Coming to the fourth article in this edition concerning Post Fundamentalism, we must be cognizant of what the Scriptures say concerning the End Time. Sad but true, Fundamentalism as a movement is in the final throes of entering into its own apostasy. When Fundamentalism began, it was a pure river with the call from heaven to stand without apology for the Faith “once delivered unto the saints.” Its early leaders knew the Liberals and Modernists were trying to arrest the Faith and spread its own faith through its seminaries into the pulpits of the denominations. How often we read in Scripture, “And in process of time it came to pass.” Often this phrase marks a change for the worse.
A movement can be likened to a river. As time passes, men with less of a heart for God begin controlling the movement and fragmenting its message. Side thoughts and concepts, like tributaries, branch off and spread further from the main flow. We are well beyond the fourth generation leadership of Fundamentalism, and much has happened in these past years. Amidst the absence of historic Fundamentalism, new leadership has reshaped, remolded, and redefined the term for its pragmatic purposes.
How has this happened and what is Fundamentalism’s course if it does not return to its roots and original burden? This is what must be candidly observed at this time in its history.
A Basic Declension in Fundamentalism
One of the greatest powers of paralyzing proportion that has entered into Fundamentalism today is spiritual lukewarmness. Lukewarmness takes over a Christian’s life because the individual does not go on with God. There is a decline in truly hearing the Word of God for the heart and for the life. Expository preaching has made us fat with knowledge (more often today, shallow knowledge) amidst a great famine of preaching for the heart and soul of the believer. Where is the tenacity of soul to continue in the Christ?
According to the words of Christ in His confrontation to the Laodicean Church (Revelation 3), it must be understood that lukewarmness is a “state” of the heart. In fact, there are three states or conditions of heart found in the message to that Church: cold, hot, and lukewarm. Before one comes to Christ he is in the state of coldness to the Lord; when he is born again he immediately is to become hot. In a true conversion there is no lukewarmness. One who is born again goes from coldness immediately to hot; he does not go from cold to lukewarm, and then to hot. These three are not stages of spirituality in Christ; they are states or conditions of spirituality.
Perhaps isolating the new believer to only the teachings on evangelism have left him empty. “I am forgiven of my sins; now what?” The Protestant world and the independent evangelical world have nothing to offer the Christian after the New Birth. Therefore the life is left to wander in the wilderness of carnality, to die without victory, unaware of the need of becoming an overcomer. It may be true that they want to be an overcomer, but there is nothing given to them by the Laodicean Church to bring them hope for this. The Laodicean Church has destroyed the Bible with not only its liberalism and modernism, but also with its proliferation of translations; all of this leaves the new convert in a state of confusion lacking true faith. In this vacuum they are fed “positive thinking” to take the place of faith.Existentialism, based on experience and not on truth, becomes faith’s substitute. Since there is no spiritual substance to modern Christianity, man has had to go to other sources for some concept of the “spiritual.”
Neo Avenues for Spirituality
Roman Catholicism is based on the sensual, the visceral. Many today are leaving their Protestant churches and turning to Rome for the elaborate worship that comes with the Eucharistic Christ. When the inward man is void of any spiritual truth, it tends to seek the sensual enticement. Roman Catholicism is certainly known for its many sensual assistances: its smoke, incense, waters, idols, liturgy, and pompous pageantry.
Contemporary Christianity has gone to contemporary Christian music, which heavily draws on the feelings. The world’s music brings a subjective feeling of warmth, but it only lasts as long as the music. For their “dead” lives their music provides “feeling” or some semblance of life. Psychology has also become a substitute for the rejected Scriptures with its self-esteem and promotion of sensitivity seeking; the church is to provide for the seeker in those areas in which he is seeking for the natural man. Thus a new Jesus, separate from the Bible, has emerged. This Jesus is only for the moment, the experience, but has no sustaining power to enable consistent, godly living. The professing Christian lives from the high to the low, vacillating throughout the day, all of which leads to lukewarmness and feeds lukewarmness.
The Gospel Demands a Life
When Jesus declared to Nicodemus in John 3:7, “Ye must be born again,” what did He fully mean? Does the Bible give a concise definition of such an acknowledgment? One of the best understandings of a true Christian is clarified in the first epistle of John. First John 2:29 states, “Ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” The word born here is in the perfect tense, a tense which combines the aorist and the present Greek tenses. The aorist tense declares a crisis experience took place in the human heart; the present tense explains the continuation of that crisis work.
