Category Archives: Fundamentalism

Is fundamentalism a theological swear word?

Image result for photograph J I Packer

(photo J I Packer, photo courtesy Vertical Living Ministries)

By Spencer D Gear

In my part of the world (Australia), to be labelled a ‘fundamentalist’ in relation to Christianity is to talk down to a person who is strict in his/her understanding of Bible doctrines. He or she may even dare to believe that the Bible in the original documents (the autographa) is the inerrant Scripture from God to human beings.

I also meet this kind of thinking on Christian forums on the Internet. Here’s one example:

Many in this forum hate me because I don’t accept the same fundamentalist views that they share. They don’t understand that outside of America, fundamentalism isn’t common and is viewed as a fringe belief.[1]

This was my response as OzSpen[2]

As far back as 1958, J I Packer[3] wrote, ‘Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God (London: Inter-Varsity Fellowship). Some of his points include:

  1. Fundamentalism ‘is a word that combines the vaguest conceptual meaning with the strongest emotional flavour. “Fundamentalist” has long been a term of ecclesiastical abuse, a theological swear-word’ (p. 30).
  2. Fundamentalism ‘is, we maintain, the oldest version of Christianity; theologically regarded, it is just apostolic Christianity itself’ (p. 38).
  3. ‘The problem of authority is the most fundamental problem that the Christian Church ever faces. This is because Christianity is built on truth: that is to say, on the content of a divine revelation’ (p. 42).
  4. ‘To deny the normative authority of Scripture over the Church is to misconceive the nature of Christianity, and, in effect, to deny the Lordship of Christ’ (p. 68).
  5. [He is responding to liberalism’s attacks on ‘fundamentalists’ when he stated that] ‘The fundamental cleavage between so-called ‘Fundamentalists’ and their critics. The latter are, in fact, subjectivists in the matter of authority. Their position is based on an acceptance of the presuppositions and conclusions of nineteenth-century critical Bible study, which are radically at variance with the Bible’s own claims for itself’ (p. 72).
  6. ‘We have seen what the real issues are: the authority of Christ and the Scripture; the relation between the Bible and reason; the method of theology, and the meaning of repentance; the choice between Evangelicalism and Subjectivism…. First principles must be first dealt with. Evangelicals should not let themselves be intimidated by the shower of explosive words–‘Fundamentalist’, ‘obscurantist’, ‘literalist’ and the rest–that is regularly poured out upon them. they should request a reasoned statement of the accusations preferred against them…. For Evangelicals are bound, as servants of God and disciples of Christ, to oppose Subjectivism wherever they find it. Defending truth, and exposing error, are two aspects of the same task’ (p. 176).

That should be a starter from someone who is a British-born Anglican fundamentalist / evangelical scholar, theologian and exegete, J I Packer. He’s a Brit and thoroughly fundamentalist, but a scholarly presenter of biblical truth.

By the way, outside of USA and here in Australia, fundamentalism / evangelicalism is seen as Bible-based Christianity with a high view of Scripture. Of course, there may be extremists who are KJV-only and somewhat sectarian, but I’ve seen that in liberal Anglicanism and Uniting Churches Down Under as well. Try being an evangelical in a liberal Anglican, Uniting or Roman Catholic Church in Australia and you’ll be on the outer – really quickly!

So, who really are the fundamentalists? Those who disagree with your Bible-believing Christianity and label you as fundamentalist!


[1] Greneknight #56 , Christian Forums, Apologetics, ‘Morality’, available at: (Accessed 22 August 2012).

[2] OzSpen #59, available at: (Accessed 22 August 2012).

[3] The InterVarsity Press website gives these CV details of Packer, ‘J. I. Packer is Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He also serves as contributing editor to Christianity Today. Packer’s writings include books such as Knowing God (IVP Books), A Quest for Godliness (Crossway), Growing in Christ (Crossway) and Rediscovering Holiness (Servant), and numerous articles published in journals such as Churchman, SouthWestern Journal, Christianity Today, Reformation & Revival Journal and Touchstone. Available at: (Accessed 22 August 2012).

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 17 January 2019.