Throwback Thursday: The everlasting ignominy of ECT

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on February 4, 2017 and has been revised.


Evangelicals and Catholics Together at Twenty
Edited by Timothy George and Thomas G. Guarino
Brazos Press, 2015, 187 pages

1 Star

When I returned to the Lord in 2014 after a prolonged prodigal absence, I noticed things had changed quite a bit within evangelicalism. I had to quickly educate myself regarding the widespread phenomena of the seeker, church-growth, mega-church movement where doctrine is often dumbed-down to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Some of the resulting changes were seemingly harmless, like the switch from jackets and ties at Sunday worship service to jeans and flannels. Other changes were not so innocuous.

One of the most disturbing changes was in regards to evangelicalism’s approach to Roman Catholicism. Evangelical churches have always proclaimed the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, while the Catholic church has always proclaimed its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit and “never the twain shall meet.” But there were determined efforts on the part of Rome and some evangelicals led by the example of Billy Graham as far back as the early 1960s to bridge the unbridgeable chasm. When I walked away from the Lord in 1991 I could see the ecumenical train coming down the tracks, but it was still a long ways away. Twenty-three years later, in 2014, meetings between the pope and big-name evangelicals at the Vatican were commonplace. What had happened?

Since returning to the Lord, I’ve become very familiar with Evangelical and Catholics Together (ECT), an ecumenical initiative which was launched in 1994 by evangelical, Chuck Colson (d. 2012), and Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, to bridge the gap between both camps. Over the course of twenty-three years, ECT has issued nine statements on various topics. Certainly, most “laypersons” are not at all familiar with ECT, but the group was a vanguard influence on theologians and church leaders and contributed a great deal to our current state of compromise, betrayal, and false unity. There was considerable outrage from conservative evangelicals at the time ECT released its first statement in 1994 – most notably from John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, James Kennedy, and John Ankerberg – but since then opposition to advancing ecumenism with Catholic error has become increasingly muted. Those who still oppose ecumenism with Rome are viewed as sectarian “isolationists,” as ECT member, J.I. Packer, deridingly refers to us in the preface of this book.

In “Evangelicals and Catholics Together at Twenty,” the ECT alliance re-presents its nine statements with some brief commentary. It’s sad reading, folks. Very sad. The pre-supposition heading into the first statement is that evangelicals and Catholics are brothers in Christ and preach, at its core, the same Gospel. It then becomes an issue of trying to force a square peg through a round hole. Salvation by sacramental grace and merit is NOT the same as salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Throughout these statements, differences are (somewhat) acknowledged and then immediately glossed over in deference to ecumenical “unity.” The scandalizing accommodation, cooperation, compromise, infidelity, and betrayal of the Gospel in these pages on the part of participating evangelicals has its precedent in the Old Testament as the Israelites mixed with the pagan Canaanites and “relaxed” their fidelity to Yahweh and His Word for the ecumenical worship of Baal (“Lord”). Even more foretelling were Paul’s many clear warnings to the New Testament churches of the encroaching “Judaizer” legalists.

I thought about listing each of the ECT statements and commenting on them individually, but I feel like I’ve already devoted far too much time and energy reading the book and writing this sorry “review.” My heart is deeply saddened by this ongoing betrayal of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and His Gospel, but I am encouraged to know the Lord is still on His throne and a remnant remains faithful to the uncompromised Gospel of grace!

Polish American historical sites waist-deep in RC-ism

Footprints of Polonia: Polish Historical Sites Across North America
By Ewa E. Barczyk
Hippocrene Books, 2022, 320 pp.

2 Stars

I’ve previously posted about my twelve-year (2002 to 2014), deep-dive submersion into my Polish heritage during my prodigal “season” (see here). One of the “problems” I had at the time was Poland and American Polonia’s strong identity with the Roman Catholic church. The reason for that is because the Polish RCC became the repository/guardian of Polish nationalism during the country’s long, drawn out subjugation during the Prussian-Austrian-Russian partitions (1772-1918) and again under Nazi German and Soviet Russian domination (1939-1989). To be Polish was necessarily to be Catholic, perhaps more so than any other European nationality. However, I was able to “somewhat” compartmentalize the RC dimension and enjoy the other aspects of Polish history and culture.

I recently stumbled across “Footprints of Polonia” and thought it would be interesting to review the “Polish Historical Sites Across North America.”

