The use of the term "fundamentalist" as a name for conservative
Christians is controversial, especially among the people it is used to
designate. Of course calling fanatical Muslims "Islamic fundamentalists"
has certainly damaged the term, but actually the controversy arose before
that was done. Historically, "fundamentalist" is a strictly Christian
classification, arising out of the battles over the Bible in the major
denominations in the early twentieth century. The fundamentalists were
the Christians who held firmly to the old doctrines and definitions of
Protestant orthodoxy in opposition to the challenges of the new "liberal"
theology. At first both preachers and laymen welcomed the label because
it emphasized their stand for the "fundamentals" of the historic
Christian faith. But with the modifications and drifts that occurred
among the conservatives as the century unfolded, a growing number of them
grew uneasy with the term.
Especially after the Second World War, leaders who wanted to be called
"new evangelicals" began criticizing both the temperament and the tactics
of their spiritual forefathers. They wanted to engage the liberals in
dialogue rather than fight them. They believed in infiltrating
denominational institutions rather than separating from those the
liberals had captured. They wanted to adopt a manner more cultured and
pleasing than their fundamentalist predecessors had. So they were more
comfortable with terms like "evangelical" or "conservative" than the old
For years, when asked if he were a fundamentalist, a "new evangelical"
Christian would say that he was indeed a fundamentalist in his beliefs,
but that he had a problem with "the baggage" that the term had acquired.
Yes, he believed in an infallible Bible, a virgin-born Savior, an atoning
cross, and an empty tomb. Of course he still preached justification by
faith in Christ alone, but he did not agree with the "extreme" ideas many
"fundamentalists" were now preaching. For example, new evangelicals had
no problem with including liberals in the organization of "ecumenical"
evangelistic crusades. Those who did object to this policy retained the
"fundamentalist" label, but those who approved of ecumenical evangelism
no longer appreciated it. "New evangelicals" also questioned the strict
standards of life long associated with conservative Christians, and
called these prohibitions and expectations "baggage," too. We may ask,
however, if belief in sound theology does not imply adherence to certain
kinds of behavior. In other words, should faith affect practice?
The first years of the twenty-first century have brought an interesting
new trend among Christians still claiming to be fundamentalists. It is
another movement to shed policies of the past. Fellowships of Baptists
that left the conventions over liberalism and inclusivism are now joining
with convention Baptists in various endeavors, and some are even joining
the convention! Many fundamentalists have now dropped their traditional
bans on movie-going, immodest dress, and rock music. They are saying that
fundamentalists should unite on doctrine and not divide over "methods."
It is a familiar tune to old-timers. The question is, can they be true to
fundamentalist doctrine but abandon historic fundamentalist practice? Is
there such a thing as behavior that goes along with orthodoxy?
Paul's Epistle to Titus certainly says that there is. Chapter 2 begins
with an admonition to the young preacher to "speak . . . things which
become sound doctrine." The Greek word translated "become" in Titus 2:1
means to be proper or fitting. There are "things" which go along with
(are fitting for or proper to) "sound doctrine." These "things" are
practices and behaviors listed not only in Chapter 2 but throughout the
whole book. Titus 2:10 says that our actions should "adorn the doctrine
of God." Titus 1:1 opens the epistle with the assertion that truth is
"after godliness." In other words, sound doctrine goes along with godly
living (and vice versa). The actions that naturally accompany
faithfulness to God's truth are grouped into three categories in the book
I. Obedience to God.
Titus 1 says that one of their own prophets had said of the Cretians that
they are "always liars, evil beasts, and slow bellies" (v. 12). We know
what "liars" are, and we probably understand the implication of calling
them "evil beasts." We must conclude that, whatever the term really
means, "slow bellies" must also refer to bad behavior. The preacher then
is told to "rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith" (v.
13). Bad behavior does not fit with sound doctrine. Verse 16 declares,
"They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being
abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." Loyalty
to God and His truth implies obedience to His Word. To say that we
believe the Bible while persistently disobeying the Bible is certainly a
false claim. The true fundamentalists would be expected to bow to every
clear directive of the Scripture.
Does a person believe the Bible when he disobeys its clear commands about
separation from evil, modest apparel, gender roles, and holiness? Those
who call these things "baggage" must think that they know better than God
about how believers should live. They call certain issues "non-issues"
because fundamentalists in the past did not address the same questions.
