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!!!!!!!! Search error!  If the URL ends something like .htm/  or .htm# delete the character(s) after .htm and hit return.

"The nature of Christian Fundamentalism"

An essay donated by Michael Gryboski

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Sponsored link.

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Inntroduction:

I respect Jimmy Carter as a person. Although I was not alive when he went through his term in office, I have nevertheless heard good things about him. He is a modern day Cincinnatus. When the Ancient Roman Republic was in crisis, it called upon an old farmer to be ruler for a temporary amount of time until the turmoil was over. After which, he went back to what he was best at doing. Like Cincinnatus, in whom Cincinnati owes it name to, when the DNC needed a decent man to run for President they turned to a Georgian peanut farmer. I have heard it was his kindness that did him in, as few nice guys survive long in politics. Carter himself acknowledges that he has done more good after his presidency than during it. His extensive lines of charity work and books make him justifiably respected.

That does not make him accurate. At a Baptist World Alliance conference in Birmingham, England, he attacked the Fundamentalist Christian Movement and Fundamentalism in general.

"I would describe fundamentalism as, first of all, a movement led almost invariably by authoritarian males who consider themselves to be superior to others and who have an overwhelming commitment to subjugate women and to dominate their fellow believers." 1

He would state many things derogating to the Fundamentalist Movement, many of which were very one-sided. Case in point was when he said Fundamentalists:

"...are militant in fighting against any challenge to their beliefs, are often angry and sometimes resort to verbal or even physical abuse against those who oppose the implementation of their agenda."

One would think that Carter, even as a Democrat and American, would be ignorant of non-fundamentalists who "resort to verbal or even physical abuse" against opponents and "are militant in fighting against any challenge to their beliefs", such as Michael Moore, Ann Coulter, Al Franken, Edward Kennedy, Rush Limbaugh, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and countless others. This meant he was generalizing, and indeed for a man who admits to having many long-time friends who, in his words, believe that the earth is only 6000 years old, it is a surprising series of statements. Now Carter is not a heathen by any stretch of imagination, and has stressed the importance of spreading the Gospel on many an occasion. Yet for all of this, he does not understand Fundamentalist Christianity as much as he thinks he does.

Having surfed the web in my spare time, I have found many people who make blanket statements about "fundies", which tends to be a favorite nickname. They range from the pseudo-civil rights groups, who declare with certainty that the way to destroy Fundamentalism is through education, to the militant Secularist websites who have no problem lumping decent tax-paying American citizens with Moslem terrorists who want to establish a Global Islamic State. At least one website had on it a long essay in which it declared that the nature of Fundamentalism is "freedom-threatening" and wrote on the matter accordingly. 2

Yet that is NOT the nature of Fundamentalism. These are the words of people who either decided ahead of time what the movement was about or willfully misrepresented the movement in question. Fundamentalist Christianity is not only compatible with a decent modern society, but is the foundation for a civilized world as seen through the areas of government, education, science, social mores and contemporary life. Before this thesis can be proven, first there must be a proper definition of what Fundamentalist Christianity is. Mass media and liberal politicians have never helped in defining terms; just consider how well they have butchered or misused terms like Quagmire, Jihad, Lifestyle, and Insurgent. All of those words have been taken from their original and proper meaning a long time ago.

Fundamentalist Christianity developed out of a series of essays written between 1910 and 1915 that were put into a 12-volume set titled The Fundamentals. When a preacher asked his congregation the question "Will the Fundamentalists win?" he created the term and the name stuck. This Movement was started in response to the rise of various theologies and ideologies that were reasonably considered outside of Christianity. These included but were not exclusive to Evolutionism, Liberalism, Socialism, High Criticism of the Bible, and New Age. An intellectual movement, in the year of the Scopes Monkey Trial (1925) 75% of Fundamentalist ministers held college degrees, which is impressive for the time period.

It must be noted that the term Fundamentalism when applied to violent, radical Islamic terrorist factions is far different. Christian Fundamentalists state as their primary beliefs the inerrancy of the Bible, the Divinity of Jesus Christ, His Virgin Birth, Bodily Resurrection, and eventual Second Coming. Terrorist Islamic 'fundamentalists' believe in the Lesser Jihad, establishing a global Moslem state, the widespread use of war and violence to advance this state, and take the Shari'ah as infallible. There is little if any justified comparability between the two, as neither Jerry Falwell nor Gary DeMar nor Ken Ham nor James Dobson have called for a massive violent war against a non-believing population and none of them condone terrorism. To classify terrorist Islamic Fundamentalism and Christian Fundamentalism as being the same is like saying the Republic of Ireland and the Republic of Cuba have the same government system.

