In Defense of Fundamentalism
In popular media the term Fundamentalist has come to refer to anyone that adheres to a religion that is considered extreme by our society. A fundamentalist Christian is anyone that takes the Bible as the final authority for all matters in his or her life.
The quick-and-dirty way to figure out if one is a fundamentalist or not is to find out if he or she “believes the Bible literally.”
This is a sloppy criterion on a number of levels. Take for instance the fact that no Fundamentalist believes that God is literally a rock despite the Bible’s assertion that God is a Rock. But the main problem is that it completely ignores the history of fundamentalism. It lumps true fundamentalists together with Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Charismatics, and even conservative Catholics, all of which are certainly not fundamentalists. To further make the point, Fundamentalists are generally united on the point that Roman Catholics are not truly Christians.
The fundamentalist movement began in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a reaction to liberalism in the mainline Christian denominations. It takes it’s name from a series of books, The Fundamentals, first published in 1909. These volumes contained articles that defended traditional Christian doctrines: the reliability of scripture, the virgin birth, the reality of miracles, etc.
The movement narrowed, so that a church must be an independent Baptist church that reads the Bible according to a particular interpretive strategy called Dispensationalism.
Fundamentalism has acquired a bad name in popular culture. “Enlightened” liberals use the term contemptuously of anyone with religious convictions that differ from theirs: Bible-believing = Fundamentalist = bad.
I disagree with both equal signs.
It is as ignorant as declaring that all Muslims are Arabs (or all Arabs are Muslims) – and then proceeding to speak scornfully of both. We ought to allow Fundamentalists to define their own movement, especially if we actually believe in tolerance rather than just giving it lip-service.
Tomorrow I will delve into the differences between Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals.