Theology Thursday - Carnell on the "Perils" of Fundamentalism (Part 1)

Edward J. Carnell was a major figure in the evangelical world in the 1950s. He became President of Fuller Theological Seminary in 1957, and wrote a little book entitled The Case for Orthodox Theology two years later. At only 168 pages, this was a short, introductory book intended for an interested, but general audience. In a chapter from this book, which he ominously entitled “Perils,” Carnell unleashed a pitiless broadside against fundamentalism.

In this article and the next, I’ve included nearly his entire chapter. It provides a fascinating look into what a conservative evangelical thought about fundamentalism at mid-century. Carnell writes with passion; indeed, at some points his passion gives way to scornful contempt. Some of his critiques still sting today.1

Orthodoxy is plagued by perils as well as difficulties, and the perils are even more disturbing than the difficulties. When orthodoxy slights its difficulties, it elicits criticism; but when it slights its perils, it elicits scorn. The perils are of two sorts; general and specific. The general perils include ideological thinking, a highly censorious spirit, and a curious tendency to separate from the life of the church. The specific peril is the with which orthodoxy converts to fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is orthodoxy gone cultic.

Fundamentalism

When we speak of fundamentalism, however, we must distinguish between the movement and the mentality. The fundamentalist movement was organized shortly after the turn of the twentieth century. When the tidal wave of German higher criticism engulfed the church, a large company of orthodox scholars rose to the occasion. They sought to prove that modernism and Biblical Christianity were incompatible. In this way, the fundamentalist movement preserved the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Its “rugged bursts of individualism” were among the finest fruits of the Reformation.

But the fundamentalist movement made at least one capital mistake, and this is why it converted from a movement to a mentality. Unlike the Continental Reformers and the English Dissenters, the fundamentalists failed to connect their convictions with the classical creeds of the church. Therefore, when modernism collapsed, the fundamentalist movement became an army without a cause. Nothing was left but the mentality of fundamentalism, and this mentality Is orthodoxy’s gravest peril.

The mentality of fundamentalism is dominated by ideological thinking. Ideological thinking is rigid, intolerant and doctrinaire; it sees principles everywhere, and all principles come in clear tones of black and white. It exempts itself from the limits that original sin places on history; it wages holy wars without acknowledging the elements of pride and personal interest that prompt the call to battle; it creates new evils while trying to correct old one.

The fundamentalists’ crusade against the Revised Standard Version illustrates the point. The fury did not stem from a scholarly conviction that the version offends Hebrew and Greek Idioms, for ideological thinking operates on far simpler criteria. First, there were modernists on the translation committee, and modernists corrupt whatever they touch. It does not occur to fundamentalism that translation requires only personal honesty and competent scholarship. Secondly, the Revised Standard Version’s copyright is held by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ. If a fundamentalist used the new version, he might give aid and comfort to the National Council; and that, on his principles, would be sin. By the same token, of course, a fundamentalist could not even buy groceries from a modernist. But ideological thinking is never celebrated for its consistency.

Dispensationalism

Having drifted from the classical creeds of the church, the separatist is prey to theological novelty. Most of Machen’s immediate disciples were shielded from this threat by their orientation in Calvinism, but fundamentalism in general did not fare so well. Dispensationalism filled the vacuum created by the loss of the historic creeds.

Dispensationalism was formulated by one of the nineteenth-century separatist movements, the Plymouth Brethren. Hitherto, all Christians had believed that the church fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament, and that the future of saved Jews falls within the general life of the church.

Dispensationalism overturned this time-tested confession by contending that the church is only an interim period between two Jewish economies, the Old Testament and the millennium. While dispensationalism sincerely tries to honor the distinctives of Christianity, in practice it often honors the distinctives of Judaism. This is an ironic reversal …

Having withdrawn from the general theological dialogue, the dispensationalist has few active checks against the pretense of ideological pride. As a result, he imagines that the distinctives of dispensationalism are more firmly established than they really are. This illusion prompts him to fight major battles over minor issues. If it comes to it, he is not unwilling to divide the church on whether the rapture occurs before or after the tribulation. This is straight-line cultic conduct, for a cursory examination of Philip Schaff’s “Creeds of Christendom” will show that the church has never made the details of eschatology a test of Christian fellowship.

The dispensationalist is willing to go it alone because he is prompted by the counsels of ideological thinking. He compares Biblical doctrines to a line of standing dominoes: topple any one domino and the entire line falls. On such a scheme the time of the rapture is as crucial to faith as the substitutionary atonement, for any one doctrine analytically includes all other doctrines.