This book documents close to 700 Polish American cultural/historical/religious sites spread over 47 states (Alaska, Alabama, and Hawaii not included) and Canada, and a small number of entries from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

“Footprints” is well-formatted, including plenty of color photographs. However, as I should have expected, the VAST majority of entries are comprised of Polish Catholic churches replete with replica paintings of Our Lady of Częstochowa and statues of Karol Wojtyła aka pope John Paul II. American Polonia also has a VERY large number of monuments to dedicated to American Revolutionary War heroes, Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kościuszko.

I finally made it to the end of this encyclopedic tribute to Polonia’s Roman Catholic identity, but it wasn’t easy. You may be wondering why the Reformation didn’t take hold in Poland. I briefly touched upon that question in a previous post here.

It will be interesting to see how Poland and American Polonia react in light of the growing scandal involving highly-reverenced John Paul II and his cover-up of priest sexual abuse while he was archbishop of Krakow. There is currently strong denial in Poland regarding these new allegations, but as the facts become undeniable, will monuments to a pedophile-enabler be allowed to stand?

Clinton Wunder: Forerunner of the seeker/church-growth movement

Crowds of Souls: For the Church and the Kingdom
By Clinton Wunder
The Judson Press, 1926, 183 pp.

2 Stars

Several weeks ago, I published a short history of the Baptist Temple of Rochester, N.Y., which included how young and dynamic pastor, Clinton Wunder, led the building of the “Skyscraper Church” complex: the Baptist Temple auditorium and the connected, 14-story Temple Office Building (see here).

After I published that post, I continued to search the internet and discovered that Wunder had written this book and promptly ordered a former-library copy.*

The dedication of the Baptist Temple complex in 1925 and subsequent large crowds were big news in Protestant society across the USA. 34YO Pastor Wunder was hailed as a clerical wunderkind. He capitalized on his notoriety and “success” by writing this “how to” book the following year and many ministers were eager to learn his secrets to church growth.

Wunder opens with the assessment that Sundays weren’t what they had been in the past, with secular activities increasingly competing for people’s time and attention. The church, advises Wunder, must fight fire with fire and adopt “modern” entertainment ploys and business methods to attract the city dweller. You can view the chapter headings below to see where Wunder places the emphases and we’ll also cover a little bit as we summarize.

In addition to its spiritual mission, the big city church is a business organization, states Wunder, and the pastor is CEO who oversees a large staff of paid employees and volunteers who work closely together to to ensure the church delivers a product the public will enjoy and will want to participate in and contribute to. No aspect is left to chance: the building and grounds, the atmosphere, the music, the sermon, the educational and recreational programs, finances and collections, and advertising. Wunder also promotes his “business church” model whereby a church links to a secular business as its “economic engine” as Baptist Temple did with its 14-story Temple Office Building.

Pastor Clinton Wunder

Well, we all thought that the seeker/church-growth model began with Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and business guru, Peter Drucker, in the mid-1980s. Nope, Pastor Clinton Wunder was teaching the seeker model sixty-years previous. There’s “some” good ideas here. A church certainly should make visitors and its members feel welcome and “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). But there’s very little in the book about Jesus Christ and the Gospel. It’s almost all about the “process and the product.” Wunder mentions in his forward that an older minister had asked of him and his new-fangled growth ideas, “Young man, what are you after, crowds or souls?” Wunder quickly retorted, “I am after crowds of souls,” hence the title of this book. That sounds great, but the emphasis is definitely on numbers rather than on genuine conversions to Jesus Christ and discipleship.

I mentioned in my other post that the seeds of theological liberalism seemed to be already creeping into Baptist Temple and the Northern Baptist Convention (later American Baptist Convention) at the time of the church’s construction. At the NBC convention in 1925, Wunderkind Wunder was the celebrity keynote speaker and pleaded with the Fundamentalist (Bible believing) and Modernist (Bible denying) factions to stop their in-fighting and just get along (see here). In this book, Wunder extols Walter Rauschenbush, father of the social gospel (p. 83), as well Bible-denying modernists, Harry Emerson Fosdick and S. Parkes Cadman (p. 143). Was Wunder even born-again?

