What in the World Is Evangelicalism, Anyway?

Dennis Walton, a contemporary critic, wrote:

One area in which the New Evangelicals are united is the willingness to compromise for the sake of fellowship. This spirit could possibly be identified as the genius of the movement. Allowing varying opinions in nearly every field of doctrine, they are united in a willingness to sacrifice conviction for fellowship. Evidence of this spirit is seen in a statement by E. J. Carnell, “Since love is higher than law, the organization is servant of the fellowship…Christ alone would rule the church. Laws are made for the unrighteous. Here is the final norm: Polity is good or bad to the degree that it promotes or hinders fellowship.” This statement obviously subordinates doctrine to love, or fellowship. (17)

Harold Ockenga, a leading figure in the new evangelical movement, observed:

New-evangelicalism was born in 1948 in connection with a convocation address which I gave in the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena. While reaffirming the theological view of fundamentalism, this address repudiated its ecclesiology and its social theory. It differed from fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas of life. (11)

Contemporary, critical cartoon by Donald Pfaffe (1959):

George Dollar remarked:

This new type of evangelical thought and attitude has many virtues—many of them having descended from historic Fundamentalism and others arising from an honest attempt to correct some glaring weaknesses within…The areas which it has sought to correct include those of academic integrity, social betterment, discussions with non-Fundamentalists, and journalistic excellence in order to attract the religious, the respectable, and the intellectuals whatever their doctrinal convictions. Another area of study has been that of cooperation with all existing religious bodies, denominations, and groups for the purposes of infiltration, not separation. In fact many prominent men in this movement openly advocate closer ties with those whom old-time Fundamentalism tagged apostates and Liberals. (21-22)

A new mood

During the first half of the twentieth century, “fundamentalist” and “evangelical” meant roughly the same things. People might use either name to describe those who preserved and practiced the revivalist heritage of soul winning and maintained a traditional insistence on orthodoxy. After the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversies, however, fundamentalism became increasingly prone to fracture. Pickering observes that evangelicalism was born with a particular “mood.” This particular mood was a marked dissatisfaction with a militant ministry philosophy. Pickering remarked that the militant excesses of some fundamentalists “disheartened younger men, and…propelled them toward a softer and broader position” (Tragedy 7-8).

The National Association of Evengelicals (NAE), founded in 1942, admits their organization was formed in response to a consensus that a new course must be charted, one that did not perpetuate the mistakes of excessive militantism:

Evangelical Christianity, while remaining outside the cultural mainstream, established a thriving subculture, centered around engaging personalities and independent institutions. The downside to this emerging popular movement was that many radio preachers, Christian college presidents, and pulpiteers tended to speak and act independently with seeming little regard for the big picture. Instead of acting like brothers, they acted like rivals, weakening the possibilities of meaningful Christian witness. (“History”)

The schism was never over doctrines of the so-called “fundamentals.” The clashes between fundamentalism and evangelicalism frequently centered around the biblical parameters of ecclesiastical and personal separation. Most self-proclaimed fundamentalists today could sign the NAE creed! (“Statement of Faith”). It is not about doctrine, it is about a particular philosophy of ministry.

Specific causes of schism

Rolland McCune (Promise 27-52) and Ernest Pickering (“Reviews” 7-11) have both outlined their own views of the cause of this split. There is considerable overlap in their analysis.

McCune

 

Pickering

Unity vs. Separation

Perception of excessive negativism in fundamentalism and a growing ecumenical spirit

Social Issue

Perception that Fundamentalism lacks vision for social action

Scholarship/Intellectualism Issue

Desire to be accepted by scholarly world

Ecumenical Evangelism

 

Influence of Training in Liberal Institutions

 

 

General Mindset and Spirit of the Age

There is simply no space to adequately cover all of these issues, but a brief survey of some of them will be attempted here.

Unity or separation?

There was a general impetus to present the fundamentals of the faith in a positive, not simply defensive, way (McCune, Promise 29). Evangelicals were more willing to forgive doctrinal differences for the sake of the Gospel. The NAE was formed in 1942, according to its formal history, “when a modest group of 147 people met in St. Louis with the hopes of reshaping the direction of evangelical Christianity in America.” Ockenga challenged Christians to put aside denominational differences for the sake of a more consolidated witness for Christ (NAE, “History”).

Well-known fundamentalist leaders such as John R. Rice and Bob Jones Sr. and Jr. initially supported the NAE, but eventually left over the organization’s different philosophy of separation. “These departures consolidated the leadership of the NAE in the hands of those with less restrictive convictions who wanted a softer stand and a far less militant direction” (McCune, Promise 31).

