First of all, let me define what I mean by fundamentalist. At the very least, a fundamentalist is one who has an unwavering attachment to a certain set of beliefs. A step further would be a person who is outspoken and even militant in their stand against modernism and conformity to other beliefs that oppose their own. In my opinion, neither one of these is necessarily a bad thing, but I want to address a few negatives about fundamentalism before I can talk about the positives.
Antibiotics are a good thing. They fight against certain viruses and bacteria that would make us very sick. I certainly am not against someone going to the doctor to get a prescription for an antibiotic. However, there are at least two potential problems with using antibiotics.
The over usage of an antibiotic can ruin a person's natural ability to fight off these bacteria with their God-given immune system. This causes a person to become very susceptible to more severe and longer-lasting sicknesses. It has been said that the first rule of antibiotics is to try not to use them, and the second rule is to try to use as little as possible.
The second problem is similar. The frequent use of an antibiotic can give the bacteria a chance to adapt and to build a resistance to the antibiotic. This is in no way a scientific article, so I'm not going to try to explain how this works, but this is a major concern among many who are in the medical profession today.
Fundamentalists can act the same way. When we attack everything a person does that goes against our beliefs or convictions, it could turn off their ability to reason things out for themselves and grow on their own. This is not to say that there aren't certain "bacteria" that need to be aggressively attacked, but just as overdosing on antibiotics for a little cold could only make things worse in the long run, making huge issues out of "little things (I'll address these a bit later)" that aren't that important, could potentially have an adverse affect on what we fundamentalists are trying to accomplish.
Today's "young Fundamentalists" are recognizing that there is a moving away from fundamentalism, and seem to be dreadfully concerned about it. Most often they point to the fact that fundamentalists spend too much time on attacking the "little things" and as a result they are causing people to flee the fundamentalist churches. These "little things" can be referring to anything from dress standards and music preferences to Bible versions and certain doctrinal differences. One will have to decide on their own definition of "little things," but the idea that a fundamentalist would take a strong stand against them should be no surprise. By definition, that is what makes us fundamentalists.
So, let me point out why I consider myself a fundamentalist and why I believe it is a good thing...when defined properly! The answer, I believe, is found in a concept that some refer to as the "Hegelian Dialectic." I'll try to explain with my admittedly low amount of knowledge of this concept:
The basic concept, as I understand it, is that there are three steps in coming to an agreement on a solution to any problem. First, there is the "thesis" (or "abstract"). In this thesis you present a solution to the problem, which in turn creates a reaction. Next, you present an "antithesis" (or "negative,"). This is something directly opposed to your original solution which will create tension between the two ideas. Finally, there is an agreement on the "synthesis" (or the "concrete"). Hegel proposed that every position a person takes must pass through a negative before its completed state is achieved.
I think we can all get that when it comes to most things. We tend to think quite often in terms of a "middle grounds." If we were trying to correct our posture, we might experiment with both extremes (hunching over vs. arching our back) in order to find our parameters. Proper posture is somewhere in between those two extremes. If we are adjusting the brightness of our computer monitor, we would go from one extreme setting (too bright) to the other extreme (too dark) to find out what is best (somewhere in the middle).
When it comes to standards of Christian living, we have what seems to be an "extreme right," an "extreme left," and we will call the middle ground "normal." Many believe the truth to exist somewhere in the "normal" region, between the two extremes. The problem with that is that there is already an Absolute Truth which is God's Word--and it does not move! Instead of trying to move toward that Truth, we are often more concerned about where "normal" is. Unfortunately, Truth has nothing to do with where "normal" is. In this case, Truth is in an entirely different dimension.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned."
Fundamentalism isn't about "presenting an antithesis to a thesis in order to reach synthesis." In other words, it's not our job to go toward the "extreme right" in order to keep "normal" away from the "extreme left," it is our job to obey what we know to be the Truth and try to point people to it when we are given the opportunity. I believe that is the true definition of "Christian fundamentalism."
Like antibiotics, fundamental Christianity is a necessary instrument in bringing sin-infected souls to good, clean health. However, abusing Christian fundamentalism, like many have done, can do more harm than good. So, I don't think we need to take the word "fundamental" off of the sign on our church just because people aren't attracted to it, we just need to remind ourselves what our purpose is as fundamentalists.