Regarding finances, I must say that Wunder is downright scary. His Baptist Temple and Office Building complex had a $53M (2023 dollars) price tag and fundraising was not done casually or left to chance. Members were coerced to pledge above their means and then bullied to contribute systematically as promised. Members who fell behind on their obligation were quickly contacted by church staff with threats of removal from the membership rolls. Wunder’s chapter on strong-arm, coercive financing would make a pro-tithing IFB pastor run for cover.

The sub-title of this book should have been, “Pastor, find out how you too can build a monument to yourself just like I did, in eleven easy lessons.”

*Postscript: My used copy of “Crowds of Souls” has the markings of Pearlman Memorial Library of Central Bible College, a former Assemblies of God school in Springfield, Illinois. I checked Wikipedia, which states that TBN founder, Paul Crouch, graduated from the college in 1955. Hmm. Did Crouch read this book when he was a student at CBC? It seems like he stole chapters right out of this book for his bogus television ministry.


  1. The Church Must Compete
  2. The Place of the Minister
  3. The Use of Volunteers
  4. Creating Atmosphere
  5. The Sermon Centric
  6. The Church as Educator
  7. Business Churches
  8. The Necessity of Finances
  9. Re-Creation
  10. Publish Glad tidings
  11. The “Ad” in the Making
Above: The Rochester Blue Book of 1926, a directory of the city’s “elite” citizenry, cites this 4600 sq.ft. manse at 34 Ericsson Street in Rochester, N.Y. as the former home of Pastor Clinton Wunder and his wife, Ernestine. Club memberships listed in the directory for the socially well-connected Pastor Wunder include the Automobile Club of Rochester, Chamber of Commerce, Rochester Advertising Club, University Club, Memorial Post, American Legion, and the Rochester Consistory (Masonic).

Western Edge: The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country-Rock

Western Edge: The Roots and Reverberations of Los Angeles Country-Rock
By Randy Lewis, et al
Country Music Foundation Press, 2022, 132 pp.

5 Stars

I recently came across mention of the “Western Edge” exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and this commemorative book and, boy, did it bring back a lot of memories.

Back in the mid-1960s, there was country music and there was rock ‘n’ roll music and “Ne’er the Twain Shall Meet.” The anti-Vietnam War hippies hated the pro-war red-necks and their music and vice versa. But in Southern California, a community of young rockers, some who grew up on Buck Owens and the sounds of Bakersfield (aka Nashville West), began to organically blend country and rock, and brought their hybrid to rock ‘n’ roll audiences who were initially perplexed by the mixture of country twang and rock percussion. Early pioneers were Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons, and Clarence White of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Dillard and Clark, Rick Nelson, and Poco. Rock audiences caught on and in a few years the country-rock genre reached full acceptance with such acts as Linda Ronstadt, Pure Prairie League, the Doobie Brothers, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Firefall, and, in dramatic fashion, the Eagles.

It took a long time for Nashville purists to warm up to country-rock, but warm up they did, and more. The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville gradually replaced fiddles and banjos with drums and amps. Farther down the road, country-rock left rock and took over country.

The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville is currently paying tribute to those Los Angeles country-rock trailblazers. The museum opened its Western Edge exhibit on September 30, 2022 and it runs until May 2025. This finely illustrated book is the official commemorative.

It’s nice that former Byrd, Chris Hillman, is finally getting some recognition for his part in pioneering country-rock. Some argue that Hillman’s song, “Time Between,” recorded for the Byrds’ 1967 LP, “Younger Than Yesterday,” was the first pure country-rock song. Hillman went on to found the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Desert Rose Band.

On a personal note, I remember enthusiastically getting into the Byrds’ back-catalogue during my high school years. I bought all of the Byrds’ early albums one-by-one until I finally got to “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” Well, I put it on the turntable and immediately was like, “Pshaw!” I can remember the scene and disappointment like it was yesterday. It took MANY listens, but I gradually warmed up to that twang and even grew to greatly enjoy it. No, I don’t listen to the glitz coming out of Nashville today, but if I hear the strains of a bluegrass mandolin and fiddle, I’m all ears.

Throwback Thursday: Back before they muddied the Gospel

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 16, 2017 and has been revised.


