Fundagelical?

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Back of the Envelope has posted one of the best discussions of evangelicalism and fundamentalism I've ever read. It's good enough to get an InstaPundit link.
We've now seen the advent of this new term 'fundagelical'. Of course, I've never actually seen the term used, but I've seen it mentioned many times now. The rise of such a silly term makes this worth reading.

Update: Warren at View from the Pew comments: "I think Donald's definition of evangelical is probably a little bit wider than mine, and his definition of fundamentalist might be a little narrower, but he hits the nail firmly on the head. I guess it's the Southern Baptist thing -- we must think a little alike."

I'm not sure what I think of this. I thought he was including more under the category of evangelicals than I grew up thinking the category included, but there are people who call themselves evangelicals who don't even get included by him. One group would be biblical scholars who fudge a bit on inerrancy/infallibilism, saying things like that Daniel was written after the fact, that there never was such a person as the character Daniel in the book, and that people who read that book at the time would have known this. I call this fudging because it both tries to work itself into a sense of divine message and reliability of divine information and yet denies the fundamental historical character of a book that appears to be giving a historical account of a historical person, albeit to deliver a theological and spiritually practical message. The same goes for those who claim that II Peter, say, was not written by Peter but by another man of the same name someone masquerading as Peter but then claiming that the readers would have known this and so it doesn't undermine the divine origination of the book, even with the falsehood right at the beginning of the letter. I'd need a whole blog entry to deal with such claims, but it seems to me that such a person is fudging by trying to have it both ways. Is the person an evangelical? That's not clear to me.

The other group would be theologians who fudge a bit on basic doctrinal matters (e.g. open theism, universalism) that can be worked into an understanding of the Bible only if you pick the most unclear passages, interpret them in a way based on your prior conception of how things must be (usually because of bad philosophical arguments), and then interpret the clear passages in light of your new conviction of how the unclear passages must be read given your prior theological conviction. People who hold more orthodox evangelical views do this as well. However, the only way to hold these and insist that you're an evangelical is to do this sort of thing. So are these people evangelicals? They hold to all the things in the list except one crucial view, and then they want to say that the other ones in the list are the ones determinative of evangelicalism. I don't know if there's a good answer to this question, since the boundaries are fuzzy, but such people want to be claimed as evangelical, and I'm not sure the definition Donald gave allows it.

On the other end, Warren says he would have thought Donald's category of fundamentalism is too wide. It includes more people as fundamentalists than Warren would want included. I wonder if that's because of differences between Donald and Warren. I think the boundaries of fundamentalism are even more unclear than the boundaries of evangelicalism, for what it's worth. It's hard to want to be called a fundamentalist unless you're simply unaware of how the terms are commonly used or just completely backward. This might provide some people more reason to want to shift the boundaries further away from them, while others who aren't as close to where others put the border don't have such a need and might even spread it out wider to distance themselves from the people on the boundaries by calling them fundamentalists. How's that for impugning the motives of each equally?

2 Comments

The fun part about new words is they can easily be redefined. From now on, I'll be using the term fundagelical to refer to people who can't tell the difference between fundamentalists and evangelicals. I think it's a much more apt definition.

I tend to include as Fundamentalist anyone who would agree with the Fundamentals as published early in the 20th Century -- by people who probably wouldn't be considered fundamentalist today. It's a broader definition than most people hold, and I usually qualify it by calling it 'historic fundamentalist'.

I also tend to only consider theological conservatives to be evangelical -- I am learning that it's not everyone's definition that's too broad, but mine that's too narrow.

I grew up hardcore fundamental -- my former pastor is now the editor of The Sword of the Lord newspaper. When I went to college, I learned to think a bit more on my own, and encountered people who were Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, etc. who I had a LOT in common with.

I like the term IFBx for the rabid fundies that everyone seems afraid of.

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