The Roots of Postfundamentalist Evangelicalism (and Fundamentalism)

"One thing that I perhaps should mention is that evangelicalism (and fundamentalism) is the sum of reactions to the Enlightenment. In this sense, both movements are reactionary, but with turtle-like reactions of decades to a problem now centuries old." - Don Johnson

1931 reads

There are 31 Comments

josh p's picture

Thanks Don. One question/challenge that I would have is regarding Pentecostalism’s influence on fundamentalism. You mentioned the “higher life” emphasis of Keswick theology on evangelicalism but wouldn’t it be accurate to say that that model of sanctification is pretty prominent in fundamentalism and that it has its basic roots in Pentecostalism? I might be anachronistic here but if I remember the chronology, the two streams come from the same source. I believe Naselli covered this in his book as well as lectures at DBTS but I need to review.

josh p's picture

Edit: after rethinking it and doing some quick review, perhaps it would be better to say that fundamentalism (at least in a lot of if not the majority of cases) has adopted the same view of sanctification which was adopted by Pentecostalism. Kind of a chicken and an egg thing but I think that would sum it up better. Does that sound right?

TylerR's picture

Editor

There is such a thing as a Reformed fundamentalist. There always have been. Reformed folks have never bought into higher life versions of sanctification. This is the trouble with trying to speak in generalizations about a cross-denominational movement. Machen and the men who founded the OPC, Westminster (etc.) certainly would not agree with Keswick sanctification.

It may be better to say that Baptist fundamentalists, being much less confessional in their theology, have tended towards various flavors of higher life sanctification. I have not, but I grew up as a Christian in circles that did. Many Baptist fundamentalists have a Chaferian sanctification ("carnal Christian," etc).

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 don't think Keswick theology came out of Pentecostalism, although I am not as up on the history of that movement as others. My impression is that Keswick came before Pentecostalism, first of all. The roots of Keswick are revivalism, I'd say. There is a Holiness branch of revivalism (Methodists, Nazarenes, Church of God [Anderson, Indiana], etc.) I am not sure if it formed a root for Keswick, or not. Holiness definitely was a root of Pentecostalism. Some early Pentecostals came out of the Church of God, for example. 

As I read Olson, I would say that Pentecostalism functioned largely outside of Fundamentalism. They were sort of the red-headed step child of conservative Christianity for their first 50 years or so. When the Charismatic movement began to span denominations (late 60s, early 70s), then it became more mainstream and is now a dominant force in evangelicalism.

I'm still not quite finished with Olson's little book, blogging as I go. I have to say it is fascinating. I have a lot of problems with Olson's theology, but he is very insightful as a historian. This little book is well worth picking up if you run across it.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

josh p's picture

Yes Tyler I agree but even Machen wouldn’t accept the term fundamentalist unless he was making a point. I am definitely speaking in generalities here, but I would say that from what I’ve seen, most of the self-professed fundy world has that view of sanctification. I could be wrong though.

josh p's picture

Yeah that sounds about right Don. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll pick up the book when I clear some stuff from the reading queue.

TylerR's picture

Editor

In this kind of discussion, one must distinguish what kind of fundamentalism he is claiming! I will agree to the label "fundamentalist" if one is speaking of the original modernist controversies. If you're referring to the "fundamentalism" that is characterized by separation and suspicion of evangelicals (i.e. Billy Graham onward), then i want no part of it.

Not sure whether Olson makes that distinction. So, in essence, I claim to be an evangelical. They were the same thing before the Billy Graham break, after all.

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?

josh p's picture

Yeah I wasn’t really trying to claim a form of fundamentalism merely pointing out that what most people think of when they hear the term (Olson included it sounds like) may have some sanctification parallels with Pentecostalism. I’m with you though. I accept the term when I can define it. Just had lunch with my pastor on Saturday and he asked me to explain what the term means when I used it.

Don Johnson's picture

Just sayin'!!!!

Actually, you probably need to read this book. I don't think you really understand what fundamentalism is.

Olson is pretty clear about what he is: postfundamentalist evangelical. He mentions the term "new evangelical" which is the same thing, but he claims it is a slur cast by fundamentalists. One mistake he makes! It is their own term.

