Fundamentalism

Gary Lenaire

"The fundamentalist believer is mostly a weird intellectual who often lacks real faith altogether. As a self-appointed attorney for God, who is in no need of attorneys, he very easily turns out to be more godless than the agnostic and the unbeliever. At all events, he seems deaf to poetry."
-Steve Allen, Steve Allen on The Bible, Religion, and Morality, pp. 222-26

 

At age 18 I became an evangelical Christian protestant and then decided that I would believe every word in the Bible. I truly thought that once the Holy Spirit “opens your eyes” that you really know the way of truth. That meant that any seeming contradiction in the Bible was simply a lack of knowledge and understanding on my behalf. I have spoken in tongues and thought I “experienced” the Holy Spirit. I learned the alleged power of prayer and the importance of forgiveness. I was sincere in my walk with God. Anyone familiar with me, my lyrics, or teachings knew that I was serious about my faith. I was completely convinced that I was saved, genuinely believed that God's Holy Spirit lived in me, and had a personal relationship with Jesus. I know the theologies, lifestyles, and languages of the church. I say all this to emphasize that I was not disingenuous, unhappy, or disappointed with my experience; for many years I was very satisfied with my life as a Christian.

 

It is commonly believed that someone who articulates an alternate view of Christianity was never a Christian or never a sincere and authentic believer in the first place. You have never seen into my former Christian prayers. You have no ability to look upon the sincerity levels of my motives. And finally, you have never walked one centimeter in my shoes. Therefore, you cannot claim with any evidence that I was not a true believer. I was. And for some of you, I was more of a believer: I actually served in the church, applied Christian principals to my daily life, served in worship services, taught three Bible classes a week, and led others into the church. If you are a Christian accusing me of never being an authentic believer, what are you doing Monday through Saturday? I can hear someone objecting: “well, he wasn’t a true believer…he was just going through the physical motions.” Don’t look now but who’s judging who?

 

I ask you, if you are divorced now, did you ever really love your ex-spouse? You probably did. After a divorce, however, some grow bitter and spiteful toward their former spouse; the smallest hint of their memory upsets them. I have noticed this about some former Christians. They tend to be hostile toward Christians, the Bible, and churches. This, in my view, is an emotionally negative response that rarely accomplishes anything positive.


Concerning those who leave the fold, some Christians will say that it is arrogance or pride. Many Christians might assume that I must have been spiritually dead or attended unfulfilling churches. A number of Christians believe that it is primarily a moral issue that causes people to leave the church. Some might postulate that I was harmed by false Christians. Or, perhaps I have an inaccurate notion of God because of experiences with cultists. Some Christians use the old adage “they have gone out from us because they were never of us” while others say “they simply lost their salvation.” In reality, I have not gone anywhere or lost anything.

 

The Bible most always gets a pass when you are born again. Why? Because the Bible, Christians say, is the Word of God. And no one, I thought, can argue with God and win. This gave me a very tidy and neat worldview seeing only the evangelical spectrum. I clearly understood that anyone who was openly “sinning” was either a non-believer or a backsliding Christian. In my Christian days, never once did I think that I was arrogant in my view of others; I simply knew that the God of the Bible was the only way to truth, life, and salvation. All others belief systems were, in my mind, deceived.

 

Christians love to say that they are alive and spiritual. Many modern evangelicals don’t even consider themselves religious. They claim to have a true faith that is vibrant, alive, and dynamic--not dead and religious. However, if you follow a spiritual path within a group of other people then you are involved in religion. It really is that simple. If you are born again and go to church then you are involved in a religion. Even if you don’t meet with other Christians you are still involved with religion to the extent that it influences your life.

 

Fundamentalism became officially organized in New York during the 1890s. The mentality of fundamentalism can be seen throughout history, however. The Council of Nicaea laid the Christian fundamentalist foundation when they and Emperor Constantine published the New Testament Bible in the 4th century. In 1895, fundamentalists framed a five-point creed in order to define protestant fundamentalism:

 

1.      The inerrancy and infallibility of the Chapters (the Bible)

2.      The complete deity of Jesus Christ

3.      The virgin birth

4.      The substitution atonement (i.e., Jesus Christ died, sacrificing his life for the sins of the world)

5.      The (literal) physical resurrection of Jesus Christ and his future bodily return (Second Coming) to the earth

 

Most mainstream evangelical Christians are fundamentalists, though they may not know or refer to themselves as such. Extreme fundamentalism can be defined in simpler terms: They are the extremists who are not satisfied with simply bringing their good news to your door; rather, upon your rejection of their message, they historically tend to burn your door down. The American Puritans are a good example of extreme fundamentalists. 

