In going through last week's Christian Carnival (yes, I'm still working on that), I found Blake Kennedy's fascinating discussion of whether the Plymouth Brethren fit better within fundamentalism and evangelicalism. He wants to say the latter. I think his argument might lead to thinking of them as a borderline case, recognizing that the term 'fundamentalist' is somewhat loose and can include people who aren't at all like the paradigm cases. It's also possible that someone or some group might be a member of both categories.
What interested me most was his careful delineation of what's commonly associated with fundamentalism by those who want to distance themselves from that label by calling themselves evangelical. There is some overlap in some of these, but I think it's worth being explicit about some elements that are aspects of other, more general, traits. Many of these also admit of degrees, and thus someone or some group might be more fundamentalistic or less fundamentalistic than some other person or group. Fred Phelps and the GodHatesFags crowd will probably be among the most fundamentalistic, and I would say someone like Zane Hodges (most known for being KJV-only, hyper-dispensationalist, and antinomian) is more moderate in comparison with Phelps but still solidly a fundamentalist. John MacArthur is still a fundamentalist too, I would say, but he's much less so and is also an evangelical, albeit a more conservative one than most on these issues. I'm not sure someone who is KJV-only would be evangelical except if the person is really moderate with all the other features of fundamentalism (and there are such people).
The features he lists are legalism, separatism in terms of fellowship with other believers, separatism with respect to communion/the Lord's table (not allowing someone to participate unless they're in your congregation or denomination), dispensationalism, particularly in its more extreme forms, very conservative views with respect to gender roles (especially with respect to how women dress and whether it's ok for women to have jobs or speak in gatherings of believers but also less severe restrictions), opposition to certain Bible translations (and I would include not just KJV-onlyism but opposition to inclusive language and to dynamic translation in general), and placing any other minor issues above major issues.
I would add the tendency to pronounce on others' sin while ignoring one's own and and the tendency to line up with particular factional leaders while decrying others. I would also add the view that tongues, prophecy, overt miracles like healing, and so on are evil now that God has ceased giving such gifts, but I would also include the opposite view, that such things are to be expected of any healthy believer. Both are fundamentalistic tendencies. Some of my additions are captured in some of the above, but these are crucial to the more extreme fundamentalists that it's worth mentioning separately.
I think it might also be important to mention more extreme ways of interpreting and applying scripture in comparison with how others do so. For instance, the Plymouth Brethren example of taking women's head coverings as normative today is a fundamentalistic tendency, though it is often misunderstood, as Blake points out. One of the elders in my own congregation believes women should have head coverings when gathering for worship, and a few women in our congregation always have them on during our gatherings, so I assume they do as well. The congregation won't make it normative, however, because they don't see it as a central distinctive. It's a disputed issue, and they treat it as one. So the Plymouth Brethren are more fundamentalistic in this way, though I'm opening to it possibly turning out that the right heremeneutic to I Corinthians 11 means it's right to be more fundamentalistic in this way (though my view is that it's not).
The same goes for restriction of eldership (or whatever non-biblical term for the office, e.g. 'pastor', is used) to men. I happen to think the Plymouth Brethren haven't gotten I Corinthians 11 right, but I do think complementarians about gender roles are generally right, and the extreme egalitarian view that there should be no distinctions between male and female in practice is unbiblical. That makes me more fundamentalistic. Whether I have enough fundamentalistic features to make me a fundamentalist is another matter. I don't happen to think so. Still, that's one issue where I'm more fundamentalistic but less so than the Plymouth Brethren are.
I would also say that one's heremeneutic of Genesis 1:1-2:3 and other similar issues can have an impact on how fundamentalistic one is. Those who insist on a strict six-day creation view are more fundamentalistic than one who is open to or accepting of a longer time period described in that chapter. Someone who flat-out accepts the standard evolutionary picture is even less fundamentalistic. This is an issue where I'm less fundamentalistic than the average member of my own congregation, though more fundamentalistic than a couple of people in my congregation, but the fact that the congregation is diverse on this issue is itself a sign of being less fundamentalistic (and the same is true of charismatic issues and baptism issues in my congregation).
The most extreme people on this hermeneutical axis might insist that inerrancy requires that the approximation of pi in Chronicles to 3 means that pi really is just 3, and mathematicians are wrong. They might insist that God has a body because the psalms speak of his nostrils flaring up. Some might not be so ridiculous but might say things like that God doesn't love those who don't believe in God on the grounds that the Bible speaks of a special love, a saving love, for those who are God's children or are heading toward that anyway. They might take a Calvinist doctrine and then conclude that in no sense is there a potential for someone to believe if they're not elect (which doesn't follow; it's only in one sense that it's not possible, and even if that's the primary sense of some passages, it's clearly not of others).
You'll probably also find among the more fundamentalistic some sense that certain political views are biblical and others not, and you're sub-Christian if you're X political identification. Theonomy, I would say, is a kind of fundamentalism, whether in the crude Pat Robertson form or in the more sophisticated Reformed version that comes out of postmillenialist eschatology, though there are degrees here, as with many of these things. I would even say that presuppositionalist apologetics is a kind of fundamentalism about epistemology. It's taking one form of argument form as exclusively the one that Christians can use (and not realizing that most arguments can be given in either form anyway). There's something fundamentalistic about that insistence. Presuppositionalists will defend that practice as good, but that doesn't make it less fundamentalistic.
It's hard to resist mentioning the people who think racial intermarriage is intrinsically wrong. Those are some of the nuttiest people I've ever encountered online, and their separatistic tendencies, simplistic hermeneutical apparatus (common also to many theonomists in general), and practice of using offensive terms to describe large groups of people, many of whom are Christians, are what makes me think of them as fundamentalistic. Most fundamentalists don't do anything like that, but these people are fundamentalistic in that one respect.
Now it's obvious that hardly anyone fits most of these things. I've just been fleshing out what the more general characteristics above might look like in practice. Someone who displays a large enough number of these will accurately be described as fundamentalist. Someone who distances themselves from a large enough number of them will be evangelical. It's possible to be both. I think of John MacArthur as both. It's also possible that it not be clear if you're fundamentalist. I wonder if Plymouth Brethren have trouble because they're close enough to the fringes because of some of their views that it's just not obvious if they're conservative enough on the right sorts of issues to count as fundamentalist.
I think there will also be contextual variation. To someone who is Plymouth Brethren, you'll need to be more extreme on some of these issues than they are to count as a fundamentalist, because it's often thought of as who is more fundamentalistic. The term is sufficiently fluid at this point as to shift reference a bit. Anyway, I'm not really trying to make any points here. Most of the issues I've raised have come up at other points on this blog, and you can search to find my thoughts on them if you really want to know. I'm just trying to capture different elements of how this term is used and what sort of features can make someone a fundamentalist or just more fundamentalistic than someone else. Further thoughts are welcome. This has mostly been brainstorming and certainly isn't something I consider the final word on the issue. Blake's post got me thinking about which features make someone fundamentalist, and these are just the reflections that resulted.