Fundamentalist Christianity

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Fundamentalist Christianity is a fundamentalist movement, expecially within American protestantism. Typical beliefs are that literal interpretation of the entire bible is appropriate, for example that God created the world in exactly 7, 24 time periods, that God create Eve from Adam's rib, that the Garden of Eden was a real place, that the Virgin Mary really was a virgin and so on. In relationshp to current issues the position is taken that evolution is false, abortion is murder, and the UN is a sign of end times.

Important early Christian fundamentalists included William Jennings Bryan (thoug to be fair he was only a fundamentalist on the matter of creationism), John Nelson Darby, Cyrus I. Scofield, Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Lewis Sperry Chafer, John Walvoord, B. B. Warfield, Carl McIntyre, and J. Gresham Machen. Modern Christian fundamentalists include Hal Lindsey, Jerry Falwell, Jack Chick, Bob Jones, Sr., J. Vernon McGee, Billy James Hargis and John R. Rice.

Contents

Overview

Christian Fundamentalists argue that the Bible must be accepted as the literal word of God, correct not only in its religious or moral teachings, but also in its scientific and historical claims. A typical fundamentalist approach to the Bible, is a "literal where possible" framework of interpretation. That is, the interpretation is to be preferred which proposes the simplest possible meaning of the words: for example, God literally created the world in 6 days; God created Eve from Adam's rib, and so on.

Many other fundamentalists, however, insist on a "literal where intended" approach. The Bible should instead be interpreted as the original readers would have interpreted it - literally where the context shows the intention of a non-figurative meaning, as in the gospel narratives and other chronicles; but figuratively where the context shows an intended figurative sense, as in the Book of Revelation.

Fundamentalist attitudes toward science and scholarship

Almost all fundamentalists believe that macroevolution does not occur, since it contradicts their reading of the Bible. Thus, for example, William Jennings Bryan became an icon of fundamentalism for his part in prosecuting a teacher for teaching evolution in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Though the trial was viewed as publicity stunt by the people of Dayton, Tennessee, Bryan came to represent an emerging, new and politically disparate incarnation of Evangelical religious, political and educational activism. The trial signalled that a dramatic shift of status had already taken place for Evangelicalism, from the Establishment to the Basement of American politics and academia.

Belief in Young earth creationism and Flood geology (which they say accounts for nearly all major geological features by reference to the Flood, described in Genesis), increasingly swept away the earlier Evangelical latitude on these issues, and became tests of orthodoxy in an unprecedented way, in the Fundamentalist movement. This remains predominantly true of broader conservative Evangelicalism, as well; but not nearly as uniformly as among self-described Fundamentalists.

Many Fundamentalists tend to oppose the conclusions of modern scholarship that call into question traditional beliefs about the Bible. For example, they accept the traditional ascriptions of Biblical authorship, which presuppose that individual books had a single author. They may also believe that to suggest that a given book of the Bible was a compilation or the result of an editorial effort would compromise fundamentalist assertions about biblical inerrancy and divine inspiration. They are generally hostile towards higher criticism, a form of literary analysis that attempts to discover the origins and sources of Biblical material.

In particular, Fundamentalists reject the documentary hypothesis -- the theory held by an increasing number of theologians that the Pentateuch was composed and shaped by many people over centuries. Fundamentalists continue to assert that Moses was the primary author of the first five books of the Old Testament.

Some fundamentalists, on the other hand, may be willing to consider alternative authorship only where the Biblical text does not specify an author, insisting that books in which the author is identified must have been written by that author.

Christian fundamentalism within Christianity

In Protestant Christian denominations modern Fundamentalism was born in controversy, and militantly perpetuates controversy. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has had persistent conflicts instigated by fundamentalist factions who deny the denomination's long-held belief in the Priesthood of the Believer in favor of a more authoritarian, dispensationalist, conservative, worldview. Some critics of SBC's growing right-wing radicalism contend that the Bible clearly states that "women will prophesy in the last days." Though most fundamentalists in the Southern Baptist Convention believe that the last days are upon us, they deny women access to the pulpit.

