And Here’s The Irony: We’re All Fundamentalists In The End

And Here’s The Irony: We’re All Fundamentalists In The End January 15, 2015


Lately I’ve been attempting to spark discussion around the internet on the use of Christian labels, and I’m rather pleased such a robust discussion is taking place on blogs and in Facebook groups on this issue. I think the use of labels is a critical issue facing the next generation of Jesus followers, and argue in my upcoming book, Christian Outsiders, that we really would bode well to transition into a Christianity that is “beyond the labels.”

First, there was a provocative piece on where I find some discomfort with some aspects of the Progressive label, a post which sparked this follow-up interview at that I hope you’ll check out, here. Next of course, I dealt with the areas where I feel evangelical Christianity had me “left behind” (an attempt at being punny), a post which people also really identified with in many ways.

However, this morning I realized there was one important (and glaringly obvious) label that I hadn’t dealt with yet: the label of a “fundamentalist.”

This is a critical term to wrestle with and understand because it is so often misunderstood or perhaps better stated, misused– often being used as a simple tool to dismiss people or ideas without actually wrestling with the merits of their belief. I for one, have been guilty of this, which is why I want to dish up a plate of humility to really look at what the term means, so that we can accept a hard fact:

We’re all fundamentalists in the end.

The term fundamentalist at it’s deepest core would simply describe someone who holds to a foundational belief they hold as being true (truth= that which corresponds to reality). In this regard, whatever core beliefs or assumptions guide a person are their fundamentals, and we all have them.

The term was popularized in the early 20th century by a group of Christians who sat down and affirmed 5 things they believed were foundational to the Christian faith. These five things (biblical inspiration, virgin birth, atonement for sin, bodily resurrection of Christ, and affirmation of the miracles of Christ) became their 5 fundamentals, and thus they became know as “fundamentalists.” Over the course of time the term fundamentalist became a pejorative used to describe, not people who hold certain ideas or beliefs to be fundamental, but a way of describing the over-the-top obnoxious way this group of people held their beliefs. When we look at the historical use and morphing of the term, we can arrive at two basic ways to understand and use the term: (a) a person or people who have a belief or some beliefs that are core or “fundamental” to their worldview, and (b) a person who holds their worldview in an obnoxious, dogmatic, arrogant way.

Where we all are fundamentalists lies in option (a) because we all have some things that we believe are foundational. Where we are all at risk of becoming fundamentalist lies in option (b), as it is easy to become arrogant and dismissive of others who don’t share our fundamentals, whatever they may be.

But let’s be clear: we all have fundamentals. Atheists have the fundamental belief that there is no God or no evidence to warrant believing in God. Theists have the fundamental belief that there is a God. Deist have the fundamental belief that there is a God but that he’s rather detached from creation. Those within the historic orthodox Christian faith hold to the fundamentals that are expressed in the Nicene and Apostle’s Creed. Anabaptists hold to the fundamental belief that violence is wrong. Evangelicals hold to all sorts of fundamental beliefs, and Progressive Christianity does too.

Even if one were to say, “I don’t think anything should be a fundamental belief” such a position would still be a fundamental belief!

Personally, I think we need not be afraid of admitting that we all have fundamental beliefs that we hold as true– because we all do, whether we will admit it or not.

We are all fundamentalists in the end.

Where I think we need to be cautious is in the other meaning of fundamentalist– not the fundamentalist we all are, but the fundamentalist we all can easily become on any given day.

We all are at risk of holding our fundamental beliefs in a ways that permeate arrogance, in ways that dismiss and marginalize others who hold to different fundamentals, and in ways that are just over all, very unhelpful or unloving.

My prayer for us is that we won’t be afraid to admit that yes, we all hold some things to be foundationally true even if it’s just the belief that nothing is foundationally true.

Instead of fearing this aspect of fundamentalism– the aspect we all are part of– may we be far more concerned with avoiding the aspect of fundamentalism that is toxic and destructive: holding our fundamental beliefs in an obnoxious, arrogant, or  an unloving way.

image via

"Maybe women should just start their own religion. AFAIK, all of the major religions were ..."

