Critique of Fundamentalism
I mentioned yesterday that I have come to appreciate much that is good within the Fundamentalist movement. But this does not mean that I accept everything about the movement unquestioningly. I am still disturbed by the tendency to make culturally relative issues into absolutes. I still wonder if they unwittingly place barriers against the movement of the Holy Spirit in their churches. But I think they are sincere and generally on target with issues I would deem important.
The primary issue I have with Fundamentalism is the same issue they have with Evangelicalism: separation. Fundamentalists insist on doctrinal purity, and will not associate with churches that do not do the same. This includes secondary separation – separating from churches who refuse to separate; and tertiary separation – separating from churches who refuse to separate from churches who refuse to separate. I suppose the levels could be multiplied indefinitely. Before my association with Fundamentalists, I assumed that separation meant retreating from the culture, as I told the story of the movement a few days ago. But my Fundamentalist friends gave me a different definition. They are no longer opposed to engaging the culture. The issue for them is: whom will you work with? Evangelicals (they say) have no qualms about working with theological liberals. They point to a Billy Graham Crusade in New York in the 50s as evidence. The liberal churches partnered together with Graham and he did not turn them away.
Certainly the Fundamentalists have a point. We cannot work together with everyone. Some things put a church or denomination outside of Orthodox Christianity. The Bible is clear that there are certain beliefs which define Christianity, and denial of those beliefs constitutes a denial of Christian theology. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But the Bible is just as clear that there is to be unity within the true church. No part of the church has the right to reject any other part of the church simply because they disagree. Or as Paul wrote to the Corinithian church, the eye cannot say to the hand, “Because you are not an eye, you are not part of the body.” Fundamentalists err on the side of too much separation. And this is not a minor error. It is absolutely wicked. It is not acceptable to draw boundaries where God has not established them. Impure separation is the major sin of which Fundamentalists must repent.