Friday, January 13, 2006


There has been a lot of talk on the blogosphere concerning fundamentalism since Rick Warren shot off this quote featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

"Warren predicts that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be 'one of the big enemies of the 21st century.'

"'Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism - they're all motivated by fear. Fear of each other.'"

But what is Christian fundamentalism? I thought I'd share a couple quotes from other blogs that respond in detail to Mr. Warren rather than creating my own article. I have my thoughts, but they are pretty well summed up by two blogs. EDIT: A friend contacted me after I posted this, and I thought I'd add her list of fundamentals as well, it lines up pretty well with the others listed, it's just less wordy.

1. Virgin Birth
2. Deity of Christ
3. Inspiration of Scripture
4. Resurrection
5. Second Coming

What are the Five Fundamentals?
I grew up in churches that belonged to a loose fundamentalist organization, so I'm familiar with the fundamentals. Here's a list of the fundamentals as I learned them:

1. The literal inerrancy of the autographs of scripture. (The word autographs means the original writings of the authors of scripture, so manuscript copies and translations are not included in what is inerrent according to the fundamentals.)
2. The virgin birth and deity of Christ.
3. The substitutionary view of the atonement .
4. The bodily resurrection of Christ.
5. The imminent return of Christ. (Originally there was not a specific eschatological view in mind here, since the founders of the fundamentalist movement were from various denominations and held various views of the end times.)

Depending on where you look, you'll get a slightly different list. This one is from an article posted by the First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York:

1. The inerrancy of the Bible.
2. The virgin birth of Christ.
3. Christ's substitutionary atonement.
4. Christ's bodily resurrection.
5. The authenticity of Christ's miracles.

To further clear up the matter, quite often when someone talks about us "fundies" they're talking about legalism and often extra-biblical additions to these five ideas. I'll admit, there certainly are people who are legalistic but does that nessiciarily mean that all fundamentalists are? And even if all fundamentalists were legalistic and unloving hypocrits, does that change the fact that the five statements are true? Most evangelical Christians would affirm them, so truly the problem does not lie in the fundamentals of the fundamentalist movement, rather the problem lies with the people that have turned it into a tradition of legalism.

I define legalism as a tradition of man that is required by another man at the risk of discipline. This discipline can take the form of ridicule, expulsion from a body of believers or any number of measures that can be devised. Under that definition, there is nothing legalistic about those five points. The way that they have been implemented (in extreme cases) can be legalistic, but not the points themselves.

This is because these are not the laws of man. The inerrancy of scripture is defended by numerous passages of scripture, which is an argument made non-circular by those who understand that there is no higher law for the Bible to appeal to. It is the word of God, and by His authority the Bible, in its original form, is without fault. The virgin birth and deity of Christ are both defined Biblically, and anyone who accepts the infallibility of the Bible must accept these matters as fact. The substitutionary view of the atonement… ditto. If this is not true, then 2 Corinthians 5:21 cannot be true. The bodily resurrection of Christ as a fundamental, and an essential doctrine is found in Romans 10:9. Finally, the imminent return of Christ is shown through the Gospels and Epistles.

These are not the rules of man, nor are they declared essential fundamentals by the authority of any man or council. Men and councils have affirmed these truths, but only on the grounds of scripture. So no, these rules cannot be considered legalistic. It is sinful additions to these doctrines that have given fundamentalists a bad rap. Rules that involve all forms of card playing and any use of alcohol are well-documented examples, and have served to poison the well long before men like Warren attacked fundamentalism in general. Yes, it is the fundamentalist who poisoned his own well.

Regarding the narrowness of such proclamations, fundamentalism is a bit narrow. But then, so is the path to Heaven. (Matthew 7:14)

Of course, it is not these five points that make it possible for one to be saved, but these points are ones that we can expect the Holy Spirit to affirm within us. He will make the scriptures plain to us as we study them. He will enable our belief in the virgin birth of Christ and give us the faith to proclaim that God walked among us, taking our sins upon Himself. The scriptures teach all of these points and the Holy Spirit can be expected to lead us toward acceptance of them during our sanctification. The way is narrow, but God will lead His people to the wisdom of His word.

No comments: