FundamentaWHAT? Understanding your fundamentalist neighbor (podcast)

So, what actually is a Christian “fundamentalist”? Perhaps you’ve seen this word on a church website. Or, perhaps you’ve heard it as a slur, for example, “What do you mean I can’t die my hair fluroesent green? You’re such a fundamentalist MOM!”

The word fundamentalist harken’s back to the late 1800’s when liberals where injecting their theological misgivings into seminaries and denominations. Their tone was suspicious, and they questioned whether Jesus Christ was, in fact, the Son of God, whether the Bible was His word, and if obedience to Christ was that important. In resistance to this liberal influx, a group of theologians and pastors bounded together to defend the historical, orthodox definitions of faith. This group became known as ‘fundamentals’ because — despite being from various Christian denominations — joined together to defend the essential foundations of the Christian faith. They explained, correctly, that questioning Christ’s divinity or resurrection, is to question the essence of our faith. The apostle Paul worded like this: “If Christ has not risen again, our faith is in vain, and we are the most miserable lot of fools.” In this sense, every Christian must be a fundamentalist. The basic, core truths that Christ taught must be safe-guarded by each Christ follower. Otherwise … what’s the point?

However, as the fundamentalist movement evolved, some branches began making their own lists of “Christian fundamentals”, such as insisting that Christians must only read the King James Bible version, women must not wear pants, boys should not listen to pop, girls shouldn’t go to space, and no one should watch movies that are higher than an extra-G rating. The problem, of course, isn’t that they had these convictions; the problem is that they considered these beliefs to be fundamental to the Christian faith. They became skeptical of fellowship with any Christian who didn’t defend these same issues — or didn’t defend them loud enough. Whereas Christ’s divinity and resurrection are essential fundamentals of our faith, homeschooling and Baptist succession are not, and it’s problematic to treat one as if it were the other. Over the past decades, then, the word “fundamentalist” in Christian circles began to refer to anyone who treats a non-essential as a core, essential dogma of the faith.

However, this raises a question, and we’ll end with this: is it correct to say some things are essential and other’s aren’t, when everything is related, in some fashion, to the same truth of Scripture? Isn’t that like telling my son that nutrition is important, but eating food is non-important?

In the 1850’s, J. R. Graves, baptist founder of the Landmark movement, said: “To divide the positive requirements of Christ into essential and non-essentials, is to decide how far Christ is to be obeyed, and in what points we may safely disobey him.”

Is that what we mean by essential and non-essential? Like, this deserves to be obeyed, and this over here not so much?

Scripture does tell us that, in the order of priorities, certain points do come first. For example, when Proverbs tells us, “Guard your heart above all else and with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life”, we shouldn’t understand that nothing else is worth guarding. Certainly, our eyes, our minds, our desires and our words must be watched. The aim of this proverb, however, is to give top priority to our hearts, or else, pretty much all else, is pointless. What’s the good of guarding your mouth if your heart is unkept?

In the same manner, the essential elements of our faith, such as Christ’s divinity and resurrection are the rock on which we build our lives. Without this rock, all works of obedience – such as baptism, missions or worship — simply crumble away. Christ is essential to Christianity, you see. Yet, this doesn’t work the other way around. If I’m in Christ, my obedience to Him IS important, but I can’t say the truth of Christ hinges on, say, what I wear, what music I listen to, or which church I attend. My Christian walk and spiritual growth does not make Christ more or less real, because He is already eternally true.

Instead, my worship and fellowship with other Christians must be centered on the truth of Christ and His Gospel. This — and this alone — will spark joyful obedience and peaceful submission.

You have to learn to love the bomb.’ It took me a long time to really understand what that meant. It wasn’t ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.’ It wasn’t ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.

Stephen Colbert, via

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The infallible test of spiritual integrity, Jesus says, is your private prayer life. Many people will pray when they are required by cultural or social expectations, or perhaps by anxiety caused by troubling circumstances. Those with a genuinely lived relationship with God as Father, however, will inwardly want to pray and therefore will pray even though nothing on the outside is pressing them to do so.

Tim Keller,

In the second chapter of the book of Acts we have the account of the origin of the Christian church. This is what the church is meant to be. This is what the church has always become in periods of reformation and of revival. It is commonplace to say that every period of true revival and reawakening is nothing but a return to the condition of the book of Acts.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, via

Confession of an Ex-Landmarker

Bob L. Ross wrote a paper about Landmarkism in the 60’s. In the closing words, he shares this personal note:

“Those who know me know that I have been a consistent Landmark Baptist in faith and practice. I have written articles, tracts, and booklets in which I support those views which are described by the term Landmark. Also, I have practiced these principles, rebaptizing those who were immersed by someone other than a Landmark Baptist administrator, re-organizing churches if they did not start from another Scriptural (Landmark) church, and refusing to recognize the validity of any baptism or church organization that did not originate upon the authority of a sound Baptist church.

As a result of these views, I can now see how I have contributed to a bad type of sectarianism, although I was honest all the while in thinking I was only doing what was right in the sight of God. I have said things against Spirit-blessed men, simply because they were not Landmark Baptists. I have regarded God-blessed churches as unscriptural simply because they were not in the Landmark succession. I know I have done much evil; I only hope the Lord will be pleased to allow me to undo some of it. And I hope that you, dear reader, read this article with an open mind to what I have to say. I assure you that I was a Landmark of Landmarks in what I believed. I do not believe you could now be any more a Landmark Baptist than I once was. It was through opening my mind and heart to the plain facts of the Bible and history that Landmarkism was removed from me. I hope you will judge with an open mind, also. Be honest with yourself and with the truth. It is always best to simply take the truth and let our own ideas go, regardless of the cost. When a person changes or relinquishes his views out of good motives and respect for the truth, he is only doing what all good, sincere men should do. C. H. Spurgeon once made a remark about such changes: “To confess you were wrong yesterday is only to acknowledge that you are a little wiser today; and instead of being a reflection on yourself, it is an honor to your judgment, and shows you are improving in the knowledge of the truth” (New Park Street Pulpit, 1:310).”

Landmarkism: Unscriptural And Historically Untenable, Journal: Central Bible Quarterly.