Saturday, May 3, 2008

Fundamentalism and the Bible

(Beginning with this post, I plan to begin a series of post dealing with the Bible.  Since that is the source from which adherents claim fundamentalism derives, it seems only fitting to begin early-on with a discussion of the Bible.)

At its heart, absolutism is a product of the confusion of concrete and measurable knowledge with mythic knowledge.  From where are these factual absolutes obtained?  From where does the mythic knowledge, so trusted, come from?    Is there some aspect of the Christian tradition onto which the absolutists have grasped above all else and from which they refuse to loosen their grip no matter what the evidence?  Yes!  They are a product of mythos/logos described by Karen Armstrong (2000) postulates.  Their point of confusion relates to how they understand the Bible. 

Traditionally, absolutists/fundamentalists have maintained a belief in verbal, plenary inspiration.  The term “plenary” refers to being total, complete, or absolute.  The term “verbal” implies inspiration to extends to the actual words of the text.  We might summarize their view thusly:  Each and every word in the original texts, or autographs of the Bible is completely without error and of divine choosing, exactly the word God intended.

The Bible is unique because it stands at the very center of Christian tradition.  The real question is in what manner is the Bible read? It is not just that the Bible stands at the center of Christian tradition.  The Bible stands at the center of mythic Christian tradition.  This must be so since really there is no other kind of tradition to consider regarding the Bible. It is the notion that the Bible stands at the center of a Christianity that is mythic in nature evokes the ire of the absolutists.

Absolutists have confused the mythic content from the Bible with the literal facts of the world.  Remember mythic is not at all the same as being untrue.  In fact, myth is a kind of super truth.  We need to understand fundamentalism in an historical context.  Fundamentalism is associated with the Charismatic (as in neo-Pentecostal) Movement, Pentecostalism, evangelicalism, and conservatism.  Yet, in many ways, fundamentalism is distinct from all of these movements.  The rallying cry of fundamentalism has always been the inerrancy of the Bible.

Scholars did not discuss the concept of inerrancy in much detail until the publication of The Fundamentals in 1909.  Until then the truth of the Bible was taken for granted by most people. With the rise of fundamentalism, the idea of a carefully delineated doctrine of inerrancy emerged.  Today the term frequently appears in the college catalogs of fundamentalist and evangelical colleges.  You see the idea expressed in many denominational statements of faith, on church web sites, and in association with such organizations as the National Association of Evangelical and (especially) in the faith statement of the Evangelical Theological Society.  Quite literally, “inerrancy” means completely without error.  In the case of Biblical inerrancy, it refers to a literalness extending far beyond religious matters to history and cosmology.  

More coming soon...


  1. The Bible is a marvelous effort by God's creation to speak to God and to one another about the most fundamental questions of human existance. Stories of a Recovering Fundamentalist will make both faith and the Bible more meaningful and relevant.

  2. Fundamentalist have done more than secularist or non-believers or critical thinkers to harm the Bible.