A Christian Fundamentalist Travel Guide

I found the following quote to be very descriptive of the Fundamentalism that I have been a party to in my lifetime…
One might expect that, given their agreement on the gospel and separation, the movement would be monolithic. But that is hardly the case. Fundamentalists vary widely on many matters, as we shall see, sometimes even differing over what compromises the gospel. In consequence, they do occasionally separate from one another. Disagreements about Bible translations or worship music, for example, often result in some self-identified Fundamentalists saying that other self-identified Fundamentalists are not, in fact, Fundamentalists.
I also really liked the following paragraph from the conclusion…
As Fundamentalism moves into the new century, profound disagreements over the very identity of the movement threaten its future. At its worst, Fundamentalism has the potential for an endless series of divisions that could result in unfair accusations, broken relationships, and—saddest of all—a sullied testimony before a fallen world. At its best, however, Fundamentalism reminds broader Christendom of its need to be doctrinally pure and bear the reproaches of Christ. The question is whether Fundamentalists can fulfill that mission without first caving in on itself.

I recently attended a Pastor’s Meeting in the Chicago-land area hosted by BJU. Not being a BJU grad, I found this to be an opportunity to meet Dr. Bob III and Dr. Bruce McAllister. I was quite surprised by the content of the meeting that was held…At the meeting, Dr. Bob posed the following discussion question (I’m not quoting, rather trying to remember the general thrust of the idea he was wanting to have discussion about)…He asked, ‘Why do so many ministerial college graduates from Fundamentalist Institutions leave Fundamentalism, or at a minimum fail to claim the title of fundamentalist’.

Since I am a recent college grad (‘02), and since I was raised in a fundamental church, parented by parents who were fundamentalists, attended and graduated from a fundamentalist institution, went on to Pastor two fundamental churches, and now find myself in a “Bible” (instead of Baptist) church [a church that is part of the IFCA, not FBF, GIBF, or BBF] — I found this topic to be of great interest.

What surprised me was the lack of willingness to discuss this topic openly by the other Pastors who were present at the meeting. I do not know if there was a lack of knowledge that this was, in fact, occurring; perhaps, some were unwilling to speak their mind due to what other Pastors and BJU Administrators would think of them, or maybe there was just a fear to speak about the ‘elephant in the room’ that Dr. Bob brought to the forefront. Not being a BJU grad, not particularly caring what other Pastors thought of my opinion, and knowing quite well the internal struggle that I have had in regard to being aligned with Fundamentalism…I didn’t ‘hold back’. I gave the reasons for which I do not prefer the Fundamentalist label (at present time).

The humility in which my comments were received, and the genuine interest that was shown by Dr. Bob III (he approached me at the next break time to inquire further about my experiences) led me to believe that there might actually be hope for the future.

I am a Fundamentalist at heart. I cling dearly to the Fundamentals of the Faith. I am conservative, but to be quite blunt, I am sick and tired of people fighting about non-essentials. Instead of being so concerned about whether microphones are hand-held or left in the microphone stand, whether men were ties and women wear pants, whether some Pastor of some church who is not even in the same state as you uses the KJV or ESV – I believe we need to re-focus on what Christ was concerned about…reaching the LOST!!

Don’t get me wrong…I understand the need for standards and Biblical preferences (if you drop all your standards to reach the World…what are really reaching them with?). I understand that Doctrine is important…in fact it is fundamental! However, we (mainstream Fundamentalism) waste so much time on non-essentials that we (mainstream Fundamentalism) are failing to reach the world in the way that it could be reached. One prominent Fundamentalist once said, “We have become so isolated from the world, that we are failing to reach the world. Instead of becoming Isolated from the World, we need to become Insulated by the Word.”

Whether you hold your mic, leave it in the stand; whether you wear a Polo and Dockers to church, or a three-piece suit with matching pocket hankie; whether you use the KJV (or NKJV, NASV, NIV, etc); whether you used taped music for special music, or have the luxery of having a 200 piece orchestra with a 400 member choir; whether you have padded pews or you worship in a non-air-conditioned sanctuary with male/female sides to help congregants pay better attention to the message; whether you preach a topical message or have been preaching through the Book of Matthew for the past 5 years; whether you run a bus route or not; whether you use the Roman’s Road, Evangelism Explosion, Way of the Master, or preach it from the street corner…(GET MY POINT) – I don’t really care what you do in your church—that is between you and God—my concern needs not to be about whether your tie your tie the way I do mine – my concern needs to be trying to be the Salt and Light that Jesus Christ has called me to be.

Let’s put aside the petty disagreements and get busy doing the job God has called us to do! If you don’t think this is a problem…read the comments under Dr. Bauder’s recent post about Separation, in which, he dared bring up a couple of people’s beliefs about the text.