The perfect tense is an important tense for the Christian: one is born again at some specific time in history, but that new birth is to continue to remain up-to-date in the human heart. In First John 2:29 the born again believer continues to do righteousness. First John 3:9 continues, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” This second verse declares that God’s child does not—in the present tense—keep on sinning. Then First John 4:7 states, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” First John 5:1 declares, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” This is the Jesus of the Bible, not the mythological one of modern Christianity. Then in 5:4, “For whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” In 5:18 John observes, “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.”
If these six principles do not mark a person’s life, then it must simply be declared that he is not saved. How can all of the above be true in a life with apathy and indifference and lukewarmness?
Since the days of the Revivalist movement in the 1700s and into the early 1800s, there has been a conspiracy in church literature, music, and preaching to suppress any knowledge of a deeper life with God. Isaiah 53 speaks of the highway of holiness within the way, or Christ. The call to a higher way within the way is designated several other ways within the Bible: the Apostle Paul speaks of a “more excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:31b); “the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26); being “more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). In First Thessalonians 4:1, Paul speaks of “how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more”; from this context he leads into sanctification and the Second Coming of Christ.
What a drastic contrast between the Philadelphian Church and the Laodicean Church in Revelation 3. We have come out of the Revivalist period of saints living a victorious life in Christ, but the Church today is basically living off of a commercialized evangelism with rarely anything spoken concerning the living of a deeper life in Christ.
One of the greatest misnomers in the past century has been the belief that the Lord gave the Great Commission to the Church. He did not! The Lord gave the Great Commission to the Apostles before His Ascension and thus, before the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. They did fulfill the commission by going into all the known world at that time. The Church today has become obsessed with a false claim: all of their money and energies are being poured out, believing this commission is God’s will for the Church.
If the Great Commission is not given to the Church, what then is their commission or purpose of existence? The Apostle Paul to the Ephesians clarifies this calling:
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:12–16).
This End-time Church age has miserably failed in Paul’s declaration; it has suppressed any truth that would feed a deeper walk with God. In its place they have had to create new teachings or doctrines to accommodate the growing epidemic of lukewarmness. Pastors have concocted and administered the perfect sedative to rock the heart into a deeper sleep, whispering “it’s all right the way you are living.”
This writer says the following with care, for he has ministerial friends who are of differing theological persuasions. Although they may live according to the Bible, the burden of this article concerns the laity’s response and application of these theological systems. Two prominent teachings vastly becoming popular (even in churches that at one time were unlikely to embrace them) are Reformed Theology and Eternal Security.
While Reformed Theology vigorously stresses the sovereignty of God (which we believe in), there is very little burden concerning man’s accountability, even in areas of belief. With the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world and God having predestinated unconditionally the Elect, the saints are basically saved before Creation; their new birth is merely a coming to an awareness of one’s preordination. Their total depravity negates any capacity for belief; any act of repentance is declared to be a human work. No matter how they live, their election is sealed. At least this has become the final view of the contemporary Reformed belief. Some years ago R. B. Thieme went so far as to state that he believed even if a Christian became an atheist at the end of his life, he still would go to heaven. We know that John Calvin protected his teachings about the predestinated by requiring the “perseverance of the saints.” The true saint will persevere unto the end.
This particular truth of perseverance is not presented much today in the Reformed preaching. This truth definitely indicates that if God is in the life, the proof will be in the living of that life persevering to the end. It is not the profession of the elect that makes this true; it is the God of the elect that will make it so in their lives. Otherwise, such a profession of theology without the life is a sham and a shame. We dare not take the sovereignty of God to minimize our accountability of living before God; otherwise, there is no power in God’s sovereignty; the life must become the proof of the sovereign work (Philippians 2:13).
We are meeting more and more people professing this theology who live a most unchristian life, and they don’t care; why be concerned about living right if they are elected already. True Election must be effectual, not only before the Father but also in the life being lived. More and more professing Christians use this theological persuasion to not be accountable unto God to live a righteous life. We must emphasize that the “grace teachings” include, “teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts,” declaring, “we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:12, 13). This is part of the evidence that we are part of the elect. The work of grace includes the life of grace! We thank God for our standing and state in heaven through our Great Surety, but if I only believe sovereignty takes care of the work in heaven without performing its work here on earth in the human life, I have a powerless doctrine.
It can be observed that those who believe in the Reformed doctrine and who have drunk from the Revivalist period writings, often have added to their lives this “cream” of theology and therefore possess greater response of living to the Grace of God. In contrast, those who have not drunk from that Revivalist well tend to have doctrine without heart. Thus, any living of moment-by-moment communion with God and a burning heart for God just is not evident. Their doctrine will be of the mind without any heart.
