Saturday, March 21, 2009


Yesterday, a reader emailed me with this question,


What do you mean by "fundamentalist" in context to your profile. For some reason, I'm under the impression that you may be "Christian Reformed."

Grace & Peace,
(name withheld to protect the reader’s identity)

There are several labels that really frustrate me; not because the words are problems but because they have been so abused and redefined that it hard to know what people mean when they use them. “Fundamentalist” is one of those words. Others include “Christian,” “Born Again,” “Evangelical” and “Reformed.” I have attempted to address some of these before, here, here, and here.

So the question is fair and worthy of a respectful answer. I just wish it was easy to answer but it isn’t. Nevertheless, I will attempt to answer it as simply as possible.

First, I will define the term by what I mean because that’s what the reader asked. Probably the simplest answer is that I hold to, what has been called, “The Five Fundamentals of the Faith,” which, I believe, are absolute, non-negotiable and essential for true, biblical faith:
  1. The inerrancy and authority of Scripture

  2. The deity of Jesus Christ

  3. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ

  4. Christ’s vicarious death and atonement for sin

  5. The literal second coming of Jesus Christ
I am an apologetic Baptist. Among Baptists, there is a broad spectrum of doctrinal disagreements. One church, of which I was a member, held itself as a “fundamentalist” church for many decades but in recent years has dropped that description in order to be more attractive, tolerant, and less divisive. I think that is a shame but I am not surprised; even one of the world’s most famous contemporary Baptist pastor’s, Rick Warren, has described fundamentalists as holding to "a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity."

The questioner goes on to suggest that I might be "Christian Reformed." The label “reformed” is also difficult to define and, probably, because I am Baptist, most reformed Christians would object to my appropriation of that label.  However, when I observe the horrendous effects of inaccurate and unbiblical teachings of salvation and anemic, man-centered gospel presentations, I find myself more comfortable pitching my tent in the reformed camp than with the promoters of decisional regeneration and easy-believism among evangelicals, especially in my own denomination.

To answer the question simply, directly, and unapologetically, I believe in the doctrines of grace that are commonly oversimplified and referred to as Calvinism. I believe that God is absolutely sovereign in all things (including salvation). I also hold to those five fundamentals of the faith as articulated by the majority of the reformers; that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative Word of God, that Salvation is by Grace alone, through Faith alone, that Christ is the only mediator between God and man, and that salvation is a sovereign act of God’s will for His glory alone.

So I guess I consider myself to be “Reformed Baptist.” I hope that helps.


Jon said...

Ralph, it is refreshing in this world to find a man who knows what he believes.

Daisy said...

Well, skooch over, cause that's where we pitch our tent also.

Anonymous said...

Better make a little more room.

Ron Livesay said...

Well said. So many words become labels with varying meanings to different people. I still call myself a "fundamentalist," even if some would say that makes me a "radical," but I long ago abandoned "evangelical." To embrace that word is to identify oneself with all sorts of watered-down foolishness.

Coram Deo said...

Presumably since you've appended "Baptist" to your "Reformed" confession I suppose it's safe to assume that you're not a baby-dunking amiller, correct? :)

If this is indeed the case then of course you must realize that you'll be dutifully and summarily snubbed by the nosebleed, high church, "Truly Reformed". *sniff*

It's painful.

I know.

In Christ,

Ralph M. Petersen-Always Right; Sometimes Wrong! said...

Coram Deo, your presumption is correct. The fact that I am not a baby-dunking amiller is why I suggested in my post that most reformers would not consider me reformed.

As for being snubbed, I've been snubbed a lot; I'll get over it.