The Dangers of Fundamentalism in Leadership

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When fundamentalism becomes the lens by which church leaders lead, two primary dangers await them and their people.

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

Revelation 2:4 

I have a confession: I am a fundamentalist at heart. I am a lover of truth, and I am a rule follower. Yet, when I read Christ’s rebuke of the church of Ephesus, my own heart and actions are exposed, as I see Jesus calling his people to be lovers of the one who is truth and of his people. The same rebuke given to the Ephesian church could many times be given to me.

Fundamentalism has a varied history. In the early 20th century, the fundamentalist movement was responsible for directly and rightly combating the modernest heresies springing forth from within many of that day’s primary theological institutions. Yet, like the Ephesian church, while it began as a right and just movement against doctrines and practices that were contrary to Scripture, the fundamentalist movement has more recently become known more for its attacks on those within and outside the church than its love for the Lord and for his people.

Do not read this post as a condemnation of defending the faith against heresy. Christ is clear in his affirmation of the Ephesian church toward their perseverance and diligence to oppose those who taught a false gospel and proclaimed a different way of living in faith than the one given them by the apostles. Yet, at the same time, Christ’s admonition to the church is that they have made addressing heresy and licentious behavior their primary purpose, above what Jesus had taught as the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37–40).  

When fundamentalism becomes the lens by which church leaders lead, two primary dangers await they and their people: a loss of love and a distraction from the mission of God.

A Loss of Love  

Robert H. Mounce, in his commentary on the book of Revelation contends that, “Good works and pure doctrine are not adequate substitutes for that rich relationship of mutual love shared by those who have experienced for the first time the redemptive love of God.”

What a poor substitute it is for leadership to expound adherence to the true and powerful doctrines of Scripture over and (perhaps unintentionally) against the love of the God those doctrines portray! When fundamentalism becomes the primary lens of those in church leadership, they first lead their people to seek right doctrine and good behavior even more so than Christ. This is what the church in Ephesus was guilty of. Their concern was more towards right doctrine than love for Christ. What started as defense because of a love for Christ, turned into a loveless defense of Christ. 

This loss of love is seen even more acutely in that a fundamentalist lens leads people to be suspicious and lack grace toward others in the church. Fundamentalism, when primary, creates a culture of critical inspection that fails to remember that is only by God’s grace and through his Spirit that people’s minds and hearts are transformed into complete and glad submission to the Father’s will. Jesus says in John 13:35 that the mark of discipleship is the love within his body toward one another. What happens when fundamentalism seeps into church leadership is that the effort to uphold right behavior and doctrine actually creates a culture that is opposed to Christ’s standard for how the church is to live. 

The first danger of fundamentalism in leadership is the loss of love and joy in the Lord and grace towards those within the church. Quoting Barclay, Mounce sums up this first danger, “heresy-hunting had killed love and orthodoxy had been achieved at the price of fellowship.” According to Christ in Revelation 2, that was too great of a price to pay. 

A Distraction from the Mission of God 

In my prior position before joining the Mars Hill staff, my primary responsibilities centered around engaging the culture with the gospel and equipping the church to do the same. Because of the scope of our ministry, I had the opportunity to work with many types of churches and leaders, and in so doing observed the second danger of a fundamentalist lens within church leadership: a distraction from the mission of God. 

According to 2 Corinthians 5:14–21, God’s mission is to glorify himself through the reconciliation of all things—humanity and creation—to a right relationship with him through Christ Jesus. Christ is the hope of the world, and the church is to be the instrument by which that hope is made manifest (Ephesians 3:10). The church’s role in the mission of God assumes a relationship with those who are either not yet or not fully reconciled to God. A fundamentalist lens distorts the mission of God from reconciling all things to himself to avoiding those people,and those aspects of culture, that are not living and believing rightly. 

Defense against heresy, especially wolves within the church, is an important aspect of faithful biblical leadership. However, when such defense becomes the primary purpose of leadership, the church’s focus turns to important but peripheral issues and in turn distracts them from engaging the world and people around them with the gospel. Right doctrine should not lead people to disengage with the world, but rather, with a courageous meekness, seek to transform it! 

The second danger of fundamentalism in leadership is that it distracts the church from being ministers of reconciliation within the world to being protectors of doctrine and moral behavior against the world. 

Avoiding the Dangers 

How do we avoid such dangers?

