(originally posted at Return to Biblicism June 9, 2008; slightly edited for this blog)
In 1993, Gail Riplinger contributed her infamous book, New Age Versions to the world of fundamentalism. The work claimed to contain “exhaustive documentation” that proved that the occult was really behind all those new translations of the Bible. Despite the “acrostic algebra” and conspiracy theories (including one about the Titanic sinking because of it being a part of the Whitestar line), Riplinger’s book was well received in non-Ruckmanite circles, because it offered a fresh look at the issues. After all, it contained hundreds of footnotes and this mysterious G.A. Riplinger was apparently well educated. However, in time, the Information Age got a hold of the situation. Fundamentalists learned that her book was not trustworthy. This became documented even by other KJVO fundamentalists. Now Riplinger has been pushed into her rightful place – the radical wing of the fundamentalist KJVO movement, right beside Ruckman himself, Texe Marrs, Jack Chick, and Samp Gipp. Fundamentalism benefited from the Information Age because the works of these vitriolic conspiracy theorists could not pass the scrutiny of evidence. Thankfully, they cannot enter a church, bring a PowerPoint presentation, and make mind-boggling assertions without some members of that church going home and checking things for themselves. We’re going beyond Berea here. Not only is it imperative for us today to search the scriptures daily, it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the Information Age. When special speaker so-and-so comes to town to prove his point of view, he is coming with a ton of extra-biblical sources. You and I would love to trust him, but the sad truth is fundamentalists have lost credibility here, as will be shown. So it is now our obligation to check those sources, and in doing so, change the face of fundamentalism. The Information Age is polarizing fundamentalism
As with the issue of Riplinger and the Ruckmanites, the positions uniquely held in fundamentalism are becoming increasingly polarized. An “emerging middle” is gaining momentum, and it is a circle that will reject and even disassociate with those pushed to the far right. Those who want to be honest with the issues are dubbed “compromisers”, or more specifically, “pseudo-fundamentalists” by those being pushed to the far right. When Kevin Bauder and Central Baptist produced an honest look at the KJVO issue, they were called neo-fundamentalists – even though their position is more in line with historic fundamentalists. The KJVO issue isn’t the only thing that is impacted by the Information Age and in turn polarizes fundamentalism, but it could very well be the main issue. We have to ask ourselves, is this polarization a good thing? Does it split us more than ever? My personal opinion is that it is a good thing, because the neo-original fundamentalism seems closer to historic fundamentalism, and hence, closer to the Bible. As it moves away from hyperfundamentalim, it moves closer to conservative evangelicalism – not something I have a problem with, but I could see why others might.
The Information Age dispels the rumors and lies
Fundamentalists preach against pragmatism. It is compromise, they say. Pragmatism characterizes the “New Evangelicalism” because they will do any unscriptural thing in order to achieve their goals – so we’re told. But I submit that fundamentalism has become the most pragmatic movement in Christianity today. To many involved, the ends of discrediting others’ ministries, proving one’s position, or vindicating one’s hero is always justified by the means of lies, rumors, and misrepresentation:
The end: The King James Version is the only true Bible.
The means: Lies, rumors, and misrepresentation. Lie about the fact that the Septuagint didn’t exist before Christ by misrepresenting Old Testament scholar Paul Kahle and continuing the rumor that he said there was no Septuagint. Lie about Wescott and Hort by saying they were in the occult and misrepresenting what was actually said. Spread the rumor that Gnostics and others corrupted the manuscripts without a shred of evidence to back it up. Misrepresent the modern versions by saying they “deny” essential doctrine. Misrepresent years of unbiased history to make King James I look like a Christian hero.
The end: discredit John MacArthur’s ministry
The end: Vindicate Jack Hyles
The means: call everyone who disagrees with you a bad name.
The end: Dispensational Premillenial Pretribulationism is the only credible eschatological view
The means: Anyone who disagrees is a heretic.
The end: discredit Al Mohler, and the entire SBC for that matter
Since when did lying and slander become appropriate? Since some fundamentalists desire to fulfill their agendas. No, it is always wrong, and it is evident it has been going on for a while. The Information Age helps us here, because we can dispel these notions and separate from such sin.
The Information Age helps uncover truth
Rumors aren’t just taken care of, truth is also discovered. The research we have available now allows us to know more about historic fundamentalism. It helps us recover authentic evangelism and realize that “asking Jesus into your heart” is a relatively new invention. It helps us find out what men like Charles Finney really are. We learn that we have friends in evangelicalism. MacArthur isn’t so bad after all. Neither is Mohler, Dever, or Piper. In fact, we can admire these guys now. It’s as if the Information Age has freed us from the bondage of hyperfundamentalism!
The Information Age forces fundamentalists to biblically justify and academically qualify their statements, an objective that can only create a better fundamentalism for us all
The age in which we live provides more available research and documentation in front of us than ever before. This means we could easily be misled. But it also means we could easily check what is being said. Now I’m not advocating that we distrust all fundamentalist preachers. There could be a mood that is set because of all this, one that causes us to listen to a sermon with our arms crossed thinking, “I’ll see that for myself.” We must be careful. But if anything, it is the fault of the speaker, not the listener. Because of its spreading of lies, fundamentalism has lost credibility and deserves to be scrutinized. This could only mean better preaching, better churches, better schools – as the movement polarizes and the radicals are pushed out, the only ones left will be true to the Bible and true to history. All of us who preach and teach are forced to make sure we’re right. How can that be a bad thing? So the next time D.A. Waite comes to town and brings his bag of tricks, he has to know that people can check what he’s saying. That being said, I predict that the more radical tenets of modern fundamentalism, such as King James Onlyism, will die out (or at least pushed entirely to the Ruckmanites only) within the next ten years. Hopefully, this will put an end to fundamentalist gossip rags as well. Thank God for the Information Age, but use it wisely! NOW PUT THAT IN YOUR CAPS LOCK AND TYPE IT!