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nontheistpilgrim

Fundamental fundamentalism in all Christians?

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A bit of background...I am growing more into nontheism as I read and think. I see no return to christianity ever.

My partner is a Christian and attends the church where once I was the minister. We have the greatest love and respect for each other.

The said church has a need for an organist. I can play the organ. The church has stated that they are happy for me, as a non believer, to play occasionally.

I believe that church should be a joyful place where people have fun being together.

Why shouldn't I play occasionally? The stuff that is said and sung in church drives me mad... that's when I cannot avoid listening! But I don't feel that I am being hypocritical as my purpose in playing is to facilitate community'.

Now to my point. This morning they sang ‘How blest are they, and only they, who in his truth confide'. Rubbish! This is a theologically middle of the road church. I would be very surprised if many of the congregation were thinking about what they were singing. But not for the first time I found myself thinking "scratch the surface of the average person in the pew and you will find a fundamentalist".

This site appears to me to be meeting the needs of ex-fundamentalists.

So my question is: do folks here agree that there is a fundamental fundamentalism underneath the surface of most Christians in the pews? And has this got implications for our attitude to curious people who come here?

I also am interested in any views about possible differences in this subject between USA and UK.

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I think fundamentalist Christianity is the only honest form of Christianity. It's a proposition which,  if truly believed and understood,  must be the most important thing in one's life. Having said that, I know from experience that there are plenty of "Sunday morning only" Christians. Especially in certain denominations. As you said, lots of them just don't think about what they're singing/reading/hearing. So I don't think it's true necessarily that if you scratch a Christian,  you'll find a fundy. You may just find someone who isn't very seriously a Christian. 

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3 hours ago, nontheistpilgrim said:

Now to my point. This morning they sang ‘How blest are they, and only they, who in his truth confide'. Rubbish! This is a theologically middle of the road church. I would be very surprised if many of the congregation were thinking about what they were singing. But not for the first time I found myself thinking "scratch the surface of the average person in the pew and you will find a fundamentalist".

 

This site appears to me to be meeting the needs of ex-fundamentalists.

 

So my question is: do folks here agree that there is a fundamental fundamentalism underneath the surface of most Christians in the pews?

 

I do think it's difficult for Christianity to escape its own exclusivism, reflected in the lyric you noticed. There's a lot of tradition to overturn to try to make Christianity into a pluralistic religion that can recognize other paths. "No one comes to the Father except through me" is pretty deeply baked in. So, to the extent that one of the fundamentals of fundamentalism (heh) is the belief that this is the only way I think your point is pretty valid. Attempts to make the religion more palatable in a modern, secular, pluralistic context have an uphill battle. It's a battle I eventually gave up on myself.

 

That said, I think it's always worth keeping in mind that religions are something people (cultures, societies, ...) create, and not just once but they go on re-creating them. The weight of the tradition hangs over everything and exerts a force but it's not completely determinative. Some Christians definitely are more fundamentalist than others in meaningful ways. I think it's interesting that you noticed that more fundamentalist attitude in the music. I think sometimes even people with more liberal religious views hang on to traditional (read: more fundamentalist) music. There's some emotional attachment, and I think you're right that they may not even really notice the lyrics. How people relate to the symbols of their faith can seem a little weird from the outside.

 

28 minutes ago, disillusioned said:

I think fundamentalist Christianity is the only honest form of Christianity. It's a proposition which,  if truly believed and understood,  must be the most important thing in one's life.

 

This is interesting. I think you're using fundamentalist here to refer to the seriousness of a person's engagement with their religion, i.e. whether they are "Sunday-morning only" or not. I tend to think of fundamentalism as less describing the intensity of religiosity and more describing something about the style of belief and practice, e.g. beliefs like creationism, strongly conservative views on sin and hell, and so on. So I agree that being a Sunday-morning-only Christian is inherently contradictory, but I wouldn't say that fundamentalism (as I understand it) is the only honest form of Christianity because I think people can honestly have less fundamentalistic attitudes and still be very serious about their religious convictions. That said, it does seem to me that it's also more likely for people who fit that description to eventually become ex-Christians because of the difficulty of reconciling those more open views both with the traditions of the religion and with the reality of how most Christians act. That's more or less my story.

