A Fundamentalism Not Worth Saving

Titanic-28.gifI am a self-identified fundamentalist.  I am one by conviction.  As I understand its history, fundamentalism became a movement in the early 20th Century to fight the modernism that was permeating the educational institutions and Bible-believing denominations.  The deity of Christ was in question.  Miracles were considered myths.  The literal interpretation of Scripture was mocked and maligned.  Good men from different denominations bonded together to fight this epidemic.  They drew up a list of five fundamentals of the faith and vowed to defend them militantly and separate from those who denied their truth.  This is the fundamentalism I espouse.

However, I am at a pivotal part in my journey as a fundamentalist.  Instead of fighting against modernism and its ideals, today’s fundamentalist has seemingly chosen to direct his militant tendencies and radical separatism against a new target, brothers in Christ.

  Rather than the denial of the fundamentals of the faith, today’s battles are too often fought over areas like:

1) Translations of the Scriptures
2) Musical Styles
3) Secondary Separation
4) Modes of Baptism
5) Dispensational Differences

Because of the prolificacy of these actions, fundamentalism has fragmented into so many smaller factions that it has become impossible for the movement to regain its unity and national prominence.  The Fundamentalist was like a glorious ship, not unlike the Titantic, which has now hit her own iceberg and is sinking.  No amount of bailing will save the movement now.  By the way, I am not a happy member of its competition, reading the news from the paper on shore.  I am on the ship.

Why has fundamentalism become a movement that is not worth saving?  My sad conclusion is that we have become a proud movement.  The Bible itself warns that destruction follows pride.  Through the years as the fundamentalist movement grew, large institutions, both ecclesiastical and educational, have sprung up across our country.  While many have been equipped and trained through these institutions to go into the world preaching, teaching and making disciples, many different philosophies of ministries have also been developed and refined.  Interestingly, many of these philosophies have become associated with single biblical terms like holiness or excellence or heart.  Subtler has been the steady elevation of institutional standards to the level of doctrine.  As a result, the practice of separation has been employed time and time again against fellow fundamentalists who don’t “measure up” or have “high” enough standards.  We have become proud.

As we have become a proud movement, we have also allowed our movement to cultivate a culture of fear.  Some of you may be surprised to learn that I am not opposed to standards.  In fact, I believe every Christian must develop them.  However, strong-willed institutional leaders have not permitted liberty in areas of standards.  I have heard of and even witnessed many instances when believers have been berated publicly for their lack of adherence to certain standards.  (Point of Clarification: I am referring to standards that are not sourced in Scripture directly or indirectly.) We have become a scared movement.  We are afraid to speak out against wrongdoing because of what repercussions might result.  When our movement needed a reformational call to a fear of the Lord, we chose rather to embrace the fear of man.  As a result, our love has waned.  Perfect love casteth out fear.  There is no fear in love.  We have been mocked by the world for this lack of love.  Even they know what we are supposed to look like.

There will be those reading this who will respond, “This is not true in my corner of the world.”  And yes, I will be the first to admit that historic fundamentalism does exist in pockets around this country and others.  However, if one is to look at the topics being discussed at the national fundamental conferences, it is all too apparent that we are horrifically fragmented.

There will be others who will respond, “Well, if you feel you don’t belong, why don’t you jump ship and run to evangelicalism with the rest of the disgruntled fundamentalists?”  My answer?  I firmly intend to jump ship.  The ship is going down.  There is no alternative.  But, I will remain on this ship until the last possible moment before the bow slips under the surface.  The evangelical ocean liner just a few hundred yards away appears very attractive.  It is very modern and has every convenience on board.  But there are very few on that ship who are committed to doctrinal purity the way my fundamentalism has been.  (There are some.)  I do not plan to make my bed there.

