A Simple Way to Distinguish between Fundamentalism and Liberalism in Christian Theology

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Jay's picture

There's a lot of really interesting content there, but the biggest takeaway is at the end:

Sadly, many American Christians don’t care about a church’s theological posture so long as the worship, fellowship, and programming are satisfying.

Which is really sad, as Olson noted.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Don Johnson's picture

Granted, some people will elevate opinions to the level of dogma, but that is not a fundamentalist point of view. The word "fundamentalist" presupposes that not all doctrines (let alone opinions) are of equal importance. My friend Kent Brandenburg recognizes this and eschews the fundamentalist label.

I like Olson, currently reading two of his books, but he doesn't get everything right.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

....fundamental churches could consistently be identified by holding to the inerrancy of Scripture even when it was culturally uncomfortable, and by preaching consistently the beauties of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Second Coming.  Sure, we could pick at each other over other issues, but when any fundagelical church holds to the fundamentals, the difference between that and a standard "liberal" church is not hard to discern.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

Between fundamentalists and evangelicals. It isn't just "holding to the fundamentals," something many evangelicals do.
 

Olson isn't as confused about this as Bert is.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

....fundamentalism means taking pot shots at brothers in Christ, doesn't it, Don?

Let's just say that I don't believe it's me that's confused here, brother.  Thanks for making my point, Don.

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

on this one you haven't demonstrated that you know what you are talking about. Maybe you do, you just haven't demonstrated it.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

Olson's definition of "fundamentalism" is much larger than what we on SI typically mean by the term. He writes:

When I look at a church’s statement of faith, one thing I do is look at its paragraph (or more) about eschatology. Often I see that it is the longest paragraph (or more) of the whole statement of faith and includes some very debatable beliefs with which orthodox Christians have not always agreed—such as a pretribulation “rapture” of the church. To me, that is clear evidence of fundamentalism.

To Olson, this is an example of elevating questionable doctrines to the status of dogma. I disagree. I think fundamentalism (again, I'm referring to more than Baptist, premillennial fundamentalism) is characterized more by your philosophy of ministry and the spirit you have, rather than what's on paper.

MacArthur and the EFCA (until recently) were both premillennialists. Their tone was quite different!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Don Johnson wrote:

Between fundamentalists and evangelicals. It isn't just "holding to the fundamentals," something many evangelicals do.

But of course, Olson's article was distinguishing fundamentalism from liberalism, not from evangelicalism, which, at least in my mind, kind of makes Bert's points salient.

Now, if you are equating evangelicalism with a form of liberalism, that's a different matter entirely.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

on this one you haven't demonstrated that you know what you are talking about. Maybe you do, you just haven't demonstrated it.

I know precisely what I am talking about, and it is that too often, so-called "fundamental" preachers in effect deny the principles of the authority and inerrancy of Scripture by going off on rabbit trails instead of teaching what the text clearly says.  That goes doubly for the FBFI, and exhibit A is that "convergent" issue that didn't even define the term, and confronted on that by multiple people multiple times, they still have neither defined the term nor apologized for the issue.

You want to hold to the fundamentals?  Great.  Let's prove it by actions, and that starts with stopping the potshots, which as far as I am concerned, seems to be the 6th Fundamental for many fundamentalists, and even overrides the first five when deemed suitable. 

[Moderator note -- edited]

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.