what should fundamentalism look like?

One commenter offers an observation and a question:

Perhaps I’m wrong here, but I attribute much of fundamentalism’s current weakness to the secondhand lions now heading up its institutions and fellowships. Are there any fundamentalist institutions that currently model what fundamentalism should be?

Here’s the question I would like to ask you, Don, since I believe you’ll answer it partisanly but fairly. Fundamentalism as an idea is chic enough, but at some point it must take on a concrete expression. What in your opinion should a fully-dressed fundamentalism look like?

I agree with the observation.

But what should fundamentalism look like?

Here are four areas of focus:

  1. Fundamentalism should be unapologetically and enthusiastically evangelistic. The days of bus ministries and door to door evangelism may be methods finding less use or success in these times, but we should be no less actively involved in promoting the gospel of Christ. Many today are all about narcissism in church life or so preoccupied with theology that little evangelism is done. And some of us have a bad case of the fear of man. (That would be me, at times!) May the Lord change our hearts to really love our fellow man.
  2. Fundamentalism should call men and women out of the world to faithful following Christ (once called ‘discipleship’). There is a little too much apologizing for being ‘peculiar people’. Let’s rejoice in our distinctive unworldly Christian testimonies and call men and women to a life glorifying God by being unspotted from the world.
  3. Fundamentalism should refuse to link hands in cooperation with men who won’t maintain pure associations. That would be the so-called ‘conservative’ crowd. What are they conserving? They are conserving the strong words of the new evangelicals along with the mealy mouthed associations with compromisers and worse. Cooperation with men like these will erode fundamental distinctiveness such that fundamentalism will cease to exist.
  4. Fundamentalism should remain ready to do battle royal with Christ-denying doctrines and those who espouse them. This is the fundamentalist distinctive above all. We have theologically correct worry-warts today who are unwilling to do battle with anyone except other fundamentalists. What kind of attitude is this?

That’s my take. Perhaps more could be added, but I think these four pretty much sum up what I think we should be about. Winning and making disciples and protecting them from worldliness, weakness and wickedness masquerading as Christianity.



  1. David says:

    Okay I’m going to dip my toe in the waters here and see what happens! Just a few remaks….

    As pertaining to number:

    1. Yes, the door-to-door does seem to be less popular. But don’t abandon it. The JWs inundate our neighborhood. I do enjoy the opportunity though to witness to them. I let them know this is “my castle” and then I give the gospel. They will hang around for a while and then leave but that’s okay they were given the good news. And I need to caution myself that I “stuck it to ’em” doesn’t motivate my heart but that they have heard the message of God’s redeeming love. Please explain “being so preoccupied with theology that little evangelism is being done.”


    3.Would fundamentalism really seek to exist? Not wanting to sound utopish(?) but wouldn’t there be a remnant to exist no matter how small that would stand for the faith once delievered to the saints? As I understand it fundamentalism is not really a “movement.” They have moved and the fundamentalist by God’s grace is still standing unwavering and committed to the Lord and His work.

    4. Please define a theological worry-wart. I’m sorry, I’m kinda slooooow.

    Bro. Don appreciate your site. It’s a been a blessing and encouragement.


    • Hi David

      With respect to door-to-door, I am not opposed to it as such, but I believe it is becoming less and less effective, especially in urban centres. We need to develop means to “warm up the doors” so that people at least have some openness to receiving your visit.

      By being “so preoccupied with theology” I mean that many seem to be obsessed with having the right doctrines, especially in the doctrine of salvation. Little is done to win souls to Christ and church growth is mostly from Christians moving around or from kids growing up.

      I agree there will always be a faithful remnant, but if what is now fundamentalism slides into a luke warm evangelicalish movement, a lot of assets for the ministry – schools, organizations, leading churches – would be lost and the work would be hindered. Of course, that is looking at it from the human perspective. The Lord is able to use a remnant anyway. He doesn’t need our human institutions. Still, from our perspective, it would be a loss.

      By theological worry-warts, I mean that there is an attitude abounding today that is unwilling to forcefully contend for truth against error. Niceness is priority 1.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. David says:

    Any suggestions on ways to warm up the doors?


    • Hi David

      Sometimes ministries that provide help for families, like a day care, preschool, or some similar type of ministry can make an entry into homes where you are able to provide people with other literature and get to know them personally. A lot of thought needs to go into such efforts because a lot of time is involved and you don’t want the preschool etc to become the main focus, but a key to open doors.