10 Reasons Christians Should Affirm Women ..."
"I am not sure what you are claiming here but if it is what it ..."

No, The Gospel Isn’t “Good News” ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Excellent discussion starter, Ben.

    As theology is a matter of emphasis, we all will in one way or another emphasize certain beliefs over others that we believe are foundational or fundamental to our theology. However, as you point out, while the beliefs themselves are important, what matters as well is the way in which we hold to and promote those fundamentals. The style, method and mood we utilize in communicating them are in many ways as important as the beliefs we hold. A posture of respect and openness towards others is paramount because a.) all theology is a human construction, subject to error and in need of reformation and b.) if we want to be heard, we first have to give space to hear the other. Conversation, not confrontation, is the only way forward.

    Again, good work in bringing these ideas to our attention.

  • “… may we be far more concerned with avoiding the aspect of fundamentalism that is toxic and destructive: holding our fundamental beliefs in an obnoxious, arrogant, or an unloving way.”

    And may I add to this list the term “dualistic”. Dualism is the core reason that people hold their beliefs in an “obnoxious, arrogant, or unloving way.” There has to be a complete change in thinking (and ultimately brain pattern) in order to escape dualism. Dualism (in this context) means that one believes their belief is right and everyone else’s is wrong…and therefore they seek to prove that everyone else is wrong. It’s a difficult brain pattern to get out of if you’ve ever been involved in conservative Evangelical Christianity. It is also a very egocentric way of thinking.

  • Herm

    Too often I seem arrogant especially when I dismiss an argument from another as already been removed, for a clearly obvious reason to me, from my foundation. I am well aware of my insignificant influence and my susceptibility to err. I fear and hurt for the bullies so I fight back. I hurt for the subjugated so I defend and try to build up. I have been forgiven 7 times 70 times at least and hoping there is still more forgiveness left in the tank marked for Herm.

    With that said these are the fundamentals of my social and spiritual foundation blocks that I stand securely on today:

    *all of members of mankind are created different and equal.
    *mankind is the only species we are aware of with the responsibility of intentionality in the image of God.
    *mankind’s awareness is a finite image of the relatively infinite awareness of their creator.
    *relative to God mankind as a body has the maturity of awareness of maybe 14 million Earth years relative to the trillions to infinite years of their creator.
    *mankind can potentially die and God cannot.
    *mankind is a child image of God struggling to survive too often attempting to do so alone.
    *I am truly an insignificant fleeting mist of influence at 70 years old.
    *My foundation is constantly being repaired and strengthened by its creator.
    *No bible can prove itself by simply saying so.
    *All bibles can only point to the relationship that can prove or disprove its validity.
    *The relationship that a bible points to is only real (truth) when attested to by its continued harvest of fruits.
    *Love is the bond that unites all difference into a reciprocally strong relationship.
    *God loves all equally and responds to each difference perfectly. We do not.
    *God is family that will not compete with carnal family because no child can serve and be served by two families bonded to both by love.
    *Jesus the Son of Man piqued my interest to seek, ask and knock.
    *The Holy Spirit bonded my heart and mind with Jesus’ and our Father’s that I might be taught and nurtured as a child of God.

    I am a fundamentalist physically, socially and spiritually subject to both definitions a.) and b.) who needs constant renewal of my foundation. The Carpenter I trust most has accepted that maintenance in our behalf.

    Love you, thanks!

  • Al Cruise

    I feel that most of the people here who critique fundamentalism are critiquing religious fundamentalists who believe that their foundational beliefs give them the automatic right to administer punishment on those who do not hold the same beliefs. This punishment varies on a sliding scale from passive, to outright cold blooded killing. On passive end, people are threatened with verbal assaults, such as hellfire, being called a heretic and so on, further down the scale people are excommunicated, shunned and publicly humiliated . On the far end of punishment, people are subjected to physical violence such as, beatings, torture, and killed in cold blood. All these punishments are carried out without remorse and often done with the feeling of exhilaration for being able to protect and honor their foundational beliefs.

