To hear the podcast (44 mins), Why I Am Not a Fundamentalist, click on the play arrow. To download and listen to it later, right click here and then on 'save link as' or 'save target as'.

Short review of Why I Am Not a Protestant (the first podcast in this series):

  • Salvation and Atonement
    • Conversion through faith alone or the Sinner’s Prayer—neither of which is biblical. (Note: some Protestants interpret "faith alone" as including obedience to God, though most tend to refer to obedience as "works" or "legalism.")
    • Deep confusion about faith, grace, and law—misreading Romans and Galatians.
    • Faith and works unnaturally separated; ditto for grace and works.
    • Unlike Luther, who was honest enough to reject James and Hebrews, many Protestants hold to “faith alone” and “once saved, always saved,” while trying to force these letters to support Reformed Theology.
    • “Imputation” of righteousness -- rather than living righteously -- and imputation of guilt to infants, in line with Augustine’s invention of “Original Sin” (itself an apologetic for infant baptism).
    • One-stage salvation, rather than a two-stage salvation as found in the N.T.
  • Scripture
    • Low expectations for members to learn scripture—leading many to embrace unsound doctrinal systems, such as Health & Wealth, Signs & Wonders, End-Times Speculation, and Easy Believism.
    • Widespread failure to preach the word.
    • Often hold as stubbornly to Protestant traditions as the Catholics whom they criticize.
  • Church
    • Low expectations—e.g. “members” who do not come to church
    • Clergy / laity division
    • Honorific titles for leaders
    • Failure to have churches led by elders; rather, creation of “pastor” position through a deliberate non-translation.
  • Kingdom
    • Failure to distinguish the two kingdoms (Kingdom of God vs. earthly kingdoms).
    • Failure to reject the church-state hybrid (which nearly destroyed Christianity in the Middle Ages).
    • Church politics that are very much of this world
    • Failure to live distinct lives (e.g. take the Sermon on the Mount seriously).
  • There are some Protestants that would agree with me on my analysis – completely or at least on most parts.
    • They choose to remain within Protestantism, perhaps because they think they can bring about reform from within.
    • I do not fault them, if they think they can effect change in this way.


Introduction to Fundamentalism

  • Fundamentalists are normally found in the Protestant camp, although we do meet some die-hard Catholics or Orthodox who are convinced they are the true church.
  • In a similar way, one runs across Islamic fundamentalists, and similar emphases in most of the world’s religions.
  • Very popular in 1920s… again 1970s and 1980s.
  • “Fundamentalist” coined in 1920 by Baptist editor Curtis Lee Laws – of Christians ready “to do battle royal for the fundamentals.” In 1922, “fundamentalism” entered the English language.
  • Founding documents: The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, published 1910-1915 by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
    • 90 essays in 12 volumes (later, 4 volumes).
    • 64 authors representing all the major denominations.
    • > 3m volumes (250,000 sets) were sent out!
    • Defended against:
      • Modernism [Bible not inspired; OT God wicked; no miracles; Bible is mythology]
      • Higher criticism, Liberal theology: inerrancy, literal [genre and then message, or literal only] nature of biblical accounts, Virgin Birth, bodily resurrection of Christ, second coming, substitutionary atonement
      • Atheism, Socialism
      • Distortions of Christianity: Romanism [Catholicism], Eddyism [Christian Science], Mormonism, Millennial Dawn [Jehovah's Witnesses], Spiritualism
      • Evolutionism: literal interpretation of creation account of Genesis


Strengths of Fundamentalism

  • Heart-felt love for Christ
  • Personal holiness (among some)
  • Commitment to the authority of Scripture
  • Emphasis on evangelism and missions
  • Seriousness about the Judgment Day
  • Willingness to take a stand


10 Reasons I am Uncomfortable with Fundamentalism


1. High-pressure evangelistic techniques

  • Impassioned pleas, music, high pressure, call for decision
  • Boast of their numbers and about how God has used them
  • Hell-fire and brimstone. Not as popular today as in centuries past. But this was not the apostle’s approach (Acts 2:40). Hell may not be a literal fire, but if not it is something worse. But not forever.

2. Overly strict rules

  • Like the Pharisees, add rule on rule
  • Known esp. for no dancing, no movies, no card playing, no drinking
  • Many go further: women cannot wear trousers, wear makeup, etc.
  • Errors of Luke 11:46 and Col 2:20-23

3. Poor handling of scripture

  • Hyperliteralistic: fail to distinguish genre. Bible a library.
  • Approach to scripture is forced – not engaging according to the basic principles of interpreting literature.
  • Cannot accept that there were copying errors -- and there were -- in all the ancient manuscripts. Concept of pure transmission similar to that of Muslims denying there are differences in various manuscripts of the Qur’an.
  • Forced harmonies of the gospels – since they don’t understand the nature of ancient bio.
  • Rely on unconvincing explanations when confronted with biblical problems.
  • Bizarre interpretations of Revelation and the end of the world – esp. in various American versions of fundamentalism.
  • Since there is no consistent method, most fundamentalists default to the interpretation and traditions of the very conservative churches to which they belong.
  • Black & white thinking, e.g. on medical ethics, complex scientific or social issues.
  • Yet fundamentalist lacks a cohesive theology.
  • Denigration of scholarship

