Christian fundamentalism

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A protester in the USA calls for repentance to Jesus and Bible study .

The term Christian fundamentalism is primarily understood to mean those schools of thought in Christianity that expressly refer to the Bible as a foundation ( faithfulness to the Bible ) and the literally inspired Word of God . The term ecclesiastical structural fundamentalism can also be understood, especially with reference to the Catholic Church .

This article does not deal with the fundamentalism of Christian special groups, e.g. B. that of Mormonism or Jehovah's Witnesses .


At the center of Christian fundamentalism is "the belief in the absolute inerrancy of the Bible in all areas (not only in the area of ​​religion, but also in the areas of geography, history and biology)". Representatives see the foundations of faith as something given that does not have to be discovered or developed through reasoned debate, but that is known and proclaimed.

Most supporters of Christian fundamentalism agree with conservative, biblical values ​​regarding fidelity, which also has an effect on sexual morality , for example on the understanding of sexual intercourse outside of marriage or of abortion . Homosexuality and same-sex partnerships are resolutely rejected by Christian fundamentalists as well as by evangelicals ( differentiating statements are also known from Alliance evangelicalism ).

The theory of evolution is usually rejected. The counter-models are also known as creationism or intelligent design .

There is Christian fundamentalism of different denominational forms, distinguishable according to its origin, its development or according to the teachings declared to be indispensable. Characteristic of denominational fundamentalism is the demarcation from all currents that do not fully share their own doctrine - also from other Christian fundamentalist groups. The external image and perception of Christian fundamentalism in specialist literature and in the press is very diverse.

The term fundamentalism is rarely a self- term one. Mostly it is the point of view of critics and opponents. Protestant fundamentalists see themselves as being true to the Bible.

Protestant fundamentalism

The Protestantism in the United States came after the American Civil War in a crisis. In response to this, new ideas were developed to cope with the new social conditions. This is how Protestant fundamentalism arose. The origin of the term fundamentalism lies in American newspaper editors and their perception in conservative-Protestant circles. The trigger was the series The Fundamentals , published between 1910 and 1915 . The two brothers Lyman (1840-1923) and Milton Stewart (1838-1923) were moved and wanted to do something about a sermon at the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago , which was directed against the increasing criticism of the Bible among Protestant clergy. Over three million copies of these writings were distributed. The authors were various American clergymen and the Swiss theologian Frédéric Bettex (1837–1915). The scriptures defended the fifth century basic doctrines of the Apostles' Creed , which all churches around the world would have stood by for over 1,500 years. The writings also distinguished themselves from the theory of evolution and various sects. Dispensationalism was also propagated .

The trigger for the critical examination by the press was the fight against the theory of evolution. The Scopes process of 1925 made a significant contribution to this. As a result of this process, the majority of the high-circulation press was directed against the Christian positions. This promoted the unbundling between conservative and liberal Christians.

Both the Protestant fundamentalist and the evangelical churches reject liberal theology . However, good and meaningful partial knowledge of the historical-critical method is left untouched, especially in the evangelical tradition, for example results from the formal textual criticism of the Bible .

"Fundamentalism has rightly pointed out that historical criticism did not save the biblical text from usurpation by the interpreter, although that was exactly its very own intention."

- Peter Zimmerling

In German-speaking Europe, the fundamentalist movement, unlike the USA, never grew strong. History was different there: there are many different intermediate forms between the pietistic movement and the neo-evangelical movement . Neo-Calvinism is marginal, heterogeneous in its creeds and practices, and can only be distinguished from the other two directions by nuances.

According to the authors William MacDonald and Dean Sherman , the transition to fundamentalism is also fluid in the charismatic movement or neo- charismatic movement , depending on the background of the group or congregation. The latter pursue controversial practices such as " spiritual healing ": Believers are suggested that the clergyman is able to heal diseases by the laying on of hands or the like. The Brazilian sect Deus é Amor , for example, advertises with images of empty wheelchairs, suggesting that its help will help paralyzed people learn to walk again. In Africa, preachers like Chris Oyakhilome and TB Joshua pretend to their followers that they can cure diseases like AIDS through God's help .

