Barr's goal is to understand the fundamentalist positions and arguments. He certainly does submit submit them to sustained criticism, but makes every effort to be fair and provide reasoned criticism. He is a very competent biblical scholar who has contributed to the field.
He points out, fundamentalists are not really biblical literalists, as they keep adjusting their interpretations to somehow cohere with modern knowledge. They are really inerrantists, believing that the Bible contains no errors of any kind, if properly interpreted. "Inerrancy is maintained only by constantly altering the mode of interpretation, and in particular by abandoning the literal sense as soon as it would be an embarrassment to the view of inerrancy held." (p. 46) In other words, when literal interpretations conflict with established knowledge, they abandon them for nonliteral ones, often in ingenious, if highly implausible, ways.
A second note of fundamentalism is hostility to modern biblical scholarship and modern theology. For example, does it really matter to the validiy of our faith whether the book of Isaiah is divided into three main groups of material from different times? (Pre-exilic period, First Isaiah, chs. 1-39; exilic period, Second Isaiah, chs. 40-55; and post-exilic period, Third Isaiah, chs. 56-66.) Does it really matter our faith whether Deuteronomy was written several centuries after Moses? Does it really matter if Mark was the earliest gospel? Does it really matter whether the first creation story in Genesis was written after the Exile and uses contemporary imagery? Whether the story of the "man" and "woman" in Gen. 2-3 is an aetiological (everyman) story? The liberal positons actually take nothing away from faith in Jesus Christ. Why do so many fundamentalists think they do? Ad hominem arguments, really. They tend to read motives into modern scholarship, falsely accusing modern scholars en masse of trying to destroy the credibility of the Bible. According to Barr, they are actually stuck in the past with the 18th century deist controversies. Many deists did argue against revelation, but this is not a necessary presupposition of critical scholarship.
But of course, fundamentalists like to compare the ordinary nominal church going Christian. The must undergo a conversion to become true Christians, and it is expected that they will then hold conservative evangelical views. This has a danger of being a form a gnosticism, an elite group, whose primary faith is in the inerrancy of the Bible rather than in Christ Jesus. One peculiarity is that fundamentalists often prefer to read only trustworthy books by safe authors, and these do not seem to include critical scholars. Barr points out that they usually simply do not understand where modern scholars are coming from, nor do they really want to, and so make up all sorts of charges against them which have little basis in fact.
Strangely enough, the fundamentalist cannot agree on many things important to them. Pre- and post-millenarism and dispensationalism are cases in point.
Barr holds that fundamentalism is a particular type of religion, and acceptance of this religion controls how they interpret the Bible, rather than the other way around. The three elements of fundamemtalism he chose to deal with, inerrancy, the hositility toward critical scholarship and theology, and the distinction betwee the nominal and true Christian, are obviosly not given in the Bible. For example, the "Bible" could not declare itself to be inerrant because when the texts cited were composed, there was no 'Bible' in existence. It hadn't been put together yet by the church, and indeed, some had not been written yet! I haven't the space or inclination to go over the spurious 'claims' that fundamentalists 'claim' the Bible or Jesus made about the Bible, using passages that are clearly concerned with other issues.
This is not a sociology of religion book with survey results and statistics. Rather, Barr takes on the positions and arguments put forward by many fundamentalists. He documents them in the literature and shows there is a variety of opinions, something missed by another reviewer. He also argues that evangelical Christianity is not, and need not, be tied to fundamentalis, something also missed by the the same reviewer. Anyone who thinks that he is arguing against straw men just hasn't dealt with fundamentalists. I have, and I am grateful to Barr for helping to show me where those with whom I have controverted are coming from.