An Antidote for Fundamentalism?

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by jmbertrand, Nov 15, 2002.

  1. jmbertrand

    jmbertrand
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    In the poll I posted a few days ago, I asked whether fundamentalism was dead, dying, treading water or thriving. So far, 68% of those who have voted believe that fundamentalism is treading water and needs to do some soul-searching. In this thread, I would like to hear your thoughts on what fundamentalists should be thinking, teaching and doing to put the movement back on track -- or, for that matter, on a new track.

    Here are some of my admittedly simplistic suggestions for fundamentalist renewal:

    1. Fundamentalists must be willing to examine their own traditions in light of Scripture. We are so strong against Tradition that we've renamed our traditions "convictions" and made evaluating the Scriptural arguments for them one of the most dangerous things you can do in a fundamentalist congregation. IFBs scoff at the arguments from silence used by others to justify things like infant baptism, but our defense of tradition/conviction is often quite similar in character. My point here is not that tradition/conviction should be thrown out, but that we should be teachable, willing to change, and willing to argue for our beliefs from Scripture and let others do the same.

    2. Fundamentalists must stand against the sin of division. We have trained ourselves over the years to be divisive Christians, and to cloak our sin in a mantle of righteousness. Scripture exhorts us to bend over backwards with our brothers, to make allowances even for faulty doctrine in the hope that in time, as they are sanctified, the Spirit will teach brothers in error sound doctrine. Instead, we form factions and work to alienate those who are against us. We engineer splits in the body of Christ in Christ's name -- not because of sin, but because of doubtful disputation. Outside our camp, this characteristic is what we are known for -- ironic in light of Christ's words, "By this shall all men know you are my disciples, that you love one another."

    3. Fundamentalists must embrace and engage in the life of the mind. Let's face it. Fundamentalism is plagued with a brain drain. We are rightfully opposed to all scholarship and philosophy that sets itself up against the Creator -- but God does not intend that we drive out non-Christian thought in order to preserve a vacuum! Few traditions have contributed so little to the thought of the Church. The fundamentalist who wants to use his mind in the service of God must look elsewhere for support and inspiration. Instead, he should find encouragement in the church and a network of like-minded believers.

    4. Fundamentalists should develop a historical consciousness and be skeptical of extremes. We have more than our fair share of conspiracy theorists, and we have an alarming tendency to give them platforms. We are too prone to put confidence in charlatans, which suggests a lack of discernment. Every tradition has a lunatic fringe. In the vacuum of fundamentalist thought, we are often guilty of mainstreaming ours.

    5. Fundamentalists should be irenic in their polemics and avoid hero-worship. A man should not become celebrated in our circles because of brash outspokenness and lack of Christian love. We should learn to value light rather than heat.

    6. Fundamentalists should not compartmentalize. I know many fundamentalists who would agree with all five of the foregoing points in their personal belief, but leave this knowledge at home twice on Sundays and once on Wednesday night. They know that Scripture says one thing and their tradition another. They live very differently from the Platonic ideal they "amen" during the services, and not because of sin but because of biblical conviction. Yet, they are silent in church, never seeking to bring what they see around them into conformity with God's Word. If fundamentalists would have the courage of their convictions within the church itself, things would be different indeed.

    That's as far as I will go. Let's hear someone else's perscription for the movment....

    Mark
     
  2. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry
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    Some of what you say is most certainly right. I do believe that traditions need to be examined. I do believe that the life of the mind needs to be pursued. I think this is happening in some corners of fundamentalism. It needs to happen in more. There is some compartmentalization in some circles to be sure but in the circles I "run in" there is a decided move away from that to the doctrine and practice of piety and historic fundamentalism.

    However, in the issues if division (which is attributed to false teachers; not to true ones) and polemics, I fear that fundamentalism has taken on the wrong things too strongly and does not know enough about the things we should address. Of course, this goes back to the life of the mind.

    I think there is no longer a fundamentalist movement, per se. It is more of an ideal, an idea, a principle.
     
  3. jmbertrand

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    I agree. The trend toward 'historic fundamentalism' seems encouraging. Speaking in ideal terms, how would a historic fundamentalist differ from an evangelical in the classic sense? Is it the same thing?

    Mark
     
  4. Dr. Bob

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    This is what I see as the problem; the antidote would be to REVERSE the premises in each.
     
  5. Pastor Larry

    Pastor Larry
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    Pre 1940ish, evangelicals were fundamentalists. Ockenga coined the the term "new evangelical" to distinguish them from the old evangelicals, the fundamentalists. Eventually the new evangelicals kind of drafted the name evangelical for themselves and so there was a change in meaning. The historic fundamentalists of today are the evangelicals of the early decades of this century. The evangelicals of today are the ones who left evangelicalism/fundamentalism in the 40s and 50s and called themselves "new evangelicals."
     

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