Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Trading One Fundamentalism For Another

I am not the first person to leave fundamentalism. In some ways, my story is not all that unique. What makes it somewhat different than many similar stories I have heard, however, is that when I left fundamentalism, I actually left fundamentalism. A lot of people don't do this. They just trade one fundamentalism for another.

I know people who have left the kind of Christian fundamentalism I grew up in. They grew tired of trying to live by the standards of no swearing, no alcohol, no movies, no rock music. They wanted to smoke a cigar or try a different Bible version or got a divorce. And so they left their independent, fundamental Baptist church. But for many of these people, the passion they once exerted toward the issues of Christian fundamentalism got redirected into something new. 

Some became fundamentalist atheists - just as confident and mean-spirited as ever, but now with a new target.

Others became neo-Calvinist fundamentalists - trading in the pope-like pastor of their independent Baptist church for a new infallible authority, like Mark Driscoll or John Piper.

Others became fundamentalists about some other cause - seemingly caring more about organic food or homeschooling or their political party than either Jesus or other people.

They may no longer self-identify as fundamentalists. But they are still fundamentalists.

Fundamentalism, whether it is Christian fundamentalism or another variety, is built on certitude. Fundamentalists know with unshakeable confidence what they know. This certitude produces legalism. Since they know these things to be absolutely true, then life absolutely has to be lived this way. Legalism produces judgment. People who don't live this way can and should be condemned for their failure.

Fundamentalism is a philosophical approach to life built on certitude that produces a rigidity of lifestyle and an attitude of judgment. It is possible to abandon the superstructure of one particular brand of fundamentalism without dismantling the underlying foundation. When that happens, people just slide from one kind of fundamentalism to another.

My break with fundamentalism was more fundamental than that. 

For me, the breaking point was not superficial things like language or dress or having a beer. For me, the breaking point with fundamentalism came when my certitude gave way to something far more compelling - authenticity.

That's what Fundamorphosis: How I Left Fundamentalism But Didn't Lose My Faith is about.



bryan said...

Attacking certainty with conclusiveness is like championing relativism absolutely. It's flawed reasoning. Fundamentalism's problem isn't mere certainty; it's GROUNDLESS certainty accompanied by judgmentalism. And judgmentalism isn't limited to fundamentalists. Nor is having too high a regard for men an exclusive danger to fundamentalists or former fundamentalist fundamentalists. Followers of Jesus must all be careful not to bronze any other hero: be it Driscoll, Piper and Grudem, or Bell, McLaren and Grenz.

Robb Ryerse said...

I see where you're coming from, Bryan, but I do think that certitude is the problem. Holding to beliefs unswervingly, without the humility to admit that you might be wrong, produces the kind of legalism and judgment that is so damaging to people. Certitude ultimately puts our trust and hope in ourselves rather than Jesus. It's insidious. Certainty is not a synonym for faith.

bryan said...

So do you believe it's wrong to hold to ANY beliefs with certainty? Any at all?

Because if the object of one's faith is sure, then certainty is most desirable. It's even the goal. That's what the cry, "Help my unbelief" means. It wasn't a request for self-confidence. It was a humble plea for more confidence in Jesus (to believe what He said with certainty). Of course our faith gets tested and waffles at times. But the problem in those instances isn't certainty; it's the lack of it.

Doubt is not a synonym for humility.

Robb Ryerse said...

touche, my friend