“I bet you've seen the fundamentalist bumper sticker that says, "God said it! I believe it! That settles it!" It must be a typo because what the driver really means is, "I said it! God believes it! That settles it!” ― Robert M. Price link
Back in 2008, John Piper wrote a post called 20 Reasons Why I Don't Take Potshots at Fundamentalists. I believe that he wrote this because he father was a fundamentalist.
Here are a few of the reasons.
1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny (the ones I've met).
2. They believe in truth.
3. They believe that truth really matters.
4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it.
5. They know that the Bible calls for some kind of separation from the world.
6. They have backbone and are not prone to compromise principle.
7. They put obedience to Jesus above the approval of man (even though they fall short, like others).
12. They resist trendiness.
This sounds all well and good. However, I seriously disagree with John Piper for an important reason. Fundamentalists insist on a strict adherence to both rules and a wooden "literal" interpretation of the Bible. This rigid persistence has driven people away from the faith.
Which brings me to my next point. Piper claims that fundamentalists believe in the truth.™ Which truth? The one which says female teens should not go to college or the one which says a teen girl who is raped ought to apologize to the congregation for getting pregnant? Funny, he does not talk about these fundamentalist truths.™ Just how does Piper define "truth." Or is his truth just some version of Stephen Colbert's "truthiness."
"truth that comes from the gut, not books"
Christians can, and do, drive people away from the faith.
Despite claims to the contrary, I believe that Christians can, and do, drive people away from the faith. Some Christians studiously ignore the fact that their wretched behavior, coupled with absolute certainty that they are "good Christians," can lead to some people finding Christians among the most unattractive individuals on the face of the planet. To quote Mahatma Gandhi:
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
Of course, Tim Challies does not like this quote, because, well, Gandhi obviously does not like the real Jesus Christ.
Whatever Jesus Gandhi liked was certainly not the Jesus of the Bible. Why then should we care if we do not attain to this falsified version of Jesus?
Sadly, Challies lumps Gandhi in with the Pharisees of Jesus' day, energetically ignoring that perhaps, Challies, along with many others, could also wear the Pharisee badge. He also does not consider, even momentarily, the possibility that Gandhi or anyone else outside of the faith, could offer some valid critique of today's Christians.
Jesus reserved the harshest of words for the religious elite, those who declared that they were holy, that they understood the nature of God, that they had achieved some kind of enlightenment. Jesus had no love for such people. It was such people who received the sharpest of his rebukes and the most brutal of his “Woes!” They were the whitewashed tombs, the broods of vipers, the blind guides.
I do not look to the Neo-Calvinists as the only examples of those who drive people away. Christians of all stripes seem content to ignore that their very actions and harshness can cause people to exit the faith. Did you know that many of the Nones (those declaring themselves unaffiliated with any religious groups) are still people of faith. We wrote a post on this subject here.
Unfortunately, many Christians appear utterly unable to understand that we have poorly represented the true Gospel to the world. Instead Christians are most willing to shift the blame onto everyone else on the planet except ourselves.
Here are the excuses that I personally have heard.
They just want to sin. (Ignoring the fact that Christians sin a whole bunch!)
They were not among the elect.
They were never Christians in the first place.
The are just making excuses.
This is the worst excuse of all.
They are using our 'mistakes' as an excuse. (Rarely do I hear the word "sin.")
It is incredible to me that Christians can overlook our sinful behavior towards the abused, our extreme devotion to secondary and tertiary doctrinal issues, along with our anger and arrogance. Instead we easily blame the recipient of our "observations." Do we really think that God gives us a pass in this area?
Today we present the story of Jonny Scaramanga who is a blogger and PhD student from England. He writes at Leaving Fundamentalism. His post is subtitled Examining Christian Fundamentalism in the UK. Here is what he says about himself at his blog.
Hey, I’m Jonny.
I grew up in the UK as a Christian fundamentalist. Most people think this kind of fundamentalism does not exist in Britain, or it is limited to certain ethnic communities, like black pentecostals. They have no idea what fundamentalists believe, and certainly no clue what it’s like to be one.
I know all of these things. I know what it is to be lied to for an entire childhood, and then to spend your 20s trying to separate fact from fiction while worrying that you could be condemning yourself to eternal damnation.
So I am writing a book about it. This blog is for the research I turn up along the way that doesn’t fit into my book.
We would like our readers to note that young earth creationism plays a part in his story. It is vital for those who believe in YEC to understand that a rigid insistence on this belief can lead to people leaving the faith. It behooves all of us to remember that we are to present the story of the Gospel, not a bunch of secondary dogma.
We are not publishing this because he says something nice about us. To be honest, the two of us feel awkward in these circumstances. However, in this particular instance, we think it is important to understand the reason that he knows about us.