Christian fundamentalism and US public schools

In some American school districts there is still controversy over whether public school students should be taught evolution, creationism, or some mixture of the two. There has been ongoing opposition to the legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade. Arguably, an even wider array of issues than these are deeply informed by Fundamentalist religious views in the U.S. Currently, biology textbooks in Georgia are labelled with stickers advising that they contain the "controversial theory of evolution".

Many fundamentalists believe that the public schools have become hopelessly corrupted, and rather than attempting to change the curriculum they have withdrawn from the public school system. As a consequence, fundamentalists are also often very active in the homeschooling movement and in advocacy of private schools.

Christian fundamentalism and US politics

An important part of the political discourse of the United States (and some other countries) is the notion, often touted by political liberals in the U.S., that Fundamentalist political activity in some cases contradicts the doctrine of the separation of church and state. The Religious Right are examples of Dominionism or Christian Reconstructionism, philosophies that dictate the government should be an arm of the Church and should 'do God's will'.

These fundamentalists began to appear in American politics with the rise of the Moral Majority under the leadership of the Fundamentalist preacher and lawyer, Jerry Falwell. The Moral Majority became one of the leading groups, which combined efforts with a broad consortium of conservative, Protestant Christians, which includes not only Fundamentalists, but also Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and conservative (Confessing Movement) members from mainline churches, some Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, and others. Together, these very widely diverse groups constitute what has since come to be known as the religious right.

Related articles

References

  • Armstrong, Karen ‘The Battle for God’ Ballantine Books; 1 Ballanti edition (January 30, 2001).
  • Bebbington, David W. ‘Baptists and Fundamentalists in Inter-War Britain.’ In Keith Robbins, ed. Protestant Evangelicalism: Britain, Ireland, Germany and America c.1750-c.1950. Studies in Church History subsidia 7, 297-326. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 1990.
  • Bebbington, David W. ‘Martyrs for the Truth: Fundamentalists in Britain.’ In Diana Wood, ed. Martyrs and Martyrologies, Studies in Church History Vol. 30, 417-451. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 1993.
  • Barr, James. Fundamentalism. London: SCM Press, 1977.
  • Carpenter, Joel A. Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195129075, 1999.
  • Elliott, David R. ‘Knowing No Borders: Canadian Contributions to Fundamentalism.’ In George A. Rawlyk and Mark A. Noll, eds. Amazing Grace: Evangelicalism in Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, 349-374. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.
  • Dollar, George W. A History of Fundamentalism in America. Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1973.
  • Harris, Harriet A. Fundamentalism and Evangelicals. Oxford: Oxford University, 1998.
  • Hart, D. G. ‘The Tie that Divides: Presbyterian Ecumenism, Fundamentalism and the History of Twentieth-Century American Protestantism,’ Westminster Theological Journal 60 (1998): 85-107.
  • Longfield, Bradley J. The Presbyterian Controversy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • Marsden, George M. ‘Fundamentalism as an American Phenomenon.’ In D. G. Hart, ed. Reckoning with the Past, 303-321. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995
  • Marsden, George M. Fundamentalism and American Culture Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980
  • Marsden, George M. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; ISBN 0802805396, 1991
  • Noll, Mark. A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada. Eerdmans, 1992. (pages 311-389)
  • Russell, C. Allyn. Voices of American Fundamentalism: Seven Biographical Studies. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976. Subscription access for this at www.questia.com
  • Rennie, Ian S. ‘Fundamentalism and the Varieties of North Atlantic Evangelicalism.’ In Mark A. Noll, David W. Bebbington and George A. Rawlyk eds. Evangelicalism: Comparative Studies of Popular Protestantism in North America, the British Isles and Beyond, 1700-1990, 333-364. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
  • John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture by Harper San Francisco; ISBN 0060675187, 1992

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