There are many different lifeboats going off in many different directions leaving the Fundamentalist as she sinks.  I will most likely get on board one of them.   (I admit it is fun watching many different lifeboats try to claim the "true" fundamentalist name.) I will grieve the passing of the movement, but cherish the memory of being a part of it.  Many great battles have been fought and won for the cause of Christ.  I suspect He is pleased with much of what fundamentalism has stood for in the past.  Fundamentalism served its objective well.

But now, we live in an era when fundamentalism cannot be defined even among its own.  Even worse, most fundamentalists will attribute the importance of separation to the movement, but we can’t seem to find consensus on this topic either.  We’ve been told that we can’t define fundamentalism historically because we would be guilty of ignoring 40-50 years of recent history.  Fundamentalism has evolved, in other words.  Unfortunately, as in the creation/evolution debate, fundamentalism has many “missing links” in its definition.  So, how we define fundamentalism today may depend on whether we use the “FBF defining method”, the “OBF defining method”, the “Greenville defining method” or any other number of perspectives.  Interestingly, our predicament parallels another contemporary conflict.  Do we interpret the US Constitution according to the intent of the founders or has the Constitution become a living and flexible document that can be adapted and interpreted according the contemporary context?  Oh well!  At least, we don’t have a Fundamentalist Supreme Court to keep staffed!  (or do we??)

Although I grieve over the hurt to the name of Christ through our mistakes and inadequacies, I am not overwhelmed with the sinking of the Fundamentalist.  You see, I am a Baptist.  Remarkably, most of what I consider precious about historic fundamentalism is preserved in my Baptist distinctives.  Of course, even there we have problems with definition!!  I am an independent, fundamental (historically), dispensational (progressive) Baptist.  There, that’s better!

By the way, my remarks do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other members of my local church leadership.  They are my ramblings—I alone am accountable for them.  My intent with this article has not been to provide an academic paper on the history of the movement or to accuse anyone specifically of sin.  These are simply thoughts put into writing for discussion.  I am not looking for a solution to the problem.  The only action step I would propose is that we determine what to do for wide-scale fellowship and discussion in a post-fundamentalist era.

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31 responses to this post.

  1. […] Brian McCrorie declares the beginning of the post-fundamentalist era. […]

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  2. LOL….I can identify with the sentiment. Pay close attention to that other ship…it is sinking as well. Eventually there will emerge a new form of “fundamentalism,” though it will not have the name. This group will certainly include people from both ships. I do believe we are in a post-fundamental time. In fact, I had once thought about naming my site, “Post-Fundamentalist.” The only problem was that it sounded too much like a cereal.

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  3. Posted by Matt on May 8, 2006 at 4:37 pm

    I’m really sorry to hear that you feel this way, Brian. When I’m discouraged, my wife encourages me to not make any rash decisions or statements until I’m good and rested. You weren’t, by any chance, tired as you wrote this were you? 🙂

    I am a fundamentalist and I always will be. I don’t need to be a part of any movement although I naturally am because of my beliefs. I am an independent fundamentalist. I’m not happy with some things other fundamentalists do. That is okay. I have talked with many men over the years who, in seeing the warts of fundamentalism, looked to go elsewhere. (My Dad and Les Ollila are 2 of them)Where is there to go? So the problems you see in fundamentalism will not resurface wherever else you go?

    Whatever the “ship” is – I don’t think it is going down. Our churches are growing. Our camps are bulging. We have more and stronger “fundamental” colleges. There is stronger preaching and writing from fundamenalists. There is more conservative music available than ever before. There seems to be more of a proper understanding of holding the right position with the right disposition. I’m not sure who you are talking to or what you are seeing that is causing your “man overboard”, but the situation is not nearly as dire are you portray it.

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  4. Posted by Brandon on May 8, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    I agree with Matt. The situation is not nearly as dire as you would like it to be. In fact, fundamentalism may be more healthy now than it has ever been. Fundamental schools are experiencing the highest enrollment in their history (I know–I am am graduating from one of those schools this month), churches are being planted, and there is a sense of unity among the schools and churches that has not existed for some time (for example, consider the Bible Faculty Leadership Summit). In addition, national conferences are emerging that are drawing hundreds of pastors. I have attended several of these conferences during my college career, and they are excellent. No signs of pride in any of them!

