Saturday, August 27, 2011

Defining Fundamentalism

Defining and an Explanation of This Word

First let us define fundamental and then proceed to add different suffixes and move on to adding different contexts.  After we fully explore the definition, different suffixes, and different contexts for the word fundamental, we will proceed to give a rebuttal to those who use this word outside of its definition to fit their own context.

Fundamental as defined by the Webster Dictionary by looking at fundament (which is an unused word) which means “foundation”.  Now moving on to fundamental we see that the definition along with the word evolves to “A leading or primary principle, rule, law or article, which serves as the ground work of a system; essential part.”  Now let us add some different suffixes to the word and see how the definition evolves, fundamentally: “Primarily; originally; essentially; at the foundation.”  By adding the suffix “ist” (dealer or doer) we turn Fundamental into fundamentalist and get the definition: A person who deals with or does the fundamentals.  My last suffix to add is “ism” (doctrine or belief) and this adds to our definition “belief or doctrinal fundamentals.”

Now, let us create context for fundamentalism and fundamentalist; there are many forms of fundamentalism/ists but I want to deal primarily with Christian fundamentalism today.  Therefore the context of this discussion on fundamentalism will be Christian fundamentalism.  Before discussing Christian fundamentalism and the fundamentalist let us discuss what happens when we add Christianity to the context of fundamentalism/ist.  Christian fundamentalism is the doctrines that are the primary principles or fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion. 

As we see in the above paragraph, Christian fundamentalism deals with the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion.  I am going to continue by categorically explaining the Christian fundamentals and then look at what is not Christian fundamentalism.  The categories will be: Theology (General and Proper) and Christian Living/Application.

The first fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion is doctrines of Scripture.  The doctrines of Scripture lay a foundation of certainty concerning all the other fundamental doctrines.  Scripture is God breathed and did not originate from the minds of men (2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20).  Also, God’s Word is authoritative and builds our faith (2 Timothy 3:16 and Romans 10:17).  From the fundamental Christian doctrines on Scripture we can trust Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura) for the rest of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion.

Relying on our doctrines of Scripture lets go explore some fundamental doctrines concerning God (Theology Proper).  God is self-existent and created all things, there are three main terms we use to describe Him: Omnipresent, Omniscient, and omnipotent.  Omnipresent refers to God’s existence being infinite, He exists in all places and times (Jeremiah 23:23-24).  His Omniscient attribute describes His knowledge which is not bound by anything but is infinite and perfect, He exhaustively knows all things without any limit by time.  In other words, before God created the universe He knew every little thing that has is and will happen (Isaiah 46:9-10 and 1 John 3:19-20).  God is omnipotent, basically all-powerful.  There is not much of a need to describe this one, it is self descriptive (Mathew 19:26).  Some of the more specific attributes of God are love, just, righteous, holy, perfect, orderly, sovereign, benevolent, glorious, and many others.  A more complex fundamental truth is that exists as a triune Godhead.  The doctrine of the Trinity is both simple yet complex and beyond full comprehension, God exists both ontologically and economically triune.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, each fully God and independently existent yet fully and perfectly in united.  Ontologically triune means that each person is a real, unique, and a different individual while economically triune explains that each individual interacts with the creation differently.  Contrary to the fundamental doctrine of the Trinity the Modalist (for instance The United Pentecostal Church, T.D. Jakes, et cetra) can accept the economical Trinity but reject the Trinity ontologically.  This means that they believe that God manifests Himself Triunely as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit but these are mere descriptions of one being (Jesus) and not three individual beings.

Now let us look at man’s nature, Adam was made perfect but through his fall in the Garden of Eden all mankind is born into the bondage of sin with a corrupt will and ultimately eternal condemnation.  Within Scripture we find the fundamental doctrine of Total Depravity/Inability which simplified means that we are born as corrupt and evil as possibly can be.  We are unable to please God or do anything that is considered good.  This probably leaves you thinking I am a lunatic or out of line but please allow me to finish, God is benevolent and loving and thus the Holy Spirit instills godly morality in all men saving us from our own vileness.  We call this the doctrine of Common Grace.  This brings to the discussion man’s will, the unregenerate man cannot choose to do anything that is good by his own power, it is not within his capacity to do so.  In contrast, the regenerate man can not only choose to do good but by his new nature desires to do good and to walk in the good works Jesus prepared for him.

Let us break this discussion to look at how a perfect God must react to sinful man to maintain His perfect nature.  This will show how these fundamentals work together and build doctrines. 

As stated above, God is holy, righteous, and just thus to remain perfect He must punish us for our vileness.  God is also benevolent and loving and thus in His love Jesus came to redeem mankind through His sacrifice on the Cross.

