J. Gresham Machen, at this point in my life, is probably my favorite author. Last year around this time I read his book Christianity and Liberalism. It was great. The purpose of his book was to identify liberalism (Liberal Christianity) and Christianity (Christianity that holds to the historic Christian doctrines) as two distinct religions. At one point in the book he states,
Admitting that scientific objections may arise against the particularities of the Christian religion . . . the liberal theologian seeks to rescue certain of the general principles of religion, of which these particularities are thought to be mere temporary symbols, and these general principles he regards as constituting “the essence of Christianity.” . . . As a matter of fact . . . what the liberal theologian has retained after abandoning to the enemy one Christian doctrine after another is not Christianity at all, but a religion so entirely different as to belong in a distinct category.
In order for Fundamentalism to survive as true historic Fundamentalism, the belief in and defense of fundamental doctrines that are essential to the Christian faith, we have noted so far that Fundamentalism must embrace criticism, recognize it is in a fight for survival against internal problems, and become willing to positively critique itself for the purpose of improvement. With that said, my second “must do” for Fundamentalism is really just a branch off of that first criticism.
Fundamentalism has grown accustom to what I like to call “Fundamentalism’s great red herring”–Evangelicalism. Oh, it doesn’t take too much time in many Fundamentalist camps before you hear the call against Evangelicalism. But let me say one note of caution, for the most part, Fundamentalists critique evangelicalism fairly accurately. The accuracy of their critique is, therefore, not my critique. Further, the existence of their critique is not my critique (for we ought to identify problems). My critique is that evangelicalism has become many Fundamentalists’ red herring.
The first thing Fundamentalism needs to do in order to survive as historic Fundamentalism, as Fundamentalism was intended to be, is to embrace criticism. So yes, I am criticizing Fundamentalism for not taking criticism well—-we’ll see how that turns out for me. To lay out my basic thesis, Fundamentalism must become open to criticism and self-examining. Fundamentalism also needs to owe up to its failures.
I would like to introduce the beginning of a new series entitled, “What Fundamentalism Must Do to Survive.” A large part of what has sparked this articles series is due to some recent events in which an extremely large segment (practically the entire movement) of Fundamentalism was attacked. (Without diverting from the issue at hand, I should add that the attack was done in a wrong method as well as included all of Fundamentalism in a critique that is only true of a portion of the movement). However, being quite a critic myself, this attack on Fundamentalism did make me think. Although this attack was invalid in several ways, it provides a great opportunity for Fundamentalists to do some searching and self-criticism in regards to what truth there was in the attack (no matter how small it may be) and to look for further problem areas of Fundamentalism, because that is always a good thing to do.
But first, allow me to give a brief definition of Fundamentalism for those who know nothing anything about Fundamentalism or those who might have a different idea of what Fundamentalism is than myself (so that we are all on the same page on how the term is used). Continue reading
Labels. What’s the use? What’s the point of using a label? Well, the typical reason is for convenience sake. Instead of having to explain what you are all about you simply say a word or two and describe yourself much faster. However, are labels effective? Do they really serve their purpose? I would like to convince you that they typically do not, and, in fact, often can be rather harmful. I would like to look at three different sample labels that will serve as spring boards into some points about the potential harmfulness of labels.