The current word of insult these days is “Fundamentalism”. Fundamentalists are accused of acts of intolerance, abandoning science, keeping their women barefoot and pregnant, and attempting to supplant the US Constitution with a “theocracy”.
Editorials and commentators here and there draw a connection between “Fundamentalist Christians” and “Fundamentalist Islam” with the pretext that both promote terrorism and therefore both bear a moral equivalency.
I am a Christian, and I take that calling seriously. I have studied Christianity from every angle, reading agnostics, atheists, apologists, and historians. I have talked with people from scores of denominational backgrounds and from other nations and cultures. I have discovered the warts in church history and readily admit their reality. But I have also seen how those warts were from misguided, power hungry, greedy men in direct contradiction to the words and teachings of Jesus, and they will bear the judgment for their actions. I have concluded that Christianity hasn’t worked in this world because it has never really been tried, and I am convinced that any attempt on our part to bring the Kingdom of God to this world before the return of Christ is, always has been, and always will be a total disaster.
While I have studied Islam to some extent, I cannot claim to understand its intricacies in the same way I understand Christianity. Having said that, I do know enough to reject outright the attempt to morally connect fundamental Christianity with radical Islam while calling both “Fundamentalist”, and I can only wonder at the motives of those who do.
Christian Fundamentalism was born in the late 19th Century as a reaction against “modernism”, and was formalized in 1910 with what came to be known as the “five fundamentals”. They were:
- Inerrancy of the Scriptures
- The virgin birth (or alternatively, the deity) of Jesus
- The doctrine of the substitutionary atonement through God’s grace and human faith
- The bodily resurrection of Jesus
- The authenticity of Christ’s miracles (or, alternatively, his pre-millennial second coming).
I would vouchsafe that most people who call themselves Christian hold to these “fundamentals”, whether they be Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, or Independents. There is nothing radical about any about those articles of faith. There is nothing there about repealing the Constitution and forcing conversions through imposition of the state or application of the sword. Fundamentalism was no more than an attempt to protect the fundamentals of belief from the incursions of naturalistic thought.
The drawing of moral equivalency between a particularly virulent interpretation of Islam and the teachings of the carpenter from Nazareth is a stretch of logic and reminiscent of the lament from Isaiah, who called down woe on those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness. Such is either born of misunderstanding or of intentional distortion.
But to be fair, Christians have not always modeled the life and attitudes that we are called to live.
Back in my ball playing days, one coach insisted that his team master the fundamentals. If we could throw better, hit better, and field better than the other teams, we would be winners on the field of competition.
It’s the same with the Christian life, and while the fundamentals of doctrine are important (they define how we view reality), the fundamentals of living are just as important, and the Book throughout its contents tells us just what those fundamentals are.
So if you want to call me Fundamentalist, go right ahead. I only hope you are not mistaken.