Ending Christian Euphemisms: “Fundamentalist”

I’ve taken some heat in the comment section for using yesterday’s post on “unbiblical” and a “higher view of scripture” as a thin foil for my own disregard of biblical standards. To the contrary, I was pointing to the use of the word unbiblical as a stand-in for a particularly thin hermeneutic. There are, of course, things that are unbiblical: child pornography and shampoo, for instance. Both are technically unbiblical since they are never mentioned; further, the first is morally at odds with the biblical narrative, while the second is not.

So, to repeat, “unbiblical” is not a euphemism on its face; it is a euphemism when used as a stand in for a hermeneutical argument.

Today, I thought we’d poke at the liberals a bit, since the conservatives around here seem to be on the defensive. The euphemism of today is,


Again, I’m not implying that fundamentalists do not exist. They do. But liberals and progressives often use “fundamentalist” as a cheap and easy stand-in for someone who has a more conservative biblical hermeneutic.

Fundamentalism as a concept may have started centuries ago, but it was only named as such at the end of the 19th century, at the seminary of my PhD studies. By 1910, five “fundamentals” had been named:

These days, some claim that heritage in Christianity, and there are even denominations with “fundamentalist” in their names. And then you’ve got evangelicals like Dan Kimball announcing that they are fundamentalist, according to the original definition. Indeed, the American evangelicalism of the 1940s was an attempt to chart a third way between fundamentalism and liberalism (see George Marsden for the low down on that movement).

But we all know — even Dan Kimball knows — that’s not what’s meant by “fundamentalist” these days. Today it’s a cultural category, often equated with the “God Hates Fags” crazies and Bob Jones University.

All the more reason that liberals and progressives (including some of the commenters on this blog) sin when they refer to thoughtful, right-of-center evangelicals as fundamentalists. To over simplify, let’s think of Christian theology like a Bell Curve. Evangelicals and Progressives (including Progressive Evangelicals) make up the middle two standard deviations — you’ve got to go out to the 13.6% on the edges to find the fundamentalists and the liberals.

In fact, these boundary categories are what Phyllis Tickle talks about as the 10% of each quadrant that will reify in the corners and not join the Great Emergence in the center.

QED, Evangelicals are not fundamentalists, so let’s stop calling them that.

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  • Larry

    But liberals and progressives often use “fundamentalist” as a cheap and easy stand-in for someone who has a more conservative biblical hermeneutic.
    Just as “fundamentalists” use words like “liberal” for those who have “unbiblical” beliefs or who read the Bible differently. All of these words are just excuses to avoid thinking about what the other person is saying (and possibly discovering that it has some merit) and why they are saying it. Whether this behavior is driven by fear or sloth really doesn’t matter, we owe everybody, not just our brothers and sisters, more respect than that. Even fundamentalists (and liberals!) are made in the image of the God.

  • Tony–
    I too dislike the fact that we attach so much importance to these words that often we can’t get past them to the people we identify by them. Labeling of any kind is a recipe for distance and exclusion. One of my greatest experiences as a Christian was being forced during seminary to live daily among people who thought and practiced differently from me–and discovering their sincerity and their many good qualities. Let’s try–memo to self–not to call people things to put them in easy categories; it’s a disservice to them and to us.

  • the amazing rando

    Timothy Keller in his book “The Reason for God” wrote about this exact thing. He argued that fundamentalism in and of itself is not dangerous, rather, it depends on what the fundamental is.
    No ones ever seen an Amish Terrorist, but no one would argue that the Amish are not fundamentalists.
    If the fundamental is control and law, it is dangerous. If the Fundamental is grace and peace, it is beneficial.
    Fandamentalism is a fine term, but lets attach some descriptors to it. My question is: “What are the fundamentals?”

  • douglas_macneill

    I use the term _Fundamentalist_, with the capital F, quite openly.
    As I understand it, it is no euphemism. If it were an euphemism, why would we hear terms like _conservative evangelical_ and _Christian Reconstructionism_ used in their place.
    The single “fundamental” that does differentiate conservative evangelicals from mainline Christians concerns the “inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.” From the conservative evangelical point of view, inspiration is not a matter of God honoring and blessing the completed work of the community of the faithful; rather, it is a _presupposition_ that the traditional perfections of God–especially the omniscience of God–guarantee the physical accuracy of everything described in the Bible.
    Fundamentalism with the capital F, and the proper adjective Fundamentalist, remain useful terms when they are used to refer to this distinction.

  • Tyler

    Here’s another euphemism: ‘progressive.’ What does it mean? It means that we are the future; unless you’re one of us you are bad people, you are backward, ignorant, a part of the problem (while we are the solution) and will be abandoned to the dustbin of history because we are the future and nothing can stop us.
    But seriously, way to show no partiality by taking on improper use of fundamentalist.

  • Well put Tony,
    Although I absolutely believe in the fundamentals listed in 1910, due to current usage of the word I refuse to use the word “fundamentalist.” It’s just an example of a word being taken captive and redefined to suit a particular viewpoint.
    While we may disagree about the whole “unbiblical” thing, I do appreciate your willingness to post this.
    Grace and peace,

  • Troy

    It seems appropriate and important to tie modernism into any definition of fundamentalism, viewing it as a necessarily modern phenomenon, a religious ideology emerging out of conflict with modernism. Fundamentalists are reactionary modernists rather than traditionalists, reactionaries, conservatives, etc.

