Yes, we all know that Fundamentalism reads things as black and white. But there’s more to it than just that. That’s not telling the whole story.
Fundamentalism bifurcates all of life. Everything is forced into an either-or. These dichotomies are not just false in the cosmic sense. They are false to everyone outside of their boundaries. If you’re not conversant in their own reasoning, it’s nothing short of baffling. These act as rhetorical boundary markers to determine if you’re in or out of the subculture. A few I’ve heard:
- Just two choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.
- Either Grace is irresistible and missions is irrelevant, or Grace is resistible and missions is paramount.
- Either you let God be Lord of your life or you don’t.
- Either God controls sanctification, or the believer does.
- Either you believe you are totally evil, or you are a perfectionist.
- Either you believe in penal substitutionary atonement, or the Cross is irrelevant.
- Either you believe in following rules, or you believe in license.
These are no different than the pesky question: “How long have you been beating your wife?” Any attempt at nuance or explanation is dismissed as unorthodox. In essence, Fundamentalism is just not comfortable with Both-Ands:
- I can both please God and please myself. I must please God above all.
- Grace is both irresistible and I’m compelled to express it.
- When you are redeemed, God is Lord of your life. You don’t “let” Him do anything.
- I work because God works.
- I am both full of sin and totally unable to save myself and a redeemed and wholly loved child of the King.
- Christ both took my punishment and gives me a new story to tell to the world.
- Love God and do what you want.
Again, I’ve done my best at creating a casuistic frame of acceptance that would resonate within the ethic of Fundamentalism. I think it’s clear that those efforts failed. It’s just too brittle of a frame of rejection.