What are Fundamentalists?

The term "fundamentalism" was first coined in 1920 by a Baptist periodical, the Watchman-Examiner, and has its origins in a series of twelve booklets entitled "The Fundamentals: A Testimony to Truth," underwritten by oil magnates Milton and Lyman Stewart and authored by a variety of 64 Evangelical preachers and scholars. Three million copies were circulated free of charge to U.S. clergymen between 1910-1915, the preface of which reads: "In 1909 God moved two Christian laymen to set aside a large sum of money for issuing twelve volumes that would set forth the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and which were to be sent free of charge to ministers of the gospel, missionaries, Sunday school superintendents, and others engaged in aggressive Christian work throughout the English speaking world." The basic movement was in response to the onset of liberal theology and intended as a revival in the fundamentals of scriptual truth. Adherents to "The Fundamentals" became known as Fundamentalists -- those who interpret biblical scripture literally and strive to live without compromise to its doctrines. Core fundamentalist tenets include:
  • The original manuscripts which comprise the Bible were divinely inspired down to each word.
  • The Bible is infallible.
  • The Bible is decisive in all issues of controversy that it directly addresses. Of the issues which it seems to remain silent on, man should not speculate.
  • The only things which are certain about God are what may be found in the Bible.
  • God exists in three persons -- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus was God incarnate.
  • Jesus was born of a virgin.
  • Christ died on the cross as a substitutionary death for the sins of all mankind.
  • Christ rose bodily from the dead and ascended to heaven.
  • Christ will return again to Earth to reign for a thousand years.
  • Eternal salvation comes when the individual asks God for forgiveness and invites Jesus into their heart.
  • Scriptual living should not be compromised by worldly influences.
  • Salvation is by faith alone, and not of good works.

Fundamentalists are often identified as idealists, purists, or separatists, and fundamentalism as of late has been associated with extreme right wing legalistically religious fanaticism, which is not necessarily a positive designation. Following the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee, fundamentalists became more intolerant to societal conformity and more isolated from society. Here are just a few common traits, particulars, and impressions regarding modern Christian fundamentalism:
  • One of the leading fundamentalist Christian denominations is the Assemblies of God.
  • One of the largest fundamentalist organizations is the Southern Baptist Convention, although a relatively small faction of Baptists worldwide.
  • The Bible translation of choice for many fundamentalists is the 1611 Authorized King James Version, known as the King-James-Only movement. More modern translations are often rejected.
  • Fundamentalists often consider themselves heirs of authentic, primitive, first-century Christianity.
  • Fundamentalists are sometimes critical and unaccepting of other Christian denominations which do not agree with fundamental doctrine.
  • The Bible is unerring in its morals, history, and scientific claims.
  • Dispensationalism is a popular subject, which teaches that God's grace has been dispensed through the true church of Christ -- that of the Gentile converts throughout the past two thousand years -- amidst a morally decaying world.
  • Premillenialism is believed by many, although not all, in which the dead in Christ will rise at his Second Coming and rule with him in his thousand-year reign on Earth.
  • The point at which all Christians rise from the dead simultaneously is called the Rapture.
  • We are all part of a spiritual battle between the forces of good and evil and are either on one side or the other, whether willing participants or completely unaware.
  • The dead will either rise in Christ to glory or suffer in hell forever.
  • Man has two natures, physical and spiritual.
  • Religion, particularly Christianity, has become the enemy of the state.
  • Modernity, spurned by globalization, has become the enemy of religion.
  • Science and philosophy are often in opposition to biblical scripture.
  • Humanism and theology are traits of a fallen state of Christianity.
  • Creationism is under attack by proponents of evolution.
  • Men are dominant leaders of both the church and the home, while women must willingly remain submissive.
  • Fundamentalists are often politically and economically conservative.
  • Fundamentalists are the most vocal group in opposition to abortion access, equal rights against discrimination and hate crimes for homosexuals, physician assisted suicide, the use of embryonic stem cells for medical research, and comprehensive sex-ed classes in public schools.
  • Evangelism must be militant, aggressive, and unapologetic.
  • Many fundamentalists are individualistic and participate in small home churches, home schooling, and simple lifestyles devoid of modern distractions such as television.
  • Today fundamentalists make up about 20 percent of the American population.
  • Among the most generally known Fundamentalist Christian figureheads are Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, and Hal Lindsey.

