Insights from Reforming Fundamentalism: 11-12

[continued from this post] 11) reformation and fragmentation Reforming Fundamentalism helped me understand the tendency that renewal or reform movements have toward fragmentation and internal conflict.  Its much easier to unite in opposition to the status quo than it is to remain united while setting out in a new direction.  At one point Marsden writes of the Machen followers in the Presbyterian church, “as with all revolutions, they agreed on what they were against, but unresolved differences between the cobelligerents became apparent as soon as they attempted to define their own positive course” (43).  I think there may be some…

Insights from Reforming Fundamentalism: 8-10

[continued from previous post] 8) premillennialism and identity It was interesting to see how premillennialism as well as inerrancy was an identity issue in the early fundamentalist-evangelical movement.  Early FTS, for example, was thoroughly pre-millennial: it was in their statement of faith, and the faculty was sharply divided over a pre-tribulation versus a post-tribulation view of the rapture.  Marsden calls this a “leading issue” (151), with Harold Lindsell, Wilbur Smith, Gleason Archer, Carl Henry, Everett Harrison, and Charles Woodbridge lining up for pre-trib versus George Eldon Ladd, Edward John Carnell, Clarence Roddy, and Dan Fuller lining up for post-trib.  In…

Insights from Reforming Fundamentalism: 7

[continued from this post] 7) Still battling modernism From its inception, evangelicalism has been trying to figure out how to shed the bad of fundamentalism without losing the good.  How to lose the chaff without losing the grain.  This is an inherently difficult process, and I believe that doing it well requires a thorough knowledge of what fundamentalism was in its own turn reacting against, namely theological liberalism with its foundation in modernist thought.  We often say that we are in a post-modern culture, and that’s certainly true, but I also think that modernism is still with us.  Postmodernism is…

Insights on Reforming Fundamentalism: 6

[continued from this post] 6) Defining Evangelicalism: Open or Closed? Another issue the book raised in my thinking relates to evangelical identity.  Should we define evangelicalism by what it is for or what it is against?  Or, as Al Mohler puts it in his 1989 dissertation on evangelical appropriation of Barth, should evangelicalism be a boundaried or centered set of theological convictions?  Should its identity be forged positively, from the center, or negatively, at the fringes?  Marsden continually highlights how both tendencies have played themselves out in fundamentalist-evangelical history, with very different results.  From the introduction: “(the evangelical) heritage pointed…

Insights from Reforming Fundamentalism: 3-5

[continued from previous post] 3) Inerrancy as a battle front I was continually struck by the role that the doctrine of biblical inerrancy has played in separating fundamentalists and evangelicals from various other movements.  This doctrine is not merely a theological issue, but a boundary marker, an identity indicator, a sort of litmus test for “who is on our team.”  With the rise of higher biblical criticism and the B.B. Warfield vs. Charles Briggs debates of the 1880’s and 1890’s, inerrancy became a battle line between conservatives and liberals, and it has continued to function in this way through 20th…

Insights from Reforming Fundamentalism: 1-2

Over the past several weeks I’ve been giving a slow and thoughtful read to George Marsden’s Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Eerdmans 1987), which is a history of the controversial first two decades of Fuller Theological Seminary (1947-1967), written with a special view as to how this history interfaces with the larger story of evangelicalism.  With the epilogue, sequel, and appendix, Marsden also fills out much of Fuller’s later history, up till the time of the book’s publication (1987), which sheds further light upon the significance of the early years. Its a fascinating book, well-researched and well-written,…

What was the American Revolution?

This past February I got to give a lecture to some middle schoolers at a Christian school on a topic of my choice within the field of history.  I chose to discuss the founding period of our nation, which was a very fun topic to study and then speak about.  I am putting my notes up here both for my own safe-keeping and in the event than anyone else might find them interesting.  I haven’t edited them from lecture format, so bear with the unpolished nature of the writing. What was the American Revolution? What I would like for us…