for the Faith
What is Fundamentalism?
last twenty years have produced various attempts to change
the face of historic Fundamentalism. Jerry Falwell was one
of the first who attempted to change the perception of Fundamentalism.
His publication at that time, the Fundamentalist Journal,
defined the movement solely in terms of the classic "five
In another place, Edward Dobson and Ed Hindson stated, "Doctrinally,
Fundamentalism is really traditional and conservative Christian
Later, Falwell did speak of ecclesiastical separation, but
only about being "free from hierarchical structures
that would tie us down to denominational mediocrity."32
The militant element seems to be missing from Falwell's
description of Fundamentalism. In more recent years, Falwell
appears to have forsaken the term and the movement.
Colson defines the term similarly in his book The Body.
He tells how he was accused in a New York Times article
of being a Fundamentalist. He then says,
the dreaded word. It conjures up images of uneducated
bigots, backward Bible-thumping preachers, and the Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeni. But it's a bad rap.
is really akin to Lewis's "mere Christianity"
discussed earlier, or the rules of faith in the early
church; it means adherence to the fundamental facts—in
this case, the fundamental facts of Christianity. It
is a term that was once a badge of honor, and we should
goes on to describe the birth of the movement and the struggle
with modernism. He describes how Bible-believing Christians
identified the "five fundamentals" as "the
infallibility of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the Virgin
Birth and miracles of Christ, Christ's substitutionary death,
and Christ's physical resurrection and eventual return."34
Setting aside any understanding that Fundamentalism today
shows any militance against or separation from apostasy,
Colson makes this astounding statement:
were then, as they are today, the backbone of orthodox
Christianity. If a fundamentalist is a person who affirms
these truths, then there are fundamentalists in every
denomination—Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Brethren,
Methodist, Episcopal . . . . Everyone who believes
in the orthodox truths about Jesus Christ—in short,
every Christian—is a fundamentalist. And we should
not shrink from the term nor allow the secular world
to distort its meaning [emphasis mine].35
has correctly identified the fundamental doctrines around
which early Fundamentalists rallied. Certainly every born-again
Christian believes these truths about Christ. He is probably
correct that there are believers in many denominational
bodies who believe those doctrines. However, Colson either
ignores or is unaware of the history of the movement that
calls itself "Fundamentalism." He completely ignores
the militant aspect in Fundamentalism. He is widely divergent
from Curtis Lee Laws' first definition of the term. Harold
John Ockenga, Carl F. H. Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, and others
who split the New Evangelicalism out of the Fundamentalist
movement of the 1940s would vigorously disagree with Colson
on this point.36
They were frustrated with Fundamentalism because they disliked
looked at serious and thoughtful descriptions of Fundamentalism.
The fact emerges that no serious student of the movement,
regardless of his theological orientation, will agree with
either Falwell or Colson. Those who have studied Fundamentalism
universally describe a militant opposition in the movement
to false doctrine and to apostate denial of the fundamentals
of the faith. Fundamentalism is a doctrinal movement, but
it is far more than that. These attempts to redefine or
"dumb down" Fundamentalism fly in the face of
history and the thoughtful analysis of many students, whether
friend or foe of the movement.
conclusion in this chapter is quite simple. Liberals, New
Evangelicals, and Fundamentalists alike find many common
marks in the movement we call Fundamentalism. They almost
universally identify Fundamentalism's beginning point as
faith in the Bible as God's revealed Word. Militance in
opposing religious liberalism (that movement that denies
the divine inspiration, authority, and doctrines of the
Bible) is a second distinguishing mark. Many writers see
a resulting separation from unbelief as a trait that developed
within Fundamentalism. Premillennialism and interdenominationalism
were other features of this movement.
seems to have put the issue in perspective. He identifies
Fundamentalism as an expression of apostolic Christianity.
The rest of this book will turn to the Epistle of Jude.
As we see Jude's description of Apostolic and New Testament-era
Christianity, the parallels between first-century Christianity
and twentieth-century Fundamentalism will amaze us.
Contending for the Faith. ByFred Moritz. ©2000. BJU Press. Reproduction
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