Fighting Fundamentalist

Billy-Sunday-revival_1920s

(It has been quite a while since I have written a post and I don’t know that I would even consider this a real post. I did some required reading today in a seminary course and had to write a post in a discussion board on historic fundamentalism.  This is that post.  It is a brief, unedited, response to a question from my professor, Dr. Hartog. It is only meant to inform and encourage, not strike up a debate.)

The subject line I used is what most people think of today, when they speak of fundamentalist.  A group of narrow-minded preachers/churches who love a good fight over preferential standards and traditions that they now call “the old-time religion”.  I am being a little facetious, of course, but you get the general idea.

Early fundamentalism was relegated as a defense of historical Christianity against the liberalism of German higher criticism and other new enemies of Christianity. It articulated the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth, the atoning death, the bodily resurrection, and second coming of Jesus Christ as the indispensables of the faith.  If I were a leader in that day, I would have no doubt joined the good fight of faith that Christianity was waging.  Certainly, textual criticism has done its damage and we know the effects that Darwinian evolution has produced upon our society.

I would gladly own the title “fundamentalist” from this historical position.  MY problem with this term is the shift of its original meaning that took place in the last 50 years.  Fundamentalism has become as guilty as Romanism in adding so many additional traditions to the historic faith, elevating preferences, and imposing man-made traditions as some sort of litmus test for fellowship and authentic faith.  As a pastor, I have watched other pastors fight over silly things like music style, video screens, shirt colors, etc.  It’s nauseating to say the least!  I’ve “heard” that men used to fight over wire rim glasses and the like.  What in the world does any of those things have to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this cause, many have become completely disenchanted and have swung the pendulum to the extreme opposite end and have gone off of the deep end.  There is no need for that!

What’s the answer?  A shift! A little study of history.  Stopping for a moment to consider what authentic ministry is, and isn’t.  Taking a moment to push away external expectations of peers and view your ministry as accountable to only one person…the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am thankful for a new generation of committed leaders that are shaking off the shackles of man-made religion and yearn for an authentic walk with God and to conduct authentic ministry by declaring the Gospel to the lost, and making disciples.

5 Replies to “Fighting Fundamentalist”

  1. I came to grips with the historic meaning of the term “Fundamentalist” by reading George Marsden’s “Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism.”

    What is so ironic about the evolution (devolution?) of this label is that it was adopted by pastors, theologians and preachers who held forth the essentials in their gospel preaching (inerrancy, virgin birth, etc.) and sidelined lesser things (humanitarian aid, social awareness and the like).

    Yet by the 1970’s a Fundamentalist could very well mean a person who gave less attention to careful gospel proclamation and theology, and more attention to peripheral issues, so that claiming Fundamentalist as a label in 2015 may simply mean you vote republican and sing southern gospel music at your church. My, how history has a sense of humor.

    Marsden’s books is available here:

  2. Just read this and agree 100%. I have a friend who prefers to call himself a Conservative Evangelical because of the sad light cast by the term Fundamentalist.

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