Fundamentally Proud

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D.J.Duncan's picture
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Fundamentally Proud

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Fundamentalism is a worthy cause. From its inception, it has endeavored to take a strong and clear stand on traditional Christianity. Beale defines a true fundamentalist as “one who desires to reach out in love and compassion to people, believes and defends the whole Bible as the absolute, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God, and stands committed to the doctrine and practice of holiness” (Beale 3). Fundamentalists take a literal approach to the Word of God. They are careful not to read any personal bias or opinion into the Bible. Recognizing that the heart is deceitful above all things, they understand the danger of allowing the feelings and knowledge of man to wield authority over the Scriptures. God’s truth weakened by man’s control ceases to be God’s truth.

It is for this reason the fundamentalist resists the liberal mindset so militantly. Liberal Christian thought seeks to marry theology to the corrupt humanistic thinking of the day. Colossians 2:8 strictly warns of the danger of being “spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Oil and water do not mix. The liberal theological attempt to mix the life-giving water of the Word with the slippery oil of the world has robbed mankind of the pure doctrine of the Scriptures that are able to save men’s souls. It has always been, and must continue to be, the mission of the fundamentalist to expose such error and guide men back to the authoritative Word of God.

With this goal firmly established, there should be a growing concern about the increasing abrasiveness many fundamentalists employ as they go about proclaiming the Truth. Is such harshness necessary? Is it in accordance with the authority of the Word of God whom they claim to defend? Such questions demand answers if fundamentalism is going to remain faithful to its task.

Peeling back the layers of modern day fundamentalism, one can discern within the movement a passionate desire to remain faithful to the end. Yet such deep passion, left unbalanced by humble submission to Christ, can quickly degrade into prideful saber rattling. Sadly, much of what is being trumpeted by certain fundamentalist factions today reeks of pride. “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Prov. 13:10). Fundamentalists must root out pride and once again strive to humbly stand for the faith. Pride threatens to defuse the cause of fundamentalism in three major areas: it can turn militancy into hatred, separation into isolation, and spiritual leadership into dictatorial bullying. The future of the cause of fundamentalism now hangs in the balance. For it to survive and thrive, a call to humility is in order. This first segment will explore the effects of pride upon the militancy of fundamentalism.

Many have criticized fundamentalism for its militancy. The new evangelicals, under the leadership of Harold Ockenga, set out to reform the militant attitude of fundamentalist leaders. “They were convinced that if the voice of fundamentalism could be tempered slightly, evangelical Christianity could ‘win America’ ” (Marsden, Understanding 64). The flaw in that reasoning is that militancy is actually the very essence of fundamentalism. In the words of Curtis Lee Laws, the originator of the term “fundamentalist,” a fundamentalist was one who was prepared “to do battle royal for the Fundamentals” (Marsden, Fundamentalism 159). Marsden points out that “fundamentalists are not just religious conservatives, they are conservatives that are willing to take a stand and fight” (Marsden, Understanding 1). Moritz reminds those who are suspicious of fundamentalism’s militant stand that “the Christian who understands the Scripture’s teaching about separation will never apologize for being militant in his defense of God’s Word and in exposing those who deny it and work to destroy it” (Moritz 90).

God’s word describes the Christian life as a battle against the forces of evil: the world, the flesh, and the devil. 2 Timothy 2:4 declares, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” The Greek word στρατεύω, rendered “man that warreth” in the KJV means “to do military service, serve in the army”. (Bauer 947). God’s people are called to “earnestly contend for the faith” in Jude 3. The Apostle Paul remarks at the end of his life that he had “fought a good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7). Spiritual warfare is a common theme in the Scriptures. McLachlan summarizes, “Every serious student of Scripture knows that no man can embrace the Christian faith without integrating into his life a dimension of militancy” (McLachlan 7). It is, therefore, safe to say that militancy is not borne out of a prideful heart, but out of a clear commission of the Word of God, to faithfully stand upon truth and boldly proclaim it to the masses.

