Historic Fundamentalism, a reaction to the Modernist crisis in mainline Protestantism, particularly Presbyterianism, was so named because of a series of pamphlets published in the early 20th century, The Fundamentals. These were not the reactionary screeds of illiterate country bumpkins, as the despisers of Fundamentalism would assume, but were written by some of the best Protestant theologians of the day.
Now, I am not now and have never been a Fundamentalist. I have never believed in the dictation theory of inspiration, have never been a Dispensationalist, have never believed in the Calvinistic view of predestination–or a host of other positions that have been associated with Fundamentalists.
At the same time, I respect their defense of true Fundamentals such as the reliability of Scripture and the Christian confession of Jesus as fully God and fully man, born of a virgin, who died for us and will come again. I respect this perhaps more today than ever before, having seen tendencies in many varieties of liberalism to water down these teachings.
In both Catholic and mainline Protestant seminaries the Bible is dissected and undermined. Those books which speak of prophecy must, in the rationalistic mind, have been written after the fact (including Daniel and the Revelation). Scripture is seen as a human creation, with oral and written traditions manipulated by authors and redactors to address the needs of their communities. There is no historical value, it is suggested, to anything before the time of David, and even what the Bible says of his reign and that of Solomon must be taken cum grano salis.
Historical criticism, the method behind these various theories, has its origins in German rationalism and–shall we bell the cat?–antisemitism. Many German critics had a desire to undermine Jewish traditions and history, to show the superiority of the Hellenistic mind to the Hebraic, to emphasize Christ’s liberation from the yoke of the Law. Many German theologians would go on to support Hitler’s agenda, including folks still respected by Protestant and Catholic scholars around the world like Gerhard Kittel.
If you want to get into The Fundamentals, consider these essays as a starting point: