Christian fundamentalism began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries among British and American Protestants as a reaction to theological liberalism and cultural modernism. Fundamentalists argued that 19th-century modernist theologians had misinterpreted or rejected certain doctrines, especially biblical inerrancy, which they considered the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Fundamentalists are almost always described as having a literal interpretation of the Bible. A few scholars label Catholics who reject modern theology in favor of more traditional doctrines fundamentalists. Scholars debate how much the terms “evangelical” and “fundamentalist” are synonymous. In keeping with traditional Christian doctrines concerning biblical interpretation, the role of Jesus in the Bible, and the role of the church in society, fundamentalists usually believe in a core of Christian beliefs which include the historical accuracy of the Bible and all of the events which are recorded in it as well as the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Interpretations of Christian fundamentalism have changed over time. Fundamentalism is a movement manifested in various denominations with various theologies, rather than a single denomination or systematic theology. It became active in the 1910s after the release of The Fundamentals, a twelve-volume set of essays, apologetic and polemic, written by conservative Protestant theologians to defend what they saw as Protestant orthodoxy. The movement became more organized within U.S. Protestant churches in the 1920s, especially within Baptist and Presbyterian ones.
Many churches which embraced fundamentalism adopted a “fighting style” and combined Princeton theology with Dispensationalism. Since 1930, many fundamentalist churches have been represented by the Independent Fundamental Churches of America(renamed IFCA International in 1996), which holds to biblical inerrancy.
The term fundamentalism was coined by Baptist editor Curtis Lee Laws in 1920 to designate Protestants who were ready “to do battle royal for the fundamentals”. The term was quickly adopted by all sides. Laws borrowed it from the title of a series of essays published between 1910 and 1915 called The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. The term “fundamentalism” entered the English language in 1922, and it is often capitalized when it is used to refer to the religious movement.
The term fundamentalist is controversial in the 21st century, because it connotes religious extremism, especially when such labeling is applied beyond the movement which coined the term or beyond those who self-identify as fundamentalists today. Some who hold certain, but not all beliefs in common with the original fundamentalist movement reject the label “fundamentalism”, because they consider it too pejorative, while others consider it a banner of pride. Such Christians prefer to use the term fundamental, as opposed to fundamentalist (e.g., Independent Fundamental Baptist and Independent Fundamental Churches of America). The term is sometimes confused with Christian legalism. In parts of the United Kingdom, using the term fundamentalist with the intent to stir up religious hatred is a violation of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006.
Fundamentalism came from multiple streams in British and American theologies during the 19th century.According to authors Robert D. Woodberry and Christian S. Smith,
Following the Civil War, tensions developed between Northern evangelical leaders over Darwinism and higher biblical criticism; Southerners remained unified in their opposition to both (Marsden 1980, 1991). Modernists attempted to update Christianity to match their view of science. They denied biblical miracles and argued that God manifests himself through the social evolution of society. Conservatives resisted these changes. These latent tensions rose to the surface after World War I in what came to be called the fundamentalist/modernist split.
However, the split does not mean that there were just two groups, modernists and fundamentalists. There were also people who considered themselves neo-evangelicals, separating themselves from the extreme components of fundamentalism. These neo-evangelicals also wanted to separate themselves from both the fundamentalist movement and the mainstream evangelical movement due to their anti-intellectual approaches.
The first important stream was Evangelicalism which emerged in the revivals of the First and Second Great Awakenings in America and the Methodist movement in England in the period from 1730–1840. They in turn were influenced by the Pietist movement in Germany. Church historian Randall Balmer explains that:
Evangelicalism itself, I believe, is a quintessentially North American phenomenon, deriving as it did from the confluence of Pietism, Presbyterianism, and the vestiges of Puritanism. Evangelicalism picked up the peculiar characteristics from each strain – warmhearted spirituality from the Pietists (for instance), doctrinal precisionism from the Presbyterians, and individualistic introspection from the Puritans – even as the North American context itself has profoundly shaped the various manifestations of evangelicalism: fundamentalism, neo-evangelicalism, the holiness movement, Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement, and various forms of African-American and Hispanic evangelicalism.
A second stream was Dispensationalism, a new interpretation of the Bible developed in the 1830s in England. John Nelson Darby’s ideas were disseminated by the notes and commentaries in the widely used Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909. Dispensationalism was a millenarian theory that divided all of time into seven different stages, called “dispensations”, which were seen as stages of God’s revelation. At the end of each stage, according to this theory, God punished the particular peoples who were involved in each dispensation for their failure to fulfill the requirements which they were under during its duration. Increasing secularism, liberalism, and immorality in the 1920s were believed to be signs that humanity had again failed God’s test. Dispensationalists held to a form of eschatology which advocated the belief that the world was on the verge of the last stage, known as the Great Tribulation in which a final battle will take place at Armageddon (the valley of Megiddo), followed by Christ’s return, his 1,000 year reign on earth, a final rebellion and then a final judgment, after which all mankind, devils and angels will be divided into either Heaven or the Lake of Fire.