    Finally, and I hate to break this to you, but the evangelical ship is not doing so well either. Just consider the books that have recently been written: The Coming Evangelical Crisis, The Great Evangelical Disaster, etc. Nope, things are definitely not going so well on that ship either!

    Just some thoughts.

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  5. Posted by Brian Dare on May 8, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    Brian,

    I’m rather surprised at your perspective on this. Fundamentalism dying? Aren’t the many church’s that bear its name, the schools that promote its cause, and even web pages like Sharper Iron proof that it is very much a live. Are there issues to work through? Certainly. However, haven’t there always been differences? The first fundamentalists included Baptist, Presbyterians and even Episcopalians – talk about differences.
    Now I will give you this, the name “fundamentalist” has been slapped on so many varying degrees of craziness. There are a lot of issues that must be dealt with. Maybe an evaluation of whom we really are and perhaps a name change is in order.
    However, is the evangelical ship really all that attractive? Evangelicalism has a hard time deciding what it is as well. You talk as if Fundamentalism is facing an inescapable doom. I think many don’t see it that way and are bound to protect the ideals and Biblical stand (including Biblical separation) of fundamentalism.

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  6. Hi everybody! I wasn’t expecting Greg to link this article to SharperIron so this traffic is pleasantly surprising. Thanks for engaging the topic. I know that this is a topic we have bantered around for over a year now. I really don’t expect to change any minds on this issue. My simple point that I’m trying to make is this: proponents of fundamentalism (of which I am one) are no longer to agree on its very definition. As a result, a movement without self-definition is doomed to failure.

    My point (though I must not have made it very clear from your comments) is not that the evangelical ship is more seaworthy than ours. Their ship is much larger than ours and pretty trendy and relevant but they suffer from far deeper foundational problems than we ever have. Thankfully, I’m not struggling with an open view of God or the literal existence of Hell or any number of other problems within the evangelical camp. But fundamentalism as a movement no longer serves a purpose, in my opinion. It is fragmented beyond repair.

    Sure, camps are bulging (some) and churches are growing (some) and colleges are matriculating greater numbers (some). But numbers are not evidence of health. In fact, if I remember correctly, Janz’s original survey showed that very few could even define fundamentalism. Where God is blessing and souls are being saved, praise God! He’s doing that in our church. But that is not a result of our fundamentalist label–people are not being attracted to that anymore. In fact, I could probably, with little effort, dwarf our “success” with the evangelical results around the world. In fact, I know I can.

    I’m not really calling for a solution to the problem because I think we’re past that. I want to explore how associations will work in a post-fundamentalist world. We’re almost there.

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  7. Posted by Dave on May 8, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    Brian,

    It is inaccurate to say that fundamentalism “drew up a list of five fundamentals” as the basis of fundamentalism. The old idea of “five fundamentals” really only comes from one group, the Presbyterians, and it was a test for orthodoxy in their ordaining process. There were other groups which also framed doctrinal statements that they considered to be the fundamentals, and the men who were fundamentalists in the Northern Baptist Convention tried to get that association to adopt the New Hampshire Conferssion of Faith in order to stave off the cancer of liberalism.

    The reason I point this out is that your claim to be a “historic” fundamentalism is grounded in this reduced doctrinal core. Even evangelicals like Mohler, Dever, Duncan, and Mahaney recognize that the historic list of five fundamentals does not serve as an adequate guard against non-orthodoxy in our day.

    I am not suggesting that you are doing the same thing, but in case you wonder why some fundamentalists get nervous when folks claim that they want to be a historic fundamentalist (in the five doctrines sense), you should read Falwell’s book, “The Fundamentalist Phenomeno,” and Ed Dobson’s “In Search of Unity.” Those men made the same argument 20+ years ago and, generally speaking, fundamentalists viewed it as a cloak for rejecting separatism. They may or may not be true (my point is not to debate it with you), but it is simply a reality that men 50 years and older observed (really 40 +, but not all my age were watching).

