Proto-Fundamentalism, Part 6

NickOfTime

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

Liberalism

After the Civil War, American evangelicalism entered a period of change. Developments occurred in the areas of eschatology, evangelism, missions, education, and personal piety. From about 1870 to about 1920, evangelicals were building an entire infrastructure of churches, schools, conferences, missions, and other institutions. It is this network that constituted what, in retrospect, can be called proto-fundamentalism.

One very significant influence upon proto-fundamentalism was the rise of theological liberalism. The proto-fundamentalist period occurred during just those decades when modernist and liberal theologies (I will not distinguish the two) were working themselves into the denominational structures. Proto-fundamentalists were forced to deal with the initial manifestations of the new theology.

Liberal theology originated with F. D. E. Schleiermacher, who realized that the cultured and educated people of his day almost universally despised Christianity. What Schleiermacher tried to do was to relocate the center of Christian faith from the Bible and doctrine to religious experience. Doctrines and Scripture were no longer viewed as authoritative statements about external realities but as varied expressions of a common inward experience.

God was thought to be entirely immanent, both in the created order and within historical process. Since all humans somehow participated in the divine, liberals had no trouble speaking of the divinity of Jesus. One liberal, accused of denying the divinity of Christ, responded, “I have never denied the divinity of anyone.” What the liberals could not do, however, was to affirm that Jesus Christ is God in any unique sense.

Rather than recognizing Jesus as the object of faith, liberals regarded Him as an important example of faith in God. They were fond of saying that Jesus was the first Christian. They saw Him as a more advanced version of the thing all humans were becoming. Christ’s death on the cross was an inspiring picture of God’s love and a model of sacrifice that all humans should follow. The notion of penal substitution became repugnant to most liberals.

Since humans participated in the divine nature, liberals softened their theory of sin. For them, evil was located primarily in social structures. The function of the gospel was to alter those structures, alleviating poverty, oppression, and ignorance. Humans and human societies were perfectible, and definite progress was being made toward perfection. Hell became unnecessary: humans were too good to be sent there, and God was too good to send them.

Liberals of all versions embraced the “assured results” of biblical criticism. Both literary and historical criticism were applied to the Bible in the same way that they would be applied to other literature. The Pentateuch was discovered to have been redacted from no less than four sources, Isaiah from no fewer than two. Daniel could not have been prophetic in nature—all of those details must have been written after the event. The pastoral epistles could not have been Pauline. The gospels were late compositions that only partially reflected the historical Jesus. Most importantly, the overall morality of the Bible had to be sacrificed in favor of a progressive version of Jesus’ ethical teachings.

Perhaps the most revealing critique of old liberalism was authored, not by a Fundamentalist, but by H. Richard Niebuhr. In his book, The Kingdom of God in America, he observed that in liberalism “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross” (193). To these characteristics could be added that liberals knew God through a Bible without authority—a defect that Niebuhr also shared.

How did proto-fundamentalists respond to liberal theology? The answer to that question is complicated. When they recognized liberal theology and saw it for what it was, they reacted swiftly. For example, the Presbyterian Church (USA) conducted a series of heresy trials with results that were not favorable to liberals. David Swing was forced to withdraw from the Presbyterian ministry in 1874. William C. McCune was reprimanded by the General Assembly in 1877. Charles Briggs was defrocked in 1891. Arthur C. McGiffert was “counseled” in 1898, and then withdrew in 1899.

Presbyterians also adopted a series of statements that attempted to erect a barrier against liberal theology. The Portland Deliverance of 1892 declared the inerrancy of Scripture to be an essential doctrine. In 1899, the General Assembly adopted a statement naming four essential doctrines. This statement was expanded in 1910 to include inerrancy, the virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the authenticity of miracles.

Baptists also reacted when they recognized the presence of liberals. Crawford Toy was dismissed from Southern Baptist Seminary in 1879. In 1909, Oliver W. Van Osdel led most of the Grand Rapids Baptist churches to leave the Grand Rapids Baptist Association, forming the Grand River Valley Baptist Association as an alternative organization. In 1913, Baptists established Northern Baptist Seminary as a reaction against the liberalism of the divinity school at the new University of Chicago.

