Matthew Fitzsimmons

I am/am not/am a Fundamentalist

For those of you who don't know, I was raised an IFB (Independent Fundamental Baptist). Over time, as is obvious from my articles on baptism, I have become a Presbyterian instead of a Baptist, so I have dropped that part of the label. As a Presbyterian, I am also no longer part of a completely independent church, so there goes that part (although there are Free Presbyterians, there aren't any around here). The independent/non independent I don't really see as a huge issue either way (although I'm sure there are many who would differ with me on that issue on both sides.)Now let's look at the middle part of the label, which is also the most important (to me and to the ones who claim the label).First, let's list the Fundamentals, as defined by the originators of the movement:

  1. Biblical inerrancy
  2. The divinity of Jesus
  3. The Virgin Birth
  4. The belief that Jesus died to redeem humankind
  5. An expectation of the Second Coming, or physical return, of Jesus Christ to initiate his thousand-year rule of the Earth, which came to be known as the Millennium.

In regards to this list, I believe completely the first four, and I also believe that Christ will physically return. I do not necessarily believe that the Millennium will be inaugurated at the second coming, but I also don't believe that belongs in the list.Here's an evolved list as found on the American Council of Christian Churches website, and adopted by other Fundamentalist organizations:

  1. The plenary Divine inspiration of the Scriptures in the original languages, their consequent inerrancy and infallibility, and as the Word of God, the supreme and final authority in faith and life.
  2. The Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  3. The essential, absolute, eternal Deity and the real and proper, but sinless, humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. His birth of the Virgin Mary.
  5. His substitutionary, expiatory death, in that He gave His life “a ransom for many.”
  6. His resurrection from among the dead in the body in which He was crucified, and the second coming of this same Jesus in power and great glory.
  7. The total depravity of man through the fall.
  8. Salvation, the effect of regeneration by the Spirit and the Word, not by works, but by grace through faith.
  9. The everlasting bliss of the saved, and the everlasting suffering of the lost.
  10. The real spiritual unity in Christ of all redeemed by His precious blood.
  11. The necessity of maintaining according to the Word of God, the purity of the Church in doctrine and life.

This list is more complete, and it also leaves out the requirement of pre-millennialism. There is nothing on this list that I disagree with. I believe all of these things wholeheartedly.So, according to these items, except the aforementioned exception, I am a Fundamentalist. Maybe this will give some peace of mind to those family members and friends I grew up with.But there is more to the story. Fundamentalism has come to imply (because of the beliefs and actions of many in its ranks) much more than the fundamentals of the faith. If it were only a few, that would be one thing. However, there are many people who have added so much to the fundamentals that they drive others away. Let's look at some of these things.

Legalism

Many fundamentalists set up restrictions on themselves that are not given in Scripture, and then expect others to follow the same standards. They decide that these issues denote worldliness, and want to impose their feelings on others. The fact that they set these standards up for themselves is fine, but there is no reason that they should try to push these standards on other Christians. They don't understand the liberty that Christ gives.The danger of this goes beyond just the strife this creates among believers. When they realize that they have no biblical reasons to push these beliefs on others, they take their standards and try to push them back upon Scripture. This is a very dangerous practice.Let me give an example of this. I was recently involved in a discussion of alcohol with some fundamentalists. The arguments against alcohol consisted basically of two things:

  1. Alcohol is worldly and I'm ashamed that you would even consider partaking of such a thing.
  2. Wine is mentioned in the Bible, but the word doesn't always really mean wine. It only means wine when it is referring to something bad, and it means grape juice when it's referring to something good, or when it's being drunk by someone good.

The problem with the first assertion is that it is a construct they have built up in their own mind. They say “I have lot's of biblical reasons for this,” but when prompted they cannot come up with any of them.The problem with the second view is that it was invented in the era of temperance/prohibition to try to come up with a biblical reason for temperance. As near as I can tell, this view did not exist before the prohibition era, and yet many fundamentalists are still trying to read this view into the Bible.What is most scary about this is that it is evidence of a carelessness with Scripture that doesn't belong in a movement that claims as their belief, “The plenary Divine inspiration of the Scriptures in the original languages, their consequent inerrancy and infallibility, and as the Word of God, the supreme and final authority in faith and life.”

Lack of Godly Unity

Another problem I have with Fundamentalists is that they take doctrines that are un-essential and not nearly as important as the Fundamentals, and put them on the same level as the true fundamentals. They then use these imagined “fundamentals” as reasons to separate from other children of God, or use them as a matter of pride. This is uncalled for since we are called by God to have a unity that will be a testimony to the world that we love one another. Here are some examples of these issues:

  1. Eschatology
  2. Dispensationalism
  3. Music
  4. Baptism
  5. Drinking
  6. Smoking
  7. Movies
  8. Arminianism
  9. Issues of Christian Liberty
  10. Whether or not women wear pants
  11. KJV Only

The problem with this attitude, aside from the fact that it creates false divisions in the body of Christ, is that it is an attitude that Paul calls “deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” in 1 Timothy 4:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

The general attitude of fundamentalism is to deny ourselves as much as possible, similar to the attitude of monks (although monks are at least fond of alcohol). This flies in the face of the teaching of Paul.Now I know that there are people in fundamentalism who don't show these attitudes. Sadly, however, the general tone of fundamentalism has these problems and more. I am therefore unwilling to take upon myself the name of “Fundamentalist.”I am a fundamentalist according to what I believe (and what fundamentalists claim to believe) are the fundamentals of the faith, but I refuse to take the title.