Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Please do not call me a Fundamentalist

I am reading a fascinating series of books dealing with the history of evangelism. On the one hand evangelism was probably the greatest thing to happen to Christianity since the Day of Pentecost. On the other hand the ramifications of watered-down doctrine, "heart-felt" religion and misplaced theology stemming from the notion that everyone can interpret the Bible independent of historic Christianity has been the greatest point of failure in the Church.

I often look at men, leaders supposedly, like Dobson, Farwell, Robinson and others and ask "how can they so blindly and obediently support the Republicans and their utter failure to restore any Godliness to America". Worse yet, how can they sit by as millions of unborn are murdered, we have begun the murder of the infirmed, God is pushed from every public venue, our nation no longer lives under the civil law of the land (The Constitution) and we wage war unconstitutionally and based upon the most blatant lies.

How do men that are supposed to be leaders acquiesce to such things or even support the commission of such acts by their public acclaimations for the men and government that perform these abominations?

Is it personal greed and moral decay? I hope not. I believe it is flawed theology, a theology that states the world is at an end and all we have to do is support Israel and we will all be carried off is a grand escape. How amazing it is that this notion is less than 200 years old. Mathew, Mark, Luke and John (the men that walked with Jesus) made no reference to this. Even Paul contradicts the notion that the nation State of Israel is the chosen children of God in Romans 9-11.

I am a Baptist but I have pondered over the years over issues that just did not sit right with me. As I read and study I have come to know that dispensationalist theology is not the doctrine of the historic Baptist confession. It is a world-view that calls Christians to inaction and even flawed action.

I believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, I am staunchly conservative, paleo-conservative in fact, but I am NO FUNDAMENTALIST. I daily become more disturbed by the weakness of fundamentalism and the flawed ineptitude of their activism and world-view.

Fundamentalism is the chief bed partner of neo-conservatism. Without the suport of the "religious right" there would be no neo-conservative threat and the most us true conservatives would have to worry about opposing would be the wackos on the left.

The fundementalist choose to sit on their butts and wait for the rapture or worse yet support ungodly politicians. I choose action and a life that glorifies God and attemtps to keep his covenants and our rightful birthright to freedom and dominion.

More on this later
Theology and Takeover of the SBC

By William H. Stephens Brentwood, TN

Fundamentalists believe the rise of the state of Israel is a fulfillment of God's covenant with the Jews.

Dispensationalists believe the Old Testament promises to Israel were not reinterpreted by Jesus to apply to the Church. They are, instead, an unchanging covenant with Israel. They believe the covenant is being fulfilled today as the Jews are established in modern Israel. Such events as the rise of the European Common Market is seen as the prophesied revival of the Roman Empire; eastern events are seen as the gathering together of the kings of the east; most of all, Israel's return to the Holy Land demonstrates we are in the last days.

Martin Marty of the University of Chicago is the best-known church historian in America. He wrote in an article "Fundamentalism as a Social Phenomenon," in the Review and Expositor, that there "were Protestant fundamentalist Zionists in America before Jewish Zionism took hold."

In the late 1800s, William E. Blackstone was a tireless dispensational leader to this end. Yaakov Ariel, professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, echoed Marty. He pointed out that Blackstone "asserted that the United States had a special role and mission in God's plan for humanity, that of a modern Cyrus: to help restore the Jews to Zion. God chose America for that mission on account of its moral superiority over other nations, and America would be judged according to the way it carried out its mission." (New Dimensions in American Religious History: Essays in Honor of Martin E. Marty.)

Since that time, great events have quickened the dispensationalists' spirit: World War I, the British takeover of Palestine, the Zionist movement and Israel being established as a nation, other wars, famine, natural disasters, and even the Gulf War.

Yaakov Ariel claims no event has had such an impact on dispensationalist thinking as the Six-Day War, in which Israel was immensely successful against overwhelming odds. The victory allowed the Jews to take over the historic sites of Jerusalem.

Fundamentalists now dream of the rebuilding of the Temple, which they believe must take place before Christ can return.

This conviction about modern Israel has driven fundamentalists to seek a close relationship with the Israeli government, and pressure U.S. policy to support Israel. They have established a Temple Mount Foundation in Jerusalem and have involved themselves in such Jewish issues as Jewish immigration from Russia. Dozens of pro-Israeli fundamentalist organizations have emerged in the United States.

