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Zheng, H. Reformed Fundamentalism. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 29 November 2023).
Zheng H. Reformed Fundamentalism. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed November 29, 2023.
Zheng, Handwiki. "Reformed Fundamentalism" Encyclopedia, (accessed November 29, 2023).
Zheng, H.(2022, November 04). Reformed Fundamentalism. In Encyclopedia.
Zheng, Handwiki. "Reformed Fundamentalism." Encyclopedia. Web. 04 November, 2022.
Reformed Fundamentalism

Reformed fundamentalism arose in some conservative Presbyterian, Reformed Baptist, and other Reformed churches, which agreed with the motives and aims of broader evangelical Protestant fundamentalism. The fundamentalism of the movement is defined by a rejection of liberal and modernist theology, and the legacy of The Fundamentals, published at the start of the twentieth century. The Fundamentalist–Modernist controversy, and the Downgrade Controversy in the United Kingdom, shaped reformed fundamentalism in the United States and United Kingdom. Some of the better known leaders who have described themselves as both Calvinist and fundamentalist have been Carl McIntire of the American Bible Presbyterian Church, D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Ian Paisley of the Northern Irish Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster and J. Oliver Buswell of Wheaton College. J. Gresham Machen, Cornelius Van Til, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J. I. Packer and John Stott were Protestant theologians with moderate associations to the movement. Those in the reformed fundamentalist tradition draw upon the lives and works of Protestant ministers, particularly from the Anglosphere, of sundry centuries. John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Gill, Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, J. C. Ryle, John Wesley, George Whitefield, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyan, G. Campbell Morgan, were evangelical inspirations for McIntire, Paisley and others.

fundamentalism theology anglosphere

1. Theological and Doctrinal Positions

Represented below are religious convictions of those who were and are active in reformed fundamentalism. The theology of reformed fundamentalists is broadly defined as complimentary of the beliefs of the Protestant Reformers, and in particular John Calvin, and those later in that tradition.

The movement was as much a rejection of modernist theology and western liberal attitudes to life, as it was a re-affirmation of evangelical and reformed identity. 'Scripturalism' and 'Bible Protestantism,' were commonly-used epithets to describe the tradition.

Evangelical and fundamentalist theology, consistent with Reformed theology, feature strongly and are partially summarised below. The distinctives of reformed theology have been omitted.

Fundamentalism (reactionary elements):

  • Christology – the deity, sinless humanity, virgin birth, ministry of miracles, substitutionary and expiatory death, bodily resurrection of Jesus, physical ascension of Jesus, mediatorial intercession and the visible and audible second coming of Jesus.[1][2][3]
  • Christianity as supernatural. That is, God intervenes in human affairs, miracles happened (Egyptian plagues, parting of the Red Sea, healings, the incarnation, bodily resurrection, preservation of individuals etc.) and the reality of the supernatural kingdoms (kingdom of God, and the kingdom of darkness).[4]
  • The verbal plenary inspiration (VPI) of the (original) Scriptures and conferred inspiration of faithful translations.[5][6][7]
  • The general, but periodically definite, preservation of the Scriptures. Every inspired word in the original languages that God intended for future generations has been preserved (or retained) in the libraries of manuscripts.
  • The historicity of the persons and events in the Book of Genesis (e.g. literal Adam and Eve created by fiat decree, Noahic deluge, Tower of Babel, the life of the patriarch Abraham etc.), and a general re-affirmation of the literal method of interpretation.[8]
  • The Gospels (the Synoptics and John) as historical biography of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ
  • The severity of sin and the need for living righteously before God.
  • A high view of the Law (not just the Pentateuch or Old Testament), instead of a low view of the Law (J. G. Machen).
  • The Church Militant
  • The absence of contradiction between true religion and true scientific findings
  • The belief that sex must only occur within a heterosexual marriage[9]

Evangelicalism (historic):

