In fact, it is this desire to ostracize the mainstream population that originally set fundamentalists apart at the emergence of their movement, as they share much in common with closely related factions such as conservative, or evangelical Christianity. For example, fundamentalists agree with conservative Christian’s “traditional” understanding of such doctrines as the Virgin Birth, the historical accuracy of Jesus’ miracles, and the imminent second coming of Christ. However, not all conservative Christians agree on how one achieves salvation, which is where evangelical Protestantism veers off.
While certain conservative Protestants consider themselves “saved” if they are baptized and active, faithful members of their church, only evangelicals believe that salvation is solely for those who accept Jesus Christ as their savior and devote their lives to living in his name (a tenant crucial to fundamentalism). And, since many evangelicals place revelatory powers in experience, they cannot all be considered fundamentalists who seek revelation through the scriptures alone.
But still, for most of the early 20th century, “fundamentalists” and “evangelicals” were barely distinguishable; both groups “preserved and practiced the revivalist heritage of soul winning and maintained a traditional insistence on orthodoxy” (Ammerman, 4). It wasn’t until fundamentalists chose to actively oppose liberalism, secularism, and communism in a militant fashion that they ostracized themselves from the rest of society, which evangelicals sought to remain in. Historical Background of the Fundamentalist Movement
In every society social change proceeds at an uneven pace. Some society members embrace change with relish, while others find it oppressive and troubling. And, when people feel that change is being imposed on them, many will find it necessary to resist. Such was the case with America’s earliest fundamentalists. The early 20th Century Fundamentalist Movement sprung from the Great Awakening in objection to its principles of liberal theology, German higher criticism, Darwinism, all which appeared to undermine the Bible’s authority.
The growing discontentment of numerous religiously conservative Christians pushed them to unify and organize, aided by the emergence of a twelve volume series between 1910 and 1915 titled The Fundamentals. This collection was conceived by a Southern California oil millionaire and edited by Bible teachers and evangelists. It contained ninety articles, twenty-seven of them devoted to the Bible, which outlined clearly what were thought to be the essential, fundamental beliefs of Christianity that could not be compromised.