10 Reasons Why I Don’t Give up on Fundamentalists (including the not nice ones)

Every now and then I get asked in a blog comment, an email, or on Facebook, why I bother trying to talk to the hardened Christian right about the Bible. Why not just give up and move on, leaving them to play in their sandbox.

Good point. I’ve thought about it a lot, more so in recent months, and here are ten reasons why a part of me is going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing.

1. Fundamentalists are human beings and therefore are of infinite worth.

2. Fundamentalists are my brothers and sisters in the faith.

3. In the practice of my own faith, what I do to others does not hinge on what others do to me.

4. Not all fundamentalists are in hyper-battle mode, and not all have painted a target on my back.

5. Some fundamentalists are on a journey out of fundamentalism, even if they do not yet know it, and they need a place to land.

6. Vocal fundamentalist gatekeepers do not speak for all those they claim to speak for, and so all fundamentalists should not be grouped together.

7. Fundamentalists can be kind and open-minded in theological disagreement, and just plain old kind in general. Some of the nicest, godliest, people I know are fundamentalists.

8. No more or less than any other Christian subgroup, fundamentalists genuinely and sincerely seek after God in ways that make most sense to them.

9. Fundamentalists may tend toward equating virtually all aspects of Scripture as literally reflecting space and time reality, but they are also taking seriously the call to “acces” the biblical story.

10. I don’t have a 10th point, but “10 reasons” is a better blog post title than “9 reasons.” It would have looked like I haven’t thought this through. If you have a 10th point, by all means let me know.



  • RAKman

    10. Christ died for fundamentalists as much as he did for the rest of us.

  • Rebecca

    Reason 10: Talking the talk helps to heal all those others who hear, who are not fundamentalists but have been damaged by them.

    Thanks for this post, Peter – so good to hear something gracious and positive!

  • Tim Sams

    I really appreciate this post. I resonate with #8 and for me it’s the thing that draws us to unity (and Paul’s vision of unity in the church). Yes, some of “them” might have a heretic-hair-trigger that causes them to shut conversations down. But we can deny the fact that the place where this comes from is a very passionate desire to know God.

    What I think is important is that we don’t just change the subject of our polemics (i.e. just because we changed our views doesn’t mean we use the same binary logic to determine who is in and who is out), but we change the tone and tenor of the discussion. I think it’s important for fundamentalists to see the “other” with this spirit, that we also passionately desire to know God.

  • http://www.nearemmaus.com Brian LePort

    Thanks for the reminder. Points 1 and 2 set the stage well. I think those may be the two easiest to forget when we focus on people’s ideologies rather than the people themselves.

  • Ron Harrison

    As one “recovering” from a mild case of fundamentalism, I appreciate the patience of Bible believers as my occasional questions, comments, and real analysis interrupt their normal flow of life and traditional way of explaining things.

  • Simon

    My first go at ~#10 was going to be “its what Jesus would do…” but on reflection your points 1 – 9 show a Christlike, other-loving attitude. So my #10, which I would posit is also a Christ-like move, is…

    … because I’m not closed to the idea that I still have valuable truths to learn from my fundy sisters and brothers and I don’t want to miss that.

    Love your work Dr Enns and today’s blog was right on point, well at least 90% anyway.

  • Jeff

    # 10. “Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”” – Romans 15:2 – THE MESSAGE

  • http://mkholmes.wordpress.com Mike H

    I also think that as a result of the “fundamentalist” word being a fairly vague term, the people you (not you personally, but anyone) classify as fundamentalists are on a large spectrum. Whereas some fundamentalists can’t stand Tim Keller because he denies 6-day creation, there are others that could view Keller as a fundamentalist. I am most likely a bit closer to Keller’s view on scripture than yours, however I’d hate it if I stopped hearing your views (I can always look them up, so I guess that isn’t a real threat). But I think it is smart to always leave the dialogue open. Solid post.

  • http://anirenicon.com Allen O’Brien

    They make the best voices for speaking to the fundamentalists, if/when they do come out of fundamentalism :)

  • Titus

    Candidate for #10: Fundamentalists (like all of us) need to experience God’s grace through relationships and responses characterized by love, acceptance, and respect rather than hostility, exclusion, and condescension.

  • Ory

    10th reason: Non-Christians need examples of Christians who are both cognizant of important contemporary issues and utilize introspective thinking–for their personal faith and the Faith. The latter portion of this reason intends to correct the notion that people of faith lack critical reason.

  • http://somegreatadvice.blogspot.com/ Julie

    My main reason would be to soften (or at least blur) their hard line so it doesn’t damage their witness.

  • http://parentingwithbellson.com Bill

    Speaking as a guy with a STRONG fundamental background and still trying to figure out where to go from here since I patently don’t fit with the fundies anymore, I’m grateful you haven’t stopped. I’ve benefited from reading your stuff greatly, even if just to expand me past the only mindset I ever knew.