  • Thanks for these thoughts, Tony. I tend to agree, and I tend to agree with Larry and Troy (above). My perspective is that the problem with labels like “fundamentalism” is that they have pretty true meaning when in the correct *historical* context… and tend to get warped when taken OUT of historical context. The word “fundamentalist” should definitely be understood in light of the historical reaction to modernity and the developments in the 20th century. But this idea equally applies to other terms like charismatic, progressive, conservative, liberal, pentecostal, evangelical, liturgical, etc. etc. If a term (or label) is used in an historically accurate sense, um, ok… but if it’s just an excuse to not listen to someone and consider a different viewpoint (or worse– to use as rhetorical ammo), then it’s out of bounds IMHO.

  • nathan

    great post.
    “All the more reason that liberals and progressives (including some of the commenters on this blog) sin when they refer to thoughtful, right-of-center evangelicals as fundamentalists.”
    i thought none of us “emergents” believed in sin….
    i kid. i kid.

  • Brad

    I like Plantinga’s comments on this:
    “Before responding, however, we must first look into the use of this term ‘fundamentalist’. On the most common contemporary academic use of the term, it is a term of abuse or disapprobation, rather like ‘son of a bitch’, more exactly ‘sonovabitch’, or perhaps still more exactly (at least according to those authorities who look to the Old West as normative on matters of pronunciation) ‘sumbitch’. When the term is used in this way, no definition of it is ordinarily given. (If you called someone a sumbitch, would you feel obliged first to define the term?) Still, there is a bit more to the meaning of ‘fundamentalist’ (in this widely current use): it isn’t simply a term of abuse. In addition to its emotive force, it does have some cognitive content, and ordinarily denotes relatively conservative theological views. That makes it more like ‘stupid sumbitch’ (or maybe ‘fascist sumbitch’?) than ‘sumbitch’ simpliciter. It isn’t exactly like that term either, however, because its cognitive content can expand and contract on demand; its content seems to depend on who is using it. In the mouths of certain liberal theologians, for example, it tends to denote any who accept traditional Christianity, including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth; in the mouths of devout secularists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, it tends to denote anyone who believes there is such a person as God. The explanation is that the term has a certain indexical element: its cognitive content is given by the phrase ‘considerably to the right, theologically speaking, of me and my enlightened friends.’ The full meaning of the term, therefore (in this use), can be given by something like ‘stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine’.”

  • Alex

    Hey tony,
    Check out what IHOP (in Kansas City, MO) sent out this morning, on the topic of euphemisms:
    Many once-sincere, young adult believers have been drawn into compromise—they are being taught false doctrines about the deity of Jesus, salvation, justice, and the very nature of the grace of God. They are falling into increasing compromise and darkness. This is tragic and must be turned around.
    Many voices in our nation are muddying the waters: the Emerging Church has something to say; the pro-choice movement has something to say; the Muslims have something to say; the homosexual community has something to say. Above all these, Jesus Christ has something to say.
    This year, at onething’09, our theme is: “What is the Spirit Saying to the Church?” As those who love Jesus, we are all desperate to hear what He is saying, and then to obey it. At this four-day conference Lou Engle, Misty Edwards, Allen Hood, Dwayne Roberts, Mark Anderson, myself, and others will be teaching on what we believe the Spirit is saying.
    There is an answer to the confusion and deception that is coming from some of those associated with the Emerging Church. We believe the Spirit is raising up what we refer to as the “Praying Church”—a church that loves the truth and has unwavering allegiance to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is raising up such congregations that will do outreach and works of justice that flow from a foundation of prayer and deep relationship with Jesus. This “Praying Church” movement is resisting the false church, which is emerging in our nation today, especially among young adults.

  • MisterT

    This is why I use the more nuanced term “fundagelical”.

  • I agree with Tony and others of you who are saying that many of these descriptors are misused and erroneously tossed around as facile pejoratives. It’s easier to label others than to engage in authentic dialogue.
    Still, it seems there have always been some who are traditionalistIC or fundamentalistIC in their tendency to treat faith’s accidentals as if they were essentials and no too few who are, conversely, liberalistIC or progressivistIC in that they tend to treat essentials as if they were accidentals. (Which elements of the Christian faith are the essentials and which are the accidentals is not the focus, here.)
    As for “fundagelical,” is that the opposite of “evangellyfish”?
    Fundamentalists versus Heretics? not really, not always

  • Panthera

    Interesting, thank you, Tony.
    I guess I’ll go back to calling the hateful ones christianists. The nice thing about that neologism is that the definition actually is relevant in the context of the 21st century.
    I can understand and accept that not everyone sees things the same way.
    What puzzles me is the demand of so very many Americans who neither read any other language nor even are willing to read other English language Bibles than their own interpretations, that they ‘know’ God’s mind.
    Saying the Bible is true because it says it is does not necessarily make it so – the vessel can not contain itself, the claim is irrational.

  • nathan

    ironic from IHOP, given their history with the Vineyard and the Toronto Airport Church.

