What Is a Fundamental Baptist Church?
by Pastor Jack Hyles
Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. Beloved when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 1-4
The word fundamental is a relative word. It becomes an adjective instead of a noun when it is used to describe a Baptist church. It is a shame that we have to say fundamental Baptist church, because all Baptist churches ought to be fundamental.
The word fundamental means, one who holds to the original faith and practice of a movement. A Masonic Lodge can have fundamentalists. If you go back to the fundamentals of the Masonic Lodge, you are a fundamental Mason. The word fundamentalist does not apply Just to a group of Baptists. It can apply to any group. There are many kinds of religious fundamentalists, and there are even many kinds of Christian fundamentalists.
The first Baptist church was started in about 31 A.D.
It was not started on the day of Pentecost. It was started during the earthly ministry of our Lord.
The Catholic church was started in 313 by Constantine, the Emperor. Constantine united the church and the state in the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
In 1530 the Reformation came and the Lutherans started. About the fourteenth century a man named John Wycliffe became very disenchanted with the Catholic church. Then came another man named John Huss, who likewise was disenchanted with the Catholic church. Following Huss came a man whose name was Savonarola. All three of these men were martyred by the Catholic church. Then came a man named Zwingli, who was also disenchanted. He became a part of the Reformation. Zwingli was followed by Martin Luther, who was followed by John Calvin.
In 1531 the Episcopalian church started.
In 1541 the Presbyterian church started.
In 1602 the Congregational church started.
In 1785 the Methodist church was started by John Wesley.
In 1812 the Disciples of Christ were started. We now call them the Church of Christ, Christian churches, or Disciples of Christ.
Around 1900 the inter-denominational movement began to flourish in America.
Remember that a fundamentalist is someone who goes back to the original faith and practice of a movement. How far back does someone have to go in order to be considered a fundamentalist? They must go back to the origin of their movement.
To be a fundamentalist Methodist a person would have to go back to 1785. A fundamental Methodist is not a fundamentalist as we Baptists count a fundamentalist. They still sprinkle because John Wesley sprinkled. They still believe in denominational lordship of the churches. They still believe that salvation can be lost because John Wesley believed it. They still believe in holiness. John Wesley was wrong on holiness. John Wesley was a great man and certainly deserves our attention as a man of character, discipline, and prayer, but not as a man of doctrine.
I believe we ought to pray for, love and admire people of other denominations, who believe the Bible, but not doctrinally like we do, but I do not think we ought to work with them. I think it is unwise to work with people that are fundamental in their own doctrine.
When I was a young preacher, I pastored the Grange Hall Baptist Church in the country, outside of Marshall, Texas. The Grange Hall Methodist Church was a good Methodist church. They had a fundamental Methodist preacher named Edmond Robb. He and I became good friends. Both of us were in the same little country neighborhood. I respected Ed Robb and the Grange Hall Methodist Church. We never had any trouble, because did not try to unite in our efforts.
America was much better off when Baptists worked with Baptists, Nazarenes worked with Nazarenes, and fundamental Presbyterians worked with fundamental Presbyterians, etc. We do not reveal our differences as much if we stay in our own camps and do our own work. We got the job done better back in those days as well.
I admire the fundamental inter-denominational people. I respect them, but I do not work with them. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was about a mile and half from our church. They had revivals just like we did. They got people saved just like we did, but they sprinkled babies and converts. Their denomination assigned the preacher to the churches. I respected them, and I prayed for their revivals, but did not unite with them.
Let's allow the fundamental Disciples of Christ, the fundamental Methodists, the fundamental Congregationalists, and the fundamental Presbyterians to live, but let us be fundamental Baptists. The Baptist distinctives that have made us different through the years are no longer precious because we have worked with good people whose doctrines were wrong in some important areas.
There are those in the Lutheran church who have returned to the fundamentals of the Lutheran church, but they are still different from a fundamental Baptist in some important areas. They still sprinkle babies. They still have the Bishopry over the churches. They are totally wrong on the doctrines of the church, baptism, and the Lord's Supper.
