History of Fundamentalism

The Hijacking of Fundamentalism

Republished from Voice, Jan/Feb 2020.

John Fea noted two decades ago that “the term fundamentalism has become the most elusive term on the American religious scene.”1 Today a fundamentalist is often viewed as anyone who holds to a strict religious system.2 The task I have been given here is to note the attempted “hijacking” of the designation “fundamentalist.” While I can, in the main, appreciate the faithful heritage of historic fundamentalism, at the same time I also reject the extremism that can often be found in too much of what I term Movement Fundamentalism. It is easy for me to note the faults within fundamentalism, but at the same time it is hard to take issue with all fundamentalists; many of whom are faithful, sincere, sacrificial and dependable saints.

Fundamentalism Today

Over the years I have used a taxonomy to explain to insiders as well as outsiders the nature of contemporary fundamentalism in order to demonstrate the fractured nature of what fundamentalism had become over time. The basis for this present article is my original work which was entitled, “Three Lines in the Sand”3 which enumerated three varieties within contemporary fundamentalism.

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Ties of Fundamentalism and Premillennialism

Thomas Ice

Republished from Voice, Jan/Feb 2020.

While all fundamentalists have not been premillennial, the overwhelming majority have been. Premillennialism has been a historic staple of fundamentalism. It is often the case that when one abandons the fundamentals of the faith, they also abandon the premillennial hope. Why has that been the case in the past and why should it continue into the future, especially within the IFCA?

Post-Civil War Rise of Fundamentalism

Postmillennialism in America arose as the dominant eschatology in the 1720s as a result of the influence of theologians like Jonathan Edwards and dominated evangelicalism until a decade or two after the Civil War. Higher critical liberal scholarship began to cross the Atlantic and make progress in America by the 1880s, which lead to the rise of fundamentalism as a response by conservative evangelicals. “Dispensationalism, or dispensational premillennialism, was the fruit of renewed interest in the detail of biblical prophecy which developed after the Civil War,” observes George Marsden. “Rejecting the prevailing postmillennialism… dispensational premillennialists said that the churches and culture were declining and that Christians would see Christ’s kingdom only after he personally returned to rule in Jerusalem.”1

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A Brief History of Fundamentalism

Republished from Voice, Jan/Feb 2020.

Back in the 1970’s when I was teaching at a Bible college, one of my students asked me, somewhat tongue in cheek, what descriptive terms he should use to describe his ministry views in order for him to be, in his words, “the top dog.” He meant, like “fundamentalist.” So I, also somewhat tongue in cheek, listed “fundamentalist,” “Baptist,” (this was a Baptist college after all), “separatist,” “dispensationalist,” “premillennialist,” and “Republican.” We both chuckled then. But fifty years later I wonder if these descriptive terms are still appropriate. I teach in a nondenominational seminary, but our doctrinal statement is baptistic. I identify myself as a separatist—that it is unbiblical to work together with theological liberals in order to fulfill the Great Commission. I continue to be delighted to call myself a dispensational premillennialist. But what about “fundamentalist”? That seems to be the elephant in the room for some of us.

As a starting place for our brief analysis, let’s define historic fundamentalism as the religious movement within American Protestantism that stresses the literal exposition of the fundamental doctrines of the Bible and the militant exposure of any deviance therefrom. If this definition is acceptable, we can be more specific and investigate three key concepts in the definition.

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A Statement by the Two Laymen & Foreward to Volume 12

(About this series)

A STATEMENT BY THE TWO LAYMEN

Rev. A. C. Dixon, D. D., in the fall of 1909, while pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago, organized the Testimony Publishing Company. He also edited the first five volumes of “THE FUNDAMENTALS,” but upon being called to London early in the summer of 1911 to become pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, founded by the late Charles H. Spurgeon, he found it necessary to give up the editorial work on the books.

The next five books were taken in hand by the late Louis Meyer, a Christian Jew, who worked so strenuously in the securing and editing of matter for “THE FUNDAMENTALS” that his health failed. He departed to be with Christ July 11, 1913, in Monrovia, California. His widow and children are now residing in Pasadena, California.

Rev. R. A. Torrey, D. D., Dean of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, edited Volumes XI and XII, two articles, however, in Volume XI having been approved by Dr. Meyer and passed on to Dr. Torrey when he took up the work.

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