Warning: what follows is admittedly confusing. Read on only if you’ve had your coffee and there are no toddlers in the room.
Last night, an idea hit me about my own uneasiness about a lot of what is going on in fundamentalism, and it has to do with where our allegiance lies. Does your allegiance to fundamentalism spring from your understanding of biblical principles or from your love of the unique fundamentalist counter culture? Unfortunately, before I can explain this, I have to define a few “muddy terms” that I will be using for the rest of this article.
A biblicist is one whose faith in the power of the word of God causes Him to make the word of God the central element of their worship services/preaching. A biblicist is careful not to express their opinions as fact and only expects listeners to accept a truth after it has been clearly presented as biblical. Biblicists tend to be expository preachers and tend to view conversion as more than a series of steps you can manipulate someone through, because of this many biblicists end up labeling themselves as calvinists (although I do not).
Though I don’t feel worthy of the term, I consider myself a biblicist.
A conservative revivalist is a product of and adherent to the old-line revivalism movement. A conservative revivalist would self associate with people from the past like Billy Sunday, D.L. Moody, and John R. Rice. This movement has always had cultural elements attached to it, so these conservative revivalists tend to have a unique conservative culture (conservative both socially and politically). Most, but not all, conservative revivalists tend to identify themselves as fundamentalists.
Enough with definitions. Though I consider myself both a biblicist and a conservative revivalist my allegiance is weighted far more heavily toward biblicism than it conservative revivalism.
Here is what hit me as I was thinking about this.
I was educated in a place that could be described by both terms. For the most part, consistently emphasizing biblicism while also promoting and modeling conservative revivalism. The halls of my alma mater are adorned with artifacts from both Charles Spurgeon and G. Campbell Morgan (committed biblicists) and Lee Robberson and Jack Hyles (champions of conservative revivalism). I’ve also known many pastors who were undoubtedly biblicists and undoubtedly associated with conservative revivalism. I guess what I am trying to say is this isn’t an either or thing, the terms aren’t mutually exclusive, there is a lot of room for overlap here.
I often read books by people who, though biblicists, have never had anything to do with conservative revivalism. For example, few would say Mark Dever isn’t a biblicist, but he has never been a part of conservative revivalism. I wouldn’t put David Doran, Kevin T. Bauder or even Stephen Jones in the camp of conservative revivalists, but they are all self-styled fundamentalists and undoubtedly biblicists.
More and more, I’m learning that many (most?) people who call themselves fundamentalists are more attached to the cultural/historical element of it than the biblical element of it. How else can you explain the depth of allegiance to men and institutions that increasingly are more about a unique culture of “soul winning” and “separatism” than they are about the teaching and preaching of God’s word? How else can you explain the wholesale acceptance of these institutions while simultaneously slandering and slighting anyone outside of fundamentalism (whether biblicists or not)?
Increasingly, I feel the urge to pull away from conservative revivalism towards a truer biblicism. I no longer judge a person (think “try the spirits” not “judge not that you be not judged“) on whether they too are conservative revivalists but on whether they are biblicists. While I would prefer to associate with people who are both, I’ll take a biblicist who hasn’t swallowed the cultural end of things over an adherent of the cultural end of things who doesn’t view the Bible right any day.
If you muddled through that and have anything to say, fire away in the comments.