While militancy is not in and of itself a prideful endeavor, when mixed with pride, it ceases to be a valiant effort for the cause of Christ and becomes, rather, a destructive force of hateful aggression. Much to the dismay of Christian fundamentalists, modern journalists have broadly interpreted the term “fundamentalist” to include any form of religious extremism, especially Islamic extremism. Today’s broader definition of fundamentalism can be summarized as referring “to a discernible pattern of religious militance by which self-styled ‘true-believers’ attempt to arrest the erosion of religious identity, fortify the borders if the religious community, and create viable alternatives to secular institutions and behaviors” (Numrich 10). Marsden is quick to point out that “although each of these groups is militant, fundamentalistic American Protestants are distinguished from radical Islamists and some other armed conservatives in world religions in that the warfare in which their group engages is almost always metaphorical rather than literal” (Marsden, Fundamentalism 250). Radicalized Islamists have taken to hostile treatment of their supposed enemies out of pure hatred for the infidel and to further the cause of Allah through the use of violent terrorist activity. While it is inaccurate and unjust to compare Christian fundamentalism to the fundamentalism of Islam, one can see by the Jihadists example, a picture of what militancy infected by hatred can do.

This hatred, prevalent in Islamic fundamentalism, is sadly, not exclusive to them. When hatred is mixed with Christian fundamentalism, it too can become radicalized. When that occurs, fundamentalism mutates into an aggressive campaign to conquer the enemy. Extreme examples of this mutation would be the bombing of abortion clinics, and the insensitive exploits of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas as they protest homosexuality, etc. at the funerals of fallen soldiers. Such actions reveal a hatred born of pride, not a humble militancy that stands on the Word of God because it can “do no other.” A clear principle can be observed: when religious zeal is mixed with hatred, all sorts of evil can be justified in the minds of those attempting to further “the cause.”

Sadly, many fundamentalists have allowed hateful pride to masquerade as faithful militancy. Characters have been assassinated, facts have been skewed, and bitterness has been harbored, all in the name of “taking a stand for Christ!” The further fundamentalism travels down the road of hatefulness, the more it will begin to manifest itself violently toward society. Peter acted rashly in the garden when he drew his sword and lopped off the ear of Malchus in attempt to defend the Lord Jesus. (John 18:10) Jesus graciously touched his enemy’s ear and undid the damage His overzealous servant had caused. How much damage control does the Lord have on His hands due to the ear-severing fundamentalist “Peters” who thought that they were “Davids” slaying the Goliaths of their day?

Militancy must be governed by humble submission to God. Failure to do so causes fundamentalism to fall far short of the doctrine it is fighting so hard to defend. McLachlan suggests, “We have lost more men to the cause of Fundamentalism because of the ugliness of our spirit rather than the content of our message, by our disposition rather than by our position” (McLachlan 6). Militancy must be tempered by humble submission to God. Christ exhorts that a spirit of love must be shown even to our enemies:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matt. 5:43-44)

Fundamentalists must take to heart that Christ is advocating the idea of “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” The true enemy of fundamentalism is not the liberal theologian, but the theology of the liberal. Thus while militantly exposing the error of liberal doctrine, the fundamentalist must show true compassion and concern for the soul of the one promoting such error.

Works Cited

Beal, David O. In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850. Greenville, S.C.: BJU Press, 1986.

Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3d ed. Ed. F. W. Danker. Trans. W. F. Arndt, F. W. Gingrich, and F. W. Danker. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Marsen, George M. Fundamentalism and American Culture, 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc. 2006. Amazon Kindle edition.

___. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991.

McLachlan, Douglas R. Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism. Independence, MO: American Association of Christian Schools, 1993.

Moritz, Fred. Be Ye Holy: the Call to Christian Separation. Greenville, S.C.: BJU Press, 2000.

Numrich, Paul D. “Fundamentalisms and American Pluralism.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 42.1 (2007).


Daniel Duncan has served as a pastor for 14 years, the past two as pastor of Victory Baptist Church of Pleasant Prairie, WI. He holds an MA in Biblical Studies and is working toward an MDiv. He has been married for 17 years and God has blessed him and his wife with four wonderful children.

TylerR's picture
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McLachlan's List Still Stands . . .

In 1993, Dr. Doug McLachlan's book Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism came out. I have gathered that it received a somewhat tepid response from older fundamentalists. I have read that Rolland McCune, for one, was concerned about McLachlan's call for "militant meekness." That aside, McLachlan's broad critique of the movement is still perfectly applicable today. The following list may not describe you or your ministry, but it serves as a warning for all of us as we seek to follow the Scriptures.