Fundamentalists could not bring themselves to endorse ecclesiastical unity to the same extent. The philosophy of evangelicalism seemed to be, “Be positive, not negative!” Pickering astutely observed, “while this statement has an emotional appeal to many, it is not a Biblical philosophy. Scripture is both positive and negative—it is for some things and against others” (Tragedy 8).

These men continued to reject and oppose liberalism, but dropped militancy as a primary aspect of their identity. George Marsden argued that, “aspiring to be a broad coalition of theologically conservative Protestants, they usually tolerated some other theological differences, including Pentecostalism. Evangelism, as epitomized by Billy Graham, remained their central activity, although the forms of presentation now sometimes avoided accentuation of the offensiveness of the Gospel,” (as cited in Pickering, Tragedy 11).

The social issue

Carl F. H. Henry penned a book in 1947, The Uneasy Conscience, in which he decried the lack of social involvement in fundamentalism.

If the Bible believing Christian is on the wrong side of social problems such as war, race, class, labor, liquor, imperialism, etc., it is time to get over the fence to the right side. The church needs a progressive Fundamentalist with a social message. (xx)

Fundamentalism is the modern priest and Levite, by-passing suffering and humanity…by and large, the Fundamentalist opposition to societal ills has been more vocal than actual. (2-3)

McCune argues that an anti-dispensational bias was at the root of this call for social consciousness (Promise 36). It would be over-reaching to suggest that dispensationalism was virtually synonymous with fundamentalism—it was not (McCune, Non-Issues 179-180). However, McCune argues that theology was the root of this renewed social activism; posttribulationism “emancipated them from dispensational pessimism and gave their societal activism biblical legitimacy,” (Promise 36-37, see especially footnote #42). Pickering agreed with McCune and tied evangelical theology directly to a repudiation of separation; “new evangelicals were not separatists and hence resisted the inevitable conclusions brought about by the acceptance of dispensational thought,” (Non-Issues 17).

In 1962, George Dollar argued for an altogether different philosophy of ministry;

It is true that Fundamentalists have never turned their pulpits into forums for discussion of racism, labor, and slum clearance. It is true that most Fundamentalists have not made startling pronouncements on how to have world peace, how to integrate the races, and how to promote brotherhood in the midst of discord. The Fundamentalist has directed his attention to the salvation and sanctification of the individual—and indirectly to the alleviation of societal injustices. (30)

This anti-dispensational bias converged with a general dissatisfaction with a militant philosophy—thus social activism came to typify evangelicalism as a movement.

Scholarship

Disenchanted fundamentalists also reacted against a perceived anti-intellectual bias among their brethren. “Narrow-mindedness” was repudiated. A contemporary critic, Douglas Walton, noted “the absence of intellectual respectability was a very sore spot…the result has been a striving to attain that status” (26).

Pickering, in a 1964 review of a work by Ronald Nash advocating new evangelicalism, took issue with Nash’s pursuit to “recapture a place of respectability in the modern religious and academic world.” Contemporary critics seem to be unanimous in decrying the new evangelical’s quest for scholarship and prestige. Dollar wrote, “it would seem that the major prerequisite for joining the evangelical elite is the number of degrees one can brandish, the impressive list of schools attended, and the staggering account of authors read and quoted” (26).

It is a profound mistake to suggest fundamentalism is anti-intellectual. Admittedly, there are some among us who espouse this view, and they are certainly wrong. It is also incorrect to impugn the motives of evangelicals who are scholars. The problem arises when Christian scholarship stops being about serving the Church and starts being about respectability and prestige in the eyes of men. The new evangelicalism explicitly sought this prestige and therefore drew swift condemnation from contemporary fundamentalists.

Bottom line

An article appeared in the magazine Christian Life in March, 1956. It was a collaboration between many prominent advocates of the new evangelicalism. Entitled “Is Evangelical Theology Changing?” it enumerated eight points about their new movement (Crum et al. 16-19):

  1. A friendly attitude toward science
  2. A re-evaluation of the work of the Holy Spirit
  3. A move away from dispensationalism
  4. A more tolerant attitude toward varying views on eschatology
  5. Renewed emphasis on scholarship
  6. Renewed emphasis on social responsibility
  7. Re-examination of Biblical inspiration
  8. Willingness to dialogue with liberal theologians

Above all, this groundbreaking article advocated an altogether different philosophy of ministry. There was, initially, broad agreement on essentials of the faith, but new evangelicalism was different. It was a negation of “embarrassing” militancy for the sake of evangelism. “That’s why to the man on the street fundamentalism got to be a joke. As an ignorant, head-in-the-sand, contentious approach to the Christian faith, it seemed as out-dated as high-button shoes” (16).

