I have five points for you this Thanksgiving. They are not the five solas of the Great Reformation, which our church rests upon. They are not the five points of Calvinism, which I wholeheartedly affirm. They are the five points of Fundamentalism, which were articulated a hundred years ago.
Liberalism, which veritably shredded Scripture, had infected the post-Reformation church. Neo-orthodoxy, which sought to restore sound theology without inspired biblical support, seemed too weak a response. So, some conservative leaders including R.A. Torrey of Moody Bible Institute, B.B. Warfield of Princeton Theological Seminary, and E.Y. Mullins of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, got together to make a stronger statement, which in summary accentuated what became known as the five fundamentals of the evangelical Christian faith.
I hesitate to call them the five points of fundamentalism now, since at about the same time these theses were widely published, Prohibition became the law of the land and conservative Christianity was hijacked by a bunch of twentieth century Pharisees who called themselves Fundamentalists, a name which now sticks to them and their heirs. They are most famous for their don’ts. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew, and don’t run with the crowd that do,” summarizes their list of prohibitions regarding diet, drink, fashion, and entertainment, and their gag gift to the church is a whole host of extra-biblical rules and regulations.
This kind of Fundamentalism was taught to me during my first years as a follower of Christ. But I slowly walked in another direction when Bible translations other than the KJV were denounced (I had tested positive for NIV at the time), males were actually asked to leave the church if their hair fell over their collar (I had long hair before it started falling out), girls skirts were measured with a ruler (I think the old perverts just wanted to get a good look at the girls’ legs), and the preacher proudly declared that Jesus miraculously turned water into Welch’s grape juice (which I do admit would have been a double miracle, since the pasteurization and refrigeration which prevents fermentation was not a realization at the time).
There is some good to be found in rule-keeping, whether it be the abstinence or very moderate use of alcohol, avoiding tobacco, dressing modestly, or responsibly guarding your eyes and ears. But I think Christianity is more wholesome and winsome when we affirm what we are for, rather than what we are against.
So here is a list of five fundamentals, five things we affirm, five things we are for. They are memorable because each one starts with the letter “V.” They are gifts afforded to us by the grace of Almighty God. And for all five of them we should be eternally thankful.
I am thankful for the Verbal Plenary Inspiration of Scripture
Communication is necessary for association. Two people cannot have a relationship if they do not have a way of conveying their thoughts, intentions, desires, and demands to one another. We would never know God if God had not communicated with us.
From the beginning of time until the time of Moses, God spoke to men inwardly and sometimes audibly. As men of God relayed these messages, their word became known as prophecy, God’s word to men through men. From Moses onward, a special gift of writing prophetically, the ability to communicate for God purely, in writing, without error, was given to certain prophets of the Old Covenant, and to some Apostles of the New Covenant. The Bible was written to make God’s will and God’s word plain for all generations, especially for our present dispensation between the first advent and second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Simon Peter, a devout Jew who became a Christian Apostle, who experienced both gifts of speaking and writing prophetically, wrote this about the Bible:
No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
— 2 Peter 1:20-21
The last and most widely used of all the Apostles, also a deeply Jewish fellow before becoming a Christian, has this definitive word:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
— 2 Timothy 3:16
The doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration means that the Bible is, word for word, the word of God. God the Father picked each human author, God the Son saved them, God the Holy Spirit indwelled them and especially guided in taking their thoughts, experiences, personalities, and learned truths and expressing them in grammatical, historical, and theological words that are wholly without error.
Liberals believe the Bible is not inspired at all. The neo-orthodox believe it is inspired in spots, and they are inspired to spot the spots. Reformed, conservative Christians believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God, lock, stock, and barrel, and for it we are thankful to God.
I am thankful for the Virgin Birth of Christ
The purpose of Holy Scripture is to show us, through narrative and poetry and commandments and revelations, the salvation God gives by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is pictured on almost every page of the Old Testament and Christ is presented to us in every page of the New Testament. One who built a bridge from one testament to the other said:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.
— Hebrews 1:1-2
What has God spoken thorough the person and work of Jesus Christ? God has said He is with us, for us, to save us, and keep us, forever. How was this first step, God’s coming to us as a man among men, accomplished? Through the miracle of the virgin birth of Christ.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
— Isaiah 7:14
Some scholars want to split hairs with the fact that the Hebrew word for “virgin” can mean any young, unmarried woman, or, specifically a woman who has never has sex with a man. Mary, in the New Testament, makes the word more plain:
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus … and Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
— Luke 1:31, 34
In other words, how can I have a baby if I’ve never had sex, if I’m a “virgin?” In a metaphysical mystery that cannot be totally explained by man, but must be believed by men, the Lord Jesus Christ was born of a union between Heaven and earth. Jesus is fully God and fully human. This was necessary, as the other fundamentals will explain, for God to save us by grace through faith in Christ. But the gospel begins with the indispensable virgin birth, and for this “inexpressible gift,” and we are thankful to God.
I am thankful for the Victorious (Sinless) Life of Christ
Because Jesus came to us fully God and fully man, He could lead a man’s life with the sinless perfection of God. This was asserted by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah:
He [did] no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
— Isaiah 53:9
What this meant, accord to Simon Peter, was that Jesus committed no sin in thought or word or deed:
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
— 1 Peter 2:22
Even Jesus confessed His sinlessness:
I always do the things that are pleasing to [God].
— John 8:29
I wish I could please God every second of every day, but although I am saved, I am still a sinful person. So are you. That’s why the sinless Son of God came.
All the proper sacrifices in the Old Covenant had to be “without blemish.” All Passover bread had to be (and our communion bread still is) “unleavened.” These are pictures of the perfect person and work of Jesus. For a holy God to save unholy sinners, a perfect holy sacrifice is required. That sacrifice is Jesus, and we thank God for Him!
I am thankful for the Vicarious (Substitutionary) Death of Christ
Again the Old Testament prophet Isaiah lays out the vision of this fundamental truth, of the substitutionary death of the Messiah:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
— Isaiah 53:4-6
Paul expounds upon this truth in the New Testament:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
— 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
— 2 Corinthians 5:21
The cross of Jesus Christ is the intersection of the holiness and the love of God. In holiness, judgment, and wrath God punishes sinners. In love, grace, and mercy, He puts the sins of His chosen ones upon the Son. The great transaction, the double imputation, takes place. By grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord forgives our sin and considers us right with Him. Hallelujah, give thanks!
I am thankful for the Visible Resurrection and Return of Christ
For various reasons, this last fundamental of the faith gives the liberals and neo-orthodox the most problems. They like the Bible. They love Jesus. They consider His life exemplary and His death tragic. However, they don’t believe Christ literally, visibly, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, and that He will return from whence He went.
But there were eyewitnesses!
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”
— John 20:18
He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
— 1 Corinthians 15:5-8
And when Jesus Christs returns to earth, we will all be eyewitnesses.
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
— Revelation 1:7
People saw Him and people will see Him again. What will you see, and what will you say, when the Lord Jesus Christ returns? Perhaps we could start with “thank you.”
Thank you, God, for giving us your verbally plenarily inspired word. Thank you God, for saving our souls by grace through faith in the person and work of the virgin-born, victoriously sinless, vicariously suffering, visibly resurrected and returning King of kings and Lord of lords.
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
— Revelation 22:20, KJV