The History of Fundamentalism, Cliff Notes

I have no problem with fundamentalists. Many of my friends are fundamentalists. As a matter of fact, I was a very fundamental fundamentalist. In examining how fundamentalism began, this article does a good job, although I wouldn’t contribute the reaction to German higher criticism alone, nor start the process in 1906 (although that is not really what the article does).

At the turn of the 20th century, German theology turned to Higher Criticism and introduced a brilliant and brazen apostasy to the world. Christ never rose from the dead; Mary had been impregnated by a soldier in the Roman army; Forgers had composed Old Testament prophecies after the fact. Moses led his people across the insignificant and shallow “Reed Sea” and not the deep and perilous “Red Sea”.

God, in effect, was dead. And besides, the Bible gave such different views of Him, the modernists declared, that it was impossible to reconcile the Old Testament Jehovah with the beneficent heavenly Father of Jesus in the New Testament.

Higher criticism flourished among intellectuals and gained popularity for nearly 50 years before religious conservatives mounted a united attack against it….

I think examining the American politic scene at the turn of the 19th century shows that a fundamentalism was alive and well then. Further, the reaction to the Revised Version as well as the South’s reaction against abolition might be considered a Fundamentalist strain. It is not merely a reaction to German higher criticism, but more than that. Yes, there are the anti-secular progress strains, but there are many fundamentalists, I believe, that are honest believers, focused on the fundamentals of the faith. Many take and grapple with scholarship – I know one that continues to impress me as he does it – and there are some that simply refuses to look at anything. For them, faith is nothing more than the knowledge that they are always and have always been and will always be right.

Anyway, a great article,

A Quick Race Through the History of Fundamentalism « Blog on the Way.

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7 Replies to “The History of Fundamentalism, Cliff Notes”

  1. odd date though. That is around the time (1900-1907) when the Pentecostal Movement got it's advent. See any connections?

  2. Like you, I have a few fundie friends who are really good people. The biggest problem that I have with fundamentalism (besides the fact that they are fundamentally wrong in most of their theology), is that many of their children end up leaving the faith entirely when they grow up and start asking intelligent questions that their fundamentalist parents simply can't provide intelligent answers to.

    Most fundamentalist have misread Acts 17:11 and think that it reads; “for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scofield Study Notes every day to see if what their preacher said was true,' instead of “for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

    Mind you, I come from an extreme fundamentalist background, and I'm quite sure that I still have at least two or three Scofield Study Bible laying around the house (laying under several somewhat more relevant study Bibles. I've just moved on since then.

    In many ways arguing with an extreme fundamentalist is about the same as arguing with an extreme atheist. One will stop their ears and yell “Inerrancy!” “Inerrancy!” “Inerrancy!”
    The other will stop their ears and yell “Flying Spaghetti Monster!” “Flying Spaghetti Monster!” “Flying Spaghetti Monster!”

  3. I think that we are correct when we preface fundamentalist with 'extreme', for what it's worth.

    And, considering that Scofield and Thompson Chain invented the Study Bible, both equally inerrant…

  4. You're dated. Fundamentalists these days are KJV-only and pretend the Scofield never existed. And their biggest problem is child molesting preachers in Fundamentalist pulpits who, if caught, are not thrown out;and if thrown out, merely move to another Fundamentalist church. I grew up in a gentle and slightly eccentric but thoroughly good hearted Fundamentalist church in the 1970s. But Fundamentalism is not like that now. It's savage, predatory, and a haven for narcissists and sociopaths who can get into the pulpit with no credentials whatsoever.

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