Essential Reading to Understand the Issues, Part I: Fundamentalist History

It is apparent that this small blog is nothing novel; it plays a minor role in the grand drama to reform fundamentalism. Many fundamentalists, younger ones in particular, have grown to love what historic, biblical fundamentalism is all about while detesting some of the modern trends within the movement. While the older generation sees this as a some form of compromise, the newer has come to realize that it really is just a desire to return to the way things were intended to be by the founders of the movement. There really is a New Evangelicalism, but not all evangelicals are a part of it. That being the case, there really is a New Fundamentalism, a movement that hardly resembles the original. To understand the issues at hand, the true history of fundamentalism, where things went wrong, and the current attitude of the newer generations, I’d like to provide reading and other sources that I believe are essential.

First, you need to read up on fundamentalist history.

I guess knowing church history in general is a good place to start, but I can’t recommend any one source for that – a general understanding is all that’s necessary. Whatever you have access to should do the trick, in light of the fact that as you’re ready to study fundamentalist history you’ve probably looked into general church history already. If not, a small book like The Story of the Church by Clouse, Pierard, and Yamauchi (Moody) would be good. Also, take a look into Reformation history as well. I highly recommend William R. Estep’s Renaissance and Reformation (Eerdman’s), but if you’d like something more exhaustive, try Will Durant’s The Reformation, as part of his Story of Civilization series.

Once you’ve done that, two important resources on fundamentalist history are:
A History of Fundamentalism in America by George W. Dollar (BJU) – this provides a fundamentalist perspective, is fairly exhaustive, and has a terrific biographical index.
Fundamentalism and the American Culture by George M. Marsden (Oxford) – a more unbiased look and a standard reference.

Of course, other books exist on fundamentalist history. I would stay away from Cole’s work for it propagates the false idea that a fundamentalist is simply one who adheres to the “five fundamentals” – whatever those may be.

Also essential to the historic element is a reading, or at least a skimming through The Fundamentals. After all, this is where the name comes from. It was edited by R.A. Torrey as a scholarly yet biblical defense of the faith. Authors include Warfield, Ryle, Scofield, Gray, Morgan, and Ironside. After getting a picture of what fundamentalists were like, read J.I Packer’s Fundamentalism and Word of God. This book will summarize a lot of what has been gleaned as well as prepare the way for understanding the difference between modern and historic fundamentalism and the issues produced by it.

This should keep you busy for a while, as I try to organize the next section, which will deal with analysis and response to fundamentalism. Anything you’d like to amend or add to this list will be appreciated as well as suggestions for the future.

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