Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 7 - Digression One, Continued: And Now This


Digression One, Continued: And Now This

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Modernity, beginning with Nominalism and reaching its apex with Common Sense Realism, represented a dramatic shift in Western thinking. This shift constituted an alteration of the entire metaphysical dream.1 In secular thinking, this alteration led Western civilization progressively to abandon transcendence, then morality, then order, and finally meaning. The decay of modernity—its obvious inability to justify its own categories in its own terms—was what led to the emergence of postmodernism as a critique of modern arrogance.2 Read more about Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 7 - Digression One, Continued: And Now This

Book Review - the Four Gospels

384 pages
Ambassador International
(June 29, 2007)
ISBN-10: 1932307753
ISBN-13: 978-1932307757

The Four Gospels by William Stob asks one of the most important interpretive questions that can be posed of the biblical text: why? By continually asking the “why” question of the text, the reader is challenged to consider the various dimensions of it, whether they be textual, co-textual, or intertextual. Stob’s particular question is canonical as he asks: why four Gospels? Stob states, “in spite of their supreme importance and extensive familiarity, many Christians still cannot answer the question: Why Four Gospels?” (p. 17). Read more about Book Review - the Four Gospels

A Plea for Theological Literacy

Reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections. The text appears here verbatim.

I was born in Minnesota, and this great state has been my home for many years now. But I was raised near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I am not slow to acknowledge that growing up in one of the most history-rich regions in America has deeply influenced me.

An exceptional Junior High history teacher was pivotal in the nurture of my affections for history. But my interest was also fueled by repeated visits to the very sites I read about in the history books. These places were more to me than abstract concepts found in dry books. They were locations where I played and picnicked and listened on warm summer days to guides retell the fascinating stories of important people and key events from our nation’s past.

My family picnicked routinely on the banks of the Delaware River near where George Washington crossed to defeat the Hessians on that memorable Christmas night in 1776. I spent more than one summer afternoon running across the rolling fields of Valley Forge where General Washington’s troops lodged in crude log huts during the long winters of 1777-1778. I have toured Washington’s headquarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia. I have visited our nation’s capital, looked often through the crack in the Liberty Bell, and sensed the ghosts of Franklin and Jefferson as I stood in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed. I have visited the Old North Church, Betsy Ross’ house, and stood by the bed where Stonewall Jackson died in 1863. I have hiked through the fields of Gettysburg and stared in wonder at houses still scarred by bullets from the pivotal conflict waged there in July of 1863. Read more about A Plea for Theological Literacy

An Epistle on Church Planting

Demetrius, a fellow worker for the truth, to Georgias, whom I love in truth.

Grace and peace from God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son.

It is my greatest desire that you walk in the truth that our brother John received from Jesus Christ, handed on to me, and which I am now handing on to you. My time of labor is almost over, but I commit this to you now so that you may be able to teach others also.

In order to abide in the tradition, you must understand that God is light; therefore, those who have fellowship with him must walk in the light. In order to live the tradition, you must understand that God is love; therefore, those who know him must walk in love. These underlying principles are true throughout all of creation, and they form a basic presupposition for everything I say to you: God’s nature must control how we live if we are to achieve the purpose for which we were created and redeemed. To say this in another way, everything God created has a nature and a purpose, and it must operate according to that God-given nature and purpose if it is to thrive. This is also true of the church you are seeking to plant. You must know what the church is, what the church is for, and what obligations that creates for you. Read more about An Epistle on Church Planting

Limping Forward

Editor’s note: this story is true. Only the name of the church has been changed.

By C. L.

I walk with a limp, and consequently, the pastor fired me.

I gained this limp on the first of July, exactly one year from the day I had joined the staff of Berean Baptist Church. That first year had been a great start to my short career as a music minister. Fresh out of school, I was a good match for Berean Baptist. The congregation welcomed me warmly, the choir grew quickly, and the pastor considered me the finest music minister he’d ever worked with in his thirty-plus years of ministry.

But then came the limp. On Friday night, July 1, 1994 I broke my spine. The details involve a family reunion, an old trampoline, and the sound of shattering vertebrae in my ears that faded quickly, replaced by my own voice, mid-scream. No feeling from the waist down, but an inferno of pain engulfing all the nerves that remained online. After the spinal swelling subsided, the surgeons installed two nine-inch steel rods and fused the ruined bones together. They put me in a wheelchair and shuttled me off to rehab. The people of my church prayed and prayed. In a true season of miracle, God moved and I walked home one month after the accident. Neurological injuries can’t be overcome by hard work or willpower, and there is no medical repair for broken nerve tissue. I walk today because God’s good hand was on me.

