[an example of early formulation of thought in the public arena, which I would moderate later on, especially in terms of broad sweep claims about “fundamentalism”]

Letter to the Editor, Christian Century, February 19, 1986

Fundamental Differences

It seems that James Wall enjoys the theological panacea of setting up the fundamentalist as a straw man to blame for a wide assortment of social evils. Most recently he has done this in his editorial “Shi’ite Fundamentalist Leads ’85 Newsmakers” (Jan. 1-8) by comparing Protestant fundamentalists with Shi’ite Muslims. Though both parties assert fidelity to their particular historical fundamentals, those two faiths are radically different.

One could criticize Protestant fundamentalists for not holding sufficiently to the fundamental tenets of biblical faith. Rather, they too often substitute substitute that with an encultured “gospel” of self-aggrandizing Americanism. They portray a “holier than thou” militancy instead of the ethics of servanthood, which would reflect a confidence in the truth. The latter does not mitigate conviction in Christ as the only means of salvation, nor the reality of final judgment judgment, but instead it leaves those factors in God’s care.

But Wall confuses fundamentalism as a cultural movement with the fundamentals of orthodoxy. If he were to preserve this distinction and not assume that holding to the fundamentals of biblical orthodoxy results in “intolerance” of enculturated fundamentalism, then his perspective would reflect more sobriety. He is in danger of his own brand of intolerance, and I would encourage him not to step into the pit he so carefully digs for others. Better yet, don’t dig the pit, and judge as you wish to be judged.

John C. Rankin, New England Christian Action Council, Gloucester, Mass.