 

Basically, I don't think fundamentalism is the only honest version, but it might be the most stable version over time, especially if the trends toward secularization continue.

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I think there is a difference between 'professional' Christians (i.e. those who have studied for work in the church) and those who sit in the pews. I'm talking about the pew Christian. It seems to me that preachers rarely face up to such things as the contradictions in the Bible; nor do they often face controversial issues. For example, I have never heard a preacher give a Bible Study which concluded that gay sex is ok (I did!!). The existence of Jesus is never examined. The virgin birth may be questioned but  it's more likely that preachers will avoid too much mention of that! The resurrection is never queried (and people's faith is likely to disintegrate if they doubted this). Thus pew Christians are rarely exposed to or challenged to face up to the difficult issues: they only hear a watered-down version of their faith (the fundamentals).

If you live in a city in the UK your fellow pew Christians are likely to have had a strong influence, either directly or via their parents, from the missionary activity of the past and this was generally fundamentalist (I don't think is a generalisation; I don't know about American missionary activity).

Thanks for your observations - I am very interested.

 

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47 minutes ago, wellnamed said:

 

This is interesting. I think you're using fundamentalist here to refer to the seriousness of a person's engagement with their religion, i.e. whether they are "Sunday-morning only" or not. I tend to think of fundamentalism as less describing the intensity of religiosity and more describing something about the style of belief and practice, e.g. beliefs like creationism, strongly conservative views on sin and hell, and so on. So I agree that being a Sunday-morning-only Christian is inherently contradictory, but I wouldn't say that fundamentalism (as I understand it) is the only honest form of Christianity because I think people can honestly have less fundamentalistic attitudes and still be very serious about their religious convictions. That said, it does seem to me that it's also more likely for people who fit that description to eventually become ex-Christians because of the difficulty of reconciling those more open views both with the traditions of the religion and with the reality of how most Christians act. That's more or less my story.

 

Good point. Its definitely the case that there are non-fundamentalists who take their religion seriously. A proper definition of "fundamentalism" may be difficult to pin down precisely,  but I'd agree that it has to do with more than mere engagement with religion. But I do think that a person with serious religious convictions who is not a fundamentalist will often find themselves faced with the following options: neglect to ask the difficult questions (naive), ask the questions but ignore/rationalize the difficult answers (dishonest), move towards a more fundamentalist view,  or move away from the faith. There may be more options that I'm missing,  but this is how it usually seems to go,  in my experience.

 

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nontheistpilgrim: it wouldn't surprise me if there were significant differences between the US and the UK, which I can't speak to, with regards to "pew Christians". Although I'm sure what you said about most people never being exposed to the difficult questions is true here too.

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3 minutes ago, disillusioned said:

But I do think that a person with serious religious convictions who is not a fundamentalist will often find themselves faced with the following options: neglect to ask the difficult questions (naive), ask the questions but ignore/rationalize the difficult answers (dishonest), move towards a more fundamentalist view,  or move away from the faith. There may be more options that I'm missing,  but this is how it usually seems to go,  in my experience.

 

Yeah, sounds about right. I don't think all attempts at rationalization are fundamentally dishonest, though. Clearly some are. Perhaps I'm just too sympathetic of people like myself :P

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Liberal Christians can be just as fervent in their belief in God as fundamentalists are. Just sayin. There are just different challenges in deconversion for the two. Liberal xtians have a hard time because of a tendency to rationalize and get new agey; and fundies have a hard time because of the social immersion and rigid dogma.

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17 minutes ago, wellnamed said:

 

Yeah, sounds about right. I don't think all attempts at rationalization are fundamentally dishonest, though. Clearly some are. Perhaps I'm just too sympathetic of people like myself :P

 

I agree with this. I don't mean to say that those who engage in rationalizations are consciously being dishonest; rather that the rationalizations themselves are an example of intellectual dishonesty. Certainly people who engage in rationalization may not recognize that they are doing so.