Adjunct Assistant Professor Terry Matthews - Lecture 21, Fundamentalism

"Needless to say, the changes proposed by Christocentric Liberals and proponents of the Social Gospel were deeply disturbing to many Protestant evangelicals. There was a strong sense that in trying to accomodate Christianity to the changed situation, something important was being lost. In attempting to define those essentials of the faith that should not be compromised, a reactionary movement was launched that would alter the religious landscape. That movement was fundamentalism. The term "fundamentalism" came into existence at the Niagara Falls Bible Conference which was convened in an effort to define those things that were fundamental to belief. The term was also used to describe "The Fundamentals," a collection of twelve books on five subjects published in 1910 by Milton and Lyman Steward. These two wealthy brothers were concerned with the moral and spiritual decline they believed was infecting Protestantism, and sought to restore the historic faith with a 12 volume call to arms that dealt with five subjects that latter became known as the five fundamentals of the faith: (1) Literal inerrancy of the autographs (the originals of each scriptural book); (2) the virgin birth and deity of Christ; (3) the substitutionary view of the atonement; (4) the bodily resurrection of Christ; (5) The imminent return of Christ. These twelve volumes were sent to "every pastor, evangelist, missionary, theological student, Sunday School Superintendent, YMCA and YWCA secretary." In all, some 3 million copies were mailed out."

American Atheists - Fundamentalism

"The following is the full text of an address delivered by Dr. Madalyn O'Hair, founder of American Atheists, at Memphis State University, Memphis, Tennessee, on October 22, 1986. Hopefully, everyone in this state is fed up on hearing about the Scopes trial. Even though the most famous reporter there, H. L. Mencken, was an Atheist; even though the most famous attorney there, Clarence Darrow, was an Atheist; and even though the teacher himself, John T. Scopes, later personally told me that he did not believe in god, I want to back away from references to it, other than to use it for a time-frame."

Aisbitt's Homepage - The Fundamentals A Testimony to the Truth

"It is now 2002, nearly 100 years since the four volume books "The Fundamentals" were published. It is testimony to the truth contained in them that they are as relevant today as when they were published almost a century ago. When I first found these four volumes in a second hand bookstore I knew they were like discovering a goldmine of Biblical wealth. I wondered why these classics were not reprinted anymore, as are other classic writings from such writers as R.A.Torrey, F.B.Meyer, Spurgeon, John Bunyan,William Gurnall etc. The Christian teachings contained within these articles educate, enlighten correct and guard against error, through Scripture. Unfortunately it appears many churches, seminaries and Christian writers haven't read them, and now unknowingly promote falsehoods like evolution, kingdom now theology, church growth through secular ideals, pastoral equipping with organizational charts instead of Biblical example, no eternal punishment, non-reliance on Scripture, ecumenism, friendship evangelism and so on."

Baptist Bible Fellowship International

"The attack on historic Christianity by German rationalism and theological liberalism in the late nineteenth century was met by Christian scholars of many denominations. In 1909 this response was documented in five volumes called, The Fundamentals. Fourteen fundamentals, considered essential to Christianity, were presented. They are: the inspiration of the Bible, the depravity of man, redemption through Christ's blood, the true church made up only of believers, the coming of the Lord bodily to set up His reign, the trinity, the fall of Adam, the need of the new birth, full deliverance from guilt at salvation, the assurance of salvation, the centrality of Christ in the Bible, the walk after the Spirit, the resurrection of both believers and unbelievers, and the ripening of the present age for judgment. As theological liberalism, also called modernism, made inroads in the Baptist conventions, concerned fundamentalists such as W. B. Riley, J. Frank Norris, T. T. Shields and others stood against the compromise. In 1921 they organized the Baptist Bible Union to voice their united stand for the fundamentals in opposition to modernism. Because the leaders could not agree on the thrust and structure, this organization disintegrated and the leaders pursued fundamentalism in different ways. In 1928 the World Fundamental Baptist Missionary Fellowship, (later the name was shortened to World Baptist Fellowship) was established under the leadership of Norris as a reaction against modernist inroads in the Southern Baptist Convention. A training center, the Bible Baptist Seminary, a missionary organization and a publication, The Fundamentalist, were established. In 1932 the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches was established under the leadership of Robert Ketcham as a reaction against liberalism in the Northern Baptist Convention. These independent Baptist organizations of pastors and churches were established to defend and propagate the fundamentals of historic Christianity and the distinctives of Baptists. Difficulties from within the former group brought the BBFI into existence."


