Sunday, March 19, 2006

Fundamentalism vs. Liberalism

This post is from Mike Bird, of whom I hadn't heard until just a little bit ago thru the Blue Raja's blog. I really dig it and will try to apply its lessons to my own common-speech vocabulary.


Fundamentalist versus Liberal

Preliminary Remarks

1. Most persons who use the term "fundamentalist" pejoratively are simply ignorant of the historical circumstances surrounding the origins of fundamentalism as a theological movement in North America in the early 20th century. Many are also ill informed about the historical, theological and cultural differences between Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism - the two cannot be equated.

2. The terms "fundamentalist" and "liberal" are often used these days as an opprobrium but they have also become relative terms, i.e. a fundamentalist is someone more conservative than me and a liberal is someone less conservative than me. (I've been called both!) To make things worse, Old Liberalism was a package and you could easily discover an Old Liberal based on certain questions, e.g. virgin birth, inerrancy, resurrection, atonement, etc. But today there are a number of theologians who don't quite fit the bill, e.g. Rowan Williams. William's has an orthodox view of the resurrection (as far as I can tell), but his views of sexuality are as liberal as Hillary Clinton speaking at an ACLU convention. In sum, other than being an insult, the terms fundamentalist and liberal don't really mean much anymore.

3. The Fundamentalism versus Liberal controversy was really a symptom of Christianity wrestling with the challenges posed by modernity. There were two reactions to modernity: "run for the hills and hide your daughters" (Fundamentalists) or "wine me and dine me" (Liberals). As we enter into a Postmodern period the liberal versus fundamentalist controversy is no longer the defining issue for Western Christianity.

See further:

- Carl F. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947)
- George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (1980)

Why I'm not a Fundamentalist

1. Fundamentalists major on the minors, and make minor issues tests for faith and orthodoxy (e.g. alcohol, Bible translations, etc).

2. Fundamentalists fail to distinguish between what is Christian and what is the cultural Christianity that they were nurtured on.

3. Fundamentalists fail to distinguish between areas of conviction and areas of command, and treat areas of conscience as a test of orthodoxy.

4. Fundamentalists have a view of Scripture that is docetic in that Scripture is divine but it is not human - no human processes (e.g. the Synoptic problem) are compatible with divine authorship.

5. Fundamentalists preach the authority of the text but practice the authority of the community.

6. Fundamentalists fail to appreciate the different genres of the Bible or comprehend the role of presuppositions in influencing our reading of Scripture.

7. Fundamentalists believe in theological cloning rather than theological learning.

8. Fundamentalists fail to be the salt of the earth as they are concerned almost exclusively with the minutia of doctrinal purity and correctness.

9. Fundamentalists have a lopsided soteriology as they think of salvation as purely the salvation of souls for heaven rather than the liberation of persons from sin, sickness, subjugation, and death. They aim for decisions rather than making disciples.

10. Fundamentalists fail to recognize the true marks of the Church and allow for a diversity of voices within the body of Christ.

11. Fundamentalists are more excited about what they are against, than what they are for.

12. Fundamentalists regard the Spirit as a theological entity, but not as a presence that manifests itself in worship or loving community.

Why I'm Not a Liberal

1. Liberals mimic culture to the point that they simply imitate the contemporary values of the day and wrap them up in some Christian wrapping paper. The world looks on and says, "Thanks for affirming all of my values but you can keep the wrapping paper".

2. Liberals minor on the majors - sin, atonement, and resurrection.

3. Liberals have a view of Scripture that is Arian - it is human but not divine.

4. Liberals take Scripture to be illustrative but not necessarily prescriptive and normative for faith and praxis.

5. Liberals deny the transforming power of the gospel to liberate persons from every form of sin.

6. Liberals minimize the unique revelation of God in Christ and deny the eschatological finality of Jesus Christ.

7. The Gospel of Liberalism was what Karl Rahner warned us of: A God without wrath takes men without sin to a kingdom without judgment.

8. Liberals de-historicise and de-apocalypticise the message of the Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles.

9. Liberals preach pluralism but do not tolerate anyone who fails to embrace their pluralistic ethos.

10. Liberals believe the Spirit is a Spirit of unity but not a Spirit of truth.

11. Liberals think that the only heresy is to believe in heresy.

12. Liberals think that the church is about programs and structures, when it is about creating gospel-proclaiming, Spirit-driven, Christ-centered, God-focused redemptive communities.

2 comments:

Daniel Perna said...

I find it much harder to define fundamentalism than the terms used. The question not addressed is: "The fundamentals of what?" Church tradition? A true following of Christ? One can be extremely fundamental to one, and not to the other.

That being the case, though, I agree that all the items listed are good to "NOT" be. I especially liked, "...are more excited about what they are against, than what they are for." How true and how sad.

(love you, Maricles)

Rhology said...

Well, yeah, but what this particular entry is referring to is the actual term "fundamentalist."
Which has a specific historical context, as was mentioned early in the post... just FYI.
Love the Pernaz too.