Princeton Theology (biblical inerrancy)
A third stream was Princeton Theology, which responded to higher criticism of the Bible by developing from the 1840s to 1920 the doctrine of inerrancy. This doctrine, also called biblical inerrancy, stated that the Bible was divinely inspired, religiously authoritative, and without error. The Princeton Seminary professor of Theology Charles Hodge insisted that the Bible was inerrant because God inspired or “breathed” his exact thoughts into the biblical writers (2 Timothy 3:16). Princeton theologians believed that the Bible should be read differently from any other historical document, and they also believed that Christian modernism and liberalism led people to Hell just like non-Christian religions.
Biblical inerrancy was a particularly significant rallying point for fundamentalists. This approach to the Bible is associated with conservative evangelical hermeneutical approaches to Scripture ranging from the historical-grammatical method to biblical literalism.
The Fundamentals and modernism
A fourth stream—the immediate spark—was the 12-volume study The Fundamentals, published 1910–1915. Sponsors subsidized the free distribution of over three million individual volumes to clergy, laymen and libraries. It stressed several core beliefs, including:
- The inerrancy of the Bible
- The literal nature of the biblical accounts, especially regarding Christ’s miracles and the Creation account in Genesis
- The virgin birth of Christ
- The bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ
- The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross
Like Princeton Theology, The Fundamentals reflected growing opposition among many evangelical Christians towards higher criticism of the Bible and modernism.
The interpretations given the fundamentalist movement have changed over time, with most older interpretations being based on the concepts of social displacement or cultural lag. Some in the 1930s, including H. Richard Niebuhr, understood the conflict between fundamentalism and modernism to be part of a broader social conflict between the cities and the country. In this view the fundamentalists were country and small-town dwellers who were reacting against the progressivism of city dwellers. Fundamentalism was seen as a form of anti-intellectualism during the 1950s; in the early 1960s American intellectual and historian Richard Hofstadter interpreted it in terms of status anxiety.
Beginning in the late 1960s the movement began to be seen as “a bona fide religious, theological and even intellectual movement in its own right.” Instead of interpreting fundamentalism as a simple anti-intellectualism, Paul Carter argued that “fundamentalists were simply intellectual in a way different than their opponents.” Moving into the 1970s, Earnest R. Sandeen saw fundamentalism as arising from the confluence of Princeton Theology and millennialism.
George Marsden defined fundamentalism as “militantly anti-modernist Protestant evangelicalism” in his 1980 work Fundamentalism and American Culture. “Militant” in this sense does not mean “violent”, it means “aggressively active in a cause”. Marsden saw fundamentalism arising from a number of preexisting evangelical movements that responded to various perceived threats by joining forces. He argued that Christian fundamentalists were American evangelical Christians who in the 20th century opposed “both modernism in theology and the cultural changes that modernism endorsed. Militant opposition to modernism was what most clearly set off fundamentalism.” Others viewing militancy as a core characteristic of the fundamentalist movement include Philip Melling, Ung Kyu Pak and Ronald Witherup. Donald McKim and David Wright (1992) argue that “in the 1920s, militant conservatives (fundamentalists) united to mount a conservative counter-offensive. Fundamentalists sought to rescue their denominations from the growth of modernism at home.”
According to Marsden, recent scholars differentiate “fundamentalists” from “evangelicals” by arguing the former were more militant and less willing to collaborate with groups considered “modernist” in theology. In the 1940s the more moderate faction of fundamentalists maintained the same theology but began calling themselves “evangelicals” to stress their less militant position. Roger Olson (2007) identifies a more moderate faction of fundamentalists, which he calls “postfundamentalist”, and says “most postfundamentalist evangelicals do not wish to be called fundamentalists, even though their basic theological orientation is not very different.” According to Olson, a key event was the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1942. Barry Hankins (2008) has a similar view, saying “beginning in the 1940s….militant and separatist evangelicals came to be called fundamentalists, while culturally engaged and non-militant evangelicals were supposed to be called evangelicals.”
Timothy Weber views fundamentalism as “a rather distinctive modern reaction to religious, social and intellectual changes of the late 1800s and early 1900s, a reaction that eventually took on a life of its own and changed significantly over time.”
