for the Faith
What is Fundamentalism?
wad some power the giftie gie us
see oursel's as ithers see us!
wad frae monie a blunder free us,
airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us
Burns, "To a Louse"
Burns's words whimsically remind us that we need to evaluate
ourselves periodically. The poem, "To a Louse,"
bears a subtitle that reads "On Seeing One on a Lady's
Bonnet at Church"! Apparently, several characters in
this incident needed to see themselves as others saw them.
Burns shows us that Jenny had no idea how silly she looked
with the louse parading across her finery. It seems the
preacher could have used a good dose of objective evaluation
as well. Perhaps the worship was dull and the preaching
quite boring that Lord's Day if a louse could so capture
the poet's attention! We really do need to see ourselves
as others see us.
chapter is going to examine several evaluations of Fundamentalism
from history. As we see scholarly evaluations of how this
movement began and what distinguished it from the beginning,
we can learn much. Dominant traits appear that become the
"irreducible minimum" in describing Fundamentalism.
declares that David "served his own generation by the
will of God" (Acts 13:36). Understanding the classic
distinctives of Fundamentalism from generations past will
enable us to maintain a balance and sense of direction as
we seek to serve the Lord in our own generation. Perhaps
we can also avoid some of the "blunders and foolish
notions" of which Burns wrote.
A Brief Overview
Pettegrew has succinctly described the historic use of the
the term, "fundamentalist," was first used
of a movement in the July 1, 1920, issue of The Watchman
Examiner. The editor, Curtis Lee Laws, was suggesting
possible terms to describe a group of Bible-believing
Baptists in the Northern Baptist Convention which was
opposing a growing apostasy in the Convention. He concluded
his search for a good name by saying: "We suggest
that those who still cling to the great fundamentals
and who mean to do battle royal for the fundamentals
shall be called 'Fundamentalists.' "1
and Curtis Lee Laws before him, saw two elements in nascent
Fundamentalism. The movement contains at least a doctrinal
element ("the fundamentals") and a militant element
("do battle royal"). Rolland D. McCune sees three
major elements in Fundamentalism today, which he names "crucial
doctrine," "the distinctive of militancy,"
and "the distinctive of ecclesiastical separation."2
"fundamentals" were variously defined as the Fundamentalist
movement developed. One of the first doctrinal formulations
of what believers deemed fundamental to the faith came from
the Niagara Bible Conference in 1878. The Confession of
Faith listed fourteen articles:
verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scriptures in the original
Creation of man, the Fall into sin, and total depravity.
universal transmission of spiritual death from Adam.
necessity of the new birth.
by the blood of Christ.
by faith alone in Christ.
assurance of salvation.
centrality of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures.
constitution of the true church by genuine believers.
personality of the Holy Spirit.
believer's call to a holy life.
immediate passing of the souls of believers to be with
Christ at death.
premillennial Second Coming of Christ.3
this beginning, further revisions emerged. The most well-known
listing is the famous "five fundamentals," which
are commonly cited today. Pettegrew describes their origin
1910 General Assembly of the Northern Presbyterian Church
listed the following five: (1) Inerrancy, (2) Virgin
Birth, (3) Substitutional Atonement, (4) Bodily Resurrection,
and (5) Authenticity of Miracles. Later fundamentalists
usually combined number five with one of the first four
and included some statement on the second coming of
doctrinal "fundamentals" will be referred to regularly
in this book.
Contending for the Faith. ByFred Moritz. ©2000. BJU Press. Reproduction
prohibited. This work is available for purchase at the Bob Jones University
Campus Store (phone: 1-800-252-1927; web address:
Permission must be obtained from www.itib.org
to link to this page.