The Concerns of a Young Fundamentalist

Early in my Christian life I attended a pragmatic, man-centered, new evangelical church. Later I learned about the Bible doctrines of God’s holiness, and personal and ecclesiastical separation. God led me out of my new evangelical background and I welcomed separatist fundamentalism as normal, Bible-believing Christianity. It was a great relief for me to find others who had not bowed to the god of worldly success and the mega-church syndrome. I was at home.Having been in fundamental circles for over ten years, I am saddened to discover that many of my peers are leaving the fundamentalist camp for what they suppose are greener pastures. They are dissatisfied with fundamentalism. They deem it non-academic, unbalanced, and embarrassing. This dissatisfaction is evidenced by the large number of young fundamentalists who apply to new evangelical seminaries. Like the early new evangelicals, my generation is blindly toning down the doctrine of separation, thinking that it will fix fundamentalism.

What are the dangers to my generation of fundamentalism?
I am a young fundamentalist in my first pastorate. I observe that my generation is making some serious mistakes by magnifying the supposed problems of fundamentalism and minimizing the perils of new evangelicalism. What are some of the dangers of which we young fundamentalist need to be aware?

Danger 1 – Pride: “I am the exception to the rule of the gradual slide into compromise.”
Arrogance is the attitude of my generation. We willingly accept that others who play with fire will be burned, but we will be the exception to this rule. Other frogs have sat complacently in the water as it heated to boiling, but we are different. My generation knows that the religious compromise is a slippery slope; but we think that we are the exception to the rule.

In pride, we think that we know better than the older fundamentalists who have lived through the struggle. We believe that we have a right to paint broad strokes of criticism against fundamentalism. Yet we are ignorant of the great cost of fundamentalism’s struggle against compromise. My generation acts as if we can’t wait until those who have fought the battles of the past move off the scene, so that we can get on to what is really important. We are quick to make judgment calls about older fundamental preachers, without really understanding why they keep repeating to us the dangers of compromise.

In regard to this attitude of pride, God’s Word instructs us to listen and learn from those who have gone before us. Is not this the point of the Pastoral Epistles? An older Paul is writing to a younger Timothy. Paul tells Timothy to consider what he has been told (2 Tim 2:7). Although directly referring to inspired documents, this reflects the kind of teachable spirit we younger fundamentalists need to have toward the older generation. We may be from a different generation; but, we are both trying to please God in all that we do. They have done it longer.

Ask yourself: Do I, as a young fundamentalist, have a spirit of pride? Has my pride developed into an unteachable spirit? Do I consider myself to be wiser than older fundamental pastors?

Danger 2 – Fear of man: “I hope no one finds out that I am a separatist fundamentalist.”
The second danger I see in my generation of fundamentalists is the fear of man. We know the verse in Proverbs 29:25: “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” How does the fear of man show itself in my generation? We are afraid that people will find out what we really believe about God’s holiness and personal separation from sin. This fear of man reveals our true colors. We fear people more than we fear God.

We are more controlled by the fear of people than we like to admit. When the fear of people leaving our church begins to control us, we soften the message of separation. It is then that we lose the opportunity to see God work repentance in hearts (2 Tim 2:24-26).Instead of focusing on what people think about us, we need to be consumed with pleasing God and leading others to do the same.

Ask yourself: As I preach God’s Word, am I more concerned about God or men? Is pleasing God my reason for choosing how and what to preach? Am I finding myself reluctant to tell people what I really believe? Does my church literature, or web site, cover up the fact that I am a separatist?

Danger 3 – Overly apologetic: “My greatest fear is to be misunderstood by new evangelicals.”
The third danger that I see in my generation of fundamentalists is closely related to the fear of man. We have an attitude that we must apologize for what we believe as separatists. When we mention the doctrine of separation, we feel that we must explain why we are bringing it up again. We would never apologize when teaching other doctrines, such as salvation by grace, or the inerrancy of Scripture. Yet, when it comes to teaching the doctrine of separation from sin, we treat it like a man-made doctrine. But how can we claim to be Word-centered and not teach in detail the crucial doctrine of separation?

We must never apologize for what God’s Word teaches, even if it is not popular. The biblical doctrine of separation from sin, false teachers, and disobedient brethren may not be popular today; but it is the truth (See Rom 16:17; 2 cor 6:14-71; 2 Thess 3:6, 14; 2 John 7-11). If I am always being misunderstood when I preach on separation, perhaps another problem exists. Perhaps my people don’t really understand it. Maybe they need more teaching on the theology and history of the doctrine of separation.

