In the comments on “fundamentalism defined”, a certain ambiguity in the FBFI definition was noted at this point:
3. Endeavors to practice Biblical conduct in all areas of his life.
A question could be raised here: “So exactly how does this aspect of the definition differentiate you fundamentalists from conservative evangelicals? Don’t they believe in practicing Biblical conduct in all areas of life also?”
In my reply, I noted that other phrases of the definition might more clearly differentiate a fundamentalist from a conservative evangelical. I am willing to concede that in many ways, conservative evangelicals agree with fundamentalism in terms of “Biblical conduct in all areas of life.”
I will also concede that the statement as it stands is pretty open-ended. Everyone thinks that the way they apply the Bible to their life is the ‘Biblical’ way.
However, let’s be really clear… Fundamentalists are not vague and uncertain about what they believe to be biblical conduct.
If you were to survey those churches and individuals represented by the FBFI membership, you would find broad agreement in philosophy, teaching, and practice in these areas. The general culture of the churches would be similar, albeit not entirely identical.
That generally agreed upon culture is also articulated in the FBFI resolutions. I would suggest rather than defining fundamentalism, they refine what FBFI members mean by the definition.
As I survey the resolutions in my database, I find a good number of them that apply to this area, and I find that they often do so in ways that would distinguish fundamentalists from conservative evangelicals. Prior to the 2009 resolutions, I find these:
- 12 Resolutions on Music
- 5 Resolutions on Moral Fidelity
- 3 Resolutions on Holiness
- 2 Resolutions on Culture
- 2 Resolutions on Hollywood
- 1 Resolution on Disney
- 1 Resolution on Spirituality
- 1 Resolution on Legalism
- 1 Resolution on Balance
Obviously a big issue in the practical application of fundamentalism to conduct, those of us in the FBFI have an intense interest especially in distinguishing ourselves in terms of the kind of music that appears in our homes and churches. The 12 resolutions on music over 30 years of fellowship meetings represents a significant concern – strong enough to warrant some statement more than 33% of the time.
You will notice also specific resolutions addressing Hollywood and Disney – a reflection of fundamentalist concern with the entertainment industry.
While conservative evangelicals might share our concerns in these areas to some extent, it is my observation that they do not fully agree with what FBFI fundamentalists mean when it comes to Biblical conduct in these areas.
The resolutions are too numerous for me to cite them all for you, but here are a few of the most pertinent:
From the 1979 resolution on music: “The Fundamental Baptist Fellowship rejects the sensual trend of the religious music of today because it contradicts and nullifies the spiritual emphasis of the preaching and teaching ministries of the church.”
The 2001 resolution on praise choruses: “The FBFI recognizes that the modern "Praise and Worship" movement (which includes related music publishers and recordings) is a by-product of the Charismatic movement, with a similarly dangerous emphasis of promoting emotion over reason. We therefore urge discernment and caution in using Praise Choruses in any ministry of our churches. While we understand that simplicity and repetition have legitimate use as teaching tools, we note that they form the foundation for hypnosis as well. Since Christians are clearly instructed in Scripture to worship God in Spirit and in truth, we must avoid what Jesus called "the vain repetition of the heathen" (Matthew 6:7). The modern Praise Chorus uses bald repetition as a mantra-like phrase repeated over and over again for emotional incitement, not for instruction. We do not condemn all choruses per se, but appeal that choruses accompanied by appropriate music be used which teach truth rather than emotionally inciting the audience.”
From the 1997 music resolution: “The FBF rejects the notion that music is not a matter of separation. Clearly, we would separate from a pastor or church that used rock music either to attract a crowd or — God forbid — in worship. Therefore, we recognize that it is a separation issue. The encroachment of "CCM" or Contemporary Christian Music as a musical genre has been ignored too long. It is wrong to judge motives subjectively, but it is essential to discern the implications of methods, particularly in music. Fundamentalists should be able to agree that we must be committed to Godly, Christ-honoring music.”
