Title: WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST AND WHY ARE THEY BEING REVILED BY OTHER "CHRISTIANS"????
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The term "fundamentalist," as it was originally applied to Christians, was coined in 1920 by the editor of the Baptist periodical Watchman Examiner to describe a group of Baptists who became very concerned about the tendency for some men to drift from the authority of the Scriptures--a trend that came to be known as "modernism." However, the Fundamental movement actually began earlier, during the third "Great Awakening"--the prayer meeting revivals which swept America during the years 1857-59. Out of these revivals came a renewed interest in the Word of God and many Bible study groups were organized as a result--a movement that developed into the Niagara Bible Conference. Over time, this conference led to a large Bible conference movement and to the Bible institute and college movement--two major factors in the rise and spread of American Fundamentalism.
This background information is taken from a paper by David O. Beale, entitled "FUNDAMENTALISM AND ITS FOES: RECENT AND CURRENT TRENDS IN RELIGION," distributed by campus stores at Bob Jones University, Greenville, S.C. And I believe it will be helpful at this point to quote a portion of a paragraph from that paper:
"....Fundamentalism, however, has never been and never could be limited to the affirmations of any particular denomination. The Fundamentals of Fellowship transcend denominational distinctives, and they do so without weakening or compromising such distinctives. For example, Fundamentalists have always been good Presbyterians or good Baptists and still able to fellowship with Fundamentalists of other groups. While Fundamentalists certainly do differ among themselves on certain interpretations of Scripture, they unite in fellowship and "common purpose for the defense of the Faith and the preaching of the Gospel," accepting the Bible alone, without question, as the divinely and verbally inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God." (Emphasis in the original).
The point we intend to emphasize is that a true Fundamentalist is one who accepts the Bible as being the sole authority in matters of faith and practice and believes, with apology to none, that it is "the divinely and verbally inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God."
Emphasis upon the authority of the Scriptures is what defines Biblical Christianity! Without that benchmark, one is forced to rely upon the commandments and traditions of sinful, fallible men. Surely those who take the time to examine the stark contrast between Scriptural authority and church tradition will realize the absolute necessity for a divine standard! Even a cursory examination of the Bible reveals a supernatural quality of thought and expression infinitely beyond the capability of mere mortals. And church tradition, quite frankly, pales by comparison.
So with this background information in mind, we will examine an Internet article entitled, "What Is Fundamentalism And Why Is It So Dangerous?", by Dr. Nielson. I will show the original text in blue and my comments in regular black font. (Due to length and redundancy of content, a few comments near the end were omitted.)
First, fundamentalism is an "ism" and like so many of the other "isms" (gnosticism, Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventism, etc.) that have plagued Christianity over the centuries, it is a dangerous heresy. Each of these "isms' is characterized by making something other than Christ central.
Can we not see the "broad brush" concept at work here, characterizing all "isms" as being equal and painting them the same color? Claims of heresy are easy to make and it works equally well in either direction. To show just how easy it is, I now accuse them of a heretical ultra-liberal interpretation of the Bible! Who is right and who is wrong here? Obviously, the reader will have to make that determination. But for the life of me, I cannot figure out how those of us who emphasize the deity and Lordship of Jesus Christ can legitimately be accused of making something else central!
The greatest danger associated with fundamentalism (whether Christian, Mormon, or Islamic) is that the statements of fundamentalists sound so true. Christians frequently listen to a fundamentalist preacher and agree with every word. Many fundamentalist preachers are charismatic leaders and persuasive orators. They have a passion and commitment, a devotion, that we would all like to achieve in our own lives. It is easy to be moved and blessed by their messages. The problem is that they are committed to the wrong thing. They are committed to simplistic interpretations of the faith, to simplistic notions of morality and right and wrong. They are committed to cultural preservation and resistance to change. As a result they are frequently telling the people what they want to hear. They appear to have the answers to social and cultural crises and to life's problems. It all seems so simple, so clear, so easy.
Simplistic interpretations of the faith and simplistic notions of morality, right and wrong? Guilty as charged!!! When God says something is wrong--it is forever wrong and not subject to discussion. His commandments are not suggestions, as Ted Turner has put it. And in actual point of fact, no one likes change and cultural changes are no different, but Christian Fundamentalists have no agenda to preserve any particular culture--so that claim is completely bogus. But we do offer to people the distilled wisdom of the ages as being the answer to life's problems and if that message seems "so simple, so clear, so easy...."--so be it.
