Perhaps one day I’ll achieve Step 12: “We shall have a great repentant awakening where we realize the sinful error of our ways, and return to the true Gospel – the one crafted over the past 200 years, and stands as the most righteous form of the Gospel now and forevermore.”
Post-evangelical liberalists, returning mainliners, recovering Catholics (what’s with the names anyway?), and staunch orthodox adherents all have the same God. Imagine that? My background and schooling was conservative evangelical fundamentalism – well crafted apologetically, heavy-handed on doctrine, and low tolerance for doubt. “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1).
Post-modernism was labelled as sinful as masturbation – something to freak out about, but little Scriptural basis, although proof-texting was abundant. Post-modernism was something to be feared, kind of like how the LGBT community is going to somehow single handedly usurp the social order of our North American brand of Christianity. Traditionalism was preached as the right way, often referring to great male white preachers who interpreted Scripture well for their time (sometimes), but took the Gospel and created a sliver of what it really was and showcased as The Narrow Way.
Thank God for my parents — each night at the dinner table (each, or both, depending on who was working shift work) would pose a moral dilemma. As young as we were, we had to hash out the dilemma with what we knew of God at the time and what we knew of life. We weren’t perfect in our answers, but it provided the basis for me to ask questions.
Fundamentalism began to crack. Huge cracks. I hung on for a long time, believing that if I let go, I was going to hell. Ever have waking nightmares or night terrors of God’s wrath? Not the sort of thing one would desire when desperately seeking His love.
Stuff around me got labelled as evil or heretical even before it was really known. Catch-22: to truly KNOW something was equivalent of accepting it, so we weren’t to truly know evil. We were only to accept those teachers who had named evil for evil, and leave evil well enough alone. Don’t need to drink the poison when the bottle’s already labelled right?
Poor, poor teaching.
The dam had to break at some point. If God was going to invite me in His kingdom, I had to leave behind many of my old ways. Part of that was beginning to accept that Jesus Christ exists of Lord and Saviour and Love and Author of all things in the life of fundamentalism and post-evangelicalism alike. For what the names are worth… and most days, I don’t think they’re worth much… the sin that had long held sway in my life was to accept the teachings delivered to me at face value; to believe the “traditionalist” interpretation of Scripture as the ONLY correct interpretation, or be a detractor of God’s wrath, somehow not taking His holiness seriously; to cluck with pity upon the heretics, whose lives were doomed to hell because they didn’t take God seriously enough.
Heretics were anyone who spoke against the teachings of Christianity’s past 200 years according to the evangelical perspectives. Sooooo… Jesus just started teaching the right way 200 years ago? Wouldn’t that have made those teachers back then “heretics” for the leaders of the day? Everyone from before that was unregenerate? Teachers today rocking the boat can’t be challenging the fundamentals of Scripture because we now know every important doctrine there is to know? That’s it? No more shifts?
For the record, legalism can be (and is) found everywhere, and in every label. Some people have stories coming from Catholicism… orthodoxy… mainline denoms, etc.,… mine just happens to be fundamentalism.
If it weren’t for the heretics… the Crusades would continued (slaughtering the infidels was Scripturally mandated)
If it weren’t for the heretics… slavery would have continued (dark skin colour as a sin was Scripturally mandated)
If it weren’t for the heretics… medicine would not have evolved (science being an evil distraction from the Gospel)
If it weren’t for the heretics… the evangelical church wouldn’t have been graced with prophets and teachers, showing us the lack of life that had crept into our pews, or the small Gospel we insisted on preaching (“it’s heaven or hell: you choose”… really? That’s it?)
If it weren’t for the heretics… I wouldn’t have had a 2nd chance not only to embrace Jesus Christ, but to embrace HIS people – of all walks of faith – people that I had once determined were unregenerates or backsliders, doomed to hell.
Thank God for Jesus the heretic… the Gospel is infinitely bigger than just heaven or hell. And thank God for fundamentalism… I don’t like where it’s been or headed in some ways, but that’s true for humans as a species. However, it grounded me the Word. The Spirit gave me room to doubt.