Fundamentalism is the basis of everything that I have ever known. I was born while my father was attending a fundamentalist Bible college. He planted a fundamentalist church in New Jersey. My parents homeschooled me and my two sisters until I was in 11th grade, when I went to a small fundamentalist school. I graduated from a fundamentalist Bible college and worked in a fundamentalist church for the first seven years of my ministry career.
My problem is that I never bought into it. Everything about the fundamentalism that I grew up in felt forced. Whether it was knocking on my neighbor’s doors to hand them tracts or going to summer camp and getting ‘rededicated.’ I was always the slightly offbeat kid who did not quite fit in. Unlike my friends, I never hid the ‘unchristian’ parts of my faith, especially in the area of music.
It might have had something to do with my childhood problems (I had some kind of scar tissue in my brain that required several medications to repress neural activity until my brain could work around it) but in my teens, I saw the substance in my faith and just basically ignored everything else.
If we were singing hymns, I wanted to kick up the rhythm. If I was asked to preach, I almost always got talked to later about crossing some line or another. I repeatedly got in trouble while teaching at a Christian school because I had no problem with swearing, teenagers holding hands, etc. In short, I have always been a terrible fundamentalist. I conformed if I had to, but I never drank the Kool-Aid.
I like to believe that historical fundamentalism embraces truths that unify believers, not distinctions that give us excuses to separate from them. For me, fundamentalism begins and ends with a belief in the historical-grammatical, literal interpretation of Scripture. When you interpret the Bible literally, you will arrive at the conclusions that were the doctrinal foundations of fundamentalism:
- A rejection of the higher criticism of Scripture
- Acceptance of the virgin birth, incarnation and deity of Jesus
(People will argue lists that range from 5 to 11 ‘fundamentals’ but they all boil down to these two points).
My place in this blog is as one of the historians. I am fanatic when it comes to historical accuracy.