A New Breed of Fundamentalist
The word “fundamentalist” is used for several different religions including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. The term usually denotes someone who takes his religion seriously, and even more seriously than many others within his particular religion. And many times the term is used to portray someone who is inflexible, judgmental, and who seems to speak and behave in a decidedly acrimonious and sanctimonious way. And as I have said, that caricature moves between different religions.
We as Christians have heard the word “fundamentalist” as it pertains to a certain type of believer. Although the term has been nuanced within the Christian doctrinal community, it still has both a demeaning as well as a sense of honor connotation. Some use it as a rock, while others wear it as a badge. Of course the word does not appear in Scripture like many other words used by evangelicals (also not in the Scriptures).
But these fundamentalists are known principally by their doctrinal beliefs and their willingness to defend those beliefs aggressively. The deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the inerrancy of Scripture, and salvation by faith alone are some of the primary doctrinal beliefs that usually define a fundamentalist. Some refer to them as “fighting fundamentalists” since they are prone to militancy, not only in the core beliefs, but in many others that may not be tethered to salvation. And many times their infighting defines them as well.
But some of us have reached a point where we believe a new breed of fundamentalists is long overdue. Not a breed that rejects the doctrinal beliefs of the former fundamentalists, but a kind that is recognized and defined by a different standard. These fundamentalists are known for their militant stand on love; and their militant stand on grace; and their militant stand on forgiveness; and their militant stand on redemption; and their imperfect yet continuing pursuit of luminous humility within a culture of boastful darkness.
When people refer to “fundamentalist Christians”, why aren’t they acknowledging their implicit and explicit lifestyles and speech that are overt revelations of the teachings and life example of Jesus? In short, why is there not more identity associated with life doctrines rather than an overwhelming dependence on written doctrines? And when our written doctrines define us significantly more than our lives, then we have reconstructed the tablets of Moses at the expense of living, breathing epistles of the Spirit.
It is a tragedy of the Spirit when some believers set up a doctrinal fortress and train and retrain incessantly using the same set of important truths but never leave that fortress robed in other important truths that disarm sinners with the weapons of love and faith. I am not sure anyone ever came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ because someone told him about the Trinity; however I believe many have been converted through an imperfect believer who reached out in love and compassion, even when the unsaved sinner was disgusting and demonstrative.
I was an associate pastor in New York City in the early 1980’s, and one of the other pastors had been a member of the motorcycle gang called the Pagans. They are a large and notorious gang that has a record of violence and drugs. This man, named Tom, began to date a backslidden Christian and led her into a sinful lifestyle. The girlfriend’s mother was a strong believer, and God had burdened her heart not only for her daughter, but for this man Tom. One day, led by the Spirit, this little woman marched right into the Pagan’s clubhouse and asked for Tom. When someone pointed him out, the lady walked right up to him and said,
“Tom, you are dating my daughter. I want you to know that Jesus loves you and so do I, and I am going to pray that you meet Jesus.”
As she walked out of the clubhouse all the bikers were astounded at her boldness. Three months later Tom was saved, left the gang at great risk, and entered Bible College to become a preacher. This little woman could have castigated these men, and she could have looked for and found news clippings about their sinful ways and recent arrests. But instead, she walked in redemption rather than moral outrage; she walked in Jesus rather than the accuser.
And a true “fundamentalists” should be known for an active life of redemption and the ministry of reconciliation. The doctrines about which we will not compromise must include more than just a list of five or six “cardinal” doctrines. We must be militant about our love; nonnegotiable about our grace; and fierce about our forgiveness. Our humility must be aggressive, and unless we are recognized by our projection of the gospel-Jesus rather than an Old Testament Jesus, we are in fact compromisers.
The pride and self adulating aura that is sometimes present in fundamentalist circles does despite to the gospel and the manifestation of the ministry of Jesus. Of course the Lord has revealed truth to us and has every right to expect us to adhere to and teach those truths, however there are more truths than just those which have an “ology” as their suffix. It is past time that Christian fundamentalists are not lumped in with those from other religions. It is time we are known for our fundamental and unwavering expression of the life and character of the Lord Jesus, as well as our commitment to His exclusive offering of redemption through Himself.
Unless God raises up a new breed of “fundamentalist”, the world will continue to view us as truth warriors rather than Jesus mirrors.