In North America
Fundamentalist movements existed in most North American Protestant denominations by 1919 following attacks on modernist theology in Presbyterian and Baptist denominations. Fundamentalism was especially controversial among Presbyterians.
In Canada, fundamentalism was less prominent, but it had an aggressive leader in English-born Thomas Todhunter Shields (1873–1955), who led 80 churches out of the Baptist federation in Ontario in 1927 and formed the Union of regular Baptist churches of Ontario and Quebec. He was affiliated with the Baptist Bible Union, based in the United States. His newspaper, The Gospel Witness, reached 30,000 subscribers in 16 countries, giving him an international reputation. He was one of the founders of the international Council of Christian Churches.
Oswald J. Smith (1889–1986), reared in rural Ontario and educated at Moody Church in Chicago, set up The Peoples Church in Toronto in 1928. A dynamic preacher and leader in Canadian fundamentalism, Smith wrote 35 books and engaged in missionary work worldwide. Billy Graham called him “the greatest combination pastor, hymn writer, missionary statesman, an evangelist of our time”.
In the United States
A leading organizer of the fundamentalist campaign against modernism in the United States was William Bell Riley, a Northern Baptist based in Minneapolis, where his Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School (1902), Northwestern Evangelical Seminary (1935), and Northwestern College (1944) produced thousands of graduates. At a large conference in Philadelphia in 1919, Riley founded the World Christian Fundamentals Association (WCFA), which became the chief interdenominational fundamentalist organization in the 1920s. Although the fundamentalist drive to take control of the major Protestant denominations failed at the national level during the 1920s, the network of churches and missions fostered by Riley showed that the movement was growing in strength, especially in the U.S. South. Both rural and urban in character, the flourishing movement acted as a denominational surrogate and fostered a militant evangelical Christian orthodoxy. Riley was president of WCFA until 1929, after which the WCFA faded in importance. The Independent Fundamental Churches of America became a leading association of independent U.S. fundamentalist churches upon its founding in 1930. The American Council of Christian Churches was founded for fundamental Christian denominations as an alternative to the National Council of Churches.
Much of the enthusiasm for mobilizing fundamentalism came from Protestant seminaries and Protestant “Bible colleges” in the United States. Two leading fundamentalist seminaries were the Dispensationalist Dallas Theological Seminary, founded in 1924 by Lewis Sperry Chafer, and the Reformed Westminster Theological Seminary, formed in 1929 under the leadership and funding of former Princeton Theological Seminary professor J. Gresham Machen. Many Bible colleges were modeled after the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Dwight Moody was influential in preaching the imminence of the Kingdom of God that was so important to Dispensationalism. Bible colleges prepared ministers who lacked college or seminary experience with intense study of the Bible, often using the Scofield Reference Bible of 1909, a King James Version of the Bible with detailed notes which interprets passages from a Dispensational perspective.
Although U.S. fundamentalism began in the North, the movement’s largest base of popular support was in the South, especially among Southern Baptists, where individuals (and sometimes entire churches) left the convention and joined other Baptist denominations and movements which they believed were “more conservative” such as the Independent Baptist movement. By the late 1920s the national media had identified it with the South, largely ignoring manifestations elsewhere. In the mid-twentieth century, several Methodists left the mainline Methodist Church and established fundamental Methodist denominations, such as the Evangelical Methodist Church and the Fundamental Methodist Conference (see conservative holiness movement); others preferred congregating in Independent Methodist churches, many of which are affiliated with the Association of Independent Methodists, which is fundamentalist in its theological orientation. By the 1970s Protestant fundamentalism was deeply entrenched and concentrated in the U.S. South. In 1972–1980 General Social Surveys, 65 percent of respondents from the “East South Central” region (comprising Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama) self-identified as fundamentalist. The share of fundamentalists was at or near 50 percent in “West South Central” (Texas to Arkansas) and “South Atlantic” (Florida to Maryland), and at 25 percent or below elsewhere in the country, with the low of nine percent in New England. The pattern persisted into the 21st century; in 2006–2010 surveys, the average share of fundamentalists in the East South Central Region stood at 58 percent, while, in New England, it climbed slightly to 13 percent.
In the 1920s, Christian fundamentalists “differed on how to understand the account of creation in Genesis” but they “agreed that God was the author of creation and that humans were distinct creatures, separate from animals, and made in the image of God”. While some of them advocated the belief in Old Earth creationism and a few of them even advocated the belief in evolutionary creation, other “strident fundamentalists” advocated Young Earth Creationism and “associated evolution with last-days atheism”. These “student fundamentalists” in the 1920s devoted themselves to fighting against the teaching of evolution in the nation’s schools and colleges, especially by passing state laws that affected public schools. William Bell Riley took the initiative in the 1925 Scopes Trial by bringing in famed politician William Jennings Bryan and hiring him to serve as an assistant to the local prosecutor, who helped draw national media attention to the trial. In the half century after the Scopes Trial, fundamentalists had little success in shaping government policy, and they were generally defeated in their efforts to reshape the mainline denominations, which refused to join fundamentalist attacks on evolution. Particularly after the Scopes Trial, liberals saw a division between Christians in favor of the teaching of evolution, whom they viewed as educated and tolerant, and Christians against evolution, whom they viewed as narrow-minded, tribal, obscurantist.
Edwards (2000), however, challenges the consensus view among scholars that in the wake of the Scopes trial, fundamentalism retreated into the political and cultural background, a viewpoint which is evidenced in the movie “Inherit the Wind” and the majority of contemporary historical accounts. Rather, he argues, the cause of fundamentalism’s retreat was the death of its leader, Bryan. Most fundamentalists saw the trial as a victory rather than a defeat, but Bryan’s death soon afterward created a leadership void that no other fundamentalist leader could fill. Unlike the other fundamentalist leaders, Bryan brought name recognition, respectability, and the ability to forge a broad-based coalition of fundamentalist religious groups to argue in favor of the anti-evolutionist position.
Gatewood (1969) analyzes the transition from the anti-evolution crusade of the 1920s to the creation science movement of the 1960s. Despite some similarities between these two causes, the creation science movement represented a shift from religious to scientific objections to Darwin’s theory. Creation science also differed in terms of popular leadership, rhetorical tone, and sectional focus. It lacked a prestigious leader like Bryan, utilized scientific rather than religious rhetoric, and was a product of California and Michigan rather than the South.
Webb (1991) traces the political and legal struggles between strict creationists and Darwinists to influence the extent to which evolution would be taught as science in Arizona and California schools. After Scopes was convicted, creationists throughout the United States sought similar antievolution laws for their states. These included Reverends R. S. Beal and Aubrey L. Moore in Arizona and members of the Creation Research Society in California, all supported by distinguished laymen. They sought to ban evolution as a topic for study, or at least relegate it to the status of unproven theory perhaps taught alongside the biblical version of creation. Educators, scientists, and other distinguished laymen favored evolution. This struggle occurred later in the Southwest than in other US areas and persisted through the Sputnik era.
In recent times, the courts have heard cases on whether or not the Book of Genesis’s creation account should be taught in science classrooms alongside evolution, most notably in the 2005 federal court case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Creationism was presented under the banner of intelligent design, with the book Of Pandas and People being its textbook. The trial ended with the judge deciding that teaching intelligent design in a science class was unconstitutional as it was a religious belief and not science.
The original fundamentalist movement divided along clearly defined lines within conservative evangelical Protestantism as issues progressed. Many groupings, large and small, were produced by this schism. Neo-evangelicalism, the Heritage movement, and Paleo-Orthodoxy have all developed distinct identities, but none of them acknowledge any more than an historical overlap with the fundamentalist movement, and the term is seldom used of them. The broader term “evangelical” includes fundamentalists as well as people with similar or identical religious beliefs who do not engage the outside challenge to the Bible as actively.
Main article: Christian right
The latter half of the twentieth century witnessed a surge of interest in organized political activism by U.S. fundamentalists. Dispensational fundamentalists viewed the 1948 establishment of the state of Israel as an important sign of the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and support for Israel became the centerpiece of their approach to U.S. foreign policy. United States Supreme Court decisions also ignited fundamentalists’ interest in organized politics, particularly Engel v. Vitale in 1962, which prohibited state-sanctioned prayer in public schools, and Abington School District v. Schempp in 1963, which prohibited mandatory Bible reading in public schools. By the time Ronald Reagan ran for the presidency in 1980, fundamentalist preachers, like the prohibitionist ministers of the early 20th century, were organizing their congregations to vote for supportive candidates.
Leaders of the newly political fundamentalism included Rob Grant and Jerry Falwell. Beginning with Grant’s American Christian Cause in 1974, Christian Voice throughout the 1970s and Falwell’s Moral Majority in the 1980s, the Christian Right began to have a major impact on American politics. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Christian Right was influencing elections and policy with groups such as the Family Research Council (founded 1981 by James Dobson) and the Christian Coalition(formed in 1989 by Pat Robertson) helping conservative politicians, especially Republicans to win state and national elections.
