A Brief Review of "Unfundamentalism"
While scrolling through my Facebook news feed recently, I noticed a post from a page entitled “Unfundamentalist Christians”. My first impression of the post in question, as well as the page’s title, was that both were in keeping with a not-so-subtle implication currently in vogue: that a standard, tried-and-true, face-value interpretation of the Bible is something to be denigrated. However, I felt it would be unfair to make a judgment without examining the page more closely. So I checked it out, along with the founder’s accompanying blog site.
As it turns out, first impressions can often be very accurate. An examination of the What We Believe section of the Facebook site revealed that the group (or, at least, the group’s founder) holds to the following precepts, to name a few (listed in no particular order):
- The Bible doesn’t assert that there is a real Hell (the site describes the idea of Hell as “morally repugnant”).
- “God can handle converting people. Our job is to love people.” (i.e. "the Great Commission is not our job.")
- “God does not want any woman automatically ‘submitting’ to her husband…”
- There is nothing wrong with homosexuality, and neither Jesus nor Paul taught otherwise (overtly expressed both in the statements of belief as well as in frequent page posts).
- Evolution isn’t incompatible with Christianity.
- "...in and of itself divorce is not immoral."
At this point, it wouldn’t be difficult for even a casual student of the Bible to present numerous passages that clearly contradict every one of these ideas. Both the Old and New Testaments abound with teachings that refute the beliefs that the self-described Unfundamentalist Christians have included as central to their worldview. There are a couple of reasons that I am not going to go that route, however.
The first of these is that the aforementioned “doctrinal statements” are not only contrary to even a cursory examination of the Scriptures; they are obviously and blatantly in opposition to the Scriptures. When anyone takes a view that is so diametrically opposed to facts and reason, logical arguments are not merited. Those who are promoting the idea that such viewpoints are compatible with genuine Christianity have plainly abandoned the use of rationale, and to go so far as to acknowledge their position by approaching them with a detailed repudiation is to lend them too much credence.
As a corollary, it is reasonable to expect that the proponents of such ideas would reject any elucidation of the truth that might be proffered. If they refused the obvious meanings of the Biblical passages when they read them - choosing instead to convolute simple truths in order to accommodate their own predetermined paradigm - are they likely to respect those same messages from the mouths of their (merely human) contemporaries? Proverbs 26:4-5 states, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit." Jesus said, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" (see Matthew 7:6). There is no reason to provide heretics with an opportunity to mock what is valid; there is another way to deal with those who deliberately propagate twisted truth.
By way of analogy, I have met a couple of people in my life who believed that the lunar landings were staged events; that man has never actually been to the moon, and the various agents involved in this grand deception have somehow managed to keep the truth hidden from the public since 1969. When these conspiracy theorists proselytized me with their brand of "truth," I spent a little bit of time trying to convince them to believe otherwise, but eventually I just gave up. They had chosen to subscribe to ideas that were based on nothing of substance, and it is difficult (if not impossible) to argue against completely unsubstantiated claims. In order for two parties to have an meaningful and resolvable debate, there must be some mutually agreed-upon authority - such as objective fact - to which (or to whom) both have submitted, and to which therefore either may appeal. Since we did not share such an arbiter, a shaking of the head and a removal of myself from the conversation provided a better solution.
Similarly, after nearly a quarter-century of offering to Mormon acquaintances a seeming myriad of fact-based and sound refutations of the claims of would-be prophet Joseph Smith, I have come close to reaching the same point. While I approach this issue on a case-by-case basis, and would not turn away from anyone with honest questions, I am nonetheless inevitably frustrated by this scenario: how does one reason with an otherwise intelligent adult who is determinedly clinging to the preposterous notion that an angel revealed some golden tablets to a boy (a boy who became a man with a lifelong reputation of conning people), that this boy used somewhat magical methods to translate the inscriptions on said golden plates into “King James English” (in nineteenth century America), and that the plates then disappeared without any trace (and without any reliable witness testimonies)? Who writes on gold, for crying out loud? Why would God reveal all of this to just one guy – and then make it all vanish – while leaving a glut of verifiable documentation to support the Biblical Scriptures? Mormon mythology represents such an obvious snake-oil sales attempt that it should not be too much debated; it should only be rebuked and rejected, and its hawkers sent packing. There is no need to fuel the fires of foolishness by treating the flames as if they have been stoked with anything more than a bit of tinder. Throw some cold water and dirt on them, and walk away.*
The tragically diluted, bastardized version of would-be Christianity that the Unfundamentalists are purposely foisting upon the world needs to be treated in like fashion, and it should be done firmly. People who present damnable heresies as though they were Christian beliefs should be dealt with in the same manner that the apostle Paul dealt with similar concerns of his time: with sharp words and strong warnings. A false Gospel is no Gospel at all; it is counterfeit. Consider the strictness with which temporal governments treat criminals who are involved in the counterfeiting of money. It is no light offense to present oneself as a representative of a higher authority at the expense of society at large. What the Unfundamentalists are offering is a spiritual counterfeit, and nothing more. Their fabricated doctrines have the potential to do a great deal of harm to the uninitiated, and unless they repent, those who forge false gospels are headed for the very spiritual prison that they so confidently deny exists.