    Every depature from fundamentalism over the past 60 years as appealed to an earlier form of fundamentalism: the new evangelicals wanted the pre-separation fundamentalism, the John R. Rice/Van Impe/Falwell orbit wanted the pre-secondary separation (prejudicely defined by them) fundamentalism, etc.

    I will grant that a newer problem has arisen within some orbits that claim the name fundamentalism, i.e., they are deviant in doctrine yet claim to be the heirs of true fundamentalism. They are squatters on the property that were tolerated for too long and now seem to be permanent fixtures. Thankfully, I believe the squatters are deciding to congregate all in one corner, so they may just leave the rest of us alone. My theory is that if we are clear about what we believe, they will separate from us. One of the reasons that I don’t think the ship imagery works is that there has never been one fundamentalism or one evangelicalism. Never. (And whatever national prominence either fundamentalism or evangelicalism claimed was a myth–famous people do not make for genuine national prominence).

    I share some of your pessimism, but I also can’t help but agree with some of what Matt and Brandon wrote. In 20+ years of ministry, I have never seen a time when there was better relationships, cooperative ministry, and true desire to see God honored through the ministry of the Word. Stop reading the blogs and get out among some of the students in our colleges and seminaries, or talk to the men I bump into at conferences. God is doing great things.

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  8. Thanks for the comments Dave. They are insightful. I did neglect the aspect of separation in my definition. I absolutely agree that the early fundamentalists not only embraced the fundamentals but also militantly defended them.

    I’m hopeful you’re correct in your assessment of the “fundamentalists” with deviant doctrine being squatters in a corner. From what I can see, they are graduating large numbers into the ministry workforce, establishing their own “empires,” and denouncing those of us who don’t follow along.

    I also want to say that I do think God is doing some wonderful things. I certainly share great fellowship with men of God around the country. I think in certain corners of the fundamentalist “world” there is indeed a good spirit. I just don’t attribute that to fundamentalist association. I don’t see a purpose for the label anymore. We’re not fighting modernism, we’re fighting post-modernism. You’re exactly correct: the five fundamentals are not sufficient for that battle.

    So, when the term becomes so convolluted, why maintain it? What is its importance now? I remember one seminary prof telling me we need three labels to correctly identify ourselves: fundamentalist (my view of scripture), dispensationalist (my interpretation of scripture) and Baptist (my practice of scripture). But frankly, my view of Scripture is encapsulated in my Baptistic heritage. If that’s all fundamentalism is good for today, I say abandon it. Jump ship. Let’s find common ground in our fellowship w/o demanding the adherance to a label that lacks clear definition in the 21st century. Just my take. Thanks again for your comments. I value them.

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  9. Posted by Rick on May 8, 2006 at 7:29 pm

    Brian,

    Thank you very much for the article.

    To everyone else who disagrees with him,

    I cannot say that I am shocked at your objections. But I cannot agree with any of your reasons. Let me summarize your main points.

    So far there have been thirteen “proofs” listed by others that fundamentalism is healthier than ever. Here are the first seven.

    1. Our churches are growing
    2. Our camps are bulging.
    3. We have more and stronger fundamental colleges.
    4. Many churches bear its name.
    5. Many schools promote its cause.
    6. National conferences are emerging that are drawing hundreds of pastors.
    7. Fundamentalist schools are experiencing their highest enrollments ever.

    In other words, the biggest category of proof that you guys have given has to deal with numerical growth. So numerical growth is an invalid proof for the health of the seeker sensitive movement, but it’s the biggest reason that you are all using for the health of fundamentalism.

    8. We have stronger preaching and writing.
    9. There is more conservative music available than ever before.

    What exactly constitutes “stronger preaching and writing?” If it is getting back to the centrality of the gospel in all of life, then I would agree. But my experience has been that stronger preaching and writing is usually equated with stronger extra-biblical standards that are imposed on everyone.