The nature of the atonement is the fundamental of fundamentals!  The atonement doctrines are everything to the Christian Religion, and must be adhered to with the utmost strictness.  Let us now discuss this most important fundamental doctrine, the atonement.  Jesus Christ came and lived a perfect life with the intention of making the perfect sacrifice for all of mankind who would be set free from the bondage of sin through faith (Sola Fide) in Jesus Christ (Sola Christus), by God’s Prevenient Grace (Sola Gratia), and for His Glory (Sola Deo Gloria).  Jesus on the cross consumed our sins and God’s wrath.  He was our propitiation and by this we are justified, imputed with Christ’s righteousness, regenerated, and start our walk of sanctification.

The Church and the local fellowship of believers is definitely a fundamental of the Christian Religion.  The Church is the whole body of Christ where every believer has his part and role.  The roles of individual believers are usually practiced in the local assembly of believers often called Church.  The Scriptures are clear that we are to consistently come together and in the early Church we see what was commonly practice, Justin Martyr described the meetings as follows.  (paraphrased) “We begin our meetings on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) with the singing of hymns and then an elder or speaker will read from the Holy Word, usually a Gospel or one of the Apostle Paul’s epistles.  The speaker will then expound from what was read concerning how we should conduct ourselves.”  With nearly two thousand years we seem to have nearly the same liturgical style.

In brief, I will cover the last theological fundamental doctrines of eschatology.  First let us look at death, when we die we will meet our God and be judged.  The righteous repentant will go to Heaven and the rebellious God haters to Hell.  Concerning Jesus return, Millennialism, Dispensationalism, Amillennialism, and belief in a rapture are not fundamentals but believing that Christ will return.

Now let us move on to the fundamental that are concerned with living in this World.  They are and will be discussed in this order: The Seven E’s- Exalt, Equate, Evolve, Evangelize, Edify, Encourage, and Endure. Also covered will be the necessity to walk in the Spirit.  I am going to explain The Seven E’s rather quickly and simply, with Scriptural quotation.

Exalt God
"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
(Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Equate Yourself with Humanity
"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
(Matthew 5:43-44)

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
(Galatians 5:14)

Evolve (Sanctification)
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:21)

Evangelize the Lost
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
(Matthew 28:18-20)

Edify the Brethren
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
(1 Corinthians 14:26)

So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.
(1 Corinthians 14:12)

Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "THE REPROACHES OF THOSE WHO REPROACHED YOU FELL ON ME." For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,
(Romans 15:1-5)

Encourage the Brethren
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:11)

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
(Hebrews 3:13)

Endure to the End
If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
(2 Timothy 2:12)

Now let us move onto walking in the Spirit which is really how we accomplish The Five E’s and much more!  By walking in the Spirit we continue our sanctification, kill our flesh, and walk in the good works that the Lord has prepared for us beforehand.  The Apostle Paul wrote so much on Walking in the Spirit and much of Romans 8 is dedicated to this.  Romans 8, Colossians 2 and 3, and Galatians 5 all give us a great understanding of walking in the Spirit.  The simplest explanation is that walking in the Spirit is basically adhering to the sound teachings of Scripture concerning our conduct on Earth, putting to death the deeds of the flesh, and doing all this in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Many try to erroneously define walking in the Spirit as some kind of super spiritual esoteric privilege.  This is a dangerous position to hold and have heard many proponents of this position falsely believe that they do not need the Bible or Christian fellowship because they have this relationship with God where they are led by the Spirit and thus Scripture is irrelevant and so is Christian fellowship.

Having covered what I believe to be the most basic Christian fundamentals let us examine some groups that are falsely considered Christian fundamentalist but are nothing of the sort. 

First, we will look at the Westboro Baptist Church who has become famous for picketing the funerals of soldiers who died.  They tote signs that read “God hates America” and “God hates fags” this group twists Scripture so badly that they believe that they are justified in they own hatred towards who they deem “the non-elect” and go so far as to say it is sinful to even pray for who they deem to be non-elect.  They violate a lot of Scripture, there is no gentleness or peacefulness in their teachings as Scripture commands that we address the non-believers in a spirit of gentleness and that we live in peace with others.  The Apostle Paul also clearly states that we have no business judging those outside the Church.

T.D. Jakes and the United Pentecostal Church reject the Trinity as I already stated. 

Lastly, the Word Faith Movement and their views on prosperity and “healing in the Atonement” only cause discouragement and doubt in the faithful who fall for their heresies.  They are far from fundamental but all too often get labeled as such.  Their doctrines on prosperity and “healing in the Atonement” truly take away from the greatest miracle, God resurrecting the spiritually dead and justifying the lost.

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