Friday, December 05, 2008


Future Shock

A thought:

By the end of the [19th] century it was painfully clear to fundamentalists that they were losing much of their influence and respectability. One can now discern among them the emergence of a religious style shaped by a desire to strike back against everything modern -- the higher criticism, evolutionism, the social gospel, rational criticism of any kind. ...

The note of petulance became increasingly shrill. The challenge to orthodoxy had grown too formidable and penetrated too many focal centers of social power and respectability to be taken lightly. Presumably, the fundamentalists themselves were afflicted on occasion by nagging doubts about the adequacy of their faith, which was now being questioned everywhere. As Reinhold Niebuhr has remarked: "Extreme orthodoxy betrays by its very frenzy that the poison of skepticism has entered the soul of the church; for men insist most vehemently upon their certainties when their hold upon them has been shaken. Frantic orthodoxy is a method for obscuring doubt."

- Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life


I am rather puzzled by this.

For one thing, Fundamentalism didn' appear until the 20th century.

As far as evolution is concerned, the conservative evangelicals were not unified in opposition to it. Even
when Fundamentalism first appeared, anti-evolution was not one of the "fundamentals".

Tom S.
Hofstadtler doesn't use the term with a capital "F" and associates his use with:

... a militant type of mind to which the hostilities involved in any human situation seem to be its most interesting or valuable aspect ... My concern here is with the militants, who have thrown themselves headlong into the revolt against modernism in religion and against modernity in our culture in general. We are here dealing, then, with an ever smaller but still far from minuscule portion of the whole body of the evangelical tradition -- a type which has found that it can compensate with increasing zeal and enterprise for the shrinkage in its numbers.

The religious forces that coalesced around capital "F" fundamentalism preexisted the formal movement and came to a head with the rapid urbanization after the Civil War, Darwin and the New Criticism of the Bible. Hofstadter is tracing a particular anti-intellectual thread through that current. Early fundamentalism is exemplified to Hofstadter by Billy Sunday.

Also, I'm not how sure how strong the "pro-Darwin" sentiment ever was in Fundamentalism. It may have consisted mostly of a few leaders not willing to go whole-hog into anti-intellectualism. After all, it was originally associated with Princeton Theological Seminary.
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