"The purpose of this Web site is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and magnify the words of God. We seek to maintain a vast storehouse of sound, Bible-believing, information for those seeking the truth, the newly saved, and those who have been instructed in the word of God. This Web site contains hundreds and hundreds of articles, books, biographies, audio messages, music files, a church directory, and home to a secure online bookshop."

Bob Jones University

"Established in 1927 by evangelist Bob Jones Sr., Bob Jones University is known as the citadel of biblical Christianity for its adherence to the Bible as mankind's only source of faith and Christian practice. Throughout his travels, Dr. Bob Jones Sr. saw students whose faith was shaken during college, and he recognized the need for a thoroughly Christian school to train America's youth. His vision was to establish a training center for Christians from around the world that would be distinguished by its academic excellence, refined standards of behavior, and opportunities to appreciate the performing and visual arts. At the same time, Dr. Jones's intent was to make a place where Christ would be the center of all thought and conduct... Within the cultural and academic soil of liberal arts education, Bob Jones University exists to grow Christlike character that is Scripturally disciplined; others-serving; God-loving; Christ-proclaiming; and focused above... Each day in chapel we recite the University Creed. It is a concise statement of the most important truths taught in God's Word: I believe in the inspiration of the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments); the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross; the resurrection of His body from the tomb; His power to save men from sin; the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and the gift of eternal life by the grace of God."

Catholic Answers - Fundamentalism

"While the origin of the term "Fundamentalist" has a fairly simple history, the movement itself has a more confused origin. There was no individual founder, nor was there a single event that precipitated its advent. Of course, Fundamentalist writers insist that Fundamentalism is nothing but a continuation of Christian orthodoxy. According to this theory, Fundamentalism flourished for three centuries after Christ, went underground for twelve hundred years, surfaced again with the Reformation, took its knocks from various sources, and was alternately prominent or diminished in its influence and visibility. In short, according to its partisans, Fundamentalism always has been the Christian remnant, the faithful who remain after the rest of Christianity (if it can even be granted the title) has fallen into apostasy. Until almost 100 years ago, Fundamentalism as we know it was not a separate movement within Protestantism, and the word itself was virtually unknown. Those people who today would be called Fundamentalists were formerly either Baptists, Presbyterians, or members of some other specific sect. But in the last decade of the nineteenth-century, issues came to the fore that made them start to withdraw from mainline Protestantism. The issues were: the Social Gospel, a liberalizing and secularizing trend within Protestantism that tried to weaken the Christian message, making it a merely social and political agenda; the embrace of Darwinism, which seemed to call into question the reliability of Scripture; and the higher criticism of the Bible that originated in Germany. To meet the challenge presented by these developments, early Fundamentalist leaders united around several basic principles, but it was not until the publication of a series of volumes called The Fundamentals that the movement received its name."

The Fundamentalist Forums

"The purpose of the Fundamentalist Forums is to provide a place for Independent Fundamental Baptists and others to freely interact with one another... The "Fightin' Fundamentalist Forum" is an online message board. If you are new to the internet, this form of open discussion is common on the internet. The FFF is an open unmoderated forum. That means that I do not police the forum or ban those with opposing views, or even those who exhibit bad attitudes toward others."