From the 1997 resolution on the entertainment industry: “Whereas American culture has become obsessed with entertainment and amusement while fascination with immorality, violence, and irreverent foolishness preoccupy the minds of most who are in the industry, and whereas the effects of television, movies, and the widespread presence of facilities for amusement that divides families rather than building them, the FBF rejects the lustful, hedonistic lifestyle that characterizes much of our society and calls on churches and Christians back to Biblical obedience and personal separation from the world. Many who properly stood against the movie theater have fallen silent about the VCR which brings the same messengers of evil into the home.”
You can see the general tenor of fundamentalist thinking with respect to Biblical conduct by these samples. Now some will debate these points, and the conservative evangelicals do. They will not apply Biblical teaching in this way to these issues I don’t believe. Certainly they don’t apply them as comprehensively and thoroughly as a fundamentalist would attempt to do.
There may be some adjustment and movement on some of these points of application today among fundamentalists, but our general viewpoint of these issues appears to remain unchanged if you consider the resolutions put forward at the 2009 meeting.
For example, there is one resolution getting some hot debate over at Sharper Tongues1, the internet gathering place of all sorts of ‘wisdom’. The main body of the resolution isn’t the part that is stirring up fire, rather it is part of the preamble. Here is the main body of the resolution on ‘Fundamentalism and Culture’:
The FBFI denies that Fundamentalism is simply a product of culture but affirms that it is the result of Biblical truth applied to culture. We assert that true believers must interact with culture while separating from its sinful values and practices. Such an interaction will demand a deep understanding of the Word of God, a true humility and submission to the Holy Spirit, and a willingness to sacrifice any object, habit, or affection that might displease or dishonor the Savior. Fundamentalists must guard against an anachronistic set of rules that fails to see the true intent of Scripture and creates a caricature of New Testament Christianity. At the same time, Fundamentalists must be honest with themselves about the presence of worldliness within our own churches and individual lives and not forsake true holiness under the guise of a false Christian liberty. We cannot have true revival without an attending holiness, and we will not truly reach the world without the power of God that accompanies true revival.
This seems to me to be wise statement about our stance towards the culture. We are not led by culture but attempt to apply truth to culture, interacting with elements of culture while rejecting and separating from sinful values and practices.
Well, as I said, this part of the resolution isn’t drawing fire, it is instead this part of the preamble:
And whereas sins previously not named among believers such as the use of alcohol as a beverage, premarital sex, adultery, homosexuality, profanity, vulgarity, immodesty, and much more are now not only viewed unashamedly by believers as entertainment but also practiced without shame among those who name Christ,
Note the bolded phrase! There go those wacky fundamentalists again, daring to call drinking sin!
I’ll not get into the debate at this point on that topic. (If you want to engage it, go to my review of Randy Jaeggli’s book on drinking and have at it.)
My point in noting it here is that we are talking about definitions and identification here. While I am not going to say that we will have absolute crystal clear unanimity even on these points of application within fundamentalism at large or even more narrowly within the FBFI brand of fundamentalism, I will say that our differences in these areas are very, very, very minor among fundamentalists. At the same time, our differences with respect to applying the Bible to culture are still pretty significant if we are comparing ourselves with conservative evangelicals.
Finally, on this last point regarding the stand against alcohol, I am willing to be so bold as to say that if you disagree with the FBFI here, you are probably not really a fundamentalist at all. It is quite likely that someone who supports drinking alcohol as a beverage also refuses to submit to the definition posted earlier and will have a good deal of disagreement about music, movies, dress, and a host of other cultural disagreements.
Thus, it isn’t that hard to see what fundamentalists think they are or what they think other fundamentalists ought to be. It might be helpful to us all if we fundamentalists actually preached these subjects a little more publically and frequently in our meetings. It would likely have a cathartic effect.
- just a little joke, there, eh?… ok, very little… [↩]