Thursday, January 22, 2009

What does being a "Fundamentalist" mean?

In my earlier post, I talked about what a "fundamentalist" is. While the connotation of "fundamentalist" is generally an unthinking reflexive believer that doesn't consider anything other than what is written in his scriptures. However, the denotation of a fundamentalist is someone who believes the following five fundamentals:

  1. Holy Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit and are inerrant because of this inspiration

  2. The Virgin Birth - such that Mary had no sexual relations prior to the conception of Jesus

  3. Christ's death on the cross atoned for our sins

  4. The physical resurrection of the dead for Jesus - the tomb is empty and Jesus' bones are not lying in a ditch somewhere.

  5. The miracles that Christ is recorded to have performed in Gospels are true and actually happened

In a comment, Andy asked what are the implications of being a fundamentalist (per the denotation).

Now libraries have been written about the implications of any one of the four and the topic is too large for the blogging format, but here is a high level crack at it.

1. If the scriptures are inspired by God, then we need to spend a lot of time in study of them and to pattern our lives after their timeless truths. That means that our definition of moral living should not contradict Holy Scripture's definition of moral living. It also means that our authority should not be internal, but external - the Holy Scriptures. Now the study of Holy Scripture is not just an individual affair, but it is something that should take place in community and, ideally, in multiple communities. There should be the community of the family, a group of friends, a Sunday school class, a congregation, a diocese, a province, the Anglican Communion and the Church Catholic.

2. If Jesus is born of a virgin, then it means that God, not man, is the ultimate source of life. We, who are grafted into the Body of Christ through our baptism, are not ourselves. We have a new birth - by the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, our new lives were also conceived by the Holy Spirit.

3. If Jesus death on the cross atoned for our sins, then they have been atoned for. Now, there are several metaphors used to describe the atonement. One is penal substitution where Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. One is called "Christus Victor" where Jesus defeated the power of death. Some are objective (something actually happened) and some are subjective (Jesus gave us a great example in his death). As an Anglican, I say "Yes" to all the above. Different metaphors will reach different people and may be more true at different times in our lives than at others. Regardless of the metaphor used, I accept that Jesus's death on the cross atoned for my sins and the sins of the whole world. If our sins have been atoned for, then we need only to repent and confess to receive the benefit of that atonement. We also need to realize that the price paid for our freedom is the death of Jesus.

4. If Jesus did rise from the dead, then the battle between life and death is over and live wins. All of our death focused living (sin) has been defeated. The implications of this are enormous. We are no longer captive to our sins. Sin and death have been defeated in the Cross. The powers of death did their worst to Jesus and he came out the other side. Because of this, we can confront the powers of death in our day and in our lives - but not with our own power, but with the power of Jesus - Risen from the dead and victorious over evil and sin and death. Will we choose to remain imprisoned by our death focused culture and lives or will we choose to live in the Victory that Jesus has won for us and wants to share with us?

5. If the miracles of Jesus actually occurred, then that implies that the creator has power over the creation and is not part of the creation. I would also say that the "miracles" such as healings and bring others back from the dead and the feeding of the multitudes are the undoing of the effects of sin in creation. By sin (whether Adam's or Lucifer's), death entered the world. Disease entered the world. Pain and suffering entered the world. Because of sin, man needs to work for his food and knows hunger. Because of sin, there is not always enough food. But because God entered creation, death itself dies. Sin is defeated. Hunger and suffering are alleviated. The Kingdom of God is proclaimed and we need to determine if we are going to be subjects of the King of Kings or the subjects of ourselves.

These are just some outlines on what I think the implications of being a "fundamentalist" are. Do the few people who read this blog have other ideas?


Phil Snyder


Andy said...

Dcn Phil/
Thank you for that flyover of the implications of counting oneself as a Fundamentalist.
I consider this to be at the heart of the struggle for Christianity in our postmodern world. Its easly to loose sight of the fact that the heated debates are happening all over the Greater Church, and not merely in TEC. Embracing the cardinal doctrines of the historic faith (a.k.a. Fundamentalism) may just be the hingepin issue. Remove the pin and the door falls off, allowing anything and everything onto the debate floor.

God's Peace,

Bryan Owen said...

After reading this piece, I'm starting to think that maybe I am a fundamentalist!

I accept the 5 points you lay out here, although I have some misgivings about the language of "inerrancy" insofar as I believe there are things about which scripture gives contradictory reports (note the differences, for example, in some of the accounts in the four gospels). I prefer to say that Holy Scripture is inerrant insofar as it contains all things necessary to salvation.

Also, I think it's possible to accept these 5 points and still have disagreements on particulars. For example, faithful Christians may agree that we should "not contradict Holy Scripture's definition of moral living" and still disagree about the meaning of particular passages of scripture and/or how to apply them in particular cases.

Anonymous said...

When you discuss the 5 fundamentals it stuck me immediately how many deal with the mysteries of our faith. The Enlightenment is a hangover we continue to suffer from today and the reformists have also done the faith a disservice. For example crackers and grape juice as a memorial meal does not a Eucharist make. YBIC Dcn Dale