The Fundamentals Homepage

"Welcome to the online home of The Fundamentals. This site will eventually contain all four volumes of The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, published by Baker Books. The site is intended to serve as a resource for and defense of essential Christian doctrine, as was intended by those men who authored The Fundamentals and those who funded the work. Please note that the word 'fundamental' or 'fundamentalist' should not be confused with that of a militant religious fanatic or the like as is implied by the word in the media and elsewhere (Steven Jones, PhD. student in Sociology at the University of Virginia, has written a thought provoking profile report regarding 'fundamentalism'). What should be understood is the premise that there are essential doctrines of Christianity that should not in any way be set aside or tampered with, these doctrines are 'fundamental' to true Christianity. A fundamentalist in this sense of the word is one who upholds these doctrines without compromise. The articles presented in The Fundamentals were written as a response to the modernism and liberal theology of the latter part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. They were written in order for ministers of the gospel, missionaries, Sunday School superintendents, etc. (see volume prefaces) to have at their disposal articles which would be useful in affirming and reaffirming the fundamental truths of Christianity in the face of ever increasing attacks against it. Those who funded the writing and publishing of the series did so at their own expense and all the books which were printed in the original twelve volume series were given away free of charge as a service to the recipients. There is still a great need today to reaffirm the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, especially when we consider "The Jesus Seminar," "Evangelicals and Catholics Together," the current push by the Mormons to present themselves as just another Christian denomination, and a host of other groups claiming to be Christian who deny these core truths. John MacArthur's book Reckless Faith, published by Crossway Books is an excellent, brief analysis of present day doctrinal compromise."

Global Vision - Science and the Sacred - On Fundamentalism

"Fundamentalism is nothing new, but it is lately attracting so many adherents that it has become a global issue. Consider the Christian variety. In the USA, for example, Presidents Reagan and Bush would not have been elected without the backing of the Christian fundamentalist voting block; their advocates now sit on most school boards, where they censor the curriculum and oblige educational textbook publishers to re-write schoolbooks in order to avoid blacklisting and economic boycott. A British firm, recently commissioned to write a History of the Americas series for a major US schoolbook publishing company, was told to change the sentence "Spaniards conquered the Aztecs in Mexico" to "Spanish explorers moved through the land spreading their culture " in order not to offend the fundamentalist lobby (and gloss over the blood-soaked history of Christianity's suppression of pre-conquest Indigenous spiritual traditions in South America). The same firm was also told to change the caption for an illustration of an early Hominid in a book on dinosaurs, so as not to arouse the wrath of creationists who deny the scientific evidence for evolution. Even in England, illustrations of witches flying on broomsticks, such a colourful item of European folklore (and a folk-memory of that old shamanic tradition which was brutally repressed by the Church's massive holocaust of women during the Inquisition), are now strictly verboten in primary school books! This systemic falsification of history has a pernicious and insidious effect on the education of children. Greek Orthodox fundamentalists supported Serbian ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo. Russian Orthodox fundamentalists, allied to Mr. Zhirinovski's nationalist right-wing extremists, succeeded in passing a law forbidding the setting-up of any religious organisations outside those officially approved by the State. And the Pope, in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994), has also shown fundamentalist tendencies by denigrating other religions and spiritual traditions as inferior to his own."

Independent Fundamental Churches of America International

"IFCA International began in 1930 as an association of Bible believing, independent fundamental churches, organizations and individuals. It has since served as a source of cooperative efforts in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and in the teaching of believers. IFCA International stands as a faithful testimony to the historic, biblical Christian faith, and invites others of like belief and position to unite with them... IFCA International is the new name of the former Independent Fundamental Churches of America (I.F.C.A.). The members of the I.F.C.A. recognized that "fundamental" no longer communicated to our world what we were about (committed to a solidly Biblical ministry). It carried all the ideas associated with radical "fundamentalists" (hate, snake handling, etc.). Coupling that with the idea that we were concerned only for "America" and that "Independent" implied that we couldn't work together, it was felt wise to change the name... The name change in no way indicates any change from our historic doctrinal commitment. We believe solidly in the "fundamentals" of the faith as taught in God's inspired word."

