The Fine Print of the Gospel: All people are Sinners

First we must realize the entire “Plan of Salvation” is based on the Bible. More specifically the presupposition that the Bible is God’s Word and it is authoritative upon all humankind.

The IFB soul-winner will start by inviting you to church. Then they quickly move on to say something like,
“Even more important than church… Are you 100% sure if you died today you would go to heaven?”

If you say, “No.” They will continue, “You can know. Do you mind if I show you some Bible verses about how to know you are on your way to heaven?”

Then they start into the four point “Romans Road” I mentioned in the introductory post to this series.

You must admit you are a sinner.

Romans 3:10
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

I do not know anybody that would say they are perfect. We all make mistakes and do things we regret. IFB soul-winners play on this to get you to admit you have “sinned”.

The fact that people do wrong seems intuitive. We see evils all around us and read about it in the headlines daily. So, most people will concede this point and agree that all humanity are sinners. It is implied that you should feel remorse for being a sinner.

Now let’s dig a little deeper into this point and check out the fine print.

The soul-winner does not want you to question this point too much. The entire rest of their argument hinges on this first premise.

Why are all people sinners?

The IFB believes we are born sinners. We enter the world depraved because we inherit a sin nature from our parents. Supposedly this goes all the way back to Adam (Romans 5:12), the first human.

If something is a part of our nature, it is something we are born with. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t choose to be conceived or born. I did not have a choice in my race, gender, hair color, or eye color. These things are a part of my nature.

I do not feel guilt or remorse for any of the previously mentioned aspects of my nature. I had no control over these qualities. So I accept them. According to Christian theology, I was also born with a sin nature. I am not a sinner because I sin, but I sin because I was born a sinner. And I am supposed to feel guilty and repent for being born with this nature. Notice Jesus’ words:

Luke 5:32
I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

So, essentially I am guilty for simply being born. How does this make sense? You may argue that we cannot not choose our nature, but we do willingly choose to commit sin. Dogs bark because it’s their nature. Birds chirp, ducks quack, cats meow because it’s in their nature. Is it wrong for these creatures to act in accordance with their nature?

Could I hit the mark if I wanted to?

In Romans 3:23b (cited earlier) it states “and come short of the glory of God.” Allegedly the coming short means “to miss the mark”. I have to wonder though… Could I even hit the mark? I am condemned because I was born with the wrong nature which prevented me from hitting a mark that I was incapable of hitting anyway! Yeah, that makes sense.

The Christian God requires us to live up to a standard (perfection) that it is impossible for us to live up to. As Christopher Hitchens has aptly said, “We are born sick and commanded to be well.” And if we don’t meet this standard we will have to suffer eternal torment. Which leads to the next post. Stay tuned…

The Fine Print of the Gospel

I grew up as a preacher boy in an Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) church. My church was of the Jack Hyles/ First Baptist Church of Hammond stripe.

This particular sect of fundamentalism is notorious for what is called “soul-winning”. Soul-winning is the act of going from house to house attempting to win (convert) these souls (people) to Christianity. Below is a video demonstration:

IFBers feel this is their responsibility to fulfill the “Great Commission”. They believe Jesus gave them this mission after his resurrection. This is derived from verses such as the following:

Mark 16:15
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

I have heard many a sermons about going “into the highways and hedges” to win souls. Many IFB churches offer seminars on how to go from house to house and present the gospel. The tactics taught are basic sales techniques. They are selling eternal life. As with most door to door salespeople, it seems too good to be true.

I plan to write a future post about the gimmicks they use to persuade people to convert. However in the next few posts I want to focus on what they’re selling. Like with any insurance policy you purchase, the message these soul-winners are offering comes with fine print. Fine print that is not supposed to be read. Soul-winners are taught to deflect any questions regarding the fine print. Like telemarketers, Soul-winners have a script and want to stay on point. I want to challenge what they are selling. I want to examine some of the fine print.

