"For us let it be enough to know ourselves to be in the place where God wants us, and carry on our work, even though it be no more than the work of an ant, infinitesimally small, and with unforeseeable results."
-- Abbé Monchanin

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fundamentalism or Peripheralism? -- Conclusion

Fundamentalism or Peripheralism?

So, are those commonly labeled as “fundamentalists” really defining themselves according to the three fundamentals from which spring the rest of our Christian doctrines, or are they rather founding their faith and practice upon peripheral issues even when they may be contrary to one or more of these fundamentals?

It does not take long to realize that these so-called “fundamentalists” are really more concerned with codifying their way of living out the implications of the biblical fundamentals described above. They forsake the absolute command to love and seek to substitute as an absolute their selective and subjective interpretation of Scripture. They refuse to obey the direct command of Jesus, thereby rejecting his Lordship. They refuse to live as he did, thereby denying that God raised him from the dead.

Many of the issues raised by the “fundamentalists” are valid. Many of their responses are widely accepted and, in fact, may appear self-evident to most of us. However, they are interpretations of the way Christian fundamentals should be lived out, and are not the fundamentals themselves. When these interpretations become the identity defining issues, those who find their identity in them can not be correctly regarded as “fundamentalists.” They are “peripheralists.”

I would suggest that true fundamentalism does not exist. We are all “peripheralists” to some degree. As we seek to understand and live out our confession and creed and to bear the mark of the Christian, we all drift into preoccupation with peripheral issues.

Unless –

Unless we have each other.

It is only as we tug and pull against those opposite us on the concentric circles of “peripherality” that we are held and drawn back to the centering fundamentals of our common faith. Old railway engines had a counterbalance on the wheel to which power was applied from the engine. Without such a counterbalance uneven application of power would destroy the wheel and axle. With a counterbalance opposite the point where power was applied, the force was centered on the axis preventing damage and loss of power.

When we isolate ourselves based upon conformity of belief and practice as defined by peripheral issues, we cut ourselves loose from the God-given, God-mandated fundamentals of our faith and cease to worship the Creator. We substitute ourselves and our understanding for God and His Wisdom.

In the interest of accuracy let us cease to use the terms “fundamentalism” and “fundamentalists.” Instead let us more correctly refer to ourselves and those opposite us as “peripheralists.”

And for God’s sake, as well as our own, let us hold firm to the confession that Jesus is Lord and the belief that God raised him from the dead even as we cling to one another in love.

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