Christian fundamentalism in Australia
There are, in Australia, a few examples of the more extreme, American-style fundamentalist cult-like forms of Pentecostalism. The counter marginal trend, represented most notably by the infamous Logos Foundation, led by Howard Carter in Toowoomba, Queensland, and later by ‘manifest glory’ movements such as Bethel Church, Redding can be found in congregations such as the Range Christian Fellowship.
The Logos Foundation was an influential and controversial Christian ministry that flourished in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s, under the leadership of Howard Carter, originally a Baptist pastor from Auckland, New Zealand. Logos Foundation was initially a trans-denominational charismatic teaching ministry, and its members were primarily Protestant but it also had some ties with Roman Catholic lay groups and individuals.
Logos Foundation was Reconstructionist, Restorationist, and Dominionist in its theology and works. It was established c.1966 by Paul Collins in New Zealand as a trans-denominational teaching ministry which served the Charismatic Renewal by publishing the Logos Magazine. Paul Collins moved it to Sydney, Australia, c.1969, where it also facilitated large trans-denominational renewal conferences in venues such as Sydney Town Hall and the Wentworth Hotel. It was transferred to Howard Carter’s leadership, relocating to Hazelbrook, lower Blue Mountains of New South Wales, where it operated for a few years, and in the mid-1970s, it was transferred to Blackheath, upper Blue Mountains. During these years the teaching ministry attracted like-minded fellowships and home groups into a loose association with it.
Publishing became a significant operation, distributing charismatic themed and Restorationist teachings focused on Christian maturity and Christ’s pre-eminence in short books and the monthly Logos/Restore Magazine (associated with New Wine Magazine, US). It held annual weeklong conferences of over 1,000 registrants, featuring international charismatic speakers, including Derek Prince, Ern Baxter, Don Basham, Charles Simpson, Bob Mumford, Kevin Conner (Australia), Peter Morrow (New Zealand) and others.
A Bible College was also established nearby at Westwood Lodge, Mount Victoria. At the main site in Blackheath a Christian K-12 school, Mountains Christian Academy was established which was a forerunner of more widespread Christian independent schools and home schooling as a hallmark of the movement. It carried over the Old Covenant practice of tithing (to the local church), and expected regular sacrificial giving beyond this.
Theologically it taught orthodox Christian core beliefs – however in matters of opinion Logos teaching was presented as authoritative and alternative views were discouraged. Those who questioned this teaching eventually tended to leave the movement. Over time, a strong cult-like culture of group conformity developed and those who dared to question it were quickly brought into line by other members who gave automated responses which were shrouded in spiritualised expressions. In some instances the leadership enforced unquestioning compliance by engaging in bullying-type behavior. The group viewed itself as being separate from ‘the world’ and it even regarded alternative views and other expressions, denominations or interpretations of Christianity with distrust at worst but considered most of them false at best.
From the mid-1970s a hierarchical ecclesiology was adopted in the form of the Shepherding Movement’s whole-of-life discipleship of members by personal pastors (usually their “cell group” leaders), who in turn were also accountable to their personal pastors. Followers were informed that even their leader, Howard Carter, related as a disciple to the apostolic group in Christian Growth Ministries of Bob Mumford, Charles Simpson, Ern Baxter, Derek Prince, and Don Basham, in Ft Lauderdale, US (whose network was estimated to have approx. 150,000 people involved at its peak c.1985). Howard Carter’s primary pastoral relationship was with Ern Baxter, a pioneer of the Healing Revival of the 1950s and the Charismatic Renewal of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Written covenants of submission to the individual church pastors were encouraged for the members of one representative church, Christian Faith Centre (Sydney), and were said to be common practice throughout the movement at the time.
In 1980 the Logos movement churches adopted the name, Australian Fellowship of Covenant Communities (AFoCC), and were led through an eschatological shift in the early 1980s from the pre-millennialism of many Pentecostals (described as a theology of defeat), to the post-millennialism of the Presbyterian Reconstructionist theonomists (described as a theology of victory). A shift to an overt theological-political paradigm resulted in some senior leadership, including Pastor David Jackson of Christian Faith Centre Sydney, leaving the movement altogether. In the mid-1980s AFoCC re-branded yet again as the Covenant Evangelical Church (not associated with the Evangelical Covenant Church in the US). The Logos Foundation brand name continued as the educational, commercial and political arm of the Covenant Evangelical Church.
It moved for the final time in 1986 to Toowoomba, Queensland where there were already associated fellowships and a demographic environment highly conducive to the growth of extreme right-wing religio-political movements. This fertile ground saw the movement peak in a short time, reaching a local support base of upwards of 2000 people.
The move to Toowoomba involved much preparation, including members selling homes and other assets in New South Wales and the Logos Foundation acquiring many homes, businesses and commercial properties in Toowoomba and the Darling Downs.
