Sunday, October 17, 2010

Across the Spectrum

I am currently reading Across the Spectrum by Gregory A. Boyd. I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially home school parents and teens!

I remember asking my father-in-law once about fundamentalism. The media seemed to really have a beef with that word, and fundamentalists were getting blamed for all kinds of hypocritical, mean-spirited, ugliness in politics and society.

I thought I was a fundamentalist, yet I was none of those things. So I asked my seminary educated father-in-law a question. "I guess I'm a fundamentalist, aren't I? I mean, all it means is that you believe that the Bible is fundamentally true, right?"

Maybe it's because I am a woman, and I needn't bother my pretty little head about such things, but my father-in-law told me that "yep, that's what it means all right." Very simplistic and patently untrue in all that was left unsaid.

My father-in-law and I apparently meant very different things by "fundamentally true". I meant affirming the Apostle's Creed. Unity in essentials, liberty in all else. What my father-in-law meant was pre-trib, dispensational, Armenian, six day Creation, young earth, male supremacy, and substitutionary view of the atonement.

These are all areas where evangelical, Bible-believing Christians disagree. But most of us have only been taught one point of view, the belief of our parents and/or denomination (or non-denomination, for those who don't affiliate with other congregations) promoted. The Christian home school curricula out there is full of apologetics, yet always promotes their own doctrinal stance as Divine Truth. I have yet to see a Christian curricula yet that explains that there are any other Christian beliefs on the matter besides the one they are promoting as The Truth.

I have taken formal apologetics classes, but these also have only taught one point of view, other than perhaps mentioning opposing arguments against the other side(s) in passing. I have taken formal comparative religion courses through Christian sources, and they never told me the history of fundamentalism. (Did you know it did not exist before the beginnings of the last century? That it is wholly an American invention? That fundamentalism was birthed by a set of reactionary pamphlets against the modernist liberal German school of thought, which denied the miraculous? Sort of like "I see your Sadducee and I counter with a boat load of Pharisee!! Ha! Take that!")

In those classes I learned the history of Mormonism, Jehovahs Witnesses and other world religions. Over and over growing up I heard what was wrong about Catholicism. I heard about the beginnings of the Protestant faith in Martin Luther's brave dissent. But I never, ever was taught the historical beginnings of fundamentalism and what it meant exactly and how it differed from other Christian beliefs.

This book is a treasure because it presents all the evangelical positions on many of these issues. Everyone should know what the basic Christian evangelical doctrines really are, and the supporting and opposing arguments for each position. If you want to teach yourself or your students true apologetics, start here. Let them see the rich variety of opinions and also the strong agreement between the world of evangelical believers.

If you are going to teach your children apologetics (and I think every Christian should!) do so honestly. Teach the whole spectrum of doctrine and belief in the evangelical world. Do so without prejudice or bristling if your students decide the other side rings more true to them. Let go of rigidity, and let freedom ring. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!


  1. SS--yup, I knew all that stuff about Fundamentalism's history. Well, not the part that it all started only a century ago in a reaction to scholarly efforts (I learned that on my own as an adult), but the list of fundamentalist beliefs straight from the pamphlets and all the screwy interpretations developed so strongly in the Scofield Reference Bible--yup, knew those. My dad was named after two of the editors of The Fundamentals and my grandmother asked for a Scofield Bible instead of a ring when she and my grandfather got engaged.

    What I never knew growing up was that Evangelicalism could encompass more than the Fundamentalist interpretations. We used those terms synonymously. In the 20-some years since I paid attention to theology, Evangelicals and Fundamentalists have both left the middle--the Fundies have got more extreme conservative and the Evangelicals have got more liberal (relative term there). Still, though, I sense that Evangelicalism is in so many ways just Fundy Lite.

