Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why he is/is not a Fundamentalist

Reviewing Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, a book about the history of fundamentalism, Paul Miller explains:
I am a fundamentalist. I believe in the “five fundamentals” that originally defined the term: the divine inspiration of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, the atoning work of Jesus’ death on the cross, Jesus’ bodily resurrection, and the historicity of Christ’s miracles. These five beliefs were spotlighted by The Fundamentals, a series of books published starting in 1910 about the core doctrines of Christianity from which the word “fundamentalist” was coined.

But I am not a fundamentalist—not in the sense that most people use that term. The “five fundamentals” are actually a pretty bad summary of the Christian faith. I’ll take the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed, plus the Reformation “solas,” over the fundamentals any day. The “five fundamentals” omit, for example, the divinity of Christ and the Trinity, which are sort of important. ....
The original fundamentalism emerged in the second half of the 19th century:
Urbanization, the Civil War, immigration, and new intellectual movements confronted the Evangelical establishment with insurmountable cultural challenges. “Higher criticism” seemed to challenge the inspiration of the Bible. Evolutionary theories seemed to challenge its accuracy. Science, generally, seemed to make supernatural explanations of the world unnecessary and quaint.

The evangelical movement split: one wing of Christians abandoned traditionalism in favor of theological liberalism. They jettisoned belief in supernaturalism, miracles, or even Christ’s divinity. They tried to reduce Christianity to a core of admirable moral maxims—and abandoned any semblance of historic Christianity in the process.

The other wing became the fundamentalists. ....
Miller says that two doctrines have come to define modern Fundamentalism and that explains why he is not a fundamentalist (emphasis added):
First, fundamentalism means a belief in seven literal days of creation, and it means believing that Charles Darwin’s scientific theory of biological evolution by natural selection is fundamentally anti-Christian. ....

The other issue that has come to define fundamentalism is its adherence to dispensationalism and preoccupation with end-times prophecy. .... [more]