In any case, there is no such thing as a pre-Billy Graham evangelical. Not anymore, and what we have now didn't exist pre-Billy Graham. You can't wind the clock back, you have to deal with history as it is.

If you want to define yourself as "not-fundamentalist" but conservative theologically, you are exactly where Olson is. You may not like where fundamentalism is, or you may not like certain segments of fundamentalism, but fundamentalism really didn't change in the 1950s. The evangelical wing changed. If that's what you are, that's fine, but you don't really get to define the terms.

The fact of a conservative theologian who doesn't want to be identified as a fundamentalist is pretty well the textbook definition of a post-conservative evangelical. That's Olson's point, which will be the subject of an upcoming post at Oxgoad

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

Thanks for your kind words. You and I understand fundamentalism very differently. Yours is the organization which published the shameful issue of Frontline. Our public correspondence in the aftermath revealed the profound differences in our understandings of the movement. I do not care about the movement as a movement. I believe it is dying and it will continue to die, despite the best efforts of some very good men.

I do respect and care about the ethos that characterized the original fundamentalists before mission drift set in, and they began to be characterized more by opposition to evangelicals who split from them than by intelligent opposition to theological revisionism. I am a Regular Baptist, which (I believe) is a much, much healthier place for a pastor to be.

I have been enjoying your series. I added Olson's book to my Amazon cart several days ago, when you first mentioned it. Take care.

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

We don't get to define things by our own experience. We are not Humpty Dumpty: "a word means what I choose it to mean" (Lewis Carroll - may not be exactly as quoted).

The history is what it is. I think you've misunderstood it.

It is interesting to me that those who claim the "original fundamentalists were different" are those sort of within fundamentalism who don't want to be characterized by fundamentalists they don't like. Evangelicals see us much differently than that. My view of the history is shaped especially by what they wrote. Olson is providing a theological take in this book. Marsden provides a historical take. Beale and Moritz play the opposite roles from within fundamentalism. It is very interesting to me that all these works tell the same story. The notion that fundamentalism is substantially different between the present and the 1920s (say) is revisionist. At least according to the histories I've read on the subject.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

dgszweda's picture

Don,

What are your thoughts on the impact that the American holiness movement had on fundamentalist hymns?  We of course have Fanny Crosby, but many others are part of our core set of hymns.  You have people like William Kirkpatrick who wrote many of our hymns including, Redeemed, He hideth my soul.....

Don Johnson's picture

dgszweda wrote:

Don,

What are your thoughts on the impact that the American holiness movement had on fundamentalist hymns?  We of course have Fanny Crosby, but many others are part of our core set of hymns.  You have people like William Kirkpatrick who wrote many of our hymns including, Redeemed, He hideth my soul.....

I'm sure there may be something there. I don't know the background of a lot of hymn writers (and I am sure some would object to the term "hymns" in this context). I've always had it in my head that the "old hymns" are mostly the fruit of revivalism, but I honestly don't know much about this.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

dgszweda's picture

I noticed that you stated that, the "Holiness movement had little influence on fundamentalism".  I am not an expert on hymns, I have just noticed, as I came across it over the years, that much of our hymns from the early 1900's are from songwriters that were in the Holiness movement, or at least sympathetic to the movement.  I do not have a good read on this, but have often wondered on this perspective impacted the movement.

josh p's picture

Andy Naselli covers some hymn influence of Keswick theology on fundamentalism in his book, “Let God and Let God?” There is a lot of overlap with holiness theology.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Fundamentalism is not a monolithic movement. Baptists often, perhaps unconsciously, try to "own" the movement. They do not. When you think about holiness theology and its influence on fundamentalism, you inevitably have to consider, "well, it depends on which flavor of fundamentalism you're talking about!" You also have to consider that many conservative theologians and movements today that fight against liberalism and revisionism perpetuate the ethos of the movement, but would never "self-identify" with the movement today because of its unfortunate excesses over the past 70 years.

Just as there is a spectrum of evangelicalism (and a nifty book about the subject), there is also a spectrum of fundamentalism.

