Call this ‘hamburger theology’ but it was the quickest easy explanation I could come up with to refute the claims of a blogger who does not understand the differences. I thought it might be good to do a refresher course in the differences between these groups.
Due to some recent ridiculous claims we’re seen recently by people online I think today we need to talk about all the ways that the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB), New Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (NIFB) and Bill Gothard’s Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) differ.
All three have things in common, of course, but are also very different. The analogy I sometimes use when trying to explain all three is that of McDonalds (IFB), Whataburger (NIFB) and Red Robin (IBLP). All three serve burgers, the roughly same thing, a burger and fries, but in some very different ways and prices. Not that any religion is like a burger chain, most of them have more in common with multilevel marketing schemes than anything else. I am using burgers as a simplistic way to describe something horribly complex.
And this is not an exhaustive list. I know I’m skipping many things, so I invite you at the end of this to sound off on the parts you think merit discussion that I’ve skipped here.
The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Church
McDonalds is ubiquitous and everywhere, with small variations between franchises. The ones in Amish country have buggy tie ups outside and many in Texas sell pickled Jalapeno at the country. Just like the IFB can be found in every state and almost every country. At last count there are over 6,000 in the U.S. While there are small differences in quibbling minor issues, for the most part they are lockstep in basic mission and beliefs even while maintaining some small independence between individual churches.
King James Version Bible only, they are only loosely affiliated with other IFB churches, hence the “Independent” unlike Southern Baptist or other more mainstream Baptist denominations.
They started around the turn of the late 1800s because they believed the regular Baptists were getting too slipshod loosey goosey with the religion, that modernism was creeping into their theology. That’s the Fundamentalist part, a strict adherence to the old conservative thought, theology and practice.
Their rules for their membership are beyond strict. No music that has a ‘rock’ syncopated beat. No pants for women. No swimming with members of the opposite sex. No smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling or visiting houses of ill repute along with no card playing or going to that den of sin, the movie theater. That’s an awful lot of control from the church on the every day life of a believer. I am reminded of Audio Adrenaline’s “The Houseplant Song”
The funny thing about all these rules is that very few IFB actually follow all of them. Pay lip service to them on their way to see the latest Superhero movie at the local mall.
Some famous IFB institutions are Pensacola Christian College and Hyles-Anderson College. At one time Pastor Jack Hyles held tremendous power over much of the IFB world from his pulpit at the First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. Leadership is not fixed, various ministers gain and lose popularity.
One of the most abusive and money making enterprises the IFB is involved in is that many of them have opened are troubled teen facilities. Some of these places, like Circle of Hope, New Bethany Home for Girls, Roloff Homes, and Hepzibah House and others seem more like places organized to provide abusers with a steady stream of victims instead of to steer troubled teens towards a healthy life. Some girls coming out of these places tell of sex trafficking, babies born and sold, horrifying stories of abuse and neglect like something out of a Dickensian workhouse. The stories of abuse that these places have generated are pretty horrific. The saddest part of the troubled teen industry is that it is ongoing even today.
If you are interested in more about the IFB our friend Bruce Gerencser is a former IFB pastor who writes about the IFB and the problems with the sect at his blog The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.
The New Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church
And here we have our odd man of the burger world, Whataburger like churches. Just like you can get a Jalapeno Cheeseburger and spicy special ketchup at Whataburger, things are a little off the standard bubble in the NIFB, but not as tasty as the fare at Whataburger. Just like Whataburger there aren’t many NIFB churches either, most scattered across the South and South West. At this point it appears there are only 30 churches or so.
Just like the IFB, the NIFB considers themselves all loosely affiliated but not bound together in an actual denomination. It’s King James only as well. The rules are also a lot stricter than those I listed above.
Unlike the regular IFB the NIFB is headed by one pastor alone, who functions sort of like a cross between the Pope and a mobster. Being that the NIFB is a late entrant into the religious world that pope like man is also the creator of the religion.
It was started by hate group leader Steven Anderson not too many years ago when he decided that the IFB was too lackadaisical liberal for him. Since he started the group there have been splits, bitter rancorous falling outs involving things you normally do not associate with any Baptists, drugs, accusations of money chicanery and theft, prostitutes, gambling, hot wives in yoga pants, sexual abuse scandals and the list goes on. Some have fallen out because they refuse to acknowledge the authority of other pastors over them, just like regular religious folks refuse to acknowledge each other in the liquor store. It’s a petty little cult world, insular that seems to spin down into tighter circles with ever increasingly impossible theology.
On the weird ‘spicy’ side they and their theology are highly anti Semitic, they are Holocaust deniers and they take hatred of the LGBTQ world to disgusting new heights, calling for the murder of gays. They believe that the government should be executing gays! They also think that Jesus went to hell, and other weird misinterpretations of scripture. Very cult like. With one leader calling the shots, unlike the other two.
Bill Gothard – Institute of Basic Life Principles
Bill is like Red Robin in that there are lots of options and many of them are much more expensive than anything in the other two. IBLP is non-denominational, not Baptist or any other actual denomination. IBLP tends towards promotion of their products as a Christian lifestyle arbiter, seminars, books, homeschooling. They hold yearly campground activities and academies for the children of their followers as well as publish a homeschool curriculum under ATI brand.
Everything about the IBLP seems perfectly designed to bilk dollars from their followers, from the copious yet superstitiously unscientific textbooks, down to the gatherings and camps. If you have a problem, then the IBLP has a product to solve your problem.
While they don’t offer the troubled teen homes of the IFB, they do run ‘camps’ aimed at producing what they consider ‘right’ behavior. Things like Alert Academy seem geared towards total indoctrination, and stamping out individuality of thought and sexuality. Particularly gay sexuality.
One stop shopping theology with a price tag. It is an abusive theology that leaves many families fractured and with young adult children suffering from various degrees of PTSD.
Stating the obvious here, but this is the same Bill Gothard and IBLP that the Duggar family has turned to first when Josh Duggar molested his sisters, and later when he was outed for years of infidelity and other sexual behaviors. What did the IBLP do for Josh? Both times he was put to work providing free construction muscle for IBLP projects during the day, and Bible study with other IBLP miscreants instead of receiving the type of psychology therapy he genuinely needed. This is a cult that does not believe in any type of psychiatry!
Their theology is similar to the other two, but skews a little bit more standard Fundamentalist/Evangelical. They don’t call for the murder of anyone identifying as LGBTQ, they just want to pray it away instead. A little less crazy, but still pretty out there.
What all three of these places have in common are all three have been linked to sex scandals among the higher ups. In the case of Bill Gothard the 40 plus women who have come forward to accuse Bill of inappropriate actions when they were in their teens. It has resulted in the removal of Bill from an active leadership role.
The IFB and NIFB tends to paper over and try to hide their sex scandals. To the point where Steven Anderson told the families of the sexual assault victims at his church that their were excommunicated and must leave.
In the IFB Jack Schaap is currently behind bars serving his sentence in a federal facility for sex with a minor he was supposed to be counseling for sexual abuse. These are merely the tip of the mountain of sexual abuse allegations. And these are just the beginning of the problematic nature of all three of these churches.
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