For obviously the doctrines which one finds easy are the doctrines which give Christian sanction to truths you already knew. The new truth which you do not know and which you need must, in the very nature of things, be hidden precisely in the doctrine you least like and least understand.... there will be progress in Christian knowledge only as long as we accept the challenge of the difficult or repellent doctrines. A “liberal” Christianity which considers itself free to alter the faith whenever the faith looks perplexing or repellent must be completely stagnant.
-C. S. Lewis
Being a fundamentalist is taking a beating these days. But I will admit that I am proud to be one. So how do I(and perhaps you) feel confident in asserting our fundamentalistism when it seems to be so maligned?
First, lets understand what it is, and, what it isn't.
Culture has conflated two beliefs and behaviors and made them appear to be synonymous. To illustrate, it is like they take the true statement, "All apples are fruits", and then add, "All fruits are apples". One IS true, the other is absurdly wrong. But, recognizing that all fruits are not indeed apples does not then disprove the preceding statement that all apples are fruits.
Practically, it looks like this;
Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist are fundamentalists AND their beliefs and behaviors are abhorrent. Reformed Southern Baptists are fundamentalists, THEREFORE, their beliefs and behaviors are abhorrent. The term, "fundamentalist", is used as a pejorative slander in this example. Perhaps you can think of your own examples of how you can observe this at play today. And I would contend that in this usage it is wildly misleading and criminally incorrect.
So what is a better understanding of fundamentalism?
Simply put, fundamentalist beliefs and behaviors are any of either that a person, or, group of people, find to be non-negotiably true. For example, I am betting you are a fundamentalist about murder. You have unalterable convictions about murder and are unwilling to negotiate a compromise with the opposing view point.
If an axe murderer comes into you house you would not feel it an adequate conclusion to "come together" with the man with the axe to find a mutually beneficial ending to your impasse. Only having your leg chopped off is not a good compromise. You stand firmly, FUNDAMENTALLY, on the position that he not only should NOT murder you, but should leave without harming you post haste!
Man, you are such a bigot......
EVERYONE is a fundamentalist. When push comes to shove, there are a number of things that you would never waver on. Which is a good thing! So, why do we hear so much negativity about fundamentalists? Because we refuse to personally examine whether we are being fundamentalist enough. As CS Lewis said, we love the truths that we already agree to, we find very difficult dealing with the truths that are revealed that challenge our beliefs and behaviors that we currently enjoy.
A set of beliefs should be evaluated upon the premises and conclusions they describe. Not evaluated by whether or not we can categorize the concept of having different ideas in a box that we can more easily discard. Westboro Baptist's beliefs and behaviors do not align with; 1) Scripture, or, 2) General Ethics. We don't need to describe it short hand(fundamentalists!!!!) to prove that it is bad. The very premise and conclusions they make are demonstrably false in a myriad of ways. They aren't wrong because they are fundamentalists, they are wrong, because....they are wrong.
It is in vogue for parts of the Church to decry fundamentalism and celebrate a new era of love, unity and diversity. Instead of established doctrine they adhere to an ambiguously defined concept of "love". But try to not ask them to explicitly define Love in alignment to the testimony of scripture.....So while they pat themselves on the back about how inclusively loving they are, they malign and throw mud at the intolerant fundamentalists
Reminder: EVERYONE is a fundamentalist.
So while that church down the road might talk all about how they aren't fundamentalists, they become hypocritical fundamentalists. First, by a lack of willingness to compromise with those they claim are fundamentalists(meaning they themselves are fundamentalists about THEIR beliefs), and secondly, they still DO have standards which they won't break, or, allow to be broken. For example, I bet they are fundamentalists about their belief that you can't beat up your wife. Which I agree with obviously. But you can't celebrate how you aren't a fundamentalist like "those" people, while you are actually quite clearly being one.
We need to stop labeling people as fundamentalists as an attempt to shut down conversation and disparage your opponent. And, we need to stop calling them liberal/progressive in an attempt to do the same thing on the other side. We need to engage with the actual substance. And, as a Christian, we need to listen closely to how CS Lewis put it. God's truth is not going to be easy to conform to in the areas that are often going to mean the most to us. But it is by that standard that we need to evaluate the "rightness", or, the "wrongness" of a groups position.
After World Vision announced their changed hiring policies a number of prominent pastors and theologians voiced frustration with WV. And, almost immediately, those same people were blasted as bigoted fundamentalists. There was no substantive engagement with their biblical and theological arguments. Just name calling and mud slinging. Whether you agree, or, disagree with WV, we need to be willing to examine the actual substance of the argument that the people who are on the other side have made.
We are all fundamentalists. But we are not all correct. Let's labor to know truth that is not about our personal preferences and comfort levels, but Objectively True according to God.