Fundamentalist or Legalist…?
Much of the content of this blog was a reponse that I gave to one of the young ladies of BLDG 28. She had posed a question concerning the term “fundamentalist” and if this term only described churches that labeled themselves as such. Hope this sheds light…
When approaching the question of “fundamentalists” and as to who that defines, it’s vital to first established what we mean by “fundamental.” A true fundamentalist is someone who holds to the fundamentals of the faith. They believe in the core truths of Christianity (such as the deity of Jesus, the Trinity, salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the inerrancy of Scripture and so on). Therefore, by it’s true definition you and I both are fundamental Christians (I hope!).
An independent, fundamental church (labled as such) however, is typically a church that preaches a great deal of standards (what you do and don’t do) and very little doctrine. Sadly, they focus on the externals (much of the time) and the true heart is left unchecked. Occasionally you will find a strict, fundamental church that really focuses on grace but most of the time it is straight law and the people live under an impossible cloud of religous rules that eventually leave them feeling inadequate, defeated, and hopeless. I know this because all 3 of the churches I was raised in, most of the churches my dad held meetings for, and the college I attended were all “independent, fundamentalist.” You must be very careful in such circles because much of the time people will establish their conduct of “holy” living, begin to image that the way they see Christian living is the only possible way it could be, and then – like the Pharisee – begin to judge everyone according to their standard of righteousness. Paul warns heavily against this in the book of Galatians.
You have to be careful going the other way as well though. Well meaning, yet ignorant believers will champion the concept of grace to the exclusion of righteous living and often (sadly) the neglect of God’s standard as revealed through Scripture. This is incredibly dangerous thinking and often spiritually fatal in application. This manipulation of truth is blasted away at in the books of James and Jude.
The God-honoring, radical walk of holiness is required of all believers and we must engulf a daily dose of Biblical dogmas and holy delight. In other words, we must think holy (according to the Word) and walk worthy (according to the Word). Sadly, both the self-righteous Pharisee and the grace-distorting pagan, of which our churches are full of both, fall far short of accomplishing either. The first is a legalist – creating his own standards, often calling unholy what God declared holy; the latter is a libertine – tearing down the righteous standards that we find in Scripture to justify addictions and wickedness. While both of these may have begun true fundamentalists (for many on both sides do) they have since turned from the fundamentals and through their own law and selfish license they have lost sight of true, transforming grace.
My challenge to you…keep looking to Christ, study the Word, submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and He will guide you into truth and holiness.
Hope that helps!