The roots of historic evangelicalism emphasized unity over separation and sought to engage in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a distinctly different “attitude” or “mood” than fundamentalism. Any thinking Christian simply must grasp this point—it is not doctrine which separates the two camps; it is a philosophy of ministry.

The next article in this series will examine the concept of secondary separation, surveying the views of a variety of fundamentalists on the issue.

Works cited

Crum, T.B., et al. “Is Evangelical Theology Changing?” Christian Life (March 1956).

Dollar, George W. “Dangers in New Evengelicalism.” Central Bible Quarterly, CNEQ 05:2 (Summer 1962).

Henry, Carl F. H. The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1947.

McCune, Rolland. “Doctrinal Non-Issues in Historic Fundamentalism.” Detroit Baptist Theological Journal 1 (Fall 1996). Accessed 18 Apr 13.

___. Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism. Greenville, SC: Ambassador, 2004.

National Association of Evangelicals. “History.” Accessed 15 Apr 13.

___. “Statement of Faith.” Accessed 15 Apr 13.

Ockenga, Harold J. Foreward, in Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976.

Pfaffe, Donald. “Views of New Evangelicalism.” Central Bible Quarterly, CNEQ 02:2 (Summer 1959).

Pickering, Ernest. “Book Reviews.” Central Bible Quarterly, CNEQ 07:2 (Summer 1964).

___. The Tragedy of Compromise: The Origin and Impact of the New Evengelicalism. Greenville, NC: BJU, 1994.

Walton, Dennis M. “An Identification of New Evangelicalism.” Central Bible Quarterly, CENQ 04:3 (Fall 1961).

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Ed Vasicek's picture

Great article, Tyler.  A good read and to the point.

 

A friendly attitude toward science
A re-evaluation of the work of the Holy Spirit
A move away from dispensationalism
A more tolerant attitude toward varying views on eschatology
Renewed emphasis on scholarship
Renewed emphasis on social responsibility
Re-examination of Biblical inspiration
Willingness to dialogue with liberal theologians

 

Would it be right to say that the Reformed movement (Keller style) is, in some ways, taking the New Evangelical path (anti-dispensational, theistic evolution, more charismatic, any eschatological position except pretrib dispensationalism, putting down others as unscholarly, etc.).  Or is that apples and oranges?

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm not sure. I am extremely cut off from the goings on in those circles. Some Reformed fundamentalists may be in a better position to critique their own movement.

I would say that fundamentalism, as a philosophy and manner of ministry, is inter-denominational. It is a willingness to stand on the fundamental doctrines of the faith and militantly fight against erosion of these truths. Evengelicalism has it's roots in an altoether different philosophy, one which repudiates separation in favor of unity. One which seeks broad secular acceptance as a bridge to dialogue, opening lines of communication across a broad spectrum to get the Gospel out, even if it means compromising or softening Biblical truth. The Gospel-centric mania we've seen much of is characteristic of this philosophy. Don't get me wrong, the Gospel certainly is centric. However, take a look at C. Michael Patton's piece to see the result of this Gospel-centrism taken to evangelical extremes.

I can't say anything about Keller. I know nothing about him other than his picture. The same with Piper. I just can't comment on these folks. I guess I would conclude by saying that somebody is shifting to the evangelical camp if they;

1. Deny any of the "fundamentals" of the faith

2. Embrace the evangelical philosophy of ministry, generally characterized by pragmaticism, unity over separation and varying shades of ecumenicalism for the "greater good." Militant separation is tossed aside in favor of a softer, gentler approach to culture in order to proclaim the Gospel.

I think it would be appropriate to say that #1 generally follows #2.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Appreciate your response.  I think under point 2, part of the problem I see is that we often do not agree with where to draw the line. For example, an older generation of fundamentalists drew the line against women wearing pants, inter-racial dating, or any music that was not in the hymnal.

In my own journey, I rejected many of the ideas of separation from "worldliness" (like playing cards), but accept the principle that we must separate (e.g., the kind of movies we watch, etc.).  I also believe in separating doctrinally over the fundamentals. But many fundamentalist leaders who were in the limelight confused their understanding of applying separation with the principles of separation themselves.  Thus, if you did not separate over Bible versions, for example, you were considered a New Evangelical and not a separatist.  Additionally, the people who wrote the books on separation were always "party line," it seemed, unthinkingly accepting whatever taboos their wing of fundamentalism embraced.  This really harmed their credibility when it came to selling the principle!  For example, if Pickering played cards, had longer hair, and used the NASB, he could sell the PRINCIPLE, not a particular package.  Then it would have demonstrated a grappling with principles, not a particular sub-culture. Not that this was wrong of him to live this way, but it would have been nice if someone less conformist but militantly Biblical led the charge.  We separate over the fundamentals. We separate over what the Bible says is wrong and are cautious in the dark gray areas.

