Fundamentalism is anti-intellectualism and at odds with natural scienctific evidence

Religious fundamentalist refute evolution on biblical grounds.

The only Christian religious groups that have problems with evolution are the Protestant fundamentalists, who insist on a literal interpretation of the Bible, much as Muslim fundamentalists insist on a literal interpretation of the Koran. This group is trying to infuse their brand of religion, taught as science. Having failed in the past to have evolutionary theory banned from the classrooms, the fundamentalists have adopted a patchwork enterprise they call “creation science.” In spite of a pretence to scientific language, these creationists ultimately are reduced to using supernatural explanations to answer scientific questions. This is a profound contradiction and an anti-science view since the scientific method by definition cannot deal with the supernatural.

This position has no scientific substance.

Regardless of what they call themselves, the goal of the religious fundamentalist is to have the biblical version of creation taught alongside evolution; and to disguise the essentially religious nature of creationism, they have dressed it up in scientific terminology. Since they have no persuasive arguments of their own, or even intuitively satisfying suggestions, their plan is to attack selected particulars of science and pretend to have a science of their own.

A principal advocate of “scientific creationism” is a group of fundamentalists called the Creation Research Society (CRS).

The Creation Research Society claims to be scientific but members must forsake any scientific evidence for religious tenets.

· To be a voting member of the CRS one must have an advanced degree in some field of science and sign a statement of faith.

· This belief statement begins as follows:
1. “The Bible is the written word of God, and we believe it to be inspired throughout, all of its assertions are historically and scientifically true in all the original autographs. To the students of nature, this means that the accounts of origins in genesis is a factual presentation of simple historical truths.”
2. “All basic types of living things, including man, were made by direct creative acts of God during the Creation Week described in Genesis. Whatever biological changes have occurred since Creation Week have been accomplished only [by] changes within the original created kinds.”
3. “The great flood described in Genesis, commonly referred to as the Noachian Flood, was an historic event worldwide in its extent and effect.”

· The membership of the CRS consists mostly of engineers, chemists, aerospace workers, technicians, computer specialists, and such. Few legitimate biologists, geologists, or anthropologists are willing to sign such a statement of faith; and a degree in engineering, chemistry, or computer science scarcely qualifies a CRS member to speak with knowledge and authority about biology, geology, astronomy, or anthropology.

· The aim of the CRS is nonetheless to force the scientific evidence into compliance with the literal interpretation of the Bible. The arguments of these fundamentalist missionaries often involve tortured logic, a stubborn denial of evidence, a shallow understanding, or a reckless disregard for the truth.

Religious fundamentalists will create wide-ranging science illiteracy since they reject the objective scientific method.

The arguments of the religious fundamentalists are not only anti-biology but also anti-physics, anti-astronomy, and anti-geology. In short, they reject all scientific knowledge that does not fit their view of the world. They do not question the methods or philosophy that yield, say, the science of flight, for who could doubt that airplanes fly? But when the same methods and philosophies are put to the study of life and human origins — a subject the Bible does address — they question the integrity of science. The religious fundamentalists fight a desperate, rear-guard action, seeking to increase their numbers while refusing to accept the obvious.

Science and religion should not be at odds since each function in a different realm.


The scientific method is the most successful approach for discovering how the natural world operates. Scientific hypotheses are continually tested and re-tested before theories are presented to explain the workings of nature. Science does not try to explain God or the supernatural. Such matters are outside the realm of science. Science’s domain is the natural world and the scientific method has been spectacularly successful at discovering knowledge about this world.

Fundamentalism is anti-woman sexism

The anti-woman views expressed in the Bible are still at the core of fundamentalist Christian beliefs.

Here are a few examples from Scripture:

1. In the Bible's book of Deuteronomy it says that if a man marries a woman and then decides that he hates her, he can claim she wasn't a virgin when they married. At that point her father must prove she was a virgin. (How is not explained.) If he can't, then the girl is to be stoned to death at her father's doorstep.

2. If you see a pretty woman among your captives and would like her for a wife, then bring her home and "go in unto her." Later, if you decide you don't like her, you can simply "let her go." (Deuteronomy)

3. If a betrothed virgin is raped in the city and doesn't cry out loud enough, then "the men of the city shall stone her to death." (Deuteronomy)

4. In the book of Esther the king apparently decrees a sex contest among young virgin women to see who can best please him. (There is debate on how.) He eventually chooses Esther. However, since women are viewed as inherently dirty, Esther must be "purified" for twelve months before she can be made queen. (Esther)

5. Paul points out in New Testament Romans that "the natural use" of women is to provide men with sex. (Romans)

6. Heaven is to be inhabited by 144,000 virgin men who have not been "defiled" by women. (RE 14:1-4) [One wonders how this squares with God's command to, "Be fruitful and multiply...(Genesis )]

In case you think that the Bible quotes referenced above are no longer accepted by fundamentalist Christians, consider this quote from the Rev. Pat Robertson, one of today's most influential Christian fundamentalist evangelists:

"The Feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians."

And just recently The Southern Baptist Convention, the USA’s largest Protestant decision-making body added to its core teachings that a woman must be subject to her husband in all things. Plus, a woman is not to have authority over a man-a concept that could even now reap havoc in the workplace.

In marriage and family life this is termed "headship", with the husband's views prevailing, no matter how ill-informed.

The Judeo-Christian tradition allowed for multiple wives and refused to allow for divorce, no matter how abusive the husband.

These views saw women as not educatable, not intelligent enough to vote, to own property, to enter a profession, or take on leadership roles in the church.

It should come as no surprise that even those who staunchly maintain that every word of the Bible is inspired by God and is to be taken literally prefer not to quote the linked passages above.
Any attempt to "explain them away" based on a rationale of earlier times and conditions simply opens the door to "picking and choosing" what to believe from the scriptures and what to discard, which is what most modern religious thinkers do anyway.

Even so, the impact of these strong anti-woman, anti-sex scriptures remains.

But it's not only women that are affected.

Many men who, as a result of their ultra-conservative Christian upbringing, struggle all of their adult lifes to overcome debilitating sexual problems.

The vast majority of people learn (in varies degrees) to adjust, cope, ignore, or abandon these deleterious views. Even so, the effects remain and they can take a significant toll.

Fundamentalists practice Bible Idolatry

In the heresy of Fundamentalism, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy says, roughly, that what is written is the literal and historical truth, valid for all time. The doctrine, despite its claims to the contrary, ignores the fact that people of a particular time and place and persuasion, wrote the Bible, however much God influenced their writing. It is unable to see plain contradiction within the scriptures. [God of love; Psalm 137. Cleansing of the temple in John vs. others. 1 Cor. 11 vs. 1 Cor 14 on silence. etc.] It causes them to be used to make pronouncements on issues they say nothing about.

Fundamentalism makes the Holy Bible a paper pope.

The Inerrancy doctrine often appeals to Calvin and Luther, the great heroes of the Reformation, for its support. It ignores, or is ignorant of, the fact that Luther reduced Hebrews, James Jude and Revelation to a secondary status. He didn't just say this. In his September 1522 Bible he put them in a separate list in the table of contents. Calvin agreed with him and added doubts about the authenticity of 2 Peter and 2 and 3 John.

The doctrine is ignorant of the fact that it was really only developed in the church in the last century or so in response to Darwinism and evolution, and perhaps the Roman doctrine of Papal infallibility. It was also a fearful response to the development of biblical criticism, which for all its early faults was also an act of devotion as scholars tried to understand the bible.

The doctrine claims it has always been the view of the church, and calls us to be obedient to it.
Basically, this doctrine is a doctrine of fearfulness. It seeks to help us be unafraid by assuring us the Bible is totally true in every respect. No matter what else happens in this world, we can trust the Bible, it says. The Bible is pure, and uncontaminated. And because it is so we can trust what it says about Jesus and be sure about our salvation. The doctrine goes on to claim that if we cannot trust the Bible we cannot be sure of anything. The Bible, it tells us, is the Word of God.
And that is a good place for us to have a closer look at it. Let's be very precise with our language. The Bible can be called the word of God, but only in a derivative way, or secondary way. The Bible itself tells us that the Word is Christ. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the word was God."

The Bible is only the word of God in the sense that it tells us about God, as Jesus the Word does. It is Jesus Christ the Word who is the God. Fundamentalism makes the book the God. And the book has to be literally and historically perfect, or else we cannot believe in Jesus, it says.

Fundamentalism bases its faith in Jesus upon the Bible. What we ought to do is believe in the Bible because we have met and have faith in Jesus the Living Word!

Of course it's a bit of a chicken and egg situation for us. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? That question is very hard to answer. But in the church, if it is to be Christian, Christ must come first. We may have read the Bible before we met him. But if he is God, and if he is a living Lord, then he must have priority.

If we put our interpretation of the Bible before or above what the living Lord of the church is telling us through the Holy Spirit, then we are worshipping an idol. Even though it's the Bible we are talking about, it becomes an idol in that situation. We may be a people of the book, but we are called to be the people of Christ first. As much as the book may introduce us to Christ, bring us back to Christ, and guide us in our understanding of Christ, it in the end must be the Christ who controls our interpretation of the book. It is the living Jesus Christ who is Lord, not our interpretation of the book.

Now it could be asked what I'm on about. This is not a fundamentalist church, so what's the roblem? The problem is this: As I hear current debates in the church, whether they are about baptism, the ordination of women, homosexuality, or social justice. Very often the argument is not about the issue at hand at all. The issue at hand is only the occasion or framework for another more serious debate. The real debate which is going on is about the nature of the Bible.

Look at the debate over the ordination of women, for example. If we subscribe to the fundamentalist doctrine of scripture, we cannot allow the ordination of women. It is not possible. The Bible which is right and with out error for all time, plainly says in 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians that women are to be silent in church, not to teach, and not to have authority over men.

End of story.

As a fundamentalist, any debate with a person wanting to ordain women is really for defending our view of scripture. There is no question about it for us. For a Fundamentalist, to ordain a woman, is to admit the bible is no longer right in some places. We cannot do that or our whole faith will collapse. Our faith stands and falls with the inerrant trustworthy word.

Now as I hear the debates in our churches, I hear people who have started to move in the direction of fundamentalism. I am not saying they are fundamentalists; they would be hurt and horrified by the suggestion. What I am saying is that because of the aggressive preaching of some of the more conservative churches, and because of the massive success of some conservative religious publishing houses, we have tended to get sucked in by the story, the untrue story, that unless we hold to the literal truth of the Bible we are being unfaithful to Christ.

No one wants to be unfaithful to Christ, so without realising it we tend to overreact in a conservative direction, before we think.

If nothing else is clear from this we might be able to understand that a lot of our arguing is happening not so much because we disagree on the issue, but because we and the other person are quite different in our understanding of the nature of Scripture. That explains why we so often go around in circles and get exasperated by each other.

But there is more than this. Jesus is our Lord. And he should be our standard for use of scripture. He contradicted whole slabs of scripture in his time; reinterpreting food laws, divorce and so on. And we have done the same since then. I am not saying something new here. We don't have slaves. Women don't wear hats in church anymore.. We do ordain women. We do allow remarriage. We do invest money at interest, and so on.

If we are truly to be Christ's church we must not move towards the Fundamentalist solution to problems. We must make Christ the Lord of the church. We must listen to the Spirit. When a new situation comes along and a woman says she hears God's call to be ordained, to take just one example, we cannot simply turn to the Bible and trot out the old answers of last century. We must seek to pray and seek to discern if Christ is not perhaps calling us on into a new area and new life; Even though we have understood the Bible to say something different in the past.

What does this say to us about the Bible?

It means we can't stay in "Bible Sunday School." It amazes me how many of us have home computers and are hackers of some ability, but have never showed the same enthusiasm for the Bible. We learn about computers or fishing or sailing or all sorts of areas, all for fun, but not the Bible. Let's put some energy into the Bible, and getting beyond simplistic understandings. There is nothing wrong with a simple faith; there is a lot wrong if we are simplistic about things when we have the ability to do better. Especially since we so often claim to base our thinking and decisions upon the Bible.

