The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism

By Ralph W. Hood, Jr.; Peter C. Hill et al. | Go to book overview

Introduction

Fundamentalism is Luther's Biblicalism in a new phase.

—BARZUN (2000, p. 10)

In the introduction to his excellent book, Joel Carpenter (1997) carefully distinguishes between broad and narrow definitions of “fundamentalism.” A narrow definition is necessary for historians of religion, according to Carpenter, so that their field of study will not be obscured by a generic understanding that obscures the distinctive and unique identities of specific religious traditions. He points to the masterful works of historians George Marsden and Ernest Sandeen (and we would now add Carpenter himself), which trace Protestant fundamentalism as a historically distinct religious movement with constitutive beliefs that set it apart from other conservative forms of Protestantism, including evangelicalism. Marsden (1980) identifies several definitive characteristics of fundamentalists that, at first glance, appear common to all evangelical movements. Such characteristics include a particular set of beliefs, especially premillenialism (regarding the second coming of Christ) and Biblical inerrancy (which implies a host of other doctrines). Other distinctive features include revivalism, self-perceived patriotism, antiliberalism, an emphasis on cognitive and ideological factors, and a commonsense realist philosophy rooted in the views of Thomas Reid. But members of other evangelical groups, who do not identify themselves (correctly so) as fundamentalists, also claim each of these beliefs and characteristics. So what sets apart Protestant fundamentalists from these others? According to Marsden, a militant opposition to modernism, both theologically and culturally, is what distinguishes Protestant fundamentalism from its conservative Protestant cousins. Such a view is also associated with the Fundamentalism Project, directed by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, who apply this initially Protestant term (though not uniquely a Protestant phenomenon) to a host of other faith

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