What is a Fundamentalist?

I never thought of myself as a “fundie” or…not as one. Honestly, I never really thought about much at all, until recently.

Lately I’ve been hearing the term being thrown around quite a bit as an insult, and so I’m wondering about what being a fundamentalist really means.

After reading MPT’s book Churched, I want to say “heck no I’m not a fundie if that’s what a fundamentalist is (i.e. everything is fear based)!”  But, what is a fundamentalist?

What do you think a fundamentalist is? Would you call yourself a fundamentalist?

For brownie points, how many times did I say fundamentalist in this post? ;)


Free videos from the Read & Share DVD series on TommyNelson.com – I watch them my kiddos whenever there is a new one! Today’s video - Home Again.

23 Coffee Talks on “What is a Fundamentalist?”

  1. conny says:

    I've always thought a fundamentalist is someone who believes in the "fundamentals" of the Bible (doctrine). In that case, I am a fundamentalist. As an "independent, fundamental" Baptist, I've been labeled a "fundie" although I am not one who thinks that man-made rules make you a fundamentalist … I believe in God's rules alone!

  2. Kelly says:

    I grew up in what most people would consider a "fundamentalist" church. I realized as I got older that most of what I did (or did NOT do) was based on a "list" of what I thought made me holy never really thinking that my motivation was more important than my actions. God doesn't want me to do the right thing just because it's the right thing. My motivation needs to be a demonstration of my love for Him not just so I can check off the things on my list and proclaim myself holy. He did the work to make me holy and so that I could have a right standing before Him. My choosing to serve and obey and love Him is simply the very best way I can think of to say thank-you and I love you to Him. :) I often tell my kids there are two reasons to obey me. One is because you fear what will happen if you do not do the right thing. The other is because you love me so much that you want to please me. I think my Heavenly Father feels the same way. Don't you? :)

  3. Cassandra says:

    I believe fundamentalism is standing on the doctrines of the Bible. Taking it literally, and not letting the 'world' dictate to you how you should live. It is unchanging, because God and the Bible are unchanging, and fundamentalists strive to pattern their lives after the Word of God. I am an "independent, fundamental" Baptist as well, and I am proud of it. Yes, there are churches and pastors that can go to extremes, but that is part of being independant Baptist- you aren't controlled by a panel of deacons, a diocese, or a board of members. You just have to pick a good Baptist church, with a good Baptist preacher, who is good and grounded! Yeah, fundies can get alot of flack, but I am still proud to be one. =)

  4. Edwena says:

    Agreeing a fundamentalists is one who just believes in the fundamentals of the Bible. I too am an independent, fundamentalist, Baptist. You probably didn't know you had so many read your blog. Hehe!!

  5. I am a Conservative Evangelical – an example of preachers from the same stance are John Piper (John Piper's father was a fundamentalist and he writes about it) and John McArthur. I love all my sisters and brothers in Christ no matter what the "label"

    Jesus said in John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are my dsiciples, if you love one another."

    Insults make Christians lose their saltiness :-(

    Courtney(WomenLiving´s last [type] ..Tasty Tuesday- Baked Caramel Apples – Perfect For Fall!
    Courtney(WomenLiving´s last [type] ..Tasty Tuesday- Baked Caramel Apples – Perfect For Fall!

  6. I think the word "fundamentalist" (or the more derogative "fundie") is often considered to be someone who adhere's so strictly to the law there is little room for grace or mercy. Additionally, there is the idea that the "fundamentalist" harshly judges anyone who doesn't believe exactly as they do. Honestly, I think it's gotten to the point that if you aren't "politically correct" then you are considered by many to be a "fundie" or "fundamentalist".

    I used to be stuck on the idea of being "the perfect Christian", an idea which caused a lot of depression, anger, and problems in my life. Whatever you want to call it…fundamentalist, legalist, etc…I had lost the most vital part of my faith, a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

    Personally, I am kind of tired of all the labels we throw onto each other (liberal, fundie, etc). All it does is cause division. I believe the Bible, have what would be a traditional understanding of what it means to be a Christian, and walk daily in the forgiveness and grace of God through faith in Jesus. If that makes me a "fundamentalist"…so be it.

    Personally, I think it just makes me a Christian.
    Kristine McGuire´s last [type] ..I Don’t Know That I’d Call It Fascinating
    Kristine McGuire´s last [type] ..I Don’t Know That I’d Call It Fascinating

  7. Michelle says:

    Oh boy is that word a hornet's nest! I think it is used subjectively and often times without true knowledge of what it really means. I agree with the above ladies in what a fundamentalist SHOULD mean, (believing the Word of God to be unchanging and holding to the fundamental teachings of scripture) but the fact is, a lot of fundamental Baptist churches in our area are very rule and fear based. My family and I are conservative Baptists but have had to differentiate that we aren't fundamental because some of the people we have met coming out of the churches in our area have literally had nervous breakdowns becaue they lived in so much fear of crossing their "T's" a certain way. I don't believe all churches who consider themselves fundamentals are like this though. Just seems to be certain ones-that's all!