We must be willing to accept the fact that most people don’t understand the doctrine of separation. They just don’t like it. People know that God is pure, and that He does not accept His truth mixed with error. God never presents His truth with apology, and therefore He commands us to “. . . present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God . . . And be not conformed to this world: but be ye trans-formed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:1, 2).

God without apology commands us: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor 6:14). He also says, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, be ye holy, for I am holy” [emphasis mine] (2 Pet 1:15, 16).

Ask yourself: Am I apologizing for what God says that we must present without apology? Am I sheepishly or reluctantly teaching the doctrines of holy living or biblical separation? Am I avoiding the doctrine of separation altogether? Have I put God’s doctrine of separation on a low level in my thinking because so many people don’t like it?

Danger 4 – Lack of Holy Living: “I just teach the Bible; I don’t deal with personal standards.”
The fourth danger I see in my generation of fundamentalists is a lack of holy living. We may believe in the doctrine of personal separation, but we are moving away from dealing with personal standards. In this way, we have been affected by the criticisms of new evangelicalism. New evangelicals accuse fundamentalists of only preaching on externals and not the sins of the heart. Because of this criticism, we have become afraid to deal with specific, worldly, lifestyle issues. We must preach with fervency that God expects His people to maintain holy, separated, lives and hearts.

Must I specifically apply God’s Word to my hearers?

We have bought into the Devil’s lie that, as expository preachers, we must be good explainers and illustrators, but we must leave specific application to the work of the Holy Spirit alone. We must remember that the Holy Spirit uses the specific application of His Word to show people what it means to be obedient. Preachers are more than just expositors and illustrators. God calls preachers to apply His Word to people’s everyday lives.

The Puritans are known for their heavy theological messages. However, the largest part of their sermon was the application section. They were masters at precisely applying God’s Word to the person in the pew. The Puritans believed that God’s Word was inherently practical and should make men more holy in their living. As we observe fundamentalism today, holy living is at an all time low. Might there be a relation-ship between the current lack of holy living and the lack of specific application in our preaching?

Ask yourself: Am I afraid to preach against television shows, sensual entertainment, ungodly music, the power and danger of alcohol, immodest dress, and the carnal use of free time? Am I afraid to specifically apply God’s Word after I have dealt with the heart attitudes from God’s Word? Am I concerned that people will think that I am legalistic or unlearned if I apply God’s Word specifically and personally?

Danger 5 – The Cowardice of Remaining Uncommitted: “I don’t want to be known as a militant, fighting, fundamentalist.”
The final problem I see with my generation of fundamentalists is that we are too cowardly to be identified with other believers who have been called cruel names, stood alone, and received no praise from the world. Many young fundamentalists know too much to go into new evangelicalism, but are not willing to be identified with militant fundamentalism. We choose to be out on our own as the first balanced ministries. Why aren’t we willing to be known as part of separatist fundamentalism? Are we afraid of the disdain we will receive for this label?

My generation doesn’t discern that compromise is a mood that takes over men and ministries gradually. This is why fundamentalism must be militant and aggressive against compromise. Apostasy happens little-by-little through small deviations. Therefore, we must maintain a bold, contending-for-the-faith mood. We may not like to refer to moods, because they are subjective. However, in my generation, there is a soft, wimpy, attitude when it comes to dealing with compromise.

Ask yourself: Have I accepted and committed myself to fighting the good fight of faith? If I have, why am I so hesitant to be called a fundamentalist? Am I embarrassed about what God called truth?

Concluding Remarks
Have we bought into the lie that fundamental Christianity does not really have the goods to do ministry God’s way? Do we have to go over to new evangelicalism to find biblical preaching and loving evangelism? The answer is, “No!” We must accept that biblical Christianity will never be in the majority until Christ returns and makes all things right.

Further, we younger fundamentalists need to be committed to fellowshipping with and learning from older fundamentalists. We have given the popular, new evangelical, radio preachers ample opportunity to express themselves to us. It is time to hear from our own camp with the same eagerness. Let us commit ourselves to the following:

  • Commitment 1: Young fundamentalists must be humble and teachable toward older fundamentalists who have fought before them.
  • Commitment 2: We must be more concerned about offending God than man.
  • Commitment 3: We must preach regularly on personal holiness and separation without apology.
  • Commitment 4: We must specifically apply God’s Word to the purpose of holy living and preach specific actions of holiness.
  • Commitment 5: We must determine to be identified with our heritage of being militant, fighting soldiers of Christ.

It is my prayer that my generation of fundamentalists will continue to humbly, and with heart-felt conviction, hold up the flag of God’s truth as our forebears have done for us.

April 2004

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