The late Menachem Begin, former prime minister of Israel, appointed a special liaison for American evangelicals; Israeli officials speak at fundamentalist conferences, and evangelists meet with Israeli leaders as part of their touring schedules in Israel.

Observers of the SBC takeover may recall how thoroughly this dispensationalist agenda spilled over into the SBC. Ed McAteer, the SBC fundamentalist head of Religious Roundtable, tried very hard to have a resolution passed that would have expressed the denomination's carte-blanche support for anything the state of Israel chooses to do militarily.

The effort was rejected by the Convention, for the dispensational viewpoint is held by a lower percent of followers than leaders. To compensate, McAteer held a press conference to issue a pro-Israeli statement, signed onto by top SBC leaders Charles Stanley, Bailey Smith, Jimmy Draper, W. A. Criswell, Paige Patterson, Zig Ziglar, and Paul Pressler. This intent is not just political; it is a deeply held religious view and is not negotiable.

If the U.S. is to fulfill its role in prophecy, it must support Israel; the SBC will be a tool to pressure U.S. policy to that end. Thus, one driving force behind the SBC takeover was to use the Convention as a power base to affect U.S. policy toward Israel.

Fundamentalists believe the United States is the nation assigned by God the work of aiding Israel in these end times. Some people may regard dispensationalism's strong commitment to Israel simply as a theological difference of opinion. But the conviction has a tentacle that reaches into U.S. politics and has brought about a coalition with the right wing of the Republican Party.

God's intention to use the United States is not essential to His plan; if the U.S. will not cooperate both morally and politically, God will find another nation. But dispensationalists fervently want the U.S. to fulfill its role and intend to see that it does.

To accomplish this end, the United States must solve its moral problems, must become purer by biblical standards.

Believing the end is very near, fundamentalists have placed the redemption of America on a fast track through two alliances, Reconstructionism and the Republican right wing.

Reconstructionists hold that God’s plan is for the world to be governed by Old Testament law. The effort to accomplish this type of government is part of what God meant when he commanded us to subdue and rule the earth (Gen. 2:26-28). The goal is the world, but the focus is on the United States.

Fundamentalism and Reconstructionism can never truly merge, for Reconstructionists are post-millennialists. They believe Christ will return only after the world is ruled for a thousand years by Christ through His Church.

However, fundamentalists have bought into much of the socio-political program of Reconstructionism, as William Estep, professor of church history at Southwestern Seminary, has discussed in Revolution Within the Revolution, published by Eerdmans in 1990.

Gary North is currently the leading Reconstructionist leader in America. He views the conflict as God vs. Satan, Christianity vs. secular humanism, the family vs. the state. Secular humanism has captured judges, educators, mainline church officials, and “especially seminary professors.”
Estep asserts that “the Reconstructionist movement represents the New Right’s extreme flanks, but common concerns, presuppositions, and goals characterize every segment of the movement.” The two views have in common the quest to make America a Christian nation by legislation.

If Reconstructionism were to succeed, the U.S. Constitution and legal system would be eliminated. Fundamentalism does not cherish that goal, but they would fix the Constitution by amendments to accomplish their goals; and they have bought into some intermediate goals of Reconstructionism.

One is to eliminate the public school system, which teaches secular humanism and evolution, and breeds atheism and New Age views.

Moreover, the Old Testament teaches that children should be taught at home. Another intermediate goal is to limit government severely. Decision-making must be moved to local levels; government must get out of all but essential activities such as utilities and keeping the peace.

The national model for fundamentalists is the colony of Massachusetts, which was established as a church-state. The nationally- known Presbyterian pastor James Kennedy (Coral Gables, Florida) uses that colony's history to prove the United States began as a Christian nation.
Ironically, Massachusetts persecuted Baptists worse than any other colony and did not include religious freedom in its state constitution until the mid-1800s.

Church historian Leon McBeth of Southwestern Seminary points out in “Baptist or Evangelical: One Southern Baptist’s Perspective” how little evangelicals understand the Baptist view of separation of church and state, that “their ancestors were in power when ours were in prison.”
One need only read Jimmy Draper’s If the Foundations Be Destroyed to realize how dangerously involved with Reconstructionism some SBC fundamentalist leaders have become.
Unlike Reconstructionists, fundamentalists do not want the government to fall; they want it to remain viable but committed to fundamentalist goals. The process by which the religious right has become bedfellows with the Republican right, including the involvement of the SBC leadership, has been documented especially well by Rosenberg.

