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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 1: Mon Apr 15, 2019 7:39 pm
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Blaming "Fundamentalism"

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I've noticed that "fundamentalism" has turned into apologists' and many others' favorite bug-a-boo. While Christian fundamentalism is no doubt harmful like many other varieties of religion, I think it's safe to say that it is no worse. Or to put it another way, liberal Christianity and religion is no better than fundamentalism. In some ways liberal Christianity may be worse than fundamentalism because it hides behind a cloak of presumed intellectual respectability while at its core it is the same irrational sideshow. At least Christian fundamentalists are open about what they believe and actually seem to know what they believe while liberals are wishy-washy often "reinterpreting" or outright denying the doctrines of Christianity to save face.

The reason I'm raising this issue is because many apologists are quick to blame fundamentalism for Christianity's ill effects. The message is that if something goes wrong with Christian faith or practice, then it's fundamentalism's fault! The "true" Christianity is nothing like that, of course. One apologist here goes as far as to say anything based in fundamentalism is by necessity "invalid and unconvincing"--no exceptions. For anybody who knows anything about logic, that's a blatant "against the man" argument and a mistake in logic. It's faulty reason to conclude that an argument must be wrong based on the religious beliefs of the person making that argument.

Question for Debate: Can anybody here successfully argue that liberal Christianity and religion is any better or truer than fundamentalism?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 2: Mon Apr 15, 2019 8:33 pm
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Re: Blaming "Fundamentalism"

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Jagella wrote:

Question for Debate: Can anybody here successfully argue that liberal Christianity and religion is any better or truer than fundamentalism?

I certainly can't and I highly doubt anyone else can. From experience I find that many liberal Christians want to take the Bible as metaphor and still want it taken seriously. In my view, the two goals don't mix. To be consistent, I'd consider the very notion of any God as being metaphor, as well. If we are being consistent, why couldn't that be the case? At this point, the Bible loses all authority. It's moral standards are no more authoritative than any other society, past or present. So why follow it as I assume liberal Christians still want us to do?

So no, liberal Christianity in any absolute form is not more intellectual than fundamentalism.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 3: Mon Apr 15, 2019 9:02 pm
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Re: Blaming "Fundamentalism"

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AgnosticBoy wrote:
From experience I find that many liberal Christians want to take the Bible as metaphor and still want it taken seriously. In my view, the two goals don't mix. To be consistent, I'd consider the very notion of any God as being metaphor, as well.


And why not take the whole gospel tale as metaphor? Jesus and his death on the cross are mere symbols like Adam and Eve being expelled from the garden. It's just a myth like Jonah and the whale. Why is it that the beliefs most near and dear to Christians are historical while liberals can live with seemingly trivial Bible stories being interpreted as fables? At least fundamentalists are consistent.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 4: Tue Apr 16, 2019 6:58 am
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Re: Blaming "Fundamentalism"

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AgnosticBoy wrote:

From experience I find that many liberal Christians want to take the Bible as metaphor and still want it taken seriously. In my view, the two goals don't mix. To be consistent, I'd consider the very notion of any God as being metaphor, as well. If we are being consistent, why couldn't that be the case? At this point, the Bible loses all authority. It's moral standards are no more authoritative than any other society, past or present. So why follow it as I assume liberal Christians still want us to do?

So no, liberal Christianity in any absolute form is not more intellectual than fundamentalism.


It's important to understand what fundamentalism means, and also that many Christians are neither fundamentalists nor liberals.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalism
    Fundamentalism usually has a religious connotation that indicates unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs.[1] However, fundamentalism has come to be applied to a tendency among certain groups–mainly, although not exclusively, in religion–that is characterized by a markedly strict literalism as it is applied to certain specific scriptures, dogmas, or ideologies, and a strong sense of the importance of maintaining ingroup and outgroup distinctions,[2][3][4][5] leading to an emphasis on purity and the desire to return to a previous ideal from which advocates believe members have strayed. Rejection of diversity of opinion as applied to these established "fundamentals" and their accepted interpretation within the group often results from this tendency.[6]


While many folk have dogmatic attachments to some few ideas, fundamentalism is more along the lines of a system of dogmatic attitudes. For example evangelical Christians believe among other things in the authority of the Bible as God's revelation to humanity, but confronted with the overwhelming scientific evidence that the earth is older than 6000 years and species have evolved over time, many evangelicals accept that a strict literalist interpretation need not be imposed on the book of Genesis. There's nothing particularly "liberal" about that attitude; it goes back at least as far as St. Augustine in the 4th century CE. By contrast, young-earth creationists are certainly fundamentalists, marked by a dogmatic insistence not only on the importance of the biblical canon but on a particular interpretation of it also.

So are you trying to argue that stubbornly and apparently dishonestly sticking to a given dogma such as young earth creationism is just as intellectually respectable as changing one's views in light of new scientific evidence?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 5: Tue Apr 16, 2019 7:52 am
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Re: Blaming "Fundamentalism"

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Mithrae wrote:


It's important to understand what fundamentalism means, and also that many Christians are neither fundamentalists nor liberals.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalism
    Fundamentalism usually has a religious connotation that indicates unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs.[1] However, fundamentalism has come to be applied to a tendency among certain groups–mainly, although not exclusively, in religion–that is characterized by a markedly strict literalism as it is applied to certain specific scriptures, dogmas, or ideologies, and a strong sense of the importance of maintaining ingroup and outgroup distinctions,[2][3][4][5] leading to an emphasis on purity and the desire to return to a previous ideal from which advocates believe members have strayed. Rejection of diversity of opinion as applied to these established "fundamentals" and their accepted interpretation within the group often results from this tendency.[6]


What you're describing here is essentially the dogma of the New Testament. If the New Testament is fundamentalism (and it is fundamentalism if your description of fundamentalism is accurate), then liberal Christians do not adhere to much of what the New Testament claims. Fundamentalists, then, are at least ideally faithful to their religion as it is laid out in the gospel tale.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 6: Tue Apr 16, 2019 8:14 am
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Re: Blaming "Fundamentalism"

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Mithrae wrote:

It's important to understand what fundamentalism means, and also that many Christians are neither fundamentalists nor liberals.


It's also important to recognize that fundamentalism needn't be a religious attitude. For example the other day I stumbled across a post from few years back in which one of our more vocal critics of Christianity had this to say:
    I most certainly do agree with the most ardent fundamentalists. I hold that the Biblical Canon must either be defended as the verbatim word of God, or it is utterly useless to hold it up as being the "Word of God" at all. . . .

    This is why I agree with the ardent fundamentalists. . . .

    Yes, I do agree with the ardent Christian fundamentalists. . . .

    So I accept the ardent fundamentalist's claim that the Bible has to be the infallible "Word of God", and reject it as such. . . .

    So I agree with the ardent Christian Fundamentalists. With Christianity it truly is "all or nothing", and since I can clearly see that it's not all true, then obviously none of it is true.


Can anyone imagine someone saying stuff like that about Darwin's Origin of Species or Newton's Principia; that either everything within them must be true, or else none of it is? That they must be viewed as the very essence and epitome of scientific truth or else it's utterly useless to view them as science at all? Perhaps this poster's views have evolved over time, but back then it was certainly a fundamentalist attitude on display!

Likewise in the past couple of weeks Jagella has been advancing the argument that since some poorly quote-mined ancient Hebrew sentences command something about the future of their community, and the historical and theological development of that community instead went in a different direction (two main different directions in fact), then at least one of those branches must be a "parasite" and illegitimate "distortion" of what he seemingly views as the True Faith represented by those sentences! Can anyone imagine someone trawling through Jefferson or Washington or the Federalist Papers and finding some sentences therein which express peculiar hopes for America's future, in order to wholesale denounce the legitimacy of the US in the 21st century?

That kind of systematic dogmatism is an obviously irrational approach to life and learning, and even moreso to debate between differing viewpoints.


