Fundamentalism: Whence? Where? Whither? Part 11

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The Social Shift, Continued

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, and Part 10.

The Fundamentalist movement emerged from a broader, “proto-Fundamentalist” evangelicalism in about 1920. It was the result of a combination of influences, some social, some philosophical, and some theological. For the most part, Fundamentalism drew on a version of Christianity that was firmly committed to the popular culture of late Victorianism.

Fundamentalism arose on the cusp of a significant cultural shift. America was moving out of Victorianism and into the Jazz Age. For a while, Fundamentalist leaders like Billy Sunday were able to use this transition to their advantage. Many Americans faced the new direction with anxiety. By mixing their religious appeal with nostalgia for the fading values and fashions of Victorianism, Fundamentalists were able to tap into this anxiety and to rally the dispossessed.

Unfortunately for Fundamentalism, this tactic could succeed only as long as there were Victorians to rally. By the 1930s, however, the Jazz Age had lost some of its rough edges, and its values were quickly being adopted by the nation. Even Fundamentalist churches were beginning to feel the pressure of new perspectives.

The rapid transition was due partly to the dominance of three new technologies: the phonograph, the radio, and the motion picture. Popular culture is commercial culture, and these media made it possible to market the product more widely and effectively than ever before. Entertainment was fast becoming an industry, and the industry sold its mores with its culture. The new media were especially influential among the young, generating an entire youth movement within American culture. Indeed, it is possible to argue that the teenager was an invention of the Jazz Age.

Fundamentalism was committed to popular culture, but the social shift was rapidly making Fundamentalist culture obsolete. Victorianism was no longer culturally relevant: Fundamentalists might as well have been singing Gregorian chants as Rodeheaver songs. In fact, they might have done better, for Gregorian chants could still be taken seriously, while Rodeheaver and his kind seemed increasingly quaint (perhaps even eccentric) to everyone except Fundamentalists.

If it was to survive, Fundamentalism needed to adapt to the new culture. The trick for Fundamentalists was to make this change while not appearing to abandon their older commitments. Their answer was to create a kind of replacement culture within Fundamentalism, a culture that would parallel the secular popular trends but that would eliminate their most obnoxious features.

One of the earliest manifestations of change within Fundamentalism was the invention of the Singspiration. A Chicago Tribune headline from 1941 announced, “Church Folks Blend Voices in Pep Choruses: Singspirations Strike a Popular Chord.” The article went on to say that the new kind of choruses were to church what boogie woogie was to swing.

The analogy is telling. This was the era during which crowds were flocking to the Savoy Ballroom and the Cotton Club. It was the era of big bands, when broadcasts and recordings of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Bennie Goodman, the Andrews Sisters, the Dorseys, and especially Glenn Miller were played in nearly every household. The music was pure energy: raucous, defiant, often flirtatious, and always full of life. By the end of the 1930s it had become mainstream and extremely popular: every high school had its own swing band.

This was also the golden age of Hollywood movies. With the ascendance of the talking motion picture, a new kind of celebrity was invented: the movie star. Film music also provided another musical idiom that inundated American culture. The music of the movies contrasted with the jazz of the clubs. It was lush, typically orchestral, emotionally overwhelming, and rather operatic. Along with jazz, this was music to which American young people were widely and frequently exposed.

The Singspiration took the place of movies and dances for Fundamentalist teenagers. It gave them music that was peppy and current enough to be cool, or lush enough to be dreamy, while packing less of a hormonal charge than the secular equivalents. It was an alternative to jazz clubs and theaters, and it was so much fun that teenagers could take a date or even invite an unsaved friend.

Quickly the Sinspiration became institutionalized. Two students at Wheaton College, Al Smith and Billy Graham, collaborated to start a ministry that would publish Singspiration-style music. They named the ministry after the phenomenon.

At almost the same moment, a young trombonist who had once led a dance band was emerging as a Fundamentalist leader. Jack Wyrtzen was more-or-less the Fundamentalist answer to Glenn Miller. His organization, Word of Life, became a major front for the growing evangelical youth movement.

In their attempt to reach teenagers, Fundamentalists went popular culture one better. Wyrtzen developed the idea of conducting “youth campaigns.” The idea was picked up by Al Smith and Billy Graham, who were joined by George Beverly Shea. Together they started a series of youth rallies in Chicago under the sponsorship of Torrey Johnson. As the idea spread, the nationwide “Youth for Christ” organization was established.

There was no secular equivalent to the Youth for Christ campaigns. These campaigns built on the success of the Singspiration idea, but size of the crowd was multiplied exponentially. They were like a Christian variety show, to which was added the rapid-fire pulpit delivery of some very dynamic young preachers.

