The old saying is that men never learn from history, with the addition that those that do learn from history are doomed to stand by and watch it repeat itself. Mark Twain said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Regardless of your opinion on the repeatability of history, as we already saw in Part 2, the church itself follows a certain cycle that appears to be unbroken since the first century. It’s not very likely for that to change any time soon.
The Inverse-Square Law
Growing up I loved listening to Kent Hovind’s Creation Science seminars. I still remember distinctly his description of the inverse-square law and how it pertains to orbital mechanics, specifically as part of his theory on the Flood and the collapse of the theorized ice canopy that may have surrounded the Earth before the Flood. Simply put: the closer an object approaches to a mass, its gravitational velocity is affected inversely-squared proportionate to its distance; moving the moon 1/3 of the distance closer to the Earth would increase its gravitational pull 9 times (32). Hovind’s application was (is) a comet that struck the ice canopy and collapsed it onto the poles, the comet’s velocity being increased exponentially as it approached the Earth.
I can just imagine the reader scratching his head, wondering what in the world this has to do with anything. Never fear: I shall explain.
As a premillennialist/pre-trib dispensationalist, I believe in a precipitated decline of everything before a catastrophic apocalypse, preceded by a “rescue” of Christ’s church. It’s not “escapism” as such since the church has endured and will endure any amount of tribulation as a sign of her faithfulness, yet “The Tribulation” as an event is for Israel, not the body of Christ. After all, it’s called “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” not the church’s trouble. As we approach this “event horizon,” it would appear that the processes and cycles seen throughout church history are accelerating. Here I offer two examples as observed personally.
Peter Ruckman is widely held to be one of the staunchest proponents of the King James Bible, as well as pre-trib premillennialist moderate dispensationalism. His work sparked a movement that started Bible institutes on just about every inhabited continent, published hundreds of books, some of which have been translated into multiple languages, and sent hundreds if not thousands of pastors and missionaries into the ministry. He himself fleshed out the very cycle that we are discussing, as quoted in Part 2. So, why is it surprising to anyone that the “ruckmanite” movement has evolved into the machine that spits out identical clones, something that Dr. Ruckman himself denounced vehemently, and (I have it on good authority) the leadership at Ruckman’s former church (Bible Baptist Church of Pensacola, Florida) dislikes even the mention of the “cycle” that Dr. Ruckman himself warned of? While the Pensacola manifestation of this process hasn’t reached the point of creating a bronze-cast statue of the founder or a three-story mural of the deceased pastor and his wife complete with cases of their favorite soft drinks left as an offering, the reverence with which Ruckman’s positions, teachings, and even attitudes are held has created its own kind of “monument” in the Florida Panhandle and in the “ruckmanite” camp around the world, all within the span of a few decades, especially during Bro. Ruckman’s decline at the end of his life.
More recently and even more visibly, Steven Anderson made a name for himself using social media, railing on homosexuals and forging a patented brand of theology including aspects of antisemitism/anti-zionism, calvinistic replacement theology, post-trib “anti-dispensationalism” (clearly misunderstanding that premillennialism is itself a dispensational position), his “reprobate” theory, and other bizarre private interpretations of the scriptures, all with a view to generate friction and create notoriety for himself. With the help of a professional video producer, he created “documentaries” slyly promoting his strange doctrines, even going as far as titling the Arabic translation of his film Marching to Zion as The Lies of the Jews. However big his following at one time, he quickly splintered his movement into numerous factions thanks to a series of “excommunications” and executive decisions about churches established under his ministry. Many of his former allies have distanced themselves from him, especially after an attempt to hide some abuse by members of his own family. Others fled his authoritarian-style grasp and started churches espousing various false doctrines from modalism to teaching that salvation can be “lost” by ceasing to believe on Christ (as if it were the individual’s faith that saved him). One of his former followers now claims to be Christ Himself. This particular cycle-within-a-cycle had a very short lifespan, basically petering out within a decade of its inception.
While previous manifestations of this cycle have dragged on for decades or even centuries, more recently they appear to have a more rapid lifespan, exhausting themselves quickly. My pet theory is that it’s a spiritual “inverse-square law” leading up to the catching away of the church, where heresy becomes more common even among believers as the great falling away accelerates. After all, Christ did warn His followers about being deceived in the last days, and we are certainly getting close to the end, so it stands to reason that deception would be on the rise.