As for 'liberal' Christians, we have a couple of active members left who may or may not fit the job description, though I'm not sure how many would apply it to themselves. Similarly I'm not sure how many would describe themselves as 'conservative' Christians. Back in the day we used to have a few outspoken liberals; Slopeshoulder, Kayky, Johnmarc etc. I believe one was banned for over-the-top attacks on more conservative believers ( Laughing ), but perhaps the others simply lost interest in the prevalence of quasi-fundamentalist assumptions among critics of Christianity. (For a glorious but all too brief moment Kayky did pop in again last year.)

Obviously there's a fairly diverse set of views under the umbrella of 'liberal' Christianity too, and not being a Christian myself my impressions might be taken with a grain of salt, but folk like those three generally seemed to view themselves first and foremost as belonging to a cultural and faith community. Metaphysical and ontological speculation like "God exists" or "heaven is real" were of secondary concern to them - in fact some would perhaps have denied those claims outright. Instead they might have found value in Christianity primarily in terms of existential frameworks, social connectedness and artistic inspiration. Secular humanism is all well and good - nothing really wrong with it - but as either a philosophy or a movement it perhaps lacks the richness and depth of immersion in an ancient but forward-thinking faith tradition.

Trouble is, folk who think it's their mission to destroy 'religion' or 'Christianity' often have few if any valid criticisms against perspectives like that.

In my experience these folk often start with their modern perspective of 'religion' (ie, conservative or fundamentalist Christianity) as being unnecessary, generally false and often contrary to rational thinking, then project that attitude backwards throughout time. Thus instead of viewing a religious tradition as being an evolving process including not only speculation and seeking for truth and meaning but also social, cultural and (often disastrously) political aspects too - and therefore liberal Christianity as one viable branch along that development process - they view the religion as a monolithic entity and imagine that liberals are retreating from and ceding virtually all the ground which the critic believes they are 'winning' through superior reason and epistemic approaches, while still dishonestly clinging to the name and pretense of their religion out of pure stubbornness.

So from that perspective I can kind of understand where folk are coming from if they imagine that liberal Christianity is on the same or lower level intellectually than fundamentalist Christianity. The problem is that place they're coming from is entirely misguided and, ironically, depends on assuming a fundamentalist view of religion to begin with.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 7: Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:28 am
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Re: Blaming "Fundamentalism"

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Mithrae wrote:

Mithrae wrote:

It's important to understand what fundamentalism means, and also that many Christians are neither fundamentalists nor liberals.


It's also important to recognize that fundamentalism needn't be a religious attitude. For example the other day I stumbled across a post from few years back in which one of our more vocal critics of Christianity had this to say:
    I most certainly do agree with the most ardent fundamentalists. I hold that the Biblical Canon must either be defended as the verbatim word of God, or it is utterly useless to hold it up as being the "Word of God" at all. . . .

    This is why I agree with the ardent fundamentalists. . . .

    Yes, I do agree with the ardent Christian fundamentalists. . . .

    So I accept the ardent fundamentalist's claim that the Bible has to be the infallible "Word of God", and reject it as such. . . .

    So I agree with the ardent Christian Fundamentalists. With Christianity it truly is "all or nothing", and since I can clearly see that it's not all true, then obviously none of it is true.


Can anyone imagine someone saying stuff like that about Darwin's Origin of Species or Newton's Principia; that either everything within them must be true, or else none of it is? That they must be viewed as the very essence and epitome of scientific truth or else it's utterly useless to view them as science at all? Perhaps this poster's views have evolved over time, but back then it was certainly a fundamentalist attitude on display!


If theists would propose that the "Word of God" as presented in the Bible is subject to updating with current knowledge and new findings, then you have yourself an analogy. Otherwise, this fails.

In other words, one would have to admit that the "Word of God" may actually not be correct or even the word of a god. How many Christians are willing to consider that many (perhaps all) words attributed to Jesus may actually be made up or incorrect? What about God Himself? When all you have are religious promotional materials to base your arguments on and these contain contradictions and stories that are now known to be false, it becomes a game of grasping at interpretations.