This argument, of course, is a tissue of fallacies. It violates the most elementary canons of Biblical hermeneutics. When separatists flee from the tyranny of the church, they end up with a new tyranny all their own; for there is always a demagogue on hand to decide who is virtuous and who is not. His strategies are pathetically familiar: “Things are in terrible shape; errorists are everywhere. The true faith is being threatened; my own life is in danger. Something must be done; some courageous person must volunteer. I’m free; I’m ready; I’m willing … Oh, yes, you may subscribe to my paper and keep up with the real truth. Three dollars will enroll you in my movement, and for $5.00 you may have a copy of my latest book.”

Intellectual Stagnation

When orthodoxy says that the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice, the fundamentalist promptly concludes that everything worth knowing is in the Bible. The result is a withdrawal from the dialogue of man as man. Nothing can be learned from general wisdom, says the fundamentalist, for the natural man is wrong in starting point, method, and conclusion. When the natural man says, “This is a rose,” he means “This is a not-made-by-the-triune-God rose.” Everything he says is blasphemy.

It is non-sequitur reasoning of this sort which places fundamentalism at the extreme right in the theological spectrum. Classical orthodoxy says that God is revealed in general as well as in special revelation. The Bible completes the witness of God in nature; it does not negate it.

Since the fundamentalist belittles the value of general wisdom, he is often content with an educational system that substitutes piety for scholarship. High standards of education might tempt the students to trust in the arm of flesh. Moreover, if the students are exposed to damaging as well as to supporting evidences, their faith might be threatened. As a result, the students do not earn their right to believe, and they are filled with pride because they do not sense their deficiency.

The intellectual stagnation of fundamentalism can easily be illustrated. Knowing little about the canons of lower criticism, and less about the relation between language and culture, the fundamentalist has no norm by which to classify the relative merits of Biblical translations. As a result, he identifies the Word of God with the seventeenth-century language forms of the King James Version. Since other versions sound unfamiliar to him, he concludes that someone is tampering with the Word of God.

This stagnation explains why the fundamentalist is not disturbed by the difficulties in orthodoxy. Faithful to ideological thinking, he simply denies that there are any difficulties. To admit a difficulty would imply a lack of faith, and a lack of faith is sin.

… to be continued

Notes

1 Edward J. Carnell, The Case for Orthodox Theology (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1959), 114-119.  

5695 reads

There are 99 Comments

G. N. Barkman's picture

Thank you, Tyler, for this informative insight.  There is much here to think about and some important lessons to learn.

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Note: I edited this comment to remove some of the more unfortunate, caustic comments I originally included. They weren't constructure, or fair to the men who labor at the ACCC and I apologize. I still firmly believe a myopic focus against conservative evangelicals (typified by this resolution) is wrongheaded and misguided. I apologize for the tone of my previous comments, not the substance of my objections.  

Today, the ACCC (for reasons known only to itself) decided to re-publish it's "resolution" on T4G. They warned:

The appeal of Together for the Gospel is undeniable. The 2010 conference attracted an attendance that numbered in the thousands. The potential for harm, however, is just as real.

Indeed. My eyebrows are appropriately raised, and I lean forward in my chair, anxious to see what my brethren have to warn me about. What nefarious plot has been hatched by these agents of evil now? The resolution continued:

This new movement, then, follows previous error in neglecting the Biblical doctrine of separation that has always marked Fundamentalism. Sadly, some fundamentalist institutions have begun to welcome as co-laborers some conservative evangelicals associated with efforts like Together for the Gospel. If such trends continue, what has been known as historic Fundamentalism, with its emphasis on Biblical separation, personally and ecclesiastically, will be seriously eroded if not rendered irrelevant.

  I . . . see . . .

Therefore, the delegates to the 69th annual convention of the American Council of Christian Churches, meeting October 19–21, 2010 in Hope Baptist Church, Hanover, PA resolve to remind God’s people that Biblical separatism is a watershed doctrine that has its source in the attribute of God’s holiness and determines what kind of legacy we will leave to the generations that follow our own. Undermining separatism for the purposes of cooperation with those who either define the doctrine more loosely or do not hold it at all has proven costly in the past, and it will do so again. Faithfulness from generation to generation requires that we do not surrender the ground that has been defended by those who have gone before us lest those who come after us have no ground left to defend.

