Monday, August 22, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we head to the mailbag to answer a question about Fundamentalism.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 22nd of August 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Keep the emails coming- keep the questions coming- as for this weekend’s show, we are leaving the 20th century and heading back to the Renaissance, in case you were curious.

Steven wrote from Lost Mountain, Georgia

Lost Mountain is just west of Marieta, Georgia, on highway 120- I’ve been near, if not drive through. The name comes from a legend about a native American princess who disappeared, and her father would mournfully repeat “lost” as he looked towards the mountains where she was last seen.

Also, it’s in Cobb County, which is the home of Robert Patrick, the actor who played the T100 and deceased former pro Wrestler the Big Boss Man.

Ok- so the question, or one of his questions from an email:

“I would like to hear an objective history of the fundamentalist movement in America.

Most of the information I find on this subject is written by either people within the movement who are very pro, to the point of cheerleading, or they are from outside of the movement and are very negative.

….I know that there is a lot here that may be too much to cover in one show. ( I’d love to hear to talk to a real Fundamentalist) if you could find one who is willing to come on the show.”

Alright- so the “meet a real live” episodes are coming back soon on the weekend, and I would love to talk with someone who identifies as a Fundamentalist. And there are people who do, but the term has become more of an epithet in the past few decades.

And Steven, I get your distaste for blind cheerleaders from the inside and angry critics throwing rocks from the outside. We’re called to love our neighbors, and part of that is not to bear fall witness. And the call to Christian unity was the subject of Jesus’ last prayer in the garden… ok…

So- historically the Fundamentalists can be tied to a specific movement. In 1910 a series of essays were published under the name “the Fundamentals, or Testimony to the Truth”. They were a series of 90 essays funded by two brothers, Lyman and Milton Stewart. Lyman was one of the founders of Union Oil- where he made his money. Fun fact: the movie “There Will Be Blood” is a loose retelling of the story of Stewart and Union Oil and the story of greed, religion, and oil.

Stewart would go on to fund the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, aka BIOLA. So, initially, to be a fundamentalist was to hold to these essays, which argued for a conservative Protestant theology in the face of modernism- primarily regarding the doctrine of Scripture (about 1/3 of the essays were pertaining to how we understand the doctor of Scripture).

But being “anti-modernist” or “anti-liberal” wasn’t enough to hold the coalition together, and soon, there were splits in the movement. But the 1940s, a group called the National Association of Evangelicals decided to keep much of the Fundamentalist substance with a new, more winsome, and ecumenical style.

Not to be too reductive, but we can see the divide between the fundamentalists and their culture war and the Evangelicals with Billy Graham. The oft-quoted quip is that “an Evangelical is a fundamentalist that likes Billy Graham”. The older fundamentalists saw Graham as too cozy with “the world”. Bob Jones Jr of Bob Jones University said that Billy Graham was “doing more harm to the cause of Jesus Christ than any living man”.

This view of Graham is not a standard conservative Protestant position anymore. Still, the difference between an evangelical and what has historically been called a fundamentalist comes down to style as much as substance. In the 1950s, Richard Niebuhr identified different Christian approaches to Christianity and Culture- and while the book is dated- it offers a helpful distinction between those who see Christ and Culture in conflict and those who would see Christ as transforming culture- a Fundamentalist would see Christ and Culture in conflict. At the same time, the evangelical is more likely to see culture as something to be used and transformed to reach non-Christians.

Steven- this is a great question, and I love your desire not to throw stones but try and understand fellow Christians you might not always agree with- hopefully, I can keep attempting to model this on the Almanac.

The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Hebrews 3:

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. 9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 22nd of August 2022, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man who, like you, is really only here for the pro wrestling references- he is is Christoper Gillespie

The show is written and read by a man who reminds you that besides that Billy Graham, there was Billy Graham, a rock concert promoter, and SuperStar Billy Graham, the 70s professional wrestler. I’m Dan van Voorhis

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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