Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Roger Olson, "Fundamentalism of the Left"

I should just copy and paste something here for my thoughts on Olson. ;)

Olson:
I put “fundamentalism” in scare quotes to distinguish its use here from its proper, historical-theological use. It’s proper historical-theological use has to do with the movement of conservative Protestants to oppose theological liberalism in denominations and seminaries (etc.) that arose in the early 20th century and with its various manifestations past and present. In that proper sense, there is no “fundamentalism of the left.”
However, many people (including yours truly occasionally) use “fundamentalism” to designate a certain mindset and style of argumentation especially within religious circles. That is, it is often used in popular speech (what the Germans call Umgangsprache) to designate an ethos exhibited by individuals or groups. That ethos is usually understood to include a very black-and-white view of complicated issues, a tendency to absolutize doctrinal and moral beliefs most people would consider secondary (at best), and a tendency to use almost any means to oppose, marginalize, silence opponents’ views.
Let me be clear: I do NOT think most “real fundamentalists” (in the historical-theological sense) are “fundamentalists” in the popular ethos sense. Somehow or other, the label was drawn from the historical-theological phenomenon and applied to a certain mentality and pattern of behavior discernible across the spectrum of theological (and sometimes political) views.
I wish there were a different label for mean-spirited religious absolutism. But perhaps one has to go with the flow of language and accept that “fundamentalism” is now widely understood in that sense. That is the sense I mean here when I speak about a “fundamentalism of the left.”
For the rest, click HERE.
--Nick

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