Just Another Brick in the Wall
When the younger fundamentalists started leaving churches and the “Recovering” moniker was adopted, I had some hope that this movement would be different, and that churches would start seeking a move of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, my cynical side won that wager. There are undoubtedly many sincere believers that are truly seeking a recovery, whether from the frequent abuse in churches, or to figure out what is real as opposed to the religious fakery that is so rampant in churches today. Yet just as we see throughout church history, the sincere are promptly overshadowed by the ambitious, and the progression of the cycle can only be delayed, not prevented.
In this case, the “Family” that grew up around the various anonymous Twitter parody accounts and moved to a Facebook group started to feel a lot like the very “fundamentalism” that these participants had left. Getting kicked out of the group without notice or appeal has become a common occurrence, while the leadership have assumed a kind of control that is little different from any authoritarian religious movement out there. When Eric Skwarczynski, the founder and host of the Preacher Boys Podcast, announced that he no longer considers himself a Christian, the reaction from both sides of the “Recovering” discussion was about what you would expect. While some aspects of the response were measured and reasonable, others bore the distinct markings of the us-vs-them division so common among fundamentalist churches.
Eric’s defection would require its own series of articles to address, and that’s something we have no interest in doing. Suffice it to say that after detailing scores of instances of abuse, cover-ups, manipulation, and obfuscation in Baptist and evangelical churches, he decided that he had had enough and renounced his faith. We could talk about John 6:66 or apostasy in general, but the reality is that the behavior of professing Christians led this man to renounce his faith. He will give an account of himself to God at some point. What is truly at issue here is the system that he saw, the filth that he exposed, and the results of his experiences, both at the hands of “fundamentalists” and the “Recovering” crowd.
Of course there were responses; what else is a podcast good for? Instead of focusing on the church’s responsibility for Eric’s apostasy, The Church Split (who, ironically, was later kicked out of the “RFP Fam” for refusing to agree to a calvinistic declaration of faith) decided to argue moral standards, saying that an atheist or agnostic has no authority, lacking an objective moral standard. The point is valid, but irrelevant to the topic at hand. What is at issue here is the same issue that caused the “Recovering” group to head out in the first place: the body of Christ is in direct disobedience to its Head. As a result, the church has no objective moral standard now, since her behavior is diametrically opposed to the commands that Christ gave us to love one another.
There is absolutely a place to oppose false doctrine. It is certainly necessary to warn against apostasy. Objective morality is without question a fundamental issue. However, Eric’s departure was due to the failures of the church. Again we refer to John 17:
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
Christ’s prayer to the Father indicates that our role in this world as Christ’s body is to give evidence of Christ’s authority as the Son of God. Simply put: if people don’t believe in God, it’s the church’s fault. You don’t have to like it, but those are Christ’s words on the matter. Eric’s apostasy is ultimately the church’s fault. But since it’s easier to call for someone else’s head than call for repentance within our own “camp,” we see the standard response: finger-pointing and the blame game. How is this different from the hated “fundamentalists”? How is it not hypocritical to point at Tony Hutson’s carryings on or John Hamblin’s vapidity, while in turn blasting a victim of the church’s REBELLION against her Saviour? No, Will and Brian aren’t attacking Eric’s dress standards or the length of his hair, or the music he listens to; yet the end result is the same: ignoring the root issue to point fingers at the fruit of the problem. Granted, their treatment of the situation is nowhere as “cringe” as the typical IFB pastor’s response to an internet sensation, but it still misses the root issue completely. Eric’s problem isn’t that he’s logically inconsistent: Eric’s problem is that the church is logically inconsistent. As he stated in an interview with Jimmy Hinton:
My faith has been hurt very deeply by, again, not by Hollywood or rock stars or all the people I was told were the threats. Like, for me, you know, I struggle to see people who claim to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, living in a way and acting in a way, covering for things in a way, that far exceeds what I see happening in places like Hollywood, or places like, you know, places like secular places that I was warned about. And so for me, you know, it’s affected my ability to believe in there being some radical, transformative “power” to this.
I totally understand Galatians 5:16-17. I get it, the “in Christ” of 2 Corinthians 5:17 is the saved person’s spirit added to the body of Christ. I know all the doctrines; that’s not where the issue is. The issue is the part about walking worthy of our Saviour. It’s the practice, not the doctrine. How can a person behave like a lost person, or even worse than a lost person, all the while claiming to have the Holy Spirit residing inside of him? How can churches ignore child rapists in their ministries, cover up for serial adulterers, and fellowship with peeping toms, all the while pointing fingers at Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein? Eric’s point is absolutely correct: the gospel calls for repentance, something that has been thrown out the window in IFB churches in exchange for bigger ministries, larger bus routes, and more “conversions.” We see the fruit of this cheap, flippant approach to God’s holiness: a church that is poor, wretched, miserable, blind, and naked.