Please note this "resolution" was issued during an annual meeting which took place at a local church. Oh, how the mighty have fallen . . . I'd say, for the ACCC, the irrelevance is not future. It is now.

This resolution encapsulates some of the worst elements of the fundamentalist mentality. Read what Carnell wrote, above:

But the fundamentalist movement made at least one capital mistake, and this is why it converted from a movement to a mentality. Unlike the Continental Reformers and the English Dissenters, the fundamentalists failed to connect their convictions with the classical creeds of the church. Therefore, when modernism collapsed, the fundamentalist movement became an army without a cause. Nothing was left but the mentality of fundamentalism, and this mentality Is orthodoxy’s gravest peril.  

Honest introspection is a rare thing, and the fundamentalist movement generally avoids it. Those who boldly suggest a better way forward, like MacLachlan or Bauder, are often immediately set upon by the angry hordes. Most formal attempts to speak reason to foolishness (e.g. the recent Frontline edition from younger fundamentalists) are often characterized by tip-toeing, apologetic and hesitant criticism. I say the situation calls for more firepower than that. I leave it to Bro. Linscott to be diplomatic. If I can persuade somebody, anybody, to view secular humanism and compromising liberalism as the real enemy, then I will be happy.

Younger men - let's look at the ACCC's resolution, and use it as an example of how not to be.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

JBL's picture

one of these two realities is true.

1) That fundamentalism, of its own accord, withdrew volitionally but unintentionally into the caricature pre-painted by Carnell, or

2) That fundamentalism elected to be what it is prior to the characterization observed by Carnell.

John B. Lee

AndyE's picture

Modernism never collapsed. Fundamentalism needed to sound the alarm regarding Carnell and his cohorts at Fuller, not to mention Graham.  They were giving Christian recognition to these modernist unbelievers.  That deserves censure and separation.

TylerR's picture

Carnell is clearly contemptuous of the worst elements of fundamentalism. I understand, because I am, too. But, given your options, I'd say that your option #1 is correct. I think some elements of fundamentalism took a terrible turn, and began to see it's major enemies as conservative evangelicals and those who weren't as hard line as themselves (see Bauder's recent survey at Nick of Time). This trend continues today, with the ACCC's stupid resolution (see my contempt?) on T4G (linked above), which they elected to repost this morning.  

Like rabid dogs, many fundamentalists decided to attack and hate each other. For some reason (Carnell supposed modernism was defeated by mid-century, but he was wrong), many fundamentalists retreated behind the ramparts of vindictive self-righteousness and began sniping at their "compromising" friends who eschewed the monastic fortress mentality. Thus, we have the ACCC's impotent missive from this morning and the FBFI's amusing warnings against Dever on music. Meanwhile, the march of secular totalitarianism and modern "modernism" continues apace.    

This is the distinction between the fundamentalist mentality and the fundamentalist movement ( I prefer fundamentalist philosophy of ministry, but I think Carnell and I are talking about the same thing). Those with a fundamentalist mentality cheer at the ACCC's increasingly desperate and pathetic resolutions, and snipe at Dever with spitballs from Indiana. Those who agree with the original ethos of the fundamentalist movement shake their heads, run for the wastebasket, and mourn a sad misallocation of effort, energy and resources. .  

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TylerR's picture

I hardly think Fuller (both of them), Ockenga, Henry, Carnell and Smith were giving platforms to "modernist unbelievers," at least in the beginning! To suggest that would be to claim they gave platforms to men with views similar to Fosdick's. I don't think Charles Fuller, Henry, Smith or Ockenga, to name a few, would have tolerated that . . .  

I think Marsden's book Reforming Fundamentalism is worth everybody's time.

But, we're merely tilting at windmills so far. The real crux of the matter is whether Carnell is right about the fundamentalist mentality being a peril for orthodoxy?

  • Do we often attack one another and conservative evangelicals, instead of focusing our attention and energies on more appropriate targets?
  • Are we intellectually stagnant, as a movement?
  • Is dispensationalism often made an inappropriate litmus test for orthodoxy?  

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

pvawter's picture

It's funny to me that whenever I read the criticisms of fundamentalism from those within broader evangelicalism I don't recognize the fundamentalism I grew up in. Carnell's description would fit a site like Stuff Fundies Like, but it hardly works to illuminate the movement from my perspective.

