Second of three parts.
For all Professor James Barr’s adverse comment on fundamentalism in his recent book, he does quite objectively state its central beliefs. One would think most members of the university world would be adequately preinformed about these, but perhaps they are not.
Fundamentalism, says Barr, calls for “a simple and clear theology, based on a single well-known source, the Bible” in contrast to “the shilly-shallyings of more sophisticated theology” (p. 35). Fundamentalism emphasizes Christ’s substitutionary atonement for sinners rather than works-salvation, and personal faith in the crucified and risen Lord rather than sacraments; it enjoins daily experience of the Holy Spirit and “a good knowledge of the Bible coupled with acceptance of its authority” (pp. 31, 81). It proffers salvation through “a particular kind of message … not necessarily or universally preached in the churches” (p. 11). Personal conversion is indispensable, and its supposed coincidence with a change of opinion is “structurally essential” (p. 18).
Lay evangelistic witness, Barr continues, holds an important place, as does the sacrificial support of worldwide missions (pp. 33 ff.). While fundamentalists are not ascetics, they readily deny themselves certain enjoyments to further the task of evangelism (p. 99). Their group dedication encourages many others to adopt a personal faith (p. 318).
Much that Barr says about fundamentalism—even if in a censorious context—may, in the absence of any persuasive alternative, serve to commend the evangelical outlook to many of his readers. Barr acknowledges the “positive pressure towards conservative positions” that fundamentalism exercises on theology and biblical study (p. 9) and the “seeming attractiveness ...1
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