Authority in Fundamentalism

In a book that I was otherwise un-fascinated with, I came across this quote:

“One of the results of the surge of contemporary fundamentalisms in different types of religion and even in politics has been a closer scrutiny of the nature of the phenomenon. It has been shown that in many cases what is going on is not simply the appeal to an authoritative text whose interpretation lies beyond question, but rather the buttressing of the authority of a human leader or leaders who so identify themselves with a policy that they justify from the sacred text that any challenge to their authority can be treated as a challenge to the authority of the text. In many cases we would observe that what is being upheld is not only the infallibility of an ancient text, but also the infallibility of an of a particular tradition of interpretation that is proffered as authoritative and beyond question.” (I. Howard Marshall, Beyond the Bible Moving from Scripture to Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), 31).

While the cult of personality is certainly not unique to fundamentalism, I wonder why it would be so prevalent. In some cases it is unavoidable. Paul battled it, ironically in the same church that seemed to struggle most with his authority. We need leaders, but how do our leaders prevent themselves from becoming gurus? And why do some of those within fundamentalism seeking guru-dom have such little problem doing so?

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