A Man without a Movement

As I’ve been preparing for our annual pastors’ conference, one of the items that my thoughts keep bumping into is the concept of movements, as in fundamentalist movement or new evangelical movement. I know there is talk from time to time about the difference between the idea of fundamentalism and the fundamentalist movement, and I think I understand what is being said. The reason I say that I only think I understand is because I still struggle with the movement part of that equation—at least the movement part as it relates to our current situation.

Good men disagree with me on it, but I’ve been of the mind for some time now that there really isn’t a fundamentalist movement (or a new evangelical one for that matter). The first time I can recall saying something like this publicly was in early 2005, so it is not a new development in my thinking. I clearly can see the existence of a fundamentalist movement during the early to mid 20th century as Bible believing people and churches mobilized to take a stand against modernism, but it seems to me that nothing like a movement exists today. And I wonder if you can really have a movement without something like that which animates and energizes people and churches.

It seems that the very definition of movement would need to include some objective or purpose. In fact, Webster defines movement as “a series of organized activities working toward an objective” and “an organized effort to promote or attain an end.” Fundamentalism was brought together by its opposition to liberalism—it moved in the direction of “an organized effort to promote or attain the end” of defending the Faith against modernism. Later, its energies were catalyzed by opposition to New Evangelicalism. As time has passed, though, no one objective or end has proved compelling or unique enough to hold the movement together.

That is not to say that fundamentalism doesn’t exist. I think it does, but I think it does so more like a belief system than a movement. IOW, it is more like dispensationalism than it is home education. Dispensationalism has a core set of beliefs which distinguishes it from other hermeneutical approaches, but I think one would be hard-pressed to argue that there is “an organized effort to promote or attain the end” of establishing dispensationalism as the dominant approach to Scripture among believers (though I’d personally sign up for that movement). The home school movement, on the other hand, clearly represents “an organized effort to promote or attain the end” of advancing home education.

What I am basically saying is that I believe you can be a fundamentalist (because you hold to the belief system) without being part of the fundamentalist movement (because I don’t think there is one). Personally, I think our whole obsession with movements is not good, but that’s another post for another day.

Comments are closed.