Love-Hate Relationship with Fundamentalism pt. 4
The Lord said the gates of hell would not prevail against it. “It” wasn’t fundamentalism.
I’ve related 16 loves and started expressing my 16 hates for fundamentalism. We left off at six. I won’t comment on every one of the final eight, but here they are.
7. Fundamentalism cultivates politics.
Who decides for fundamentalism? Wikipedia says that politics is the process by which groups of people make decisions. The online dictionary gives this as the appropriate sense that I mean: “competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership.”
Since it isn’t monolithic there are big groups within fundamentalism. You’ve got the Bob Jones group, the Hyles group, and the Sword of the Lord. Success is often judged by how prominent you become within your group. You actually might be doing the best work for God, but you’re not doing what it takes to make a name in the group.
You could become blacklisted in any of the groups. I’ve seen this work over and over. Are your sermons appearing in the paper? Speaking engagements? Conference line-ups? You could start receiving the proverbial cold-shoulder if you don’t fit into the politically correct position.
As an example, accreditation. Remember when that was wrong? Now it isn’t. What happened? What new revelation did we receive that says it’s OK now? This is when a group can start looking in a certain, specific way, like another group—Mormonism. Changing beliefs that seem to fit into unfavorable or favorable circumstances. Now Bob Jones is up for accreditation. Accreditation equals Pell grants, government subsidized loans, easy transfer of credits to state colleges and graduate schools, higher tuition without lowering enrollment. Bob Jones against accreditation. Preachers against it. Bob Jones for it. Preachers for it. Politics.
A group still in fundamentalism that is out there on the edge is Ambassador Baptist College. They take that wacky King James Version stand, except in a sensitive way. Is fundamentalism against Ambassador? No. They’re still OK. Ambassador won’t separate over the KJV. You can use a completely different Bible and they’ll still fellowship with you. But they’re not going to be respected by their branch of fundamentalism, the Bob Jones branch, by taking that position. How many NASV churches will go with Ambassador with their KJV only position? And yet, if they were to separate from the Bob Jones branch for numbers of different reasons, which would seem to be understandable, then where would they be? They stay right inside of the Bob Jones threshold of acceptability, yet without really being acceptable. They keep the fundamentalist credentials without having fundamentalist supporters. This is all politics.
I don’t think that fundamentalism had big shot syndrome to start. I think men were truly trying to keep liberalism out of their institutions. But it couldn’t help but produce big shots. Younger men came along who missed the point. Instead of being about keeping liberalism out, in many cases it became about becoming one of the big shots.
If you have an issue that you need to get settled in fundamentalism, you will find it very difficult to solve scripturally. We disciplined someone out of our church, a foreign born man who wanted to go back to his native country as a “missionary.” I’m not going to get into the details of his discipline, but he fled to another church, a fundamentalist one, which accepted him, and then recommended him to a mission board. We had a few missionaries we supported from that board. The board accepted him despite knowing that we had disciplined him out of our church. The pastor of the other church was a bigger name in fundamentalism. That’s how it all got settled with the mission board. This is the politics of fundamentalism.
8. Fundamentalism creates a false unity.
What is the basis for unity in fundamentalism? Really. You tell me. What are the core values that fundamentalists believe in? What do fundamentalists rally around?
I think separation is it. That’s the major distinctive of fundamentalism. Separation. And fundamentalism separates over what? How does it decide? Is it the gospel?
I remember getting together at FBF meetings and wondering what exactly it was we were together for. Ultimately, we were together for being against Promise Keepers. We were together for being against ecumenical evangelism, and together for being against the Evangelical-Catholic pact. Whenever I tried to talk about doctrinal issues, the eyes would glaze over. There were acceptable perimeters to the conversation. You had to find out what those were and keep within those boundaries.
Even if the church were all believers, fundamentalism isn’t the church. If fundamentalists were to somehow reason that this circle of fellowship they were in was the church, they would be excluding the non-separating evangelicals, who also believe the gospel. Not until I left fundamentalism and began fellowshiping only with people that were the same in belief and practice did I experience the true fellowship that the Bible describes. It was exhilarating and a great joy. I always felt like a fake just getting along in fundamentalism. You will experience true liberty when you base your unity on Scripture.
