Similarly, liberal society uses the term
fundamentalist to identify any Christian whom they consider to be an
extremist. Generally, they classify a Christian as a radical fundamentalist
if they merely believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, if they
hold views against sexual permissiveness, homosexuality, abortion on demand,
or any views which are politically incorrect.
From the Christian perspective, fundamentalist has
traditionally referred to any follower of Christ who believes that the Bible
is the inspired Word of God and who believes in its literal interpretation
and fundamental teachings. The fundamental Christian believes in the
experience of the "new birth" which occurs when faith is placed in Christ as
Savior and Lord. To the world this may be viewed as radical, but is very
basic to the Christian faith.
The idea of Christian Fundamentalism first emerged as
a movement in the 19th century within various Protestant bodies, who reacted
against the rising tide of evolutionary theories and modernist Biblical
criticism. From a Bible conference of Conservative Protestants meeting in
Niagara in 1895, a statement was issued containing what came to be known as
the five points of fundamentalism: The verbal inerrancy of Scripture, the
divinity of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth, a substitutionary theory of the
atonement, and the physical resurrection and bodily return of Christ.¹ In
the first half of the 20th century, most Protestant churches in the U.S.
were divided into either Fundamentalist or Modernist groups. The term has
generally been applied to all those who adhere to strict, conservative
(Protestant) orthodoxy in the matter of Biblical inspiration.
In the broad sense, fundamentalism may be used to
describe Christians who are uncompromising, conservative and who take their
beliefs to the maximum — exactly how every believer should live. But because
of recent, increased activism by those identified as fundamentalists, who
have promoted unethical actions such as bringing violence against abortion
clinics, doctors etc., some academic circles believe that fundamentalism has
been redefined by our society. They believe that the philosophy of
fundamentalism (at least in the world's eyes) has evolved into a legitimate
form of extremism, with views too radical for the balanced, evangelical
Christian. For this reason, fundamentalism may no longer be a term which
accurately conveys what orthodox Christians really believe.
¹ The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church