Is Fundamentalism a Sound System of Belief?
An essay donated by Corey Harvard
The popularity of a fallacy does not make it acceptable - only accepted.
Since the early 1900’s, fundamentalism has been one of the most successful
religious movements in the United States. The premise of fundamentalism is that
Christians need to return to the "fundamentals" of Christianity, such as the
virgin birth and resurrection of Christ,
scriptural inerrancy, and the
acceptance of all canonized scripture as being divinely
inspired. Despite its loyalist
appeal, it is a harmful system of protestant belief.
First, fundamentalists impose guilt traps on new believers. A believer is
taught the core doctrines (theological statements of opinion) of a
fundamentalist. Then he is told that if those doctrines are doubted or
contemplated, he is committing a sin. Therefore, the believer is expected to
settle for a collection of opinions that he is not permitted to challenge with
any clearness of conscience. This cuts him off from the only reliable tool of
understanding that he has – his reasoning.
Accordingly, the foundation by which fundamentalists support this narrow
attitude is faith. This, however, does not accurately represent the role of
faith in the New Testament. For example, In Christ’s time, rabbis went about
practicing a process they called "loosing and binding." In this process, rabbis
formed interpretations of what certain passages meant in the Torah (the first
five books of the Old Testament). In other words, they would thoroughly
contemplate the meaning of scriptures and make scholarly opinions based upon
According to the book of Matthew, Christ extends this practice of "loosing
and binding" to Christianity when He states, "I will give you the keys of the
kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and
whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
insisting that faith is an unchallenged acceptance of particular doctrines,
fundamentalists misrepresent Christ’s very teaching.
Another relevant point is that most theologians who have had an overwhelming
influence on Christianity were speculative. Without a willingness to explore the
possibility that the popular Christianity of their day was errant, reformists
like Martin Luther and John Calvin would have never produced the ideas that they
did. Hence, contrary to popular fundamentalist values, faith does not justify
ignorance and questioning does not constitute a lack of belief.
Finally, the most tragic quality of fundamentalists is their unwillingness to
be wrong. As C.S. Lewis states in one of his allegorical works, "They pretend
that their researches lead to that doctrine: but in fact they assume that
doctrine first and interpret their researches by it."
3 Instead of
seeking the truth, fundamentalists spend most of their time protecting their
accepted doctrine. The problem is not that they are confident; there is nothing
wrong with being confident in something that someone has truly contemplated and
developed an opinion about. The problem is that they are unwilling to look at
different possibilities of truth. In the circumstance that they stumble across a
conflict with one of their doctrines, they immediately go looking for a
satisfying solution for that conflict, rather than considering another truth. G.K. Chesterton summarizes it well,
"It is not bigotry to be certain we are
right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone
wrong." 4 This attitude is easily the most poisonous in any pursuit of
In conclusion, all of these perspectives influence each other. A distorted
understanding of faith leads most fundamentalists away from sound reason; those
who desire to use their reason fold under pressure; and all efforts that are put
into study are dictated by a drive to affirm beliefs rather than test them.
Fundamentalism is convenient for those who desire a comfortable perception of
truth. It allows people to have a blind certainty, it forces them not to doubt,
and it takes away an individual’s responsibility to think for himself. Although
fundamentalism is widely accepted, beneath its puritan garb it remains a fallacy
and a fallacy is never acceptable.
- Rob Bell, "Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith," Zondervan, (2006).
Read reviews or order this book safely from the
Amazon.com online book store Bell writes:
"For many people the word 'Christian' conjures up all sorts of images
that have nothing to do with who Jesus is and how he taught us to live. This
must change. For others, the painting works for their parents, or it
provided meaning when they were growing up, but it is no longer relevant. It
doesn't fit. It's outdated. It doesn't have anything to say to the world
they live in every day. It's not that there isn't any truth in it or that
all the people before them were misguided or missed the point. It's just
that every generation has to ask the difficult questions of what it means to
be a Christian here and now, in this place, at this time."
- Bible Gateway, (1995) at: http://biblegateway.com
- Clives Lewis, "The Timeless Writings of C.S. Lewis," Family
Christian Press, (2003), Page 49.
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Amazon.com online book store
- Martin Ward, "The Catholic Church and Conversion by G.K. Chesterton,"
First posted: 2006-DEC-02
Latest update: 2013-APR-01
Author: Corey Harvard