butter light

what is in a name (or old label)?


old cheerios boxIt is interesting how brands or labels are influenced not only by their contents.  Many labels or brands are equally influenced by what is outside the bottle or box as well as by what is in them.  Consider how the labeling of brands you know from Cheerios to Wheaties and Hershey chocolates to Ford motorcars, have changed with the times.  Clearly labels and branding are influenced by “out of the box” factors as much by internal factors such as the product itself and the company behind it.

The dominant culture around a label affects its look and feel and value even if the contents were to basically remain the same.  Take a look at Spam.  Of course, there are external factors that influence a brand or label which are complex.  Then there are basic outside factors, such as the passage of time, that impose change on a brand or label.  The ‘ole “that was then and this is now” or a new set of “players,” the key personalities that surrounded that brand, aren’t around anymore.

Such is the case with the old label “Fundamentalist.”  My personal approach to conservative Christianity is that I choose not to prop up an old label such as “Fundamentalism.”  The term Conservative Christian works well for me and I find is a conversation starter not a conversation stopper. Then what I am able to follow up with comments or discussion that center around truths like “others-focused, Bible-believing, Gospel-centered.”

I think it is vital that we re-express timeless truths from the Scripture in ways that those around me can soak in.  It is not only knowing what you believe that matters.  It also matters HOW you communicate what you believe.

Many old labels are not in use anymore.  Why? because “that was then and this is now.”  Labels or brands, their perception, value and design, change appreciabley with the times.  It is interesting that even those who intentionally cling to an  old label such as “fundamentalist” are now reticent to use it in public {see his quote: “should only be used as an in-house label”}.

That covered lip approach speaks loudly.  If you can’t affirm everywhere who you are, then it is questionable that you are really standing for what you say you are standing for.  When humans talk in layers like “secret-speak” and “public-speak” they are usually trying to prop up something like either an old label or some sacred cow.   In many ways this is symptomatic of conservative Christianity.

For the sake of the Gospel being understood is a much better end result than being pigeon holed.  And also, speaking the truth clearly, lovingly and perceptibly to the here and now is a better instrument in the Master’s hand.  What are they (or we) really focused on – setting right old vendetta’s or helping set lost souls on the path to reconciliation with the Holy Father?

So should we toss out all labels? A good step forward is to remember that some labels are good and some are not helpful.  Again, being understood is a much better desired result than being pigeon-holed.  To that desired end we should do what matters most to the advancement of our Christian faith – know what you believe from the Bible (in particular The Gospel of Jesus Christ and it numerous implications), AND know how best to communicate what you believe from the Bible to those around you.- in this here and now.

Now this takes a little more work than tossing a label into the middle of a conversation.  BUT, taking a little more effort to be clear and avoid “buzz” words shows you care about those you are trying to communicate with.  Sometimes we cling to ways of saying things because we mistakenly think that our identity is tied to that phrase or label or buzz word.  You show you care about others when you take time to speak clearly – here and now – about the truths God has shown you from His Word.

Here is a good example of someone who is gracious to those who think differently that he and is still unwavering about what matters most – knowing the truth of God’s Word and knowing how to communicate it to those you care about.   20 reasons I  don’t take potshots at fundamentalists (by John Piper)


2 thoughts on “what is in a name (or old label)?

  1. Pingback: in view of present disturbances within American fundamentalists quarters « a borrowed light

  2. Wow, Mark. I am blown away. Great site.

    Quite a few years ago, I heard a Dr. Bob III sermon on the term fundamentalist and the need for a replacement due to the world’s interpretation of the term. He suggested foundationalist. I thought about it long and hard. I came up with the term “Biblicist”. G_d and His Word are my absolute standard, above and beyond what any man may say or teach. I will live and die by that standard, whether i am ever able to live up to it or not. That which is clearly defined (one G_d, virgin birth, salvation via redemption through Messiah, etc.), i will clearly stand for, that which leaves room for interpretation and discussion, i can agree to disagree. This has not made me a lot of friends and i find myself ostracized by most religious groups. (Must be my sparkling personality!) So be it. The Gospel must be my focus and everything else be brought in subjection to it as the Spirit continues His work in my life.

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