This lack of a desire to spiritually grow deeper in God has greatly hurt the spiritual soundness of Fundamentalism in recent years. When we get to heaven we will not laud and cry “Worthy are the decrees of God”; the cry will be, “Worthy is the Lamb.” My salvation was procured by a Person, a Saviour, the Son of God! Therefore, I must live a life for Him, not for the decrees. It is the Christ that keeps me; He is my security! Any doctrine to the contrary takes away the glory from Him.
Among the Baptists there is another conspiracy that has undermined, yea even destroyed, the need of a deeper walk with God. There is a very broad spectrum of carnality and backslidings among them. Amidst their pressing for evangelism, there has arisen a false view of eternal security; in fact it has become their #1 pet doctrine—higher than any of the Fundamentals of the Christian Faith. It must be acknowledged that in all of the World Congresses of Fundamentalists (1976, 1980, 1983, 1986, 1990, and 1999), eternal security was never in the list of Fundamentals of the Christian Faith. Nevertheless, people go into a panic if you question this doctrine in any way or endeavor to place it in its proper perspective. It truly has become a doctrine for security in sin, a security in lukewarmness. You do not have to worry about how you live, or how you die; you can even become an atheist at the end and still go to heaven. Even suicide is covered in this insurance policy, totally denying what Church history and the Bible have declared. Not even the Roman Catholic Church gives hope after suicide. From time to time people have declared that Billy Graham has been the greatest enemy to true Christianity in the twentieth century while still believing they would see him in heaven. If this could be true, let us give up any stand for Christ; let us quit church and “do our own thing.” After all, nothing can keep me out of heaven as long as I say, “I got saved twenty years ago.”
This powerful doctrinal sedative has aggressively fed the paralyzing powers of lukewarmness in Christian living. It is the resolve that I do not need to go on with God; I have no need to live right and deny the world.
One of the books in the New Testament that awakens us from such thinking is the Epistle to the Hebrews. This book also is misunderstood in that it is designated as written to unsaved Jews. To the contrary, it is written to “Hebrews,” sojourners, pilgrims and strangers of the earth. It is to Christians, holy brethren, who have partaken of the heavenly calling. It is a book warning us that we have been living beneath our privileges in Christ. There is an entire Christian life that must be lived; it is not simply salvation from our sins that is needed.
Another aspect about the conspiracy against Truth in our day concerns the continual misapplying of passages of Scripture to unbelievers that are specifically addressed to Christians. The call of Revelation 3:20 is to the remnant of the Church rather than the unsaved. Surprising for many, Romans 6:23 is addressing “the sin” principle in the Christian; it is a passage warning that the wages of that sin principle is death. This entire chapter is for the Christian. Hebrews 2:3 in proclaiming, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” is addressed to “holy brethren”; it is the Christian who is “to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” The word neglect here literally means “a drifting away, being swept along past the sure anchorage, which is within reach.” Christians are not being warned of this spirit of lukewarmness or passivity to Christ in our living. The contemporary remedy for this passivity is merely keeping the people busy in religious things. There is no power in the Gospel they preach to deepen the people in Christ. Oh, this great salvation! It is not just salvation, but a great one! We, as Christians cannot neglect it; Christ does not have any attraction to the lukewarm, for the lukewarm person does not see any more in Christ. “I am saved; therefore, all is well.” Such an apathetic view of Christ is the result of a “wrong” view of eternal security. It is not a doctrine that keeps me, but the Christ Himself! Christ is my security!
A final part of the conspiracy to suppress deepening our walk with God will be presented in a final article on Post Fundamentalism. Nevertheless, the two mentioned above, in a growing, perverted sense, have caused a “life” without Christ to become evident in Fundamentalism. The busyness of the Church programs has also become a substitute for a life lived for Christ. As long as one is busy in the evangelism program, this will take the place of a spiritual walk with God. All of these things affect our living, our music, our churches, our preaching, and especially our Christian schools, which have become no better than the public schools. We allow the students to dress any way they want (within reason perhaps); we allow them to listen to rock music; we permit dating early in their life; and even our missions keep the indigenous at a dumb level of Christianity. Perhaps we are afraid that any deeper spirituality in Christ will show us how shallow the pulpit is and perhaps even the pastor. We have made the cross no more than a new birth power, when there is a “full” gospel that must be explored, preached, and demanded of God’s people.
Post Fundamentalism is what we have become in rejecting historical Fundamentalism. It is the final outpost of Fundamentalism’s apostasy; it is what comes after the death of Fundamentalism. Our last article will present the telling tales of Post Fundamentalism and a call to Scripture. Although the movement will never return to its beginning purpose, a remnant must be called out to remain true to the principles of that founding hope and vision.