There are so many topics I have on my heart to write about at the moment that it has been hard to select one to begin with, but since I seem to be encountering the current trend to bash fundamentalist beliefs at the moment I feel I need to address this one first.
I consider myself to be a fundamentalist.
Black and White – no shades of grey are in the Bible. Just a little sin makes one as guilty as genocide. There’s no such thing as a “white” lie. Lying is lying – parables and anecdotes are different, and I’ll come to that in a moment.
Moral absolutes are being eroded slowly but surely. This is part of the line in the sand we need to stand firm against that I mentioned in an earlier post. We need to understand what is meant by “fundamental” Christianity before we can operate in it.
I’m not taking about “gay bashing” or the right to marry or pro and anti abortion specifically or any of the other things that the media shows as “fundamental” Christianity. These things get blown out of proportion and misused by the enemy deliberately with the sole purpose of driving away people from Jesus as He is in the Scripture.
Do I believe Jesus would be opposed to abortion? Simply put, yes. He did, after all, knit us together in the womb. John the Baptist is said to have “leapt” before his birth when Elizabeth met Mary because he was already filled with the Holy Spirit. For me, that is enough – but I’m not about to exact retribution for a doctor performing an abortion on the victim of rape or child abuse who isn’t a Christian themselves. What I will advocate is education that abortion should never be used as a form of birth-control. If you don’t want a baby, either abstain or use contraceptives. For a Christian, this should be a simple matter. In the World, not so much.
Similarly, would Jesus endorse homosexuality? Again, a resounding “no” has to be the answer. The New Testament says Peter was told in a vision to kill and eat what under the Old Law was deemed unclean (including, presumably, shellfish such as shrimp – thankfully as I love lobster & other crustaceans). Nowhere does it say any of the believers were told to bend over and have at it.
What it says specifically is that we are not to judge the people. None of us is without sin in our lives, no matter how hard we try. And our personal actions will never be enough to eliminate the stain of Sin in us. But the Bible also makes it clear that the one Sin which is unforgivable by God is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. My understanding of this is that it refers specifically to rejecting Jesus and His sacrifice.
So I’m a fundamentalist, but not like these self-righteous and hate-filled people who condemn and judge others, measuring them by their own standards.
I don’t believe homosexuality and pornography are of God. Both destroy God’s definition of marriage. Both are inherently sinful, replacing Love in God’s definition filio and agape from the Greek with eros or erotic lusts. I know several non-celebrity people in long term relationships with members of the same gender, male and female, who have in a worldly sens more “stable” relationships than a lot of Christian couples. It doesn’t mean it’s right. It probably means the Christian couple has unresolved issues between the husband and wife.
I don’t believe HIV and AIDS are God’s “Judgement” on any particular group – another popular “fundamentalist” (as in the media description) belief. If God were to pour out Judgement accouding to the Bible, we’d all be incinerated – read Revelation, it’s quite explicit that the earth will be destroyed by fire when Jesus returns. Rather it’s something that has become apparent in the last 30 years or so in humans. Maybe it made a species jump. Cats get FIV (feline immuno virus) and it’s as deadly to them as HIV to a human. Could it have made the jump? I don’t know. Maybe. Ask a virologist. Could it be a weaponised virus created in a lab that got out of hand? Perhaps. Ask the Pentagon. In truth, we’ll not know in this world where it began -and it doesn’t matter. We could say the same of cancer, diabetes, hyper-lipidaemia and all the other chronic conditions that untreated will kill the human body.
But they aren’t judgement – simply put they are a result of modern lifestyle, chemicals in food, smoking, promiscuity and all the other “freedoms” that the West in particular, but the World in general has been steadily embracing and encouraging for almost 60 years.
Escalating violence, particulary for some bizarre reason in America, is also not judgement. It can be shown that since the Bible was taken out of schools in the USA and the “free-market” economy began to boom that shootings by youth in the States has increased. Per head of population there are probably fewer guns available now than 150 years ago, but violence increases each year. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because by the time a teenager is around 16 – which seems to be the age they start going out on killing sprees – they have seen over 200,000 acts of graphic violence without consequences, over 40,000 of these being murder, on television. Even more once you factor in movies. I have an extensive collection of films ranging from 1930’s musicals to modern “classics”. The most alarming trend is the increasing level of violence and the graphic nature of it. More than just this is the way things are classified. “Malone”, a movie I enjoyed immensely starring Burt Reynolds received a classification by the BBFC of 18 – suiable only for audiences over that age. The original “Terminator” movie in 1985 received the same certificate. “T2” received a 15 certificate, but the violence was more graphic that the prequel. It was just made later and opinion had devolved. So now younger audiences were exposed in the theatres and on videotape. Some of what os classified as PG12 now would have been 18 just a few years ago. The level of violence in “The Dark Knight”, whilst essential to the story in it’s setting, only merited a 15 certificate, but was by far the most gruesome I’ve seen in a long time with that certificate.
Now I do enjoy the movies I’ve mentioned here, but I’m (yikes) over 40 now and currently don’t have children around. Even so, I keep the violent films in my collection in a locked cabinet as my friends and family do have kids who watch movies when they come over sometimes. I have a large selection of what are more age-appropriate films for them on an open shelf. They can pick what they want from there.
