I am a fundamentalist.
I am NOT a fundamentalist.
So which is it?
It depends on what you mean by “fundamentalist.”
History of Fundamentalism
The term “fundamentalist” was coined back in 1910 when the General Assembly of the Presbyterion Church decided to take a stand against encroaching liberal modernism and listed the “five fundamentals” of the faith:
- The verbal inspiration (and inerrancy) of Scripture
- The divinity of Jesus Christ
- The virgin birth of Jesus Christ
- Substitutionary atonement by Jesus
- The bodily resurrection and future return of Jesus
They published booklets defining and defending these five points from Scripture. If you were in agreement with them on these things, you could call yourself a “Fundamentalist.” So, based on this definition, I suppose I am a fundamentalist. I firmly believe and teach all five of these fundamental truths.
But in the last thirty years or so, fundamentalism has come to include lots of other “non-negotiables.” A “fundamentalist” today must hold to certain views of women in ministry, the end times, abortion, creation vs. evolution, the method of baptism, dress code, drinking alcohol, gettting tattoos, style of music, playing cards, smoking, evangelistic methods, political involvement, etc.
So if this is how “fundamentalists” today are defined, I am not a fundamentalist. Sure, I am quite conservative in many of these areas, but in others, I would be considered “liberal” by some modern fundamentalists. So I am not a fundamentalist.
Encounters of the Fundamentalist Kind
Recently, I have had some personal and online interaction with some of these modern fundamentalists, and have realized that their name is quite descriptive.
First of all, many of them are not much FUN. Sour and dour describes them best. Always frowning. Always criticizing. Always telling you that unless you believe and act the same way they do, you are going to hell. They are not the kind of people who would feel comfortable around Jesus when He goes to parties, drinks, tells potty-humor jokes (yes, Jesus did this! – cf. Mark 7:15), and hangs out with prostitutes and sinners.
A second thing that characterizes modern fundamentalists is their method of argumentation, which is summed up in the word DUH. Modern fundamentalists have already made up their minds about the entire Bible, and when you try to explain that some of their favorite Bible-thumping passages have been ripped out of the cultural and Scriptural context in which they were written, the Fundamentalist acts as if you are the stupidest person on the earth for trying to understand a text this way.
When you ask why your interpretation is wrong, they innundate you with a list of other passages pulled out of context and numerous quotes from authors and pastors who agree with their position. They do not argue from exegesis and proper hermeneutics, but from tradition and citations of other authors.
All of this leads to the conclusion that many of them are MENTAL. They are like people in mental institutions who hold strange beliefs despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Their spittle-spewing rants and tirades are called “holy” because they are “defending God and His Word.” But in reality, they are mindlessly defending their own views and opinions and will not even consider the arguments of any who disagree. No matter how ridiculous their view is, they will not listen to even the most articulate, logical, and gracious arguments.
Are there practices and beliefs in our culture and among Christendom that need to be corrected? Of course, but not with hate, slander, and name-calling, but instead with grace, and speaking the truth in love.
So hold to the fundamentals, but don’t be a fundamentalist.
Thanks goes to ASBO Jesus for this cartoon.