Jerry Falwell Ministries

"To act as both salt and light... reaching the world with the gospel, teaching and training believers, reviving the hearts of God's people and healing the wounds of immorality and godlessness in our nation. With a burden on his heart and a dream in his head, Jerry Falwell set out in 1956 to make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ. Little did he know at that time that God would use his sincere desire to do the Lord's will to build a life-changing, world-impacting ministry. With its roots firmly grounded in Thomas Road Baptist Church, Jerry Falwell Ministries has expanded over the years to include Liberty University, The Old Time Gospel Hour, The Liberty Godparent Home for Unwed Mothers, The National Liberty Journal Newspaper and so much more!"

Logos Resource Pages - Is Fundamentalism Merely A Belief In "The Five Fundamentals"?

"Some have concocted a position that Fundamentalism historically was not militant or separatist, but was merely a belief in "the five fundamentals." That this is a serious perversion of history is clear from the following facts. We must note at the outset of these considerations that Fundamentalism has never been a monolithic movement. It has never had one definition only. It has taken many different forms. There have always been those who have worn the Fundamentalist label who have shied away from the heat of the battle, who have refused to obey the Word of God and separate from error. Describing Fundamentalism is like the ant describing the elephant; one's description depends somewhat upon one's perspective. Even so, to claim that Fundamentalism was NOT characterized by militancy for truth, to claim that fighting and separating have NOT been a significant aspect of historic Fundamentalism, is to fly in the face of history. It is this gross error that we set out to disprove."

New Reformation Home Page - Christian Fundamentals without the Fundamentalism

"The greatest danger associated with fundamentalism (whether Christian, Mormon, or Islamic) is that the statements of fundamentalists sound so true. Christians frequently listen to a fundamentalist preacher and agree with every word. Many fundamentalist preachers are charismatic leaders and persuasive orators. They have a passion and commitment, a devotion, that we would all like to achieve in our own lives. It is easy to be moved and blessed by their messages. The problem is that they are committed to the wrong thing. They are committed to simplistic interpretations of the faith, to simplistic notions of morality and right and wrong. They are committed to cultural preservation and resistance to change. As a result they are frequently telling the people what they want to hear. They appear to have the answers to social and cultural crises and to life's problems. It all seems so simple, so clear, so easy."

Religious Movements Homepage Project - Fundamentalism

"No one person can be credited with founding Fundamentalism. Nor does any single group comprise the history of the movement. The label `Fundamentalist' is used as both anadjective and a noun. Accordingly, trying to understand the phenomena requires more than knowing a few names and dates. Curtis Lee Laws, editor of a conservative publication entitled Watchman-Examiner is credited with coining the term "fundamentalism." The term `fundamentalism' has its origin in a series of pamphlets published between 1910 and 1915. Entitled "The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth," these booklets were authored by leading evangelical churchmen and were circulated free of charge among clergymen and seminarians. By and large, fundamentalism was a response to the loss of influence traditional revivalism experienced in America during the early years of the twentieth century. This loss of influence, coupled with the liberalizing trends of German biblical criticism and the encroachment of Darwinian theories about the origin of the universe, prompted a response by conservative churchmen. The result was the pamphlets. In 1920, a journalist and Baptist layman named Curtis Lee Laws appropriated the term `fundamentalist' as a designation for those who were ready "to do battle royal for the Fundamentals." The Bible is the sacred text of the Christian Fundamentalists. Indeed, if there is one single thing which binds Fundamentalists together, it is their insistence that the Bible is to be understood as literally true. Further, Fundamentalists see themselves as the guardians of the truth, usually to the exclusion of others' interpretation of the Bible. Fundamentalism in other faith traditions similarly proclaims guardianship of truth."