Soul-winners will lead you down the “Romans Road” (because the Bible verses used are found in Romans) . This road is supposed to lead you to eternal life in heaven and “saved” from an eternity in hell. Below is a sample salvation formula given by IFB Soul-winners:

1. You must admit you are a sinner.

2. There is a payment for sin. This payment is hell.

3. Jesus (God’s Son) died and resurrected to make that payment for your sin.

4. If you believe all the above, pray for Jesus to forgive your sins, and accept his payment then you are forgiven. You are “saved”.

I will deal with each point in separate blog posts. Stay tuned for more…

**Note: There are a wide variety of ways to get saved throughout Christianity. I cannot deal with all of them. Some add to the list, but the majority accept these points.**

The IFB House upon the Sand

According to Matthew chapter 7 verses 23-27, Jesus compares a wise man to someone who builds his house on a rock.  Then he compares a foolish man to someone who builds his house upon the sand.  In the account he mentions the rain falling and wind blowing (a storm).  The wise man’s house survives while the foolish man’s did not.

It will probably not surprise anybody reading this blog that the leaders of the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement fall into the foolish category!  As such they have built their house upon the sand. The storms have come and now the IFB house is crumbling. In this blog post I want to discuss some of the blocks that make up the IFB’s shaky foundation and the storms that are tearing the house down. The following may not be applicable to all IFB churches, but I think it represents the majority.

Fundamental Building Blocks

I. Saturday Soulwinning

Drive by most IFB churches on a Saturday morning and there will be cars in the driveway. Members pile in dressed semi-casual. Just dressy enough to be deemed professional, but not dressy enough to come off as “preachy”.

After a few refreshments and a short devotion, they hit the streets. They go two by two with pockets padded with gospel tracts and a pocket New Testament. Door by door they invite people to church and offer them eternal salvation. At 100 Anywhere St, they encounter John Doe (referred to as John hereafter). “Are you 100% sure you would go to heaven if you died?” is a question they inevitably ask. John says “No.”, but is willing to listen. They begin their one, two, three repeat after me routine. John says a prayer. The soulwinner declares John saved forever from the fiery torments of hell.

The soulwinner is happy! This is another number he or she can anounce to the church. And numbers are what the IFB is all about!

II. Friendly Folks

After this prayer, the soulwinner convinces John that he needs to be baptized. The soulwinner suggests he come to church the next day to enjoy some promotion happening that Sunday. When he gets to church he is greeted by friendly smiling folks. They shake his hand, and offer to sit with him. The people seem genuinely happy to see him. The members make John feel really special. The church members introduce him to the pastor. While this is the first time they met, he knew already knew the pastor’s name because it was on the tract he received, the church sign, the church bus, and bulletin.

III. A Pure Passionate Pastor

The pastor is dressed in a dark suit with a nice white shirt, plain tie, and parted short hair. Let’s call him Pastor Joe. After the singing concludes, Pastor Joe goes to the pulpit to preach. He opens his Bible and reads one verse. Then he prays and tells everyone to close their Bibles and look at him. He never goes back to the Bible verse again. Pastor Joe preaches with intensity and conviction. The sermon is ended with an altar call. Then John gets baptized and joins the church.

IV. Bible Believers

John begins attending services regularly. Every service Pastor Joe puts a big emphasis on the Bible. He preaches what he does because that is what the Bible says not his opinion. The Bible he preaches from is not just any Bible, it is the King James Version. Pastor Joe makes a point to remind the congregation of the evils of all other translations. John feels as though he has found the truth. Who can argue with the Bible, right?

V. Strict Separation

John enquires from the other members as to why all the women wear skirts. John is given an Old Testament verse and then a New Testament verse about being separate from the world. Pastor Joe gives a long list of things that are not permitted. John gets a haircut and fresh shave. John begins to distance himself from family members that are deemed worldly by the church.

John is completely won over to the pastor, church, and it’s work. Everything is great. John works on a bus route, sings in the choir, and takes up the offering. He tells everyone he encounters about his church and pastor. This lasts for a while. It may even last years. Then things begin to change. The IFBer’s will say it is the work of the devil.

