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on 5 November 2011
This was a seminal work on Fundamentalism as originally conceived, i.e. Protestant Christian Fundamentalism emerging as an intellectual reaction to the 'Higher Criticism' of the late 19th century. As its focus is very narrow (rather than subsequent studies which deal with non-Christian forms) it is a must-read for anyone that wants to *critically* engage with the issue. It is the brand of fundamentalism that is associated with the traditional conservative evangelicals - i.e. a 19th cent 'scientific' re-synthesis of faith for the scientific age. What he shows very well is how it became intellectually founded on absolute biblical inerrancy which makes it distinct from 'orthodox' and 'Reformed' traditions. His comments in the second edition preface are worth having as is the follow-up book 'Escaping from Fundamentalism'.

If it has a limitation, it is that it does not deal with 'post-modern' version of "fundamentalism" which you might associate with Pentecostal or charismatic Christianity, especially in the recent Latin American experience, which of course occured primarily after this book was written.

So, in summary, that is not to say that i necessarily agree with the conclusions and the type of spirituality that Barr seems to be promoting is elusive from the read and Christian Fundamentalism has moved on quite substantally from this pure intellectualism that he critiques.

Nevertheless, it is essential ground-reading.
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on 12 November 2011
Thirty years ago almost no one really discussed Fundamentalism, now every type of Fundamentalism is pored over and examined, it worries and depending on which type produces fear and panic. It pejorative connotations are such that almost anyone who holds strong opinions about anything is described as a fundamentalist.

Fundamentalists have held to the following beliefs:
1, The bible is inerrant - without error in its original form - because it is the inspired word of God.
2, The virgin birth of Jesus.
3 The belief in his bodily resurrection
4 That his death was a substitutionary atonement for sin.
5, And that his miracles actually happened as recorded in the Bible.
It is a theology (or ideology) as practised by groups who would style themselves as either, Fundamentalists, Conservative Evangelical or Evangelical and some of their historical and philosophical roots.
The late James Barr's book was thus groundbreaking, but its focus was limited. It is a theological exposition of a form of conservative Protestantism within the United Kingdom. His "Fundamentalism" is a theology as practised by conservative Protestant Christians. But it is practised in different ways by different groups.
The fact that it was written in the 1970s should not put people off, as it is very thorough and detailed - a little too detailed, at times somewhat of a sledgehammer to crack a nut approach. However, many of the writers discussed here are still important within this religious movement, and though now superseded by Fundamentalism and Evangelicals (Oxford Theological Monographs), it is still informative and important as she herself takes very much Barr's position.

The fact that it is a work of theology is a weakness because for those outside of British Christianity it can seem too focused on it only being relevant to Christians. It has little to say about self styled Fundamentalist groups who refuse to participate in events with any groups that don't hold to their essential doctrines but it is not ignored -see reference to Lloyd-Jones .
He acknowledges that the group he identifies as Fundamentalist would, in the USA, be described as extreme Evangelicals or moderate Fundamentalists. But this doesn't detract from his inquiry.

Overall it is a good, if slightly dated book, but for those ignorant of this movement, that along with other books such as Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism 1870-1925 (Galaxy Books) and Harris, gives a thorough understanding of a group, who though still marginal in British society, have an impact beyond their size because of the important if diminished role Christianity still has within Britain, in areas such as politics and education. Powerful, still, for many trapped or disillusioned by this group (see the many online ex-fundamentalist blogs and websites to see the degree of accuracy it has).
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on 24 February 2014
This is a wide-ranging critique of that "other gospel" which flattens the plurality of literature in the Christian Bible and homogenises it around some evangelical themes which mainly focus on how wicked human beings are and how faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus and his substitutionary blood atonement saves us from sin and death. This is a less than full rendition of the many ways and meanings of salvation in the Biblical literature - ranging from rescue from slavery to the cosmic powers to the sacrifice of Jesus in place of the death penalty for us; and a whole set of alternative saving pictures of God's action towards us in history, between those two positions. It is followed up by Barr's theological-pastoral offering in Escaping from Fundamentalism - which is another good read.
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