Why a Preacher and Not a Priest: A Biography of Evangelist John Carrara
By Harriet Hamilton Cowell
Zondervan, 1953 (Ninth Edition), 160 pages

5 Stars

Way, way back in the day, pastors of evangelical and fundamentalist churches used to regularly invite itinerant evangelists to their churches for several days of “revival.” These fellas preached the Gospel with passion and the Holy Spirit, often resulting in many souls accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and believers rededicating themselves to the Lord. One such evangelist was John Carrara (1913-2008) of Fairview, New Jersey.

Carrara was born into a Roman Catholic family and as a young teen even thought about becoming a priest. When he was fifteen, Carrara attended a Protestant service unbeknownst to his parents and was stirred by the sermon and the Bible verse displayed on the church wall: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). John was convicted by God’s Word and eventually accepted Jesus Christ as His Savior by faith alone at a following service. He faced significant persecution from his family and friends for rejecting the Roman Catholic church and its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. During a savage beating, his father struck him so hard with a broomstick that one of his shoulders became separated. The Lord soon called him to be an evangelist and John immersed himself in God’s Word in preparation. Despite the many obstacles, young John began preaching before people at the age of sixteen and over the course of his ministry he preached the Gospel in churches and assemblies in 40 states and Canada.

I enjoyed this biography of Carrara tremendously once I got used to the flowery prose of its time. The book was very popular resulting in Zondervan publishing twelve editions between 1937 and 1967. The author only lightly touches upon the many secondary differences between Roman Catholicism and Bible Christianity, but great emphasis is given to the most important difference – justification. Is a person made righteous through the Catholic sacraments (baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, confession, and last rites) and by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules as Rome teaches or is a person made righteous solely by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and receiving Christ’s imputed perfect righteousness? I imagine many born-again believers presented this popular book with its clear, uncompromised message to Roman Catholic friends and family members back in the day.

Rarely will you encounter a book like “Why a Preacher and Not a Priest” on the shelves of Christian book stores these days. John Carrara was born in 1913, back when most evangelicals knew the difference between the Gospel of grace and Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Another traveling evangelist, Billy Graham, was born just five years after Carrara in 1918. While many accepted Christ because of Graham’s ministry, few did more to muddy the irreconcilable differences between the genuine Gospel and Rome’s false gospel. Graham counseled Catholic men and women who, like Carrara, were drawn to the Gospel, to remain in the Catholic church, errantly claiming that it too proclaimed the Gospel. Many evangelical pastors and para-church leaders have followed Graham’s lead. 

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” – Luke 6:26

The world still reveres Graham who died in 2018, but has forgotten about John Cararra and the other evangelists of a generation or two ago who faithfully preached the pure Gospel of grace.

Used copies of “Why a Preacher and Not a Priest” are readily available through


The ROC – The history of the Rochester, N.Y. airport

The ROC – Journey thru the 20th Century: The story of Rochester’s 100 year old airport
By Rick Iekel
Independently published, 2022, 218 pp.

5 Stars

Remember back when you were a child and were regularly in awe of things? As people get older and accumulate more experiences there’s a tendency to become jaded about God’s creation and remarkable inventions.

Back in my younger days, I was fascinated with certain aspects of Rochester’s transportation history. I had strong interests in the Erie Canal and the humble Rochester Subway. I think I also would have enjoyed and researched Rochester’s New York Central train station, which was designed by Claude Bragdon and opened in 1914, but was demolished in 1965. I can’t remember if I ever set foot in that grand structure.

Anyway, I was also fascinated with the Rochester airport and plane travel. One of my earliest childhood memories was going to the airport with my family on September 28, 1960 to greet presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy, as he arrived for some political stumping at the downtown War Memorial auditorium later that evening. Back in those days, non-passengers could walk the airport concourse and even step out on the tarmac and watch the planes depart and arrive. My first airplane trip was in 1966 when our oldest sister took another sister and myself to NYC because she was interviewing for a dietician internship at a Manhattan hospital. I’m not much of a traveler. I think I’ve made around ten trips from the airport in the fifty-seven years since then. With today’s security restrictions, and the public’s nonchalant familiarity with air travel, visiting the airport isn’t the thrill it was in the early-1960s.

