Monday, January 30, 2006

Fundamentalist: The Movement or the Adjective?

Do any of you that believe the Bible think you trace your lineage of faith back to the early 20th century? the early 16th century? the early 4th century? What about the early 1st century? I'm happy to trace my faith back to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible. I don't believe in a total apostasy for three reasons: (1) The Lord said the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Mt. 16:18), (2) Paul wrote that "some" would depart from the faith, not everyone (1 Tim. 4:1), and that (3) the total apostasy wouldn't occur until the antichrist had revealed himself (2 Thess. 2:3,4). I don't need some tangible extra-scriptural written history to believe that true NT churches have existed since Christ, but even so, we also have sufficient evidence providentially preserved that corroborates this point. These churches operated separately from Romanism and were known by different names, however, essentially having the same Scriptural distinctives. Therefore, I am happy to identify with these people, the Baptists, as my lineage.

In my opinion, fundamentalism was nothing other than an interdenominational movement in reaction to institutional liberalism. The definition in Webster's unabridged backs my understanding, when it reads: "a movement in American Protestantism that arose in the early part of the 20th century in reactin to modernism and that stresses the infallibility of the Bible. . . " Bible believing and practicing churches also rejected liberalism, whether fundamentalist or not, so would have been at least sympathetic with fundamentalism. These same churches also agreed with what have been called "the five fundamentals of the faith." These churches, though, never ever took the five fundamentals solely as their standard for separation or unity. They also rejected infant sprinkling and a host of other doctrines held by the fundamentalist movement.

Men are responsible to allign with everything God said in His Word (John 14:15-22). Agreeing to follow everything the Lord said fits into a proper view of repentance (Romans 10:9, 10; Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Making disciples requires "teaching them to observe all things" that Christ commanded. Paul exhorted Timothy that he "mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (1 Timothy 1:3). Paul also wrote in Romans 16:17, "Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."

I like the third definition of fundamentalism in Webster's Unabridged: "Strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles." I am not a fundamentalist of the movement, but I am a fundamentalist used as an adjective, in fitting with strict adherence to everything the Bible teaches. For that reason, I don't mind someone calling me a fundamentalist. I don't trace any lineage to the beginnings of the fundamentalist movement. If someone transported our church to that period, I wouldn't fellowship with those fundamentalists. I would have sympathized with them like I do with Ian Paisley, for instance, in the matter of perfect preservation of Scripture, but without fellowshipping with him due to his views on infant sprinkling (among other doctrines). I don't take my stand on fundamentals. I take my stand based upon the Word of God. When we stand before Christ, that's all that will matter.


Caleb said...

It seems that naming ourselves is a hard thing. What are we exactly? I hope that I can be called a fundamentalist, the adjective, but I fear that far to many times I fall way short of strict adherence to anything. I prefer "biblicist." Would you say its the same thing? Also, why do so many of us call ourselves Baptists? Isn't it an oxymoron to call yourself an "Independent Fundamental Baptist Church." If we are independent why associate yourself with the Baptists at all. Maybe Im being stupid. Why not be a New Testament Bible Church? Doesn't that cover it nicely?
I hope you don't think Im missing the greater point of your blog, I just have always wondered this.

Kent Brandenburg said...

The Baptist name does come with historical lineage, which speaks of New Testament authority. As a Baptist, you identify with a line of churches. Leaving it out, disregards that line for something sheerly vertical. I believe we are primarily vertical, God to us through His Word, but also horizontal, true churches should start churches as authority has been given them to do so. Individuals and movements do not possess that authority.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Voegtlin did a Sunday School lesson while we were on the road yesterday morning that defined a bunch of terms. Among them were "Independent, Fundamental, Baptist, and Christian." I thought it was a very good message in how that we ought to live up to what we call ourselves. He defined a fundamentalist as one who has strict adherence to the Bible, and has the Bible as the sole-authority. Which is also a distinctive of a Baptist. I like how you put it--a fundamentalist as an adjective

Kent Brandenburg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kent Brandenburg said...

Many won't like his definition based on their desire to keep it only as narrow as the five fundamentals. Anything inclusive of more criteria, they think will cause "disunity." Thanks Marlowe.

Anonymous said...

Amen Bro. Brandenburg. Essentially, "fundamentalism" is, or ought to be, simply Bible-believing Christianity that looks to the Scriptures for their rule, and to the Lord for their Rule. In this sense, the Apostles and many others in the early churches were "fundamentalists". But don't tell the Catholics tha! ;)

Jeff Voegtlin said...


Here are my questions:

Is there a "list" of doctrines that we separate over? Is all doctrine equally important? Are there certain Bible doctrines you will not separate over? Grace, Faith, Justification, Sanctification, Music, Modesty, etc.?

What is the difference between fellowshipping and sympathizing? What exactly is fellowship? Would you go to a meeting that Paisley was preaching at? Would you have him preach to your church? Would you have breakfast with him? Would you stop and say 'hi,' if you met him at the grocery store?

These are all questions that I have contemplated for a long time. I don't know, myself, how I would answer some of them. But I would like to have a biblical foundation before I became dogmatic about it. We have enough dogmatic fundamentalism that doesn't know why it's dogmatic. I believe that is why we have lost some to "softer, gentler" movements.

Kent Brandenburg said...

I love your "softer, gentler" comment, even the fact that the first President Bush actually said, "kinder gentler," but I got the point. It was a good spot to use it as a tickle at the end. Again, every church makes their decisions, and I do have this sorted through some because of things that seem to continually take place.

Have you noticed that people will criticize a strong church for being weak and then go to a weaker church? Something tells me that this was not because we didn't explain it clearly enough to them. Yet, I agree that we make the others look possible as an alternative because we are so careless with the Bible. That is not in fitting with our apoplexy over one word coming up missing in a text. The two don't jive. "I hate crumpled paper!!!" as I crush paper in both hands. And then, it is also true that people hide behind priesthood, hide behind "don't tell our church what to do, WE'RE AUTONOMOUS!" etc.

On separation---the passages are clear. Everything the Bible says are separation worthy. We have to do it the Bible way though. And then what is separation? If I think they are saved, I treat them as a brother; and if I think they are unsaved, I treat them as a sinner, which isn't too bad, because you want them to think. Certain people we can't eat with though.

I think this is a talking subject, because if I type it, I'll have to write a book online, when I haven't finished some that I'm actually writing. We'll talk though.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

I agree. This is a talking subject. I talk lots faster than I type.

Kent Brandenburg said...

The answers would take so long to type, that by that time, it should have been a book, or at least a side bar article.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Brandenburg, I whole heartedly agree with your critique of the fundamental (non-adjective) movement. I recently made a post concerning the BBFI and this very thing - I appreciate your blog and your commitment to follow God's Word! Jack Lamb

By the way, a good way to support Baptists is to move your blog to! It's run by a Fairhaven grad, Andy Teesdale.