 

For example, I do not believe it is wrong to drink alcohol in moderation, but I do not drink.  If I did, I might have a vested interest in my belief.  This evidences a struggle with the Bible at the center, not me trying to propagate what is expected.

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

I think under point 2, part of the problem I see is that we often do not agree with where to draw the line.

This is the very crux of the problem. I think it is incorrect to broad-brush impugn the motives of all the original new-evangelicals. I don't think they met secretly in darkened rooms to plot how to compromise the Bible away, or any such nonsense. I think this is why the paradigm of a philosophy of ministry is a better characterization than rote adherence to "fundamental" doctrines. Militant separatism and adherence to the core fundamentals of the Christian faith are the defining mark of a fundamentalist philosophy of ministry. Unfortunately, militancy occasionally takes the form of bloviating nastiness among some separatists.

This means that there are theological differences among fundamentalists. I am very fond of Reformed apologist James White. He is very militant and characterizes himself as a fundamentalist. However, fundamentalism is a philosophy of ministry, not a denomination. It is a very conservative, militant, separatist, uncompromising method of ministry to be implemented in each of our respective circles. We don't have to unite on the nuances of our respective theologies, that would never happen! We can unite in some fashion, however, on the basis of a shared philosophy of ministry.

Additionally, the people who wrote the books on separation were always "party line," it seemed, unthinkingly accepting whatever taboos their wing of fundamentalism embraced.  This really harmed their credibility when it came to selling the principle!

I believe it would be correct to characterize Rolland McCune and Ernest Pickering as coming from the same fundamental Baptist orbit. Each of us has our own particular orbit, and can implement these very same principles on our own within our respective spheres of influence. We all draw the line in different places on different issues, each believing the other is correct. Will we cooperate on everything? No; there are levels of associations we all recognize. I'll speak to that in my next article.

This doesn't mean anybody who is not precisely like me is a "compromiser." It does mean, however, that we can get together on the basis of our shared philosophy of conservative, militant, separatist ministry when necessary.

The very movement itself, from the beginning, was inter-denominational - and these men combined forces against modernism based on their shared convictions on Scripture. We should be able to do the same on some level today. How this should be done will be what my next article is about.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

I think it is a bit of a mistake to make too much of the interdenominational aspect of fundamentalism. There was a very brief period after WWII when this might have been true of the burgeoning para-church ministries, but my understanding is that the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy was largely a matter of coincidental battles in separate denominations.

What I mean is that, for example, Machen and other Presbyterians fought their fundamentalist battles within the Presbyterian denomination, not looking for help (or expecting it) from the Baptists. Riley and others fought in the Baptist convention over similar things, not looking for or expecting help from the Presbyterians.

There were some joint efforts like the Bible Conference movement and the city wide evangelistic campaigns by the leading evangelists, but for the most part, Baptists carried on their ministry as Baptists, Presbyterians as Presbyterians. I think the interdenominational character of the early period is largely overblown.

That's not to say they thought of each other as enemies, just that they were not actively  promoting cooperative efforts with each other (except for the evangelistic campaigns previously mentioned).

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

I think it is a bit of a mistake to make too much of the interdenominational aspect of fundamentalism

My problem in this regard is that all the histories of the movement I've read are from independent, fundamental Baptists! My perspective has been shaped by these men.

However, the men who wrote The Fundamentals were certainly theologically diverse folks. They were able to get together to collaborate on a very significant project and set aside their theological differences. That is not to say the movement was ecumenical. They banded together to fight for Biblical orthodoxy, not get the Gospel out. I may be overdrawing

There has to be some manner, some level of fellowship, on which fundamentalists can cooperate today for orthodoxy. I am not altogether sure what that level of cooperation is.

The Niagara Bible Conference (1889), for instance, was clearly inter-denominational in character. Scofield himself was a Congregationalist. I think we're forgetting how inter-denominational the early movement really was.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

TylerR wrote:
I guess I would conclude by saying that somebody is shifting to the evangelical camp if they;

1. Deny any of the "fundamentals" of the faith

2. Embrace the evangelical philosophy of ministry, generally characterized by pragmaticism, unity over separation and varying shades of ecumenicalism for the "greater good." Militant separation is tossed aside in favor of a softer, gentler approach to culture in order to proclaim the Gospel.

I think it would be appropriate to say that #1 generally follows #2.

