In response to some debates I’ve taken with various fundamentalist groups (mainly ‘discernment’ websites I’ve stumbled across recently) I’ve decided to post an explanation of why I view hyper-fundamentalism (an extreme type of fundamentalism) in Christian circles as spiritually harmful to those who would consider themselves fundamentalist.
In other words, I’m saying hyper-fundamentalists are on dangerous ground (‘playing with fire’ to use their phrase) by being so, well, hyper-fundamentalist. In this case I place them in the same “class” (so to speak) as all forms of extreme thought – such as the extreme emergents who are dabbling in other forms of spirituality, the extreme charismatics who claim to see angels every weekend etc., and the like.
I’m making a point here that I feel needs to be reiterated. ALL forms of extreme theology are spiritually dangerous. We must at all times stay balanced with our theology and our outlook, with the capability to truly be able to discern lies from truth. In all forms of theology there is some truth somewhere. Even Paul found this by quoting the poetry of the Greeks in Acts 15 where he used their own poetry to Zeus to describe God. This is why discernment also doesn’t always take a second, sometimes it needs careful study.
This is to allow those who I’ve debated with recently (more than one ‘discernment’ website) to understand my views and motives more correctly. I don’t know if any of you guys who I’ve been debating with are actually going to comment on this article, but I thought you may still find it of interest
So, hyper-fundamentalism is dangerous to those who are in it because:
1) It will sidetrack you, take you away from God’s calling on your life, and get you involved with nitpicking everyone’s theology in the church rather than engaging those outside of the church with the Gospel.
2) It has a tendency to make you unteachable and finally unapproachable.
3) The result will be that you will not be able to teach and exhort others, no one will listen to you.
4) In other words, you will not be able to minister to others effectively.
5) It will take away your joy.
6) It will bound you into LAW, not GRACE, despite how much you THINK you are living in grace, and despite your theology on the matter, you will find yourself living under LAW.
More than that, hyper-fundamentalist groups have a habit of causing great division.
Saying this immediately invokes the response of “we will not compromise the truth for anyone” and a whole lot of verses where Jesus said he has not come to bring peace but a sword etc.
That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m saying is that hyper-fundamentalism causes division within itself. As the ‘true’ and ‘really born again’ and ‘really bible-believing’ Christians break off, each group begins to believe that they are the ‘really REALLY bible-believing Christians”. Elitists mindsets go nowhere but to further elitism, resulting in many of the sheep hurt, scattered, and without a shepherd… easy for the picking. While the elitists continue to fight about who really is ‘in’, and form their own groups around a particular ‘non-compromise’, the honest sheep don’t know what’s really right and wrong and many get lost. Furthermore, those who are fighting about some particular fringe-doctrine find themselves burnt out in the end and greatly hurt. Some of them simply never go back to church, while others will delve into new age stuff in a knee-jerk response to their hurt.
This happens, I’m not making it up. Guys like the guy who runs infidels.org, the atheist site, are fundamentalists who got hurt in the process. Hyper-fundamentalism is a trap to sidetrack you from what God really wants to do through you.
I’m using the language of fundamentalists to make my point here. Hyper-fundamentalism is a trap of the devil. It is NOT bible-believing Christianity. Hyper-fundamentalism’s doctrines READ INTO the Bible, they don’t READ OUT of the Bible. They READ IN what they WANT to see, selectively taking what supports the hyper-fundamentalist agenda, which is – ultimately – to enslave you to religion.
This sounds very much like what hyper-fundamentalism would call Emergents or Third Wave people etc. That’s my point. Little do you know you are stuck in a similar trap, just on the other end of the scale.
This is not to say that hyper-fundamentalists are not well-meaning people. What I’m saying is I’ve never heard a hyper-fundamentalist ever quote a scripture in its context, with a solid background in balanced theology.
Ok, maybe I have once or twice, but most of the time it’s just a pick-and-choose of scripture to support the point that someone, somewhere, is not really a Christian because they said this and that, and if you say “they didn’t really say that” you are told “yes, but I’m just making it clear what they really MEANT. I’m exposing the lie.”
Well I’m exposing the lie right now about hyper fundamentalism. If you are caught in it your are dabbling in something that is spiritually dangerous to you. You need to surround yourself with balanced, well-meaning, honest Christians who read and discuss the Bible, who believe it and practice what it says, not what they think it says, and not what they want it to say to support their own views.
Hyper-fundamentalism will either lead to you getting badly hurt, or to you going nowhere, as it’s a trap designed to keep you from growing.
Here’s what I’m not saying:
1) I’m not saying we need to compromise on truth. But Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If you’re unsure on truth just stick to Jesus and you will be fine. What I am saying is we need to be more discerning as to what is really truth, and what is just a red herring. We need to be less hasty and more responsible with discernment.
2) I’m not saying there’s no place for rebuking, or sharp rebukes at that. There is a place for rebuking, usually out of a context of relationship, as we see modelled by Paul and others in the Bible. The only time Jesus rebuked people publically was when they made a public thing of it.
That should be enough explaining, I hope!
About Ryan Peter
Ryan Peter is a writer, journalist and ghostwriter from Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes fantasy, sci-fi, inspirational fiction, and on faith. Ryan is also part of the New Covenant Ministries International (NCMI) translocal team.