Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Fundamentalism’s Downfall

Fundamentalism started out on the right path toward the early part of the 20th century as a movement dedicated to Biblical truth in opposition to the onslaught of theological liberalism. However, towards the last half of the 20th century, it degenerated into a movement dominated by incessant infighting, legalism and general lack of love for one another or anyone else for that matter. It was due to this unfortunate drift away from merely standing for the fundamentals of Biblical Christianity that caused many to distance themselves from the movement, preferring to call themselves just Evangelicals. Really, both stood for the essential doctrines of the Christian faith and the lines of distinction between the two are often somewhat blurred.

Phillip Johnson recently led a workshop at the 2005 Shepherd’s Conference entitled "Dead Right: The Failure of Fundamentalism" where he chronicled the history of fundamentalism and elaborated on its failures. The transcript of the workshop can be found at the SharperIron.
As Phil explains, the term Evangelical is a term that dates all the way back to the Reformation and was applied to those adhering to the proclamation of the Gospel and Biblical truth. In reality, a fundamentalist is also an evangelical, at least according to the historical definition.

This article really mirrored many of my sentiments as well. Basically, as it pertains to standing for the fundamentals of the faith, yes I am a fundamentalist. But if it means becoming encumbered with all the excess baggage that really has nothing to do with biblical truth, count me out. I would rather just be called an evangelical if that is the case.

Long ago, when I was considering going to a Bible college, I visited a fundamentalist school. It did not take me long to decide that I really wanted nothing to do with attending there. The place just seemed “ooze” with legalism and really a disingenuous attitude in general. Much of what I saw really had little to do with biblical truth and there just seemed to be a feeling of a general phony attitude. I am not talking about some basic rules to maintain order, but the place just seemed to reek with the game of playing church. I also knew of a girl who attended one of these ultra-fundamentalist schools who was really turned off by it and ended with her dropping out. She just could not take what she saw as a lot of spiritual and moral decay. I think it really hurt her spiritually for quite awhile. Again, these feelings had nothing to do with any opposition to fundamental Bible truth, but with the legalism that mirrored the attitude of the Pharisees.

I also did my “time” in a legalistic fundamental Baptist church. It is so ironic that although they talked a lot about the Bible, were fairly “conservative” and stood for the “fundamentals”, the preaching was extremely topical and shallow. Many of the people really did not have a good working knowledge of the Bible. They knew a few verses and knew how to repeat whatever the pastor said. I also observed that there tended to be a lot of “easy believism”. This was so tragic. Many of the people seemed to just learn how to follow rules and play church. There were some that would accuse other fundamentalists of being what they called compromising “New Evangelicals”, over issues that were generally not really related to Scripture. Or it was due to a misunderstanding of what they said. Some even classified John MacArthur as one of those compromising evangelicals!

I believe that this attitude really drives people away from Bible believing faith and into movements such as the “emerging” church. However, while the “emerging” church does point out some valid concerns, their general tendency to depart from biblical truth makes me cringe. There is no way that I could identify myself with that movement.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that more fundamentalists begin to realize the problems that have crept into the movement, and earnestly seek to truly get back to defending fundamental Scriptural truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just remember, many of us did "our time" in fundementalist churches as you described, but it was exciting to see a few of the members actually grow and truly realize that they needed more than just salvation, salvation salvation. Once you were saved , you truly needed the meat and many went out in search of biblical solid teaching and some found it. I found it but at times it seemed to be too much of the knowledge and less the mercy being shown and that bothered me at times. I believe that the teaching should edify the body but in turn, Christ should be mercifuly and lovingly shown by that body unto the community and those who are in need of HIS love and and the compassion and at times correction of HIS church. We should truly be cautious in our wording about "doing our time" God will use where ever we are in life whether it be the perfect church and even some other church that maybe would not always be the best situation to teach us through the holy spirit and hopefully will lead us to a body of believers that he would have us to be in.
We do not want to have someone thinking that yes it was not the best of experiences, but God still taught me something out of this.