Note: This article is reprinted from The Faith Pulpit (June/August 1989), a publication of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary (Ankeny, IA).
Fundamentalism began in the later nineteenth century as a concerned response to the rise of higher criticism and doctrinal deviation and also as a response to the worldly drift among God’s people. How far back does the movement go? Surely not before the Believers’ Meeting held in Chicago, 1875, with their concerns about prophecy and German theology. Some have dated it from 1909, with the publication of “The Fundamentals” and the first edition of “The Scofield Reference Bible.” Surely it dates no later than the 1920 Northern Baptist Convention, when Curtis Lee Laws coined the term Fundamentalist. By any view, however, the movement was a departure from the drifting attitude expressed by mainstream Protestant orthodoxy. A look at the marks of the movement will bring that out clearly. The old Protestants did not seem to have these identifying qualities.
The Fundamentalists took a more rigorous view of the Bible than many of their forefathers. Commonly during the nineteenth century the believers held a strong view of inspiration, but it was not yet an issue. The Princeton men get credit for their strong view, but the great majority of ministers would hardly have faulted them for the way they put into print what most had commonly accepted. Now with the strong view of inspiration came an equally strong view of inerrancy and of literal interpretation.