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Fundamentalism and American Culture (New Edition) Paperback – February 23, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


"Marsden reveals a great deal of history, showing the origins, development and growth of evangelicalism and fundamentalism. His is a focused yet broad scholarly work that has stood the test of time, a worthwhile history resource on fundamentalism in America."--Congregational Libraries Today

About the Author

George M. Marsden is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Jonathan Edwards: A Life.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2nd edition (February 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195300475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195300475
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.2 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The thesis of this book parallels that of George Marsden's similar book on American culture, Religion and American Culture, that Fundamentalism shaped and was shaped by the surrounding culture. Marsden builds upon the work of earlier historians of Fundamentalism, namely that of Ernest Sandeen's book The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism. Sandeen's thesis is that Fundamentalism is the outgrowth of the "millenarian" movement that developed in late nineteenth-century American, especially through Bible institutes and conferences concerning the interpretation of biblical prophecies. Sandeen's thesis, according to Marsden, has much to commend it in connecting millenarianism and Princeton theology to the movement; however, it does not deal adequately with the militant anti-modernistic slant of the movement. Fundamentalism can briefly be defined as militant anti-modernist Protestantism that took on its own identity as a patchwork coalition of representatives of other movements.
Overview of the Book
Marsden divides his book into three sections (these sections are different in intent than the above themes. Marsden uses these sections to expand on his themes), Evangelicalism before Fundamentalism, the Shaping of Fundamentalism as a Movement, and the Crucial Years in which it gained popularity and its subsequent exodus of public life. In understanding the rise of Fundamentalism at the end of the nineteenth-century one must understand the backdrop from which it arose-nineteenth-century evangelicalism.
Marsden concludes the book by re-emphasizing his definition of Fundamentalism as a militant anti-modernist conservative force. For Marsden this should be the starting point for defining the movement.
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Format: Paperback
George Marsden's biography of Jonathan Edwards was so well written that I decided to read more of his stuff. This book on fundamentalism is a classic. Many scholars of Christian fundamentalism paint with too broad a brush, often lumping evangelicals into the fundy camp. Marsden avoids this mistake. He also acknowledges what many do not, that the fundamentalism of the post WWI era took on a much harsher and more separatistic tone.

Marsden does a nice of discussing some of the towering figures of the movement: D.L Moody, R.A Torrey, Arno Gaebelein, J, Gresham Machen, Jonathan Blanchard and Charles Blanchard (the President of Wheaton College). He shows how early fundamentalists like R.A Torrey and W.H Griffith Thomas thought that evangelical zeal should be coupled with social concern. Marsden also highlights the fundamentalist disdain over the more liberal Social Gospel, which jettisoned evangelism completely.

We also get to see the fundamentalists like Billy Sunday and William Jennings Bryan, who were concerned about people coming to know Christ, but not quite as concerned about people coming to know more about the doctrinal content of Christianity. This was a major concern of the evangelical Princeton theologians (BB Warfield, Charles Hodge, and J. Gresham Machen).

There is also a newer chapter in this edition that traces the development of fundamentalism from 1980 to the present day. In this chaoter, Marsden also takes himself to task for not discussing how the relaxed mores of the "Roaring Twenties" alarmed the fundamentalist community, nor did her mention the role of women in the fundamentalist movement of 1871-1925.

But these criticisms duly noted, I still like the book very much and commend it to those interested in religious movements.

Rev. Marc Axelrod
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Format: Paperback
The reviews above by Aitkin and Huchison are very helpful, but I felt it was important to add two points. The fourth part- Interpretations- deals with scholarly understanding of the movement within American Chistianity called fundamentalism. I found this to be especially helpful, a careful synthesis and interaction with the most important scholarly work in this area. I also found it to be a good demonstration of how a christian can do "history" with scholarly integrity. In this part, he also gives some interesting authors worth looking at later, of which he interacts. The last two pages of the book, the Epilogue, is something of Marsden's philosophy of history, and how it relates to theology and faith. Again, very worthwhile, and something I will share with friends who also have an interest in Christians doing scholarly work in history, He is always fair and evenhanded. In my opinion, the book is soild throughout, and very readable. Yet I learned more from the last fifty pages than the preceeding chapters.
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Fundamentalism is the movement arising among Christians in the early 20th century who fervently defended the fundamental doctrines of Christianity while opposing modernist liberalism. In his Fundamentalism and American Culture, George M. Marsden investigates the historical context and ideological roots of what came to be American fundamentalist Christianity, recognizing complex influences from nineteenth-century traditions like revivalism, holiness, and patriotism. Marsden says, "Fundamentalists were evangelical Christians, close to the traditions of the dominant American revivalist establishment of the nineteenth century, who in the twentieth century militantly opposed both modernism in theology and the cultural changes that modernism endorsed" (4). His interpretation of the phenomenon of fundamentalism treads a middle ground between those who reduce it to a purely social reaction to the emerging trend of modernist thought, and someone like Ernest Sandeen who views fundamentalism as essentially theological (201). Some evaluations from observers of the height of the fundamentalist frenzy saw it as hollow and brief; the Christian Century said in 1926, "it is henceforth to be a disappearing quanitity in American religious life, while our churches go on to larger issues..." (192). Marsden does not relegate fundamentalism to the position of a short-lived radical sect, but sees it as a significant movement with deep roots and continued relevance to today's American evangelicalism. As a result, he devotes about half of his book to in depth account of late 19th and early 20th century currents of Christian thought.

Marsden focuses on three major themes.
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