Does Agreeing With The Westminster Standards Make One A “Fundamentalist”?

In his recent essay published on the Semper Ref Collaborative, TE Derek Radney articulates the great danger to the future of the PCA is in the form of those whom he denounces as “Reformed Fundamentalists.”

I. The Neo(?) Reformed(?) Fundamentalists

Radney is not the first to label his PCA brothers as fundamentalists. In an oddly titled recent article – apparently alluding to the speech of renowned 20th Century Liberal Henry Emerson Fosdick: Shall the Fundamentalists Win TE David Cassidy insists that (what he calls) “Neo-Fundamentalism” must have no place in the PCA.

To label one’s PCA opponents as “fundamentalists” is an odd choice at best, especially considering the rejection of Fundamentalism by those within Reformed Christianity. Machen, after all, not only refused to identify himself as a Fundamentalist Christian, but also corrected those who attempted to label him as a Fundamentalist.

…While inaccurate in terms of history and theology, labeling the brothers with whom one disagrees as “Fundamentalists” is nonetheless an effective rhetorical device. It makes it much easier to dismiss and marginalize their ideas rather than interact with them.

…If differing with would-be luminaries such as Radney, Cassidy, et. al. on certain points of subscription, sanctification, sexuality, the Sabbath, etc. makes one a “Fundamentalist!!” then who would want to hold such “Fundamentalist!!” positions? Read more»

Ryan Biese |  “‘Neo-Fundamentalist’ / ‘Post-Modernist’ Controversy in the PCA”  | May 26, 2022

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6 comments

  1. The criticism by progressives in the PCA of their confessional brethren doesn’t sound quite as “winsome” as they continually advocate we should be.

  2. The same pattern is being followed as in the last century with the PCUS:
    1) Challenge the orthodoxy of the organization by saying its not relevant, not modern, not engaging with the marketplace, etc. When the orthodox push back on their challenges,
    2) Play the victim, whine about being unfairly attacked. Then when they think they have the numbers,
    3) Call for peace and harmony, criticize the defenders of orthodoxy for not being unity-minded, not being gospel focused, not being winsome. When the orthodox are cowed into acquiescence,
    4) attack them openly for being pugilistic and mean and, yes, FUNDAMENTALISTS, and finally, when the liberals (yes Brad, they are liberals) gain the ascendancy, they
    5) brutally put down, sideline or remove any of the orthodox members who dare to speak up, and then tear down any remaining vestiges of orthodoxy.

    We are at Step 3)

    The liberals of the last century attacked the supernatural aspects of the Bible like virgin birth, resurrection, miracles, and so forth. The liberals of today are smarter and more cunning. They attack the supernatural sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Without the promise of God’s Spirit supernaturally working holiness in us in this life, how is the Biblical Gospel any different than all the world’s pragmatic self-help schemes? A pagan from the jungles of Guinea can be saved and experience the working of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying him, even if he doesn’t know to affirm the Apostles’ Creed. Think about it. But if he doesn’t believe the Holy Spirit will work in him supernaturally, he’s not really trusted in the true Christ. Just the ‘christ idea’. The Orthodox Elders need to rise up and fight, not play gullible milk maids and just get along. The liberals in the PCA don’t play fair, aren’t honorable, and should not be treated in a naive fashion. Remember The National Partnership. The NP was not the work of honorable God-Fearing believers. I’ve yet to hear of a single member of the NP openly confess their dishonesty, repent, and ask the body for forgiveness. That should say all that needs to be said.
    I am proud to be a Confessional Fundamentalist.

  3. Who ever came up with the term “progressives?” Why do we allow such wonderful words to be interpreted falsely? Progressive means to move forward–onward; to advance “as progressive motion or course.” (n. webster). What Christians believe the bible teaches regarding subscription, sanctification, sexuality, the Sabbath, etc. is very progressive for it moves the body of Christ forward–onward to a course of maturity and everlasting life. We are progressive for we are growing in truth (He.6:1) and advancing ‘in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Using a “modern” retrograde idea of the word actually points the Church backwards to retreat into the world which can take the Church from a better to worse condition.

    Christians are also fundamental for they devote themselves to the leading–primary principles, rules, laws or articles, which serve as the ground work for their faith and the pleasure of God. Anxiety is not a problem for the fundamental believer because he is content with such things as he has, for he knows who he is and why he is who he is and he knows why he is here and how he arrived here and is confident where he is going.

    • Much depends on what you are “progressing” toward. Not all forward motion is good, especially if you’re headed in the wrong direction.

  4. I have posted this before on the Heidelblog and I think it is worth reposting:

    From J.I. Packer, Fundamentalism and the Word of God (1992 edition published by Eerdmans).

    Early in the book Packer summarizes how anti-Fundamentalists categorize their opponents:

    “In order to be a ‘Fundamentalist’ one must keep one’s mind resolutely closed – locked, bolted and barred – against the entry of modern knowledge about the Bible. ‘Fundamentalism’ is thus retrograde and, in effect, dishonest. ‘Intellectual hara-kiri’ (to quote a correspondent to the The Times) is the price which it exacts of its adherents; they have to learn to turn a blind eye to plain facts. This is why ‘Fundamentalism’ is so often equated with obscurantism, which the Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines as ‘the practice or principles of those who strive to prevent enlightenment or the progress of knowledge’. The critics of ‘Fundamentalism’ see it as one among the many movements of blind reaction which disfigure the record of man’s intellectual history; it presents to them the all-too-familiar spectacle of a die-hard traditionalism refusing to confess itself out-of date. And in the heat of its reaction, they think, it has lost all balance of judgment. Some truths it runs to death, other it neglects entirely, and those who cannot say all its shibboleths it damns out of hand.” pp. 11-12.

    Later in the book he provides five reasons why the term “fundamentalist” is an objectionable term. Here is the first reason:

    “In the first place, it is word that combines the vaguest conceptual meaning with the strongest emotional flavor. ‘Fundamentalist’ has long been a term of ecclesiastical abuse, a theological swear-word; and the important thing about a swear-word, of course, is not what it means but the feelings it expresses. It seems as discourteous as it is confusing to refer to Evangelicals as ‘fundamentalist’ and so invokes against them all the contemptuous overtones that have gathered round the title. ‘Give a dog a bad name – and hang it’ is a time-honored maxim in controversy – even, one fears, in theological controversy. And what happens when once the ‘bad name’ has caught on is always the same: as its derogatory flavor grows stronger, it is used more and more widely and loosely as a general term of abuse, till it has lost all value as a meaningful description of anything.” p. 30.

    Packer cites other examples of theological titles being used to insult – Puritan, Methodist, being the two most common. He ends with this comment: “There is no need to quote other examples; the point is clear. The verdict of history is that the use of vague prejudicial labels (and the more they are the one, the more they are the other) rules out the very possibility of charitable and constructive discussion. The interests of truth and love seem to demand that such labels be rigorously eschewed.” p. 31.

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