  • Christocentric (a special emphasis upon Christ in preaching, interpretation and practice), and 'crucicentric' (a special emphasis on the atoning work of Christ on the cross)
  • God as Triune (Trinitarianism)[10][11]
  • The Protestant canon (39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament)[12][13]
  • Scripture as the supreme and final authority in faith, practice and life[14][15]
  • Emphasis upon the prophetic fulfilment of the Scriptures. For example, the Messianic Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ (e.g. Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Micah 5:2, etc.), and the fulfilled prophecies of Jesus (siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, emergence of false messiah-claimants, increase in earthquakes, persecution of believers, etc.)
  • Gymnobiblism - the belief that the bare text of the translated vernacular Bible, without commentary, may be safely given to the unlearned as a sufficient guide to religious truth. Good teachers are valued, but by gymnobiblism are to an extent judged, evaluated and corrected. The common church-goer can attain salvation, grow in faith, and fulfil a regulative function in the church.
  • The five solae– scripture alone (sola scriptura), grace alone (sola gratia), faith alone (sola fide), Christ alone (solus Christus), glory to God alone (soli Deo Gloria)[16]
  • The self-authentication (autopiston) of the Scriptures
  • The perspecuity or clarity of scripture for salvation
  • The Protestant 'old perspective' doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone[17]
  • The two sacraments of communion and believer's baptism (credobaptism)[18]
  • Creation from nothing (creatio ex nihilo)
  • The distinction of mankind from the rest of the created order, as mankind is created in 'the image and likeness of God' (imago Dei)[19][20]
  • The Fall of Man and original sin, the sinfulness of all persons, and the doctrine of total depravity[21][22]
  • Christian exclusivism (also called 'Christian particularism') - salvation is in Christ alone and none other. Jesus, as the Son of God, has unique access to God the Father, and so all persons who would be saved and reconciled to God must believe upon and surrender to Christ.
  • Two eternal realities and destinies: the eternal life that is realised in the present by faith in Jesus Christ and that ends with the believer in the presence of the Lord after bodily death, and eternal death that is realised in the present through slavery to sin and spiritual blindness and that ends with the unbeliever outside the presence of God after bodily death in hell. Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:13-14 distinguishes between the 'broad way that leads to destruction,' and the 'narrow way that leads to life.'
  • Regeneration by the Holy Spirit[23]
  • The 'chief end' of man to 'glorify God, and enjoy Him forever' (WSC Q1)
  • Protestant non-conformism (or 'dissenterism'), doctrine of separation and ecclesiastical separatism[24][25]
  • Priesthood of all believers
  • The 'good works' of believers
  • Complementarianism within life-long monogamous marriage, and male eldership in the church[26]
  • Congregational singing

Creedal and Confessional:

  • Creedal: Nicene Creed, Apostles' Creed, Athanasian Creed (and Chalcedonian Definition)
  • Confessional: Westminster, London Baptist, Thirty Nine Articles, Methodist Articles, Calvinistic Methodist

2. The Scriptures

Reformed fundamentalists believe in the inspiration (theopneustia) and preservation of all scripture. The forerunning debates in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries resulted in the formulation and clarification of the doctrine of the 'verbal plenary' inspiration of the Scriptures, a doctrine differentiated from the doctrine of 'mechanical' inspiration, the predominant view of the seventeen and eighteen centuries in Protestant countries.

The reformed fundamentalist view of inspiration, held by other Protestant denominations and churches, maintains that the individual backgrounds, personal traits, and literary styles of the writers and compilers were authentically theirs, but had been providentially prepared by God for use as His instrument in producing Scripture. The words in the autographs (original writings that are considered without error or falsehood), as well as the concepts, were given by inspiration, an inspiration unable to be dissected into substance and form.[27] For reformed fundamentalists, inspiration does not stop at the autographs . The translations of the Greek New Testament and Hebrew Old Testament are considered the inspired word of God to the extent that they are a close, accurate rendering of the Scriptures. Wherever the English version of the testaments lies fairly within the confines of the original, the authority of the latest form is as great as that of the earliest. In other words, inspiration is not considered as 'limited to that portion which lay within the horizon of the original scribes' (C. H. Waller). Additionally, the evidence of inspiration is something revealed by the Holy Spirit only to the believer, who has been gifted the Spirit at salvation. Attempts to prove Scripture by reason alone are considered mistaken.

Protestant formulations and defenses of VPI by the likes of François Gaussen (Theopneustia: The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures), Dean Burgon (Inspiration and Interpretation), Charles Henry Waller (The Authoritative Inspiration of Holy Scripture, as distinct from the Inspiration of its Human Authors), William Kelly (God's Inspiration of the Scriptures), and others, have been highly praised.

3. Preferred Bible Translation(s)

Some discussion surrounding the dominant usage of a formal equivalence translation exists, but centres on the New Testament rather than the Old Testament (since versions of both major text-type traditions use the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, or a very similar version, for the Old Testament). The discussion concerns formal equivalence translations since dynamic (also known as 'functional') and optimal equivalence translations are typically dismissed as eisegetical. Early fundamentalists exalted the King James Version (also known as the Authorised Version), and held that the Textus Receptus, TR, was reliable over Greek New Testaments based upon the Alexandrian (critical) text-type (for example, the Westcott & Hort and Nestle & Aland). It must be noted, the TR is a term given to a variety of similar Byzantine-derived Greek New Testaments, for example, the editions of Erasmus, Beza and Stephanus (also known as Estienne), and it was the third edition of Stephanus ("Editio Regia", 1550), and similar editions, that would become known as the "Textus Receptus" ('Received Text') and the standard text for Protestant Bible translations. A considerable number of fundamentalists today do believe in Byzantine priority, and that the TR represents the Byzantine manuscripts, and so remain loyal to the Authorised Version. Dr. Ian Paisley's book, My Plea for the Old Sword, and E. J. Poole-Connor's, Why I prefer the Authorised Version of the English Bible, showcase the arguments in favour of the Authorised Version.

