A good friend of mine is a devout Catholic who once started reading a book about Fundamentalist Christians so he could better debate scripture with me (as a good Catholic, he is consistent in trying to convert me – which I wholly appreciate; he’s convinced that the Church of Rome was instituted by Christ, and therefore the organization that every Christian should be a part of. Its noble of him, then, to attempt to convert me.)
The problem – he discovered – is that I don’t believe according to standard fundamentalism.
I suppose that the basis of my faith might best be termed ‘Relationalism’ (you know, if you wanted to add ‘ism’ to the end of so that you can sound theologically literate at parties).
A brief breakdown of that is: I believe that Christianity is not a religion at all, and was never intended to be. In fact that even God’s plan from the Old Testament was not to have a religion, or a religious following, but that the Law (religion) was added because the people refused to connect relationally with God (Gal 3:19; 1 Tim 1:9).
God had a friendship with Abraham on the basis of faith; God established a covenant (which is a type of relationship (marriage is a covenant)) with Abraham, and there was no law (religion), just the relational agreement they made (see also posts: The Basis of Christianity pt.1; The Basis of Christianity pt. 2; The Basis of Christianity pt. 3).
So you’re still waiting for me to get to where Biblical Fundamentalists are wrong, just hang on to your shorts, buster, I’m getting there.
There is within bible-based Christianity some confusion about what scriptures apply today; some believe that much of the Old Testament is not applicable to today, and that the New Testament has greater authority. Others use fundamentalism to pin-point the opposite: the New Testament is based on the Old, therefore anything in it only adds to our understanding of the initial religion God instituted for man to follow: Judaism.
In either case… and in many other points of disagrement, fundamentalists go back to scripture to stand by their point. (Although there are many doctrines that are considered ‘fundamentalist’ teachings that are not actually biblical, but are widely accepted interpretive conclusions that are so widely taught and accepted that most fundamentalists assume they are brass-tac scriptural even if they don’t personally know how to prove it with plain statement biblical texts. (A few examples are: dispensationalism, the rapture, ‘utter depravity,‘ etc.))
Understading scripture on the basis of it being an accounting of God’s relations with man, on the other hand ensures that ALL scripture applies to everyone 100% of the time. The word reveals to us all of the various ways that God has related to man through history giving clear understanding of the agreements that He has made with man (Old Testament), AND laying out the tennants of the covenant which is presently available to all people through Jesus Christ (New Testament).
Understanding that God does not change (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8), every word of scripture is a revelation of His character as He reveals through history how He has never stopped striving to maintain a relationship with us.
All of the Law applies to us today – just not the way that the Hebrew Roots people would have us believe. We don’t live under the law we live to please Christ; the spiritual principles of the Law properly understood reveal Christ’s nature (not in the legal following of the carnal commandments).
Here is the principal point that fundamentalists get hitched up on. Have you ever heard (or said): “I believe the scriptures are to be taken literally!”
There’s a big problem in that: LITERAL. The great interpretor of Old Testament scripture – the Apostle Paul – tells us that the stories of the Old Testament are ALLEGORIES (Gal 4:24 – interestingly, in context he was speaking of the covenants (relationship)).
Further, it was prophesied that Messiah would speak mainly to the people in PARABLES (Ps 78:2); which prophesy Christ confirmed both by example, and by plain statement while with us in the flesh (Matt 13:10 & 13; Mark 4:34). A parable is an allegory.
Let me give you one example from a discussion I had with my Roman Catholic friend. The church of Rome teaches transubstantiation – that’s a big word, but it means that when the priest serves Mass (communion) that the wafer literally becomes Jesus, and that the communicants are litterally eating Jesus flesh, and drinking His blood when they partake. Their central prooftext from scripture for this is John 6:55 ‘For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.’ Assuming I was a biblical fundamentalist, my Romanist friend pointed out this passage, and how could I, with a literalist interpretation of scripture deny the plain statement from Christ’s own mouth?
I pointed out to my friend that Jesus also said in John 15:1 ‘I am the true vine…’ (in fact the word ‘true’ in this verse is the same Greek root for the word: ‘indeed’ in John 6:55), so then, is Jesus LITERALLY a vine? Well, obviously not – in fact His pararble is more profound when we realize that all creation testifies of Christ (Ps 19), and that the meaning of a grape-vine has always been Jesus! Likewise, the meaning of food, and drink (John 6:55) is that we require Jesus to nourish us with His word, and presence. God is a prophet, and He filled the world with lessons to teach us of Him.
When we use ‘literal’ as the only lense to understand scripture (which fundamentalists seem to do), we will misunderstand a very high percentage of scripture’s teaching. The prophets spoke constantly in parables.
Many errors exist today in fundamentalist Christianity because our primary view of scripture is Western scientific literalism. The great last-days deception is supported by this literalism: because the prophets used the types of the Old Covenant (which was all a natural parable of the coming reign of Christ) in their prophecies of the last days, many Christians believe that the Old Covenant will return, and that the land of Palestine is the True fulfillment of the promised land. But those were parables which predicted the kingdom of heaven; and Jesus Christ, its Gateway.
Literalism also assumes that we need to find out what God SAID (past tense), so that we can appropriately live by the word. It doesn’t ask: ‘What is God SAYING?’ Not that anything will be added to scripture, but that God may speak in the present tense through your gaining deeper revelation of the meaning of His Word.
Christianity is a present-tense relationship, not a religion. Just as God interacted with Abraham, so He seeks to interact with you. Abraham was the father of the Jews – that’s a parable, before God, he is actually the father of those who live by faith (Gal 3:7); if we relate with God as did Abraham who was in covenant by faith, then are his childen.