I have a confession to make. I’m sorry. But for a long time I have tried to shy away from the term “Fundamentalist.” Tried? Well actually I’ve purposefully said before that I am in no uncertain terms; “not a Fundamentalist.” Now I’m not so sure. The issue with the term is that the only time we see it in print or conversation these days is when it is used to compare a Christian to the Westboro Baptist Church cult or an Islamic group that wants to take over the world. You see my dilemma?
The problem is that the term today is thrown onto anyone who opposes gay marriage or really any social pillar that the politically correct left holds sacred. In essence the media has beaten the dead horse of the Westboro comparison to such an extent that the true ideals of fundamentalist thought are now unrecognizable.
While some of the original fundamentalists did refuse the platform of fellowship with those they did not agree with, they never endorse nut jobs that hold “God Hates Fags” signs at protests. The true essence of fundamentalist thought is light years away from self-righteous legalism.
The original seed of fundamentalism arose in the late 19th century with the intent to maintain the “fundamental” doctrines of Christianity such as the authority of scripture and the divinity of Christ. This movement was in response to a number of liberal theologies that were creeping into the Church which denied such foundational beliefs. The first formal declaration of fundamental teaching was produced in 1910 at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in which only 5 major truths were put forward. With grace in free issues of practice, these were the fundamental doctrines of pristine and ancient Christianity.
- Biblical inspiration and the inerrancy of scripture.
- Virgin birth of Jesus.
- Belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for our sin.
- Bodily resurrection of Jesus.
- Historical reality of the miracles of Jesus.
For me, I’m not a labels guy. I’m just Steve. But if pinned to the wall I don’t think I’d shrug away from this term anymore. I believe those basic truths and all the good that flows out of them. Yes, true fundamentalism does oppose gay marriage. In addition though, if fundamentalism is really all about holding fast to the core of authentic Christianity, then there are also a number of beliefs and practices that when lived out actually bring a blessing to those around us. For that reason it just might not be a bad idea to recover the term from those who have hijacked it for their own social and political purposes.
Here are at least 10 other traits of who a true fundamentalists is and offers to the world around them.
- Fundamentalists have a love for everyone. They love God and love others. Even in controversy, they speak the truth in love. They will love with actions and not merely in words.
- Fundamentalists hold to the foundational doctrine of creation and the creation of man in the image of God. Because of this they see value in all mankind. A true fundamentalist will care for their fellow man no matter where she or he comes from, or what their ethnic, racial, or economic background is. This multi colored canvas is actually a picture of God’s design for the global church. Revelation 7:9-10. In addition, because of these foundational doctrines, fundamentalists will be passionate about sharing the love of Christ with as many people as possible in as many ways possible.
- Fundamentalists honor God’s design in the creation of Marriage as being the union of one male and female for life. For that reason, fundamentalists work for the tireless commitment to the marriage union and oppose no-fault divorce that has become so prevalent in our day.
- Fundamentalists work for the strengthening of the family as God’s best design in which children can be nurtured and brought up by a father and mother.
- Fundamentalists have compassion and care for widows, orphans, and even infants even in the womb. They likewise care for unwed mothers facing an unexpected pregnancy.
- Fundamentalists also have concern for the poor and suffering around them. They will function like the first Christians who would bring aid to the sick and dying instead of running away from them even at the risk of their own lives.
- Fundamentalists will commit to prayer for and submission to Government. The only exception and allowance for civil disobedience would be when the State demands the denial of Christ.
- Fundamentalists love their church and support the universal body of Christ. In our present consumer culture where people look for what the church can offer them, a true fundamentalist will commit to serve others with their God-given ability instead of looking to be served.
- Fundamentalists actually believe the Bible is the inerrant and inspired Word of God. (I wrote about this here) Authentic fundamentalists will read their own Bibles on a regular basis instead of relying on the spiritual work of others. They will seek to submit to the teachings of Christ rather than attempting to force the Bible to submit to their own personal experiences.
- Fundamentalists will confess their own need for Christ. Are there problems in the world? Yes! However, a person who truly follows the fundamental teachings of Christ will freely admit that the problems begin with them first and foremost. As for me, I am no better that anyone else. I have blown it and fall 100% upon the grace of Christ and boast of absolutely no merit of my own. It is all of His love and His grace for me.
Fundamentalism? While ground stomping for this title is not my first priority, at the end of the day though, I no longer feel the urge to dodge the term. Rather I hope we can recover what it really means and champion the fundamental truths of Christ which ultimately are the only real hope for humanity. The focus in authentic fundamentalism is not attacking the opposition, but rather offering up the truth of Christ in both communication and practical love. That is a true hallmark of those through the ages who have held to the fundamental teachings of Christ. Looking again into the past, the original orphanages and hospitals were created by people hundreds of years ago who would be considered fundamentalists by today’s dialogues. So to be in the same pool with those great women and men of the faith is not a bad thing.