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

Tyler wrote:

Fundamentalism is not a monolithic movement. Baptists often, perhaps unconsciously, try to "own" the movement. They do not. 

TYLER: Some truth in those words.  I have known my share of independent Baptists who don't consider IFCA, Grace Brethren, and sometimes even GARBs as true fundamentalists.  But that's a problem with about every term.  Some try to hog the term, others define themselves in or out of it.  We punish those we don't like by saying they are or are not the term.

But the whole holiness thing, let me opine.  A lot of  my theological heritage arose from the Bible conference movement, which tended to be multi-denominational in its draw. I think the holiness and deeper life stuff does have roots to Wesley. If one thing is certain in certain in the history of Christianity in the U.S. (at least) is that everyone influences everyone else.  The diversity of sources of our hymns is an evidence of it.  But how can it not be? We visit churches or join one and leave another and bring what we believe to be the best of those churches with us.

D.L. Moody, for example, had his second blessing (baptism of the Spirit) and rolled around or whatever. When Moody would evangelize, R.A. Torrey would follow up and tell people who to receive the Holy Spirit. Later, Torrey realized he was in error and apologized for his inaccurate teaching.

Right there, you see what happened: originally the Wesleyan doctrine had great sway, but then, as the fundamentalist/modernist controversy was fueled, some fundamentalists who had been revivalists started paying more attention to doctrine. It took a long time for all this to work its way down to all the ranks, however.

DON, a question for you.  I would add that on this site, at least, most of us are not into revival or revivalism (based on previous polls I conducted).  So if fundamentalism is the merging of orthodox doctrine with revivalism, are we not to be considered fundamentalists?

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

Don wrote:

The fact of a conservative theologian who doesn't want to be identified as a fundamentalist is pretty well the textbook definition of a post-conservative evangelical. That's Olson's point, which will be the subject of an upcoming post at Oxgoad.

I am genuinely confused about your point (and Olson's). Are you saying that, for example, Al Mohler and D.A. Carson are post-conservative evangelicals if they don't self-identify as fundamentalists (according to how you and Olson define the term)? Is Olson writing from the perspective that Mohler (et al) are fundamentalists? If so, I would agree! So did Frances Fitzgerald.

To clarify, I meant I don't self-identify as a "fundamentalist" as Baptist fundamentalists like the FBFI define the term.

 

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?

Darm's picture

This is in regard to the Holiness movement and its influence on hymns/gospel songs used in the Fundamentalist movement.  As mentioned earlier in the comments, one need not look any further than Fanny Crosby to find a very successful author of gospel songs who was also greatly influenced by the 19th century Holiness movement.  She was a close friend to Phoebe Palmer Knapp who wrote the music for “Blessed Assurance” and was active in the late 19th century Holiness movement.  (Check out the Wikipedia entry on “Blessed Assurance”.)  Mrs. Knapp was the daughter of Phoebe Palmer who was one of the best-known Wesleyan-Holiness proponents of her day.  Phoebe Palmer herself authored “The Cleansing Stream” which is definitely a Holiness gospel song and has been used some within Fundamentalism over the years.  Just one other example would be “The Old Rugged Cross” which was written by Charles Bennard.  He was a Holiness pastor within the northern Methodist Church around the turn of the last century. The list could go on I’m sure. 

I believe the earlier comments were primarily dealing with music influences from the 19th and 20th centuries.  However, it should not be overlooked that the Wesleys of the 18th century left a heritage of hymnody that has proven to be of enduring significance across Protestantism.  

I would say that the music of Pentecostalism probably had much less overlap with Fundamentalism.  For one thing, the Pentecostal movement came along considerably later than the Wesleyan-Holiness movement.  Also, the style of Pentecostal music was considerably less similar to the standard fare in either Holiness or Fundamentalist churches.  Even so, the shaped-note “Church Hymnal” (published by the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee) could be (can be?) found in lots of Baptist churches (both IFB and SBC) in the South.  Interestingly, the COG-Cleveland purchased the campus of Bob Jones College when the school moved to SC after WWII.  That campus today is the location of their flagship denominational school, Lee University.   I think it is also interesting that Lee is now considerably larger than BJU.     

