Before I went to bed on Friday night, I noticed the Oslo bombing in the headlines. But my heart sank as I pulled up the news on Saturday morning to discover the extent of the carnage and the events that followed. I felt a deep sense of sadness as I was brought face to face, again, with the brokenness of our world. It is events like this that cause us to grieve with people we don’t even know. Our hearts and prayers go out to so many who are facing personal loss through this tragedy.

But today, it was not sadness I felt as I looked at the headlines. It was alarm. Apparently the shooting suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, described himself on his facebook page as a “fundamentalist Christian” (see here and here and here). Since I am a fundamentalist Christian, I would like to make two key points.

First, Anders Behring Breivik is not a fundamentalist Christian. He may be a fundamentalist of sorts. And he may be a “Christian” of some sort, but he is not a fundamentalist Christian.

The term “fundamentalist” is necessarily a relative term. It is meaningless without reference to something. So there is no such thing as a fundamentalist per se. One can be a fundamentalist Christian, a fundamentalist Muslim, or even a fundamentalist Secularist, but without a point of reference, the term is meaningless. So a fundamentalist Secularist holds unflinchingly to certain secularist fundamentals as defined by some authority presumably. A fundamentalist Muslim holds firmly to the fundamental teachings of Islam as recorded in the Qur’an. A Christian fundamentalist, then, is one who holds tenaciously to the fundamental truths of Christianity as recorded in the Christian Scriptures.

Leaving aside the mainstream Fundamentalist movement of the early twentieth century that boasted most of the largest Christian churches in the world as recently as a few decades ago, the point is, Anders Behring Breivik is not a fundmentalist Christian.

Perhaps he used the term “fundamentalist” in the popular sense where it is often used to describe obscurantist bigotry. Or perhaps he liked the idea of radical Islamic fundamentalism, but sought to insert Christian fundamentals for Islamic ones as if the two religions were basically the same. Either way, his description of himself as a Christian fundamentalist seems to be mistaken.

And the second point explains why. Anders Behring Breivik is not a fundamentalist Christian. In order to be a fundamentalist Christian, one must actually believe the fundamental teachings of the Bible. And how much more fundamental does it get than this: “You shall not murder.” Or this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The slaughter of innocent civilians under the banner of Christianity is absurd and twisted. Jesus himself could not have been clearer when he said “whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

I’m sure that over time a clearer picture of Anders Behring Breivik will emerge. So far, we know that he had neo-Nazi ties, that he liked to stockpile bomb materials, and that he carefully orchestrated the slaughter of multiplied dozens of precious people. But whatever he is, he is not a fundamentalist Christian.

Grace to you.


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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at


  1. Jeremy 24 July, 2011 at 6:39 pm - Reply

    I wonder whether the term ‘fundamentalist’ is beyond redemption. Are we better off to stop using the label? It doesn’t me we stop believing our core beliefs.

  2. Jason Harris 24 July, 2011 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    It’s a valid suggestion. Still, a rose by any other name is still a rose. I suspect that’s why even such shining examples of evangelical love and fervour as John Piper are frequently called “fundamentalist.” Though he would reject the label, it is accurately and appropriately used to describe him.

    I’m not aware of any other word that so captures both the positive clinging to our core beliefs, and the negative refusal to cling to that which is not core.

  3. Alen 24 July, 2011 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    After some reading, I found in this case, the terrorist described his own self as a moderate Christian, despite his “extreme” right wing views. This is just another example of the media taking advantage of a situation to further their agenda. Which in this case is to marginalize and vilify those with strong and outspoken religious/political views.

    His own views on Christianity can be found here.

    Aside from that, your argument against him being a “true fundamentalist” is simply an example of the whole no true Scotsman fallacy. If he did describe himself as a fundamentalist; you can’t really say that he wasn’t.

    Simply because he did something that didn’t align with the beliefs he espoused doesn’t mean he didn’t genuinely believe them. All “true” Christians will agree that they sin, something they know and teach that people shouldn’t do. And this isn’t like their sin isn’t deliberate either, you know?

  4. Jason Harris 24 July, 2011 at 11:09 pm - Reply

    Thanks for bringing up those two points Alen.

    Just to clarify, I’m not saying that no true fundamentalist would do what he did. Clearly, Muslim fundamentalists do what he did on a regular basis. What I’m saying is that when the referent for “fundamentalist” is Christianity, you cannot hold to a system of thinking that is entirely antithetical to the first principles of Christianity without undermining the credibility of your label. In other words, in order to be a Christian fundamentalist, you must first be a Christian.

