Friday 12 May 2006

Alvin Plantinga: what is a fundamentalist?

Cynthia posts a very funny quote from Alvin Plantinga on the meaning of the word “fundamentalist.” Plantinga provides a very helpful way of identifying people against whom we can use the label.


One of Freedom said...

That is hilarious. I was in a class with a Wesleyan friend and the prof began a tirade against fundamentalism. Unfortunately this was my friend's first time hearing that word used in a negative way. I looked over to see her quite distraught. At break I walked out with her as she shook her head saying she was a fundamentalist Christian. I told her that word had a different meaning for this professor (who sees fundamentalism as the root of all evil in this world, and if I take her definition of fundamentalism I have to agree with her). I have been guilty of abusing that term and using it undefined like 'sumbitch' too, and gotten called out for it. Too many of my friends consider themselves fundamentalists for me to get away with that. At least they aren't usually the type that put the mental back in fundamentalist.

David W. Congdon said...

"At least they aren't usually the type that put the mental back in fundamentalist."

That's about as hilarious as Plantinga's quote.

Anonymous said...

It's not only the "mental" in fundamentalist that is worrying, it's the "fundament"!

Looney said...

Fundamentalism is about fundamentals. Christian fundamentalism is about Christ.

It is neither bloody minded traditionalism nor bloody minded progressivism. We are hated by both.

Ben Myers said...

G'day Looney, thanks for your input. I'm sure there's no question here of people "hating" fundamentalists.

The quote from Plantinga (by showing the sheer subjectivity and polemicism that is always involved in the use of the term) was in fact intended as a humorous and sympathetic defence of people who are labelled "fundamentalists".

Looney said...

Well howdy to you to Ben. I always love a bit of discussion. Academis seem to believe that fundamentalism is a mental disorder, rather than a belief system - or even a relationship with God. The discussion then moves on to an argument over whether fundamentalism is a dangerous disorber (i.e. 'fascist sumbitch') or a harmless disorder (i.e. stupid sumbitch). Admittedly, things get cluttered when some people go out of their way to become examples of one or the other of the disorders and loudly insist that they are fundamentalists. Somehow I don't think that this is the mainstream of fundamentalism.

I am just searching for some more intelligent thought on the subject and some ideas to shake up my thinking. This topic should be fairly important these days: With Christian, Islamic and sometimes Hindu Fundys stirring things up around the world, it would seem more than academically important to try to understand things. As Cynthia's post seems to indicate, there is little beyond caricatures and stereotypes on offer at the moment.

Jon said...

I remember hearing AP giving the Gifford lectures at St And and using this illustration.

However, possibily funnier (?) was AP's tirade against Biblical Studies (by Biblical Studies using John Allegro and his hallucinogenic mushroom theory as a prime example) to which Richard Bauckham stands up and has his own tirade back. It was wonderful... AP looking like the BFG and Bauckham more reminiscent of Rumplestiltskin...

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