P. Andrew Sandlin has an engaging Reformed critique of the Fundamental Baptist movement, but many of his concerns about the FBM don’t apply to Berean Bible Baptist Church, where we’ve been attending for the past three Sundays. As Sandlin says, “there is a great deal of diversity within it [the FBM]. Certain descriptions and criticisms I make of the FBM will surely not apply to everybody within it.” Indeed, BBBC has few of the problems ennumerated in Sandlin’s account: there are no controversies regarding pastoral tyranny or legalistic authoritarianism, and the KJV is not a hot issue, as we are allowed to use our NIV’s — albeit with some implicit reservations.
History, however, is of greater concern to me, particularly where the much-touted “Trail of Blood” Baptist lineage is concerned. As Sandlin puts it,
I quickly discovered… that the FBM had a woefully inadequate approach to… church history. Many of its supporters held to the “trail of blood” thesis, that true, Bible-believing Baptists enjoyed great precedent all the way back to the early church and John the Baptist himself. Interestingly, however, many of the groups claimed by the FBM or by almost anybody’s standards – including many of the FBM today – are heretical. I refer to the Novations, the Albigenses, the Cathari, the Anabaptists, and so forth. The Anabaptists, for instance, had no doctrine of justification by faith alone…. The FBM seemed to glory in always being outside the established Christian church, and notably the Church of Rome. This opposition to Romanism is most commendable, but the FBM apparently did not recognize that the doctrines of the very groups they hailed as theological predecessors were in no case less egregious and in some cases more egregious than those of the Church of Rome. (emphasis mine)
The pastor of the church, a solid man, well-grounded in Scripture, has himself stressed that BBBC doesn’t derive its sense of baptismal authority from this “Trail of Blood” heritage, but rather from its own being as a believing Christian church, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. If that is so, however, why continue waving around the “Trail of Blood” booklet? More disturbingly, why will they regard me as being unequally yoked for fellowshipping with Christians from Reformed and non-FBM churches? Why do I need to go through yet another immersion baptism? Is it because my old baptism at GCF was not authoritative, having been conducted by a non-FBM pastor? The exclusivist FBM mindset is still there, though it is not readily apparent from the first few attendances.
It is not something to which I can reconcile myself in good conscience. Not yet.