This post by the pseudonymous Larry Niven at Rust Belt Philosophy, which is largely against a traditional morality, in part as defined by Scripture (especially the Old Testament). I think this attitude about traditional morality in part is the result of a common fundamentalist tendency common on the non-Christian left, the “new atheists” like Mr Niven follow that methodology. That same group of people would of course bristle at being termed fundamentalist, yet this is in fact a good term to describe them, their approach to traditional (mostly Biblical) traditions is fundamentalists which makes it in turn far easier to reject. Personally I consider myself a fundamentalist … but use the word ‘fundamentalist’ in a different meaning when I do so.
In past essays and discussions resulting from the same on the term Christian regarding whether LDS or Jehovah Witnesses are correctly termed Christian is related to the usage of the term fundamentalist above. To recap the term Christian, that goes something like this. The term Christian is sometimes use at a cultic level, that is, to describe cults as being associate with the person of Jesus Christ. This term is also used as a shorthand to for Nicene Christian to describe a large majority subgroup within the category of Christian cults. Technically one might be more (pedantically) correct to distinguish when one is using the term Christian cult vs Nicene Christian. Different groups drop the term “cult” or Nicene depending on common and normally understood usage. For example, within the Nicene Christian cultic community the term Christian is shorthand for Nicene Christian.

The term fundamentalist as well has a varying set of meanings. Fundamentalist can be taken to mean a specific set of American Christian cults (in the vernacular cult -> denomination). Lately this has been often generalized and translated across different to cults outside the Christian cultic community, i.e., identifying Wahhabi (or Salafist) Muslims as fundamentalists in an analogy to the above mentioned Christian denominations. Fundamentalism defined by one web dictionary cites it as:

One who reduces religion to strict interpretation of core or original texts


the interpretation of every word in the sacred texts as literal truth

This definition of the term is in fact is a common usage of the term, and in fact the term I’d attach to Mr Niven and other in the new atheist movement and the hermeneutic they attach to Scripture and church teaching. That is these individuals restrict themselves to a literal hermeneutic when approaching the text.

Today, during the morning Matins service in the reading of the six Psalms there is a verse that reads, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, …” From verses like this and similar verses we get secular non-Christians coining Judeo-Christian beliefs in a ‘sky God’. Yet the next verse follows, “as far as the east is from the west …” which indicates that the separations between heaven and earth is not meant literally, but noetically (or ontologically). The separations between earth and heaven is not a geometric measurement between a point A and a point B, but a noetic metric measuring a distance conceptually (or spiritually) between heaven and earth. This is made explicit in the next verse which alludes this distance as similar to the “distance” between east and west.

Fr. John Behr in the introductory passages in The Nicene Faith: Formation Of Christian Theology  (part 1) writes:

[according to Kugel] Four basic assumptions governed the understanding of Scripture in antiquity. First it is a fundamentally cryptic document, where the true hidden meaning of the text is a hidden esoteric message, [ … ] Second it is a relevant text. [ … ] Third, it is perfect and perfectly harmonious. [ … ] And fourth, as a consequence of the first three assumptions, Scripture is regarded as being divine or divinely inspired.

Many American Christian fundamentalists as well as our secular left have left the first point in the above behind. They do not treat Scripture as fundamentally cryptic.

One thing however that fundamentalists do which is commendable, and in turn the reason why more should consider the term in a more appreciative light. Fundamentalists take their the ethical teachings and teachings from an abstract setting and live their life to match those teachings. Christians could all use more of that.

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Filed under: AtheismChristianityMark O.Religion

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