About the “What Is?…” series
In effort to increase the theological literacy of Christians and seekers, The Greater Heritage “What Is?…” series is a collection of 1-page informational flyers, each on a different theological topic and available for free download.
Each one has a brief description of a single theological topic, and also includes important information about affirming denominations, key figures, important verses, historical events and essential books. Also included is chart that outlines how conservative or liberal the topic tends to be.
What Is…Christian Fundamentalism?
Standing for God. Fundamentalism is a uniquely American religious movement. Though not fully defined until the 1920s, its roots go back to just after the Civil War. Back then, the higher criticism movement appeared on American shores for the first time after wide adoption in Europe. It sought to make the Bible compatible with evolutionary theory and progressive social history. It also held that the Bible was influenced by extra-Biblical sources. Therefore, its proponents analyzed the Bible as an historical, not divinely inspired, text. The movement quickly spread throughout American universities in the late Victorian era. Harvard, Princeton, Yale and other theologically conservative institutions quickly adopted its wholly anti-Christian teachings. “Fundamentalism is a uniquely American religious movement.”Eventually, a generation of theologians came to not only adopt liberal theology, but to deny the resurrection, atonement, and divinity of Christ. As these changes trickled down to everyday society, orthodox Christians across America faced enormous doubts about their faith. Many began to believe that the Bible was no longer objectively true. Thankfully, many others took a stand. It was out of this environment that Christian fundamentalism was born. Over the next 150 years it would become a powerhouse movement in America’s religious history.
Fundamental congregations are often independent churches that stand apart from the theological liberalism of their mainline denominations. Also, fundamentalism and evangelicalism, which began in the 1940s, are not the same. Those who follow the latter consider themselves mainline conservatives and tend to be Pentecostal, though not always.
Theologically, fundamentalists espouse Biblical inerrancy. That is, the Bible is “without error.” They also believe the Bible is infallible or “incapable of error.” These mean that the Bible is correct regarding all matters of faith, morality, science, and history. “Theologically, fundamentalists espouse Biblical inerrancy. That is, the Bible is “without error.” They also believe the Bible is infallible or “incapable of error.” As such, fundamentalists believe in a literal, grammatical, and historical approach to Bible interpretation and often read literal translations such as the King James Version. They also follow the doctrine of Biblical separation, which is the belief that Christians are to be in the world but not of it, and are to behave in a manner consistent with God’s Word and are to continually grow in Christlikeness. They support family values, honor God-ordained roles for men and women and often refrain from consuming alcohol. Separation’s application is not without its intricacies, and while some take such values into the realm of legalism, many fundamentalists simply follow God’s standards out of love for what he has done for them, and to please, obey and grow in him.
Fundamentalists also usually believe in dispensational premillennial eschatology. Dispensationalism divides human history into time periods (“dispensations”) by which God acts in different ways toward his people. Eschatology is the study of end times. Premillennialism believes that Jesus Christ will return to initiate a thousand-year period of peace before the end of the world. This view underlies fundamentalism’s passion for revivalism and evangelism both at the local church level and through global missions work.“Christian fundamentalism is an indispensable part of America’s religious identity. Its positive influences on society are a testament to the life-changing power of God’s Word.”
Since its inception, Fundamentalism has had a major role in US politics. Fundamentalists have supported legislation for prayer and Bible teaching in public schools, limited government, and have protected many from the harms of abortion and gender identity movements. Moreover, many respected Christian colleges have been founded by fundamentalists including Bob Jones University, Liberty University, Regent University and Westminster Theological Seminary.
Ultimately, Christian fundamentalism is an indispensable part of America’s religious identity. Its positive influences on society are a testament to the life-changing power of God’s Word.
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