Certainty is root of all fundamentalist problems

By John D. Pierce

Like religious fundamentalists at large, Southern Baptist Convention leaders are cornered by their absurd doctrinal certainty.

Doubt or even a hint of uncertainty is treated as unbelief — so they arrogantly posit their opinions as unquestionable biblical renderings of the infallible, inerrant Word of God.

Be assured: fundamentalists see no more error in their faulty interpretations of the Bible than they claim for Holy Scripture itself.

Go when they screw up — as they’ve done majorly in establishing male dominance over women as an infallible doctrine — they can’t simply admit the error, reconsider the texts, seek new insights and make needed corrections. Such an obvious course is too costly for them.

They’ve marked this “equal but different” doctrine — that is never equal because the difference is that positions of power are always assigned to men — as a divine directive. It is carved in stone — not held lightly in case of review.

And anyone who challenges such conclusions — propped up by a cherry-picked selection of biblical texts — is quickly and aggressively dismissed as a lesser spiritual soul who doesn’t take the Bible seriously. Or worse.

The corners in which fundamentalists so often find themselves — whether pushed by science, love, common sense or the public exposure of their sins — are of their own making. They are dark corners that allow for no light, no fresh revelation — as if the Spirit of God is no longer at work.

Truth can only be seen in the past tense as expressed in the fragile faith of fundamentalist absolutes that give them absolute power. It is an entrenched religion more than a living faith.

So when long-term, overwhelming scientific revelations or societal shifts force them to acknowledge misinterpretation of biblical truth — such as in the case of slavery — they keep the matter in the past tense so blame rests only with their ancestors. Most tragically, there is never a confession of even the possibility of being wrong in the present.

For example, the SBC resolution of repentance a century and a half after slavery, would have been much more meaningful and well received if it had concluded with: “And, therefore, we are looking seriously at our own blind spots today, and ask God to show us where we misuse the Bible now to demean or discriminate against others so we can apologize sooner and make needed corrections to eliminate harm.”

Not a chance!

Because that kind of humility and vulnerability would undermine the “absolutes” on which fundamentalism so proudly stands. Yet it rests on a most a fragile foundation — as we see crumbling beneath Southern Baptists today.

False certainty makes confession of errant belief very, very hard — although confession is vital for spiritual well being. And even more difficult is the capacity to admit one might be wrong about something currently or in the future.

For fundamentalists to do so would be to say that God was wrong — since they have conflated their faulty doctrinal positions with divine directives — and defended their poor biblical interpretations as God’s absolutes.

Such certainty is certainly sin.

 

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