American Church History: The Rise Of American Christian Fundamentalism

American Christian Fundamentalism

The term “American Christian Fundamentalism” refers to a movement that arose in America in the 19th C to counter theological objectives aimed at reforming traditional Christian beliefs. The modernized theological teachings promised several advantages of adopting science over traditional Christian beliefs. Fundamentalism stressed the chances of Christianity to make mistakes in its practices, including Bible records, which were to be corrected. Fundamentalism aimed to prove that religious beliefs were outdated and their practices had fewer benefits than the new scientifically incorporated beliefs. For instance, fundamentalism discouraged smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, acting, and distributing movies. The American Christian Fundamentalism believed that Bible records are unchangeable and all Christians are subject to adherence to the recorded information without adding or subtracting anything.

Christian Reactions to Evolution Theory

The movement was kindled by severe disagreements on the earth’s age, which triggered substantial challenges due to disagreements. Many Christians believed that the Bible was the word of God and unquestionable. Thus, the emergence of theories such as evolution theory developed by scientists to challenge the Bible brought about disagreements. Evolution, commonly referred to as Darwinism, is a prime scientific theory that has sparked controversies.

Evolution theory argues that all human beings evolved from a special kind of species called apes that lived millions of years ago (Umer 2018, 14). In other words, it is about natural selection, which states that for a species to grow to maturity, reproduce and continue existing, it must have special environmental adaptations. The ancient apes had special features that helped them survive in the environment, and later they became the present man. In contrast, those that lack apt adaptation features die at particular stages of life.

The scientific theory of evolution is differs with the creation theory stated in the Bible. According to Darwinism, human beings evolved and are not God’s creations, even if the Bible in the book of Genesis 2:72 indicates that God created human beings. Contrary to Charles Darwin’s theory, Christians believe that everything that exists was created by God, including human beings (van den Brink 2020, 28). The controversy of the two theories brought ill feelings to the Christians who firmly defended their beliefs. The Christians had mixed feelings because they lacked resilient evidence other than the Bible, which bases most of its beliefs and practices on faith. Some argued that the notion had some sense, while others argued that it needed more proof to be complete. The results of having a Christian family convinced by the evolution theory had distinguishing reactions among Christians and ended up leaving others on neutral grounds (Weisberg et al., 2018, 215). Later, the controversy gave birth to a new movement of atheism that had a different and clear perception of the inexistence of God.

The other movement that stood by the Bible believed they were God’s creations and subject to Him. It is evidenced in the book of Genesis 1:21 that all human beings were created through copyright of God’s image and are unique creations as far as other creations are concerned. Humans have been authorized to control all creations and use them according to God’s will (Francis 2019, 506). However, Darwinism gives a different perception that places the special human beings in the class of animals. It is important to note that the existence of evolution theory and the continued contradiction of the biblical truth perpetuates several groups of people. Some chose to be atheists due to limited biblical evidence, the neutral people, and those among atheists and Christians. The evolution theory of Charles Darwin has encountered some evidence-based challenges, like failing to consider all aspects of life but responding to them as life gaps which is not a satisfactory answer to those who study when trying to denounce their current belief or stand (Bribiescas 2021, S43). In the context explained above, it is clear that creation theory is in harmony with the Christianity doctrine and believes in the connection of souls to the creator. Christians view the evolution theory as Satanism and condemn it by all means because it destroys the spiritualism of human beings.

The big question to the evolution theory is why the process ceased in contemporary society yet apes still exist, but the question has never gotten a satisfactory answer. The theory is a hypothesis that has not been proven to have designs that are supernatural and beyond human proof. On the other hand, Christian Fundamentalists believe in scientific theories aside from biblical beliefs, while Christians have distinguishing views on scientific theories.

The emergence of Higher Criticism in the Bible

The rise of higher criticism emerged in Germany from the bible studies in the eighteenth century. The bible studies aimed at assessing and examining the documents and texts that interpreted the Bible in different contexts during the ancient times (Bowie 2018, 279). The use of ancient documentaries by people from Europe, including Britons, relied wholly on intellectual efforts to unravel biblical knowledge. The higher critics were mostly interested in literal sources of the Bible and views of various documentaries that would help them build a particular set of beliefs at that time (Bergsma 2018, Vol 1). During the early nineteenth century, Bible study was influenced by the beliefs availed by Kant and gained much mass appreciation because of the depth of their enlightenment. Some religious communities, such as the Jews and the Catholics, criticized the term “higher critics,” arguing that it was total blasphemous because it altered the sacredness of the Bible as the word of God, which was not bound to human questioning.

