18 September 2005

Bookworm Fundamentalist?

"Many young fundamentalists are seeking to distance themselves from their predecessors. The title itself, 'young fundamentalists,' suggests the phobia of being counted with the militant separatists who have borne the fundamentalist title before. Suddenly it is not enough to be described simply as a fundamentalist. They now need an adjective to precede the noun. Deja vu." Chris Anderson, "The Young Fundamentalists, Deja Vu", The Ohio Bible Fellowship Visitor, May 2005.


I suppose this paragraph warrants an explanation of "Bookworm Fundamentalist." Here is the main reason I feel like "it is not enough to be described simply as a fundamentalist."

Blogger.com represents people of vastly different backgrounds. It strikes me as staggeringly unlikely that a normal passerby in blogdom will see "fundamentalist" and think, "This fellow is willing to do 'battle royal for the gospel.'" I find the exclamation "Egads--A jihadist!" much more probable. As a Baptist I believe in the separation of church and state and in soul liberty. I never want to imply to my readers that I am willing to harm anyone to coerce their compliance to the Christian gospel.

So why have I chosen "bookworm" as my adjective?

(1) Christian Fundamentalism as a movement represents surprisingly diverse points of view. When a Christian happens upon my blog and sees the word "fundamentalist," what comes into his mind? Some may think instinctively of those who call themselves fundamentalists but have a disdain for the exegesis of the Scriptures in the originals languages and for the systematization of the Scriptures into a consistent theology. This seems to be the kind of fundamentalist addressed in Phil Johnson's criticism of our movement. Fundamentalists ought to be ashamed that a movement intended to defend orthodoxy has been so willing to tolerate theological ignorance and aberrance within its ranks. I never want to imply to my readers that I am the kind of fundamentalist who does not "look up the verse."

(2) "Bookworm" is a term of derision employed to remind me to try with all I've got not to take myself too seriously. Kids in my neighborhood use to call me "Housefly" because I liked to stay in the house and read rather than go outside and play. I am fond of the name, but unfortunately "Housefly Fundamentalist" doesn't cut it.

But here's what I don't mean by "bookworm."

(1) I don't mean that I am not militant. Kevin Bauder had a nice working definition of militant on his blog recently. "Militancy is the recognition that Christian fellowship depends upon shared truth. Where the gospel is not shared in its entirety, no Christian fellowship exists at all, and should not be pretended. Among Christians, fellowship is not possible where we do not share aspects of the whole counsel of God (obversely, it does wherever we do share aspects of the whole counsel of God). Militancy is largely the attitude of being willing to state plainly what we do or do not share, where we can or cannot fellowship, and why." Complementarily Dr. McCune has indicated that the word "passionate" may help some people get to the idea behind militant. If this is militant, enlist me today!

(2) I don't mean that I am not concerned about the experiential and practical sides of Christianity. Religious apostasy is not confined to bad theology. It can represent itself both in lack of zeal for God and in lack obedience to his commands.

(3) I don't mean that I am after academic credibility from the outside world. The Scriptures are clear that those who tell themselves that there isn't a God are "fools" (Psalm 14:1), or, to use Greg Bahnsen's rendering, "stupid-heads." The academic community only avoids blithering idiocy when it self-contradictorily and self-deceivingly assumes the Christian worldview. I pray that a day does not come when such fools accept me as wise. For in that day I will have lost my struggle to glory in the Lord alone, and I will have proven myself "disqualified for the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:27).

So I do feel the need to add an adjective, but in doing so I hope that I have not undermined the noun.


Jeremy Pittsley said...

Corrected mistake: I had Phil Brown instead of Phil Johnson. Philip Brown has also contributed helpfully to the recent discussion of Fundamentalism. Thanks to mojo for the correction.

kevin mcfadden said...

Pitts, so with this new additional adjective, do you think we will oneday hear someone say, "that town needs a good Bookworm Fundamental Baptist Church..."? Joking of course. Helpful post.

Unknown said...

good stuff, jp.

Matthew Celestine said...

This is a really good post. Keep it up.