    Calling yourself a fundamentalist doesn’t make you one. I may describe myself as a genius, but that doesn’t make me one. ;)

    Your comment that we often behave inconsistently with what we believe is thoroughly valid. But this is a case, it seems, of behaving completely consistently with his beliefs and therein lies the problem. It’s not that he failed to reach his ideal. It is, it seems, that he reached it exactly, highlighting his ideal’s complete inconsistency with Christianity. Of course it is early days so there are certainly areas that are still in the realm of conjecture.

  5. Greg 25 July, 2011 at 10:17 am - Reply

    For the first time, I have found a blog on this site that disgusts me. Regardless of a man’s actions, do you honestly believe you have the RIGHT to JUDGE whether he is a christian or not?!

    The Bible shows many clear precedents of Godly men who committed murder and yet were still Godly men. It did not excuse their horrendous sin, but can you really say that David was for a time NOT a man of God?

    Instead of judging this deluded person, would it not be better to pray that he comes to the realisation of what he has done and the truth about what God wants for us?

  6. Jeremy 25 July, 2011 at 11:19 am - Reply

    @Greg: I need to disagree with your post. Godly men do not murder.

    To bring King David into the equation is to confuse ordained government with a personal vendetta.

  7. PJ 25 July, 2011 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    @ Jeremy – was Uriah’s death “ordained government” or “personal vendetta”?

  8. Greg 25 July, 2011 at 1:19 pm - Reply


    As PJ Commented, David’s murder was not about government. Nor are other examples including Moses’ murdering in revenge (which lead to his exile). Also, Peter’s assault on a roman soldier could be considered in the same argument.

  9. Jason Harris 25 July, 2011 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    @Greg, Honestly I’m surprised if this is the first time my ramblings have disgusted you. But I’m sorry they have. Let me try to explain my thinking a little.

    David was, for a time, in open rebellion because he wanted something so bad he was willing to rationalise his progressively worse actions until they had led him far beyond where he ever intended to go.

    Anders, on the other hand, seems to espouse a Christianity, the substance of which is entirely antithetical to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Christian Scriptures. His philosophy LED him over a period of years to carefully orchestrate the mass murder of innocent civilians, not because he broke his moral code in the heat of the moment, but rather because his moral code drove him to systematically do this.

    Is it possible that he personally has faith in Jesus Christ and is just backslidden or caught up in a delusion? I suppose. But that is not really what I’m intending to comment on. I’m attempting to comment more on the substance of his beliefs and philosophy which are clearly in thorough opposition to Christianity.

  10. Jeremy 25 July, 2011 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    King David’s murder of Uriah was ungodly act, as was Moses’ murder of the Egyptian. They were judged for their sin. It is important to note that both repented and personal vendetta’s did not characterise their lives.

    Are you equating Moses or King David with Anders Behring Breivik’s murder of 93 people?

    IMHO, Whether Anders is a true ‘Christian fundamentalist’ is not the best question to ask. The Bible says we will know God’s children by their fruit. Ander’s fruit clearly demonstrates what is on his heart.

  11. PJ 25 July, 2011 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    @Jeremy – nope…I actually agree with Jason’s general thesis!

  12. Alen 25 July, 2011 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    @Jason: Valid points. Since Anders himself describes himself as a “cultural Christian” I don’t want to waste time here with hypotheticals but I will say that if he described himself as a fundamentalist, so long as there is some consensus between the general definition and his beliefs, you cannot really discount him.

    In other words, if he was a YEC, had a triune view of the deity focused on a personal relationship with Jesus and a PST view of the atonement; he pretty much checks off all the points that most people would equate with a fundamentalist. Therefore, it’d be accurate to describe him as one. If he added an additional checkbox that included terrorist acts, it may be in conflict with other presuppositions but I see conflicts within people’s presuppositions all the time. He wouldn’t be anything special in this regards.

    Anyways, I’ll leave y’all to your interesting conversation :)

  13. Greg 26 July, 2011 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    @ Jason, thank you, I can see where the distinctions lie more clearly. I still stand by my comment that perhaps judgement should be left alone, thank you for showing me how Anders actions/motivations are different from the other’s. More importantly, I see how perhaps I was confused in that your focus is more on “could these be called the acts of a man following god?” than “is this man a christian?” which are obviously two very different questions.

