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clifhostetler

Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Fed Up with Fundamentalism - Leroy Seat It's easy to be fed up with self-righteous religious types who advocate for a male dominated sexual hierarchy, provide simplistic answers for the struggles of gays and lesbians, and possess a patriotism that is more committed to nationalistic chauvinism than to the honor of God (i.e. Christian fundamentalist). As indicated by the title, the author is among those who are fed up with Christian fundamentalist, and he proceeds to articulate his disagreements with them for reasons that seem to me to be quite theologically conservative.

The first two chapters are largely historical and offer an understanding of the beginnings of Christian fundamentalism as well as of how fundamentalism grew and gained in influence from 1980 to 2005. The third and fourth chapters explain some of the main appeals of fundamentalism and some of the persistent problems found in that version of Christianity. Chapters five through nine deal with specific matters that have been of great concern to most fundamentalists, and the author explains why and how he differs from their positions on issues including the following:
--The Bible
--Religious freedom
--War
--The place of women
--Abortion
--Homosexuality
--Capital punishment
Finally, in the last chapter he suggests how dissatisfied fundamentalists or those who find themselves uncomfortable in fundamentalist churches can move beyond fundamentalism to a healthier form of Christianity.

Perhaps the alliteration of "Fed Up" and "Fundamentalism" in the title could convey the false impression that this book is written in the spirit of bitter deep-seated ill will toward Christian fundamentalism. It's not. The author is addressing his writing to Christian friends to assure those who are considering leaving (or who have already left) fundamentalist circles that it is possible to be Christian (even conservative Christian) without being a fundamentalist.

The book is written from the perspective of a former Southern Baptist who has had the experience of having the church that he has worked for all his life move away from what he understands to be the true spirit and teachings of Jesus. Therefore, many of the personal experiences shared by the author are related to changes that the Southern Baptist Church has made in recent years to its theology and practice in a move toward fundamentalism.

Leroy Seat, PhD (the author) comes to this subject with impressive credentials. From from 1996 to 2004 he was Chancellor of Seinan Gakuin University (2010 total enrollment of 8,200) which is one of the leading privately-funded universities in Western Japan. He is now retired (but still busy) and is able to reflect on an interesting life full of varied and interesting experiences.

I had the privilege of discussing this book with a group that included the author, Leroy Seat. The group met weekly and covered one chapter per week (12 chapters). It was an adult Sunday school class--where else can you find a book group willing to discuss a book's content with such thoroughness?

The author of this book has also written a sequel to this book titled: The Limits of Liberalism: A Historial Theological and Personal Appraisal of Christian Liberalism. (Link to my review.)
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Here's an interesting thought (not from this book) that was prompted by reading this link:
Biblical literalists ironically place themselves in the same camp with the more aggressive atheists who view scriptures in the same literalist manner in order to explain why they are atheists. Both expremes are blind to spiritual metaphor. Both are thus missing part of the human experience.