By Larry Rogier
This article is being continued from part one.
A fundamentalist is secondly committed to the honor of and defense of those doctrines, through teaching, confrontation and exposure of false doctrine, and separation if need be. The Bible commands that we separate from those who teach falsely””contrary to what we have learned in Scripture. One cannot be obedient and one cannot love God truly without practicing this separation. Such separation is based on core doctrines clearly revealed, not on doctrines of dispute, or doctrines that are so called “minor” doctrines. (One of the great lacks in fundamentalism, in my opinion, is the lack of agreement about which doctrines fit this category. But again, that is another topic, and I must hurry on.) Fundamentalists should be strongly committed to biblical unity, unity based on the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.” Where that faith is not held in high esteem, unity is a farce. To fail to separate in such cases is not an act of love for the body of Christ, but rather an act of disdain for God and the body of Christ which He has saved. Such separation should not be taken lightly, nor undertaken hastily. In some cases, separation has taken place over a number of years. But it must be undertaken for the sake of God and his truth, and for the sake of the body.
Have some fundamentalists taken separation too far? Absolutely. Have some fundamentalists behaved in unseemly ways? Without question. Have fundamentalists been guilty of judgmentalism? No doubt. Are some fundamentalists unable to see past their own views? Certainly. But the sine qua non of fundamentalism is different than that. Fundamentalism is about people who love God more than men, about people who love God’s word more than they love the approval of others. It is about people who love God and his truth enough to honor it with a hearty defense and separation when need be. I will not defend people who claim the name of fundamentalist and do stupid things. Quite frankly, I am often embarrassed by what some “fundamentalists” do. I have told some fundamentalists that they are out of line. I have told some people they have no right to the name fundamentalist. But I also refuse to be defined by their lunacy.
Many fundamentalists believe what they believe because it well defended by Scripture, not because they are judgmental or angry. On the other hand, many fundamentalists are simply repeating what they have heard. Fundamentalists that I know are not afraid of “annihilation” as Armstrong says. In fact, I think the brightest days of fundamentalism are still ahead, in heaven if not on this earth. The theological and ecclesiastical landscape has greatly changed in the last century. The battles of Curtis Lee Laws, W. B. Riley, Bob Jones Sr., Robert Ketcham, T.T. Shields, and other great men have changed. But at stake is the truth of God’s Word and the souls of men. And those are high stakes.
Fundamentalism is broad, and there may be some intramural squabbles about where exactly the line is drawn on some issues. But these squabbles should be characterized by grace and humility in earnest contention for the faith. I am not for a “softer, gentler” fundamentalism. In fact, I think fundamentalism has grown too weak. The academic and theological substance of an earlier generation gave way to bombastic nonsense being spewed forth from behind pulpits that must have been reinforced to withstand the pounding of men trying to make weak points sound better. The personal piety and holiness has too often given way to a rigid legalism in which right standards were taught without the foundation of loving God with everything that you are, and some wrong standards were taught. But in fundamentalism, there are many with a genuine heart for God, committed to loving God with all that they are.
Fundamentalism is no new thing; it is age old Christianity applied to a modern context. Fundamentalists are not without faults and that is to our shame. But in the haste to condemn the “judgmental fundamentalists,” let us not forget that it is judgmental to make such a condemnation. In other words, those who attack fundamentalists are forced to do the very same thing they accuse fundamentalists of, namely, make judgments about someone else’s theology and obedience. And that judgment results in a de facto separation from their end.
Don’t confuse Christian fundamentalists with Islamic fundamentalists, Jewish fundamentalists, or people who parade around with “God hates fags” signs. We are different, and with good reason. Our roots are found in historic Christianity. As liberal theologian KirsoppLake put it:
It is a mistake, often made by educated persons who happen to have but little knowledge of historical theology, to suppose that Fundamentalism is a new and strange form of thought. It is nothing of the kind; it is the … survival of a theology which was once universally held by Christians … The Fundamentalist may be wrong; I think that he is. But it is we who have departed from the tradition, not he, and I am sorry for the fate of anyone who tries to argue with the Fundamentalist on the basis of authority. The Bible and the corpus theologicum of the Church is on the Fundamentalist side (in The Religion of Yesterday and To-morrow [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1925], pp. 61-62 quoted in David Beale, The Pursuit of Purity:American Fundamentalism since 18509 [Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 1986], p. 4).
I hope and pray that the church of Jesus Christ will become more unified as we draw near to the end, but that unity must begin with doctrine, and proceed from obedience.