Backeberg – Fundamentalism

Backeberg, Werner
Fundamentalism – Muslims differ widely from Evangelicals
IMER, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, 2002, 160 pp, pb. Price ?
Order at IMER, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa

In recent years it has become increasingly fashionable in some circles to portray evangelical
fundamentalism in the same frame as Islamic terrorism and suicide bombings. Is this a fair
presentation?

Backeberg’s treatise of the term fundamentalism is neither naïvely defending the evangelical
camp nor viciously stamping all Muslims as terrorists, but very descriptive about the
phenomena of employing physical violence and terrorism in the service of religion. In an
early section he illustrates how fundamentalism shows itself as a global trend with historic
roots in Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
After this fascinating global perspective he gives special attention to the worldwide upsurge
of Islamism, that is the conviction that only those are true Muslims who “overcome their
inner hesitations and are willing to kill the enemies of Allah.” (Hassan al-Banna, founder of
the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt) The development of Islamic radicalism is documented and
explained in depth in case studies that include Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, Saudi Arabia,
Egypt, The Sudan, Algeria, South Asia, Malaysia and Indonesia, Afghanistan, indeed, it is a
worldwide upsurge.

After this main section he turns to the conviction shared at the end of his introductory chapter
that “whereas in Islamic fundamentalism the main issue is political and military power,
evangelical fundamentalists’ main concern is the commitment to basic doctrines and the
proclamation of the message of God’s love to all nations.” Once again he is very helpful in
putting these reflections into the historical perspective explaining the impact of
Enlightenment, Romanticism, Liberal Theology and other philosophical trends (Zeitgeist), all
contributing their part in “the battle for the Bible”. Dr. Backeberg who is for well over 20
years making his scholarly contribution as a retiree has been teaching theology in South
Africa for many years, helps particularly those readers who do not have access to Germanspeaking
resources.

What then may African readers benefit from this book for their own context? – First of all
they will gain a much needed wider perspective that is exploding their national or continental
boundaries and thus help them to compare their own situation with others thus supplying
much food for prayer for an aching world.
They will also appreciate a better understanding of the attacks launched against a
misrepresented evangelical fundamentalism in the Western secular, and, sadly, also religious
media.

Again, it will be reassuring to any evangelical reader to note that our faith is built on a firm
foundation in Jesus Christ, a foundation we need not to be ashamed of. As someone aptly
stated: “All of us are fundamentalist. The only question is: What are our foundations?” (p.
84)

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Categories: Book Reviews and Reviews by Walter Eric.