Interdenominational fundamentalism has at it base the doctrine of the universal church. Without this doctrine it cannot exist. This doctrine was invented by Augustine and Constantine and, with some modifications, by Luther and Calvin to hold together a contradictory mixture of differing doctrines. The reformers needed a universal, invisible church to justify their being cast out of the Catholic Church. Later it was easy to read it back into the New Testament. This is always dangerous. We need to make sure that we don’t read our own opinions and desires into God’s Word.
To have interdenominational fundamentalism, doctrine must be divided into essential and nonessential doctrine. What is essential doctrine? It is the doctrine upon which they can agree. What is nonessential doctrine? Anything they can’t agree on.
This makes it rather difficult to stand on the Word of God. Even the five fundamentals upon which this movement stands are so worded that they really don’t have much value. Let’s look at them to see what I mean.
The inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture: While this sounds good, it is meaningless without the doctrine of preservation. Most interdenominational fundamentalists hold that the original autographs were inspired and inerrant. Most of them also believe that God has not preserved His word pure, and copy errors have crept in. The teach that we must use scholarship to find out what the originals actually said. They believe that it is an ongoing process. They believe we must compare various versions to find the truth. This makes scholarship the authority instead of the Word of God.
The virgin birth of Christ: Even the Mormons believe in the virgin birth, but it is nothing like what the Scriptures teach.
Christ’s death was the atonement for sin: All who profess to be Christians would agree that His death payed the price for sin. Many teach different ways to appropriate its benefit. Some add works, others add baptism, etc.
The bodily resurrection of Christ: I don’t personally know of any divergence of views on this one.
The historical reality of Christ’s miracles: While all fundamentalists would agree that Christ’s miracles were real, there is much disagreement on what this means. Some think that if we have as much faith as He had we can do the same things.
If you take the statements as given even Catholics could be a fundamentalist. They believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture but they add tradition to it. They believe in the virgin birth of Christ but they add the perpetual virginity of Mary and make her the “comediatrix” with Christ. They believe that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin but they teach that it must be appropriated through works, sacraments, and baptism. They believe in Christ’s bodily resurrection and the reality of His miracles. Do you see that these five “fundamentals” don’t really mean much because they allow for so many different interpretations.
Let me tell you how I became a Baptist. I was saved in a Foursquare Gospel church. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a Pentecostal church. The biggest problem I had with Bible doctrine was not the normal charismatic doctrines, it was the doctrine of eternal security. Although I was a member of a Baptist church, I was not a Baptist at heart. I went to my pastor to discuss eternal security from the point of view of Hebrews 6:4-6. I gave my pastor an interpretation of this passage that he had never heard. He showed me that, if after studying the passage again, he found that I was right he would change his doctrine. In other words he showed me that the Scriptures were really his final authority. Obviously my interpretation was not right because you cannot loose your salvation. His willingness to change if his doctrine could be proven wrong from the Scriptures is what made me a Baptist.
True Baptists cannot be an interdenominational fundamentalist. A Baptist can be a fundamental Baptist, but not an interdenominational fundamentalist because there is much more to the fundamentals of the Scriptures than just these five things. First of all, these five “fundamentals” do not line up with the the basics of Christianity given in the Bible. Hebrews 6:1-2 lists six basic doctrines: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of 1) repentance from dead works, and of 2) faith toward God, Of the 3) doctrine of baptisms, and of 4) laying on of hands, and of 5) resurrection of the dead, and of 6) eternal judgment.”
These are just basic doctrines, they are not all of the fundamental doctrines of Scripture. There are a number of lists of Baptist distictives and each is different. I, after much study, believe there is one doctrine that makes Baptists different. The Scriptures are our final authority in all things. True Baptists don’t make their church leaders or tradition their final authority, it is always the Scriptures that have the final word in what we believe and practice.
Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved