Pastor, Why? #16: Why are we "Fundamentalists"?

Society tends to perceive a “fundamentalist” as anybody who is extremist, dangerous or wacky. This perception, however, has nothing to do with the dictionary or historical definition. Unfortunately, not only does secular society have a distorted view of “fundamentalism”, but those within Christianity itself often perceive fundamentalism as “harsh, rigid, legalistic and judgmental.” Such words may describe a particular fundamentalist’s bad attitude or poor testimony, but they do not represent an accurate view of historic “fundamentalism.” Some fundamentalists themselves have distorted the historic definition by redefining the word around their personal preferences (dress, music, etc.), and personal loyalties (Bob Jones, Jack Hyles, Peter Ruckman, etc.). These lines become cultish rather than defining historic “fundamentalism”. So just what is a “historic Christian fundamentalist”, and are you one?

A fundamentalist is one who believes and adheres to basic, core, essential teachings.

Oxford Dictionary - “Fundamentalism: Strict adherence to the basic principles of any subject or discipline;” Examples include Orthodox Jews, Sharia Muslims, purist Marxists, polygamist Mormons, etc.

A Christian fundamentalist is one who believes and practices the basic, core, essential teachings of his faith as found in the Bible.

MacMillan Dictionary - “Fundamentalist: A Christian who   believes that the exact meaning of every word in the Bible is the true meaning”

“Fundamentalism” is the only logical position for any faith.

                If I believe my “sacred book” is true, I ought to believe and practice ALL that it teaches.

If I do not believe my “sacred book” is true, why follow it at all?

The term “Christian fundamentalism” came into vogue around 1900. It described stood against the liberal theology that had crept into most denominations by that time.

Oxford Dictionary - “Fundamentalism: a religious movement which originally became active among various Protestant bodies in the United States after WWI, based on strict adherence to certain tenets (e.g. the literal inerrancy of Scripture) held to be fundamental to the Christian faith”


      The late 1800's saw an infiltration of “Higher Criticism” (today called “liberalism” or “modernism”) into many churches, seminaries and denominations. One of its earliest vocal proponents was Dr. Charles Briggs, Dean of Biblical Theology at Union Seminary (NYC). He and others like him asserted that many parts of the Bible were actually later additions by unknown writers, and that God Himself was not the Author of Scripture. Today Liberalism and modernism essentially deny most of the supernatural claims in the Bible, from the inspiration and preservation of the words of God, to the virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Jesus. The turn-of-the-century battle over the Bible resulted in virtually all of the mainline denominations and seminaries moving toward or embracing liberalism.

      Conservative Bible-believers reacted by separating from their liberal-leaning denominations and withdrawing their support from the wayward seminaries. Most who departed formed or joined new denominations that held to the “fundamental” beliefs. Those who separated but chose not to join any denomination sparked the “independent” church movement. [See “Why We Are Independent”, #6.] Those who separated from and stood against liberalism were called “fundamentalists”. During this time a well-known series of books was published entitled, The Fundamentals. They contained numerous articles by many noted conservative Bible-believing scholars defining and defending those Bible doctrines which form the “basic, core, essential teachings” of the Christian faith.

The “fundamentalist” label began to be shunned by some Bible-believers in the 1950's when several prominent Christian leaders, while still preaching the core doctrines, refused to separate from or stand against those who taught otherwise, i.e liberals and Catholics. This break-away movement sought greater acceptance in the public eye by being more “inclusive and tolerant” of false teachers and by keeping silent on secondary issues such as worldly culture and entertainment. These leaders dropped the “fundamentalist” label in favor of the term, “evangelical”. The most recognizable names behind this shift were Evangelist Billy Graham and Christianity Today Magazine.


If this is what you believe, then you too, are a fundamentalist.

I am a Christian fundamentalist because:

  • I believe my sacred book, the Bible, is the divinely inspired, supernaturally preserved, authoritative Word of God without error.
  • I believe all of the fundamental, historical doctrines of Christianity.
  • I believe we must humbly separate from, lovingly rebuke, and diligently warn the church against those who teach contrary to those doctrines.