SBC Net - Official Website of the Southern Baptist Convention

"Since its organization in 1845 in Augusta, Georgia, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has grown to over 16 million members who worship in more than 42,000 churches in the United States. Southern Baptists sponsor about 5,000 home missionaries serving the United States, Canada, Guam and the Caribbean, as well as sponsoring more than 5,000 foreign missionaries in 153 nations of the world. The term "Southern Baptist Convention" refers to both the denomination and its annual meeting. Working through 1,200 local associations and 41 state conventions and fellowships, Southern Baptists share a common bond of basic Biblical beliefs and a commitment to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the entire world. You become a Southern Baptist by uniting with a Southern Baptist church, one in friendly cooperation with the general Southern Baptist enterprise of reaching the world for Christ. Typically church membership is a matter of accepting Jesus as your Savior and Lord and experiencing believer's baptism by immersion. The fact that Jesus died for our sin, was buried, and then rose from the grave is foundational for Southern Baptists. He lives today and stands ready to give abundant and eternal life to all those who repent of sin and place their faith in Him. Southern Baptists invite everyone to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord."

Sullivan County - Christian Fundamentalism Exposed

"Are Christian fundamentalists just raving, Bible-thumping fanatics? The answer for many is no. In fact, they are a very diverse and often divided group. Here I will try to dispel myths and take up where the above dictionary definition leaves off. Let's look at some of the many issues surrounding "fundamentalism" as it is today. I will strongly note here that "fundamentalism" is a political and social movement. This has nothing to do with Jesus or the Bible. Two-thirds of born again Christians reject the intolerance, bigotry, and social politics of groups affiliated with the Religious Right. This website defines "religious fundamentalism" of all kinds as political and social, not religious. Don't think for one minute these are a bunch illiterate rednecks, they aren't. Their main activists are rich, white, most are ´┐Żbaby-boomers, and their agenda is power and money. Their leadership are college educated as well."

Veritas et Ratio - Why The "Fundamentalist" Approach To Religion Must Be Wrong

"Fundamentalism is variously described by various authors, but to me it really boils down to a rather simple test: In my view, a fundamentalist religion is a religion, any religion, that when confronted with a conflict between love, compassion and caring, and conformity to doctrine, will almost invariably choose the latter regardless of the effect it has on its followers or on the society of which it is a part. Fundamentalist religions make this choice because they uniformly place a high priority on doctrinal conformity, with such force that it takes higher priority than love, compassion and service. Indeed, many fundamentalists are so caught up in doctrinal seriousness, that love, service and compassion seem scarcely to even be a part of their thinking. As one correspondent said to me regarding a certain Christian sect's converts, "Its like they go in and surgically remove any sense of love or any sense of humor." This emphasis on doctrinal conformity seems to be the result of the belief in the requirement of absolute conformity to doctrine to achieve salvation. Yet at the same time, many will also officially claim that simple acceptance of that sect's doctrine is sufficient for salvation. This dichotomy is often seen in the same sect; some of the fundamentalist Christian sects being good examples. The contradiction seems to go unnoticed or if it is noticed, it is ignored." (by Scott Bidstrup)

Wikipedia - Fundamentalist Christianity

"Fundamentalist Christianity is a fundamentalist movement, especially within American Protestantism. The term, Fundamentalist, tends to have a variable meaning. Historically, and for those who use the name to describe themselves, a Fundamentalist Christian is one who holds to all of the five Fundamentals of the Faith as a bare-minimum definition of Christian faith... Fundamentalism is not a denominational cause. Indeed, the movement is found in many denominations, and outside of any denominational structure. As the movement has developed, the term has evolved. Today's Fundamentalist is typically pessimistic in expectations for the future of the world, and committed to separation from theological, scientific and moral error. Fundamentalists often see secular humanism to be a mortal enemy and the work of Satan to deceive society from the true path. Militancy, not of a martial kind but rather, vocal stridency in prosecuting the fundamentalist war against unbelief among Christians, has been a connotation of Fundamentalism throughout the history of the movement. Derivatively, a fundamentalist Christian is a Christian who holds the Bible to be infallible, historically accurate, and decisive in all issues of controversy that the Bible is believed to directly address; which was the central issue for which the Christian Fundamentalist movement has contended."

        "As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men." (Acts 17:10-12)

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