Why I am not a Fundamentalist
I am sometimes called a Fundamentalist. I am not. I am a Charismatic Evangelical Christian. This makes me twice-removed from Fundamentalist. Let me explain.
The Fundamentalist movement began in the late 1800s. It began to harden and take form in the first quarter of the 20th century. This is the same period that Pentecostalism was developing after the Azusa Street Revival in California in 1906. Pentecostals held the same core beliefs as these early Fundamentalists, but they were largely excluded or simply ignored within Fundamentalist circles. After all, Pentecostals spoke in tongues, appealed to the lower class of society, and had blacks and whites co-mingling. Fundamentalists in this period were trying to win the intellectuals back to orthodox Christianity against the pervasive liberalism that was making inroads into the churches.
By the mid 20s, the Fundamentalist movement had largely failed. They formed their own denominations or becoming independent. They determined that liberals could never be persuaded and the best response was to retreat from the mainline denominations and form their own enclaves to resist the evils of secular society.
The fundamentalists carried the torch of Evangelical Christianity during this period, carrying on the revivalist traditions of Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Charles Finney, and D.L. Moody. But after another 25 years, many began to be frustrated with the movement. A new movement was formed based on the conviction that Christians are called to engage the world, not run from it. The leaders of the movement rejected the term Fundamentalism because of the isolationist connotations the word had taken. Instead, they called themselves neo-Evangelicals. The “neo” would soon be dropped, creating the modern Evangelical movement.
The Charismatic movement developed when the Pentecostals began making inroads into the very churches the Fundamentalists abandoned a generation earlier. The Charismatics tended to form their own churches and denominations, just as the Fundamentalists had. Over time, Charismatics have eventually been accepted into mainstream Evangelicalism (as have most Pentecostals). So as a Charismatic Evangelical, I trace both sides of my spiritual family tree in opposition to Fundamentalism. I am not a Fundamentalist. Yet surprisingly, I have come to appreciate Fundamentalism in ways I never expected.