Friday, June 01, 2007

a technical aside

So I suppose I should say something about the difference between being a Fundamentalist and an Evangelical Christian. I usually refer to myself as a recovering fundamentalist because most people who are not part of the conservative Christian world don't know the difference. And in fact, from that perspective, I don't think there is much difference. Both groups believe that the bible is the inspired Word of God, every last word of it. It is, according to both groups, "inerrant," meaning "without error." Both groups believe that humans are sinful and that this sin separates us from union with God. Both groups believe that you are only saved if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior, to borrow an overused phrase. And that we can only be reunited with God because Jesus gave his life for us. And the virgin birth and the divinity of Jesus and the bodily resurrection and so on.

I'm not even sure I remember what the technical differences are, but I know I had an impression that Fundamentalists had a lot more rules. I remember my dad saying once that Evangelicals concentrated more on God's grace (his willingness to forgive us even when we don't deserve it), while Fundamentalists concentrated more on God's righteousness and judgment. If someone wants to chime in here and help me out, please feel free. I do remember that we teased about going to Bob Jones University, a decidedly fundamentalist institution, where (supposedly) the male and female students were so thoroughly separated that they were required to walk on different sidewalks. (I have no idea whether or not this was actually true, I just know we used to joke about it). (great humor Evangelicals have).

For the record, I was raised as an Evangelical Christian. I don't think this will make a difference to most of my readers (all dozen of you) but just in case it ever comes up, I disclosed. :-)


  1. According to in the 1940's a split occurred in conservative Christianity over how to apply the fundamentals of the faith. Fundamentalists wanted to separate from culture (separate church-based schools and home-schooling are both characteristic of fundamentalism). This is consistent with my experience of Fundamentalist relatives, Bob Jonesers, no less. Evangelicals wanted to engage culture (I think of Josh somebody's book "Evidence that demands a verdict" and the "Late Great Planet Eartth" both examples - for good or ill - of Christians engaging the culture.) Thus, vociferous anti-abortion and anti-gay lobbying and political involvement, while embarrassingly conservative, are at heart evangelical trends.

  2. hmmmmm, very interesting. That makes me re-think some of my biases, actually. Did you have to read "Christ and Culture" (richard niebuhr) at our former mutual school? I remember that I read it, but I don't remember much at all about what it said. but I think making those distinctions was the general theme. this is going to come up again, I think.