A City Set On a Hill
Surviving the Seventieth Week by Reforming Fundamentalism and Establishing Cities of Refuge
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Chapter 6
Reforming Fundamentalism

Copyright 2010 by Raul E. Lopez, MD, MDiv

The church at Philadelphia received three special blessings because it kept three conditions. Jesus Christ told them "for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name." (Revelation 3:8). These same three conditions are found elsewhere in the Bible and seem to form the goal or purpose of the church in general. They are found in the first half of the Lord's model prayer in the sermon on the mount. Jesus commanded His disciples to pray "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven." (Matthew 6:9-10). The petition "hallowed be thy name" and the condition"[thou] hast kept my name" both involve loyalty to or exaltation of the name of God. The petition "thy will be done" and the condition "[thou] hast kept my word" both involve obedience to God's revealed will. Finally the petition "thy kingdom come" and the condition "thou hast a little strength" both involve the strengthening or establishment of the church, which is the current expression of the kingdom of God.

The second half of the Lord's prayer shows a measure of parallelism to the three blessings mentioned in the letter to the church at Philadelphia. The Lord's prayer continues "Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:" (Matthew 6:11-13). The promise to Philadelphia, "I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (Revelation 3:10) and the petition "lead us not into temptation [or testing] but deliver us from [the] evil [one]" (Matthew 6:13) both involve deliverance from trouble and from trouble makers. The promise "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." (Revelation 3:9) and the petition "forgive us our debts" (Matthew 6:12) both involve salvation and forgiveness of sins. Note that those of the synagogue of Satan are said to later worship at the feet of the Christians "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee" (Revelation 3:9). Such a change in behavior implies salvation. Finally, the promise, "behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it" (Revelation 3:8) is a promise of opportunity. In a way the petition "give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11) is also a plea for opportunity. Without the most basic forms of material resources it is impossible to expand the kingdom of God. People who have starved to death or who have been killed can no longer directly spread the gospel (even though their testimony might live on through others).

If we want to improve the church by perhaps starting a new denomination, it is best to not start from a vacuum. It is better to find one branch of modern Christianity which come close to the Biblical pattern, analyze it and find what modification the Bible might suggest. A useful starting point is the Christian Fundamentalist movement. This is a form of Christianity which preserves the traditional doctrines and values of historical Protestantism while, at the same time, recovering some emphases which had been lost. This movement serves as a valuable starting point for discussing what things the Christian church is doing correctly and needs to preserve. Later we will also use it as the basis of a discussion of where the Christian church is lacking and where it needs to make changes.

Of all the groups which call themselves Christians, those who call themselves fundamentalist Christians seem to come the closest to meeting the three conditions mentioned above. First of all they are Biblicists, they are, of all Christians, the most devoted to living a genuinely Christian life and to obeying the commands of God regardless of the philosophy and culture of the world around them. In this way they fulfill the condition "thou hast kept my word." We saw that a large branch of fundamentalism abandoned the goal of living a separated life in order to better engage the surrounding culture. This group called themselves the New Evangelicals and in many cases their philosophy has caused them to absorb many aspects of the world's culture into their churches. Secondly, fundamentalists are also Evangelical, they are ardently involved in presenting Jesus Christ to the lost world, both at home and abroad. Sharing one's faith in Christ is the opposite of denying his name. Finally, they have a little strength because their worship and life is most conducive of any group of Christians to being recipients of the power which comes from a genuine filling of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in a way, these are the three traits which define Christian fundamentalism.

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