A Christian Analysis of Fundamentalism

A friend of mine who was a devout Fundamentalist was thrilled and happy whenever he found something in the Bible that contradicted logic, because it provided him an opportunity to prove that he believed the Bible on faith, not on logic and reason. Fundamentalists are proud to believe that they subject their personal judgment to the judgment of God.

But you are always using your personal judgment If you decide to accept what someone else says in spite of it contradicting what you think you know, that is your judgment that they know better. Your judgment must be good for something, or you have no way of judging who you are going to believe.

Do you accept whatever the Bible says even if it contradicts your own reason because you believe that the Bible is the Word of God? How do you know that it is the Word of God? Surely if I wrapped a Bible cover around a copy of Peyton Place you wouldn't try to live by it. Therefore you posses an ability to discern between what is from God and what is not. You possess this ability as part of your basiic, usnsaved human nature and human mind, or else no one is capable of being led to the truth, or saved.

A line I hear often from fundamentalist Christians is, "This isn't what I say; it's what God says." But all of us, including fundamentalists, can only speak of how we understand what God said. God's truth is perfect, but our understanding of that truth is not and never will be. We can only grow in our understanding by being willing to be wrong.

We all build our judgment in steps, accepting some fundamentals on faith, then testing other ideas against those fundamentals. What we already believe will always filter what we perceive. The only way to surface such assumptions, stretch our filters, and correct for our blind spots is to dialogue with people who read the text differently than we do.

Personally, I do not believe that the Bible is the recorded and perfect Word of God. I believe that the Bible as we have it today is the record of humanity's dialogue with God over thousands of years. It is an important tool in informing our own ongoing dialogue with God now. To disregard the lessons of all previous generations in growing to understand God and our relationship to God would be foolish.

But to interpret the Bible "comprehensively," as Tony Marco urges in "Stonewall Revisited", is to interpret each part of it in the light of the key verses that the Bible itself says should guide us:

Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.

Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul, and love thy neighbor as thyself.

Test the spirit by its fruits.

Testing the Spirits

The Bible itself tells us to "test the spirit" behind any prophecy (1 John 4:1). Galatians gives us tests:

5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
5:20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Traditionalists may argue that the labels of "fornication," "uncleanness," and "lasciviousness" cover homosexuality and condemn it; that "repentance from homosexuality" yields the fruit of "temperance." On the other side is the argument that inveighing against homosexuality causes "hatred, variance, wrath, strife and murders" and is therefore against the Spirit of God, while homosexual Christians are able to live in "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" and therefore there is no law against their homosexuality.

Fundamentals vs Fundamentalism

The inventiveness of the human mind in defense of what it already believes and practices is infinite.

That is why it is important to have touchstones that you can check yourself against.

During the Inquisition, priests considered themselves to be acting in love when they tortured, maimed and killed people they considered guilty of Idolatry, witchcraft, variance, seditions and heresies. They were harming the body, but saving the soul. Later Christians put forth the same claim of love for the soul of their victims when they tortured and killed people accused of witchcraft.

We must ask ourselves "Is this other person going to be demonstrably, in physical reality, and in their own awareness healthier and happier for what I am about to do or say?" If the answer is "Yes" we are acting in a spirit of love. If the answer is "No" then no amount of Biblical passages can justify it.

Spiritual Humility

Fundamentalists make much of "spiritual humility," saying "we must not use our own reason to determine what is right and wrong, but only the Word of God." Yet only our own reason can tell us what is the Word of God. Am I to accept every book offered to me as Scripture? If someone takes the cover off a King James Bible and wraps it around a copy of Peyton Place, do I start trying to live by it? No, I use the sense God gave me to decide whether what I'm reading is inspired by God.

What is spiritual humility is saying "God knows the whole truth, but I don't. I will be willing to find out that anything I know is wrong, and to grow in understanding."

Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me

God is a living God, alive and active in the world today. We must follow the living God, rather than any of our preconceptions of God.

No Graven Images

Have you made an image of God in your mind and heart, and do you worship that image instead of being open to the living God?

Using the Lord

Do you use the authority of God to back up your personal beliefs of what is right and wrong?

False Witness

Have you falsely attributed evils to people that you disagree with?

Living in a Diverse World

Not everyone will always agree with you, Hallelujah. God put us in a world of people with differing viewpoints because that's the only way we'll ever learn what our own blind spots are.

If you want to be holier than your neighbor, try learning more from him than he does from you.


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Last updated December 2, 2002