      We recently experienced some positive feedback when blitzing for our evangelistic meetings. We kicked things off with a pig roast and made up flyers inviting the neighbours. Since we were offering something free and somewhat unique, we had much more positive experiences at the door. A few families called to say they would come, but only one showed up. However, I think we can refine something like this to make it more successful next time.

      I don’t think there is any one set way to do things, but we need to find ways to make contacts that will turn into opportunities for soulwinning. Generally speaking, the direct button holing tactic receives very little response today, at least in our city.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. lay learner says:

    We too have struggled with ways to “warm up the doors” in our area but a couple of things that have worked well for us are as follows:
    We have a “Released (from public school) Time” weekly where the kids come to our church and have a science (creation of course w/ emphasis on Creator vs. created) and periodically we invite their families to a Pizza Night at church (few can resist either FREE or PIZZA);
    We also hold VBS all summer for school-aged kids on Wed. night so that a lot of teaching (not crafts, food, and games) and hymn learning (theology there too that sticks with them) goes on long before the salvation message is given.

    Our desire is to reach our neighborhood(s) and to disciple them–not to just get a bunch of kids to pray some prayer–and to then reach the families. We would love to reach the parents and have them reach their own kids but these days it is hard to get someone to open a door and talk to a stranger who dared to call them away from their TV (or computer)

  4. I don’t see a scriptural basis for “warming up doors.” I do see “preach the gospel to every creature.” And there is a biblical basis for every church doing door to door (Acts 5:42 for one). A church must have a way to preach to every single person. Then leave it to God. I find that every week I preach the gospel to several because I just do it. Do they get saved? That isn’t my responsibility. My job is to be as accurate as possible. I don’t see Jesus attempting to “warm people up” in the gospels. He offended “good contacts.”

    With that being said, I like your four points, Don. I do think fundamentalists have a syndrome today that requires them to attack fundamentalism more than new-evangelicalism or evangelicalism. And they are very, very positive with evangelicals. I’m sick of reading another “good quote” from a non-separatist. Sick of it.

    • With respect to warming up doors, I would suggest the approach of our Lord with the woman at the well and Paul’s approach in Ac 17. I am not against door-to-door evangelism per se, but see no mandate for it. I realize there are biblical precedents for it, but there is no command. One has to decide how to most efficiently use the time and energy God gives. I think the Scriptures don’t give us any specific methodology as a requirement.

      I agree about the quotes. Someone recently touted Driscoll as having one of the best books on sexual purity! Imagine that! What a joke.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. It’s a little off topic to take an exceptional four points and move it into a door-to-door conversation. However, I think I had a little something different in mind with the meaning of “warming up” than what you did, Don. If “warming up” is what Jesus did in John 4, I have no problem with it. I think the NT is “get the gospel to everywhere. We start with right where we’re at and move out concentrically, hitting everybody. I think that is an excellent use of time, rather than waiting for someone who likes my technique to “get interested.”

    • Well, I probably mean more than John 4 or Acts 17, but they do seem somewhat related to me. I just don’t think door-to-door is mandated, nor is it even clearly a precedent. The precedents I see in Acts is mostly the apostles going to places where groups of people were gathered already and preaching to them as long as they could get a reception (i.e., synagogues). I think perhaps it is the difference between a regulative principle kind of guy and … what is the opposite called? Non-regulative? Anyway, it seems that on the one side some seem to want to find a prescription in the NT for every practice of a Biblical church whereas I see very little regulation and a lot of liberty as to methodology.

      Regardless, however, I think we have gotten into a very bad way of being doctrinally and expositorially (new word!) correct, but inward focused and deathly afraid of speaking to real live lost people. If we can gain a hearing in some non-compromised or unworldly way, I am all for it.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. Keith says:

    Kent says: “I’m sick of reading another “good quote” from a non-separatist. Sick of it.”

    Well the reason soo many quote “non-separatists” is that the “separatists” don’t write anything worth reading, let alone quoting. They are a non factor in the public square of ideas and discussion. They aren’t shut out, they just aren’t there.

    Don says: “Many today are all about narcissism in church life or so preoccupied with theology that little evangelism is done.”

    As if a focus on theology — and by extension the pubication of theological books — is narcissistic. This idea of the separatists is partly responsible for their lack of visibility and impact.

    All that said, I (and most of the “non-separatitsts” I know) would affirm all of your points — with the possible exeption of #3. If you mean that someone must have 100% pure “associations” before we can link hands, then you might as well say, “we are opposed to linking hands with anyone.” On the other hand, if you mean that there are times when it is best to not link hands, then I don’t know anyone who, de facto, disagrees.