  14. Jason Harris 26 July, 2011 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    Glad I could clarify Greg. You’ve definitely got a point that we need to be very careful about when, how, and if we judge.

  15. Fred Kohn 30 July, 2011 at 1:44 am - Reply

    As somebody who sits outside Christianity I find this whole post rather hair splitting. Fundamentalist does have a mainstream meaning: it means a bigot. Perhaps it did not originally have that meaning, and maybe certain Christian sects use the word in a different way. But a religious fundamentalist is one that believes that her religious position is the only correct one and all other religions are wrong. Certainly this individual was a religious bigot, and certainly he was a Christian, although your particular sect may not define him as such. Remember, millions of Muslims seek to disassociate themselves from the Taliban, saying they are not “true Muslims”.

  16. Jeremy 31 July, 2011 at 9:38 am - Reply

    @ Fred Thanks for your post.

    I agree that one of the downsides of fundamentalism culture is that it lives in the past and not the present. Terms like ‘fundamentalism’ evolve. What the label meant in 1925 is very different to what it means today.

    True Christianity and ‘Christian fundamentalism’ are not necessarily the same thing.

    However, I don’t accept that believing in absolute truth makes one a bigot. All religions by their very nature are mutually exclusive. (even atheism fits this definition).

  17. Jason Harris 2 August, 2011 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Thanks for the comment Fred.

    Yes, he was a nominal Christian. But calling yourself Christian doesn’t make your beliefs or actions Christian. There is an objective standard for determining what is Christian and what is not. The Christian Scriptures condemn what Breivik did. This is not merely a sectarian interpretation. I can’t think right now of a single Christian sect that condones terrorist activity. If there are some (and I’m sure there must be), they are certainly the extreme exception rather than the rule.

    Your first definition of fundamentalist (a bigot) just doesn’t hold. There are many bigots who could never be described as fundamentalist in any way, shape, or form. Extremist? Perhaps. Bogan? Perhaps. But fundamentalist? Not by any definition that you or I would accept.

    As Jeremy noted, by your second definition of fundamentalist, almost every ideological/religious group is fundamentalist including Atheism, Naturalism, etc. According to the principium contradictionis, two contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time. I’m not saying that people don’t try to pretend they can be. I’m just saying it’s not reasonable.

  18. Rayburne F. 24 August, 2011 at 10:17 am - Reply

    In recent times we have seen expressions of extreme christophobia of the mainstream media (i.e. Time, Newsweek, Australian Broadcasting Company, etc.) ,which labelled western terrorists as “Christian fundamentalists,” for example, Anders Behring Breivik, convicted of horrific multiple murders in Norway. This is not the first time a western terrorist has been labelled “Christian”, although he was strongly anti-Christian. Timothy McVeigh , the Oklahoma City Bomber who killed 168, has often been called a “Christian terrorist,” although his final pre-execution public statement was a strongly humanist poem claiming, “I am the captain of my soul,” spitting in God’s face, as it were. Eric Robert Rudolph , who had nail-bombed an abortion mill in 1997 was likewise labelled a “Christian terrorist,” yet, Rudolph wrote in a letter from prison: “Many good people continue to send me money and books. Most of them have, of course, an agenda; mostly born again Christians looking to save my soul. I do appreciate their charity, but I could really do without the condescension. They have been so nice I would hate to break it to them that I really prefer Nietzsche to the Bible” (Nietzsche, the anti-God philosopher widely known for his “God is dead” pronouncement).

    What about Breivik? Breivik specifically denied that he was a religious Christian , caring nothing for God and Christ: “If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God, then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many others like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian” (No, it doesn’t). Even the anti-Christian atheist and champion of evolution, Richard Dawkins, said of himself: “I’m a cultural Christian in the same way my friends call themselves cultural Jews or cultural Muslims. It appears “Christian” can mean anything today.

    It would have only taken a minimal research to find out that Breivik , in addition to loving the HBO TV series “Dexter” that portrays a serial killer favourably, liked the anti-Christian 19th century philosopher, John Stuart Mill, and did not list the Bible among his reading material, which is most unusual for a “fundamentalist,” a term which historically refers to defending the inerrancy of the Bible and other fundamentals of the Christian faith.

    Finally, even arch-atheist Richard Dawkins knows this: “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death. I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bullwork against something worse.”

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