Also widespread is the concept of " spiritual warfare " designed by Charles Peter Wagner , in which it is claimed that the world is occupied by "demons" and must be purified through Christian action. The organizers often choose places, actions or world views that are politically unpopular as “demonic”. "Many prayer initiatives promise social changes through the spiritual conquest of the forces that cause 'evil' (eg homosexuality , abortion , also pluralism and humanism ) and an 'in-existence prayer' of the order willed by God." Acts despite the militant rhetoric Spiritual warfare is about peaceful marches or prayers, not violent excesses.

A characteristic of the radical wing of Protestant fundamentalism is the double division: Fundamentalists not only reject any cooperation with people who, from their point of view, represent false doctrines, they also reject cooperation with people who, in their view, are orthodox, who in turn with representatives of a wrong Teaching collaborate. This rigidity later led to the organizational disentanglement of separate fundamentalists and moderate evangelicals, who theologically, however, also stand in the apostolic tradition in the sense of the apostolic creed.

The separation of radical, often Calvinist , fundamentalists and moderate evangelicals also had consequences within the church. The two directions broke out in the USA, partly elsewhere as well, in a process that lasted decades into different churches and confederations. The Christian fundamentalists in the USA founded the national umbrella organization ACCC in 1941, the Evangelicals in 1942 the umbrella organization NAE . The fundamentalists had the motto "no cooperation and no compromise", the evangelicals "cooperation without compromise" on important doctrinal issues.

The fundamentalists are structured more hierarchically in the church, the evangelicals have a strong inner-church pluralism with a democratically shaped lay priesthood and free expression, whereby there are all conceivable intermediate forms. The Calvinist Christians within the radical fundamentalists of the USA refer to the evangelicals as Arminians and, from their point of view, assign them to the same large family of thought to which the theologically liberals also belong. An example: The collaboration of the well-known evangelical evangelist Billy Graham with Catholics, Orthodox and representatives of the theologically liberal mainstream churches has contributed to the disentanglement between fundamentalists and evangelicals.

Lines of conflict within Protestant fundamentalism arise along different social and economic backgrounds of those involved, different cultures of faith and worship and singing traditions, which condense on mostly incidental theological questions and can lead to a division in the dispute between fundamentalist communities. Most of the church splits, however, are peaceful, organic in nature and are based on the division of labor. This is expressed, for example, in the establishment of subsidiary congregations which, above a certain size, are released into independence and, if they exist, are accepted as members of their own.

There are differences between radical fundamentalists, moderate evangelicals and theological liberals with regard to the understanding of the Bible, which is widely reflected in the relevant literature: for the fundamentalists the Bible is inerrancy, for the evangelicals it is inspired by God and absolutely trustworthy, and for the liberals it is a book that testifies to God's Word.

In Protestant literature, theological and denominational reasons are often given in order to differentiate the fundamentalist movement from other currents. However, there are also religion-specific socio-psychological arguments to locate the demarcation from fundamentalism:

“Most fundamentalist groups, on the other hand, have a very specific super-father in their church leadership whose view is binding for the group. Their behavior is often patriarchal - also in the positive sense of the word. It is therefore difficult for the members of such a group to come of age, to find an independent relationship with God as it corresponds to the New Testament. "

- Peter Zimmerling

Sociologically, radical Christian fundamentalism sometimes has strict, immovable criteria for distinguishing Christians from unbelievers. Sometimes the clothing is emphasized (women with long skirts), in some groups with headgear in the church, men only with or without a beard. In addition, there are written and unwritten rules as to what is to be omitted as worldly defined action (for example, in the case of extreme fundamentalists, a ban on cinema, dance, card games, make-up, alcohol, intoxicants, consumption of secular music, television and other media, in rare cases even the acquisition of higher education). These rules can vary greatly from group to group and can change over time in a church.

A characteristic of fundamentalist Christian groups is the fundamental rejection of ecumenism and sometimes other forms of cooperation with other Christian schools.

