When some people hear the term Fundamentalist, they immediately recall someone in particular who preached a word of condemnation against them. They remember feelings of judgment that was unlovingly spoken to them. Others when they hear the term fundamentalist get a warmth of truth rising up inside of them. They are the ones who believe in objective truth in God through Christ and want to adhere diligently to the authority of Scripture.
I have not once considered myself a Fundamentalist until this year. Persecution and opposition are a glorious means to finding one’s personal theology, if there is such a thing. When we encounter some form of opposition, immediately it seems that the walls go up. But what are these walls exactly? They are the truth with which we have been conditioned to believe. Often maybe these walls are like the walls of a bedroom, a solid structure that gives us comfort and shelter. When a statement is made that is perceived as persecution or opposition, we know our boundaries and where our walls stand. However, I believe we don’t often know why these walls were built in the first place or why we place them where we do. The ensuing conversation that follows the persecution is that discerning tool that reveals to us where and why the wall is there.
Having been labeled a Fundamentalist this year, I have had many perceived persecutions arise. Indeed it is the oppression against the theology that God has called me to hold steadfastly to that has revealed the walls that I have built and I have only yet to begin discerning why they are there. Conversations with a few, who would not consider themselves Fundamentalist, have led to more transformative and strengthening growth than in any other church context. If anything, conversing with someone who is appalled at my conservative views has made me seek out the truth behind the statements and affirmations that I hold fast to. Many hours studying Scripture and theological books in contrast to the condemning views of some against me have given me a foundation for my beliefs that I otherwise would not have held. I may have leaned a certain direction and known why, but without standing in the face of persecution, I was never forced to dig deeper and seek the concrete that set my walls.
Fundamentalism is a label that has far too many negative contexts associated with it. Though I consider myself a Fundamentalist, in the sense that I believe all should adhere to the authority and teaching of Scripture, you will not often find me using the word. Indeed it evokes a picture of someone preaching a word of condemnation free from being delivered in any loving way. Indeed I have been conditioned when I hear the term to think of wacko’s who love no one and believe they have the answer delivered via blowhorn for everyone to hear. Some of the notions we have regarding the label may be just. However, I believe it is my call to wield the truth’s that God has revealed to me through the Authority of Scripture in a manner that speaks of love for one another and mutual submission, rather than dominance and judgment. I believe this is the call for all who hold loosely to the term Fundamentalist. One thing I have learned the hard way this year at Trinity is that those who find themselves liberally opposed to Fundamentalism often can be characterized with the same misaligned caricature that has been used to defraud and depose them. For instance I have seen the same condescending judgment and persecution against me from the liberals that they would lay claim to as the reason they have a bad taste in their mouth after they hear the word Fundamentalism. Indeed I have felt more loved by certain Fundamentalists than I have certain Liberals who claim that Fundamentalists are heretics due to their lack of love towards one another. The Fundamentalist-Liberal dilemma has only just begin for me and I’m already tired of it, though I believe God is calling me to be educated in it, not to simply toss it aside.
The persecutions that have reared their head against me have provided great maturity in my life. Indeed I seek to be more loving and discerning because of them. My only hope is that the truth of Scripture might speak for all to hear in a way that is not filled with judgment, but with love and certainty in the justification and salvation which we find in Christ. May we speak to one another, no matter where we stand, with a word of truth and love side by side, delivered in a manner that redefines someones view of whatever camp you so find yourself in at the time. To God be the glory forever. Amen.