  • JP

    Are fundamentalists and progressives equally arrogant? I’m not in either camp. But experience the same disapproving glares with my very fundamentalists (they embrace the term!) Baptist relatives and with my oh-so-intentional, missional, progressive younger relatives. The doctrines and styles are mirror-images of each other. The snark is pretty much the same. I doubt coming to terms with labels’ meanings is a “critical issue”. I recommend:

  • Donnie Smith

    I’ll keep it brief. How do you include agnostics and to an even larger extent Zen Buddhist in the headline and thesis of this essay- how are they fundamentalists?

  • I think it’s also alcoholic thinking.

  • honesty & empathy are ‘foundational’ to conversation not confrontation i think.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Zen Buddhists have the fundamental belief in the importance of Zen (“zen” being derived from the Sanskrit, “dhyan”, meaning “meditation”).

  • The Eh’theist

    If I might suggest a minor change to your thesis, and argue rather that the original fundamentalists (including the publishers of The Fundamentals) had more of an emphasis on promoting and communicating the fundamentals as compared to the later fundamentalists whose emphasis shifted to critiquing and separating from everything that was non-fundamental (by their definition).

    While both types of fundamentalist engaged in both activities, I think it was the shift in emphasis that caused the dislike and disregard that we now associate today with the term, and we see it in some of the more violent actions worldwide. The original type of fundamentalist showed no inclination to violence because the societal repercussions of doing so would have hindered the promotion of their message.

    So, I would agree that most people, if not everyone, is an original type fundamentalist to some degree, but I would have to disagree that everyone is like the second type (while being aware that in arguing this point I show some definite tendencies of the second type myself) :)

  • Colloquially speaking, fundamentalism has come to be associated with rigidity, exclusiveness, and absolutism. It’s not just firm committed belief – instead, there’s a totalitarian logic to fundamentalism that seeps into all aspects of our lives and interactions. While all of us have convictions, those convictions can be held in a humble way which leaves us open to one another. You may call such convictions fundamentals if you like, but the key for those of us who wish to avoid that label is to remain approachable, and challengeable. You won’t cease to be my friend if you challenge my beliefs, in fact you may even change my mind. We probably all know people who seem like genuinely nice folks but hold really obnoxious opinions. And we all know people who probably agree with us on most things yet are overbearing and intolerant, and always seeks to find fault in everyone but themselves. To me, a fundamentalist is someone who cuts off the conversation because s/he doesn’t think the other person has anything valuable to contribute, and arrogantly believes s/he possess all *sufficient* true knowledge (even most fundamentalists wouldn’t claim to have complete knowledge, just enough that they can justify remaining incurious about other beliefs). Ben is right in that it is not about the specifics of the dogma, but the attitude.

  • ChuckQueen101

    Agree with everything you said. I have used the term “liberal fundamentalists” to describe a couple of progressives that I thought were unduly dismissive and hateful toward conservatives who held to different beliefs. However. the point that you emphasize – we are all fundamentalists in the end” just doesn’t work, because it comes with too much baggage. I did the same thing with a blog where I used the word “blasphemy” – it was a poor choice. We all do have foundational beliefs, but most progressives hold them “tentatively” with a “i could be wrong” tolerance. Agree with what you are saying, but in light of common usage (your blog is not going to redefine the term) we are not all fundamentalists in the end.

  • Paul Schlitz Jr.

    I think the issue here is not the over obvious conclusion that people who have deep seated beliefs can be labelled as fundamentalists. I certainly entertain deep seated beliefs about how to follow Jesus. But the challenge here is how one interacts with other people of other faiths or no faith at all who similarly hold deep seated beliefs that are not the same as yours. The idea of being pugilistic or competitive with other fundamentalists or even committed agnostics seems to me to reflect not a deep faith in Christ but rather an insecurity about one’s own faith. Put simply, a tolerance toward others who believe differently than oneself is I think a sign of a secure faith. I’ve lived both ways, i.e. I was a fearless campus proselytizer in my youth and can’t quite shake the fact that it might have done more harm than good

  • Ficino

    If everyone is a fundamentalist, no one is.

