Sunday, May 25, 2008

What is a "Fundamentalist"

I received my June 2008 copy of Christianity Today on Saturday and, while reading the letters to the editor, I noticed this response by Tim Stafford to a letter questioning an article he had written:
"Fundamentalism as I used the term is belief plus attitude. Fundamentalists draw much of their self-identity from warning against those who don't agree with them. Thus, you can speak of liberal fundamentalists, environmental fundamentalists, free-market fundamentalists, and so on. Among Christians, such attitudes led to the rise of evangelicalism, which tried to hold to biblical fundamentals in the 1940s and '50s while maintaining a more welcoming, positive attitude toward those outside. ..." -- Christianity Today, June 2008, pp 8-9
I have to agree fully with Tim Stafford here. Evidently Stafford used the word "fundamentalist" 17 times: 3 times in a positive way, twice in a neutral way, and 12 times in a negative way. Tim Stafford's original article was about Philip Yancy's crisis of faith brought on by fundamentalism at its worst, that breakdown of usage is understandable.

When a belief system feels it needs to devote a significant amount of time toward attacking people with different beliefs, it raises questions about their ability to actually defend what it is they believe.

The Lord does not require Christians to run inference; He can take care of himself. What he DOES require is for us to do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8 paraphrased). In this general set of principles can be found, I think, the ability to tell the Good News in a clear and cogent manner and to defend our beliefs in a loving, yet firm fashion.

To be sure, it would be hard to discuss Martin Luther with out some passing reference to indulgences. Or much of Reformed theology without make some sort of comparison between differing beliefs among Christians. How one makes such comparisons can be positive or destructive. Or, in other words, a discussion or a harangue.

Which is more likely to serve the Lord?

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