I am widely regarded as an expert on the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I was raised in an IFB home, attended IFB churches as a youth, prepared for the ministry at an IFB college, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, pastored IFB churches, and have studied and followed the IFB church movement most of my adult life. Yet, it is not uncommon for an IFB zealot to read one or more of my posts on the IFB church movement and conclude that I don’t know anything about IFB churches, pastors, colleges, and parachurch ministries. Gary Richards, whose real name is Gary MacKay, is one such man.
Today, Richards left the following comment on a post titled “Old-Fashioned” Preaching: Calling Sin Sin, Stepping on Toes, And Naming Names. Based on the server logs, this is the only post Richards read. (Please see Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait.) My response is indented and italicized. All spelling and grammar in the original.
What is obvious in the 1st paragraph is that you really know nothing of the IFB or IB churches. Their only claim is that they believe in the total Word of God & teach that from it. The term “old fashioned” is just that not from 2,000 years ago, be serious. What this means is from back in the day before the church was hijacked from liberal & progressive ideologies.
“Old Fashioned” is a term used by IFB churches and pastors to denote that their beliefs and practices predate the modern age; that their beliefs hail from better days in times past. Sometimes, the term is used to suggest that present beliefs are the same as those of Jesus, his disciples, and first-century followers of Jesus.
In 2015, I wrote a post titled, What Independent Baptists Mean When They Use the Phrase “Old-Fashioned.” Here’s what I had to say:
Many Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches advertise themselves as “old- fashioned” churches. Many IFB preachers call themselves old-fashioned preachers. What do they mean when they say they are an old-fashioned church or an old-fashioned preacher?
An old-fashioned church is one where members yearn for the past — usually the 1950s. In their mind, if society and Christianity would return to the 1950s all would be well. In the 1950s, Blacks knew their place, women were barefoot and pregnant, birth control was hard to come by, abortion was illegal, homosexuals and atheists were in the closet, and Joseph McCarthy terrorized Americans with attempts to root out communism. In the 1950s, we fought a war against communism, teachers still prayed and read the Bible in school, creationism was considered good science, and Christianity controlled the public space.
Then came the rebellious 1960s and 1970s, and everything changed. Sixty years later, Blacks no longer know their place, Whites are becoming a minority, couples no longer get married, women have access to birth control, homosexuals and atheists are out of the closet, a Kenyan-born Muslim socialist communist black man was president, abortion is legal, prayer and Bible reading in school are banned, creationism is considered religious dogma, same-sex marriage is legal, and Christianity is no longer given a preferential seat at the head of the cultural table.
From the fundamentalist Christian’s perspective, I readily understand why people yearn for the old-fashioned days of the 1950s. The fifties were a time when their brand of Christianity was the norm. Now they are fighting to be heard. Thousands of church members have left, seeking out the friendlier confines of generic, hip Evangelical churches. Instead of hard preaching against sin, Christians clamor for pastors who will “feed” them and minister to their felt needs. Most of all, they want to be entertained. Nones and atheists are increasing in number, and more and more people consider themselves spiritual or not religious. Pluralism and secularism are on the rise, and cultural Christianity is the norm and not the exception.
So what’s an old-fashioned Baptist church like? Their services are quite traditional; traditional meaning as it was in the 1950s. The focus is on “hard” preaching, often from the King James Version of the Bible. The goal is to convert sinners and strengthen church members so they can withstand the wiles of the devil and pressure from the “world.” Everything the old-fashioned Baptist church does is a throwback to yesteryear — an era when preachers preached hard, hymns were sung, altar calls were given, couples stayed married, women saved themselves for marriage and the kitchen, and the Christian church was the hub around which the community revolved.
Millions of Americans attend some sort of an old-fashioned church, even if the Baptist name is not over the front door. They love the respite their church gives them from the evil, sinful, atheistic world they live in. They love the certainty they hear in their pastor’s sermons. They are glad to be a part of a group that thinks just like they do. For those who desire to live in the 1950s, an old-fashioned church fits the bill. It heals their angst and gives them peace. It does not matter if their beliefs are true or whether their practice accurately reflects the 1950s. People seeking and finding value, hope, peace, and direction do not require truth. All they require is faith, and their belief that their “old-fashioned” version of Christianity is true. This is this power of myth.
