I guess I have a unique perspective on all this because I am a graduate of a fundamentalist Christian school, BJU graduate (BA, 93; MA, 94) as well as a WTS graduate (PhD, 2002; I even had Trueman on my dissertation committee!). In addition, I've spent a great deal of time writing and researching American fundamentalism as a academic, working on a book on fundamentalism in the southern Presbyterian church (yes, there was such a thing; wait till my book comes out and you will see!). So, perhaps I can put offer some insight to my friends.
Unlike many of my colleagues who graduated from "the University" and then transitioned to the Reformed faith, I have what I call a Richard Mouw/Smell of Sawdust appreciation of fundamentalism, for a number of the same reasons that Rick mentioned:
- they take the Bible seriously, upholding supernaturalism and inerrancy;
- they are determined to do whatever God in his Word says to do, leading to a passion for missions and evangelism;
- they are serious about piety;
- and, as Rick notes, they have a firm recognition that "the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17), which leads to an emphasis upon the antithesis.
On the other side of the ledger, Carl is exactly right that there is a dark side of the antithesis, which often leads to an uncritical embrace and defense of the unjust status quo (e.g. in 1960, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr, published a booklet entitled, "Is Segregation Scriptural?"; and who can forget the classic title of John R. Rice, "Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers" or his defense of free market capitalism as the "biblical" system of economics). Of course, there is a dark side of the other part of the Kuyperian inheritance--as historian Joel Carpenter as noted, common grace can often lead to secularization and has in neo-Calvinist educational institutions, both in the Netherlands and the United States (I touch on some of this in my essay, "Southern-Friend Kuyper? Robert Lewis Dabney, Abraham Kuyper, and the Limitations of Public Theology," WTJ 66 (2004): 179-201).
Likewise, there is an unhealthy cult of muscular personality that pervades fundamentalism, where individual pastors build fifedoms for their own glory (see, e.g, the wonderful study of W. B. Riley by Wayne Trollinger) and manipulate people for their own success. And of course, you can find this in the Reformed world as well, whether in the PCA or in other Reformed microdenominations. It does us well to admit that the "T" in the Reformed inheritance applies to all of us--because of total depravity, because of indwelling sin, all of our positions, ideas and ideals, can lead us astray. Really, the only thing that any of us have going for us is the steadfast love of God (Psalm 103).
Having affirmed and admitted all of this, I find myself falling back to my understanding of Reformed catholicity (though it drives my friend, D. G. Hart, bonkers)--my primary identity is a believer of Jesus and I'm called to love other believers in Jesus regardless of their spiritual maturity or theological perspective (even, shudder, Arminians). I live out this identity as a Presbyterian, committed to the wholeness of the Reformed faith as the best explanation of the Bible and eager for others to embrace the same perspective that I hold. I affirm catholicity while holding personally to the Reformed faith.
Hence, my fundamentalist friends are my brothers and sisters in Christ; they have a great deal to contribute to the life and health of Christianity in North America and around the world; they have preserved a deep love for God's Word and a passion for evangelism that would put most Reformed types to shame; and they rightly point us to the need, at times, to separate from unbelief or worldliness for the sake of personal and corporate holiness. I have a great deal to learn from them. That doesn't place them beyond critique (in the same way that I and my tradition is beyond criticism); that doesn't mean that I no longer hope they will come to embrace the doctrines of grace in the same way I have. In addition, I will continue to engage with them honestly out of my confessionally Presbyterian identity, not shading the truth of what I believe the Bible teaches.
And so, Reformed catholicity forces me to affirm that it is a good thing to partner with fundamentalist believers, like those at BJU, for the Gospel and even send our kids to their Christian schools. Even if they've never heard of aerosol cheese.