Saying No to Fundamentalism

Saying No to Fundamentalism

John Haralson   •   February 26, 2016

“Too frequently the weak [in faith] have presumed to regard as faith what in reality is doubt. And sadly enough, those strong in faith and mature in knowledge have succumbed to the presumptuous claims and pretentious of the weak. How tragic.”

John Murray, The Weak and the Strong

Dear Friends,

About a decade ago, Patricia O’Connell Killen wrote a very helpful book about religious life in the Pacific Northwest entitled The None Zone. In it, she points out that even though our region is marked by a relatively low percentage of adherents to any organized religion, it is also highly susceptible to various fundamentalist strains of Christianity.

I went to hear her speak a couple of years ago, and one of her theories about this fact is that ethical life here is incredibly “gray”. There is a fairly rugged individualist culture in the Pacific Northwest, and that applies to ethics as well. We are very hesitant to tell others that they “ought” to do anything.

She thinks that some people can find all of this ethical permission maddening. Many of us, she says, desperately want someone to tell us what to do. Instead of wading through difficult decisions where there is no clear right or wrong, she says it can be more comforting when an authoritative spiritual leader gives us a detailed blueprint of how every aspect of our lives should be ordered. To put it another way, it can be a relief to people when their pastor tells them how Christians are supposed to brush their teeth.

When Christians live like this, when we go beyond what God has spoken to us in his word, the Apostle Paul characterizes such a life as being weak in faith. This is counter-intuitive, because Christians who live very tightly circumscribed lives out of a desire to honor the Lord are often thought to possess strong faith. However, Paul wants us to see that such a life is not one that is being lived out of a robust, personal, trusting relationship with God.

In other words, Paul wasn’t a fundamentalist. And, his desire in writing Romans 14 was to help people like us live in freedom and confidence instead of fear and rigidity.

This week: The Sabbath, Christian Liberty, and Love, Part 2, Romans 14:1-23

Liturgy is here.

I hope to worship with you.

Warmly in Christ,

John

P.S. Don’t forget the Christian Formation Class, Shepherding Children’s Sexual Development, which will wrap up this week at 10:30am. Jordan Kleklamp, a youth and family therapist, will be teaching on the topics of responding to abuse in children as well as becoming a safe faith community for survivors of abuse to continue to heal.