Every once in a while, a conservative evangelical pastor will speak publicly about whether Christians should or should not participate in certain practices, read certain books, watch certain movies or which spouse should stay at home with the kids (if any).
And when these comments hit the masses, they cause quite a stir.
For some, their statements result in really positive discussion of how we are to approach (especially) popular culture and family dynamics in a biblical fashion.
But almost without fail, when these issues come up (the recent stir about Albert Mohler’s comments on yoga is a good example), it leads to another reaction—someone breaks out the F word:
(Okay, maybe that wasn’t “F” word you were thinking of…)
Fundamentalist is a big word, and not just because it has 14 letters. It’s one that some who run in more left-of-center circles use with alarming frequency, even more than Ken Silva uses the word “heretic.” (Ken, if you’re reading this, I say it with love.)
Now I’m not really interested in kicking hornet’s nests today, but I’ve noticed a few common situations that seem to dictate the dropping of the F bomb:
1. It’s often used to defend preference. Whether it’s yoga or specific kinds of books or TV shows or whatever, “I like it,” “it feels good,” or “it works for me” do not provide an acceptable, objective, biblical defense.
As Christians, we are to judge all our practices and preferences against Scripture.
Where Scripture is clear, we must be as well. Where there’s legitimate room for disagreement, we can disagree agreeably.
For example, if I were to try to enforce a hardline on alcohol consumption based on my convictions (I’m a soft teetotaler in case you’re wondering), it would be beyond the bounds of Scripture (cf. Romans 14:1-12). However, if I say that a Christian shouldn’t engage in occult practices or take part in spiritual practices from other religions, I am completely within the bounds of Scripture (cf. 1 Cor. 10:14-21).
2. It’s often used when syncretism is confronted. Recently I read a blog where the writer calls Scripture’s command that a man spiritually lead and provide for the needs of his family (cf. 1 Tim 5:8; Eph 5:22-33), is a misogynistic, patriarchal attitude and anyone who says different is, well, you know…
3. It’s often used to quickly kill a conversation. Calling someone a fundamentalist is like calling someone Hitler, a Nazi or a homophobe. It completely kills all discussion and is the favored weapon of the desperate and the proud.
Now, I’m not writing this to point fingers at anyone because, to one degree or another, we’re all guilty of attitudes like this. Frankly, it’s easier to demonize those we disagree with and call them fundamentalists or heretics (although sometimes people do need to be called that) than to humbly examine why we are angered or frustrated by what’s said.
The point here is that Scripture is our authority, not our preferences and definitely not our feelings. We must not allow our feelings to dictate the words we choose.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits,” says Proverbs 18:21.
You can’t take back what you say and too often you’ll regret the words you choose.
So let’s be careful about using big ones.