It also means we need to be part of the church universal with respect to the Bible. In other parts of the church we will see and learn other ways to read and learn from it; AND other ways to meet Christ. With the greatest of respect, I am are inclined to think we sometimes feel ecumenism means going down to the local Pentecostal church on Sunday nights. I wonder if that is not going from our little church to something more insular, rather than expanding our experience of the whole church. It is not enough to choose what we would like to hear, we need to be challenged.

But the most important thing any of us can do, and which all of us should do is ask what this book is and who we are. Are we people who serve a living Christ, or people who serve a particular interpretation of a book?

If we will seek to serve the Living Christ who is the Living eternal Word, then we are truly Christian. And if we will reverence this book as the record of Israel and the Church as they struggled to come to terms and explain their experience of the living God, then we are Christian.
And if we reverence the book in that way the living Word will spring from its pages. Yet if we make the book God, then we really will have a 'cardboard sword'.

We are all wrong about the Bible. We are all in error here and there. We all misunderstand. But the Living Christ will lead us into the truth it says in John. If we will serve and worship the Living Christ, and not the book, we are walking in the right way.

Let us worship the Living Christ and put our faith in Him, if we will be Christian. To worship a book is a poor substitute.

Legalism - the mindset of Fundamentalism

The following is excerpted from David R. Miller's Breaking Free: Rescuing Families from the Clutches of Legalism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992):

Legalism is a "schism" that can afflict, and in fact has afflicted most religions. Legalism is the adding of basic presuppositions to a faith to make that faith more exclusive or less available to "outsiders" who do not think, act, or believe as do the "true" believers. Legalism is one of many power maneuvers by faith leaders who seek to consolidate religious authority in the hands of a very few.... Christian legalism found a fertile seedbed in the exclusivity and retreatism of American fundamentalism.... Christian legalism is seen in many groups who enthusiastically add rules and regulations to what traditionally has been standard Christian practice. The best definition of legalism is that which emanates from the mouth of Jesus [in Matt. 15:9]: But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (p. 7).

Legalism is a snare for Christians, but it is for many a soft, warm, comfortable snare, one that feels safe and is secure as long as things are going well. Legalism, with the need for spiritual security that lies behind it, is an opiate for many Christians, a spiritual narcotic designed to compensate for a largely graceless form of religious belief. Legalism offers Christian families security as long as they practice what a church, Christian institution, or authority figure commands.... And legalism, in the short term and under special circumstances, can deliver on these promises. It would be a mistake to believe that Christian legalism has no merit. It has merit and can deliver - but at a very heavy price.... Legalism works to keep things under control and to give an appearance of goodness - well-behaved children for proud parents to show off or a well-ordered life with no hint of the turmoil shaking the foundation (p. 9)

But the absence of obvious "degenerates" doesn't necessarily mean everything is great. Facing legalistic Christian families are other less obvious problems, but problems with equal or greater potential for damage than the excesses of liberal religion or no religion at all.

Legalistic Christians have their own "gurus," authority figures in church or Christian college happy to prescribe rules for living. They will say why beards on men are not "Christian," why slacks on women are not "Christian," why divorced people are not allowed to sing in the choir or serve as ushers. Certain camps of conservative and legalistic Christianity go so far as to institute "morality police" scattered throughout the Christian community who informally are encouraged to keep an eye on alumni, church members, and other preachers and speakers, then to report it back to "headquarters."

Authority figures have answers for everything. Families have good feelings about themselves, but no freedom to question. [Such as], "Were those rules Bible based or just the preferences of an authority figure somewhere?" (p. 10)

I recognize that legalism sometimes works for families in the system, families who for any number of reasons are not called upon to deal with the more difficult issues of Christian living. They are happy in legalism. Their children do not ask difficult questions and perhaps will not.
What I write is a reflection of my family's experiences and our growing concern for those trying to break free and recover from the oppression that accompanies legalism. I do not try to persuade Christians to change their lifestyles or leave a church, mission board, or Christian college or university. My purpose is that of a counselor.... My purpose is to comfort, show compassion, stimulate careful thought, and encourage healing.

I will, however, suggest that no authority figure, pastor, college president, television evangelist, nor anyone else has the right to tell other Christians how they should manage their families.... The gray areas of Christian living are best left to the individual families themselves, and God has promised his Holy Spirit to help in their "discerning" matters (pp. 11-12).

Legalism emphasizes externals more than internals, while it proclaims just the opposite. Legalists of all stripes are comfortable with the idea that to observe a person's behavior is to know that person's character, while they ignore the motives behind the conformity. Legalism preaches, whether implicitly or explicitly, the importance of each one watching another - to keep each other close to the Lord of course, but watching, nevertheless. Frequently it encourages reporting back to an authority figure so the "body of believers" can be kept pure.

Legalism is a perversion of true Christianity. In examining it Christians must ask themselves if they have assigned their God-given freedom to run their lives and manage their families according to their understanding of God's leading over to an authority figure. Being freed from Christian legalism means going back to the freedom God has promised in true Christianity. Being free means that each Christian today can expose the secret pharisee hiding in all, just as Jesus helped his people to do in the days he walked the earth.

Being free from legalism does not mean our family has changed our religious beliefs, but rather that we no longer have to look outside our own family and our own Bible for direction. Our lives are still consistently Christian, still conservative and evangelical, but now for different reasons (p. 13).

We are [now] free to answer God's call on our lives without checking with an authority figure first.... Being free from the security trap of legalism is the most refreshing and invigorating experience we could have imagined. It is our testimony that such freedom can only be found in Jesus (p. 14).

Dispensationalism -the heart of fundamentalism

History of Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism came on the scene in 1830s with the Brethren Movement. It included a rejection of historic Christian theological thinking. Nowadays, in more simplified form, in particular stressing the Rapture and an emphasis on right-wing Christian Zionism, it underlies much Christian fundamentalism.

John Nelson Darby came on the scene. Ordained into the Anglican ministry in 1826 in Ireland, he left a year later to join the Brethren, a new Christian group. He taught a dispensationalist form of premillennialism. Darby greatly influenced Cyrus Ingerson Scofield who was ordained into the American Congregational Ministry in 1882. The latter produced the Scofield Reference Bible which has sold over 2 million copies since it was published in 1909. Scofield had no formal theological training when he wrote it. It is this Bible which has popularised Dispensational Premillennialism.

Before this there was another form of Premillennialism – Classical Premillennialism – which was very widely accepted by the early church Fathers.

Characteristics of Dispensationalism


1. The Jews are saved through legal obedience and repentance and will remain for ever God’s people on earth

2. The Gentiles are saved through faith and will be raptured to Heaven

3. The church is a parenthesis in God’s purposes and will end in apostasy

4. The kingdom of heaven is the Davidic kingdom and the kingdom of God is God’s universal kingdom. (The kingdom of God is postponed until Christ establishes his reign on earth, having overthrown the god of this world. The kingdom of heaven is postponed because of the rejection of Messiah by the Jews)

5. There are seven dispensations (different ways in which God deals with humanity. "Dispensation" means stewardship or type of economy). The way God dealt, or will deal, with people in any other dispensation is irrelevant, or at best, secondary to the dispensation in which we live. The seven dispensations are:

i. The Dispensation of Innocence - Creation to the Fall (Edenic)

ii. The Dispensation of Conscience - The Fall to the Flood (Antediluvian)

iii. The Dispensation of Human Government - The Flood to Babel (Noahic)

iv. The Dispensation of Promise - Call of Abraham to Giving of Law (Abrahamic)

v. The Dispensation of Law - Giving of the Law until Death of Christ, tearing of temple veil and Jewish rejection of Messiah (Mosaic).

vi. The Dispensation of Grace - The Cross to the Rapture of the Church (just before the Tribulation). (The Church Age: Apostolic)

· The word "Rapture" comes from the Latin translation of 1 Thess.4:17 “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” is based on the Latin "rapere" which means to seize or snatch.

· This dispensation is often seen as depicted by the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. Their characteristics are prophetic of seven consecutive spiritual stages in the church's history.

· It is a parenthesis in God's purposes (which are primarily with the Jews), unforeseen by the OT and only established because the Jews rejected the Kingdom (it is the "mystery" of Eph.3:3-6).

· The Tribulation is a seven year period of great tribulation. Dispensationalists say this is the 70th "week" of years – seven year period – foretold in Daniel 9:25-27 “"Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. The same seven year period is described in Revelation 6-18.

During the tribulation:

· the seals, trumpets and bowls judgements of Revelation will take place.

· the Jews will be gathered to their own land in unbelief. Many of them will die in unbelief but a remnant will survive and be saved (Rom.11:26).

· the nominal church remaining on earth during the tribulation will fall into apostasy.

· eventually the nations will gather against Israel.

[Some dispensationalists have taught a partial Rapture, with only believers who are spiritually prepared for it being included. Also some have taught a mid-tribulational Rapture, normally at the half way stage: three and a half years.]

vii. The Dispensation of the Kingdom or the Millennium - The Second Coming to the Final Satanic Revolt

a. Christ will return to the Mount of Olives with his saints. This return, foretold in both OT and NT, will be heralded by "signs of the times".

b. Christ will win the Battle of Armageddon.

c. He will overthrow the trinity of evil: Satan, the Antichrist and the Beast. Satan will be bound for a thousand years. Sin will be judged and righteousness will fill the earth.

d. The tribulation martyrs will be raised.

e. Christ will apply the efficacy of his death to the sins of the Jews which have been temporarily covered by the animal sacrifices. The Holy Spirit will cause the Jews to accept Christ's death for their national salvation (Rom.11:26)

f. All OT Jews who were unfaithful to the law of Moses will be cut off from Israel.

g. All faithful Jews from every age other than the church age will inherit the land.

h. The Gentiles who treated Israel well during the tribulation will join Israel in the millennium, but will be inferior to Israel.

i. Israel will head the nations in worship (centred on a glorious new temple) in this Golden Age of peace and righteousness. So the promises of the OT to literal Israel will be fulfilled. This will include the re-building of the temple and the resumption of the Levitical worship.

j. The church will remain in heaven during the millennium. Some dispensationalist hold that the New Jerusalem (containing the church) will hover over the land of Israel during the millennium. They say it will be either a cube or a pyramid with a 1500 mile square base and 1500 miles high, or it may be a sphere 1500 miles in diameter. Moderate dispensationalists say the OT saints will be with the church in the New Jerusalem. The saints in the New Jerusalem will be able to travel to and from the earth. They also hold the New Jerusalem will descend to earth - centred on Israel - at the end of the millennium.

k. At the end of the millennium Satan will be released and deceive many, leading them to rebellion.

l. This rebellion will be crushed by the Lord and will lead to the Great White throne judgement with Satan, his angels and unbelievers being thrown into the Lake of Fire

m. God will create the new heavens and new earth. Classical Dispensationalism teaches that Israel and the church will be permanently separated - Israel on the new earth, the church in the new heaven.

1. The literalism is shown by:

a. the idea that there are as many as four resurrections:
Resurrection of believers at the Rapture.
Resurrection of tribulation martyrs.
Resurrection of believers who die in the millennium.
Resurrection of unbelievers to the second death.

b. Also by the idea that there are four gospels:
i. The gospel of the kingdom: the news about an earthly kingdom of Israel (initially preached by Jesus until the Jews rejected him), i.e. Jesus came not to die but to establish an earthly kingdom. S D Gordon: “There is no cross in God’s plan of atonement.” (Quiet talks about Jesus p. 118)
ii. The gospel of the grace of God: that Jesus died and rose again (preached by Jesus after the Jews rejected him and by the apostles other than Paul).
iii. The everlasting gospel: this is preached by the Jews in the tribulation, after the Rapture. It is news that all who are saved in the tribulation will enter the millennium.
iv. Paul's gospel: an expansion of the gospel of grace including the "mystery" of the church.