McLachlan's list of hindrances to balanced fundamentalism (p. 2-21):

1. Fundamentalists are better fighters than builders
2. We often behave brazenly and abrasively rather than boldly
3. We focus on mechanical forms rather than Biblical principles
4. We too often preach personal inventions rather than God's revelation
5. We often equate mechanical codes of conduct with Biblical holiness
6. We fail to express holiness and love simultaneously
7. We frequently affirm our views before expositing God's Word
8. We often condemn sins of the flesh while overlooking sins of the spirit
9. We neglect to apply Christian truth to cultural issues

His critique of fundamentalism is still relevant today. I believe each of us has seen some of these excesses in action, and would seek to never repeat them.
 

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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Tyler

I love the Yosemite Sam by the way.

 

In general I think the McLachlan list is a good thing for any Bible believing Christian to keep in mind. I, unlike some on this forum, wasn't raised fundamental. As an adult I have entered it. I am struck by the number of serious stereotypes that run around. Take #5 as an example. Have fundamentalists really said if you don't do x, y and z you are good. Every sermon I've heard on the subject clearly says holiness is a moment to moment decision to follow God, not some list of don't and do's. But, to hear some life-long fundamentalist posters at this forum and others, they perceived holiness to simply be a list of do's and don'ts. That is hard to fathom. Maybe I am blind to this I don't know.

 

Tyler, I am curious about #9, we neglect to apply Christian truth to cultural issues. I am confused. I thought that was the problem with cultural fundamentalists. They meddle with things they shouldn't. Is the claim McLachlan made that fundamentalists apply their own opinion rather than Christian truth?

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Amen!

Tyler,

Thank you for responding to my article.  I realize that I have stuck my neck out to attempt to address a very important subject in fundamentalism.  I support fundamentalism... the ideology of fundamentalism is Biblical.  I fear however that many of the ways this ideology is being implemented today is not Biblical.  As my article states, my observation is that pride is, in many areas, the culprit that has taken a Biblical ideology and has applied it in an unbiblical manner.  As a result many are leaving fundamentalism altogether. (This too is wrong.) It is reaction to the prideful application of fundamental ideology rather than to the ideology itself.  The two have become confused.  If we are to going to "strengthen the things that remain" when it comes to fundamentalism, regain our Biblical focus, and stop preachers from abandoning fundamentalism altogether, a call to humility is in order.  Instead of labeling those frustrated with fundamentalism as "compromisers," or those staying loyal as "legalists," it is time for us all to adopt a spirit of humility.  As we search our own hearts, confess our sins, and look to God, I believe then, and only then can fundamentalism survive and thrive.  For the record, I believe in separation. I believe in taking stands on the Word of God. I fear, however, that when the dust settles in the theological sandbox we will realize that as we threw sand at each other, a generation went to hell.

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Mark

McLachlan's point with #9 is that the Christian worldview can be successfully applied to any problem facing us in the world today. It is the only relevant way for making sense of the world or effecting meaningful change. He went on to say that he does not advocate socio-political activism, but a fervent network of independent, fundamental churches proclaiming God's word.

TylerR is the Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Divernon, Il. He blogs here

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TylerR wrote: McLachlan's

TylerR wrote:

McLachlan's point with #9 is that the Christian worldview can be successfully applied to any problem facing us in the world today. It is the only relevant way for making sense of the world or effecting meaningful change. He went on to say that he does not advocate socio-political activism, but a fervent network of independent, fundamental churches proclaiming God's word.

Thanks for the clarification, Tyler!

Fundamentalists have historically believed that there are biblical answers to cultural issues! McLachlan is not novel on this point! I agree! The Bible has relevant answers to cultural issues of the day!

There are some who pour sand into the gearbox saying: The New Testament is silent on this issue. or, This is an issue of style, form, culture. We cannot say it is biblically right or wrong. Etc. Etc.

Either the Bible is all sufficient, or in-sufficient.

Let's get to the specifics!

How does the Christian successfully apply his worldview to these issues?

If it is indeed a Christian worldview, wouldn't the nature of such a worldview be, of necessity accross the board - universal? Or are biblical applications and implications of a relative nature?

JoelCS

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