 

This is where damage has been caused in the name of gods. When people are “certain” that their god theory is absolutely true, then they often believe they have absolute permission to destroy anything that tries to deny it. Errors cause damage. In general, religion is an error in thought and action.

 

Fundamentalists contradict themselves. Here are two examples:

 

“In fact, the views of the theologians who are not inerrantist vary widely, resulting in a gradation of biblical interpretation from conservative to radical. By casting the debate in terms of inerrancy vs. liberal theology, fundamentalists obscure two important facts that tend to undermine their position. First, because there is a multiplicity of views on biblical interpretation, inerrancy is only one of many strands of thought. Second, since “liberal” is often synonymous with a departure from tradition, the implication is that fundamentalism represents the traditional view held by the church for centuries. In reality, both fundamentalism and inerrancy are recent developments in Christianity rather than ancient traditions.”

-Tim Callahan, Secret Origins of the Bible, pg 9

  

Fundamentalism is marked by a façade that claims to be the ultimate tradition. But what is tradition? Tradition is anything that is customary to individuals or groups. No matter how old your tradition is, it was once a new idea. Anything mainstream was once a small stream, etc. Jesus Christ, we read in the Bible, was a Jewish heretic who was executed. Christianity was once a “cult” among Middle East religions. Cults are simply religions that are too small to be considered credible.

If we want to understand the mainstream thrust of Christianity then we must listen to and hear what the Christian leaders of the world are really saying. The act of hearing requires that you really consider the speaker’s mentality and not simply your own. Many people in the world are listening but not hearing. This distraction is subtle but all too common. Most Christian organizations publish a statement of faith articulating their specific beliefs regarding the Bible. I do not want to misrepresent anyone’s claim of faith. If you claim to believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God than you are here listed in this essay as a fundamentalist. I have included some referenced statements from some of the largest Christian institutions and influences in the world. Please keep in close mental proximity the actual claims these organizations make about the Bible:

 

Rick Warren pastors Saddleback Church in Southern California. 22,000 people fellowship there. They believe this about the Bible:

 

It was written by human authors, under the supernatural guidance of the holy spirit. It is the supreme source of truth for Christian beliefs and living. Because it is inspired by God, it is truth without any mixture of errorhttps://saddleback.com/visit/about/our-church

Joel Osteen was named as one of Barbara Walters’ “10 Most Fascinating People of 2006.” He was also named “Most Influential Christian in America” in 2006 by The Church Report. His 16,000-member Lakewood Church in Houston, TX states this:

 

We believe the entire Bible is inspired by God and without error. The Bible is the authority on which we base our faith, conduct, and doctrine. See 2 Timothy 3:16. https://www.lakewoodchurch.com/about

Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network:

 

We believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible, and authoritative source of Christian doctrine and precept. http://www.cbn.com/employment/faith.aspx

 

John Hagee’s 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, TX:

 

We believe in the scripture as the inspired Word of God and that it is the complete revelation of God's will for mankind. We believe in the absolute authority of the scripture to govern the affairs of mankind.

https://www.sacornerstone.org/WhoWeAre

 

The Catholic Church’s statement is very similar:

 

They are sacred and canonical “because, having been written by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, that have God for their author, and as such have been handed down to the Church.” The inerrancy of the Bible follows as a consequence of this Divine authorship. Wherever the sacred writer makes a statement as his own, that statement is the word of God and infallibly true, whatever be the subject-matter of the statement. The Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02543a.htm

 

Pious fundamentalists have been proclaiming for years that the nonbeliever needs to accept the spiritual rest that God provides. “Come in from the cold, dear child, and throw your cares upon Jesus,” they say. “Give your life to God and you will find rest for your weary soul.” But who is it that is really tired and needs a rest? What group of people is actually struggling and causing other people to become weary and exhausted?

