What is Fundamentalism?
Historically, Fundamentalism describes the movement of conservative orthodox Evangelicals to take a stand against the encroach of modernist liberal theology. Many of the same Evangelicals who were involved in prophecy conferences and the Bible school movement, united together across denominational lines in an effort to stem the tide of heresy. Unfortunately they lost many of the mainline denominations and institutions.
The term fundamentalist was first used around 1920, and referred to the fundamental doctrines held in common by fundamentalists. Various lists of fundamentals are to be found, but most lists include the following five fundamentals of the faith: 1) The inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture 2) The deity of Jesus Christ 3) The virgin birth of Christ 4) The substitutionary, atoning work of Christ on the cross 5) The physical resurrection and the personal bodily return of Christ to the earth.
In the 1950s, Billy Graham and Carl F Henry and others like them, took Evangelicalism on a different tack than the fundamentalist faith of previous generations. They wanted to gain a hearing and interact with the modernists. They didn’t advocate a “militant” mindset toward those who didn’t accept all the fundamentals of the faith. Their motivations were to win by persuasion, and influence the culture rather than isolate from it.
To varying degrees this strategy failed, and most conservative evangelicals today would admit this to some extent. But another result of this shift in strategy drastically impacted the development of fundamentalism. Now instead of the liberals being “the enemy”, Christian brothers (who held to the funamental doctrines themselves) were the ones being separated from. Since they made common cause with apostates, they earned the scorn of fundamentalists.
Since the 1960s fundamentalists have steadily withdrawn from wider evangelical institutions and concerns. An inbreeding effect was experienced as more and more fundamentalists tended to shun education (in fear of leaning toward the left) and isolate themselves from others. Infighting between fundamentalist groups, which caused the demise of the original fundamentalist organizational structure of the 1920s spiraled. Strong personalities directed the movement and whether intentionally or not, attracted a following.
Cultural concerns and a desire to hold onto the standards of the past have also entered the mix. The dramatic changes of modern culture with regard to music, dress, movies and more, have also muddied the waters. The lasting influence of American individualism, the revivalism and organized evangelism of Charles Finney and Moody, the strident and theatrical “hell-fire and damnation” preaching of Billy Sunday, and even the social concern of the temperance movement have all impacted the development of the fundamentalist movement today.
To be a fundamentalist today, one has to be orthodox in doctrine and have a desire to be militant for the faith. Separation from error in the world and the church alike are required. Usually, however, the mindset of the movement as a whole is required. Resisting error is not seen to be the same as actually removing from associations or denominational groups that contain error. While some early fundamentalists never separated from their denominations, today, years after the split from the old denominations, “independency” is akin to faithfulness. Staying in the Baptist General Conference or the Southern Baptist Convention is usually enough to be viewed a fundamentalist outsider.
(Note this page is a work in progress, future updates will be made, and a discussion of the two primary groups in fundamentalism will ensure. Perusing the links below will help until we can get this page finished up.)
Representative Blogs & Sites
Reforming Fundamentalists (young-, former-, & otherwise reforming)
- As for Me & My House (Ellis Murphree)
- Big Orange Truck
- Bread & Circuses
- Captain Headknowledge
- Ephemeros (Josh Gelatt)
- Getting Somewhere (Brent Wood)
- PaleoEvangelical (Ben Wright)
- Pastoral Musings (Jason Skipper)
- Pensees (Bob Bixby)
- Persifler’s Weblog
- Phil’s Mind Map (Phil Dearmore)
- Reforming Baptist (Will Dudding)
- Reforming Fundamentalists Blog Network
- Return to Biblicism (Damien Garofalo)
- Stuff Fundies Like
- The Reformed Fundamentalist
- The Unauthorized Version (David Thatcher)
- The World from Our Window
- Thinking with Purpose (Jeremy Wallace)
- Baptist Bulletin (GARBC)
- Diakrisis (Michael Riley)
- Glory and Grace (Dave Doran)
- In the Nick of Time (Kevin Bauder)
- Missions Mandate
- Old Testament Studies (Robert McCabe)
- Sharper Iron
- The Quest (GARBC)
- Theology Central (Central Seminary Faculty)
Mainstream Fundamentalists (Broad, “movement”, non-KJV only)
Conservative Fundamentalists (KJV only, “old-fashioned”, or even extreme/IFBx)
A list of my posts on Fundamentalism
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