Thursday, March 09, 2006

Religious Nomenclature

My friend Charlie keeps giving me ideas for new posts. He wants know the difference between fundamentalists, evangelicals and the religious right.

Fundamentalist -- Fundamentalism was a movement among conservative Christians in the late 19th and early 20th century that served as a reaction against theological liberalism in the church. Fundamentalists unswervingly adhered to what they considered the "fundamentals" of the faith -- the Trinity, incarnation, virgin birth, resurrection, salvation by grace through personal faith, the inerrancy of Scripture, etc. But it was also a social movement that was highly suspicious of science, rejected the "social gospel" of the liberals and considered charity work to be of low priority. They were somewhat seclusionist and had a Christ-against-culture perspective. The movement was not anti-intellectual, being led by great theologians like B.B.Warfield and A.A. Hodge of Princeton, but spawned an anti-intellectualism that formed later. Today, only the most conservative Christians would self-identify as fundamentalist. They would not only hold these theological tenets, but would endorse multiple prohibitions against things like alcohol, movies, dancing, etc. See this essay for more detail.

Evangelical -- the word comes from the Greek, meaning "of the good news," or "of the gospel." Simply put, evangelicals are those who emphasize the gospel, namely, that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for sin, and that every person can be forgiven through personal faith in Him. They are also evangelical in the sense that they promote evangelism, or proselytizing, since Christ is the only means of salvation. Fundamentalists could be seen as a sub-category of evangelicals. Usually, evangelicals also emphasize the inerrancy of Scripture. The Evangelical Theological Society has this statement: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory." Here is the statement of faith for the National Alliance of Evangelicals. For an excellent evangelical blog, go here.

Religious Right -- This would be a political category, and could contain evangelicals, Catholics, fundamentalists, mormons, Jews, etc. These are politically conservative people who not only have a particular Judeo-Christian belief set, but have strong beliefs about how those views should affect the state, and ally themselves for political purposes.

For my readers, any additions or deletions?


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