What Can We Learn from Christian Fundamentalists? Paul C. H. Lim Responds

Editor’s Note: 9Marks Ministries recently dedicated their recent eJournal issue to discussing Fundamentalism. SharperIron has received permission from them to reprint the articles here for discussion. We will post ten articles over the next two weeks. If you would like the complete eJournal or would like to subscribe to further editions, please go to www.9marks.org.

Paul C. H. Lim

LimAllow me to re-phrase the question. Rather than answering what I can learn from the Fundamentalists, I would like to engage the question, “What I can learn from The Fundamentals?”

Published between 1910-1915, this twelve-volume compendium of what biblical, orthodox Christianity stood for was edited by Dr. R.A. Torrey, a Yale-educated evangelist/theologian (and founder of Biola University in Los Angeles) who was acutely aware of the corrosive impact of “higher criticism,” which had a deleterious—indeed disastrous—impact on how people thought of the trustworthiness and truthfulness of the Word of God, human origin and destiny, and eventually Christianity itself. Methodically laying out the basic contours of “faith once delivered for saints,” The Fundamentals was comprised of contributions from B.B. Warfield and Charles Erdman of Princeton Seminary; Anglican bishops such as J.C. Ryle and H.C.G. Moule; a Scottish professor of divinity, James Orr; missionary par excellence C.T. Studd; E.Y. Mullins, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; a celebrated preacher G. Campbell Morgan; and Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis who contributed a key chapter “Satan and His Kingdom.”

As one can see it was both international and ecumenical, provided that the center of Christianity was found on the vicarious, penal-substitutionary redemption wrought by the work of Christ, who was sent from the Father as eternal, co-equal Son of God, and whose identity was savingly revealed through the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church.

In other words, the Trinitarian orthodoxy of Nicaea was recast in early twentieth-century garb in order to stake out the claims of Christianity, not merely defensively but also as an effort to re-present the “saving shape” of the Christian faith and practice.

Paul C.H. Lim is an assistant professor of the History of Christianity at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, and is the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism (Cambridge).

March/April 2008, ©9Marks

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