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Three Definitions of “Neo-Fundamentalist”2 min read

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One of the problems with the descriptors “fundamentalist” and “neofundamentalism” is that they carry different meanings among different groups.  This causes confusion when such things are discussed.  Below, I propose three different definitions of neo-fundamenalism, depending on who’s asking.

1. The Unbeliever’s View of Fundamentalism

From outside of Christianity, “neo-fundamentalism” means very little, and probably the same as “fundamentalism”, which includes anyone who “takes the bible literally. This would basically include most evangelicals and other born-again Christians.  Of course, this ambiguous (and pejorative) use of the word “literally” needs clarification, since there is an extreme type of Biblical literalism, and a more nuanced and reasoned literal approach, which I have called a “contextual literalism.”

2. The Evangelical view of Neo-fundamentalism

To Christians outside of fundamentalist circles (including evangelicals), NF means those who carry on the historic fundamentalist doctrines and approaches.  You see, in their minds, the original fundamentalists are all dead, since they began their movement in the early 1900’s.  So basically, anyone who is still carrying their torch is a neo-fundamentalist, in the eyes of an evangelical.

3. The fundamentalist view of Neo-fundamentalism

Modern day self-labeled fundamentalists, however, don’t see themselves as anything new (“neo”), and so still hold to the original “fundamentalist” label, even though the progenitors of their movement are now dead.  For those *inside* the modern fundamentalist camps, fundamentalism is still alive, and those who seek to *reform* or deviate from traditional fundamentalism, while still holding to the essentials of the faith, are considered to be NFs.  So while evangelicals would probably consider this “reform” group just plain fundies, the actual fundamentalists consider these more liberal guys to be NFs.

Going forward, I will use the term fundamentalist to mean the contemporary movement that carries on the doctrinal distinctions of the original fundamentalist movement.  So, this would exclude evangelicals.