I saw this book mentioned in a local freebie newspaper and eagerly downloaded it to my Kindle. I enjoyed “The ROC” and learned quite a bit. Construction of the original airport next to Scottsville Road (Rt. 383) began in 1927-28 when Hangar 1 and runways A and C were built. The small airport was only a mail stop at that point. Hangar 2 was built in 1929 and Hangar 3 in 1938. I had passed the three hangar buildings off of Scottsville Road all my life and never knew that was the site of the original airport until I read this book. I had assumed they were just facilities for small single or double-engine prop planes in addition to the airport terminal on Brooks Avenue. Nope, the terminal was moved to the north end of the airport complex along Brooks Avenue in 1953 due to the growing demand for passenger air travel. An expansion of the Brooks Ave. terminal followed in 1962 and a major reconstruction/expansion was completed in 1992.

The author of this book, Rick Iekel, was Assistant Manager of the ROC airport from 1973 to 1989 and Manager/Administrator from 1989 until he retired in 1993. Rick shares lots of interesting history and behind-the-scenes stories, including the tragic take-off crash of Mohawk Airlines Flight 112 on July 2, 1963, which killed 7 people (2 crewmen and 5 passengers) and injured 36. Every Rochesterian over the age of 65 remembers that crash.

This book is well-done given that it’s self-published, although the chronology is not always linear. Lots of neat photos and illustrations are included.

Above: An aerial view of the Frederick Douglass – Greater Rochester International Airport aka the ROC. Our airport is a relatively small one with just two short A and B concourses.
Above: This vintage postcard shows the red brick Brooks Avenue terminal building with the towering clock as I remember it from the early-1960s.
Above: The old Scottsville Rd. Rochester Airport, circa mid-1930s. From upper-left corner to lower-right corner, Hangar 3, Hangar 1, and Hangar 2 (note the small control “tower” rising from the Hangar 2 structure).
Above: A vintage postcard showing the Scottsville Road terminal, c. 1940. L to R, Hangar 3, Hangar 1, and Hangar 2. Note that Hangar 2’s short control “tower” has been replaced by a taller stand-alone tower.
Above: The original Scottsville Road airport complex as it appears today. L to R: Hangar 2, Hangar 1, and Hangar 3
Above: Hangar 2 (1929). Note the airport’s first control “tower” beneath the arrow
Above: Close-up detail of the Hangar 2 control “tower”
Above: Hangar 1 (1927)
Above: Hangar 3 (1938)
Above: Current map of the ROC showing the location of the Brooks Ave. terminal in relation to the original Scottsville Rd. (Rt. 383) terminal.

The Converted Catholic Magazine

The Converted Catholic Magazine
Leo H. Lehmann, Ed.
The Lutheran Library, 2020, 555 pp.

4 Stars

Before we get to this book, a short intro:

Christ’s Mission was founded in New York City in 1883 by ex-priest, James A. O’Connor, as a Gospel outreach ministry to Roman Catholics, laypersons and clerics, and as a temporary shelter for priests who decided to accept Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and leave the RCC. The ministry continued until 1984. “The Converted Catholic Magazine” was the mission’s official monthly publication, from 1883 to 1958 (briefly renamed “Protestant Review” from 1915 to 1919). The magazine continued as “Christian Heritage” from 1958 until 1978.

In this book, the Lutheran Library publisher collects 89 articles culled from issues of “The Converted Catholic Magazine” published between 1944 and the late-1940s.* Ex-priest, Leo H. Lehmann, was editor of the magazine during that span. Lehmann also served as Secretary of the mission as well as its Director from 1948 until his death in 1950. The majority of articles presented in this book were authored by ex-priest, James J. Murphy.

This is a very interesting collection of articles written in an era when Protestant militantism vs. Roman Catholic militantism was the norm. Because most of the articles were written as the Second World War was ending, and immediately afterwards, one of the major topics was the Catholic church’s strong support of 1920s-40s European Fascist regimes, including the following:

  • Francisco Franco and Nacionalcatolicismo in Spain
  • Antonio Salazar and Estado Novo in Portugal
  • Benito Mussolini and the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento in Italy
  • Engelbert Dollfuss and the Vaterländische Front in Austria
  • Jozef Tiso and the Slovak People’s Party in the Slovak Republic
  • Ante Pavelić and the Ustaše in Croatia
  • Leon Degrelle and the Rexists in Belgium
  • Philippe Petain and Vichy France
  • The Endecja and post-Pilsudski Sanacja in Poland
  • Many of the German Catholics of Süddeutschland-Munich supported baptized-Catholic, Adolf Hitler. Cardinal Secretary of State, Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII, signed the Reichskonkordat (“Concordat between the Vatican and the Nazi German Reich”) in 1933.

