About the ‘isms’

By: Robert D. Brinsmead

I would like to do an introduction on Fundamentalism – the warning 40 years ago about it by James Barr, a definition of it, and what makes it intolerant and often violent.  Although a radical guy, Daniele Bolelli, in ‘Create Your Own Religion’,  has some good illustrations that serve to illustrate the nature of Fundamentalism-

  • Fundamentalism elevates an dogma, an ideology, a religion to its Ultimate Concern, supreme importance, taking precedence over everything else including especially humanity, human needs, etc.
  • Fundamentalism claims for its dogma, ideology, cause exclusive possession of the truth, it is inherently uncompromising and  it will not tolerate any rival because any rival claim to the truth is a threat to its Ultimate Concern which in turn will be seen as a threat to the truth, to the world and to humanity.  It is for this reason that Fundamentalism tends toward the kind of intolerance that possibly ends in violence to those who oppose its dogma/ideology/religion.  Destruction of rivals becomes paramount.

We have all been conditioned to cringe before the power of labelling people with certain names in a prejudicial way – antinomian was one such name that was wielded like a big stick beginning with Luther who used it effectively against the radical Reformation, people like Carlstad who used to be a friend of Luther but then came to see that Luther, like the Magisterial Reformers, did not go far enough.    I have since come to read the book of Galatians for what it is saying and it is certainly does not give any support to the Reformers’ doctrine of the Three Uses of the law.  As scholars almost universally put it today, Paul preached a “law-free Gospel.”   But then there are other words thrown around:  pantheist, panentheism, humanist and humanism, evolutionist, and Deism.

Real heresy or erroneous thinking is not always found in what is affirmed by a certain ism, but by what is denied.  So it is generally a wrong approach to rush in to oppose what is being affirmed.  Look at what is being denied.  For instance, I would assent to what is affirmed in evolution, namely, the inter-relation of all forms of life and that creation is a process rather than a fait accompli;  but I reject what is often denied in evolution, namely, the existence of a Creator, Logos, Source, Intelligent Power, Life-giving Spirit etc. Science does not explain away the Mystery of why there is Life and Matter.  In fact, it only deepens it, since even what appears to be simple matter is strange stuff and contains complete mysteries.   So yes, we need to take a look at Deism and learn from its best insights.   Many of its affirmations are sound, in fact, inspiring and liberating.  However, be aware of what it sometimes denies – the powerful presence of the Mystery of the Creative Spirit being present with us and in us – not trying to control us or to take away the freedom in being truly human, but as an Advocate using only the power of suasion.