2. Some dispensationalists (e.g. Darby) believe the church is not related to the new covenant as such but nevertheless benefits from the blood of the new covenant.

3. Others (e.g. Scofield) believe the new covenant is primarily for Israel (to be fulfilled politically in the millennium) and only secondarily for the church.

4. Others distinguish between the kingdom of heaven (professing Christians) and the kingdom of God (genuine believers).

5. The Gospels are said to relate to three different dispensations - law, grace and kingdom - so not all the teaching is relevant to us, e.g. the Lord's Prayer and the Sermon on the Mount. Some dispensationalists say that only the Gospel of John, Acts and the Epistles apply to Christians. The latter is the Messiah's Manifesto of the Kingdom and so is for the millennium, not now.

Critique of Dispensationalism

It is my belief that Dispensationalism is a different creed from that taught in Scripture:

1. A Different Bible

Dispensationalism teaches that the NT must be interpreted in the light of a literal interpretation of the OT.

It is, however, clear from the way the NT deals with the OT that the OT must be interpreted through the NT and particularly Christologically.

2. A Different Gospel

Dispensationalism teaches that OT salvation was not through faith in the coming Christ but through legal obedience.


All (OT) Scripture is about Christ

Jesus said to the two disciples on the Emmaus Road: "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27). Later when he met the rest of the disciples he said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:44-47).

· The OT Sacrifices also refer to Christ

The gospel (of faith in Christ) was preached to Abraham
Paul writes that Abraham saw Christ’s day and the Gospel preached to Abraham (John 8:56). The NT gospel was announced the gospel in advance to Abraham (Gal 3:8). The gospel was promised through the OT prophets Rom 1:1-3 cf 1 Peter 1:11).

3. A Different Christ

· This Christ is not a necessary atoning Saviour and sin offering (contrast, for example, Col. 1:19-22)

· This Christ does not rule the world currently (contrast, for example, Col. 1:15-17)

· This Christ’s current reign at right hand of the Father has no direct relationship to the fulfilment of the Davidic covenant and Messianic kingdom prophecies.

By contrast, the NT teaches the kingdom has, in some sense, already come in the work of Christ. Jesus said: “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matt 12:28). He added: “nor will people say, `Here it is,' or `There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21)

4. A Different Kingdom

The Dispensational distinction between the Kingdom of heaven and the Kingdom of God is invalid. They are simply different terms for the same thing. Note the following interchangeable use of the two terms in the NT.

Matthew 11 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.

Luke 16 16 ``The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.
Matthew 10 7 As you go, preach this message: `The kingdom of heaven is near.'

Luke 9 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
Matthew 4 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, ``Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.''

Mark 1 14. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ``The time has come,'' he said. ``The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!''

Matthew 19 23. Then Jesus said to his disciples, ``I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.''
Another point is that, if, as the Dispensational view teaches, Jews could frustrate God’s past plan, what guarantee have we that they won’t frustrate the future plan?

5. A Different Church

The Dispensational Church is:

Not Jew and Gentile Believers, one new man in Christ

Yet the NT teaches the opposite: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Eph 2:14-16). “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Eph 3:10-11)

Not the blossoming of the one people of God

But the following passage shows that the church is no parenthesis: “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fulness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22).

Not an eternal purpose of God

Yet the NT teaches otherwise: “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:10).

Not the main agent of God’s sovereignty

Much Dispensationalism also teaches that Christians are not party to the New Covenant.

However the NT teaches otherwise:

· Paul and Timothy are ministers of New Covenant 2 Cor 3:6 “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-- not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

· Holy Communion celebrates the New Covenant
Israel will carry out God’s main purpose in Millennium – Eph 3:10-11

6. A Different Hope

The Dispensational Hope is:

1. Escapist

The pre-tribulational Rapture theory removes the church from the sufferings of the world. Yet the Lord normally keeps us safe when we go through tribulation rather than keeping us out of tribulation.

The Greek word apantesin (meeting) in 1 Thess 4:17 was often used as a technical term for the elders of a city going out to give a public welcome to a visiting dignitary and to lead him back into the city with red-carpet treatment. It is used three times in the NT. The other two references have this meaning (Matt.25 the foolish virgins; Acts 28 the brethren meeting Paul outside Rome). Hence this may be the meaning here. The saints meet the Lord in the air and immediately return with him to earth.

Also in 2 Thess.1:5-10 Paul comforts the saints with the hope of rest when Christ returns in flaming fire to judge their enemies. This implies a post-tribulational, single return of Christ.

2. Divisive

It permanently divides Jew and Gentile believers and creates an apartheid hereafter. Sadly this erroneous dispensational teaching underlies much fundamentalist views of the End Times and fuels their prophetic interest in Israel to the present day.

Fundamentalism - is it Christian?

Fundamentalism defined

Fundamentalism is variously described by various authors, but to me it really boils down to a rather simple test: In my view, a fundamentalist religion is a religion, any religion, that when confronted with a conflict between love, compassion and caring, and conformity to doctrine, will almost invariably choose the latter regardless of the effect it has on its followers or on the society of which it is a part.

Fundamentalist religions make this choice because they uniformly place a high priority on doctrinal conformity, with such force that it takes higher priority than love, compassion and service.

Indeed, many fundamentalists are so caught up in doctrinal seriousness, that love, service and compassion seem scarcely to even be a part of their thinking. As one correspondent said to me regarding a certain Christian sect's converts, "Its like they go in and surgically remove any sense of love or any sense of humor."

This emphasis on doctrinal conformity seems to be the result of the belief in the requirement of absolute conformity to doctrine to achieve salvation. Yet at the same time, many will also officially claim that simple acceptance of that sect's doctrine is sufficient for salvation. This dichotomy is often seen in the same sect; some of the fundamentalist Christian sects being good examples. The contradiction seems to go unnoticed or if it is noticed, it is ignored.

It seems that another facet of fundamentalist thinking is belief in the correctness of their thinking. Invariably, they will make the claim that they are right to the exclusion of others, even all others, and that they, and they alone offer the path to salvation.

Fundamentalist religions regard their missions with great seriousness. Many claim that the salvation of the world depends on them, and some will seriously contend that the earth will end without them.

It is this overwhelming seriousness about religion that seems to be one of the hallmarks of the fundamentalist. He is concerned not only with his own conformity to doctrine, but the conformity of the rest of society to it, too. Many fundamentalists will not hesitate to intervene in the political process to ensure that society is forced to conform to the behaviors their world view requires, if not accept that world view. The belief that they are right, without any question, justifies, in their own minds, taking upon themselves the right to impose their point of view, by force if neccessary. An example is the attempt, by some Christian fundamentalist groups to shut down, by force, abortion clinics that are operating in accordance with the law. Some have gone so far as to threaten and intimidate employees, and even murder doctors working there.

Fundamentalism isn't restricted to Christianity or Islam, the two major religions on which it has had its greatest impact, but it is found in every major religion, ranging from Judaism, to Hinduism, to Sufism, to Buddhism, to even Zoroastrianism.

In Christianity, though relatively small in numbers, it has overtaken the legitimate sects in influence, and has become the dominant force, particularly in the United States, much of Latin America, and in the Christianized African nations. Most (though certainly not all) "evangelical" Christian sects have succumbed to fundamentalism.

In Islam, which has always eschewed the separation of church and state, it has amalgamated with political forces to institute a particularly harsh set of rules as political law. Called the Sharia,this code of law is the law of the land in Iran, the Sudan, some of the sultanates of the Persian Gulf and lately in Afganistan. Its advocates threaten to institute Sharia in Algeria and Egypt as well.

In Judaism, fundamentalism represents only about 1/10th of those who call themselves Jews, but it certainly makes the most noise, especially in Israel, whose constitution and political situation almost guarantees a major voice to fundamentalist sects in parliament and government, even though they are only a small portion of the population.

Why does fundamentalism have such a broad appeal? Besides the appeal to vanity ('join us and you can be one of God's chosen'), and its appeal to fear ('you can't be saved without us'), its broad appeal is because it offers an easy way -- a fundamentalist need not think deeply about doctrine or be highly educated in it; as one Mormon leader once said to an audience of university students, "Don't think for yourself. The thinking has already been done." If you surrender your right to think for yourself and just do as the leader asks, the fundamentalist promises you a sure ticket into heaven. What could be easier?

Of course, the fallacy is that the possibility always exists that the fundamentalist leader seeking your submission could be wrong. He may not have a sure ticket into heaven to offer you after all. And if he doesn't, you've engaged in an act of self deception of massive proportions.

Indeed, I am prepared to argue that he never does. He is always wrong, at least to some degree.
"Bidstrup's Index of Fundamentalism"It has been observed that one of the characteristics of fundamentalism is that among patriarchialistic religions, at least, chavinism is a clear, almost defining characteristic. Indeed, it has been my experience that the degree of chavinism within a religion seems to closely parallel the degree to which the organization could be charactarized as fundamentalist.

Based on that observation, I hereby propose what I'm somewhat laughingly calling "Bidstrup's Index of Fundamentalism." It is basically just a measure of the degree to which women's rights are abrogated by the religion's doctrine and the culture that the religion creates. It is scored like this: If a religious organization is characterized by each or any of the statements below, add the points indicated to the score.

Does the religion deny to women the same religious privileges and authority it accords to men (such as denying the priesthood)? If so, add 2 points.

Does the religion seek to deny women secular (i.e., usually political) power (e.g., the right to vote, run for office, etc.)? If so, add 3 points.

Does the religion impose greater 'moral' burdens on women than it does men (i.e., promote a double standard)? If so, add 4 points.

Does the religion seek to promote unquestioning submission of wives to their husbands? If so, add 4 points.

Does the religion promote involuntary marriage arrangements (such as arranged marriages, involuntary polygamy, denial of divorce initiated by the wife, etc.)? If so, add 5 points.

Does the religion discourage the participation of non-parenting wives in the workforce? If so, add 3 points.

If the above question is no, does the religion discourage the participation of parenting wives in the workforce regardless of economic circumstances? If so, add 3 points.

Does the religion discourage the education of women? If so, add 4 points.

Does the religion encourage women to remain at home, with contact with other women and men in the community discouraged? If so, add 5 points.

Does the religion accept or promote the treatment of women as property or a commodity, or treat wives as servants? If so, add 5 points.

Does the religion seek to deny women their reproductive freedom (taking a "pro-life" position on abortion, or discouraging or interfering with artificial contraception)? If so, add 5 points.

Does the religion seek to deny women the full right of self-determination, dignity and self respect that they accord men ("at home, barefoot and pregnant")? If so, add 4 points.

Does the religion publicly humiliate women who violate the prohibitions that apply only to women? If so, add 3 points.

By applying this little index, it will help measure the degree of intolerance and bigotry associated with a fundamentalist religion. This, then, becomes an index to how dangerous a religion is, as defined below.

Why Fundamentalism Denies The Power Of God

The greatest philosophical problem of fundamentalism is that it denies the power of God.

Gott Mit Uns (God is with us) proclaimed the belt buckles of the Nazi SS storm troopers. Of course, every religious fundamentalist makes the same claim. The way that the fundamentalist justifies the exercise of his influence and power in society is that God is on his side, and needs his efforts to see that God's work is done. The famous Christian fundamentalist political technician, Ralph Reed, even says of himself, "I'm the stealth candidate... I paint my face and travel at night." How does he morally justify that kind of deceptive behavior? Does the end justify the means? Or is God simply incapable of implementing His own agenda without Ralph's help?
Does God really need the fundamentalist's efforts?

