Being the right type of fundamentalists…

March 1, 2008

9 Marks ministries (headed up by Mark Dever) publishes a biblically sound, very helpful, practical, free e-journal bi-monthly. You can access the archives here and subscribe to the journal (to receive it by e-mail, free) here. The 9 Marks website is www.9marks.org.

The most recent edition of this journal should make for fascinating reading… I think 9 Marks has been very wise in their choice of focus for this edition, because it’s something we need to think through very thoroughly – “Christian Cooperation”. As the journal editor notes: “The gospel unites and the gospel divides. Some walls it levels and others it erects. Some temples it destroys and others it builds. But doesn’t it seem like Christians often talk of just one or the other? When they do, imbalances follow. Too much talk about separation leads to strife in the church. Too much talk about unity leads to the compromise of the church. How hard it seems to talk of both gospel unity and gospel separation, each in their proper places! How much wisdom is needed!” Amen! How much wisdom, indeed!

By way of example, consider what these pastors, interviewed in the journal (see the complete forum here), have to say about this question: What can we learn from the Christian Fundamentalists?

James MacDonald (Senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois and the author of Ancient Wisdom (B&H))

“I was raised in a Fundamentalistic Baptist church and attended a Fundamentalistic Bible college. In the negative I believe Christian Fundamentalism in North America during the last century became too focused on an extra biblical code of conduct as a measurement of orthodoxy. Many good people, who agreed with the doctrinal positions of Fundamentalism, left because they knew that “mixed bathing,” music/movie choices, and length of hair or dresses were not accurate assessments of an individual’s commitment to biblical holiness.

Worse than the legalism was the tone often expressed in enforcing these codes. Fundamentalism’s angry assessment of all who disagreed led to the oft repeated axiom, “no fun, too much damn, and not enough mental.” In my experience it was Fundamentalism’s uncharitable attitude toward those outside their camp or even toward those inside but within a different faction, that precipitated the exodus of the past 25 years.

On the positive side fundamentalism taught us to earnestly contend for the faith. They were willing to separate from people who denied the explicit statements of Scripture. They were willing to confront error and argue for biblical fidelity. That kind of courage is hard to find in the church today. Doctrinally I would consider myself a Fundamentalist, I’m just not mad about it. J

Lance Quinn (Pastor-teacher of The Bible Church of Little Rock in Little Rock, Arkansas)

“At least two important lessons can be learned from the Fundamentalists:

The Fundamentalists were protectors of the essential truths of Scripture. As the name suggests, the early Fundamentalists fought to retain the core doctrinal verities of the Christian faith. Doctrines including—but not limited to—the historicity and authority of the Bible; the deity of Jesus Christ, including belief in his virgin birth; the depravity of mankind; the vicarious, substitutionary nature of Christ’s death upon the cross; salvation by grace through faith in Christ; the pursuit of holiness; and the visible return of Jesus Christ to the earth, were absolutely non-negotiable with them. If we are their heirs in any meaningful sense, we should be mindful of their battle-scarred victories as we engage in our own truth war.

The Fundamentalists often fought over matters that exceed what is written. Later Fundamentalism unfortunately became enmeshed in areas where Scripture gives greater latitude or is silent altogether. While we can appreciate the Fundamentalists’ tight grip on the essential elements of Christianity, we must eschew their doctrinaire stances on issues which are much more secondary or tertiary. The Apostle Paul is thus our wiser guide in these areas (1 Corinthians 4:16; Romans 14:1—15:13).”

Perhaps there are areas in your life where you should be more like the historical Christian Fundamentalists, and perhaps there are some ways in which you should be less like them… May we divide where we should divide, unite where we should unite, and do both with the correct balance of grace and truth. May Scripture by our authority, as it must be in every area of life, as we seek to do so… And may God grant us the wisdom we need (James 1:5).

Philippians 1:9-11 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

~ Donovan

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