Fundamentalism  

Posted by Ben in , ,

One of my biggest pet peeves is Christian Fundamentalism. Why? you ask, simply for this reason.

They make Christianity about what it is NOT, a new law. It is about a bunch of "fundamentals" of doctrine and belief which set the lines for, at the most, salvation and, at the least, orthodoxy. The sad thing is that it has taken over in America's microwave society where the only way an answer can be a good one is if it is clear, concise, and one-sided. People want an answer they can swallow. They prefer a pill. An answer they must chew on, food with substance that is good for nutrition and growth, is frowned upon or even shunned.

Also, the "fundamentals" are not in themselves actually fundamental to the faith of Christ crucified and resurrected. They also treat the Bible as a literal spoken word of God, to be read/heard and therefore understood. This is so unfaithful to the original authors, their inspiration by the Holy Spirit, the historical context in which they arose, the audiences which would have heard them, and the pieces of historical literature which they truly are.

As stated before, they tend to make certain theories of doctrine, at the most the means of salvation in and of themselves, and at the least a litmus test of orthodoxy. One such theory (on top of Verbal-Plennary Inspiration as discussed above) is Penal Substitution, or Substitutionary Atonement. They fail to acknowledge that Substitutionary Atonement is never mentioned in a single historical Creed or Confession of Faith. Also, they seem to treat their angry-father version of Penal Substitution as the only acceptable one. All of this fails to realize that there are multiple views and theories of atonement throughout the history of the Church which inform a robust, Biblical view of Atonement.

They have a view of Sola Scriptura (which in itself is a good doctrine) which is far inferior to the original idea. It basically says that there is no need to research secular historical sources to understand certain things contained in the Bible, because that would have no bearing on what the original audience would have heard. Sadly, the most common thing i see in Fundamentalists attacking others on the grounds of Sola Scriptura is not that the person being accused has actually denied Sola Scriptura, but rather the attacker's understanding of SS and that particular passage. In the words of Rob Bell:

When people say that the authority of Scripture or the centrality of Jesus is in question, actually it's their social, economic and political system that has been built in the name of Jesus that's being threatened," Bell says. "Generally lurking below some of the more venomous, vitriolic criticism is somebody who's created a facade that's not working...

My last critique which I find completely disheartening about the Fundamentalist camp is their particular understanding of "Heaven" and "Eternal Life." Also, even more-so, their understanding of the Gospel and how it is understood in terms of "Heaven" and "Eternal Life." The Gospel writers as well as all other NT authors were very clear on one thing, Heaven is to be understood as God's presence or dwelling, and that Eternal Life was something which began TODAY, at the moment of entering into relationship and life with Christ. The future hope of the Gospel was not Heaven, somewhere in the clouds or "up there," but rather a final realization of God's glory and power manifested in the complete restoration of His Creation, through the final destruction and ousting of Sin (separation of Creation from Creator) and Evil (the destructive results of said separation). In forgetting or, at worst, rejecting this truth they see no social agenda to the Gospel. It is simply a means by which to secure someone's FUTURE destiny, which they believe from that point in the future to be without end, thus being understood as eternal.

In my human weakness I have at many times associated Funadmentalism with Calvinism. Though it can be said truly that where one sees Fundamentalism, it is not unlikely to find Pre-Millenial Dispensationalism as well as Calvinism. However, Fundamentalism and Dispensationalism have also taken strong roots in the Southern Baptist Convention, which is traditionally Arminian.

Based upon these frustrations, i was greatly relieved to find that R.C. Sproul, an amazing man of God whom I happen to disagree with about Justification, is Himself a Partial-Preterist (like myself). I was also excited and relieved to find the following two quotes from J.I. Packer, another prominent Calvinist and wonderful man of God.

"To be sure, fundamentalists within our three traditions are unlikely to join us in this, for it is the way of fundamentalists to follow the path of contentious orthodoxism, as if the mercy of God in Christ automatically rests on the persons who are notionally correct and is just as automatically withheld from those who fall short of notional correctness on any point of substance. But this concept of, in effect, justification, not by works but by words -- words, that is, of notional soundness and precision -- is near to being a cultic heresy in its own right and need not detain us further, however much we may regret the fact that some in all our traditions are bogged down in it."


Lastly, my strongest contention against Fundamentalism. One can be sure that Fundamentalists are sure that Protestantism, if not Protestant Fundamentalism is the only way of true salvation. This follows in line with the need for "notional correctness." In this, they are usually quite sure that Roman Catholics (the Oldest Tradition in modern Christianity) and Eastern Orthodox are not Christian, or part of the Body. Many would even also say that only Evangelical Churches are in fact Christian, denying inclusion to Mainline Churches. To this end I offer yet another quote from J.I. Packer which he gave as an answer to why he would sign a document on the coming together of Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox in mission:

"Hitherto, isolationism everywhere in everything has been the preferred policy of both Catholics and evangelicals, and a good deal of duplication and rivalry, fed by mutual suspicion and inflammatory talk, has resulted. ... So I ought to have anticipated that some Protestants would say bleak, skewed, fearful, and fear-driven things about this document -- for instance, that it betrays the Reformation; that it barters the gospel for a social agenda ... Why, then, should any Protestant, such as myself, want to maximize mission activity in partnership with Roman Catholics? Traditionally, Protestants and Catholics have kept their distance, treating each other as inferiors; each community has seen the other as out to deny precious elements in its own faith and practice, and so has given the other a wide berth. There are sound reasons why this historic stance should be adjusted. First: Do we recognize that good evangelical Protestants and good Roman Catholics -- good, I mean, in terms of their own church's stated ideal of spiritual life -- are Christians together? We ought to recognize this, for it is true. I am a Protestant who thanks God for the wisdom, backbone, maturity of mind and conscience, and above all, love for my Lord Jesus Christ that I often see among Catholics ... Though Protestant and Catholic church systems stand opposed, and bad -- that is, unconverted -- Catholics and Protestants are problems on both sides of the Reformation divide, good Protestants and Catholics are, and know themselves to be, united in the one body of Christ, joint-heirs not only with him but with each other. ... Such a coalition [to combat 'disintegrative theology'] already exists among evangelicals, sustained by parachurch organizations, seminaries, media, mission programs and agencies, and literature of various kinds. It would be stronger in its stand for truth if it were in closer step with the parallel Catholic coalition that has recently begun to grow. ... their domestic differences about salvation and the church should not hinder them from joint action in seeking to re-Christianize the North American milieu. ... Propagating the basic faith, then, remains the crucial task, and it is natural to think it will best be done as a combined operation. ... Billy Graham's cooperative evangelism, in which all the churches in an area, of whatever stripe, are invited to share, is well established on today's Christian scene. And so are charismatic get-togethers, some of them one-off, some of them regular, and some of them huge, where the distinction between Protestant and Catholic vanishes in a Christ-centered unity of experience. ... What brings salvation, after all, is not any theory about faith in Christ, justification, and the church, but faith itself in Christ himself. ... What is ruled out is associating salvation or spiritual health with churchly identity, as if a Roman Catholic cannot be saved without becoming a Protestant or vice versa, and on this basis putting people under pressure to change churches."

For those of you who have ever been curious as to why I have at many times voiced great disdain for Fundamentalism, here lies my reasoning. I believe it alienates brothers in Christ, and makes our Bible as well as our Faith something it was not meant to be. I think it misses the great story of Redemption.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 15, 2008 at 1:37 PM and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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