Fundamentalism

I don’t have a problem with fundamentalism, _per se_, though I suspect that I technically don’t fall into that category of religious faith as the definition stands currently. The word ‘fundamentalism’, as applied to religion, varies in its definition across various contexts, but the most common definition is “literal interpretation of sacred texts.” “#”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalism While this approach works great with historical passages, it struggles to provide accurate understanding and meaningful depth to passages containing prophetic visions and stories that are lush with imagery. This definition also does not really fit the root word it is attempting to define – ‘fundamental’.

What is a fundamental? It is something that “[relates] to the foundation or base” and is “elementary”. “#”:http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=fundamental In short a fundamental is a basic building block for something else. It serves as the unshakable, rock-solid foundation upon which you build something far larger, bigger, and grander. In the context of religious faith, a fundamental is a basic truth upon which all other truths are built. This _does_ involve a certain amount of literal interpretation of sacred texts – the Bible, for Christians – for what structure can be built upon a foundational text whose true meaning is not entirely clear?

The basic foundations of Christianity itself, though, _are_ built upon very clear, very defined principles, those principles that we call the Gospel – the fact that all men are born into sin, that no man can attain Heaven by his own merits because no man can possibly live up to a holy and righteous God, that God sent His only, perfect Son to pay the price for men’s sins by dying on the cross, that the Son overcame death by rising from the dead on the third day, that the Son ascended back into Heaven to prepare it for His people. Everything else we know and believe and practice is founded upon that Gospel, and all too often I think we lose sight of that. The existence of the Gospel changes everything, it renders the Law of the Old Testament days archaic, and it establishes a new order for the way God relates to His people. In effect, every single man and woman alive can now have a personal relationship with God because his Son Jesus serves as our intercessor, as the link between man and the Father. These are the fundamentals of our faith; everything else is the icing on the cake.

Yet, somehow, we allow the icing to destroy our fellowship, to divide our churches, to condone violent and hateful acts that are completely contradictory to the fundamentals of Christian faith. We are a people of peace and love and compassion. We are to reach out to our fellow man and extend grace and mercy to him, meeting his physical needs every bit as much as we meet his spiritual needs. We so often forget this, choosing instead to recite vain rhetoric that, while sounding pretty, does little to meet anyone’s need or demonstrate how following Christ can have the ability to change anything, let alone for the better.

This is why I think of myself as something of a fundamentalist, not so much because I believe that every word in the Bible needs to be interpreted literally but because I believe Christians, particularly those in America, have a great need to return to the fundamentals of our faith and exercise a degree of flexibility about what kind of icing we put on our cake. So long as we agree that there is only one way to Heaven, we can have fellowship in the Holy Spirit, and we can work through the rest together. We may still have disagreements, to be sure, but our fellowship can still be sweet, we can still learn and grow together, and we can still work to bring others into the Kingdom before it is too late.

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