TylerR's picture

pvawter:

It fits the kind of fundamentalism I've seen. There are different flavors of fundamentalism. Bauder, in his lecture series at Central back in 2014, gave four varieties. I thought he encapsulated the spectrum pretty well.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

pvawter's picture

Sure. It's just that the critics love to focus on the worst examples of fundies. Hardly a charitable approach from Carnell, which is ironic considering he is targeting those in his own orthodox camp rather than the liberals and gospel deniers. But it's the fundamentalists who have the market cornered on friendly fire...

WallyMorris's picture

Sigh. More charges, counter-charges, attacks, counter-attacks - It seems to never end on this site. Carnell is hardly a good example of ethical integrity and legitimate criticism, considering elements of his personal life. He was a bitter man. Pardon me if I laugh at his self-righteousness.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

TylerR's picture

Come now, Wally. Carnell had his sins found out, of course (something that doesn't happen too often) - but this doesn't necessarily invalidate what he says. You don't have to agree or disagree with Carnell; but his was an important voice in the debate from mid-century. It tells us what a conservative evangelical thought about fundamentalism, and what his criticisms were. They're important. I think introspection is a good thing. Is there really nothing Carnell wrote about fundamentalism that strikes a bit close to home? Nothing?

The general perils include ideological thinking, a highly censorious spirit, and a curious tendency to separate from the life of the church. The specific peril is the with which orthodoxy converts to fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is orthodoxy gone cultic.

Referencing his personal life does nothing to touch his criticisms.  

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

WallyMorris's picture

I wouldn't call him a conservative evangelical. His personal life, mental condition can't be separated from aspects of his thinking. He was a strange man.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

AndyE's picture

Tyler, I’m completely flabbergasted by your comment regarding the founders of New Evangelicalism. First, there were no conservative evangelicals back then. You had Fundamentalists who espoused separation from unbelief and then this group of New Evangelicals who repudiated that strategy.  The very ethos of New Evangelicalism was giving Christian recognition to unbelief via their koinonia with modernists. 

Was there intellectual stagnation within some segments of fundamentalism?  Sure but not in all segments and you have to remember that Carnell wasn’t contrasting the intellectualism of fundamentalism with other evangelicals (there were basically one in the same back then); he was contrasting it with liberalism.  His critique of KJVO doesn't represent any segment of fundamentalism that I’ve ever been a part of. 

Nothing Carnell says here resonates with me at all. I see his writing more as a sophisticated rant to justify New Evangelicalism’s general disobedience to God’s Word.

TylerR's picture

I understand your position. I think you're wrong. I also agree that Carnell sounds a bit unhinged here. Perhaps he felt free, in this general little book which wouldn't be read in scholarly circles, to let loose and vent a little. But, we have two options:

  1. We can believe Carnell was imagining things, and that what he wrote about didn't reflect reality in the slightest. Because he was there, and we weren't, I think this is a bad option.
  2. We can be introspective, think about what he wrote, and consider whether any of these criticisms have merit. I think they did, and still do

For some context, here is Unger's review of the RSV. It is laughable and ridiculous. I've been using the RSV for one year. It's a good translation. This is the kind of melodramatic hysteria Carnell was referring to with new bible versions. On Sunday, an older man asked me what bible version I use. I told him I used the RSV. "The RSV!" he exclaimed, eyebrows raised into the stratosphere. "Isn't that a liberal translation!?" Lies die hard.

On dispensationalism, I believe he's mocking the mania with prophesy and eschatology - and the rigid dogmaticism which so often accompanies some prophecy specialists. Hagee isn't a fundamentalist, but I read in his silly book about blood moons that people who didn't believe in the rapture weren't saved. This is an example of the unbalanced lunacy which can often result. Our dear brethren at Dispensational Publishing House have a 38 part series (and counting) on the temples in the Bible, with an emphasis on Ezekiel's temple. Wow. I love those guys, but that's a long series on an odd topic . . .

Intellectual stagnation? There are two things going on in Carnell's critique there, I think. First, he seems to have a snobby disdain for people who simply believe the Bible, and have no use for engagement with higher criticism. Carnell and the others desperately wanted to be invited to a seat at the scholarly table. Second, is frustration with a fortress mentality, the desire to "shield" people from real engagement with real issues, for fear they'll be "harmed." That is a valid criticism, in my opinion.  

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ron Bean's picture

I've been in fundamentalism for nearly 50 years. One thing I've noticed is that fundamentalism always had to have an enemy to keep them unified. There was liberalism/ apostasy, the RSV, Billy Graham, the charismatic movement,  and New Evangelicalism. Now it's convergents and conservative fundamentalism. Secondary enemies were cultural: movies, clothing styles, TV, dancing, and music. (one of the notable old timers used to say that you had to be against something, even if it was buttermilk.)

