Any Christian should have an idea of what idolatry is. Idolatry is rendering to any other thing what is due only to God. Usually the actions run deep enough that the word “worship” comes to mind. Using the words of the Ten Commandments, it includes “bowing down” and “serving”. In the broader sense, I saw it defined as “immoderate attachment or devotion to something.” I believe idolatry is a battle for us all, and clearly for every group or denomination, and Independent Baptists struggle with their own flavor. Here are our prime ones, our brand of idolatry:
1. An Idol Of Independent Baptist Itself
Beyond folks who are Independent Baptists because they just feel it most closely aligns with the Scriptures, there are those who feel it holds an inherent superiority in and of itself. First, there are those who hold to what is known as a “Baptist Brider” position that believes that Baptists are the Bride of Christ and any other saved person is, at best, a friend of the Bride. We will sit at the table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb while others stand at the side and watch. While Baptists have a longstanding and amazing legacy, this is without any Scriptural warrant and is ludicrous. The so-called “succession” can be no better be provided all the way back to Christ as a list than other groups who claim the same thing.
While I hope the “Brider” stuff is not too widespread, there are others who have come to believe that we have grown to be something so special that now only we have the truth. The rift between us and everyone else is now so large that they are the enemy. To be in some other group is a sign of either spiritual immaturity, or worse, backsliding. Many now make prominent their separation from everything not Independent Baptist and feel this so pleases the Lord. We size people up quickly not so much on what they believe about Christ, but whether are they Independent Baptists. That is to say, the question “Are you an Independent Baptist?” tells us more about a person than the question “What do you think of Christ?” See what got switched around? Is that not idolatry?
2. An Idol Of Standards
It appears to me that standards started out as simply deciding how one ought to live before the Lord. Everyone has to seek the Lord and answer those questions on many levels, but in some circles in the Independent Baptist world it has grown into a standardized list. No longer a thoughtful look at various issues to honor Christ, it is a package deal. Some subgroups have a slightly different package, but the package must be accepted as a whole. Any major transgression of any point is to break the whole package and bring the wrath of the whole group. The package is held up as what makes us right. Some over time confuse the adherence of the package of standards as the thing that makes God love them. Some vehemently deny that conclusion, but can’t explain why so many they have trained are so confused. In this situation, we look at ourselves and ask “Am I keeping my standards?” instead of “How is my personal relationship with Christ?” Is that not idolatry?
3. An Idol Of Associations
Another thing you see at times is some being obsessed with certain leaders in the Independent Baptist world. Make what you will of the leaders in those situations, I am more troubled by some who come so close to worship. Those leaders can do no wrong. Scandals must be hushed up. Slander of those against your leader is offered up without proof. This is not the same as friendship, or even appreciation. It is something much more.
Then there are the associations gathered around these persons (I do not mean if you happen to have gone to a school or church of one of these leaders and love and appreciate them that you are guilty of this, or that any particular leader is guilty!) There is a problem, however, if you yield a blind allegiance to such groups no matter what. If you are not willing to say that your favorite group, which is made up of fallible people, could be wrong, you have given an exalted status that should only be given to the Infallible Christ. If, on some matter, you say someone or some group is right when Christ says they are wrong, what have you done? This is not about turning into a critic, but having everyone stay firmly in the human category they are in. You even see younger guys working every angle to get higher up the totem pole of the group. Isn’t this one the most hideous transposings of worship? And is that not idolatry?
Find all articles in the series here.
22 thoughts on “Our Brand Of Idolatry (IBTR #65)”
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That point about the “package deal” is so true and important. I can’t believe I’ve missed it in the past. BTW, the package deal usually includes not just standards, but all of the idols you mentioned here.
And one word that comes up more than others when discussing these idols is the word “loyalty.” I don’t remember, have you done a post on loyalty? IMO, it is one of the most ugly words I’ve seen bandied about by these types of people. (and weirdly enough, for once I’m in your time zone!)
I noticed you are in my timezone! Not used to getting to hear from you this early after an article’s release!
I did write one once called “The Cost of Disloyalty”.
I agree how ugly the word “loyalty” has turned. That is sad considering what a beautiful word it could be.
Sorry for the late reply. WordPress hasn’t been informing me of replies. maybe I forgot to check something. I’m back home again, so I’m out of your “zone.” ::guffaw:: Anyway, yeah. It could be a beautiful word, especially when it comes whole-heartedly from the heart, and not from compulsion, when it is an honest expression, and not a demand.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” in conjunction with this very thought of “package deal.” Basically if you do not conform to one part, then you are being corrupted by the leaven of sin and it’s only a matter of time before your influence harms the whole body. You must be rejected.
Wish I had thought of the leaven comment, but glad you did and mentioned here!
Thank you for writing this. Every church and every Christian struggles with creating idols out of certain expectations or standards. We can even make idols out of certain points of the law. The law, even though given by God, is not God, and it can be worshipped falsely.
What I’m trying to work through with myself at this point is why we react more negatively, judgmentally, and uncharitably to certain things over others. For example, in many churches, seeing a man preaching in regular street clothes would be much more heinous and worthy of rebuke than hearing the local church gossip go about the “Did you hear what happened to X?” routine.
Why is this the case?
In the Baptist’s case, even though pride, theft, and adultery are preached against and condemned, they simply do not reach the same level of rebuke and reaction as music and dress. The former might be tolerable, the latter is simply not.