 

Also, I was a fundamentalist, so naturally I'm inclined to think that that's the only true form of Christianity. 😜

 

4 minutes ago, Orbit said:

Liberal Christians can be just as fervent in their belief in God as fundamentalists are. Just sayin. There are just different challenges in deconversion for the two. Liberal xtians have a hard time because of a tendency to rationalize and get new agey; and fundies have a hard time because of the social immersion and rigid dogma.

 

Good points here.

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The purpose of Bible Study is to indoctrinate people into WHAT to believe. Critical thinking would be sinful and therefore excluded. 

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Disillusioned: Also, I was a fundamentalist, so naturally I'm inclined to think that that's the only true form of Christianity. 😜

 

Oh but it is, hallelujah, amen, praise the lord.

 

Actually, it's my reaction to this sort of statement that makes me realise that my past is not totally forgotten. How I wish it were so, perhaps I'd be more tolerant of Christians. When I have to sit through a service (at the organ, remember!) listening to the stuff coming at us I can get quite angry and that's not helpful.

 

Orbit: Liberal Christians can be just as fervent in their belief in God as fundamentalists are.

 

Yes, but I still don't get it.

 

As I said elswhere, I don't want to stop learning but as a UK comidienne once said 'It does me 'ed in'.

 

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10 minutes ago, Geezer said:

The purpose of Bible Study is to indoctrinate people into WHAT to believe. Critical thinking would be sinful and therefore excluded. 

For a fundamentalist, probably. But I wasn't always so. I came to believe that Bible Study was meant to expose people to Biblical teachings and to let them decide for themselves. On the question of gay sex they rejected the biblical teaching because they had been indoctrinated by heretics (i,e, my predecessors). 😜

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17 hours ago, nontheistpilgrim said:

So my question is: do folks here agree that there is a fundamental fundamentalism underneath the surface of most Christians in the pews?

Consider, too, that there are a lot of them that sort of believe but really go because it's a family tradition, the ritual makes them feel good, and for the social aspects. I'm married to one of those.

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7 hours ago, older said:

Consider, too, that there are a lot of them that sort of believe but really go because it's a family tradition, the ritual makes them feel good, and for the social aspects. I'm married to one of those.

Yes, agreed. I used to think that it was the task of preachers and teachers to encourage such attenders to 'greater heights' otherwise, what's the point? I now think 'everyone to their own likes', if they want to attend for those reasons it's fine by me ( although there are other places where these needs could be met).

But surely they believe in things like the existence of god, the resurrection, even the virgin birth, the Bible, prayer? This doesn't make them fundamentalists, I suppose, but they are fundamentals!

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On ‎3‎/‎12‎/‎2019 at 4:12 AM, nontheistpilgrim said:

It seems to me that preachers rarely face up to such things as the contradictions in the Bible; nor do they often face controversial issues. For example, I have never heard a preacher give a Bible Study which concluded that gay sex is ok (I did!!).

 

I am actually at a loss how any Christian can come to the conclusion that any form of homosexuality is ok. The ones that say the bible says its wrong are actually correct. It's one of the few things that is explicitly condemned in both the OT and the NT... so you can't claim the New Covenant means its ok. Now I applaud those Christians who do engage faculties and not just blindly adhere to da-word-of-god... but I'm still confused how one can theologically justify a liberal position on the subject from a Christian standpoint.

 

Maybe one of our ex c members can answer this? Maybe I'm clouded by my fundy theology?

 

As far as fundamentalism in all believers - clearly no as evidenced by the fact that I just pointed out that some Christians manage to stray very far from the fundamentalist conservative theologies.

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11 minutes ago, LogicalFallacy said:

I am actually at a loss how any Christian can come to the conclusion that any form of homosexuality is ok. The ones that say the bible says its wrong are actually correct. It's one of the few things that is explicitly condemned in both the OT and the NT... so you can't claim the New Covenant means its ok. Now I applaud those Christians who do engage faculties and not just blindly adhere to da-word-of-god... but I'm still confused how one can theologically justify a liberal position on the subject from a Christian standpoint.

 

Maybe one of our ex c members can answer this? Maybe I'm clouded by my fundy theology?

 

I think you're definitely right that it's difficult for Christians to reconcile that position with their other views about the nature of scriptural authority <-- but that's what it comes down to, rather than theology.