The truth of what’s happening is a storm is coming. The winds and rain begin to expose the cracks in the IFB’s weak foundation. Soon, John will realize that the truth of the IFB house.

The following are the storms that will knock the IFB house down.

1. Sales Strategies

John goes to Saturday Soulwinning. He even takes a class offered by the church to teach him how to “win a soul” to Christ. It does not take John long to realize that this “soulwinning” is nothing more than a sales pitch. Overcome objections as quickly as possible, give a few verses, and get down to the praying. The church needs numbers to post! It has nothing to do with conviction, repentance, or salvation. It’s about saying a prayer to be able to add a number to the chart. John sees the shallowness of the whole charade. They are no different than any other door to door salesman.

2. Fake Folks

As John gets closer and more acquainted with the members, he sees that they don’t live the way they portray. They say “Amen!” to preachering about wrong music. Then they listen to that music in their cars. The friendliness of the folks depends on his willingness to comply. There’s no room for individuality. The church demands John to give them all. Of course they disguise this as giving Jesus all. Family must be neglected for the ministry. John’s eyes are slowly starting to open.

3. Corruption and Cover Up

Another member of the church tells John that he suspects the pastor of embezzling money from the church funds. John rejects this out right. “My pastor could never do that.”, he thinks. This allegation does make John more inquisitive about the church finances. John notices inconsistencies in the financial spread sheets. John confronts the pastor. Pastor Joe is outraged at the mere mention of his immoral behavior. Joe throws John out of the office and claims the devil is just trying to hurt the ministry. “You cannot question the man of God!”, he shouts.

John convinces himself that the allegations are false even though more evidence of guilt is discovered. He observed the leaders of the church demonize the ones making the allegations and cover up the truth.

John searches the internet and finds that the IFB movement is known for the immorality of it’s leaders. He reads about Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, and Bob Gray from Jacksonville, FL.

John continues to attend the church although he has become more disillusioned with the IFB house he once loved.

4. Differing Doctrines

John believes that the IFB house has some problems. Even so, he feels they are the closest to the Bible. Then John runs into various people from many different denominations. Each one claims to follow the Bible exclusively. “How could this be so?” he wonders. He begins to study for himself.

John sees that even the IFB disagrees with itself. For instance…he studies the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. “Were the KJV translators inspired or just the original writers? Is the KJV the best translation or word for word perfect? What about other languages? Can a person be “saved” using another translation? If not, what about everyone before 1611?”. He is confronted with these issues and many more. He finds IFB pastors on both sides of the question.

John decides to ask Pastor Joe about some of the issues. Pastor Joe gives him his explanation. When John disagrees or asks more questions, he is met with resistance. John is called “divisive” and told just to believe Pastor Joe.

5. Silly Standards

Often John hears preaching about separation. As he starts to question more, he sees the hypocrisy of the standards and the logic used to support. Members tell him it is wrong to go to the movies. When asked, “Why?”. They respond, “God tells us to abstain from all appearance of evil. You go to the movies to see a family movie. Yet, there is an ‘R’ rated movie playing too. If someone sees you go in, they may assume you are going to the bad movie. As such you have not abstained from an appearance of evil.” John discovers that this same member has no problem going to a video store or owning a television. John thinks if the same logic is applied, these would also be an appearance of evil.

John encounters other IFB people that argue about whether or not men can have facial hair, the length of a man’s hair, whether preachers should wear colored dress shirts, and the list goes on. John realizes the silliness of all these debates. John wonders, “Doesn’t the world have bigger problems?”.

A short time later, the whole IFB house he was brought in to cane crashing down all around him. John survives, leaves the IFB, and lives happily ever after.

While this is just an example of one person and one church. I think it represents the IFB movement as a whole. The house is falling down and the IFB leadership can’t stand it. Let us all huff and puff until we blow the house all the way down!