Eric Skwarczynski grew up in IFB churches and left because of the hypocrisy. Unfortunately, that hypocrisy didn’t disappear once he stepped outside of the circles in which he grew up. While it may seem attractive to point fingers at the other group, everyone that claims the name of Christ is equally responsible for the way in which He is portrayed. The “Recovering Fundamentalists” aren’t the enemy, the “IFB” aren’t the enemy, and Eric or lost people aren’t the enemy. Do you want to know who the true enemy is? Let’s ask the apostle James:
James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
When you do the world’s work for them and distract from God’s glory, you become the enemy of God. When Eric is discouraged and walks away from the faith, it is the church’s fault, and instead of attacking him, we need to take some time to look inward and see where we went wrong. Our bickering, dissension, backbiting, and overall disobedience is doing the devil’s work for him.
All These Lives
I am still an independent Baptist. I believe the doctrinal positions espoused by the Baptists to be closest to the Bible in any organized group of churches in the world. I have no intention of changing my position or taking “Baptist” off of the name of any churches that the LORD sees fit to allow me to plant in my field of service. As such, it’s important to take stock of our situation as believers and make sure that we truly are following the scriptures as we claim to do. If our wake is littered with broken families, bitter wounded, and discouraged former believers like Eric, then we can only assume that we missed something somewhere; it’s certainly not the Bible’s fault.
Let’s look at an example from economics. “Capitalism” has become a dirty word in politics and the legacy news media, and is constantly blamed for everything that might possibly go wrong in any country with even a modicum of economic freedom. Of course, the real problems are caused not by capitalism which is simply the free exchange of goods and services, but instead are caused by corporatism which is the interference of the state (government) in commerce, preferring certain corporations over others. There are all sorts of issues that arise once the state begins to regulate business: regulatory capture, the use of regulations by established companies to prevent competition from entering the marketplace; lobbying, purchasing preferential treatment from politicians; and collusion, establishing virtual monopolies with government assistance, are among the many tactics used by entrenched corporations to use the power of the state against the consumer.
When these tactics are employed, immediately the socialists condemn “capitalism” as the culprit and insist that more government intervention is the solution, ignoring that it was government intervention that created the issues in the first place. Ultimately, it’s not actually “capitalism” that caused these problems, but it is always the scapegoat.
Let’s apply this truth to the church. The “church” is a called-out assembly of believers, assembling for the purpose of the One that called her out of the world. The “church” is never a construction, a 501(c)(3) corporation, a convention, or a “camp,” yet these are always what the world perceives as “the church.” Therefore, when those organizations that call themselves “churches” hurt others, lie, steal, manipulate, or misrepresent Christ, it is unfortunately Christ’s body that is blamed, even if that body wasn’t even involved.
It is not Christ that does these horrible things, yet He gets blamed for them. Much like Nathan told David:
2 Samuel 12:14 Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.
There is a price to be paid when Christ is reproached by our sin and wickedness. When churches cover up and marginalize sexual abuse in the pulpits, when spiritual abuse is the norm in churches, and when those who hold the truth do so in unrighteousness, Christ is dishonored and there must be a reckoning.
The answer is not nor has it ever been to split or separate from the body of Christ, form a new denomination, start a new movement, or attempt to distance ourselves from the problem by claiming independence. Yes, we’re independent Baptists, but we’re still in the same body and we will still stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ alongside every other believer regardless of what name was on the church sign (or if they even had a church sign). We’re all in the same boat together, and Christ’s command that we be as one in Him is still valid, even if your brother uses the wrong Bible version.
Unfortunately, sin in the camp will eventually affect everyone, just like with Achan and Ai. The 36 dead at Ai had obeyed God’s commands perfectly; they hadn’t stolen anything from Jericho: Achan did, and he survived the battle just fine. His sin affected others, and the LORD withdrew His hand of blessing and protection from the entire nation. As with Daniel’s prayer, a collective repentance is required before we can expect God’s blessing on our churches.
Daniel 9:5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
Even though Daniel himself was a godly man, he recognized himself as being part of the problem. We will never see God’s blessings on us until we realize that WE are the problem and repent.