These young preachers abandoned the oratorical preaching style of the older Fundamentalists. To a generation whose ears were tuned to the cadences of radio, the older oratory seemed ponderous. These young firebrands modeled themselves on the speech patterns of radio announcers. The effect was riveting to their audiences. Names like Jack Wyrtzen, Charles Templeton, and especially Billy Graham became celebrities within the new Fundamentalist youth culture.

At about the same time, John W. Peterson was writing music that imitated the Hollywood sound. His songs, choruses, and cantatas (a term that he applied rather loosely) took the place of traditional hymns, and even of Victorian gospel songs, in thousands of Fundamentalist churches. Fundamentalism not only had its equivalent to the jazz club, it also had its answer to the Big Show.

Speaking of Hollywood, Fundamentalists did more than copy the music. They also tried to adopt the medium, albeit clumsily. In 1949, Ken Anderson launched Gospel Films. Billy Graham’s World Wide Pictures was formed soon afterward, releasing Mr. Texas in 1951, followed by Oiltown U.S.A. in 1954.

After Billy Graham’s 1949 crusade in Los Angeles, Fundamentalism’s celebrity status began to spill over into the culture at large. On the one hand, newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst sent out the order to “puff Graham,” turning the evangelist into a religious superstar almost overnight. On the other hand, the conversion of Stuart Hamblen during that crusade gave Fundamentalism a new recruit with real celebrity status. Other secular celebrities soon followed suit, and Fundamentalists discovered that these were people who could draw a crowd.

By the mid-1950s, Fundamentalism had shown that it could successfully negotiate the modified popular culture. Its tactics had changed, however. Under Victorianism, the popular culture of the society and the popular culture of the churches had been one and the same. With the transition to the Jazz Age, Fundamentalists opted against full participation in the broader culture. Instead, they created a parallel culture within their own movement: a culture that imitated popular trends while eliminating their most obviously offensive aspects.

This cultural adaptation produced several results in the next generation of Christians, the generation that was born after World War II and grew up bathed in the Fundamentalist subculture. First, that generation was highly youth-oriented and expected a Christian answer to every popular trend. Indeed, Christian Baby Boomers came to feel a sense of entitlement to some “Christian alternative” for every activity and pleasure that their world could offer.

Second, the generation of Singspiration and youth rallies became unable to distinguish Christianity from amusement. As the culture of Youth for Christ worked its way into the churches, they became highly entertainment-oriented. To a larger extent than ever before, worship became a product that had to be packaged to appeal to the consumer. Out of this milieu emerged a myriad of ostensibly Christian recording labels, film production companies, and distribution centers.

Third, the Fundamentalism of the Jazz Age and after developed a fascination with celebrity. Secular celebrities who professed conversion (however vaguely defined) were granted almost automatic status as leaders within popular Fundamentalism. Fundamentalists also developed their own celebrities—sometimes preachers or missionaries, but more often musicians, athletes, or actors.

Fourth, while the parallel culture of Fundamentalism was supposed to protect youth from their popular culture, it had almost the opposite effect. In the eyes of teenagers, the fact that churches made so many concessions to the popular culture meant that it was authorizing that culture. After all, if one could watch movies in church on Sunday night, then why not in the movie theater on Saturday night? If one could listen to the White Sisters, then why not the Andrews Sisters?

Fundamentalists set out to offer an alternative to what they called “worldly entertainment.” In effect, however, they merely offered less of the same. The result was a generation of young people more attuned to popular culture than any of their forebears. Not only that, Christian teenagers became connoisseurs of popular culture—and at some point they realized that what was done amateurishly in the churches was done skillfully by the world. Once they had developed an appetite for amusement and a sense of entitlement to it, it was difficult to keep them from full participation in the popular culture of the day.

Fundamentalism adapted itself to the culture of youth, jazz, and Hollywood. As that adaptation neared its completion, however, yet another cultural shift was beginning in American society. Jazz culture was no longer new, and in some circles it was simply passé. By the mid-1950s, names like Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and especially Elvis Presley had become the harbingers of an entirely new direction. Soon, Fundamentalism would find itself faced with the same dilemma all over again. Would it adapt to the counter-culture of the 1960s or would it abandon its attachment to popular culture?

The answer is that Fundamentalists refused to do either. Instead of either moving ahead or going back, they attempted to hold themselves suspended in mid-air by a sheer act of will. But that is another story for another time.

Prayer for Purity

Nicolaus Ludwig Von Zinzendorf (1700-1760)
Tr. John Wesley (1703-1791)

O Thou, to whose all-searching sight
The darkness shineth as the light,
Search, prove my heart, it pants for Thee,
O burst these bonds, and set it free!

Wash out its stains, refine its dross,
Nail my affections to the Cross;
Hallow each thought; let all within
Be clean, as Thou, my Lord, art clean!

If in this darksome wild I stray,
Be Thou my Light, be Thou my Way;
No foes, no violence I fear,
No fraud, while Thou, my God, art near.

