Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fundamentalism as Secularized Christianity?

As I've been working through Orthodox scholar Alexander Schmemann's classic work For the Life of the World, I've come across a very interesting section where Schmemann challenges what he would call "secularized Christianity." What is interesting here is that Schmemann's criticism isn't directed towards "liberal," mainline churches that have long since lost a high view of the authority of Scripture but Schmemann points his criticism towards the conservative, fundamentalist, so-called "Bible-believing" churches. Schmemann isn't always easy to read, so this is my best handle on what he is saying here, but to be a "secularist" is to "live in the world as if there were no God." The classic fundamentalist lives "separately" from the world; essentially, he lives "in the world as if there were no God," subsequently his central vision of life in the world is the hope of escaping it. However, as Schmemann writes, "secularism is a lie about the world.... honesty to the Gospel, to the whole Christian tradition,... (which) demands exactly the opposite: to live in the world seeing everything in it as a revelation of God, a sign of His presence, the joy of His coming, the call to communion with Him, the hope for fulfillment in Him" (p. 112). Schmemann finishes this section by saying, "To accept secularism as the truth about the world (as the classic fundamentalist does) is, therefore, to change the original Christian faith so deeply and so radically, that the question must be  asked: do we really speak of the same Christ?"

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