Words, when well chosen, have so great a force in them that a description often gives us more lively ideas than the sight of things themselves. - Joseph Addison, The Spectator No. 416
The expositional teaching of the Word of God is central to my life and ministry. I unapologetically believe in the sufficiency, authority and power of the Word of God, for it reveals the power of God to save sinners through the Person and work of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Some might wish to call me a Fundamentalist because of this. If properly defined, I accept the tag. I believe in the fundamentals of the faith. I will defend the faith against all challengers. To deny the full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ is to deny the faith. To deny Christ's substitutionary death for sinners, His resurrection from the dead, and His gift of eternal life to all who are in relationship with Him by grace through faith is to deny the faith.
I have recently used a term to describe a philosophy held by a handful of people in evangelicalism which goes beyond the traditional fundamentals of the faith, or even official Fundamentalism, and tagged the philosophy 'spooky Fundamentalism.' 'Spooky' Fundamentalism is to be distinguished from regular 'Fundamentalism' by the characteristics of the spirit and temperament of the persons holding to the tenets of Fundamentalism, as we will see shortly.
It is only fair to define 'spooky Fundamentalism' in order that people know what it is to which I refer. So, I will first give a definition of 'spooky Fundamentalism' followed by two descriptive statements, then three additional descriptions for official "Fundamentalism," which must be differentiated from 'spooky' Fundamentalism.
Spooky Fundamentalism is the uncanny or eerie practice of speaking on behalf of God to other people, identifying what God desires, says or feels, without reliable, exegetical support from the all sufficient Word of God, and then being unpredictably excitable (angry, bitter, and intentionally slanderous) when someone challenges what is said.
The Identifying Marks of Spooky Fundamentalism
(1). A personality and temperament bent toward anger
A spooky Fundamentalist is an angry person. He is angry with those who disagree. He is angry with those who won't listen. He is angry with those who 'don't tow the line.' He is full of anger and he can be identified by his anger.
A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly (Proverbs 14:29). A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered (Proverbs 17:27). A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control (Proverbs 29:11).
When Frank Page was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention he was asked what kind of people he would be appointing to Boards and Committees. He responded that he would continue to appoint 'conservatives' but he would not be appointing people who were 'angry about it.' Thus, the term 'irenic' or 'peaceful' conservative came into our lexicon as Southern Baptists.
(2). Intentional and purposeful attempts to slander those who disagree
A spooky Fundamentalist will identify everyone who disagrees with him as a theological liberal or 'moderate' and will do all he can to attack his opponents character, often by making things up. This slanderous attack is to seek to marginalize his opponent in the eyes of the general public.
Slander comes from an evil heart, Luke 6:45. It often arises from hatred, Psa. 109:3. The Bible says the wicked are addicted to it, Psa. 50:20, as well as hypocrites Prov. 11:9.
Those who hold to Spooky Fundamentalism have begun rumors of adulterous affairs, mental breakdowns, theological heresies and other 'problems' in the lives of people who simply stood up and disagreed with the tenets of a 'spooky Fundamentalism.' It serves no purpose to be specific with the details, but I have spoken to at least three individuals personally who have been the target of the above slander, and they themselves will tell you the damage this type of tactic brings to one's family.
This type of rumor mongering is now being directed at Southern Baptist pastors like Rick Warren. Other pastors who are seeking to reach the world in new, creative approaches -- while never compromising on the fundamentals of the faith -- are also the target. We Southern Baptists must be ever vigilant against this ungodly use of the tongue and the pen.
The ABOVE TWO DESCRIPTIONS ARE DEFINITIVE --- without these characteristics nobody can, or should, be called a spooky Fundamentalist.
