Amzi Dixon Establishes Fundamentalism

This is the day that … Amzi Clarence Dixon was born in North Carolina in 1854. His father was a Baptist preacher.

Converted at the age of 12, young Amzi “devoured the Bible, and the sermons of Spurgeon” (Dictionary of American Religious Biography, page 130).

At the age of 21 he was ordained to the Baptist ministry, and it was his aim to make each church he pastored “a soul-saving centre”. Among those churches were Chicago’s Moody Church (1906-11), and Spurgeon’s Tabernacle in London (1911-19).

“He was not interested in social reform itself because only the gospel could meet the deepest needs of human problems. It was easier to reach the body, he argued, by curing the soul than vice versa, and to reform a person’s character was far more important an objective than effecting some change in the environment” (ibid, page 130).

He became a zealous opponent of modernism (a liberal theology), attacking Rev. Henry Ward Beecher’s emasculated gospel. “The kind of unbelief which he did more than any other man to popularise has done much to weaken the power of the pulpit,” Dixon said.

In 1909 he became editor of a 12-volume set of booklets defending the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. These volumes were called Fundamentals and gave rise to the name “fundamentalist”. They were sent free – thanks to two Californian millionaire brothers – to 200,000 ministers and missionaries.

In 1922 his first wife died during their tour of China. Two years later he married the widow of Charles M. Alexander (of Alexander hymn book fame) (she was Helen Cadbury of the famous chocolate family).

In his latter years he became more ‘mellow’. He had fought a good fight against the inroads of modern theology, but now he “gave up the militant stance” (In Pursuit of Purity, by D. Beale, page 225).

On 14 June, 1925, A.C. Dixon suffered a heart attack, and died.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

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