If a book contains the word of a god, you either have to have a way to show that and be consistent with the methodology, or you have to admit that you have no clue if any of it is really the word of a god. In science, scientists have no issue updating to the latest evidence. Christians rarely, if ever, seem to be open to that.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 8: Tue Apr 16, 2019 12:26 pm
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Re: Blaming "Fundamentalism"

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benchwarmer wrote:

If theists would propose that the "Word of God" as presented in the Bible is subject to updating with current knowledge and new findings, then you have yourself an analogy. Otherwise, this fails.

In other words, one would have to admit that the "Word of God" may actually not be correct or even the word of a god. How many Christians are willing to consider that many (perhaps all) words attributed to Jesus may actually be made up or incorrect? What about God Himself? When all you have are religious promotional materials to base your arguments on and these contain contradictions and stories that are now known to be false, it becomes a game of grasping at interpretations.

If a book contains the word of a god, you either have to have a way to show that and be consistent with the methodology, or you have to admit that you have no clue if any of it is really the word of a god. In science, scientists have no issue updating to the latest evidence. Christians rarely, if ever, seem to be open to that.


I'm not sure what you mean. Shouldn't our opinions and beliefs be maintained to the best ability of current knowledge regardless of whether a previous commitment to such maintenance was explicitly made?

In any case, what you're talking about sounds quite similar to the very earliest biblical principle of how to discern the 'word of the Lord':
Deuteronomy 18:21-22 You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?” If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken.
One might infer on that basis that if alternative legitimate interpretations of an author's presumed meaning exist but one does not "prove true," does not line up with the sum of current knowledge, it should be discarded in favour of the less erroneous interpretation; and if no legitimate interpretation exists without apparent error or falsehood, that passage or that author's work should be rejected as the 'word of the Lord.' Even many evangelicals (who by definition would reject such an approach in general terms) are willing to recognize that passages such as the ending to Mark 16 or early verses of John 8 were later additions to those works and therefore presumably not the "Word of God" that they assume the rest of the bible to be.

Seems to me that any Christians who really take that principle from Deuteronomy seriously would likewise acknowledge that contradictory nativity stories or false prophecies such as Ezekiel's cannot be the "Word of God" either. (Instead evangelicals at least tend to resort to desperate, convoluted 'interpretations' to preserve their dogmatic assumptions, contrary to both reason and the Deuteronomy principle.) Or in the case of Genesis, as I've already alluded, there actually are multiple plausible interpretations; not merely ad hoc adjustments to a clear refutation, but genuine uncertainties as to whether and which parts were intended by the author/s to have literal physical, literal spiritual or even wholly allegorical meanings.
    In matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision, even in such as we may find treated in Holy Scripture, different Interpretations are sometimes possible without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such a case, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to that of Sacred Scripture.
    ~ St. Augustine, On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis




Views about the nature and extent of the biblical canon have changed over time; Martin Luther described the New Testament book of James as "an epistle of straw," numerous prominent Christians have had serious reservations about the Revelation, and of course the apocrypha or deutero-canonicals accepted by the majority of Christians are not accepted as canonical by Protestants (nor by Jews as part of the Tanakh). So too have views about the precise nature of what it means to be 'Scripture' even for those works accepted as canonical. For many centuries prior to the development of the printing press bibles were comparatively rare and the common folk were largely illiterate in any case; what the bible actually said presumably had fairly limited relevance to them, and the 'correct doctrine' was determined at least as much if not moreso by the pragmatic needs of the institutional church under the guise of tradition than by 'Scripture' itself.

Evangelical fundamentalism of the type we're most familiar with is most immediately a reactionary response to trends of liberalism and critical scholarship in the 19th and 18th centuries, but more distantly a product of the Protestant sola scriptura rejection of institutional authority and corruption. In most ways the latter was a good thing in my opinion, but even the best developments can have unintended consequences and arguably evangelicalism (particularly of the American right) and its political ramifications are now as harmful to the world as the largely de-clawed Catholic Church... bearing in mind that both groups do quite a lot of good, also. Since the Protestant Reformation occurred prior to the Enlightenment (and may in fact have helped catalyze it), that shift in emphasis from the Church to the Bible and personal accountability on that basis has in the long run not been as ideal as a shift towards emphasis on personal accountability on the basis of careful reasoning using scripture as a guide rather than a law might have been.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 9: Tue Apr 16, 2019 4:26 pm
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Re: Blaming "Fundamentalism"

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Mithrae wrote:

In any case, what you're talking about sounds quite similar to the very earliest biblical principle of how to discern the 'word of the Lord' . . . .