The problem was that few Americans were in a position to recognize liberalism for what it was. True, Charles Hodge had studied with Schleiermacher and had offered critiques of early liberalism, but not many American theologians had direct acquaintance with the new theology. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that, for the most part, liberals were not exactly open about announcing the change in their views. They tended to repeat pious utterances in public but to reserve their criticisms of orthodoxy for the privacy of the classroom.

A few did make their views clear. For example, Charles Briggs’ public declaration of liberal principles was what led to his defrocking within the Presbyterian Church. The lesson was not lost on other liberals. Most of them became very careful about openly advocating liberal views.

Proto-fundamentalists would challenge heterodoxy when it was obvious, but they were not heresy hunters. For the most part, they were not on the lookout for apostasy. It would be fair to say that they thought liberalism to be a rare exception before the 1910s—and by that time, they had other distractions.

Even today, some expressions of liberalism are parroted by the heirs of the proto-fundamentalists. Fundamentalist churches sometimes sing Washington Gladden’s “O Master Let Me Walk with Thee” or Henry Van Dyke’s “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” They have even been known to lift their voices in “God of Grace and God of Glory” by Harry Emerson Fosdick, one of the most notorious liberals of his day. The ready reception that some Fundamentalists have extended to Charles M. Sheldon’s In His Steps is a testimony to the difficulty with which liberalism can be detected when it is hidden behind a pious-sounding phrase.

The proto-fundamentalists did challenge liberalism here and there. Liberals, however, did not go away. They simply went underground. By the 1910s they were becoming more numerous and more obvious. Among proto-fundamentalists there was a growing awareness that all was not well in the churches and seminaries. One of the manifestations of proto-fundamentalist uneasiness was the publication of a series of volumes entitled The Fundamentals. A discussion of that series will occupy the next essay.

Of the Day of Judgement.

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)

Great Judge of all, how we vile wretches quake!
Our guilty bones do ake,
Our marrow freezes, when we think
Of the consuming fire
Of thine ire;
And horrid phials thou shalt make
The wicked drink,
When thou the winepress of thy wrath shalt tread
With feet of lead.
Sinful rebellious clay! what unknown place
Shall hide it from thy face!
When earth shall vanish from thy sight,
The heavens that never err’d,
But observ’d
Thy laws, shal from thy presence take their flight,
And kil’d with glory, their bright eyes, stark dead
Start from their head:
Lord, how shall we,
Thy enemies, endure to see
So bright, so killing Majesty?
Mercy dear Saviour: Thy Judgement seat
We dare not Lord intreat;
We are condemn’d already, there.
Mercy: vouchsafe one look
On thy book
Of life; Lord we can read the saving Jesus, here,
And in his Name our own Salvation see:
Lord set us free,
The book of sin
Is cross’d within,
Our debts are paid by thee.
Mercy.


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 much appreciate the way this series continues to fill in the gaps and help us put the present in perspective.

This part caught my attention as nutshell explanation for the continuing dislike many of us have for broader appreciation of atonement "theories" as well as "social justice."

Quote:
he notion of penal substitution became repugnant to most liberals.
Since humans participated in the divine nature, liberals softened their theory of sin. For them, evil was located primarily in social structures. The function of the gospel was to alter those structures, alleviating poverty, oppression, and ignorance.

Joseph's picture

It strikes me as an unfavorable light in which to cast onself: "dislike . . . for broader apprecation" of anything, especially what is in this case the Christian tradition.

As has been patently obvious to people for who knows how long, social structures can be oppresive and evil. It irritates and embarrases me both as a Christian and simply as a thinking person that people would even suggest the denial of this, merely because they dislike the politics of some who affirm it. That is perhaps the most immature reason I can imagine for denying a position: I don't like Johny, Johny says X, therefore I don't like X. Brilliant.

