Towards a definition of Fundamentalism

I recently asked Jim West what his definition of a Fundamentalist was and this has led to some disagreement between Jim and Joe Cathey. The problem is that for most people the word “Fundamentalist” is nothing more than a term of abuse for those more theologically conservative than themselves. For example, a humanist might refer to all Christians as “Fundamentalists”, while a liberal Christian might call all Evangelicals by that name, a member of the “Evangelical Left” might refer to more conservative Evangelicals as such, and so on. The definition thus depends on your own perspective.

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  1. Rob, at least in the U.S., historically the label “fundamentalist” seems to have its origins among those who opposed theological “modernism” (heavily influenced by German theology) in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Fundamentalist doctrine was formalized in the Fundamentalist papers written during that time. Great names like R.A. Torrey and D.L. Moody were part of that movement. Unfortunately, the focus of that movement took on cultural and doctrinal baggage which was not part of its historical heritage, and, in time, that baggage helped bring a negative image to those who called themselves fundamentalists.

    In time, the label fundamentalist no longer had its original definition rooted in the historical fundamentals of Christianity. Eventually it became a subjective, relative label, as you described in your post.

  2. I guess I have seen it used and used it myself to refer to Christians who are willing to do exegetical and philosophical double-summersault back flips to maintain the absolute historical and theological truth of the bible in every verse – and they do this because they have to (otherwise Mr Faith is down the drain)

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