  • This discussion poses an interesting question, IMO:
    Should a speaker/writer/author be required to understand a potential hearer/reader’s definition of a word before he uses it according to a predefined (Webster’s) or his own definition?
    I’d say that its helpful to know your audience might be misunderstanding or misinterpreting you, but it shouldn’t be required to have to anticipate what a reader might take a term to mean. A good reader should endeavor to determine what the author means. The author may define his own terms (which makes it easy), or the way he uses them will often constrain their meaning. Or, the context in which the author is speaking will provide the basis for how the term should be taken provided the first two don’t prove very helpful.
    This means I may agree with one author’s claim that I am a fundamentalist while I disagree with another author’s claim which looks on the surface to say the same thing. That is because each author may use the term differently.

  • Tom

    This post has caused me to realize that I tend to use “fundamentalist” as a stand-in for “biblical literalist.” You’re absolutely right – fundamentalism means what it means, and I should use it accordingly. Thanks for provoking thoughts.

  • Thanks for this insightful post. In response, I have expunged all shampoo from our home. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

  • Amen, Tony. Good to see we agree on this one.
    I consider myself a progressive evangelical (conservative theology + liberal politics) but according to the 1910 Princeton criteria listed, I am a solid 5-point “fundamentalist.”
    Words and labels are merely receptacles of meaning. It’s unfortunate that some have resorted to using this F-word as a broad brush to paint all evangelicals in a certain cultural light.

  • Jim

    Since we’re learning to define terms more carefully, we should start with euphemism. The Oxford English Dicionary calls it
    “That figure of speech which consists in the substitution of a word or expression of comparatively favourable implication or less unpleasant associations, instead of the harsher or more offensive one that would more precisely designate what is intended.”
    It seems like “fundamentalist” is deliberately harsh, to mask the more favorable implication of “more conservative biblical hermeneutic.” It seems, actually, like the opposite of a euphemism.
    The same with “unbiblical” for “something I disagree with.” The harsher term substitutes for the milder one. Again, the opposite of a euphemism.
    Perhaps here’s a better example: “not in keeping with the biblical narrative” for “unbiblical.” That seems like substituting a softer, milder phrase for a harsher, more straightforward one. I suppose it could be the opposite, though, if you have a “high view of narrative.”

  • Panthera

    On the other hand, I distinctly recall several attacks against me over the years here which turned on the christianist considering the term ‘fundmentalist’ to be an insult. Or the term ‘evangelical’. Or the term ‘conservative’ or the term…
    With very few exceptions, those hateful ones who express their love of God through hatred of gays and oppression of women are too illiterate to even know what the Bible says, too angry to grasp God’s clear statements as to just whom vengeance belongs and too caught up in ultra-nationalist Republican politics to grasp that the Bible is not American.
    I’ll stick with ‘christianist’. The fact that racist, hateful conservative Christians ban it from their websites pretty much makes clear it serves the descriptive purpose for which it was formed quite well.

  • Since I have planted myself firmly in the doghouse with a couple of other posts, I’ll keep this one simple.
    The biggest issue that I can see in using the term “Fundamentalist” is that we often cut off people automatically, or qualify them unconditionally, when we use the term.
    If I say, “John Doe is a Fundamentalist,” then some will automatically assume that he has nothing worthwhile to say. I’ve even caught myself using qualifiers like “Hard-core Fundamentalist.”
    On the other hand, some will think that John Doe automatically has something worthwhile to offer simply because he carries that label.
    It seems that a more Christ-centered approach would be to hear all people, no matter what “label” they carry, and then discern the value of what they say through scripture and the guidance of the Spirit.
    Of course, perhaps that’s the very point that Tony was trying to make with this series in the first place.

  • Philip

    I greatly appreciate this series of posts, as I have found matters of worn-out or coded language a significant issue for me as I’ve bounced around Tony’s bell curve.
    I would suggest, though, that ‘fundamentalist’ doesn’t fit the description of a euphemism. As Tony describes its use, it is a pejorative for ‘someone who has a more conservative biblical hermeneutic.’ I think the latter phrase, if clumsier, lacks much of the baggage of ‘fundamentalist’ as used today. Thus, ‘fundamentalist’ would be more of a dysphemism. (Upon review, it seems Jim made this point – just wanted to include the antonym.)
    Parenthetically, in my experience as a lifelong Bible-belter in a blood-red state, the evangelical strains I encounter regularly are by definition fundamentalist. This has led me to use the term ‘evangelical’ (perhaps inappropriately) as a euphemism for ‘fundamentalist.’
    Thanks for the conversation – lets keep it civil out there . . .

  • “Thus, ‘fundamentalist’ would be more of a dysphemism. (Upon review, it seems Jim made this point – just wanted to include the antonym.)”
    Dysphemism is a particularly harsh word used to exaggerate the status of something. “That politician is getting killed in the polls” to reflect the fact that a politician is viewed less favorably than he or she once was.
    Fundamentalist is almost universally used pejoratively (or cacophemistically, if we’re adhering to the theme) unless someone is referring to the historical movement of fundamentalism.