    10. We hold the right position with the right disposition.

    Since when is claiming to have the understanding that classical music is the only right style the right position? And since when is labeling everyone who uses contemporary music as clearly disobedient, when the Bible is silent on the matter of music style?

    11. Churches are being planted.

    Yes, and as a church planter, I rejoice in the planting of churches. But what kind of churches are being planted? Many of them are just clones of the other fundamentalist churches.

    12. There is a sense of unity among the churches and schools.

    But what is the unity based on? Is it based on the gospel, like the Together For the Gospel Conference? Unfortunately it is mostly based on their opposition to evangelicals and contemporary music.

    13. SharperIron exists.

    Well, I guess you convinced me on that one. SharperIron is definitely a healthy example of believers who are growing together rather than arguing with each other over and over about pointless things.

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  10. Hi Brian. I’ve not every felt the pressure to conform to fundamentalism, because I’ve long been comfortable being only an independent Baptist. I think that the distinctives, (Brapsiss variety) suitably identify me, especially #1, Bible sole authority. I do think things that get larger than the only NT institution, the local church, tend toward pride, sort of like the Tower of Babel. Men often want to get bigger in their “circle,” like James and John and their mom. Jesus gave Himself for the church, not for fundamentalism. That might sound trite, but some kind of spiritual familial unity is found with all believers, but the only doctrinal/practical unity is in our own church. I don’t expect to unify on doctrine and practice with everyone who claims fundamentalism. I don’t even see the need. Trying would frustrate me.

    You can have Godly, Spirit-controlled, Scriptural standards, fulfill the Great Commission, and keep sound doctrine and practice with a local church alone, and then fellowship with other churches and men of like faith and practice. The greatest breath of fresh air in my adult lifetime was when I stopped affiliating with the FBF. I would say join the club, but perhaps better, leave the club.

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  11. Sometimes I am quite thankful to be toiling in relative obscurity… 🙂

    I will say this: I am not a fundamentalist because of growing camps, churches, colleges, or conferences. I am a Fundamentalist because the idea fits what I believe- which is what I see as I study the Word of God. I know there are problems when I look at others who also use the label- but that’s ok. I’m sure they see problems when they look at me, too.

    I will also say this- in everyday life and ministry, I don’t really think it matters a great deal where I am if I identify as a Fundamentalist or not. While the term is occasionally useful as a starting point, one still needs to further define if real unity is to be discovered. I praise the Lord for growth I see in like minded churches under the direction of some like minded pastors. But the “ship mentality” is just so far away from the setting in which I live and work that it seems almost laughable to contemplate “jumping off.”

    For me, being a Fundamentalist is about a set of convictions– not a movement. Who do you fellowship with, then? Seems obvious to me: With people who share those convictions. For me, the men I see and observe with whom I share the greatest commonality in conviction and purpose still call themselves Fundamentalists.

    I do, too.

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  12. Brian,

    Great thought-provoking post! And Greg, I agree with your sentiments as well. I, too, am a Fundamentalist because of a set of convictions rather than loyalty to a movement.

    Brian, you are an asset to the God-blogosphere!

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  13. Greg,

    Thanks for your thoughts. They are very good. The movement is what I am referring to in this article, NOT the underlying convictions. I just feel the term is becoming archaic and devoid of any real meaning and it’s time to move on. It’s becoming confusing and unhelpful in self-identity.

    Ken,

    Thanks for the encouragement! I appreciate your blog too and have it on my links. I try to check it out daily. Keep it up!

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  14. Posted by Joel Tetreau on May 8, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    Brian,

    I laughtd when I saw your article. I said to myself – OK – here we go again! I can appreciate that you no doubt wrote this thinking out loud. Matt and Dave are seeing a correct side to this – not trying to sound postmodern – you are also seeing a correct side to this.

    Fundamentalism to me reminds me of an army that used to all wear the same colors, same uniform, same weapons, etc….now we show up more like a mob – we sort of belong to the same side – but we’re more like malitia than an army stepping together in sink.