Like you, I truly hope this series will provoke pastors to look at their own ministries and observe whether this phenomenon and the others which you have documented are present in them, and then to ask the hard question as to why this is the case, and if it is a biblical, Christ-like reaction.
I love your example of a preacher in street clothes versus gossip–you have well illustrated my point. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. God bless.
I’ve been thinking about the example of the preacher in street clothes vs gossip, and the truth is that his wearing the “wrong” clothes is more likely to result in gossip than direct “rebuke” or anything else. In fact, most points of our own idolatry tend to result in gossip and other unscriptural, un-Christ-like behavior as a result. Something wrong with this picture…
Yes, there is something bad wrong with it.
I got a chuckle a few days ago. I’m in a “Baptist Preachers” discussion group on facebook and I had mentioned something about how I don’t use the KJV and I got several responses saying “why would you be on a fundamental baptist page if you’re not KJV only?”
I never knew you had to be KJV only in order to be a fundamental baptist! Just thought I’d add one to your list. Good article.
What you don’t know, some are always ready to tell you! 🙂
Another great article with excellent points! I appreciate the way you compared questions like, “Are you an Independent Baptist?” versus “What do you think of Christ?” to uncover evidence of idolatry. I have observed all three, including excusing false teaching and bad preaching because the person was an old classmate and long time friend.
As David also inferred, the KJV Bible, too, has become an idol to some.
Yes, these things are too prevalent.
I was just contemplating this as I was at work today. As I currently attend a Southern Baptist Church, which as an IFB believer I’d never seen myself ever doing before, I find myself fielding plenty of misconceptions from believers from my former church, and explaining to them where I was, and where they are, incorrect about certain things. My hope is to return to my former church one day, but for now, my new church is the place through which God is reaching my lost family members, IFB or not.
Reblogged this on Proliferate Truth. and commented:
Dem Sacred Cows of ours …
Once again, a “right-on” article, and very well written. Also, very much enjoyed the comments from other readers. Let’s us all know we are not alone out here.
Here in the Philippines, I heard an IFB pastor tell the congregation that Jesus Christ was a Baptist. I so wanted to ask, “Where do you find that in the scriptures?” Sadly, many here have assimilated the idolatry that was imported from Western nations. We sent missionaries, but most have also brought the traditions of men along with the Bibles, Gospel tracts and Christian literature. The good news is that when I have an opportunity to sit with local pastors and review the scriptures with them, some have seen the light.
May we all get our focus back on Jesus Christ and avoid idolatrous practices which diminish our proper worship of the only one who is worthy of such.
So true about American missionaries bringing their American traditions and culture, and calling it “biblical Christianity” to their respective fields. I’ve seen this here where we serve, and frankly, I’ve actually been hesitant to encourage people who have come to me about serving here, when I see how deeply entrenched some things are in their lives. In such cases, I tend to go right to the jugular, and talk about the first thing they need to do when they come here is to be be ready and eager to _learn_, not teach. Polish people are not ignorant and uneducated, and anything you say they will immediately seek out to confirm or disprove what you said. You need to learn many things, and more importantly, unlearn many things before you can begin teaching. So much of what people teach in American churches just don’t connect with people in other nations–music, dress, oh, and a big one, for some reason, guns. People outside of America just don’t get the American fascination with guns, and they constantly ask. I tell them that it’s because of the Wild West, and drop it. 😉 But I’ve heard others trying to talk people into gun ownership, second amendment stuff.
Our task is to first of all preach Christ, the Gospel, discipleship, changed lives, and then, the rest of Scripture, not try to convince them of our own doctrines. Trust me, if you try to preach “skirts over the kneecaps,” you will get questioned to within an inch of your life, if you don’t have deeper answers. Speaking of modesty, it has a different meaning here than the US. In Europe, modesty is something you do with your eyes. And if you look at Scripture, you will find that this is a much more scriptural view of modesty than the US standard. I’ll summarize. You cannot control what someone else will do. They may relieve themselves in public, strip to their underclothes, etc. You cannot control that. What you can control is what you look at. Modesty means looking away, and consciously not noticing when someone else is doing something that would be deemed “private” in public. And that’s something else. In Europe, most people live in tiny flats, where privacy would be considered a luxury. Such a concept of modesty is essential. BTW, this was also true in biblical times, when most people lived in homes of one or two rooms at most. Think about that…
So, as an American, you better come prepared to unlearn and learn before you prepare to teach, or you will find yourself with a very weird ministry that doesn’t in any way reflect reality–oh, you might make your supporting churches happy with your false reality, but it won’t be a real ministry, with a real outreach. It will just be a mirror of a US church, with people who are more Americophiles than they are Christians. And _that_ to me is a very scary thought…
I love you giving the missionary perspective. Every potential missionary needs to hear what you say here. They should also learn that “evangelization” and “Americanization” are not the same. I have the highest possible respect for missionaries.
Really enjoyed all the points of this article.
When we were on deputation, we were invited to a mission conference by a pastor who actually resigned as pastor not long after scheduling the conference. By the time the mission conference came around, the church had a new pastor. Consequently, he had inherited the entire lineup- including the main speaker. The speaker was a “brider”, who claimed one in of his sermons that Jesus was a Jew. Afterward, we were all sitting around talking to the pastor when “Bro. Brider” asks, “Pastor, what did you think of the message?” The pastor was complimentary of his material on the Great Commission, but went on to say, “But I’m sorry to break this to you: Jesus was not a Baptist; JESUS WAS A JEW!” Haha. This was one of the highlights of deputation!
Loved this story! Thanks!