Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Demise of Protestant Fundamentalism

The growing push among the intelligentsia to reject the exercise of religious influence in the public square (which is problematic on many levels) will prove highly detrimental to Catholics in the long run. But from a Catholic standpoint, this current push towards secularism has one silver lining: the death blow to the relevance of Protestant fundamentalism.
For the worldview of Protestant fundamentalists is completely dependent upon the primacy of Scripture. Protestant fundamentalists hold that the Bible is the sole source of revelation about God. Whenever science apparently conflicts with the Bible, Protestant fundamentalism chooses the Bible (or, more accurately, a literal interpretation of the Bible) over scientific evidence.
A fundamentalist belief system can flourish where Judeo-Christian norms are predominant. But the world has cast off Judeo-Christian norms, and the current intellectual climate rejects Scripture as an archaic book of fables. A belief system solely dependent on the Bible cannot flourish in a culture where the very concept of scriptural authority is considered balderdash.
While Catholics do rely on the Bible as a source of revelation, the Bible is not the sole source of revelation for Catholics. We also assert that Sacred Tradition is a source of divine revelation. Tradition allows us to understand how our Fathers in faith, guided by the Holy Spirit, used their reason to come to a greater understanding of thorny theological questions. The existence of Tradition necessitates reason in coming to understand God's revelation. Indeed, we Catholics believe that the moral teachings posited in the Bible are supported by reason; that God's existence is knowable and provable through reason as well as through revelation, and that the Church's doctrines do not conflict with science in any way.
In a culture which sets up reason as its highest principle (even as it rejects its use in practice), it is impossible to appeal to the authority of a centuries-old book, no matter how ancient or beautifully written, as an unimpeachable authority on faith, morals, and matters of science. The use of reason must be deployed to combat secularism in an age where reason reigns, to explain why the truths of the Bible are reasonable. This is why in a formerly Protestant country, resistance to the swelling tide of secularism increasingly takes on a Catholic character. It is also for this reason that Protestant fundamentalism is becoming increasingly irrelevant, since Protestant fundamentalism can only flourish in an already Christian culture.

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