  • Panthera

    I find it interesting to note how close I am to a fundamentalist by Tony’s definition.
    * The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.
    >>>Inspiration, yes. Inerrant, no. Lots of mistakes and inaccuracies and proof-texting in and among the texts finally chosen. The Bible is inspired by God, as is all that is good. It is not, however, God – it is man’s very human attempt at a dialogue with God.
    * The virgin birth of Christ.
    >>>Makes sense to me.
    * The belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin.
    >>>Absolutely. Probably the one point, however, on which gay-bashing christianists and I part ways, completely. I hold that Jesus’ death was atonement for my sins, too, not just those conservative American Christians like to practice (adultery, false witness, torture, adultery, affairs with pages and prostitutes, racism, you know the ‘good’ sins which God approves of.)
    * The bodily resurrection of Christ.
    >>>I believe this to be so, don’t see the logical necessity for Jesus having been sent to atone for our evil nor ‘proof’ of His divinity.
    * The historical reality of Christ’s miracles.
    He put up with what has to be the most contentious, unpleasant sect the Jewish religion had ever birthed* – the Sadduccee without turning them into dust. Why should raising the dead, curing the halt and lame be so hard to believe. *Well, the nastiest until conservative American Christians came along. They take the cake.
    So, let’s see. One major disagreement on Biblical innerancy. Comes from being able to read several languages, I guess. Didn’t one of the conservative Christians here recently affirm that only the American version of the Bible which uses the term ‘homosexual’ is the real Bible? Why, yes, I do believe one did.
    One qualified yes (arose from the dead) as I firmly reject this demand for ‘proof’ of Jesus’ divinity which is so important to the conservative Christians. O! Ye of little faith. Sorry, guess in their Bible that reads:
    Y’all of Republican values.
    It’s not use, tho’. The term has lost it’s salt, the damage is done. Fundamentlist, today, is a descriptive term for someone who defines their love of God through hatred of the Other and I doubt we shall ever return to the original definition.

  • cp

    Why is the International House of Pancakes talking about God?
    There’s some holy spirit in that blueberry compote . . .

  • Hey Panthera – I was reading through you latest comment and was hoping for some further explanation to this point you make:
    >>>Inspiration, yes. Inerrant, no. Lots of mistakes and inaccuracies and proof-texting in and among the texts finally chosen. The Bible is inspired by God, as is all that is good. It is not, however, God – it is man’s very human attempt at a dialogue with God.
    I guess the further explanation would be…if the Bible is not without error (ignoring for a moment the vast amount of textual criticism and testing that’s been done on the vast amount of manuscripts to make sure no “copying” errors have snuck…sneaked? in) and is but a human attempt to dialogue with God…why should I trust it over my own intuition? And…how can one be certain that any particular doctrine or teaching is definitely right or wrong?
    I guess we come from quite different schools of thought. I view the Bible as God’s sovereign “attempt” to reveal what would be otherwise unknowable to us…a.k.a. Revealing who He is, and man’s duty to Him (or purpose), rather than man’s attempt to know something that without divine revelation is really unknowable. It seems logical to me then that by your definition the pursuit of God is hopeless…for we cannot even know for sure if what we know about God is for real. Yet with the traditional or orthodox view while we most surely cannot know everything about God (due to His infinite nature and our quite finite and corrupted nature) what He has revealed to us about Himself we can…as it were…bet our lives on…or to put another way know for certain.
    Help me out here…am I just mis-understanding your logic?

  • Panthera

    Sorry, the gotcha! just ate my entire text and I haven’t time right now to repeat it.
    Two things.
    One, why can I not accept Jesus atonement for my personal sins on faith? Why need I base my trust in Jesus purely on a book? Is that not, ultimately a violation, at least in corollary of the first commandment?
    Second, which Bible? I am going to go out on a limb here and assume you can’t read anything but English. The source texts for the KJV and all following, however, are considerably different in many passages to the English texts. I am not a native speaker of English, I am more comfortable reading the Bible in German and Latin. My Greek is very poor, but adequate to see that there are enormous translation variations possible, depending on one’s perspective.
    What Bible are you holding up as innerant? What method do you use to resolve the internal inconsistencies?
    Ultimately, the vessel can not contain itself. The fact that the Bible says it is God’s word from beginning to end does not necessarily make it so. Inspired? Yes. God’s word? Hmm, I don’t see God making such mistakes nor really do I believe in this new-fangled nonsense that only the American conservative Christian version of the Bible is truly from God.

  • Hi Panthera,

    One, why can I not accept Jesus atonement for my personal sins on faith? Why need I base my trust in Jesus purely on a book? Is that not, ultimately a violation, at least in corollary of the first commandment?

    Where did you get this idea that Jesus atoned for your personal sins?

  • Blair

    I found Kathleen Boone’s book, “The Bible Tells Them So” as something which helped me define what I mean when I say fundamentalist. She examines the actual hermeneutic of a fundamentalist community by doing an ethnographic study. For any one interested in the topic, well worth getting.

  • Panthera

    Where are you going with the question? Why do you ask it?
    Answer me that and I will gladly tell you why I believe as I do.

