A Blast from the Fundamentalist Past!

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Jonathan Charles's picture

Lee Roberson from Highland Park Baptist Church/Tennessee Temple University (TTU), Chattanooga, TN is not on the list of Fundamentalists, yet his successor is: J. Don Jennings. I wonder if this was an omission. I knew there was some tension between BJU and TTU at some point in the past. Maybe it was a snub.

W. T. O'Harver's picture

A reasonable assumption to make for this omission is that Lee Roberson was not always considered a Fundamentalist. Men with roots in Northern Fundamentalism like G. Archer Weniger and R. V. Clearwaters would not have considered Roberson to be a Fundamentalist. One could fairly describe Lee Roberson as a "fundamentalist" by conviction, but a "Fundamentalist" by eviction.

Lee Roberson preached at my church extremely frequently, at least a dozen times from 1958 through 1998 (Many churches were lucky to secure him as a speaker even once.), and there were times in the 1970s and 1980s where his arrival was an annual (if not more frequent) occurrence. Having grown up---and since returned---to that culture, it was surprising to me that Roberson was not considered a Fundamentalist by my Northern Bible college. Having researched him in the years since returning to my roots, I largely concur with the opinion of my Bible professors.

Lee Roberson was weak on ecclesiastical separation, and he did not believe in secondary separation. He was a proud Southern Baptist minister for decades, and he became an independent Baptist when he was ostracized by the Hamilton County Baptist Association in 1956. R. G. Lee was a frequent guest at Tennessee Temple and Highland Park for years, as were other prominent Southern Baptist leaders like George W. Truett and W. A. Criswell. Tennessee Temple was actually developed as an independent school in 1946 to train orthodox men for Southern Baptist pastorates. My church, for instance, had been pastored by Tennessee Temple alumni since 1958, although it did not sever its ties with the Convention until 1983. Nevertheless, Roberson spoke at our church multiple times during those years, as he did with hundreds of other SBC churches despite his "independent Baptist" status.

J. Don Jennings appeared in that list because he was an "independent" man, having spent decades within the GARBC before eventually taking the pastorate of Roberson's Highland Park Baptist Church in 1985. Ironically, thousands within the Tennessee Temple orbit considered the "Fundamentalist" Jennings' pastorate to be a failure, claiming that he was both a compromiser and a Calvinist compared to his stalwart, evangelistic predecessor.

TylerR's picture


In his book, Dollar identifies (1) BJU, (2) Tennessee Temple, and (3) Baptist Bible College in Springfield, MO as the three faithful nerve centers for fundamentalism in 1973.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

W. T. O'Harver's picture

If I remember my George Dollar correctly, he cites several concerns with Roberson and Highland Park specifically: Roberson's embrace of "jumboism," as he so aptly phrases the phenomenon, in local church ministry; his embrace of John R. Rice and the "Sword of the Lord" crowd; and Roberson's leanings toward "easy believism."

Tennessee Temple, at least until the mid-1970s, was largely immune from the concerns that were beginning to burgeon within Highland Park Baptist Church due to the capable and biblically-grounded faculty, a number of which came from Bob Jones and Piedmont. J. R. Faulkner, Roberson's "right arm" at Temple, as well as Professor N. A. Thompson, are examples of faculty who helped to insulate and balance the school from Roberson's worst tendencies.

I have Dollar's posthumous 2006 revision of A History of Fundamentalism in America, so many of these concerns may have been elucidated only in the third section of the revised text.

TylerR's picture


I've heard about that version, but don't know what's different. Beale's new revision of "In Pursuit of Purity" is oddly disjointed. He didn't simply bring it up to date. He seemed to re-structure the entire thing. The result is odd. Not sure if Dollar did something similar.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

AndyE's picture

I wonder when this list was created.  I don't see John MacArthur's name anywhere, but maybe I missed it.

The biggest thing that struck me was how much of a pain it must have been to type this up on a regular typewriter with all those columns.   

