"You're a fundamentalist!" The accusation was directed at me, a freshman in university just out of the military in 1947. From the stinging tone of contempt no explanation was needed to understand that being branded a "fundamentalist" was the ultimate insult in the proud world of academia. I replied something like this: "If to be a fundamentalist means that one adheres to the sound fundamentals of math, accounting, chemistry or whatever one's profession, then I happily accept the label. And since the Bible is literally God's Word and inerrant, embracing and standing true to its fundamentals is the only intelligent choice." That response only increased the frustration and fury on the part of those who had been heatedly debating me for the last two hours.
The occasion was the first meeting of "The Critics' Hour," newly organized by students and faculty to ridicule and disprove the Bible. Among the crowd of spectators were a number of Christians whom I recognized from the campus Christian club, yet not one of them spoke a word. I stood alone in that auditorium against the onslaught of arguments from every side, all in favor of evolution and atheism. Being a rather naive 21-year-old, I was shocked at the animosity so openly displayed against the Bible and the God of the Bible.
At that point in my life I had barely heard of Harry Emerson Fosdick, pastor of New York's First Presbyterian Church, a key figure in American liberalism/modernism, nor did I have the faintest idea of the growing rejection of the infallibility of the Bible among large numbers of those who called themselves Christians. The name of J. Gresham Machen was completely unknown to me, as was the losing battle he had fought at Princeton Seminary in the 1920s against heresy before that school went completely liberal and took most of the Presbyterian Church with it.
Satan's most effective servants are masters of doublespeak. Fosdick claimed to honor doctrine, but warned of an ever present "danger in emphasis on doctrine...." He taught that "nothing fundamentally matters in religion except those things which create private and public goodness...and social progress."1 Fosdick was recognized at the time by most true Christians for the unbeliever he was. Yet Norman Vincent Peale, no less a heretic, managed to find acceptance virtually everywhere, as has his chief disciple, Robert Schuller.
The modernist takes the latest ideas of the secular world and deceitfully dresses them in Christian language. No one has pulled off that scam as neatly as have today's Christian psychologists, who somehow manage to take the anti-Christian theories of sworn enemies of the gospel and "integrate" them into theology. Peale was the first to do so. In 1937 he established a "Christian" psychiatric clinic at his church, the model for today's numerous clinics which have made fortunes for their founders.
Machen accurately pointed out that intimidation by science and the desire to obtain acceptance and respectability in the academic community had resulted in compromises that effectively neutralized the gospel. That passion increasingly motivates Christian schools, from Fuller to Wheaton. Machen accused liberals of "trying to remove from Christianity everything that could possibly be objected to in the name of science."2
Many of today's evangelicals seem to think scientists know more about the universe than does its Creator. The Bible suffers from God's ignorance? The result is a deadly compromise of the faith. We have seen this in the acceptance of theistic evolution by Christianity Today, Promise Keepers and many seminaries and Christian universities, even though it clearly contradicts the Bible and undermines the gospel (TBC, Mar. 1997 ). The same compromise is made by questioning the biblical account of the flood.
Billy Graham, who decades ago renounced his fundamentalism, recently said he was not sure Noah's flood was worldwide. InterVarsity's New Bible Commentary (p. 88) likewise says, "The [Bible] narrative does not directly affirm a universal flood...." To the contrary, the Bible leaves no room for such waffling:
[E]verything that is in the earth shall die. (Gen:6:17);...every living substance...will I destroy from off the face of the earth. (7:4);...the mountains were covered. And all flesh died....Noah only remained alive and they that were with him in the ark. (7:20-23)
God's instructions to Noah to bring two of every species into the ark only make sense if the flood was worldwide. God promised never to destroy the earth by water again (Gen:9:11), yet there have been many great regional floods. The future destruction of the world prophesied by Peter would be merely a local fire if the flood, to which he compares it (2 Pt 3:6-7), were local. Finally, Jesus likens His future worldwide judgment of all mankind to the flood (Mat:24:38-41).
We must believe the whole Bible. That is biblical fundamentalism. If Genesis is not accurate in every detail, then why trust anything else in the Bible? If the Bible is wrong about man's origin and fall, why rely upon what it says about man's redemption and eternal destiny? In fact, the Bible is 100 percent accurate in all it addresses.
Whether the latest science agrees with the Bible or not is of no concern to a fundamentalist. Because we trust in God, we are not intimidated by man. Only a fool would exchange God's infallible Word for the changeable and fallible opinions of men. Scientists make mistakes and are often ruled by prejudices. In his book, Great Feuds in Science, historian Hal Hellman documents that even the greatest scientists have been "influenced by pride, ambition, greed, belligerence, jealousy, and the undeniable urge to be right."3
Tragically, diminishing numbers of those who call themselves Christians still stand for biblical inerrancy and sufficiency, as Harold Lindsell documents in The Battle for the Bible. Fuller Theological Seminary is only one example he gives. Of course, biblical inerrancy is hardly an issue with multitudes in the charismatic/revival movement who rely upon experience and emotion rather than doctrine. Love for Jesus is, for many today, a wonderful feeling divorced entirely from the truth which Jesus declares Himself to be. In The Bible in the Balance (pp. 319-20) Lindsell confesses that "the term evangelical has become so debased that it has lost its usefulness....Maybe it would be better to accept the term fundamentalist with all of the pejoratives attached to it by its detractors."
Fundamentalism has gotten a bad name for two reasons: 1) Some Christian fundamentalists are fanatics and carry separation from other Christians to unbiblical and unreasonable extremes; and 2) Muslim fundamentalists demand that everyone must adhere to the same dress and customs that Muhammad practiced in the seventh century. Devoted to Islam's goal of conquering the world by force, they are responsible for much of today's terrorism worldwide. Consequently, even Christian fundamentalists, whose law is love, are often painted with that fanatical brush.
