[asa] Definition of terms?

From: <SteamDoc@aol.com>
Date: Wed Dec 13 2006 - 20:59:56 EST

This is somewhat off-topic, but it involves vocabulary that sometimes
comes
up in our science-faith discussions. And it was sparked by a book I
agreed
to review for PSCF.

The question concerns how one defines (in American Protestantism)
"evangelical" and "fundamentalist" and whether or not the latter is a
subset of the
former. I list two possible ways to classify these terms:

(A) In one classification, "evangelical" is a middle category, bordered
perhaps by "liberal" on one end (that's not the border I'm
interested in here)
and "fundamentalist" on the other end. The border issues between
"evangelical"
and "fundamentalist" being mainly these in my opinion (necessarily
oversimplified):
-- Fundamentalism has a more separatist, "us vs. them" approach where
doctrinal purity is demanded and those who are not doctrinally pure
(even less
conservative Christians) are viewed as enemies, in contrast to
evangelicals being
more willing to engage with the diverse world.
-- Fundamentalism is more Bible-centered, whereas evangelicalism is
Jesus-centered, with fundamentalists making the "perfect
book" (often interpreted
with extreme literalism) central to their doctrine. While many
evangelicals
would affirm concepts like "inerrancy", it is not made a litmus test
and
evangelicals are more willing to allow historical and cultural
context to play a
role in exegesis and to look at the "whole counsel of Scripture"
rather than
individual proof-texts.

---
I don't want to discuss the definition of the border here -- the   
point is
that in this classification (which is the way I tend to use the terms),
"evangelical" and "fundamentalist" do not overlap -- "fundamentalist"  
is the
category for those too far to the "right" to be in the "evangelical"   
category.
(B) Another classification (which seems to be used in the book I am   
reading)
has "fundamentalist" as a *subset* of "evangelical".  Everyone  on  
one side
of the theological spectrum is called an evangelical, with   
fundamentalists
being the most conservative among the evangelicals.  This   
classification allows
the author to talk about the political and social  involvement of
"evangelicals" while using as his examples people like Jerry   
Falwell, Tim LaHaye, and D.
James Kennedy (all of whom I would call  "fundamentalist").
So, any opinions (preferably informed ones) as to which is the more   
sensible
nomenclature?  Is there a standard usage among historians of   
religion?  From
what little I know about the history of the modern  "evangelical"  
movement,
there was a conscious attempt maybe 50 years ago for  people (like  
Billy Graham
and John Stott) to use that term to distinguish  themselves from
fundamentalists, which would tend to argue for (A)  above.
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Dr.  Allan H. Harvey, Boulder, Colorado | SteamDoc@aol.com
"Any opinions expressed  here are mine, and should not be
attributed to my employer, my wife, or my  cat"
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Received on Fri Dec 15 01:55:36 2006

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