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Certitude, Contingency & Faith

When the term was invented in the early 1920s, “fundamentalism” referred to a collection of anti-modernist tracts published from 1910 to 1916, a cooperative effort by conservative Protestants of various denominations with the main intent of reminding their fellow Protestants of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith which were under attack by theological modernists. They might have reasonably been viewed as a Protestant version of the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis, issued by Pope PiusX in 1907, which did the same for Catholics.

Subsequently, however, “fundamentalism,” especially in the mind of its many enemies, religious and secular, came to refer to vicious closed-mindedness, and was adopted in that form by some conservative Protestants who were willing to accept the negative cognomen as a symbol of faithfulness to the Lord who promised that those true to him would be ill spoken of and bear other kinds of persecution. To these, “fundamentalism,” especially of the aggressive “fighting” variety, meant loyalty to Christ, and they took it as a badge of honor representing their form of revivalist Protestantism.

The Deepest Fault

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S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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