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Contending for the Faith

by Fred Moritz

What is Fundamentalism?

Fundamentalist Descriptions of Fundamentalism

Fundamentalists have also spent extensive time analyzing their own movement. Their descriptions of Fundamentalism are strikingly similar to the Liberal and New Evangelical descriptions.

William Ward Ayer

Speaking to the National Association of Evangelicals in 1956, William Ward Ayer put the term into historical perspective:

Fundamentalism represents a resurgence of ancient practices, which began not with Martin Luther but at Pentecost. Fundamentalism is apostolic, and the doctrine of justification goes back to Paul. That branch from which the fundamentalist movement sprang lived obscurely through the ages and had never been completely silenced even in the Dark Ages. . . . What fundamentalism did was to awaken the slumbering apostolicism from lethargy. The theme of the Reformation, like the cry of the fundamentalists today, was "back to the Bible and the Apostles," with no mediator between men and God except Christ. Fundamentalists are in the direct line of succession to those preaching this same message.17

This statement deserves serious consideration and will be the point of departure for this book. Ayer is right! Certain distinctives have marked Fundamentalists because those distinctives come from the Word of God.

David Beale

In his definitive history of Fundamentalism, David Beale states,

Ideally, a Christian Fundamentalist is one who desires to reach out in love and compassion to people, believes and defends the whole Bible as the absolute, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God, and stands committed to the doctrine and practice of holiness. . . . Fundamentalism is not a philosophy of Christianity, nor is it essentially an interpretation of the Scriptures. It is not even a mere literal exposition of the Bible. The essence of Fundamentalism goes much deeper than that—it is the unqualified acceptance of and obedience to the Scriptures [emphasis Beale's].18

David Cummins

David Cummins, Baptist pastor, author, and now deputation director for Baptist World Mission, defines Fundamentalism in similar fashion:

A fundamentalist is one who believes in the literal interpretation of the Scriptures leading to a pre-millennial eschatology. This distinctive causes him, like Jude, to earnestly contend for the faith, to preach and teach with certitude the full counsel of the Word of God, to promote evangelism and practice worldwide missions. Simultaneously, such a one is impelled like Paul to ecclesiastical separatism and a militancy in opposing false teaching, evangelistic compromise, and the apostasy. In like manner, a fundamentalist practices personal separation from worldliness in all of its various expressions and a personal commitment to a life of holiness.19

Robert Delnay

Robert Delnay is a Baptist church historian. He has served as a professor in several institutions, most recently at Clearwater Christian College. His research on the Baptist Bible Union yielded an extensive analysis of the Fundamentalist movement. Delnay identifies the following distinctives of the movement:

  1. Biblicism—inerrancy and biblical authority
  2. Separatism
  3. Premillennialism
  4. Conviction, militancy
  5. Spirituality—"Biblical, spiritual contact with the unseen God"
  6. Evangelism
  7. Confidence in the power of preaching
  8. Distrust of secular education
  9. Interdenominationalism20

Bob Jones Jr.

"Dr. Bob," as he was affectionately known, was probably Fundamentalism's leading spokesman in recent years. He captured the essence of the movement's commitment to Scripture and its militancy with these words:

A Fundamentalist is a person who is soundly converted and born again through faith in the blood of Christ, who believes the Bible is God's Word, who is willing to defend the Scripture with his life's blood, who preaches and proclaims the Word, and who seeks to obey it.21

Larry Pettegrew

Pettegrew, then acting dean of Central Seminary, commented on Fundamentalism's beginnings, as we have noted. He went on to list several of its distinguishing marks. First, he identified it as a movement with "a distinct name, a distinct theology, distinct churches, distinct leaders, distinct literature, and distinct educational institutions."22 He also identified Fundamentalism's affirmation of the previously noted five fundamentals of the faith. He then identified Fundamentalism's militancy, and finally, he described the movement's emphasis on separatism, saying,

What does all this tell us about the modern fundamentalist movement? Without question, ecclesiastical separation has rightly become a more important aspect of the fundamentalist movement in recent years. Some would even say that it has become the distinctive [emphasis Pettegrew's].23


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: www.bju.edu/store.)

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