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
Witches, Demons, Halloween, and Fear
How Creationism Drove Me out of the Church
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