The little church that reared me belonged to a group that called itself Fundamentalist. I grew up thinking that fundamentalists were marked by what they didn’t do: no dancing, drinking, movies, playing cards, rock ‘n roll, or hip attire. Later, a movement arose called Evangelicalism, with the same core THEOLOGICAL beliefs, but a more accommodating stance toward CULTURE. I was happy, because I could be an old-fashioned fundamentalist in my theology and still enjoy a good movie.
Since the 1980’s, “fundamentalist” has taken on a sinister meaning: a heavily armed, hard-line lunatic ready to start a war over his/her beliefs. I reject that sort of fundamentalism as sinful, unbiblical, and against God. You couldn’t find a violent bone if you tried among the kind of fundamentalists that reared me.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [not physical, not tangible, not a weapon you can buy in a store] but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5, NKJV.
As a theological system, old-time fundamentalism, and later evangelicalism, were right on. We just have to come up with new labels for these historic Christian truth-packages.
Today, even evangelicalism is being redefined. Various movements, like the emerging church (with its tendency toward universalism), Open Theism (which suggests that God doesn’t know the future), and old-fashioned liberalism (racing toward pluralism), are each trying to reform evangelicalism, and attempting to claim the mantle of historic Christianity.
We’re like toddlers at a theological smorgasbord– too short of stature to see the big picture, too greedy for anything sweet, and too untrained to discern true nutrition from junk food.
We have sincere, sacrificial, great-hearted pastors and authors who are woefully untrained in theology, leading the church in directions the church shouldn’t go.
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Hebrews 5:12, NKJV.
Every generation needs to LOVINGLY, but FIRMLY rearticulate what is theologically good and what is theologically bad for the church. Where do we draw the lines on our theological playing field? What is in bounds? What is out of bounds?
I believe our church leaders from the 1920’s drew the line perfectly when they identified five non-negotiables, or fundamentals, of the faith. These define what came to be called fundamentalist theology, and later evangelical theology.
Five core truths have defined Christianity for generations:
1. The inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible
2. The deity of Christ and His virgin birth
3. The substitutionary atonement of Christ’s death
4. The literal resurrection of Christ from the dead
5. The literal return of Christ
These fundamentals are like fences around a five-sided yard. Within the yard, there’s plenty of room for debate on plenty of major theological issues. Just stay in the yard.
Each generation has to reaffirm the old truths of historic Christianity. The language may change, but the underlying truths must remain the same. Over the coming few posts, I’m going to review these 5 fundamentals… and I think, in our day, we need to add one more doctrine to the list. I hope you have a chance to stop by again a few times this week.
I’m glad I was reared with a theological foundation. I’ve never moved from it. My faith has an anchor that has stood the test of time. Does yours? Were you taught these fundamentals? Do you still believe them?