I do have some familiarity with the specific overlap/interaction between Bob Jones University and both the Holiness and Pentecostal movements.  That will have to wait for another time!  (Sorry that this got so long!)

 

Don Johnson's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

DON, a question for you.  I would add that on this site, at least, most of us are not into revival or revivalism (based on previous polls I conducted).  So if fundamentalism is the merging of orthodox doctrine with revivalism, are we not to be considered fundamentalists?

I think you might be missing something in my point (or my discussion of Olson's point). His book is a history of evangelical theology. His thesis is that present day evangelicalism draws from eight major threads of theology to form its own theology. Fundamentalism shares ALL of those threads (in my opinion) except that it is one of the eight shaping evangelicalism.

So in general evangelicals AND fundamentalists draw things from revivalism in their theological mix. Fundamentalism and evangelicalism are not simply revivalism made over into something else, but they share values, practices, culture and theology from revivalism. They are distinct movements, with overlap. 

I would say that those who disdain revivalism are in denial about their own history. Revivalism has some problems, as all movements do, but God used it to further his kingdom in many ways. Many faithful men, who we all admire to one extent or another, were part of the mix. So I kind of laugh at the disdain people have for revivalism. It seems overblown to me.

If you are an evangelical or a fundamentalist, your heritage includes revivalism and you share some characteristics with it.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

TylerR wrote:

Don wrote:

The fact of a conservative theologian who doesn't want to be identified as a fundamentalist is pretty well the textbook definition of a post-conservative evangelical. That's Olson's point, which will be the subject of an upcoming post at Oxgoad.

I am genuinely confused about your point (and Olson's). Are you saying that, for example, Al Mohler and D.A. Carson are post-conservative evangelicals if they don't self-identify as fundamentalists (according to how you and Olson define the term)? Is Olson writing from the perspective that Mohler (et al) are fundamentalists? If so, I would agree! So did Frances Fitzgerald.

To clarify, I meant I don't self-identify as a "fundamentalist" as Baptist fundamentalists like the FBFI define the term.

 

Oops! I mistyped. Sorry for the confusion. I should have left "post-" off that sentence.

Fixed: The fact of a conservative theologian who doesn't want to be identified as a fundamentalist is pretty well the textbook definition of a conservative evangelical. That's Olson's point, which will be the subject of an upcoming post at Oxgoad.

My bad. Thanks for the correction.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

I think what darm says echoes what I've sort of "sensed" as the background. It's not my area of interest at all. After two years of piano lessons, I went crying to my dad and got him to get me out of it. My musical daughter asked me if I regretted that decision. Nope!

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

TylerR's picture

Editor

Got it. I absolutely agree with this:

The fact of a conservative theologian who doesn't want to be identified as a fundamentalist is pretty well the textbook definition of a conservative evangelical.

This is me - 100000%.

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?

Darm's picture

Tyler’s statement - “Reformed folks have never bought into higher life versions of sanctification.” - is certainly debatable.  Andrew Murray, Reformed minister from South Africa, was an early participant in the Keswick conventions.  In recent years Don Carson and Alistair Begg (both of whom would, I believe, self-describe as Reformed) have been principal speakers at the conventions.  I feel certain that these are not isolated examples.  Remember that the founders of the Keswick movement were typically not Arminians in the Wesleyan/Methodist sense.  

A contemporary example would be Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University) which has historically identified with Keswick-style theology.  Presbyterians were among the early leaders there and continued to have influence over the years.

I’m not sure whether you would include the New Calvinists, who are often continuationists and Charismatic, in the Higher Life camp.  I suppose not.  But if they seek after spectacular sign gifts (a la John Piper?) it would not be surprising that at least some of them have embraced Higher Life theology.

Broad statements often have exceptions.  Certainly that is the case here.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I should have said that Reformed denominations have never bought into higher life sanctification. They're confessional in a way Baptists are not. Of course, individuals in the Reformed tradition have done all sorts of things. Murray is certainly an example. Carson is a soft continuationist, I believe - but he teaches at an Evangelical Free seminary and I'm not aware of what kind of church he goes to. Piper is just, well ... Piper.

