Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

McLaren on Fundamentalism 1

From Brian McLaren’s blog, and wondering what you think of this way of putting the difference between fundamentalists and the curious (non fundamentalists)?

When I am presented with a new idea or proposal, my first question is more likely to be …
___A. Is it acceptable to my religious/ideological community or belief system?
___B. Is it possibly true, valuable, and worth exploring?

If you chose A, you’re probably a fundamentalist, and probably shouldn’t read my new book because it will only get you in trouble. If you do decide to read it, don’t let your fundamentalist friends know. Hide the book in a brown paper bag, and only read it in private.


If you chose B, you’re curious, and I think you’ll enjoy my new book.

Tomorrow I’ll post a brief response to Brian’s categories here.

Comments read comments(20)
post a comment

posted February 2, 2010 at 11:51 am

I like Brian’s stuff; “A New Kind of Christian” was very helpful to me a few years ago. But this, it seems to me, is a lame reflection of the fallacy of the excluded middle. There is always, for everyone, some dialectic between assumed belief systems and new facts and ideas. Human beings are not blank slates. Methinks Brian is sounding an awful lot like John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine here, and not much like postmodern Neo.

report abuse

Bill Kinnon

posted February 2, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I would echo dopderbeck above that ANKoC was very helpful but…
I think Brian’s quiz is simply another form of marketing for his book and really has little to do with the actual post-Christendom, post-modern discussion. Where Brian once argued from a both/and position, he appears to have moved to a “progressive” either/or position. Brian has become as much a fundamentalist in his religious-political belief system as those he so chooses to label.

report abuse

Steffen Schulte

posted February 2, 2010 at 12:59 pm

I find this proposed dualism very unhelpful. I can either agree with him and be an open-minded person, or disagree and be fundamentalist. That sounds a bit too easy. Next time somebody disagrees with me I simply label him a fundamentalist.
When did having and thinking out of a “belief system” become bad or even an option?

report abuse

William Birch

posted February 2, 2010 at 1:16 pm

“Is it acceptable to my religious / ideological community or belief system?”
What if the new idea or proposal conflicts with Scripture (or at least my interpretation of Scripture)? Am I still a fundamentalist because I am not “open” to its conception(s)?
Perhaps what McLaren means to suggest is that we should be open to new ideas or proposals without one’s fuddy-duddy, particularistic, preconceived notion(s) robbing the idea of all viability. But he certainly didn’t word it that way.

report abuse


posted February 2, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I’m willing to give McLaren a very small pass on the scope of this question since he did ask what the reader’s first question would be, not what their only question would be.
What disappoints me most is that this does not appear to be an honest question, but a way to pander to his audience. No one will read his comment and then say, “Well, I was considering buying the book, but I see from this insightful quiz that I am a fundamentalist and thus I now know this book will probably not interest me.”
The quiz is a way for the readers to congratulate themselves on their non-fundamentalism and to feel superior to all those fundamentalists who won’t “get it” and thus can’t appreciate the genius of the book they’re about to spend $24.95 on (or however much it is).
As alluded to in previous comments, this makes the purported non-fundamentalist just as much a line-drawer as the purported fundamentalist and thus nullifies the whole exercise.

report abuse


posted February 2, 2010 at 1:51 pm

The Design Spectrum
I was all prepared to comment, then I read the other comments. All well said. I won’t pile on.

report abuse

Dave W

posted February 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Since I am a fundamentalist I do not plan to read his book. UPS just five minutes ago delivered three books, one on Windows 7, one is Creation or Evolution by Denis Alexander and the last is There is A God by Antony Flew. That hardly seems like someone with no curiosity or afraid of what their church friends would say. I am a fundamentalist in the original sense of the word in that there are certain Christian beliefs I will not compromise on. The basic things are not the doctrine held by the reformed church I attend, modes of baptism or inspiration, views on communion, view on how God created life on this planet and so on. Fundamental things are Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and his death and resurrection almost 2000 years ago or to put it another way, things that are common to all of Christianity as CS Lewis expressed it in Mere Christianity. Many other things are important but are secondary or tertiary. Probably McLaren was referring to fundies who seem highly concerned about women wearing hats in church and so on.

report abuse


posted February 2, 2010 at 2:22 pm

This seems to be mostly a marketing gimmick. For most people I think there’s a great amount of interplay between A and B. McLaren’s “test” seems to treat every proposition equally.
The “bar” of evidence required for a proposition that doesn’t fit with within your belief system (“I just saw someone floating up the stairs”) is much higher than for something that is consistent with your present belief system (“I just saw someone fall down the stairs”). Of course you can fall into a trap if you don’t have some level of “healthy skepticism” but that doesn’t mean on the other hand that we abandon the idea of interpreting the world using prior knowledge.
I consider myself to be somewhat of a fundamentalist in the positive sense of wanting to use a core set of “fundamental” knowledge that I have great confidence in to then branch out in a search for more truth. McLaren suggests I’m not “curious”, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
Or maybe I’m missing the point here, I don’t know. It just seems like he’s trying to push buttons.

report abuse


posted February 2, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Considering all the viciousness that Brian has had to contend with over the years from the fundamentalist side of the spectrum, I can’t really blame him for engaging in a little “fundie bashing” or at least “fundie tweaking” here. Perhaps this could even be considered a warning to fundamentalists that they are not going to like his new book so they shouldn’t buy it?

