One who wishes to engage in current religious thought needs to understand some current religious words. In this two-part article we will give definitions of four such words, as requested by readers. They are taken from well-known theological dictionaries by permission of the publishers. “Fundamentalism” and “Neoorthodoxy” are from “The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church,” J. D. Douglas, general editor (Zondervan, 1974). “Evangelical” and “Liberalism” are from ‘Baker’s Dictionary of Theology,” Everett F. Harrison, editor-in-chief (Baker, 1960). “Neoorthodoxy” and “Liberalism” will appear in the December 17 issue.
FUNDAMENTALISM. A conservative theological movement in American Protestantism, which arose to national prominence in the 1920s in opposition to “modernism.” Most interpretations of the movement try to explain it in socioeconomic or psychological terms, but the movement was rooted in genuine theological concern for apostolic and Reformation doctrine growing out of American revivalism. Further confusion has arisen from repeated reference to five basic doctrines (or “five points”) of fundamentalism, supposedly springing from the Niagara Bible Conference of 1895.
Fundamentalism should be understood primarily as an attempt to protect the essential doctrines or elements (fundamentals) of the Christian faith from the eroding effects of modern thought. Such doctrines include the Virgin Birth, the resurrection and deity of Christ, His substitutionary atonement, the Second Coming, and the authority and inerrancy of the Bible.
The roots of fundamentalism go back into the nineteenth century ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more