Thoughts on Fundamentalism And Theological Elitism

One of my professors, Roger E. Olson, recently wrote an article entitled, “Is the Problem Calvinism or Fundamentalism (or the Combination)?“.  The article addresses problems that he has seen mostly from within the “new Calvinism”, as he believes that it “harbors a fundamentalist ethos.”  I agree with him, as I have seen it firsthand as well.

I remember experiencing this quite a bit at Bible college back in the early 2000s.  In only my first week of college, I was riding a shuttle van from the dorms to classes.  When I got on, there were three guys sitting there talking.  I sat behind them all.  Within the first minute of the ride, one of the guys turns around and asked me a question (I don’t remember what it was unfortunately).  I remember answering, but being unsure about the answer, because I really didn’t know.  The guy who asked shook his head and turned around saying to his buddies, “well, he obviously isn’t a Calvinist”, and they didn’t say anything else to me the rest of the ride.

Theological elitism, divisiveness, and thinking less of people because they might have a different understanding on a doctrinal or opinion issue is definitely a problem, and it can be very difficult to avoid.  I remember a time later in college where I thought that Open Theists couldn’t possibly be Christian – even though I really knew relatively nothing about the issue.  I, somewhat unintentionally, adopted that idea because most of the people I was around were so against it and had similar thoughts.

I think Christians really need ditch any sort of elitism and unwillingness to fellowship with people who have different ideas, especially when there is agreement in the Christian faith essentials.  And to that note, there needs to be better recognition as to what is Christian dogma (essential truths) versus Christian doctrine (important ideas, but not essential to faith).  Fundamentalism can very easily mix dogma and doctrine (and some opinion) and put them all in dogma.  There also needs to be a better understanding that people are going to be at different places in their faith.  Not everyone has studied Calvinism, Arminianism, and Open Theism and are able to make well-educated decisions about this (a decision that isn’t even required for salvation, as these are doctrine-level beliefs anyway).

Those are some of my thoughts.  What do you think?  Have experienced any of this in any way?  What do you think can be done about it?


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