The short answer is YES.
I’ve had more than a few Evangelicals scream and howl over my contention that Evangelicals are Fundamentalists. Bruce, I am not, our church is not, my pastor is not, anything like the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches you grew up in and pastored . How dare you label us as Fundamentalists!!
Let me explain why ALL Evangelicals are Fundamentalists.
There is two components to Fundamentalism:
- Theological Fundamentalism
- Social Fundamentalism
When it comes to theology, ALL Evangelicals are Fundamentalist. To be an Evangelical means believing the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. To be an Evangelical means believing in cardinal doctrines such as the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, resurrection of the dead, and salvation through the merit and work of Jesus Christ alone. To be an Evangelical means believing Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead and that every human being will spend eternity in heaven or hell depending on whether or not they have accepted Jesus as the Savior. (see National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) core beliefs and doctrinal statement here and here. There are, btw, far more Evangelicals than those who belong to the NAE.)
ALL Evangelicals are theological fundamentalists. If they are not, then they are not really an Evangelical. What is confusing today is that there are a fair number of liberal, neo-liberal, or progressive pastors, professors, authors, and conference speakers hanging around the fringes of Evangelicalism. Their theology is decidedly not Evangelical but, for some reason or the other, they are not willing to abandon the Evangelical church.
I think the Emergent Church movement is a good example of a group that has a huge liberalizing influence on Evangelical churches. It is not uncommon for people exposed to the Emergent Church to move on to more liberal and progressive beliefs and churches. While some Emergent Church movement adherents still label themselves as Evangelical, they are, when it comes to theology, not Evangelicals. (Mark Driscoll recognized this and left the Emergent Church movement) People like Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Tony Jones, Jim Wallis, et al, are loved by some within Evangelicalism, but they are anything BUT Evangelical when it comes their theological beliefs. (and this is not a bad thing)
When it comes to theological belief, there is little difference between Fred Phelps and Billy Graham. While there may be differences depending on where a person, pastor or church falls on the Calvinist Arminian divide, in the main, ALL Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists. (and yes, I am aware of professed Evangelicals who are theistic evolutionists, open theists, annihilationists, etc.)
While ALL Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists, not all Evangelicals are necessarily social Fundamentalists. (though I will show that I highly doubt this is completely true) The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement I spent most my life in is fundamentalist theologically and socially,
Social Fundamentalists believe that God and the Bible dictate how a Christian should live their life. Generally, social Fundamentalists have a rigid code of conduct and they tend to judge negatively anyone who does not have the same rigid code of conduct.
Some social Fundamentalist pastors and churches have extensive, elaborate rules and regulations (standards) they expect and demand church members to follow, (in this respect they are no different than Fundamentalist Muslims, Jews, or Catholics)
Many social Fundamentalists are actively involved in right-wing social and political causes. Since all social Fundamentalists are also theological Fundamentalists, they believe the Bible is the divine answer to every social ill. Social Fundamentalists generally have strong beliefs on issues like gay marriage, abortion, and whether or not the United States is a Christian nation. (along with a plethora of other hot-button issues)
Many Evangelicals despise social Fundamentalists. They are the Evangelicals who comment on this blog who say they are nothing like social Fundamentalists. Sometimes, they suggest that the IFB church movement I was a part of is a corruption of Evangelicalism and I should not judge all Evangelicals the same.
However, press these social Fundamentalist despising and denying Evangelicals and you will often find that they too have social Fundamentalist beliefs. While they may derisively laugh at fellow Evangelicals who think it is wrong for women to wear pants, for men to have long hair, or listen to secular music, they too have certain social behaviors that they think are a sin.
The bottom line is this, ALL Evangelicals are also social Fundamentalists. To what degree they are is the question. Because all Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists, they look to the Bible to decide how to live their lives. Since all Evangelicals believe in the Priesthood of the Believer, they believe every Evangelical can understand and interpret the Bible for themselves. This belief leads them to develop, from the Bible, a code of conduct to govern their lives. (and they congregate in churches who hold to similar beliefs)
As an IFB pastor, and later as a more open minded Evangelical, I had Biblical proof for EVERY social belief I had. The Bible says_________________________, is the bellwether of Evangelical Christianity. While there may be matters of degree or nuance within Evangelicalism, all Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists and, for the most part, all Evangelicals are social Fundamentalists.
Evangelicals who question what I have written here will most likely be Christians who are trying to keep up an Evangelical façade while denying Evangelical theological beliefs and/or Evangelical social beliefs. They have been told time and time again that liberal or progressive Christianity is no Christianity at all, so they fear labeling themselves in a way that will cause them to be considered. by family, pastor, or colleagues in the ministry, as outside the Christian faith. (a similar problem for liberal Christians who are actually Universalists and agnostics who are actually atheists)
The old adage…if it walks and talks like a duck, it is a duck is true. Evangelicals are Fundamentalists because of their theological and social beliefs. When they no longer have these beliefs they cease to be Evangelical.