I agree that 1 generally follows 2. But I would say 2 is definitely a move toward evangelicalism, but 1 is a move out the other side of evangelicalism. Evangelicals are still brothers, but denying the fundamentals moves someone outside the sphere of believer. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Don Johnson's picture

The Niagara conferences and even The Fundamentals were in a period that predated fundamentalism, not that there was an official "Start date" as such. I'm also not saying there were no interdenominational connections, just that 1) there was less than is supposed, and 2) some of the perception we have of it is sort of reading our expectations back into the history books.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

In many cases, I think evangelicals won't outright deny any of the "fundamentals," but they're certainly willing to soften their stance on them. Some of them won't fight for them. C. Michael Patton's article is a clear case in point. He upholds inerrancy, for example, but won't necessarily fight for it and claim it as a fundamental truth of orthodox Christianity. This is not denial, but it is headed in that direction. I am passingly familiar with Patton's ministry and doubt he would ever deny any of the fundamentals. His less discerning followers, however, may take the next step.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm also not saying there were no interdenominational connections, just that 1) there was less than is supposed, and 2) some of the perception we have of it is sort of reading our expectations back into the history books.

Do you believe there is any way self-identified fundamentalists can, or should, cooperate in defense of orthodox Christianiity, particularly in our culture today? You and I diuffer on the extent of inter-denominational cooperation back in the day, but we would agree there was cooperation of some sort, right? Can this be a model for fundamentalists to follow today to some degree, or should we each fight the fight in our respective spheres and forget aboout the occasional cooperative fellowship?

I'm not asking to trap you! Most folks here have been in ministry a lot longer than me. I'd like some perspectives.

This article, for example, calls for a cooperation across fundamentalism to defend orthodox Christianity. I like his points, but wonder if it is possible today without the charge of ecumenicalism:

I do see history repeating itself, should the Lord tarry. And I think reflecting on the example of the original fundamentalists gives us motivation to mobilize and encouragement to stand strong. Over the next fifty years, I believe that similar lines will be drawn, similar alliances made, and similar battles fought as were seen 125 years ago. May God give us the courage and resolve of the original fundamentalists, as we stand firm for the truth against the tempting tidal waves of compromise.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

Hi Tyler

First, I think the difference of opinion is a difference of perception. I may be wrong about my perception but the reason I think not is that normal ministry occurs within the confines of a local church. Interdenominational ministry can't be sustained at that level, but certain times may call for such measures for specific projects. The Niagara Conferences, for example, were organized as an event outside local churches for a specific time and place and for a specific purpose. The Fundamentals was financed by Lyman Stewart and various Christians independently contributed articles. But each individual, in his own ministry, at the same time as contributing articles would have been involved in his own local ministry. The interdenominationalism was limited and very specific.

I noticed that article on Cripplegate earlier this week. Nathan Busenitz is on the staff of MacArthur's church in LA. He gets some points of the history wrong, I think, but that could simply because he is writing "off the cuff" in a blog article. I think that if he were writing a paper such as you have done here he would probably have been more careful with the facts.

In his article, please notice that he wants to avoid the label "fundamentalist" (not that the label must be used). Part of his reason is "in part because of the evangelical/fundamentalist split of the 1940s". Now what would that split be? Why, it was the New Evangelicalism of course. You see, he and those in the MacArthur circles are still somewhat wedded to the notion that the New Evangelicals were right and those nasty Fundamentalists were wrong. You can see this in John MacArthur's post here in his recent series on glorifying God.

Notice this quote:

On the opposite end of the spectrum from unbridled Christian liberty is legalism. In that camp are believers who want to make hard-and-fast rules about matters on which Scripture is silent.

 

I attended a college where we didn’t have to struggle through decisions on gray areas because everything had already been decided for us. There were rules about what time we got up, what time we went to bed, what hours we studied, and whom we could talk to. There were even rules about how far we could walk with a girl beside us before we had to separate—right down to the number of feet! There were rules for just about everything. And while those rules simplified life on a superficial level, they also made it hopelessly complicated on an internal level.

The biblical pattern for dealing with life’s gray areas isn’t found in either of those extremes.

What college is he talking about? BJU, of course. For whatever reason, there remains an antipathy towards BJU in MacArthur's mind. He brings this up often. These attitudes are common among critics of BJU, but it crops up in MacArthur's teaching on a regular basis. He rarely names the school, but he has to get his digs in.

So here's the thing about cooperation. I think that as long as conservative evangelicals want to cling to the "NE was right / Fundie was wrong" mantra, there is very little way we can cooperate with them. Why would we? How could you trust them not to turn around and denigrate your ministry after using our efforts in some glorious cooperative effort?