How does this relate to fundamentalism?
Paul singles out sexual sin as more repugnant (but not less forgivable) than other sins because it includes joining Christ’s Spirit in us to the act. The act itself is not the issue, however. If the account of Sodom and Gomorrah is correctly understood, the reason God destroyed the cities was not homosexuality. It was the “reclassification” of homosexuality and paedophilia as “normal” behaviour. To protect the Angels Lot believed were men from the citizens of the city, Lot offered his own children who were too young to have been married off – probably therefore under 12 years old – to the townsfolk. Not because he didn’t care about his daughters, but because he refused to allow strangers under his care to be assaulted. I’m certain had the citizens accepted he would have been devastated, but it was a lesser evil to him.
Greed is no less of a sin than homosexuality or murder. It’s idolatry when you look at it in terms of God’s perspective. Coveting possessions over God. Making our own Golden Calf in the form of a bigger house, a new car, a better job or whatever the idol in our heart is. We worship Mammon daily, doing things that destroy our relationship with Him in the name of duty and honour, but missing the point entirely. We get up and go to work to earn money to pay off our credit cards so we can buy more things we don’t need but boost our standing with society and honestly believe we are “good” christians because we drop $10 in a collection plate each Sunday. We miss the point completely. Our “tithe” demostrates the average income to be around $400 per month. Unlikely unless we’re living in a third-world country (where it would put us in the top 10% of earners). Rather we live forgotten lives and pass judgement on people who don’t go to a specific congregation and almost die of boredom on a weekly basis for being less “christian”.
I don’t attend a weekly local church. By choice. But I regularly have Fellowship with other believers. Felloship is what Paul refers to when he says not to forsake the gathering of believers in his letters. Not synagogue – which he attended until they threw him out – but Fellowship. Iron sharpens iron, and meaningful intercourse (conversation in this context people) between believers keeps us sharp. Sitting in a pew on a Sunday for 2 hours no more makes us a Christian than sitting in a garage makes us a Ferrari.
The latest term is “Progressive Christianity”. It’s socially acceptable for now. There’s an interesting page on Facebook called Kissing Fish that I was introduced to by a friend a few weeks ago. While I don’t agree with everything it says, it’s closer to my understanding of true Fundamental Christianity than the media-branded “fundamentalists” outside abortion clinics, South Africa’s “Sexpo” events and the right-wing homophobic idiots spouting hatred with every breath. There’s no love at all in that. Judgement and condemnation by people with rocks in their hands unwilling to admit they can’t aim straight because of the planks in their eyes. They judge and hate and condemn and go home to their 3 bedroom houses where they live alone with 3 televisions and a six-figure income (seven in some cases) and condem the poor for being poor, the sick for being sick and everyone (probably including me) for not agreeing with them.
I dislike the term “progressive” as it imples moving beyond the black and white view of Sin in scripture. It’s more accurate to say “regressive” as it actually is seeking to put the context back to where Jesus had it. I don’t, as I said, believe esus would advocate homosexuality and the current “marriage”, but I don’t think He would condemn it the way people claiming to be His spokesmen do either. He hung out with tax-collector and sinners – probably homosexuals among them – and they welcomed Him. He didn’t condemn sinners for sinning – He encouraged them to stop. He was scathing and hard-line to the Pharisees who passed judgement freely, and He drove the dishonest scales out of the Temple twice in Righteous Anger – but in so doing He took the time to gently release the doves rather than smash their cages. He called the children to Him. These days I’m sure He would be subect to background checks, legal investigation and need certificates of suitability before He would be allowed to. And since he travelled and shared single-room lodgings with 12 other men He would probably have been deemed unsuitable.
So I’m a Fundamentalist. But don’t misrepresent me. I believe in a seven era creation – in which we currently live in the seventh stage – I have read that there is evidence to support all human life can be traced back genetically to a single female (and presumably a single male as well), so I have no problem with Adam and Eve. (Note: Eve, not Steve) I don’t believe homosexual behaviour is purely genetic. I’m descended from many red-heads, although there’s only a few flecks in my (thinning) hair, and I had a temper to match. My “genetic” predisposition to violent temper has been superceded by my choice not to act on it.
If we didn’t have a choice, God in the Old Testament would have been unjust when He Judged Israel for their Sin. Jesus would have been unnecessary because our behaviour would have been inescapable. Nature vs Nurture has been a debate for over 100 years. There are elemnts of both, but we always have a choice. And God was explicit when we were promised we would never be tested beyong our limits to bear.
So fundamentalism need to be redefined to what it used to be. The fundamentals of Christianity are the Divinity of Jesus, the need for His sacrifice. We cannot do it alone. Love our neighbour as ourselves, but first Love God – we can’t Love our neighbour until we do. Don’t put anything in our lives before Him. It’s hard. I love my wife, but I strive to Love God more than I do her, because Loving Him gives me what I need to Love her the way Jesus Loves the Church and gave Himself for her.
THAT’s Fundamentalism. We can assess fruit, and feel free to disagree with me. My wife and I believe much of the same things, but she refuses to label herself as a fundamentalist because of the way the term has been abused.
Please, let me know what you think. Just this once I won’t delete comments unless they are abusive to other commentators personally.