Some of the most frequent criticisms of fundamentalism are actually criticisms of revivalism, says Kevin Bauder in Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. Describing revivalism as more than someone who favors a revival, the author traces the philosophy of revivalism to Charles Finney’s 1835 Lectures on Revivals of Religion. These ideas mixed with 19th century populist attitudes against intellectualism, ecclesiasticism, and traditionalism. As a result, fundamentalism is still grappling with eight consequences:
Crisis decisions are emphasized instead of teaching that the normal Christian life is one of incremental growth.
Biblical exposition is downplayed in favor of confrontational preaching.
Soul-winning is valued as the key feature of being “right with God.”
Externalism is encouraged, with spirituality judged by conduct, and a leader’s effectiveness judged by the number of spiritual decisions.
Philosophy of leadership that puts pastors in a near- dictatorial position (if the normal Christian life is one of decline, then important spiritual decisions cannot be left to ordinary Christians).
Numerical results are crucial, leading to methods that are calculated to draw crowds.
Congregational worship is depreciated or repudiated.
Theology is downplayed, as is theological education.
In contrast, Bauder describes mainstream fundamentalists as those who emphasize “the centrality of worship and of expository preaching, aim for incremental growth through spiritual nourishment, teach theology, and reject a brittle emphasis on external conduct. Both sorts of fundamentalists have always existed. The tension between them has led to a lack of cohesiveness within the fundamentalist movement.”
- Read more on this topic from the Nov/Dec Baptist Bulletin:
“Marking the Boundaries,” a Baptist Bulletin interview with Kevin Bauder and Al Mohler
“Defending the Idea of Fundamentalism,” an excerpt from Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism
“Evangelicals Respond to Bauder”