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What does "fundamentalism" mean?


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#1 Christina M.

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 03:09 PM

There have been a couple of recent threads that mention "fundamentalism", "fundamentalists", and even "fundies". These terms were mostly used with a negative connotation.

What is the definition of "fundamentalism" from an Orthodox perspective?

Would the Orthodox definition of this word be different than a Protestant definition?

#2 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 07:13 PM

I would define it as an irrational insistence upon an infallible authority as a final defense against the perceived dangers of critical thinking.

For Protestant fundamentalists, the infallible authority is the Bible; for Catholic fundamentalists it is the Pope; for Orthodox fundamentalists it is the Tradition.

#3 Christina M.

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 07:53 PM

Dear Fr. Dcn Brian,
Thanks for the answer! I like it.

#4 Michael Albert

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 08:06 PM

There are Orthodox Christians who have a great love for tradition. The women cover their heads and wear skirts below the knee with no make-up in Church. They might be on the new calendar, but have a great love for the old calendar (actually preferring it). They study Scripture and the Fathers daily. They home school their children with an emphasis on Orthodox teaching. I often hear these people being referred to in a derogatory manner as "fundamentalists" and I think it is wrong.

#5 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 08:40 PM

There are Orthodox Christians who have a great love for tradition. The women cover their heads and wear skirts below the knee with no make-up in Church. They might be on the new calendar, but have a great love for the old calendar (actually preferring it). They study Scripture and the Fathers daily. They home school their children with an emphasis on Orthodox teaching. I often hear these people being referred to in a derogatory manner as "fundamentalists" and I think it is wrong.


Michael, I am one of these people, and it is indeed wrong to dismiss us as "fundamentalists." The true fundamentalist is someone whose faith is anchored not on knowledge of truth but on maintenance of a tradition, such that giving up on that tradition appears to him only as a loss of faith.

There are many problems with this perspective. It leaves us with no way to say which traditions really are the tradition that must be maintained. It obliges us to resist change in the tradition as it's occurring, but to defend change in the tradition after it has occurred. It even blinds us to our own abandonment of tradition by focusing our attention only on the preservation of the particular traditions that seem most threatened.

Behind it all is a lack of faith that Christ has truly overcome the world, with the resulting fear that the world is instead overcoming Christ.

#6 Alice

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 08:45 PM

From the Oxford Dictionary:

Beliefs and actions of extreme religious fundamentalism (includes selected groups of
Protestants, Muslims, Catholics, Mormans, Jews, and others):

1. Beliefs are based on divine and revealed texts, which are considered perfect and
cannot be questioned.
2. Beliefs are elaborate and detailed, constructed by selectively interpreting divine
texts.
3. Beliefs are often at variance with common sense, reason, logic, and science.
4. The group includes a single living individual with special privileged relationship to
God, unlike anyone else's relationship or status.
5. Members must adhere strictly to all details of doctrine.
6. Members reject all other religions and belief systems, including ones similar to
their own.
7. Members are intolerant of anyone outside the group, with different beliefs.
8. Extreme and hateful actions are justified by the group's beliefs.
9. Members are smug, self-satisfied, self-righteous, and egotistical, about their beliefs
and their group.
For the

I would not call a pious woman such as Michael Albert has described as 'fundamentalist'. I would describe her as a 'traditionalist; devout; orthodox; observant' Orthodox woman, and such a woman is truly a beautiful piece of the diverse tapestry of Orthodox Christianity. We should all honor each other by seeing Christ in every one. Each one of us is an icon of Christ.

I consider numbers 6, 7, 8, and 9 to characterize 'fundamentalists' in any religion, including Orthodoxy.

If religion has created a smug, hypercritical, prideful, and egotistic heart and attitude in someone, then I might consider them to be a 'fundamentalist'.

If an Orthodox Christian thinks that no one else has grace, no one else can go to Heaven(within or without the Orthodox faith), and thinks all must follow the same route they do in whatever traditional details to be holy, then I might consider them a fundamentalist--because love and humility, which are the true and most important foundations of Orthodox Christianity, are not foremost in their hearts, and we cannot judge others and assume that we are God. We must pray for His great mercy on ourselves and on others.

That is just my humble opinion and interpretation.

#7 Father David Moser

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 11:30 PM

I would define it as an irrational insistence upon an infallible authority as a final defense against the perceived dangers of critical thinking.