    I think some of us (like Dave and Matt) really want the old army days – those guys are realist – they know those days are over -but they also believe that what fundamentalism is today is more an extension of the past than the creation of something new. I on the other hand see fundamentalism as “growing.” Frankly I’m thrilled – I’ve never been more optomistic about Biblical fundamentalism than I am today. Guys like you and I are asking – can we do better – that is let’s take the good from the old “republic” and let’s see if the Lord can’t create a great team like he did in the past. I agree with Thomas – There may in fact be a brave new world of fundamentalism – I think numbers of us are working toward that end – but I also believe that new world will be at the foundation the same foundation of old fundamentalism – while simply building on the strengths of the past while at the same time attempting to be even more effective.

    So, I don’t know – perhaps your sinking ship is a good anaology. Especially if the life boat that is launched from the older ship is heallthy and carries many of the same sailors from the first ship.

    For me personally – I don’t worry too much what the “other guy” thinks about the national identity of fundamentalism – Frankly if he’s walking in the same direction as I am – than well walk together – And if that means we’re a type of functioning healthy fundamentalism well then – Great!

    Straight Ahead!

    Joel

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  15. Good thoughts, Joel. I agree. I like your "militia" analogy–more appropriate with our "fighting fundy" heritage. I did indeed hesitate posting this. I have no malice or ill will toward fundamentalism. It served its purpose well, IMO. I just think we're hanging on to a term which is almost obsolete and certainly not clearly defined today. I do think association is important…fellowship is vital. I don't want to minimize that at all. I think it's just maybe time for a new banner.

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  16. Posted by Matt Herbster on May 8, 2006 at 10:40 pm

    Greg and Joel,

    I thought you all articulated very well what I didn’t do so good a job at communicating.

    Greg, I am not a fundamentalist because of the growing churches, camps, etc. I trust you know that. I stated right off the start that “I don’t need to be a part of any movement although I naturally am because of my beliefs.” I am where I am because of what I believe – not vice versa!

    Rick, wow, where do I start. It sure doesn’t take long in a blog for someone to completely misrepresent what someone else has said. Rick, I did not use the growth of churches, etc. to demonstrate the “health” or “success” of fundamentalism. I only used growth it to demonstrate that the movement is not dead. It would be absolutely absurd for me to say that the seeker church movement is dead. I don’t like the movement, I am in disagreement with the movement, but it is far from dead. Fundamentalism is far from dead. You may disagree with it’s direction, beliefs and thought processes – but it is far from dead.

    However, I don’t think I will win with you, Rick. I mention the growth and then I mention something that is a TRUE test of health and success – the accurrate and powerful preaching and teaching of the Word and you change it to say whatever you want it to say – that it is just a chance to preach extrabiblical standards. You then proceeded to make outrageous claims about what I believe (or someone believes) in regards to music. It was actually quite humorous as to how much you got out of my few words. With your talk, Rick, I’m starting to think that you might fit in with some of the fundamentalism that we are decrying.

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  17. Posted by tjp on May 8, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    Brian,

    I don’t think fundamentalism’s dead, nor do I think it’s terribly sick. But I do think it’s lost its way, that it’s lost its bearings.

    Fundamentalism stands at a crossroads. It can continue down its present path of “get over it,” or it can take a more chastened route and provide a thoughtful orthodoxy that can meet the ever-changing demands of a sane separatist orthopraxy.

    That fundamentalism carries within its bosom the stuff of authentic Christianity is certain; that it has adequate leadership, persuasive role models, and articulate spokesmen isn’t. If fundamentalism (as a movement) melts down, it will do so precisely because it’s failed to care for its own beam.

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  18. Posted by Rick on May 8, 2006 at 11:26 pm

    Matt,

    Actually, I would not call myself a fundamentalist. So I would not be part of a fundamentalism that we are decrying when I’m not even part of that group.

