Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Fundamentally Flawed


In the previous post, Brandon challenged us to employ our imaginations in creatively imaging God. An awesome challenge and much needed. I want to tie into his post, and the string of thought I want to tie into it is one that has been on my mind all week – that of the failure of the modern fundamentalist movement. There are many inadequacies with fundamentalism, and I don’t intend to address them all as that would take a good sized volume at least. I do, however, wish to approach the movement from the aforementioned perspective of creatively imaging God and show that it removes this God given mandate replacing it with man-made tradition.

Fundamentalism, as a whole, has abducted a culture and superimposed that upon Christianity. According to fundamentalism, Christianity sounds a certain way, looks a certain way, uses a certain translation of the Bible, etc. It leaves no room for fluctuation among various cultures, let alone fluctuation of the culture it is submersed in. I have even seen instances of fundamentalist “church plants” in other countries where the natives are taught to dress like the American Fundamentalist, the building they meet in looks the same as well. Pews and hymn books are shipped in – it’s a bit of “Fundamentalist Heaven on earth”. It’s as if they have teleported the building and the people thousands of miles across the sea and plopped them down in the middle of a village. Some breeds of fundamentalism even refuse to use a specific style of wireless Mic; insisting on a pulpit or lapel Mic., as “liberal” preachers use the other style. Apparently they forget that before the headset Mic, “liberal” preachers used lapel Mics as well. Some elevate the hymn book to the only God accepted way for congregational singing, placing it in opposition to the worldly projector screen. I’m not saying they don’t mean well, just that the error of associating a culture with Christianity is a dangerous one.
New music is sparse as one can’t write anything with a modern or contemporary style to it or it is considered worldly.  Art, in most of the movement, is not even viewed as a possible outlet for worship. Everything must conform to a predefined standard of what the leaders of the movement deem to be “godly”. If it’s popular then it’s probably worldly, and a dualism emerges that supports the fundamentalists’ idea of creating their own culture that separates them from the rest of the populous. They force one’s creativity in a box, only permitting them to trace the same pictures drawn by the fundamentalist before them. The “artist” becomes so inundated with trying to stay inside the prescribed lines, that Christ is no more the subject of the picture. The style becomes the substance. The approval of those listening, many times, becomes equated with God’s approval; and one who produces a copy of the previous imagines themselves to have produced a picture pleasing to God. God has created us to be His image bearers and part of that task is carried out in our mimicking our Creator by creating as well. The fundamentalist movement redefines what imaging God is. It creatively takes biblical terms and attaches unbiblical meaning to them. There are songs to be written, art to be painted, buildings to be constructed – whole cultures to be employed – in imaging God and furthering His kingdom here on earth.

So what am I saying? Is this just a rant against fundamentalism because I seem to have a personal beef with the movement? No, not at all. I’ve struggled with how to speak truth without harming those who have ascribed whole heartedly to a lie. It’s hard. Sometimes I wonder if it’s similar to how a surgeon feels while removing cancer. Trying to remove the cancer without harming the patient. I can’t just ignore it any more than the surgeon can skip the surgery due to fear of being the bearer of bad news, or causing the patient some discomfort. So if you are in the fundamentalist movement, I am not attacking you; but as one who was raised in it (by parents who no doubt love The LORD with all they are), and is seeing the movement for what it is; please step back and see if what I say is truthful. I realize it is difficult, for legalism presents itself as holy and right. It has a form of godliness to it, but does it stand up to biblical examination? Sometimes truth looks more like a knife, and the one who appears to intend your murder is actually your savior, so I challenge you to step back for some examination. For those who were never in the grips of this legalistic movement, then pray for those who are. Maybe something said here will help you understand the effects of it in the lives of others. I realize that I have not dissected fundamentalism, exposing the heart of it. My intention in this post isn’t to dig up and expose it’s root, but rather to examine one of it’s fruits and cause the reader to think.

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. ” Matt. 7:16-20

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26-27

Daniel Pulliam

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5 responses

  1. brandonchristiansullivan

    This is really great, Daniel!
    Fundamentally Flawed is my favorite of your posts thus far.

    January 22, 2010 at 12:42 am

  2. Marie Ehlers

    Well said, thank you for sharing your thoughts, Daniel. I benefit tremendously from your writings.

    January 22, 2010 at 8:48 am

  3. Great article. Keep it up.

    January 22, 2010 at 3:18 pm

  4. danielpulliam

    Thank you all (Brandon, Marie, and Spencer) for your encouraging words. I was hoping it would be received properly. If your comments are an indicator of the rest of the readers reception, then I believe it has been.

    January 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm

  5. Daniel, I think you did a great job with this article. As you said, it doesn’t expose the root, but it does give the reader something to think about by pointing out one of the fruits. I like what you said about “the error of associating a culture with Christianity”. This is the same thing the Scribes and Pharisees did in their day; they equated religion with a culture and in so doing equated themselves with all the other idolaters of the world.

    January 22, 2010 at 3:53 pm

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