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The Best and The Brightest - The Idea of Fundamentalism and the Movement of Fundamentalism

Monday, December 12, 2005

File under Popular_, Fundamentalism_, Christianity_, Hot_Issues

I don't like having something in an incomplete state hanging over my head, so I am going to go ahead and post my final(?) installment of the The Best and The Brightest discussion that we have been having. I hope that I am not taking a bat to Man-O-War here (i.e. beating a dead horse).

For those just joining us, the articles in this series are given here:
The Best and the Brightest
The Best and the Brightest - Redux
The Best and the Brightest - Criteria for Evaluation
The Best and the Brightest - Handling Questions
The Best and the Brightest - The Idea of Fundamentalism and the Movement of Fundamentalism

As I mentioned in my post, The Best and the Brightest - Redux, there were essentially three areas that were brought up in the comments by Michael regarding the article entitled The Best and the Brightest.

My response to the first area is in the article entitled, The Best and The Brightest - Criteria for Evaluation.

My response to the second area is in the article entitled, The Best and The Brightest - Handling Questions.

This final post in this series deals with the third area that was brought up in the comments, namely, - what Fundamentalism are the young guys supposedly leaving?

In Michael's comments, he addresses the view that the young guys do not have a problem with the idea of Fundamentalism, just the movement of Fundamentalism.

Specifically, Michael made the following comments:

The second answer lies in our semantics. How do you walk away from fundamentalism? Most of the best and brightest who have left the movement still subscribe to the idea of fundamentalism. What does that make them? Traditional reasoning says if you are not a fundamentalist you must be a new evangelical or a liberal. This may have been true in the '60s and '70s, but I find fewer people and churches today define themselves according to a movement.

The issue that comes up from this comment is the question of the "idea" of Fundamentalism as distinct from the "movement" of Fundamentalism. I believe that this is an important issue, but an issue that is not quite so "cut and dried." I will also admit that I am still developing my thinking in this area, so don't take this as my final word on the matter as I think through it and be gentle as you rip me.

When we speak of Fundamentalism as a movement, of what do we speak? Is it the FBF? Is it the "Bob Jones Denominational Network" (to quote some of the anti-BJU propaganda)? Is it the Free Presbyterians or the FFBC? Is it the OBF? Is it all those who have been to The Wilds and thrown their stick in the fire? The reality seems to me that when you speak of Fundamentalism, there is a degree in which to speak of it as a "movement" is impossible if the concept of movement is monolithic. Even the bigger umbrella groups like the ACCC can't and don't claim to speak for the whole "movement" as the authoritative voice of Fundamentalism.

When I am defending Fundamentalism, I am not ultimately defending some movement that can be tangibly held to and supported - as such. The nature of Fundamentalism does not lend itself to being controlled and organized by some leader or group of leaders. Instead, when we speak of the "movement" of Fundamentalism, it seems to me that we are actually talking about a wide variety of groups who, while differing in many ways, are unified in that they agree in the importance of standing firmly upon the issues of the Fundamentals and the militant defense of those Fundamentals (including the practicing of separation from apostasy and from disobedient brothers).

I agree perhaps part of the problem lies in the semantics regarding fundamentalism. I am not arguing for the movement, so much as the idea, as properly understood. I would say, however, and this is important, that those who genuinely subscribe to the idea of Fundamentalism will not find themselves without some fellowship within the "movement" of Fundamentalism (as broadly understood). I would also say that often (not necessarily always) those guys who claim to be retaining the "idea" of Fundamentalism while shedding the "movement" tend to reveal that they have abandoned more than the "movement" when one examines their ministries and considers the associations that they do make.

I might not go quite as far as Dr. Dave Doran on this topic, but I believe he is close with his assessment of this concept.
In terms of the "movement" ... in other forums I have stated that I don't believe there is a "movement" any longer. So, please don't take anything that I have written as being aimed at preserving some movement. I do believe that likeminded churches and ministries will align with each other when they deem it appropriate and helpful.

Just my thoughts,


File under Popular_, Fundamentalism_, Christianity_, Hot_Issues


Don said...

Frank, the only thing I would add is that I wonder if there truly ever was a "movement" as such. For example, the churches that left the Northern Baptist Convention to form their own Conventions could be said to be a movement of sorts, but they were not all there was to Fundamentalism, even then.

I agree that when you examine those who say they are leaving the movement but not the idea, you find that they speak with a forked tongue (although perhaps not delberately so). What they mean is that they are willing to contend for orthodoxy, but only to a point. They mostly don't want to contend against the world and certainly not against the more conservative forms of the evangelical idea.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

1 L Loyd said...

I had to go back and read all the blogs to see the whole issue. I found it interesting. Twenty-five years ago I was one of the "best and brightest" in a small IFB church. They taught me the Bible and they taught me to think for myself.

What more could you ask for.

But (and isn't there always a but in these stories) I realized some things that are held as hard and fast rules were not of the Bible but of culture or belief of men. That's when I found that there is little room for difference of thought.

So it can be hard to be true to yourself and follow the standards of many groups of Fundamentalists. Does that mean you no longer are one? The standard of believing the Bible to be the literal Word of God and should be followed as such is a key to being a Fundamentalist. But this allows me to read a non-KJV version, send my kids to public school, and work in the movie industry. I'm not saying that would be easy, but we have the freedom to try.

Our response: Romans 14.

How do you define Fundamentalist?