Three Additional Descriptions of "Fundamentalism" without the 'Spooky' part
Below are three additional descriptions. One may disagree with the following descriptions, not get angry that they have been offered, and seek to work and cooperate with the person who offered them --- that person COULD NOT be considered an adherent to 'spooky' Fundamentalism. Maybe a Fundamentalism, even irenic Fundamentalim, but not a spooky Fundamentalism. :)
The difference is extraordinary --- many of us could vote for anyone who disagrees with the next three points, and has a good spirit about it, as President of the SBC -- but we will adamantly resist anyone who seeks to destroy the character of those who disagree.
Thus, the word "Fundamentalism" replaces the phrase 'spooky Fundamentalism' in the next three descriptive points.
(3). A small belief in God's sovereignty and providence in the affairs of men
Fundamenetalism has little understanding that 'God has established his throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all.'
Rather, Fundamentalism teaches the world is under the dominion of the evil one, and all 'evil' in this world is orchestrated by the devil as he often successfully subverts the will of God.
Thus, culture is the enemy. Culture is controlled by the devil. Rather than seeing God building His church by taking people who are 'in' culture and transforming them by His Spirit and power, the Fundamentalist must express his hatred of those 'in' culture and tell them that God condemns them as well.
Fundamentalism mocks those in culture rather than seek to win them by a lifestyle of kindness, goodness, compassion and love. For many there is an inordinate trust (emphasis on the word 'inordinate') in the personal, visible, future, culture-changing second coming of Christ that will transform the world, rather than the modern day good news that Christ died for sinners which transforms culture today -- one life at a time.
(4). An emphasis on a 'pure' and 'holy' church as defined by man made traditions.
Fundamentalism teaches the church's success revolves around his efforts to keep it 'pure.' There is very little understanding that God guarantees the purity of His body by His own work, and that the church is cleansed of sin and peoples' lives are transformed by the power of God's Spirit through the Spirit's application of the Person and work of Jesus Christ to the individual soul. Fundamentalism advocates the church must be transformed by shaming, demanding and ultimately forcing others into a like-minded doctrinal conformity on tertiary issues that are not essential to the faith.
As a result, religious tradition will eventually supersede the believer's identification with Christ in Fundamentalism. A 'pure' ecclesiology becomes far more important than a persistent missiology. The church of Jesus Christ is not so much a body of universal believers united by their Head, but an institution of ecclesiological hierarchy, where the priests hear from God and the lay people receive the blessings of God through His official, authoritative representatives. And if, God forbid, there is NOT a pure and proper 'church,' then there cannot be pure and proper 'evangelism.'
(5). A fear and skittishness about anything that begins with the word freedom.
Whether it be free debate or free dissent . . . Whether it be freedom of conscience or freedom of expression . . . Whether it be free praise or free worship . . .
Freedom is a curse word to Fundamentalism.
Nobody is free to do, believe, pray or say anything that is not on the 'approved' list. Rather than trusting in the Spirit of God to perform His work of sanctification in the lives of His people, the Fundamentalist will let you know by his desired tight control of your life, even your prayer life, whether or not you are progressing in holiness.
Baptists historically have been the great defenders of freedom. We must never sacrifice our cherished views of freedom on the altar conformity in a denomination controlled by Fundamentalism.
In order to correct what many believe is wrong in modern evangelicalism it is necessary to define the spooky Fundamentalism which is slowly infiltrating our convention, and unfortunately that is impossible without words that help us understand our dilemma.
Let me also, again, be clear about something already said within this post--- a person in the Southern Baptist Convention can disagree on descriptive points (3), (4) and (5) and NOT participate in (1) and (2) and he could NOT be considered an adherent to spooky Fundamentalism ---
Spooky Fundamentalism is only 'spooky' when anger and slander saturate three, four and five. You can disagree with three, four and five and be an irenic "Fundamentalist" and many of us could vote for you as President of the Southern Baptist Convention!
As there are those who are adamant that 'liberals' should not have leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention, there are others of us who believe there is no room in leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention for 'spooky Fundamentalists.'
Stick with your Fundamentalistim --- but give up your spookiness.
In His Grace,