FUNDAMENTALISM AND ITS RISE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.
What is Fundamentalism? The most common association those with no base knowledge of the term make is with Islam, the word being linked to the faith with great popularity in the first decade of the twenty first century. Despite this point many faiths, apart from Islam, like the Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu have those within their respective memberships who can be classed as fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are staunch believers and (as they see themselves) upholders of doctrines within their respective faiths they perceive to be beyond question. It is thus their unconscious duty to defend their core beliefs against all antithetical ideas with vigour to preserve the ‘authenticity’ of the faith to which they adhere. With this in mind, the primary focus of this research will be in answering two questions. The first being what fundamentalism is (within the context of American protestant Christianity) and the second accounting for its ascension in the twentieth century.
To do this the paper will firstly gather various definitions of the term from the most basic to those containing degrees of complexity. Once achieved, a heavy emphasis on the history of fundamentalism will be undertaken that will allow the reader to appreciate what it is and how its rise in the twentieth century came about. The 1925 Scopes monkey trial will be mentioned alongside two instances in New Zealand history. The reason for mentioning these is because the first will illustrate that religious ideals in colonial New Zealand were very much in line with fundamentalist thinking and the second to show how far reaching the influence of fundamentalist doctrine can be. In conclusion the question of whether the movement is indeed Christian or not will be addressed.
A Fundamentalist, regardless of their religious affiliation views them-selves as a defender of their faith. According to Alex Woolf, they believe the words of the holy book of their religion are exact truth and are not open to different interpretations. 1 Lloyd Geering defines fundamentalism as a reactionary challenge to the modern secular world.2 The religious dictionary of the Association of Religion Data Archives, (ARDA), defines fundamentalism as a movement of Protestants embracing similar beliefs as evangelicals...usually in a more conservative direction, stressing separation from the world and from the more liberal Christian bodies.3 James Barr asserts that fundamentalism is based on a particular kind of religious tradition, using the form, rather than the reality, of biblical authority to provide a shield for this tradition.4 Finally John Stenhouse in quoting Stewart Coles History of Fundamentalism describes Fundamentalists as “religiously disturbed” defenders of antiquated beliefs”.5
With these varied definitions providing a general idea of fundamentalism, we concur with Peter Cameron’s hypothesis that although the word arose in the 1920s the approach, the temperament, and the mental attitudes it represents are much older.6 Using these perspectives as starting points, the paper begins its pursuit of answering the first of the two questions posed at the beginning.
James Veitch asserts that from the first century questions pertaining to the meaning, significance and relevance of the bible were in existence. Martin Luther’s thorough analysis of biblical texts in the sixteenth century however started a trend that Veitch states would have devastating effect in the Protestantism of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.7
By the late nineteenth century the early beginnings of ‘full- blown fundamentalism’ surfaced according to Gary Eberle. Not only had the practice established by Luther centuries earlier gained steady influence, but science (specifically scientific ideology relating to the story of creation) had also gained momentum. Scientific theory was perceived to be at odds with biblical...
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