Early Fundamentalism’s Legacy: What Is It And Will It Endure Through The 21 Century? -- By: Gerald L. Priest

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 09:1 (Fall 2004)
Article: Early Fundamentalism’s Legacy: What Is It And Will It Endure Through The 21 Century?
Author: Gerald L. Priest


Early Fundamentalism’s Legacy:
What Is It And Will It Endure
Through The 21st Century?1

Gerald L. Priest2

A legacy is a gift of property, a bequest, handed down from an ancestor or predecessor. It often involves something of great value for the donor, whose expectation is that the recipient will share his appreciation for the gift by bequeathing it to others. A biblical example would be the Lord’s Supper: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed, took bread” (1 Cor 11:23).3 This is legacy language. Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul, and he in turn instructed the church, that Communion be a continual and enduring ordinance. All of Christendom has acknowledged this. The legacy of gospel truth also carries with it a mandate of perpetuation: “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). The “things” are the traditions, the necessary doctrines of Christian belief. From its early beginnings in the late nineteenth century the fundamentalist movement4 has embraced a body of indispensable core tenets, essential verities of the Christian faith that make Christianity what it is without which Christianity is something else. They are the defining irreducible elements of the faith once delivered unto the saints by the Apostles: the triunity of the sovereign God, creation as the direct act of God, the perfect deity and humanity of the person of Christ, his virgin birth, vicarious atonement, bodily resurrection and second coming, the

absolute authority of an inerrant Bible, the utter sinfulness of man, justification by faith alone, eternal punishment in a literal hell for the unregenerate, and eternal reward in heaven for believers.5 Early fundamentalists believed that in order to maintain a pure church these doctrines (and those attending them) must be truthfully proclaimed and faithfully instilled into the minds of a posterity made responsible for continuing the process.6 They saw this as a divine commission and urgently pressed home the claims of a Christ whose gospel is sufficient to set sinners free from the bondage of sin. They braced themselves against the winds of blatant heresy and the subtler breezes of doct...

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