In the process of relocating the organisation and most of its members, it absorbed a number of other small Christian churches in Toowoomba. Some of these were house churches/groups more or less affiliated with Carter’s other organisations. Carter and some of his followers attempted to make links with Queensland Premier Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, a known Christian conservative, in order to further their goals.
Carter continued to lead the shift in eschatology to post-millennialism and prominently religio-political in nature. More of his leadership team left the movement as Carter’s style became more authoritarian and cultish. Colin Shaw who was a key member at this time, believed that Pastor Howard Carter was an “anointed man of God” and Shaw later became the “right-hand” man of Carter in his “outreach and missionary works” in Quezon City, Philippines. Logos used this Filipino church, the Christian Renewal Center (a moderate Pentecostal/Charismatic church) as their base to advance and promote the teachings of the Shepherding Movement. With local assistance in the Philippines, Colin Shaw coordinated and sponsored under the Christian Renewal Centre’s name, conferences featuring Carter. Many poorly educated and sincere Filipino pastors and locals, usually from small churches, were convinced to support the wider Logos movement with tithes that were collected from their limited funds. However, soon after the revelations of Howard Carter’s scandalous immorality and corrupt lifestyle broke, the Filipino wing of Logos dissolved and its former members dispersed back into established local churches. Colin Shaw was said to have abandoned the Shepherding movement at this time and for a time after that, he engaged in soul searching and self exile, fueled by severe guilt over the way these Filipino Christians were manipulated.
In 1989 Logos controversially involved itself in the Queensland State election, running a campaign of surveys and full-page newspaper advertisements promoting the line that candidates’ adherence to Christian principles and biblical ethics was more important than the widespread corruption in the Queensland government that had been revealed by the Fitzgerald Inquiry. Published advertisements in the Courier-Mail at the time promoted strongly conservative positions in opposition to pornography, homosexuality and abortion, and a return to the death penalty. Some supporters controversially advocated Old Testament laws and penalties. This action backfired sensationally, with many mainstream Churches, community leaders and religious organisations distancing themselves from the Logos Foundation after making public statements denouncing it. At times the death penalty for homosexuals was advocated, in accordance with Old Testament Law. The Sydney Morning Herald later described part of this campaign when the Logos Foundation published, “Homosexuality and censorship should determine your vote, the electorate was told; corruption was not the major concern.” The same article quoted Carter from a letter he had written to supporters at the time, “The greenies, the gays and the greedy are marching. Now the Christians, the conservatives and the concerned must march also”. These views were not new. An earlier article published in the Herald quoted a Logos spokesman in reference to the call for the death penalty for homosexuals in order to rid Queensland of such people, who stated “the fact a law is on the statutes is the best safeguard for society”.
Although similar behaviours existed previously, these last years in Queensland saw Logos Foundation develop cult-like tendencies. This authoritarian environment degenerated into a perverse and unbiblical abuse of power. Obedience and unhealthy submission to human leaders was cultish in many ways and the concept of submission for the purpose of ‘spiritual covering’ became a dominant theme in its teaching. The idea of spiritual covering soon degenerated into a system of overt abuse of power and excessive control of people’s lives. This occurred despite growing opposition to the Shepherding movement from respected Evangelical and Pentecostal leaders in the United States beginning as early as 1975. However, in Australia, through the Logos Foundation and Covenant Evangelical Church, this movement flourished beyond the time when it had effectively entered a period of decline in North America. Followers in Australia, were effectively quarantined by Carter from the truth of what had begun to play out in the U.S.A.
The movement had ties to a number of other groups including World MAP (Ralph Mahoney), California; Christian Growth Ministries, Fort Lauderdale; and Rousas Rushdoony, the father of Christian Reconstructionism in the United States. Activities included printing, publishing, conferencing, home schooling and ministry training. Logos Foundation (Australia) and these other organizations at times issued theological qualifications and other apparently academic degrees, master’s degrees and doctorates following no formal process of study or recognized rigour, often under a range of dubious names that included the word “University”. Carter conferred on himself a Master of Arts degree in 1987 which was apparently issued by the Pacific College Theological, an institution whose existence has been unable to be verified when investigated by journalists. Visiting preachers from the United States were frequently gifted such ‘qualifications’ by Carter including a PhD purportedly issued by the University of Oceania Sancto Spiritus. The recipient thereafter used the title of Doctor in his itinerant preaching and revival ministry throughout North America.