  • Charlie Johnson

    This is not a helpful or defensible definition of fundamentalism. Since there is quite a bit of scholarly study on the topic of fundamentalism, it would have been appropriate to interact with it. One such scholarly attempt is the Fundamentalism Project, an interdisciplinary investigation based at University of Chicago.
    Here are some characteristics of fundamentalism as they study it:
    1) opposition to modernity
    2) hierarchical family roles
    3) opposition to pluralism
    4) strong boundaries between insiders and outsiders
    5) emphasis on rule-keeping
    6) nostalgic/utopian view of a past era

    So, are we all fundamentalists?

  • It’s funny, because I think I said in those discussions you mention (and in other discussions here) that I self-identify as a “dissenting fundamentalist,” for pretty much the exact reasons that you lay out here. I have certain fundamentals that I will not budge on, and that I think are necessary for anyone who wants to claim the title of Christian (hence “fundamentalist”) but I strongly and often vocally disagree with Fundamentalism on what certain of those fundamentals are (hence “dissenting”).

  • percy82

    Excellent post. I’ve noticed that those who pride themselves on open-mindedness are often the most blind when it comes to their own fundamentalist tendencies.

  • TheSquirrel

    I would have to disagree. As a skeptic I have no fundamental beliefs, merely provisional beliefs based on evidence. Any belief I hold is subject to change the moment the appropriate evidence is brought to my attention. This is about as far from fundamentalism as you can get.

  • Herm

    All beliefs are what we consciously maintain as our fundamental rules of thumb dictating our next action or reaction. All beliefs should be arranged to change relative to the continually changing conditions. Conservatism disagrees as it proposes remaining steadfastly the same or returning to what is perceived to have worked before. Fundamental beliefs are those you rest on for any given moment and will change to be able to support in the next unique moment. Matthew 7:12 is a great fundamental outline because it requires change to match the moment to the other and can feasibly be supportive for all for an eternity.

  • Herm


    forming a necessary base or core; of central importance.

    synonyms: basic, underlying, core, foundational, rudimentary, elemental, elementary, basal, root;

    antonyms: secondary, unimportant

    noun: fundamental; plural noun: fundamentals
    a central or primary rule or principle on which something is based.

    Ben wrote in the article above:
    “The term fundamentalist at it’s deepest core would simply describe someone who holds to a foundational belief they hold as being true (truth= that which corresponds to reality). In this regard, whatever core beliefs or assumptions guide a person are their fundamentals, and we all have them.”

    A group label redefining a fundamental dictionary understanding of the word fundamental separates from a fundamental understanding of Christ’s teaching rather than serves to unite Christians in the Word. To add “ist” or “ism” should for unity sake designate someone actively pursuing the root meaning of the word preceding.

    That’s as fundamentally the root of my understanding on this subject as I can share. We can play with words all we want but if we want to be understood we have to begin together with the mutually understood fundamentals.

  • Let me second (or third) the reaction that reliance on EVIDENCE is different. It might take a few science courses in college to get a handle on the whole “falsifiable prediction” thing…the idea of building up models of reality based on making non-trivial predictions, then modifying the models as needed. But (the important part) this is a bottom-up process. Therefore it is often surprising, because you don’t know what new evidence you might encounter.

    Top-down processes, as the phrase is normally used, are schema-driven or, in the case of religion, authority driven. The truth, the revelation, is given first, then one must conform to it. This is true of every religion but it is not true of science…unless you make the rather paltry argument that staying open to new evidence (i.e. not being dogmatic) is itself a dogma. If you follow that route you might like E.O. Wilson’s famous statement that science is “the myth that works because it is true.” I would rather say it is the story of reality that changes to accommodate new findings about the world as time goes on.

    Now, the search for evidence can produce surprises indeed. As shown in a raft of recent scholarly books like Paul and Jesus (Tabor), How Jesus Became God (Ehrman), Fabricating Faith (Hagenston), and basically anything by Spong, Crossan, or Pagels, there is lots of convergent evidence pointing to a surprising insight: the early Christian church departed radically from the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was providing a how-to-get-ready-for-the-end-times batch of really good advice on how to live. Aside from the end-times part, which many others have gotten wrong as well (including Paul), Jesus was a great, inspired teacher, a living example. This does not require a shread of supernatural belief to “work.” It is all evidence-based.

