I have been known over these past four and one-half decades as a fundamentalist; a label I wear proudly and gladly own. The long and short of it is that I am a simple preacher who holds to the basics of the Christian faith.
Jude, in his little epistle, refers to the common salvation. He wrote approximately 50 years after the crucifixion of Christ and the birth of the Church. He proclaimed his original intent was thwarted by a need to expose an attack on the common, basic fundamentals of the faith. So important was this departure from the truth that Jude begged the reader in verse 3 to earnestly content (literally agonize) in the defense of this faith that had been once for all delivered to the saints.
The reason Jude called believers to high alert was that certain men had crept in unaware. False doctrine had begun and metastasized in the church. Apostates with an agenda of perversion of truth had slowly moved into prominent places while no one was watching.
Immediately, some would say, “Why the panic? Is there not room for varied interpretations? Don’t I have the right to an opinion? Isn’t Jude being too narrow?”
The answer is a resounding NO!
When it comes to the fundamentals of the faith, there are only two positions: Total and unreserved belief or apostasy. The definition of an apostate is one who deliberately rejects revealed truth. He may be well dressed, influential, articulate, decent, law-abiding, and socially an asset to the community. For sure he is religious and often educated. He just questions the truth of the fundamentals.
The choice is not because of ignorance, but of arrogance. An apostate may believe in God, but not believe in God’s revelation. He would say, “I am not an atheist.” Good men can differ over non-essentials. I know Christians who disagree on music styles, manner of dress, certain types of entertainment, even modes of baptism. There are Bible-believers who lean toward Calvinism, while others are more Armenian. Some hold a hardline against debt, while others finance houses, cars, and carry credit cards. Halloween, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus are over the top for some, while others participate.
Certainly, there can be disagreement over issues and some scriptural interpretations, but not on the fundamentals. Much of the world’s religions would exclude the basics of Christianity and every false cult simply takes select Bible truth, then adds their poison doctrine to the mix. Recognized religious denominations have not been excluded. Many have abandoned the fundamentals in favor or social issues.
Immediately after the presentation of the genuine, Satan began infiltrating the Church with error. To be a fundamentalist scripturally today means you are in the minority and outside the ecumenical mixing bowl. The vast portion of religion today places little or no emphasis on the basic elements of true Christianity.
The core list of the fundamentals is actually short with the belief that the Bible is the infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of God topping the list. Notice I said the Bible is, not the Bible contains the Word of God. Remove the Bible as the truth base mooring and you are cast into a sea of religious upheaval.
From the Scripture, we learn that Christ had no human father and was born of a virgin. That is essential and all of Christianity hinges on that fact. Only as Christ, the God man, with no sin nature, could He pay an eternal debt for an infinite humanity in a moment of time. A fundamentalist knows that Christ lived a sinless life and died a substitutionary, vicarious death on the cross. He suffered the eternal punishment of Hell quantitatively and qualitatively. Without the Virgin Birth, He would have had a sin nature and with it, a sin debt like all other children of Adam.
Isaiah stated His payment was so sufficient that God’s judgment was satisfied (Isaiah 53:11).
John, the Apostle, said the same in I John 2:2, “For he is the propiatation (satisfaction) for our sins and not for us only but for the sins of the whole world.”
The short list includes Christ’s physical, bodily resurrection from the grave. The resurrection separates Christianity from the world’s religions. Many can take you to the tombs and bones of their founders. Christians can take you to an empty tomb. That is a claim exclusively fundamental. Remove it and Christianity disappears.
The road to apostasy has always run downhill, but has intensified through institutions of (so-called) higher learning.
“Yale University was founded in 1701 by Congregational ministers for the liberal and religious education of suitable youth … to propagate in the wilderness the blessed reformed Protestant religion.”
Princeton was founded by the Presbyterians in 1746.
Rev. Jonathan Dickerson became its first president declaring, “Cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”
Columbia was started in 1754 and was called King’s College until 1784. The Baptists started Brown in 1764. The Dutch Reformed Church started Rutgers in 1766.
One hundred of the first 108 colleges in America were started on the Christian fundamentals. By the close of 1860, there were 246 colleges in America; only 17 were state institutions. Almost all were started for religious purposes. What happened?
As in the days of Jude, certain men crept in unawares and slowly began to question the commonly held core beliefs of true Christianity. These planted the seeds of doubt that reaped a harvest of apostasy. Young people in the schools of higher learning on the college campuses today are learning lawlessness and immorality much of the time taught by apostates.
Old, mainline denominations that once held tight to the fundamentals of the faith have shifted doctrinally due to influences often fostered in the very schools started and supported by those denominations. A young seminary student may leave his old-fashioned fundamental church to receive training. Little by little, a professor or peer throws questions of doubt about the Virgin Birth, blood atonement, bodily resurrection or authenticity of the Scripture. He comes away not believing in the fundamentals. He is shipwrecked.
The awful thing is that good, well-meaning people are unaware and pay the apostate’s salary. What is taught in many of these schools is bad; what is not taught is worse. The apostate is expert at almost saying something. The plan of Satan to pollute the stream starts with the headwaters. A young seminary student taught to doubt the truth of Scripture will spread this doubt in classrooms and church pulpits.
A pastor, teacher, or religious worker of any kind who holds a position, paid or unpaid, that involves spiritual truth and denies the fundamentals partially or wholly, rightly owns the title apostate. The fundamentalist is as narrow as the truth. He is always obedience-based and not outcome-based. He is predictable, unbendable, and resolute. He is what he believes.
Core truth holds no latitude; therefore the world of fundamentalism is small. The crowd is short that refuses to link arms with religious groups that reject known Biblical fundamentals. As a believer, the Bible commands us to love others as Christ loved them. The same Bible commands us to not yoke myself with an unbeliever, which includes deniers of the stated fundamentals of the faith.
Dr. Jack Scallions serves as pastor emeritus of Fairview Baptist Church in Athens.