have the quirks of IFB than emergent seeker sensitive feel good SJW emo tight pants Andy Stanley cotton candy stuff lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m ambivalent about the IFB. There is so much good Bible teaching, but the legalistic manipulation and hardcore nationalism from the pulpit make me cringe. Delving back into IFB history in recent months, prompted me to resubscribe (after 35 years) to the “Sword of the Lord.” I enjoy the bi-weekly newspaper a lot although I must “chew the meat and spit out the bones.”
      If I had to choose between an Andy Stanley-style hipster church or an IFB church I would have to stay home!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve watched a few videos of his sermons. He’s 3X as arrogant and controlling as the IFB pastors I remember. I feel sorry for everyone who attends his church. Their minds are being poisoned.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, at least Andy Stanley wouldn’t be screaming at you in front of the congregation because you accidentally brought your ESV to church instead of the KJV.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Independent Fundamental Baptists are such an abusive and illogical bunch. They just cannot be reasoned with. I don’t consider any of the guys who went to IFB colleges to get their doctorate degrees to be at all competent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Crissy! Finding a Gospel church that aligns perfectly with all of my views on secondary and tertiary doctrines is impossible. We all must “compromise” to a degree. My wife and I attended a mega-church the last 4.5 years that was good in some respects and not-so-good in others. There are not many non-Pentecostal/charsimatic options so we “made do.” During the quarantine, we began listening to JMac, MLJ, and others daily, and that really drove home how bad our church was. We realized we had compromised too much and we won’t be going back. There’s as many different “flavors” of IFB churches out there as there are IFB pastors. I’m sure I could align with some. But in the IFB churches here, they really push Christian nationalism, which is a huge turnoff for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bottom line for me is that I totally dislike modern Christianity. MLJ, JM and others like them, God has used to show me what true Christianity is and the Lord has brought like minded people from our church together. I believe this so called “pandemic” may separate the sheep from the goats. ( just a thought ).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. 👍🏻
        Someday, I’m going to write a post about our stay at our good/not-so-good church. It definitely leaned toward the modern “seeker/growth” category, but at least they never pushed Christian nationalism.

        Liked by 1 person

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