As I was reading yet another report on the struggle of an Islamic dominated country to adopt democracy ( this time, Afghanistan), something struck me. So often the wording in the religious debate, now, is fundamentalism vs. “reasonable” religion, but suddenly this verse came into my mind:
…and it started me thinking about how the discussion, the defining lines in it, are faulty, especially for those who call themselves Christian.
In the matter of fundamentalism, what is expressed? It is a return to the foundations, the orthodoxy of a specific faith. That is what it is. In Christianity fundamentalism was a reaction to the deconstructionism that gutted the faith of its identifying attributes. We call that Liberal theology now, but it was destruction of the basic tenets, so that now what we see in mainstream Christianity is the outcome in churches (such as the Presbyterian, for example) …where Christ is not even seen as necessary to the faith of Christianity. Who cares if the world takes Christ out of Christmas if the Christians themselves take Him from Christianity?
So in the present discussion, the “reasonable” Christian faith is one in which dilution and weakness of conviction is the goal. As opposed to strength of conviction in those who retain the emphasis on the foundations of the tenets and faith. The equation works out something like this:
strong conviction of fundamentalism=bad, while ever weakening dilution of conviction of ‘reasonable’ religion=good. And this is increasingly portrayed in the language of the culture. Fully embraced and utilized by Christians within their intrafaith discussions.
But I started asking myself: is this the terminology that is scriptural? And in the verse that came to my mind I began to see that the discussion becomes very different when you look at the criteria for religion, which in the Bible is outcomes. And that puts a very different light on what fundamentalism should be as opposed to how it is going.
The temptation for Christians in America is going to be first, whether to remain Christian at all… and secondly, if adhering to the basic faith is chosen, what course of action one takes in the culture to live out that faith. If there is no core of conviction to the faith, the true faith, there as a foundation, then the call to political and social action is going to be much like the breach in the wall that Isaiah described:
…and that is something that I see happening within our churches. We have no solid foundations in the faith, yet our emphasis is to reach outward into the needs of the culture and the world. That call is there, but it is predicated on the strength of conviction and the trueness to Christ and the gospel.
Or we have adherence to foundations, but we are whipped around in reactionary flailing at straw men and paper tigers. We aren’t true to our compass, or our calling.
Either way, it ends up being civil and fraternal war…. as we accept the nomenclature of our age: fundamental vs. reasonable.
While Christ calls us to be both reasonable and moderate in our demeanor and fundamentally true to our convictions.
Will we hold peace with one another while we sally forth into the political arena? It is a great and severe test that awaits us. Will we hold with the love of Christ for one another while we use our civil liberty to impact our society? What I have been seeing does not reassure me.
And I think it is the faulty semantical view we have internalized that is creating some of the problem. We have forgotten to look at outcomes, or ‘fruit’ if you want to use churchy language. This would also sweep away alot of the PC gobbledegook that causes Christians to accept ideas that all religions are the same. They are not the same. That all philosophies lead to the same good end. They do not lead to the same end.
And then maybe, just maybe, we will be able to articulate our faith in the world, and in our culture. Perhaps then, we may give reason for why the Christian faith has outcomes of building schools and increasing literacy, of founding hospitals and charitible organizations… and we may look at religions in the way of what is this contributing to the good of man? If its tendency is to free and establish beneficial conditions, then we may give it support…. if it enslaves and oppresses, then we should use our civil liberty to say so. While keeping true to our core value of protecting the freedom of the individual conscience. Which is a very Christian value, not that we monopolize it, but we are predicated upon it.
That is why we talk of ‘winning’ souls, and what we should return to…. appealing to the hearts of men with good works and bold preaching. And maintaining the peace with one another as far as God gives us ability: to seek peace and pursue it.
And make war on that which truly subverts the good of man.
If we pursue the good, the evil will soon make itself known, we will have no need to lambaste and castigate. In fact, that is what is muddying up the waters, that is what lends itself most to the ability of evil to hide in the cloaks of religion.
The question is still, How will we then live? It is still that question, but we are being handed different circumstances and a different semantical environment. It challenges our faithfulness and our commitment to seek our answer from God and from the Bible. If we veer from that we are in no better position than the rest of our world, who are carried to and fro … I want to say by every wind of doctrine, but I will instead say… by every fad and focus of the popular culture and its organ of the media. Jerked around and given to selling ourselves out and selling our faith short.
And then who is going to be left gnashing their teeth? Bemoaning how used they were, how deceived? With the knowledge that it will be our own fault if we neglect the times and the solid principles that were entrusted to us to live our own lives and carry out in the world.
So, what is true and what is false… and what are the proven outcomes? Let’s return to dividing the truth, and stop following the mob…beginning with not thinking like them.