What Can We Learn from Christian Fundamentalists? Jeramie Rinne 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.

Jeramie Rinne

rinneToday’s Evangelical church can learn from the Fundamentalist call for separation. Twentieth century Fundamentalists saw the increasing secularization of American culture and drew a line in the sand. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:17, KJV of course) became a text that embodied this impulse. Fundamentalists tended to take a hard line on drinking, dancing, movies and the like, and to withdraw into separate colleges, missionary organizations and denominations.

Unfortunately, this separation too often fostered an oppressive legalism and divisive denominationalism that impeded the gospel. But could it be that the 21st century Evangelical church has begun to err in the opposite extreme? If Fundamentalists overemphasized separation, do we overstress relevance? Is there not a tendency today to uncritically adopt contemporary models of entertainment, management, therapy, marketing, and technology, all in an effort to make our churches relevant? Do Evangelicals really believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation, or does the juice lie in a trendier approach? The Evangelical church needs to slow down, look again at God’s Word, and think seriously about how cultural models affect the gospel. It may be time for a little separatism!

Jeramie Rinne is the senior pastor of South Shore Baptist Church, Hingham, Massachusetts.

March/April 2008, ©9Marks

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