  1. Address heresy and ungodly behavior within your church with perseverance and boldness, but also with humility and dependence on the Lord. Remember that your mind and life has been transformed only by God’s grace through his Spirit. The same will be true of your people. Right doctrine does not save, but only the grace of God through faith in Christ. Because God is powerful, you can be steadfast and bold. Because God is powerful you recognize how the church is protected and lives are changed, and it is not by you!  
  2. Do not let the world scare you. The church of Ephesus stood firm in the midst of a great opposition. The church today faces many of these same oppositions. Do not shy away from engaging with those who do not believe like you or act like you. Do not shy away from calling them to Christ and to full life under his authority. Yet, do so with love (2 Corinthians 5:14)!
Jeremy Pace Jeremy Pace and his wife Deedra have been married for almost six years. They just had their firsts (twins!) in early 2012. Jeremy has served at Mars Hill Church as the Leadership Development Manager and as a pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas overseeing Missions and Church Planting. In addition, Jeremy has served as the Associate Director of the Porterbrook Network which is based in Sheffield, England and as the Training Coordinator for the Acts 29 Network. Jeremy received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Midwestern State University, a Masters of Religion from Liberty Seminary, studied at Redeemer Seminary, and has completed a year of Ph.D work in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University.

More from Jeremy Pace or visit Jeremy at http://theresurgence.com

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  • Cathcart Boy

    I struggle with this type of article. Most fundamental of all doctrinal truth is our relationship to God through grace, grace inspired by His love for us. Why castigate “fundamentalists” in wide-ranging terms such as this article contains when “fundamentalists” may well be those who compabt false notions of love and false teaching on grace? And where does rule-following (for its own sake) come into anything as a Christian or Christlike virtue?

    • Scott Dossett

      Short answer: because many “fundamentalists” insist on castigating everyone else.

      • AMOS8

        But it is okay for you to “castigate” “many fundamentalists”? Got it.

        • Scott Dossett

          Amos… we go through this every time. You don’t get to call foul when people return the favor. Granted, it doesn’t fit the teaching of Christ to do unto others what they have done unto you. Shame on me. At the same time, bullies don’t get to play martyrs, If you take exception to my use of the word “many,” I will happily say “some” instead. I should have tempered myself in responding to this comment. Still, I have spent my share of quality time on the business end of the fundamentalist barrel, so I’ll just have to ask your forgiveness for a knee-jerk comment.

          • AMOS8

            I appreciate what you wrote. And I’m sorry that you have had these experiences. I have seen this turn many people into liberals (not that you are one).

            My point, however, is a much bigger issue (than you and I…). [And neither am I calling foul.] I have never, and I mean never, had someone adequately explain to me the mantra of “You can’t judge” but then they go out and judge and condemn freely.

            ‘m not saying this about you right now, I’m explaining why I wrote what I wrote to you (and many others who go by the “You’re wrong to judge” fallacy).

          • Scott Dossett

            Amos, I get where you’re coming from and – believe it or not – I’ve been there. Let me try to suggest an explanation for your question about “judgment” the way that I came to recognize it. It’s going to be long. I apologize in advance, but I can’t think of a short way to explain it.

            I grew up in fundamentalist circles, I spent most of my “professional” ministry as a pastor in fundamentalist church. Many of them were (and are) good, kind, generous people…,unless you happen to smell like the “enemy.” Sadly, the “enemy” tended to be anyone who refused to acquiesce to any item on the approved list of “fundamental issues.” That list was longer than Santa’s, spanning creation thru eschatology, atonement theory thru zoology (discussion on “baraminology” anyone?) and let’s not forget the virtually doctrinal political stance. Neither was this atypical in my experience with my fundamentalist colleagues (though historic fundamentalism claimed only 5 “fundamentals”). I can hope your experience is different.

            And there is no “agreeing to disagree.” It tends to be a “with us or against us,” tribe mentality. And how could there be? Fundamentalism, by nature, claims that their specific set of beliefs comprise the essential fundamentals (bare minimum) of “real” or “true” Christianity. Everyone else is wrong (at best) or evil (at worst) – despite the fact that fundamentalism has more flavors than Snapple.

            That is the part fundamentalists have difficulty recognizing. The fundamentalist position is inherently accusatory and exclusionary. And the theory seems often to be backed up by practice in my experience. Liberalism (this is a big word, and I’m using it here in its contemporary sense as you did, to represent the stereotypical set of beliefs that often conflicts with Conservativism), for all its faults, at least has a little humility. Conflicting views will always have their clashes, but “liberalism” – by nature – has the capacity to agree to disagree. That’s why it is often associated with religious pluralism, even though the two are distinctly different.

            Now, if its stance is inherently exclusivist, critical and “judgmental” (claiming the right to judge exclusively and finally the foundational right/wrong, good/bad), fundamentalism has left those who disagree no other response but silence, defense or return judgment.

