Fundamentalism is a Lack of Self-Awareness

Fundamentalism is a Lack of Self-Awareness October 24, 2015

A fundamentalist is a person who thinks he doesn't have a hermeneutic

The quote comes from Richard Beck’s blog post “Emotional Intelligence and Sola Scriptura.” Here is another excerpt from the post:

[W]e all have a hermeneutic. The only question is whether you are consciously vs.unconsciously using a hermeneutic. Fundamentalists are interpreting the text unconsciously. Fundamentalists are interpreting the text right and left, they are justunaware that they are doing so… 
When your hermeneutic is operating unconsciously it causes you to say things like “this is the clear teaching of Scripture.”

…Basically, fundamentalism–denying that you are engaged in hermeneutics–betrays a shocking lack of self-awareness, an inability to notice the way your mind and emotions are working in the background and beneath the surface.

I think statements like “this is the clear teaching of Scripture” are psychologically diagnostic. Statements like these reveal something about yourself. Namely, that you lack a certain degree of self-awareness.

For example, saying something like “this is the clear teaching of Scripture” is similar to saying “I’m not a racist.” Self-aware people would never say either one of those things.

Self-aware people would say things like “I don’t want to be a racist” or “I try not to be racist” or “I condemn racism.” But they would never say “I’m not a racist” because self-aware people know that they have blind spots. Self-aware people know they have unconscious baggage that is hard to notice or overcome.

And it’s the same with how self-aware people approach reading the bible. Self-aware people know that they are trying to read the bible in an unbiased fashion. Self-aware people work hard to let the bible speak clearly and it its own voice. But self-aware people know they have blind spots. They know that there is unconscious baggage affecting how they are reading the bible, baggage that they know must be biasing their readings and conclusions. Consequently, self-aware people would never, ever say “this is the clear teaching of Scripture.” Just like they’d never claim to be unbiased in any other area of life, racism being just one example.

Click through to read it in its entirety.

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  • John MacDonald

    Hermeneutics involves gathering pieces of evidence and extrapolating a “big picture” from that evidence. Deconstruction, on the other hand, looks at the “big picture,” and tries to find “trace evidence” in the text that speaks against the “big picture,” and so is a pathway to overturning it. Derrida argues that deconstruction “is justice” because it works against the pride of certainty, bias and prejudice, and gives strength back to the marginalized and/or recalcitrant individual.

    • John MacDonald

      Deconstruction is also the brainchild of the most convoluted, cryptic, a-taciturn philosopher who ever lived. lol

    • John MacDonald

      Deconstruction tries to provide us with a model for justice. For example, you can picture the “definition” of marriage as between “a man and a woman,” and there being a whole “system” of rights and benefits related to this concept of marriage. Then, one day, in the name of “justice,” it is argued that the traditional definition of marriage excludes and marginalizes homosexuals. Over time, supporters of homosexual marriage work to “deconstruct” the traditional definition of marriage and revamp the system born around it to make the system properly inclusive.

  • Ian

    Fundamentalism (Evangelicalism more broadly) is self-righteousness.

    Your salvation merely depends on believing the right thing. And, since they stress you are to have confidence in your salvation, that must also mean you are right in what you believe.

    It is the most vacuous theology imaginable. No justice, no community, no spirituality, just believe and say the stuff you’re told to, and you’re all set.

    The ultimate triumph of the self. Where self-awareness is ‘being aware you are right’.

    (On your point about hermeneutics, (a couple of) Americans are the only people I’ve met who insist they don’t speak with an accent. I suspect it is a similar thing.)

    • Americans with no accent. Now that’s funny. 🙂

      May I quote the rest of your comment? And if so, how would you like to be cited?

      • Ian

        Yes. ‘Ian’ is fine. Or ‘a commenter’, I don’t mind. I only avoid my surname to avoid dominating search results, since your site is relatively high traffic compared to algorithms and AI 🙂

        Our village baptist church is undergoing a church split, with the breakaway ‘evangelical’ grouping being frustrated that the (liberal) minister doesn’t say and sing the right thing (he keeps going on about refugees and poverty and stuff, and thinks community is more important than conversion: its scandalous!). So that’s where this frustration came from.

  • AtalantaBethulia

    Spot on.

  • Phillip_Abraham_Neff

    Dove a bit to deep in philosophy muck to make any sense here. Self awareness is a completely secular construct, FYI the Biblical term is “Soul”. Applying a secular concept to those who do not embrace it is a ploy to paint fundamentalist as ignorant or in the secular vernacular “Un-evolved.” The arrogance to constantly marginalize Christians by pointing out how they don’t match up to your out of the box thinking and philosophical compartmentalizing is insulting and eventually threatening. This tactic borders on the same approach that drove the megalomaniac dictators of the 20th century to justify the purges of those that where not fully human as deemed by the modern academia.

    • Nick Gotts

      or in the secular vernacular “Un-evolved.”

      That is not the “secular vernacular” for “ignorant”; that would be “ignorant”. But congratulations on the most ludicrously far-fetched implication that anyone disagreeing with you or criticizing your beliefs wants to kill you, that I’ve seen in a while.

  • Nick Gotts

    Self-aware people work hard to let the bible speak clearly and it its own voice.

    The Bible is not an agent, and does not have “a voice”, even metaphorically. As James McGrath among others frequently points out, it is a collection of highly diverse and often contradictory writings of widely varying dates and, with a few exceptions such as some of the letters of Paul, unknown authorship.

  • Ian Paul

    It is fascinating to read here the comments about ‘fundamentalists’ (of which I am not one) which demonstrate no self-awareness of the hermeneutical frame with which you are viewing this phenomenon. I think that probably makes most people here fundamentalist about what a fundamentalist is, and about why such a person is to be despised.