    My definition of a fundamentalist would be anybody that keeps that which is fundamental to everything (the supremacy of God in the gospel of Christ) as fundamental to everything. If that were the definition of fundamentalism, then I would boldly call myself a hyper-fundamentalist. However, the very fact that none of us want to be called hyper-fundamentalists show that fundamentalism is defined not by the supremacy of God in the gospel of Christ, but rather by degrees of separation. If it were truly defined by the supremacy of God, then who of us would not want to be called a hyper-fundamentalist? Because of that, I am not willing to label myself as part of a group that 1) cannot agree on how to define itself, and 2) is based on something other than the supremacy of God in the gospel of Christ.

    Also, you said that you “only used growth to demonstrate that the movement is not dead.” Well, what is so good about just not being dead? If the movement is sick, then why be excited about it? In other words, if the movement is based upon something other than the supremacy of God in the gospel of Christ, then why should we feel good about boldly calling ourselves part of that group? And if it is based upon something else, then it is going in the wrong direction. And if it is going in the wrong direction, then why should we be so adamant that it is the only right movement to be a part of?

    I apologize for wording my last post poorly. I did not mean to draw the specific examples about music from what you said in your post. In fact, you didn’t even bring that up. I was just listing the examples that I have experienced that fit under the categories and reasons for “not being dead” that you posted. But as I read it again, I guess I can see how it may look like I was accusing you of saying those things.

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  19. Brian,

    Keep thinking and keep reading. The problems you have with Fundamentalism have voiced here were voiced by others back in the 1930’s. Fundamentalism’s problems are not new. And they’re much more substantial than the ones you’ve mentioned.

    I don’t think that Fundamentalist culture created these problems. These problems existed before Fundamentalism, and they exist outside of Evangelicalism. They’re a product of human nature.

    I do think, however, that the historical circumstances of the 1920’s- specifically the loss of the great northern conventions to liberalism, coupled with classic Dispensationalism caused birds of a certain feather to flock together.

    Note that Machen’s theological grandchildren, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in America, do not have the same problems that their Baptist cousins have. The differences are eschatological and ecclesiological: the idea of working to expel liberals from the church vs. the idea of leaving a church that contains liberals, and the idea that Christ’s Kingdom is already come and that the church’s role is to promote it vs. the idea that the world is getting worse and worse and the only hope is to bunker down and wait for the Parousia.

    This is not to say that the OPC or PCA are without problems. And it’s certainly not to assert that the New Evangelical project was without serious flaws.

    New Evangelicalism failed because a Roman Catholic or Jehovah’s Witness could sign a statement of those “five fundamentals.” The faith cannot be reduced to a few fundamentals, nor should it be. Any future movement formed from the remains of Fundamentalism and New Evangelicalism will likewise die after two generations as long it hangs onto the same failed premises.

    And I think abandoning the premises means we should abandon the name.

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  20. Posted by Joel Tetreau on May 8, 2006 at 11:47 pm

    Hey Brian,

    This is a really dumb question – is there a way I can actually see the size of this print on your blog without using a magnfiying glass?

    Thanks,

    Joel

    PS – Perhaps using this micro print you demontrated the humility of one who is bowing down! Very Good Imagery! 🙂

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  21. Joel,

    You can adjust this manually yourself by holding down the CTRL key and pressing the + button until you get the desired size for your aging eyes. CTRL and 0 will reset it back to the default size, and CTRL and – will shrink it.

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  22. Posted by Joy Wagner on May 9, 2006 at 9:46 am

    I don’t think the ship is sinking because the movement as a whole still has its anchors (like the real fundamentals) grounded. I think the problem is that several people on the ship are putting down their own anchors (like personal standards, versions etc) which is making the boat rock. I am encouraged to see the strong anchors that are still holding the ship, but it’s always discouraging to see the people that refuse to stroke along with the rest and want to row their own way. It defeats the others who are striving to stay true and it makes the ship go in unnecessary circles.

