Alternative Christian Fundamentals?

We have become used to the term Muslim or Islamic Fundamentalism, though Muslims rightly object to the use of the term as it was invented in around 1910 in the US as part of a return to Christian Fundamentals movement. See:

For the record, the five Fundamentals established at that time were:

  • The inerrancy of the Bible
  • The literal nature of the Biblical accounts, especially regarding Christ’s miracles and the creation account in Genesis
  • The Virgin Birth of Christ
  • The bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ
  • The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross

What is interesting to me, is how far these five ‘fundamentals’ seem to be from the essence of the teaching of Christ. I can recall no teaching of Christ in the Gospels that the whole Bible is inerrant aka without error. And it is hard to think this when the Bible is riddled with contradictions, not least of around the Creation. Christ himself did not teach about a virgin birth and there is considerable commentary to suggest that the term virgin applied to Mary meant in the original ‘young woman’ not virgin. The Resurrection and the substitutionary atonement of Christ I will grant you.

But what I am left with is the strong feeling that the five fundamentals say virtually nothing about the core moral teachings of Christ, especially the Sermon on the Mount, the beatitudes and a host of moral teachings that are essentially the Golden Rule, which is common to many religions. In the Christian case:

‘Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.; Matthew 7.12

So perhaps one should construct an alternative set of Christian fundamentals: something like:

  • Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.;
  • There abideth faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love 1 Corinthians 13.13
  • Blessed are: the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
  • those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)
  • the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (5:5)
  • they who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be satisfied. (5:6)
  • the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)
  • the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (5:8)
  • the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God. (5:9)
  • those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)
  • Plus of course: ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ Matthew 19:23-24
  • And my favorite: ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’ Matthew 7.3-5

Leads to a rather different Christianity, doesn’t it? Not a lot of sign of The Rapture either? And if we added something on the Bible being something that is translated and subject to difficulties of interpretation, as well as the  atonement for sins and associated forgiving others their sins, we would be well on our way to the sort of Christianity I was brought up in, which does not recognize much in Christian Fundamentalism.

For comparison by the way, the Five Pillars of Sunni Islam (which would be its fundamentals if it agreed with the use of the word) are:

1) the shahada (Islamic creed), there is one true God and Mohammed is his prophet.

(2) daily prayers (salah), praying five times daily towards Mecca

(3) almsgiving (zakāt), obligation to the poor

(4) fasting during Ramadan (sawm), a month of the year not eating in day light hours to remind believers what hunger and poverty are like, and

(5) the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime.

I wonder how many people who attack Islam know these five? They seem to ground the religion in good works and daily discipline. See:

The Beatitudes Sermon:




About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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