Modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism were born a century ago out of concerns among conservative Christians that the church was being infiltrated by “modernists” who accepted Biblical criticism and the theory of evolution and questioned traditional Christian doctrines. In the first four decades of the twentieth century these conservatives created a vast network of Bible colleges, radio programs, newsletters, missions agencies, and summer camps. During WWII these conservative Christians, unable to agree with how much interaction or cooperation with the world was permissible, split into what we now call fundamentalists and evangelicals.

In doctrine, there is little to no difference between fundamentalists and evangelicals: Both believe that the Bible is inspired and inerrant, both believe in creationism and the coming of the rapture and tribulation, and both believe that salvation comes through Christ’s atoning sacrifice and that personal conversion is necessary to attain it. Where they differ is in culture. Fundamentalists generally have more rules, such as refraining from alcohol and dancing, and fundamentalist women frequently wear long jean skirts and leave their hair uncut. They live a life that is more apart. Evangelicals, in contrast, live lives that appear from the outside to be more normal even as they structure their lives around religion, attending megachurches, participating in Bible studies and prayer groups, and using a sort of evangelical code language.

I was raised an evangelical, though I ultimately left religion behind altogether as a young adult. I’ve done a great deal of research on the history of evangelicalism and fundamentalism and a great deal of thinking about both the sense of community and purpose they provide and the problems inherent within them.


Key Posts on Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism

Defining Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism

Are You Saved?

Jesus Said What?

The Green-Eyed Demon

Witches, Demons, Halloween, and Fear

The End Times

How Creationism Drove Me out of the Church

A Fractured Church, Part 1

A Fractured Church, Part 2

On God, Genocide, Abortion, and Morality


Resources on Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism


Fundamentalism and American Culture, by George Marsden

Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism, by Joel Carpenter

A Transforming Faith: Explorations of Twentieth-Century American Evangelicalism, by David Harrington Watts

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, by Randall Balmer

American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving, by Christian Smith

American Evangelical Christianity: An Introduction, by Mark Noll


Fundamentalism, from the Patheos library

Evangelicalism, from the Patheos library

The Fundamentals, the founding documents of fundamentalism

Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, at Wheaten College

National Association of Evangelicals, evangelical umbrella group

Christianity Today, the leading evangelical magazine

The Barna Group, research on religion in America