 

I think you're implicitly accepting the view that Biblical texts provide an inerrant and immutable guide to morality, and the only job of Christians is to properly interpret that guide. But I don't think one has to accept that view in order to be "Christian", although it is a very dominant view, especially among Protestants. In Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy they make things a little more complex (read: confusing? :P) by insisting that moral authority really rests in the Church as an institution, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, rather than in the text directly. Although they kind of hedge a bit as far as exactly how far the text is reliable. In any case, that nuance is why they make appeals to the idea of "apostolic authority" passing on from generation to generation, or why they believe that sacraments need to be administered by priests.

 

I don't think that view of scriptural authority is inherently contradictory, although it's clearly much, much more complicated. Over long time spans I think that view is going to be much more tenable, because obviously cultures change and historically the religion has also changed too. Sometimes those changes don't require any deftness of scriptural interpretation, although you might think they should. For example, prior to WWII Christian anti-semitism was very common, and very commonly justified by quoting certain N.T. passages about the Jews' responsibility for the crucifixion. Those passages are still there, but no one interprets them that way anymore, and approximately no one considers that a problem for their hermeneutics, despite the fact that it clearly indicates a problem with the idea of an inerrant interpretation...

 

But in the case of anti-semitism the interpretations were less direct than moral injunctions against homosexuality, which is why I don't think you see more conservative Christians doing something similar in order to adapt to changing cultural norms. Instead the explanation is mostly just what you said: liberal Christians reject the authority of the Bible on that point. If they try to work out how to reconcile that with their other beliefs, they probably end up adopting some more complex view of the role of scripture than the sola scriptura of reformed theology.

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So for example, there's a Thomist principle that says that "whatever is received [i.e. in revelation] is received according to the modality of the receiver", which is basically a really fancy (latin, originally!) way of trying to say that while God's revelations may be perfect they have to be processed by imperfect human minds. As an idea, it makes some sense and it has that lovely medieval catholic theologian imprimatur, for those that feel comforted by such. It basically leaves open the possibility of humans misunderstanding anything or everything. So it's possible for some sophisticated liberal Christian to construct a view of the history of the Bible that says that the human authors of those texts were divinely inspired but filtered the revelations they received through the imperfect lenses of their own times, cultures, and personal biases. They might turn to a more mystical view of the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding Christians to re-interpret passages under their own inspiration. The relevant saints in this view of Christianity are not so much the scribes as the mystics, and the goal is a subjective and individual knowledge of the Divine.

 

Obviously the challenge of this view is that there really is no objective way of reconciling which interpretations are correct, and clearly that kind of wishy-washiness is not what lots of Christians are after. But your determined liberal (I speak from experience here) can also point out that this is just as true for the fundamentalists or the conservatives, because it's not as if they can all agree on how to interpret the text either, and they never have. And that I think is basically true: no matter how you slice it the Bible is a human endeavour and is as subject to contentions about interpretation (individual and cultural) as anything else. And then maybe eventually (again I speak from experience :P) the liberal realizes this new view doesn't really amount to a very important role for religious tradition over just using their own judgement...

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I don't know if this fits in here, but logic and critical, rational thinking are not part of the fundamentalists scene.  Insecure people needing black and white answers are drawn to these groups.

 

Some people develope "mind sets", and "tune out" anything that disagrees with their mind set.  And they believe their mind set is "truth."  I was flabbergasted when in a argument with my father decades ago about the interpretation of a scripture.  He got angry and blurted out,  "the bible says what it says, and means what it says.  There is no interpretation!"  That's when I realized I might as well have been arguing with a fence post.  

 

Not all fundamentalists are that rigid, but degrees of that thinking exists.  He was so frightened for the salvation of his soul that he couldn't accept that he might be wrong about the interpretation of a scripture.  He grew up with an abusive, perfectionist father, and went to a rigid, fear based church.  In both cases perfect obedience, and not making a mistake, was your salvation.

 

It takes a fairly secure person to question their "salvation."  Be it earthly, or in the hereafter.  