Dr. Neilson, in his excellent article "Religion's Role in the Terroristic Attack of September 11, 2001," addresses the questions "What makes something fundamentalist?" and "How did this worldview influence the terrorist actions?" He says, in part,
The overarching theme to the fundamentalist, whether Muslim or Christian, is that God is to be worshipped, respected, feared & obeyed above all else. All other considerations take a back seat to God. This intense and abiding devotion means that there are some things that are completely, utterly non-negotiable. In this way, it is like viewing the world as being black and white, with little if any gray between that which is good and that which is evil. Accompanying this is a tendency toward literalism. If scripture says that Noah built an ark, put two of each type of animal throughout the world on it, and that they sailed on that boat while the entire earth was flooded, then it happened. No questions need be asked; it happened, regardless of whether it is logically consistent with what we know about animals, floods, ancient ships or the geological record.
The good Dr. Neilson flagrantly understates his case with the phrase, "a tendency to literalism..." A genuine Christian Fundamentalist takes a literal approach to the Bible, period, with no "tendency" involved! So once again, we must plead Guilty as charged!!! Are we beginning to detect the distinct odor of extreme Liberalism here (which I must point out is also an "ism")?
An important element of the fundamentalist mindset is the rejection of modernism. Contemporary western values are inconsistent with God's values and with His will for humanity. People's duty is to worship God, not to ignore or ridicule Him. God's rules are clear and they are to be enforced and respected, not flaunted. As a result, fundamentalists have very conservative views on social issues. The fundamentalist finds media portrayals of sex, inappropriate gender roles, and many other elements of Western culture to be abominations completely out of harmony with God's will. God does not like it, doesn't tolerate it, and neither do God's devoted followers.
Yes, we do reject "modernism" if it is properly defined, i.e., a drift, or defection, from the authority of the Scriptures. And as some preacher years ago put it, "If God spares America, He will owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology!" We find the implied consent to ungodly "Western culture" and the sarcasm behind the man's words to be reprehensible and an affront to all that was taught by Jesus Christ Himself.
But how can anyone who claims to be a Christian disagree with a statement such as "God is to be worshipped, respected, feared & obeyed above all else. All other considerations take a back seat to God?" If God is God, the supreme, omnipotent, omniscient, creator and Lord of everything, and everyone, how can we do anything except put God first?
The problem with fundamentalism is not that fundamentalists put God first. The problem is that they do not put God first. They put a particular simplistic, limited, human understanding of God above all else. In most cases the fundamentalist understanding of God's will for mankind is that God wants things to be the way they used to be. God's laws are the ones we were taught since we were young. Fundamentalists then become neither Christian or Islam but rather defenders of the culture, dedicated to the preservation of "all we hold dear." In this regard, Christian fundamentalists are a lot more like the Pharisees than they are like Christ. Christ was a cultural and social revolutionary who disregarded the conventions of polite society, broke the religious laws regularly, associated with the "wrong crowd," and generally challenged the emptiness and superficiality of societies traditions and beliefs. Christ was crucified, at least partly, for being a modernist and an ethical relativist. If Christ came to live among us in the 21'st century, the fundamentalists would have him crucified again, not because they hate Christ, but because they would not recognize him.
Now we are getting down to the heart of the matter. We are accused of holding to a "simplistic, limited, human understanding of God" and that we put this understanding above all else. You know what? The fellow is half right! We do have a simplistic, limited, human understanding of God because He is infinite and all we can know of Him is that which He has revealed to us through His Word. But what we hold dear above all else is His clearly stated principles and precepts--most of which are beyond the capability of our finite minds to fully grasp. Yet, in spite of our inherent weakness, we believe what He has said even if we do not fully comprehend it. And we try to be obedient to His commandments--all the while realizing we fall far short of the perfect standard the Lord left for us to follow.
Then our simplistic understanding of God's will for mankind is that He wants things to be the way they used to be? In other words, the inference is that God places no particular value on His people maintaining a timeless standard of conduct--because "times change" and we must change with them or lose touch with a constantly evolving society. To believe in and attempt to live by His commandments, they assert, is merely cultural because we were taught Bible stories as children. And we are actually pitiful creatures desperately clinging to "all that we hold dear"--like salmon trying to swim upstream against a torrent of inevitable change. And in one of the slickest sleights of hand imaginable, we suddenly become more like Pharisees than Christ--all because of that resistance to change!