When rising floods my soul o’erflow,
When sinks my heart in waves of woe,
Jesus, Thy timely aid impart,
And raise my head and cheer my heart.

Saviour, where’er Thy steps I see,
Dauntless, untired, I follow Thee;
O let thy hand support me still,
And lead me to Thy holy hill!

If rough and thorny be the way,
My strength proportion to my day;
Till toil, and grief, and pain shall cease,
Where all is calm, and joy, and peace.


This essay is by Dr. Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). Not every professor, student, or alumnus of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate this analysis. There's a lot of truth in this.
A couple of things I want to "not so fast" about though. The article points out that there was no "secular equivalent" to the youth rally. I think if you really want to find one, you can though. That is, it resembles secular phenomena of the time no more and no less than some of the other "equivalents" listed here. I think some of these "equivalents" are a bit of a stretch and--interestingly--identified mostly by unbelievers who could not be expected to really understand the differences. So I'd suggest the singspiration has no real equivalent either... nor the radio announcer.

What I'll grant is that these trends were responses to cultural changes and paralleled them in a lot of ways. And I do think the cause & effect chain leading to the whole assumption that church must be entertaining is pretty close to how it happened.
I want to give Fundamentalism credit for 3 things here:
1. Recognizing that the culture needed to be responded to
2. Recognizing that we couldn't just "take it as it was".. hence, our "equivalents"
3. Recognizing (though too late) that we couldn't just continue down the same path (the in-air suspension that is probably the topic of the next piece)

All important stuff to think about, and--I hope will include some suggestions on what to do about it eventually! This is not an easy ball of yarn to reroll.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Wow, what a piercing, thoughtful, and comprehensive analysis. I was saved at age 17 in January of 1974 and witnessed some of these convergences. I noticed that the "waltz-like" songs of Peterson were very popular with those older than I, but little concession to what was going on at the time, culturally.

My SI friends probably know that I live in the music of the 1920's and early 30's; I am even a member of the International Al Jolson Society. Most of the music of that era was decent, but some numbers were ungodly (risque). Still, I think our fundamentalist forefathers made a mistake at that point: we should have embraced SELECTIVE secular participation, teaching our people to think and evaluate, choosing the good, spitting out the bad. Instead of teaching principles, we legislated rules of conformity. Our panic resulted in the trends which Dr. Bauder pointed out.

Instead, we encouraged alienation from all popular culture, no movies, and no "worldly" amusements (a term that could be and still is used in ways that often bypass the brain but, instead, reflect traditional prejudices).

I think Dr. Bauder's picturesque description is excellent and correct:

Quote:
Instead of either moving ahead or going back, they attempted to hold themselves suspended in mid-air by a sheer act of will.

I am impressed! Thank you!

"The Midrash Detective"

Gerry Carlson's picture

A contrast to the mainstream interdenominational youth ministry emphasis during the period discussed was the highly visible (and sometimes controversial) ministry of Youth Pastor Don Nelson at Fourth Baptist in Minneapolis from 1957 to 1966. Don's "Singspirations" were purposely counter to the typical Youth for Christ fare. He eschewed the happy, feel good chourses of the era and focused instead on hymns like "And Can It Be", "There Is A Fountain", etc., and Gospel Songs like "At Calvary", "Redeemed", "Grace Greater Than Our Sins", and a host of others.

Don was also counter to the period because he played a guitar -- but in a militant cadence that stirred the hearts of young people, completely different from the emerging pop singers of that era. He did not lead in the Cliff Barrows hand waving style, but with the guitar and a line of young people (like the present day worship leaders) leading with their voices. Nobody needed microphones or amplification. As a former missionary to the Far East and WWII vet in the Burma theater, he regaled the young people with his stories of missions in foreign lands "On the Darker Side of the Road" as the words of one of his songs mentioned. These Singspirations were held every Sunday night with 100 to 150 young people attending. The time featured 30-40 minutes of straight singing and then a time of intense testimonies about what God was doing in the lives of the young people.

The Singspiration was only one facet of the youth program. The Saturday Night Youth Club went on every week as an evangelistic outreach. Don's dictum to the 4th B. youth group was this, "You don't come to be entertained, but to entertain." The young people were constantly challenged to bring their unsaved friends on Saturday night. The activities brought droves of young people, and many were converted and then merged into the ongoing program. Every Sunday night, before the evening service, there was a hour-long Youth Chapel that was basically discipleship training and exhortation to Christian living. All of this was in addition to the regular church services and Sunday School. The main criticism of his program was that the kids almost lived at the church or at youth group activities. You couldn't keep the kids away.

