are you a ‘born fundamentalist’?

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine. We were in school together. We sat in many of the same Bible classes. We learned ‘the second heavenly language’ [Greek] from the same teachers and know the same mnemonic devices for keeping our linguistic facts straight.

But we don’t remember everything the same way. He says that we were not systematically taught the fundamentalist philosophy in our classes and were less prepared to put our philosophy in practice than we should have been. I am surprised by his assertion, for it was in those same classes I learned my fundamentalist philosophy. I have never been intimidated by the need to justify (even to myself) why I take the positions I do.

On hearing this, I wondered why we who shared so much have such a different perception of our training.

Our tracks were somewhat different educationally. My friend has an MA, not an MDiv like me. I suppose that accounts for some of the difference, but I believe I was pretty settled in my fundamentalist philosophy well before entering graduate school. So I don’t think this accounts so much for the difference in our perception.

There is another difference, however. That is in the matter of our personal testimonies – while I am a product of evangelicalism, my friend is one of fundamentalism. My friend was born again just a few months before he went to school, but the church where the Lord dealt with his soul was a fundamentalist church. He entered a fundamentalist school, received all his training in that school and in fundamentalist churches along the way. He tended, at first, simply to accept the fundamentalist position tacitly. That is, he simply assumed that he should be separate from (say) Billy Graham, because that is what everyone in his circle of influence did.

On the other hand, I was born again in a Christian home as a young lad and raised in an evangelical church. My whole world was involved with ecumenical cooperation of almost every kind as a grew up. There were few barriers to extending the hand of Christian fellowship, although the RCs were certainly suspect, and one couldn’t do everything with them.

When I entered a fundamentalist college, I was immersed in an entirely different world. Everything in my world view was challenged. I had to pay particular attention to what was taught and come to a biblical conclusion about it, for I quickly realized that I could not operate in both worlds.

I can’t say whether or not there was sufficient deliberate training of fundamentalist philosophy in my school years. It seems to me that there was – but perhaps that is because for me it involved a definite struggle with an old value system and the one I was confronted with.

If I am right about this, I think that it is vital for young people, like my own children, to be thoroughly discipled in the Biblical principles that underlie fundamentalist philosophy and practice. The average young person coming out of a fundamentalist home or church has experienced fundamentalism as an assumption rather than by systematic teaching and personal wrestling with the ideas. They are ‘born fundamentalists’ rather than fundamentalists by conviction.

Such young people will have to decide where they stand. It can’t just be ‘because daddy did it’ or ‘my preacher said so’. For a faithful fundamentalist testimony, each person must understand the history, teaching, philosophy, and application of fundamentalism through the years, then decide whether they, too, will embrace the philosophy or not.

I am afraid that a huge part of the current problems with ‘young fundamentalists’ [of any age] are largely the result of the phenomenon of being ‘born fundamentalist’. I don’t know how much of the blame for this lies on the failure of previous generations to teach the philosophy. Surely there is an equal responsibility on the part of the young to receive what is taught.

Nevertheless, it does behoove those of us who are fundamentalists to be faithful in teaching and applying fundamentalism to our young people.

That is … if it is right and if it is Biblical.

I believe it is. That is why I am a fundamentalist, though ‘born’ an evangelical.


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