 

 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, Weezer said:

I don't know if this fits in here, but logic and critical, rational thinking are not part of the fundamentalists scene.  Insecure people needing black and white answers are drawn to these groups.

 

Some people develope "mind sets", and "tune out" anything that disagrees with their mind set.  And they believe their mind set is "truth."  I was flabbergasted when in a argument with my father decades ago about the interpretation of a scripture.  He got angry and blurted out,  "the bible says what it says, and means what it says.  There is no interpretation!"  That's when I realized I might as well have been arguing with a fence post.  

 

Not all fundamentalists are that rigid, but degrees of that thinking exists.  He was so frightened for the salvation of his soul that he couldn't accept that he might be wrong about the interpretation of a scripture.  He grew up with an abusive, perfectionist father, and went to a rigid, fear based church.  In both cases perfect obedience, and not making a mistake, was your salvation.

 

It takes a fairly secure person to question their "salvation."  Be it earthly, or in the hereafter.  

 

 

This all preys on an evolutionary trait humans have as children - to obey and believe parents unquestioningly. Survival relies on this trait. However when abused by ridged thinking systems this trait turns out not so useful. Some of course, as you mention, never get out of this mindset and religion hijacks it. Thus why we often get over fairies and santa claus, but the deeply indoctrinated religious beliefs are harder to expunge.

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6 hours ago, Weezer said:

I don't know if this fits in here, but logic and critical, rational thinking are not part of the fundamentalists scene.  Insecure people needing black and white answers are drawn to these groups.

 

Some people develope "mind sets", and "tune out" anything that disagrees with their mind set.  And they believe their mind set is "truth."  I was flabbergasted when in a argument with my father decades ago about the interpretation of a scripture.  He got angry and blurted out,  "the bible says what it says, and means what it says.  There is no interpretation!"  That's when I realized I might as well have been arguing with a fence post.  

 

Not all fundamentalists are that rigid, but degrees of that thinking exists.  He was so frightened for the salvation of his soul that he couldn't accept that he might be wrong about the interpretation of a scripture.  He grew up with an abusive, perfectionist father, and went to a rigid, fear based church.  In both cases perfect obedience, and not making a mistake, was your salvation.

 

It takes a fairly secure person to question their "salvation."  Be it earthly, or in the hereafter.  

 

 

 

 

 

Fundamentalism, I personally hate debating Parrots which can only repeat what Scripture "says". The quickest way to get under a fundamentalist skin is to ask them what that verse "means".

 

There's a difference between literal interpretation and literalistic (fundmenatlism) interpretation. Fundamentalism almost comes across as satirical. Point the fundamentalist to cutting off his hand if it causes him to sin. Push him to not only be consistent with his wooden or inflexible methods and interpretation but to live what he believes and preaches.

 

Works righteousness, performance based salvation or perfectionism are impossible standards. The only way to meet what is required by these schools of thought is either to water down the Law or water down God's holiness in relation to man's sin nature. Push these theological camps far enough and they'll talk one out of the necessity for Christ. If man in or of himself can obtain righteousness then why Jesus?

 

I am Reformed, and in our Confession of Faith the 1st question which is addressed, "What is the purpose of man?" The answer, "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever".

 

It's amazing to me how the pride of man must think more highly of himself and that he himself may be not only capable but they he contributed to the saving works of God.

 

That's all that's required of us, to glorify and enjoy God.

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11 hours ago, LogicalFallacy said:

 

I am actually at a loss how any Christian can come to the conclusion that any form of homosexuality is ok. The ones that say the bible says its wrong are actually correct. It's one of the few things that is explicitly condemned in both the OT and the NT... so you can't claim the New Covenant means its ok.

 

It's a tangent but obviously I need to respond briefly. I do not believe that the Bible, taken as a whole, is anti-gay sex - except for a single verse, I think in Romans? The rest of the so-called proof texts mean something else, the most obvious being that the Sodom story is not about homosexuality but about hospitaility.

But that's enough; I won't preach my sermon here.

BTW I am not gay - nor a Christian now.

