The Fundamentals

The Fundamentals is a twelve volume set of essays outlining orthodox Christian doctrine that was influential in the early U.S. fundamentalist movement circa 1910. The books contain ninety essays, many by recognized Christian scholars of the day, on topics such as basic doctrine, inerrancy of Scripture, and errors in unorthodox groups such as Mormons and Christian Science. From 1910 to 1916 they were distributed free of charge, primarily to churches in the United States, due to a grant from Milton and Lyman Stewart of Union Oil Company. In 1917 the Bible Institute of Los Angeles reprinted the set in four volumes under the editorship of evangelist R. A. Torrey.

Although these books are strongly associated with the fundamentalist movement, to which they gave their name, they are for the most part not guilty of the extremism that has come to mark that movement. Evangelical Christians can read them nearly 100 years later and see in them a moderate and rational statement of the basics of the faith.

Historical Context

The Fundamentals was written in the years leading up to World War I, when Germany was unquestionably the intellectual hot-spot of the planet. Modern physics was emerging in the hands of Germans such as Einstein and Heisenberg and a new science of psychology was being promoted by Sigmund Freud. Before the final volume of The Fundamentals was complete, Germany would be the villain in a desperate war with Europe.

And out of Germany was coming a steady stream of very influential liberal theological thought, much of it under the banner of " Higher Criticism," that brought into question the core doctrine on which the church has stood for millenia. And it was doing so in the name of science.

This was seen as a very real threat, a "clear and present danger" to the souls of the faithful. As Franklin Johnson concludes in one of the essays:

The natural view of the Scriptures is a sea which has been rising higher for three-quarters of a century. Many Christians bid it welcome to pour lightly over the walls which the faith of the church has always set up against it, in the expectation that it will prove a healthful and helpful stream. It is already a cataract, uprooting, destroying, and slaying.

"The Fundamentals" thus came out of a very strong sense of danger. The main danger, of course, was from the (German) liberal theology, but it was made more frightening by the growing sense of danger from Germany in general. Canon Dyson Hague, a Canadian Anglican, reveals both of these in the first essay of The Fundamentals:

"The term Higher Criticism, then, means nothing more than the study of the literary structure of the various books of the Bible, and more especially of the Old Testament. Now this in itself is most laudable. It is indispensable...
"How is it, then, that the Higher Criticism has become identified in the popular mind with attacks upon the Bible and the supernatural character of the Holy Scriptures?
"In the first place, the critics who were the leaders, the men who have given name and force to the whole movement, have been men who have based their theories largely upon their own subjective conclusions.
"In the second place, some of the most powerful exponents of the modern Higher Critical theories have been Germans, and it is notorious to what length the German fancy can go in the direction of the subjective and of the conjectural. For hypothesis-weaving and speculation, the German theological professor is unsurpassed. One of the foremost thinkers used to lay it down as a fundamental truth in philosophical and scientific enquiries that no regard whatever should be paid to the conjectures or hypotheses of thinkers, and quoted as an axiom the great Newton himself and his famous words, "Non fingo hypotheses": I do not frame hypotheses. It is notorious that some of the most learned German thinkers are men who lack in a singular degree the faculty of common sense and knowledge of human nature..."

The Fundamentals remains, however, as far more than a reactionary document from a difficult point in history. It is, as its subtitle says, a "testimony to the truth."

Contents and Authorship

The ninety essays were written by a wide range of authors, mainly from the United States, but also a large contingent from Canada and Britain. Most are theologians, most have higher degrees, and most are men (there is at least one woman author).

Many of the author's names are still recognized for their foundational influences.

The essays are not strictly arranged, in part because of the way that they were issued as a series of tracts. They cover the following topics:

  • an overview of the bible
  • the inspiration and inerrancy of the bible
  • arguments against liberalism and higher criticism
  • basics of the Christian faith (sin, atonement, justification, grace)
  • denunciations of false churches
  • personal testimonies

Editorial differences in pre/post 1917 compilations

The original 1910 to 1916 printings divided the articles into 12 paper bound volumes. Printed on each of these covers was "Volume [Roman Numerals I to XII] Compliments of Two Christian Laymen." Printings after 1917 divided the articles into 4 hard bound books. Somewhat confusingly, these four books are called volumes I to IV, re-dividing the original twelve volumes into four and thus have a different volume structure but retain the same article structure. Printed on the first page of each of the four post 1917 books is [Roman Numberals I to IV] and the new-to-the-1917-edition is the statement "published by THE BIBLE INSTITUTE of LOS ANGELES."

