Date of Award

2001

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Christian Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Terry Carter

Second Advisor

Dr. Danny Hays

Third Advisor

Dr. Margo Turner

Abstract

Increasingly more influential in America today is the Independent Bible Church. Bible churches, in general, are denominationally unrelated, believing that the local church can best function independent of a denominational hierarchy. The Independent Bible Church is one of many nondenominational or independent churches that are attended by 5% of the adult population in America. In order to understand this church, it is necessary to trace its roots back to the beginning of certain ideas that eventually led to the foundation and became the theology of the Independent Bible Church.

Revolutionary events have taken place over the last five centuries that have led to drastic changes in church structure and beliefs in Europe and North America. Change has often been characteristic of the church, but those which led directly to the emergence of the denominations as they are known today began at the time of the Reformation in Europe. Tracing theological and practical changes through the Reformation, the Anabaptist movement, the Pietist Movement, on into the Colonization of America and the First Great Awakening gives clarity in understanding church development in 20th century American and more particularly, the Independent Bible Church.

This paper will over view Christian history from the Reformation to the present and look at the religious liberalism and fundamentalism that arose during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and how these aided in the rise of denominations. During this time period non-denominational churches arose, including the Independent Bible Church. In addition, an examination of the key leader in the roots of non-denominationalism, John Nelson Darby, and his beliefs on dispensationalism, ecclesiology, and eschatology will prove helpful, as well as a brief history of education in America and the part it played in the development of both Bible colleges and theological seminaries, particularly Dallas Theological Seminary. Finally, the beliefs and doctrines commonly affiliated with the Independent Bible Church today will be explored and contextualized using Fellowship Bible Church North in Plano as an example of a specific Bible church in action.

The church has been part of our American culture as well as the global culture for centuries. Understanding more about how churches, in particular the Independent Bible Church began gives perspective regarding why this church functions the way it does and gives insight into its possible place in the future. The purpose of this paper is to look at history to understand how the independent Bible church began, what it is and why it exists.

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