In contrast the big youth rallies featured entertainment, "special singers/musicians" and performance. In many cases kids flocked to the rallies because their local church had nothing going on. The interdenominational youth movements began to criticize the churches for failing to reach young people and that led to conflict. Sadly, in time the churches adopted the methods of the rallies into their local church programs.

Gerry Carlson

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Like Ed, I am very impressed with Dr. Bauder's piece. It offers a well-thought-out analysis of historical events in a way that is cogent and tightly written and yet with enough food for thought that one could comment on it in any one of a 1,000 directions.
I believe that Bauder's view explains alot about how Fundamentalism developed as it did historically and how it impacted (and was impacted by) popular culture and the development of the youth culture which now saturates the American mentality.
What struck me as I read it was the oddity of how some in the older generations of Fundamentalism might be tempted to draw a line in the sand and "hold the line" for music styles and methodologies which were actually innovative and controversial in their day -- not to mention the fact that they were, by definition, somewhat outside the mainstream of historic, orthodox Christian practice.
When Bauder writes, "Instead of either moving ahead or going back, they attempted to hold themselves suspended in mid-air by a sheer act of will," I am guessing that moving ahead would include adapting to the culture of the '60s, going back would be a total commitment to Biblical orthodoxy alone and remaining suspended would be the idea of tying Fundamentalism to some vestiges of Victorianism and a longing for the good ol' days. I will anxiously await to see if I am correct.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Dan Miller's picture

Dr. Bauder, thanks for the interesting history of fundamentalist negotiations with culture. Several times, you describe a motive.

Quote:
... they created a parallel culture within their own movement: a culture that imitated popular trends while eliminating their most obviously offensive aspects.
...
Fourth, while the parallel culture of Fundamentalism was supposed to protect youth from their popular culture, it had almost the opposite effect...
How confident we can be in assigning motives? I wonder sometimes whether the motive was protecting the young from the culture or if it was generating an audience for the consumption of their product.

I suppose no one would be so crass as to leave evidence of selfish motives for historians. But what in your study of this history makes you confident in the motive you ascribe?

KevinM's picture

I think a historian could go back and review fundamentalism's literature to find their stated intentions and purpose for these programs.

And, I think a historian could rightly evaluate whether the fundamentalists attained their stated goals. Something tells me there is a pretty big gap between what they were trying to accomplish and what actually occurred. Or maybe it was a case of unintended consequences.

By the way, Dan, nice profile picture. Did you ever write anything about the adoption? Fun story.

Todd Wood's picture

I was born in '69.

The Peterson hymnbook was my church hymnbook all the way through to my heading off to college - 1988. My teen years bounced around between youth rallies and Sunday evening singspirations. These are the experiences of my 80s youth fundamentalism in Idaho.

_____

Our church plant started with the Peterson hymnbook in the year 1995. In the year 2000, we switched to the Majesty Hymnal. Wouldn't Bauder love to be with us right now? (chuckling)

But how is this for an interesting mix in 2010 . . . Peterson, Patch the Pirate, RUF tunes, and Sovereign Grace sounds.

_____

Of course, the popular evangelical sounds of worship today are Calvary Chapel, K-Love, Air 1, etc. A conservative Baptist pastor rooted in pop culture of today would be someone like Mark Hall of Casting Crowns.

C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

It looks like three more names have been placed this week on the "Bauder Blacklist:" Al "Mr. Singspiration" Smith, Jack Wyrtzen, and John W. Peterson. They join such notables as Billy Sunday and Homer Rodeheaver.

I wonder what Dr. Bauder thinks of Ron Hamilton?

Todd Wood's picture

Cauthorne, I have a whole shelf of hymnals and chorus books . . . all dated from the mid 1800s to the 1950s. I categorize many of the songs in the fun category (even Hamilton).

For theology songs, I consider from the 1700s back to the Psalter. But there are men putting good theology to music, today.

Todd Wood's picture

Not only that, Christian teenagers became connoisseurs of popular culture—and at some point they realized that what was done amateurishly in the churches was done skillfully by the world.

I think every thinking teenager knows this about contemporary Christianity, especially in regards to the music used for fun.

Ed Vasicek's picture

The Music and Musicians Dr. Bauder mentions are indicative of a philosophy. The creating of an alternative culture basically espoused resisting temptation by being SEPARATE from the world.

The point worth noting is that before the Jazz Age, being separate from the world meant not embracing the world's (godless society's) value system. Phil. 4:8 encouraged Christians to distinguish between the good and bad in the world; the fundamentalist movement reduced Phil. 4:8 to talk of Bible study.

Godly Christians were no longer to listen to secular popular music at all; instead, they could completely replace it with Christian (or classical) music.

From the perspective of those who pushed such things, it seemed completely reasonable, and I have no doubt their motives were pure. I would have been in their number. I think it is in retrospect we see what we have done, namely, we have removed the Christian influence from popular culture and eliminated the concept of discerning participation.

