for the Faith
What is Fundamentalism?
Distinctives of Fundamentalism
observe widespread agreement about the essential nature
of Fundamentalism. Those who have written from a Fundamentalist
perspective arrive at several common conclusions about the
movement. They identify the following major distinctives:
stand for the Bible as the supernaturally revealed,
inspired Word of God.
embrace a doctrinal frame of reference, most commonly
identified by "five fundamentals." The 1910
General Assembly of the Northern Presbyterian Church
first articulated this formulation.
show a militant opposition to apostasy, otherwise
known as modernism or liberalism.
is a major distinctive of Fundamentalism.
has been, from the beginning, an interdenominational
premillennial viewpoint is prominent in Fundamentalism,
though this is not a test of fellowship.
issue of the premillennial rapture deserves comment. We
list premillennialism as a distinctive of the movement because
from the 1878 Niagara Confession of Faith forward, many
held this view of the Lord's return. Liberals such as Sandeen,
as well as several Fundamentalists, list it as distinctive
of the movement. It is important to understand that not
all Fundamentalists are premillennial, nor is it necessary
to hold the premillennial view of Christ's return to be
considered a Fundamentalist. Nevertheless, premillennialism
is prominent in the movement. Beale says, "Most Fundamentalists
agreed on a general premillennial scheme of eschatology
but agreed to disagreeat least for a timeon minute details."24
already seen that Fundamentalism places primary emphasis
on the supernatural character of the Bible as God's revelation
to the human race. We will develop that Fundamentalist belief
in the next chapter. It is safe to say that Fundamentalists
are what they are because they believe Scripture to be a
revelation from God, written by inspiration of the Holy
Spirit. That conviction is the Fundamentalistsí foundationit
is our very reason for being.
are Baptists are quick to assert that the very same tenet,
the authority of Scripture, is also the reason we are Baptists.
The same Word that teaches us our doctrine also mandates
our practice. Chester E. Tulga stated, "The basic tenet
of the historic Baptist faith is that the Bible is the Word
of God and the sole authority of faith and practice."25
British pastor and historian Jack Hoad states, "It
is the Biblical doctrine of the church, with an unqualified
submission to Scripture as the Word of God, which becomes
the test of what is a Baptist church."26
"The Baptist is a Scripture-ruled believer."27
In the New Testament, we find that local churches were independent
of any outside controlling authority. They enjoyed a voluntary,
fraternal relationship with one another (Acts 15:1-35).
We find that only saved people became members of New Testament
churches (Acts 2:47). The New Testament teaches only two
officers in the local churchpastors and deacons (I Tim.
3:1-13)and only two symbolic ordinancesbaptism and the
Lord's Supper (Rom. 6:3-5; I Cor. 11:23-34). Scripture declares
that each believer is a priest before God and has direct
access into the presence of God through the blood of Christ
(I Pet. 2:9; Heb. 10:19-22). Jesus taught that the Christian
lives in two frames of reference"Caesar's" and
"God's" (Matt. 22:20-21). Therefore, we believe
the church and the state should be separate. We hold that
these issues of church practice (commonly called the Baptist
distinctives when combined) come from and are mandated by
said that, we must understand that Fundamentalism began
as an interdenominational movement. Christians who believed
the Bible and opposed modernism set aside their denominational
distinctives to come together and lift a united voice for
those truths that made up the "irreducible minimum"
of Christianity. They fought against liberalism in their
own denominations and also united outside denominational
frameworks to fight against it. Richard Harris, himself
a Baptist, explains the thinking of most Fundamentalists
on this issue:
have always been honest differences of interpretation
on church organization, as well as on other issues,
among good men who love Christ. There was a time when
men could amicably differ on issues which did not affect
fundamental Christian doctrine and still respect and
firmly defend one another. Great Christian leaders of
the past were able to respect those differences and
yet recognize that the men with whom they differed were
still Fundamentalists and brothers in Christ. They were
of the formation of the American Council of Christian Churches
in 1941, Harris goes on:
made no difference that some of them were Baptist, some
were Evangelical Methodists, some were Bible Presbyterians,
and some of other persuasions. Their fellowship was
characterized by their common belief that the Bible
is the authoritative, inerrant Word of God. All of them
believed in the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Christ, His
substitutionary atonement for sin, His bodily resurrection
and ascension into Heaven and His coming again in power
and glory. Each believed the Bible taught that the Church
should be separate from apostasy and Christians should
be obedient to Christ.29
early Fundamentalists represented many denominational traditions,
and Fundamentalism was an interdenominational movement.
There should still be a place for Fundamentalists of various
persuasions to come together and stand together for "the
faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3) and against
"certain men crept in unawares" (Jude 4). The
American Council of Christian Churches still performs a
legitimate service. It is still proper for the International
Testimony to an Infallible Bible to call Fundamentalists
from around the world to stand united in a World Congress
of Fundamentalists. We need to help and encourage each other.
Contending for the Faith. ByFred Moritz. ©2000. BJU Press. Reproduction
prohibited. This work is available for purchase at the Bob Jones University
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