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  23. Joy,

    Of course I agree with you. The foundation is good; it’s the movement I feel is fragmented–the ship is breaking apart. And, of course, anchors do little good if the boat is sinking!! 😉

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  24. Posted by ddm on May 9, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    Wow! I have just spent the last hour reading this post and the many comments. I was born on the Fundamentalist ship; reared on the Fundamentalist ship, and am still holding on with my husband. But when the time comes to get on a lifeboat, I am right there with him.
    It took me a long time to develop my own convictions and standards based on the Bible and not what my fellow Fundamentalists believe. There are still times that I have to “row my own way” because I believe those on the ship are wrong. Unfortunately, Joy is right, and this just makes the ship go in “unnecessary circles”.
    Does that mean I should not hold my standard but rather give in to the majority of the passengers who are not bold enough to say they are wrong?! God forbid!!!! I pray daily that I will have the boldness to stand for truth, the boldness to support those who are teaching Biblical truth and not personal preference, and the boldness to jump ship when necessary.

    Reply

  25. While there may be serious issues with large portions of evangelicalism, you err in thinking that there are only a few who are committed to doctrinal purity.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a PCA member.

    Reply

  26. Matthew,

    I am hopeful you are right and I am wrong. Proportionally, though, my limited exposure to evangelicalism suggests otherwise. Evangelicalism is a big group of people.

    Reply

  27. […] Recently, I came across an interesting blog by Brian McRrorie entitled Bowing Down. He is an assistant pastor of a fundamentalist church who nevertheless sees several glaring problems with the fundamentalist movement as a whole. What caught my attention was his position on unity and separation expounded on in the comment thread of an article where he defended his pre-trib/pre-mill position on eschatology. I found myself in agreement with much of what he said–you can read the discussion here. […]

    Reply

  28. I’m 57; not a member of a fundamentalist church but have attended conservative churches all of my life. It seems to me that modern Fundamentalism is still represented by King James Only and secondary and tertiary separation. From my limited viewpoint, those two things appear to be the defining fundamentals of modern fundamentalism.

    If that is true, and it certainly appears to be, the ship certainly sinks.

    They are the toxic glue that most clearly seems to identify the fundamentalists. jb

    Reply

  29. […] the problems with fundamentalism, some believe it is not worth saving, while others believe it is. Phil Johnson’s speech, “the Failure of the Fundamentalist […]

    Reply

  30. Posted by PhilipT on August 31, 2008 at 1:32 am

    I can’t believe that it took me this long to find a blog post that so typified the search and struggle I have been going through. Thanks Brian!

    I would like to simply note that one reason for the problems in fundamentalism could possibly stem from the initial failure to codify ALL the beliefs and practices necessary for fundamentalists. In the early years of fundamentalism, the breadth of denominational participation caused great difficulty in the construction of such a creed.

    In some ways, the lack of a creed or solid definition of fundamentalism seems to have created a more reactive rather than proactive movement.

    In my perspective, fundamentalism as a whole still seems to be the best one to hang with until a better option presents itself. For now, I’ll deal with (try to avoid, ignore, confront, etc.) Bible version issues, legalistic standards, and other random issues that are rampant in the movement rather than having to deal with the seemingly more perilous issues rampant within evangelicalism (evangelical feminism, open theism, new perspective on Paul, emergent church/church growth movements, and Evangelicals & Catholics Together). I am a fundamentalist by necessity. To use your “ship analogy,” there are no other truly viable and seaworthy vessels to board at the moment.

    More and more in my generation are finding the fundamental movement less and less tenable and have jumped ship either to the open arms of the evangelicals or to the vast expanse of untitled ambiguity. I have a hard time faulting either one, but I still find that the few good things about fundamentalism are worth clinging to as I hope and pray for a new and better ship to rescue me.

    Reply

  31. […] moderate fundamentalists) see problems, but do they see the solution? They’ve seen the issues for at least a decade now. But who’s willing to do what needs to be done for the sake of their own souls and for the souls […]

    Reply

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