"The Midrash Detective"

rogercarlson's picture

C.D,

What do you disagree with in Bauder's analysis?

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

Roger,

Many of the men that Dr. Bauder blames for the woes of modern Fundamntalism were Spirit-filled men that God greatly used.

I'm most familiar with Jack Wyrtzen because of the Word of Life Bible Institute that he founded. I had the privilege of helping lead a Word of Life Teen Club 10 years ago. Between the doctrinal studies, memory verses, and quiet time diaries, a teenager could potentially learn more about the Bible than an average student at a Christian liberal arts institution. What a solid, Biblical legacy!

The only story I've heard about Al Smith was that Clarence Sexton (of Crown College) took one of his school's singing tapes to Smith to review. Smith's analysis was that it was over-orchistrated. I have an album (yes, an actual album) of Al Smith's singing. He's very careful to make sure the lyrics and the message of the songs that he sings are very clear. Here's one of my favorite choruses that he wrote: "With eternity's values in view, Lord; With eternity's values in view -- May I do each day's work for Jesus With eternity's values in view."

Some may not appreciate John W. Peterson's style, but I personally find great blessings in his music. He is a sincere, godly songwriter who strove to glorify God with his music. Meditative songs like "God's Final Call" and "Jesus Led Me All the Way" are complimented by joyful songs such as "Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul" and "Jesus Is Coming Again." He also co-wrote a song with Al Smith based on Psalm 23.

Bauder criticizes Youth for Christ, but I have been taught by Fundamentalists that in its early days it was a separated, soul-winning ministry that glorified the Lord. Who should I believe? I guess I should check it out for myself.

Simply stated, I don't like Bauder's tone towards faithful Fundamentalists who have gone before us. He has many ideas worthy of consideration (I've had my own thoughts challenged by his articles), but it seems like he takes a condescending view towards men that I consider to be warriors of the faith.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

The more I learn about Youth for Christ, the more it seems to me that it formed a watershed for the history of Christianity in the 20th century. In addition to the names mentioned by Dr. Bauder, other notables involved in the movement in a significant way included Warren Wiersbe, Dave Breese and Robert Cook. I am sure there were many others as well.
YFC also strongly influenced (either directly or indirectly) many other organizations which continue to thrive to this day. Under this category would come things like the VCY America radio network, which is the dominant Christian network here in the state of Wisconsin.
Taking my limited knowledge on the subject in light of Bauder's column, it seems to me as if YFC has been a major source in the development of both fundamentalism and new evangelicalism. Perhaps I have missed something, but I believe that I have heard very little analysis of the movement and its impact upon this period of history from fundamentalists. That seems very odd in light of the importance of the topic.
On this one point, this latest excellent installment by Bauder raised many more questions for me than it answered.
Has anyone written a definitive history of YFC from a fundamentalist perspective? Is this a doctoral thesis still waiting to happen? Or am I missing something here?

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

KevinM's picture

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
Taking my limited knowledge on the subject in light of Bauder's column, it seems to me as if YFC has been a major source in the development of both fundamentalism and new evangelicalism. Perhaps I have missed something, but I believe that I have heard very little analysis of the movement and its impact upon this period of history from fundamentalists. That seems very odd in light of the importance of the topic. On this one point, this latest excellent installment by Bauder raised many more questions for me than it answered. Has anyone written a definitive history of YFC from a fundamentalist perspective?

As far as the YFC music goes, there's a couple of chapters in Wonderful Words of Life: Hymns in American Protestant History and Theology (Edited by Richard J. Mouw and Mark A. Noll. William B. Eerdmans, 2004.) And another chapter on the Old Fashioned Revival Hour music in Singing the Lord's Song in a Strange Land: Hymnody in the History of North American Protestantism (Edited by Edith L. Blumhofer and Mark A. Noll. University of Alabama Press, 2004.) It's a target-rich environment, that's for sure.

About C.D.'s comment on the "Bauder Black List": I had a good laugh when I read that! I think Kevin B is trying to give us a fundamentalist critique more than a full history. And, I dunno, maybe he's fueled by the nagging question of "what went wrong?"

As far as "what went right"...well, we've been congratulating ourselves for decades. I think this series is interjects a needed perspective, even if it is not fully balanced.

rogercarlson's picture

C.D.,
KevinM is correct. Bauder is giving a what went wrong. I understand what you are saying, but I think Bauder's perspective is necessary. We have long railed on CCM and for good reason. But we have to be honest. The Gospel songs were the forerunner of CCM. They were repackaged pop music. I use some Gospel songs, but not many. I also use some Getty's and Sovereign Grace, but not many. I think Mike said it correctly when we should taught discernment instead of blanket statements. Bauder, IMO, is just trying to get us to rethink to make fundamentalism better. That is way better than not addressing the problems.

