Is the PCA fundamentalist?
(Tim) Ross from New Zealand, by way of Scotland, comments: "I have just come from a Fundamentalist list which looks and sounds remarkably like this one. Would it be fair to call the Presbyterian Church in America the fundamentalist wing of the broader Presbyterian & Reformed tradition? "
Ross, here in America, 'fundamentalist' is used in a variety of ways, most commonly for those who hold a religious belief in life after death and act accordingly. Although he'd deny it, this is the best way to understand the Fundamentalism project of the elder dean of American church history, Martin Marty.
There's another sense, though, that hearkens back to the early decades of the twentieth century when Christians first starting fighting with some zeal against modernism's heresies and got a bad name for it...
Known still today as “fighting fundies,” the demarcation line between these folks and evangelicals is the heart of George Marsden’s stellar work, Fundamentalism and American Culture (New Edition): The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism 1870-1925. This is the single work you’d need to read as background to the present day alignments.
As for David and me, our Dad was one of the leaders of evangelicalism’s growth as he and other Wheaton grads from the forties founded a whole host of religious entrepreneurial parachurch ventures. Most of these men wanted to hold on to their fundamentalist commitments, theologically, without suffering the cultural opprobrium fundies suffered.
But Dad was a little different. He knew that true Christian faith always bore the world’s scorn, and that those who sought the world’s approval could not be trusted to honor God, first. So he was always sympathetic to fundamentalists in a way that most evangelicals would shrink from in horror, having defined themselves as “not-fundies.”
Back when David and I were in seminary, we had a church history prof who made much of the discontinuity between fundamentalists and evangelicals, claiming that evangelicals had not come out of fundamentalism, but had sprung from the ground with no seed sown, as it were. When I told Dad of this man’s historiography, he quickly responded, “Before we were evangelicals, we were fundamentalists.” In other words, he was not ashamed to be associated with the fundamentalists.
David and I follow in his footsteps. We call our churches “reformed and evangelical,” but if someone forces us to choose between the mollycoddling syncretism of “Christianity Today” and the counter-cultural Christian witness of fundamentalism, we’ll take the fundamentalists every time.
Both sides have strengths. Both sides have weaknesses. But one side has no tolerance for “bearing shame and scoffing rude,” while the other side is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As for the degree to which David's and my commitments are or are not representative of the PCA, time will tell. But it's complicated by the fact that ecclesiology is non-existent within both the evangelical and fundamentalist worlds. The doctrine of the church is one thing both camps agree on: They have none. This is one reason David and I don't fit in either.
Still, if we had to assign labels to presbyterian denominations in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is the heretical modernist denomination; the Evangelical Presbyterian Church is modernist/evangelical; the Presbyterian Church in America is mainstream evangelical; and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is fundamentalist, but trying to repent.
By the way, the prof's name was Richard Lovelace.