Martin Riesebrodt differentiates between different phases in the development of Protestant fundamentalism in the USA: the religious dispute 1900–1918, influence on state institutions 1918–1925, retreat and decline after the Scopes trial 1925–1930, reorganization 1930–1940, institutional demarcation 1940 –1970 and new mobilization from the end of the 1960s due to the new possibilities in the mass media.

The World Council of Churches is rejected as too liberal and left-wing . An organization of radical Protestant fundamentalists is the International Council of Christian Churches (ICCC), founded in 1948. However, there are no churches or parishes in the German-speaking area that are members of the ICCC. The ICCC has not achieved widespread recognition in the evangelical movement because of its strong separatism.

While these groups appear peaceably and rhetorically at best in theological discussions, there are small right-wing extremist groups such as Aryan Nations and Christian Identity in the USA . They have nothing to do with traditional Protestant-conservative fundamentalism. These are right-wing extremist special groups, which, as is customary with such groups, mix different ideological backgrounds into their own worldview and thus also incorporate Christian set pieces, disregarding the biblical origin and meaning embedding, as a pattern of justification.

An important school of thought within Christian fundamentalism are the Dominionists , who want to reduce the importance of the state and call for a political reformation based on Old Testament laws, which can also lead to the relativization of some of the framework conditions that are largely accepted today, such as the repeal of public - legally recognized forms of human coexistence outside of classic marriage.

Pentecostal fundamentalist movements, such as the Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus or Deus é Amor, have gained special significance in Brazil . These groups, built up as commercial enterprises, find willing followers especially in the slums . The leaders of the organizations pretend to be faith healers. a. pretend to raise the dead again. There are links to politics (e.g. via the Partido Social Cristão ) and to organized crime. Many pastors are former gang members who boast of their crimes and claim to have strayed from this life through God's help:

"Yes - as demanded by the demons, I killed our six-month-old son with my wife, fried it in the pan, ate his meat - I have committed so many barbaric crimes, I've already been to hell!"

- Pastor Salles

Catholic fundamentalism

According to Martin Kirschner, research assistant at the Chair of Dogmatics at the University of Tübingen, the concept of “Catholic fundamentalism” - first used academically in a US American script in 1985 by Gabriel Daly - tends to be rejected theologically and within the Church. The theologian Wolfgang Beinert considers the formulation to be a " contradictio in adiecto " and describes fundamentalism in any form as structurally heretical .

Nevertheless, elements of religious fundamentalism can be found in Catholicism . At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, it was above all anti-modernism , the rejection of the historical-critical method and integralism , which resulted in the formation of an isolated milieu . As a result of the Second Vatican Council , traditionalist groups "inside and outside the Catholic Church, which have far-reaching structural communities with [...] Protestant fundamentalism." Are characteristic of the absolute establishment of a part of church teaching and an ahistorical view of the sources of faith (Scripture , Teaching post and tradition). The Catholic fundamental theologian Klaus Kienzler sees the cause in Catholic fundamentalism in the modernity crises of his church and the ideal of a societas perfecta , from which the encyclicals Syllabus errorum or Quanta Cura or Pascendi arose and whose internal church conflicts were not pacified even by the Second Vatican Council were. Despite theological differences to Protestantism, "the same fundamentalist dangers and tendencies can be identified as fundamentalist understanding of Scripture, traditionalism, moralism, etc."

From a clerical point of view, the Graz Bishop Kapellari warned in this context against a secular and religious fundamentalism; The latter representatives see in the “ Aggiornamento ” a “self-deception of Christianity that is simply not aware of its secularistic leaching and the resulting ethical decline of society”. A “great clairvoyance is required to distinguish the spirits in individual cases”. However, the word "fundamentalism" is often used very lightly today "as a club against religious people who take their beliefs seriously". The Basel Bishop Kurt Koch , now President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity , also warned against “throwing the club of fundamentalism everywhere” in what he saw as an increasingly polarized church, instead of “going in search of common truth. do".

Orthodox fundamentalism

A small part of the Athos monks represent an orthodox fundamentalism that vehemently or militantly rejects meetings and conversations between representatives of Orthodoxy and the Pope, other representatives of Western churches or the ancient Near Eastern churches , although the volume of this group is much greater than their actual number Meaning.

