In my previous post, I wrote that fundamentalist churches have two central claims that make it difficult for their members (or ex-members) to consider any view of the Christian faith other than fundamentalism:
- “We teach the Bible, while other churches just teach the traditions of men.”
- “The Bible is clear on every subject it addresses, so our pastor/church has the one correct teaching.”
First, “We teach the Bible, while other churches just teach the traditions of men” is a typical refrain in fundamentalist churches. Fundamentalism exists to combat what fundamentalists perceive as liberalism. In order to combat what is perceived as liberal theology, fundamentalists must find an objective standard of “absolute truth” that can withstand the perceived assault of human reason that fundamentalists believe leads down the “slippery slope” to liberalism.
For fundamentalists, the Bible is the only suitable objective standard of absolute truth. Being Protestant, the fundamentalist tradition rejected the authority of the Pope in the Reformation. By nature, fundamentalism rejects human reason as a source of truth. Therefore the Bible serves as the only suitable standard of authority by which to judge all other truth claims.
(By the way, for Christians, God is the authority. Whatever authority the Bible has comes vicariously from 1) God’s authority and 2) the extent to which the Bible accurately reveals God.)
So, fundamentalists believe that they teach unfiltered, absolute truth directly from the Bible, while it is obvious to them that all other supposed Christians have distorted the message of the Bible with the “traditions of men.”
Fundamentalists do not see that they have a church tradition, just as every other church springs from a tradition. In fact, the claim to teach directly from the Bible comes from the fundamentalist tradition of rejecting philosophy and science and claiming to teach directly from the Bible.:)
Like all of us, fundamentalists filter the Bible through their own system. Fundamentalist pastors do not have a direct hotline to absolute truth any more than any other human being. The only difference is, fundamentalist pastors believe that they do.
In answer to the claim, “We teach the Bible, while other churches just teach the traditions of men:”
- Fundamentalism is a tradition just like any other church tradition.
- Fundamentalist pastors view the Bible through a lens of their own imperfect human perception just like every other pastor does. (Even if the Bible is or contains absolute truth, the pastor interprets it imperfectly like everyone else.)
Once thinking people influenced by fundamentalism experience these realizations, they have already taken a large step toward leaving fundamentalism.
I’ll post part 3 in the few days…