report abuse

Rachel H. Evans

posted February 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm

I suppose great minds think alike, Scot, because I wrote a response to McLaren’s “quiz” on my blog yesterday.
Honestly, I found it a little surprising that McLaren would post something like this because “A” sort of assumes an objective, independent observer and McLaren of all people should know that there’s no such thing!
Here’s a little of what I wrote in the post:
” If I?m honest with myself, I have to admit that my first question when encountering a new idea is almost always, Does this fit with my faith? It?s my default?perhaps out of habit, perhaps out of fear, perhaps because it?s part of the human condition to be wary of anything that might upset one?s current paradigm…
The difference, I suppose, is that over the past few years I?ve learned that my faith is strong enough to withstand new ideas and hard questions. I no longer let the question Does this fit with my faith? stop me from exploring…But this is a learned response for me, not a natural one. I?m afraid that my gut reaction will always be A, not B.”

report abuse

Rachel H. Evans

posted February 2, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Oops! I mean “B” assumes an objective observer.

report abuse

Beloved Spear

posted February 2, 2010 at 2:45 pm

This isn’t provocative. It’s disappointingly shallow. If I’m encountering a new thing, I generally think, “What do I think about this new thing?” As a person of faith, the “I” that does the thinking defines itself through a set of norms and expectations that are intrinsic to how you view and make decisions. I generally approach a new thing and ask, well, how does it relate to those values that I hold? Like, say, tolerance. Or openness to the other. Or love of one’s neighbor and even one’s enemy.
These are not things I think because I’m worried about the values in my surrounding sub-culture. I’m not going over some checklist my pastor gave me. I’m assessing it based on my own identity. We all do that. It’s…well…human.
Ah well. Maybe the book will be better.

report abuse


posted February 2, 2010 at 4:14 pm

I am a recent student in deeper theology (within the past two years) but an experienced executive in business. I am regularly amazed by the lack of slack given to people based on their own way of approaching problems and situations when it comes to non-secular people.
I like feeling superior as much as the next guy, but have you people not heard of Meyers Briggs, or Disc, or my favorite Personalysis? A person’s first reaction to a question is only relevant to a small number of people in the world. Perhaps Brian should say “then it makes you an ISFJ and if you actually blog about it then you are an ESFJ!”
I spend a lot of time telling my Managers that there are all kinds of people in the world and none are better than others (except Intp’s of course :)) If you like personalysis then there is nothing quite like comparing a red to a blue, or a green, or better yet a red-yellow to a blue-green.
I do appreciate Brian’s question, but I also think (in an overstated way) it furthers the cause of demonizing some people and objectifying their beliefs in a cruel way. I also think the fundies who would be reading his blog are asking for it.
I should probably spend more time editing this but I am an INTP type A that has a big red streak and obvious dominating tendancies.

report abuse


posted February 2, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Interesting and probably not too far off the mark. However, as with all stereotypes, I’m sure there are exceptions.

report abuse

Jeff Doles

posted February 2, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Though McClaren presents himself as open-minded, he seems to be pretty near-sighted when he flattens out the choices as he does in that little quiz. As if those two are the only possible responses to his ideas. Though I neither claim nor deny being a fundamentalist, I think fundamentalists are more open-minded then McClaren gives them credit.

report abuse

R Hampton

posted February 2, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I wonder how McLaren categorize such a person:
A scientist who is an atheist because they found no measurable answers when they worked through their questions concerning God. Because the only way left to explore God was through faith – an argument that can be made for all religions – the scientist had no reason to extend faith towards any religion. Coupled with the lack of evidence of a supernatural realm, the scientist scientist concluded the absence of (a) God(s) to be true. However, the scientist does admit that should solid scientific evidence of (a) God(s) were to be found, then he/she would change their mind.

report abuse


posted February 2, 2010 at 4:48 pm

It just made me reflect some on what my first reaction is. I appreciated the opportunity to do so that Brian presented.

report abuse


posted February 2, 2010 at 5:06 pm

It’s a stupid joke and marketing technique to the followers of his blog. I don’t think that Mclaren is intending these as two broad, all-encompassing categories. And it’s really ironic to hear the Jesus Creed crowd crowing about how narrow Mclaren really is when we all verbally beat each other in response to the SOTU address last week.

report abuse

Kyle Nolan

posted February 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm

I think the a/b question is reductive of what Seth Godin actually said in the video McLaren embedded below the question.
Godin’s explanation was helpful, because he explained at length his perspective about the difference in a fundamentalism that rejects something before it’s really considered in and a curiosity that explores something to find out if it is true or not before decided whether to reject it or accept it. It’s easy to write off those who are critical of new ideas as fundamentalists, but if we do that without actually considering their critiques, we are being equally or more “fundamentalist.” I thought Godin’s last statement was especially helpful: “What we’re seeing is that fundamentalism has really nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with an outlook, regardless of what your religion is.”
Unfortunately, out of context I think the phrase is reductive and has in this case been used as a marketing ploy to suggest that if you reject what McLaren is arguing, you’re just a fundamentalist.

report abuse


posted February 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm

As I get older I find things that alienate me from my religious community less “true,” “valuable,” and “worth exploring.”
When I was twenty I wanted to prove the rest of the world wrong. Now that I have a family I more or less want to find my role in the story. Maybe I’m a fundamentalist. I’m not losing any sleep over it. The quest for greatness is unfulfilling.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog ...

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the ...

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: ...

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's ...

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or ...

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.