Monday, May 25, 2009

Confessions of a Fundamentalist

I liked Bob Lepine's blog entry on May 20 ( Here is a portion of his post:

"I have a shocking revelation to share with you this week. A confession of sorts.

"I hope you won't think less of me or hold it against me.

"I am a fundamentalist.

"There. I said it.

"I remember several years ago when my parents were attending a Sunday school class at the mainline denominational church they attended. The subject of the class was Understanding the Fundamentalists. During a phone conversation one afternoon, my mom told me about the class and I asked what they had learned in the class.

"'They're just explaining the things fundamentalists believe.' she told me.

"I answered, 'You mean things like the inerrancy of scripture, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, His substitutionary atonement, His bodily resurrection, and His literal, physical coming again?'

"There was silence on the phone. Finally my mom stammered with horror in her voice, 'Are you a...a...fundamentalist?'

"Guilty as charged.

"The term fundamentalist was first used about 100 years ago. That's when liberal Bible scholars were beginning to undermine some of the things that the Bible teaches and that Christians throughout the centuries have always believed and affirmed. Things like the list I recited for my mom in our phone conversation...

"Flash forward 100 years, and the term fundamentalist has come to mean something very different than it did when the term was coined. Today a fundamentalist is used to refer to legalists who have added their list of theological preferences to the essential doctrines of the faith. These hyper-fundamentalists or neo-fundamentalists are angry, intolerant, lacking in grace or kindness or gentleness or love. In their minds, the only 'pure' church is the one where 'biblical absolutes' include things like reading only the King James version of the Bible, not going to movies, not drinking alcohol, the appropriate length of a woman's hemline and the appropriate length of a man's hair...

"The danger posed by the neo-fundamentalists and their legalism, rebuking, separating and arrogance is that they are giving those of us who stand firm on the fundamentals of the faith that were articulated a century ago by the original 'fundamentalists' and continue to be articulated by theological conservatives a bad name.

"I want my name back. I want to be able to call myself a fundamentalist without my mom thinking I've joined the dark side.

"It's probably not going to happen in my lifetime. So instead, I'll just call myself a theologically orthodox Christian. And if someone asks 'what does that mean?' then I'll have an opportunity to tell them. :)"

I was reminded of an incident from several years ago. Janet and I visited Tulsa Bible Church one Wednesday evening because the noted conservative Bible scholar John MacArthur was speaking. He explained that he used to be called a fundamentalist, but he had to change. He found that the term fundamentalist did not accurately describe him or the people with whom he was associated, because others saw fundamentalists as having too little fun, being too quick to damn, and being mentally deficient. So he started calling himself an evangelical instead.

I must admit that I fit the classic definition of a fundamentalist since I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, Christ's virgin birth, his deity, his substitutionary atonement, his bodily resurrection, and his literal physical coming again. If someone wants to call me a fundamentalist, I won't get too upset. I have been called much worse. I don't mind being called an evangelical or theologically orthodox Christian, either. However, I prefer to be called a Christian. It may be a little generic, but I still like it.


westcoastwitness said...

Defining it classically, I fit the description of a fundie.

I'm proud of it too!

Terry said...

I was going to offer to keep it a secret for you, but since you're proud of it, welcome to the "dark side" with me. :)

Christy said...

I don't know. I think the names "evangelical" and "Christian" are also distorted beyond recognition these days, too. It's hard to know what I want to be called. Christ-like would be nice. ;0)

Terry said...

"Christ-like" would be good, too. :)