recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.
Charles asked, “What Are the ‘Fundamentals of Christianity’ Evangelicals Talk About?”
Evangelicalism, an inherently Fundamentalist system of belief, is built upon a foundation of what is commonly called the fundamentals of the faith or the cardinal doctrines of the faith. Most Evangelicals consider the following beliefs to be essential:
- The inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible
- The sinfulness, depravity of man
- The deity of Christ
- The virgin birth of Christ
- The blood atonement of Christ for man’s sin (usually subscribing to the substitutionary atonement theory)
- The resurrection of Christ from the dead
- The second coming of Christ
- Separation from the world
- Salvation from sin is by and through Christ alone
- Personal responsibility to share the gospel with sinners
- Heaven and hell are literal places
The more Fundamentalist a sect is, the longer the list of non-negotiable doctrines. Some within the IFB church movement, for example, believe things such as:
- The 1769 revision of the King James Bible as the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. (All other version are errant and used by Satan to deceive the masses.)
- Secondary separation (Real Baptist Bob refuses to fellowship with Baptist Bruce because of wrong beliefs or practice. Real Baptist Bob also refuses to fellowship with those who are friends or associated with Baptist Bruce.)
- The Baptist church as the true church. (Also called Landmarkism, these Baptist churches believe they can trace their lineage all the way back to Jesus.)
- Dispensational, Pre-tribulational Premillennialism (Human time is divided into seven distinct periods, Jesus will rapture away all believers prior to the Great Tribulation, and then physically come to Earth prior to the Millennium — the thousand year authoritarian rule of Christ.)
And then there are the Christians who believe the followers of Jesus must believe certain things and live certain ways to be Christians. Years ago, back in my Evangelical/Socially Progressive days, I preached a sermon that suggested Democrats could be Christians. After the service, a man who was visiting that day came up to be and told me in no uncertain terms that he doubted Democrats could be Christians due to their support of abortion. More than a few Evangelicals believe that anyone who believes in legalized abortion, same-sex marriage, and the normalization of homosexuality cannot be a Christian.
The list of essential beliefs, quite frankly, is endless, with every sect, church, and pastor believing that there are certain nonnegotiable doctrines and practices that must be believed in order to be a True Christian®. Evangelicals are big proponents of proof-texting, with every belief and practice having Biblical justification.
Liberal Christians laugh and sneer at Evangelicals with their long lists of non-negotiables, but I wonder if liberals have given away too much in their attempt to find a minimalist way to doctrinally appeal to everyone. Years ago, my wife and I, along with our three youngest children, attended the local Episcopal church. After the service, one of the matriarchs of the church thanked us for visiting. She then added, “you can believe whatever you want at our church!” I thought, has she not read the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the theoretical doctrinal standard of the Church of England and its sister sect The Episcopal Church? Does the church really allow its congregants to believe whatever they want? We never tested their openness.
My conclusion is this: every Christian sect, church, pastor, and individual believer has its own set of fundamental beliefs (and practices). Thus, countless are the number of Christianities and Christs. The Bible is right when it says in Proverbs 21:2: Every way of a man is right in his own eyes. The Bible says there is ONE Lord, ONE Faith, and ONE baptism, yet Christians can’t even agree on basics such as salvation, baptism, and communion. While it is up to Christians to determine what is TRUE Christianity®, a historically unified standard of belief would cause unbelievers such as myself to pause a bit before criticizing Christianity. As it stands now, Christianity is infested by conflict, controversy, and internecine warfare. When I look at Christianity, what I see is Friday WWE wrestling matches. Whatever Christianity might have been two-thousand years, THAT Christianity died somewhere in the Judean hillsides twenty centuries ago.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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