I would often ask, "What are we for?" The answer was always the fundamentals of the faith. We all knew that but it wasn't what we were seeing and hearing. If you were preaching in a Bible conference you could get more amens by attacking the "evan jelly cals" and Billy Graham that you could by preaching something doctrinal.

Today the enemy are evangelicals/convergents/conservative evangelicals who are treated with the same attitude that we used to reserve for modernists even if they are, in fact, brother in Christ.

As Bauder said, "Cooperation against common dangers tends to drive us together more quickly than cooperation to achieve common goals."

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jay's picture

I don't agree with Carnell on many things, but if he said something 50-60 years ago and people today are saying the exact same thing, I hope I would at least consider the possibility that they might have a point and do some careful introspection.

Carnell did say this:

But the fundamentalist movement made at least one capital mistake, and this is why it converted from a movement to a mentality. Unlike the Continental Reformers and the English Dissenters, the fundamentalists failed to connect their convictions with the classical creeds of the church. Therefore, when modernism collapsed, the fundamentalist movement became an army without a cause. Nothing was left but the mentality of fundamentalism, and this mentality Is orthodoxy’s gravest peril.

The mentality of fundamentalism is dominated by ideological thinking. Ideological thinking is rigid, intolerant and doctrinaire; it sees principles everywhere, and all principles come in clear tones of black and white. It exempts itself from the limits that original sin places on history; it wages holy wars without acknowledging the elements of pride and personal interest that prompt the call to battle; it creates new evils while trying to correct old one.

Now compare this with what Phil Johnson said at the Shepherds' Conference in 2009:

That one year in a fundamentalist school convinced me that American fundamentalism as a movement was already seriously and perhaps irretrievably off the rails. The movement was in serious trouble doctrinally, spiritually, and morally.

That was thirty years ago, but even then, the fundamentalist movement was dominated by personality cults, easy-believism, man-centered doctrine, an unbiblical pragmatism in their methodology, a carnal kind of superficiality in their worship, petty bickering at the highest levels of leadership, deliberate antiintellectualism even in their so-called institutions of higher learning, and moral rot almost everywhere you looked in the movement. It seemed clear to me that the fundamentalist movement was doomed.

In fact, by the 1970s, American fundamentalism had already ceased to be a theological movement and had morphed into a cultural phenomenon—a bizarre and ingrown subculture all its own, whose public face more often than not seemed overtly hostile to everyone outside its boundaries.

Frankly, I thought that sort of fundamentalism deserved to die. And I knew it eventually would, because the most prominent hallmark of the visible fundamentalist movement was that its leaders loved to fight so much that they would bite and devour one another and proliferate controversies—even among themselves—over issues that no one could ever rationally argue were essential to the truth of the gospel.

We should also consider that Dr. Bauder just finished a whole series describing how the FBFI formed - essentially, it is a splinter group off of another splinter group (NTAIBC) off of yet another splinter group (CBA).

And finally, think about what James says:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

I recently noticed that some people are attracted to Fundamentalism, not because their doctrine guides them to us, but because it attracts people that are pride driven, power hungry, or simply outright abusive.  We live in a culture where those sorts of behaviors are rarely discussed and even less rarely dealt with because of our stand on independent polity.  It's long since time we changed that...if people have the stomach for it.

"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

Jay's picture

I would often ask, "What are we for?" The answer was always the fundamentals of the faith. We all knew that but it wasn't what we were seeing and hearing. If you were preaching in a Bible conference you could get more amens by attacking the "evan jelly cals" and Billy Graham that you could by preaching something doctrinal.

It's a LOT easier to write a sermon blasting away at everything that's wrong than it is to do the hard and tedious work of careful, thoughtful, and disciplined exegesis and then application.

"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

Don Johnson's picture

TylerR wrote:

I understand your position. I think you're wrong. I also agree that Carnell sounds a bit unhinged here. Perhaps he felt free, in this general little book which wouldn't be read in scholarly circles, to let loose and vent a little. But, we have two options:

  1. We can believe Carnell was imagining things, and that what he wrote about didn't reflect reality in the slightest. Because he was there, and we weren't, I think this is a bad option.
  2. We can be introspective, think about what he wrote, and consider whether any of these criticisms have merit. I think they did, and still do  

First of all, I think that you need to read Carnell with a great deal of scepticism. I also think you need to read more of the history by objective sources. I think you've read Reforming Fundamentalism by Marsden. He has a couple of other books on this topic, particularly Marsden's Fundamentalism & American Culture. You should also read again Dr. Moritz' books and Ernest Pickerings The Tragedy of Compromise.

