The term "fundamentalist" is one that can have both positive and negative connotations when applied to Christians. This article will explore some of the good aspects of Christian fundamentalism as well as some of the negative ramifications which are sometimes associated with this movement within Christianity.

Christian fundamentalism was born out of a reaction to various modernist trends that threatened traditional Christian beliefs in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century ^{[1]}. It emphasizes a literal interpretation of the Bible^{[2]} and strongly holds to the essential doctrines of the faith^{[3]}. As such, this form of Christianity focuses on historic orthodox beliefs such as salvation through Jesus Christ alone, the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, His bodily resurrection from the dead, and His bodily ascension into heaven^{[4]}. It also insists upon the literal six day creation account found in Genesis^{[5]}. In addition to these core beliefs, Christian fundamentalism often includes strong evangelistic urgency and traditional gender roles. While there are many admirable qualities of Christian fundamentalism, there are also some negative tendencies that are prevalent among its adherents.

The Good Aspects of Christian Fundamentalism

A Strong Commitment to Orthodox Faith

One noteworthy characteristic of Christian fundamentalism is their unwavering commitment to the classical doctrines of faith. Their desire to preserve traditional biblical truths has been a valuable contribution to Christianity in our modern world where postmodern thought attempts to erode historic belief systems. By standing firm against compromise with cultural mores, fundamentalists have left an indelible mark on the Church's preservation of key doctrinal tenets.

Emphasis on Evangelism

Christian fundamentalism has long been known for its passion towards evangelizing the world for Christ. The missionary endeavors of many prominent fundamentalist denominations have resulted in an extraordinary amount of global gospel advancement over the past century. The founding of missionary organizations like the China Inland Mission (now OMF International) and the Evangelical Alliance Mission by fundamentalist leaders are testaments to this. Countless churches and individuals have embraced the fundamentalist impetus for soul-winning, often to great effect.

Upholding Traditional Family Values

Traditional family structures hold significant importance in many fundamentalist circles. Parental authority is typically respected and esteemed in contrast to more permissive societal norms of recent decades. Often closely linked with conservative politics, fundamentalism has maintained emphasis on male leadership, chastity outside of marriage, the sanctity of life from conception to death, and opposition to homosexual practices. While differing opinions exist amongst fundamentalists regarding the degree to which these values should be applied beyond their local church contexts, the overall impact has been a recognition and promotion of biblically rooted family values.

Negative Tendencies Among Christian Fundamentalists

While there are many aspects of Christian fundamentalism to commend, it is essential to examine some unfortunate tendencies that have arisen among its ranks as well.

Legalism & Pharisaical Legal Interpretation

Regrettably, some fundamentalists have swung too far from grace toward legalism. They can become overly preoccupied with rules and regulations to the detriment of other central Christian truths like love and relationship with God. This outlook manifests itself in rigid views on dress codes, music, entertainment consumption, recreational activities, and even hairstyles - often with excessive emphasis placed on matters not addressed or central to salvation.

Perceptive Intolerance & Divisiveness

As a result of their strong adherence to fundamental doctrines, Christian fundamentalists can sometimes appear intolerant to those who differ in opinion. This can lead to alienation or unnecessary divisiveness within the Church body, hindering efforts towards unity in Christ. Overreacting to what they perceive as doctrinal compromise can result in undue scrutiny towards fellow believers whose convictions may diverge slightly but are still grounded in historic orthodoxy.

Exclusivistic Approach to Salvation

Although fundamentalists appropriately focus on orthodox doctrines concerning Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation (John 14:6), some can become excessively judgmental regarding those who do not align with their precise beliefs on this topic. This approach may at times discourage dialogue with people of other faiths or even lead to antagonistic relationships rather than open opportunities for evangelism.

While not exhaustive, these points illustrate both the positive aspects and negative consequences associated with Christian fundamentalism. The key lies in finding a balance between maintaining orthodox beliefs while extending genuine grace and charity to others. It is crucial for fundamentalists to remember Jesus' admonition in Matthew 23:23 ("Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices, mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.") lest they neglect the heart of biblical truths in their zeal to uphold certain external aspects.


In conclusion, Christian fundamentalism boasts some significant strengths including its strong commitment to orthodox faith, emphasis on evangelism, and support for traditional family values. However, it is equally critical to acknowledge and address the drawbacks inherent in some fundamentalist tendencies such as legalism, divisiveness, and exclusivism in their approach to salvation. The ultimate responsibility lies with individuals in any faith community to evaluate their own convictions critically and actively engage in spiritual growth while fostering Christian unity rather than discord.

  1. Malcolm Hooper, History of Modern British Baptists Volume Three: A Divided Fellowship 1905-2000 (London: Baptist Historical Society Trust, 2009), 215-261.
  2. George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1880-1925 (Oxford University Press US, 1987), 208.
  3. Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millennials 1800-1900 (Indiana University Press, 1970), 118.
  4. Harold Ockenga et al., “The New Evangelical Statement of Faith,” Christianity Today 13 June 1947, Accessed 7 March 2020.
  5. Carl F.H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority (Zondervan Publishing House, 1977), 379.
  6. Mark Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), 206.