What Last Century’s Fundamentalists Can Teach Us About This Century’s Apostasy

Joe Carter | May 10, 2017

“Inevitably the question arises whether the opinions of such men [the authors of the Bible] can ever be normative for men of the present day,” J. Gresham Machen wrote in Christianity & Liberalism. Machen’s book came out in 1923, in the period when a conservative movement sprung up within Protestantism in reaction to liberal theology and the form of biblical interpretation known as higher criticism. This movement, known as “liberalism” or “modernism” was considered one of the greatest threats to biblical orthodoxy and provoked a commensurate response. 

Between 1910 and 1915, a series of 90 different articles by 66 authors was collected into a twelve-volume work called The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. The essays mostly outlined the key doctrines—the “fundamentals”—of the Christian faith, such as the virgin birth of Jesus, the deity of Christ, and the inspiration of the Bible. But it also included such seemingly “secondary” issues as “The Church and Socialism” and “Evolutionism in the Pulpit.”

The term “fundamentalist” was coined in 1920 by the editor of a Baptist newspaper, who wrote, “We suggest that those who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal for the fundamentals shall be…

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