Some may wonder why I chose this nickname. Well, its because I was a Fundamentalist Christian for about 20 years. I was "saved" and baptized in an independent, Fundamental Baptist church, Galilean Baptist Church, in Norcross, GA. Later, I became a member of Forrest Hills Baptist Church in Decatur, GA, which was started by Curtis Hutson, a former editor of the Sword of the Lord magazine. The Sword was founded by John R. Rice, one of the leading fundamentalists of the 20th century.
I graduated from Baptist University of America in Decatur, GA in 1981. BUA was associated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship, which was started by followers of J. Frank Norris, a major fundamentalist leader in the early part of the 20th century. Then I went on to Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC, perhaps, the most well known fundamentalist Christian college in the world.
After earning an M.A. (1982) and a Ph.D. (1986) in Theology at BJU, I went to teach at International Baptist College in Tempe, AZ which was founded by James Singleton (also the Pastor of Tri-City Baptist Church). Singleton was a board member and active speaker in the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, a group that originally came out of the Northern Baptist Convention in the early 20th century. The term “Fundamentalist,” while a pejorative term for many people, was held as a badge of honor by the people with whom I associated.
Fundamentalists, like me and those I was connected with, considered themselves to be the heirs of true Biblical Christianity. The term “fundamentalist” was coined by Curtis Lee Laws, editor of the Northern Baptist paper The Watchman-Examiner, in 1920. He coined the word to describe those “who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal” against theological liberalism. His article appeared in the context of the conflict between theological liberals and theological conservatives in the Northern Baptist Convention.
The term also gained popularity as a result of the publication of The Fundamentals, a series of 90 essays in 12 volumes published from 1910 to 1915 by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). The essays were originally financed by Lyman Stewart in 1909 to set out what they believed to be the fundamentals of Christian faith. These were to be sent free to ministers, missionaries, Sunday School superintendents and others active in Christian ministry.The volumes defended orthodox Protestant beliefs and attacked higher criticism, liberal theology, Catholicism (also called by them Romanism), socialism, modern philosophy, atheism, Christian Science, Mormonism, Millennial Dawn (an early term for a particular Christian movement which later mostly became the "Jehovah's Witnesses" denomination), Spiritualism, and evolutionism. . The authors included conservative theologians from many different Protestant denominations. They differed on a number of “minor doctrines” but were unified in their agreement on the “fundamental (essential) doctrines” of Christianity.
The fundamentalist movement has gone through some significant evolution from the 1920’s to the present day, but in the early part of the 20th century, virtually all theological conservatives were basically considered to be fundamentalists--at least by the popular culture. When I came into the movement in the late 1970’s, a number of divisions had taken place. Fundamentalists at that time were known for their insistence on separation from theological liberalism and “worldliness.” All of the churches that I attended at that time were pastored by men who had separated from the Southern Baptist Convention. Liberalism had infiltrated the SBC through the seminaries and most of the faculty in the convention schools no longer accepted the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, Word of God. This caused “a battle for the Bible” to take place within the convention (see Southern Baptist Convention Conservative Resurgence). Some stayed in and fought, e.g., W.A. Criswell, Paige Patterson, and Charles Stanley, while others left the convention, citing 2 Corinthians 6:17: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate," saith the Lord, "and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you.”
This new breed of fundamentalists believed it was compromise and actually sinful for people to remain in a liberal denomination and thereby support their liberalism. So, these fundamentalists (of which I was a part), not only condemned the liberals in the SBC but also condemned the conservatives who refused to leave the SBC. Those who refused to separate were considered “New Evangelicals” (a term of derision in my movement). One of the main focuses came to be who is REALLY a Fundamentalist? As if that term itself was somehow equivalent to all that was good and holy. Bob Jones University and the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, especially, became obsessed by identifying who was a real Fundamentalist and who was not. This obsession continues today among many in the group (for example, see postings on SharperIron).
When I use the term FormerFundy to describe myself, all I mean is that, at one time, I held certain doctrines to be fundamental or essential to the Christian faith. These fundamentals included: 1) The Bible is verbally and plenarily inspired by God; 2) Jesus Christ was the virgin born, sinless, Son of God who made a perfect, vicarious atonement on the cross to redeem man and was literally raised from the dead on the 3rd day; and 3) Man is saved by faith alone in the finished work of Christ. Anything short of these essentials was not true Christianity in my view.
I realize that in today’s world, the term “fundamentalist” has a host of other connotations, virtually all bad. It is used to refer to any type of religious extremist or obscurantist. I obviously am not using the name in that sense but in the more historical sense as I have described above.