I also want to apologize to Jonny. We planned to post this a few months back but got distracted with all of the "goings on" over here. However, he graciously reminded us about his post. So, after slapping myself upside the head, I present his story. (Dee really liked learning about the "Loch Ness monster" proof!)
Leaving Fundamentalism by Jonny Scaramanga
Dear Wartburg Watch,
Thank you for existing. There are Christians who are too slow to stand up for the victims of abuse, and too reticent to speak out against the abusers. This blog has shown itself to be a powerful voice for justice, and I thank you for that. For reasons I will explain, some of the people I most want to reach won't listen to me. But they might listen to you.
Growing up, I called myself a 'Bible-believing Christian', with the implication, of course, that I was better than all those other Christians who didn't really believe the Bible. I went to a fundamentalist school that used the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum. I emerged in 1999, believing that it was against God's will for governments to provide healthcare for citizens, that science proved being gay was wrong, that a woman's true calling was obeying her husband in the home, and that the probable existence of the Loch Ness monster was one of many evidences that evolution was false.
I call my blog "Leaving Fundamentalism", not "Leaving Christianity". I left Christianity entirely, but I am not out to insist that everyone should do the same. I think it's important that people leave fundamentalism because it's damaging. Unlike some of my fellow atheists, I don't think that's true of all Christianity.
Fundamentalism is a term that has almost lost all meaning now. At one extreme, it means anyone who believes in Biblical inerrancy, the virgin birth, physical resurrection, substitutionary atonement, and that Jesus's miracles literally happened. At the other, it is essentially a swear word that means little more than "terrorist". I guess when I talk about fundamentalism, I don't quite mean either of those things.
In 2012 I publicly outed myself as an atheist. That was something I felt the need to say. I wasn't telling anyone else to become an atheist. I was just admitting that I don't believe. It was a declaration of independence. This helped me to connect with an audience who, like me, had grown up as fundamentalists and found they no longer believed in a God anything like the one we were raised to fear.
It also meant that conservative Christians could choose to dismiss anything I said with a simple
"Of course he thinks that. He's an unbeliever."
That's what I mean by fundamentalist. A fundamentalist is someone who knows they're right, so they’re not open to the possibility of changing their mind, no matter what the evidence.
My grandad, who called himself a 'Christian agnostic', was fond of saying "You don't have a monopoly on the truth, you know." He pulled this one out whenever my mum tried to get him "Born Again." Fundamentalists are the people who think they have monopolies on the truth. Ironically, truth is the one commodity of which fundamentalists are bankrupt.
You know well as I do that certain 'Bible-believers' will find a way to dismiss you if they don't like what you have to say. They will denounce you as not a True Christian™. They will say you are rebellion, deceived by the devil, harming the body of Christ. They will brush you off as easily as they do me.
But not everyone is like that.
The fact that some people who will never listen doesn't mean we should stop talking. There was a time when I was someone who would never listen. Somehow, I got to the point where I was ready to ask some questions. I'm glad that ,when I did, I found writings by people who gave me more and better questions to ask. That's why we have to keep speaking out. You never know who's listening.
Some Christians don’t realise this abuse exists. They just don't see it, perhaps because it's not happening in their church, or because they are so conditioned to see it as normal. Maybe they’d prefer to pretend it doesn’t happen. Maybe they just don’t know. For those who don’t know, we can raise awareness. For those who see it as normal, we can help with the process of ‘strangifying’—making people in restricted religious environments realise what might be problematic.
Most of my campaigning is against schools that teach young-Earth creationism. Now, creationism is unhelpful in itself. If you believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old, entire fields of biology, cosmology, geology, linguistics, archaeology, and ancient history are closed to you. But, as Fred Clark has so beautifully argued, creationism is used to underwrite and “prove” an entire way of understanding Christianity that is inherently damaging.
Here’s how it works: The entire Bible, from start to finish, is God’s Final Word. It’s literally, historically, and scientifically True. And we’re going to prove this by proving, WITH SCIENCE, that the beginning(in the Bible) is a literal record of how the world came to be. Once we’ve proved this, you’ve got to accept all the rest of the Bible. Then, once you buy this, you have to accept that wives must obey and submit to their husbands, that gays are an abomination, that unbelievers are damned to an eternal hell… oh, and you need to put 10% of your income in our offering plate.
Of course, this is illogical. Even if Genesis chapters 1-3 are true, that says nothing about the rest of that book, let alone the other 65 that make up the Protestant Bible. And that’s another problem with raising children to accept creationism. By teaching them to accept fallacies as reasonable ways to think, it encourages them to think irrationally. It’s not just a bad education; it’s an actively destructive one.
I don’t think Christianity needs to be like that, and I don’t think education does either. Wartburg Watch, I feel like you get it. That doesn’t happen enough, so I’m profoundly grateful to you for existing.
Lydia's Corner: Ezekiel 27:1-28:26 Hebrews 11:17-31 Psalm 111:1-10 Proverbs 27:15-16