When we talk about fundamentalism…Let’s be honest!
January 20, 2004
Obviously, I have drawn inspiration (that’s inspiration with a small "i") from the title of a book written by Mercer University President Kirby Godsey, an essay critical of Godsey’s heretical book written by Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville , Ky. , and a Dec. 16 column written by Pathway Editor Don Hinkle. I do so to present the truth about fundamentalism as it relates to the Southern and Missouri Baptist Conventions. So,, when we talk about fundamentalism . Let’s be honest!
Plenty has been said and written about fundamentalism and fundamentalists, much of it unclear and an equal amount clearly untrue. Fundamentalist is a word sometimes used to describe the radical Muslim who erroneously believes that he may gain heaven by killing the infidels (Christians), as well as the Bible preacher who loves and lives the Word of God (obviously the Muslim and the Bible preacher are opposites).
So, let’s talk honestly about some fiction, the facts and the focus of fundamentalists and fundamentalism in MBC life.
FICTION: The following list is incomplete but indicative of the fictitious accusations that have been leveled against fundamentalists.
Fundamentalists are power-hungry. This is easily dismissed because small- and medium-sized church pastors are generally fundamental-conservatives. These same pastors are men who have given their lives in service to their Lord and His church with little recognition and concern for personal power. While it would be foolish to insinuate that there are no power-hungry fundamentalists, it is just as ludicrous to infer that no power-hungry liberals exist. To stereotype any group by the occasional actions of a few is unfair.
Fundamentalists are mean-spirited. One does not have far to look to see mean-spirited people on both sides of the SBC/MBC controversy. Is it mean-spirited to usurp the authority of Missouri Baptists and, in violation of MBC and agency charters, take away the right to elect deserving Missouri Baptist fundamentalists to serve on those boards? I think it is. Is it mean-spirited to spread malicious gossip and unfounded rumors on a Web site purporting to be a Missouri Baptist Web site? Yes, it is mean-spirited. What kind of spirit is manifested when accusations such as "Nazi or Religious Schwarztkopfs" are hurled at fundamentalists. Some from each side of the MBC/SBC controversy are guilty and must repent of their mean-spiritedness.
Fundamentalists are creedal. This accusation is true because we use the Bible as the creed. Several years ago it was popular in the SBC/MBC to write, teach and preach about Baptist beliefs and distinctives. In the present environment that practice is considered "creedal."
FACT: Five characteristics are evident in fundamental beliefs. When we are accused of believing in these particular doctrines we MUST be guilty!
(1) Fundamentalists believe in an inerrant Bible. Fundamentalists unashamedly avow that a perfect God has produced a perfect book, revealing His nature, His will, and His salvation to all who will read and believe.
(2) Fundamentalists believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. The most complete account of the virgin birth was given by someone from the scientific community — a doctor named Luke. The prophets foretold it. Matthew and Luke recorded it. Jesus was born of a virgin!
(3) Fundamentalists believe in the vicarious, atoning death of Jesus Christ. Because the wages of sin are death; and, because Christ loved us even while we were sinners; He paid the ultimate price for our sin. Scripture declares that Christ’s blood was voluntarily given for our redemption.
(4) Fundamentalists believe in the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. Across the years many have tried, but failed to disprove and discount the resurrection. Writing to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul was adamant about the fact and the proof of the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ.
(5) Fundamentalists believe in the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Many times, many places and in many ways the Scripture declares that Jesus Christ is coming again — and that He is coming soon!
Additionally, fundamentalists in Missouri Baptist life believe that all Southern/Missouri Baptists ought to believe those fundamentals. Finally, MBC fundamentalists are persons who are willing to require that all recipients of SBC/MBC Cooperative Program dollars believe, practice and teach those five fundamentals.
FOCUS: Because of their beliefs, fundamentalists focus their attention primarily in two directions:
Equipping the saints. Fundamentalists believe that attention must be given to discipling new Christians as well as educating and encouraging all Christians to become mature witnesses of their faith.
Evangelizing Sinners. Fundamentalists take seriously the Lord’s admonition to go into all the world — at home, in Romania , even Iraq — proclaiming "The Good News" of salvation through Jesus Christ!
I have often been asked, "Aren’t you one of those fundamentalists?" Sometimes it’s a genuine question. More often it is an accusation. Regardless, my response is the same: "Yes, I am a fundamentalists. And I’m mighty proud of it!" (David Tolliver is pastor, Pisgah Baptist Church, Excelsior Springs, and president of the Missouri Baptist Convention.)