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Recollecting the Fundamentals

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Fred Sanders
Associate Professor
Torrey Honors Institute, BIOLA University

Website: Coming in 2012

Summary: The word fundamentalism was first used in 1920 to describe a loosely organized movement of conservative Protestant Christian leaders and institutions who sought to vigorously and publicly defend biblical inerrancy against historical criticism and biblical geology and cosmology against the naturalistic theory of evolution.  Between 1880 and 1920, the original “proto-fundamentalist” movement, during its period of upsurge in response to the theological, intellectual and cultural movements of “modernism” called forth a robust literature of  theological, historical, and even socio-political studies.  Historians of American religion believe that this early period of the orthodox response to modernism, dubbed by some the period of “irenic fundamentalism”, reached its fullest expression in the literary project which published, between 1910 and 1915, a twelve volume series of theological essays called The Fundamentals. Following this early irenic period, the movement evolved and became over the following decades more narrow in its self-definition and more militant in its struggle against and call for separation from modernism. Ultimately, fundamentalism fragmented into a spectrum of moderate and conservative streams, and the more moderate side of the original movement described themselves as evangelical, and applied the term fundamentalist to the most conservative and militant wing. Thus, for many, “fundamentalism” migrated from a descriptive to a pejorative term.

Recollecting the Fundamentals, will be a digital library devoted to the great literary works of the early phase of irenic fundamentalism. Our digital collection will be centered around the published works of the network of the more than sixty-five conservative evangelical scholars and denominational leaders that collaborated in The Fundamentals publishing project. Highest quality digital images of the original twelve volume series (94 essays), will be supplemented by a digital archive of the four volume edition edited and re-organized by Reuben A. Torrey (1856-1928)and published by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles in 1917. In addition, original documents relating to the publication of The Fundamentals will be digitally archived and made available for scholars and students. These documents will include the papers of the three theologians who served successively as the editorial secretary of The Fundamentals:  Amzi C. Dixon, Louis Meyer, and Reuben A. Torrey. We will solicit leading scholars of fundamentalism to make available for digital access their published scholarship on the topic.

Further segments of the digital archive, will include The King’s Business, a monthly magazine published by The Bible Institute of Los Angeles, commencing in 1910, and designated by Lyman Stewart, Reuben Torrey, and Thomas C. Horton as the journal which would continue to be the vehicle for the continuation of the literary project begun by The Fundamentals. Also to be digitally archived will be the papers of the “two Christian laymen”, Lyman (1840-1923) and Milton Stewart (1838-1923), who conceived and funded the publication and distribution The Fundamentals. The Stewart papers have been a valuable resource for leading scholars of fundamentalism for decades. Their availability in digital format will bring their valuable contributions to evangelical Christianity to a broader audience.