Who Were the "Fundamentalists"?
During the late 19th century, most of the mainline Protestant churches struggled to cope with the rise of modernism (which favored adaptation to modern views and trends) along with scientific naturalism, higher biblical criticism, and spiritual apathy. Hundreds of thousands of evangelicals left the large denominations, forming smaller churches to combat the sins of the age.
The vast majority of evangelicals, however, stayed with the mainline and tried to purify their churches from within. By the early 1910s, they formed a massive, cross-denominational movement for reform based on a common acclamation of the "fundamental," or cardinal, doctrines of Christianity.
The most popular list was "The Five Point Deliverance" of the Northern Presbyterians. The 1910 Presbyterian General Assembly ruled that all who wanted to be ordained within their ranks had to affirm the Westminster Confession and subscribe to five fundamental doctrines: 1) the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, 2) the virgin birth of Christ, 3) the substitutionary atonement of Christ, 4) the bodily resurrection of Christ, and 5) the historicity of the biblical miracles.
At roughly the same time, A. C. Dixon, R. A. Torrey, and several other luminaries published 12 volumes of essays called The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth (1910-1915). The books, which were mailed to ministers and missionaries around the world, opposed all kinds of modernism, from higher biblical criticism to theological liberalism, from naturalism to Darwinism to democratic socialism. Building on the momentum of the Northern Presbyterians, they rallied people from different Protestant traditions to a least-common-denominator flag of orthodoxy.
By the late 1910s, the conservatives entrenched ...