Serving the Savior, Pastor Wes Helfenbein 2 Cor. 5:17

As I read this, I was struck by how familiar it all sounded. It was as though someone had compiled their perspective on Fundamentalism from SI. Even the examples and particular phrases pointed to someone whose background was very similar to mine, perhaps a Bob Jones grad with only a loose attachment to Fundamentalist institutions. The flow of the article reminded me of conversations I’d had in Greenville. So, I was both surprised and relieved to see the author’s name — Matthew Hoskinson, a former pastor of mine. Good stuff.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

that someone had taken the time to write a travel guide pointing to the grave sites of Jack Hyles, Lee Roberson, John R. Rice, et al.
Worrying about fundamentalism’s future, and about it’s witness to the world, is disingenuous when compared with evangelicalism. The reason is that throughout the history of Christianity, the threat has primarily been going into liberalism, syncretism or other forms of apostasy, not splintering because of a zeal for the truth. It was the former that happened with everything from the Roman Church (Catholicism) to state church Europe (liberalism) to American mainline denominational Christianity. To think that the same cannot happen within American evangelical Christianity reeks of arrogance, a sense of superiority. What is it that makes American evangelicals think that they are smarter or holier than the Roman church of 300 or the German church of 1700, or the American denominations of just 100 years ago? And why do they refuse to acknowledge that evangelicals are going along those same lines?

It isn’t just Billy Graham’s embrace of the Roman Catholic cult. If anything, Graham was just the canary in the coal mine that revealed a bunch of deeper problems. Instead of acknowledging that, the writer chooses to make us into a bunch of anti-Catholic bigots. (Hey, how’s about talking about what that cult teaches and WHY these wild-eyed fundamentalists oppose that cult, because most evangelicals honestly don’t know!) Look at evangelicalism now: many of them now reject inerrancy, many have adopted “many paths to heaven”, many have gone after an “ethics/values” works religion, many are evolutionists, you have the attacks on the substitutionary atonement, “the new perspective on Paul”, others are refusing to denounce societal sins like homosexuality, fornication and abortion (choosing instead to talk about environmentalism) and attacking those who do (see “Relevant” Magazine), there is an increase in female pastors (and feminism in general), despising the leadership and wisdom of elders, and a subversive, defiant attitude in general … and these aren’t liberal or moderate “evangelicals” like Bill Moyers that have adopted the label in recent years for political purposes mind you, but conservative evangelicals. So, why bother denying that the evangelical movement of today is showing many of the very same precise trends that the mainline denominationals did 70 years ago? With that in mind, where are the evangelicals going to be 70 years from now?

Even the modifier “conservative evangelical” is dishonest. The reason is that a “conservative evangelical” 50 years ago would be considered “an old time fundamentalist” today. So 50 years from now, “conservative evangelicals” will look back on Tony Campolo, Rick Warren and the emergent church and consider them a bunch of divisive, bigoted neanderthal hate teachers. (We know this because of the way that the mainline denominationals viewed the National Association of Evangelicals when it was founded in 1942.

And I wish that these folks would quit claiming that they became evangelicals for reasons of “scholarship.” Look, if there was an anti-scholarship tendency among fundamentalists, the way to combat that would have been to become a fundamentalist intellectual, to work hard on church history, linguistics, theology, exegesis etc. in a fundamentalist Bible college or seminary. But let’s face it: they didn’t want to do that. What they wanted to do was to interact with, debate with, and even INCORPORATE the work of the critical scholars. They WANTED to study Brunner and Barth, and they WANTED the folks at Harvard, Union Theological Seminary etc. to tell them how smart they were for being willing and able to understand and use Kant, Brunner and Barth. But seriously, all one has to do is read a modern evangelical systematic theology tome (i.e. one from Erickson) and see WHY the fundamentalists reacted against the so-called scholarship of the evangelicals. (You’ll learn more about the insane, contradictory and absurd ramblings of apostates in a lot of evangelical theology books than you will about what Christians are SUPPOSED to believe.) Presuppositional thinking, namely that there is no truth apart from God’s truth? Totally absent, because you couldn’t have that sort of thinking while seeking favor from the modernists, postmodernists, deconstructionists, neo-orthodoxy advocates etc. It reminds me of the apologists of the Roman church. They decided that there was this big need to defend Christianity using hellenistic thought, supposedly to end needless persecution (and for evangelism). What they were really doing was trying to make Christianity acceptable (hip, cool, relevant, acceptable) to the elites: the intellectuals, the wealthy, and the political leaders. Within 100 years, you had folks like Origen wholesale syncretizing Christianity and Greco-Roman paganism. If these evangelical “scholars” deny that the very same thing is happening today … well again consider all the heresies being promulgated by evangelical scholars today.

Yes, fundamentalism has its problems. But again, look at where evangelicalism is going to be in 25 years, and tell me whose problems are worse.

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura http://healtheland.wordpress.com

[Jeffrey Dean] that someone had taken the time to write a travel guide pointing to the grave sites of Jack Hyles, Lee Roberson, John R. Rice, et al.
Me too. I wondered where all the person was going on their travels…