Orthodox fundamentalists are also part of the diverse, sometimes self-proclaimed Orthodox Episcopi Vagantes (irregular bishops) and their followers. Some of these fundamentalists are converts from Western countries.

In contrast, groups like the Greek old calendars , the Russian Raskolnics and parts of the Russian Church Abroad can be described as extremely conservative rather than fundamentalist, although there are overlaps.

A typical characteristic of orthodox fundamentalism is extremely exaggerated and absolutely set traditionalism.

Christian fundamentalism in media and politics

Secular media and politicians use the term “Christian fundamentalism” in an imprecisely defined way and also refer to groups that do not belong to Christian fundamentalism in the theological sense. Often criteria are used that apply not only to Christian fundamentalists, but also to broader circles in conservative Christianity, e.g. B. advocating traditional family values, advocating a form of creationism or rejecting gender mainstreaming , abortions and practiced homosexuality .

For example, homosexuality is resolutely rejected by Christian fundamentalists as it is by most conservative Christians. Some politicians and secular media therefore count the ex-gay movement , which primarily offers help in the controversial reorientation from a homosexual to a heterosexual orientation, to a Christian fundamentalist environment.

One movement often confused with Christian fundamentalism is the American religious right , which combines and politically represents conservative Christianity with capitalism , traditional family values, gun ownership and America as the Promised Land , with particular emphasis on abortion , same-sex marriage and state regulations in today's politics such as B. a state health insurance are rejected.

