Paul E. Scates
January 9, 2002
The above quote displays the thinking that lies at the heart of the continuing slander and deconstruction of Christian Fundamentalism. Sullivan´s quote lumps anyone who believes that G-d´s ideas are fixed and unchangeable with the Islamic terrorists who crashed airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Since Christian Fundamentalists do believe that G-d´s ideas are ‘fixed´ (‘I am the Lord; I change not. –Malachi 3:6; et al), Sullivan is making the not-so-subtle inference that Christian Fundamentalists are just as violent and apt to commit such heinous deeds as Osama Bin Laden and his murderous zealots. The fact that Sullivan is a nominal Conservative reveals just how pervasive liberal Christian theology has become. In fact, it was in response to that so-called theology that Christian Fundamentalism first arose, early in the 20th century.
Until the Civil War, Protestantism had been the predominant American expression of faith. After the war, though, science, technology, and business began replacing the traditional Protestant faith with industrialism, historicism and secularism. The flood of central and eastern European immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century, mostly Catholic and Jewish, furthered the trend toward religious pluralism. Religion was gradually becoming relegated to the private, family, and leisure spheres, leaving political, scientific, and economic affairs to the secular experts. Christians, already concerned that Biblical principles were being corrupted by these developments, saw the encroachment of liberal Christian theology as the last straw in what they perceived, quite rightly, as an assault on their beliefs. What were the objectionable points of that liberal theology? Theologian and author J.I. Packer wrote (Fundamentalism and the Word of G-d, London, Inter-Varsity Press, 1958), ‘The characteristic tenets of liberal faith in America in the early years of [the 20th] century may be summarized as follows:
Whatever your own personal religious views, it is clear that this is vastly different from over nineteen hundred years of Christian theology, and that is precisely what alarmed many Christians of the time. According to Packer, this liberal theology ‘swept away entirely the gospel of the supernatural redemption of sinners by G-d's sovereign grace. It reduced grace to nature, divine revelation to human reflection, faith in Christ to following His example, and receiving new life to turning over a new leaf. It turned supernatural Christianity into one more form of natural religion, a thin mixture of morals and mysticism.´ In other words, man´s naturalist ‘religion´ was substituted for G-d. J. Gresham Machen demonstrated in Christianity and Liberalism (1923, reprinted, 1983, Grand Rapids) that true or not, liberal theology wasn´t Christianity, nor even a heresy, but a different system altogether. Machen wrote, ‘The liberal attempt at reconciling Christianity with modern science has really relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity . ´ It was in protest against this radical refashioning of the historic faith that Fundamentalism arose.
In 1895, at a conference in Niagara Falls, scholars from the Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches presented a conservative reaction to the liberal theology, and to the growing relativistic and modernistic beliefs. Their statement contained what came to be known as ‘the fundamentals of the faith,´ hence the name Fundamentalists. Sometimes known as ‘the five points,´ those fundamentals were and are:
They also re-affirmed the fact of supernatural miracles, the reality of sin (depravity of man), salvation by faith through spiritual regeneration, the power of prayer and the duty of evangelism, or spreading the gospel. These fundamentals specifically rejected each of the liberal theology´s claims as false. In 1910, the first issue of ‘The Fundamentalist´ was published; between then and 1915, a total of twelve booklets were published, containing positive biblical expositions of the fundamentals and polemics against positions opposed to them — Romanism, Darwinism, higher criticism of Scripture, and such cults as Christian Scientists, Mormonism, Spiritualism and Jehovah's Witnesses.
Far from being some late-coming, ‘new´ splinter group with radical or terrorist foundations, Christian Fundamentalists simply adhere to the long-held foundational truths of the Christian faith. Liberal theology sought to replace those traditional beliefs with those of 19th century secular science and humanist philosophy. The irony is that because Christians refused to, in effect, renounce their faith, ‘liberals´ try to characterize Christian Fundamentalists as usurpers, some new and dangerous cult, when it is, in fact, the ‘liberals´ who are the late-comers, the ones who are assaulting traditional, long-standing beliefs.
If the tenets of the liberal theology sound familiar, it´s because they are the same basic principles that have for decades been trumpeted as the truth by ‘liberals´ in media, education, the social sciences and philosophy. This in spite of the historical evidence that objectively and irrefutably identifies ‘liberal´ social and political policies as the very scourge of mankind. The Soviet Union and its central and Eastern European satellites covered half the world with darkness and despair for much of the last century, all in the name of ‘liberal´ idealism. An honest believer in socialism would at least explain what went wrong, why the equality and freedom and prosperity promised by socialism didn´t materialize under oppressive regimes like those in today´s China and Cuba. But don´t wait for it; all you´ll get is defamatory accusations against those who oppose ‘liberal´ thought, theology or political policies. Because the foundation of Christian faith — i.e., the reality of G-d — puts it in direct opposition to ‘liberalism´ in all its forms, that faith must be denounced and defamed. Therein lies the simple truth of the ‘liberal´ assault on Christian Fundamentalism.
But what about ‘mainstream´ Christianity today? Packer writes, ‘The…original group that decided what was fundamental to salvation have all changed now. The mainline denominations within which it began cannot be said to be Fundamentalist, because their membership…no longer believe in the literal inerrancy of the Scriptures.´ In other words, they´ve bought into the liberal theology, and thus represent no opposition to the ‘liberal´ social and political agenda.
With the 20th century behind us now, during which over 100 million people lost their lives to regimes espousing the humanist and secular ‘liberal´ philosophy, it´s clear that the real threat to freedom comes from the socialism Americans call ‘liberalism.´ That threat assumes its form today in the ‘liberal´ Democrat Party, guilty of a decades-long assault on the Constitution and our liberties. The planned campaign against Christian Fundamentalism is but a misdirection ploy to deflect attention from the Democrats´ increasing boldness is dismantling our Constitution.
Christian Fundamentalists do not advocate forcing their beliefs on anyone else, under any conditions, for man must choose G-d freely, or not at all. But Christians are concerned that prejudice and rhetoric associating them with Islamic terrorists will affect their freedom of speech, through which they evangelize, i.e., attempt to persuade by talking. For even such reasonable efforts are now assailed as oppressive, intolerant and bigoted. That´s an interesting take, considering that ‘liberal´ Democrats make use of every available medium to ‘sell´ their philosophy of big government, wealth redistribution, etc., not to mention to demonize any and all opposition as ‘intolerant.´ There is clearly at work here the age-old attitude that ‘my´ beliefs are fine, but ‘yours´ are suspect, and therefore anything you do to spread your views must infringe on freedoms, rights, etc. It is their standard hypocrisy for Democrats to claim for themselves what they would deny to others; do you think they´ll only do that to Christian Fundamentalists?
Our Decaying Society
10 jan 2002