Recently, someone suggested that I quit being an Independent Baptist. Their reasoning was that since I no longer held to all positions that they personally felt defined an Independent Baptist I should leave. I have nothing to say about that person as they are certainly entitled to their own opinion, but I will say that I am still, and plan to continue for the forseeable future to be, an Independent Baptist.
At the same time, as this blog series shows, I do not want to be associated with some trends and practices held by those who call themselves Independent Baptists. For the record, even in those cases, it is the practices more than the people that I battle for change. Whether it be someone else’s standards or preferences, abusive practices, or an overall mindset that some call IFB, I feel perfect liberty to disagree without feeling the slightest need to remove the label Independent Baptist from myself. That some have chosen to leave (who I still love and respect) has no bearing on my choice either.
I can give you two good reasons:
As an adjective as I use it here, it means “free from outside control; not depending on another’s authority” (from first result on Google for “definition of independent”). Think what a lousy Independent Baptist I would be if I allowed any individual, periodical, or group tell me to stop being one! Really when someone purports to speak for all of us in narrow terms and particulars it is they who deny, by definition, what it means to be an Independent Baptist. They may have switched the adjective to a noun, but I never have.
The Baptist heritage is one I embrace. I just added to my Klock & Klock collection the 2 volume The History of the Baptists by Thomas Armitage and I marvel as I peruse its pages and see our history. It is a history of Christ and His Word first and that is exactly what I want my life and ministry to be about. In fact, the distinctives of Baptist thought are still where I stand. There are a few of them that some disagree on though they dearly love our Lord, but my understanding of the biblical evidence brings me down firmly on the side of these distinctives. Someone came up with an acrostic in the 1900s that summarizes well where we stand out, and have stood for centuries, from other Christian groups.
Autonomy of the Local Church
Priesthood of the Believer
Individual Soul Liberty
Saved Church Membership
Separation of Church and State
That last one was added on a little later, but no matter what one may think of them, they are what Baptists have historically stood for. These things I believe.
Notice I bolded two of them because 1) I treasure them, and 2) they are so pertinent to this discussion. When I think of what Christ paid to make me a priest where I needed no other mediator with God but Him, and the corresponding soul liberty that sprang from it, I will never lightly give it up–especially just because some man or group told me to. They are not my priest. If fact, and I am not trying to be a smart alec, it would seem they would have less right, again by definition, to the name Independent Baptist than I would. At least that is what this Independent Baptist with all his soul liberty thinks!
Find all articles in the series here.