The Religious Right is a significant part of the Republican electorate and is composed mainly of Evangelicals, Catholics and Mormons who also work together, for example in the Manhattan Declaration , and is therefore only partially part of religious fundamentalism. The majority of Christian fundamentalists in the US vote republican, while the Evangelicals have a broader political orientation.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Kurt Remele: Catholic Fundamentalism in: Clemens Six, Martin Riesebrodt, Siegfried Haas (ed.): Religiöser Fundamentalismus. From colonialism to globalization . Pp. 53-68. StudienVerlag, Innsbruck a. a. 2004, ISBN 3-7065-4071-1 , here: p. 55.
  2. James Barr: Fundamentalism . In: Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon . Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen 1986, Vol. 3, Sp. 1404
  3. Swiss Evangelical Alliance , Wilf Gasser (author): Between adoption and change - Christian faith and same-sex orientation. A working paper of the Swiss Evangelical Alliance ; sea ​​documentation working paper No. 93; Zurich, 2009; last accessed on May 20, 2012 (pdf; 220 kB).
  4. Philipp Flammer: Learning in the Protestant Fundamentalism of the USA from 1930 to 1950. Verein Infosekta, Zurich 1995, p. 4 (pdf, 396 kB, accessed on May 20, 2012).
  5. ^ The Fundamentals, A Testimony to the Truth, Vol. I-XII, Testimony Publishing Company Chicago s. a.
  6. Martin Riesebrodt: Protestant Fundamentalism in the USA. Information No. 102, Evangelical Central Office for Weltanschauungsfragen, Stuttgart 1987, p. 2 (pdf, 140 kB, accessed on May 20, 2012).
  7. Stephan Holthaus: Fundamentalism in Germany : The struggle for the Bible in Protestantism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Publishing house for culture and science, Bonn 1993.
  8. Philipp Flammer: Learning in the Protestant Fundamentalism of the USA from 1930 to 1950. Verein Infosekta, Zurich 1995, p. 8 (pdf, 396 kB, accessed on March 13, 2012).
  9. Peter Zimmerling: Protestant Fundamentalism as a Lived Faith. In: Hansjörg Hemminger (Ed.): Fundamentalism in the secularized culture. Quell, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-7918-1908-9 , p. 113.
  10. ^ Dean Sherman: Spiritual Warfare - How Christians Live Victorious . Wuppertal 1991.
  11. William MacDonald: Notice the Difference . Dillenburg 1975, p. 54 ff.
  12. Handbook Weltanschauungen, Religious Communities, Free Churches . Gütersloh 2015, p. 233.
  13. Eckhard J. Schnabel : Are Evangelical Fundamentalists? R. Brockhaus, Wuppertal / Zurich 1995.
  14. ^ Iain Murray: Evangelicalism divided. A Record of Crucial Change in the Years of 1950 to 2000. Banner of Truth, Edinburgh 2000.
  15. Philipp Flammer: Learning in the Protestant Fundamentalism of the USA from 1930 to 1950. Verein Infosekta, Zurich 1995, p. 10 (pdf, 396 kB, accessed on: March 13, 2012).
  16. ^ Gregory Marsden: Fundamentalism and American Culture. Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. XXXIV.
  17. Evangelical Social Party Group ESP (ed.): Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism in the USA. Wetzikon 1993-2001.
  18. Peter Zimmerling: Protestant Fundamentalism as a Lived Faith. In: Hansjörg Hemminger (Ed.): Fundamentalism in the secularized culture. Quell, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-7918-1908-9 , p. 103.
  19. John F. MacArthur: When Salt Runs Out. The evangelicals in the age of itchy ears. Christian literature distribution, Bielefeld 1996.
  20. Michael de Semlyen: All roads lead to Rome. Evangelicals - where to? Reformatorischer Verlag, Beese 1993.
  21. Martin Riesebrodt: Protestant Fundamentalism in the USA. Information No. 102. Evangelical Central Office for Weltanschauungsfragen, Stuttgart 1987, p. 6 (pdf, 140 kB, accessed on May 20, 2012).
  22. Klaus Hart: Brazil's sect Deus é Amor.
  23. Wolfgang Behnk: With the plastic sword against demons - Brazilian Pentecostal movement. (As of March 2007)
  24. Klaus Hart: Brazil's sect Deus é Amor.
  25. Gabriel Daly: Catholicism and Modernity , 53 (1985) pp. 773-796 (= Journal of the American Academy of Religion ), cf. Footnote in Richard Faber , Frank Unger : Populism Past and Present. Königshausen u. Neumann, 2008, p. 190.
  26. An overview of the current state of research can be found in: Martin Kirschner: God testimony in the late modern era. Theological and sociological reflections on the social structure of the Catholic Church . Echter, Würzburg 2006, p. 130-138 .
  27. Wolfgang Beinert: "Catholic" Fundamentalism. Heretical Groups in the Church? Pustet, Regensburg 1991, p. 73 .
  28. cf. Wolfgang Beinert: "Catholic" fundamentalism. Heretical Groups in the Church? Pustet, Regensburg 1991, p. 81 : “It cannot be seen how fundamentalism in any form and catholicity can be reconciled with one another. Objectively speaking, fundamentalism is a structural heresy. "
  29. Martin Kirschner: God's testimony in late modernity. Theological and sociological reflections on the social structure of the Catholic Church . Echter, Würzburg 2006, p. 135 .
  30. Klaus Kienzler: The religious fundamentalism: Christianity, Judaism, Islam. CH Beck, 2007, p. 50 ff. ( Online in Googlebooks; accessed on September 22, 2017).
  31. ^ Egon Kapellari: Europe's Christian Identity. Christian center instead of secular and religious fundamentalism. In: Sunday paper for Styria , No. 14 of April 2, 2006, p. 16 ( online ).
  32. Urban Fink-Wagner: 60 years Kurt Koch, 15 years Bishop of Basel. Interview with Bishop Dr. Kurt Koch in the Swiss church newspaper 10/2010, ISSN  1420-5041
  33. Small question from the MPs Volker Beck (Cologne) […] and the Alliance 90 / DIE GRÜNEN parliamentary group : Antihomosexual seminars and pseudo-scientific therapy offers by religious fundamentalists , January 12, 2008, ( online (PDF file; 86 kB), accessed on 7. September 2011)
  34. ^ Leonie Seifert: Discrimination against gay baiting, strictly scientific ; in: The time of August 11, 2009. Accessed on September 7, 2011.
  35. Ecumenical Working Group Homosexuals and the Church (HuK) e. V .: conversion therapies ; Website of the Ecumenical Working Group on Homosexuals and the Church , accessed September 7, 2011
  36. ^ Right and pious , article from October 7, 2004 by Susan Neiman on Zeit Online