For Protestant fundamentalists, the infallible authority is the Bible; for Catholic fundamentalists it is the Pope; for Orthodox fundamentalists it is the Tradition.


From the Oxford Dictionary:
1. Beliefs are based on divine and revealed texts, which are considered perfect and
cannot be questioned.
2. Beliefs are elaborate and detailed, constructed by selectively interpreting divine
texts.
3. Beliefs are often at variance with common sense, reason, logic, and science.
4. The group includes a single living individual with special privileged relationship to
God, unlike anyone else's relationship or status.
5. Members must adhere strictly to all details of doctrine.
6. Members reject all other religions and belief systems, including ones similar to
their own.
7. Members are intolerant of anyone outside the group, with different beliefs.
8. Extreme and hateful actions are justified by the group's beliefs.
9. Members are smug, self-satisfied, self-righteous, and egotistical, about their beliefs
and their group.


Fundamentalists are so called because they hold a set of basic dogmatic "fundamentals" of their faith which cannot be questioned or done away with. They generally are a subset of a larger faith tradition (such as "christianity") and insist on these "fundamentals" as the defense against what they see as a compromise or watering down of the faith. This term is most often applied to certain very conservative (both politically and socially) protestant groups Fundamentalists also frequently develop a set of customs (and those protestant groups would reject the term "traditions").

When this term has been applied to Orthodox Christians, the idea seems to be that "fundamentalists" are those who insist on an extremely traditional form of Church life AND condemn those others (whether they be laymen or clergy - but especially clergy) who are not strict in following the traditions handed down to us. In many cases it seems that Orthodox "fundamentalists" value the strict following of "traditions" more than exhibiting such virtues as love and compassion. This is certainly not always the case, but it is often the perception. I think that the use of the term "fundamentalism" in relation to Orthodoxy has been in recent times popularized by Metropolitan Philip of the AOA. (I could be wrong here, but that is my own current perception of how that term has come into use).

Fr David Moser

#8 Ryan

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:00 AM

I think the term is basically useless except when applied to those who describe themselves as such. Otherwise it's just a rhetorical fluorish which can be applied to anyone who holds strongly to a principle someone objects to.

#9 Christina M.

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:14 AM

I think the term is basically useless except when applied to those who describe themselves as such. Otherwise it's just a rhetorical fluorish which can be applied to anyone who holds strongly to a principle someone objects to.

Do any groups actually call themselves "fundamentalists"? If so, who are they? I'm just curious, because the term seems to have a negative connotation, and it seems kinda weird to me that someone would purposefully use that word for themselves.

BTW this thread has been extremely helpful! Thanks everyone for the replies.

Edited by Christina M., 11 May 2011 - 02:15 AM.
added thanks


#10 Michael Albert

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 12:15 PM

From the Oxford Dictionary:
6. Members reject all other religions and belief systems, including ones similar to
their own.

I strongly believe that Holy Orthodoxy is the fullness of truth. Personally, I could never accept a system such as buddhism, hinduism, Islam, etc.

If asked by someone from one of these "other religions," I will procalim the truth of Holy Orthodoxy.

Does this make me a fundamentalist?

#11 Alice

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 01:08 PM

I strongly believe that Holy Orthodoxy is the fullness of truth. Personally, I could never accept a system such as buddhism, hinduism, Islam, etc.

If asked by someone from one of these "other religions," I will procalim the truth of Holy Orthodoxy.

Does this make me a fundamentalist?


I also reject those religions. Perhaps the author of the dictionary should have used the word 'judge' rather than 'reject'?

In any case, browbeating types, and the types that nitpick and go after a person's every word to challenge him/her, are not very effective, (in my humble opinion) in displaying the truth and beauty of Christianity, and Orthodoxy...They are the types most people think of when they think 'fundamentalist'..

"Acquire the Spirit of Peace and a Thousand Souls Around You Shall Be Saved" --St. Seraphim of Sarov

Peace to you,
Alice :-)

#12 Ryan

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 01:30 PM

Do any groups actually call themselves "fundamentalists"? If so, who are they? I'm just curious, because the term seems to have a negative connotation, and it seems kinda weird to me that someone would purposefully use that word for themselves.


The term originates from an early 20th century Protestant movement basing itself on a series of essays called The Fundamentals outlining what they believed to be the key doctrines of Christianity. Yes, they self-identified as "fundamentalists"- nowadays I think it's more common for such churches to simply call themselves "fundamental."