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1 hour ago, nontheistpilgrim said:

It's a tangent but obviously I need to respond briefly. I do not believe that the Bible, taken as a whole, is anti-gay sex - except for a single verse, I think in Romans? The rest of the so-called proof texts mean something else, the most obvious being that the Sodom story is not about homosexuality but about hospitaility.

But that's enough; I won't preach my sermon here.

BTW I am not gay - nor a Christian now.

 

The Sodom story may be confused by Christians, true, however how do you explain the verses of the law from Moses "If a man sleep with another man as he does a woman (i.e. having sex)" it is an abomination and they shall be stoned."? Paul ,didn't grab his anti homosexual ideas from thin ear, he was carrying it on from the law of Moses. 

 

Here it is, book, chapter and verse:

 

 

Quote

 

Leviticus 20:13-15 Modern English Version (MEV)

13 If a man lies with another man as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood guilt shall be upon them.

14 If a man lies with a woman and also her mother, it is wickedness. Both he and they shall be burned with fire, so that there is no wickedness among you.

15 If a man lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal.

 

 

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On 3/11/2019 at 7:14 AM, nontheistpilgrim said:

 

I am growing more into nontheism as I read and think. I see no return to christianity ever.

 

 

That’s a familiar experience, haha!

 

On 3/11/2019 at 7:14 AM, nontheistpilgrim said:

 

But not for the first time I found myself thinking "scratch the surface of the average person in the pew and you will find a fundamentalist".

 

This site appears to me to be meeting the needs of ex-fundamentalists.

 

So my question is: do folks here agree that there is a fundamental fundamentalism underneath the surface of most Christians in the pews? And has this got implications for our attitude to curious people who come here?

 

 

I think it’s more like if you scratch the surface of the average person in the pew you will find a POTENTIAL fundamentalist.  As long as a person identifies as a Christian in some way, there is the potential to be drawn from casual belief into fundamentalism or fanaticism.  As long as one regards scripture as somehow the Word of God there is the possibility of one day acting on its more radical commands.  Entire communities, nations even, can slide from a relatively liberal, laid-back observance of a religion into taking it much more seriously.  It fascinates me to look at a country like Egypt as it was in the middle of the 20th century: it had become increasingly westernized and more liberal.  It was rare in the cities at least to see women wearing any form of the hijab.  Night-clubs were plentiful.  But then, starting in the 1970s, the Islamic world started turning back to the conservative version that dominates today.  Just compare street-scenes of Cairo and Tehran in the 1960s to the same places today.  And this was possible because the populations largely continued to identify as Muslim, and were swayed by calls to return to the true, pure practice of their religion.  When you continue to believe that there is a god who cares deeply how you live your life, what you wear and who you sleep with, there are few limits to how far it can take you.

 

So are casual Christians in the pews in danger of becoming radicals?  It’s not that big of a stretch.  So while liberal or casual Christianity might seem unthreatening and ineffective, it holds the seeds of something much more aggressive and dangerous to the rest of us.  That’s why I’d like to see as many people as possible reject Christianity and theism entirely, all the more so they won’t indoctrinate their offspring and produce a new generation of potential fundamentalists.

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4 hours ago, Christforums said:

 

 

 

I am Reformed, and in our Confession of Faith the 1st question which is addressed, "What is the purpose of man?" The answer, "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever".

 

It's amazing to me how the pride of man must think more highly of himself and that he himself may be not only capable but they he contributed to the saving works of God.

 

That's all that's required of us, to glorify and enjoy God.

The above contains preaching. You are posting in the wrong sub-forum. Preaching belongs only in the Lions Den. 

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8 hours ago, Christforums said:

 

I am Reformed, and in our Confession of Faith the 1st question which is addressed, "What is the purpose of man?" The answer, "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever".

 

In response to the original OP, I would say that yes, all "true" Christians at their core are fundamentalists. In this case I am not confining the use the word fundamentalist to its historical definition, but applying it in a looser, wider way to describe Christians who are convinced beyond question that the doctrine and dogma that defines their chosen slice of Christianity (the fundamentals of their denomination) is the purest and most accurate version of ultimate truth. And, these individuals are quite often self-appointed evangelists who believe their God has commamded them to share their "accurate" version of "truth" with "every creature." The quote above is a good example.

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