Moreover, as is obvious to anyone who is concerned with political and economic issues, many issues are issues of systems, social orders, not primarily of individuals. The rather gross error political liberals, and some theological liberals (and others) are wont to make, is to forget that social systems are created and sustained by the beliefs and practices of individuals, so it is simply impossible that one could have merely evil social structures; one has evil social systems and structures because the world is inhabited and controlled, penultimately, by evil human beings. But noting this error, which few do more effectively than John Kekes, hardly justifies the equally gross error of writing and thinking as if social orders and systems were not, or somehow could not in principle be, oppressive and unjust. They obviously are, which is one reason a large amount of the Mosaic law is given over to concerns of what we would call social justice, as can be seen in the Law's concern for the distribution of goods to those, like widows, cripples, orphans, who lack the means of providing for themselves given the economic structures that obtained. Moreover, prior to capitalism (modern Christians have a particularly short memory), Christianity had developed a long, rich, complex, and substantive tradition of reflection on issues of property, justice, etc.

Many Christians, particularly conservative political ones (who have a tendency to conflate their politics with their religion), buy into the atomistic individualism that characterizes modernity (witness the despicable popularity of Ayn Rand, who is as radically individualist as one can get, among conservatives, thanks largely to the recommendation of her work by inane, and therefore popular, pundits), so they, like most economists and other social scientists, think the atomized individual is the fundamental datum of social reflection. This is a philosophical error and has nothing to do, per se, with Christianity and everything to do with modernity. I, and many others (not the least of whom is Charles Taylor, who has devoted the better part of his life to demolishing this and other inadequate ideas, cherised by moderns), reject this on philosophical grounds; as a Christian, I can reject too on theological grounds, although I do not need to appeal to philosophical principles to show such a view to be incoherent.

But the problem here is more general; it's simply that it looks like a conversation or discussion is happening when, in fact, it's not. Many conservatives, and Fundamentalists in particular, are simply not familiar with or concerned to interact with the social theory, philosophy, and theology that animates many of the discussions about social justice, economics, etc. These are areas in which Fundamentalists have made practically no mark, so it is no surprise that they offer hackneyed responses to the concerns that arise from them.

This general ignorance is illustrated by, among other things, the lack of distinctions Fundamentalists tend to make; of course few, if any, study seriously German theology, so besides a few hackneyed summaries of Schleiermacher and a typical fall-narrative that begins with him and ends in modernism, one gets no real treatment of what is distinctive about American liberalism, and why it should not be simply conflated with German liberalism. Bonhoeffer notices this distinction when he came to Union Theological Seminary in the 1930s. About the students at Union: they

Quote:
"are completely clueless with respect to what dogmatics is really about. They are not familiar with even the most basic questions. They become intoxicated with liberal and humanistic phrases, are amused at the fundamentalists, and yet basically are not even up to their level.... In contrast to our own [German ] liberalism, which in its better representatives doubtless was a genuinely vigorous phenomenon, here all that has been frightfully sentimentalised, and with an almost naive know-it-all attitude" (265-66 Barcelona, Berlin, New York).

Naturally it would be unfair to expect Bauder to attend to such distinctions in non-academic writing, so I hardly begrudge him his account in this post. But if this is all people think liberalism was, they are drastically ill-informed, and will never understood why Machen was so shaken by his studies in Germany, or why he held Hermann, for example, in admiration, even though he came to repudiate his theology. It's far too easy, especially with complex matters like theology and philosophy, to comfort ourselves with simplistic narratives and gross distortions, but this is simply false-consciousness, and those who know better will instanstly be turned off by it.

Joel Shaffer's picture

I think what Kevin DeYoung highlights in his article http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/01/12/a-modest-pro... could be one reason why there is a dislike for the term. As much as I am for "justice for the Poor" (Proverbs 29:7), I am also getting tired of every social issue under the sun being defined as social justice. In a way, if everything is social justice, then really nothing is. And of course, many evangelicals have definitely jumped on the bandwagon of social justice without much theological reflection. So it isn't just the fundamentalists..... For example, some of the books that I am seeing at the local Christian bookstore/publisher in G.R. when it comes to social justice assume a strong state redistribution/intervention as the Biblical ideal (without even attempting to make a Biblical argument) and then ways evangelical Christians can get involved/influence the government for all of this social transformation.