The publication of the New King James Version (1982) has been a minor development within fundamentalism. The NKJV, like the Authorised Version, uses the TR as the Greek text for the New Testament, and only slightly differs in the English translation, but unlike the Authorised Version, uniquely includes in the footnotes where the TR differs from Hodges & Farstad's 'Majority Text' (M-Text) and from the 'Critical Text' (NU-Text) of Nestle & Aland and the United Bible Societies. (Scholars such as Hodges, Farstad, Robinson and Pierpont, also adopting Byzantine priority, believe their editions to be more representative of the Byzantine manuscripts. The term 'Majority Text,' which used to be synonymous with the TR, has come to refer to the editions of the aforementioned scholars. Greater weight is applied to texts that have been copied more numerously, and the text is closer to that of the TR than it is to the critical text. No English translation takes the 'Majority Text' as its standard). Some fundamentalists use translations based upon the eclectic text (e.g. ESV, NRSV, NASB etc.) but the KJV and NKJV remain very popular.

All fundamentalists do generally affirm the stylistic distinction of the Authorised Version and the great effect it has had on the church and history. Fundamentalists see themselves as 'people of the Book,' and desire to know the Word more deeply. Many contemporary fundamentalists on both sides of the discussion desire unity, and condemn any unnecessary division.

4. Principles of Biblical Interpretation

  • The necessity of Divine illumination by the Holy Spirit
  • Christocentrism and typological interpretation
  • Historical-grammatical method and 'plain meaning'
  • Sensitivity to literary genre (e.g. prophetic, poetic, apocalyptic etc.)
  • The analogy of faith or 'scripture interprets scripture' (scriptura sui ipsius interpres)[28]
  • The principle of non-contradiction
  • The preference for the literal/historical interpretation over tropological, allegorical, and anagogical interpretations
  • The mediation of scripture through secondary authority (e.g. tradition, experience etc. )
  • Scripture as 'finitely plastic,' and not as a 'wax nose.'[29]
  • Searching in concentric circles (e.g. verse, paragraph, chapter, book, genre, testament etc.)
  • Appropriate consultation of the original languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic)

5. Contemporary Evangelicalism and the Second Coming of Christ

Paisley and others believed that the evangelical church was turning away from Divine revelation, and was falling into apostasy, an apostasy that might ultimately lead to the coming of the 'man of sin' (2 Thess. 2). The perceived rise of unbelief, lawlessness and immorality in the western world, and the creeping persecution of Christians, has further led believers to expect a soon return of Jesus Christ. The return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel has further excited an expectation of the close of the age.[30] Paisley also expressed his opinion that American fundamentalism was deteriorating.

The theology rejected by reformed fundamentalists is substantial (e.g. classical heresies, Romanism, human evolution of Adam and Eve, higher criticism of the Bible, panbabylonism, comparative mythology, partial inspiration, ecumenism, unitarianism, pantheism, universalism, Barthianism etc.), but what is accepted is emphasised more greatly.

Congregants have been encouraged all the more to testify to Jesus, share the gospel, stand for righteousness, and live upright and holy lives.

6. Affiliated Denominations, Churches and Colleges

  • Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster
  • Free Presbyterian Church of North America
  • Orthodox Presbyterian Church
  • Bible Presbyterian Church
  • Grace Community Church
  • Life Bible-Presbyterian Church
  • Whitefield College of the Bible


  1. "What We Believe". 
  2. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  3. "Statement of Faith". 
  4. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  5. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  6. "Position Statement". 
  7. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  8. "Position Statement". 
  9. "Issues Today". 
  10. "What We Believe". 
  11. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  12. "Position Statement". 
  13. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  14. "What We Believe". 
  15. "Statement of Faith". 
  16. "The Ancient Fundamentalists". 
  17. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  18. "What We Believe". 
  19. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  20. "Statement of Faith". 
  21. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  22. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  23. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  24. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  25. "Position Statement". 
  26. "Statement of Faith". 
  27. "Doctrinal Statement". 
  28. "Position Statement". 
  29. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}".
  30. "Evangelical And Fundamental Christianity". 
Subjects: Religion
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