Proto-Fundamentalism, Part 5

NickOfTime

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

Personal Piety

Historical periodization is a subjective business. People do not just go to sleep in one period and wake up in another. Usually they do not even realize that a significant change has occurred except in retrospect. For historians to impose periods upon history is necessarily subjective and somewhat arbitrary.

Nevertheless, since history is linear and progressive, it is possible to trace development. The movement from one period to the next does result in change. Examining the record, a historian can detect these changes and can discern when some significant transition has taken place.

In the history of American Fundamentalism, the years from about 1870 to about 1920 seem to comprise a distinct period. During this period, Fundamentalism was not yet a discernable, self-aware movement. All the same, changes were taking place across American evangelicalism, and these changes strongly shaped Fundamentalism when it emerged in 1920.

In previous essays, I have posited that this proto-fundamentalist period was characterized by eschatological fascination, evangelistic fervor, and an emphasis upon worldwide missions. Secondary characteristics included a minimizing of denominationalism, the growth of the faith missions movement, and the development of the Bible institute as an important venue for proto-fundamentalist education. These influences, however, are only part of the story.

Another major influence during this period was a resurgence of personal piety. This resurgence was necessary because American Christians—indeed, American society—had become preoccupied with personal comfort and affluence. This was the gilded age, and businessmen were riding the crest of the second industrial revolution to amass fortunes. These individuals may have been a small minority, but they captured the imagination of the country and established an ethos that governed much of American culture.

This was also the period during which entertainment became an industry. To be sure, theaters and music halls had existed earlier, especially in the larger cities. After the Civil War, however, both Broadway and the Bowery blossomed. The rich could afford operas, the comfortable preferred melodramas and minstrel shows, and even the working class could afford Vaudeville. For the dislocated farm boy, drawn to the city by the prospect of employment and excitement, entertainment began to take the place of church.

The churches responded early on by reconfiguring their worship to offer more entertainment. For example, many congregations began to employ secular musicians for their services, reasoning that the humble efforts of volunteer Christians would fail to attract the unchurched. An unsaved virtuoso was thought to contribute more to the service than a pious dilettante.

These practices were challenged directly during the proto-fundamentalist period. Church leaders began to challenge the faithful regarding their personal devotion to Christ. They were able to draw upon a variety of older versions of piety. Wesleyanism still had strict adherents, and these eventually gave rise to the Holiness movement (and later still, to Pentecostalism). A Reformed version of piety was very much alive at Princeton Seminary, and its influences can be traced through the Hodges into Armstrong, Warfield, and Machen. Revivalism represented an American adaptation of Charles Finney’s methodology, incorporating a kind of bipolar spirituality.

During the proto-fundamentalist period, however, a new form of piety swept across American churches. It was imported from Great Britain, where it had been adapted from certain of Finney’s emphases. It was known as the Higher Life movement or, more simply, as the Keswick movement.

Each of these versions of piety had its own theory of sanctification. Wesleyans emphasized perfect love. Revivalists emphasized rededication. The Reformed had a theology of suppression, and Keswick taught a theology of displacement.

What is remarkable, however, is not the differences between these groups, but their commonalities. For whatever reasons (the new dominance of Keswick probably had much to do with it), virtually every branch of American evangelicalism began to emphasize personal dedication to Christ and holy living. In theory, the groups displayed significant tensions. In practice, however, they managed to sublimate those tensions in view of a common devotion to the Lord Jesus. Even for the Princeton theologians, this was a time for the display of generosity and irenics (see, for example, the remarkable writings of Archibald Alexander Hodge).

During the proto-fundamentalist period, pastors preached for the goal of personal spiritual awakening among their members. They also opposed what they viewed as worldly practices within the churches. For example, many churches fired their unsaved musicians whom they had hired, and they abolished their pew-rental systems. Personal holiness became the deliberate focus of some conferences (such as Keswick), but it was also a major focus of prophecy conferences. The doctrine of imminence and the intensity of personal devotion seemed like natural accompaniments.

