Fundamentalism, Christian Schooling, and the Antithesis

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Having moved to Greenville, SC, one of the big decisions has been where to send our children to school.  This year we have a fifth, fourth, and second grader (with two more raring to take their turn).  We really are not a homeschooling family, so the choice was between public schools and private Christian schools.  I confess that I began with a desire to send our kids to public school.  My reasoning was that 1) the moral climate of public schools can't be too bad in a place like Greenville; 2) I really hate the way we Christians live in our self-imposed ghetto; and 3) I don't have to pay through the nose for public school.  Nonetheless, we ended up enrolling our children in Bob Jones Christian School, an arm of the well-known fundamentalist college, Bob Jones University.  Our decision-making process prompted some interesting thoughts: First of all, our visit to the local public school went pretty well.  There were some things that didn't thrill us (including the massive size of the school), but on the whole I think we would have done okay sending our kids there.  Secondly, we were pretty reluctant at first to think about putting our kids into Bob Jones.  The reasons were: 1) they are fundamentalistic, and we don't want our kids hating Christianity because of all the stuffy rules; and 2) they are Arminian, and, well, we think Arminianism is really bad.  So why did we end up enrolling our kids in the fundamentalist school (and writing a pretty sizable check in the process)?

The answer might be sub-titled, "Why I am learning to kind of like the fundamentalists."  For one thing, they pursue excellence.  Bob Jones elementary has an outstanding academic reputation and their music and arts programs look wonderful.  Secondly, they aren't really so up-tight.  True, my fifth grade daughter will have to wear long skirts and dresses every day (she wasn't too thrilled to learn this, although she agrees that emphasizing the feminine is a good thing).  But on the whole, we agree with pretty much all of the BJ rules and they didn't seem like stuffy people at all.  Thirdly, their elementary school runs through sixth grade.  I really don't like the idea of sixth graders being thrown in with all the adolescent middle schoolers.  It made a big difference to me that, unlike the public schools here, my children will be in a setting designed for young children up through age 12.

But the fourth reason is the one I really want to talk about.  The fundamentalists get the idea of antithesis.  Undoubtedly, there are things we disagree about, such as the doctrines of grace.  (We candidly discussed this with the principal and I am not too concerned about my kids having Finney shoved down their throats in elementary school Bible classes -- but I will be watching.)  But I find in general that the fundamentalists get the idea that the Bible really is the Word of God and that our only salvation is in the blood of Christ.  There is no talk about postmodern hermeneutics among the fundamentalists.  They believe the Bible is the Word of God because it says so, and so do I.  They believe that men, women, and children are sinners who must believe in the cross in order to be saved.  There is no talk of alternative theories of the atonement with them.  They understand that the church must stand out against the world, that holiness is our calling, and that Christians are to witness to the lost.  Amen, amen, and amen.  They get the Christian antithesis, that light has shined in the darkness and that we are to walk in the light and shine the light into the darkness.

Frankly, because of the big idea of antithesis, I am more comfortable with the fundamentalists than I am with the broad evangelicals.  More and more, broad evangelicals do not get the idea of antithesis, and for this reason even when they have a pretty good formal doctrinal statement, they seldom really stand up for it.  In Psalm 1 terms, the broad evangelicals are to willing to "walk in the counsel of the ungodly".  Broad evangelicals want to be successful; fundamentalists want to be faithful.

So, while I am not what you would accurately call a fundamentalist and while I know I have doctrinal differences with them, I nonetheless admire them and am comfortable standing with them.  They get the antithesis and they desire to be faithful to God.  I have little confidence in the broad evangelicals with respect to either of these.  This is why I have avoided their schools to send my kids to the fundamentalist school and why I think more highly of the fundamentalists in general than I used to.
Posted August 2, 2007 @ 12:45 PM by Rick Phillips
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