4. Outdated or unnecessarily narrow positions

  • Moses authored the whole Pentateuch, Isaiah had only one author, or Daniel must be in the 6th century BC (a case can be made for a later date, too).
  • The Flood must be global—even though geologists have surveyed the entire planet, without any evidence of a global deluge. (There is a satisfying explanation, but it rests on historical, literary, and theological evidence.)
  • Insistence on antiquated versions of the Bible (such as the KJV), whose translators did not have access to the quantity and quality of ancient manuscripts available today.  

5. Fortress mentality

  • Outsiders are the enemies.
  • This opposes Jesus’ teaching in Mark 9:38-31 and Luke 9:49-50.
  • Everyone in the circle is saved, everyone outside is condemned.
  • Leaving the group is equivalent to falling away from God.
  • Contact with other religious groups is limited or even forbidden.
  • This mentality is fortified by the strictness of the rules and the narrowness of the doctrine.

6. Ignorance of history

  • Kingdom of God started in the year ___ (fill in the blank).
  • Ignoring church history. Claim to “go all the way back” to the apostolic age; established 30 AD.
  • Appeals to patristic writings selectively—only when the passage confirms the fundamentalist’s view, but otherwise ignored.
  • An overview of the entire course of Christ history does not support the fundamentalist agenda. For example, it has been fairly common to take a literary, rather than a literal, interpretation of early Genesis. The fundamentalist imagines true Christians have always held to his beliefs, because fundamentalists do not study Christian history.

7. Anti-intellectualism

  • At odds with education.
  • Often discourage college attendance or seminary study.
  • Know that by calling a work “liberal,” fellow fundamentalists will generally not bother to read it, e.g. The Origin of Species. Calling Darwin an atheist also effectively serves to prevent believers from understanding him.
  • Like to quote John 7:15 and Acts 4:13 -- yet Jesus, like the apostles, had studied -- only not in the schools approved by the religious establishment.
  • Lack of critical thinking. Seem more devoted to denominational teachings than to the pursuit of truth.
  • Yet Jesus urged us to love the Lord our God with all our mind (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). He actually added that word to the original version of Deut 6:5.

8. Anti-science sentiment

  • The Bible tells us that God speaks to us through nature (Psalm 19; 104; Rom 1), which is God's "book of works." Science is the study of nature, and thus important for discerning God's ways.
  • (Even though several authors of original series were evolutionary creationists.)
  • Young Earth Creationists: world history falls into 7 millennia… All those unbelieving biologists, chemists, physicists, geologists, astronomers, and cosmologists are wrong—or worse, part of a sinister conspiracy to suppress religion and buttress atheism.
  • Big Bang. God creates elements in the nuclei of stars.
  • Can’t imagine the immense age of the universe. (Why not? Especially if they can imagine the enormous size of the universe.)
  • Believe it is more noble that humans were made from dirt than from higher mammals. (Isn't either source quite humbling?)
  • Yet the majority of scientists believe in God and a spiritual world—though that doesn't mean they agree with the scientifically uneducated, whether they are religious or not.

9. “Jesus and me”

  • “Personal relationship with Jesus" concept is something novel. Rooted in American individualism.
  • Tend to view themselves as having a direct line to God, a hotline to Jesus.
  • This is verified by their experiences—their feelings. See Prov 14:12.
  • Check the New Testament and see if you can find scriptural support for this notion.

10. Fundamentalists overvalue certainty.

  • Emphasize doctrine over life. Sound Doctrine refers more to technical theology than to healthy spiritual living.
  • The truth they think they (alone) possess is more important than life. Yes, truth is more important than life—we should all rather die than renounce our faith, but those who wield truth as a weapon have a habit of dehumanizing the objects of their proselytizing.
  • Yet fundamentalists aren’t merely certain that Jesus is Lord; they are equally confident that they know how to be saved, how Christians should behave, what political party they should be members of, whether or not there is global warming, how to solve complex social problems, etc.

Conclusion

  • As James Barr observes, correctly, I think, “Generally speaking, people do not become fundamentalists if they are already well informed about scripture and theology. I do not necessarily mean that fundamentalists are necessarily ill-informed; some of them are very well informed. But people who are well informed do not then become fundamentalists” (Escaping from Fundamentalism, London: SCM Press, 1984, p. 174).
  • I believe in the fundamentals, and these fundamentals are also the basis for real Christian unity. 
  • Yet I would avoid the word fundamentalism, since it means different things to different people, is probably misleading to most, and has a mainly negative connotation.
  • Let’s strive to be careful thinkers, speakers, writers, and evangelists for Christ. We can hold to the fundamentals without being fundamentalists.