As far as Word of Life, they have not been in the traditional Fundamental camp for years. I agree that there stuff is very good, but I wouldn't call them traditional fundy anymore (nor would I when you and I were at BJ).

We have to address where we are right and wrong if we are going to continue. There are more bizzarre streams of Fundamentalism today than at any other time, it seems.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Paul J. Scharf's picture

KevinM,

I enjoyed post #18.
Even more than music, however, what I am interested in are the dynamics which were in play as YFC was founded as a fundamentalist institution but later apparently gave impetus to the beginnings of the new evangelical movement.
Per Roger's post #19, it does appear that those days formed the seedbed for CCM and much of the "contemporary Christianity" which has burst on the scene in the last 30 years. It seems that fundamentalists have ironically clung onto the principles of Youth for Christ while dismissing the leaders who followed them further than they were comfortable with.
Thus, how do we evaluate these times and its major players Biblically? It seems too convenient to draw a simple line and say that once it was crossed YFC slipped from fundamentalism to new evangelicalism. As has been noted, some of the men in the movement did remain giants of fundamentalism.
I am also fascinated by this idea that fundamentalists have apparently not taken the time to dissect this portion of history more fully. That makes me wonder -- is there a reason??
It seems to me that Bauder is arguing for something other than either the "fundamentalist YFC model" or the "new evangelical YFC model."
For those who are uncomfortable with this installment, just my guess, I think the heat is going to get turned up further.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Dan Miller's picture

KevinM wrote:
I think a historian could go back and review fundamentalism's literature to find their stated intentions and purpose for these programs.

And, I think a historian could rightly evaluate whether the fundamentalists attained their stated goals. Something tells me there is a pretty big gap between what they were trying to accomplish and what actually occurred. Or maybe it was a case of unintended consequences.

By the way, Dan, nice profile picture. Did you ever write anything about the adoption? Fun story.

Thanks, Kevin. Gabe is sure a sweet little man. I started writing up his story, but got busy with other things...
Quote:
The answer is that Fundamentalists refused to do either. Instead of either moving ahead or going back, they attempted to hold themselves suspended in mid-air by a sheer act of will. But that is another story for another time.
I am looking forward to "another time." "Suspended in mid-air" is such a good word picture. Does he mean what it sounds like?

When it comes to staying "suspended in mid-air" on music convictions, it does seem to be a matter of sheer will. What I would have meant by that if I had had the concision to say it is that it is the position that matters. The fundamentalist wills himself and his associates to hold it without any real regard for a foundation. It's a precarious position, because people who examine you will see that you don't have a foundation.

In Christian high school, college, reading fundamentalist literature, and discussions with fundamentalists, I have heard argument upon argument. As these arguments are rejected by thinking people, consider the response by the audience and by those who defend/offer the music of "mid-air."

Some in the audience seem to accept the arguments of people who support the mid-air position, regardless of the content of the argument.

Even as the defenders admit that the old arguments were wrong, their response seems to be very seldom to abandon or even question the position. Instead, they get creative and their existence is preserved by their ability to come up with some new reason to hold the line.

What if the defender of mid-air music isn't able to come up with novel arguments? They either fade away, learn to produce different music, or seek a new audience that has enough force of will that it can hold a position even without foundation. Some end up in ministries that surprise us. I would think that this sort of thing would be useful for historians. IF a musician was critical of a ministry theologically, and then endorsed that ministry when they payed for his type of music...

That brings me back to motives. Maybe I shouldn't have questioned motives. It is a little suspicious when someone recommends we exclusively use the type of music they provide.
But, it might be nothing to do with motive. It could be a kind of ecclesiastical darwinism. A church or ministry that calls it's members to a conviction requiring participation and support with their ministry will have a survival benefit in terms of garnered resources. Whereas the one who recommends using various sorts of music must rely on the quality and preferability of his own product for sales and ministry survival.