To make the claim that God needs one's efforts is a flat-out denial of the power of God. Claiming that God is omnipotent and omniscient is to imply that nothing happens in the universe that isn't happening with the knowledge and consent of God. How could it happen without the knowledge of God? It has to be that way if you accept the omniscience of God. If God doesn't allow it, how can it happen? Otherwise, God would not be omnipotent. If God allows it, it implies at least knowledge and consent.

Why, then, must God require the services of the fundamentalist to ensure that His will happens in the Universe?

If the homosexual were as abhorrent to God as most fundamentalists imply, the homosexual wouldn't last a millisecond. Otherwise, God cannot be omnipotent. Why would an omnipotent God need someone else to persecute the homosexual for Him?

If God is saying, "I'll let him live, but he's still abhorrent" it implies that God's behavior isn't consistent with what He wants. Why would God want something abhorrent to him to continue to exist?

Then there's proselytization.

There is a saying in Buddhism that where the student is ready, the teacher is provided. Such a concept certainly affirms the power of God to bring the word of God to the sincere seeker. Why then, does the fundamentalist almost always assume that God needs him to go out and spread God's word? If God is omnipotent, He doesn't need anyone to proselytize on His behalf. He's quite capable of steering the seeker in the direction of His word all by Himself.

Why Fundamentalism Appeals To The Base Tendencies

In ManThe reason that fundamentalism makes the claim that God needs his services is that it flatters the fundamentalist. He gets a self-stroke out of the deal. Makes him feel good about himself and what he's doing.

But it doesn't stop there. When you figure God is on your side, you can justify almost anything. Recently a spate of bombings of abortion clinics and gay bars in North America has underlined how far this self-justification can take the fundamentalist. Even murder has been justified by those claiming the authority of God.

Of course, if God wasn't willing to allow abortion, it wouldn't happen. And if God didn't want the obstetrician-gynecologist to live, he would last even a millisecond. So why does God need the fundamentalist to carry out his will? But this does not occur to the fundamentalist, since his conception of God's word becomes his self-justification for acts he would find abhorrent in any other context.

This isn't the only base appeal in fundamentalism. Another appeal, equally damaging, is the notion that you're one of "God's chosen." Such an idea is an outright appeal to vanity and ego. Here the unspoken implication is that if you're one of God's chosen, the other fellow isn't, and that you're somehow therefore better.

This appeal to vanity can set the fundamentalist apart in his own mind from his peers. It can justify a certain arrogance in thinking he is superior. This is seen in just about any public debate involving fundamentalists and those who oppose them -- just watch the attitude of the fundamentalist when the subject of abortion rights or gay rights comes up.

Another belief common to fundamentalists is that they are somehow less vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life. God will somehow protect him, because he is chosen to do God's will. Of course if that were actually true, it would be reflected in statistical analysis. Science has studied this problem extensively and has never been able to show a correlation between fundamentalist belief and any measure of well-being. To the fundamentalist who holds this view, however, it just means science is wrong.

Fundamentalism often justifies hatred in the minds of its adherents. This is undoubtedly the most dangerous aspect of fundamentalism. The idea that God hates the same people you do is particularly gratifying in that it makes the indulgence in hatred not only acceptable, but somehow approved and even encouraged by God. This is seen most clearly in many fundamentalist Islamic sects, which routinely justify terrorism and murder as being "God's will." Of course, Islamic fundamentalism isn't alone. There are plenty of Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist sects which do the same.

The results are obvious. Terrorism in Northern Ireland, which is framed in religious terms, war in the Middle East, domestic terror in Egypt, Algeria, and in countless other conflicts around the world are the results of hatred justified by the fundamentalist notion that my side is right and the other side is wrong. If the religionists involved adhered to the concept that the purpose of religion is to teach tolerance, love and compassion, such conflicts would not exist. But they are justified to the fundamentalist, because he believes that God is on his side and will reward him for his acts that in any other context, he himself would condemn.

Sincere people who come to religion often come as a result of guilt and shame. Such a motivator often leads the seeker to a fundamentalist religion which tries to assure the follower that he need not concern himself with his guilt and shame because of some doctrine which exempts him from responsibility for the situations that cause that guilt and shame. Among many Christian fundamentalist groups, that exemption is found in the doctrine of the redemption of Christ.

That sense of exemption relieves the guilt and shame, and thereby makes the follower feel good. That good feeling is then often associated with the notion that the follower has been 'saved.' Often the price the religion extracts for that 'salvation' is a requirement to contribute to the church or to proselytization its behalf, or at bare minimum, conformity to the doctrine and the advice of the leadership. Hence, the follower is made loyal to the religion which has relieved him of that guilt and shame, and a true-believer and often zealous advocate is born.

Why Fundamentalism Accepts Hypocrisy

Fundamentalism, like any other belief system, has to propagate itself in order to survive and prosper.

A method used by many fundamentalist Christian religions, is to appeal in very subtle ways to some of the baser instincts in man.

It is obvious that telling someone he is right is more likely to get him to agree with you than telling him he is wrong and should reform himself.

And so fundamentalist sects do just that; they have justified slavery to slaveholders. They have justified persecution of unpopular minorities to bigots, and war to nationalists. They have justified disregard and even oppression of the poor and dispossessed by the wealthy and powerful.

What have the fundamentalist sects gained by such behavior? Obviously it is membership and financial support among members, and an acceptance and acquiesence among its neighbors.

Yet a fundamentalist religion cannot make such base appeals openly. To do so would be to deny the principles of religion that make religion a positive force in the minds of most people. Religion must be respectable to survive for long, so fundamentalist sects will invariably pay a great deal of lip service to the ideals of true religion, all the while ignoring them in practice, and occasionally even being contemptuous of them in private. An example is the anti-abortion movement; while it makes a lot of noise about the sanctity of life, rarely do its adherents concern themselves with the lives of the babies after they're born. The reason why is that they don't really care about the infants; what they really care about is the control.

Why Fundamentalism Promotes Intolerance

The fundamentalist believes that he is right. Period.

He believes he knows the will of God. We've all seen that bumper sticker that says, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." Of course the fallacy is that there's no proof, or even reliable evidence, that God ever said anything.

When someone takes such a doctrinaire approach to religion, without being willing to accept that he may be wrong, it becomes very easy to believe that he knows what's right for everyone else as well.

When he believes that he knows what is best for everyone else, it is a very short leap to the feeling that he has the right, if not the responsibility to impose on others the point of view he is so sure is not only correct, but even infallible. After all it is for their own good, is it not?

Thus the fundamentalist has, by his conviction that he is correct, justified the extinction, by force if neccessary, of opposing points of view. This is why so many highly public fundamentalists take positions that would not only be familiar, but quite comfortable to most fascists. This is why Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, feels justified in saying that he doesn't want pluralism. It is why Ralph Reed used to describe himself as the "stealth" candidate, "painting [his] face and travelling at night."

The philosophical Achilles' heel, here of course, is that the fundamentalist can be wrong, and occasionally have to admit it. There are few Southern Baptists today who would openly argue that God meant for people of African descent to be enslaved to people of European descent. Yet that argument is precisely how the Southern Baptist Convention came into being. Now, a century and a half later, the doctrine seems to have changed, in spite of their notion that the Bible should be interpreted literally, and therefore it's meaning can't change.

Well, if the Southern Baptists were wrong about slavery, and later about segregation, those very facts beg the question, what else are they wrong about? Yet it is remarkable how few Southern Baptists ever stop to consider that question. The belief is that by asking such questions, you're somehow falling into "Satan's trap" as if logical inconsistency wasn't itself a trap.

Of course, the Southern Baptists aren't alone. A favorite example of mine is the Mormon practice of polygamy in the 19th century. For five decades, the Mormons endured considerable persecution in the practice of their belief in polygamy; yet today, a century after the official practice of polygamy ended in the Mormon church, that church is using precisely the same arguments against gay marriage that were used against them in the practice of polygamy a century ago. And the proponents of gay marriage are using the same arguments in favor of gay marriage that the Mormons used in arguing for polygamy then. Yet the ironic hypocrisy of that position is totally lost on the current generation of Mormon leadership and even many of the members.

Why Fundamentalism Contradicts The Intent Of Founding Prophets

The purpose of religion is to teach love, both for self and for others. Indeed, living in the state of self-love is "the kingdom of heaven" that Jesus and other founding prophets talked about being "within you."

When one has self-love and self-respect, one respects others, because one sees reflected in others the empathy, compassion and love one sees in oneself. It is this insight that the founding prophets of all major religions have tried to convey to their followers. It is arriving at the point of living this ideal that has been, from the beginning of time, the goal of the sincere seeker and the true, undefiled religion.

Achieving this self-love, however, can be difficult. It requires self-examination, which at times can be intensely painful. Not everyone is up to that kind of self-discipline.
A religious leader seeking to fill the pews with contributing churchgoers at some level has to know this. Yet he must fill the pews to keep the lights on, the furnace running and the maintenance paid.

The temptation is there to do what will fill the pews. And filling the pews can be really much easier, if all you feel you have to do is make the worshipper feel good about being there.

If making the worshipper feel good is all you're after, and you don't care how you do it, the easiest way to do it is to assure him his prejudices are approved by God. Make him feel that he doesn't have to change because he's already arrived at salvation, or, as in the case of the Christian doctrine of redemption, someone else has agreed to pay for his mistakes, or you or God can make the changes for him, and you have a loyal church member. It's, oh, so much easier than telling him he has to work on himself!

Yet the founding prophets never did such things. Jesus Christ and Ghatama Buddha and the prophet Mohammed (p.b.u.h) and many others all knew of the fallacy of such an approach and did not advocate it. They were totally honest with themselves and their followers, that salvation requires personal effort and sacrifice.

Those who sincerely seek spiritual growth intuitively know this. This is why sincere followers are attracted to the words of the founding prophets like bees are drawn to nectar laden flowers. The sincere seeker already knows he is going to have to work on himself, and is looking for the best method by which to do it. As he seeks that path, and he finds his personal insights match those of the prophet, the seeker is drawn to the prophet's wisdom.

Unfortunately, for every sincere seeker, there are a thousand people driven to religion by fear, guilt and shame. These negative emotions are then played upon by religionists who seek to fill the pews with compliant, profitable members. It is my contention that many, if not most fundamentalist organizations have fallen into this trap.

How Fundamentalism Promotes IgnoranceFundamentalism almost invariably has a problem with science. Science is the process of starting with the evidence and proceeding to the conclusion that best fits the evidence, regardless of what that conclusion may be.
Fundamentalism, on the other hand, starts with a conclusion and searches for evidence to support that conclusion.

Anyone who has ever been wrong knows that the latter is no way to find the truth, because it presumes the searcher has the truth to begin with, which of course may or may not be the case.
But this doesn't stop the fundamentalist; the very premise of fundamentalism presumes to start with the truth, and all the fundamentalist lacks is evidence. This false science has even become an industry in such organizations as the Institute for Creation Science, the Family Research Council, etc. There are many other examples, and from many religions besides just Christianity.
This can most clearly be seen in the Christian fundamentalist's hard-core, bedrock belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. While there are ar nurnerous contradictions, obvious errors and serious problems with doctrine in the Bible, the Christian fundamentalist simply ignores them at worst, and applies tortured, twisted logic in an effort to explain them at best. But in the final analysis, the Bible speaks for itself, and anyone who takes the time to seriously study it will be impressed at how many irreconcilable problems there are with the Bible.

How can the fundamentalist read the Bible and ignore the irreconcilable contradictions? It is done by compartmentalized thinking, a thought technique that allows two or more contradictory facts to inhabit the mind at the same time in peace and without conflict. Yet when the contradiction is directly pointed out to the fundamentalist, the reaction is to claim that such an argument is "one of Satan's traps." It really isn't, of course, it's just truth coming to call. But the notion that such nagging thoughts are the devil's tools are the way the inerrantist maintains peace in his mind.

