Growing up in independent, fundamental Baptist churches, I couldn’t figure out why things made sense to the people in charge. Why did the preacher think his explanation of a biblical text made sense? Why did fundamentalist authors say their conclusions were obvious from a bunch of (random to me) “facts”? Didn’t they realize how illogical they were?
By the time I started writing about fundamentalist music for my doctoral research, I thought (and still think) that faith doesn't have to conform to contemporary American ideals of logic. But I still wondered why fundamentalists often reasoned so differently from this modern norm.
I soon found out there are clear historical reasons for the ways fundamentalists understand the world and the Bible.
Just as importantly, I discovered why their views and methods made so little sense to me in twenty-first century America: fundamentalists' philosophy and hermeneutics were mainstream in America prior to the 1870s but these approaches were gradually replaced by other perspectives. As a result, “the philosophical outlook that had graced America’s finest academic institutions came to be generally regarded as merely bizarre” (Marsden p. 8).
Three main philosophical traditions shape how fundamentalists interpret the Bible and how they understand the world: Scottish Common Sense Realism, the Baconian scientific method, and plain reading in the Baptist tradition.Read More