Terry Bowker's picture

Ed says, "I think it is in retrospect we see what we have done, namely, we have removed the Christian influence from popular culture and eliminated the concept of discerning participation." Perhaps we need a bit of theological refreshment regarding the "in but not of" doctrine. Is this truth positional or something more. Salt and light has to be in contact with what it preserves/illumines. Fundamentalism may be guilty of jumping ship when the speed at which the culture became offensively secular paralleled Fundamentalism's lack of teaching the why more than the what. People were unable to discern fast enough, so broad brush strokes were used. What resulted was the easy way out through complete black/white separation in areas that were clearly gray. It was expedient, for sure, but, perhaps, not very biblical. (We pulled out of the public schools when our kids couldn't keep up with standing against the tide of secularism. They couldn't stand against the tide because they didn't know how. Neither did the adults, I'm afraid.)
Is there convincing evidence that "Fundamental" colleges/universities are currently teaching the why more than the what? I sure pray that is the case. Too often, we have substituted difficult discernment-laden thinking with easy yes/no rules. We use the easy yes/no rules with young children because they are unable to apply discernment. As they mature, the rules become more flexible so as to give the emerging adult opportunities to discern. Are the folks in our churches still so spiritually "young" that we default to the easy yes/no rules? Certainly, the "child" vs. "man" differences seen in scripture would point to identifiable differences.
Bauder is doing us all a great service by presenting a view of history that challenges our status quo. If those of us in the ministry are too busy to ponder and eventually teach discernment-laden thinking, we must admit that as a fault in our ministry. We are called to "persuade," "prove," "test," etc. If I am unable to articulate a clear position on a topic, how can I expect those I'm charged with teaching to do what I cannot? I'm not saying I need a clear conclusion on every topic, but I am arguing for an ability to articulate the salient thoughts/positions that inform that topic. It is this inability to think that caught us with our guard down when the culture began changing at such incredible speeds. This inability to articulate discernment persists in the current cultural ebb and flow. When a teen answers a question with, "Because that's what I was taught to believe," we have not done our job. Bauder is helping us understand how we got to the place where that is the answer we most often hear. May God grant us the discipline to ponder, the wisdom to discern, and the ability to teach the why.
Thank you, Dr. Bauder.

Ed Vasicek's picture

C. D. Cauthorne Jr. wrote:
Roger,

Many of the men that Dr. Bauder blames for the woes of modern Fundamntalism were Spirit-filled men that God greatly used...
Simply stated, I don't like Bauder's tone towards faithful Fundamentalists who have gone before us. He has many ideas worthy of consideration (I've had my own thoughts challenged by his articles), but it seems like he takes a condescending view towards men that I consider to be warriors of the faith.

I think you are reading something into Dr. Bauder's post -- an assumption. He is not saying that these men were ungodly. But godly men make all sorts of mistakes (I think you recognize that). Being godly is not the same as being correct or doing what is best in the long term. Nobody doubts that these men were motivated out of concern to glorify God and build His kingdom.

It is only in retrospect that we see the results of their innovation. I think that many of their innovations were good, but once you start on the path of adjusting to the culture, you must continue to do so. Otherwise you end up, as Bauder stated, suspended in air. If you are going to make the church cozy for the culture of 1945, you must do the same for 1965 and 1985. On this point, I suspect Dr. Bauder and I would part company. I think innovation is great if it doesn't DISPLACE the Biblical directives of the church (which it can and often does do).

I do not have trouble with updating musical styles to current styles, as appropriate and reasonable. But what they did was not just a keeping up with the times (to a point), but the removal of Christians from mainstream culture to a replacement culture. We now have churches that offer an entire social life package. Christian tennis, Christian aerobics, etc., etc., etc.

The trajectory set by Al Smith and others served a successful purpose in its day to its generation. They could not have foreseen the long-term fallout of it, namely the consequences of removing Christian influence from popular culture and the caving-in of much of evangelicalism through forsaking the serious study of the Word. It was great and reasonable in the short term, and, as I said earlier, I would have supported it.

Tom wrote:

Quote:
You ought to right an SI post on the topic, Ed.

This is a tough one for me to write, because my thoughts are not all together. It is only in the last 15 years that I have come to see this, and the transition has been gradual. You see, for many years I supported the idea of the "separate Christian culture." I think the secular book, "Bowling Alone" --combined with my interest in the Jewish roots of our faith-- that started to change my thinking about this. Coming from an IFCA background, I was right in the midst of what Kevin is addressing. You might recall that Peterson was involved with Grand Rapids School of the Bible and Music, the pride and joy of many IFCA pastors.

"The Midrash Detective"

Terry Bowker's picture

Ed says, "They could not have foreseen the long-term fallout of it, namely the consequences of removing Christian influence from popular culture and the caving-in of much of evangelicalism through forsaking the serious study of the Word." Yes, we threw in the towel, so to speak, because we didn't have the foundation required for dealing with rapid secularization. At what point will we, as Fundamentalists, re-engage with the culture in which we are called to function as salt and light? The truth behind this analogy certainly can't mean hiding behind our pulpits and judging the culture as corrupt. When will we stand within this culture and influence it as salt and light "in contact" with it? Not until we have taught the Body to think, discern, apply, defend, persuade, etc.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Quote:
At what point will we, as Fundamentalists, re-engage with the culture in which we are called to function as salt and light?
What would "re-engaging the culture" look like?

Terry Bowker's picture

Serving on arts councils, town boards, school boards, hospital volunteer organizations, music booster associations, teaching in public schools, attending public schools, etc. Basically, any involvement in cultural institutions where Christian influence is missing. We seem to have withdrawn from these types of involvement. How many people in a fundamental church near you are regularly involved in such institutions in your town?