Besides, the days of such cooperation are pretty well over. While you can get conservative people to agree on core doctrines (like inerrancy, virgin birth, miracles, deity of Christ), that is not where the battle is today. The battle today is in the cultural arena, and you can't get theologically orthodox people to agree where the problem is. That is the gist of my comment to Nathan's Cripplegate article, first comment under the name "dcsj". Cooperative efforts would require unanimity in the area where the fight is happening. The fact that we have unity on core doctrines is, unfortunately, irrelevant. The battleground has changed and for the most part the attack on the church today is in the area of lifestyle.

BTW, can't remember if I said this earlier, but I liked your article. Nicely done.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Don Johnson wrote:

I think it is a bit of a mistake to make too much of the interdenominational aspect of fundamentalism. There was a very brief period after WWII when this might have been true of the burgeoning para-church ministries, but my understanding is that the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy was largely a matter of coincidental battles in separate denominations.

What I mean is that, for example, Machen and other Presbyterians fought their fundamentalist battles within the Presbyterian denomination, not looking for help (or expecting it) from the Baptists. Riley and others fought in the Baptist convention over similar things, not looking for or expecting help from the Presbyterians.

There were some joint efforts like the Bible Conference movement and the city wide evangelistic campaigns by the leading evangelists, but for the most part, Baptists carried on their ministry as Baptists, Presbyterians as Presbyterians. I think the interdenominational character of the early period is largely overblown.

That's not to say they thought of each other as enemies, just that they were not actively  promoting cooperative efforts with each other (except for the evangelistic campaigns previously mentioned).

I think Don's understanding of this is pretty good, at least in how I experienced this in the 70's.  I spent a fair amount of time while I was growing up in a fundamental Methodist church.  Our Christian school was attended by students that belonged to many churches in the area, Baptist, Presbyterian, Mennonite, etc., though our school was explicitly non-denominational.  Only very rarely, however, did we do anything of a ministry nature with the other non-Methodist churches in the area, and most often it might be getting together to hear a fundamental speaker from outside the area.

We didn't do revivals or special meetings together, though some of the members might attend a night or two at the meetings another church was holding.  We fought our own battles against sin and modernism, and mostly stayed within our own sphere of fundamentalism.  We most certainly recognized the other churches as co-fighters in the greater ministry of Christianity, not as enemies or somehow "lesser" Christians, but we had our differences as well, and those were reflected in how we did ministry vs. how they did ministry.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture

Editor

For those who are interested, the Carl F.H. Henry center has made available a valuable 1991 interview that sheds light on the evangelical movement.

In this interview, D.A. Carson interviewed Henry and Kenneth Kantzer.

"These two prominent Evangelicals were not merely observers of an emerging movement, but key participants in its development. In the lectures and discussions featured in this series, Henry and Kantzer share both their understanding of the “turning points” in the movement over the second half of the twentieth century and their sober hope for, in the words of Don Carson, a “useful, productive and god-glorifying future.”

For those familiar with Dr. Fred Moritz's work, Be Ye Holy, he makes use of it in his text. I haven't watched it yet but will soon! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Brenda T's picture

and it comes from someone who is not a fundamentalist.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Billy Graham and like-minded conservative Protestants were creating a new version of old time religion that they now formally called 'evangelicalism' to distinguish it from the older, more negative label 'fundamentalism'. They wanted to keep a conservative view of Scripture and a strong commitment to saving souls, but at the same time to win public respect in society and collaborate with a broader spectrum of like-minded Christians. Some, like Carl Henry, wanted evangelicals to get involved in social and political issues as well. . . . The National Association of Evangelicals became the official standard bearer of this movement. But organizations like Youth for Christ and Young Life became the places in which the new evangelicals worked out their relationship to popular culture and the preferences of younger generations. Staunch fundamentalists, meanwhile, refused to join the NAE and criticized YFC for being too 'worldly'. Although the shift from fundamentalism to evangelicalism helped the new movement in many ways, it did accelerate the juvenilization of conservative Protestantism in America. By defining the Christian life as less countercultural and more fun and fulfilling, YFC leaders harnessed the appeal of youth culture to the cart of revivalism. But once harnessed, this horse began to dictate where the cart would go. When the appeal to teenagers became overwhelmingly important, the Christian standards so long taken for granted were not as self-evident as they had once seemed. . . . Rather than developing sophisticated theological criteria for evaluating popular culture and entertainment, evangelicals relied on their shared instincts about what constituted bodily corruption. They also accepted anything that promised evangelistic success. . . . They saw most pop culture forms as morally neutral and showed little awareness of the way that a change of medium can change the message it communicates. . . . They justified a youth culture version of Christianity by claiming that nothing important had changed. . . .

(from The Juvenilization of American Christianity, by Thomas Bergler, p. 157-159)

TylerR's picture

Editor

I just read a review of that book today. Was thinking about getting it! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Greg Linscott's picture

Tyler, in your mind, how would you envision that "cooperation" potentially manifesting itself?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm not sure if it is possible today without the charge of ecumenical heresy.

