Fundamentalism as a movement had serious weaknesses, as we have documented in this book, but the strength of Fundamentalism was its stand for the infallible inspiration of Scripture, its testing mindset, its zeal for the truth, its willingness to fight for the truth, to defend the truth, to preach against error as well as for truth, and to separate from error.
This is biblical and right. In fact, no Christianity that lacks this is biblical and right.
“Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:128).
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Ro. 16:17).
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Co. 6:14).
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Ti. 1:3).
“Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Ti. 1:19-20).
“Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Ti. 6:5).
“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Ti. 6:20).
“But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Ti. 2:16-18).
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Ti. 3:5).
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Ti. 4:7).
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 Jo. 4:1).
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 Jo. 1:9-11).
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).
Growing up Southern Baptist, I didn’t know anything about Fundamentalism. But after I was saved and began to love and study the Bible, I came across fundamentalist preaching, and it resonated with me, because this is the type of Christianity I see in Scripture. There I see serious discipleship, soldiering, fighting, disciplining, earnest contending, reproving and rebuking, marking and avoiding, withdrawing from, coming out from among, touching not the unclean thing, not being yoked together with. This is not the sum of New Testament Christianity, of course, but it is a major element.
When the world attacked God’s Word, fundamentalists took their stand. They stood up on their hind legs like a grizzly bear and said, “Bring it on!” They took on the newly rising philosophies in Western society. The fact that they were in the extreme minority didn’t stop them. They had the spirit of Athansius who, when he was told, “The whole world is against you,” replied, “Then I am against the whole world.” He was known as Athansius Contra Mundum (Athansius against the World). Every Bible-believing Christian should be known as Contra Mundum. The Bible record is filled with Contra Mundums who pleased the Lord. James was Contra Mundum! “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4). John was Contra Mundum. “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 Jo. 5:19).
True fundamentalists walk in the footsteps of the spiritual warriors of all ages. We think of Abraham, who armed his servants and pursued the army of five Mesopotamian kings to Dan and defeated them. What a warrior!
We think of Enoch who was such a warrior against sin and error, so worked up in preaching prophetically against this present age, that he used the word “ungodly” four times in one sentence (Jude 1:14-15).
We think of the sons of Levi who, responding to Moses’ call, “Who is on the LORD’s side?” strapped on their swords and killed 3,000 of the Lord’s enemies (Ex. 32:26-28). There was no peace with compromisers for those warriors! No softy priests, these!
We think of Joshua and Caleb, who alone of the 12 spies, said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Nu. 13:30). While the other 10 said, “The people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there,” Joshua and Caleb said, “With God as our help, we can take on the whole lot of those giants in their fortified cities and their well-equipped armies. Let’s go!” What warriors!
We think of Caleb 45 years later, at age 85, saying, “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said” (Jos. 14:12). Through a half century of living and fighting, his warrior zeal hadn’t faded. We know that his faith in God was not disappointed, for we are told, “Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel” (Jos. 14:14). God was pleased with this soldier.
After Joshua and Caleb, the warrior spirit largely died out of Israel. There arose “another generation after them, which knew not the LORD” (Jdg. 2:10). Instead of going on and conquering the remaining Canaanites and capturing all of the Promised Land as God had commanded, the next generation settled down, content to live among the enemies of God. Whereas Joshua and Caleb’s fundamentalist generation sang, “the fight is on,” their compromising evangelical offspring sang, “the fighting is over.”
We think of Deborah, the female judge of Israel who urged Barak to lead the army of Israel against Jabin’s Canaanites. She called Barak to Mt. Ephraim and told him that God had commanded them to fight Jabin’s great army led by Sisera, but Barak was not eager. He said, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go.” Deborah did not hesitate, “I will surely go with thee: notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honour; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Jdg. 4:6-9). Barak gathered an army from the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali and went with Deborah to Mt. Tabor. There they could see the multitude of Canaanite soldiers with their 900 chariots of iron gathered in the valley of Jezreel by the river Kishon. When Barak still hesitated, Deborah said, “Up; for this is the day in which the LORD hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the LORD gone out before thee?” (Jdg. 4:14). Barak and his men did the fighting, but it was Deborah who was the chief warrior that day. “Up, men! Let’s go, boys!”
We think of David accepting the challenge of Goliath, the blasphemous, boasting giant, “a man of war from his youth,” the champion of God’s enemies, the Philistines. He was about nine and a half feet tall and was armed with a brass helmet, brass greaves that covered the lower parts of his legs, a brass shield that covered his upper back, a huge spear with a 15 pound tip, and a coat of mail (made of brass plates arranged like the scales of a fish) that weighed about 125 pounds. David told Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (1 Sa. 17:32). David had decided to take care of this business. He selected five stones from the brook Elah. He took a few moments to tell the giant, “I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.” Then David ran toward the giant, sunk a stone in his forehead, and cut off the champion’s head with his own sword. What a warrior!
We think of Elijah. Oh, we cannot forget Elijah! He was a prophet in a time of nearly complete apostasy in Israel, and he determined to have a showdown with Baal: one prophet of Jehovah God facing off with 850 prophets of Baal. He told Ahab to bring the people of Israel and the prophets to Mt. Carmel and called for two altars to be built, one for Baal and one for Jehovah. He said, “the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.” For hours, the prophets of Baal acted like maniacs in an attempt to get the attention of their god, crying out, leaping, cutting themselves “till the blood gushed out,” but Baal was silent. Elijah didn’t watch the demonstration quietly; “he mocked them, and said, Cry aloud; for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” When the Baal liturgy was over, Elijah called for twelve barrels of water to be poured on his altar, then calmly, but fervently, prayed, “Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God,” and “then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Ki. 18:37-38). For good measure, the prophet of God had the 850 prophets of Baal taken down to the river Kishon and killed. What a warrior for truth!
