Saturday, February 21, 2009

Society's New Bad Word

(from an article by  Drew Kiser via Reflections  volume 5, number 1)

This world uses many names to demean Christians and pressure them to capitulate to its influence, but one word stands out above all others as the most dreaded weapon in society's linguistic arsenal: fundamentalist.

"Fundamentalist" as a formal religious designation was coined in 1920 by Curtis Lee Laws of those ready "to do battle royal for the Fundamentals."  The dictionary defines "fundamentalism" as "religious beliefs based on a literal interpretation of the Bible regarded as fundamental to Christian faith and morals," but since the 1920's the word has evolved into a pejorative with political implications, invoking images of bomb-wielding terrorists and intolerant, unloving preachers with a Pharisaical approach to religion. Fundamentalism today is regarded as anti-intellectual, resistant to culture, intolerant of opposing views, anti-science and violent [all false].

Opponents of conservative faiths have worked hard to develop these negative connotations. In an essay entitled, Why Fundamentalism is Wrong, Scott Bidstrup defines fundamentalism as:       

any religion, that when confronted with a conflict between love, compassion and caring, and conformity to doctrine, will almost invariably choose the latter regardless of the effect it has on its followers or on the society of whit is is a part.

Note also the statement by renowned atheist Richard Dawkins, whose book,  The God Delusion has sold over 1.5 million copies: "fundamentalism...subverts science and saps the intellect."

The danger that results from fundamentalism's bad press is that it tempts Christians to move away from the basic doctrines revealed by God (in his Word) to shape Christianity into a religion that pleases him. If we ignore these elements, Christianity vanishes from existence.

Divorced from its political nuances, a fundamental is a primary principle, rule, law, or article, which serves as the basis for our faith. It is an essential part of the whole. No organization can continue to exist without its fundamentals. The Lord's church has many good works which are not essential to its existence; things like church camps....Bible schools, Christian colleges, visitation programs, etc.  While these may be beneficial, they are not essential. We could do away with one or all of them and still have the church for which our Lord died (consisting of believers who respond to the command to obey the gospel.)

Paul spoke of the fundamentals in Ephesians 4:4-6 by listing seven "ones":

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

The apostle left no room for improvement or innovation in these seven matters. Being "one," they are essential to the Christian faith..(.these are fundamentals.)

Perhaps "fundamentalism" is one of those works that has run its course. Having been stripped of its original meaning, it is no longer useful in conveying these important principles. Nevertheless, Christian people cannot forget their moorings. Without the basics, we are nothing.


My comments:   Everyone has fundamentals in their lives.  On the job, there are fundamental principles of business to follow, and at home there are fundamental ways of doing things. Raising a family requires fundamental beliefs and practices. Even those who send their children to public schools will find that the schools have fundamental rules and beliefs. The important thing is that we know which fundamental beliefs to follow. Like Joshua said, we can follow the fundamentals of this world, or the fundamentals of the Lord.

Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

 All areas of life have fundamentals.  You cannot become a seamstress or a good housekeeper without choosing fundamentals to follow. Sciences and musical instruments, construction of buildings, and government, all require fundamental rules and practices in order to be used properly.  The confusion comes when modernists take out fundamental rules of life, whether it be fundamental courtesy and politeness, or fundamental orderliness  They say, "What does it matter if we are sloppy, dirty, immodest, crude, rude or slothful in our work?  Is not it the heart that counts?"

Our actions and way of life are a reflection of our hearts, for the Bible says:
Matthew 12:35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

and also:

Colosians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

We might use the word "fundamental" more prominently, as in "fundamental house keeping," and "fundamental cooking," "fundamental learning," fundamental hospitality" and "fundamental piano lessons."


Anonymous said...

I noticed that there are a few websites with women who call Christian homemakers "fundies" and It is so sad to me because like you said they mean it in a demeaning way. I can never understand why women pick apart other women. Its really heart breaking and also shocking and sad!
There is so little acceptance for others who are different. If I personally dont agree with someones beliefs even if they come across preachy, Im not going to bash them. What kind of person would I be to do that. I would be scared to death of God and His judgement against me if I did.

If we believe in God and the Bible, we have to be extremely careful what we say about others and calling names. We have to give account for every word spoken against someone. We even have to give account even for every idle (careless) word on judgement day! Thats scary because none of us is without guilt. But the time to stop the careless and badmouthing and picking on homemakers, calling names like "fundie" is now.

I hope those who give Christians a bad name, stop and consider this. Its so important. Your life and punishment is on the line here. We should build others up, love and encourage not label, pick on etc.