What did God say about change? Listen carefully, Dr. Neilsen:
"For I am the LORD, I change not." [Mal 3:6]
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." [Heb 13:8]
Did God say that His people should adopt modern thoughts and methods, especially if they contradicted His commands?
"Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein." [Jer 6:16]
Let us examine a scholarly commentary to Jeremiah 6:16 to gain even more insight.
"The soul needs rest; it can only find this by walking in the good way. The good way is that which has been trodden by the saints from the beginning: it is the old way, the way of faith and holiness. BELIEVE, LOVE, OBEY; be holy, and be happy. This is the way; let us inquire for it, and walk in it. But these bad people said, We will not walk in it. Then they took another way, walked over the precipice, and fell into the bottomless pit; where, instead of rest, they find:-
a fiery deluge, fed
With ever- burning sulfur, unconsumed." Adam Clarke's Commentary
Unfortunately, as everyone who follows the advice of Dr. Neilson are going to find "a fiery deluge, fed with ever- burning sulfur, unconsumed."
You see, Jesus warned us about Dr. Neilson and his rejection of the narrow path of Fundamentalism:
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide
is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there
be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,
which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. [Matt
The good Dr. Neilson should carefully consider Jesus' warning, while it is still time to turn off that broad road he is on and on which he is urging others to follow. The entire unsaved world listens to this falsehood and nods their collective heads approvingly, not realizing they will continue to a short pace on the Broad Road that leads to destruction, the end of which is a "fiery deluge, fed with ever- burning sulfur, unconsumed."
Jesus Christ Upheld God's Law But Disregarded Man's Traditions
Next we are fed the standard New Age tripe about Jesus Christ being "a cultural and social revolutionary who disregarded the conventions of polite society." Totally false and ridiculous nonsense! The Lord Jesus Christ opposed the accumulated traditions of men which had become a caricature of God's Law. Hundreds of years of rabbinical tradition had totally encrusted the real was delivered to Moses on Mt. Sinai, making it an unbearable burden--one that was imposed upon others by the Pharisees, but not adhered to themselves. And the Lord used every opportunity to show the common people just how far the Law had been changed, by teaching them the original intent. Of course this scandalized the religious elite (Pharisees) --which was the desired effect--but the "conventions of polite society" were never disregarded or violated. To accuse the Lord of such intentional breaches of etiquette is, at the very least ignorant, and blasphemous at worst! Yes, He deliberately challenged the interpretations of the Pharisees, but kept the Law of Moses perfectly. He was (and still is) the Lamb of God Who went to the cross as a sinless sacrifice!
Then to add insult to injury, the claim is made that "Christ was crucified, at least partly, for being a modernist and an ethical relativist." This, my friends, is blasphemy--pure and simple. As we have already noted, a modernist is one who deviates from the authority of the Scriptures--a charge that can never be legitimately leveled at our Lord and Savior because He constantly quoted the original Scriptures, seeking to do the Father's will in everything. But, an "ethical relativist" is one who practices what is now termed "situational ethics"--in other words, the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by the situation at hand. What is wrong in one situation may be perfectly legitimate in another. It is all relative, they claim, and to accuse the Lord of such behavior is absolute blasphemy.
Additionally, the charge that Christian Fundamentalists would crucify the Lord today because we would not recognize Him, is so low and hateful as to be unworthy of further comment.
Let us listen to Dr. Neilson again:
A major problem with fundamentalism is that fundamentalists believe they know Gods will for mankind. Fundamentalists believe that they know the truth, that their understanding is 100% accurate and there can be no questioning it and no compromise. Their position is "utterly non-negotiable." They believe they know what is right, wrong, moral, and immoral. They have been told that their beliefs are the truth because they are literal and directly from the Bible and therefore cannot be questioned. There is only one interpretation of the Bible allowed and that is the one they have been taught.
As Dr. Neilson notes, this arises from a tendency toward literalism. Literalism, however, is used by fundamentalists as an excuse for the rigidity of their beliefs. (For more on this see the article Biblical Literalism)
Folks, God's will for mankind is set forth in the Bible in terms that are unambiguously stated. And those who believe God have no trouble understanding them--which brings to mind an incident related by Samuel Clemens, the author known as "Mark Twain." I do not remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect that as he passed by a fellow who was leafing through a Bible, the man said to him, "What I don't understand about this Bible bothers me." To that Clemens replied, "What I do know about the Bible bothers me!" Deep down, these men know the Bible says what it means and means what it says, but they are determined to cover their blatant unbelief with smokescreens such as, " They have been told that their beliefs are the truth...."
