Who Are These Fundamentalists?
June 4, 2018
U.S. Fundamentalists, including many who identify as Evangelical, consist of about 30 to 40 percent of the population. They are simply Christians who take the Bible seriously and are willing to stand alone if necessary for their beliefs. Their stand is usually conspicuous for its responsible militancy and that militancy has occasioned slanderous accusations that they are mendacious, mad, or malicious in their stand. It seems opponents who can’t answer their objections find it easier to accuse them of being mad and mean rather than answer their militant positions. Biblical militancy always means a help and never harm to anyone.
Because of their high view of Scripture (it is inspired, infallible, and inerrant as well as invaluable for godly living), they adhere to the fundamentals of the faith, believing in Christ’s virgin birth, virtuous life, vicarious death, victorious resurrection, and visible return as well as the validity of miracles and the veracity of Scripture. Of course, at one time all orthodox Christians believed those doctrines!
So, who changed?
Furthermore, Fundamentalists insist on the independence of each local church, refusing any religious hierarchy or authority over a local church. Therefore, they refuse to belong to any denomination. Each Fundamentalist congregation must be judged on its own merits.
There were exceptions to the anti-denomination position in the early 1900s when many Fundamentalists were in the Presbyterian U.S.A. and the Northern (later American) Baptist Convention. During that era when the Fundamentalist/Modernist battle was raging, many great preachers refused to recognize the theological corruption in their groups or, if admitted, they refused to leave their beloved denominations. Such a move would have had a major impact on their family, friends, finances, and future. Many others did leave and became what they should have always been - unaffiliated or independent Fundamentalists like the early churches.
Harvard Divinity School Professor (and Church Historian) Kirsopp Lake wrote “that Fundamentalism is virtually synonymous with orthodox Christianity.” He added, “It is a mistake, often made by educated persons who happen to have but little knowledge of historical theology, to suppose that Fundamentalism is a new and strange form of thought. It is nothing of the kind: it is the…survival of a theology which was once universally held by all Christians.”
He went on: “The Fundamentalist may be wrong: I think that he is. But it is we who have departed from the tradition, not he, and I am sorry for the fate of anyone who tries to argue with a Fundamentalist on the basis of authority. The Bible and the corpus theologicum of the Church is [sic] on the Fundamentalist side.” (Kirsopp Lake, The Religion of Yesterday and Tomorrow, (Boston, New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1925), pp 61-62.)
Fundamentalists usually eschew formalism, anthems, vestments, and repetition, and usually prefer, even demand, simplicity in worship, doctrinally sound hymns, and serious Bible teaching and preaching. They meet in massive megachurches, smaller “churchy” buildings, storefronts, or even homes. They are also known for their independence; consequently, some Fundamentalists will fuss with me for “speaking for them.” Of course, I speak for myself prompted by my knowledge of church history and current events.
People learn from examples so permit me to highlight a week in my recent experiences with Fundamentalists. Recently, my wife and I flew to Los Angeles at the invitation of a famous Fundamentalist, Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles. Dr. Hymers has long been a critic of unbelief at his alma mater, the major west coast Southern Baptist Seminary—Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (now Gateway Seminary), Fuller Seminary, and other educational institutions. In Hollywood, he has also raised the flag of decency to which reasonable people could rally.
Like most Fundamentalists, Dr. Hymers and his church leaders realize they are there to serve, not to be served. The servant heart is shown throughout their ministry and especially in their desire to reach the world. The church has an extensive website that provides the sermons of the pastor and others in 38 languages (video and transcribed!). Missionary pastors around the world can get help in sermon preparation in their own language by accessing www.sermonsfortheworld.com. The work and cost to the church are enormous but it’s all about giving to others.
I was invited to be one of the speakers during the weekend celebration for the 60th anniversary of his ministry. Pastor Hymers did not question my wife’s presence even though she did not participate in the programs. Moreover, he offered to fly us first class but I demurred; since I would not spend my own money that way, I would not spend the church’s money that way.
It was a few days to be long remembered. First of all, I was honored to celebrate such a long time of service in a day when people don’t stay at anything very long. Dr. Hymers started the church located in downtown Los Angeles which in itself is unusual. Most churches flee to the suburbs since there are so many problems in the inner city. The church owns a very nice building in the middle of the city!
The pastor and people could not have been kinder or more generous to us. They lodged us in a very expensive hotel in a very large room. The meals were first class like the luxury accommodations. We were driven by Dr. Christopher Cagan an associate pastor who has two earned doctorates! Dr. Hymers has three earned doctorates. Another driver was a financial advisor with many prestigious clients. I was shocked and somewhat humbled that such men would take time to move us from point A to point B and with kindness and a willing attitude. Can these be Fundamentalists? And Fundamentalists sans horns!
Moreover, there were many other active church members who were medical doctors and other professionals, all with a desire to be a help to make our days very special. One of the medical doctors is also an assistant pastor. No one seemed to be a “big-time operator” (or BTO), but simply Christian servants with a desire to serve. Religious leaders who are impressed with themselves and insist on BTO treatment are wearisome, boring, and a disgrace to the noble calling of ministry.
So, those Fundamentalists didn’t seem to meet the image, propagated by some media and liberal religious groups, of being uneducated wingnuts who bring a bag of rattlesnakes to church each Sunday!
Furthermore, the congregation of about 300 consisted of about 50% from Asian countries and many from various Latin American countries. The remaining were Blacks and Whites. All seemed to be happy, excited Christians. None seemed to meet the mold of White Supremacists, hater, or bigot. I do think I saw a man with a MAGA hat! Could he be a latent hater? After all, if he supports President Trump, surely he is suspect.
Fundamentalists are very generous with their money as well as time. Most teach that every Christian should give at least ten percent of his or her income to the church to meet obligations such as salaries, building payments (if any), utilities, help for the poor, and world missions.
I was in a Florida church of about 400 members recently that gives about $200,000 annually to support missionaries all over the world. That includes financial assistance to missionary church builders, orphanages, medical clinics, radio ministries, prison ministries, bicycles for mission workers, and support for the poor among them.
The closing service in Los Angeles was a big banquet at the Nixon Library where we each enjoyed a $70.00 meal! Every member and guest was given a copy of Dr. Hymers' new autobiography, Against all Fears. At that time, an offering was received of $3,200.00 for a ministry that works with those Christians who are working and suffering under tyrannical regimes across the globe.
I was shocked when I was given a very generous honorarium and considering the size of the church and the huge expense to get us there, lodge, and feed us, it was the largest honorarium I have received.
For sure the Los Angeles Fundamentalists do things right. The members ended the meeting giving the pastor a massive check in honor of sixty years in the ministry.
He deserved every dollar of it. And at 77 years of age and a cancer survivor, he plans to start another inner-city church next year in Los Angeles!
These Fundamentalists in Los Angeles prove that real Christianity produces good fruit, not religious nuts!
Dr. Don Boys is a former member of the Indiana House of Representatives; ran a large Christian school in Indianapolis, wrote columns for USA Today for eight years; authored 15 books, which can be purchased below, and hundreds of columns and articles for Internet and print media publications; defended his beliefs on hundreds of talk shows. www.cstnews.com, www.Muslimfact.com, www.thegodhaters.com.
Don's newest book "Muslim Invasion" is highly recommended.
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