Those who would implicitly trust and obey Christ's Word and be His true disciples (Jn:8:31-32) must be willing like Daniel and his friends to stand alone. Afraid to be different, most Christians run with the herd. Eager for this world's plaudits, they "love the praise of men more than the praise of God" (Jn:12:43). C.H. Spurgeon stood virtually alone, abandoned even by former students and friends, when he was censured by the British Baptist Union for his unwillingness to tolerate apostasy within that body. Shortly before his death, A.W. Tozer declared, "I have preached myself out of nearly every pulpit in North America." What an indictment of those pastors and churches!
Christ warned, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets" (Lk 6:26). He declared that true faith in God is impossible when we "receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only" (Jn:5:44). John Ashbrook writes that the "new evangelicalism has been determined to impress the world with its intellect. It has craved the respect of academia. It has determined to earn plaudits at the fountainheads of secular learning."4 Carl Henry noted that "in deference to the growing mood of tolerance...the Christian belief is packaged for greater marketability."5
The only enemy of liberalism is fundamentalism's firm adherence to Scripture. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones bemoaned the fact that many evangelicals have moved from "preaching to sharing...," which subtly exchanges the authority of God's Word for human experience and opinion.6 Compromise won't help the unbeliever to see the light; it only further blinds him. Tolerance winks at man's unwillingness to bow to God's authority. Liberalism inevitably hardens itself against truth. We see that today worldwide.
The acceptance of homosexuality, professedly in the name of tolerance and liberalism, has bred an increasing intolerance of any other point of view. The entire world, which for thousands of years viewed homosexuality as unnatural and shameful, is being forced to abandon that conviction. Homosexuals, who pleaded for tolerance, have proved to be totally intolerant now that they have power. They viciously attack, verbally and physically, any who wish to retain an independent opinion. The world has been coerced into granting homosexuals a special privileged status. This, in spite of the fact that the so-called gay lifestyle is replete with the most unhealthy practices which spread diseases that threaten society at large and cut life expectancy nearly in half. The incurable disease of AIDS, though in epidemic proportions affecting even the innocent and fatal to anyone contracting it, is granted a dangerous secrecy and privileged status because of its pervasiveness among homosexuals.
We see the same intolerance on the part of evolutionists who accuse creationists of narrowmindedness. Science is supposed to promote freedom to investigate and accept the facts. Yet in the name of science, the theory of evolution is forced upon every child in public schools as fact, while the factual evidence against it is suppressed and the biblical and rational alternative of creation by God is not allowed to be so much as considered.
On our recent trip to Russia, we were told by one of the highest officials in the education system, "For70 years we have seen the fruit of dogmatically forcing one point of view upon students. We've had enough of that and we are eager to study the alternative." The collapse of communism left a moral vacuum which Russia is seeking to fill with moral teaching from the Bible. Paradoxically, Russian schools now welcome the teaching of the same biblical morality and creationism which is outlawed in American schools! How long this will last, we don't know. The Russian Orthodox Church, intolerant of and firmly opposed to the gospel, is seeking a return to the monopoly it once held on religion—and some American evangelicals are working there with this antichrist system. Pray for Russia.
"Christianity" was introduced in A.D. 988 into what later became Russia, by Prince Vladimir. He had leaned toward Islam because his 20 wives were no problem for that "faith." But its ban upon alcohol caused him to adopt Orthodox "Christianity," where alcohol flows freely (many monks and priests are heavy drinkers) and the pretentious vanity of its rituals holds a mysterious appeal. He could cut back to one "official" wife and keep the other 19 unofficially and let the liquor flow. Such was the "conversion" of Russia to "Christianity." In 1988, the 1,000th anniversary was celebrated with pomp and ritual and Billy Graham was present to give his congratulations. He said, in part,
I am deeply honored to join with you at this historic and joyous occasion commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the baptism of Russia, occasioned by the baptism of Kievan Prince Vladimir....7
Orthodoxy, like Roman Catholicism, is the sworn enemy of the gospel. The Orthodox Church has kept the Russian people in bondage and superstition, looking to it for salvation, kissing its icons, paying for prayers and sacraments. Though it rejects Catholicism's purgatory, it teaches that, by our prayers, souls can be moved from hell to heaven.
We visited, near Moscow, the main center of Orthodoxy with its seminary and many churches. Monks with whom I spoke explained that Christ's death made it possible for us to get to heaven if we were baptized and participated in the sacraments and "lived the gospel." For them, the door Christ opened is at the top of a steep stairway which we must climb by our own efforts in obedience to and assisted by the Church.
I was one of the speakers at a conference in Moscow which drew pastors and members of their flocks from all over Russia. There was an obvious eagerness to be taught from God's Word. I pulled no punches in exposing the unbiblical teachings and practices of the Russian Orthodox Church which (like the Catholic Church in the West) persecuted and killed multitudes of true Christians. Orthodoxy, which managed a partnership with both the Czars and their communist successors, pressured Yeltsin for the new law suppressing religious freedom (that law is already being implemented in small towns away from Moscow). Video and audio tapes of the conference are going out by the hundreds all over Russia. Pray for their effectiveness.
As we reminded our Russian brothers and sisters, to truly "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" unto salvation must be an all consuming conviction, not a mere preference. And where there is uncompromising conviction, opposition in all the fury Satan and the flesh can inspire will surely follow. Remembering that eternity looms before us, let us never barter God's eternal "well done" for man's approval in this brief life. The fullness of that life now and throughout eternity, for ourselves and for those we have opportunity and responsibility to influence, depends upon non-negotiable truth. TBC