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Is it Good News?

  Large sections of 'main-line' churches are troubled by falling attendances and especially the absence of younger age-groups.   The news that Fundamentalist groups are doing well  (Listener,  July 15-21)  may be heartening for some.

The term 'Fundamentalism' is often used loosely.   There is a tendency to lump together Fundamentalists,  Pentecostalists,  Charismatics in mainline churches,  and conservative evangelicals,  and tar them all with the same brush ignoring the gradations between and within such groups.

This said,  however,  the presence,  let alone the growth of hard-line Fundamentalism is troubling.   Why?

Fundamentalism propagates an incredible view of the Bible.   Consistent Fundamentalists regard it as inspired by God so as to be inerrant,  free of all error,  making it an unquestionable authority on all matters with which it deals.

This is linked with the fact that Fundamentalism can produce socially divisive effects.   It draws sharp lines and easily slides over into judgmental attitudes.   Christians and those of other faiths,  the 'saved' and the 'unsaved',  heterosexuals and homosexuals  --  all these are regarded as exclusive categories.   Participation in power,  whether in home,  society or the church,  let alone leadership --  by women  --  is anathema to strict Fundamentalists.

Broader social concerns are of little interest to most Fundamentalists.   What matters is personal salvation and private morality.   Such Fundamentalism often plays into the hands of free market theorists and authoritarian political regimes.

Many,  inside and outside the movement,  equate Fundamentalism and Christianity.   Those who are Christians should redouble their efforts to insist that this is not the case.

Colin Brown

Reprinted from the magazine of the Parish of Fendalton,  Christchurch.



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