Carl Henry wrote:

The code of Fundamentalism emphasizes external adherence to a few arbitrary customs and external abstinence from a few arbitrarily prohibited things. When a Fundamentalist is pressed with this analysis, he will, of course deny it. He, too, is vitally concerned with inner moral integrity. But one cannot escape the impression that his main interest is in his code. After all, that is where he focuses attention, that is the subject of his preaching and writing, that is the criterion for fellowship. What other conclusion can an observe draw from hearing so much sound and fury? His impression is that the Fundamentalist is more concerned with his code than with the vast spiritual issues of life—love, kindness, patience, tolerance, pride, self-righteousness, bitterness, or humility...It is against this mind-set in Fundamentalism that the writer wishes to protest. He is not arguing for drinking, for smoking, for dancing, for gambling, even for movie-attendance. But he is concerned lest Christians confuse ethical living with an arbitrary legalistic bondage. He is concerned lest externals become so prominent that internal virtues and vices are not treated at all. A proper emphasis must be restored to ethical thinking in evangelicalism so that the vicious sins of the spirit are seen as Jesus saw them. ~Christian Personal Ethics, p. 425-426

I’d like to think that I’m not a Fundamentalist in this legalistic, external sense, but Evangelicals have been so trained to think that Christian liberty means even the untrained conscience can make ethical determinations to the glory of God no matter the outcome. The misnomer lies in the belief that the act of decision-making is where God’s pleasure resides, an appeal to the conscience no matter its maturity.

We, as evangelicals, are still concerned with the outward manifestation of decisions because we realize the impact they have on others, especially when these decisions relate to issues of human dignity. But ultimately, I believe in the mission of changing hearts, so that those who are being taught about the most God-honoring decisions will desire to make those decisions.

I’ll answer my own question, I don’t think I’m a Fundamentalist in this sense, but I can see how Evangelicals can be confused as such. They’re wrong, but I understand.

Articles by Sarah J. Flashing

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