Friday, October 6, 2023

Are you a fundamentalist?

.... It used to mean someone who believed in the “fundamentals” of the faith: the historicity of the biblical accounts, the Virgin Birth, the substitutionary Atonement, the bodily Resurrection, a visible and physical Second Coming, etc. By that definition, Billy Graham—the founder of Christianity Today—and all of those involved with the post-war evangelical movement were fundamentalists. And so am I.

In fact, in the old days of what was seen as a two-party system in the American church—of fundamentalists and modernists—the so-called fundamentalist party was broad enough to include hyper-creedal Presbyterians such as J. Gresham Machen, fiery revivalists such as D.L. Moody, experiential Baptists such as E.Y. Mullins, along with tongues-speaking Pentecostals and “deeper life” enthusiasts.

The problem with fundamentalism was that it came to not be about the fundamentals at all, but about an ever-narrowing sect based on grievance more than hope, quarrels more than cooperation. It came to be defined more and more by “secondary separation” from those who didn’t see everything the same way.

The renewal movement that came out of all of that, which came to be known as “evangelical,” struck out on a different path—though not a new path—back toward respecting what the creeds and confessions defined as essential for cooperation with conviction. This included biblical authority, the necessity of new birth, the reality of the supernatural and of sin, and the dual destinies of heaven or hell. When one knows what is fundamental, one is able, then, to work across differences on those things that we agree are important but are not of the essence of what it means to be a gospel Christian. ....

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