People who once called themselves the “Moral Majority” are now seemingly willing to vote for anyone, however immoral, who supports their political positions. ... “Evangelical” used to denote people who claimed the high moral ground; now, in popular usage, the word is nearly synonymous with “hypocrite.”
"A panel of prominent Christian ethicists and pastors said that it is important to define what an evangelical actually is in discussions with people who may not be familiar with the term, warning that sometimes people may have a very wrong idea about evangelicals and what they stand far." CPost
Edward Carnell continues his infamous broadside against fundamentalism, from his 1959 work The Case for Orthodox Theology. Many fundamentalists may not agree with his characterizations. Others may still see relevance for Carnell’s criticisms. No matter what you think of his writing here, it is a fascinating look at an evangelical’s view of the fundametnalist movement in the late 1950s.1
J. Gresham Machen
The mentality of fundamentalism sometimes crops up where one would least expect it; and there Is no better Illustration of this than the inimitable New Testament scholar, J. Gresham Machen.
Machen was an outspoken critic of the fundamentalist movement. He argued with great force that Christianity is a system, not a list of fundamentals. The fundamentals include the virgin birth, Christ’s deity and miracles, the atonement, the resurrection, and the inspiration of the Bible. But this list does not even take in the specific issues of the Protestant Reformation. Roman Catholicism easily falls within the limits of fundamentalism.
While Machen was a foe of the fundamentalist movement, he was a friend of the fundamentalist mentality, for he took an absolute stand on a relative issue, and the wrong at that.
Edward J. Carnell was a major figure in the evangelical world in the 1950s. He became President of Fuller Theological Seminary in 1957, and wrote a little book entitled The Case for Orthodox Theology two years later. At only 168 pages, this was a short, introductory book intended for an interested, but general audience. In a chapter from this book, which he ominously entitled “Perils,” Carnell unleashed a pitiless broadside against fundamentalism.
In this article and the next, I’ve included nearly his entire chapter. It provides a fascinating look into what a conservative evangelical thought about fundamentalism at mid-century. Carnell writes with passion; indeed, at some points his passion gives way to scornful contempt. Some of his critiques still sting today.1
Orthodoxy is plagued by perils as well as difficulties, and the perils are even more disturbing than the difficulties. When orthodoxy slights its difficulties, it elicits criticism; but when it slights its perils, it elicits scorn. The perils are of two sorts; general and specific. The general perils include ideological thinking, a highly censorious spirit, and a curious tendency to separate from the life of the church. The specific peril is the with which orthodoxy converts to fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is orthodoxy gone cultic.