Terry Bowker's picture

Bauder hints at a particular understanding of a Christian's relationship with the unsaved world. Are we safe to say that Fundamentalism has strictly defined that relationship as one of evangelism. In other words, has Fundamentalism accepted the idea that the only way Christians function as salt and light is to convert the unconverted? Societal ills, therefore, will be solved only when everyone in my town, state, country is saved. If this is so, then it is no wonder why we have withdrawn from cultural institutions and positioned ourselves as heralds of truth set apart from the shoulder to shoulder scriptural "in but not of." If, on the other hand, functioning as salt and light assumes a world where there are always unsaved people (dare we say "pre-Kingdom living?), what is the biblical influence Christians are to have on that greater unsaved culture?
T. S. Elliot wrote, "One of the causes of the totalitarian State is an effort of the State to supply a function which the Church has ceased to serve; to enter into a relation to the community which the Church has failed to maintain; which leads to the recognition of full citizens only of those who are prepared to accept it in this relation" (Christianity and Culture, 1949, p. 53). When Fundamentalism (as representatives of the fundamental truths) pulled out of the culture and isolated themselves so as not to be influenced by the world, it created a vacuum that, one could argue, draws a straight line to the recent (50 years+) growth of government in the affairs of the citizenry. Even in a post-modern world, people look for standards on which to base decisions. When there is no standard provided by the Church (as an influence present inside institutions, not declared in a vacuum from the pulpit), government creates one. Hopefully it is not a huge leap to go from this to the person in the pew who knows the what but not the why. Eventually, the what changes without guidance from the why that initially motivated the what. It is at that point the what becomes irrelevant, unnecessary, and, at best, orthodox.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

As a traditional dispensational fundamentalist, I would say that engagement with the culture is not our goal.
It is at best a strategy -- unless you are a postmillennialist, preterist or reconstructionist.
While I do not deny that some good can come out of engaging with the culture, for the dispensational futurist, the highest value in engagement for the average Christian is often going to be for the secondary purpose of establishing relationships with people and gaining a hearing for the gospel -- the same thing one could do in any number of other ways (unless you are including any such activity under "engagement").
Beyond that, the idea that someone serving in local government, for instance, is going to influence society from the top down is about as likely as thinking that a middle school student is going to be "salt and light" and have a major influence in a public school.
As far as local government is concerned, most of the major spending and policy decisions of every little city and town in the United States are already pre-determined by the carrots and sticks which have been held out by the federal and state governments. Christians serving on local boards will not have a major influence in changing that unless they begin doing so by the hundreds of thousands. Even then, we are already very deep into the end-time apostasy, in my opinion; we are not living in the days of the Constitutional Convention.
One thing is needful. If there is to be a resurgence of fundamentalism, it needs to be theological in nature. Engagement needs to be built on theology.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Ed Vasicek's picture

Paul J. Scharf wrote:
As a traditional dispensational fundamentalist, I would say that engagement with the culture is not our goal.
It is at best a strategy -- unless you are a postmillennialist, preterist or reconstructionist.
One thing is needful. If there is to be a resurgence of fundamentalism, it needs to be theological in nature. Engagement needs to be built on theology.

Paul, I agree that theology and Bible needs to be our foundation. I too am a futurist, although I am a progressive dispensationalist, but my views are unaffected by this slight difference.

Where I disagree with the approach you are taking is that I would suggest you are replacing a broad command (glorify God) with a narrow command (make disciples). That narrow command is only a PORTION of the broad command. For example, when Jesus says in Matt. 5:16

Quote:
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

You interpret that as resulting in the conversion of others. I interpret that as lost or saved people being impressed with God. So is our purpose to glorify God, PART of which is to work toward fulfilling the Great Commission, or is our purpose to glorify God and the ONLY way we do this is by the Great Commission. This is an important theological divide, particularly when it comes to community, civics, and culture. Is the world only a place for us to fish for men, or do we glorify God by enjoying the good things of the world and participating with others -- including lost others -- in society, clubs, etc.

"The Midrash Detective"

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Ed, thanks for the post. However, I would say that this is precisely where the difference between traditional and progressive dispensationalism is far greater than "slight."
Some progressive dispensationalists, in their fascination with engagement in culture, are re-examining the centuries-old conundrum of how to deal "redemptively" with this world -- except they are now trying to "baptize" that concept into dispensationalism and want to place the burden on the traditionalists to explain why it should not be done. That is a big topic that won't be solved here in a post or two.
I agree with your use of Matt. 5:16 above and I do not think I am replacing glorifying God with making disciples -- but I do think that making disciples (in the fullest sense of those terms) is the major work given by Christ to His church.
I am also arguing against engaging in culture with the hope of bringing back the Christian West, or with the expectation that it is the most useful strategy for the church at the end of the age.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

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