Having established that Christian Fundamentalism is worlds apart from terrorist Islamic fundamentalism, it is only proper to go on and further explain what makes the statements of Jimmy Carter and many others absolutely fallacious. For simplicity's sake, Christian Fundamentalism shall be known by the word Fundamentalism. The notion of a movement like this was declared malevolent by many; even as they do not realize that the essence of this religious movement has been paramount to both the founding of the United States of America and numerous other benefits throughout history and overall contemporary society.

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I. Government

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" --Psalm 33:12a 3

The nature of Fundamentalism includes a demand to strictly adhere to the written word, in its case the Bible. When creating a civilized nation, one must established a body politick, which would provide protection and security to those underneath it, as well as order. Also, though, there is a demand for liberty and in the case of modern nation-states, law that holds the state accountable. An example can be found of this with the United States of America, and its famous governing document, the Constitution. In many ways the Constitution operates in US government the same way the Bible operates in the church. As demanded by the experts, "we need to know as much about the Constitution as possible, including the purpose it was designed to achieve and the evils it was intended to avert." 4 This sounds much like what the Bible is supposed to be for the believer: a moral compass.

Fundamentalists stressed the need for the Bible to be the guide for the church, and indeed if it is not then they say that immorality and doctrinal chaos shall ensue. These warnings from Fundamentalists sound remarkably like the warning James Madison gave in the Federalist Papers: "If the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the Nation...be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a consistent and stable [government]" 5 One can easily put the word 'Bible' in place of 'Constitution' and refer to a 'stable and consistent' church establishment, and one would have exactly what Fundamentalism demands in the faith. This means that the founders and leaders of the American Republic and the movement that supposedly despises democracy intend for similar goals.

Further showing this similarity are the words of former Justice Joseph Story, in his work Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States: "Where its words are plain, clear, and determinate, they require no interpretation." 6 If this were spoken about the Bible today rather than the Constitution back in the 19th century, many liberal churches would denounce it as un-American and against the rights the USA was founded on. Indeed, Liberal Theology sounds strikingly like the very type of governing system the Founding Fathers opposed. Religious liberalism promotes the belief that modern man-made reasoning be superior to Scripture, which is comparable to totalitarian states that had the dictator's man-made reasoning put over the law. The whole of written law is to make certain inflexible laws that a group of people, comprising a modern State, adheres to under punishment. Having a written code as a final authority is essential to Fundamentalism, and so social compacts, as they are often dubbed, are compatible with the movement. But there is more to note.

The very political thought that went into the writing of the Constitution derives from a Christian worldview. The Puritans are essentially the fundamentalists before the Fundamentalist Movement began. They serve as an accurate measuring stick for what a thoroughly Fundamentalist society would look like even as modern myths continue to assail their image. Their beliefs were critical to the forming of limited government in the New World:

"And they were absolute realists about the dark nature of man, when the Spirit of Christ was not operative within him. Therefore, they anticipated the possibility of the very worst happening in their church and civil governments, and planned contingencies accordingly, so that when the worst occasionally did occur, the blockage, rather than the system, would be eliminated." 7

The Bible itself touches base on many of the attributes of constitutional government in the Pentateuch. Regarding the king's relation to the law, the Bible says this:

"When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left." -- Deuteronomy 17: 18-20

This states that not even the king is above the law and it was written 2500 years before the Magna Carta, 2900 years before the Mayflower Compact, and 3100 years before the US Constitution. Further, Exodus 23:1-9 gives rules for fair justice, and Leviticus 19:15 says "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly." It is amazing that there are many people in North America who do not want the Bible in government. It is as though they were ignorant of verses like these. Not to mention the outlawing of two institutions largely opposed by them: polygamy and slavery.

Although many in the Old Testament, including kings and patriarchs, had multiple wives there is never a direct endorsement of polygamy mentioned in Genesis through Revelation. Generally, in both Testaments the standard put forth is that of marriage being between one man and one woman. Adam and Eve were considered a sufficient pair according to Genesis, and when Paul writes about marriage in his 1st Epistle to the Church in Corinth, he uses singular words, as in one husband and one wife, as no one else was meant to be involved. So it makes perfect sense as to why it was law in a Christian nation like the United States that marriage would be organized according to what the Bible said. This remained so even with the landmark case brought to the Supreme Court in the 19th century.