The Shepherding movement worldwide descended into a cultish movement characterized by manipulative relationships, abuse of power and dubious financial arrangements. It had been an attempt by mostly sincere people, to free Christianity of the entrenched reductions of traditional and consumerist religion. However, with its emphasis on authority and submissive accountability, the movement was open to abuse. This, combined with spiritual hunger, an early measure of success and growth, mixed motives, and the inexperience of new leaders all coalesced to form a dangerous and volatile mix. Howard Carter played these factors skillfully to entrench his own position.
The Logos Foundation and Covenant Evangelical Church did not survive long the scandal of Howard Carter’s standing down and public exposure of adultery in 1990. Hey (2010) has stated in his thesis, “Suggested reasons for Carter’s failure have included insecurity, an inability to open up to others, arrogance and over confidence in his own ability”. Like many modern evangelists and mega-church leaders, he was placed on a pedestal by the movement’s followers. This environment where the leader was not subject to true accountability, allowed his deception and double life to flourish unknown for many years. In the years immediately prior to this scandal, those who dared to question were quickly derided by other members or even disciplined, thus reinforcing a very unhealthy environment. When the scandal of Carter’s immorality was revealed, full details of the lavish lifestyle to which he had become accustomed were also exposed. Carter’s frequent travel to North America was lavish and extravagant, utilizing first class flights and five-star hotels. The full financial affairs of the organization prior to the collapse were highly secretive. Most members had been unaware of how vast sums of money involved in the whole operation were being channelled nor were they aware of how the leaders’ access to these funds was being managed.
A significant number of quite senior ex-Logos members found acceptance in the now defunct Rangeville Uniting Church. The congregation of the Rangeville Uniting Church left the Uniting Church to become an independent congregation known as the Rangeville Community Church. Prior to the Rangeville Uniting Church closing an earlier split resulted in a significant percentage of the total congregation contributing to the formation of the Range Christian Fellowship in Blake Street Toowoomba.
The Range Christian Fellowship in Blake Street Toowoomba, is known for exuberant worship services and the public manifestation of charismatic phenomena and manifestations that place it well outside of mainstream pentecostal church expression. It is possibly one of the prime Australian examples of churches which are associated with the New Apostolic Reformation, a fundamentalist pentecostal religious right wing movement which has been described by American journalist Forrest Wilder as follows, “Their beliefs can tend toward the bizarre. Some prophets even claim to have seen demons at public meetings. They’ve taken biblical literalism to an extreme”. It operates in a converted squash centre and it was established on November 9, 1997 as a group which broke away from the Rangeville Uniting Church in Toowoomba over disagreements with the national leadership of the Uniting Church in Australia. These disagreements were predominantly around the ordination of homosexual people into ministry. The Range Christian Fellowship’s diverse origins resulted in a divergent mix of worship preferences, expectations and issues. The church initially met in a Seventh Day Adventist church hall before purchasing the property in Blake Street, leaving the congregation heavily indebted, often close to bankruptcy, and with a high turnover of congregants. The congregation attributes their continued avoidance of financial collapse to God’s blessing and regard this as a miracle.
Whilst adhering to Protestant beliefs, the church supplements these beliefs with influences from the New Apostolic Reformation, Revivalism, Dominion theology, Kingdom Now theology, Spiritual Warfare Christianity and Five-fold ministry thinking. Scripture is interpreted literally, though selectively. Unusual manifestations attributed to the Holy Spirit or the presence of ‘the anointing’ include women and at times even men, moaning and retching as though experiencing child birth, with some claiming to be having actual contractions of the womb (known as spiritual birthing).Dramatic and apocalyptic predictions regarding the future were particularly evident during the time leading up to Y2K, when a number of prophecies were publicly shared, all of which were proven false by subsequent events. Attendees are given a high degree of freedom, influenced in the church’s initial years by the promotion of Jim Rutz’s publication, “The Open Church”, resulting in broad tolerance of expressions of revelation, a ‘word from the Lord’ or prophecy.