    • Hi Keith,

      Your first point would be a matter of opinion of course. I am somewhat amazed at what passes for “good quotes” these days. Of the conservative evangelicals, I have read some Piper, some Dever, and some MacArthur. I guess some Mohler too and I even read a Mahaney book (bought it used though – so as to pay no royalties). Of these, Dever is probably the best, but the books I have read weren’t all that different from what I was taught at BJU. I don’t know where everyone else was in Church Administration/Preacher Boy classes, but it’s not like his books are so unique and amazing that no one ever heard the like before. Perhaps the young fellows who are so amazed aren’t being taught what I was taught? Or else they are easily amazed, perhaps.

      With reference to my quote, you did notice the “or” did you not? That would be a connector of two separate ideas. I am thinking in the first instance of the entertainment factories that masquerade as churches and in the second instance of churches that are sober and occupied with the “right theology” so much that there is little else they care about.

      I suppose other believers would affirm my points except the separatist ones. We aren’t advocating for a non-church where everything an evangelical believer might do is by definition off limits. We are advocating for a ‘whole and healthy’ church that functions properly, fights evil, exposes false teachers within and without, and promotes evangelism and discipleship. To the extent that evangelical churches do that, praise the Lord. I just wish they would be more holistic in their faith and practice. They are the ones who decided to ignore the separation passages, not us.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  7. Keith says:

    I can agree with you that much that is out there, from any “camp”, is less than earth shattering. I agree that too many are too easily impressed. And, yes, there is not escaping “opinion” in this discussion. Nevertheless, I don’t think it is opinion that the “separatists” put out less — therefore there is less to quote.

    I noticed the or but mistakenly read it as, “or in other words.” I apologize for jumping to the wrong conclusion.

    I’m not sure how I see the “entertainment factory” problem as narcissistic — but that’s a quibble.

    Less of a quibble would be the fact that fundamentalism has just as much “entertainment” as evangelicalism. Different style, sure, but same function.

    I don’t think that “evangelical” churches decided to ignore the separation passages. They just don’t apply them the same way you do. And, again, if the standard is separation from anything less than fully pure, then you’d better separate from everyone. I’d need to even separate from myself.

    • Hi Keith…

      Well… quite a night. I just got back from our church building… got a call about 11pm from the police, someone had got hod of an excavator parked in our church yard (construction next door) and had gone on a joy ride, digging up holes in the back of our yard (nowhere near the gas line, thank the Lord!), destroyed our storage shed, and destroyed the fence between us and a neighbouring school… dug up holes in the playing field too. What a mess. The police think they know who did it. But I’ve been a little delayed since approving your last message.

      Ok, it is true that the separatists don’t publish much, or in great volume. I have always thought that is partly due to market share, which is mostly due to philosophy. What separatists do publish is done in very limited runs, is only marketable through certain outlets, usually their own in house outlets, and thus little is available. Some of that is changing now with the advent of Amazon. I just ordered a Layton Talbert book from Amazon. In any case, it is a function of being the minority party in the wider relatively conservative Christian world. There is less demand, less opportunity for a nationwide platform, so less interest in the books.

      Kent can speak for himself on this, but what I am sick of among so-called fundamentalists is the hero worship of conservative evangelicals. They are seen as having all the answers for modern ministry and their serious flaws are constantly minimized, diminished, or just ignored.

      I agree that fundamentalism has its own sort of entertainment. We aren’t immune from the ‘bigger is better’ and ‘numbers equal success’ syndrome. In thinking of this list of features we should see in a better fundamentalism, it is the fundamentalists who are addicted to their brand of entertainment I am mostly thinking about. And I think that a lot of fellows are wanting to change fundamentalism to adopt more and more of the evangelical style of entertainment and call it worship. (This is one area where Bauder doesn’t get it wrong, unless it is to go too far in the other direction.)

      I disagree on the evangelical approach to the separation passages. Many argue that the new evangelicalism is dead, but it largely carried the day. All the churches who would claim the label ‘evangelical’ today essentially bought into the new evangelical philosophy. The NE philosophy did decide to ignore the separation passages. That is what Graham, Henry, Ockenga, Carnell, etc. based their movement on. They pulled out of the fundamentalist coalition for a kinder gentler kind of evangelicalism. Eventually all of what is now evangelicalism accepted their philosophy.

      Some evangelicals are somewhat coming back to a more rigorous understanding of these passages, but they are selective in their application of them. That is what makes for a difference between them and the fundamentalists.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3