I see the roots of fundamentalism as being characterized by a spirit of inter-denominational cooperation in defense of orthodox Christianity. The Bible conferences of the late 18th century and especially publication of The Fundamentals are examples I can think of right off the bat. Don Johnson thinks I am perhaps overdrawing the degree of cooperation, but I think we'd both admit there was some amount of cooperation against the assault of modernism in Christianity. 

I believe a similar approach is needed today, in light of the post-modern assault upon Biblical orthodoxy. I do confess, however, that I am uncertain how it should be done or if there is even a strong enough personality in fundamentalism right now to pull it off. The goal, however, should be defense of Biblical orthodoxy, not evangelism. The example of our brethren a century ago is a good one. It can and should be emulated to some extent. I am not sure if it is possible in our current climate; I am inclined to say we're much more fractured now than we were back then. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I made mention of a 1991 interview, where D.A. Carson spoke with both Carl F.H. Henry and Kenneth Kantzer. I am 10 mins into this interview with two leading new evangelicals, and I can promise you it is worth watching. We don't all have a lot of time on our hands, but watching a few mins will be instructive.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Greg Linscott's picture

  • The Gideons? I've had some inquiries lately for them to come and present in one of our services?
  • Chaplaincy? Hospital, Jail, Military, Law Enforcement...
  • Ministerial Councils? Many small Minnesota towns (including ours) have them. I have not gone to one since I've gotten here, but they send me information anyway. I have met a few time with the Evangelical (as opposed to Roman Catholic and Mainline) for prayer time.
  • Education? We have several families in our church who are part of a cooperative board-run Christian day school, independent of any one church. My family and I belong to a local Christian home educators group (which at least goes so far as to distinguish from Roman Catholicism), where they get together for things like gym class, plays, and some cooperative teaching.

I have also been contemplating what my boundaries might be for getting something like http://project127.com/ started in Minnesota. Essentially, the idea is to recruit and train Christians in church settings to become state licensed foster parents. The initial inquiries I've made with the state DHS have been met with interest and receptivity.

Perhaps something more like you are envisioning, T, has been most recently seen in organizations like http://www.amcouncilcc.org/ (which is still active) or http://www.itib.org/ (looks like the last regional meeting gather in 2010, according to their site).

 

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

TylerR's picture

Editor

I have just joined the Gideons. We support them in our church as well. 

My Pastor is a law enforcement chaplain and I am going back to active-duty as a Navy Chaplain once I get my MDiv. 

It is precisely the out of the box things you mention, Greg, on a local level which, when duplicated many times over all around the world, can have such a profound impact. 

I do think any large scale cooperative efforts in defense of orthodox Christianity, in these days of social media, may be easier to get off the ground. I just despair at how likely it is that it will happen. I am not sure how much of an impact the two organizations you mentioned have. I'd stumbled across them before, but will check them out more thoroughly now. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

TylerR wrote:

Don Johnson thinks I am perhaps overdrawing the degree of cooperation, but I think we'd both admit there was some amount of cooperation against the assault of modernism in Christianity. 

I believe a similar approach is needed today, in light of the post-modern assault upon Biblical orthodoxy. I do confess, however, that I am uncertain how it should be done or if there is even a strong enough personality in fundamentalism right now to pull it off.

When the early fundamentalists fought modernism, they were fighting men within their own denominations. They were fighting to regain control of their denominations and oust the modernists.

They were not fighting to silence or defeat liberals outside their own circles.

Today, post-modernism is a threat outside the circle of fundamentalism. I don't know of any post-modernists teaching at any of the fundamentalist colleges. I would venture to say that there are very few post-modernists in most of the evangelical institutions, at least in the conservative ones.

So who would you fight? What would you hope to accomplish? How would you go about it?

It's really a non-issue. The only way to fight post-modernism as a fundamentalist is to preach and teach about it, to disciple men and women so they can recognize the errors of post-modernism (or other 'isms') and encourage their commitment to the Lord and to truth.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

When the early fundamentalists fought modernism, they were fighting men within their own denominations. They were fighting to regain control of their denominations and oust the modernists.

They were not fighting to silence or defeat liberals outside their own circles.

I agree with this, by and large. I apologize if I gave the impression that I thought the entire movement was characterized by only inter-denominational fellowship, more so than local militancy in different spheres of influence.

I wonder, however, how much regional or even local cooperation there is among fundamentalists even today, within our respective circles. I have the feeling we're far too insular, speaking strictly for the independent, fundamental Baptists. This is only my own, limited perspective talking, but I think it is a problem.

