International Testimony to an Infallible Bible

We BelieveHistory

S.B.C. House on the Sand?

by David O. Beale

Appendix Two

The Origin of Fundamentalism

Mainline Fundamentalism originated in the northern states. The editor of the Baptist periodical Watchman-Examiner coined the term Fundamentalist in 1920 to describe a group of concerned Baptists who had just met at the Delaware Avenue Baptist Church in Buffalo, New York, to discuss the problem of Modernism in the Northern Baptist Convention. The American roots of Fundamentalism, however, go back to the interdenominational Bible conference which met at Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 1876. This was the beginning of the American Bible conference movement; it gave birth to American Fundamentalism.

One of the most significant of the early Fundamentalist conferences was held from October 30 to November 1, 1878, at the Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City, where Stephen H. Tyng Jr. was the minister. Equally important was the conference which met in Farwell Hall in Chicago, November 16-21, 1886. The leaders of these pioneer conferences included spiritual giants of several denominations: Baptists included George C. Needham, A. J. Gordon, G. C. Lorimer, F. C. Chapell, and A. J. Frost; Methodists included L. W. Munhall, W. E. Blackstone, Henry Lummis, J. S. Kennedy, and E. T. Stroeter (Wesleyan); Presbyterians included Albert Erdman, W. J. Erdman, James H. Brooks, H. M. Parsons, W. G. Moorehead, John Wanamaker, John T. Duffield, S. H. Kellogg, C. K. Imbrie, J. T. Cooper, Nathaniel West, A. T. Pierson, and D. C. Marquis; Congregationalists included E. P. Goodwin and D. W. Whittle; Episcopalians included Stephen Tyng Jr. and Maurice Baldwin; Lutherans included Bishop Joseph A. Seiss and G. N. H. Peters; Reformed Episcopalians included Bishop W. R. Nicholson; and even the Dutch Reformed were represented by George S. Bishop.

The Definition of Fundamentalism

Many definitions have surfaced throughout Fundamentalismís history. In June 1976—exactly a century after the first gathering at Swampscott, Massachusetts—another faithful group of Fundamentalists held a World Congress of Fundamentalists at Ulster Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland. These Fundamentalists, who gathered from many nations of the world for a week of fellowship, instruction, and inspirational preaching, defined the term Fundamentalist as a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who

    1. Maintains an immovable allegiance to the inerrant, infallible, and verbally inspired Bible;
    2. Believes that whatever the Bible says is so;
    3. Judges all things by the Bible and is judged only by the Bible;
    4. Affirms the foundational truths of the historic Christian Faith: the doctrine of the Trinity; the incarnation, virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection, ascension into heaven and second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; the new birth through regeneration of the Holy Spirit; the resurrection of the saints to life eternal; the resurrection of the ungodly to final judgment and eternal death; the fellowship of the saints, who are the body of Christ;
    5. Practices fidelity to that Faith and endeavors to preach it to every creature;
    6. Exposes and separates from all ecclesiastical denial of that Faith, compromise with error, and apostasy from the Truth; and
    7. Earnestly contends for the Faith once delivered.

Therefore, Fundamentalism is militant orthodoxy set on fire with soulwinning zeal. While Fundamentalists may differ on certain interpretations of Scripture, we join in unity of heart and common purpose for the defense of the Faith and the preaching of the Gospel, without compromise or division (Faith for the Family, September/October 1976, p. 9).

A true Fundamentalist, of course, believes far more than this simple listing; but he desires to go on record as affirming those timeless truths or principles which have come under religious attack. The list may need more refining and even expanding as Satan changes his focus of attack. Issues today are far more complex than they were a hundred or even twenty years ago.

That Fundamentalism can be reduced to the "five points published at the Niagara Bible Conference of 1895" is an often-repeated myth. Actually, the Niagara Bible Conference published a fourteen-point creed. The one five-point declaration which did influence Fundamentalists was the one which the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church adopted in 1910 and reaffirmed in 1916 and 1923. Fundamentalism, however, has never been and never could be limited to the affirmations of any particular denomination. The Fundamentals of Fellowship transcend denominational distinctives, and they do so without weakening or compromising such distinctives. For example, Fundamentalists have always been good Presbyterians or good Baptists and still able to fellowship with Fundamentalists of other groups. While Fundamentalists certainly do differ among themselves on certain interpretations of Scripture, they unite in fellowship and "common purpose for the defense of the Faith and the preaching of the Gospel," accepting the Bible alone, without question, as the divinely and verbally inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God.

Before Fundamentalists lost the mainline denominations, including the SBC, to the Liberals' control, the terms conservative and Fundamentalist were basically synonymous. This is no longer the case. Many conservatives today are New Evangelicals who have remained in membership or in working cooperation with the Liberals, while the Fundamentalists have come out of the mainline denominations and formed their own churches, schools, and other institutions. Even though an increasing number of New Evangelical leaders today are calling themselves "Fundamentalists," they are not identifying with old mainline Fundamentalism which began by leaving the apostate denominations thirty to sixty years ago.

S.B.C. House on the Sand? ©1985. BJU Press. Reproduction prohibited. This work is currently out of print and is not available for purchase.

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