Why Fundamentalism Is A Force For Evil In Society

By distracting otherwise sincere people from honest self-examination and the spiritual growth it makes possible, and by obstructing honest scientific inquiry and intellectual debate, fundamentalism derails the progress that society would achieve by honest, competent religious practice.

But more than that, fundamentalism all too often justifies in its adherents' minds the prejudices, the zealotry, the intolerance and the hatemongering that are all the most base of human instincts. To gain and keep adherents, these religions can do great violence to human freedom and dignity, and often are the source of much economic and social stagnation and even ruin. Much human misery owes its origins to fundamentalist religion and the spiritual corruption it fosters.

Why Fundamentalism Should Be Fought

Human progress is essentially a search for truth. To the extent that fundamentalism blocks or impedes that search for the truth, it blocks or impedes human progress. True religion is a relentless search for and acceptance of truth about yourself and the universe in which you find yourself regardless of the discomfort that truth may cause.
One of the insights of the American democracy has been the unique justice of the concept of equal protection of the law. Unfortunately, fundamentalism undermines that concept by promoting its political philosophy as superior to others, even though it is often wrong, and thereby undermines the egalitarian foundations of western democratic institutions. An example of this is the hard fight that the Southern Baptists fought in the last century to preserve the institution of slavery, and the fight to preserve segregation in this century. Those fights were all based on Biblical scripture, of course, but few fundamentalists today would still defend these positions.

Fundamentalism of any stripe is not progress, but rather, I contend, is the impedance of progress. With so many problems facing humanity, the notion that we can even afford the luxury of even tolerating politically active brands of fundamentalism is rapidly becoming impossible. The world gets continually smaller as it gets more crowded, and the imposition, by public policy, of religious doctrines on others who know better is a sure recipe for strife. It has been the cause of enormous death and suffering over the centuries.

As the world becomes ever more crowded, there are fewer and fewer places to which a refugee of conscience can escape. For this reason, it is imperative that we strive to make our nations as egalitarian as possible, affording for all the freedom of conscience to all equally and without acceding to the presumption of superior wisdom by any religious group. Environmental pressures caused by rapidly expanding human populations, make public policy decisions based on the best available information and hypotheses, elucidated by honest intellectual inquiry, increasingly urgent.

Some fundamentalist religious groups, which seek to strike down the wall of separation between church and state so that they can impose their views on others, work in opposition to this increasingly urgent need.

How Should Fundamentalism Be Fought?

Fundamentalism must be fought with education.

It is obvious that the best innoculant against any form of ignorance is education. And make no mistake, fundamentalism is a form of spectacular ignorance, ignorance of the basic principles of true religion.

It is no coincidence that fundamentalism has arisen in America at the same time that the public education system has collapsed. And it is also no coincidence that fundamentalism is strongest in America and elsewhere in the world wherever the educational system is at its weakest.
The best form of education is the teaching of critical thinking skills. It is the most important skill any educator can teach. With it, the fundamentalism's deceiving tricks are quickly exposed, and it is seen for what it is. Students need to be taught the importance of gathering the evidence and then proceeding to the conclusion, not the other way around. The best way to teach logic, reason and critical thinking skills is with the "Socratic method" of guided discussion. This should be done beginning in the earliest grade, and by the fourth year, the formal elements of logic and reason can be introduced, so that students have a guide in recognizing and rejecting fallacious thinking. Doing this with rigor and consistency throughout the educational process will lead to a generation that will think independently as a matter of habit, rather than accepting pre-digested doctrines blindly.

It would be helpful too, to teach what true religion really is. Once the student is aware of the nature of true religion, the fundamentalist doesn't stand a chance, because the logical weakness of his doctrine becomes obvious and the devious subtlety of its appeals are exposed.

The other effective way to fight fundamentalism is to teach humility.

Spiritual progress is impossible without it. Scientific progress is impossible without it.

I'm not suggesting students should be humiliated -- not at all. That's child abuse and should be fought vigorously. But the value of humility should be taught, so that students understand that they can't maintain an open mind in the absence of humility. They'll gain a lot from learning it, not just academically, but in relationships and social skills, too.

Perhaps the best way to check the progress of fundamentalism is with critical, analytical thinking. If every school taught the basics of critical thinking, learning would flourish and fundamentalism would fade.

Fundamentalist apologists lack scholarly rigor, because in their rush to ensure that they are covering all the obvious problems with the doctrines they preach, they often commit unacceptable errors in logic.
To wit:
They concentrate on their opponents' weak points, while rarely saying anything definitive about their own position. They point, for example, to the fact that an honest scientist will refuse to make a statement from a position of certainty, while they're happy to do so, claiming divine knowledge. This is an example of the straw-man fallacy.

They exploit errors made by scholars who are making opposing arguments, implying that because a few of their opponents' conclusions were wrong, all of their opponents' conclusions must be wrong. An example here is the claim, occasionally heard, that Newton was proven wrong in some important details, Einstein was eventually proven wrong in a few details, and scientists admit that they don't have the final answers and therefore science doesn't know what it's doing, and can't be trusted. This is a non-sequitor fallacy.

They use quotations, usually taken out of context to buttress their own position. A favorite here is the various quotations of Einstein, usually referring to God, suggesting that Einstein believed in the same sort of God they do. Einstein most emphatically did not, as will be obvious if you read his essay on the subject. This is the fallacy of suppressed evidence.

They mistake genuine, honest debates between scholars about certain points within a field for a dispute about the existence of the entire field. For example, rather than debate the legitimacy of the interpretation of specific fossil evidence, vis a vis evolution, they often attack paleontology in general, claiming it to be an invalid science. This is the fallacy of hasty generalization.

They focus on what is not known and ignore what is known, emphasizing data that fits and discounting data that does not fit. An example is the claim that science simply doesn't have an answer as to the age of the universe. True enough, but science has solid, reliable evidence that it is more than the seven thousand years that these same fundamentalists claim.This is again the fallacy of suppressed evidence.

Dr. Carl Sagan, in his last book, The Demon Haunted World gives us some excellent tools for the use in the process of critical thinking. In a nutshell, here they are:

Where possible, what is claimed to be factual has to be independently confirmable by two or more sources not in league with each other.

Debate and argument must be encouraged, not stifled.

There's no such thing as an "authority." They've been wrong in the past and will be in the future. Which means they're wrong now.

More than one hypothesis is needed to stimulate debate. All points of view should be examined equally and with as little bias as possible.

Don't get emotionally attached to your own hypothesis (faith?). Doing so blinds you to better ideas.

Quantifiable hypotheses are better than qualitative ones, because they are more testable. In other words, go for testable hypotheses first because untestable qualitative ones are of little value.

If there's a chain of logic that supports an argument, every link in that chain must be valid and unbroken.

Go for simplicity. Occam's Razor states that of the competing hypotheses that explain the data equally well, the one most likely to be correct is the one that makes the least number of assumptions and is the least complicated.

Hypotheses that can't be experimentally disproven aren't worth much. For a hypothesis to be useful, it has to be testable, which means it must be capable of being disproven if wrong. Skeptics have to be able to follow your arguments, do your experiments and be capable of producing the same experimental results if your hypothesis is to be considered correct.

A Psychological Analysis of Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism is a religious movement, a theological & philosophical stand, a political and social force. I regard it most basically as a particular variety of psychological development. Fundamentalists of all religious and political varieties share the same character traits. It is the psychological character of the fundamentalist that is at the root of the ideological interpretation termed "fundamentalism," not an intellectual or spiritual concept.

"Fundamentalist" is a term sometimes used to refer to anyone who is intolerant of other's beliefs. Fundamentalism is "not so much an ideology as it is an attitude, an attitude of intolerance, incivility and narrowness," says Walter Shurden, professor of Christianity and director of the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University. "It is an attitude that says, 'We have the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and we are going to impose it on you and control the system so that you will have to knuckle under to it.'" As anyone who has ever attended a meeting of two or more activists can attest, that attitude can be found at all points on the political and religious spectrum.

There are, however, specific traits to what can be called "right wing" fundamentalism (of any religion) that what is sometimes called “ left wing fundamentalism” lacks: authoritarianism, sexual guilt, and attitudes toward women and homosexuals.

Psychological traits of fundamentalism:

A strictly hierarchical and authoritarian worldview. Everything has to have a First, a Somebody in Charge. In any partnership, one partner has to have the deciding vote. Groups and societies work best with rigidly defined roles and stratifications. (There are people who believe this way who are not fundamentalists: at least, not religious fundamentalists.)

Ethical development at the "reward and punishment" stage: morality must be defined and enforced by an external authority.

A lot of guilt and fear about sex.

Basic distrust of human beings; certainty that "uncontrolled," human beings will be bad and vicious, particularly in sexual ways.

Low tolerance for ambiguity. Everything must be clear cut, black and white. Nothing can be "possibly true but unproven at this time, we're still studying it." Fundamentalists regard science as flawed precisely because science changes. (A striking characteristic of fundamentalists is that their response to any setback which may instill doubt is to step up evangelizing for converts.)
Literalism, usually including a limited sense of humor.

Distrust of their own judgment, or any other human being's judgment.

Fear of the future. The driving motivation of fundamentalism appears to outsiders to be fear that oneself or the group one identifies with is losing power and prerequisites and is in danger from others who are gaining power. This is not how fundamentalists put it.

A low self-esteem that finds satisfaction in being one of the Elect, superior to all others. It seems to be particularly rewarding to know that rich people have a real hard time getting into Heaven.

The life experience of fundamentalist that seems to encourage these traits include:

Conditional love: parents, or other authority figures, withheld love to control behavior.

Other factors -- sometimes mental, emotional, or even physical abuse -- that minimized self-esteem.

For those who grew up fundamentalist, the church was the central activity of family life, all else was subsidiary to the church, and social interaction with "non-believers" was discouraged, except when evangelizing.

Those who have converted to fundamentalism often grew up without any firm philosophical framework, or experienced some trauma that destroyed their former framework. They were at a time in their lives when they needed absolute Answers.

Fundamentalist groups reinforce these traits:

They insist on a rigid hierarchy of authority. The more extreme the group, the more authority is concentrated in one central figure.

The group, and the authority figure(s) within the group, withhold or bestow love to control behavior. Misbehaving members are cut off from communication.

They magnify current social and individual evils and dwell on the "innate wickedness of man."

Sexual "immorality" is often their central cause.

They promote a Truth which is superior to all other truths because it is absolute and unchanging.

They promote distrust of one's personal judgment, being subject instead to the given truths of the group, the judgment of the church as a body, or the proclamations of a central authority figure.

They are apocalyptic, foretelling an immanent and horrifying future which only the faithful will survive. Any disaster in the news is magnified as "a sign of the apocalypse.

The Alternative to Fundamentalism

Regardless of belief system, an individual is no longer a "fundamentalist" when one develops:

An unconditional self-esteem and (usually in consequence) an unconditional love of others.

A tolerance -- even enjoyment -- of ambiguity and diverse beliefs. One can cheerfully live with the fact that one's neighbor on one side believes that his little blue pickup truck is God and one's neighbor on the other side doesn't believe in God at all, and feel no compulsion to convert either of them. One is not frightened to question one's faith or explore alternatives.

Free social and intellectual interaction with others, beyond -- or even without -- evangelism.
A trust that one can "figure things out," along with a willingness to learn from others and to change one's mind.

A faith that whatever the fluctuations in life and society, things can and will get better. A feeling of personal responsibility and resolve to make it so.

A sense of humor.

It is not necessary to abandon all personal faith and beliefs in order to be tolerant of others. The majority of the followers in any of the world's religions are able to hold a strong personal belief and not feel threatened that others hold different beliefs.

How does anyone ever become an ex-fundamentalist? Any or all of these factors seem effective:

Relationships with "non-believers" who become emotionally valued.

Intellectual process: a build-up of contradictions between taught morality and the behavior of church authorities and members; unresolved questions in study of the Bible; what is taught about the world vs observation.

Receiving unconditional love and acceptance from a non-fundamentalist.

