Swallowing Camels and Straining at Gnats

In the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement, it seems that some — perhaps, well-intentioned — individuals have so wanted others to be godly that the well-intentioned ones have attempted to “legislate” godliness.  Paul the apostle said that the Law does not save, but that it functions as a teacher to show us our need of a savior.  The Law illumines; the Savior saves.  To paraphrase a former pastor whom I greatly respect: “We think if we make kids do right, they will love God; but if we can get them to love God, then they will do right.”  Should we encourage kids to do right?  Yes.  But, ultimately, they need to know God and love Him.  “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” – John 14:15 NASB.

It seems to me that the nit-picking IFBers (not all IFBers, just the nit-pickers) have become the Pharisees of today.  Just as the ancient Jewish lawyers made law upon minute law to keep from breaking God’s laws, the IFBers have done the same.  A good illustration is the old analogy of building a fence far enough away from the edge of a cliff so, if someone does climb over the fence, then at least he won’t fall over the edge without further stupidity on his part.  It’s the idea of a sin buffer: it’s better to break a rule than to break God’s Law.  But, the buffer wasn’t there to begin with.  It wasn’t established by God.  It’s tradition, not doctrine.

Think about how IFBers revile movie theaters. “You shouldn’t go to the movies because the theaters show wicked movies. Even if you’re going to see a clean movie, those watching you go into the theater don’t know that you’re not going to see that dirty R-rated movie. You’re putting your testimony at risk. And, even if you’re there to see a good wholesome movie, your money is paying for the next dirty movie they’re going to show. So don’t go to movies.”

But, don’t some of those same IFBers allow their kids to go the movie rental store where many, many more dirty movies are at their fingertips?  And, who knows that they’re not in there to pick up one of the numerous filthy films?  Hmm?  No one.  Aren’t they jeopardizing their testimony as much that way as they would be by going to a theater?  The real sin is not in the location of the media but in the content of the media.  Sinful content is sinful whether it’s on a big screen in a popcorn-scented theater or on the flat screen in your living room.  And, do you know what?  Wholesome content is still wholesome in those same locations.

So, where did the IFBers beef with theaters come from?  According to the pastor I mentioned above, apparently, some kids years ago were fooling around in a theater (yes, “that” kind of fooling around).  So, to prevent other hormonally hopped-up teens from prematurely experiencing the bliss of anatomical compatibility in a dimly lit and parentless room, it was decided that theaters should be off limits.  Thus, a knee-jerk reaction to promiscuity transformed into a tradition, which is nearly deemed doctrine in some circles.

Dear IFBers, instead of making up new rules and obsessing over them and making sure kids keep the jot and tittle of traditions (not doctrine, but traditions of men), why not show us God?  Amaze us with the Almighty.  Don’t make us march in martial lockstep to a contrived checklist.  Instead, focus us on the Father; surprise us with the Son.  Help us behold His attributes and glory.  If the story of Isaiah is any example (Is. 6), then beholding God in His glory will cause us to change.  I beg Christian colleges and schools and IFB churches not to set the traditions of men between us and God.  Please don’t be stumbling blocks to us.

There seems to be a trend now of young people leaving fundamentalism.  In fact, I hesitate now to call myself a fundamentalist although I still agree with the fundamentals of the Christian faith: the inerrancy of the Bible, the existence of the Trinity, the deity of Jesus, and salvation that is by grace and not by works.  I don’t disagree with the fundamentals; I disagree with the Christian “Talmud” of mandated minutiae embraced by IFB churches and schools.

I wonder if the reason young adults are leaving fundamentalism is because they are now adults who can think for themselves and have come to see some of the IFB traditions (not doctrines, but man-made traditions) as ridiculous, or worse, hypocritical.

Think about such things as the theater taboo, the “scandal” — GASP! — of women wearing something other than dresses to church, the “tragedy” of hair-covered ears on males, and so on.  Ridiculous, isn’t it, what we obsess over?

Why are young adults leaving fundamentalism? Maybe it’s the modern order of Pharisaism that’s driving them away.