I consider Marsden to be objective, he is not a fundamentalist. Obviously Moritz and Pickering are writing from a fundamentalist perspective, but I think they are fair.

Carnell, as I have understood him, was virulently antagonistic to fundamentalism, more so than his contemporary new evangelical cohorts. His personality lent itself to mental instability, which he exhibited later in his life. His evaluations need to be read very cautiously.

My reaction to your comments and those of others here is you think you have found an ally who confirms your desired conclusions regarding fundamentalism. You are welcome to your opinions, but I think you are misreading history and reading your own conclusions into them. That's not how careful research is done. I think you can do better.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ron Bean's picture

A friend who never posts here for personal reasons but has been following this discussion asked me to relay a comment he had. "In light of some of the more provocative editorials from the FBFI it would seem that they are more interested in proclaiming and defending fundamentalism than they are in proclaiming and defending the fundamenals."  

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

I've read Moritz, and all of Marsden's works on fundamentalism, and Pickering and McCune, and Beale and Bauder. I also had Larry Oats when I studied the history of fundamentalism. I also went to Bauder's lecture in 2014 when he discussed early northern Baptist fundamentalism. I've read everything. I think Carnell's criticisms have some validity. I'm not trying to do careful research, and I don't represent this excerpt as "careful research." I'm posting Carnell's work, and letting people read it.

You disregard Carnell's criticisms. I understand. I expected many people to dismiss him because of his personal life, and I got what I expected.

I plan to post something contemporary from fundamentalists against evangelicals when I'm done with Carnell, so don't think this is a crusade. I make my own opinions known, but I'm very fair when I post Theology Thursday articles. When I did the series on NT texts, I gave Bro. Brandenburg's TR position two weeks of coverage - even though I disagree with it.

The evangelicals will get their turn, Don. I promise. In fact, Don, if you have a good contemporary piece from mid-century about the dangers of neo-evangelicals, please email it to me.

I am surprised you find nothing here that is worth a moment or two of introspection. I'm even planning on re-reading the infamous "convergent" edition from Frontline ​this coming week, to see if I can learn something from the criticisms. Hopefully, some of ya'll will be willing to do the same with Carnell.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

CAWatson's picture

Tyler

Carnell's work is an attack on the worst parts of fundamentalism - certainly there were some who were intellectually stagnant. But within the seminaries (once the institutional infrastructure was rebuilt), there were always good, careful, conservative, dispensational scholars who were widely read and well-spoken. I had the privilege of taking two courses my first year at Central Seminary from Dr. Charles Hauser, who had been teaching seminary before my parents were born (in the 50s). Dr. Hoyle Bowman passed away last year, after having taught at Piedmont for 51 years. And there are other faithful men whose names will likely never be remembered, except by a few.

Carnell's claims can also be a bit softened by the writings of one of the presidents who followed in Carnell's footsteps as the president of Fuller - Richard Mouw. In his book "The Smell of Sawdust," as well as his chapter in "Pilgrims on a Sawdust Trail" (Bauder also has a chapter in that book from a conference that Bauder attended and subsequently ruined) demonstrate a different view and understanding of fundamentalism - one that recognizes the weaknesses of fundamentalism's cultural disengagement, and that acknowledges that fundamentalists aren't troglodytes, but capable of intellectual conversation and argumentation. 

If you are looking for mid-century writings against New Evangelicalism - William Ashbook's "New Neutralism" (1958) was a solid response against what was occurring within the evangelical world in the 50s. I don't think it is available online anywhere. I have a copy somewhere (it is a small pamphlet), I would need to find it and scan it for you. 

AndyE's picture

I’m not sure what sort of introspection I’m supposed to do.  I’m not a wild-eyed dispensationalist. I believe in Ryrie’s sin qua non of dispensationalism but I would distance myself from Scofield dispensationalism and don’t believe in sensationalistic eschatology or blood moons.  I’m pro scholarship. I’m not KJVO.  I agree that some of the criticism of the RSV was overblown (although I still would not recommend it – the ESV, which is based on the RSV, is a good corrective in my view). I don’t believe in keeping the people in the pew uninformed of the opposing view.  Show the strengths and weaknesses of both positions and explain why you take the position you do.

