Splashing around in theology.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Fundamentals

I have really enjoyed the comments that all contributors to this blog have made, thus far.
To be honest, the downside is that I end up just wanting to come home after work and read what you all are saying, rather than write anything myself!
[That's not entirely true, but almost so.]
Last night, there was a comment from "rantandroar" in the Three Pillars thread, and the word “fundamentalists” was used. It got me to thinking about the word itself.
What does it mean, and what do we mean when we use it?
Of course, there exists “fundamentalism” in all religions… but primarily, when we speak of “religious fundamentalism” or “religious fundamentlists” we are usually referring to the big Western religions. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Without question, fundamentalists abound in all of these groupings.
As regards Christianity in particular, where did the term originate, and what does it refer to?

Well, between 1910 and 1915, in response to biblical criticism in general and the emergence of Darwinism in particular, a group of conservative Christians published a series of pamphlets entitled The Fundamentals.*
From these pamphlets the term “fundamentalism” entered our religious vocabulary, and referred to the literal beliefs held by conservative Christians.

The five fundamentals** were [and still are]:

1) The inspiration of Scripture as the literal, revealed word of God.

2) The virgin birth as the miraculous and literal means by which the divine nature of Christ has been guaranteed.

3) The substitutionary view of the atonement that was accomplished in the death of Jesus. The affirmation of the saving power of his blood and the gift of salvation that was accomplished by his death.

4) The certainty of the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The accuracy of both the empty-tomb and and the appearance stories in the gospel tradition.

5) The truth of the second coming of Jesus, the reality of the Day of Judgment, which would be based on the record of one’s life, and the certainty of heaven and hell as eternal places of reward and punishment.

*Dixon, A.C., and R.H. Torrey, eds. The Fundamentals. Chicago: Testimony Publishing, 1910-1915.
**Meredith, Lawrence. Life Before Death: A Spiritual Journey of Mind and Body. Atlanta: Atlanta Humanics Publishing Group, 2000. p.31.

A Christian fundamentalist is therefore someone who believes rather unequivocably [without question] in all five of these tenets. As a minimum entrance requirement.
As recently as two years ago, I fully believed in all five of them myself.
Today, I can subscribe to none of them, as traditionally understood.
I mention this merely to say to you, and to myself, that this change represents a radical, life-altering, [some would say “after-life altering”] quantum leap for me.
I am still in the infancy stages of learning what it means to not believe in these things after having believed them. [To me, this constitutes a very different scenario than that of never having believed them at all].
I hope that you will continue to journey with me into greater and greater questions and mystery… what I am going to here call “the exhilarating beauty of not knowing stuff.”

I am currently re-reading, for the second [and not last] time, John Shelby Spong’s excellent book (2001) called, A New Christianity For A New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying and How a New Faith is Being Born.
Of all the heretical authors I’ve encountered in the past two years, I like Spong the best. The things he says resonate deep within my own inner heretic.
I thought I would close with just two simple things he says in the preface of this book:
“To suggest that God and one’s own understanding of God are the same thing is not only to stop growing, it is to die to the quest for truth.” [xviii].
I could not agree more.

“Christianity will always be the pathway to God on which I journey, but I am now convinced that no human system, including Christianity itself, can maintain the exclusive power-claims of its past. The world is far too small today to offer a haven for that kind of tribal religion.” [xxi].


Blogger RantandRoar said...

Keep it coming cip.

A quote from Bishop Spong:

A major function of fundamentalist religion is to bolster deeply insecure and fearful people. This is done by justifying a way of life with all of its defining prejudices. It thereby provides an appropriate and legitimate outlet for one's anger. The authority of an inerrant Bible that can be readily quoted to buttress this point of view becomes an essential ingredient to such a life. When that Bible is challenged, or relativized, the resulting anger proves the point categorically. [Bishop John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism, (San Fransisco: Harper Collins, 1991), p. 5.]

3/16/2006 10:10 PM  
Blogger RantandRoar said...

Quote from Religious Movements

Bruce Lawrence, Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age

Lawrence defines fundamentalism as " the affirmation of religious authority as holistic and absolute, admitting of neither criticism nor reduction; it is expressed through the collective demand that specific creedal and ethical dictates derived from scripture be publicly recognized and legally enforced ."

Lawrence argues that fundamentalism is a specific kind of religious ideology. It is antimodern, but not antimodernist. In other words, it rejects the philosophical rationalism and individualism that accompany modernity, but it takes full advantage of certain technological advances that also characterize the modern age. The most consistent denominator is opposition to Enlightenment values. Lawrence believes that fundamentalism is a world-wide phenomena and that it must be compared in various contexts before it can be understood or explained with any clarity.

Lawrence ends his general discussion by listing five "family resemblances" common to fundamentalism. 1) Fundamentalists are advocates of a minority viewpoint. They see themselves as a righteous remnant. Even when they are numerically a majority, they perceive themselves as a minority. 2) They are oppositional and confrontational towards both secularists and "wayward" religious followers. 3) They are secondary level male elites led invariably by charismatic males. 4) Fundamentalists generate their own technical vocabulary. 5) Fundamentalism has historical antecedents, but no ideological precursor.

3/17/2006 5:21 PM  
Blogger cipriano said...

Hey, this is great stuff rantandroar.
Really good.
Thank you for posting it here.

3/17/2006 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Cleo said...

Well, I scored a perfect zero. I am glad I'm not the only one on this path. I too believed all these things once, ten years ago or so. There are many times I wish I could simply return to the faithful believer I was. There is something quite comforting in being able to simply "turn one's cares over" to God. Alas, this is simply not a possible regression for me. I keep learning and exploring and for now that must be enough.

3/17/2006 8:38 PM  
Anonymous patricia said...

Nosey person that I am, I'd love to know the catalyst which started you on the path to where you are now. Those are some pretty strong-held beliefs, and to have them change so dramatically in two years....well, it would be interesting if you could actually site specific moments in your life in the past two years as to how and when you began to see things differently.

Me, I've never believed in any of those things you have listed. Mind you, I have held other beliefs in the past that I no longer believe in now. We are all constantly growing and change (I hope!)

These days I like to repeat the song which Ebeneezer Scrooge sang to himself in the film 'A Christmas Carol', starring Alistair Sim:

"I don't know anything, I never did know anything, and now I know that I don't know, all on a Christmas morning!"

3/19/2006 10:33 PM  
Blogger cipriano said...

Good points Patricia.
Yes.... thing is, there are so many things, I guess, which sparked change in me.
But yeah, I should get to this topic sometime....
Thank you for reading me, Ms. Scrooge!

3/20/2006 6:07 AM  

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