- Fundamentalism is a 20th-century movement within American Protestantism that defends the continued validity of traditional Christian beliefs in the face of a spectrum of modern ideas that have won acceptance in older denominations. Strictly speaking, Fundamentalism calls for an adversarial relation with church bodies that support these nontraditional ideas. In popular and journalistic use, the term is also used to refer to Evangelicalism; recently, it has become used as a label to cover conservative movements and tendencies in non-Protestant and non-Christian religions as well.By the early 20th century, many leaders in major Protestant denominations, including administrators, prominent preachers, and seminary professors, had come to support one or more nontraditional concepts such as the theory of evolution, modern biblical criticism, rejection of the deity of Christ or the Trinity, and the priority of the social gospel over against traditional evangelism. Conservative leaders believed the new ideas threatened the very roots of church life and would make the church unrecognizable. Christianity, they insisted, was not incompatible with true science.At first, conservatives tried to fight the new ideas with a series of trials of ministers and seminary professors. A prominent example was Charles A. Briggs (1814-1913), whose 1891 address on the occasion of his assuming a teaching post at Union Theological Seminary was rejected by Presbyterian Church leadership. The church's assembly in 1893 defrocked him from the ministry. As a result, Union broke its relationship with the Presbyterians, and Briggs joined the Episcopal Church.The conservative cause was strongest in the Methodist Holiness tradition, the Presbyterian Church's Princeton Theological Seminary, and among independent Bible students, many influenced by evangelist Dwight L. Moody. The Presbyterian Church in 1910 passed a position paper called the Five Point Deliverance, which required ministers to affirm five essential doctrines: the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, Christ's virgin birth, Christ's death as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, Christ's bodily resurrection, and Christ's performance of miracles during his earthly ministry.In the next phase, as modern ideas spread in several of the older churches, conservative Christians from a wide range of theological perspectives and denominational allegiances began to come together to affirm their faith. in 1909, brothers Lyman and Milton Stewart, both wealthy oilmen, underwrote the production and distribution of a 12-volume set of conservative Christian essays titled The Fundamentals: A Testimony of Truth. More than 3 million individual volumes were mailed out free of charge to ministers throughout the English-speaking world.By World War I, the several hundred Protestant denominations, who had always differed from one another over theological issues often dating back to the Reformation, were now increasingly divided internally over how much to tolerate the new ideas. Many conservatives were beginning to develop a self-conscious identity as a pandenomi-national movement united to oppose further inroads by the modernists. one sign was the formation of the World Christian Fundamentals Association. Credit for giving Fundamentalists their name is generally ascribed to Curtis Lee Laws (1868-1946), a Baptist editor who seems to have coined the term fundamentalist in an editorial he penned in 1920.Churches with a more decentralized structure (Baptists, Congregationalists) had more difficulty keeping a consensus of theological opinion than Episcopalians, already used to differences, thanks to the earlier endeavor to include both low-church evangelicals and high-church Anglo-Catholics. The primary focus of the 1920s battle between fundamentalists and modernists was in the Presbyterian Church and the Northern Baptist Convention (now the American Baptist Churches U.S.A.). The battle raged on two fronts, a fight for control of the denominational machinery, and a struggle for the hearts and minds of the members.The struggle for hearts and minds came to focus on the theory of evolution as a scientific explanation of human origins. It reached a critical point in the so-called Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925. Though Fundamentalist politician William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) officially won the case, there was widespread belief that his opponent, Clarence Darrow (18571938), had the better arguments and that evolution would eventually carry the day (which it has done).On the denominational front, the two factions fought over credentialing new ministers and missionaries, and control of the seminaries where these clergy were trained. Power seemed to change hands in the Presbyterian Church by 1925, when the Five Points Deliverance was replaced with the Auburn Affirmation, which opened the church to a variety of views on key doctrines. Among the Northern Baptists in the early 1920s, the fundamentalist position was also rejected; the church affirmed a statement that the Bible was the only rule in faith and practice, a statement that left the door open for a wide variety of interpretation.Through the 1920s, both conservatives and modernists scored victories and defeats as different issues came before the several church judica-tories. However, by the 1930s it was obvious that the modernists were gaining the upper hand. In 1929, a group of Princeton professors left to found the independent Westminster Theological Seminary. From their new base, under the leadership of J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937), they fought a final battle over Presbyterian missions. Machen led in the formation of the Independent Board of Foreign Missions, asking Presbyterians to support it in order to guarantee the orthodoxy of the missionaries they were paying for. When the church formally censured Machen, he left to found the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. A similar move had already led Fundamentalist Baptists to establish the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC). Through the 1930s, a number of other fundamentalist denominations were founded, including the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA).At this juncture, people of differing theological perspectives who had previously made common cause against the modernists now found themselves divided and unable to work with one another. The major division was between the dis-pensationalists, such as Carl McIntire (1906-2003), and those like Machen who followed the older Princeton theology. McIntire broke with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and founded the Bible Presbyterian Church. Other bodies advocating DISPENSATIONALISM included the GARBC and IFCA.Fundamentalist leaders now faced another issue: how to relate to their colleagues who had chosen to remain in the liberal-controlled churches for career and other reasons. One group remained in contact with their colleagues and were willing to work with anyone who retained a conservative faith. This group would in the 1940s became known as Evangelicals or Neo-Evangelicals. The other group, probably a minority, demanded separation from all apostasy and unbelief and remained determined to carry on the battle against modernism in all its forms. This group continued to be known as the Fundamentalists.In the 1940s, the Evangelicals came together in the National Association of Evangelicals. Fundamentalists founded the American Council of Christian Churches, and in 1948 the International Council of Christian Churches (ICCC). Carl Mclntire took the lead in both fundamentalist organizations.in the decades since World War ii, the Evangelical movement has thrived through religious broadcasting, campus ministries, involvement in national politics, and missionary work. Fundamentalism also grew, though to a far lesser extent, limited by its separatism. its largest organizations were found within the Baptist community - the Bible Baptist Fellowship international, the independent Baptists, and the World Baptist Fellowship. The latter group was associated with the outstanding if controversial Fundamentalist minister J. Frank Norris (1877-1952).in the last generation, Fundamentalism received a boost from the ministry of televangelist Jerry Falwell (b. 1932), pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, founder of Liberty University, and head of Liberty Baptist Fellowship. His Baptist colleague Tim LaHaye (b. 1926) contributed by coauthoring the hugely popular "Left Behind" novels about endtime events. LaHaye and his wife, Beverley LaHaye (b. 1930), are major personalities in the Religious Right, which has attracted support from both Fundamentalists and Evangelicals. Meanwhile, the iCCC gained its largest member when the Korean Presbyterian Church split into two denominations, the more conservative branch with more than 2 million members.See also creationism.Further reading:■ George W. Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America (Greenville, S.C.: Bob Jones University Press, 1973)■ Jerry Falwell, The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: The Resurgence of Conservative Christianity (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday-Galilee Original, 1981)■ George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980)■ Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970)■ Glen H. Utter and John W. Storey, The Religious Right (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2001).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.