  • Don’t ya just love those “gotcha’s” I make sure I copy my text before posting anymore…I hate having to retype.
    I’ll just briefly try to answer or comment on your 2 observations.
    1. I’m guessing that where Ryan is going is that your understanding of atonement comes from “a book.” Henceforth if one is going to extrapolate one doctrine from the book and not others how does one know that that one doctrine is right whilst (really…did I just use whilst?) the others get tossed out. And the last question under #1 (Violating the 1st commandment), If God intended His Word to be treated as just that…His revealed, inspired, and by the nature of His character inerrant as far as the original autographs are concerned…it would not be placing another God before Him, actually if we reject His Word we are putting whatever reason we put forth for rejecting His Word before God.
    That of course is based on the Scriptural claims to be the actual Word of God given by the inspiration of God to human authors to effectively communicate exactly what God wanted communicated. This is the point I’m guessing we disagree…and a pretty significant disagreement.
    2. Which Bible? The original autographs (which we don’t have because then man would most definitely break the first commandment) and the message that was preserved through the vast amount of ancient manuscripts that we now have. I’m guessing we do agree that no preacher should preach without finding out what the passage said in the original language…something I do both in my preaching and encourage even our young people to do. A huge frustration for me is the people that suggest we should translate the Bible into other languages from English (usually with a specific version in mind). That’s just asking for trouble.
    You mention inconsistencies, however these so called inconsistencies have been dealt with for centuries now (differences in the gospels etc.), so I have no issue with them though I spend time making sure that the answer given is accurate.
    Another point of agreement: “nor really do I believe in this new-fangled nonsense that only the American conservative Christian version of the Bible is truly from God.”
    Nor do I…we have close to 2000 years of orthodox teaching that has been tested, sometimes by fire and sword, by every possible heresy known to man.

  • Panthera

    I won’t venture a guess as to where Ryan wants to lead me, we don’t communicate very well (putting it mildly) and I don’t want to make any assumptions.
    Obviously we either agree that it is circular reasoning or it is not, nothing we can do to change the other’s views on the matter. We could, of course, argue some of the science in the various Books which is, clearly, not in line with what we know today of God’s natural world, but that is sort of pointless – the book can not serve as witness to itself, else I must accept all the horsefeathers from the LDS books…they also claim to be straight from the horses mouth…at least we agree on the horse, just not the north and south of it as source.
    Does it matter that I believe Christ died for my sins as atonement and thus freed me of the consequence of my irredeemable nature? Or does it only matter that I abandon my faith in God’s mercy and base my love for Him on the the logically invalid belief that everything in the Bible is absolutely God’s Word, just exactly as He meant it?
    I get the impression that you want it both ways. You don’t follow those aspects of the NT literally which would be frowned upon by your neighbors, but you do demand of me that I set aside clear errors in describing the natural world, heavily redacted texts, and base my faith in Jesus upon that?
    At some point, you must have made a leap of faith (not choosing that term to provoke you, used it once here before and that was the end of that thread…) to decide which parts of the Bible are meant literally and which are not. What was your basis there?

  • Panthera

    I have a bit of a question for you. Forgive me, I realize we have several other questions between us pending, but it did spring to my mind to ask you this. Not that others mayn’t add their two cents. Tony, for instance. Hallo, Tony?
    One of the reoccurring (endlessly) discussions we have here on Beliefnet is the flat statement of many conservative/literalistic/fundamentalist/evangelical/etc. Christians that I can’t be a Christian because I am gay.
    To the extent that they are capable of expressing themselves coherently (most can’t, they usually just make the statement as a drive by shooting, so to speak) their argument goes something like this:
    Dude (why I am so frequently called ‘dude’ is beyond me, I presume the term is noted in their Campus Crusade for Christ handbooks on how to talk to the not-over-bright)…Dude, look – if you had the grace of God in you, you would just naturally turn from your sin. You don’t, so you aren’t a Christian.
    OK, I admit, I have cleaned up their language and cast their sentences in separate subjunctive and indicative clauses. When I do it, I call it interpretation. Anyway, my response is to write back:
    Yo, Dude, (written in blood in my backwards Latin book on how to speak to not-over-bright Christian fundies as the term of address for the early 21st century)…Dude, yo, question, the Man has a question:
    You like to look at pretty girls? Like that one over there (I quickly summon a luscious blond, stacked succubus, bursting out of her halter top and short-shorts on platform shoes. Sort of a cheap Britanny Spears knock off, seems to be a weakness of young fundies…) Ya, I can see you do, better not let that rise in your Levi’s go on, you know what I am…
    So, dude, tell me, like, didn’t Jesus say looking at a woman with sexual desire in your heart was the same as actually having sex with her? (Matthew 5:27-30, taken from one of those hideous fundi-translations, can’t expect dude (‘Dude’, is this even a word, much less a proper noun?) to understand Elizabethan…
    27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
    29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
    30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.)
    OK, at this point, Dude usually panics and that’s that. The only time I actually got an answer, it was basically, yeah, sure, but that’s cool cause I don’t think about them when I masturbate anymore, just my wife.
    Goodness. How on earth am I to hold up my monogamous, faithful, true, loyal, loving partnership of 25 years and marriage of now over 5 years to that infallible logic? Whatever could that long-haired sandal-wearing Jewish Rabi have been thinking there? Thank God, we have Paul to guide us, that Rabi was a serious downer! What if God had appointed Him our Savior instead of Paul? Shudder. Sigh…
    See, I don’t even take the cheap shot that I, do not, actually, ever look at women with lust in my heart. At most, I might lust after her scarf or that delightful up-flip. (Joking. Have to say that because if there is one thing which unites the conservative/literalistic, etc. around here it is their absolute lack of a sense of humor).
    So, Daniel, after all that – really too late to be writing this after a too long day, sorry for the run on – but here’s the question. How do you approach the obvious fact that we, as Christians, very much do continue to sin and that’s just fine for all sins except my loving my husband?
    Yes, I am going somewhere with this.
    Probably off line till late tomorrow. I rather enjoy being spoken to civilly, thank you.