But they are ignoring the most basic principle of operation for
Bible-believers of every generation: do what the Word of God says to do!
People who deliberately disobey the Bible are not really fundamentalists.
II. Holiness of life.
"Aged women" who believe the truth are admonished in Titus 2:3 to "be in
behavior as becometh holiness." All of the second chapter connects
holiness both in action and demeanor with loyalty to sound doctrine. Aged
Christian men (v. 2), young women (v. 4), and young men (v. 6) are told
to be "sober" in mind. The Greek word used in verse 2 means clear-minded,
and the one translated "sober" in verses 4 and 6 means safe-minded.
Sober-mindedness is part of holiness. So is the "gravity" (being
respectable) of verse 7. These words describe a seriousness and reverence
that characterize both holiness and sound doctrine. Styles of "worship"
that are not characterized by the sobriety and gravity of holiness do not
belong in doctrinally sound churches. So-called "contemporary" church
music has no place in a fundamentalist service. It is frivolous,
rebellious, and sensual, as rock music always is. Whether music was an
issue at the time or not, fundamentalist churches did not use rock music
in their services fifty years ago. Those who call high music standards
"baggage" for fundamentalists try to ignore the fact that they are the
ones advocating change. Although music was not at the heart of the old
battles for the faith, music appropriate to sound doctrine was always the
choice of sound churches. The new development is professed
fundamentalists bringing in the "praise bands" and swaying to the rock
'n' roll. The fact is that the new music does not "become sound
We are told to "teach the young women to be sober, to love their
husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at
home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not
blasphemed" (Titus 2:4-5). Certainly such a chaste and faithful manner of
life will call for modesty in both clothing and manner. As a matter of
fact, Paul wrote Timothy at about the same time as he wrote Titus and
said of women's fashions,
". . . that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness
and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array
. . ." (1 Timothy 2:9)
Immodesty in dress and rebellion at home do not "become sound doctrine"
in Christian women. Dress standards are not just extra baggage required
by legalistic radicals. They go along with real fundamentalism.
III. Rejecting heretics.
Titus 3 teaches that people who hold to sound doctrine need to act
accordingly and also they must reject those who hold to false doctrines.
Read carefully verses 8 though 11.
"This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm
constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to
maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. But
avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings
about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an
heretick after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he
that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself."
The "new evangelicals" first complained about the unnecessary "baggage"
attached to the term "fundamentalist" when faithful brethren began
insisting that fundamentalists separate from the liberals in the
churches. They said that separation from heresy was extra baggage.
Christians can believe the truth, they were saying, without exposing and
opposing lies. Of course, this is not a reasonable proposition and it
also contradicts Scripture. Loyalty to sound doctrine will require the
rejection of false doctrine. Titus 3:10 says, "A man that is an heretick
after the first and second admonition reject . . ."
The hardest part about obeying this command is found in the first two
words. We are told to reject "a man." The rejection of false ideas by the
fundamentalist is clearly logical and it seems easy because it can all be
done on paper. To believe in the verbal (word-for-word) inspiration of
the Bible, for example, is to reject the liberal claim of errors in the
Bible. That's logical and it's easy, but to reject the liberal is harder
than rejecting liberal ideas. Yet in the church of God, doctrines are
always attached to people, and if false doctrines are to be cast out,
certain people must be cast out. However, this thing can seem to be mean
or "unbrotherly." But loyalty to the Gospel will require seminaries to
fire professors, boards to reject missionary candidates, associations to
expel preachers, and evangelists to turn down sponsors. It's hard, but
the separation of truth from error is required of friends of the Gospel.
"As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other
gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
Such a stand cost the Apostle Paul dearly, and it will exact a price from
us, too, but it is the only stand people who hold sound doctrine can
You see, it's not just "baggage." If you believe the fundamentals of the
Gospel, and you believe that they are fundamental to the gospel, you will
divide the Light from the darkness and operate as your stated belief
reasonably requires. The policies and practices of Bible-believing people
must be dictated by the logical and Scriptural implications of their
doctrinal convictions. This is why true fundamentalists have practiced
both ecclesiastical and personal separation, have abstained from "fleshly
lusts which war against the soul," and have conducted meetings without
the use of rock music. Attempts to divorce sound doctrine from holy
practice will fail. Either unholy practice will eventually corrupt the
doctrine taught, or sound doctrine will keep the practices and methods
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church|
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768