  8. Rachel S. says:

    Krisine McGuire,

    I completely

    agree with you! You've hit the nail on the head!

    Initially, I had a longer comment about this… but you really wrote how I truly felt bottom line. :)
    Rachel S.´s last [type] ..What My Neighbor Found
    Rachel S.´s last [type] ..What My Neighbor Found

  9. Anna B says:

    I'm super duper tired of Christians finding ways to degrade and insult each other. Liberal non-Christans call me a 'fundamentalist' in order to insult me because I'm a Bible-believing Christian. It does NOT HELP when CHRISITANS write books about how evil fundamentalists are. This only throws fuel on the anti-Christian fire!!

    Can people cut a girl a break, and stop giving her liberal non-Christian family reasons to dislike her faith??????? PLEASE?????

  10. Theresa says:

    I agree with Kristine. That is what I think of when you say fundamentalist. Which you typed or "said" 7 times in your post unless we are counting the shorter fundie in which case you used it 9 times.

  11. Jo says:

    I have always hated 'labels', but I have to say that I gravitate towards the fundamentalist churches. They tend to be the ones who take their Bibles as 'gospel', as the 'Word of God'. And I really appreciate that. I think if I was being labeled, then I could probably fall into the category 'independant fundamentalist', but I could also fit into 'anababtist'.

    I believe the Bible, and as best I can (by the grace of God), I live it. If that makes me a 'fundie', then so be it, yay for me –

    I personally simply use the term, "Christian".


    I'd rather stand for something, then fall for anything'. (Not sure where I got that line from)
    Jo´s last [type] ..Why this blog
    Jo´s last [type] ..Why this blog

  12. If I'm not mistaken, a fundamentalist is someone who believes the doctrines of the bible and lives it out. Period.
    Tracy @ Hall of Fame´s last [type] ..Just because…
    Tracy @ Hall of Fame´s last [type] ..Just because…

  13. Alysa says:

    There seems to be two main strands of Christianity… the fundamentals and the charismatic (ok, and the Catholic/orthodox as well… that makes three). One group seems to base their experience on "God has said it" and the other on feelings and sensations and emotions.

    Both groups can take it to the extremes, which is where various groups and cults can start to form. No need to provide examples, but this is where the misunderstanding and misjudgements start to come in. There are groups that live in fear of breaking the least little dot, and others that have claimed "God told me to" … for the most outlandish thing.

    Somewhere in the middle… is the truth. Saved by His grace, not our works, believing the Word of God (every Word!), and living by love and mercy.

    It means a relationship with Jesus Christ, worshipping in Spirit and in Truth. It's a precious, humbling place to be. Some people may even consider it fundamental :)

  14. hippie4ever says:

    My definition of Fundamentalist would be one whose bedrock is the Bible, believes it is the inerrant Word of God and attempts to live it out to the best of their ability through the Holy Spirit. I would consider myself a Fundamentalist :)

  15. hippie4ever says:

    You know, I answered this post before I read the other comments (I find if I read the comments first I either don't comment because someone already said what I was going to say, and usually more articulately, or I answer the comments instead of the post or temper my comment) and I'm surprised by how prevalent the dislike of the term fundamentalist is among fellow Christians. Maybe I just don't know what others think of when they think fundamentalist, though a few commentators mentioned legalistic and judgemental. I certainly wouldn't want to be labeled a Pharisee. Maybe the definition, as defined by Christians, is something you could explore further?

  16. Susan says:

    The comments Michelle made resonate with me completely. We were part of an independent, fundamental, KJV-only Baptist church for five years. We were involved in practically every ministry and were in attendance every time the doors were open. When we took a night "off", we sometimes received a personal phone call to see "why weren't you in your place?". About four years after we had been there, my husband and I both felt the Lord was telling us to leave. We didn't understand…so we prayed on it for a year – together, but separately. We told no one because we wanted the Lord's voice to be the only one we heard. A year later, we felt overwhelming confirmation to leave. When we did, we received a visit from the pastor and a senior saint in our home (following a gut-wrenching two hour meeting with the pastor two nights previous). We were told we would be divorced within a year and that our children would be lost to drugs and other horrible things because we left THAT church. We were basically told that since we were leaving THAT church, we were no longer saved. My husband and I experienced panic attacks for nearly a month after that. The Lord is still healing…even several years later. The LORD is faithful…men and women are fallible. It's sad, but yes, the experience we had with fundamentals has been that as long as you were in their church, you were right and everyone else is wrong. We had to dress a certain way, act a certain way, etc. It was tiring and discouraging. But now, we are beginning to understand the FREEDOM we have in Christ and for that, I am truly thankful.