Joseph's picture

I read Kevin's article - it's a nice idea, but some of his commenters were correct to observe that is impossible and therefore unrealistic. Keller says, in spite of its connotations, we cannot avoid the term "social justice" because it accurately translates a prominent concept in Scripture.

One of the things I find so bothersome is that some people, typically politcal conservatives (as I indicated, I think politcs drives people's reaction to this issue far more than genuine theological reflection), seem not to be bothered by their sounding as if they oppose some form of justice. So there are concerns about semantic range - that's nothing new. It's still an important concept, and Christians of all people do not need to be painting themselves into the "we're against justice - again" corner.

Red Phillips's picture

Joseph, you are right that atomistic individualism is a modernist concept, and too many modern political and religious conservatives conflate the concept with their theology. Atomistic individualism is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Filmer and Althusius were right to point out that the family is the fundamental political unit of society, not the individual. But likewise the concept of social justice is also infused with modernism to the point of being meaningless. Social justice doesn’t just mean fair weights and measures and that sort of thing that the Bible clearly addresses. It now means complete egalitarianism, opposition to hierarchy, etc. in a way that is actually contrary to Biblical instruction. So that gender egalitarianism is a social justice “imperative” despite the clear Biblical example of gender roles. Likewise with gay rights/marriage. Etc.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Great article! I think this is an accurate "big picture" overview.

As far as social justice (or, the more common term, "social injustice"), we always find ourselves in uncomfortable territory. In addition to a Biblical/Theological framework, we have philosophical considerations and differing ethical viewpoints. We also find ourselves in the realms of psychology and the more neglected science of sociology (i.e., from a Christian perspective). To make it worse, our views of government's role and economic ideology all come into play.

Thus we may agree on theology but not sociology, or psychology but not philosophy, etc., etc. To make matters more complex, individuals pursuing one line of study can become snooty toward others.

For example, is man's problem a deceitful and desperately wicked heart (thus genetic, in a sense), or environmental or the result of choice or a combination of the above? Sociology is particularly important but neglected: how, exactly, should Christians interact and participate in their community and society? To what degree should we seek to change society and to what degree should we focus on the individual? What about consequences for choices -- how gracious should we be? Then there is the issue of body chemistry...on and on it goes. What a mess.

Because matters of social justice are not typically meted out from a "Scripture is the final authority" viewpoint (more often a "I have an agenda and let me bend the Scriptures or be selective so I can promote my agenda" viewpoint), while incorporating these other disciplines, we have nothing less than a fiasco. Some find it easiest just to joint the popular bandwagon or the bandwagon of ones heritage.

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Joseph wrote:
Naturally it would be unfair to expect Bauder to attend to such distinctions in non-academic writing, so I hardly begrudge him his account in this post. But if this is all people think liberalism was, they are drastically ill-informed,
So along with atonement theories that are contrary to Scripture and a "social justice" concept that has been mostly read into (select excerpts from) it, we're supposed to appreciate theological liberalism now too?
No, there just isn't much more about it that matters, unless you mean more criticism of it--which I think is not what you have in mind.

Nobody has time to study everything exhaustively. Unless we are to never get our noses out of books at all, wisdom dictates selectivity. Consequently, there are many things that are not worth the bother to "better understand." Liberalism (German or American) is likely to remain near the top of that list--for me--for the rest of my life (and I daresay I won't get bored enough in Heaven to look into it then either).

Come to think of it, how likely is it that any of us will hear at the judgment, "You should have gotten to know error better"? Yes, I know, "wise as serpents, harmless as doves," but surely He did not mean "spend all of your waking hours mastering the intricacies of philosophies that rejected the gospel ...a hundred years ago."

I'll give you the point mostly on Ayn Rand, though, Joseph. She was no conservative. But neither was she wrong about everything... perhaps you need to better understand her. Your statements about her were not exactly nuanced. Wink Her political incorrectness is so refreshing at times!

It's so very uncool to be individualistic right now. Whatever has gone out of fashion most recently is most worthy of contempt, it seems, no matter that most of the proffered alternatives went out of fashion once, too--just longer ago.

