A Middle Way: Fundamentalists, Liberals & Society

This is the third post in the series entitled “A Middle Way.” For an introduction on fundamentalism and liberalism, refer to this post. For an overview of their interaction with the Gospel, refer to the previous post in the series.

Second: what are their views on societal interaction?

Liberals & Society

For the liberals, there were several advances in societal wellbeing.

One of the trademarks of liberal cultural engagement is “concern for those outside the Christian community” (Chester 25). This concern is something that all Christians should appreciate.

Chester in his book Good News to the Poor: Social Involvement and the Gospel, cites several historical proofs of how Christians were concerned for the culture. One of Chester’s examples was John Calvin. Calvin, in Geneva, saw Christianity being a public affair down to how the sewage system worked and was maintained (Chester 40)! The implication of this view was that nothing was not sacred. In short, all things were under the domain of God, and even blessed by God if it improved societal condition.

Societal concern is not something new, but a concern for Christians throughout all centuries.

Fundamentlaists & Society

However, the fundamentalists essentially lost any ability to interact with the society. While fundamentalists rightly upheld the Word of God in all things, the mentality they possessed when interacting with society was “like cleaning and decorating the staterooms of a sinking ship” (Marsden 126). Essentially, they were asking, why would one spend the time to make something clean and look good if the ship was going down? This reinforced the mentality that Christians should not care too much about this world. Instead, they should proclaim the gospel and get as many people saved from the sinking ship.

In essence, fundamentalists believed that if one wanted to effect societal change, then the Christian must proclaim the Word of God and hold fast to it.

This post was originally part of an academic paper submitted to Dr. Michael Freeman in Christian Perspectives: Sin & Culture at Lancaster Bible College | Capital Seminary & Graduate School. It has been modified from its original version. This paper also appears in The Front Porch magazine, published by The Row House in an abridged version.

Works Cited

  • Chester, Tim. Good News to the Poor: Social Involvement and the Gospel. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.
  • Marsden, George M. Fundamentalism and American Culture. 2nd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
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