A REBUTTAL TO INDIANAPOLIS BAPTIST TEMPLE: RIGHT OR WRONG?
On April 5, 2001, I received a kind personal letter from Brother Mike Randall, editor of The Baptist Preacher, along with two copies of the publication. After reading the article, “Indianapolis Baptist Temple: Right or Wrong,” I thoroughly disagreed with his conclusions. I also regretted that he had not personally called me which would have resolved some of the misunderstanding in regards to our stand for Christ. However, I did appreciate the Christian grace which was exhibited toward my father, Dr. Dixon, and myself while disagreeing with our position. In my remarks I will do my best to be as kind.
As most of us know, this debate over the incorporation of churches has been going on for nearly 18 years. It has polarized and separated friends of a lifetime, which saddens me greatly. I wrote Dr. Dowell many years ago and thanked him for the influence of Baptist Bible College in my life. I am still a proud graduate of the class of 1977. However, scriptural truth does separate us sometimes and unfortunately we must allow it.
To make sense out of what the Indianapolis Baptist Temple has done, there are five foundational truths that must be believed.
1. We must believe that the sacred scripture is the sole authority of faith and practice for the New Testament Church, not the I.R.S. code, public policy or man-made laws which are contrary to the Scripture and the United States Constitution. Primarly in this case, the First Amendment which was written to protect the Baptists and other non-conformist churches in the early years of our country.
2. We must believe in the autonomy of the New Testament Church which must be allowed in America, based on the First Amendment, to practice its faith even if those practices differ from someone else.
3. We must believe that the United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land and takes precedent over all man-made laws which are contrary to it.
4. We must believe in the principle of religious liberty for all. This does not mean separation of church and state, but separation of the church from the state.
5. We must believe that Jesus Christ is to be the Head and Lord and Pre-eminent one over and in His church. Church incorporation, or any other legal entity such as a trust or unincorporated association or religious society nullifies this because the church trustees must agree up front to uphold all public policy even if it is contrary to the Holy Bible.
Without these foundational beliefs, pastors and churches (public charities) under Sec. 501(c)3 of the I.R.S. code can and do rationalize and justify their unbiblical practices.
Now please allow me to clear up some misconceptions. The Indianapolis Baptist Temple:
1. Proceeded in this direction, not in order to win, but in order to do right.
2. Has never violated the Scriptures, the United States Constitution or the I.R.S. code, because the Indianapolis Baptist Temple is not organized as a public charity under the I.R.S. code.
3. It not a legal entity created by the state such as a corporation, denomination, organization or an association, i.e., religious society, but a New Testament Church.
4. Sees a difference between individuals paying taxes and God’s Assembly paying taxes. The United States Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Also, nowhere in the Bible does it command the Lord’s Church to pay taxes. However let’s be consistent. If it is right for the church to pay withholding and F.I.C.A. taxes, then why not sales tax, property tax and user fees. I would suggest there would be outrage over these other taxes.
5. Is NOT anti-government. We believe God instituted the church, family and government. We are anti-evil government.
6. Believes that the word “ordinance” in I Peter 2:13 means, according to the Greek, “the root principles of law,” which would refer only to those laws in harmony with the United States Constitution based upon the Word of God and not every statutory law that comes down the pike.
7. Never sued the government, nor took them to court. The Federal Government attacked and sued the church and dragged it into court.
8. Sees even the material as spiritual and cannot separate them. Nothing that God has belongs to Caesar. As a result, the church told each minister that they would be responsible for their own tax liability after December 31, 1983, as self-employed ministers because it would be a sin for the church to directly dip into the church treasury, the Lord’s tithe, to pay taxes. The tithe belongs to the Lord.
9. Is not an employer. Corporations have employees; New Testament churches have ministers. Nowhere in the Bible do New Testament churches have corporate officers.
10. Also, believes with this editor that civil government and the New Testament Church should be separate and independent. So, why do most churches act as collection agents for the State?
It is important to note that the government’s case against the Indianapolis Baptist Temple rested basically on two statements. Federal Judge Sarah Evans Barker stated that a sound tax system is more important than one’s first amendment guarantees. Also, the attorney for the Justice Department stated before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago that an uncontrolled church in America is untenable (unacceptable). I am of the opinion that every pastor should shudder at these statements and their future implications.
Today I am saddened, not because the congregation of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple lost six million dollars worth of property, but because of the coming apostasy and the spiritual blindness of pastors. At the same time, I am joyful because our ministry continues to function as I write. Our congregation of eight hundred persons oversees ninety different ministries. Over the past four months, our attendance has grown, six families have joined our church, forty-four persons have accepted Christ as Savior, twenty-four have been baptized and a mission team of eighteen persons built a church building in Haiti. In fact, last month our congregation committed nearly $100,000.00 to foreign missions.
By the grace of God, the Indianapolis Baptist Temple will be an example to other churches of obedience to Christ’s headship, whatever the cost. We will have a meaningful voice in society and will continue to remind others that burdens are more important than buildings.
My prayer is that others who read this article will become enlightened. However, whether one does or not, I have no regrets or apologies to make. I will not hang my head in shame “for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.”