Having strong beliefs is one thing. We all have strong beliefs that we are unwilling to change or reevaluate. Everyone has to have something to believe in and we can't be constantly questioning everything. But where fundamentalism crosses the line and becomes dangerous and destructive is when fundamentalists refuse to allow anyone to have beliefs different from them. It is clearly the case that persons of strong character will refuse to compromise their beliefs. But fundamentalists consider it compromise to let you believe what you want to believe if it is different from their beliefs. So for example, some fundamentalists who believe that abortion is murder are unwilling to allow others to disagree with them. They are not satisfied to refuse to have abortions themselves and to teach their children and fellow believers to do the same; they feel compelled to work to get laws passed which will prevent anyone from getting an abortion. In point of fact, many thoughtful Christians have decided that abortion should be legal, at least in some circumstances. The fundamentalists think those who disagree with them are wrong and some are willing to take extreme measures (terroristic threatening, murdering abortion doctors, bombing abortion clinics, and other terrorist tactics) to prevent those who disagree with them from acting on their beliefs.
We all knew where this diatribe was headed and now we have finally reached it! Misguided brethren (if in fact they are brethren at all), continue to commit despicable acts of violence and civil disobedience under the banner of "Christian" and thus incur the label of "Fundamentalist" by those who do not know the essential difference. Are such actions correct and justified? Absolutely not! Although a true Fundamentalist abhors abortion and recognizes it as being murder of the unborn, by God's grace we will not--we must not--make bad situations worse and violate the commandments of God by murdering the abortion provider or burning their clinic down. Do we disagree with abortion? Yes! Passionately! Do we preach against those who practice it? Yes! Do we engage in violent protest? God forbid! Therefore, we feel it necessary to speak out against the oversized brush being wielded by those who write such articles as this and ask that it not be used in painting us all with the same hue.
We do not kill innocent men, women, and children by becoming suicide bombers as do so-called "Fundamentalist" Moslems. We hate no one and persecute no one. Our disagreement with the views of others is usually expressed through sermons to our own congregations--with occasional letters voicing concern to public officials, etc., intended to stress issues that are based upon the Scriptures. And as long as we retain the right to vote, we will vigorously support those whom we feel will best represent us and "what we hold dear" in Congress and our State governments.
However, we do have to stop to recognize that the armies of Roman Catholicism have slaughtered many people who did not share their unbiblical beliefs. Too many people still today equate Catholicism with Christianity, when nothing could be further from the truth. As we detail in our "What Saith Rome" section, Catholicism is a counterfeit Christianity, and not even a good one at that. Still, Dr. Neilson may very well be thinking of the outragous acts of Catholicism when he makes some of his statements.
Fundamentalism is incompatible with freedom of religion. The basis of freedom of religion is respect for other people's right to disagree with you. To have freedom of religion, you must respect the right of others to believe something that you think is wrong. For example, Christians who believe you can "fall from grace" (i.e.: loose [sic] your salvation) must allow other Christians who believe in "eternal security" (i.e.: once saved always saved) to be wrong and visa versa. Unfortunately, our founding fathers, did not understand this. They were persecuted in Europe for disagreeing with the "state church." So they came to this country to set up colonies in which they could believe their way (which they were convinced was the only right way). Then when people moved into the colony who disagreed with them, they persecuted them for their beliefs in the same ways that they had been persecuted in the old country. A good example of this is the persecution of the Baptists in the Virginia colony. Even Patrick Henry who defended some of the Baptists and got them out of jail was reluctant (at first) to endorse measures which would have guaranteed freedom of worship in Virginia. An understanding of what it means to have freedom of religion has been developing only very slowly in the United States and the need to respect others beliefs is still not accepted and understood by a sizable segment of our population. There are still a lot of so-called "Christians" who cannot understand the embarrassment and discomfort of a Jewish or Islamic child who must stand quietly in the classroom while a teacher prays "in Jesus name."
Although it may be surprising to some, we actually agree in principle with the last paragraph! As the term is currently being misused, "Fundamentalism" is incompatible with freedom of religion. Intolerance backed by the edge of a sword, or the muzzle of a gun, or the threat of a suicide bomber is certainly not freedom to worship as one chooses. We also acknowledge that some brethren continue to go overboard in trying to press the issue that America was established as a Christian nation--when the facts say otherwise. In their zeal they mistakenly would have us overlook the religious rights of other citizens who do not worship Jesus Christ and in doing so violate the very Constitutional right they claim as their own!