In addition, I’m willing to critique specific examples of where certain fundamentalists have gone off the rails. For example, I’ve pushed back against an instance of anti-Calvinistic rhetoric that went over the top at an FBF meeting – but I did it in a way that showed my respect for the person involved and the principles of fundamentalism that I strongly agree with. That’s not what Carnell is doing.  He is repudiating a Biblical position with his diatribe against Fundamentalism.  And he is wrong – fundamentalism is about defending the classical creeds of the church because when you forsake separation from unbelief you undermine the gospel and the fundamentals of the faith.

TylerR's picture

It is lovely that nothing Carnell wrote applies to you. If you have escaped and avoided the worst excesses and impulses of fundamentalism, then that is wonderful. But, many others in the movement have not

I'm going to continue to disregard the attempts to brush Carnell aside, as if his perspective is meaningless. His positions and perspective on fundamentalism influenced people, and it still does. Roger Olson recently published a blog piece where he acknowledged his indebtedness to Carnell for shaping his views of fundamentalism so many years ago.

Of course, people could reply with disdain to this news: "Roger Olson! He's a liberal.​ Nobody cares what Olson thinks!"

Feel free to do that, if you wish. There are many others like Olson out there, who were just as influenced. Protests by those within the movement that Carnell isn't "objective" are meaningless to me. Besides, we aren't the most impartial critics either, I believe . . .

You wrote this about your own disagreements with fundamentalism:

. . . I did it in a way that showed my respect for the person involved and the principles of fundamentalism that I strongly agree with.

There are two roads to take when it comes to criticizing fundamentalism:

  1. An attitude of soft, gentle, submissive and reverent critique. The tone of the recent "Why I'm Still a Fundamentalist" piece from Frontline ​is a good example. It was a good effort. It will accomplish nothing, because the tone is apologetic, hesitant and not nearly forceful enough. Internal politics and individual temperament combine to make real critique difficult, sometimes.
  2. Brutally direct and honest critique, not caring who is offended. This can include deliberate sarcasm and obvious contempt towards errors that have been pointed out time and time again, but that refuse to be corrected.

Carnell clearly chose option #2. That is not a reason to discount what he wrote. If anything, it probably makes his critique much more honest. There is no filter. You see what he thinks and understand it - immediately. I, too, have employed a mocking and sarcastic tone against some fundamentalist excesses when I find it necessary. For example, in this very thread I mocked the ACCC's resolution against T4G as "stupid," and I wondered aloud why the ACCC "and it's three members" decided to re-publish it's anti-T4G resolution yesterday.

Fundamentalists may protest that Carnell was unhinged and his perspective is meaningless. As I wrote earlier, fundamentalists have written pieces that are just as "biased" against evangelicals. Meh.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TylerR's picture

I found and ordered a used copy of Ashbrook's pamphlet online. I'll likely use some excerpts for a two-part series about the dangers of evangelicalism once I finish with Carnell. Thanks.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Jay's picture

An attitude of soft, gentle, submissive and reverent critique. The tone of the recent "Why I'm Still a Fundamentalist" piece from Frontline ​is a good example. It was a good effort. It will accomplish nothing, because the tone is apologetic, hesitant and not nearly forceful enough. Internal politics and individual temperament combine to make real critique difficult, sometimes.

People have been trying this kind of soft-shoe method to push for some self-reflection for years now...like I said on another thread, it was in the 2005 Young Fundamentalist survey at a very minimum.  It isn't working, because there are very few people that are interested in actually hearing the appeals or doing something about it.  Should we really be surprised when their critiques becoming far more pointed and abrasive, or that others are picking up the same observations that our enemies have made, and saying that they may have had a point?

Proverbs has a lot to say about people who refuse to listen.  None of it is good, so we can do two things - listen to criticism, even if we think it's bogus, and act on what we need to, or we can double-down on stupid.  I'd prefer to do the former.

#thisishowyougetTrump #evenintheology

"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

TylerR's picture

A word of explanation about employing deliberate sarcasm and a derisive tone when critiquing fundamentalism:

  1. When I do this, I don't seek to persuade older men to change their ways. That is not one of my goals
  2. Instead, I seek to persuade younger men to cast off the rusty fetters of a dead-end and harmful approach, and embrace the philosophy of fundamentalism as it was originally known. Elsewhere I defined fundamentalism as: "a philosophy of ministry characterized by a militant apologetic defense and passionate, unashamed proclamation of the Christian faith from the Scriptures in the face of pagan unbelief, liberal theology and compromise." And, by "compromise," I mean real ​compromise . . .

