READY TO GIVE AN ANSWER (FUNDAMENTALISM)
Passages that will help you respond when people say…
There’s a reason why no one talks about the Ecumenical Movement anymore. It’s the same reason why no one was pleading for God’s deliverance in the days of Samson. For forty years the Philistines had oppressed the people of Israel. Yet there was no apparent outcry. Why not? Because the people adapted and intermarried. (Judges 14)
The Ecumenical Movement promised to unite a diversity of theological positions under one common roof. It has. Denominational lines have become blurry and nobody seems to care. As long as there is agreement in the basics, the “fundamental” doctrines of Scripture, why not pool resources and embrace what is held in common?
The idea has a certain appeal, especially for those removed from the immediate circle of fellow believers. College students who are surrounded by godless professors and unbelieving classmates often feel marginalized because of their faith. Finding someone, anyone, who believes in Jesus as his Savior and accepts the main teachings of Scripture, provides a common, natural bond. “As long as we agree on the core issues, why not worship together?”
It is true that some doctrines are more “fundamental” than others because some are directly related to saving faith. Rejecting the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, or His resurrection from the dead will have a more immediate (and serious) consequence than denying the doctrine of church fellowship. But to say that some doctrines of Scripture deserve our full attention while others are optional is like playing Jenga with your faith. Remove enough “non-fundamental” doctrines and the structure falls.
People often suggest that our differences merely stem from the denomination in which we were raised. “Everyone comes to God in his own way, through his own traditions.” But there are no denominational doctrines in Scripture. There was not one faith delivered to the Baptist church and another to the Lutheran church. The Bible speaks of “our common salvation” and urges us to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3) There was one faith delivered to the church. The fact that the church has splintered into many denominations is not God’s idea. It is caused by sinful mankind.
For church fellowship to be established, God expects full agreement in all of the doctrines of Scripture, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)
Notice the level of agreement expected: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Anything less than doctrinal unity sets the church on a course of confusion and potential disaster. That’s what happened to Air New Zealand Flight 901 in 1979. A minor miscalculation in the flight coordinates led to the deaths of all 257 people onboard. The pilot thought he was going the right way, but flew directly into a mountainside. Likewise, a “minor” doctrinal error today can do permanent, irreversible damage tomorrow.
Thankfully, there is a bond that links all Christians together. Every Sunday we confess our belief in the oneness of the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints. This Church crosses denominational lines and includes every soul that trusts in Jesus for salvation. For now, this Church is known to God and not to us. He can see faith; we can’t. Church fellowship is to be based on what we can see: a professed, complete agreement in doctrine and practice.
James Albrecht is pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Okabena, Minnesota.