In this article, I’ll very briefly outline what historic fundamentalism is; specifically American fundamentalism. I cannot hope to discuss the genesis of the movement in a comprehensive fashion here, but hopefully it is helpful to the fundamentalist community at large, both as a brief summary introduction to the movement or as a refresher to faithful warriors still on the field of battle!
This material will be old-hat to many of you. Some may never even read it because it may tread the same ground you’ve trod many times before. I believe it is important, however, to remind ourselves of how fundamentalism started, and visit old battlefields of the past periodically. We cannot understand our movement unless we grasp how it all began.
This is the first in a three part series examining, in sequence, (1) the historic roots of fundamentalism, (2) the historic roots of evangelicalism and (3) the idea of secondary separation.
Just what in the world is fundamentalism? Numerous authors have provided their own definitions throughout the years.
George Marsden writes,
(11 benefits of studying church history)
As a parent of six young children, I am constantly looking out for Christian resources to put in their hands. The Reformation in particular, is one of the pivotal moments in church history that has been sadly neglected today. More and more authors however, are now filling this gap and providing excellent books for our children.
Once again William Boekestein has given us a fantastic book for children. The Glory of Grace: the Story of the Canons of Dort is his third book in a series from Reformation Heritage Books. Each book is illustrated by Evan Hughes and looks at the historical background to one of the confessional statements that make up the “Three Forms of Unity” treasured for centuries by the Reformed Church. I reviewed his book on the Heidelberg Catechism previously and was pleased to find this title lived up to my expectations.
The history deficit in evangelical (and fundamentalist) churches, and six ways to fix it.
If there is one thing that could be said to be true across many divides is a timeless desire for renewal to something foundational within a people, group or ideology. Renewal to basic foundations and principles often times creates revival among the participants and results in the spread of the message. This is true for Christianity. Often times the thread of renewal that runs throughout Christian revival (not just evangelistic revival) is a return to sacred Scripture.
This renewed focus on Scripture is the subject of Timothy George’s new book Reading Scripture with the Reformers. In conjunction with IVP Timothy George has edited the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series which seeks provide the reader with a vast wealth of rich commentary on Scripture from the Reformation era. Reading Scripture with the Reformers provides the historical context in which these commentary selections are taken from as the Reformers exposited Scripture anew for their time and the future life of the Church.
One of the most interesting words in the English language is hagiography. One of its definitions is the one I have in mind, an “idealizing or idolizing biography.” The idea is that once someone has died, we remember the individual as being better than he or she actually was. This adjusting of memory and idealization of those who lived before us is common throughout the human race.
But people “back then” were really not as wonderful as we think they were.
This is universally done with the folks who made up the very early church. Although the very early church had its strong points (the Apostles were around to teach and lead, God worked some unprecedented miracles like raising the dead, etc.), the people who made up the early church community were far from wonderful.
Consider the words of the New Testament itself about the believers who made up the family of faith. In Corinth, we notice a man sleeping with his stepmother (1 Cor. 5:1) while fellow Christians in the church accepted this brother as someone in good standing. The Corinthian church was divided into factions, each following the unique perspectives of a famous Christian leader (1 Cor. 3:4-5).
Things were so bad at Corinth that during their carry-in dinners members were consuming all the food before all arrived; some even became drunk while they waited (1 Cor. 11:21). The Corinthian Christians invented the “happy hour.”