Unbelieving Fundamentalism


For years, I have been observing a phenomenon I have come to call “unbelieving fundamentalism.”  What is that?  It’s literalistic and simplistic interpretation of both the Bible and Christian beliefs, which it accepts as standard but disbelieves, often casually but sometimes loudly and belligerently.

Here’s a sample.  For a long time, people have noticed that in the first chapter of the Bible’s book of Genesis, on the first day of creation, God separates the light from the darkness, calling the light day and calling the darkness night.  Not until the fourth day of creation does God get around to making a greater luminary to rule the day (the sun) and a lesser luminary to rule the night (the moon).  Believing fundamentalists take this strange and seemingly impossible order of things literally and defend it as though it were literal, historic, scientific fact (rather than the salvific, life-giving truth of God’s redemptive love).  Unbelieving fundamentalists also take this strange order of creation literally and mock it as supposed proof that the Bible is ridiculous and so should be discarded.

There is good theological and prophetic sense to putting off the creation of the sun and the moon until three days after God had separated the time of light on earth from the time of darkness and good reason for not deigning even to call the sun and moon by their names.  There is a strong message here of hope and encouragement to a thoroughly disheartened community of exiled Jews living in Babylon where the sun and the moon had deity status and the power of Babylon and its gods seemed unassailable, and there is rather the same strong message of encouragement to people in any time and place who feel themselves trapped and helpless against forces and systems far too powerful for them to overcome, resist, or even escape by their own strength.

But the Bible is not a science book.  It is not a good science book to be accepted and believed as science.  It is not a bad science book to be rejected and scorned.  The unbelieving type of fundamentalism is no more enlightened than the believing type, but the believing type of fundamentalism has the great advantage of being open to God and to faith in God.  The unbelieving type has only the current advantage of being able to sell many books to people who revel in belligerent ignorance as long as it mocks what others believe.