A fringe Mormon was in a polygamous relationship and the law forbade it. Rather than claim some legality due to the consent and privacy involved, much less an argument of freedom of religion, the court ruled against him. Why? Like Fundamentalism, the court held the man to Biblical standards of morality. Justice William O. Douglas said of polygamy that it was "contrary to the spirit of Christianity and of the civilization which Christianity has produced in the western world." 8 The Bible more directly condemns another institution that took until the 19th century to be fully eliminated from western society: slavery. Since its inception, many had opposed the institution, including the founder of the American colony of Georgia, James Oglethorpe. Making a speech about the law in Georgia that banned slavery, which was repealed later, he said, "Slavery is against the gospel as well as the fundamental law of England. We refused, as trustees, to make a law permitting such a horrid crime." 9

The matter of slavery in the Bible is put forth in a simple formula. First, there is the declaration that it is immoral. Verses in both Testaments affirm this, as shown below:

"Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death." (Exodus 21: 16)

"Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you-although if you can gain freedom, do so." (1st Corinthians 7:21)

In 1st Timothy 1:9-11 the slave trading is seen as tantamount to being ungodly, committing perjury, adultery, and matricide. As with polygamy, no verse condones or endorses slavery, but some verses do seem to demand docility:

"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ." (Ephesians 6:5)

These verses do not contradict each other, but as with ones similar to the Ephesians verse they make up the second declaration regarding slavery, which is an opposition to violent resistance. This is not a bad idea, as just about every slave revolt in history ended in failure and those that succeeded, like Haiti, gave no benefit to their people. But as with the verse mentioned in 1st Corinthians chapter 7, the final declaration on the matter is for peaceful abolition. This was done in Brazil:

"Slavery collapsed in Brazil after being abolished in the Brazilian state of Ceará in 1884. Slaves escaped to Ceará, and a fugitive slave law that was hastily passed was largely ignored. The value of slaves fell dramatically, and within four years the Brazilian government had acknowledged the reality of the situation by enacting immediate and uncompensated emancipation." 10

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II. Education:

"To fear the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." --Proverbs 1:7

The nature of Fundamentalism is first and foremost an intellectual religious movement. It revolves around writing and literacy, knowledge of ancient languages, cultures, and histories. The men who wrote The Fundamentals were well educated, and their experience came from a variety of fields. When continuing in this creation of a civilized nation, after the government is made and perfected, then comes education, the major component in continuing a culture. It is through education that people are filled with knowledge and learn of their best abilities so that in due time they can use these to advance the community. Throughout Christianity's impact in the West, education has benefited from being near religion.

Contrary to popular belief, the Middle Ages were hardly dark. Indeed, many major revolutions in agriculture, science, and education were made. One of these was the Carolingian Renaissance, which took place in West-Central Europe in the 9th century. Regarding this Renaissance:

"Some churchmen expressed the hope that schools for children (perhaps they were thinking also of girls) would be established even in small villages and hamlets. Although this dream was never realized, it shows that even before the Islamic world was organizing the madrasa system of schools, the Carolingians were thinking about the importance of religious education for more than a small elite." 11

Regarding the rise of the Liberal Arts, which would eventually begat the Renaissance that everyone knows about, Christendom again had everything to do with it:

"Now the mastery of grammar and rhetoric involved the study not only of grammatical and rhetorical treatises, but acquaintance with the works of the great classical men of letters. And rhetoric likewise required at least imitation, if not original skill. Therefore during the twelfth century, both in and out of the schools...there appeared a genuine Christian humanism. By Christian humanism is meant a love of literature and life which gives emphasis to both the natural and the supernatural." 12

This growth of education continued under pious eyes into the 13th century. Also at this time, religious life and its disciplines, once found predominately to exclusively in the clergy sector became common amongst laity. These two events were not distant from each other either:

"There was a clear connection between this development and the rise of universities, for the ethical teachings of 'scholastics' (scholars of medieval universities) were preached to the people...The city schools of the twelfth century became real institutions-universities-in the thirteenth." 13

Religious zealotry and education, far from the notions of modern day "Progressive" politicians, continued to be a benevolent mixture as western civilization continued to grow. Protestant churches set up schools as well, especially in the New World. American colleges like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton all were established with the purpose of educating Christian men. 14 In order for Fundamentalism to operate, there must be education in various fields, so to claim that it is anti-education as many have is purely erred thinking. The contributions to modern mainstream education by strict sects of Christianity are well accepted and used by those very people who believe religion harms everything it touches.

