If fundamentalism had a logo, it would be certainty. Fundamentalism might be described as certain people with no uncertainty. And if you have uncertainties, you’d best keep them to yourself. Uncertainty is doubt, doubt is lack of faith, lack of faith clearly means that you are lost.
Yet there are also things about which one cannot be too certain. Are you saved? Do you know that you’re saved? Do you know WHETHER you’re saved? Are you absolutely certain that you’re saved. Is there even the slightest possibility in the darkest recesses of your soul that you might not be saved? Of course enough of this and you’ll be confessing to anything.
Others may have questions and doubts. But we will allow no ambiguity to cloud our judgment about the Bible. And since the Bible speaks to all of life, we won’t allow ambiguity into our social stances. Or our politics. Or our view of science, of economics or anything else. We get to live with divine certainty about pretty much everything.
These things said, at least one spiritual practice seems out of place in Independent Fundamental Baptist circles. Biblical and time-honored as it may be, the spiritual practice of meditation seems a poor fit for fundamentalism. IFBs may sing how ‘Jesus bids us shine’ and ‘like a little candle, burning in the night.’ But generally, a little candle burning in the dark is not the image that comes to mind when one thinks of IFB preachers and their trade.
Some reject meditation as a Christian spiritual practice. Some Christians reject Christmas and Easter. Why would they do anything sometimes practiced in non-Christian faiths? Lighthouse Trails ‘ministry’ is built on opposing meditative practices. ‘Got Questions’ courageously declares:
‘True Christian meditation is an active thought process whereby we give ourselves to the study of the Word, praying over it and asking God to give us understanding by the Spirit, who has promised to lead us “into all truth.”‘
Some assumed that when he wasn’t fighting/resisting the devil, Jesus’ 40 wilderness days were spent in meditation. Apparently they were wrong. Jesus was actually studying the Torah, poetic books and the prophets.
Beyond squabbling about what it means to clear the mind or center the thoughts, the real problem with meditation is far more sinister.
Christian meditation presupposes ‘respect for mystery.’ A contemplative life weighs many things and counsels restraint. It prefer questions to answers, and humility to certainty. It prefers breadth of perspective over flat pronouncements. None of these grant room to fundamentalists to influence or manipulate the mind. This means that fundamentalists must resist meditative spiritual practices as a deviation from truth faith.
Meditation on the meaning of life and the struggle to find Biblical and redemptive import in it will always be part of our Christian existence.
Fundamentalists as much as anyone face a world that sometimes makes little sense. Like the ‘preacher’ who authored Ecclesiastes, fundies will be drawn into the quest to find meaning in life. If nothing else, the flat, one dimensional answers fundamentalism offers will drive them to it.
When Pretending Doesn’t Cut It
By the grace of God, some fundamentalists will learn that there are things better than certainty. One is the ability to be honest with ourselves and with others. Another is to live with doubts and questions with grace and confident trust in God. That is a good place in which to be.