‘Reclaiming Biblical Fundamentalism’


Conference location image

A total of 525 people, many of them pastors and wives, registered for this week’s 94th Annual IFCA International Convention. My wife and I were among those who gathered at the Cincinnati Marriott at RiverCenter and the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, Ky., as we oversaw the exhibit for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.

The theme for the conference was “Fight the Good Fight: Reclaiming Biblical Fundamentalism.”

Dr. Richard Bargas, who has served as the executive director of IFCA International since 2019, preached a stirring message on the opening night of the conference. Drawing on 2 Cor. 10:1-6, he shared “five traits” of Biblical fundamentalism—as opposed to cultural fundamentalism. Bargas framed his words within the context of the dire circumstances in our culture.

“Our country enjoyed the heritage of our Christian foundations for decades,” he stated. “But not anymore. The enemy of our souls has come out from the shadows. He has become emboldened, and he is basking in the light of our world. I don’t believe it will be long until he begins to fully unleash his power against the church here.”

The message resonated with the audience and set the tone for the entire week.

“I am not exaggerating when I say it,” Bargas told the congregation. “Brothers and sisters, right now we are facing the destruction of our civilization. The current culture we live in has embraced death. It has embraced confusion. It has embraced delusion. And there isn’t any hope in any of these deceptive fortresses. True, Biblical fundamentalism needs to speak the Word of God into this world.”

During a theological question-and-answer panel on Tuesday morning, Dr. Thomas Pittman, a vice president and assistant professor at Shepherds Theological Seminary in Cary, N.C., called the IFCA “the strongest positive face in the fundamentalist movement.”

In the same forum, Bargas listed several hallmarks of the IFCA. Stated as adjectives, they include Biblical, fundamental, dispensational, evangelistic, expositional, cessationist and creationist. “These are very rare to find in any group today,” he said.

Bargas placed the emphasis on the first of those descriptors. “We are Bible men,” he stated. “Our goal is to be faithful. The way we guard against apostasy is teaching the Word of God.” Pittman noted in follow-up: “If you just read the Bible, you end up a dispensationalist.”

Dr. Cory Marsh, professor of New Testament at Southern California Seminary, was the keynote speaker on Tuesday night, taking his message from his new book from SCS Press, A Primer on Biblical Literacy.

Marsh said that Bible literacy must begin in the home and church. As students come to seminary with less Biblical knowledge, the nature of seminary has changed, he explained—and seminaries have been forced to address more basic matters than they did historically.

“To know God is to know God’s Word,” Marsh stated. “If you are literate in the Scriptures, you are literate in God’s revealed will. A Christian’s relationship with God is directly proportionate with their relationship to God’s Word, the Bible.”

Marsh clarified, stating: “We live in a nation that has been shaped by Scripture, but no one really knows the Scriptures. Clearly something is wrong. We’ve become too familiar with the Bible—without actually knowing the Bible. The Bible has become a familiar relic. Turning Christianity into an industry has made us illiterate of the Scriptures.”

There were 36 exhibitors at the convention, including nine colleges and seminaries, and at least eight missions organizations. In addition to the four nightly general sessions, there were 26 general breakout seminars, six women’s sessions, six strategic planning breakouts, three business meetings and two theological panels. The Steve Pettit Evangelistic Association also presented a bluegrass concert.

Also during this week, 250 teenagers and sponsors gathered at Appalachian Bible College in Mount Hope, W.Va., for the IFCA National Youth Convention. Dr. Alexander Granados, president of Calvary University in Kansas City, Mo., was their main speaker.

The IFCA presented the 2023 Faithful Servant Award to Dr. Alex Montoya—a highly accomplished Christian educator, and the senior pastor of the First Fundamental Bible Church of Whittier, Calif., since 1972.

“I want more people to know about IFCA,” Bargas said during one of the theological panels. “We are seeing more coming from some of the extremist [fundamentalist] groups.” Bargas explained that such men are seeking a loving environment characterized by fellowship around a likeminded commitment to doctrine.

“I believe the IFCA is unique,” stated Dr. Gary Gilley, senior pastor of Southern View Chapel in Springfield, Ill., and the keynote speaker for the communion service on the final evening of the convention. He listed the IFCA distinctives of inerrancy, cessationism, dispensationalism and literal hermeneutics, then issued this call: “This is our time to stand up for these things.”

Gilley’s words completed a line of thinking that Bargas initiated on Monday evening.