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III. Science:

"The heavens declare the glory of God" -Psalm 19:1a

The nature of Fundamentalism includes a close relationship with the collective fields of science. By far the harshest words aimed at Fundamentalism are by supposed defenders of science. The labels of 'yokel', 'anti-intellectual', and 'pseudo-scientist' are often used in the Creation-Evolution debate and directed on a grand scale at Fundamentalists. Evolutionary supporters often bash their opposition through an unfair advantage of mass acceptance. Although surprisingly few English citizens accept evolution as true, for example, every institute in that country, from television to church establishment, accepts the scientific theory. This is no different in other western nations, where Creationists are grossly and disproportionately underrepresented, even when they actually comprise a majority in the nation.  15

Since making a point on the scientific errors and numerous blatant hoaxes that comprise the modern evolutionary movement would make a whole essay unto itself, focus shall be put instead on the value of science in Fundamentalism and Christianity overall. As with the key element of a scientific theory, the Bible contains many testable and potentially falsifiable passages. As a result, while other religions and religious movements are unable to reconcile their beliefs to the surrounding world, the Bible is able to dominate even under strict skeptical inquiry. Many of the verses of the Bible have been found not only to be truthful, but uncannily scientifically accurate, even to the point of wonderment for any that read it.

Examples abound: science has shown that the snake originally had limbs, but that today only a small vestigial trace remains. This is completely compatible with Genesis 3:14 and God's curse that removed his limbs. Job 26:7 states that God "suspends the earth over nothing", meaning that the concept of the vacuum of space is identified in the Bible. Ecclesiastes 1:7, "All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again." This is a perfect description of the water cycle, which wasn't discovered until the 18th century. And contrary to popular belief, no verse in the Bible condones an earth-centered universe or a flat earth. Those are examples of anti-Christian propaganda.

Science itself owes most of its foundation to the work of devout Christians. Sir Isaac Newton, the famous mathematician and astronomer, was a devoted Christian. Isaac Newton "accepted the Christian revelation as useful and necessary to supplement what man could find out about the universe for himself." 16 Many avid Evolutionists slam Creationists for their large number of young-earth adherents, and yet on their side is a man of genius: "In Newton's youth an Irish archbishop named Ussher had used the Bible to set the date of the Creation at 4004 B.C. and Newton found little reason to disagree."  17

There is also the "Father of Genetics", who was an Augustinian Monk, Gregor Mendel. Further to note is Louis Pasteur, famous microbiologist who declared, "Science brings man nearer to God." 18

Indeed, the theology of Fundamentalism is fully compatible with the Scientific Method. It starts with an axiom: The God of the Bible is the true God. It continues with set intellectual equation: God is perfect and therefore the Bible should be perfect, that is free from error. This theology has falsifiability, as chapters and chapters of the Bible can be proven or debunked base off of archeology, historical record, biology, geology, geography, and astronomy. Given the written word, the experiments can be repeated and theses are laid out. Results can be made from the data collected and finally at the inevitable death of an individual all is revealed as being true or not, verifying completely whether the validity of the theory.

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IV. Social Mores and Contemporary Life:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." --John 13:34

The nature of Fundamentalism involves a strong sense of community involvement when practiced. There is more to a society than law, government, education, and scientific advancement. All of these aid in advancing a society and propelling it forward, but unless there is a strong sense of community, whatever advances are made go unnoticed. A major reason for the fall of the Roman Republic was because the sense of community fell to the self-interest of generals and politicians. This pattern once again paints a bad picture of religious liberalism, as it is based off of using individual interpretation and typically involves the favoring of purely infinite individual rights over communal rights. Individual rights are a must, but there still has to be group rights, and therefore finite liberties. There must be socializing and social gatherings lest a society become one introverted mesh of solitude, creating both a fear and hatred of others and possibly population decline.