The time was ripe for the turn toward the personal. Victorian individualistic sentimentalism lent itself to the demand for a personal, inwardly-focused form of devotion. Furthermore, in an era of rapid social upheaval, the inward turn provided a source of stability and even comfort for the average Christian.

What were the results of the new emphasis upon personal piety? Positively, many believers were indeed challenged to place Christ ahead of all earthly goods and goals. Many believers offered themselves for full-time service as pastors or missionaries. For others, yieldedness to Christ became an essential element of everyday life, affecting their use of time, money, and other resources. Bible institutes, mission agencies, itinerant preachers, and local churches were built upon the sacrifice of such people.

The life of devotion to Christ was thought to consist mainly in attraction to the Lord Jesus. It was evidenced by a desire to study the Scriptures and to engage in the life of prayer. Active service, whether as ministry within the local church or witnessing to the lost, was another effect.

Devotion also had a negative side, and proto-fundamentalists increasingly rejected personal practices that were viewed as worldly. It was during this period that many churches added a prohibition against alcohol to their church covenants. Theater attendance, dancing, and card-playing became renewed taboos. Smoking tobacco was prohibited, at least in the North. Some (though not all) versions of proto-fundamentalism also rejected jewelry and other adornments for women. Proto-fundamentalism was the movement that more-or-less codified the “thou shalt not” list for American evangelicals (it should be remembered that even the first-generation New Evangelicals tried to maintain these prohibitions, though the Reformed rejected certain of them).

The new spirit of devotion also had negative consequences for American fundamentalism and evangelicalism. One was that the codified list of prohibitions tended to be maintained as a given. Little attention was devoted to the examination and justification of these standards. Over time, their repetition resulted in a kind of legalism. Anyone who practiced the “dos” and avoided the “don’ts” was viewed as spiritual. In the long run, when a reaction set in against what were viewed as the “cultural taboos” of Fundamentalism, few people could articulate actual reasons for the prohibitions.

More seriously, the sublimation of differences between theories of sanctification had long-term consequences. Revivalists tended to emphasize quick decisions, the bigger the better. For them, the Christian life was a series of crises. Theorists for both the Reformed and Keswick (at least in its milder versions) theories tended to emphasize steady growth as the mechanism for living the Christian life.

The difference between the crisis metaphor and the growth metaphor has never been resolved within American Fundamentalism. Indeed, the two imply radically different approaches to real-life Christianity. They differ in their understanding of the role of the church, of worship, of Christian leadership, and of the nature and function of preaching. Because these differences were downplayed, however, Fundamentalists have often confounded the two approaches, resulting in confusion and unnecessary spiritual defeat.

Indeed, these two approaches to sanctification have resulted in two markedly different versions of Fundamentalism. Many of the struggles within Fundamentalism itself can be traced to precisely this problem. The problem has only been exacerbated by the determination of some Fundamentalist leaders and institutions to deny that a difference exists. But that is getting ahead of the story.

Perhaps the worst consequence of the renewed piety was that it provided cover for the theological liberals. Liberalism was just coming on the scene. It was not widely understood theologically. The liberals, however, could preach and pray in very pious-sounding phrases. Since differences were already being sublimated, the poorly-grasped differences with liberals also tended to be swept under the rug. Pious phraseology gave theological liberalism at least a two-generation head start within American church life.

Personal piety became one of the major emphases of the proto-fundamentalist period. The results were both positive and negative, as might be expected in a fallen world where unforeseen consequences often follow the best of intentions. Nevertheless, the emphasis upon devotion to Christ and denial of self has continued to mark Fundamentalism, even if sometimes in cliché form.

Upon the Epiphany, and the three wise men of the East coming to worship JESUS.

