A twelve-volume paperback series, published between 1910 and 1915, containing essays testifying to the truth of traditional Protestant orthodoxy. The Fundamentals, usually regarded as a signal of the beginning of the organized fundamentalist movement, was one of the sources for the movement’s name. The project was the idea of a wealthy California oilman, Lyman Stewart, who financed it with the help of his brother Milton. When the volumes were completed, the Stewarts sent out some three million individual volumes free to Protestant religious workers all over the English-speaking world. Amzi C. Dixon, who edited the first five volumes, was followed by Louis Meyer and Reuben A. Torrey, who completed the task. In addition, Torrey edited a four-volume edition published in 1917. All these editors were involved in the dispensational premillennial movement, though that doctrine was not conspicuous in this publication. The authors of the essays were mostly respected Bible teachers. A few were widely recognized conservative Protestant scholars, such as Benjamin B. Warfield and James Orr of Scotland. Not all the authors were dispensationalist. Rather, they were chosen to present a united conservative “testimony to the truth” (as the subtitle to the volumes put it).
Of the ninety articles bound in twelve volumes (bearing no systematic organization), about one-third defend the Bible, usually against higher criticism. Another third are either presentations of basic doctrines or general apologetic works. The rest include personal testimonies, practical applications of Christian teaching, appeals for missions and evangelism, as well as attacks on various “-isms.” Some of the articles had been published previously.
The essays were generally moderate in tone and a mix of both scholarly and popular interests and styles. Those on the inspiration of Scripture were all written by dispensationalists who defended biblical inerrancy. Other authors, however, were known not to take a strict inerrantist view. Though essayists were critical of Darwinism, some left room for limited theistic evolution. A number of the essays taught Keswick holiness doctrines. The central themes of the volumes, however, were that conservative evangelical Protestantism could be defended on two major counts. First, its affirmations of miraculous divine interventions—as expressed in fundamental doctrines such as the inspiration of Scripture, the incarnation, the miracles and the resurrection—were fully compatible with modern science and rationality. Second, the testimony of personal experience was also important in confirming Christian belief.
The Fundamentals represented an early stage in emerging fundamentalism, an alliance of a variety of conservatives alarmed particularly over the spread of false doctrines. After the 1920s fundamentalism generally became more militant. Eventually, when in the 1940s and 1950s the main part of interdenominational fundamentalism broke between “neo-evangelicals” and stricter separatist dispensationalists, that split reflected a tension that had been present in the alliance that The Fundamentals helped forge.
See also Fundamentalism; Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy.
Bibliography. G. M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism (1980); E. R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800–1930 (1970); W. R. Hutchison, The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism (1976).
G. M. Marsden
Fuente: Dictionary of Christianity in America