I respect and admire a fundamental Lutheran preacher. I rejoice with him for his morals. I rejoice because he stands for righteousness. I rejoice that he fights unrighteousness. I rejoice that he has revivalsand gets people saved, but I cannot rejoice that he is wrong on the local church. I cannot rejoice that he is wrong on baptism. I cannot rejoice that he is wrong on sprinkling babies. I cannot rejoice that he is wrong on the Lord's Supper. I can thank God for him, but I will not join up with him.
To be a fundamental Baptist you must go back to Jesus. Nobody is a true Bible fundamentalist unless he is a fundamental Baptist. Nobody who sprinkles babies is a true fundamentalist because no babies were sprinkled in the Bible. To be a true fundamentalist you cannot believe in falling from grace, because the Bible teaches that you cannot fall from grace. To be a true fundamentalist you must be separated from the world. To be a true fundamentalist you must be a soul winner. You can be a fundamental inter-denominationalist and not believe in soul winning, but you cannot be a fundamental Baptist and not believe in soul winning.
A fundamental Baptist church is a church whose faith and practice goes back to 31 A.D. to Jesus. You can be a fundamental Methodist and go back to Wesley. You can be a fundamental Presbyterian and go back to Calvin or Zwingli. You can be a fundamental Lutheran and go back to Luther. You can be a fundamental Catholic and go back to Constantine, but you cannot be a real Bible fundamentalist unless you go back to Jesus.
Two things cause these movements to move away from the fundamentals.
1. Unwillingness to accept the stigma of either extreme. Either position has a stigma. If a man is a strict fundamentalist, the great host of society calls him a radical. Most people do not want to be considered fanatical.
The evangelicals came along and taught fundamentalists how not to be radical. The evangelical movement was not founded because of conviction. It was founded because the evangelical people were not willing to be branded for Jesus' sake. They did not want to bear the stigma.
The farther from fundamentalism the Devil can brand as radical, the better he likes it. He likes it when more liberal Christians are called fundamentalist because it moves the line of what a radical is considered to be. If you are not a fighting fundamentalist, you are an evangelical.
The neoorthodox movement is the same thing to liberalism as the Evangelical movement is to fundamentalism. It is a way to avoid being in the extreme of a movement.
In Washington, D.C. you will not find many old fashioned conservative Republicans. Nor will you find many staunch liberals. The same concept applies. Everyone wants to be moderate, so they will not be considered radical.
The evangelical movement is nothing more than fundamentalists who use liberal terms. The neoorthodox movement is nothing more than liberals who use fundamentalist terms. New evangelicals are those who meet somewhere in the middle.
2. A desire to gather a larger following. Many people make the mistake of believing that they will grow more by appealing to a wider scope of people. In reality, people are drawn to that which is distinct. Most people hold to extreme beliefs and are thrilled to find an institution that has not compromised those beliefs. That has been the secret of the success of the First Baptist Church of Hammond. We have done nothing to try to appeal to crowds other than proclaiming the uncompromised truth of the Word of God.
Many men who had great and growing ministries saw the opportunity to enlarge their outreach and changed their position more towards the middle. In most cases the ministries diminished.
Let me make a few observations . . .
1. The Devil wants to bring the term radical toward the center.
2. Let us thank God for every group that broke with their original group when it got liberal and went back to what it used to be.
3. Let us hold to our Baptist distinctives. They do matter. Baptism does matter. It is in the Great Commission. Soul winning does matter. It is in the Great Commission. The Lord's Supper does matter. It is one of the church ordinances. It does matter. The doctrine of the church does matter. Let us hold dear and treasure our Baptist distinctives while at the same time admiring those who are willing to take a stand in their denomination.
4. Let us not be ashamed of being considered radicals.
5. We had a stronger nation when each did its own work alone and the rest of us admired each other from a distance. I am a Baptist. I thank God that I am a Baptist. I thank God for my Baptist heritage. I thank God for Baptist distinctives. I thank God for the men who died for them. If they can be martyred for these Baptist distinctives, the least I can do is believe them.