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What is a fundamentalist Christian?

In recent times, the term "fundamentalist" has become commonly used by the news media to refer to any religious group whom they consider to hold radical views. We may recall frequent references to the mid-east Islamic fundamentalists who have been viewed as fanatics, and often responsible for acts of terrorism.

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

This article is from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple use permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us. A newer revised version of this book is available from Amazon. If you have appreciated these online materials, help us reach the world with the Gospel by considering a monthly or one-time tax-deductable donation.