  • Triston

    “Fundementalists could turn out to be right!” None of us have it altogether. Maybe they are more right than we believe.

  • z-man

    You had me at #1. All the rest are “therefore….”

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    Thanks for this Peter. While I avoid fundy theology for the most part, I still have some fond memories of the good people who always prayed for me in our former church.

  • Derek

    Great post Pete (I hope you don’t mind me calling you Pete!). Just a question though:

    What is your definition of a Christian fundamentalist?

    • peteenns

      Same as evangelical: you know it when you see it.

  • Dean

    I think #5 is really important, as a former “soft core” fundamentalist, simply just reading a few good books that had a different perspective than I did were enough to take my entire spiritual walk in a whole new direction, albeit, a lonely one at times.

  • http://morganguyton.wordpress.com Morgan Guyton

    If you hadn’t been an evangelist to the fundamentalists, I never would have gotten where I am. Incarnation and Inspiration was the most important book I read in seminary precisely because you framed it so carefully for conservative evangelicals.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

    One of the things I am so impressed with is some of the faithful voices of people coming out of fundamentalist backgrounds. These are people who took what they were taught seriously across the board so that even when the more questionable aspects of what they had been taught fell apart, they were still guided by love. I’ve come to believe that it is this devotion to love which (just like Jesus said) makes us his followers -whatever else we’re getting wrong is far less important than getting that one thing right. I don’t spar with fundamentalists – not my calling – but I’m far less bothered by fundamentalists than I used to be. Now I realize that it’s enough to point people to Love and trust that God can work the rest out.

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  • Grandmother

    From a #5 – thank you for bothering. Journeys sound so meaningful unless you are on one and don’t know it – in which case it can be quite confusing and frightening. For the past two years, your blog has been a safe and accessible place for me to learn, think, wonder, ask, consider and process. No “landing” in sight yet, but the journey is much more satisfying when you can expend more energy on being curious and asking questions than on defending stuff. Thank you.

  • Dave Strausbaugh

    For people like me who have been wounded and continue to feel judged by the more conservative expression of Christianity, loving fundamentalists is a huge challenge (at least for me). Thanks for the reminder that despite what I see as overemphasis on judgment, hell, and the bible as the center of faith, many fundamentalists are kind and warm people who are on a faith journey of their own.

  • http://blog.dollarnoncents.com Peter Allison

    And the 10th reason?

    Maybe they are right!

  • Andy

    #7 really resonates with me.

    In fact one of the reasons I initially struggled with accepting Evolutionary Creationism/ theistic evolution was that I actually knew lots of lovely ‘salt of the earth’ people who held to a literal six day interpretation. At that point in my life, all of the people I knew that held to Theistic Evolution were very cold, clinical and academic in their faith.

    For #10 – Fundamentalists are an important part of the conversation…

    Also important to note is that there are fundamentalists (belive in six day creation as the only possible interpretation, Disagree with women in leadership etc – BUT still love Jesus and love people) and then there are FUNDAMENTALISTS (KJV only, End times Fanatics, Approve of aggression towards Palestinians). To me there is a HUGE difference and we should not lump them together.

  • Peter Martin

    Reason # 10: Two of these fundamentalists just so happen to be my parents and (even if they still get all pissy when they see beer in my fridge) pretty awesome ones too.

  • Brian P.

    Reason #10: Bacon.

  • Tyler

    Dr. Enns,
    Your books, blog, and work through BioLogos have been an incredibly helpful place to land. Thank you.

  • James

    10. They represent one of the largest believing blocs in Christianity today. And they imagine an inerrant Scripture as final authority in faith and practice. We ‘progressives’ who circle around the edges of the movement should graciously propose an alternative understanding of the true source of authority just as you are trying to do. N. T. Wright’s Scripture and the Authority of God places the matter of authority where it belongs without needing to mention the bad word.

  • http://www.internetmonk.com chaplain mike

    Pete, you’ve given this former fundamentalist many wonderful reasons to love the Bible for what it is and not what I used to think it needed to be. Thanks.

    • http://www.internetmonk.com chaplain mike

      Oh yeah, and one more…

      10. I’m sure there are many things I can continue to learn from them as well.

  • Forrest Long

    Those nine are good. My 10th would be- I was there once and now am not, so they always deserve a chance. God didn’t give up on me!
    I have been writing a spiritual autobiography and focusing on my early fundmentalist era was interesting, how I was trapped into it in my pre-teen years, how I struggled with it and how I finally escaped and moved on. It wasn’t easy and although fundamentalism was far back in my story, I still haven’t arrived yet; hence my title is, “Am I There Yet?” My journey so far has covered mainline Christianity, fundamentalism, moderate evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy and lastly (so far), watch from afar and worship from within.
    Thanks for your words- always good!

