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Research Project: Feuding Brothers: US Fundamentalist-Pentecostal Relations, 1900-1943

This research project describes how Fundamentalism influenced forms of Pentecostal thought and structure in the first half of the 20th century up to the formation of the NAE.

Research Objectives

 This project proposes to research the relationships between pentecostals and fundamentalists from 1900 to 1943.  It is supposed that the two groups are uncooperative at best and antagonistic at work.  My thesis challenges this notion by referring to cooperative efforts among the two groups concerned.  It will be shown that there was more positive interaction between the two groups than is commonly admitted, and further that the two groups showed an astonishing similarity in their theological outlook and in the substructures of their respective organizations.  This will be demonstrated in several ways.

Research Problem


Before proceeding to the main argument, however, distinct definitions will have to be drawn to give proper reference; and in this there is little agreement.  The difficulty with exact definitions is, as Marsden points out, that we are dealing with movements rather than objects.  The character of movements by definition changes over time and is understood in different ways by different people, and sometimes in different ways by the same people.  Nevertheless, definition must be given to the following movements:  fundamentalism, pentecostalism, dispensational premillennialism, holiness, and perfectionism.  Also, as the pentecostal movement is generally acknowledged to have its first impetus at the turn of the last century, a look must be given to the religious landscape circa 1900. 

Research Methods

 First, fundamentalists and pentecostals derived their theology from common sources in the nineteenth century.  Though not all their sources were identical, there was still significant overlap between the two, namely through the Christian higher life or Keswick movement and through the teachings of J.N. Darby (dispensational premillennialism) and their dissemination through the broader perfectionist movement.  The major teachers within the higher life movement were D.L. Moody and his lieutenants, many of whom were also premillennialists.  These men had a significant impact on both the fundamentalist movement and upon the pentecostal movement.

Second, it will be demonstrated that the fundamentalists and the pentecostals shared many characteristics, sometimes borrowing from and sometimes mirroring one another.  It will be argued that the pentecostals looked to the fundamentalists for many of their cues and agreed with them at crucial points.  Specific themes to be highlighted are:  the rise of Bible institutes, a commitment to inerrancy, premillennial teachings, a commitment to evangelism and missions, a desire for revival, and strictures against living according to the modern culture.  Furthermore, pentecostals joined in the fundamentalists fight against modernism, specifically against higher criticism and the teaching of evolution.

Third, while it is true that the fundamentalists did attack the pentecostal position, particularly in their formative years, yet certain pentecostals entered into positive dialogue with their fundamentalist partners.  Examples can be found in Lyman Stewart, who both underwrote the publication of The Fundamentals and supported the pentecostal ministry of Florence Crawford, and in Paul Rader, who invited Aimee Semple McPherson and F.F. Bosworth to preach to fundamentalist crowds at his Chicago Gospel Tabernacle; among other examples.  Further, protofundamentalist articles abounded within pentecostal literature.

Research Outcomes

 Concluding the thesis, it will be argued that pentecostals and fundamentalists had much more in common than they did apart.  The differences did in fact lead them to sharp distinction and critical and sometimes acrimonious debate.  New groups in particular need to define sharp boundaries in order to give themselves identification.  This occurred in both groups, one that was fighting modern culture, the other that was engaging the world in novel ways.  But underneath was a substructure that eventually brought them to mutual agreement in the formation of the NAE.  It will be argued that this partnership was, if not inevitable, at least natural.  The fundamentalists acted like an older brother to the pentecostals, sharing much of the same DNA but splitting on points of personalities.  Like close relatives, the two brothers squabbled, but ultimately ‘blood proved thicker than water,’ bringing them into cooperation.



Contributed by:

Gerald W King

Birmingham, UK
University of Birmingham
last modified 2006-06-27 00:50