The Dangers of Fundamentalism

The following article by Georgios Manzaridis, professor of Christians Ethics and Sociology at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, appeared on the Serbian patriarchate website. The following is a rough translation. (Don’t know if I’ll have time to continue with translating the rest):

Fundamentalism typically appears as a combatant conservatism. While conservatism is limited to a peaceful preserving of tradition, fundamentalism takes its dynamic determination and emphasis in the face of force, which it sees as a threat. Conservatism remains dedicated to the past, for in it it finds truth, while fundamentalism takes action in the present, going to the future, stressing the exclusive and impossible positions from the past, fighting against every force which can do hindrance to it. Neither conservatism nor fundamentalism represent the authentic phenomena of tradition. The first is transfixed with the past and is not interested in the organic distribution of tradition to the present and future. The second is interested in the present and future, taking their reviving from the unchanging positions of the past. The Tradition of the Church, however, is neither transfixed on the past, the present nor the future. It sees times drowned with eternity, it sees it as a space of participation in eternity.

Fundamentalism, in spite of, basically, its own religious background, is not a purely religious phenomena, nor, of course, a political or social one. After all, the cradle of fundamentalism, which is threateningly growing in our society, is not a structure of society or its political organization, but man’s personhood. This is why, among other things, it is not manifested only as a phenomena of specific religious or social groups, but as a state which extends to the entire society and everyone individually. This means fundamentalism does not need only sociology, but also a theological approach. Inasmuch as Sociology can approach fundamentalogy fundamentalism and show its ties with the social environment, theology can enter deeper and study its ontology.

A sociological approach, however, has a certain intrinsic difficulty. From its founding, Sociology has has a tendency to ignore, and even despise, the significance of religious factors. The, at times marginalization of religious life, at times limiting it to the private life, and at sometimes even completely avoiding it, it was unable to constitute its true role.  But by its own nature, Sociology is, as a phenomenological science, is not interested in ontological truth. Inasmuch and more so it is not interested in the person which has the primary value for an approach to fundamentalism and its interpretation. Theology deals primarily with the personhood and the ontological truth. For this reason is its significance to this question crucial. It is natural that many statement of Sociology, on a phenomenological field, facilitate the work of theology.

But the theological approach to fundamentalism should not be considered simple and ambiguous. The ways theology is understood, not only in a broader Christian sense, but also in the Orthodox world, are many and differ among themselves.  It is noted mostly in the field of the so-called academic theology, which is not fed directly by church experience.  Arbitrariness and personal interpretations here can result in a complete obscurity of theological truths. Authentic Orthodox theology assumes, either personal participation in the church experience, or trusting in those who have this experience and study it.

[To be continued….maybe]


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