Fundamentalism

Fundamentally Proud

Fundamentalism is a worthy cause. From its inception, it has endeavored to take a strong and clear stand on traditional Christianity. Beale defines a true fundamentalist as “one who desires to reach out in love and compassion to people, believes and defends the whole Bible as the absolute, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God, and stands committed to the doctrine and practice of holiness” (Beale 3). Fundamentalists take a literal approach to the Word of God. They are careful not to read any personal bias or opinion into the Bible. Recognizing that the heart is deceitful above all things, they understand the danger of allowing the feelings and knowledge of man to wield authority over the Scriptures. God’s truth weakened by man’s control ceases to be God’s truth.

It is for this reason the fundamentalist resists the liberal mindset so militantly. Liberal Christian thought seeks to marry theology to the corrupt humanistic thinking of the day. Colossians 2:8 strictly warns of the danger of being “spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Oil and water do not mix. The liberal theological attempt to mix the life-giving water of the Word with the slippery oil of the world has robbed mankind of the pure doctrine of the Scriptures that are able to save men’s souls. It has always been, and must continue to be, the mission of the fundamentalist to expose such error and guide men back to the authoritative Word of God.

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What in the World Is Evangelicalism, Anyway?

Dennis Walton, a contemporary critic, wrote:

One area in which the New Evangelicals are united is the willingness to compromise for the sake of fellowship. This spirit could possibly be identified as the genius of the movement. Allowing varying opinions in nearly every field of doctrine, they are united in a willingness to sacrifice conviction for fellowship. Evidence of this spirit is seen in a statement by E. J. Carnell, “Since love is higher than law, the organization is servant of the fellowship…Christ alone would rule the church. Laws are made for the unrighteous. Here is the final norm: Polity is good or bad to the degree that it promotes or hinders fellowship.” This statement obviously subordinates doctrine to love, or fellowship. (17)

Harold Ockenga, a leading figure in the new evangelical movement, observed:

New-evangelicalism was born in 1948 in connection with a convocation address which I gave in the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena. While reaffirming the theological view of fundamentalism, this address repudiated its ecclesiology and its social theory. It differed from fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas of life. (11)

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Historic Roots of Fundamentalism

In this article, I’ll very briefly outline what historic fundamentalism is; specifically American fundamentalism. I cannot hope to discuss the genesis of the movement in a comprehensive fashion here, but hopefully it is helpful to the fundamentalist community at large, both as a brief summary introduction to the movement or as a refresher to faithful warriors still on the field of battle!

This material will be old-hat to many of you. Some may never even read it because it may tread the same ground you’ve trod many times before. I believe it is important, however, to remind ourselves of how fundamentalism started, and visit old battlefields of the past periodically. We cannot understand our movement unless we grasp how it all began.

This is the first in a three part series examining, in sequence, (1) the historic roots of fundamentalism, (2) the historic roots of evangelicalism and (3) the idea of secondary separation.

What is Fundamentalism?

Just what in the world is fundamentalism? Numerous authors have provided their own definitions throughout the years.

George Marsden writes,

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The Future of Fundamentalism: A Forum for Leaders

Welcome to SI’s first Featured Discussion. On January 28, an important conversation about the future of fundamentalism began in response to Kevin Bauder’s “Nick of Time” essay, “An Open Letter to Lance Ketchum.” During the ensuing discussion, an idea emerged: how about if we attempt an extended discussion involving limited participants (and a somewhat narrower topical focus)?

Hence, this post. 

What apears below is a much-shortened version of the conversation so far—just as a starting point. We’re hoping Kevin Bauder, Don Johnson and others will continue the conversation here “amongst themselves,” so to speak—somewhat in the vein of a panel discussion.

So, with that as introduction, gentlemen, you have the floor.

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Whatever Happened to Worldliness?

You don’t hear much preaching against worldliness these days. Having grown up hearing negative references to “the world,” “worldly” and “worldliness” on a fairly regular basis, the absence seems odd to me sometimes. On the other hand, where worldliness is still a frequented topic, the term seems unclear, disconnected from biblical intent—or both. Whatever happened to worldliness?

More than one phenomenon is occurring.

First, we have a problem of omission. In some cases, this is due to nothing more than uncertainty by pastors and teachers as to how to handle the subject effectively. But sadly, in many ministries, the neglect is due to philosophies of ministry that embrace worldliness as the number one way to “reach people” and achieve “relevance.” What has happened to worldliness in these cases is that—as a pulpit and classroom topic—it has been shelved.

Second, in some ministries, the terms “worldly” and “worldliness” occur rarely from the pulpit simply because they occur rarely in Scripture. Though references to “world” abound in the Bible, “worldly” occurs only twice in the KJV (Titus 2:12 KJV, Heb. 9:1 KJV). The 1984 NIV uses it ten times (Luke 16:9 NIV; Luke 16:11 NIV; 1 Cor. 3:1 NIV, 1 Cor. 3:3 NIV; 2 Cor. 1:12 NIV, 2 Cor. 1:17 NIV; 2 Cor. 5:16 NIV, 2 Cor. 7:10 NIV; Titus 2:12 NIV). Still, the term “worldliness” does not occur in the Bible at all. So, what has happened to worldliness in these ministries is that it is being handled biblically using different language.

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