Thursday, April 12, 2012

A brief history of modern fundamentalism....

Chaz here.

Many in the broader church these days are willing to roll the dice and risk both the church's credibility and their personal faith on one or two issues, such as sexuality and the role of women. They've made these issues their line in the sand, the hill they're willing to die upon -- even though they are barely touched upon, if at all, in the Gospels.

They seem to feel that examining their interpretation of scripture on these issues would cause their whole faith ethos to crumble like a house of cards.

I recently tripped upon some thinking on the matter, which makes me think that we should be aware that in many cases this might be a personal fear on their part -- that if they examine one point of their faith, their whole world might crumble -- that their fighting the points of sexuality and women might not be so much an "offensive" as a "defensive" strategy for them.
At the above link, the author writes:
"[fundmentalism] results in a reactionary faith, one characterized by militant certainty and a fear of change. One of the themes of my book is the importance of shedding away false fundamentals—as individuals and as a Church—so that our faith can survive changing environments."
An anonymous commenter had what I thought was an insightful contribution to the discussion that followed:
"Greg Boyd once described fundamentalist Christianity as a 'house-of-cards' theology. Such a theology is motivated by fear, where compromise is seen as a slippery-slope that will unleash every manner of uncertainty about the Christian faith...."
"Take the issue of Genesis 1-3. A fundamentalist will approach this text and say: 'If I don't take this text literally, i.e., as a science textbook/historical chronology written by Moses .... then the whole Bible is a pack of lies.' If someone reminds him/her that there are other ways of reading a text other than a literal mode, they would say 'If you don't read this part literally, why should we be obliged to read Jesus' death, burial and resurrection in a non-literal fashion? .....
"Reaching a fundamentalist would involve demonstrating the fallacy of the 'house-of-cards' theology. The problem is not in the arguments you present, but in his/her fear that you might actually be right. Therefore, all the arguments in the world won't help you. Evidence, like experience, only benefits the mind that is WILLING to receive it. The way to reach a fundamentalist is to convince him why his 'house-of-cards' approach to faith is unnecessary, and to show him THE HISTORY OF HIS TRADITION."
"He/she must be shown that his/her approach is not the orthodox way of Christianity, that their approach is far from being universal; historically, most Christians haven't approached faith and the Bible in the way they have. The rest of the world doesn't do it like that. When they realise this, many fundamentalists will realise that doubting their 'house-of-cards' approach is in no way disrespectful to God's Word. This will allow them to have the confidence to examine their faith in new ways."
(italics added by Chaz)

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