During the mid-eighteenth century, the Protestants from America were sensitized by how people from Germany studied the Bible and referred to them as “higher critics of the texts.” However, the issue of American Protestants criticizing the people from Germany moved some Americans and Jews from the south that condemned them, stipulating it as a change of the accepted way of the Christian life. Some of the heretics such as the Marcion and Montanus gained a different view of the bible and commenced teaching that god described in the Old Testament is different from the one described in the New Testament because the NT God does not like revenging a lot but He is so loving, caring and forgiving (Nickens 2020, 26). The end of the nineteenth century was signified by higher criticism gaining a different view among Christians where it was accepted by many. The teachers of theology and students commenced incorporating higher criticism in their studies.

The Social Gospel

The movement of the social gospel began in the nineteenth century in America. The state was in the process of transitioning because industrialization had the effect of creating more urban centers. The unemployment rate was extremely high, which resulted in poverty across several states. Unstable America had to deal with the emerging mistreatments in the labor market, cruel capitalism, and social injustices propelled by the need for wealth among the upholders of Darwinism. Darwinism had no set rules and regulations. Thus, people lived freely and mistreated others mercilessly. Though industrialization had several negative effects on society, Christians still believed it was helpful to them and the entire society (Willard et al., 2020, 388). In the context of injustices resulting from industrialization, a gospel movement came to counter them. The church had to make some reformations aligned with the theology to respond appropriately to the inhumanity in towns. Even if the movement was church-based, it had different views on the female gender, such as not considering their aspirations in their leadership positions. The movement did not take long before fading away because of upholding the theological assumptions that the Christians highly criticized.

The Scope Trial

The Scope trial includes John Thomas from the state of Tennessee. Thomas violated the bam of teaching evolution theory in government schools and faced the trial. The verdict was overturned even though Thomas was concluded guilty due to public influence on the matter (Thomas III 2018, 865). The trial attracted American attention over the issue of teaching scientific theories like evolution in government schools. In addition, the trial brought about two groups: the modernist and the fundamentalist, with different views of scientific theories. The case greatly affected the culture of Americans because the controversies still kick up to date between the two groups. Victors of the case were the scientific theory supporters.

In conclusion, the evolution theory, the Scopes trial, and Christian Fundamentalism have caused division among the American Christian communities. Some became pagans due to the unclear circumstances on what to believe, while others chose ignorance. On the other hand, those who started to spread different views, like the Fundamentalists, found a better way to bring their effect to the Christian community. The confusion resulted in higher criticism to find answers to the disagreements. Finally, the social gospel attempted to restore deviant morals, resulting in fewer non-believers.


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Bribiescas, R. G. (2021). Evolutionary and life history insights into masculinity and warfare: opportunities and limitations. Current Anthropology, 62(S23), S38-S53.

Francis, Pope. “Laudato Si’(2019): On care for our common home.” Ideals and Ideologies. Routledge. 503-510.

Thomas III, George C (2018). “Where have all the innocents gone.” Ariz. L. Rev. 60: 865.

Umer, S. (2018). RETRACTED ARTICLE: A brief history of human evolution: challenging Darwin’s claim. International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology, 2(1), 1-17.

van den Brink, Gijsbert, and Harry Cook (2020). “I am Inclined to Look at Everything as Resulting from Designed Laws”: Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species as a Specimen of Natural Theology.” Christian Scholar’s Review 50.1: 25-37.

Weisberg, D. S., Landrum, A. R., Metz, S. E., & Weisberg, M. (2018). No missing link: Knowledge predicts acceptance of evolution in the United States. BioScience, 68(3), 212-222.

Willard, Aiyana K., et al (2020). “Rewarding the good and punishing the bad: The role of karma and afterlife beliefs in shaping moral norms.” Evolution and Human Behavior 41.5: 385-396.

Nickens, M. (2020). A Survey of the History of Global Christianity. B&H Publishing Group: P 27.