 

How hard it must be to constantly attempt a proper defense of Fundamentalist Christianity. It is the same burden one faces when trying to prove that Bigfoot or extraterrestrials exist. A fantastic claim still requires fantastic proof. The Christian claims that Jesus was born of a virgin, walked on water, turned water into wine, rose from the grave three days after execution and then ascended into heaven. That is beyond a tall order; it is a fantastic and superstitious fable.

 

I have read many books on biblical history, apologetics, theology, language, and exegesis. If you really pay attention to what they are saying, the Christian struggle becomes clear. They are not fighting an uphill battle; they are fighting a make-believe battle. Many of these theological heroes not only want to convince nonbelievers about God but also insist that the common believer take up the struggle of defending God as well. And a struggle it is. Fundamentalist Christians continue to spew condemnation on all who disagree with them. Believing your unsaved family member is burning in hell to the suffering caused by a minister telling you that you are living in sin due to your sexual lifestyle is beyond a struggle; it is a constant beating-down brought on by the gnawing throes of guilt and condemnation. Many believers soon find that their so-called rest has become an exhausting nightmare.

 

Women who believe the Bible to be the perfect and inerrant Word of God take heed: your young extremist sons could die for those causes. You will be kept under the thumb of chauvinism as long as you support the self-deprecating lifestyle of fundamentalism. The historical deficit of this brand of Christianity was and is a perpetual scourge on the advancement of equal rights, peace, and good will across the globe. Even if your religion was indeed founded upon empirical reality, that wouldn’t change the fact that it is not a loving, forgiving and peaceful sentiment to disagreeing humans. From its inauguration, Christianity has flown the banner of war. In recent years, Christianity seems to be less violent. 

 

Christians may make the following argument: “If moderate and tolerant Christians are giving birth to fundamentalists then by the same logic are not the moderate and tolerant freethinkers giving birth to dogma-slinging violent atheist extremists? Looking at the last 100 years alone leads me to doubt that assertion. Atheist and agnostic folks have a much better track record of nonviolence, quality of living, and education. Non-believers are less prone to extremism and far more interested in education, science, logic, critical thinking, and Star Trek conventions(!). The percentage of Stalinist-type regimes blatantly pale in number compared to the roster of cruel religious countries. Moderate freethinkers are unlikely to pave the way of violent extremist non believers primarily because free thought doesn’t usually promote “ultimate” (objectivist) knowledge or cult personalities.

 

Concerning dogma, some critical atheists claim there is, without a doubt, absolutely no possibility of a god or gods. These extremists differ with agnostic-type thinkers. The agnostics say humans can’t know such things; that it is an insoluble problem. The critical atheist says that there is no possibility that a god or gods could possibly exist. I have said before that such confirmation is currently unavailable to us. We simply cannot prove a negative. Those atheists are claiming that we have the ability to know this fact absolutely; that the theistic argument is a contradiction and therefore impossible. Some atheists claim this even though science cannot test such problems with conclusive evidence. However, using the scientific method (you know, science, those folks who design spaceships and cure diseases) the likelihood that there is a god is intensely lower than the likelihood that there is no god. On the scale of recorded evidence, atheists are at least closer to scientific probability than the theistic position. And if forced to choose a side on the argument I, on any day of the week, would prefer the logic of the agnostic over a theist. Pertaining gods, absolute arguments, theist or a-theist, are illogical and silly.

 

As stated before, there is a benign brand of religious belief. Those are the moderate, tolerant and often complacent believers. Here we must give many Christians a measure of credit. Their variety of religion has learned over the bloody years to coexist with unbelievers without violence, persecution, or hatred. Unlike many of their puritanical ancestors they have accepted a lifestyle of peace.

 

Religious moderation has only been made possible because of the secular pressure from outside of synagogues, churches, and mosques. That secular influence has demanded the abolishment of past practices that are sanctioned in the Bible (i.e. slavery, racism, chauvinism, etc.). To a huge degree religious moderation is a reaction to and product of reason and not faith. Common sense, therefore, asks the question, “If secular influence has brought these good changes, why stop there?” Let reason play its full course. In doing so the opposite of Protestantism and Catholicism will occur: less people will die in war, civil rights will flourish, scientific research will expand, birth control will be taken seriously, and fewer people will be locked up for nonviolent crimes. Fundamentalist faith, that head-in-the-clouds delusional myth lover, is a safe bed for extremists.