            Consider a man standing in the middle of a room with a loud voice and a t-shirt that both say, “Everyone here is wrong unless they agree with me.” People can’t speak with him without defending themselves. Eventually people get tired of defending themselves. They explain that he’s being rude. They describe potential well-intentioned errors in his judgment. He dismisses them curtly. They point out that his position and fashion sense have rendered any positive discussion impossible. So they throw up their hands and ignore him, but he keeps shouting. Finally, in frustration, they shout back, “What you’re doing is wrong and a little abusive! We have a right to our beliefs too. Get off our backs for heaven’s sake!” He gets mad and shouts,”You have no right to tell me that I’m wrong!” They collectively question his seriousness and sanity before moving to another room in the house without telling him where they are going.

            “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Mat 7:2 NIV). An alternative perspective on this passage might be, “What goes around, comes around.” If James throws a rock at Paul, it might not be the Christ-like thing for Paul to throw it back, but James has no business complaining.

            We all have to make “judgments” for ourselves. It’s when we start applying those judgments to other people that we have to be very, very careful. There may be times when we have to apply that judgment – “Thou shalt not kill” comes to mind. But as one who tries to walk the line between conservative and liberal (nobody likes me), I think we should be more concerned about our humility than our (self?) righteousness. We must remember that “our ways are not God’s ways” (Isaiah 55:8-9). I hope you will take this as an honest attempt to explain and not an attack. I still have many friends who would probably be considered fundamentalist so I’m not being universally critical.

          • AMOS8

            See! You used the NIV, I knew you were wrong on everything! Just kidding. (I use it too.)

            Thanks for your long reply, you seem to have the same problem that I have (lengthy replies, as you see). I can appreciate your experiences, and I have experienced similar ones as well. But I must say that I have had FAR more attacks coming from liberals, than non-liberals (not to necessarily keep score, but I think it is important to point that out).

            Even though you gave a good and valid explanation of your frustrations and your judgments (which, btw, I personally believe we CAN make judgments … IF we do so with the right “measure” [Matt 7:1-2]), yet my point/concern/conundrum is still not answered, at least to my satisfaction.

            I still don’t get when (often liberals, and some non-liberals have fallen for it as well) people declare “It is wrong to judge” and then go out and judge and condemn AND … and here is the biggest part …. they, for whatever reason that I cannot figure out, do not see or refuse to acknowledge the problem in their logic, beliefs, declaration and how their actions defeat their stated tenet. Also, when this fallacy/self-defeating/hypocritical stance and behavior is pointed out, they often resort to … MORE judging and condemnation and personal attacks (see 5 Post-Election Thoughts for…) RATHER than self-awareness, self-testing, etc.

            You would think, at a minimum, other like-minded people would, out of love … and concern for truth and getting things right, might chyme in and say something like, “Hey, Bob, I just notice that what you did there conflicts with … Maybe we, especially if we are the ‘open-minded’ ones, should reconsider what we believe?” But I have NEVER seen anything close to this!

            This is what no one has been able to explain to me (except, of course, the universal problem of sinful and deceitful hearts, etc … that is a given).

            “We all have to make “judgments” for ourselves. It’s when we start
            applying those judgments to other people that we have to be very, very
            careful.”

            I agree wholeheartedly, but, again, it does seem it is mostly liberals (and some conservatives and non-liberals) that condemn judging and then have little problem with their judgment and condemnation of others.

            These problems are bound to happen (judging, not listening to others, etc) and their are plenty of so-called “Fundamentalist” that are guilty (some people call themselves this term, others believe strongly in fundamentals but are unfairly disparaged because of this and so the term does not fit well with them), yet I must say, people toward the “right” (perhaps a few) do not repeatedly declare “You are wrong to judge” and then go out and judge and condemn. This seems to be nearly exclusive of politically correct individuals (some of which do overlap with conservatives).

          • Scott Dossett

            I would love to carry on this discussion with you, but it’s too long for this site. You can find me on Facebook (since I can’t post my blog or email here). Just be sure and let me know your login from here in your Friend-vite, since I doubt your name is ‘Amos8′. Blessings.

          • AMOS8

            Thanks for writing back, but I’m not on FB … so I guess I’ll see you around here from time to time.

            I would encourage you not to be swayed by the poor behavior of a few (or many) that claim to be _______. As I mentioned before, many people (at least many that I know) have over-reacted to “bad representation.”

          • Scott Dossett

            I honestly don’t think its just bad representation. If it were a few bad apples, I don’t think you would find the backlash against fundamentalism that you find across contemporary Western society. Thus the rise of people who label themselves “conservative” but avoid the “fundamentalism” label like the plague.

