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April 02, 2009


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Preston Parsons

Hmmm. Fundamentalists without power are Hitlers in embryo, and fundamentalists with power are Hitlers? Exclusive truth claims lead to genocide?

Excessive and misleading rhetoric much?

This is a really, really, cheap trick, hardly worthy of being called scholarly debate.


Hidden under it all was a valid point, completely discredited by violating Godwin's Law.

People who are absolutely convinced that they are right and any other view is dangerous at best, if not evil - such folk do (and should) give one pause.

The Hitler comparison was unhelpful.

That said, one of the unhelpful aspects of present disputes in the Church is the manner in which both sides (though I admit I am more apt to notice the conservative side) reduce their opponents to indefensible caricatures.

I recall the ever so "reasonably" phrased question from one conservative blogger which was the modern version of "does the honourable member still beat his wife."

(see and )

Some fundamentalists can conclude that violence is defensible in advancing their beliefs.
Some liberals don't believe in sin.
Some conservatives hate gays.
Some liberals don't take scripture seriously.

All of us need to learn that equating everyone who holds a point of view with the most extreme expression of that view is fundamentally dishonest.


The unfortunate comparison got me wondering whether Crossan himself was moving in the same direction as he complains about. Fundamentalism is found at either end of a spectrum.

On a broader note, I think that a renewal of the various traditions of reading a text are needed in the church. In particular I am thinking of Augustine's view (Conf XII, xix) of using "multiple interpretations" (literal, moral & figurative) as a means for the whole community to read the text. I find modernist language like "literalist" to have actually much missed the point, and to have ignored interpretive tradition which has preceded us, particularly in the fathers. But that would seem to call for a whole other post...

Preston Parsons

Have you had a chance to read Byassee's Praise Seeking Understanding? Been working through pieces of it this week. About Augustine's habits of scriptural interpretation. It's been quite a satisfying read.

I wonder the same thing about Crossan here. He *seems* to be making the same kind of exclusivist truth claims that he is arguing against, namely that "fundamentalists" are quite wrong.

Which would be deliciously ironic, because I do trust that his truth claim does not lead him to the contemplation of killing his intellectual opponents.


I haven't read Byassee's work. I'll have to add it to the post -easter reading list. Or maybe you could do a guest post and review the work here...


Malcolm - I think you are right in that whenever one "side" begins to caricature the other and set up straw men, the whole thing starts to slide downhill. Honest engagement can be a rare commodity these days.

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