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.
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):
Creedal and Confessional:
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. 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.
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.
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. 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.