Today’s post will give quotes from three historians who, I believe, would not consider themselves fundamentalists.
Let us use the words of those who are not necessarily in favor of fundamentalism to see what they consider historic fundamentalism to be.
pp 189-190 Religion in America;Julia Mitchell Corbett; Prentice-Hall;NJ, 1990
“Fundamentalism can best be understood as a special, extreme case of Protestant Christianity’s seeking to preserve traditional beliefs without change. Fundamentalists believe that there are certain beliefs that are absolutely essential if the truth of Christianity is to be preserved.”
“The Bible is their only authority, and it is believed to be completely free from errors.”
“The virgin birth of Jesus is interpreted literally.”
“All the biblical miracles are true in their literal, straightforward sense. Jesus’ role is that of a substitute sacrifice for human sin.”
“Fundamentalists believe that Jesus was literally, bodily raised from the dead, and the same can be expected for the faithful. Likewise, Jesus will return in a literal, physical form to begin the Kingdom of God.”
“The life of the fundamentalist Christian is one in which the requirements of a Christian life that will lead to salvation are clearly spelled out and grounded in the absolute authority of the Bible as God’s inerrant Word.”
While the last statement obviously shows a misunderstanding of sola fide and sola gratia, there is still contained within it the understanding that fundamentalists honored Scripture as inerrant and authoritative.
Corbett understood that historic fundamentalism was indeed about what fundamentalists understood to be fundamental (foundational) Christian truths.
Religion in America;Winthrop S. Hudson;Charles Scribner’s Sons;NY,1965
“In response to the issues raised by biblical criticism, the younger Hodge and Warfield fashioned the ‘Princeton doctrine of Inspiration’ which became a major defense of biblical inerrancy.” pg 282
“..the Niagara Bible Conference of 1895 supplied them with a statement of five ‘essential’ points of Christian doctrine- the verbal inerrancy of Scripture, the deity and virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, the physical resurrection of Christ, and his bodily return to the earth- which could be utilized to spot any heretic by a few pointed questions.” pg 283
“Curtis Lee Laws (1868-1946), Baptist editor of the Watchman-Examiner, who coined the label ‘Fundamentalist’ in 1920 to designate those who were prepared to battle for the ‘fundamentals’ of the faith, was associated with a large body of genuine ‘conservatives’, whose concern was to conserve and defend the integrity and continuity of the Christian faith. The key issue, as these moderate Fundamentalists saw it, was the authority of Scripture for the whole structure of its thought.” pg 368
Perspectives on 19th and 20th Century Protestant Theology;Paul Tillich;Harper & Row; NY, 1967
“..American fundamentalism-a biblicism which rejects any theological penetration into the biblical writings and makes itself dependent on traditional interpretations of the Word of God.” pg 10
While Tillich was quite obviously biased against fundamentalists, he did understand that there was a connection to history that they sought to maintain in their beliefs. Fundamentalists sought to cling to the Biblical beliefs which had been given to them by generations who had gone before them. Fundamentalists weren’t establishing something that was extremely new; they were defending what was already old.
Thus we see that even those who are not necessarily the friends of fundamentalism tell us that historical fundamentalists sought to uphold and defend the traditional doctrines that they believed made Christianity distinctively Christian.
It is sad that, today, many who claim to be fundamentalists have no clue about their history. They have very little connection to historic fundamentalism. In fact, at times they deny fundamental doctrines in their attempts to uphold what they think are indeed fundamentals.
As we continue with this examination of historic fundamentalism we shall see that the movement was hijacked by those who sought to make peripheral issues into fundamental issues. Often the reason that they do so is because they are ignorant of the true history and meaning of fundamentalism.