There is also the Mormon "fundamentalist" movement, also self-described as such.

You can read more here: http://en.wikipedia....can_Protestants

Outside of these historic currents, I have seen the term "fundamentalist" used against so many people, in so many different contexts, for varying purposes, that I can only conclude that it is just a meaningless pejorative.

#13 Michael Albert

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 01:35 PM

Perhaps the author of the dictionary should have used the word 'judge' rather than 'reject'?


Is there not such a thing as righteous judgement? Is it our responsibility to gently reprove our brothers and sisters if we see them embracing error?

#14 Max Percy

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:38 PM

This is not a complete answer, but I think in "fundamentalism" there is an element of lack of trust in the Holy Spirit and fear of engagement of whatever the particular questions/ controversies of the present time are. It seems to me that there is a certain boldness and creativity in those we revere as fathers in addressing difficulties of their day. As a consequence, there is a movement forward that is in deep continuity to what was handed on. The "homoousios" is an easy example that comes to mind. Not that the faith was somehow incomplete before, but the explication of it has advanced. I think St. Maximus the Confessor is another good example of this dynamic. On the other hand, I guess it could be said that there is also a certain boldness in those we now remember as heretics.

A present day example that strikes me is our inadequacy of response to the question of sexuality/gender in our present culture. I am not saying that the traditional position is wrong. Rather, while we have plenty of ethics, we really do not have an adequate theology of sexuality/gender. I think this is something new. There will be a good response at some point, and this will be a move ahead in proclaiming the Gospel in our time and culture in a new way. So, in this little example, perhaps a "fundamentalist" response is constraining our position and articulation of it to simply repeating Leviticus, which seems to me to no longer be an adequate response.

#15 Max Percy

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:45 PM

Behind it all is a lack of faith that Christ has truly overcome the world, with the resulting fear that the world is instead overcoming Christ.


I agree, and that is a much better way of saying it than I attempted.

Thanks Herman, not only is the quote better, your formatting is also better.

Edited by Max Percy, 11 May 2011 - 03:42 PM.
format


#16 Michael Albert

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:48 PM

we really do not have an adequate theology of sexuality/gender..

Can you expand and clarify?

#17 Nina

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 02:57 PM

What is the difference between a fundamentalist and Eris with her golden apple? A fundamentalist does not have a golden apple. lol

#18 Ryan

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 04:03 PM

What is the difference between a fundamentalist and Eris with her golden apple? A fundamentalist does not have a golden apple. lol


I don't get it. Are you saying fundamentalists don't get invited to parties?

#19 Max Percy

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 04:07 PM

Can you expand and clarify?


I will try, but this may be starting a new thread, or rehashing an old one.

Briefly, we can all acknowledge the rise of the issues/questions about women's ordination and about homosexuality. These seem to me to be fair questions because they reflect actual circumstances in the world. To me, the usual responses about women's ordination: iconic argument, its never been done, Jesus chose men disciples, etc... are not adequate in that they do not really state what, if anything, is theologically significant about either maleness or femaleness. They seem to me to focus on historical facts, which are clearly relevant, but do not seem to me to exhaust the question. This, I think, is a new moment and therefore a new opportunity to articulate the Gospel.

With regard to homosexuality, the present cultural circumstances invite or force us to articulate what sexuality means. What do we say about the interrelationship between procreation and sexual love? What is the relationship, if any, between eros and agape? What do we say in response to those homosexual couples who are committed and loving, etc...? I think that this cultural moment invites us to proclaim, theologically, what relevance the Gospel has to sexual love, family, and procreation as core human realities. Documents like the Moscow Patriarchal document or the Manhattan declaration are clear in ethical directives, but do not, to me, adequately articulate theologically why those ethical directives are the necessary and only possibilities. I think of Phillip Sherrard and others beginning to address this, but by no means in an exhaustive way. It is a question that needs a fuller, theological response than I have yet to see made.

That is what I mean, I guess, but I am not trying to turn this into a women's ordination/gay thread. I think that has been covered elsewhere.

#20 Michael Albert

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 04:22 PM

That is what I mean, I guess, but I am not trying to turn this into a women's ordination/gay thread. I think that has been covered elsewhere.

Yes. Those are two separate threads. I could not answer your questions very well because I am not a theologian. And I am not a proponent of women priests or gay marriage. I am obedient to the Church...and that is good enough for me.




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