In 1909 God moved two Christian laymen to set aside a large sum of money for issuing twelve volumes that would set forth the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and which were to be sent free to ministers of the gospel, missionaries, Sunday School superintendents, and others engaged in aggressive Christian work throughout the English-speaking world. ... Some of the volumes were sent to 300,000 ministers and missionaries and other workers in different parts of the world.These books are undoubtedly part of the reason that American and American-style Christianity has its current culture. Even after reading just the first chapter, there's no doubt to me that the positions laid out in these books are still held by multitudes of American-style Christians.
Reading them, and especially the history of these books, puts them in a similar space to the doctrinal disputes and ecumenical councils of the earlier church. There's a quest to get things right, to stamp out the heretics, and to clearly define "the faith of the Church."
We Christians have a long history of doing this. Even as far back as Galatians we can see the footprints of the quest for doctrinal purity (Gal 1:6-9). Every story of a council, a heresy, or an excommunication is the story of one part of the church arguing with another part of the church about what Christians ought to believe.
We fight we each other. We claim the truth. We claim the divine position. We assert and assert and assert. But do we listen? Do we take the time to listen to the other person's experience of God?
Even The Fundamentals is part of this history, despite being a product of its time and unable to stand up today. It does raise important questions for theology, especially for the application of theology in the pews. And it raises questions that are important in the minds of the believer. Reading it, or any other theology from our history, informs us and challenges us. It presents us with questions that need answers, even if those answers aren't found in that same text.
I've not finished reading it, but I'm sure I'll work my way through it this year.