What is Christian fundamentalism? It is a set of protestant tenets published, in the early 20th century, as a response to the theological liberalism and higher criticism of the 19th century. It is a doctrinal statement and nothing more. These positions include concerns about the virgin birth, inspiration, literal interpretation, German higher criticism, the Holy Spirit, and other expected doctrinal statements. Authors included men like B. B. Warfield, R. A. Torrey, and James M. Gray. Those familiar with these names may recall Warfield among the Princeton Presbyterians, Torrey’s association with the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, and both Torrey’s and Gray’s association with Moody Bible Institute.

Fundamentalism began as largely a north-eastern movement, though it did spread west. (Dr. Wenger provides a useful summary of the movement’s beginnings and social attitudes.) It began regionally because of the concentration of liberal theological training in the north-eastern U.S. As a result, the Southern Baptists and other Baptist, and many other evangelical groups, were not part of the movement because they were not in a position to challenge liberal theology. Though many others held to these same tenets, it was the challenge of liberalism which motivated this movement and the publication of the statements.

Fundamentalism is not a call to social action. It is a reaction to the social gospel, yet more to the theology behind it. So, while an AFA staffer recently made a call for the death of a whale, that is not fundamentalism. Secularist paranoia says that this somehow represents fundamentalism.


Sometimes people ask me why we get so worked up about the Religious Right here at Americans United. Fischer’s column, as daft as it is, is a good answer to that question. Here’s a guy who wants to kill (by stoning, yet!) a 12,000-pound whale that he believes is guilty of murder - all because of a blind adherence to his fundamentalist reading of the Bible. (emphasis mine)

History differs with Mr. Boston. (I do sometimes wonder why the term thinktank exists. It appears that many are only in the tank.) Even Wikipedia, while obviously lacking, provides a better definition that he does.

Similar calls for secularization are quite common. But God did not create the church as a democracy and theology is not up for democratic debate. For the church to practice control over its own teachings may be, actually, anti-democratic. There are times when that is a good thing. God is, after, the ultimate theocrat. But for some the paranoia of an impending social theocracy seems a way of life, a way to make a living. (There are half-truth hucksters everywhere.)

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