"Negative fundamentalism" is a zealous overreaction

The rejection of new philosophic and scientific paradigms

Current Draft: Still Thinking ...

Fundamentalism emerged as a movement within evangelicalism in the early 20th century as a reaction to literary and historical criticism of the Bible as well as attacks against the integrity of the Biblical texts on the creation of the world. A group of American evangelicals came together to defend orthodox Christian faith against the theological liberalism of its day. Fundamentalism defined the battleground for Biblical inerrancy. On a deeper level, the issue was defining the source of spiritual authority.

This section will comment on the reaction of "negative fundamentalism," that aspect of fundamentalism which was distrustful and destructive in nature. Packer (1958:11) quotes critics of this type of fundamentalism as saying, "It represents a defiant hardening of pre-critical and pre-scientific views, a desperate attempt to bolster up obsolete traditions."

Fundamentalism places a high view of the literal interpretation of the Bible. The Bible is the standard of truth, and all other truths must be accommodated to explicit statements made in it. Fundamentalists rejected that truth could be consensually derived through the amalgamation of different traditions and doctrines. Packer (1958:19) well describes the sentiment in saying that "we are not entitled to infer from the fact that a group of people are drawing nearer to each other that any of them is drawing nearer to the truth." He states that "the essence of right theological method is thus reformation rather than conglomeration." Again, he (1958:20) states "authentic Christianity is a religion of biblical authority."

In its earliest forms, this became a simultaneous rejection of new forms of Biblical scholarship and, especially, Biblical criticism. The plain statements of Scripture (in the English-speaking world, this mostly meant the King James Version) were taken as plainly true. The work of correlating names, numbers, places and parallel passages was the most responsible form of Bible study. The scholarly agenda, if there was one, consisted of the following: 1) catalog the "facts" of Scripture for ease of reference and future study, especially the proper chronology of the life of Jesus, 2) explain apparent contradictions between texts, 3) study of Jesusí parables and 4) study of portions Scripture which were prophetic in nature leading an understanding of the nature of Christís Second Coming and the events leading up to it.

Fundamentalism soon grew distrustful of academic learning and shunned intellectual pursuits. Culture itself became suspicious, forcing fundamentalists to turn inward, limiting their interests to proselytizing and cultivation of personal devotion to God. Machen (1957:336) stated that this early fundamentalism resulted in "the presence at times of a zeal not according to knowledge and the frequent absence of historical perspective and the appreciation of scholarship."

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This page created on July 12, 1996.
Most recent revision was October 4, 1996.
Copyright © 1996 Gerardo Marti
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