  • http://www.suttersaga.com Samuel Sutter

    one of my former professors (cough cough) on this topic once took the 1 Cor 12 body metaphor and applied it catholically rather than globally – the diversity of the body applies to the universal church and somehow God can use even crazy fundamentalism as part of the body, even though we might think they’re useless.

    I still think about that sometimes.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola Frank Viola

    Just joined Patheos and am learning the ropes. Your post inspired me to consider writing one called “Why I don’t give up on non-Yankee fans” . . . sort of the same thing when you get down to it, no? :-) One thought. Fundamentalism exists in all religions, even in politics. And there are blue-blooded Fundies and red-blooded Fundies. Each one responds and reacts differently to diversity.


    Psalm 115:1

  • http://answersingenes.blogspot.com Shane

    Peter, that’s a nice post – a lot of us atheists who also engage with fundamentalists would actually have pretty much the same list, except we would frame things a little differently with regard to the faith aspect. It’s a bit sad that too often the debate gets heated. The cartoon in your header has it spot on – very often fundamentalism represents a kind of rigid bibliolatry which is very different from an enlightened Christianity. It’s an insistence on seeing through the glass darkly, rather than using the Brasso of science and The Enlightenment to improve the picture. Indeed, I would argue that fundamentalism is deeply *heretical* to the mission and ethos of Jesus the Nazarene (whether or not he actually existed or said what was attributed to him) – the parable of the Good Samaritan gives you all the evidence you need of what Jesus thought of religious rigidity.

    So keep talking to them and encouraging them in a friendly helpful manner, but also keep tackling the symptoms of the malign effect of fundamentalism in society.

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  • Stuart

    Thanks for this post. It is because of this kind of attitude that created a safe environment for me to really think about the issues. I come from a looong line of fundamentalists who were really good people. It seems to me that what was going on with me from BOTH sides in regards to “guarding against error” was more about guarding against bad attitudes (like intellectual elitism and moral superiority) and offending my devotion to God as creator, righteous king, lover and savior of the world. You and a few other “progressives” out there have helped emensly make the paradigm revolution less traumatic simply because my core values of loving God, loving people, and yes even loving God’s Word have deepened.

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  • http://craigvick.wordpress.com Craig Vick

    I’m glad you haven’t given up on us (though whether or not I’m a fundamentalist seems to depend on who makes the judgment). I was going to suggest #10 Since the Yankees are out I have a little more free time, but that seems a bit too light for the seriousness of your post.

  • http://jesusweblog.com Anthony Le Donne

    Much like the sermon on the mount, “about 10″ is good enough.

    Number five is especially important; thank you Pete.


  • Kenny Johnson

    #10 I used to be one of them.

    Well maybe you weren’t. But I was at least more in their camp when I became a Christian than I am now.

  • rvs

    Point #6: In my experience, even some of the loud and angry-sounding fundamentalists are not so loud and angry over coffee, or while holding babies. There is a pressure on them to act a certain way in public–all hard-faced–because of how they construct their systems, which are bleak. I’ve heard too many fundamentalists talk in an almost gleeful way about hell, for example, which is a sure sign that one has “issues,” as they say (I’ve studied fundamentalists for 2 years–and counting–in their natural habitats). Thanks for the helpful reminders in this post. God bless.

  • LMark

    What we actually learn from Copernicus is that that things are not as they appear to be, not that things are not as they appeared to be. Most fundamentalists, like their evangelical brethren, have not yet figured this out. Any modern project to accommodate Christianity to her cultured despisers is bound to have some success among people like this.

  • http://leemeadows.blogspot.com/ Lee Meadows

    #10. Who knows, fundamentalists may be right after all? Rather than going to war with brothers and sisters over debatable matters, we should be showing one another the grace that Christ showed us when he stooped to us in the incarnation.

  • Cate McCall

    The self-righteous comments here are astonishing. “Us” and “Them” seems to be everywhere – almost as if mankind had a fallen nature.

  • http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com David R. Brumbelow

    Fundamentalists have stood for the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith and evangelism when others wavered. They have thereby influenced others in the right direction.
    David R. Brumbelow

  • Dan

    Today’s fundamentalist is tomorrow’s person looking for a new Christian identity (no, not the white supremacist cult!). Even if they react with scorn, they may still remember your words.

  • jerry lynch

    Perfect “10s” for everyone but if forced to choose at gunpoint just one that I find best suited, it would have to be “…because I’m not closed to the idea that I still have valuable truths to learn from my fundy sisters and brothers and I don’t want to miss that,” by Simon.

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  • Josh de Keijzer

    10. To practice true catholicity and thus be an example to fundamentalist bashers.

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  • Matt Thornton

    10 – because they, and we, are here, and we’re all we’ve got, save the odd fragment of poetry.

  • Byron

    10: It’s the height of arrogance to cut anyone out of the conversation. Progressives don’t do that.

  • Gary

    10. Golden rule.