The Rise of Fundamentalism: Raising the Alarm
(Adapted from original article written by Pr. Ko Lingkang)

As the influence of modernism grew, many Bible‑believing saints raised the alarm to stem the tide. In dismay, they witnessed the gradual but certain deterioration of their beloved denominations and the spread of anti‑biblical teachings.

The Bible-believing saints wanted to go back to the basics. Toward the end of the 19th Century, opponents of this modernism gathered in great Bible Conferences and spoke to large crowds from various denominations on the necessity of the fundamentals of the faith. “The messages given warned against false doctrine and exhorted people to remain true to the faith of their fathers. These Bible conferences formed rallying points for Bible‑believing Christians and had significant influences in combating the growth of religious liberalism.” (Pickering)

Bible Colleges and Seminaries were founded to train their own men in the fundamentals of the faith as they saw many old Bible Colleges and Seminaries capitulate one by one to modernism. Some of them were Gordon Bible College (by A. J. Gordon), Northwestern Bible School (by the First Baptist Church in Minneapolis), Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, etc.

In 1909, two businessmen in California, Lyman and Milton Stewart, sponsored the publication of a series of 12 booklets (It was republished into four volumes in 1917, and into two volumes in 1958 edited by Charles L. Feinberg) entitled The Fundamentals. “In large measure The Fundamentals was a result of the vision and drive of its major editor, a Southern Baptist, and pastor of Moody Church, Chicago, and later of Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle – Dr. A. C. Dixon.” (Skinner)

How the Lyman brothers and Dixon met was indeed by the higher hand of God. Skinner described their meeting in this way.

While serving in Chicago, Dixon sensed the pressures of the new theology and an increasing hostility towards orthodox gospel perspective. … he began a prayer meeting for guidance in the matter. The whole concept of The Fundamentals grew out of a thirty-month prayer effort where Dixon met with ten others in extended intercession concerning these tensions. For two and a half years, the meetings continued in Chicago, as the group waited for some specific divine direction. … An answer came decisively in 1909 when Dixon was unexpectedly called to minister in a series of special services in Los Angeles at the Baptist temple. He chose to reply publicly to some previously-published statements from an ultraliberal professor at the University of Chicago, who had attacked traditional Christina beliefs. Lyman Stewart … heard him and sought an urgent interview. The Stewarts’ Christian stewardship had already resulted in wide support of China missions, and in founding of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Lyman Stewart attended the 1894 Bible Conference on Niagara-on-the-Lake and returned fired with enthusiasm at the idea of funding a series of booklets defending the orthodox faith, to be distributed across the world as far as his generosity would permit. Approaching Dixon with the offer, he told him of his own intensive prayers over many years, of his unsatisfactory search for someone who could edit such materials and supervise such an extensive project He shared the conviction that God’s leading at that point was clear. Dixon accepted at once, amazed at a proposal which he recognized to be the answer to the extended prayer of his Chicago group. Shortly thereafter, he led them in forming a publications company, to which Lyman Stewart turned over $300,000 in stocks and securities to fund the enormous proposal. Within eighteen months, the first five volumes had circled the world. Dixon edited most of them.

The Fundamentals contained articles written by leading conservative authors like James Orr, Griffith Thomas, Arno C. Gaebelein, James M. Gray, Benjamin B. Warfield, C. I. Scofield, etc. These articles were read by friends and foes for they were given out free-of-charge. More than three million copies were given out. “This monumental work not only reinstated and clearly defined conservative Christianity, but it also proved that the position was held by many.” (Lightner)

The following was taken from the preface of The Fundamentals.

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. A committee of men who were known to be sound in the faith was chosen to have oversight of the publication of these volumes. Rev. Dr. A.C. Dixon was the first Executive Secretary of the Committee, and upon his departure for England Rev. Dr. Louis Meyer was appointed to take his place. Upon the death of Dr. Meyer, the work of the Executive Secretary devolved upon me. We were able to bring out these twelve volumes according to the original plan. Some of the volumes were sent to 300,000 ministers and missionaries and other workers in different parts of the world.

Some of the articles included: the Deity of Christ, Biblical Inspiration, the New Birth, the Biblical Concept of Sin, The Nature of Regeneration, Justification by faith, Preach the Word, etc. The central figure in these writings was the person of Christ. With very rare exceptions, Jesus Christ occupied the preeminent place in every article contributed, regardless of the nature of the subjects treated in these twelve booklets. Very soon the name “Fundamentalist” was attached to all those who adhere to the doctrines propounded by the little booklets. Those who reject all or many of “the fundamentals” were known as “modernists” or “liberals”. Sermons, booklets and full-scale books began to appear from both camps defending each other’s position. A full scale war had begun.


