I was asked after I published my talk from last Wednesday, “Hiding Truth Behind Traditions and Doctrines”, if “traditional Christianity” and “Fundamentalism” in Christianity were the same. I assumed they were the same but the question implied they were separate. I will share a few thoughts on the subject.
Traditional and fundamentalism in Christianity were equated in my talk for the following reason; they both are based on the same basic doctrines from the 4th century C.E. In the 4th Century, the Apostles and Nicene Creeds were established as basic foundations of the church’s acceptable beliefs. They taught that:
1) God created all the world and universe that we see and feel with our bodies.
2) God created Jesus as His only Son to save us from our sins by his death on the Cross.
3) Jesus was born of a virgin woman named Mary, making his birth a special event from any others.
4) Jesus was physically raised from the dead as proof of his Sonship and ability to save us.
5) There will be a raising of bodies for the final judgment in which those not trusting in Jesus’ blood will be punished forever in a place of torment called “hell” while those who have faith his the blood atonement will live forever in a place of paradise called “heaven.”
6) The Bible is the inerrant book that is God’s Word to us for teachings and living guidance.
I believe most traditional churches accept these tenants as their basic beliefs. They are the pillars or fundamentals of their faith. In the past century, as many began to question the validity of these tenants with a more historical quest for knowledge of the Bible and the person Jesus. The debate grew so fierce one hundred years ago that there was a break among most Protestant churches in the 1930’s. The break seems to have begun at Princeton Seminary as those adamant about the fundamentals being unchallengeable left and coined the word “Fundamentalist.” Those remaining in the so-called “main line” protestant churches from the 16th Century continued on in their churches. The writings of German Theologians Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann soon stopped the debate over the historical accuracy of Jesus and the critical importance of the Bible. These writers suggested a less than literal way of reading the Bible through seeing “God’s Word” within it and by looking pass the debatable stories to discern what might be the meanings behind them.
In the years since, there were varieties of expressions in these fundamental and historical beliefs noted above. What remained basic were the traditional beliefs of the 4th Century. Fundamentalism expressed them in more popular and folksy methods while the traditional churches continued with a more 16th Century expression if Protestant and a more Vatican in Rome expression if Roman Catholic. Of course, there were the usual conflicts and denunciations over the forms of expression but the basics beliefs remained. In recent years, in my opinion, there has been more convergence of form among the remaining traditional Protestant churches in the use of lectionaries and observance of the seasons of the church year. Among the more “free” churches more contemporary music has been adapted along with additional electronics and audience friendly aids to convey the message. Yet, the message pretty much has stayed the same; God created the universe and humanity, humanity is basically sinful, God sent Jesus to shed his blood to atone for the sins, and if we accept the plan we can be saved from eternal damnation.
I trust this may help with my lumping together the fundamentalist Christians and more historical, traditional, or “liturgical” ones. Shapes, sizes, and expressions do not change the message which is basically the same. My “Jamestown talk” was challenging the basis of the tradition teachings solidified in the 4th Century, asking questions and seeking answers attempting to use modern scientific and psychological discoveries.