          • AMOS8

            I think the level of backlash (whatever that level is) is more about the hearts of those lashing back. Are we not forewarned that there will be negative reactions toward the truth? (2 Tim 4:2-4; Is 30:9-11) Are the hearts/actions/attitudes of some (or even many) so-called “fundamentalist” also a major problem? Sure. But that does not mean “fundamentals” are the problem. They are crucial in every major endeavor EXCEPT in “Christianity” … in the minds of many non-conservatives. Are hearts a exceedingly rebellious and deceitful, so the logical conclusion is that we will tend to hate, undermine, lash out and rebel against the fundamentals of God. Also, we will follow the pattern of Adam and Eve by blaming this on others, and not taking personal responsibility. Ironically (or not so ironically), that all fits into the fundamentals and fundamental understanding of Scripture, yet many who are not fans of these will, of course, tend to blame other and … NOT accurately own up to their responsibility in this. [To be clear, this is not a subtle insinuation toward you, I have no idea how this applies to you.]

            I do think that, for the most part, liberalism is a subtle (and overt, at times) undermining of fundamental principles (not be all liberals). It is full of “fine-sounding arguments” (Col 2:4) that many are “deceived” by. Liberalism is often, or eventually, repulsed by fundamentals (and often blames “fundamentalists”) for keeping back the utopian ideas (e.g. world peace, universal health care, etc).

          • Scott Dossett

            I appreciate your honesty. As you say, this isn’t an attack, but we should be honest in our discussion. It seems that almost every time I read/listen to discussions with fundamentalists, it always comes back to the opposition’s “rebellious heart.” *They* (whoever they are) don’t want to listen to the “truth” because *they* are rebellious, deceived, bad or evil. Then (inevitably) come the scripture references to deceivers, false prophets and “itching-ears.” All this conveniently allows fundamentalists to insulate themselves from virtually all disagreement/criticism (even the constructive kind) that anyone suggests and effectively terminates all discussion.

            “Liberal” (a label that some fundamentalists use to categorize everyone who doesn’t agree with them) Christians are not against a set of fundamentals. They usually have their own – and they’re usually based on the Bible. They just don’t agree with all the “fundamentalist” fundamentals. Most liberals I know are happy to agree with the basic presupposition of Christ as Lord and Redeemer. Many of them can even go halfway on some of the original “5 Fundamentals.” Though they (and I) tend to struggle with “inerrancy,” (another loaded word) and strictly literal interpretations of miracles and/or the creation narrative. I personally also struggle with penal substitutionary atonement.

            All of this would amount to a lot less difficulty, I think. However, fundamentalists desperately seem to want to be part of the larger discussion. Discussion, though, requires give and take, listening and being willing to face a common set of criteria for evaluation, and a willingness to say “I could be wrong” if need be. But a person can never say “I could be wrong,” if everything they believe is a fundamental belief – from atonement to eschatology to politics to zoology. And the primary form of communication fundamentalists seem to like is preaching – preaching is not discussion.

          • AMOS8

            Thanks for replying.

            I guess I would say that, yes, it does, in fact, always comes back to OUR rebellious hearts … and the sinful, deceptive, evil context that we live in. Without this understanding then we will struggle to be accurate in discerning. It is our tendency (and context), not necessarily “the opposition.” But, let’s face it, someone is closer to the truth than others, and, of course, you and I (and everyone else) can disagree who is closer. Also, some people are in more rebellion than others–and it’s not always those who appear to be so.

            Are “Fundamentalist” rebellious? Of course. Are they wrong to not dialogue (when appropriate)? Sure. [For the record, if it matters, I'm not a self-proclaiming "Fundamentalist" but I do believe strongly that life requires faithfulness to fundamentals ... and there are consequences when we are weak with--let alone rebel against--these essentials.]

            I don’t personally know too many (self-proclaiming) “Fundamentalists” (I do know OF some) but I do know self-proclaiming liberals and moderates (for whatever those terms are worth), and know OF many more, and, despite the assumed definition/description of “liberal” (e.g. open-minded) I often find the exact opposite to be true of these individuals. I have, of course, found some to be, in fact, open-minded (but it seems to be the exception).

            All that to say, given all the problems with “Fundamentalists” (in general) I can’t seem to understand, as I have stated before, how liberals/moderates fail to see how they not only flagrantly violate their own “fundamentals” (irony) [e.g. open-mindedness/shouting down dialogue; treating with extreme hate those they claim as "haters;" being prejudice in calling others prejudiced/racist; judging and condemning others for judging; etc] AND will not see or admit to this self-defeating ideas/behavior and hypocrisy.