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)

A Comet dangling in the aire
Presag’d the ruine both of Death and Sin;
And told the wise-men of a King,
The King of Glory, and the Sun
Of Righteousness, who then begun
To draw towards that blessed Hemisphere.
They from the furthest East this new
And unknown light pursue,
Till they appeare
In this blest Infants King’s propitious eye,
And pay their homage to his Royalty.
Persia might then the rising Sun adore,
It was Idolatry no more:
Great God, they gave to thee
Myrrhe, Frankincense, and Gold:
But Lord, with what shall we
Present our selves before thy Majesty,
Whom thou redeem’dst when we were sold?
W’have nothing but our selves, & scarce that neither,
Vile dirt and clay:
Yet it is soft, and may
Impression take:
Accept it, Lord, and say, this thou had’st rather;
Stamp it, and on this sordid metal make
Thy holy Image, and it shall out-shine
The beauty of the golden Myne. Amen.


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.

2084 reads

There are 11 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Continues to be very interesting and helpful study.
This paragraph especially struck me as covering a great deal of very important ground

Quote:
More seriously, the sublimation of differences between theories of sanctification had long-term consequences. Revivalists tended to emphasize quick decisions, the bigger the better. For them, the Christian life was a series of crises. Theorists for both the Reformed and Keswick (at least in its milder versions) theories tended to emphasize steady growth as the mechanism for living the Christian life.
The difference between the crisis metaphor and the growth metaphor has never been resolved within American Fundamentalism. Indeed, the two imply radically different approaches to real-life Christianity. They differ in their understanding of the role of the church, of worship, of Christian leadership, and of the nature and function of preaching. Because these differences were downplayed, however, Fundamentalists have often confounded the two approaches, resulting in confusion and unnecessary spiritual defeat.

I've felt for a while now that unfinished business in the study of sanctification has been crying out for somebody to do some work... especially with the goal of sorting out the distinctions between views and working toward a new consensus among "people serious about the Bible" (which is not the same as "Fundamentalists," if anyone thought I meant that!)

Charlie's picture

Aaron, I too am interested in the history of theories of sanctification. In fact, I'm exploring it as a possibility (among many others) for my doctoral work. However, I don't think that one really has so much of a theology of sanctification, as one has theology which bequeaths a theory of sanctification. Strict Calvinists operate within a completely different paradigm than Wesleyans or general evangelical semi-Pelagians. Dispensationalists are going to view the role of the law differently than non-Dispensationalists. Some groups are going to want a very internal, individualistic piety of the mind and affections, whereas others will concentrate on the relational and social aspects of sanctified living.

Any theoretical consensus will take the form of reaching greater unity within identifiable theological camps. On the other hand, as Bauder pointed out, somehow we do many times get to similar (probably not the same) places through different theories. I think that is because love, joy, peace, etc. are concepts easy to understand and identify in others. Despite the failings of different theologies, people who walk with Christ are going to look more like him to varying extents. That's why, as a Reformed believer, I can't simply say that Reformed Christians are more holy than others. Not everyone walks the same distance in their theologies, and often people act inconsistently with (and better than) their theologies.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
That's why, as a Reformed believer, I can't simply say that Reformed Christians are more holy than others. Not everyone walks the same distance in their theologies, and often people act inconsistently with (and better than) their theologies.

Well said.
(Especially the "can't simply say that Reformed Christians are more holy" part Smile )

I'd love to see your dissertation be on that subject. I suppose that would be a year or two away though, eh?
I'm looking for good resources right now on the history of sanctification especially if you know of a "History of Sanctification Views for Dummies" level resource (not too many pages, lots of pictures). So if you have anything to recommend, do post.
I'd especially be intrigued by something on variations of views within the Reformed orbit, because I wonder if there are fringe positions in the different approaches that might look like some kind of nexus (whether that's good or bad is another question).

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

What do you all think about the following books on sanctification?
JC Ryle - "Holiness"
Jerry Bridges - "The Discipline of Grace - God's Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness"
Milton Vincent - "The Gospel Primer"

Do you think that any of these works resolve some of these issues?

Charlie's picture

Rather than give you a bibliography, I'll introduce an event which I think speaks much about Reformed tensions on the subject. In the 18th century, there was a dispute in the Scottisch church now known as the "Marrow Controversy." The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher was reprinted by Scottish theologian Thomas Boston, a delightful Puritan whom one of my professors once referred to (quietly, to avoid being overheard by the Presby Secret Police) as "better than Calvin." The edition you would find today includes Boston's notes, really a defense of it's teaching.