Table of Contents

  • Preface and Dedication
  • _The History of the Higher Criticism_, Dyson Hague
  • The Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch, George Frederick Wright
  • _The Fallacies of the Higher Criticism_, Franklin Johnson
  • The Bible and Modern Criticism, F. Bettex
  • Holy Scripture and Modern Negations, James Orr
  • Christ and Criticism, Robert Anderson
  • Old Testament Criticism and New Testament Christianity, W. H. Griffith Thomas
  • The Tabernacle in the Wilderness: Did it Exist?, David Heagle
  • The Internal Evidence of the Fourth Gospel, G. Osborne Troop
  • The Testimony of Christ to the Old Testament, William Caven
  • The Early Narratives of Genesis, James Orr
  • One Isaiah, George L. Robinson
  • The Book of Daniel, Joseph D. Wilson
  • The Doctrinal Value of the First Chapters of Genesis, Dyson Hague
  • Three Peculiarities of the Pentateuch, Which Are Incompatible with the Graf Wellhausen Theories of Its Composition, Andrew Craig Robinson
  • The Testimony of the Monuments to the Truth of the Scriptures, George Frederick Wright
  • The Recent Testimony of Archaeology to the Scriptures, M. G. Kyle
  • Science and Christian Faith,James Orr
  • _My Personal Experience with the Higher Criticism_, J. J. Reeve
  • The Inspiration of the Bible--Definition, Extent and Proof, James M. Gray
  • Inspiration, L. W. Munhall
  • The Moral Glory of Jesus Christ a Proof of Inspiration, William G. Moorehead
  • The Testimony of the Scriptures to Themselves, George S. Bishop
  • The Testimony of the Organic Unity of the Bible to its Inspiration, Arthur T. Pierson
  • Fulfilled Prophecy a Potent Argument for the Bible, Arno C. Gaebelein
  • Life in the Word, Philip Mauro
  • Is There a God?, Thomas Whitelaw
  • God in Christ the Only Revelation of the Fatherhood of God, Robert E. Speer
  • The Deity of Christ, Benjamin B. Warfield
  • _The Virgin Birth of Christ_, James Orr
  • The God-Man, John Stock (posthumously)
  • The Person and Work of Jesus Christ, John L. Nuelsen
  • The Certainty and Importance of the Physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead, R. A. Torrey
  • _The Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit_, R. A. Torrey
  • The Holy Spirit and the Sons of God, W. J. Erdman
  • Observations on the Conversion and Apostleship of Paul, Lord Lyttelton and J. L. Campbell
  • Christianity Is No Fable, Thomas Whitelaw
  • The Biblical Conception of Sin, Thomas Whitelaw
  • Paul's Testimony to the Doctrine of Sin, Charles B. Williams
  • Sin and Judgment to Come, Robert Anderson
  • What Christ Teaches Concerning Future Retribution, William C. Procter
  • The Atonement, Franklin Johnson
  • At-One-Ment By Propitiation, Dyson Hague
  • The Grace of God, C. I. Scofield
  • Salvation By Grace, Thomas Spurgeon
  • The Nature of Regeneration, Thomas Boston (posthumously)
  • Regeneration--Conversion--Reformation, George W. Lasher
  • Justification by Faith, H. C. G. Moule
  • The Doctrines That Must Be Emphasized in Successful Evangelism By Evangelist, L. W. Munhall
  • Preach the Word, Howard Crosby (posthumously)
  • Pastoral and Personal Evangelism, or, Winning Men to Christ One by One, John Timothy Stone
  • The Sunday School's True Evangelism, Charles Gallaudet Trumbull
  • The Place of Prayer in Evangelism, R. A. Torrey
  • Foreign Missions Or World-Wide Evangelism, Robert E. Speer
  • A Message from Missions to the Modern Ministry, Charles A. Bowen
  • What Missionary Motives Should Prevail?, Henry W. Frost
  • Consecration (Exodus 28:40-43), Henry W. Frost
  • Is Romanism Christianity?, T. W. Medhurst
  • Rome, The Antagonist of the Nation, J. M. Foster
  • The True Church, Bishop Ryle (posthumously)
  • The Testimony of Foreign Missions to the Superintending Providence of God, Arthur T. Pierson (posthumously)
  • The Purposes of the Incarnation, G. Campbell Morgan
  • Tributes to Christ and the Bible by Intelligent Men Who Were Not Known as Active Christians, Anonymous
  • Modern Philosophy, Philip Mauro
  • The Knowledge of God, David James Burrell
  • The Wisdom of this World, A. W. Pitzer
  • The Science of Conversion, H. M. Sydenstricker
  • The Decadence of Darwinism, Henry H. Beach
  • The Passing of Evolution, George Frederick Wright
  • Evolutionism in the Pulpit, An Occupant of the Pew
  • The Church and Socialism, Charles R. Erdman
  • Millennial Dawn: A Counterfeit of Christianity, William G. Moorehead
  • Mormonism: Its Origin, Characteristics, and Doctrines, R. G. McNiece
  • _Eddyism, Commonly Called "Christian Science"_, Maurice E. Wilson
  • Modern Spiritualism Briefly Tested by Scripture, Algernon J. Pollock
  • Satan and His Kingdom, Jessie Penn-Lewis
  • _Why Save the Lord's Day?_, Daniel Hoffman Martin
  • The Apologetic Value of Paul's Epistles, E. J. Stobo
  • Divine Efficacy of Prayer, Arthur T. Pierson
  • The Proof of the Living God as Found in the Prayer Life of George Muller, of Bristol, Arthur T. Pierson
  • Our Lord's Teachings about Money Arthur T. Pierson
  • The Scriptures A. C. Dixon
  • What the Bible Contains for the Believer George F. Pentecost
  • The Hope of the Church John McNicol
  • The Coming of Christ Charles R. Erdman
  • The Testimony of Christian Experience E. Y. Mullins
  • A Personal Testimony Howard A. Kelly
  • A Personal Testimony H. W. Webb-Peploe
  • The Personal Testimony Charles T. Studd
  • A Personal Testimony Philip Mauro


  • R.A. Torrey, A.C. Dixon (eds) The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Co., Baker Books, 1917

  • Daniel G. Reid , Robert D. Linder , Bruce L. Shelley and Harry S. Stout, eds Dictionary of Christianity in America, Inter Varsity Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8308-1776-X

See also