“We don’t need to be afraid,” Bargas had said. “This is our time! We have the most powerful message in the world, and our time is short. That is why IFCA exists. We will not bow down.”

Audio from the conference is available at SermonAudio.com/IFCAInternational.

Next year’s convention will be held from June 24 to 28, at the Holiday Inn & Hampton Inn and Suites, Northwest Arkansas Convention Center, in Springdale, Ark. The theme will be “Proclaim—Equip—Defend.”


Next year’s convention will be held from June 24 to 28, at the Holiday Inn & Hampton Inn and Suites, Northwest Arkansas Convention Center, in Springdale, Ark. The theme will be “Proclaim—Equip—Defend.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3


Equip: We equip believers to defend their faith.” https://answersingenesis.org/about/mission/

Equipping youth to use their energy to proclaim, embody and enjoy the gospel. https://www.redeemerbiblechurch.com/ministries

Proclaim and defend our faith’ …https://catholicstarherald.org/proclaim-and-defend-our-faith/

“We seek to do this by evangelizing and caring for the youth, by equipping and laboring together with parents to build a biblical foundation of faith in their youth, by preparing the youth to know, proclaim, and defend the truths of the gospel…” https://www.twinfallscc.org/youth


Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism https://amzn.to/3JCtd0H  😉

We definitely recycle themes!

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Of course, being older than dirt, I forgot to put in LOL and a grinning emoji with my first post.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

@Don: I was pretty sure you were kidding… so had to have some fun with it. I was really hoping to find another site with exactly the same title, but…

What differentiates the IFCA from the FBFI?

Interesting question. I suspect the most accurate short answer is “history.” A close second, from my point of view, would be “not very much.” I think, in History of Fundamentalism class in the 90s, I knew the story… for long enough to pass the exam. Maybe a little longer. Alas, nothing remains other than the fact that they arose out of different streams out of the same river.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Well, I'd say more than history, although some of it is history. The IFCA is broader, ie, it isn't just Baptists. I think it is also a church organization, whereas the FBFI is a fellowship of individuals.

My impression, though, is it is less robustly separatistic than the FBFI. You'll notice the mention of "cultural fundamentalism" in the article, basically a swear word from the less separatistic professing fundamentalists. What they mean is that they tend not to separate as much from the world, nor are they as rigid in separation (or non-cooperation) ecclesiastically.

That is not to say that I think the FBFI is too rigid! It should be obvious, but I'm all in on the FBFI perspective.

Others will have other opinions, but that's my general impression. There are probably exceptions among those participating in either group.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Curious what percentage participated.

What differentiates the IFCA from the FBFI?

Doctrinally, not much. The IFCA has gotten along particularly well with the GARB and Grace Brethren, so that will give you an idea. It would be to the right of the Ev. Free Church, but a bit left of the FBFI.

As an organization, I would say it draws more men from a broader set of schools, like Calvary Bible College, Masters, Moody, Dallas Theological, Grace College/seminary, etc., as well as the smaller Dallas clones. It included people like John MacArthur, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord — and is more in the Bible Church tradition. Overall, not quite as much emphasis on revival (though still too much, IMO), pastors are not as authoritarian (many churches are elders led), preaching is more reasoning-oriented and expository (not as intensely persuasive). Baptists tend to have a culture of their own, often tied to southern ethics and traditions, whereas the IFCA is not particularly strong in the south and reflects a more northern culture.

That’s the broad brush. On a church by church basis, that is not always true. In some cases, there would be no real difference, in other instances even more cultural differences.

"The Midrash Detective"

There is a difference in size and constituency. The IFCA has about 1000 churches located in the United States and more than that number of associated churches in 26 countries outside the U.S. It also has over 1100 individual members. The FBFI consists of about 400 subscribers to their magazine, many of whom are pastors. Decision making is also different. IFCA pronouncements (as I understand it) are approved by the membership while those from the FBFI are produced by their self-perpetuating board(s) and assumed to have the support of the majority of those in the group.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

I can’t speak to the processes of the IFCA, but Ron hasn’t stated the facts correctly concerning the FBFI. First, I think his numbers are low as to FrontLine subscriptions (though I acknowledge we wish we had more subscribers). One factor that skews the stats is that some of us take bulk subscriptions and pass the magazines out to our church people one way or another. Thus there are more readers than subscribers.

As to our position statements, they are clearly denoted as a concensus of the board, not of the membership. Our statements are formed by general agreement among our board members for the purpose of promoting our goals of proclaiming biblical Baptist Fundamentalism and edifying those who read them.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3