Keeping the straight path of God’s Word bothers many since adoption and integration of evil & worldly vices, lifestyles and ideology ain’t happening. To suggest that it’s straight out of “one flew over the cuckoos nest just shows your true spirit. There are those & have been that were not drawn by God & grew up in the church & can’t wait to get out & talk smack about it, this is fleshly behavior, nothing new. There are preachers, pastors & teachers that were never called by God for this gift and promote a false gospel & distort God’s Word. There are ex- church attendees maybe even members that have left and claim to be now unbelievers. I would suggest they were never born again and never received God’s Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ sent. This is and always has been a problem since Jesus walked on this earth in the flesh.
Based on what Richards wrote above, it sure seems that there are a lot of unsaved people in the church he attends. All that old-fashioned preaching, yet people are still unsaved; “unsaved” meaning people who believe and behave differently from Richards. IFB zealots are known for their harsh, hateful judgments of people who dare to leave their cult. I have received thousands of emails, comments, and social media messages from Evangelical Christians. IFB Christians — a subset of Evangelicalism — stand at the top of the chart when it comes to people who hurl invectives, hatred, and even death threats. I can’t tell you the last time I have interacted with an IFB believer who was a thoughtful, respectful human being. When called out on their awful behavior, they make all sorts of excuses and justifications, but the fact remains that their ill-bred behavior does little, if anything, to advance the cause of Christ. I remain convinced that the Sermon on the Mount is missing from most IFB Bibles.
LOL – Old fashioned preaching. Preaching that doesn’t make people feel good but rather strokes their flesh is what worldly church attendees desire and it’s their sign they probably are not saved. Once the pastor of the flock preaches on a topic or subject that makes you uncomfortable is your sign. If it makes you butt hurt then go cry to the devil. Now, when it comes to feeling the Holy Ghost from certain type of preaching, you’re not qualified since you’ve never known the Holy Spirit.
Did you notice how Richards seems to be the arbiter of who is and isn’t saved? I thought God was the only one who knows whether someone was saved?
Richards wants me to know that I don’t know anything about the subjects at hand because I never was saved; that the Holy Spirit never lived inside of me. This claim, of course, is ludicrous. I was part of the Evangelical church for fifty years. Saved at age fifteen, I spent thirty-five years loving, serving, and following Jesus; preaching the gospel, teaching the commands of Christ, winning souls, and starting churches. Richards tries to dismiss my life out of hand, but he can’t. The evidence suggests that I was once was a devoted follower of Christ. That Richards can’t square his theology with my story is his problem, not mine.
Richards cleans carpets for a living. By all accounts, he is good at what he does. Imagine if I went around the Internet leaving comments that said, “Gary Richards doesn’t know how to clean carpets. He can say whatever ever he wants, but I know he can’t clean carpets.” Why, Richards would rightly be outraged. Why? I am dismissing out of hand his carpet cleaning experience. No matter what Richards says, I know better. I am absolutely right. I wonder if Richards will get my sermon illustration?
I have been to Charasmatic churches where fakers abound, doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where these type of churches came out of. As with all fakes you will naturally spin them into the Christian religion even though they are not. It’s just as ludicrous as to trying to convince true believers that a lesbian preacher in a gay church is Christian. I’ve been to quiet lukewarm boring churches that would put anyone to sleep where members go just to punch in their time card and get Sunday over with. Been to churches that have no gospel & a lot of strange wierd things going on like meeting in the basement for a variety of herbs and such. Then you get to a church where the preacher speaks louder which does keep your attention, preaches on the Word right out of the KJV with a non scripted message direct from the Holy Spirit that speaks to everyone, you know you’re in the right place. Worse to y’all no doubt is that message ties directly what you heard before you hot to church.
Again, Richards seems to know who is and isn’t a Christian. He is showing signs of having Elijah Syndrome.
In 2021, I wrote a post titled Evangelical Preachers and the Elijah Syndrome. Here’s an excerpt from this post:
Elijah saw himself as the one remaining true prophet in the land. God reminded him in First Kings 19:18 that there were actually 7,000 prophets who had not yet bowed a knee to Baal.