    This could be a super-important development in the history of Christianity. Progressive Christianity is in the process of leaving behind the “Jesus died for your sins” paradigm that requires (as a top-down command from 3rd Century Christian authorities) that people believe in the Garden of Eden etc etc. As Spong points out in a 2014 lecture currently on YouTube, this JDFYS approach does not work any more. Moreover, Jesus almost certainly did not teach it or believe it. Progressive Christians lean much more strongly to the other acronym: WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). That focuses on the actual man and his teachings.

    This could, maybe should, lead to a schism between self-proclaimed Christians who accept the revelation of Paul (i.e. the Bible) as the one and only authority, “vs” those who accept the evidence about what Jesus said and why he said it. You could argue this difference boils down to: Jesus is God (Paul) vs Jesus was Pointing the Way to God (progressive Christians).

    In short, I agree with TheSquirrel and others below who disagree with your assertion (that dogma or fundamentalism is inevitable, or must come first). The alternative to dogmatism is open-minded receptivity to evidence, and the evidence is actually abundant. Read Ehrman if you dare; he is always clear and he sticks to the evidence. Like other practitioners of the “historical-critical” method, he tests his ideas against the textual evidence while considering and comparing the opinions and insights of other scholars. His only “dogma” is reliance on historical evidence.

    This does not provide the security of a pre-packaged solution, and it does not provide a “fixed truth” like a revelation. But it will guide you toward the real truth in the only way that really works in all the sciences, which is to come up with models of reality consistent with a variety of evidence. (As a consequence, all the different sciences…biology, physics, chemistry, neuroscience, all of them…are totally consistent with each other. Each must respect all the evidence generated by the others. Now compare religions…).

    Instead of closing the door first (with a fixed revelation or dogma you MUST believe to retain category membership) the road to truth is open-minded receptivity to evidence, a willingness to listen and read and explore, and an ability to sift and compare and evaluate the weight of evidence. If you do this you are being more modern and scientific and you are also opening yourself to surprising discoveries.

  • Chuck Johnson

    this “irony” is just one more piece of Christian apologetics that uses dishonesty (specifically, distortion and misuse of the English language) in order to prove that which isn’t so really is so.

    You, and other Christians are motivated to prove the “Unity” of the Human race. The enormous defects of Christianity and other religions is a huge impediment to that goal of finding Unity. So your words become dishonest. Your words become convoluted, sometimes in a traditionally religious way, and sometimes in a personal and inventive way. But always tricky and misleading. We are not all “Fundamentalists”. Such a claim brings spiritual fluff into your blog.

    The goal of Unity is such a popular and urgent goal that many people (like you) use the ancient tools of religion and deceit to try to reach hope-for goals. These ingredients of dishonesty and gullibility have made a mess of Christianity, Islam, and many other belief systems.

    If a belief system urges blind obedience to authority, or urges belief in the supernatural (things that Christianity does) then hoped-for (or prayed-for) goals become derailed. The goals become contaminated with the toxic byproducts of zealotry. Wishing for something to be true gets mistaken for believing that it is really true.

    I am a Humanist. The tools of science, skepticism, and rationality guide my view of how Unity can be achieved on a truthful basis, rather than on an ersatz basis.

    Martin Luther King liked to tell us that he had “been to the mountaintop”.

    I heard that claim years ago, and I believed that his claim was bizarre, arrogant, and preposterous. His reference to God made Martin’s claim not logical, and in being not logical, to me it had emotional credibility only, with no way for others to gain that same mountaintop. No logical, rational, here-on-earth way to follow.

    As the Humanist movement gains power, credibility, and greater public notice, I see how this movement and way of understanding can bring older (or ancient) hoped-for goals to reality.

    This is happening now. Humans are finding that the tools are in their own hands. No God or miracles are necessary.

    Benjamin, as long as you continue to use the tool of superstition, your attempts will be confounded and hindered. May you wise up. May you learn the use of better tools.

