There is a crisis in Fundamentalism today and it is a crisis of credibility.

To boil it down, generally, the young men don’t want what the older men are giving.

The older men want to pour their lives into training young men for ministry, but the brightest and best of the young men are walking away—not from God, but from Fundamentalism (or at least the kind of Fundamentalism that the older men are offering).

As evidence of this, consider the declining enrolment in our colleges, the declining interest in our fellowships, and the explosion of conservative evangelical influence among our young men.1

The emerging middle2 is one of the biggest things happening in Christianity today.

Why is this happening?

I would suggest that part3 of what is driving this credibility gap is what could be termed a cross-generational gap. Here’s what I mean:

“Generation gap” is a label given to the difficulty two chronologically adjacent generations have in relating to each other due to cultural differences.

Fundamentalism does not have a generation gap. Fundamentalism has a cross-generational gap.

Sometime in the mid-to-late twentieth century, much of Fundamentalism began to canonise Christianised American cultural norms and to equate them with Christianity itself. This manifested itself in strong stands on things like prohibition (of alcohol), dress codes, attitudes toward certain social activities, etc.

Since that time, Fundamentalists have tended to change only in small and slow steps, particularly in certain areas. Many Fundamentalists gloried in their growing distance from the broader culture and were happy to be considered “peculiar.”4

This excessive commitment to cultural manifestations of Christianity has resulted in a Fundamentalism that, in many ways, still thinks like someone from the middle of the twentieth century. In America.

That’s why I say we have a cross-generational gap.

Many young Fundamentalists reject the thinking that has driven this commitment to culture over Scripture. They believe, instead, that we should carefully exegete both the Scriptures and the culture and seek to apply the former to the latter in order to reach a geoculturally contemporary expression of Christianity.

Unfortunately, such a young person will find himself not one generation away from the thinking of his parents, but three or four generations away.

This cross-generational gap is making even the most basic communication between the two groups difficult if not impossible.

Is this bad?

Let me be clear. I am not saying the emerging middle is a bad thing. I believe it is necessary. In fact, I believe it is the emerging middle that is doing the vast majority of the “contending for the faith once delivered”5 in our day.

But I do think it is sad that much of Fundamentalism has become an impediment to the spiritual well-being of its own children by elevating culture above God’s word.


In order to safeguard the gospel of Jesus Christ in our churches, Fundamentalism must cling to truth over culture. We must repent of our idolatrous traditionalism and re-establish a firm commitment to the truth no matter what its implications may be in our contemporary setting.

Our God demands nothing less.


1 These are my observations of Fundamentalism in general. Some apply more in the United States and others more in Australia.

2 I am referring to an article by Bob Bixby in which he referred to the young fundamentalists as part of the emerging middle. This reference has no connection whatsoever with Emergent Theology which is the seed of much error.

3 Other elements would include chronic mishandling of the Scriptures, a tendency toward man centred theology, erroneous doctrine, an overemphasis on externals, etc.

4 See 1 Peter 2:9 in the King James Version.

5 Jude 3.

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at


  1. Greg Gorton 27 July, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    This article was very encouraging for me. In fact, without exaggeration, it is the closest anything has ever come for quite some time to restoring my faith in Christians even slightly. Thank you for it.

  2. PJ 27 July, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Jason, I do think you have hit upon a ‘sub-species’ of church in Australia, and in assisting our understanding of those churches I agree with your analysis.

    However, you do make some sweeping generalisations and you’re only evidence is “declining enrolment in our colleges, the declining interest in our fellowships, and the explosion of conservative evangelical influence among our young men.” While I can’t speak for the third of these, how do you know attendances in fundamental churches are declining and how do you know that enrolments at fundamental colleges are declining? (If you have such statistics please share them with us).

    (You do cover yourself in footnote 1 – “These are my observations of Fundamentalism in general. Some apply more in the United States and others more in Australia.” So in fairness, you are putting this forward as personal opinion.)

    The reality among churches (and Christians) in Australia who would identify as ‘fundamentalists’ is far more complex than your article suggests and I really think it is unfair (and rather pompous) for you to call for fundamentalists to repent from “our idolatrous traditionalism.”

    Do you really think there are pastors in doctrinally sound churches out there, giving their all to the Lord, living holy lives as best they can, who need to repent of idolatry? That’s the implication of what you’re saying – and that’s a very big call to make.

    I agree that there are some individual fundamental churches and maybe some groupings of fundamental churches that have an “excessive commitment to cultural manifestations of Christianity,” but it is rather a sweeping statement to say that this characterises the movement as a whole, or much of the movement in the Australian context.

    For example, where would you place the large conservative independent baptist churches in QLD that have congregations into the hundreds, are actively reaching the lost in their communities and are supporting many missionaries. These churches don’t seem to be in decline at all. Are they guilty of “excessive commitment to cultural manifestations of Christianity” – Do their pastors need “repent of their idolatrous traditionalism and re-establish a firm commitment to the truth?”

    The problem is not that ‘fundamentalism’ has a ‘credibility problem’, it’s that the term itself is well past its used by date and arguments over what constitutes ‘fundamentalism’ are really pointless. (That was the overwhelming impression I got when reading the Bixby article on the ’emergent middle’ – what’s the point?)

    Individual, independent local churches will make up their own minds about what they believe, what they emphasise, what standards they hold to, what version of the Bible they use and what other churches they fellowship with. If people who don’t like where their church stands on these things they can kick out the pastor, change the constitution or go somewhere else! If we really believe in the primacy of the local church then we should afford churches the freedom be whatever they want to be, be that libertarian or legalist in our opinion!

    As I said, I think it is a bit rich calling for fundamentalists to “repent of their idolatrous traditionalism”. You are actually making a very serious charge against many pastors and godly people. We ought not cast aspersions on the legitimacy of people’s love for the Lord or zeal for His church.

    [If you were aiming for a reaction I guess you just got it :)!]

  3. Jason Harris 27 July, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    @Greg, Good to see you reading! Glad it was encouraging.


    I appreciate the comment. I think you’ve raised enough solid questions and issues to warrant another post today. So I’ll try to get that up within a few minutes. Thanks for the challenge.

  4. cecil 1 August, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Thanks Jason. Especially for footnote three. I would add the kjv only movement and separate first mentality as contributing factors as well.

  5. MarkO 3 August, 2010 at 7:58 am

    why is the defense of a label so important to some?

  6. Jason Harris 3 August, 2010 at 8:07 pm


    I’ve addressed your question already in the follow-up to this post here.

  7. kenn woods 21 August, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Hey Guys, Im from South Carolina, my wife is from Australia. We’re forty’ish with children. We’ve been back in Australia a year and a half, having lived here 7 years ago for 3 years. We’re familiar with the complacency of The Church, but that doesnt make it any easier to accept. Attending a Baptist church of all places and seeing boys dressed in gothic and body-piercings and girls in short-shorts and tube-tops is not right. We have visited several churches and find that no-matter what the denomination, they’ve all accepted the same worldly standard. Is there a reputable Fundamentalist church on the south coast.

  8. Jason Harris 21 August, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Hello Kenn. Thanks for the comment. By the South Coast, I assume you are referring to the Wollongong/Nowra/Ulladulla region?

    To be honest, I’m mostly familiar with the Independent Baptist churches in that region. In Nowra there is Shoalhaven Baptist Church (Pastor Richard Shellabear) and in Wollongong there is Illawarra Community Baptist Church (Pastor Kevin Harris). I’m also familiar with a Presbyterian church in Wollongong that seems to be solid. Each of these would be conservative. Inbox me for details on any of these: tojasonharris @ gmail . com.

    Grace to you.

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