    Sorry so long…!

  17. Edwena says:

    WOW!!! I had no idea that there was this negative stigma when it comes to being a fundamentalist. Again I believe it's just believing in the fundamentals of the Bible and trying to live by that. I am in no way legalistic because of it and it saddens me to think that others would say, "Oh, that girls has to be legalist, judgmental, and self-righteous since she says she's a fundamentalist." There are always someone to give something a bad name. Again it's not about what others do, it's about what the Bible says and trying to follow it the best I can and repenting and getting up when I've fallen.

  18. Shanyn says:

    Sadly, my experience with those who would self-label themselves and their churches as 'Fundamentalist' were less interested in the foundation of the Bible and Biblical teachings and more interested in control, judgement and finding ways to conform people to their human interpretation of what Godly fundamentals are.

    I believe in the Bible as my foundation, I do not believe in using it as a hammer to browbeat people, I do not believe in using it as an ax to chop people down, I do not believe in using the Word of God to cast human judgment upon others.
    Shanyn´s last [type] ..Whatever You Do
    Shanyn´s last [type] ..Whatever You Do

  19. The way I have generally heard fundamentalist used is like what most commenters are saying – someone who takes the Bible too literally, isn't "open-minded" enough, and uses the Bible to tear others down. There are a lot of people who have reacted negatively to fundamentalists, and it seems like there are now two problems:

    1. "Fundamentalists" who are into externals more than internals – for example, being more concerned over which translation of the Bible to use, church attendance, nit-picking over doctrine,etc. rather than living out a relationship with Christ.

    2. People who are turned off by fundamentalists, and so find themselves looking for religion as a relationship without any doctrinal constraints. They want to worship God however they think he is, rather than studying the Bible in search of the truth about God's character.

    I am so encouraged that many commenters were able to leave fundamentalist churches, but go on to see God as infallible even though His people are not! Praise the Lord for that!

  20. martha brady says:

    Over the years, I have found that the term "fundamentalism" is such a misunderstood word (as evidenced by the above comments). Because of that, I jettisoned the term years ago. It is a term with a lot of baggage. There are many others that convey the concepts in a clearer way.

    I would like to mention that not all of us who believe the the fundamentals of Scripture are in the Baptist camp. We are saved by grace through Christ, not our specific denominations…or lack thereof.

    As for labels, they aren't all bad. They are only a problem when they are used to build walls or caricature people (as in "all liberals think…." for ex.) We do ourselves and our children a disservice when we draw lines in places where they separate us from each other.

    No, I'm not a big kum-ba-yah person who wants everyone to hold hands at the price of truth. I am a huge champion truth as taught in Scripture. I just find that it is very easy for us to come across very arrogantly re our personal views rather than humbly and with love. I John teaches that the way the world will know we are christians is by the way we love each other. Interesting! Much more difficult than following a list of rules…I can tell you from personal experience!
    martha brady´s last [type] ..9-11-SEEMS LIKE AGES AGO!
    martha brady´s last [type] ..9-11-SEEMS LIKE AGES AGO!

  21. Rachel R. says:

    I try not to use the term "fundamentalist" to describe myself, because nowadays it's so misunderstood. But I have a whole post about what a fundamentalist REALLY is, from a few years back!

    What is a Fundamentalist, Really?

  22. Sandy says:

    Don't let anyone label you a name other than Christian.

    You are not a fundie or a fundamentalist, just simply Christian.

    Jesus says that we must BEAR HIS NAME.

  23. Clinton Echols says:

    The term "Fundamentalist" properly used is something born out of the modern evangelical movement of the early 20th century. Mainstream Protestants began to be concerned about de-emphasis upon doctrine and from that concern Bible conferences emerged to determine the Five Fundamentals of the faith: Inerrancy of the Word, The Virgin Birth (Incarnation), Imminency of Christ's return, The Atonement, and veracity of the resurrection. It was considered a basic foundation for calling oneself a Christian. In my opinion, the most critical is the Innerancy of Scripture, for it is used to establish the other four.

    Therefore, the term is a theological and cultural one.

    Sociologically, it has been used as a mace, either to shame liberals or to shame those who profess the fundamentals. Fundamentalism is not the same thing as separatism, which is the choice to discontinue fellowship with someone who confesses to be a Christian but practices a doctrine or lack thereof in a way the separatist believes unconscienable.

    So fundamentalism in mainstream culture appears to be a bad word to many, but it is a critical doctrinal thought process that sought to preserve the truth and witness of Christianity. Many prefer the term "evangelical" and many evangelicals are fundamentalists in the theological sense, but then many others are not, and would want to be included in evangelicalism in spite of beliefs that diminish the Word and the nature of Christ.

    Pastor Clint

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