Every time I think of this story, I am reminded that many Evangelical preachers see themselves as some sort of modern-day Elijah. And like Elijah, each thinks he is the one remaining prophet in the community standing up for God, the Bible, and Evangelical morality. Such preachers delude themselves into thinking that they alone are standing true, that they alone are preaching the right message.
I remember thinking this of myself back when I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mount Perry, Ohio. Everywhere I looked I saw churches and pastors who were not winning souls and who were not waging war against Satan, sin, and godlessness. As the church began to grow, I convinced myself that people were attending the church because they wanted to hear a true man of God.
This “I alone remain true to God” way of thinking is what turns preachers into insufferable, arrogant, hypocritical pricks. Thinking that they have some sort of inside knowledge about God and the Bible, they are determined to share what they think they know with everyone, even if people don’t want to hear it.
Preachers such as Jack Hyles, Fred Phelps, James Dobson, JD Hall, and Greg Locke didn’t start out as pontificating bloviators. Over time, they convinced themselves that they had been chosen uniquely by God to speak on his behalf. Once convinced of this, their pronouncements became more shrill and severe. These Elijah-like prophets of God, thinking that most churches and pastors are Biblically and morally compromised, withdrew from the larger Christian body.
— end of quote —
Over the course of his comment, what has Richards done? He has narrowed his list of “who is a True Christian®” further and further until he reaches a point where only he and a few other believers are True Christians®.
Now, your KJV problem, obviously you haven’t researched that enough. If you study with the greek & Hebrew then you know it’s the closest available in English. The changes in translations like the NIV are crazy & even the creator of the NIV apologized for it before his death. Same with other translations. Sure, the KJV is a pain in the butt to those that don’t study God’s Word.
I don’t have a “KJV problem.” It is Richards who reveals that he is woefully ignorant about the King James Version and other English translations. He is also ignorant of the various manuscripts underlying the various translations; that KJV is based on a small number of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts; that other translations use a wealth of manuscripts for their text. No, the issue here is this: Richards believes the KJV is supernaturally inspired, inerrant, and infallible — an irrational, unsupportable belief. If Richards wants to spar with me on the KJV, I am more than happy to do so. I think he might find that I know a wee bit about the subject; especially since I attended a KJV-only college and read, studied, and preached from the KJV most of my ministerial career. I might even know something something about the Hebrew and Greek texts. 🙂
But……..for the life of me I don’t understand how a pastor of 25 years changes gears & goes into calvanism. I mean, to be a pastor you should be full of the Holy Spirit, called by God to preach and you know God’s Word. Then to walk away & become a humanist & athiest? It isn’t a great surprise because we have countless counterfeit ministries & fallen preachers that were never real. That is a problem & the Word tells us this as we draw closer to that time.
Now we get to Richards’ grand finale.
First, it’s CALVINISM not calvanism — a spelling error common among people who know nothing about Calvinism. I am more than happy to discuss why I embraced Evangelical Calvinism with Richards if he is up to the task. I suspect he is not. The basic IFB position on Calvinism is this: “we ‘agin it. It’s from the pit of Hell.” I doubt he has read John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion or any other book written by Calvinistic authors. Richards might want to check out my series Why I Became a Calvinist — Part One.
Richards is having trouble squaring my story with his IFB theology. HOW CAN THESE THINGS BE? Richards says. I don’t know what to tell him. I once was an Evangelical Christian and now I am an atheist and humanist. The inability of Richards and others like him to take the round peg of my life and put it in a square hole forces them to dismiss my story and deem me unsaved. Sadly, they never ponder whether the real problem is their theology or their understanding of the Bible.
Richards says I am a “fallen preacher” that never was real. I think deep down he knows better; that if I weren’t a Christian, neither is he.
