Fundamentalism

Front Cover
SCM Press, 1981 - Religion - 378 pages
3 Reviews
James Barr has never been an uncontroversial writer, and this book, eirenic though its purpose was, has proved no exception. It was widely noticed on its first appearance and led to a lively discussion, not least in evangelical circles. At the same time it was welcomed by reviewers as an important contribution to the nature of biblical criticism. 'This books breaks much new ground,' said British Book News, 'and will be welcomed by many who are interested in the intellectual basis of a biblical faith. Indeed, it is a measure of the author's coverage and penetration of a variety of issues that the book can be taken as, among other things, a useful introduction to modern critical methods of biblical scholarship.' The Scottish Journal of Theology remarked: 'One of the most urgent theological tasks in the field of biblical studies is to expose and evaluate the hidden presuppositions of the methods used, and this is necessary alike in liberal and conservative circles. Professor Barr's book is an important contribution to this task, and it is to be hoped that response to it will further clarify the issues that he raises.' Not all the responses were in fact favourable.

Professor Barr was accused of having an outdated view of fundamentalism, of attacking positions which are being quite rapidly abandoned, and neglecting promising new developments. In this second edition of his book, he has added a long prteface discussing these criticisms at length. Noting and commenting on the new developments, at the same time he points out that if anything, in many areas fundamentalism is becoming even more regressive. The debate is obviously by no means over, and critics of the first edition may well have to think again. James Barr's sequel to this study, Escapting from Fundamentalism, is also published by SCM Press. James Barr was Professor of Hebre Bible at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

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Thirty years ago almost no one really discussed Fundamentalism, now every type of Fundamentalism is pored over and examined, it worries and depending on which type produces fear and panic. It pejorative connotations are such that almost anyone who holds strong opinions about anything is described as a fundamentalist.
Fundamentalists have held to the following beliefs:
1, The bible is inerrant - without error in its original form - because it is the inspired word of God.
2, The virgin birth of Jesus.
3 The belief in his bodily resurrection
4 That his death was a substitutionary atonement for sin.
5, And that his miracles actually happened as recorded in the Bible.
It is a theology (or ideology) as practised by groups who would style themselves as either, Fundamentalists, Conservative Evangelical or Evangelical and some of their historical and philosophical roots.
The late James Barr’s book was thus groundbreaking, but its focus was limited. It is a theological exposition of a form of conservative Protestantism within the United Kingdom. His "Fundamentalism" is a theology as practised by conservative Protestant Christians. But it is practised in different ways by different groups.
The fact that it was written in the 1970s should not put people off, as it is very thorough and detailed – a little too detailed, at times somewhat of a sledgehammer to crack a nut approach. However, many of the writers discussed here are still important within this religious movement, and though now superseded by Harriet Harris’s “Fundamentalism and Evangelicals”, it is still informative and important as she herself takes very much Barr’s position.
The fact that it is a work of theology is a weakness because for those outside of British Christianity it can seem too focused on it only being relevant to Christians. It has little to say about self styled Fundamentalist groups who refuse to participate in events with any groups that don't hold to their essential doctrines but it is not ignored -see reference to Lloyd-Jones .
He acknowledges that the group he identifies as Fundamentalist would, in the USA, be described as extreme Evangelicals or moderate Fundamentalists. But this doesn’t detract from his inquiry.
Overall it is a good, if slightly dated book, but for those ignorant of this movement, that along with other books such as Marsden and Harris, gives a thorough understanding of a group, who though still marginal in British society, have an impact beyond their size because of the important if diminished role Christianity still has within Britain, in areas such as politics and education. Powerful, still, for many trapped or disillusioned by this group (see the many online ex-fundamentalist blogs and websites to see the degree of accuracy it has).
 

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Darrol - LibraryThing

This is a must read for understanding Christian fundamentalism. It will help you not take what fundamentalists say publicly at face value. Read full review

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