9. Fundamentalism often offers no due process.
This is one of Phil Johnson’s major points in Dead Right that I agreed with. He titles it “no due process.” He writes:
That’s what I mean about a lack of due process. In effect you can excommunicate or blackball someone for the rest of his earthly life simply by accusing him . . . You don’t have to demonstrate any thorough understanding of the issue you raise. Can take quotes out of context if you like. Or not. The charges don’t necessarily have to be documented. They don’t even have to be true, if you are a fundamentalist with sufficient clout. . . . Meanwhile, the public face of the fundamentalist movement is dominated by too many petty men with big egos who think “earnestly contend[ing] for the faith” means back-stabbing one another or sniping at other Christian leaders who come too close to the fundamentalist movement without actually being in the right “camp.”
Phil was in fundamentalism for a little while. With fairness to fundamentalism, Phil and his brand of evangelicalism do the same things. They don’t give due process either. They use their even bigger clout too. Phil gets his leverage from his association with John MacArthur and he wields it, interestingly enough, like a fundamentalist. He and his group are often just as mean or meaner than the fundamentalists. They’ve honed mockery and ridicule to a higher level than the secular world, something that I have to admit, I didn’t see in the fundamentalism I was in.
10. Fundamentalism is frequently mean.
All of these are my opinion. Not all of them apply to every fundamentalist. I’m looking at the movement as a whole. Fundamentalism is a warm petri dish that germinates meanness. I observed a lot of it when I was in it. When I say mean, I’m not talking about disagreeing, separating, arguing, bold discussion, or taking strong stands. Those are all fine. To get a better idea of what I’m referring to, I illustrate with a contemporary usage from popular culture: mean girls. That term and its definition covers it well. Listen to this paragraph to see if it fits:
Often the mean behavior is extremely subtle and hard to identify because it comes in the form of exclusion, which is also termed “relational aggression”. [Fundamentalists] form cliques and the “mean [fundamentalist] or [fundamentalists]” dictate who can be a part of the group and who cannot. The other, less dominant members, fear becoming an outsider and will typically go along with the leader’s mandates. What is particularly confusing to some [men] is that this exclusion is not always consistent. One day they may be in and another day they are out.
Does that paragraph sound familiar? And all I did was exchange “girls” with “fundamentalists.”
I saw a prime example recently on line in the orbiting blogosphere of SharperIron. A fundamentalist without the proper credentials, not in the club, dared question the behavior of one with the proper gentility and urbanity. The dominant club member was joined by the pack of less dominants, all coming together to maintain club status, putting down the outsider with fierce derision. Evangelicals are bad too. Just read Pyromaniacs to get a taste of it online.
There are other kinds of meanness. You’ve seen it here when the Hylots and unfortunately the Sexton apologists visit. They usually either challenge your manhood or insult this use of time relative to the great deeds of their hero. This isn’t the classic meanness of the oil variety above described.
11. Fundamentalism induces hero worship.
Pro sports has its stars. Hollywood has its celebrities. Fundamentalism has its own constellation. Do evangelicals? They say they don’t. They’re worse. They have their own top list (what fundamentalists get this type of coverage?).
12. Fundamentalism provokes a false view of success.
13. Fundamentalism many times overlooks wrong methodology.
Fundamentalists go after Hyles and his antics, Hybels and Warren and Osteen and their marketing, but they allow this pastor in downtown Denver to go unscathed—$30 and $10 for every attendee. Kids get a $7 game card.
14. Fundamentalism bristles at or rejects self-evaluation.
It’s called being divisive.
15. Fundamentalism has no promise of Divine protection or perpetuity.
Only the church.
16. Fundamentalism doesn’t keep God’s Words.
Fundamentalism cooperates with evangelicalism and/or new-evangelicalism in the corruption of Scripture. Churches have kept God’s Words. Fundamentalist para-church organizations have caused doubt in the text received by the churches. Today we have uncertainty. Churches are what have stood in the way of it going even further. For all that fundamentalism was meant to staunch the flow of liberalism, it has unplugged the dike with textual criticism in its universities and seminaries.