    I'll have to look at your book recommendation so that I can see some of the breadth within Evangelicalism. I hate to tar them with an undeserved brush. I'm reading *Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years* by Dhairmaid MacCollough--a historian's 1000 page perspective on where Christianity came from and how it developed into its various guises. I knew but didn't really know how many different Christianities there were/are. What I also hadn't paid much attention to before was how desperately the institutionalized power structures worked to preserve their temporal power by political infighting and creating ever-tighter rules about in-groups and out-groups. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Well, I see I'm on a rant here! I'll shut up now :)

  2. I guess I'm gonna continue ranting. I just went to Amazon to look at your book. Reading the TofC tells me I pretty much already knew the range of debate. My family was fundy but we weren't strictly Calvinist. The big family arguments through my childhood were Calvinism vs Arminianism, as if they iterated the end-points of Christian debates. Seriously, Calvin v Armin is such a small segment of the range of Christian viewpoints! It's no wonder I think of Evangelicalism as Fundy Lite when the Evangelical view of True Christianity is still so narrow.

    Despite my annoyance with all of Evangelicalism, your point is still huge and crucial--if parents want children to be "strong in the Lord" you have to give them the education to make their own way to God. Only presenting one tiny fragment of the Wide World of God so that they only have one possible either/or "my version of Christianity" vs "cast into Outer Darkness" doesn't foster strong character and spiritual development.

  3. Sandra,

    Oh. my. Well I personally was co-opted into fundamentalism after I married my dear husband. We would use the same words and mean totally different things- like the Incarnation to me is more than a doctrinal statement- it's Christ taking on humanity that we may be found in Him. Incarnation is humanity infused with the Divine Presence. If is the Word became flesh, and it is Christ in me, the hope of glory-communion and union with God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    It's definitely no more than a theological position according to fundamentalist dispensationalism.

    As a child I went to Grandma's Baptist church, which was liberal compared to today's SBC! My mom introduced us to the charismatic church as teens. I visited the Pentecostal church a few times, went back to a charismatic church on my own as a young adult, wound up in the Wesleyan church where I married, and since have attended Evangelical Free, independent Bible churches, and an independent church loosely affiliated with the Assemblies of God. In my current state, I dipped my toes in the land of Calvin (Evangelical Presbyterian), endured a formula growth church (named after an ordinal direction and a natural phenomenon, usually water related- South Shore; North Lake; West Highlands, etc.) and now are settled in a LCMC Lutheran congregation.

    I learned most of my theology from prayerful study of God's Word on my own augmented by all I have heard and accepted from these various sources. As the years passed, I did more formal study, with charismatic leaning organizations and evangelical organizations. I wanted to read the authors I head referenced, and find out for myself what they were saying.

    So when I said "the fundamentals of the Bible" I did NOT mean anything beyond the Apostles Creed. Actually, I am discovering that others share ideas I thought I discovered on my own, and that I have an Open View of God, neither Arminian nor Calvinist. I also definitely lean toward Christus Victor view of the Atonement, I do believe that with Christ as the great Judge over all, there will be very very few people who find themselves on the outs with God.

    The God of fundamentalism, especially Calvinism, is such a mean bastard! It just does not square with my own personal experience of God. He is holy, He is merciful, He is awesome in power. He is creative and as the author of Life, wants us all to have everlasting Life. I believe in His efficacious love, and that there will be very few in number who steadfastly resist his wooing when they see Him face to face.

    I believe that this is the good news we were meant to share- that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and not counting people's trespasses against them. Now that's good news!

    The misogynist, racist, harsh, vengeful control freak of the Calvinists and other fundamentals just does not fit with the character of God.


    here is an link to a series that seems to be a fabulous discussion of the history of American religion. I haven't personally seen the episodes yet but I have looked at the study guide available on the site and it looks like an excellent resource. Makes me wish we were homeschooling in a more traditional fashion and I could "assign" the family to a block on this programming.

  5. Absolutely love the time line with embedded links! Thanks for the web addy. =)

  6. Did you see the Faithbook? I am building a page. It is a cool process to distill my inchoate ideas and opinions about the questions the page-builder asks.

  7. Re: the history of fundamentalism.

    I'm going to point you in the direction of Camille Lewis, PhD. She's been studying some of the roots of Fundamentalism (particularly as it refers to Bob Jones, Sr.). It's fascinating the stuff she has been digging up! You can find her on FB as Camille K. Lewis and at her website: A Time to Laugh (