A strengthened self-esteem, with the loss of the need for others to be Wrong.

A spiritual epiphany, with a new faith that one's relationship with God is not conditional on "perfect" faith or behavior, that it can grow and change.

Further Information

There are two things desirable for fighting fundamentalists.

The first is not to be one yourself. The US government's war on the movement is somewhat compromised by the fact that over the years it has been run by scripture-spouting fanatics for whom the sanctity of human life ends at the moment of birth. This is rather like using the British National party to run ex-Nazis to earth, or hiring Henry Kissinger to investigate mass murder, as George Bush did by nominating him to inquire into the background to September 11. Fundamentalists of the Texan stripe are not best placed to hunt down the Taliban variety.

The second desirable thing is to know what fundamentalism is. The answer to this is less obvious than it might seem. Fundamentalism doesn't just mean people with fundamental beliefs, since that covers everyone. Being a person means being constituted by certain basic convictions, even if they are largely unconscious. What you are, in the end, is what you cannot walk away from. These convictions do not need to be burning or eye-catching or even true; they just have to go all the way down, like believing that Caracas is in Venezuela or that torturing babies is wrong. They are the kind of beliefs that choose us more than we choose them. Sceptics who doubt you can know anything for sure have at least one fundamental conviction. "Fundamental" doesn't necessarily mean "worth dying for". You may be passionately convinced that the quality of life in San Francisco is superior to that in Strabane, but reluctant to go to the gallows for it.

Fundamentalists are not always the type who seize you by the throat with one fist while thumping the table with the other. There are plenty of soft-spoken, self-effacing examples of the species. It isn't a question of style. Nor is the opposite of fundamentalism lukewarmness, or the tiresome liberal prejudice that the truth always lies somewhere in the middle. Tolerance and partisanship are not incompatible. Anti-fundamentalists are not people without passionate beliefs; they are people who number among their passionate beliefs the conviction that you have as much right to your opinion as they have. And for this, some of them are certainly prepared to die. The historian AJP Taylor was once asked at an interview for an Oxford fellowship whether it was true that he held extreme political beliefs, to which he replied that it was, but that he held them moderately. He may have been hinting that he was a secret sceptic, but he probably just meant that he did not agree with forcing his beliefs on others.

The word "fundamentalism" was first used in the early years of the last century by anti-liberal US Christians, who singled out seven supposed fundamentals of their faith. The word, then, is not one of those derogatory terms that only other people use about you, like "fatso". It began life as a proud self-description. The first of the seven fundamentals was a belief in the literal truth of the Bible; and this is probably the best definition of fundamentalism there is. It is basically a textual affair. Fundamentalists are those who believe that our linguistic currency is trustworthy only if it is backed by the gold standard of the Word of Words. They see God as copperfastening human meaning. Fundamentalism means sticking strictly to the script, which in turn means being deeply fearful of the improvised, ambiguous or indeterminate.

Fundamentalists, however, fail to realise that the phrase "sacred text" is self-contradictory. Since writing is meaning that can be handled by anybody, any time, it is always profane and promiscuous. Meaning that has been written down is bound to be unhygienic. Words that could only ever mean one thing would not be words. Fundamentalism is the paranoid condition of those who do not see that roughness is not a defect of human existence, but what makes it work. For them, it is as though we have to measure Everest down to the last millimetre if we are not to be completely stumped about how high it is. It is not surprising that fundamentalism abhors sexuality and the body, since in one sense all flesh is rough, and all sex is rough trade.

The New Testament author known as Luke is presumably aware that Jesus was actually born in Galilee. But he needs to have him born in Judea, since the Messiah is to spring from the Judea-based house of David. A Messiah born in bumpkinish Galilee would be like one born in Gary, Indiana. So Luke coolly invents a Roman census, for which there is no independent evidence, which requires everyone to return to their place of birth to be registered. Since Jesus's father Joseph comes from Bethlehem in Judea, he and his wife Mary obediently trudge off to the town, where Jesus is conveniently born.

It would be hard to think up a more ludicrous way of registering the population of the entire Roman empire than having them all return to their birthplaces. Why not just register them on the spot? The result of such a madcap scheme would have been total chaos. The traffic jams would have made Ken Livingstone's job look positively cushy. And we would almost certainly have heard about this international gridlocking from rather more disinterested witnesses than Luke. Yet fundamentalists must take Luke at his word.

Fundamentalists are really necrophiliacs, in love with a dead letter. The letter of the sacred text must be rigidly embalmed if it is to imbue life with the certitude and finality of death. Matthew's gospel, in a moment of carelessness, presents Jesus as riding into Jerusalem on both a colt and an ass - in which case, for the fundamentalist, the Son of God must indeed have had one leg thrown over each.

The fundamentalist is a more diseased version of the argument-from-the-floodgates type of conservative. Once you allow one motorist to throw up out of the car window without imposing a lengthy prison sentence, then before you know where you are, every motorist will be throwing up out of the window all the time, and the roads will become impassable. It is this kind of pathological anxiety, pressed to an extreme, which drove the religious police in Mecca early last year to send fleeing schoolgirls back into their burning school because they were not wearing their robes and head dresses, and which inspires family-loving US pro-lifers eager to incinerate Iraq to gun down doctors who terminate pregnancies. To read the world literally is a kind of insanity.


Christian fundamentalism is almost uniquely an American phenomenon. Although most of the history of fundamentalist thought occurs in the United States, however, this phenomenon was itself, originally, a reaction to a series of intellectual trends that happened in Europe.
From the time of the earliest Christian church in the first century CE, to the time of the European Enlightenment, the dominant view was that the Bible had been directly revealed by God to a small number of authors. The first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), were, according to tradition, all written by Moses during the 40 years of wandering in the Sinai desert.
One of the first criticisms of the traditional view of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch was made in Germany in 1520, when the Reformation scholar Carlstadt wrote an essay pointing out that the description of Moses's death (Deuteronomy 32:5-12) shared several literary characteristics with portions of the rest of Deuteronomy. Since, Carlstadt pointed out, Moses could not have written of his own death, he concluded that the same person had written both sections of the book, and that person could not have been Moses. In 1651, Thomas Hobbes, in his book Leviathan, also concluded that several portions of the Pentateuch could not have been written by Moses. In support of his hypothesis, he cited several Biblical verses which referred to events that happened after Moses's death. Twenty-five years later, the Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza concluded that not only had Moses not written the Pentateuch, but much of the rest of the Old Testament was not written by a single person either, and was probably edited together from pre-existing manuscripts.
The first serious attempt to examine the matter happened in 1753, when a French doctor, Jean Astruc, published a pamphlet (anonymously) titled Conjectures on the Original Documents That Moses Appears to Have Used in Composing the Book of Genesis. Astruc pointed out that many of the incidents and events described in Genesis were "doublets", that is, they often were described twice in back-to-back accounts that differed in details. There are, for instance, two different accounts of the creation story in Genesis 1 and 2, and two different accounts of the Flood story in later chapters. The presence of these repeated but different accounts, Astruc concluded, didn't make sense if, as tradition held, Genesis was a single narrative written in complete form by a single author.
To explain the presence of these doublets, Astruc proposed what later became known as the "Documentary Hypothesis". Using the techniques of literary and textual analysis that had already been used for secular literature, Astruc compared the wording and style of various passages in Genesis and concluded that there were two distinctly different accounts in Genesis which, based on differing literary conventions, were written by two different authors at different times, and then later combined into one book. One of these accounts consistently referred to God as "Elohim", or "The Lord", while the other account consistently referred to God by the name "Jehovah". Astruc labeled these two different sources as "A" and "B".
Within a short time, a group of German scholars expanded upon Astruc's ideas, and produced a school of Biblical study that became known as "Higher Criticism". By taking the linguistic/textual analysis done by Astruc and applying it to the rest of the Old Testament (which also contained doublets or even triplets -- there are for instance three different versions of the Ten Commandments in Exodus and Deuteronomy), the German scholars Eichhorn, Ewal, DeWette, Graf and Wellhausen identified four different sources for the Old Testament. One of these source documents always referred to God by the name "Jehovah", and therefore was labeled the "J" source. The J source was also distinguished by the particular words it used to describe the pre-Israeli inhabitants of the Promised Land, and tended to depict God in anthropomorphic terms. From implicit political assumptions made in the descriptions, it is apparent that the J source was identified with the Aaronid priesthood which was centered in Judah. The second identified source always referred to God as "Elohim", and was called the "E" source. The E source used different words to describe the pre-Israeli inhabitants of the Holy Land, and also tended to avoid anthropomorphic depictions of God. The political opinions implied in the account suggest that this source was allied with the Shiloh priesthood in Israel. The book of Deuteronomy had linguistic styles and topics that did not match either the J or E source, and thus was identified with a different source "D". Literary similarities led to the conclusion that the D source had also written the books of Joshua, Judges, First and Second Samuel, and First and Second Kings. Since the D source makes references to material found in both the J and E source, it was concluded that it had been written later. Finally, there is a fourth source text that seemed to be most concerned with details of rituals and the conduct of priests, as well as a penchant for long lists of dates and geneologies. This has been labeled the "P" source (for "priestly"). This is the source for the detailed laws of Leviticus. The P source is generally held to have been the most recent, chronologically. All of these varying sources were later edited together into their final form by an unknown person or persons known as the Redactor, who probably performed this task in about 400 BC. This view, known as the Documentary Hypothesis, is still held today by most Biblical scholars.
When the Documentary Hypothesis entered the United States during the late 19th century and became widely accepted (under the name "Modernism"), it exploded like a bombshell among the conservative elements of the Protestant churches. Not only did the German school reject the traditional idea that the Pentateuch was the work of a single author who had recorded the words dictated by God, but it concluded that the Bible itself was a collection of different documents by different authors, each with differing theologies and motives. The American conservatives flatly rejected the idea of a Bible that was pieced together years after the events which it describes. William Jennings Bryan, one of the most prominent Christian conservatives, thundered, "Give the modernist three words, 'allegorical,' 'poetical,' and 'symbolically,' and he can suck the meaning out of every vital doctrine of the Christian Church and every passage in the Bible to which he objects."
In response to the Modernist Higher Criticism, conservative Protestants in the United States met, in the Niagara Bible Conference in1897, to hammer out a counter-theology, a process continued at the 1910 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. The conservative traditionalists settled on a set of five principles which, they argued, defined Christianity. These were (1) the inerrancy of the Bible, (2) the Virgin Birth and the deity of Jesus, (3) the belief that Jesus died to redeem mankind's sin and that salvation resulted through faith in Jesus, (4) the physical resurrection of Jesus, and (5) the imminent Second Coming of Jesus. Between 1910 and 1915, a series of twelve booklets were published, titled The Fundamentals; A Testimony to the Truth, containing 94 articles by 64 authors, setting out and defending these principles. The introduction to the first volume declared, "In 1909 God moved two Christian laymen to set aside a large sum of money for issuing twelve volumes that would set forth the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and which were to be sent free of charge to ministers of the gospel, missionaries, Sunday school superintendents, and others engaged in aggressive Christian work throughout the English speaking world." From these booklets, the conservative Christians became known as "the fundamentalists". Financed by the wealthy oil businessmen Milton and Lyman Stewart, some 3 million copies of The Fundamentals were printed. In 1919, the World Conference on Christian Fundamentals met in Philadelphia. At around the same time, the Moody Bible Institute was formed to publish fundamentalist defenses of Biblical inerrancy, and fundamentalist theologian Cyrus Scofield published an annotated Reference Bible, with margin notes defending literalist interpretations of Biblical passages. The fundamentalist conviction that they alone were the True Christians led to a long series of bitter fights with other Christians, as fundamentalists sought to take over as many theological institutes as they could in order to purge them of "modernists" and "liberals".
In addition to the five Biblical "fundamentals", the conservative Protestants also came to largely accept and embrace a number of other concepts that had not previously been a tenet of any of the major Christian denominations. These included (1) exclusivity, the idea that only the fundamentalists are able to authoritatively interpret the "true meaning" of the Bible, and thus are the only legitimate "True Christians", and (2) separation, the idea that not only are any other Christian interpretations (Catholic, liberal churches) utterly wrong, but it is the duty of fundamentalists to oppose and overcome them, while remaining apart from their corrupting influence. These characteristics, indeed, have today come to be almost the defining characteristics of any "fundamentalist" church.
The majority of the essays included in The Fundamentals were attacks on Higher Criticism, and defenses of an inerrant Bible that was to be taken as literal history and revelation. Other essays attacked the idea of the "Social Gospel", in which many liberal Christians asserted that Christians should ally with other social groups and become active in political movements to improve the living conditions for all humans. The fundamentalists rejected this idea, arguing instead that, since the Second Coming was imminent, the only task of the church should be to save as many souls as possible in the short time left before the world came to an end. The fundamentalists also did not want to associate with what they viewed as heretical and apostate liberal Christians.
It was the third major target of the fundamentalists, however, which ignited a conflict that continues to this day and is the direct ancestor of the creationist/intelligent design movement -- the political campaign targeting science, and, in particular, evolution.
In the years after Darwin first published On the Origin of Species, there was, as Darwin had expected, a storm of criticism from religious figures who viewed the idea that humans had descended from animals as a direct attack on the Bible. Anglican Bishop Sam Wilberforce, in a public debate with evolution-supporter Thomas Huxley, famously asked if it was on his father's side or mother's side that Huxley claimed descent from apes. In a remarkably short time, however, religion had made its peace with Darwin, and by 1900, nearly every religious authority in Europe accepted the conclusions of science, just as it had accepted the conclusions of the Bible's literary scholars concerning the Documentary Hypothesis.
In America, however, the situation was quite different. The fundamentalists rejected evolution and the scientific outlook with all the fervor and vitriol that they had aimed at the German Biblical scholars. Princeton theologian J. Gresham Machen declared, "The root of the movement (liberalism) is one; the many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted in naturalism--that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God (as distinguished from the ordinary course of nature) in connection with the origin of Christianity . . . our principle concern . . . is to show that the liberal attempt at reconciling Christianity with modern science has really relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity, so that what remains is in essentials only that same indefinite type of religious aspiration which was in the world before Christianity came upon the scene. In trying to remove from Christianity everything that could possibly be objected to in the name of science, in trying to bribe off the enemy by those concessions which the enemy most desires, the apologist has really abandoned what he started out to defend...The plain fact is that liberalism, whether it be true or false, is no mere 'heresy' -- no mere divergence at isolated points from Christian teaching. On the contrary it proceeds from a totally different root, and it constitutes, in essentials a unitary system of its own . . . It differs from Christianity in its view of God, of man, of the seat of authority and the way of salvation . . . Christianity is being attacked from within by a movement which is anti-Christian to the core." Tent revivalist Billy Sunday referred to evolution as a "bastard theory" which was supported only by "hireling ministers".
Fundamentalist religious organizations formed alliances with conservative lawmakers to pass "monkey laws" -- laws which made it illegal to teach evolution -- in almost half of the states. In 1928, for instance, the state of Arkansas passed a law (by referendum) making it illegal to teach "the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals." (Arkansas Initiated Act 1, 1928, cited in Eldredge 1982, p. 15 and LaFollette, 1983, p. 5) Another such law was the Butler Act, approved by the Tennessee state legislature in March 1925. The Butler act stated: "It shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." (Butler Act, Tennessee State Legislature, 1925)
The American Civil Liberties Union decided to challenge the constitutionality of the new Tennessee law, and announced that it would defend any teacher who would intentionally violate the Butler Act to produce a test case. In Dayton, Tennessee, biology teacher John T Scopes volunteered, probably with the encouragement of local officials who wanted to generate some publicity. William Bell Riley, the founder and president of the World Christian Fundamentals Association, asked William Jennings Bryan to join the legal team defending the Butler Act, which in turn led Clarence Darrow, one of the most prominent lawyers in the US, to join the Scopes defense team. The result was the Scopes Monkey Trial, perhaps the most famous court proceeding in American history. Amidst the carnival-like atmosphere (aided by the acid commentary of widely-read journalist HL Mencken), the trial degenerated into an attack and counter-attack concerning the influence of fundamentalism on science and education. Bryan himself took the stand as an "expert witness on the Bible", and was grilled by Darrow for two hours concerning his fundamentalist interpretations:
"DARROW: I will read it to you from the Bible: "And the Lord God said unto the serpent, because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." Do you think that is why the serpent is compelled to crawl upon its belly?
BRYAN: I believe that.
DARROW: Have you any idea how the snake went before that time?
BRYAN: No, sir.
DARROW: Do you know whether he walked on his tail or not?
BRYAN: No, sir. I have no way to know. (Laughter in audience)." (Scopes trial transcript)
Bryan thundered that Darrow's only purpose was "to cast ridicule on everybody who believes in the Bible", leading Darrow to shoot back, "We have the purpose of preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States." (Scopes trial transcript)
Although Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution and was fined $100, the case was overturned on appeal due to a technicality, robbing the ACLU of its chance to take the matter to the Supreme Court. For the fundamentalist movement, however, the Scopes trial was a disaster. Sarcastic newspaper articles, by Mencken and others, as well as novels such as Sinclair Lewis's Elmer Gantry, depicted fundamentalists as uneducated hicks and backwoods country bumpkins. The political victories won by the fundamentalists, including the monkey laws, died within a few years. The infighting within seminaries and theological institutes between fundamentalists and modernists led to a steep decline in students training for the clergy, and a sharp decrease in church memberships. By the time of the Great Depression in 1929, fundamentalism was all but dead as an effective social or political movement.
The beginning of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, after the end of World War II, revived the fundamentalist's fortunes. The atheistic Leninists who ran the USSR were a convenient enemy for the fundamentalists, and they quickly entered into alliances with right-wing anti-communist political figures. In an era of rampant McCarthyism, it was a fertile breeding ground for fundamentalist theology, and gave them a measure of political influence that they had not enjoyed for decades. It was not until the mid-1970's, however, that the fundamentalist wing of Christianity began to make political influence an aim in itself, and actively sought to use the power of right-wing politicians to enforce their fundamentalist religious and social opinions onto the rest of society. This marked the rise of the Religious Right, the immediate ancestors of the ID/creationists.
Like the fundamentalist movement of the 20's, the Religious Right was a reactionary response to social changes which they found religiously objectionable and intolerable. The late 1960's were a time of intense and far-reaching social change in the US. Within the space of ten years, a new generation had placed all of the traditional American social structures under critical examination, and found them wanting. The civil rights movement broke down traditional social roles and also led to the renewed rise of the Social Gospel advocates; anti-war and human rights movements led to questions about patriotism and the role of the US in world affairs; participatory democracy movements challenged traditional political authority; women's liberation and gay rights movements challenged sexual mores and family structures; interest in Eastern religious traditions led to skepticism about the role of traditional Christianity in society. All of these were anathema to the fundamentalists.
Fundamentalist hostility was particularly marked towards a number of Supreme Court decisions during the period. The first of these was the 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision, which outlawed segregated schools. Southern fundamentalists in particular viewed segregation as Biblically-approved, and bitterly fought desegregation and the civil rights movement. In response to the 1954 decision, many fundamentalist churches set up their own private schools, which were not subject to the Court's decision and were therefore free to continue to practice segregation. (The fundamentalist Bob Jones University would later sue the Federal government in an effort to be allowed to continue to ban Black students; after losing, BJU banned inter-racial dating among its students, a policy that was only withdrawn in the face of public disapproval in the wake of a visit by President George W Bush in 2000.) In 1961, the Supreme Court dealt the fundamentalists another blow when, in the Engel v Vitale case, it outlawed government-sanctioned prayer in schools, saying, "We think that, in this country, it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government." (US Supreme Court, Engel v Vitale, 1961) In 1968, the Court ruled, in the case of Epperson v Arkansas, that all of the various anti-evolution "monkey laws" were unconstitutional. Finally, in 1973, the Roe v Wade decision legalized abortion in the United States.