So who would you fight? What would you hope to accomplish? How would you go about it?

I'm not looking for a national-level, inter-fundamentalism group hug to promote orthodox Christianity. I'm wondering how the landscape looks on a local, state or regional level, specifically in the area of contending in the public square for orthodox Christian values in this post-modern age. Are the organizations meeting and preaching to one another about Biblical truth, or are they bringing this truth to the world at large? The fellowship our church associates with is, quite honestly, accomplishing little in this sphere. 

Evangelicals, in keeping with their historic roots of unity for the Gospel above all else, can boast of organizations like T4G, etc. Can fundamentalists point to anything similar, on even a local, state or regional scale, which seeks to defend Biblical orthodoxy in the public square? Is there hope for such an endeavor? Are we minoring on side-bars while the world around us trashes Biblical orthodoxy? Groups such as the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics are important. Many fundamentalists participate and attend. However, why aren't fundamentalists rallying around a defense of Biblical truth in the public square, too? Why, so often, is there no fundamentalist organization explicitly promoting these values?

I see a pre-suppositional apologetic approach as an outstanding vehicle for driving this train forward. Debates can be held on college campuses, for example, focusing on dialog with free-thinker and atheist student bodies. Christian truth claims can be positively and Biblically presented to adults who may have never heard them before. Christian colleges can get involved and sponsor these endeavors. Fundamentalists, from one camp or perhaps even many, can stand together and defend Biblical inerrancy, the virgin birth, the resurrection, authenticity of miracles - and the Gospel can be presented at the same time. This endeavor is beyond the capacities of a single man, no matter how energetic he is. It takes the collective efforts of an organization to bring these ideas to fruition.

Can such an attempt, or a similar one, be marshaled today on a local, state or even regional level? Is fundamentalism too fractured to bring it off? 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Greg Linscott's picture

Can such an attempt, or a similar one, be marshaled today on a local, state or even regional level? Is fundamentalism too fractured to bring it off?

Imagine if you could even just get the different strains of Fundamentalist Baptists to cooperate on one level...

I think the concept is good in theory. In practice, I've yet to see anything resembling it get off the ground.

 

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

JoelCS's picture

TylerR wrote:

Evangelicals, in keeping with their historic roots of unity for the Gospel above all else, can boast of organizations like T4G, etc. Can fundamentalists point to anything similar, on even a local, state or regional scale, which seeks to defend Biblical orthodoxy in the public square? Is there hope for such an endeavor?

Can such an attempt, or a similar one, be marshaled today on a local, state or even regional level? Is fundamentalism too fractured to bring it off? 

Tyler,

 

Thank you for asking! One of the reasons for distinction between Evangelicalism / New Evangelicalism / Fundamentalism is the broad based work of many, many fundamentalists, who endeavored to 1) uphold the historic roots of Biblical Truth 2) rescue entire denominations from liberal theology 3) continue their own ministries 4) win the Lost around them 5) expand theological education 6) extend missionary outreach, etc. , etc.

The fundamentalists accomplished these goals and left scores of 1) newly planted churches! 2) Bible Institutes! 3) Bible Colleges! 4) Seminaries! 5) Fundamentalist groups! The "Evangelicals" were not, to my knowledge, a Church-Planting force during this entire era (20s through 70s). When the fundamentalists realized that their institutions were not to be rescued from the Liberals they went out and started new institutions. The YFs the may have missed / ignored / not been aware largess of the Fundamentalists in accomplishing these feats while maintaining their ministries and fighting the many theological battles that raged all the way up to and through the 70s.

The second round fights came, when the new institutions - built by the Fundamentalists, were taken over by the New-Evangelicals through all kinds of intrigue! So - some newer fundamentalist institutions were built as well.

Unfortunately, too much has been emphasized about the "Fighting Fundamentalists", while ignoring the Building Fundamentalists!

You can't blame the battle scarred fundamentalists for being skeptical, when younger conservatives look with a longing eye toward the evangelical left. The left is where the problems came from.

Myopia can prevent fundamentalists, conservatives, evangelicals - or any group from sorting emotions from truth.

Just my thoughts!

Joel Sandahl

TylerR's picture

Editor

While perusing a pamphlet by a separatist named Charles Woodbridge, entitled Biblical Separation (1970?), I came across this jolly quote about new evangelicalism:

Dr. Harold J. Ockenga of New England invented the term "The New Evangelicalism " He is the father and arch-promoter of the movement. Insisting that the key-word in the furthering of the gospel is no longer Biblical separation from, but infiltration into apostate churches, he has brought into being a theological monster before which Gargantua would seem to be a mere pygmy!

I don't think I've yet come across a more . . . interesting description than this one!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

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