‘Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.’ 1 Tim.1:19
There is so much discussion occurring in magazines, blogs and the pulpits of our land regarding the subject of fundamentalism. Many Pastors are trying so hard to hold on to their concept of ‘fundamentalism’ and ensure their people stay true to its definition, that they no longer comprehend what it is that they are standing for.
What is fundamentalism?
The dictionary defines ‘fundamental’ as that which is ‘essential, primary, important, that which serves as groundwork, basal, pertaining to a foundation and a set of primary principles and rules.’
The word ‘fundamentalist’ came into existence in the 1920’s in America to name a movement among Protestants based upon Scriptural inerrancy. The founders of ‘fundamentalism’ reacted against liberal theology and asserted that the inerrancy of the Bible was essential for true Christianity and was being violated by the modernists.
The term ‘fundamentalism’ was coined by Baptist editor Curtis Lee Laws in 1920 to designate Christians who were ready ‘to do battle royal for the fundamentals.’ The term was quickly adopted by all sides.
Today fundamentalism has many different nuances and in many cases is in total opposition to its origin. A quick survey of the Independent Baptist Movement in Australia yields the sad reality that fundamentalism is now determined by the position held on three issues; music, versions and dress standards.
Please do not misunderstand my point; I am personally committed to upholding conservative music, I use a Bible version which is based upon the formal equivalency translation method and I strongly believe that modesty is essential for every believer. My great concern however, is that for the most part, fundamentalism has exchanged the study, exposition and proclamation of theology and the fundamentals of Scripture for the ‘issues’ of the day. It is my contention that when God’s preachers return to real exposition of the weightier truths of the Bible, the ‘issues’ will no longer be ‘issues.’ For example, I cannot count how many times I have heard messages on the subjects of music, dating, dancing and dress standards, but I can count on one hand how many times ‘God’s holiness’ has been truly exposed from the pulpit, with a strong application to ‘be holy as he is holy’ (1 Pet.1:16).
It is no wonder people are leaving our churches fed up with hearing about the ‘issues’ and not being taught the fundamentals. Yesterday Jason wrote about the ‘atonement’ and it is my contention that the average Christian in our ‘fundamental circles’ could not give a satisfactory definition for that term. Words like ‘justification, redemption and propitiation’ have been replaced by ‘syncopation, beat and rhythm.’ Most Independent Baptists I know can give me thesis on the ‘errors of contemporary Christian music’ but cannot engage on the topic of election. Pastors can give dissertations on why they believe the KJV is the only Bible version for today, but cannot, or will not provide me with sound exposition on the doctrine of God’s grace.
What have we done? We are trying to keep the issues of the day from affecting our people but in so doing, we have exchanged the ‘depths of fundamental theology’ for the ‘shallows of liberalistic issues.’ We must return to the foundation of our faith, the weighty truths and the primary doctrines that form the basics of our Christianity. We need a revival of biblical, theological fundamentalism!