Joseph's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Joseph wrote:
Naturally it would be unfair to expect Bauder to attend to such distinctions in non-academic writing, so I hardly begrudge him his account in this post. But if this is all people think liberalism was, they are drastically ill-informed,
So along with atonement theories that are contrary to Scripture and a "social justice" concept that has been mostly read into (select excerpts from) it, we're supposed to appreciate theological liberalism now too?No, there just isn't much more about it that matters, unless you mean more criticism of it--which I think is not what you have in mind.

I'm sorry, Aaron, but this simply reflects ignorance, whether willful or not I can't say. First, the other atonement theories are not "contrary to Scripture" - most responsible conservative theologians recognize they are all based in Scripture, which uses many metaphors and tropes to describe Christ's atoning work. Second, if it comes to taking seriously my own study of great thinkers and the opinion of someone like Machen or your own, you'll forgive me for thinking you are wrong and ignorant and Machen was right and learned on the question of the intellectual power of German theology. I am quite sure all careful thinkers, like Warfield or Machen, would abhor the dismissive attitude you reflect here. I hardly think the average pastor can, should, or would benefit from reading someone like Schleiermacher. But the pastor should stay in the pulpit, as it were, and not let his opinion spill over into the academy, in which he has no expertise to speak. Condemn Schleiermacher (at second-hand, of course), et al. as a pastor; I would. But it's simple foolishness to think that because someone was, in some sense, wrong, they can simply be dismissed. Schleiermacher was a great thinker, as all his opponents, liberal and conservative alike, recognized. Dismissing him because you disagree with him is like dismissing any other great thinker (e.g. Aquinas or Aristotle) becuase you dislike some of the things they said. It's preposterous and a terrible use of the Christian mind.
Aaron Blumer wrote:

Nobody has time to study everything exhaustively. Unless we are to never get our noses out of books at all, wisdom dictates selectivity. Consequently, there are many things that are not worth the bother to "better understand." Liberalism (German or American) is likely to remain near the top of that list--for me--for the rest of my life (and I daresay I won't get bored enough in Heaven to look into it then either).
Of course there is too much, and of course most pastors and laymen are entitled and advised to ignore Schleiermacher and heavens knows who else. But theologians are not so entitled, nor are any serious students of modern thought. For them that would be sheer folly, the equivalent of someone going to war against a General Patton but disdaining to study his battle tactics. The average men may study military tactics as a hobby; so too the pastor, if he is intellectually inclined, could benefit from a thorough (and therefore not restricted to his own camp) study of theologians. But it is hardly essential, and I have never stated or implied that it was. If, on the other hand, a military historians thinks he can simply breeze by a great tactician because he does not much care for (based on what he's heard second-hand), he would rightly be censured and seen as doing a poor job in his work. What is it that people cannot accept the idea that it can be important for someone people to know things, even though not everyone must? That seems hard concept for people to understand.
Aaron Blumer wrote:

Come to think of it, how likely is it that any of us will hear at the judgment, "You should have gotten to know error better"? Yes, I know, "wise as serpents, harmless as doves," but surely He did not mean "spend all of your waking hours mastering the intricacies of philosophies that rejected the gospel ...a hundred years ago."
Two things here. First, this is incoherent. You cannot know, except at second hand, some idea is an error unless somebody, who also thought and told you that it was an error. So, somebody has to be studying these things (odd, but I thought pastors were charged with being adept at confuting error). Second, I hope any pastor who has not carefully studied Arianism and other Christological and Trinitarian heresies loses his job, as he is unfit for it for not knowing the most basic challenges to our faith, the challenges in response to which our core doctrines were articulated, and the challenges which recur throughout history, visible to the vigiliant and well-trained eye. If we have heresies in some sense unique to our own time, God help us if some pastors or good academics are not studying them and helping other understand them, why they are wrong (not just offering a dogmatic - "take my word for it") in light of sound reason and Scripture, and helping others avoid such error.

The error you don't know well is usually the one you're guilty of. If you're not even aware of it, then you have no chance of avoiding it.

Aaron Blumer wrote:

It's so very uncool to be individualistic right now. Whatever has gone out of fashion most recently is most worthy of contempt, it seems, no matter that most of the proffered alternatives went out of fashion once, too--just longer ago.