Fundamentalism is incompatible with Christianity. Christianity is the religion of freedom. It is the religion of tolerance and diversity. Christianity is a religion for all peoples in all cultures in all times. Fundamentalism is dedicated to cultural homogeneity and fixed behavior patterns, to unchanging traditions and conventions for governing social interactions. Christianity is not about going to other lands and cultures and teaching the natives to wear western style clothing and to fill out the front of their offering envelopes. Fundamentalism is about condemning sin when you see it and taking a stand for what is "right." Christianity is about caring for the sinner as much as the saint, it is about understanding the factors that contribute to destructive behavior and leading those who have destroyed themselves, their families, and their friends to healing and forgiveness. Fundamentalists would have us believe that they are the guardians of Christian fundamentals but they are not. The [sic] are the guardians of their own position, culture, and power. There are Christian fundamentals (see article "What Christians Believe" for a summary) and many fundamentalists hold to some or all of the Christian fundamentals. However, it is this similarity to Christianity that makes fundamentalism so dangerous.
In all fairness we must accept the fact that rigidity of position has earned us many enemies among those who "profess" Christ. There have been, and there continues to be among our number those who enjoy a good fight and apparently look for one whenever possible, but being pugnacious is not a fruit of the Spirit. Also it is admitted that some missionaries of various denominations have made what in reality was honest mistakes in trying to westernize converts in foreign lands by teaching them our cultural values. However, Fundamentalism is about condemning sin when you see it and taking a stand for what the Bible says is right. Sin is timeless, because what God said was wrong yesterday will still be wrong tomorrow--regardless of how many cultural changes take place. Genuine Christianity is a narrow path (Matthew 7:14), not a wide, liberal, paved boulevard (Matthew 7:13).
Further, following the teachings of Jesus Christ, as we find them in God's Word, will get you in trouble and bring persecution--if you live it to the degree He commanded!!!!
Fundamentalism is a Christian heresy. Fundamentalism is incompatible with freedom of religion. It is incompatible with democracy. Growing fundamentalism is a threat to the work of Christ, to society, to our country, and to our freedom. We must all work to expose the dangers of fundamentalism.
In closing, we will ask the reader to refect upon some common sense questions. Is not the freezing and boiling points of water (at sea level) very narrowly defined? Did not God make these constants a part of His creation? Have they ever changed? Are they ever likely to change? Did He not define specific sins in like manner and condemn those commit them? Think about it.
In like manner, God has fixed His moral law so they never change. Therefore, we Christians who hold fast and literally to the Word of God cannot change from what the Bible commands. True Christians never force anyone who believes differently to "convert" to our way of belief; we may pray for them and earnestly argue our point, but when everything is said and done, a true Christian walks away to leave the person to belief what he wants to believe.
Most of the points by Dr. Nielson are sheer nonsense, but they do serve one major purpose: they whip up the undiscerning masses to a frenzy against true Christians -- Fundamentalists. Jesus commended one group of Christians for being Fundamentalist and He promised them that He would keep them from the trials coming upon the earth, to try to whole earth. Listen:
"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upo
Who are the people living at the End of the Age who have "kept the word of my patience"? Since the "Word" is the Word of God, the Bible, we know that Jesus is promising the people who literally take His Word -- His Bible -- and strive to live their lives patiently by the Bible, that He will keep them from the "hour" of trial.
What is the definition of "Fundamentalism"? By Dr. Neilson's own definition, "fundamentalists" are those who literally take the commandments of the Bible and live their lives by them, refusing to compromise clearly stated beliefs. As Jesus said: "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, i.e., been Fundamental to His Faith", He shall protect us through the Rapture of the Church!
When the Bible says, "Thus saith the Lord", the commandment which follows is not negotiable, as many people will discover to their horror on Judgment Day -- the White Throne Judgment.
It is a sign of the times when such an article as Dr. Nielson's could be written and believed by the masses of the people. When this type of uninformed diatribe can be written and believed, we are most definitely at the End of the Age.
Are you spiritually ready? Is your family? Are you adequately protecting your loved ones? This is the reason for this ministry, to enable you to first understand the peril facing you, and then help you develop strategies to warn and protect your loved ones. Once you have been thoroughly trained, you can also use your knowledge as a means to open the door of discussion with an unsaved person. I have been able to use it many times, and have seen people come to Jesus Christ as a result. These perilous times are also a time when we can reach many souls for Jesus Christ, making an eternal difference.
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
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