            Despite all efforts, NO ONE has come close to explaining that (other than my own assertions of deception, deceitful hearts, hardened hearts, rebellious hearts, etc)

          • Scott Dossett

            It’s never the *right thing* to do, to violate one’s own fundamentals. Two wrongs don’t make a right, as they say. All i’m trying to do is help you understand *why* it happens. There’s no justification for bad behavior on either side. But it happens. But I do think that there can be no resolution unless there’s room for discussion.

          • AMOS8

            I appreciate that, I really do, but I think you have presented “part” of the why … so if you know more of the “why” then I would greatly appreciate it.

            Furthermore, you presented why “it happens,” and that’s good, but I’m also interested in the OTHER why … why don’t they see these as self-defeating, or why do they see it and then refuse to acknowledge it or admit that it is wrong? [BTW, I don't expect you, or anyone else to answer these questions.]

            Also, do you see, however, how this particular behavior shuts down discussion?

            What is more, it destroys the credibility of those who practice self-defeating notions AND what is worse, do not admit the obvious.

          • Scott Dossett

            Why do people pick a scab? Because it’s an irritation (no insult meant). Why don’t fundamentalists recognize their own bad attitudes and self-defeating tendencies? Because of corrupted hearts and broken natures. Didn’t expect that from a liberal(-ish) Christian, right?

            (Side note: Most liberals I’ve known will agree that we have broken natures – to some degree, many just think fundamentalists/hyper-calvinists go *way* overboard with the total depravity thing. We were made in the image of God and that image remains with us to some degree. If we were “totally depraved” as some suggest, everyone who wasn’t a Christian would be eating their children and slaughtering their neighbors with abandon.)

            Nonetheless, consider this: In a “discussion” with someone where you were constantly put in the position of having to defend yourself and being told that your biggest problem is that you are rebellious toward God (when you are genuinely trying to be obedient to God)… wouldn’t you eventually get tired of being nice? Even though you know its wrong? Wouldn’t it try the patience of an apostle? And it did, remember Paul and the Judaizers in Galatians? Some might argue that it tested the patience of Jesus himself.

            What is the primary cause of the shutdown? Is it the quips of frustrated people or the position that wants to be part of the discussion but inherently opposes dialog on the issues it wants to discuss? The honest truth is, both. The litmus test however, is that even if moderates/liberals (those words ring a little too political for me) were divinely patient, there could be no real discussion. Maybe real discussion is just plain impossible in the case of two conflicting ideals.

            The real question (and I ask this of myself) is whether we can show love to the other side as fellow members of Christ. From my position, (in sadly brief and sparing moments of Christ-likeness) I can. Because I can recognize fundamentalists as brothers/sisters in Christ. I would be interested to know if the fundamentalist can even admit that possibility based on his/her fundamentals?

          • AMOS8

            Sorry for the delay…

            (Some) Liberals may believe that we have a “broken” nature (however they might define that), but even that is way off the mark. The accurate understanding of the heart is absolutely crucial (yes, if one believes in absolutes) because our “other” ideologies or doctrines depend on this one area.

            For example, why doesn’t socialism or communism work (or even living in “communes” like in the 60’s and 70’s)? Mainly do to the nature of our heart! No matter how well-intended or designed, communism will fail, and will result in killing or oppressing others, all in the name of the community or state. There is NO perfect system here, but for some reason, despite an abundance of historical, logical, and theological evidence, more and more liberals/moderates think socialism or communism or some form thereof is not only now a good idea, it is what we need.

            My car is “broken,” and it can be fixed. My heart is not broken like my car. It can’t be fixed. It cannot be improved or tweaked. It must be absolutely renewed or regenerated.

            The idea of “brokenness” is also popular in pop-psychology, recovery circles, and feel-good ideologies. But there is nothing good in our hearts/sinful natures apart from God and His grace. But if I am bringing some “goodness” to the table, then I have cheapened or lessened God’s grace and sufficiency.

            You said, ” If we were “totally depraved” as some suggest, everyone who wasn’t a Christian would be eating their children and slaughtering their neighbors with abandon.)”

            I don’t know if they would do those exact things, but I believe the world would be something along those lines, if not worse, if there was no light or salt of God or His people. That is roughly what will happen as described in 2 Thess 2. But evil and deceit are far more than “slaughtering others,” as we know–in order to deceive and destroy–Satan appears as an angel of light, and he performs miracles to deceive, and then to destroy.

