OK, so I confess: sometimes I write articles just so that I can showcase what somebody else has written. There is a lotta good stuff out there, and sometimes I just wish to draw your attention to it, and give it an even wider hearing. So that is what this piece is basically all about.
And it is about fundamentalists. These people of course are the scum of the earth and the cause of all our woes – or so the secular left and the religious left would have you believe. And with Muslim terrorists regularly referred to as fundamentalists, the term has simply become one of negative connotations – it is now a pejorative word only.
So it is worth asking just what is fundamentalism, at least in terms of its Christian heritage. I in fact have written about this elsewhere: https://billmuehlenberg.com/1999/07/26/what-is-fundamentalism/
Instead of reinventing the wheel, let me now simply quote part of that earlier article:
Historically, fundamentalism arose in America in the late nineteenth century. It was a reaction against several perceived threats to orthodox Protestant faith. Those threats included Darwinism, German higher (biblical) criticism, and the study of comparative religions, all of which were seen as challenging old assumptions about the authority of biblical revelation.
Fundamentalism was also a reaction to another perceived threat of the day, the so-called “social gospel” movement. Led by such figures as Washington Gladden and Walter Rauschenbusch, the social gospellers tended to equate the gospel with the improvement of the human condition, by means of social and institutional changes, and it tended to minimise personal conversion and the spiritual elements of the Christian faith. (In a sense the social gospel was a precursor to the modern “theologies of liberation”.)
In the early twentieth century, two wealthy California oilmen, Lyman and Milton Stewart, anonymously financed a series of books in defence of basic Protestant beliefs. A series of twelve small books were published in Chicago between 1910 and 1915, containing articles and essays designed to defend fundamental Christian truths against biblical criticism and modern theology. The Fundamentals, as they were called, were penned by 64 authors from America, England, Scotland and Canada. The eighty-three articles were written from a number of perspectives, including Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, and Independent. Three million copies of the books were sent free to every Protestant minister, theological student, missionary and Christian worker then known.
The Fundamentals covered a wide range of topics, defending Protestant orthodoxy from a number of real or imagined enemies, including atheism, socialism, modern philosophy, Mormonism, spiritualism, Romanism, and above all, liberal theology. The multitude of fundamentals was soon reduced to a more manageable number however. By the 1920s five or six essential doctrines were generally recognised, among them the deity of Christ, the virgin birth of Christ, Christ’s bodily resurrection, the substitutionary atonement of Christ and the inerrancy of Scripture.
In attempting to stave off the assaults of modernism, theological liberalism and secularism, fundamentalists tended to develop a “siege mentality” – that is, they tended to become more and more insular and isolated from the greater culture around them. Indeed, they became in the real sense of the word, “counter-culturalists”.
By the 1940s the fundamentalists had evolved into two separate camps. One group, which came to be called the “evangelicals”, regarded the other group as too intolerant, obscurantist and anti-intellectual. The latter, still referring to themselves as “fundamentalists”, were largely self-defined in terms of personal piety and separatism. Thus they were easily caricaturised as those who “don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t go to movies, don’t play cards…” The evangelicals, on the other hand, were more open to modern science, to academia, to culture in general and to awareness of social issues. The evangelicals were represented by men like Billy Graham and Carl F.H. Henry, magazines like Christianity Today, and institutions like Wheaton College and Fuller Theological Seminary. Both groups however shared an equal commitment to the basic fundamentals of Protestant orthodoxy, and both groups were keen to evangelise, or preach the gospel of personal salvation.
OK, with that background information in place, I can now move to what I have wanted to get to all along. I just was tipped off to it today, but it has been around for a while. It is a little piece by John Piper which he wrote back in June 2, 2008. I love it, so without any further ado or commentary, here it is:
20 Reasons I Don’t Take Potshots at Fundamentalists
1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny (the ones I’ve met).
2. They believe in truth.
3. They believe that truth really matters.
4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it.
5. They know that the Bible calls for some kind of separation from the world.
6. They have backbone and are not prone to compromise principle.
7. They put obedience to Jesus above the approval of man (even though they fall short, like others).
8. They believe in hell and are loving enough to warn people about it.
9. They believe in heaven and sing about how good it will be to go there.
10. Their “social action” is helping the person next door (like Jesus), which doesn’t usually get written up in the newspaper.
11. They tend to raise law-abiding, chaste children, in spite of the fact that Barna says evangelical kids in general don’t have any better track record than non-Christians.
12. They resist trendiness.
13. They don’t think too much is gained by sounding hip.
14. They may not be hip, but they don’t go so far as to drive buggies or insist on typewriters.
15. They still sing hymns.
16. They are not breathless about being accepted in the scholarly guild.
17. They give some contemporary plausibility to New Testament claim that the church is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.”
18. They are good for the rest of evangelicals because of all this.
19. My dad was one.
20. Everybody to my left thinks I am one. And there are a lot of people to my left.