The alliance has come at a cost to their prophetic voice. Fundamentalists have endorsed unworthy politicians because the persons have agreed to a fundamentalist platform; they have behaved toward their opponents unworthily in attempts to win at all costs.

The alliance with a political party has brought fundamentalists into “open alliance with capitalism” and caused them to regard “economic prosperity as a providential sign of sanctity,” writes Bloesch. Even a reading of the very good book, Evangelical Affirmations (an outgrowth of a defining conference on evangelicalism) reveals the wide commitment to the Republican Party among even moderate evangelicals.

Some readers, perhaps, and certainly some church members may consider these shenanigans and dispensational views to be unrelated to their lives and churches. To awaken them from lethargy, let them consider how many Sunday School teachers in their churches teach whatever appears in the literature, and how many church members are influenced by the sermons they hear.

Because the time is short, some Fundamentalists believe that the United States must be rescued from its rapid fall into moral decay by limiting liberty.

Fundamentalism’s theology holds that we are in the last days before Christ’s return.
This point is wrapped up in the previous discussion on fundamentalists’ embracing of the Reconstructionist agenda, but it deserves some separate comments. Fundamentalism identifies several areas of moral decay: amorality, abortion, evolution, atheism, and pluralism. Related issues include a strong military defense, family, the evil of forced busing, prayer in the public schools, and free enterprise. (Bloesch, op. cit., p. 29).

The greatest culprit is “secular humanism”; some fundamentalist writers make this the Great Enemy and gather the other topics under its umbrella.

In an interview by Washington Post staff writer Sidney Blumenthal, Tim LaHay asserted that secular humanism is this nation’s official religion, the result of a conspiracy which began with transcendentalists, Unitarians, and atheists. They conspired to make public education compulsory and teach secular humanism under the guise of democracy. The conspiracy continues today. (Sidney Blumenthal, “The Religious Right and Republicans.”)

The late Francis Schaeffer, perhaps the best-known Fundamentalist theologian, charged that secular humanism is itself a religion “which the government and courts in the United States favor over all others!” (A. James Reichley, “The Evangelical and Fundamentalist Revolt.”)
This statement sounds like something out of Peretti’s novels. The only way to overcome secular humanism, Schaeffer believed, is to get control of government into different hands. The prominence of the conspiracy theory is obvious. This is part of the fundamentalist world view; it lies behind their fear that liberty has run amok and must be restrained.

Ralph D. Winter is the fundamentalist General Director of the U.S. Center for World Mission. In response to a presentation made by Kenneth Kantzer on Christian Ethics, Winter protested that Kantzer introduced one theme into several of his points “what itself can be terribly dangerous, namely the idea that we must above all be free.”

To this disclaimer of the value of freedom, Winter added a parenthetical comment: “I recall with chagrin how naively in my youth I accepted that famous line from the Declaration of Independence—‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ What a poison for any nation to drink!” (Ralph D. Winter, “Response to Kenneth S. Kantzer.”)

One could hardly cite a more damning quote to demonstrate how some fundamentalists fear freedom. But the quote is not extraordinary. Harold O. J. Brown, professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, insists that tolerance should be public policy, a view that reflects Reformed theology. (Harold O. J. Brown, “Evangelicals and Social Ethics,” Evangelical Affirmations, p. 279.)

Reformed theology is that held by churches that have descended from the “major” reformers like Luther and Calvin, who believed in a union of church and state. Tolerance sounds broad-minded and accepting, until its meaning is considered. Baptists have always insisted that toleration is not sufficient; government cannot be granted the right to determine what is to be tolerated and what is not. Toleration is miles short of religious freedom.

Brown’s hero is Constantine, who labored to make Christianity the favored religion of the Roman Empire. Today in America, he believes, we have no moral consensus and we have no authority who can establish consensus. “Now,” he concludes, “we are in the situation where there is neither an emperor nor a consensus, and it is likely that we cannot get along indefinitely without both.” (ibid., p. 279.)

This sounds very much like a call for state-sponsored religion. Brown prefaced his point by asking a rhetorical question: “But what are Christians to do when no one Christian is the “autokrator” with the power to change things, but rather many individual Christians would have to enter the political arena in order to affect the ethics of society? Shall they dare less than Constantine?” (ibid., p. 278.)

Have not those of us who have written and edited literature in the past written and published what we believed to be true? Have not our pastors proclaimed their convictions from the pulpit? Will current SBC leaders do any less? How long will it be before fundamentalist theology appears in SBC literature and is preached from SBC pulpits?

No comments:

Post a Comment