We hear much today about fundamentalism. We watch TV news accounts about Muslim fundamentalists who are responsible for suicide bomb attacks in Israel and anti-western (especially anti-American) terrorists attacks world-wide. We read of Hindu fundamentalists who destroy mosques and burn Christian missionaries alive in cars. We are aware of so-called Christian fundamentalists who espouse racial warfare and violent anti-government resistance in the U.S.A. These groups all have in common a willingness to use violence to destroy their enemies and to inflict their views upon the world.
There are others, also identified as fundamentalists, who are less eager to engage in physical violence to impose their will upon the world. They do share the same hunger for power and a conviction that their chosen ends justify whatever means are necessary for their achievement. This hunger for power and willingness to suspend adherence to commonly accepted standards of moral behavior (e.g., truthfullness, respect for differences, liberty of conscience, etc.) are common denominators among those commonly referred to as “fundamentalists.”
The question at hand is whether this term, “fundamentalist,” accurately describes these groups. They tend to share another common characteristic. All of them seem to define their identity around beliefs and practices that are NOT truly fundamental to their religions. They appear to select certain peripheral tenets of their tradition which they proclaim as the absolutes by which they define orthodoxy. If this is true, wouldn’t they more accurately be described as “peripheralists” than as “fundamentalists”?
As a Christian, I am unqualified to test this hypothesis regarding Muslim or Hindu beliefs. Therefore, I will limit myself to testing by Christian beliefs.
At the most central and basic core of Christian faith are three issues:
1. What must one confess in order to be a Christian?
2. What must one believe in order to be a Christian?
3. What is the identifying sign that indicates that one is a Christian”
We can respond to these questions under the following headings:
1. The Fundamental Confession of the Christian
2. The Fundamental Creed of the Christian
3. The Fundamental Mark of the Christian
(to be continued)