What Can We Learn from Christian Fundamentalists? Darryl G. Hart Responds

Editor’s Note: 9Marks Ministries recently dedicated their recent eJournal issue to discussing Fundamentalism. SharperIron has received permission from them to reprint the articles here for discussion. We will post ten articles over the next two weeks. If you would like the complete eJournal or would like to subscribe to further editions, please go to www.9marks.org.

Darryl G. Hart

hartThe Virtue of Being Suspicious.

As contrary as it runs to popular perceptions, Fundamentalists were not fools. In fact, their powers of discernment make contemporary Evangelicals, who have supposedly advanced beyond Fundamentalists’ defense of simple verities, look downright gullible.

Fundamentalists knew they were in a battle, that the church is always being threatened with false teachers and members with “itching ears.” They took the New Testament seriously when its writers charged the early church to be on the lookout for those who would lead God’s flock astray.

Fundamentalists also knew that the greatest danger to the church invariably came from within her ranks. J. Gresham Machen was a great example of such skepticism. In 1926 he wrote,

“Last week it was reported that the churches of America increased their membership by 690,000. Are you encouraged by these figures? I for my part am not encouraged a bit. I have indeed my own grounds for encouragement… . But these figures have no place among them. How many of these 690,000 names do you think are really written in the Lamb’s book of life? A small proportion, I fear. Church membership today often means nothing more, as has well been said, than a vague admiration for the moral character of Jesus; the Church in countless communities is little more than a Rotary Club… . It will be hard; it will seem impious to timid souls; many will be hurt. But in God’s name let us get rid of shams and have reality at last.” In a day when Protestants seem to be as easily impressed by smooth-talking television preachers, beautiful liturgies administered by women and gays, or smart popes, we could use Fundamentalist suspicion.Darryl G. Hart is an elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and co-author most recently of Seeking a Better Country: Three Hundred Years of American Presbyterianism (P&R).

March/April 2008, ©9Marks

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