Certain words have the destructive rhetorical power of lobbing a grenade into a crowded room. Why is “fundamentalist” one of them?
Every once in a while, a conservative evangelical pastor will speak publicly about whether Christians should or should not participate in certain practices, read certain books, watch certain movies or which spouse should stay at home with the kids (if any).
And when these comments hit the masses, they cause quite a stir.
For some, their statements result in really positive discussion of how we are to approach (especially) popular culture and family dynamics in a biblical fashion.
But almost without fail, when these issues come up (the recent stir about Albert Mohler’s comments on yoga is a good example), it leads to another reaction—someone breaks out the F word:
There are certain books that have a very short shelf-life, either because they’re highly topical or they make pop-culture references that no one will get in 15 minutes.
This is not one of those books.
“Fundamentalism” and the Word of God was first published 51 years in the midst of the British “Fundamentalism” controversy of the 1950s—a controversy centering around the authority of Scripture.
At roughly the mid-point of the 20th century, Theological Liberalism gave way to the “Biblical Theology” movement. Rather than completely shuffling off historic faith, “biblical theologians” sought to get to the heart of what the authors intended; to “read the Bible from within,” as it were. A noble goal to be sure.
However, their approach was to study the Bible as an unbeliever so as not to presuppose certain assumptions regarding faith, including disregarding the Bible’s internal witness as the divine revelation of God. The result was that essentially everything was up for grabs.
The validity of the virgin birth, the resurrection, Christ’s divinity, the nature and necessity of the atonement, the Bible’s divine inspiration… Any and all were up for consideration in the name of “biblical criticism.”
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Read More about Book Review: "Fundamentalism" and the Word of God
The crucial issue which underlies the “Fundamentalism” controversy thus concerns the attitude in which Christians should approach Scripture, and the use which they should make of it. Evangelicals seek to approach and use it as it demands that men should; that is, they seek to think and live in accordance with its authoritative teaching. Accordingly, they hold that view of the nature and interpretation of Scripture which they believe to be the Bible’s own; and they reject views which they believe to be contrary to it. They reject… the supposition that Scripture errs; for Scripture claims not to err. They reject all methods of biblical criticism which assume about Scripture something other than Scripture assumes about itself. They reject all approaches to Scripture which would not permit it to function in the Church as a final authority. They will not become subjectivists to order. They regard as mistaken those who believe themselves to acknowledge the authority of the Bible while adopting principles of biblical criticism which Scripture repudiates. They reject as misguided all attempts to wield different theological traditions together without seeking to reform them by the Bible. And they do not believe that agreement is possible in this present controversy till both sides have shown the reality of their acceptance of the Lordship of Christ by adopting the biblical interpretation of the principle of biblical authority, and the method of theological procedure which the Bible itself requires.
J.I. Packer, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, p 74