Ron Bean's picture

When I was a pastor in the early 80's George Dollar stayed in our home. He had some personal quirks like eschewing interstate highways with tolls and preferring to stay in homes rather than paying for hotels. He told me that he was reluctant to add Ian Paisley because he was a Presbyterian but gave him a pass because of his association with Bob Jones and that Paisley practiced immersion. In his later years he found himself separated from friends, many of whom are on his list, because they were drifting toward new evangelicalism. I would class him as one of the "Us four and no more" brand of fundamentalist.

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

John E.'s picture

I found it odd that Hyles Anderson was listed under "Moderate Fundamentalist" and not "Militant Fundamentalist." My curiosity stoked, I pulled my copy of the book off the shelf and found the pamphlet "Facts for Fundamentalists" tucked inside the book's pages. The date on the pamphlet is "Revised Edition, October 1, 1976." Hyles Anderson is listed under "Militant Fundamentalist Schools" in the copy I have. I wonder what happened between 1976 and 1983 (the date for Tyler's list) that caused Dollar to move HA from militant to moderate. Anyone know? 

G. N. Barkman's picture

I knew George Dollar from my BJU days.  He was a revered figure during his time there (which was relatively short, as I recall).  I always thought he was a bit of an "odd duck."  But that's subjective, not objective.  I don't think I was capable of much objective evaluation in those days.

G. N. Barkman

W. T. O'Harver's picture

Jack Hyles experienced a seismic shift in his personal life and ministry during 1980. John R. Rice was the father figure that Hyles had never had in his childhood or adolescence; consequently, Hyles worked diligently to please his spiritual mentor. Hyles would openly state for the final two decades of his life that he would never take a position that John R. Rice would have opposed as long as he was alive. The most prominent evidence is seen in Hyles' embrace of King James Onlyism after 1980, but it can also be detected in his more draconian rhetoric against dress, the role of women in society, the autonomy of the local church, and pastoral authority, and brethren who did not claim a "Baptist" identity.

Most people would have considered this to be a shift from moderate to militant; however, Dollar was a bit of an "odd duck," as a previous commentator has stated. Dollar was a classical Northern Fundamentalist who viewed Fundamentalism in its original context: a movement which upheld the cardinal doctrines of Christianity while separating militantly from those who did not preserve the Faith once delivered. Viewing Hyles-Anderson through this lens, Dollar's assessment begins to make more sense. After 1980, Hyles-Anderson was far more extreme in its views, but it had become far less militant in its traditional positions. Students at HAC began to lapse in studying the original languages since the Word of God existed in its full perfection in English; loyalty to those in one's "camp" was enforced as a necessity, regardless of any compromise or failings said individuals might have; conforming to the rules was given precedence over being transformed into the image of the Son; and associational ties with historically Fundamentalist organizations were severed. Thus, Hyles-Anderson became an island of peculiar thought and inbred ideology. Strict, but not principled in the historic Fundamentalist tradition. Its unique definition of the term "Fundamentalism" caused many of the old guard to deem the College "moderate Fundamentalist" since it only moderately resembled the traditional movement.

John E.'s picture

Thank you. That makes sense. I was aware of Hyles' evolution, which is why I was confused and thought maybe I was missing something.

While I would've placed HA in a category labeled something like "extreme fundamentalism," your explanation helps me understand Dollar's thought process . 

JSwaim's picture

Jennings spoke at Piedmont's Bible conference about'86-87 while he was president at TTU. During a sermon on the hand of God he made an aside which I'll relate from(fuzzy) memory. "Some years ago a man wrote a book on the history of fundamentalism and on the cover of the book was a clinched fist. I don't like fundamentalism being represented with a fist. We ought to be people of open hands. Open to offer forgiveness and open to receive sinners".


Amen to that!





dgszweda's picture

Surprised they didn't have my grandfather's paper (The Plains Baptist Challenger) in the list.  It was militant fundamentalist and ran for 55 years from 1960 to 2015 and was fairly well circulated.  It was the second longest running paper and the longest single editor paper in US fundamentalist circles.