Hindrances to a Healthy Fundamentalism

July 11, 2019

In 1993 Doug McLachlan wrote a book entitled, Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism. In the first chapter of this book, he lists out ten "hindrances to a balanced [I'd say healthy] Fundamentalism." After reading these ten hindrances, I began wondering if Christian Fundamentalism has made any strides in these areas, 26 years after he suggested them. See what you think. Below are the first three he mentions, followed by some of his supporting words, as well as my own thoughts as a "younger" fundamentalist.

 

 Hindrance #1 - Being Better Fighters than Builders.

 

He writes, "Fundamentalists have developed a reputation for exalting polemics over apologetics." "This reputation means that we sometimes find it easier to attack another's point of view than to defend our own; that we are too often better known for caustic criticisms of perceived error than for careful defenses of revealed truth." - page 5

 

"It seems to me that we have lost more men to the cause of Fundamentalism because of the ugliness of our spirit rather than the content of our message, by our disposition rather than by our position." - page 6

 

I have at least found aspects of this in modern fundamentalist circles. I think with the group of younger men who have seen this trend in years past, there has been an effort to soften that caustic disposition towards those who differ with us. There are, of course, exceptions to that. However, I still believe there is much work that needs to be done to continue to correct this hindrance.

 

Hindrance #2 - Behaving Brazenly and Abrasively rather than Boldly

 

"Unfortunately, there has been a perception among some fundamentalists that one has not spoken either Biblically or boldly unless he has spoken meanly or harshly." - page 8

 

Speaking loudly or harshly does not mean speaking Biblically or boldly. In our desire to be "fightin' fundamentalists" we have sometimes fought with a meanness or harshness that turns people away from the message that needs to be proclaimed. For instance, the issues that we face today in areas of gender and marriage have to be addressed in thoroughly Biblical and bold ways, but without the venom and vitriol that will harm the cause of Christ. 

 

This problem is related to the first one, and also still needs some honest evaluation and correction within modern fundamentalists. 

 

Hindrance #3 - Focusing on Mechanical Forms rather than Biblical Principles

 

"At the heart of this problem is our inability to think principially rather than mechanically. We fail to see that, while the message is inflexible, the methodology is versatile. Within the Biblical parameters methods may change without compromise. This refusal to govern our thinking by principles means that we begin to absolutize non-absolutes so that methods become tyrants rather than servants. The result is that authentic ministry is actually stifled by the idolization of one particular method." - page 9

 

I still see this as a significant problem in general fundamentalism. Theology must rule over philosophy and methodology. Methods can change within the framework of a robust and orthodox theology and philosophy of ministry. Pragmatism is not what is called for, but a Biblical flexibility to make certain changes that are in keeping with that robust and orthodox theology and philosophy. 

 

When churches make changes with regards to service times on Sunday, the usage of translations other than the KJV, cancellation of church activities, etc. it should not automatically be viewed as a "slippery slope." Forms that were present in the first century church are not always going to look like the forms in the 21st century church. 

 

Change for the sake of change, or done for pragmatic "fear of man" reasons are unbiblical in nature and need to be confronted. While pragmatism tends to "work" it does not mean that it is right, Biblical, or blessed by God. The fear of man always brings a snare. Biblical truth and principle must be studied and applied appropriately to the 21st century church, and those applications may vary to a degree from church to church. 

 

Yet within modern fundamentalism, there is (from my perspective) a fair amount of "absolutizing non-absolutes so that the methods become tyrants rather than servants." This needs to be honestly confronted.

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