Blasting Bible Believers

Fundamentalism, by James Barr (Westminster, 1978, 379 pp., $7.95 pb), is reviewed by William W. Wells, assistant professor of religious studies, University of Hawaii, Hilo, Hawaii.

Fundamentalism can be recognized by three traits: a strong emphasis on the inerrancy of the Bible, an intense hostility to modern theology and the modern critical approach to the Bible, and a deep conviction that those who do not share this point of view are not in fact true Christians. So writes James Barr, the Oriel Professor of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture at Oxford. However, since Barr lives in England where party labels differ slightly from those used in the United States, American readers will have to adjust their vocabulary somewhat. As he uses the term, fundamentalist designates a position somewhat to the left of American fundamentalism; he does not at all intend to limit his discussion to the theological and social perspectives associated with Bob Jones and Carl McIntire, for example, although both men are mentioned briefly. So American readers can and probably should substitute conservative evangelical wherever Barr uses fundamentalist. And since Barr does use the former designation occasionally as a rough synonym for fundamentalist, I will do the same and alternate between the two terms here.

Barr claims that his work is a study of fundamentalism, not an exposé; the bibliographical notes would seem to bear out that claim. The list of authors quoted or referred to in one connection or another reads like a “Who’s Who of Anglo-American Evangelicalism.” But in spite of the author’s avowed intention, Fundamentalism is an angry book. Barr is deeply offended by the conservative position in general and by conservative ...

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