The fundamentalists saw their views as coming under attack on nearly every front. In response, as they did in the 20's, fundamentalists in the 1970's sought to gain political influence by allying themselves with right-wing politicians. As it happened, the right wing of the Republican Party was also looking for allies to help it defeat not only the Democrats, but the moderate and traditional-conservative elements within their own party. The marriage was made. After the 1976 elections, Robert Grant formed a group called Christian Voice to channel fundamentalist money and votes to right-wing Republican candidates, including Ronald Reagan and Dan Quayle. One of Christian Voice's most effective members was Richard Viguerie, who turned direct-mail marketing into an astoundingly effective method of raising money and informing supporters which candidates were "godly" and which weren't. After a falling-out with Grant in 1979, Viguerie left and, working together with conservative political figure Paul Weyrich and televangelist Jerry Falwell, formed the first effective national fundamentalist political organization, Moral Majority Inc. Over the next decade, under a number of organizations such as Christian Coalition, Concerned Women of America, Focus on the Family, Coalition for Traditional Values, and Eagle Forum, fundamentalist Christians gained unprecedented political power and influence -- which they continue to exercise under the Presidency of George W Bush.
The Religious Right was also quick to take up the anti-Darwin crusade. In late 1981, Falwell telecast an appeal for money to help defend the anti-evolution law in Arkansas -- using as the backdrop for his appeal the very same Dayton, Tennessee, courthouse in which the original Scopes trial was held. Moral Majority also ran a number of ads in various magazines to publicize the trial and raise money. One of the ads took the form of a "survey", which asked the reader (with all the appropriate catch words emphasized) to mail in a "ballot":
"Cast your vote for creation or evolution. Where do you stand in this vital debate?
1. Do you agree with 'theories' of evolution that DENY the Biblical account of creation?
2. Do you agree that public school teachers should be permitted to teach our children AS FACT that they are descended from APES?
3. Do you agree with the evolutionists who are attempting to PREVENT the Biblical account of creation from also being taught in public schools?" (TV Guide, June 13, 1981, p. A-105)
Those who sent in their "ballot" (with the proper answers checked) were put on Moral Majority's mailing list for fundraising and further anti-evolution mailings.
Falwell also turned the resources of Liberty University, a large Bible college which was wholly funded by Moral Majority, towards the fight against evolution. All students at Liberty University, regardless of major, were required to take a semester-long course in creationist biology. The state-approved teacher training program at Liberty was heavily focused on creationism. As a symbol of the close affinities between the creationists and the Moral Majority, Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell himself awarded an honorary doctorate to ICR founder Henry Morris during commencement exercises in 1989.
As researcher Philip Kitcher points out, both the creationists and the fundamentalists gained benefits from this partnership. "Jerry Falwell's Old Time Gospel Hour offers a forum for broadcasting creationist ideas. On the other hand, Falwell needs concrete issues around which to build his movement." (Kitcher, 1982, p. 2) The televangelists recognized the creation "scientists" as powerful apologetic tools to bring new people into the Christian political movement, while the creationists came to depend upon the Religious Right as a powerful political and economic ally.
Moral Majority co-founder Tim LaHaye (he later became the author of the fundamentalist Left Behind series of books) had close ties to the creationists. In his influential fundamentalist manifesto Battle for the Mind, LaHaye put the fight against evolution squarely in the middle of the evangelical Christian world-view. The basic enemy of the Christian Right is something they refer to as "secular humanism", which seems to be a catch-all term for any outlook or philosophy which they find religiously offensive--everything from pornography to feminism to socialism to evolutionary science. "Most of the evils in the world today," says LaHaye, "can be traced to humanism, which has taken over our government, the UN, education, TV and most of the other influential things in life." (LaHaye, 1980, p. 1)
And a major component of this "secular humanism", LaHaye asserts, is evolutionary theory: "The humanistic doctrine of evolution has naturally led to the destruction of the moral foundation upon which this country was originally built. If you believe that man is an animal, you will naturally expect him to live like one. Consequently, almost every sexual law that is required in order to maintain a morally sane society has been struck down by the humanists, so that man may follow his animal appetites." (LaHaye, 1980, p. 64) LaHaye's book depicts a diagram of "secular humanism", which shows a pyramidical construction in which "evolution" rests on the base of "atheism", in turn supporting "amorality" and, at the top, the "socialist one world view" (LaHaye, 1980, p. 63)
Some of the statements made by creationists reveal the underlying connection between creation "science" and LaHaye's religious crusade against "secular humanism". "Since animals are indiscriminate with regards to partners in mating," says Henry Morris, "and since men and women are believed to have evolved from animals, then why shouldn't we live like animals?" (Morris, Troubled Waters of Evolution, 1974, p. 167) Morris declared that evolutionary theory is literally the work of the Devil -- given to Nimrod at the Tower of Babel -- and that most scientists refuse to accept creationism solely because they are atheists. Ken Ham, formerly of the ICR and now leader of the Answers in Genesis organization, says, "As the creation foundation is removed, we see the Godly institutions also start to collapse. On the other hand, as the evolution foundation remains firm, the structures built on that foundation--lawlessness, homosexuality, abortion, etc--logically increase. We must understand this connection." (cited in Eve and Harrold, 1991, pp 58-59) The Creation Science Research Center blamed the scientific model of evolution for "the moral decay of spiritual values, which contributes to the destruction of mental health", as well as "a widespread breakdown in law and order" (Creation Science Report, April 1976, cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 285). Evolutionary theory, the CSRC pontificated, is directly responsible for "divorce, abortion, and rampant venereal diseases." (Segraves, The Creation Report, 1977, cited in Numbers, 1992, p. 285)
The creationists and the Religious Right thus shared a world-view, a world-view that revolves around the supposed evils of evolutionary theory. Both groups see evolution as a major pillar which supports Satanic "secular humanism", and both are determined to do away with that pillar and substitute a "Godly" outlook instead--creationism. "Although they make every effort to be diplomatic about the subject," notes writer Perry Dean Young, "the religious-right leaders are not speaking of teaching the story of the creation in Genesis alongside Darwin's theory; they want it taught instead of evolution. A headline in Religious Roundtable's newsletter that read 'Get Evolution Out of Our Schools' let that fact slip." (Young, 1982, p. 73) The creationists also occasionally let their ultimate goal slip in print too; while pushing the Arkansas "Balanced Treatment Act" through, creationist Paul Ellwanger, who drafted the original bill, wrote to a supporter, "Perhaps this is old hat to you, Tom, and if so, I'd appreciate it your telling me so and perhaps where you've heard it before--the idea of killing evolution instead of playing these debating games that we've been playing for nigh over a decade already." (Attachment to Ellwanger Deposition, McLean v Arkansas, 1981, cited in Overton Opinion)
But "killing evolution" is not their only goal. The Christian Right is defiantly open about its ultimate aims. As Bob Werner, a leader of the "Christian shepherding" movement, bluntly put it, "The Bible says we are to . . . rule. If you don't rule and I don't rule, the atheists and the humanists and the agnostics are going to rule. We should be the head of our school board. We should be the head of our nation. We should be the Senators and Congressmen. We should be the editors of our newspapers. We should be taking over every area of life." (cited in Diamond, 1989, p. 45) Paul Weyrich, a co-founder of Moral Majority and director of the fundamentalist Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, declared, "We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structures of this country." (cited in Young, 1982, p. 321 and Kater 1982, p. 7) Weyrich added, "We are talking about the Christianizing of America." (cited in Vetter 1982, p. 5) Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry put it, "I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good... Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called on by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism." (The News Sentinel, Ft. Wayne, IN., August 16, 1993) "This is God's world, not Satan's," declared leading fundamentalist political figure Gary North. "Christians are the lawful heirs, not non-Christians . . . . The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church's public marks of the covenant--baptism and holy communion--must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel." (Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism, Institute for Christian Economics, 1989, p.87, p. 102) North continues, "So let us be blunt about it: We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will be get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God." ("The Intellectual Schizophrenia of the New Christian Right" in Christianity and Civilization: The Failure of the American Baptist Culture, No. 1, 1982, p. 25)
Televangelist and former Presidential candidate Pat Robertson echoed, "We have enough votes to run the country. And when the people say 'We've had enough', we are going to take over (cited in Boston, 1996, p. 29) Robertson told his supporters that his presidential bid was a direct command from God: "I heard the Lord saying, 'I have something else for you to do. I want you to run for President of the United States'". (Washington Post, Feb 15, 1988, cited in Boston, 1996, p. 39)
In a fundraising letter for the Christian Coalition in July 1991 (Robertson founded the Coalition and served--along with his son--as one of the four members of the Board of Directors), Robertson asserted: "We at the Christian Coalition are raising an army who cares. We are training people to be effective--to be elected to school boards, to city councils, to state legislatures and to key positions in political parties. . . . By the end of this decade, if we work and give and organize and train, the Christian Coalition will be the most powerful political organization in America." (cited in Boston, 1996, p. 85) Ralph Reed, who served as Robertson's front man in the Christian Coalition, said: "What Christians have got to do is take back this country, one precinct at a time, one neighborhood at a time and one state at a time . . . I honestly believe that in my lifetime we will see a country once again governed by Christians." (cited in Boston, 1996, p. 90)
As the fundamentalists pointed out, one of the most important areas in which "Christians" must "govern" are the local school districts--and they make it clear that creationism is the issue which provided them with the opportunity to do this. As Tim LaHaye bluntly put it, "The elite-evolutionist-humanist is not going to be able to control education in America forever." (LaHaye 1980, p. 3) Pat Robertson said, "Humanist values are being taught in the schools through such methods as 'values clarification'. All of these things constitute an attempt to wean children away from biblical Christianity". (cited in Boston, 1996, p. 168)
Other fundamentalist apologists were just as clear about their ultimate goals for public education:
"Our purpose must be to spread the gospel on the new mission field that the Lord has opened--public high schools". (Jay Alan Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice, CASE Bulletin, July 1990)
"To abandon public education to Satan is to compromise our calling. The attitude and approach of Christians should be that they never expose their children to public education, but that they should work increasingly to expose public education to the claims of Christ. Certain specially suited Christians, in fact, should pray and work tirelessly to obtain teaching and school board and even administrative positions within public education. The penultimate goal of these Christians should be the privatization of these larcenous institutions, and the ultimate aim the bringing of them under the authority of Christ and His word." (Rev. Andrew Sandlin, Chalcedon Report, March 1994)
"One day, I hope in the next ten years, I trust that we will have more Christian day schools than there are public schools. I hope I will live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them." (Jerry Falwell, America Can Be Saved, 1979)
"There are 15,700 school districts in America. When we get an active Christian parents' committee in operation in all districts, we can take complete control of all local school boards. This would allow us to determine all local policy; select good textbooks; good curriculum programs; superintendents and principals." (Robert Simonds, Citizens for Excellence in Education, undated letter, 1984)
"The Christian community has a golden opportunity to train an army of dedicated teachers who can invade the public school classrooms and use them to influence the nation for Christ." (D. James Kennedy, Education; Public Problems and Private Solutions, Coral Ridge Ministries, 1993
A fundraising letter sent from the Creation Science Research Center echoed these sentiments: "We already have a state-mandated religion of atheism -- of Godlessness -- of Satanism -- and no church training of one hour a week will overcome this onslaught of anti-God teachings in the classroom. The Church must get involved." (Letter from CSRC, cited in LaFollette 1983, p. 126) Gary North frankly pointed out, "Until the vast majority of Christians pull their children out of the public schools, there will be no possibility of creating a theocratic republic." (cited in Blaker, 2003, p 187)
The fundamentalists found willing allies for their crusade, in the form of the right-wing elements of the Republican Party. The creationists found powerful allies on the political Right--a partnership which benefited both. The political right needed issues to organize around and foot soldiers to help carry out its campaigns -- which were provided in droves by the fundamentalists. And the GOP was quick to attempt to tap this resource.
Creationists were very active in state textbook committees and curriculum boards, where they attempted to pressure various states into dropping biology textbooks which feature evolutionary theory. In June 1996, three families in Cobb County, Georgia asked that the Cobb County Board of Education remove a chapter from a fourth grade science textbook. The offending chapter discussed the age and formation of the universe. In late May, the Ohio House Education committee rejected (by a margin of just 12-8) a proposed bill that would require that "scientific arguments . . not in support" of evolutionary theory be taught whenever evolution is mentioned. Most members of these state education boards are political appointees, and the fundamentalists found willing allies in the state and local Republican Party. In the late 1980's, bowing to creationist pressure, the state of Texas mandated that all biology textbooks carry a disclaimer stating that evolution is "only a theory" and "not established fact". In March 1996, Alabama Governor Fob James announced that the ID/creationist book Darwinism on Trial would be sent to all of the state's 900 science teachers, at a cost of almost $3,000. The book was, James declared, "an attempt to improve science education by encouraging healthy and constructive criticism of evolutionary theory." A few months later, Ohio State Representative Ron Hood introduced Bill 692, which mandated: "Whenever a theory of the origin of humans, other living things, or the universe that might commonly be referred to as 'evolution' is included in the instructional program provided by any school district or educational service center, both evidence and arguments supporting or consistent with the theory and evidence and arguments problematic for, inconsistent with, or not supporting the theory shall be included." State Republican Parties in Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa all adopted platform planks which advocate teaching creationism in schools.
Even the national Republican leadership demonstrated a willingness to kowtow to the creationists. In its "Contract for America", the GOP asserted, of its proposed "Family Reinforcement Act", that it "will strengthen the rights of parents to protect their children against education programs that undermine the values taught at home"--a code word for removing evolution, sex education, and other things which offend fundamentalist sensibilities. During the campaign, Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan appealed to fundamentalist support by attacking Darwin. When asked by a commentator if he favored the teaching of creationism in public schools, Buchanan replied, "You may believe you descended from monkeys--I don't believe it. I think you're created--I think you're a creature of God." When asked, "Do parents have the right, in your judgment, to insist, if they believe in creationism, that it also be taught in public schools?", Buchanan declared, "I think they have a right to insist that godless evolution not be taught to their children, or their children not be indoctrinated into it."
Several days later, fellow GOP candidate Alan Keyes was asked about creationism and its critics. "I think they ought to take a look at our country's founding document," Keyes replied. "It says, 'All men were created', and 'endowed by their creator with inalienable rights'. . . I don't think it is only a question of Judeo-Christian beliefs. It is of American beliefs."
Apparently, to Keyes, Christian religious tenets and American political programs are one and the same. To the initiated faithful, the creationists also make no secret of their political goals. As Henry Morris of the Institute for Creation Science admits, the ultimate goal of the creationists is to bring first science, then the rest of society under Biblical proscriptions: "A key purpose of the ICR is to bring the field of education--and then our whole world insofar as possible--back to the foundational truth of special creation and primeval history as revealed first in Genesis and further emphasized throughout the Bible".
In essence, the fundamentalists and their creationist allies want to do for the United States what the fundamentalist Taliban did for Afghanistan and the Ayatollahs have done for Iran--they want to run the country in accordance with their interpretation of "God's will". As they make clear, they are perfectly willing to dismantle most of American democracy in order to save us all from Satan. Rev. James Robison put it like this, "Let me tell you something else about the character of God. If necessary, God would raise up a tyrant--a man who might not have the best ethics--to protect the freedom and the interests of the ethical and the godly." (cited in Vetter 1982, p. 6) And there seem to be no dearth of fundamentalists willing to volunteer to become that "tyrant".