Tuesday, March 29, 2005

De-constructing My Fundamentalism

I always wanted to make a shirt that said, "I am the face of fundamentalism". Though my friends and peers would shutter at being called fundamentalists, I always thought that if I believe in the fundamentals then I am a fundamentalist. I always like to associate myself with the outcast and no one is more "outcast" than those who are labeled "fundamentalist". The world hates the fundamentalist so maybe such a label is to be worn with pride. BUT...

It hasn't been until recently that I have come to understand, from the reformed perspective, what a fundamentalist is and that I really am not a fundamentalist after all.

In the CRC publication, "What it means to be Reformed" the following statement is made to distinguish being reformed or even evangelical from being "fundamentalist".

"Reformed Christians also strongly distinguish themselves from fundamentalism, with its anti-intellectualism and suspicion of science and learning that arises from a lack of emphasis on creation; its lack of cultural engagement; and its tendency to emphasize the rule of Christ in the world to come rather than in this world, a tendency that arises from a dispensational understanding of history in which the kingdom of God is still a future reality."

I would like to emphasize this statement about "suspicion of science and learning that arises from a lack of emphasis on creation". It seems that there are two ramifications of a lack of emphasis on creation:
1. The fundamentalist worldview sees that knowledge comes almost exclusively from "special revelation". In such a view, the only truth is the truth of scripture. All other sources of truth are to be doubted. Sometimes this doubt is even doubt with respect to "biblical studies". Only scripture is to interpret scripture. BUT God gave us revelation of Himself through general revelation as well. My knowledge of the universe which God gave me through my mind of myself and my world is not to be simply doubted out of hand. "When the book of science appears to conflict with the book of Scripture, Reformed Christians reread and study BOTH books to see where they are misreading". I actually chose to leave a more fundamentalist stream of the church as my children got older for this very reason. My desire is that my children learn to read the book of science and nature as well as the book of Scripture and that they become excellent at both for both reveal the knowledge of God (Ps. 19)

2. Such a low view of creation creates an unbalanced view of the image of God in the unbeliever. Not only does fundamentalism teach us to doubt science and the knowledge that comes from creation BUT fundamentalism breeds a certain overly negative view of the heart of the non-Christian. In fact, the non-believer is almost demonized in the fundamentalist worldview. This unbalanced perspective can easily become judgmental and mean-spirited. In everyday life on planet earth, I find that many unbelievers have as positive a motive as the Christian including love of country, love of family, love of the weak and the poor. Fundamentalism under-estimates the role of the image of God in the life of the unregenerate.

Certainly as Christians we testify that we have a God-centered vision of morality and that we have the power to follow through with our vision, but that does not mean that those without Christ have only entirely depraved motives. I find that such an understanding of human depravity and such a view of the un-believer is both unloving and is an untrue understanding of the heart of fallen man. Such a vision of others tends toward irrationality and prejudice that undermines our graciousness which is essential to being a witness to the Grace of God.

I am in the process of de-constructing my own fundamentalism. As my theology becomes more Reformed and balanced by historical Christianity, as I study the historical developments that formed my Christians fundamentalist roots, I find ways to seperate the wheat from the chaff. In so doing, I find my ability to appreciate the discoveries of people quite different from myself. In this appreciation and love, I hope to find futher avenues for the in-breaking of the reign of Christ.

Are you in need of "de-constructing" your fundamentalism as I am?

God Bless,

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