Friday, November 19, 2010

Do fundamentalist Christians believe that man is mechanistic by nature?

You can read the full article here:

Christian Fundamentalism’s Atheistic View of Man « Blog on the Way

I am struck by these words, which I recognise from my own time in fundamentalist churches where people tend to be treated mechanistically, the opposite of what the church claims to believe:

The following ideas are commonly found in Christian Fundamentalism:

That a person is saved by repeating a prayer to Jesus Christ to be saved.
That a Christian advances in spiritual maturity and holiness by making decisions: to be baptized, to give his or her life to the Lord, to “surrender” this and that to God.
That by following certain definite formulas, such as daily Bible reading and prayer (devotions) a person will live a more spiritual and more holy life than one who does not follow this formula.
That wearing certain apparel evokes certain (wicked) behaviors from the person wearing the apparel.
That people fall into reciprocal roles, and correct behaviors performed in your role will evoke correct behavior in the other person in his or her role. For example, if a wife is submissive and sweet enough, she will cause her husband to love her.

The only way to reduce man to a complex mechanism is to deform him.
All of these premises rely on a belief that man is mechanistic by nature. This view of man has its roots in atheism, a belief that man is no more than a sophisticated animal, prompted and guided by drives. According to this point of view, man is programmable, trainable as an animal, for man will follow cues that give him what he wants: rewards.

There is a lot of resonance here with my own writing. See my previous post "why did the disciples follow Jesus?" which points out that there was no obvious reward, salvation or otherwise, in store for the disciples when they committed to following Jesus. Indeed following indicates the idea of a journey. This is another of the themes of my writing: faith is not a destination, but a journey.


  1. Years ago, I canot recall the source, I read an article on the technological sophistication of Christian Fundamentalism (media technology). In the course of pointing out that Christian Fundamentalists have always been the first to latch onto new media and use it with a surprising level of sophisitication (in spite of limited content), the writer pointed out that Christian Fundamentalism is actually linked closely to Social Darwinism. He asserted that Fundamentalism could not be what it is except for the fact that Darwin and his view of man came first. I sure wish I'd written down the article title and author!

  2. I think there is an element of truth to this. Certainly fundamentalists tend to reject people with cognitive impairment alarmingly quickly because the fundamentalist gospel requires enough intelligence to be able to understand, accept the message and respond to it via decision. The best (worst) example of this from my own experience is the minister who could not get excited about working with people with dementia because they were "unreachable".