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What is Aberrant Fundamentalism?

January 17, 2011

Aberrant fundamentalism is a form of fundamentalism that, though it holds to the fundamentals of the faith, operates in a fashion that fails to follow Biblical principles in its ministry and relationships while holding to conservative standards on certain cultural issues.  I would name its distinguishing failings as: a domineering pastoral leadership, a style of preaching that manipulates or ignores Divine intent to accomplish the speaker’s agenda and places increased attendance as the prominent concern- usually through a continual series of programs, campaigns and contests.

Domineering Pastoral Leadership
While the New Testament clearly gives the pastor the oversight and leadership responsibilities within the church, a style of pastoral leadership has grown popular that fills the leadership role in a fashion that violates Biblical principles.  In a nutshell, it has become leadership without shepherding.  This domineering style of leadership demands obedience for the sake of obedience, it issues directives with little to no counsel or input from the church body and it steps without considering the consequences to the sheep that are following.  It is a leadership that functions to benefit the leader rather than serves the needs of the flock.

Manipulates Scriptures
One of the aims of this form of fundamentalism is to attract a crowd.  With that in mind, preaching expositionally through a text is generally frowned upon.  To keep the crowds interest, a topical message is deemed most effective.  Not just any topical message will do, though.  The topical message must be catchy and memorable.  The quest for just such a message leads many preachers to find a text with a phrase or idea that catches their interest and then tack around that text ideas that support their catchy theme.  They do so with little regard to the actual intention of the passage, twisting Scriptures to suit their own purposes rather than allowing their message to be shaped by the actual meaning and design of the Word.

Priority of Numbers
This last error is not as egregious as the first two, but it is nonetheless an error.  Aberrant fundamentalism places an unbiblical priority on attendance, decisions, offerings and other countable tallies.  I say it places an unbiblical priority on these things, not because the Bible is not concerned about them, nor because I view it as sinful to strive to increase in those areas of ministry.  I say it places an unbiblical priority on numbers because it is willing to sidestep or ignore Scriptures to achieve the desired increases.   Yes, they have generally rejected the use of modern marketing techniques, seeker sensitive methods, contemporary Christian music and the inclusion of modern culture in its ministry methods.  However, they have abused Scriptures to reach numbers, many have weakened the gospel message (how’s that for opening a can of worms that I’m going to leave undealt with, for now?) and they have ignored Biblical principles of growth.

Aberrant fundamentalism is not a small minority within fundamentalism.  It seems to still be the largest single sub group within broader fundamentalism.  This form of fundamentalism needs to be examined very carefully, comparing it’s principles to those of Scriptures.  That which is good needs to be kept, but that which does not meet the Biblical standard needs to be set aside.

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I welcome comments, questions or input on these articles. However, the purpose of this blog is not to give an open forum for discussion. If you would like to comment on these articles or have specific questions regarding fundamentalism, please feel free to email me. I will do my best to respond quickly to your emails. A few days after its publication, I will attach to each blog article any pertinent or particularly pithy comments that I receive.

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