You make this mistake frequently in conversation with me; you assume that because some people you don't like condemn a position, then others who condemn it likely do so for the same reasons. This is false and an unwarranted judgment, for it implies, with no evidence (and indeed there can be none, for I know why I have come to my positions in these areas, and I am the most anti-fashion graduate student you will ever meet), that I or someone else must simply be jumping on some trendy bandwagon. Besides the fact that this is double-edged sword, only to be unsheathed by one willing to be cut (for you, too, Aaron, could simply be thrown into that group of grumpy, reactionary Fundamentalist pastors who reject everything the "young, hip guys" say just because they say it - but I would be an idiot so to accuse you, first because I don't know this to be the case, and second because it's uncharitable in the extreme to assume it to be true without any good evidence).

Fools abandon and adhere to positions merely because their peers do so; many people, Christians including are fools. That much is obvious. But there are good reasons to hold positions, reasons wholly irrelevant to the trends and fashions that sweep through popular and academic culture. Ultimately, if a position is true then we had better not care who holds it - the truth commands, and it is a sin to profess as false what one believes to be true.

I am in the wonderfully unhappy position of being remarkably conservative for my cohort and profile - hence I can post on SI and also seeing a good deal of reason, sense, and wisdom outside the narrow circles of Fundamental thinking, so I hold positions people associate with "them," whether they be young fundies, social-justice-tree-hugging-evil-liberals, elitist-don't-trust-the-simple-Christian's-faith academics, and any other host of groups people love to hate. Whell, too bad for me, I supposebut I won't change what I believe or am willing to defend just because it's unfashionable in one circle. Emergents and liberals would all disdain my defense of the substituionary atonement; you and others can't stand that I defend other positions on the atonement. I won't compromise on either, regardless of how easy, and comfortable it would be (then I could just agree with one, tidy group and dismiss everyone else). The truth that needs to be asserted and defended is almost always wider and deeper than any one group, no matter how profound (or not) that group is. In the case of Scripture, we can omit the "almost" and safely say always.

If you only believe what your fellow Fundamentalists will give you a lolly-pop and shoulder-pat for, I am sure you don't believe enough. The same applies mutatis mutandis for evangelicals, political conservatives, etc. But we're talking about Fundamentalism - and it needs to widen the borders of its mind and accept the value of and even need for people doing things not everyone can or need do, hard as this may be.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yeah, that's it. I was looking for pats on the back.

I don't think there's much there I need to respond to, but I'll go after "atonement theories" because I happen to not be ignorant on the subject (of the value of studying the Liberals in German... I'll confess I haven't a clue how that would be helpful even for most theologians and I'm not embarrassed in the least to admit that... I have absolutely no reason to doubt those whom I have read--who did study them in German by the way, have represented them accurately. Rejection of the historical Jesus is just as much grounds for dismissal--as "theology" worthy of serious consideration--whether in German or in English. The value is apologetic for those who need to answer the claims of this bankrupt ideology. And I do appreciate faithful theologians' going to the trouble to help the rest of us know what we need to know about the Liberals' thinking... which is really not very much).

As for atonement theories, I'm pretty sure you know as well as I do that while several of these theories contain biblical elements, to the degree they identify something different as the essence of the atonement, they are not compatible with eachother. This is why they developed. If the conflict over the years had simply been over "aspects" of the atonement reflected in the various biblical descriptions (only some of which are "metaphors" at all), there would really not be different theories, only different emphases. As it is, there is plenty to read of different emphases, and that's all well and good. But when someone says "Jesus did not die as a substitutionary sacrifice but rather died as a moral example for all of us," this is an "atonement theory" that is not worth understanding better. (Which does not deny that what He did was also a moral example... Heb.12.2-3 comes to mind).

This is all plain to see and much of the lately-fashionable call to appreciate "other theories" more is a trend toward obscuring what the essence of the atonement is all about.
Simply put, the fight there has never been about what the secondary aspects of the atonement are. It's about what it is at the core. And orthodox believers should not flirt with confusion on that point.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I have to comment on one more thing...

