The interviews took half a day, but one interview stands out in my memory. It concerned our theology. The primary interviewer was a seminary professor. After the pleasentries were out of the way, the first question he asked me was "Are you a fundamentalist?"
To which I replied: "What do you mean by fundamentalist?"
The Professor responded: "I am asking the questions here."
So I anwsered: "Well if by 'fundamentalist' you mean someone who believes every work of Holy Scripture to be true such that God created the world in six 24 hour periods known as 'days,' then no. I am not a fundamentalist. However, if you mean someone who believes the fundamentals of the faith as contained in the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds and expounded in the Book of Common Prayer, then yes. I am a fundamentalist."
Everytime I hear someone call me (or another conservative Christian) a "fundamentalist," I think back to this story. To progressive Christians, there is no worse perjorative than "fundamentalist," but they very rarely define this term other than to say it is a term of disrespect and means someone who hold traditional Christian doctrine that they do not hold. To progressive Christians, a "fundamentalist" is someone who is not "progressive" or even not as progressive as the speaker. "Fundamentalist" has become a relative term, not an absolute.
Today, it seems to mean someone who takes the truth of Holy Scripture more literally and as more historically accurate than the speaker or person using the term does.
We need to recover the original meaning for the term "fundamentalist."
It came from the fight against modernity and originally meant someone who believed the following five items:
- Holy Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit and are inerrant because of this inspiration
- The Virgin Birth - such that Mary had no sexual relations prior to the conception of Jesus
- Christ's death on the cross atoned for our sins
- The physical resurrection of the dead for Jesus - the tomb is empty and Jesus' bones are not lying in a ditch somewhere.
- The miracles that Christ is recorded to have performed in Gospels are true and actually happened.
I guess according to that definition, I am a fundamentalist. How about you?