  • Guest


  • Statis

    “A fundamentalist is: ‘No fun, too much damn, and not enough mental’.” -Bart D. Ehrman

  • Herm

    My fundamental understanding now is that those who define themselves as “Fundamentalists” in the belief system of “Fundamentalism”, exclusive from the more generalist population the of the Jewish, Muslim or Christian faith that they still claim authoritative identity with, are usurping the authority and judgment of God. Historically this was possible for the fundamental workings of the church were defined and judged by those designated as sitting in the Moses seat. Since Jesus as the reigning Messiah and High Priest, becoming so upon the rent of the veil and the glorification of His ascension, the Moses seat is solely within His authority to administer.

    Whenever and where ever I break and eat bread and circulate its sustaining nourishment throughout my body with drink, during a supper, I remember what Jesus did for us as mankind. I remember His carnal body broken and His carnal life sustaining blood spilt for us. I remember the same in each sanctuary serving of communion that the church authorities, in the tradition of the Moses seat, have defined, unique to each Christian church, as a sacred fundamental doctrine to “their” separate and unique worship as a sacrament differing from other Christian churches.

    Jesus never commanded and/or authorized any unique body within His church to make any tradition, ordinance, sacrament, doctrine, theology or creed that would separate from the love of self, all different merciful neighbors, enemies and in all humility of their faith before our Lord God in full authority today. There is no direct witness to the remembered words of Jesus our Rabbi that gives more authority on Earth than to the Holy Spirit amicably advocating for us and God through all and each of our receptive hearts and minds.

    The Good News is that our omnipotent God in Their entirety is receptive to that holy and eternal relationship of reciprocal love first, beginning with the Father.

    The bad news is that we insist on taking and maintaining the abusive authority once granted us by the Moses seat in the Hebrew scripture. Unfortunately the perfect authority from the Holy Spirit witnessed in Acts 4 and 5 was abandoned almost immediately after the Spirit’s sovereignty was in charge for the more humanly understood Hebrew model Paul and Peter grew up with, each from opposite ends of church authority, when the Moses seat was occupied by high priests and Pharisees. It was only through ignorant abuse of that authority by which Jesus could be crucified in God’s name. How many true prophets and disciples in the spirit of God do we crucify today in God’s name because they don’t fit our model of divine authority?

    The uniting of the authority of Rome, with its most prevalent pagan Sunday worship, with the Christian Hebrew authority, clearly in contest with the Decalogue command of a Saturday rest in the Lord, sealed the certainty of the gross fragmenting of the Church first designated by God as under full sacred authority of Jesus the High Priest, now under the usurped authority of the synod of mankind. Christianity went back to worshiping a god of war as depicted in the Hebrew scripture, with swords too similar in image to the shape of a cross, to compromise and separate from the authority of the God of peace who by Christ’s example, and in defiance to the authoritative interpretation of Hebrew scripture, picked up a cross, rather than call for legions of angels, to once and for all take authority for both carnal and spiritual rule.

    The only commands Jesus verbalized as sacred to eternal life were related to love and how to exercise love. The only declaration of authority was to be His according to the Father and known to us only through the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot speak boldly and shine a light on our relationship with our creator God, which Jesus authorized us to do throughout the world as His students. Without the Holy Spirit we are left with the thousands of different interpretations of the Bible god we seem to think and feel we can define. How many small children can truly define their carnal parents?

    The only Christian fundamental I cannot budge from is love and my small child relationship with the Holy Spirit in reciprocal love with God. On that I am a fundamentalist sadly separated from those I love who fundamentally have budged away to judge their righteous own as self defined “Fundamentalists” with many other fundamental rules to judge others by.

    I fully trust our God in Heaven to be real and powerful to guide me in all my life, enough so that I have given myself up entirely to Their authority, provision and protection for eternity. This in the example image I have relative to the imperfect, but by which I had to trust in their love, guidance and provisions to survive, finite authority of my parents when I was a small carnal child. amen

  • Completely agreed. I think one of the danger points is that fundamentalists who become more the pejorative form of the word believe that their fundamentals can be and should be equally “fundamental” for everyone. Thus one can be “fundamentalist” (negative) with any religion… or even any set of beliefs… when one tries to force those beliefs on the rest of humanity. We are all neutral-fundamentalist just by the nature of being human; we more become the negative-fundamentalist by the nature of sin and pride.