            I think I understand your frustration of ” In a “discussion” with someone where you were constantly put in the
            position of having to defend yourself and being told that your biggest
            problem is that you are rebellious toward God (when you are genuinely
            trying to be obedient to God)… wouldn’t you eventually get tired of
            being nice?”

            But I would say that, for all of us who are genuinely trying to be obedient, that rebellion is near, or at the top, of the list of our problems. This does not mean that you are more evil than the next person, it just means that it is true for all of us. If they are not listening to other concerns and truly seeking to help with those issues, then yes, it would be frustrating. But I must say, I don’t know what group of “fundamentalists” you have been around, because that is not even close to what i have experienced. The pastor of the local FC is as sweet as the day is long. Nevertheless, I’m sorry that this has been your experience.

          • Scott Dossett

            I suspect our different experiences with fundamentalists are largely due to the fact that your stand and beliefs – by your description – are largely the same as theirs. I have been a fundamentalist among liberals. I have been a “liberal” among fundamentalist. I attended both “liberal” and conservative seminaries (in the South, in the Mid-West and even briefly on the West Coast). I’m not speaking from a singular, localized experience.

            “Liberals” may claim the intellectual high ground and come off condescending at times, but fundamentalists (by nature) almost inevitably choose the exclusivist position – because they have no choice. Everyone else must be unorthodox (at best) or heretical (at worst), and all are suspect and/or disobedient because they cannot or will not accept *the fundamentals* demanded by the fundamentalist interpretation (many won’t even admit their position to be an interpretation).

            Consider my final question in the last post carefully. Can a fundamentalist truly love and receive a liberal *as a brother/sister in Christ*? In my experience, they cannot (even if they might want to). Even in the most positive instances, “liberals” are relegated to a “hopeful at best” category. More often they are considered the enemy, deceivers or occasionally even agents of Satan himself. I’ve seen it (and been accused of it) many times on this site.

            Your observations on brokenness – originally a sidebar for me – require more space than I am comfortable devoting here. Suffice it to say, your comments on “liberal” beliefs are painting with a broad and outdated brush. It is true that “traditional” liberalism tended toward believing that we have a nature that is basically good and which can be improved with human efforts (though some would have rendered even these efforts the product of God’s grace). However, many of those whom fundamentalists (and conservatives) would label “liberals” today, believe quite the opposite. Myself for example. To be fair, “fundamentalism” gets thrown around inaccurately too, but for my part, I’ve tried to be very careful not to confuse the two.

          • AMOS8

            I forgot to mention:

            “Liberal” Christians (as you put it) tend toward believing that our hearts are good, basically good, very good, etc while the more conservative you are the more likely you see the heart as rebellious, sinful, evil, etc.

            Also, LC’s do have fundamentals, but they are not necessarily based on something external, objective, never-changing, etc. They are “liberal” (a pun kind of intended) when it comes to these fundamentals. This means that if, at some point, they don’t like that fundamental, they can replace it. (CC’s don’t have that luxury.) In their mind it is okay, because they are basically good, so they can’t be in error, and besides, the end justifies the means, the utopian idea trumps whether or not it is true, or if it would really work. We might call changing fundamentals “open mindedness,” but we can also call that compromise, or shifting with what the current culture now thinks is good, or even rebellion. This is far different from an LC, or a CC or MC truly correcting a belief they discerned to be in error. LC’s tend to see the Bible (and the Constitution) as changeable or NEEDING change, where as the CC sees it as sufficient, perfect, fully authoritative, and yes, inerrant.

          • Pedro

            You were obviously leading the “sheep” astray, if that was their conduct..why did you not preach the true Gospel of Jesus? You obviously did not…teach them to Love their enemies, pray for their enemies, do not overcome evil with evil but evil with good etc……you obviously were a snake oil salesman type preacher and not a true teach of the word of God!

          • Scott Dossett

            You got me Pedro. I’m a snake oil man for sure. Show me the money or the praise and I’ll give you whatever you want. Have you even read any of my comments on here? Yeah brother, I’m just all about keeping everybody happy.

            Anyway, I should have been more clear. I was the “associate” pastor. I didn’t preach much. And you can rest assured that I did teach those things at every opportunity. But when your senior pastor calls his congregation (from the pulpit) to pray God’s vengeance on a group of people outside the church, it’s hard to be an effective element for change.

  • DanielNash77

    The continuing pursuit to be relevant to a secular society with a “come join us, we’re not all that different” attitude may be exactly the problem rather than an answer. I certainly agree the love of Christ evidenced through His children is the way to open the door to an opportunity to present a loving God to them. However, I don’t think we get people to change by becoming like them nor telling them no real set of standards (not rules) is important to their walk and growth as a believer. The essence of Christianity IS change – 2 Cor 5:17. As someone has said – Discipline without love is legalism and love without discipline is emotion. Living as the Lord declares and loving with a genuine love presents a model that offers something real, meaningful and lasting in an wandering, artificial world.

