My internet friend David Hayward (The Naked Pastor) wrote a post yesterday posing some good questions about the rise of fundamentalism in today’s world. He sees the retreat to fundamentalism as a response to our uncertain and changing times. To him, it is merely an unwillingness to deal with mystery that causes people to become more and more rigid. To a certain extent I agree with him.
In both liberal and conservative sects, the more we eradicate mystery, the more rigid we tend to become. For conservatives it’s the eradication and elimination of drinking, smoking, women wearing pants, and so on. For liberals it’s the eradication and elimination of the belief in any miracles, in using Scripture for spiritual purposes, and so on. So I would contend that fundamentalism comes in both variations; one is remaining fundamental to conservative ideals with the other is pointing to the fundamentals of liberal ideals.
Where I would disagree is in pointing out that today’s world isn’t any less confusing or less mysterious than the world of yesterday. Think of the people who were experiencing the collapse of the Roman Republic. Certainly that was a confusing time when the Senate seemed to be impotent and the Emperors began to rise. With this change also came a dynamic change in Roman culture. Or what about the rise of Christendom, which also would have confused the masses. We could turn to the collapse of the Roman Empire, the rise of Islam in the East, the power vacuum of Europe shortly after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the collapse of Constantinople, the Protestant Reformation, the discovery of a New World, and the list goes on and on. The point being, our world has seemingly always been in a time of upheaval and that today would be no different from any of those times.
What has remained consistent during this times, however, is that the fundamentals of the Christian faith have stayed constant. Christians today who claim orthodoxy would differ very little in their central beliefs from Christians two thousand years ago, even though we are separated by time, culture, and language. The reason for this is that though Christianity has fundamentals to follow, it is ultimately based on a mystery. Being based on a mystery means that nothing can overcome it, nothing can overpower it, and as confusing as our world is, it’ll never be more mysterious than God.
It is in uncertain times when we need to embrace the stable mystery of Christ, lest we be swept away by the turbulent seas of uncertainty.