“And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:6–8)
After chastening Christ for his disciples’ failure to observe all of the ritual washings of their tradition, the Pharisees received the above response from Jesus which should stand as an open rebuke to many within the “fundamentalist” camp.
I define a “fundamentalist” in its most basic, historic, and orthodox sense—those that hold to the biblical fundamentals of the Christian faith. I would also add that a fundamentalist is willing to contend for that faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. This stand of willingness to content would differentiate me from some of my evangelical brothers. I believe that all fundamentalists are evangelical (as historically defined), while not all evangelicals are fundamentalists.
But there are some that have added there own “fundamentals” to the historic beliefs of fundamentalism, and because of this, they have been more than willing to separate from others over these issues. I think there is much room for discussion on several of these things, because many of them are important and their inclusion or exclusion will have a great impact upon the local church context.
However, there are some issues that, although important, have been elevated to a place that they should not be elevated. Additionally, there are some who have added to the “fundamentals” those things which are not biblically required, but are issues of personal conscience. My thoughts from Mark 7:6-8 and Jesus’ rebuke bring me to reflect upon those elevated issues that are not sin, but can be treated as sin in the judgment of some—including those issues of personal conscience which become sin for all believers in the minds of the weak.
Whether it is the teaching that those that don’t use the King James Bible are damned and their churches are apostate, or that women with short hair who wear pants are dressing like men or of objectionable moral character, or that worship for the church must be on Saturday, or that Jesus turned the water into grape juice at the wedding in Cana because all consumption of alcohol is sin—these and several others are the traditions of men parading themselves as the commands of God.
I don’t think God cares if you use the KJV or whether the women in church wear pants or not, or whether your communion service uses wine, as the Jews used in their Passover feasts. The problem is when those that care do so to the degree that they push their conviction upon all Christians in a way that Scripture does not, and in doing so elevate their word above God’s Word.
Satan is just as pleased when we add to God’s Word as he is when we take away from it. Both are wrong and both are damning. The lips might be saying all the right things, but as Jesus says, the heart can be completely wrong, and not pleasing to the Lord.
What good does it do to obey every jot and tittle of the cultural fundamentalist’s “gospel” if in the end you are adding to God’s Word, perverting His gospel, and not truly worshipping Him? Instead, may we all be committed to recovering true fundamentalism in our commitment to every Word of God bringing joyful worship that is the overflow of the heart.