This handsome volume contains twenty chapters from eighteen authors. Most contributions originate from papers delivered at a series of conferences some years ago which addressed the theme. The writers are largely professional academics in history or related disciplines.
The relationship between Fundamentalism and (conservative) Evangelicalism is significant for anyone interested in nineteenth and twentieth century church history, and has bearings on aspects of church life today. The issue is much contested. Are they substantially identical (James Barr, Fundamentalism, 1977), or largely sharing the same mentality (Harriet Harris, Fundamentalism and Evangelicals, 1998), or significantly different (Stott, Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue, 1988)?
Of course, definitions of the two terms are crucial (and themselves contested), and then there are the different varieties of each movement both in the USA and the UK. A real issue is whether we add social criteria to the intellectual ones. Some of the key factors in Fundamentalism are – commitment to inerrancy and biblical literalism, pre-millennial eschatology, separatism, a propensity for militancy (even violence on occasions eg attacks on abortion clinics in the US), and resistance to changing gender roles. Some have been committed to creationism and a broader anti-intellectualism. In the social dimension, there was frequently disparagement of social action or reform.
Part One considers precursors of twentieth century Fundamentalism, Parts Two and Three the beginnings and extent of it and Part Four some national variations. Part Five has three thematic theological reflections before a conclusion by the editors. The central thesis is that while Fundamentalism existed in the UK and there are overlaps (some substantial) with Evangelicalism, the two cannot simply be equated as one and the same phenomenon.
Some readers may be surprised that seventeen of the sixty-two contributors to the many-volumed The Fundamentals, published in the USA from 1910 to 1915, (ie 27%) were British. Their contributions were substantial, prominent and moderating. They included bishops JC Ryle and Handley Moule, James Orr, Campbell Morgan and Griffith Thomas. Such scholars did not at all share the full range of Fundamentalist characteristics listed above.
At the beginning of Part Two, Andrew Atherstone on the inter-war CofE is particularly thorough and illuminating. There are chapters on Methodists, Baptists and the Brethren, also interesting chapters on the place and roles of women, and on anti-catholicism in the inter-war period.
Part Three moves into the post-war era, Ian Randall shows how Billy Graham moved from a Fundamentalist background towards increasing co-operation with those of other traditions, a “generous orthodoxy”. Alister Chapman similarly traces the trajectory of John Stott from Fundamentalist roots towards opposition to anti-intellecualism and to separatism (against Martyn Lloyd-Jones), and a growing commitment to social action. His key role in the 1974 Lausanne Congress (and its Covenant) is of great historical significance.
Further chapters are on Free Methodism, a case study of new churches in the city of York, and on Ulster, Scotland and Wales.
The final section has chapters on Pentecostalism, Bases of Faith and Theology. Rob Warner’s chapter on Evangelical Bases of Faith and Fundamentalizing Tendencies is thoughtful and thought-provoking. One aspect of its value is that it lists the eight significant Fundamentalist factors John Stott adduced as rejected by Evangelicals (in Essentials, p.90 quoted in this book on p.339). I was surprised that he made no mention (let alone analysis) of the CEEC/AEA Basis of Faith, and would have liked to know about what Bases are used by “black-led” and New churches. It also would have been good to have some analysis of post-war Strict Baptists and the FIEC.
The arguments in support of the central thesis/conclusion that Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism are distinct phenomena seem cogent, but the contested nature of the two main terms makes the debate complex and fraught with misunderstandings. The overall quality of the symposium is high, and the OUP production excellent.
Ven Dr Gordon W Kuhrt formerly Archdeacon of Lewisham, and then Director of Ministry for the Archbishops’ Council 1996-2006