Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Church is full of fundamentalists who take the whole Bible literally

Time to go back to the claims Dan Kimball made in They Like Jesus but not the Church and whether they apply in the UK in the same way. Follow the links to catch up and read parts 1, 2, 34 & 5

In this chapter Dan quotes Chris Martin of Coldplay who says he believes in God but not like 'those crazy American fundamentalists' and I think that's what most British Christians would say. I certainly would. I cannot for the life of me understand why all evangelicals in America MUST vote Republican, carry guns, pollute the environment, are desperatley hoping to be raptured while driving, think America is God's chosen nation and blindly support their country in everything or a thousand other things that we think they do. Goodness knows why they liked the Left Behind novels, please (sorry had to get that one off my chest). It's not a stereotype to be proud of. I don't like our stereotype as old, dull, irrelevant but I'd rather than than be a seen as a bigot.

But I am a fundamentalist if by that you mean I believe in, as Dan does, the inspiration of Scripture, the divinity of Jesus, his virgin birth, his substituionary atonement and his bodily resurrection and future return. I'll happily sign up to all of them.

But I don't think we suffer form the same issues here. Sure we could all learn how to study the Bible better, but Christians tend to use the Bible as bullets mostly with other Christians. People might still call us Bible-bashers but they don't actually ever get bashed. Living in a post-Christian culture means we have to know how to build bridges to the Bible simply to be understood. Plus we have a great legacy with men like John Stott, Jim Packer, Keswick, Spring Harvest, UCCF and others. My own family of churches, Newfrontiers, could easily be seen as fundamentalist but the leaders are thoughtful, well read and able to engage intelligently with culture and non-believers. We have to, there is no other choice for the church. 

So you can see why Dan's book is interesting but also why it doesn't apply in the same way here in the UK. We actually have a significantly different culture both in and outside of the church. What do you think? 


the Fool said...

Hmmmm, you make some good points.

I agree that US evangelicals get a bad press in UK, despite their theology is not too different from UK evangelicals. I also agree that there are cultural differences within and outside of church in the two countries.

In my opinion what does appear to be different is the US Christians willingness to speak out / preach their beliefs. In itself this is not a bad thing, indeed it should be applauded.

However the moment that anyone loses sight of their own sinfulness, and God's all-encompassing love, then their comments easily become single issue, myopic, inflammatory and even offensive.

Without demonstrating, or speaking in, real ‘Jesus’ love we lose our credibility as Christians, becoming no different to the next man, no longer the salty lighthouse we’re called to be.

ianjmatt on 12 August 2007 at 09:16 said...


I think the issue, even in the UK, is that for many people "taking the whole Bible literally" and "believing the Bible is God-breathed/inspired" are synonyms. This is the problem. Dan, like me and many other people would subscribe to the second statement but would not use language like the first.

There are two problems. The first is that we live in a global media village now, and the activities on Ted Haggard, the death of Jerry Falwell and even the rantings of Fred Phelps all make the national news here in the UK. We shouldn't underestimate the impact of American fundamentalism on the perception of Christianity in the UK.

Secondly, we have our own problems - the very public spats over the Atonement, Jerry Springer, the Silver Ring Thing etc all brought our own fundies out of the woodwork and onto public view. The split between Keswick (including UCCF) and Spring Harvest, with the less than truthful press releases on both sides, plus the problems between conservative and open evangelicals at Wyclife (a story first broke in the Guardian) all show that the 'strident' voices of fundamentalism with this 'literal' demand on scripture is very public here as well.

Brian Day on 4 January 2010 at 12:56 said...

Hi, I know this comment is a bit late, but your blog was the first result returned, when I searched for 'uk evangelicals' on

I have been a born-again Christian since the age of 15 in 1985. I have lived in Doncaster, England, since that time except for a 3-year break between Sept 2005 and August 2008, when I lived in Derby, England. Although I was born-again outside of the Church - my family professed to being Church of England, but never went to church - I emerged into the Kingdom at the time of Mission England/Mission Sheffield, which had a relatively significant impact on the area. However, it seems that the influence of the traditional stereotype of the English Church in every city, town and village thwarted a radical change in how the English - Anglican and agnostic Church of England - perceived the Christian faith and the Church.

It is true that the English do not like to get too excited in professing their faith. In Derby, a Pentecostal pastor even mentioned how an Elder he knew kept his faith a secret from his workmates.

I have seen in Doncaster, upon my return in August 2008, that churches still conform to the pattern of the world. The Pentecostals have almost abandoned the Holy Spirit in favour of conforming with the X-Factor-style showbiz culture that many people are caught up with at the moment.

I agree that Christians should not alienate the unbeliever, although many Christians I know underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to arise from within themselves in Doncaster. In some instances, the Holy Spirit leads an American to evangelise and that's great. But what are we doing months and years before we even know he will visit our town or city?

I'm excited that the Holy Spirit is embraced in the UK more and more in recent years.

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