But, yes - I wish to clarify that I was referring to confessional Reformed denominations as denominations, not necessarily to individuals who happen to cart around a Reformed soteriology.

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

Tyler wrote:

- I wish to clarify that I was referring to confessional Reformed denominations as denominations, not necessarily to individuals who happen to cart around a Reformed soteriology.

So do the Baptist denominations have this in their doctrinal statements?  Groups like the Christian and Missionary Alliance do, but I am not sure how many others (apart from those descending from Wesley) actially have it in their statement of faith.  Since I wear orthopedic shoes, I am willing to stand corrected.

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

Do Baptists have what in their doctrinal statements? My point is that Reformed denominations, in contrast to Baptists, are confessional. Baptists agree on nothing at all except the doctrine of the church, and even then you'll have some variation. Baptists can hold any position on any area of theology (and have)! There is no real "Baptist position" on anything except the doctrine of the church.

CORRECTION: I now get what you were asking. I'm certain some Baptist groups have it in their statements. The problem is that, given Baptist ecclesiology, you have "quality control" issues from one church to the next and generally less-educated ministers. Some Baptists preachers may not even realize they buy into Keswick sanctification because they don't even know what it is. I have seen this, firsthand. Their doctrinal statements may be cookie-cutter statements that have no reference with reality. This problem may be exascerbated by the fact that some independent Baptists deliberately cut themselves off from association life and exist in a theological echo-chamber. 

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?

josh p's picture

One clarification: Carson did speak at Keswick but the theology is now a reformed view of sanctification which Carson also embraces. 

Darm's picture

The interactions between Bob Jones University and the Pentecostal movement are interesting to say the least.  The same could be said about the Wesleyan-Holiness groups/individuals.  

Years ago I often heard replays of Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.’s radio talks on the local station.  These probably dated from the 50’s and 60’s.  At least twice I heard him laud “that dear Black saint Amanda Smith” as a great example of Godliness.  I am almost certain that he referred to her as a preacher (which she was!) on one of his programs.  Smith was much sought after as a speaker within the Methodist/Holiness/Wesleyan groups in the late 1800’s. 

In the early years of Bob Jones College, Dr. Henry Clay Morrison preached from the platform more than once.  At the time, Morrison may have been the best-known proponent of Wesleyan Holiness who was still in mainline Methodism.  He was always considered an outstanding orator in the old, formal, flowery style.

Later there was platform-level fellowship with Paul S. Rees who had a Pilgrim Holiness pedigree though he eventually joined the Swedish Covenant Church (later renamed Evangelical Covenant.)  Rees never really left the Holiness theological position.  I believe the BJU Press published a compilation of messages he preached at the University.

In that Bob Jones was himself a Methodist it is understandable that he would have some connections to the Holiness movement or individuals who promoted it.  In the past, the University has awarded many degrees to students of that persuasion.  They have had graduate assistants and even an occasional faculty member in the School of Religion who were Holiness in their theology.  I believe that this reflects the interdenominational position of early Fundamentalism, some of which held over for decades.  

A point to consider is that even the prototypical militant, separatist, Fundamentalist institution that Bob Jones University has been was open to interaction/fellowship with those who were very definitely not your typical mid-Calvinist, Baptist folks.  It is certainly plausible that these other groups had at least a limited effect on those in Fundamentalism who showed openness to them. 

I’ll deal with some of the Pentecostal connections in another comment.  To me, they are even more surprising.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Tyler said:

 I'm certain some Baptist groups have it in their statements. The problem is that, given Baptist ecclesiology, you have "quality control" issues from one church to the next and generally less-educated ministers. 

Here is my point: there is no difference in saying that individual Reformed/Presbyterians went along with Keswick, but not as a movement.  The Southern Baptists are the largest Baptist group, and I think the same is true with them.  You can parse out the difference between a doctrinal statement and a confession -- the point is, they both serve a similar purpose.  And if you look at the old Baptist confessions, they do not have a Keswick leaning.  

Outside of denominations like CMA or Wesleyan influenced groups, I am not sure how many denominaitons (including Baptists -- especially  the larger groups) institutionalized Keswick views.  If so, then the Reformed confessions made no difference.

This whoo

"The Midrash Detective"

Pages