Churches of Christ: Are We Fundamentalists?

cartoon.jpgThis is from an article about Neo-Calvinism, but the questions can be fairly asked about the Churches of Christ.

Fundamentalism is characterized by:

A.) Insularity. There’s a mentality of insiders over against those who don’t believe.

B.) Distrust towards culture as a place where God is at work.

C.) An “us against them” mentality. Because of the previous two characteristics, fundamentalists typically reject open dialogue. Engagement with culture takes the shape of winning arguments and confrontation. As the insularity builds, there is less and less wiggle room to associate with other Christians who disagree. As a result, a certain form of arrogance tends to infect fundamentalism.

These are the marks of classic fundamentalism. For all the obvious reasons, these characteristics tend to set Christians over against our neighbors. Its dynamic works against a missionally engaged Christianity.

How do we stack up?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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11 Responses to Churches of Christ: Are We Fundamentalists?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Clearly some are and some are not.

  2. Laymond says:

    "How do we stack up?"


  3. Ray says:

    I echo davidhimes.

  4. Ryan Chubb says:

    Though ‘fundamentalism’ is a more or less meaningless slur, I do agree that generally speaking we are characterized by the marks above. The trouble I see is that many often act out an equal and opposite ‘fundamentalism’ in their efforts to distance themselves from these traits. So we blur the lines between in and out. We stop thinking critically about culture. We enter into seemingly endless dialogue and become too tolerant because this is appears to exude peace and love—ataraxia.

    While I agree with the ‘missional’ mentality—for I believe that God is at work in the world—I think we need a healthy sense of ‘in’ and ‘out’ in the church. We should love both those who are in and out, while knowing the difference. We should be critical of culture (especially in the forms that we ourselves have unwittingly adopted), knowing though that our gracious God can work in surprising ways. And we need to have a firm grasp of who/what our enemy is, how evil operates and how this cuts through all of us (it’s not just out there!)…

    My hope is that if we can be clear in what believe and what we are doing that maybe others will stop being so insular in reaction…

  5. Rich W says:

    Originally, the term stood for people who believe the following five fundamentals:

    1. The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.
    2. The virgin birth of Christ.
    3. The belief that Christ's death was the atonement for sin.
    4. The bodily resurrection of Christ.
    5. The historical reality of Christ's miracles.
    —- from:

    Over time, the word morphed into a negative connotation such as in the article referenced by Jay.

    Is the issue we have the wrong belief system? Is it wrong to believe these five fundamentals? Are these salvation issues? Or is the issue we have lost the ability to disagree with respect?

    I believe it is the latter. We have lost the biblical principle of treating people with respect even when disagreeing.

  6. Rich W says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

  7. Bbullington says:

    IMO we answer from our heart. Years ago read an article with a premise that the two most legalistic groups were Catholics and US. I remember how mad that made me, now I realize how wrong I was.

    If fundamentalism equates to legalism I hope we lose the term and its entanglements. If fundamentalism means changed hearts living for Christ, may we never lose the term.

  8. I think Rich W nails it — it's not simply the list of characteristics in the initial post; it's the unwillingness to engage in respectful study and discussion with those with whom we disagree. I've seen this attitude from some in the CoC, but it's far from universal. In fact, I'd say it's a minority in my experience, though I don't know how representative my sample is. I've also seen a number of people who are willing and able to discuss most topics, but have one or two "hot buttons" where they shut down.

    This attitude, along with a totally literal approach to Scripture — including poetic and apocalyptic writings — is what the term seems to imply today.

  9. Terry says:

    I tend to identify myself as conservative evangelical in theology, but I don't mind being called fundamentalist because I believe in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. I like the way Bob Lepine expressed his thoughts on the subject at….

  10. aBasnar says:

    "Fundamentalist" is a name tag others put on us. These others are typically persons who believe in some sort of relativism. This should not concern us much therefore.

    Christians can call themselves "Fundamentalists" when pointing to the Rock of our Salvation (Christ) or to the deeds of obedience required from us by the King (Mt 7:24-27). This marks the difference to those who may call us "fundamentalists" – we should all be able to live with that.

    But when we are accused of being pharisaic, hard and unloving when speaking the truth, this shound concern us.


  11. Tom in Midlothian says:

    I very much liked/agree with Alexanders' comments. A 'second" from
    Tom in Midlothian

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