  • Panthera
    Long days at work…fun stuff…hope you have a week-end coming up.
    You put forth a lot of good questions, if you don’t mind, for the sake of keeping myself somewhat brief (a very relative term I know) I’ll limit my answers to two: (If you want me to address a specific one let me know)
    From your summary statement on your first comment:
    “At some point, you must have made a leap of faith to decide which parts of the Bible are meant literally and which are not. What was your basis there?”
    Simply – yes there is a leap of faith. A leap that that is not without rational, but yet one that may still seem foolish to the unbeliever. You may ask what some of the rational is and to point out just a few: 1. The unity of it’s parts (66 books, at least 40 authors over at least 2000 year span – yet one redemptive message) 2. It’s preservation – the translations we have now are still one step away from the scads of manuscripts – and among those manuscripts there are no doctrinal disagreements (an occasional grammatical difference here and there) 3. The Scriptures preservation in the light of centuries of attempts to destroy it.
    Those are but three that may or may not mean anything to you, and aren’t “golden arrow” arguments per-se. For me it comes down to the claim of Scripture to be God’s Word – and if it’s not then it’s as useful as the works of Plato…except that Plato didn’t claim to be writing God’s Word.
    How do I know the 66 books are it? Again I go to historic Christianity and the testimony of Scripture. But you are ultimately correct…it comes down to faith.
    And from the summary paragraph of the second comment (thanks for the “run on” comment makes me feel better about my own excessively long comments 🙂 )
    “How do you approach the obvious fact that we, as Christians, very much do continue to sin and that’s just fine for all sins except my loving my husband?”
    Just that…I don’t approach it that way. The scenario you so vividly described is one that I’m quite personally familiar with. Now before I continue, understand that I’m not trying to change your mind or personally attack you…simply stating what I believe. The logic of my belief system is as follows:
    If looking at a woman and lusting after her is a sin (which I firmly believe), and I continue in that without repenting I’m going to have (and shamefully have experienced) a serious damper in my relationship with Christ.
    IF (I use that word on purpose) your loving your husband is sin (as Tony so delicately put it genital contact between the same sex), THEN continuing in that sin instead of repenting of it would put a serious damper on your relationship with Christ.
    The book of James takes it further – basically if a person continues in sin without a repentant spirit then what evidence is there that they actually have a relationship with Christ? They believe in God? They believe in the atonement? The demons even believe that!
    It is a shame…a shame I tell you (for some reason I’m thinking of a little old lady pointing her finger at me right now) that some believers pick a favorite sin to go after forgetting that all sin is to be repented of.
    “I rather enjoy being spoken to civilly, thank you.”
    Same here. You’re welcome to point out to me if you feel I’m making a personal attack on you instead of just laying out my beliefs. I figure if I expect someone to else to avoid ad-hominem I’d better be willing to do the same.
    (Glad this isn’t limited to 140 characters….or maybe it should be 🙂 )

  • Panthera

    Just briefly, these days I work more than anything else, I believe we have arrived at different conclusions using the same logic.
    We do agree that the Bible is inspired by God. We do have faith.
    Where we differ is that you are comfortable accepting the variations and conflicts within the Books as the result of mistakes in translation and errors in grammar, missing sources to correct them, etc. OK, let us find the absolute first sources and then let us hold a cannon to review all the texts originally claiming to be inspired by God and then, perhaps, we will reach agreement.
    But that isn’t going to happen. I just can’t set aside that one point that just because something says it is God’s absolute Word, does not make it so. Which is why I say ‘inspired’ not God’s exact word, i.e.: innerant.
    Nor do I feel we really may draw the last 1600 or so years of tradition into the argument, after all, astrologists can make the (correct) claim that their work is based on far longer traditions. Doesn’t change the fact that astrology is nearly as much bull, um, shinola as is that Mormon nonsense.
    The early Christians (who were far closer in economic and social outlook to me than to you, we both know their views on community and their tolerance for gays, even if the official American conservative church view is, ‘no wonder Paul was always screaming at the top of his lungs. They weren’t even members of the Chamber of Commerce, much less Republicans…and all that kissing and such…)
    I don’t see this as a pre-condition to being Christian, am, however aware that for many American Christians, this is the absolute requirement to BE a Christian. Never mind that Jewish Rabi, good ole’ what’s-his-name, you have to believe just this one book, just this one interpretation and that’s God’s Mind. (Interestingly, this aspect of fundamentalism is strongest in precisely that community of Christians, the conservative/etc. Americans, whose multitudinous versions of the Bible contain texts which disagree on really important points…homosexuality being one).
    Where do we go from here? James is quite right, but of course, that is our main agreement, isn’t it? We are incapable of ever ceasing to sin. Let us set aside your heterosexual lusting and my homosexual lusting, after all we both practice monogamy. Let’s not pretend, tho’, that we don’t, respectively, notice that bouncy halter top or those broad shoulders – we do.
    This leaves more than enough other sins which we aren’t even willing to admit are sins…and, except for denying God, (whoops, that dratted Jewish Rabi keeps popping up in my head with his silly comments. No wonder I don’t have the proper peace of mind to focus exclusively on Paul, the epitome of Christian thought. Have to drive that sandal-wearing, long-haired Rabi out of my heart, or I shall never be able to vote for torture)…where was I, oh yes, discussing your sins. Right, so, there we agree – the only solution is to accept that we can’t be sin free and Jesus’ atonement for our sins (especially the ones we can’t even admit to enjoying enough to repent) is our only hope.
    On a related note, why do conservative/literalistic/fundamentalist/evangelical/etc. Christians feel so comfortable practicing false witness? We now have not one, not two, but three (well, as of Friday evening, at the current rate, I may be behind the times) court cases or legal actions against NOM in Maine for outright lying. Seems funny to me.
    My mother reminded me of something last night, whilst discussing (I so love those who insist ‘whilst’ only means although or whereas. Earliest texts also show it clearly having the adverbial ‘when’ context as well. Say whichever you like.)the Bible. I was five or six and on one of those ‘finding a school’ trips we went through in the US before my parents finally gave in and sent me back to Europe, to their parents, as I had been demanding (unceasingly) from the first day of the move.
    We were sitting in the director’s office (I believe in those days, schools were run by people who actually taught and not by the incompetent, politically correct or politically driven). She asked me to look out the window and tell her the color of various things I saw. My response to the color of a house down the street was ‘this side is white, I can’t see the other side, so I don’t know.’.
    That was the end of that interview and my parents did graciously bow to inevitability and ship me back home to my public school class with all the other farmers’ kids in the lower-upper-deeper-back of the woods village we came from. Not that I was stubborn, just, I was right.
    By the by, 2,000 years? I had rather thought the book of Job was far older, alone, than that?