Joseph wrote:
It strikes me as an unfavorable light in which to cast onself: "dislike . . . for broader apprecation" of anything, especially what is in this case the Christian tradition.

Joseph, this is at the heart of why you're so frustrated with Fundamentalists. We simply do not think this way. And actually, nobody really does. We all have lists--conscious or otherwise--of things/ideologies we consider to be contemptible and not worth the bother of more than a few minute's reflection. For most people "fundamentalism" itself is on that list. That's what the word means: "Ignorant extremism not worth serious reflection."

In your case, I can name one item on your not-worth-broader-appreciation list:
The idea that some "things" are not worth "broader appreciation" is, itself, and idea you do not believe is worth broader appreciation.

I'm not going to say you're "incoherent" on this point, but it is tempting.

No, it really would make for better discussion to just consider the ideas on their own merits and not be dismissive on the grounds that "most responsible conservative theologians recognize" or "as has been patently obvious to people for who knows how long" etc. The "I get beat up by both sides so I must be right" (paraphrase) argument is not real persuasive either.

Jay's picture

Joseph wrote:
You cannot know, except at second hand, some idea is an error unless somebody, who also thought and told you that it was an error. So, somebody has to be studying these things (odd, but I thought pastors were charged with being adept at confuting error). Second, I hope any pastor who has not carefully studied Arianism and other Christological and Trinitarian heresies loses his job, as he is unfit for it for not knowing the most basic challenges to our faith, the challenges in response to which our core doctrines were articulated, and the challenges which recur throughout history, visible to the vigiliant and well-trained eye. If we have heresies in some sense unique to our own time, God help us if some pastors or good academics are not studying them and helping other understand them, why they are wrong (not just offering a dogmatic - "take my word for it") in light of sound reason and Scripture, and helping others avoid such error.
Joseph, while I think that I get your point, let me assure you that most pastors may not be able to define Arianism as it existed in the 2nd century, but we do - and should - know how to defend against their current day incarnations [Jehovah Witnesses ]. I could not disagree with you more strongly that we need to study error in order to properly refute it. I'll occasionally read a book about a particular error in order to gain a better understanding of something - Boyd's God of the Possible comes to mind - but in depth study of it? No, I don't agree with that in all. I know that you aspire to teach on a university level, so that's something you will need, but I have enough problems [as a pastor ] dealing with the flock's day to day issues. Learning to refute Schleiermacher and Nietzsche, whom I doubt any of my congregation have ever heard of [although we deal with the consequences of their ideas ], is simply not high on my priority list. Pastors don't have that kind of resources or time to devote to it.

Furthermore, I think that your position may go againts http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans%2016:17-20&version=ESV ]Paul's instruction in Romans :

Quote:
Final Instructions and Greetings

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


If there's a way to reconcile the two, please let me know.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Aaron Blumer's picture

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Joseph... don't mean to gang up on you here, but you keep speaking in terms that suggest either someone has to study something exhaustively or he is ignorant entirely.
All a good pastor needs to know about Arianism can be grasped in fifteen minutes. It's nice to go to maybe half an hour so you can sometimes catch today's listeners up on the history a bit, but a pulpit ministry that simply summarizes what Arianism taught (and teaches still in it's present day forms) and then rejects it on biblical grounds is not in any way deficient.
The apostle John handled the problem with even more brevity (1 John 2:22)

But what I'm getting to here is that there is a huge middle you seem to not realize exists. When I went through seminary, I didn't read Ritschl in German, but I did read A. H. Strong, who read Ritschl in German; Millard Erickson, who read Ritschl in German; Charles Hodges, who read Ritschl in German; and attended lectures by profs who read Ritchl in German, etc. It's not like you either know it all first hand or you are "ignorant."
I had to memorize the names and ideas of a whole boatload of German guys.... in both undergrad and seminary.

And it's not like that experience was anything special. Fundamentalist schools have been doing that sort of thing for at least forty years.
It's just a bit too easy to greet a point of view you disagree with by saying, essentially, "That's just ignorance and if you all studied more, you'd agree with me."

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