Why was the Roman Catholic church such a strong supporter of European Fascism? The Catholic church of the 18th thru mid-20th centuries loathed democratic republics and favored Catholic-friendly monarchies or authoritarian governments through which it could limit religious freedom for Protestants and advance its prerogatives. The RCC also viewed the fascists as a bulwark against advancing Socialism and Bolshevism.

There’s so much interesting information in this book. It’s very difficult these days to find the kind of “tell it like it is” and “no holds barred” information that was presented in “The Converted Catholic Magazine.” The publication was certainly polemical and “rough around the edges” as one might expect from a Protestant source before religiously-correct ecumenism kicked in. Following WWII and the defeat of the fascists, the RCC gradually withdrew from overt political involvement and also shifted its approach to Protestantism, from militant confrontation to ecumenism and rapprochement. Despite the change in window dressing, the RCC continues to teach its Tridentine false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

*Only two of the eighty-nine articles are dated. It would have been helpful if Lutheran Library had dated all of the articles.


  • Clerical Fascism
  • Nazism and the Vatican
  • Vatican Geopolitics
  • Testimonials
  • Roman Catholic Anti-Semitism
  • Romanism
  • Protestantism
  • Book Reviews
Above: The April 1945 issue of The Converted Catholic Magazine

Huh? You fired God? Has anyone seen God shuffling in the unemployment line? Nope, He’s still on His throne!

This is the final post in our short, three-part Sunday series dealing with abuse within the IFB. My review below first appeared as a comment at on May 31, 2014 and has been revised.

I Fired God: My Life Inside—and Escape from—the Secret World of the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult
By Jocelyn Zichterman
St. Martin’s Press, 2013, 304 pp.

2 Stars

In “I Fired God,” author Jocelyn Zichterman recounts the terrible physical, sexual, and psychological abuse she suffered as a young child through adulthood from her father, brothers, and others within the framework of independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches and colleges she was associated with.

Zichterman’s accounts of abuse at the hands of her mentally ill father are sickening. My heart goes out to her. Unfortunately, she has thrown the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. So embittered by her experience, she has turned from the God of the Bible and has embraced the New Age, smiley-face spiritualism of Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Ram Dass, and Oprah Winfrey (p.215). She states that she knows for sure that God, whom she also refers to as “She/Energy/Source/The Divine” (p.278), is not angry and judgmental, but is “good, loving, kind, and compassionate.” Now, I can certainly understand why a victim of abuse within the framework of the IFB might be embittered, but Christianity is bigger than Zichterman. Yes, Jesus Christ is “good, loving, kind, and compassionate,” but He also came to save sinners. The Bible teaches we must repent (turn from our sinful rebellion against God) and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith alone, while New Age gurus like Chopra proclaim that the idea of sin is “toxic” to our well being. According to neo-Hindu Pantheist, Deepak Chopra, there is no sin, only higher levels of knowledge. Hmm. Of course our fallen nature favors a world where there is supposedly no sin and no judgment. Whether Zichterman and Chopra like it or not, there will be a judgment for all those who have not accepted Christ.

Zichterman disparages IFB members by using quotation marks in referring to “born again” Christians. but it’s clear from God’s Word that becoming a follower of Christ requires a spiritual rebirth (John 3:3), something she evidently did not experience despite her many years of church activity. Granted, it would be amazingly difficult for anyone to comprehend the grace of God while being raised in a home where their “Christian” father, a church leader, was a psychopathic abuser.

There are several inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the book that detract from its credibility. Zichterman portrays Bob Jones University as the Vatican of the IFB. That may have been the case in the particular churches that she was involved with, but it’s a false generalization. The independent fundamental Baptist churches I attended and was aware of had absolutely no connection to BJU. There are other fundamentalist seminaries besides BJU. There may be a loose network among some IFB churches (pastors’ conferences, missionary boards, etc.), but certainly nowhere near the extent that Zichterman suggests. Each independent church has its own unique set of ancillary beliefs, usually based upon the pastor’s predilections, which doesn’t allow for strong confederation. The “First Bible Baptist” megachurch in our area was in a very loose fellowship with KJV-Only curmudgeon, Peter Ruckman, hardly a fan of the Joneses. When Bob Jones Jr. and influential fundamentalist leader and publisher, John R. Rice, had a falling out over the issue of separation, the relationship was never repaired. Despite Zichterman’s best efforts, there simply is no pope or centralized leadership over the IFB. Even using “IFB” as some type of denominational banner is inaccurate. Zichterman swings for the fences, to put it mildly, by citing the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas as a member of the BJU or IFB network (p.272), a glaring overreach that would have been caught and corrected by a more knowledgeable editor.

