The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: A Review Article -- By: Charles R. Smith

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 03:1 (Spring 1982)
Article: The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: A Review Article
Author: Charles R. Smith

The Fundamentalist Phenomenon:
A Review Article

Charles R. Smith

The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: The Resurgence of Conservative Christianity, ed. by Jerry Falwell, with Ed Dobson and Ed Hindson. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981. Pp. 270. $13.95.

Jerry Falwell asked two of his key pastoral associates, Ed Hindson (a Grace Theological Seminary alumnus) and Ed Dobson, “to write a book that would trace the rise, growth, development, and contemporary impact of fundamentalism” (p. vii). This book is the result, and I agree with Falwell that Hindson and Dobson have admirably fulfilled their assignment. Their picture of fundamentalism is fair and balanced, properly noting both strengths and weaknesses.

The purpose of Chapter 1 is to cite evidences that “Fundamentalism is Alive and Well.” The problem of definition is introduced (Just who is a fundamentalist?) and statistical data, especially from the Christianity Today-Gallup Poll, is summarized.

Chapter 2 surveys the history of religious non-conformity. At times the organizing principles of this historical survey are obscure. The non-conformist groups discussed include such doctrinally divergent groups as the Montanists and the Brethren. During the process of reading, one cannot help but wonder why such individuals as Marcion and Montanus are included, while other more notable individuals, equally well known for their doctrinal nonconformity, are excluded. One especially wonders why Savonarola, Luther, and Zwingli are discussed, yet Calvin is strangely absent. But a careful reading of the Concluding Observations at the end of the chapter sheds light on this enigma. For Hindson and Dobson, a non-conformist is one who, along with other convictions, believes in a separation of church and state (p. 53). Apparently Calvin’s relationship with the state places him outside the tradition of non-conformity. Further questions are raised by the presentation of “a definite set of basic principles held in common opposition to mainline Christianity” by non-conformists. One of these shared principles is “involvement in the State,” yet under this heading non-conformists are divided into three major groups, one of which is said to emphasize “witness without political involvement” (p. 55, emphasis added).

The section on involvement with the State ends with the assertion that “the historical position of religious non-conformity is one of spiritual confrontation with society itself” (p. 55). Since this is such a critical premise for Falwell’s presentation on behalf of Moral Majority, Inc., at the end of the book, perhaps it is not impertinent to respond that (1) a “historic position” (espec...

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