I find it quite telling that they themselves have decided upon the title of Unfundamentalist Christians for their group. While their conscious intent may have been to take a jab at the concept of Fundamentalism, there is far more that is intimated by their made-up terminology whether deliberately or not. For what would you think if you heard about an “unfundamentalist” basketball camp for children? The first thing that pops into my mind is that the camp's coaches would probably avoid teaching the basic and primary skills of dribbling, passing, and shooting - perhaps focusing instead on telling the participants to run randomly around the court with a ball tucked under the arm. What if you read that the local college was offering an “unfundamentalist” course in mathematics? Lecture topics might include titles such as How to Divide by Zero and Calculus Isn’t So Easy… Let’s Just Guess. There would be no grading, of course; after all, grades are usually based upon the use of standardized numerical operations. Besides, as soon as grades come into use, the possibility of failure becomes a reality. Students who didn't pass muster would likely be, shall we say, damned out of the class. And wouldn’t that be a “morally repugnant” idea?
The Unfundamentalists have taken a way of life which Jesus himself described as "straight and narrow" and attempted to turn it into something that is crooked and wide (see Matthew 7:13-14). What is the purpose of doing something like that? What value is there in belonging to a group that has, essentially, no standards of any kind (except, of course, a totally misconstrued concept of love: one in which the word has been stripped of its intrinsic power and morphed into nothing more than a way of making everyone feel warm and fuzzy)? It is somewhat difficult to understand – and impossible to respect – the reason that this group would not at least have the decency to just write their own little book and leave the Bible out of it. I have similar feelings about the Latter-Day Saints and other cults that cherry pick those Scriptural passages which suit their fancies while ignoring the rest. If you don’t like what the Bible says, and you decide that you are unwilling to adhere to the demands of the Gospel, that is entirely up to you. Abandon it if you want to, concoct your own purported "sacred text" if you like, but don’t try to hijack what isn't yours. God's Word was around long before any of us entered this world, and it will be here after we leave (assuming the whole enterprise doesn’t come to an end before that… and perhaps it will). If you don’t like the attendant doctrines of Christianity, kindly have enough of a modicum of decency to call your new religion by some other name.
Upon further analysis, perhaps the motives behind such efforts to co-opt Christianity are not so hard to fathom after all. Some people just can't tolerate the concept of exclusivity. But the desire to be a part of everything – and similarly, to be all things to all people – strikes me as inherently evil. It reeks of self-entitlement, self-aggrandizement, an aversion to established criteria, and the urge to force one’s will on non-compliant parties. Relatively recent variations of this mindset spring readily to mind: a young woman demanding that she be allowed to enroll in an all-male military school; people with unhealthy, high-risk lifestyles clamoring for the alleged “right” to donate blood; popular movements to curricularize morally objectionable reading material in literature classes for youth. I, for one, would not want to force an unwilling person to memorize Bible verses. I feel no compulsion to demand that I be granted membership in an all-female social club. I certainly do not pretend that my own beliefs are compatible with the tenets of Islam, Hinduism, or any other religion that denies the deity and uniqueness of Christ. There would be no point in doing any of these things; no matter how much I might want other people to believe the things that I believe, or how much I might like to feel included in social situations, I cannot reasonably dictate such matters. Any attempt to do so would be egotistical and immature.
And immature is an excellent word to describe the wishful thinking of Unfundamentalism. Ultimately, what this newfangled religion’s adherents are aiming for is simply a childish worldview in which everything functions exactly as one’s most visceral senses and feelings would crave it to. It it devoid of potency because it is not based in reality. Like a child who daydreams of growing wings and flying like a bird, these people are clinging to fantasies. But children, at least, tend to grow out of theirs. Some children may even grow up to design, build, or fly airplanes. But the achievement of such lofty goals comes by way of abandoning starry-eyed daydreams of shortcuts, and being mature enough to accept immutable laws and work with them. It is through compliance with unyielding truth that a man is empowered, not through defiance of it. This holds true for spiritual goals as well; victory is not gained through attempts to circumvent the rules.
Paul once wrote to his young friend and protégé Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The group described herein provides a prime case-in-point of what Paul was writing about. Everything that they are promoting as doctrine is based on feel-good principles rather than on truth. But no one who chooses to believe their teachings is going to end up feeling good. There is a terrible price to be paid for ignoring the facts of life, whether physical or spiritual. The aforementioned child who wishes to fly will not fare well if he goes so far as to attempt it by leaping from the roof of a skyscraper.
Avoid falling to your death; disbelieve in Unfundamentalism. Stick to the proven basics.
* I recognize that some people might think that the "stern rebuke" technique is too harsh; that employing this method precludes the possibility of reaching lost people. My first response would be to recommend reviewing the apostle John's words regarding this issue, as recorded in 2 John 9:11:
"Whosoever transgresses, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God. He that abides in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that bids him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
I have come to believe that such an approach (keeping in mind that it is meant specifically for those who are actively spreading heresies, as opposed to average unbelievers), can actually wield more effective power than misguided attempts at conversion. For if someone is faced with such an absolute and inflexible rejection, it may well cause him to consider what it is about his message that evokes such a negative response. Ostracism can sometimes go a long way toward helping someone see the light.
It is also wise to remember Paul's words to the Galatians (chapter 5, verse 9): "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." Prudence advises for the protection of oneself, and the Church as a whole, from subversive doctrines. The tendency of evil is to gradually seep into things, and we must not allow it to do so.
Want to read some lyrics that address similar issues? Click HERE for Please Let's Not.