The law serves to protect people, the state to enforce the law and protect rights, education to build a proper fully functioning society through the application of learned talents, and science to create new ways to make a functioning society and better technology. All of this is so when groups of people are cooperating and communicating, which is not surprisingly also compatible with the movement of Fundamentalism. In the Bible, there is a constant demand for community and for care to be given to the most vulnerable of society. Many examples are found, typically eclipsing references to many other matters:

"When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him." -Leviticus 19:33

"Do not take advantage of a widow or orphan." --Exodus 22:22

"When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God." --Leviticus 23:22

Key qualities of mercy are found repeated o'er and o'er in the Bible, from looking after the fatherless and the widow to proper treatment of the poor and immigrants. A great sense of community is found in the Bible and therefore encouraged in Fundamentalism. Indeed, in the modern day it must be noted that one-sixth of American Fundamentalists are Latin American, which means that obviously far from being exclusionary, an allegation usually thrown at them, Fundamentalists have been very accepting of people of different races and national origins. Many Fundamentalists are African-American as well, including the father of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It must be noted that he too supported the civil rights movement. It is a common attribute of decent societies to have a strict religious point of unity.

And then one has to consider everyday activities. Reading instructions to put together a computer or toy involve taking the written word as final authority on the matter and all topics it touches base on. Contracts made between employers are abided by to the letter, agreed upon by profession, and can be quoted for reproof or in matters of violation which result in decisions made based off of what happened and what the text states. The cooking instructions for a purchased frozen meal are abided by to the letter and if not there tends to be a starving result. Indeed, even traffic signs are taken literally, for it is not in the best interest to pick and choose which signs to abide by and which to use egocentric reasoning on.

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Conclusion:

In every sector of society, it is to the benefit of people to take a written word made for reproof and direction literally and as a final authority. So why not matters of religion and theology? Why not Fundamentalism, which has the basis of every benevolent aspect of a proper society and civilization infused in its reasoning. Why not the ideology that can be corrected by good science and good theology, using a clearly written guideline? It is the ideology that in its purest form guarantees science, objectivity, spirituality, written law, and limited government. It is Fundamentalism, criticized but never debunked, defamed but never destroyed, that enforces the basic decent essence of a modern 1st world developed nation in the fields of government, law, education, science, and social mores and contemporary life.

In my culture I have come across many belief systems, and I have found no purer an ideology than this, which makes it as hard as possible for human reasoning to corrupt as it usually does. I feel sorry for people like Jimmy Carter, and those whose hatred of such a perfect and empirical worldview blinds them to the reality. If there was ever an ideology consistently upheld in even secular parts of life, it would be Fundamentalism. The case has been made and the points supported. Fundamentalist Christianity is a spiral into marvelous light, and through this luminescent belief system God works amazing wonders and telling proofs. Now it is up to the rest of the world to figure out what these attributes of civilization already testify to and acknowledge without dispute and without dissent. Hopefully this is a start.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jimmy Carter, "Back to Fundamentals," The Christian Century, 2005-SEP-30, Pages 32 to 35. Online at: http://religion-online.org/
  2. "Will the Fundamentalists Win? A Question Revisited", at: http://www.interfaithalliance.org/  (Retrieved 2006-NOV-06)
  3. All biblical quotations are taken from the New International Version (NIV).
  4. Ralph A. Rossum and G. Alan Tarr, "American Constitutional Law (2nd Ed.)," New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987, Page 9.
  5. Ibid, p.8.
  6. Ibid, p.10
  7. Peter Marshall and David Manuel, "The Light and the Glory," (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revel) 1977, p.344.
  8. Paul J. Weithman (Editor), Robert Andi et al., "Religion and Contemporary Liberalism," (University of Notre Dame Press) 1997, Page 89.
  9. DeMar, Gary, "America's Christianity History: The Untold Story," (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, Inc.) 1993, Page 67.
  10. Woods, Jr., Ph.D., Thomas E., "The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History," (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing) 2004, Pages 73-74.
  11. Hunt et al., "The Making of the West," (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's) 2003, Page 314.
  12. Hayes et al., "History of Europe (Rev. Ed.)," The MacMillan Company, New York, 1956, Page 317.
  13. Hunt et al., Page 413.
  14. DeMar, Page 101.
  15. In both England and the United States, more people accept some type of creation story over evolution. In the US, 55% and in England, 52%.
  16. Hayes et al, Page 653.
  17. Ipsen, D. C., "Isaac Newton: Reluctant Genius," Enslow Publishers, Inc., USA, 1985, Page 76.
  18. Tiner, John Hudson, "Louis Pasteur-Founder of Modern Medicine," Milford, MH, Mott Media, Inc., 1990, Page 90.

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Originally posted: 2006-JUN-23
Latest update: 2006-JUN-23
Author: Michael Gryboski

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