When most people think of the Inquisition, witch hunts, or even the Westboro Baptist Church, they think of
the term “fundamentalist,” but this is the farthest thing from the truth! What a travesty that those who rely on and love the Bible are confused with those who distort and corrupt the Bible! It is a lie of the worst sort!
First of all, what is a fundamentalist Christian? Historically, the fundamentalists formed as a protest against the “historical criticism” of the Bible which occurred in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Evangelical Christians didn’t agree with the willingness by many in mainline denominations to believe and accept the critics of the Bible who said that archaeology, history, and science conflicted with the Scriptures. Instead they decided to stand fast on the historical biblical teachings which they called “the fundamentals.” These included:
- The inerrancy of the Bible.
- The literal nature of the Biblical accounts, especially regarding Christ’s miracles and the creation account in Genesis.
- The virgin birth of Christ.
- The bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ.
- The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross.
Most evangelical Christians believe in these things! These are the fundamentals of the faith.
But now you may question what impact believing in the “innerrancy of the Bible” will have on a person. This is an important question. Does it mean, for example, that Christians believe in stoning adulterers or sacrificing lambs since these are found in the Old Testament law and the Bible is inerrant? NO! Why not? Because a Christian reads the Old Testament in light of the New Testament.
When the woman caught in adultery was about to be stoned, Jesus stopped the crowd by proclaiming, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone (John 8:7).” The Old Testament Law demanded stoning, but Jesus stopped them. Why? Jesus was the only one who was capable of casting the stone in judgment, yet he didn’t. He showed her mercy.
The New Testament explains that Jesus came to fulfill the law. He would become the Lamb of God who would take away sin. He would become our Sabbath rest. He would become our “first fruits.” He would become our high priest, making intercession for us. The book of Hebrews talks of many of the ways Jesus fulfilled the law. For example, because he fulfilled the law, there is no longer a need for the priesthood, or blood sacrifice. The Old Testament law was completed or fulfilled by Jesus.
Taken together, Jesus’ unwillingness to allow the adulteress woman to be stoned, and his claim to have fulfilled the Old Testament, along with the explanations in the epistles (letters sent out amongst the early church) show us that we are no longer to interpret the Old Testament in the same way. We must do it in light of the Gospel. This is why you don’t see Christians carrying out the law anymore.
This doesn’t mean we should just toss the Old Testament aside, either. If we didn’t have the Old Testament we wouldn’t know what laws Jesus fulfilled! We also wouldn’t know what prophecies he fulfilled. The Old Testament is also full of “types and shadows” of Jesus as explained in the book of Hebrews. It also contains the history of Israel, the content of many propecies yet to be fulfilled, and many other important teachings found in the Christian faith.
In light of the understanding of the scriptures as explained above, those who would turn to Old Testament laws and demand adherence to them are no longer fundamentalists who follow the teachings of Jesus or the New Testament. Instead, they are hybrids who reject the Gospel and blend Old Testament law in with New Testament grace. They are unfaithful to the teachings of Jesus and reject the teachings of Paul.
This is what happened to southern slaveholders. They didn’t remain faithful to New Testament teachings. Instead they developed their own version of the faith which included a wrong doctrine about the Old Testament “curse of Ham” being used as a justification to enslave the descendants of Noah’s son, Ham, which they wrongly believed were African. But Jesus taught that he came to set the captive free! (Luke 4:18) In 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul explains that slave trading is “contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the Gospel . . .” Paul also wrote a letter to Philemon asking him to set his slave, Onesimus, free. (Philemon 1:8-16). In Christianity, Paul explained, all were equal before God. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Because of the early church, slavery would be expunged from the Roman Empire!
Unfortunately, the Christian church has perverted New Testament doctrines over and over again throughout its history. And every time they do, they bring shame on the Church and worst of all, on the name of God. The southern slaveholders, who abandoned the historical doctrines of the Bible, as read through the light of the New Testament, have become a scourge on history. This is just one example of the perverted and defiled Church in the course of history.
The Roman Catholic Church, relying on its own traditions and the addition of the infallible words of the Popes (which Luther always mocked, since they often conflicted with the Bible) became the overseer of the dark ages. Why? Because they placed the Word of God below other authorities. They even placed the Word below Greek philosophy, as in the case of Galileo who mocked them for it and called them simpletons because they relied more on Aristotle than on the Bible.
The Roman Church also persecuted those who opposed their false tyranny and were pleading for a restoration of the Word of God as the source of truth. John Huss, for example, thought that Catholicism was a corrupt institution that neglected scripture. He demonstrated his disgust with the perverse Church of Rome by hanging pictures of the popes in all their rich clothing next to images of the poverty-stricken Jesus. He believed that neither pope nor cardinal could establish doctrine that was contrary to the scriptures and that there was no obligation on the part of any Christian to obey an order which conflicted with the teachings of the Word of God. He was a fundamentalist. For this he would be called before the Inquisition. While there he would be questioned and the following happened:
As he was about to open his mouth to answer, all this mad herd began so to cry out upon him, that he had not leisure to speak one only word. The noise and trouble was so great and so vehement, that a man might have called it a bruit of wild beasts, and not of men, much less was it to be judged a congregation of men gathered together, to determine so grave and weighty matters. (1)
You see, the people who were crying out like brute beasts were not the crowds of common people, they were the religious leaders, the council of cardinals and bishops! For the stand he took, Huss would be burnt at the stake. Those who reject Christ have a way of becoming irrational, violent, and hateful in a flash. It has been shown to be true over and over in history. Yet the fundamentalist, that is, the one who trusts in, relies on, and honors the Bible as the inspired Word of God is loving, truthful, and courageous.
Fundamentalist Christians are the greatest heroes of history!
(1) John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Pittsburgh, PA: Whitaker House, 1981), 110.