Many of the ministers in the Scottish church were offended by the book and suppressed it. Presbyterian history seems to have awarded it a more favorable verdict. Some of the issues were over "free grace" and assurance of salvation. The "Marrow men" generally tied assurance of salvation very closely to the definition of faith. They also de-emphasized scrutinizing one's behavior for confirmation of salvation. They admonished sinning Christians to remember the gospel and take heart in Christ's work for them, no matter how badly they were failing in their efforts at personal sanctification. Those opposed thought that the Marrow men were antinomian, or nearly so. They stressed examining oneself in the light of Scripture. Many of the Marrow men were effectively suppressed for a while, but they eventually ended up forming a separate Church.

There seem to be many parallels between the Marrow controversy and some Reformed tensions today. There is a large segment of the Reformed chuch pushing a "gospel-centered" agenda that is in many ways similar to the Marrow doctrine. Proponents of this view (in my experience) tend to practice redemptive-historical or "Christ-centered" preaching and employ phrases such as, "Preach the gospel to yourself." There is a Reformed discipleship course called Sonship that teaches many of these principles. I believe RTS uses it. Bryan Chapell, Michael Horton, and (Reformed-ish) C. J. Mahaney have all written in this vein. On the other hand, there are many other Reformed who don't really disagree with the doctrine but are quite concerned about the preaching emphases. In their opinion, many "gospel-centered" preachers inadequately preach sin and repentance. Sometimes justification (or another positional doctrinal) is stressed at the expense of other soteriological truths. The concept of spiritual discipline can be difficult to integrate with an emphasis on "faith-based sanctification." John MacArthur might be seen in some ways as an extreme opposite of the "gospel-centered" group, since whenever I read his books I notice a preoccupation with internal scrutinizing and careful parsing of one's eternal destiny.

So, I think there's a good bit of Reformed tension, at least in how certain doctrines are emphasized. The Bible seems to evidence both the necessity of self-examination and rigorous discipline, and a constant attention to the benefits poured out freely on the believer because of Christ.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:
What do you all think about the following books on sanctification?
JC Ryle - "Holiness"
Jerry Bridges - "The Discipline of Grace - God's Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness"
Milton Vincent - "The Gospel Primer"

Do you think that any of these works resolve some of these issues?


I'm only familiar with one of these, Bridges' book. I need to re-read it since it's been some years and didn't have the context then I do now. But Bridges does focus the book on the perennial question... is sanctification God's work, our work, a parternship or none of the above? As Charlie alludes to here...
Quote:
So, I think there's a good bit of Reformed tension, at least in how certain doctrines are emphasized. The Bible seems to evidence both the necessity of self-examination and rigorous discipline, and a constant attention to the benefits poured out freely on the believer because of Christ.

It sounds like the Marrow Controversy touched in many ways on the same set of questions.

I've been reading the Kapic & Taylor compilation of 3 of John Owen's books (Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, Of Temptation: the Nature and Power of It, and Indwelling Sin). The intro put the problem nicely I thought...

Quote:
How should the Christian understand the work of sanctificaiton? Is the call of believers to holiness God's work or their own? There are two extremes of often found in the church when dealing with these questions. On the one hand, there are those who seem to beleive that we are saved by grace and sanctified by works: here grace is problematically reduced to the initial work of salvation. On the other hand, in an effort to avoid "works righteousness," others tend to collapse justification and sanctification; the danger here is that the biblical call to active, faithful obedience by the believer can be nullified, an inappropriate passivity can set in. Rather than these two extremes, Owen follows the more traditional Reformed perspective that upholds another model of sanctification.

All typos in that are mine!

To my disappointment, the view they then attribute to Owen does not solve the problem. Or, I should say, it is not clear to me how it solves the problem. Rather it sounds to me like the first option ("we are sanctified by works") without the non sequitur that "grace is ...reduced to the inital work of salvation." I don't really know of anybody who reduces the grace to the initial work of salvation. And saying "the relation is that because God works we work" still leaves the question open as to what a believer is supposed to do to grow in grace.
So I hope to get more clarity on these things--at least as Owen sees them--as I dig deeper into his stuff.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Dr. Bauder has hit the mark once again. I am so impressed with his perceptive analysis. Yes, this is how things happened. And it seems like modern fundamentalists are trying to sort it all out.