Seems to me that any Christians who really take that principle from Deuteronomy seriously would likewise acknowledge that contradictory nativity stories or false prophecies such as Ezekiel's cannot be the "Word of God" either.


I ought to emphasize that I'm not advocating the view that Christians should assume that the "Word of God" is in there, somewhere, to be discovered by eliminating the bits that don't measure up. This may seem rather ironic to folk who are used to encountering and arguing against traditional, evangelical or fundamentalist varieties of Christianity, but it seems to me that a truly bible-based religion would not view the bible generally as the 'Word of God.'

Here's where the nuances of labels like 'evangelical,' 'conservative,' 'liberal' and so can be either useful, or simply confusing if not understood very well. A truly bible-based religion would by definition be rather conservative, yet compared to how Christianity has been traditionally practiced in the centuries both before and since the Protestant Reformation, it would in many regards seem rather liberal (while in a couple of others, and particularly in comparison to modern society, potentially quite conservative).

According to the New Testament, unequivocally the Word of God is Jesus, not some written books. Even according to the Tanakh, in passages such as Deuteronomy 18 (partially quoted above) it's said that the intermediary of prophets delivering the 'word of the Lord' was instituted only because the people were unable or unwilling to hear God's guidance directly... while passages such as Jeremiah 31 suggest that under a 'new covenant' God's laws would be written directly on his people's hearts and minds rather than by letters on paper or stone (cf. Romans 7:6, 2 Corinthians 3:3-6). Granted, there may also be contrary proof texts in the canon too, though I've not seen any that seem particularly compelling: But particularly in light of how impossible it is to defend the bible as the 'word of God,' it seems to me that if they were to able to dismiss all the trappings and traditions accumulated from seventeen centuries of institutional religion, most folk pursuing a genuine bible-based faith would regard God's primary communication to humanity as being through the Holy Spirit bringing to remembrance the person and example of Jesus (eg. John 14:26)... with the bible itself a distant second, an often-decent kind of guide rather than an inerrant rulebook.

I'm quite interested in the set of ideas and approaches which have become known as 'liberal' Christianity, and I think it's very important to recognize and acknowledge the existence and legitimacy of those attitudes toward religion: I think that even this forum itself provides some evidence that if folk raised in more fundamentalist environments are utterly disabused of those simplistic notions, they run the risk retaining those core attitudes and simply becoming anti-religious fundamentalists instead, so the 'soft' alternative of recognizing that there are historically and sociologically legitimate options for retaining the community, culture and existential value of the religion without dogmatising any historical, metaphysical or moral claims is a very important one to emphasize. But I have never really been personally drawn towards liberal Christianity myself; some 12-15 months ago I was seriously considering becoming a Christian again (partly due to my life circumstances at the time) but, despite some important differences in opinion, it was a group teaching and living a pretty genuine Jesus-based faith rather than a traditional or liberal version of the religion that I was drawn towards.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 10: Tue Apr 16, 2019 6:51 pm
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Re: Blaming "Fundamentalism"

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[Replying to Jagella]

We are living in a post Christian world. But We can't throw away the history of western civilization which is based on the Church. Both liberal and fundamental Christians need to open their mind to the worlds religions. For what its worth no one religion has the whole truth. With Christ as our spiritual anchor holding on not rejecting our Christian foundation we can add to our knowledge of the ultimate reality expresses in the worlds religions. I personally have benefited in my study of Buddhism Taoism Zen and Hindu 's Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita .Thanks to these world religions I have a fuller appreciation of my Judeo-Christian origins.So liberal or fundamental Christian distinctions are irrelevant in my mind. Its all good.and bad.

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