  • churchmouse

    “Today, I thought we’d poke at the liberals a bit, since the conservatives around here seem to be on the defensive.”
    They are defending the Word as it was written, not changing it like some people want to do. It’s called apologetics. That word seems to be foreign for many liberal Christians.
    Panthera said, ”Christians that I can’t be a Christian because I am gay.”
    I have NEVER seen anyone say that to you here on Beliefnet. If you are insinuating that I am including in this group, then you would be lying. I never ever said you could not be a Christian. I never judged your heart or whether or not you were saved. I said your actions were sinful. And I showed you scripturally why they were. You never made your case or showed me scripturally why I was wrong.
    You most certainly can claim to belong to Christ if you have accepted Him as your personal Savior, if you repent of your sin, if you put Him first in your life and believe that what HE said, what He came and did for you was the ONLY truth. We all must repent of sins. Sex sin is only one group that is ungodly.
    You love to dismiss people here as being hateful just because you disagree with what they are saying. You then start to bash and demean them in the same hateful ways you accuse them of doing to you. Then you proceed to mock and make fun Gods Word.
    “OK, at this point, Dude usually panics and that’s that. The only time I actually got an answer, it was basically, yeah, sure, but that’s cool cause I don’t think about them ******anymore, just my wife.”
    Panics? The only time you get an answer? Heck Panthera you run all over the place when your back is against the wall and you can’t answer. I am still waiting for scriptures that show what God says about marriage. Are you still researching?
    That last quote post was disgusting, the thought nauseating, not because it’s about talking about self-fulfillment sexually but because you have no class.
    “Whatever could that long-haired sandal-wearing Jewish Rabi have been thinking there? Thank God, we have Paul to guide us, that Rabi was a serious downer! What if God had appointed Him our Savior instead of Paul? Shudder. Sigh…”
    Pot shots at Christ……oh thats godly behavior isn’t it. That Jewish Rabi instituted marriage.
    This is what Christ has to say when He talked about Genesis.
    Matthew 19:4-6 NIV
    Haven’t you read, he replied, that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.
    Ephesians 5:21-33
    “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing fo water by the word. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.”
    Panthera said, ”How do you approach the obvious fact that we, as Christians, very much do continue to sin and that’s just fine for all sins except my loving my husband?”
    No Panthera all sin is wrong. And God states clearly what sin is and what it’s not. And when we sin we should repent and not do it again. Loving someone is not wrong because God is love. Having sex outside marriage is sin, even if you love them. People commit adultry all the time. Could one make a case for adultry before God? Could someone make a case for murder, for worshipping false idols, lusting or stealing? I mean is this a gray area? Will God let some sin slide?
    Daniel you bring up a good question worth exploring. What should be take literally?
    Is Jesus really the Son of God?
    Was Jesus born of a virgin?
    Did He really rise from the dead?
    Are the Ten Commandments to be taken literally?
    Does sin really matter?
    Jesus said He was the ONLY WAY?
    What about these verses. Which ones should be taken literally?
    “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (II Tim 3:16)
    “ The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
    “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:64
    John 1:1 (NIV)
    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 1:14 “ The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
    In Matthew 14:22-33, the story about Jesus walking on water is told also Mark 6:45-52 and John 6:16-21. Should any be taken literally?
    Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”
    “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17
    24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
    Questions for you.
    What do we have but the scriptures that tells us about Christ and about what we need to do to have eternal life in Him? And how do we determine which scriptures are believable and which are not? It says “ALL SCRIPTURE IS God inspired.” How then can we throw any out?
    “It is a shame…a shame I tell you (for some reason I’m thinking of a little old lady pointing her finger at me right now) that some believers pick a favorite sin to go after forgetting that all sin is to be repented of.”
    Well I have had a finger in my face more than once by well meaning Christians who thought I was not walking right. It is uncomfortable, and sometimes it can be embarrasing. And you are right; all sin should be repented of.

