Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fundamentalism is an attitude

Michael Jensen has a very thoughtful article For and against fundamentalism, on the ABC Religion and Ethics site. It gives a lot of good historical information about the history of Christian fundamentalism and a balanced perspective. Here is a small extract:
I would accept that "fundamentalism" is descriptive of a kind of religious mentality which is in evidence most egregiously in a kind of epistemological double standard. That is, it is a mentality that confidently asserts the objectivity and interest-free status of its own reasoning while at the same time decrying the prejudice and interest-laden nature of the reasoning of its opponents.
This is the kind of "rationalism" that Harriet Harris decries in her book Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism, and which she claims to find evident in much of conservative evangelicalism. Why is it bad?
It is chiefly bad for spiritual rather than intellectual reasons. That is, it fails to be a posture of humble confidence rather than belligerence. It claims to know what it cannot. It is pastorally irresponsible, because it relies on intellectual short-cuts which people may accept for a time and then begin to doubt, to their spiritual detriment.
I would also argue that it is bad because the fundamentalist mindset is actually not faithful to Scripture....

However, it is a grave theological mistake to accord one's theological convictions the finality that only the judgement of God can give them. Belligerence is not the necessary complement of confident conviction.
Let me be clear. Fundamentalism is a mentality to be avoided in whatever guise. But one does not eschew the name "fundamentalist" on account of wishing to look respectable. The term is treated with such a mixture of alarm and contempt in the contemporary world that you could be forgiven for not wanting to be the target of such opprobrium.
But respectability is not a category that ought to interest Christians if it means compromise of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christians are those for whom being killed by one's neighbours for what one believes is a consideration! After all, it was not dignity or status that Christ himself pursued. Respectability is not a Christian category.
If being fundamentalist means "not one of the respectable people," then I would happily accept it.

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