I was a member of an independent fundamental Baptist church from 1983 until 1991. That church was not quite as hardcore as the ones described in this book, but the pastor was definitely a megalomaniac who used the pulpit to bully his congregation into submission. The man was a martial arts enthusiast who incorporated his ultra-macho viewpoint of the world into the ministry. His son has since taken over the pastoral whip and has drawn the church into an even deeper association with mixed martial arts. Currently, the son is embroiled in a personal sex abuse scandal, which includes allegations that his father covered up sexual abuse of children during his tenure.* I left the church in 1991, soured by the manipulative arrogance of the pastor, and drifted away from the Lord for 23 years. The hardcore, legalistic rhetoric took its toll. It is only within the past year that I have come back to a gracious God and found a caring church home within the Southern Baptist denomination.** However, I certainly would not suggest or insinuate that all independent fundamentalist Baptist churches are like the one I attended or are like the ones the author describes.

Despite its many shortcomings, every Christian should read this book. There is potential for abuse (physical, psychological, sexual, spiritual) in every church, especially where pastoral authoritarianism and lack of oversight is the rule. I’m very sorry Ms. Zichterman, her siblings, and other children and adults were victims of abuse in supposedly Christian settings. Zichterman’s efforts to educate the public and prevent further abuse are necessary and laudable despite some misinformation in this book.

*The son was sentenced to one-year probation in 2018 as part of a plea deal after being arrested and charged with four counts of forcibly touching four young women. In 2021, the 71YO father was sentenced to six years of sex offender probation after pleading guilty to one count of second-degree sexual abuse. He had been initially arrested and charged with sexually abusing two victims under the age of 14 over spans of multiple years.

**My wife and I left this SBC church in 2015 due to the pastor’s infatuation with Roman Catholic theologians.

Postscript: Steve Pettit was appointed president of BJU in 2014 and has been moving BJU away from fundamentalism to a conservative-evangelical position, but the fundamentalists on the school’s board strongly oppose him, including Bob Jones III. However, I see the conservative-evangelical majority on the board recently voted to extend Pettit’s contract for another three years.

Jinger Duggar is free from what?

This is the second in our three-part Sunday mini-series on authoritarianism and abuse within independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church settings.

Becoming Free Indeed: My Story of Disentangling Faith from Fear
By Jinger Duggar Vuolo
Thomas Nelson, 2023, 240 pp.

5 Stars

The Duggar Family was featured in a string of reality TV shows that ran from 2004 to 2021 on the TLC cable channel. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar raised their 19 children according to the rigid framework of independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) theology and ideology. In addition to the IFB influence, the Duggars were also disciples of Bill Gothard and his Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and Doug Phillips and his Vision Forum “dominionism” ministry. The Duggar children followed very strict rules. Secular media was not allowed in the house. The Duggar girls were not allowed to wear pants or have short hair. Courtship of the older girls was strictly supervised by Jim Bob. Etc., etc. It goes without saying that birth control was verboten for Jim Bob and Michelle and other IBLP parents. I watched the Duggar show with interest after having come out of IFB-ism in 1991. The experience soured me on “churchianity” and I didn’t return to the Lord until 2014.

Jim Bob and Michelle believed that by allowing television crews into their home, they and their children were being a witness for the Gospel and right Christian living, but cracks began appearing in the dam. Oldest child, Josh Duggar, was involved in a series of headline scandals from 2015 to 2021, which finally forced TLC to permanently shut down the Duggar reality TV franchise. In recent years, gossipy news sources related that a few of the older Duggar female siblings were flouting Jim Bob’s authority by wearing slacks.

Okay. Intro over. Now, let’s get to the good stuff.

In this memoir, Jim Bob and Michelle’s sixth oldest child, Jinger (age 29), relates how she gradually disentangled herself from her parent’s IFB and IBLP ideology. The first positive influence was her older sister Jessa’s husband, Ben, who came from a Reformed Baptist background with no IBLP rules. For Ben, it was all about Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the Bible with no dictatorial mediator like Bill Gothard claiming divine revelations and authority. Jinger’s suitor and husband, Jeremy, followed a theology similar to Ben’s. IFB/IBLP ideology was abusive and Jinger, through a long process, was able to break free from it.

Jinger targets Bill Gothard and IBLP with great passion in this book and with good reason. Gothard took the joy out of salvation in Christ with his “Seven Basic Life Principles.” Gothard replaced freedom in Christ with a long list of dos and don’ts that only brought guilt and fear. He even taught that obedience is a part of salvation. It’s not unreasonable to hypothesize that Gothard’s stifling, straight-jacketed, quasi-Christianity that the Duggars subscribed to contributed in-part to Josh Duggar’s sordid and rebellious escapades. Scandal caught up with Gothard also when he resigned as head of IBLP in 2014 after 34 women had accused him of sexual harassment and molestation, but his influence inside and outside of the IBLP continues.

Jinger tries to cut her parents some slack by saying they were misled by Gothard and IBLP, but it would be surprising if this book didn’t cause hard feelings and perhaps even result in shunning. The Duggar parents still live according to IBLP dictates. For the readers’ and clarity’s sake, Jinger only goes after the biggest fish in the pond, Gothard and IBLP, and leaves out criticisms of the IFB and Doug Phillips and his defunct Vision Forum.

As one who came out of the IFB, myself, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed Jinger’s memoir and I applaud her courage in telling her story. She relates how many of her old IFB/IBLP friends dropped away from Christ out of frustration because of the stifling legalism. That was me for 23 years. Jinger chose a better way by disentangling from IFB/IBLP legalism while continuing to follow Jesus Christ. Praise God! I would give this book 6-stars if I could. Jesus Christ is praised and glorified throughout. Many unbelievers are going to buy this book hoping to get the inside dirt on the Duggars, but instead they’re going to read a lot about Jesus Christ and freedom in Christ. Highly recommended.

Zwingli: God’s Armed Prophet?

Zwingli: God’s Armed Prophet
By Bruce Gordon
Yale University Press, 2021, 349 pp.

5 Stars

Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), was one of the principal figures of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. From the pulpit of the Grossmünster church in Zürich, Switzerland, Zwingli preached the genuine Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Zwingli started out as a Roman Catholic priest, but after intense and prayerful study of the New Testament, the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to the Gospel of grace.

In the minds of most students of the Reformation, Zwingli, takes a back seat to his contemporary, Martin Luther, and to John Calvin of the following generation. This excellent biography explains why. Whereas Luther and Calvin saw the Gospel more as a universal message for all mankind, Zwingli thought more in terms of a church-state interconnection and was focused on converting his beloved Swiss Confederation.

Zwingli and Luther both reclaimed and taught the genuine New Testament Gospel, but they disagreed on some secondary doctrines. Luther taught “consubstantiation,” that Jesus Christ was truly present in the communion elements, while Zwingli taught the elements were symbolic. This difference prompted Luther to angrily oppose and disparage Zwingli. Also, Luther embraced icons while Zwingli was a notorious iconoclast. Luther and Zwingli’s unnecessarily bitter disagreement over secondary doctrines and practices is echoed today in debates between some believers over secondaries and tertiaries.

I disagree with Zwingli’s support of infant baptism, his persecution of the Anabaptists, and his endorsement of church-state alliance. Zwingli was killed at the Battle of Kappel in connection with the misguided effort by Zürich’s political-religious leaders to force the Catholic-controlled states of the Swiss Confederation to allow Protestant preaching. Zwingli, an ardent student of ancient Greek philosophy, also erred by taking the doctrine of predestination to heretical extremes by teaching Sovereign God also elected the pagan philosophers of old.

The Reformers had their flaws. It’s easy from our vantage point to criticize the early Reformers like Zwingli and Luther for hanging onto vestiges of Roman Catholic doctrine, however, it was enough that they reclaimed the New Testament Gospel of grace. It would take succeeding generations of Reformers to further distance the church from Roman error.

This is an excellent biography of early-Reformer, Huldrych Zwingli, and I highly recommend it.