I work out at the ‘Y’ a couple of times a week. The YMCA that is: the Young Men’s Calisthenic Association (whatever was Christian about it ceased years ago, and, for that matter, it’s really a family place often with more women than men and old men than young men, but I digress). Anyway, there is something of a dribble of ministry that goes on there with a person here and a person there wanting to engage in a little God talk or bend a willing ear for a moment on some matter of deep concern to them. A fellow I often see decided to share with me that he has become a true Christian, a First Century Fundamentalist Christian. Now that left me speechless, which is not easy to do. I know the church he attends, and it is a very fundamentalist congregation. He was so happily proud of his new identity that I just didn’t have the heart to tell him that first century Christians were the radicals of their day, and anything but fundamentalist. They had no christology, no doctrine of the Trinity, no clear teaching on how exactly their salvation was in Christ, no New Testament scripture, and their reading of the Hebrew scriptures was anything but literal. Moreover, and as you well know, the kind of fundamentalism his congregation practices is a product of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Paul offered some wise counsel on matters such as this in both of his Corinthian letters. In one place he maintained that he had not used all of his rights as an apostle but had endured a lot of abuse from them rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ; in another place he claimed to put no obstacle in anyone’s way so that no fault might be found with his ministry. Taking Paul’s advice, I’m a little reluctant to give my friend a brief lesson in church history and teaching the next time I see him. But if this is the kind of stuff he is learning from his own minister, that person should be ashamed of such egregious distortions. I don’t know, maybe he (and I can guarantee it’s a he) is just plain ignorant. In any case, it is a rapidly growing congregation, but is it a congregation of the ignorant and seriously misinformed? Does it matter?
What do you think?