Beating up on Fundamentalism has become a rather popular thing to do on the Christian blogosphere these days. We tend to critique and criticize the movement...with an extra emphasis on the criticizing. While self-analysis and honest critiquing are important, I think we sometimes focus on some of the negatives and forget about the many positives. As a matter of fact, we tend to view some of the truly positive aspects of the movement as liabilities. I've been guilty of that myself. What follows is a partial list of the things that I truly love and appreciate about Fundamentalism:
- Uniformity in Bible version. While Fundamentalism has a substantial amount of KJVO's within the movement, I certainly appreciate the fact that you can go to nearly every IFB church in America and hear preaching and teaching from the KJV or NKJV. In the evangelical realm there is not an overpowering consensus of Bible version. In some evangelical churches you don't even know which version the pastor might preach from from one service to the next. I'm certainly not KJVO, but I do like the KJV and NKJV. The fact that Fundamentalism almost unanimously uses one of these versions is a plus in my book.
- Conservative dress standards. There are certainly legalists in our ranks who take dress standards to unhealthy places and attempt to "force" their folks to hold as doctrine some preference in this area. However, you are rarely going to walk into an IFB church or church activity and find yourself flabbergasted at the absence of modesty. Do we go overboard at times? Certainly, but I'm grateful that when we err, we tend to err to the right.
- Formal worship services. Without exception, every IFB church which I've attended treats the church service in a very reverential manner. People remain quiet in the auditorium and don't generally detract from what is going on up front - even during offertories or special music. In most of the "non-IFB" churches I've attended, this has not been the case. I appreciate the fact that in most IFB churches folks tend to "dress up" a bit for church. I think it helps to promote the idea that we need to behave differently in the church service.
- Quality music. While I have rather, let's say...broad, tastes in music, I appreciate the fact that IFB churches have - almost without fail - extremely conservative music. Some of the evangelical churches I've attended have almost abandoned hymns in favor of choruses. Many no longer use hymnals and many have embraced Praise and Worship music as the music of choice. While many of these forms might have a place, I appreciate the old hymns with their deeper theology. I appreciate not being distracted by an overabundance of (loud) instrumentation. I like being able to hold the music in my hand and sing bass, tenor, harmony, or melody. I really enjoy very conservative music in worship.
- Heavy emphasis on personal and family devotions. This is something I've always seen emphasized in IFB churches. At times I've seen it overstated, but I appreciate the fact that there is always a heavy emphasis on individuals and families studying the Word of God and going to Him in prayer.
- Age-segregated ministries. Many churches are abandoning this, but I'm thankful that most IFB churches have not. While this is purely a matter of preference, I appreciate the fact that I can go to IFB churches and have my children in classes where they will be taught on their level.
- Special observances of the Lord's Supper. I'm grateful that most in IFB-dom have not ritualized the Ordinance of Communion. Most IFB churches with which I'm familiar observe the Lord's Supper quarterly. I'm appreciative of the fact that there is generally a special emphasis put on the Lord's Supper when it is observed. Many churches outside of fundamentalism observe it as often as weekly. I suspect that it has lost it's "specialness" in those instances.
- Emphasis on evangelism. This certainly isn't something that is only present in Fundamentalism. Like several of the items on this little list, evangelism is something that is emphasized (I'm sure) in many - if not most - churches outside of fundamentalism. However, within IFB-dom, there has always been a special emphasis on this. Many churches have different types of outreach programs - door-to-door, nursing home ministries, sports ministries, bus ministries, etc. - all geared towards reaching the unreached and backslidden. I appreciate that this emphasis in most IFB churches encourages participation by all members.
- Solid, biblical teaching. While I spent a brief period in my life in the weak, doctrinally shallow, dark underbelly of the movement, I have come to expect good, solid bible teaching when I attend an IFB church. As a general rule, the pastors will boldly proclaim the truth, and they tend to stick with the Scriptures. In many types of churches outside the movement, you get feel-good, non-biblical Olsteen/Hybels-type platitudes. There's a difference between speaking true things and proclaiming the Truth.
I suppose I could continue with this list, but this is a good start. Granted, I've seen all these things abused within the movement. However, I've not seen them abused within the section of the movement with which I've been associated most of my life.