This article was published in the March 1956 issue of “Christian Life” magazine. It was seen by fundamentalists as a direct repudiation of the movement. One fundamentalist scholar wrote that the contributors were “crystallizing new evangelical discontent with fundamentalism.”1Still another observed that fundamentalists “viewed the leadership of new evangelicalism as a group of compromisers who were abandoning the fundamentals of the faith in order to be accepted by the larger theological world.”2
This is Part 2 of the article.
Used to be that most fundamentalists were pre-millennial and pre-tribulation. That is, they believed that Christ was coming again to begin a thousand-year reign of peace. Furthermore, that the church would be “raptured” – (taken up to Heaven) – before the “tribulation” (seven years of trouble) the Book of Revelation says will come before Christ’s return.
But for the last ten years debate has been raging on these subjects. Some evangelicals have taken an “amillennial” position (no actual thousand-year period). Some are saying that the Bible doesn’t teach that the church will escape the tribulation.
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.
From Think on These Things, Mar/Apr 2016. Essentially the same article also appears in Voice magazine. Read Part 1.
The colossal differences between liberals and conservatives were crystallized around the turn of the century with the subsequent division of the two camps occurring in the 1920s and 1930s. At this point the conflict was often referred to as the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy but, as the years rolled by, another division was looming, this one among the Fundamentalists.
By the 1940s the question of cultural and social engagement had arisen within the Fundamentalists’ camps. The original Fundamentalists, perhaps oversensitive to the social gospel that was at the heart of liberalism, often pushed away from any form of social action. In time, some felt that they had gone too far and needed to become more involved with the culture and improve society, as well as preach the gospel.
This ultimately led to a split within the conservative camp. The Fundamentalists would take on more separatist views, that is, they would separate from any who taught false doctrines and, rather than try to infiltrate society, they would live as lights of the gospel calling people to Christ. On the other hand, the opposing position would be termed new (or neo) evangelical.
From Think on These Things, Mar/Apr 2016. Essentially the same article also appears in Voice magazine.
I am a Fundamentalist. There I said it. And yet, although I inherited a few guns I don’t know where the bullets are. I don’t hate anyone, not even my neighbor whose cat keeps my songbird population thinned out. Knowing my own weaknesses and sinfulness I refrain from being particularly judgmental of others. Some might call me a “Bible-thumper” but I have not actually thumped anyone with a Bible since junior high when I was trying to impress the girls (I learned many years later that punching girls did not impress them nearly as much as I originally thought).
I have some strong preferences and opinions about everything from politics to entertainment (just ask me), but I recognize that not everyone shares all my views and I am at peace with that. I believe in separation from sinful practices and compromising associations, but I do not hide out in a wilderness refuge in an effort to stay as far away from “sinners” as I can. And horror of horrors, I will tune into CNN as much as Fox News—which may cause me to lose my Fundamentalist membership card in the eyes of some.