  • silicon28

    I think you didn’t really explore the etymology of the term enough. While I certainly get your point and what you are saying, the word “fundamentalist” has morphed in ways that really need to be understood; some of that metamorphosis has been earned by the words and actions of the (for lack of a better term) fundamentalists over the past century. Some of the pejorative usage has been earned.

    But in much the same way, the word “radical” has also undergone a transformation. It traces from the use of “raddix” or “root” meaning that which is foundational… Interesting that in the end “radical” actually points to the same meaning as “fundamental.”

    Which might raise the question: Are we all arguing around the edges of something that we won’t admit binds us all closer together than we’re willing to admit?

  • Ron McPherson

    Full disclosure here: I can be rigid on a couple of things I believe are core tenets of the Christian faith. But I think Ben gets to the heart of the matter when he labels as category (b) those who are “obnoxious, dogmatic, arrogant” in respect to their belief structure. It’s hard to adequately define this group on paper, but we know them when we see them. Many of us know the types who believe they are always right about everything biblical, always assuming anyone disagreeing with their beliefs is wrong in every instance. In “correcting” my beliefs, someone once cited to me 2 Peter 1:20, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” In other words, to disagree with them was to disagree with God. In their mind, they didn’t personally interpret Scripture because they knew what God meant. But since I disagreed with them, I must be interpreting Scripture – a right that I did not have – and thus must be in disagreement with God, being therefore wrong. It’s this sort of closed-minded rigidity and circuitous logic that stops real discussion dead in its tracks. I believe some in this group are simply a victim of ignorance; it just never occurs to them they could be wrong because they have been indoctrinated to believe a certain way their whole life. Others of this ilk may be motivated by fear – their beliefs ironically being not so much driven by faith, but by certainty. I must remind myself though that Jesus desires that we not only love the ‘sinners and outcasts,’ but the ‘Pharisees’ as well.

  • Herm

    Oh, but we win and lose in the games we play, that is how children of God learn from each other. Just because one group identifies themselves from the fundamentals they judge everyone else to death by does not give them sovereign domain over the foundational root of “fundamentalist”. If we allow that to happen, especially in this case, they win and I die by the judgment of those in charge of the fundamentals. Jesus the Christ was a rebellious fundamentalist of His time on Earth when He claimed the words in Matthew 7:12. Jesus refused to judge as a Child of Man. Those calling themselves the “fundamentalists” choose to judge in Jesus name. I do not judge them but I would like my fundamentals back, please, thank you. Love you!

  • swbarnes2

    “Atheists have the fundamental belief that there is no God or no evidence to warrant believing in God.”

    How can atheism be a ‘fundamental belief’ if it is contingent on the evidence? The ‘fundamental belief’ there is something closer to “one should be confident in conclusions to the extent that they are falsifiable, and to the extent to which the evidence supports them”. Atheists just differ from religious people believing this should be applied to everything, not carving out any feel-good exceptions.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Nobody knows Zen.

  • Jeff Preuss

    Really? I would think clearly the woman who called your comment stupid has achieved total Zen.

  • Yonah

    Well, no.

    Protestants all tend to be fundamentalists because they truncate their faith at the “belief” line and treat praxis as adiaphora.

    Orthodox Christianity runs more on assumptions than beliefs to be defended over against other beliefs. Thus, the main event becomes worship, which is a doxological doing which sets up the worshiper for divinization (fancy for going out and doing God stuff.

    Consider the Romans’ take on the first Christians. They looked at the odd practices of the Christians in terms of what they did and what they didn’t do. They worshiped funny, and they didn’t practice abortion and infanticide. What dorks, them Christians.

  • Lana

    Speaking a philosophy student, I think most people are foundationalists about something. But there is a school of thought in philosophy called coherentism, where some beliefs are more core than others but there is no foundation that beliefs are built on. I do think most of us hold to at least one or two foundations at the end of the day (logic anyone?), but I don’t know that this makes us fundamental. I have a diagram here is anyone is interested.

  • “How can atheism be a ‘fundamental belief’ if it is contingent on the evidence?” The “fundamental belief of atheism is that empirical evidence is the measure of all truth, and what can’t be proved or falsified by something approximating the scientific method is just fantasy. But that’s an assumption that can’t be tested by the scientific method.