At times, people within the fellowship claim to have seen visions in either dreams, whilst in a trance-like state during worship, or during moments of religious ecstasy, with these experiences frequently conveying a revelation or prophecy. Other occurrences have included people claiming to have been in an altered state of consciousness (referred to as ‘resting in the Lord’ and ‘slain in the spirit’ among other names), characterized by reduced external awareness and expanded interior mental and spiritual awareness, often accompanied by visions and emotional (and sometimes physical) euphoria. The church has hosted visits from various Christian leaders who claim to be modern day Apostles as well as many others who claim to be prophets or faith healers. Perhaps surprisingly, speaking in tongues, which is common in other Pentecostal churches, also occurs but it is not frequent nor is it promoted; and it is rarely witnessed in public gatherings. Neo-charismatic elements are rejected elsewhere in classical pentecostalism, such as the Prayer of Jabez, prosperity theology, the Toronto Blessing (with its emphasis on strange, non-verbal expressions), George Otis’ Spiritual Warfare, the Brownsville Revival (Pensacola Outpouring), Morningstar Ministries, the Lakeland Revival, and the Vineyard group of churches, have been influential. The church has always been known for its vibrant and occasionally euphoric and ecstatic worship services, services in which music, song, dancing, flags and banners are all utilized. Range Christian Fellowship is part of the church unity movement in Toowoomba, with other like-minded churches (mainstream traditional denominations have a separate ecumenical group). This group, known as the Christian Leaders’ Network, maspires to be a Christian right wing influence group within the city, at the centre of a hoped-for great revival during which they will ‘take the city for the Lord’. The Range Christian Fellowship has wholeheartedly thrown itself into citywide events that are viewed as a foundation for stimulating revival, which have included Easterfest, “Christmas the Full Story”, and continuous 24-hour worship events.
The church retains an impressive resilience which it has inherited from its Uniting Church, which has weathered it through difficult times. Its beliefs and actions which place it on the fringes of both mainstream and Pentecostal Christianity are largely confined to its Sunday gatherings and gatherings which are privately held in the homes of its members. Criticism of the church is regarded as a badge of honour by some of its members, because they view it in terms of the expected persecution of the holy remnant of the true church in the last days. The church continues to be drawn to, and associate itself with fringe Pentecostal and fundamentalist movements, particularly those which originated in North America, most recently with Doug Addison’s. Addison has become known for delivering prophecies through dreams and unconventionally through people’s body tattoos, and he mixes highly fundamentalist Christianity with elements of psychic spirituality.
The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, frequently referred to as the Lambeth Quadrilateral or the Lambeth-Chicago Quadrilateral, is a four-point articulation of Anglican identity, often cited as encapsulating the fundamentals of the Anglican Communion’s doctrine and as a reference point for ecumenical discussion with other Christian denominations. The four points are:
- The Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation;
- The creeds (specifically, the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds), as the sufficient statement of Christian faith;
- The dominical sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion;
- The historic episcopate, locally adapted.
The quadrilateral had its genesis in an 1870 essay by the American Episcopal priest William Reed Huntington. The four elements were held to establish “a basis on which approach may be by God’s blessing, made toward Home Reunion”, that is, with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Some scholars describe certain Catholics as fundamentalists. Such Catholics believe in a literal interpretation of doctrines and Vatican declarations, particularly those pronounced by the Pope, and they also believe that individuals who do not agree with the magisterium are condemned by God. Lutheran scholar Martin E. Marty claimed that any Catholic who advocates mass in Latin and mandatory clerical celibacy while opposing ordination of women priests and rejecting artificial birth control was a fundamentalist. This is considered a pejorative designation. The Society of St. Pius X, a product of Marcel Lefebvre, is cited as a stronghold of Catholic fundamentalism.
Fundamentalists’ literal interpretation of the Bible has been criticised by practitioners of Biblical criticism for failing to take into account the circumstances in which the Christian Bible was written. Critics claim that this “literal interpretation” is not in keeping with the message which the scripture intended to convey when it was written, and it also uses the Bible for political purposes by presenting God “more as a God of judgement and punishment than as a God of love and mercy”.
Christian Fundamentalism has also been linked to child abuse and mental illness. Christian Fundamentalism has also been linked to corporal punishment, with most practitioners believing that the Bible requires them to spank their children. Artists have addressed the issues of Christian Fundamentalism, with one providing a slogan “America’s Premier Child Abuse Brand”.
Fundamentalists have attempted and continue to attempt to teach intelligent design, a hypothesis with creationism as its base, in lieu of evolution in public schools. This has resulted in legal challenges such as the federal case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District which resulted in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruling the teaching of intelligent design to be unconstitutional due to its religious roots.
In the 1930s fundamentalism was viewed by many as a “last gasp” vestige of something from the past but more recently, scholars have shifted away from that view.
Confessional Lutheran churches reject the fundamentalist position and believe that all biblical teachings are essential:
Are there some “non-essential” or “non-fundamental” teachings about which we can safely disagree? If they believe the answer is “yes,” that in itself is already reason for alarm. The Bible teaches that no teachings of the Bible can safely be set aside. “Agreeing to disagree” is really not God-pleasing agreement.
According to Lutheran apologists, Martin Luther said:
The doctrine is not ours, but God’s, and we are called to be his servants. Therefore we cannot waver or change the smallest point of doctrine.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia