Church History

Review - The Church of the Fundamentalists

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Larry Oats prefaces his new book, The Church of the Fundamentalists, by noting “While much has been written on the histories of the fundamentalist and evangelical movement, the theological basis of that division has frequently been overlooked. The purpose of this book is to examine how the ecclesiologies of mid-twentieth century fundamentalists and evangelicals affected their views of ecclesiastical separation and how those views led individuals to establish, abandon, or modify their views of ecclesiastical separation.” In other words, the controversies swirling around the fundamentalist issue center on the question, “What is the church supposed to be?”

The book contains four chapters with an introduction and conclusion in its 176 pages. The first chapter surveys “Varieties of Ecclesiologies,” really a survey of the “primary historical views of the nature of the church.” (25) This background is necessary in order to understand the theology driving the fundamentalist-vs.-evangelical answers to this central question.

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A. J. Gordon’s Opinion of Spurgeon & His Ministry

(Image: Archive.org)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

A. J. Gordon (1836-1895) was one of the pre-eminent Baptist pastors in America in his day, zealous for evangelism and missions, and a prolific author of pre-millennial sentiments. His analysis of his great English contemporary, Charles H. Spurgeon, is noteworthy.

“To have the ear of the people is a great thing, and much to be coveted by the minister of the gospel, if only it be certain that God has the minister’s ear. If it be not so, and the preacher has thousands hanging on his lips, who himself does not hang on God’s lips with the daily cry, ‘Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth,’ it may be a calamity. In other words, popularity without piety—the magnetism which draws the people, without the communion which draws daily supplies of truth and inspiration from God—is not to be envied.

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The Christian and Church History

From Faith Pulpit, Summer 2015. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

As I study church history, 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 is a comforting passage. When one studies the discipline of church history, many unsettling episodes present themselves. We often wonder how people could make the decisions they did, and even more, how they justified those decisions with the authorities they used.

We as Bible-believers have the benefit of going back to the divine source—the Word of God—as our authority. Whether we realize it or not, we are affected in the way we think by the events of the past. And it is true that no person or group can be completely isolated and not use their own personal understandings to interpret the Bible. Further, try as we might, we often struggle to understand the context of the Old Testament and even first-century Christianity.

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Making Church History Relevant for Pastors & Students (Part 2)

From Faith Pulpit, Summer 2015. Used by permission, all rights reserved. Read Part 1.

Example: Transubstantiation

The Fourth Lateran Council of the Catholic Church in 1215 mentioned the term “transubstantiation” to describe what happened in the Mass. Transubstantiation taught that the bread and wine actually and literally became the body and blood of Christ. But how could this be, seeing how everyone still tasted bread when they partook? The doctrine had been building steadily for some three centuries prior, but how could the scholastic intellectuals of that day explain and justify something which obviously went against the experience of everyone who participated?

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Making Church History Relevant for Pastors & Students (Part 1)

From Faith Pulpit, Summer 2015. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

Most of us took our church history classes1 in Bible college or seminary (or both) because we had to complete another requirement to graduate. Of course, there were some famous episodes within the last 2,000 years of Christian history that we wanted to know about. And we were told, as the common maxim goes: “Those who do not learn from the errors of [church] history are destined to repeat them.” Also, I remember one revered seminary professor at Faith telling us that the department of church history was always the last in a theological institution to turn liberal. If that is the case, surely there must be something important in those historical classes that will help us remain true to our Biblical heritage.

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