Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Glory Days of Fundamentalism

Judges 2:10  And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

As I read these words this morning, I couldn't help but think that they apply to the present state of Fundamentalism and the generation that was not privileged to see what could be called "the glory days of Fundamentalism".

With all the negative hype today about the failures of Fundamentalism, you would think that there was nothing good about the 100 years or so that Fundamentalism was a driving force of Christianity.  Just like the Judges passage above, this young generation should not be ignorant of the great things the Lord did among those who were once proud of being labeled "Fundy".

There is a very sweet revival today among 20-30 somethings for the word of God, theology, worship, and true spiritual things.  Unfortunately, that revival is marked by many earnest young people leaving the ranks of Fundamentalism to the gatherings of the reformed movement of Conservative Evangelicalism.  There are other young people more like the verse above that grew up in Fundy churches, but have seen such negativity that they have left the church and any semblance of organized religion.  I would like to spend a few minutes telling you of some of the wonderful things the Lord accomplished in the "glory days of Fundamentalism".

As a young boy, I can remember a strong sense of joy and anticipation when we met to worship.  People had a real sense that God had His hand on Fundamental churches.  You could feel it in most services.  People were enthusiastic about serving the Lord.  The preaching was viewed as a reverent thing where you were going to hear from God.  Fundamental churches grew dramatically and bus ministries were prosperous all over America.

Packed Fundy churches were the norm when I grew up - my pastor was not a lording or overbearing leader, and yet people came.  Sunday was full, Wednesday was well attended.  I remember special meetings where chairs were placed in the aisles to provide more seating.  There were no "worship wars" then.  Choirs were large and sang out the familiar hymns.  The young generation may believe that with all the external rules there would have been a feeling of oppression - that was not the case.  In fact, probably the pastors fell into the excess of legalistic rule-making because God's people were so joyful and willing to do whatever God wanted them to do at that time.  Obviously, that is a good and potentially dangerous thing.

I remember going to visitation with my Dad and there being a large crowd of people going out.  I also remember that it was normal to see fruit from these visits.  This is the hand of the Lord that I mean.  Often people would be born again.  Often people would accept invitations to church and come and be genuinely saved.  God was on the move.  There was a strong sense of the return of Christ then.  There were many conferences on End Times and books written.  Christians really believed that Jesus would return at any moment.  

The public invitation was also something that was a positive thing, I believe, then.  What I mean is, the people responded in humble confession without coercion.  The arguments against public altar calls today are valid, but then there seemed to be a willing eagerness to deal with conviction issues immediately.  I'm sure there was some of the same reservations, but because so many people responded, it was less of a show and more of many in the church dealing with their hearts immediately.  I'm just telling it from my perspective.

There were powerful organizations like the Moral Majority that were "nearly" Fundy.  The voice of Fundamental churches really shaped our nation at that time:  Blue laws were passed closing businesses on Sunday; liquor stores and adult bookstores were closed in some situations; laws were overturned and preachers challenged unjust government practices.  Many Fundy leaders rose to prominence and were covered in newspapers and television.  We loved watching "Show My People" each Sunday night.  It was a glory time.   When President Reagan was elected, he flew many Fundy pastors to meet with him in Washington.  I knew one of these Pastors.  Wow.  Imagine that - The President of the United States wanted the opinions of Fundamentalist Pastors.  Wow.

There are so many other things that I could mention - booming Bible Colleges; growing Christian School movement; restored families; strong fathers, etc.

There is no question that in later glory years negative issues began to arise - however, the next generation should know about the work of God and the very positive things in their heritage.  I praise the Lord for the recent humility that has come to Fundamentalism.  There are some corners of Fundy-land that are absolutely ridiculous and far from the view of the Christianity of the New Testament.  It is yet to be seen whether Fundamentalism as a movement will survive, or whether Biblical Separatism will arise under a new movement.  Until that becomes clearer, it is exciting to know that Lord is still on the move and working in powerful ways among fervent young believers.

Whatever it is labeled next,  may the Lord bring back the glory days of historic, conservative, biblical Christianity.  

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Pastor Witmer. I recall those days as well growing up. But as I am forced to look out over the church landscape, the new "normal" that I observe among churches and institutions that claim the title is not the Fundamentalism we grew up with--it's "Fundie +." (plus dress, plus translation, plus technology taboos, plus music, etc.). Those that are truest to the roots of Fundamentalism are no longer in the mainstream (and are even shunned by the rest).

    But as men of God who still adhere to the core tenets of Fundamentalism--with or without the label--what do we do about it?

    That's my two-cents for today :)