  • Ginklestinker

    Much of the New Testament is taken up with protecting the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and with promoting righteous living through walking in the Spirit of Christ. ( Romans 5 and 8 ). The problem lies with the authoritarian approach to management, falsely called leadership to-day.. Leadership in the Bible usually tells to those who take God’s people in the wrong direction. “Follow me”, said Jesus.

  • Scott Dossett

    Overall well said. We just need to be careful throwing around the word “heresy.” Heresy hunting causes much of the problem in the modern church. We would be wise to remember that most of the people posting comments here (including myself) would be “heretics” according to the “one holy Catholic faith.” That’s important, because “heresy” requires a common consent. That was possible as long as there actually was “one holy catholic faith.” Today, “orthodoxy” is a moving target. In contemporary conservative evangelicalism, fundamentalism (in terms of the 5 fundamentals) is alive and well and considered “orthodox” while significant portions of actual historical “orthodoxy” are ignored or cast aside.

    Everybody is somebody else’s heretic. We (whoever your “we” might be) can only define heresy relatively in terms of our own subset of Christian beliefs. There is very little common consent in contemporary protestant Christianity. If you’re going to “address heresy” with “perseverance and boldness,” be aware that you may be speaking as a heretic yourself. And please contain yourself – as the early church largely appears to have – to heresies that define the boundaries of Christ’s nature and role as Savior and Messiah, rather than escalating your fuzzy eschatalogical pet peeves, ritual performances or intricate metaphors for salvation to the status of established doctrine.

    And I don’t expect to make friends with this statement, but fundamentalism, by nature, tends to exclude everyone else. After all, if you don’t embrace the fundamentals (including a view of scripture that is significantly different from that of many historical church “authorities” and a narrow view of the atonement that traces back to Anselm’s 11th century satisfaction theory), then you can’t really be considered a Christian, can you? Can I? Can they? If fundamentalism is right, then everyone else has to be wrong. It’s a short leap from wrong to bad, and from bad to enemy. And if history holds any valid testimony, Christians can be better at destroying their enemies than loving them. Please hold your fundamentalism – as the article suggests – with humility, peace and love.

    • Rick Springs

      Right on Scott…you have been blessed with Godly Wisdom! Remember always to raise it up to Him!

  • Brian

    Wow! Bash the “fundamentalist.” First of all let me state I am a “fundamentalist!” However, the word has nothing to do with my leadership as a Pastor. It has to do with my understanding of the Scriptures, which teach me how to lead the flock of God. A fundamentalist is one who adheres to the fundamentals of the faith. If you were a true “fundamentalist” as you say, then you would come out from among them and be separate. In all actuality, the major difference between “fundamentalists” and “evangelicals” is in the area of separation. I am, as a believer in Jesus Christ, commanded to be holy. How does being a fundamentalist then negate my love of Christ and mission to the world as you state it does. I don’t think you are understanding what a fundamentalist is then. In my circle of fundametalists, we love the Lord and love people which we are commanded to do, but our fundamentalism calls us to come out from the world or love not the world.

    • Scott Dossett

      Don’t confuse an imperative to singular devotion to Christ, with a specific set of doctrinal assertions. Nowhere does Paul say, “believe the scriptures are inerrant and to be exclusively interpreted literally.” Nor does he say, “you must accept penal-substitutionary atonement as the only valid analogy for salvation.”

      Maybe I misunderstand you, but exactly who are the people you are commanded to love? Which world are you not to love? The world for whose sins Jesus died? The “world” is a principle… love not the values of a corrupted world (power-hungry, self-righteous, divisive, jealous, hateful, self-seeking, self-indulgent).

      The circle of believers whom I have come to know freely acknowledge and admit our own sin (and we recognize that they are abundant). We commit those sins and ourselves to God, carefully choosing not to elevate the sins of others above our own. We do not separate ourselves from “immoral people,” “for then [we] would have to go out of the world” (1 Cor 5:10). You are separate from the world by your recognition of the love of Christ and by your actions in his name.

  • Robb

    You state that right doctrine does not save but only the grace of God through faith in Christ saves. Can I just say that is right doctrine which we as fundamentalists stand for. Because we stand for right doctrine (which is love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind) does not take away from our love of Christ. I believe it strengthens it. This was still a good reminder to keep Christ first in our lives and to love Him wholly.

