The Term “Fundamental”
In order to understand the term fundamental, you must understand the blatant heresy that was taught in some German universities during the 1800s. During the 1800s, it was considered prestigious for Americans to travel to Germany for university training. Unfortunately, many German universities taught a theology that was against God and against the Bible. They had the gall to actually teach the topics listed below and others that were equally ridiculous:
• Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible.
• There were at least three “Isaiahs” who wrote and edited the book of Isaiah.
• The book of Daniel wasn’t a prophecy at all; it was written after the fact.
• The Tabernacle of Moses never really existed.
Fortunately, many Christians reacted strongly against this heresy. Instead of accepting the thoughts of the German theologians, they totally opposed their ungodly ideas. The people who fought against the heresy were called fundamentalists, and they held to such ideas as those listed below:
• Moses did write the first five books of the Bible.
• God inspired the book of Isaiah, and only one Isaiah wrote the book.
• The book of Daniel was a prophecy.
• The Tabernacle of Moses really did exist.
“Historically, the term fundamentalist means a person who believes the Bible is the very Word of God.”
Historically, the term fundamentalist means “a person who believes the Bible is the very Word of God, a person who rejects the idea that the Bible is merely an ancient document put together without God’s inspiration.” Traditionally, Fundamentalists have both strongly believed in the authenticity and authority of God’s Word; and they have strongly opposed those who do not believe that. As one historian noted, “Historic Fundamentalism is the literal exposition of all the affirmations and attitudes of the Bible and the militant exposure of all non-Biblical affirmations and attitudes.” Another historian made the point this way: “An American fundamentalist is an evangelical who is militant in opposition to liberal theology in the churches…”
In the early 1900s, twelve volumes entitled The Fundamentals were published to discredit this modernistic German theology. Few people today know what topics these books contain. Baptists who believe in personal separation might guess that they contain articles about modest clothing or separation from worldliness. But The Fundamentals were not written about personal separation; they were written to fight ungodly German theology. Some of the chapter titles are shown below:
• “The Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch” by Dr. George Wright of Oberlin College
• “One Isaiah” by Dr. George Robinson of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago
• “The Book of Daniel” by Dr. Joseph Wilson of Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church, Philadelphia
• “The Tabernacle in the Wilderness: Did It Exist?” by Dr. David Heagle of Ewing College
The opening of Dr. Wilson’s article gives an idea of how the authors clearly combated the German liberals:
Modern objections to the Book of Daniel were started by German scholars who were prejudiced against the supernatural. Daniel foretells events which have occurred in history. Therefore, argue these scholars, the alleged predictions must have been written after the events. But the supernatural is not impossible, nor is it improbable.
The Fundamentals were written by Bible-believing men, not necessarily Baptist men. A fundamental professor in an Episcopal seminary wrote the quotation above defending the book of Daniel.
In our day, there are some Baptists who do not believe every word of the Bible was inspired and preserved by God. Though they may call themselves Baptists, they are certainly not fundamental Baptists. A fundamental Baptist is a Baptist who believes the Bible is truly the Word of God, a person who rejects silly notions that the Bible is a famous forgery written by unknown authors and editors.
1 George W. Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America (Sarasota, FL: By the Author, 1983), p. vi.
2 George M. Marsden, Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), p. 1.