I want to persuade younger men to do battle against liberal "Christianity," and secular humanism. I want to persuade men to read Matthew Vines' book and interact with him, for the sake of our teenagers. I want to persuade younger men to read about rationale for the transgender movement, and refute it. I want our younger men to read about the rationale for abortion, and refute it. I want our younger men to read NT Wright on justification, and write against his views.

In short, I seek to persuade younger men to forsake the errors of the older generation, stop attacking evangelicals, and set their sights on the real enemy. To do this, I'll relentlessly attack foolish or  innane events from the fundamentalist orbit as I see fit. Hence, I call the ACCC's resolution against T4G "stupid." I'll also refer to Chuck Phelp's warnings against Dever on music as "impotent spitballs from Indiana."

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

josh p's picture

I usually find this type of discussion entirely unhelpful. On one hand we're saying the fundamentalism is an ideology not a movement on the other hand were saying that we need to look closer at what the group is doing.
I don't care much what Carnell thought about fundamentalism because I'm not connected with the people he is describing. The fundamentalism that I appreciate and identify with is not the one he describes. Introspection is a great and necessary thing but in my mind criticism from within is way more profitable.
I don't care what Carnell thinks about his caricature of fundamentalism because I am in neither of their "camps". I would guess that is true of most of us here. In the words of the great ecclesiastic Mr Incredible, •You're not affiliated with me!"

TylerR's picture

I think the idea of fundamentalism, properly understood in it's original context as a philosophy of ministry characterized by a militant apologetic defense and passionate, unashamed proclamation of the Christian faith from the Scriptures in the face of pagan unbelief, liberal theology and compromise is a good and necessary idea.

I am a passionate advocate for this mindset. i think, under this "big-tent" definition, John MacArthur, James White, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Michael Kruger and others are fundamentalists, and I regarded them as such. Fundamentalism as an idea is necessary.

What I am opposed to is a sub-set of fundamentalism, typically centered around Baptist ecclesiology and premillenial dispensationalism, that shows an unbalanced and unhealthy obsession with ecclesiastical separation to the exclusion of other worthy topics, and relentlessly attacks conservative evangelicals. That is a fundamentalism that is wrong-headed, misguided, and should die.

I encourage all younger men to embrace a "big-tent" understanding of fundamentalism as a philosophy of ministry; to understand it as good and necessary movement with a worthy goal, purpose and objective. Let's recalibrate our sights on the real enemy, and it isn't Mark Dever or Don Carson.

Carnell's piece shows us that some of the worst impulses and excesses of the movement aren't new. They're actually very old.  

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

JBL's picture

Two questions that should concern every fundamentalist are 1) whether the movement's purpose is still focused on rebutting humanism and liberalism at the local church and broader cooperative level? and 2) if it is not, what has its new purpose become?  The criticism being leveled is that it is not, and Carnell has offered reasons why it is not.

I am concerned that so many commenters see little value in discussing the validity of the criticism on its own merits, and furthermore cannot appear to separate the value of Carnell's argument from whatever personal and doctrinal weaknesses he bore.  The great irony here is that this mindset is actually part of the caricature that Carnell pictures, and one that many commenters will not acknolwedge even exists.

Tyler asserts that aberrant fundamentalism detracts from the church addressing theological issues at large.  His desire is to see fundamentalism issue more forceful and relevant push backs and rebuttals against doctrinal heresy and acceptance of unbiblical norms.  

My interest in the discussion lies in whether aberrant fundamentalism detracts from the spiritual health and growth of the church itself.  The assertion I make is that aberrant fundamentalism, in its zeal for ideological purity, produces disciples with very little impact for the Kingdom of Christ.  The church is therefore not growing and developing as fully under aberrant fundamentalism as it might have otherwise.

The point is, for a movement that does pride itself on being the best and most pure that is out there, should not its disciples and scholarship also be that much greater salt and light to this world?  Can anything be healthier both at the church level and at the interaction with the world at large?

Aberrent fundamentalism has stuck its head in the sand and offers a resounding NO! to that question.  I believe it is wrong.  

John B. Lee

TylerR's picture

Ironically, you just (unwittingly?) paraphrased some of what Doug MacLachlan wrote in his book Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Pages

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