Great work!

"The Midrash Detective"

rogercarlson's picture

Joe,
It's been several years since I red Ryle's book. But it was very good.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

It just seems to me that we vear away from true sanctification when we vear away from the true Gospel. Jerry Bridges teaching that we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day is needed.

Milton Vincent, inspired by the teachings of Bridges has also done a great job explaining the role of the gospel in dealing with issues related to our sanctification.

This has helped me in this struggle.

It's been a long time since I've picked up Ryle, but from what I recall, he also did a good job in presenting biblical sanctification. Correct me if I am wrong.

Anyways, Dr. Bauder has done a great job in this article explaining the problems and I am just wanting to discuss some possible resources where me might find some help with this area.

Bob T.'s picture

The Book "Five Views on Sanctification" Zondervan. Looks at Wesleyan, Reformed, Pentecostal, Keswick, Augustinian- Dispensational views. They are covered with interaction.

I am still trying to wrestle with all the truth and reality involved in sanctification. Wait til your about a few hours or less from what appears to be death and then write your views about sanctification. Then if you die you won't have to wait long to see if your right! If you live you can then contemplate how dogmatic you want to be about what you wrote.

Get a room full of Pastor's together and give them 30 minutes to examine themselves to see if they be in the faith. Then ask those who feel that the examination confirmed their salvation to stand. Then ask them they might be the ones lost because they may be filled with pride that may be keeping them from seeing their true condition. Or perhaps, like the rich young ruler, they are attempting to find assurance in the performance done instead of what has been done for them. Then discuss the basis for assurance. It may be enlightening.

I know I am saved because I believe and rely only on Christ and His merit and accept His word. My wife, children, and close friends can tell you if any kind life examination appears to show my justification by faith alone. They may see my salvation to be true by my showing my faith by my works (James 2:18). God needs only see my heart and justifies me. Men must see my works to make an appraisal of my salvation regeneration. But if I were to rely on my own self examination of works, I may be blinded by pride, or have the wrong standards, or have a deluded conscience with regard to long kept and loved habits. It can get confusing and discouraging. Some Puritan spiritual leaders died not having the assurance of eternal destiny because of their basing assurance on their self examination. By self examination I am still a sinner worthy of all condemnation though purchased and removed from the market place of sin. My only hope is the perfection of Christ having been imputed to me. I believe Him and that He has done that. He stated He will accept my simple faith in Him. With His gift of Justification came the indwelling of the Spirit and regeneration. The shield of His Justification and His continual advocacy in my behalf in heaven, provides shelter for my continual imperfections of sin. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. He also works in us to bring forth good works. They are for others and God's glory not ourselves attempt to examine for our salvation.

Calvin saw assurance as the essence of faith. Faith is the human aspect of sanctification according to Hebrews 11.

Endeavor to love God and love others and relax. You will be tested soon enough by God. Count it all joy for it brings the endurance that brings maturity (sanctification), (James 1:2-4). And if you cannot understand the process ask God who gives wisdom to all liberally (James 1:5-6).

Diane Heeney's picture

I have not read the Bridges book, but have greatly enjoyed an arduous upward climb through Ryle's more than once. I love the "picture of holiness" he gives (quoted http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com/2008/08/09/holinesswhat-is-it/#mor... ]here ).

I have also read portions of Vincent's book. This quote lept off the page:

Quote:
“Doing right is not always easy, but it is never more easy than when one is breathing deeply the atmosphere of the gospel.”

Whatever resources may be perused, I think this advice is needful. Because, as he says,

Quote:
“The gospel is so foolish (according to my natural wisdom), so scandalous (according to my conscience), and so incredible (according to my timid heart), that it is a daily battle to believe the full scope of it as I should. There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemnings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the Devil than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.” (Vincent, A Gospel Primer, 14)

Good stuff.

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.