Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism in America
Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism in America seem to go hand in hand. Evangelicalism and fundamentalism in America both stress life based on the bible, repentance, and a personal relationship with God. No one would deny the enormous influence that fundamentalism had on evangelicalism or the similarities between the two. Although some historians would suggest that evangelicalism was experiential and sectarian while fundamentalism was conservative and anti-modernist, it is clear that fundamentalism would never have survived as long as it has if it was not able to adapt to modernity and exist within a pluralist society.
American Protestantism struggled in the 1920’s with the issues of biblical criticism, supplies of authority in Christianity, and the theory of evolution. Presbyterians and Baptists experienced splits in their denominations as the events of this decade began to chip away at fundamentalism. For example, John T. Scopes was put on trial for the teaching of evolution, which violated a Tennessee state statute. The growing controversy between Fundamentalists and Modernists as to biblical criticism and evolutionary theories is not what is important in analyzing American Fundamentalism. It was this divided in Christianity that made many people believes that fundamentalism should have died out seventy years ago. But fundamentalism survived and there has been a recent resurgence in its’ popularity.
Moving to the post World War II era, the evangelical coalition began to allurement to the older generations, to the Hollywood population, and to leaders in Washington D.C. Soon after the war, the religious conflicts that infected fundamentalism in the 1920’s were no longer applicable. Protestantism, in its mainline form, had become much more evangelical in it’s’ character and its’ sects became much more interested in becoming recognized publicly. Pentecostalism, which fundamentalism was an offshoot of, and Southern Baptism were two of several other religious influences existing after the war, but it was mainly the fundamentalists who led the postwar religious revival.
The modern interpretation of religion is that it is always in decline because of modernization. As most people agree, modernity leads to secularization and secularization leads to religious apathy in certain circles. This belief is caused by the experience that history has taught us. Christianity was once the intellectual, spiritual, and ethical guidebook for all of life. The church used to play an basic role in almost all public affairs. The secularization of faith has forced Christianity to compete with other powerful religious and nonreligious worldviews. An examination of the revival of American fundamentalism is the meaningful to understanding why this shared belief is false and that, by the years, religion has survived quite well in a pluralistic setting. Instead, it should be seen as a religion that can adapt to the changing ideals of modernity. Protestantism uses evangelicalism and fundamentalism in America as their way of relating to modernity. For example, modern society has placed an emphasis on choice making and individuality, while at the same time, evangelicalism preaches a personal religious experience and fundamentalism stresses freedom, usually from government. As we press voluntarism, evangelicals respond by recruiting more followers and creating institutions to ensure the development of the church’s place in everyday life.
Evangelical movements, in the past, have consistently alternation to the world in which they were operating. In fact, they have already benefited from the forces of social change. The Puritan and Pietist awakenings that took place in the seventeenth century stressed a personal experience of God during a time of growing literacy, literature, and experimental science. After the American dramatical change, populist revival preachers began to challenge older denominations in their interpretation of the Bible and promoted people to read the Bible and form church’s for themselves. Finally, in the late nineteenth century, Dwight L. Moody, along with many other evangelists looking for inventive ways to perform, developed the fundamentalist perspective around a religious life that welcomed all people during a time when urban Protestantism was not welcome to the shared people.
Out of all the factors that have influenced the evangelical movement in the past, fundamentalism has had the most powerful impact. Not only did fundamentalism rule evangelicalism in the twentieth century, but it also permeated other traditional religious sects. The dispensationalist movement was produced within the Southern Baptist Convention and many Wesleyans accepted the fundamentalist interpretation of biblical inerrancy. Fundamentalism, after surviving the controversies of the 1920’s and rising as a charismatic movement in the 1960’s, has undoubtedly had the strongest influence on American evangelicalism. In the second half of the twentieth century, Billy Graham, who has become the most noticeable evangelical leader in modern times, led the neo-fundamentalist movement. The pattern in this rise and fall tends to be pieces that overlap and pieces that change and fundamentalism is no different. This was a movement that survived by hardships and alternation to welcome every human being, but it appears that it will keep mainly a twentieth century occurrence as new forms of the pattern take its’ place.