  • othello caturan

    Sound doctrine and practice of walking in the truth are fundamental doctrines of the Scriptures. It is not Mounce teaching s but the apostle Paul in his letters. Love rejoiceth in the truth. I Corinthians 13:6 We are not to follow any movement but the Holy Bible not men.

  • othello caturan

    We are to expose error and false doctrines even those expounded by brethren who are undermining the truth of the pure gospel of the grace of Christ according to the apostle Paul.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Sickler/100000643034456 Robert Sickler

    There are certain fundamentals in scripture that cannot be compromised. For instance, the fallen state of mankind, Mary was a virgin, the incarnation, Jesus is the only way of salvation, and many others. In the fundamental truths rests the most perfect love: the love of God. You cannot separate fundamentalism from love; fundamentalism does not exist without love. It would appear, young man, that you have confused “legalism” with fundamentalism. Remove the word fundamentalism from your article and replace it with legalism and I will stand to applaud what you have written.

  • BargHumer

    Just the word “fundamentalism” triggers a knee jerk response, not only from the secular media but from most believers. I think many believers would be hard pressed to state what a fundamentalist is, and although many comment here that they are fundamentalists, they are probably all different.

    There is a history behind Christian fundamentalism, and it depends on the country you live in. For instance, in the UK it is very much associated with the Billy Graham way of evangelising and his early crusades. In the USA it seems to be connected with Biblical literalism and Israel. The word “evangelical” was a more preferred term to mean those who upheld an inerrant view of scripture but were more flexible in how it could be interpreted, but as C.Henry (Christianity Today) discussed, even this doesn’t work. “Evangelical” has since been applied to charismatic Christians and as far as the media is concerned that is what it means.

    How about the phrase “Biblical Christian” – it doesn’t seem to help.
    All those people who dislike denominations and labels will react.

    How about just “Christian” – it is so inclusive that it says nothing.

    Perhaps there is no term, which is why fundamentalism gets reused or recycled and naturally abused by the media and anyone else with an agenda in the church to put down those who hold to some Biblical principle that they themselves cannot accept, or wish to apply otherwise.

    For instance, Adam has a genealogy which may or may not be adjustable by a few years, not many, and many YECs believe this is fundamental. Then there are those of a H.Ross mind who think that it is all figurative and allegorical but claim to uphold the truth of the whole Bible. Of course there are many similar examples.

    I think one lesson about this is simply that the use of such a provocative term as “fundamentalism” needs to be defined before it is used.

  • notbuyinit

    Hmmmmm….. most ‘fundamentalists’ I know, and I hope I’m one of them, just believe Scripture (take it at ‘face value’), instead of ‘water it down or twist it to suit the situation’, which is apparently the ‘norm’ nowdays. So we make ‘negatives’ of certain perfectly good words… I think when many people use this word they’re refering to ‘leadership style’…. at least I hope that’s what they refer to—- By the way, it wasn’t the Church @ Ephesus Jesus said He would ‘spit out of His mouth’…… it was the ‘moderate’ one @ Laodicia.

  • Walter

    HUGE (and common, typical) error here: the problem was/is not Fundamentalism,
    the problem was/is Phaiseeism/legalism. The two are worlds apart. (and yes, fundamentalists can become pharisaical but then again so can any religious group)

    Fundamentalist is what we all should be when it comes to the cardinal doctrines
    of the Faith. Pharisees/legalists we should not be. THAT (legalism) was the problem in the Ephesian church not embracing sound doctrine firmly in belief and practice.

    The application you brought out was accurate & convicting. But I almost couldn’t hear it well over the blare of the mislabeling.

    With that said, and with realigning the labels, I agree in principle. In fact, using your terminology, the problematic and exclusive “fundamentalists” are rapidly coming from the New Reformed voices. NOT all of them – please read that – but the theological correctness is starting to get into this area with its own brethren, and the world. As a fundamentalist myself, I can;t believe I am actually the one pointing this out of an evangelical group. But you discover new things emerge all the time, LOL.

    The problem in this article was not the heart and intent, but the mislabeling which comes from simply not truly knowing the terms and their true definitions. Right message, poor choice of words (concerning who does what).

  • Cary

    It is interesting that the Bible mentions Pharisees becoming followers of Jesus but not any Saducees. It would seem that those who sensed the greatest need for Him were the ones who actually came to Him for life-change. What draws us? God’s acceptance of course, but also something in our lives cries out for the changes He will make.

  • Steve

    The author appears to promote a flexible code of Commandments and God’s law, which changes with the times…other wise it is ‘too fundamentalist”…that is the problem with “christianity” today..it is not easily recognizable from the world…