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May 30, 2005

What IS Fundamentalism?

I'm reposting this from several posts I made on the old blog. I'm not reposting the whole thing -- just some parts, so you might want to head over there and read the full posts I made a little over a year ago. I just finished reading this piece by Frank Schaeffer. I like Frank -- I've read his books about his son in the Marines (Keepin Faith and Faith of Our Sons) and enjoyed them immensely. I've read his father's works, and been blessed by them. But I'm not sure that Frank "gets Fundamentalism" as well as he thinks he does. What is needed is a good definition of what fundamentalism is, and what it isn't.

----------------{begin repost}
So what ARE the fundamentals, anyway? Glad you asked. According to the people who wrote the book The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, which was written to combat the rise of liberal theology in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the fundamentals are:

1. The inerrancy of the Scriptures
2. The Deity of Christ
3. The second coming of Jesus Christ
4. The virgin birth
5. The physical resurrection of the body
6. The substitutionary atonement
7. The total depravity of man - original sin

Belief in all of these is all it takes to consider yourself an historic fundamentalist.
------------{end repost}
Orthodox Christianity has always held to most if these basic beliefs -- I would guess that C.S. Lewis would consider this type of fundamentalism to be "mere Christianity". The only possible exception is the idea of substitutionary atonement -- many early Christians didn't see the atonement this way (Anselm was probably the closest).

The problem is that there are, within Christianity, different types of fundmentalism. Modern fundamentalism has added a LOT to the basic beliefs of the church -- things related to musical styles, dress, etc. Bahavior-related legalism (no movies, no dancing, etc.) has become S.O.P (standard operating procedure, for those who don't know) among modern fundamentalists. Many modern fundamentalists have fallen into the King James Version Only camp, rejecting any translation of the Bible made after 1611 (or 1769, depending on how hardcore they are). They have retreated into their churches, refusing to engage culture at all. The only interaction with anyone outside their churches that they might have is on Saturday mornings when they go out and knock on doors, evangelizing the neighborhoods.

Problem is, nobody knows who they are. They have no interaction with the everyday problems in their communities, no empathy with those who live right next door. They have separated themselves to the degree that in many cases they are completely worthless -- the salt has lost its savor.

There are fundamentalists who are not like this. They have largely abandoned the name 'fundamentalist,' though, leaving it for the moderns in their church complexes. Some call themselves 'evangelical,' but not all evangelicals are fundamentalist. Some call themselves 'Bible believers' to reflect their dependance on the Word of God. Many don't label themselves at all, calling themselves simply Christians. Many of these don't realize that they are really fundamentalists, and reject the label because of the abuse that the moderns have subjected it to.

Unfortunately, the moderns have gotten most of the press in the recent past. And more unfortunately, most people aren't interested in finding out the truth of what fundamentalism actually was meant to be, and how it has been hijacked.

-----------{begin repost}
There are many areas where evangelicals and fundamentalists differ -- especially if you look at modern, rather than historic, fundamentalists. Modern fundamentalism had become a haven for legalism and anti-intellectualism. Modern fundamentalists typically hold very dogmatically to a rather rigid set of beliefs, and often pride themselves in who they have 'separated from' -- carrying the Biblical injunction to separate from heresey to degrees never envisioned in Scripture.

The differences between evangelicals and historic fundamentalists are slight. The differences between modern fundamentalists and evangelicals are huge, and getting bigger every day. As modern Fundamentalism has slipped into KJVOnlyism, second, third, and fourth degree separation, and other such doctrinal abberations, the gulf will grow even bigger. This is the reason I stopped calling myself a fundamentalist -- I don't like what the name has come to represent. I am, and always will be, an historic fundamentalist.
---------{end repost}

Posted by Warren Kelly at May 30, 2005 02:43 PM | TrackBack
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