Fundamentalism as Counter-culture: Protestants in Urban South India

  • Lionel Caplan


The term ‘fundamentalism’ is said to have first seen the light of day in 1920 when the editor of a prominent Baptist paper, alarmed at what he saw as the ‘havoc ’wrought by ‘rationalism’ and ‘worldliness’ in American Protestant churches, coined the term and defined fundamentalists as ‘those ready to do battle royal for the Fundamentals of Protestantism’ (Sandeen, 1970, p. 246; also Marsden, 1980, p. 159).l These fundamentals have from time to time been reiterated by the orthodox Protestant churches. In 1910, for example, the northern Presbyterian General Assembly adopted a declaration of Essential Doctrines: (i) Biblical inerrancy; (ii) Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ; (iii) His substitutionary atonement; (iv) His bodily resurrection; and (v) the factuality or authenticity of miracles. Richard Niebuhr, in the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (1937), listed these same beliefs as the ‘five points of fundamentalism’. It is worth noting, however, that in some proclamations of the core doctrines prior to 1910 the Second Coming was included, and Sandeen insists that earlier fundamentalists showed ‘no particular preference for five rather than fourteen, nine, or seven articles’ (1970, p. xiv). So the basic fundamentals themselves are periodically re-constituted — the ‘sacred history’ re-constructed (Sami Zubaida in this volume, Chapter 2). More importantly for our present purposes, the ‘essentials’ may also be re-formulated in as much as in certain periods and contexts some doctrines are left unstressed, while others are elaborated.


Protestant Church Pentecostal Church Liberal Theology Orthodox Church Madras City 
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© Lionel Caplan 1987

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  • Lionel Caplan

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