  • Panthera

    As much as we disagree on many things, no, you have never questioned my Christianity. Thank you.
    Unfortunately, if you take a look at ‘Secularizing the Cross’ or any of the four threads Tony has currently on euphemisms or feeding the poor, you will find that several conservative Christians are doing exactly that – with just that argument.
    Right now, I am being accused of bearing my legal name (which goes back in my family for over 700 years) for the simple reason of wanting to insult ‘Christians’ (the implication being, I am not one) by being named as I am.

  • Chuck Queen

    This is a good word and needed to be said; certainly, there are many evangelicals (and their number is growing, I think) who would abhor the title “fundamentalist” and those on the left who use the term should be more careful and cautious.
    I tend to think of “fundamentalist” as an attitude, an orientation toward dogma and faith, as much as I do about particular tenants of belief. I remember reading Bishop Spong’s “Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism” and thinking that his attitude, his “fundamentalism” on the left was not much different from the “fundamentalism” on the right (as far as “attitude” and “spirit” go).
    That said, however, I’m right smack in the middle of fundamentalists on the right who dominant the “evangelical” sector of my town (Frankfort, Kentucky). I pastor a moderate Baptist church and I write a biweekly column on issues of faith in our local paper (my church sponsers). They kicked our church out of the local Baptist Association after my first two columns. In my neck of the woods the fundamentalists prevail among evangelicals. I still claim to be an evangelical, though few evangelicals here would claim me. So I wonder about your percentages. Most Southern Baptists are “fundamentalists” and they make up a hugh piece of the pie of evangelicalism.
    I would make one correction to your list of fundamentals. It’s not just that Jesus’ death is viewed as an atonement for sin; it is his “substitutionary death” that is central. For fundamentalists there are no “theories” of atonement.
    Chuck Queen, http://www.afreshperspective-chuck.blogspot.com

  • Chrissi Wright

    Convicted! I accept your rebuke.

  • Mr. Incredible

    Jesus was a fundamentalist.

  • Mr. Incredible

    Actually, all those who are born again are expected to be fundamentalist.

  • Mr. Incredible

    October 27, 2009 8:34 PM
    As much as we disagree on many things, no, you have never questioned my Christianity.
    Then, I suppose
    (1Jn 4:1) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world
    makes no sense to you.
    Those who are born again rely on the Word of God. They are eager to point to Him for their guidance. They are eager to bring Scripture upon Scripture, Holy Spirit interpretation to bear. And, yet, we never see you try to present a line of scriptural thought. In fact, you indicate an allergic reaction to any presentation of a line of scriptural thought. Do you think that goes unnoticed Above?

  • Mr. Incredible

    ==…didn’t Jesus say looking at a woman with sexual desire in your heart was the same as actually having sex with her?==
    No. He said that the adultery is not just the physical act but what comes before the act, in the heart. In other words, it is objectifying women.
    At the same time, an adultery in the heart is what the backslidden have done. They go after other “abundances.” Affairs with other ways, gods. They honor Him with their lips, not with their heart. They are what the Word of God calls, “stumblingblocks” — that is, under the guise of being Christian, they participate in the suggestions of the sin nature, just like the worldly, and leave the impression in the world that, as a Christian, they are allowed to sin.

  • Mr. Incredible

    The Word of God is inerrant; everything that God says happened really happened the way He says it happened; everything — the instruction — therein that pertains to the spiritual journey, in order to complete it, is without error.

  • Mr. Incredible

    Re: what is supposed to be the fundamentalism that is “Christian” —
    (Luk 24:32)[KJV] And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
    (Joh 2:17)[GNB] His disciples remembered that the scripture says, “My devotion to your house, O God, burns in me like a fire.”
    That burning desire for Him and His Knowledge, coupled with the eagerness to bring His Message to the world, is the Jesus-kind of fundamentalism. THAT is Biblical “love.” It is unselfish concern for the Salvation of others, as much concern for others’ Salvation as you have for your own. It is the truest love which is not worldly.

  • Your Name

    Is there a thread anywhere on Beliefnet that Mr. Incredible has not hijacked?

  • Denise

    After the list of Five Fundamentals were outlined (by the PCUSA), a subgroup of Presbyterians added Dispensationalism to the list and were, to my knowledge, the first, and for awhile the only, church people to self-identify as “fundamentalists”. It would be interesting to review subsequent groups of people who embrace the term to see if they also push for “plussed up” doctrinal lists. And also whether those who feel “unfairly” labeled fundamentalist likewise adopt and add-on to the five….

  • Mr. Incredible

    Your Name
    November 9, 2009 4:19 PM
    Is there a thread anywhere on Beliefnet that Mr. Incredible has not hijacked?
    So, having the opportunity to post here, you choose to post that. Now THAT is unbelievable.
    “Hijacked”? I’ve hijacked nothing.
    Aren’t there enough electrons for everybody? Who’s stopping somebody from posting?? Not I.

  • RevKev

    I would suggest “We’re stepping out on faith” as a euphemism for…”we have no plan, and have not thought this through, but we are going to presume on God’s provision and do something wreckless.”

  • My issue is that many of the supposed liberals and Progressives have very little problem with the 5 fundamentals themselves. I have encountered so many so called liberals that made my fellow alumni from Moody Bible Institute feel very comfortable. That is why it drives me crazy to hear them calling conservatives “fundamentalists”. It is so anti-intellectual that it really does beg to question if they understand the term. Thanks for this. I would question whether there are numerically many evangelicals that really question the 5 fundamentals except for the smaller circles that you and I run in, but that is to move away from your excellent point.