Saved by Reason,
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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I’m no expert on the bible, far from it, and a million miles behind Bruce, but I do have an interest in it, given that it’s impossible to understand western culture without having at least some knowledge of the bible and its effects. As with most areas in which I am not personally knowledgeable I look to find the people who are among the best in their field, and form my views from them. Bart Ehrman is my point of reference for bible expertise, and he endorses what Bruce says about the KJV, that it is actually a relatively poor translation, being based on later material than better translations, and avoiding language issues that others addressed. It is, in Ehrman’s opinion, the best literary version of the bible (the wording is the one I am far and away most familiar with, and remember from my childhood) but is otherwise very compromised.
Incidentally, I see from that link that the commenter is from Tennessee. I’m always reminded in these contexts of Bill Bryson’s comment:-
“ The bigger danger for Tennesseans is not that they might be descended from apes, but that they might be overtaken by them.”
another christian who is ignorant about the most basic things. It’s a shame their religion requires it.
I wouldn’t be satisfied with a KJV Bible now, because it’s written in Elizabethan English. I’d want a direct, Greek- to- English,and Hebrew- to English ( present day English)as Elizabethan is too hard and irritating for me. That said,just because someone is using shouting for preaching is no guarantee they have the Holy Spirit. I never went to an IFB church. But they resemble the Pentacostal sects in appearance, with similar preaching styles. Including Assembly of God pastors,they do it too. Tennessee,eh ? I can just imagine. Yeah,talk about ” Old Fashioned.”……….
This fellow loves the “no true Scotsman” argument. It’s the only way he can square up his own beliefs with what Bruce is saying. “Bruce can’t have been a real Christian because that doesn’t line up with what I believe about real Christians”. I feel bad for him. He probably has limited exposure to people from different backgrounds. Perhaps he knows some people who left his fundamentalist brand of Christianity, but it soothes him to believe that those people were never real Christians or were lured by the devil.
“Old fashioned preaching. Preaching that doesn’t make people feel good but rather strokes their flesh is what worldly church attendees desire and it’s their sign they probably are not saved.”
I’m not sure exactly what Mr. Richards is trying to say here; there seems to be a contradiction in his wording. I assume he means that people who attend churches he does not endorse as “Bible-believing churches” are just there to get feel-good preaching – maybe looking for an emotional high from the preacher. Listening to the congregations cheering, applauding, and amen’ing Tony Hutson and his ilk for stirring them up preaching hate, wrath, fire and brimstone on unbelievers kind of sounds like the same thing to me. There seems to be a lot of that “flesh-stroking” going on in those echo chambers.
Once he mentioned the KJV Bible I was done. How could anyone, anywhere, in this day and age believe that the KJV is the best translation of the Bible? Total ignorance of language is right up there with IFB ignorance.
At this point, KJV-only is just another badge to show they are different from everyone else. Translators and linguists (presumably from an IFB-approved institution) could take the same sources, such as the Textus Receptus and other references permitted to the original committee in 1604, and update the text into modern English – while still ignoring 400 years of scholastic improvements, textural criticism and better documentary evidence in the process. That would at least help with the readability arguments.
Maybe this has already been done and ran afoul of stauncher traditionalists. Does anyone know? The KJV-only crowd pretty roundly rejects the NKJV as corrupt.
JW–You make great points. As someone who has studied literature and history, I cannot understand how anyone can take any text that’s more than about 200 years old as singular or authoritative–especially if that text is a translation. Even in more literary or technical works, translations change as new documentary evidence is found and we learn more about the cultural context in which those works were created: a word or phrase can mean something a bit different from what we’d previously assumed.
Those KJV-only folks remind me of the Constitution fundamentalists I knew back in my right-wing Libertarian days (which mostly coincided with my time as an Evangelical Christian). They believed that nothing that wasn’t written by “The Founding Fathers” had any validity; some even rejected the Bill of Rights and believed that the Federalist Papers were a better guide to running this country because they weren’t “adulterated.”
Here is another absolutist saying you are damned if you do not agree with me. There are a lot of them out there. Look at the jewish ultra-orthodox in Israel trying to get the judiciary thrown out so they can force their view on others in Israel.
There have been 10 days of riots in Israel. One of the things the ultra-orthodox do not like is a ruling which said people converted by the reform or conservative branches of judiasm are jews. They think they can define judiasm and no one else can argue.
In Israel the ultra-orthodox are usually called haredim.