Religious Beliefs

What is Christian fundamentalism?

Christian fundamentalism as a specific movement began in the early 1900s, following the tragic events of World War I. Central to the movement’s teaching are the notions of biblical inerrancy and verbatim divine revelation. Inerrancy means that any contradictions apparent in the Bible result from human misunderstanding alone. The so-called “Scopes Monkey Trial” of 1925 brought fundamentalist concerns great notoriety with its public debate over the question of evolution. The prosecution argued that science teacher J. T. Scopes was in violation of Tennessee law for exposing students to a doctrine clearly at odds with a type of biblical interpretation now widely known as “Creationism.” According to that view, God created the universe in seven twenty-four-hour days—including a final day of rest—exactly as written in the Bible. Scopes was convicted, but the fundamentalist movement failed to make as much progress in purging American Christianity of traces of “modernism” as its leaders had anticipated.

A principal teaching is a type of biblical interpretation called Dispensationalism, which divides history into seven eras or dispensations that vary according to the quality of humanity’s relationship with God. Believers await the seventh, the millennium, by cultivating a strict code of conduct designed to avoid contamination by such worldly behavior as smoking, dancing, gambling, and ostentatious dress. These and other beliefs and practices form the Fundamental Articles. Fundamentalists generally have avoided political involvement until recently.


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