Seeking Worldly Approval or Not Giving Needless Offense?

Came across this in an article expressing concern over not wanting to be called a Fundamentalist:

“I am certainly not defending the name ‘Fundamental’.  We could rename faithfulness to Christ something else, but if we did, in a short time, its new name would develop the same ‘stink’ with the world as the old name. Those wishing to be thought well of by the world would then seek to avoid identification to the new term also.”

Let me begin with stating some agreement—believers are never to seek to gain the approval of the world. Period.

I think, though, that there is more to this discussion than this assessment takes into consideration. It assumes, for instance, that the only reason one might object to being called a fundamentalist is because of what the world thinks. While that certainly might be a factor, it is also true that one might not want to be called a fundamentalist because of what that label connotes to other believers. IOW, a person might not care at all what non-believers think, but still downplay or reject the label fundamentalist because it gives the impression that you don’t think Greek should be taught to theology majors or that Isaiah is a built in testimony to the KJV. If fundamentalist as popularly used among believers includes such views, then someone who is concerned about biblical fidelity may, out of good conscience, not want to be identified with that label. Not saying I agree with that call, but am saying that I won’t assume that it means bowing to worldly pressure.

Also, the fact that words mean things in context should be factored into this discussion. Fundamentalist meant something very clear in the early and mid 20th century, but in our day that word has picked up nuances and associations which make its meaning less clear. Desiring a more accurate name for one’s beliefs and commitments is not necessarily a capitulation to worldly desires. It may, in fact, reflect a desire for biblical and gospel fidelity. A man-made label, Fundamentalist, can’t be so important to us that we will give needless offense to those who don’t have insider knowledge of modern church history. The gap between the historical reality of what a fundamentalist was and what the average unbeliever will think when he hears “fundamentalist” today should make us think twice about using it carelessly. I personally have taken the stance that fundamentalist is an insider term for our church, not the public label by which we identify ourselves to an unbelieving world.

I am very staunchly anti-new evangelicalism and positively pro-separatism, but I find myself less and less comfortable with the category of fundamentalism precisely because so many strange birds have come to rest in that nest. It no longer means what it used to mean. I will never expect the world to understand what we are as a church, but I see no point in giving either believers or unbelievers the wrong impression about us.

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