About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
Upon revisiting former
President Jimmy Carter's book entitled "Our Endangered
Values"; it confirmed to me once again that Evangelicalism isn't
what it once was. Carter is
a Southern Baptist. He
considers himself to be an Evangelical but not a Fundamentalist. On
the other hand, among other labels I've been branded with, an
Evangelical Fundamentalist, although not entirely accurate, comes close
to who I am. Since being
raised in an Evangelical family, I believe I can safely say that my
parents generation of Free Methodists considered itself to be both
Evangelical and Fundamentalist.
The hero of the Free
Methodist denomination was, and I assume still is, John Wesley (1703 -
1791). Wesley was a
prominent Bible teacher in the First Great Awakening that swept across England
in the 1700's. This movement
was in sharp contrast to the Reformation Movement that had grown stale
and impersonal. Wesley, and
those like him, emphasized the necessity of having a personal
relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
They preached, or evangelized, this gospel everywhere they went
as Jesus commanded. The
First Great Awakening in
When I was a youth,
Evangelicals considered themselves to be Fundamentalists.
The term Fundamentalist came into being in the late 1800's in
reaction to a German liberalism that was attempting to infiltrate the
church. Those holding to
this liberalism denied the fundamental truths of the Bible as understood
by Evangelicals. They
rejected all supernatural content of the Bible.
This undermined the doctrine of the Deity of Christ which
Evangelicals believed was fundamental to all things Christian.
Evangelicals were thus labeled Fundamentalist because they
embraced the fundamental truths of Scripture as they viewed them.
By the early 1900's the term Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism
were pretty much synonymous.
In the 1970's I began to
note a trend taking place among Evangelicals.
Some Evangelicals weren't as fundamental as their forefathers.
As a matter of fact, Fundamentalists were often labeled
"fighting fundies", a derogatory term denoting their vigorous,
fierce, and inflexible, stance in their fight against liberalism.
Now, as Jimmy Carter
makes clear, not all Evangelicals consider themselves Fundamentalists.
Not all Evangelicals are evangelical in the historic sense of the
word. Not all Evangelicals
hold to the fundamental truths of Scripture.
This departure from Fundamentalism was seen in Carter's
presidency. Although I do
understand his reasoning, he took a more liberal approach on many
issues. For example, he
opposed abortion on a personal level but he did not oppose it on a
public political level. He
takes the same position concerning other issues as well, including same
Other men, like Brian
McLaren and Rob Bell, who were educated in very Evangelical
universities, have recently taken this move away from Fundamentalism
even farther. They have
adopted a new liberalism similar to the German liberalism of the 1800's.
They lead a movement called the Emergent
We now live in a time
when Evangelical Fundamentalists are mentioned in the same breath as
Islamic Fundamentalist extremists. Evangelical
Fundamentalists are often considered extremists, and you know what
people think about extremists these days.
This extremist label is a false portrayal and an unfair
representation of those holding to a Christian Evangelical
Fundamentalism. We follow
the lead of Jesus as seen in John 18:36.
We do not advocate violence in the promotion of our cause as the
word "extremist" now implies.
We will, however, use whatever legal and political means at our
disposal, as the Apostle Paul did, to promote the Biblical truths by
which we live.
Are we in the midst of an
Evangelical meltdown? I'll
let you ponder that over. For
me, I choose to follow the faith of my father, albeit with a little less
humanistic legalism. I
choose to stand for the fundamental truths of Scripture.
If I'm labeled an extremist for my stance; I have no control over
As the prophetic
admonition was proclaimed to