You are so right Lydia. I couldnt agree with you more. I just hope and pray people will take it to heart.

A reader in Canada

Elizabeth said...

I have noticed this in society also. I think that perhaps the word has gotten bad press from news sources who use the term "Fundamental Islam," i.e. terrorists.

I've been labeled a "Fundie" before as "A reader in Canada" mentioned. It always puzzles me. When I look at my life all I can say is, "I'm a Christian. Christians are supposed to believe the Bible. So if I try to do what's in the Bible, why doesn't that make me a "good Christian" instead of a "Fundie?"

Of course, I fail in trying to be a good Christian. I don't want to leave the impression I'm perfect. But I try to get up and go again.

This is just SUCH a great post! Thank you.

Lydia said...

It was a label created to discourage those who followed the Bible. It is designed to make them feel as though they only follow the letter of the law and not the spirit. Such a label will make anyone feel as though they are heartless people who only follow rules but have no love. It is not true of course. Even the strictest of laws of our Lord are because of His love for us.

Anonymous said...

Great response: I'm a Christian only. We cannot wear labels such as "fundie" or "legalist", both which are designed to put down believers.

Anonymous said...

I've seen sites that exist for the purpose of tearing down people. They remind me of the quote:

Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
--Eleanor Roosevelt

Gail said...

There is an embarrassment evident in society at any of it's own members being devout Christian believers. Someone at bible study brought up a good point today. It seems that whenever a TV network airs some Christian programming, a disclaimer appears on the screen making sure that the audience understands that the station does "not promote or agree with the views expressed on the following program". They are so eager to distance themselves from the godly programming and God, himself, but never publish a disclaimer preceding the filthy, violent shows. The term "fundamentalist" is, as you say, just being hurled like a weapon at those whose faith and morals are solidly bible based. What fellowship hath light with darkness, after all?

Lydia said...

A very interesting observation on the inconsistency and bias of the media. I suppose they are not adverse to taking the money from the religious group that is paying for the program.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I had this EXACT conversation tonight with our pastor in our home!

Anonymous said...


Fascinating article and one close to my heart; wrote on this last year for a presentation in which the very themes in this latest of your entries were tackled... I wish I'd known you were planning this; would have sent you some excellent resources. has covered this very issue in the past six months. those faithful to traditional Christianity have two unlikely allies in this battle - Karen Armstrong and Molly Worthen (both Christian academics who are normally so far along the left-leaning limb they've all but fallen out of the Christian tree). Nonetheless, they have contributed admirably to the topic (Joel over at LT was also pleasantly surprised by said articles by Armstrong and Worthen).., and his relevant article links to the Worthen piece - if you email him re Fundamentalist article by Worthen I am sure he will be happy to help).

Fundamentalism, in today's environment has become useless as a term to convey any serious characteristic of Christianity and is usually used by those in liberal spheres as a criticism against anybody more traditional than themselves.

To understand the movement within the early 20th century, one needs to understand three of its founders; J Gresham Machen, Cornelius Van Til and R. J. Rushdooney (I find the latter a fascinating individual to say the least) and would have very much liked to spend just one hour with him...)

Additionally, the supposed tolerant left have by labelling us as 'Fundies' have demonstrated nothing but inconsistancy and the principle flaw of their ideology - that of hypocracy. You see, tolerance is only a one way street with them. If they expect tolerance, they should tolerate those whose views differ from theirs, in the self same manner in which they demand tolerance...they become strangely flustered and discombobulated when one points this out to them. Furthermore, a frightening trend has crept in over the past two years or so; an equating of liberal permissive attitudes (we all know what these are) with democracy - that is, anybody who holds contrary views is seen as either undemocratic or a danger to democracy. - Another incancistancy in their thinking - this daanger only encompasses Christians and is not thrown at traditional Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc who hold identical faith-based views on human sexuality, family, gender rols/relations. Funny that, don't you think?

Keep up the good work!

Mama Said No said...

Well, I just wanna say that I put the 'Fun' into Fundamental. Of course my husband has said that I put the 'mental' into it as well!

Face it--whatever the church uses to build up its members, the world will use to tear them down. We just need to use wisdom to see when they are doing it, and fight agaist such petty arguments.

Anonymous said...

Fundamentals of christianity are the two greatest commandments as given by Jesus. To love God with your whole heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. Fundamentalism is the literal

Far Above Rubies said...

Lady Lydia.

Another great article to encourage and inspire my heart.

Thank you!!!