Dan Delzell: When Bashing ‘Fundamentalism’ Misses the Mark

Most Christians these days tend to shy away from describing themselves as “fundamentalists.” And can you blame them? The term has become loaded with baggage that few believers want to bring along on their spiritual journey to the promised land. Fundamentalists, after all, are those wild-eyed fanatics who shove their religion down the throat of anyone in their vicinity, right? Such people tend to be aggressive and intolerant.

But this is not how most Christians interact with others. While affirming the fundamentals of the Christian faith, the vast majority of believers wisely recognize that fanaticism only turns people off. It simply pushes unbelievers away from the very message powerful enough to bring lost people into a relationship with Christ.

It has wisely been noted, “It’s one thing if the Gospel offends someone. It’s another thing if you do.”

This critical aspect of Gospel outreach motivates us to be winsome in our witness and gentle in our approach. We want to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Thankfully, the Lord has raised up a number of tactful messengers in our day who are engaged in apologetics. These faithful witnesses have led many unbelievers to Christ by proclaiming the truth of Scripture and defending Christianity against various objections. This cadre of Spirit-led apologists includes men like John Lennox, Ravi Zacharias, Michael Brown, Norm Geisler, Josh and Sean McDowell, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Hank Hanegraaff, J. Warner Wallace and Gary Habermas.

None of these faithful apologists display fanaticism. On the contrary, these men are extremely qualified to present a clear and loving defense of the Christian faith. And they do so in a gracious manner and a cordial spirit.

With this in mind, I was intrigued by the titles and the content of a couple recent articles in The Christian Post writtenby a seminary professor from Canada. Dr. Randal Rauser penned: “Fundamentalist Apologetics Comes of Age,” and “Top 5 Problems With Contemporary Christian Apologetics.” Rauser takes particular aim at Josh McDowell’s classic apologetic manual, Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

Among his various concerns, Professor Rauser addresses what he calls “the fundamentalist commitment to tract-based conversionist evangelism.” Now this is truly a puzzling criticism. After all, the goal of evangelism for 2000 years has been to lead people to Christ. Jesus and the apostles preached repentance and faith for the forgiveness of sins. They were completely committed to spiritual conversion because it is the only way a person can be saved, redeemed, born again, forgiven and justified.

Professor Rauser correctly identifies the false notion that a believer must be able to pinpoint the day he or she was converted. The fact of the matter is that many born again people cannot tell you exactly when they were converted. At the same time, it is terribly misguided to paint faithful apologists with the “fundamentalist” brush and to criticize “tract-based conversionist evangelism.” Simply put, it sends the wrong message.

After all, many people have been converted when reading the good news in a Gospel tract or responding immediately to the message of Law and Gospel given by a Christian evangelist, pastor, or apologist. And the Lord was definitely preaching for conversion when He proclaimed in His first sermon, “Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15)

Rauser’s loose and incomplete references to the biblical teaching of conversion seem connected to something he wrote in his latest article: “I converted at the age of five after my mom confronted me with the bald choice to follow God or the devil.” Where is the Gospel in this personal reference to his “conversion”?

Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt on this curious wording that implies he basically converted himself, where is the meat and the follow-up describing what the Bible actually teaches concerning the supernatural miracle of conversion? After choosing to raise the critical issue of conversion, the seminary professor leaves us with nothing more than, “I converted…”

This lack of theological depth makes it even more stunning that Rauser would take issue with Josh McDowell’s apologetics. Rauser’s explanation of conversion and the atonement are devoid of any real substance. And rather than affirming and unpacking the biblical teaching on these core issues, he merely presents a few personal anecdotes that glibly gloss over some of the most critical issues of our Christian faith.

Perhaps Rauser’s main goal in writing these articles was to attach the “fundamentalist” label to faithful Christian messengers like Josh McDowell. A major problem of course with using the “fundamentalist” label to describe Christ-centered evangelistic efforts is that it fits the false narrative being promoted in various mainline denominations today.

The denominations that have fallen into the abyss of spiritual confusion didn’t get there by sticking to the fundamentals of Christianity. Instead, certain professors at their seminaries were seduced into thinking that the old doctrines concerning Scripture, the cross and salvation are merely “theories” that need to be revisited today in the light of a newfangled and progressive agenda.

There are those who say, “Why preach for conversion when most if not all people are already on the path to heaven?” Sadly, the false doctrine of universalism is rampant these days. And in light of all the other doctrinal errors being taught by religious leaders who have forsaken Scripture, it is odd that Professor Rauser directs so much “friendly fire” at certain Christian apologists who have been faithful to Scripture while diligently serving on the frontline for decades.

That’s not to say correction is never needed in the ministries of Christian evangelists, pastors, teachers and apologists. But theological and spiritual correction requires accurate discernment, as well as the counsel of wise and mature believers. Otherwise, we are prone to “go it alone” and assume that our perception is vastly superior to those who have faithfully gone before us.

A good example of such lone ranger analysis is when Professor Rauser writes, “Fundamentalist apologists have a very bad history of naively proof texting biblical prophecies to establish allegedly rationally compelling evidence for the supernatural origins of the Bible.”

Really? A bad history of pointing to the Lord’s prophetic Word to substantiate God’s one and only plan of salvation?

If the fulfilled Messianic prophecies are not supernatural and overwhelming evidence that demands a verdict concerning Christ, then what are they? The fulfilled prophecies are definitely rock-solid proof that only God could have given us the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the free gift of eternal life in paradise through faith in the Messiah. (I addressed the issue of the fulfilled prophecies in an article 5 years ago entitled, “The Mathematical Proof for Christianity Is Irrefutable,” as well as a Kindle ebook with the same title.)

Highlighting the fulfilled Messianic prophecies is perfectly consistent with an accurate presentation of Scripture, while downplaying the prophecies minimizes the supernatural reality of the Bible. And it distracts from the supernatural power of the Messiah. The bottom line is that the fulfilled prophecies in Scripture are indeed compelling evidence for the supernatural origins of the Bible. And those who deny this simple fact of history completely miss a major work of the Holy Spirit who put an exclamation mark on God’s beautiful plan of salvation in Christ alone.

Interestingly, there is not another “holy book” on the planet with even one fulfilled prophecy pertaining to its prophet and its purported path to paradise. Compare the lack of evidence in those religious books to the biblical prophecies of the Bible. Peter wrote, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20,21) God certainly wanted us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that “all Scripture is God-breathed.” (2 Tim. 3:16)

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Source: Christian Post