The ACCC adopted four resolutions on fundamentalism at this year’s conference. The Resolution on Instances of Abuse wihin Professed Fundamentalism posted here earlier this week. Two of the remaining resolutions appear below.
Resolution on Cherishing the Heritage of Biblical Fundamentalism
When exhorting his readers to patient endurance of the race set before them, the author of Hebrews affirms the importance both of looking ahead and of looking back. Looking ahead the believer must depend upon the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Author and the Finisher of our faith, and looking back he must draw encouragement and inspiration from a cloud of witnesses that once preceded and now encompasses him (Heb. 12:1-2).
The faithful men and women of Hebrews 11 comprise this cloud of witnesses: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and the patriarchs, Moses, Rahab, and others. Time would not allow the author to go on listing all the names (v. 32), so he summarizes their character by referring to their accomplishments (vv. 33-39). They were fallible servants of the Lord, but that is not the focus of this passage. Instead, an abundance of past-tense verbs expresses the affluence of the author’s appreciation for these true heroes of the faith.
This appreciation for the past enjoins us in the present to a similar faithfulness, for the author explains that, apart from us, the work of predecessors cannot be perfected (v. 40). We follow in their train. In addition, the appreciation for the past expressed in Hebrews extends not only to distant Biblical history, but also to more immediate examples, the pattern of those who spoke the Word to us (13:7-8). We are to remember with thankfulness their leadership, value the results of their ministry, and imitate their faith. Cherishing the heritage they provided for us reflects the immutable character of the Lord we serve, Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and it safeguards against the temptations of varied and strange teachings (vv. 8-9).
Entrusted with the legacy of faithful examples over 70 years, the American Council of Christian Churches occupies an especially privileged position as the beneficiary of patterns to remember and convictions to emulate. Our predecessors were unashamed Biblical fundamentalists from multiple denominational expressions of Protestantism, whose unification around separatist convictions has contended well for the faith entrusted to them, “avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so-called, which some professing have erred concerning the faith” (1 Tim. 6:20-21).
Therefore, the delegates to the 70th annual convention of the American Council of Christian Churches, meeting October 18-20, 2011 at the Bible Evangelical Methodist Church of Lancaster, PA, express together profound thankfulness and deep appreciation for faithful men who have gone before us, giving us a pattern of separatist convictions to follow. We further resolve never to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of the godly convictions of our predecessors, but rather to join with them in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God (2 Tim. 1:8-12), to affirm with them that the One whom we have believed will keep us against that day (v. 12), to hold fast, as they did, the standard of sound words which we have heard (v. 13), and following their example, to guard through the Holy Spirit in our evil day this trust for the generations that follow us in the will of the Lord (v. 14).
Resolution on the Multi-Denominational Heritage of Biblical Fundamentalism
With his prayer for the Ephesian believers, the apostle Paul addressed the One “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:15). It is in this name, Holy Father, that those who have been given to Christ are to be kept as one, even as they are sanctified in the truth (John 17:11). Whereas denominational labels within the spectrum of Protestantism correctly identify important details of differing convictions, basic agreement regarding the “weightier matters of the law” has bound these traditions together as a common echo of the first century Church’s apostolic faith (Matt. 23:23).
As a clearly identifiable movement, Biblical fundamentalism is not yet 150 years old. In its earliest phases, it gave voice to the foundational doctrines taught in the Bible and did so without reference to any particular denominational perspective. The earliest conferences, beginning in 1876 at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, focused on that which various denominational groups held in common. It was the heritage, they argued, that had come down through the generations from the ministry of the apostles of Christ. As J. Gresham Machen observed, the movement was not the latest of a series of new “isms” but the restatement of the historic Christian faith.
Thus, there were Presbyterians and Methodists as well as Baptists from various fellowships that led the call for a return to the fundamentals of the faith. The latter part of the 19th century was a time of religious upheaval. The rapid acceptance of Charles Darwin’s ideas following the publication of his Origin of Species in 1859 together with the effects of German rationalism in theology produced a severe challenge to those who insisted on maintaining the orthodox doctrines taught in the Word of God.
Biblical fundamentalism was from its inception a movement to reassert the weighty matters of Holy Scripture in the face of the tidal wave of skepticism. Thus, Biblical fundamentalists, whatever their denominational distinctiveness and convictions, agreed to stand together on, among other things, the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures, the creation of man by God’s direct act, the historicity of Adam’s fall into sin with all its theological consequences, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, His deity, the blood atonement of Jesus Christ for sinners, His bodily resurrection on the third day, His ascension bodily into Heaven, and the certainty of His second coming.
Biblical fundamentalists also emphasized that it was necessary for sinners to be born again in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven, and that those who were converted to Christ would demonstrate that transformation through an increasing holiness of life in this world. Recognizing that, on less-weighty aspects of Biblical teaching, those who held to Biblical authority at times disagreed, Biblical fundamentalists resolved that they would emphasize the weighty matters on which they all agreed, and they would not consent to using their lesser disagreements as tests of Christian fellowship within the parameters of obedient orthodoxy. In regard to these issues, they resolved to respect the ability of brethren to disagree without surrendering their own denominational convictions or experiencing the condemnation of others.
In 1941, the American Council of Christian Churches was formed as an explicitly multi-denominational organization with a clear doctrinal statement that represented a vivid understanding of the foundations of Biblical fundamentalism. In spite of various attacks launched against the ACCC over the last 70 years, the organization has remained true to its founding purpose. It exalts the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ as the only hope for the salvation of sinners. It exposes the work of theological apostasy, such as that of the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches. It rebukes the work of those who seek accommodation with promoters of that apostasy. And it expounds the Holy Scriptures as the only infallible rule of faith and practice.
Therefore, the delegates to the 70th annual convention of the American Council of Christian Churches, meeting October 18-20, 2011 at the Bible Evangelical Methodist Church of Lancaster, PA, resolve with gladness to value and to maintain the multi-denominational character of the Council, as the Lord enables, and to promote in every obedient way possible the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We resolve to respect each other in the highest expression of Christian love and brotherhood and to stand with each other against every devilish device as we contend earnestly for the Faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
(The Resolution on Misinterpretations of the Heritage of Biblical Fundamentalism and other resolutions are available at the ACCC website.)