Book Summary of “Born Again in the Singapore Pentecost”


This book of 48 pages is written by Rev Dr Timothy Tow, the founding Pastor of the Bible-Presbyterian Church in Singapore. It is a powerful personal testimony how the author himself was saved in the Lord Jesus through a revival period in Singapore from 30 August to 12 September 1935. The Lord used His servant Dr John Sung to bring about this revival in which more than 5000 souls were saved in Dr Sung’s first expedition to Southeast Asia. This was the reason why the author called the revival period the “Singapore Pentecost”.

Born-Again Testimony

The author began by relating how he came to Singapore to attend the revival meetings conducted by Dr John Sung at the age of fifteen in 1935. Kluang in Malaysia is 80 miles from Singapore and is the hometown of the author’s parents. It was vacation period in school and the author and his siblings were back to Kluang with their parents. They studied in Singapore. Through Ms Leona Wu, the Chinese Presbyterian Church at Kluang was informed of the 2-week revival campaign in Singapore to be held at Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church. The speaker Dr John Sung was unknown to the author and the Chinese Church in Kluang, but they heard reports of Dr John Sung, who was a brilliant American-trained doctor of science and gave up a good-paying job to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and thousands were saved in China through his preaching. One day before the revival campaign started in Singapore, the Tow family left Kluang but the author and 2 of his younger brothers were tasked to remain behind to guard the family’s shophouse. In God’s sovereign plan, 2 days after the family departed, the author received a telegram from his sister Siew Ai which read “LOCK SHOP. COME IMMEDIATELY. GREAT BLESSING.”

The author and his 2 brothers left immediately and were in Singapore staying in the parsonage home of their grandfather. That night, the author saw the joy of his grandfather who related the blessing at the first day of the revival meeting. Choruses in praise of God also filled the houses of the author’s parents and other relatives and siblings when they returned home from the revival meeting. The author also witnessed his father burning away all his tobacco which has been his life-long craving. The author was all excited and ready to attend the revival meeting the next day which would begin at 7am of a special English meeting for students. At the meeting, the author heard the hoarse voice of Dr John Sung’s preaching which was “You ought to die in your sins”. When the invitation came, a number of students received the Lord Jesus but the author joined the remaining silent crowd on tip-toe out of the Church hall. Then the next service resumed after lunch and Dr Sung preached “Ye must be born again”. This time, every word preached pierced the trembling heart of the author who knew he was not born again even though he has been attending Church and his grandfather is a minister. When Dr John Sung gave the invitation after his message, the author initially stiffened against raising his hand to the preacher’s call. As he was struggling in his heart, he caught a glimpse of his younger brother Siang Yew’s hand going up. While the struggle raged, there came a nudge suddenly from his side which caused the author’s hand to suddenly shoot up. It was that moment the author’s pride was broken and he was born again experiencing the sin-burden being rolled away.

New Life in Christ

Being born again by the washing of regeneration of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5), the author felt a wonderful surge of new life in his innermost being. Revival time was singing time. The author was singing the John Sung’s choruses that he taught in his preaching. A number of John Sung’s choruses were published in the booklet and “Roll Away, Roll Away” must be in the lips of the author when he was born again. Revival time was also Bible time. The author bought three Bibles during the 2-week campaign – English Bible, Chinese Bible and a Chinese-English New Testament. Dr John Sung himself set the example by reading 11 chapters of the Bible a day and 13 chapters on the Lord’s day. Revival time was Prayer time too. In between the revival meetings, small groups of people could be seen gathered at their own corporate prayers on bended knees.

Revival time was also evangelism time. Half-way through the campaign, Dr John Sung began to call for volunteers to the preaching band. The preacher told the new believers that they were saved to preach the Gospel to others. Every preaching band was made up of at least 3 members and the author teamed up with his grandpa and a younger brother. The preaching band made a covenant with the Lord to preach Christ once a week. Dr John Sung also issued a higher calling for “whole-time consecration”. When the call was made, the author was one of the first to go up front. There were 85 who answered to this full-time calling. The author was clear that he should give his all to the Saviour knowing his mother had vowed him to the Lord and grandpa prayed the prayer of dedication.

Revival Campaign of Dr John Sung

Throughout the book, the author described the 2-week revival campaign of Dr John Sung which is definitely not of today’s charismatic style. There were no tongues, neither the seeing of visions. Dr Sung preached forty sermons with each sermon lasting 2 hours. However his sermon was never dull and was put across with vivid and lively figures. An example is the message on the five loaves and two fishes in which Dr Sung plucked out a French loaf from nowhere and peeled and threw at the congregation. The theme of his message was further emphasised by an appropriately chosen chorus which was sung repeatedly during the message.

Elder John Leong