He did leave me with a limp. Read more about Limping Forward

Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 6 - Digression One: Really?


Digression One: Really?

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

Over several essays I have been attempting to describe the intellectual and social influences that were operating within the early fundamentalist movement. One of the earliest essays offered an overview of Scottish Common Sense Realism in which I suggested that most early Fundamentalists (among others) absorbed this philosophy from their intellectual milieu. Furthermore, I argued that Common Sense Realism had a definite and rather negative effect upon Fundamentalism.

Numbers of people have written to inform me of my several mistakes. The first is supposed to be that Common Sense Realism isn’t really anything new because people have always made their real decisions on the basis of common sense. The second is that Common Sense Realism could not have affected early Fundamentalists all that much because they were Biblicists and not philosophers. The third is that the effects of Common Sense Realism cannot be as dire as I hinted.

In the present essay I wish to respond only to the first objection. The second really requires no response except to refer the reader to the rather substantial literature on the subject.1 The third merits a separate discussion.

Is it true ordinary people (as opposed to philosophers) have always acted on the basis of common sense? One fellow in particular was quite definite. “If you see a cow in a field,” he said, “You can just point to it and say, ‘That’s a cow.’” As far as he was concerned, this is just common sense, and it describes the way that people have always thought and acted.

No. Read more about Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 6 - Digression One: Really?

Ephod Envy

“Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song!” (Judg. 5:12). My college friend read me this verse. He had been praying about getting married. All of us Bible college dorm students had been praying about getting married. The Lord had told him to marry Debby. As he was praying for guidance, he opened his King James and his eyes fell upon this verse. It had to be God’s direction. I replied that it was a good thing he was in love with a Deborah. If he had been in love with a Gertrude, how could God have given him direction?

Do you ever wish God would just come out and tell you what to do? Where should I go to school? Which job should I take? What should my major be? Should I have the surgery? Which car should I buy? Should I go to the mission field? Which mission field? Where should I go for lunch today? The list is endless. The options are confusing. A mistake can mean anything from an upset stomach to a life of regret. Doesn’t God want us to make the right decision?

While David was trying to avoid a confrontation with Saul, a Philistine raiding party was plundering the nearby harvest. Should David expose his location and engage the enemy? David’s men voted no. David asked God. God told David to go. How did God tell David to go? We are not told, but a little later Abiathar the priest arrived with “an ephod in his hand” (1 Sam. 23:6) and then David’s requests became even more specific. Read more about Ephod Envy

The Meaning of "Fundamentalism"

Fundamentalism as Defined by Fundamentalists

In 1920 Curtis Lee Laws, editor of the Northern Baptist paper The Watchman-Examiner, coined the word “Fundamentalists” to describe those “who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal” against theological liberalism. Laws’ definition of Fundamentalism was essentially theological, concerned with preserving orthodox doctrine. Yet within sixty years Fundamentalism had become a word to describe religious extremism of every kind. Fundamentalism is no longer a label for only orthodox American Protestants; today, Islamic terrorists, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and Hindu extremists are all considered Fundamentalists by the popular media, academics, and even many religious historians. “Fundamentalism” has become a catch-all term for any religious “dangerous other.”

Fundamentalism as Defined by Modernists

Unsurprisingly, theological modernists in the 1920s and 30s contested the meaning of Fundamentalism. Rather than seeing Fundamentalists as heroic preservers of sound doctrine, modernists accused Fundamentalists of being narrow-minded, backward pedants who obstinately refused to update Christianity to reflect modern times. In his famous 1922 sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” Harry Emerson Fosdick, modernist pastor of New York’s First Presbyterian Church, argued that “we must be able to think our modern life clear through in Christian terms, and to do that we also must be able to think our Christian faith clear through in modern terms.” Modernists believed that Fundamentalism was a movement at the cultural margins of early twentieth century America. Thus Fosdick had noted that the strength of Fundamentalism lay in the “Middle West.” The 1925 Scopes Trial, and the coverage of the trial by influential Northeastern reporters like H. L. Mencken, encouraged this perception of Fundamentalism. So despite the fact that Fundamentalism was actually a predominately middle class, urban movement, H. Richard Niebuhr’s 1937 entry on “Fundamentalism” in the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences (vol 5, New York City: MacMillan) declared that “in the social sources from which it drew its strength Fundamentalism was closely related to the conflict between rural and urban cultures in America.” Niebuhr believed that it was modernism that found “its strength in the cities and in the churches supported by the urban middle classes.” Read more about The Meaning of "Fundamentalism"