We think of John the Baptist who said to impenitent, hard-hearted, prophet-killing Israel, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Lu. 3:7), and told the fearsome Herod, who had taken his brother’s wife as his own, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Mt. 14:4).
We think of the Lord Jesus Christ, who even in His humility (Php. 2:8) publicly called the Pharisees and scribes hypocrites, children of hell, blind guides, fools, serpents, and generation of vipers (Mt. 23:1-36), and twice chased the money changers out of the temple with a whip (Mt. 21:12; Joh. 1:13-17)! How much more do we see Christ’s warrior spirit when He appears on a white horse at the head of the armies of heaven, in righteousness judging and making war, His eyes as a flame of fire, clothed with a vesture dipped in blood, smiting the nations, and ruling with a rod of iron (Re. 19:11-15). Indeed, “The LORD is a man of war” (Ex. 15:3)!
The apostle Paul was a warrior. His bodily presence might have been weak, as his enemies claimed (2 Co. 10:10). We don’t know and it doesn’t matter; he was large when it came to fighting for the truth. On the very first stop of his first historic missionary journey, he publicly called out a prominent member of the city of Salamis with these shocking words, “O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord,” and struck him with blindness for good measure (Ac. 13:10-11)! What a fireball! As for two preachers of that day, Hymenaeus and Alexander, Paul turned them over to the devil “that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Ti. 1:20). In an epistle meant to be read by all of the churches, Paul called out two other preachers by name, Hymenaeus and Philetus, labeling their teaching “profane and vain babblings” (2 Ti. 2:16-18), not caring a whit if he hurt their poor feelings. In the same epistle, Paul publicly exposed Alexander the coppersmith’s evil (2 Ti. 4:14-15) and mentioned the preacher Demas by name, a former coworker, for “having loved this present world,” holding him up as a bad example before all the churches. Paul rebuked Peter publicly for hypocrisy (Ga. 2:11-14). The apostle to the Gentiles taught a vast amount of really deep “positive truth,” but he wasn’t finished. He got very “negative” when he fought against Galatian judaizers and Corinthian spiritualizers and Colossian gnostics. Paul stood against false christs and false gospels and false spirits of any and every sort, but he didn’t stop there. He stood against carnality, worldliness, man-centeredness, pride of scholarship, unqualified pastors, and every type of sin in the churches. He was an unwavering disciplinarian (1 Co. 5). He was big on rebuking (2Ti. 4:2; Tit. 1:13; 2:15). Unlike many warriors since then, Paul never backed down, never softened his stance, never regretted or repented of fighting for the truth’s sake. At the very end, Paul summarized his Christian life with these words, “I have fought a good fight” (2 Ti. 4:7). Indeed! Any preacher who is not a fighter is not walking in the footsteps of Paul.
True fundamentalists are pilgrims and strangers, soldiers, come outers, walk aloners, when necessary. In their defense of the faith, fundamentalists have offended relatives and friends, lost salaries, retirement benefits, insurance policies, positions, church properties, and prestige. They have endured willful misunderstanding, misrepresentation, slander, ridicule, and disdain. They have turned their backs on comfortable denominationalism and institutionalism to found independent churches and ministries by faith in God alone, often without the pledge of any human support. They have literally become the offscouring of the world in the eyes of secular society and of Christianity at large.
Fundamentalist Bob Schuler said, “I have come, thank God, to where I believe I could stand up and vote my convictions if I were the one lonely man on my side of the question. ... Such are times when men need to know their own souls and to be fortified with a loyalty that is to God alone. If standing true and courageous amid the storms that now assail they can look up and go forward, it will matter little whether other men are their friends or their foes” (cited from Richard Clearwaters, The Great Conservative Baptist Compromise).
William Ashbrook, author of Evangelicalism The New Neutralism, renounced the liberal northern Presbyterians and lost “his pulpit and his pension.” He identified lack of courage as a chief characteristic of the time. “It is indeed a question of whether we of this generation have the courage to stand up for our convictions and maintain a bold testimony in the face of encroaching unbelief and compromise. ... Many, from weakness or fear of reproach, are quitting the fight. It is sad indeed to see those who were speaking out boldly a few years back, now remaining in silence, apparently wearied of the conflict. ... God’s challenge was never more needed than in this day. ‘Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong’ (1 Co. 16:13).”
J.C. Ryle said, “We want more boldness among the friends of truth. There is far too much tendency to sit still, and wait for committees, and number our adherents. We want more men who are not afraid to stand alone. It is truth, not numbers, which shall always in the end prevail. We have the truth, and we need not be ashamed to say so. The judgment day will prove who is right, and to that day we boldly appeal” (cited from Iain Murray, J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone, p. ii).
We think of the old fundamentalist papers, such as W.B. Riley’s Christian Fundamentals and John Straton’s Calvary Call and A.J. Gordon’s Watchword and J. Frank Norris’s Searchlight and Oliver Van Osdel’s Baptist Temple News and Marion Reynolds’ Foundation and T.T. Shields’ Gospel Witness and Gerald Winrod’s Defender and G. Archer Weniger’s Blue Print and Don Jasmin’s Fundamentalist Journal. They were bold and forthright about heretics and compromisers. There was no beating around the bush, no soft and gentle “neutralist” mood! No speaking in generalities. These fundamentalist periodicals were scented with the smoke of battle rather than the perfume of positivism.
In fundamentalist books such as Evangelicalism The New Neutralism by William Ashbrook and New Neutralism II: Exposing the Gray of Compromise by John Ashbrook and The New Evangelical Experiment by Rolland Starr and The New Evangelicalism by Charles Woodbridge and The Challenge of a New Religion by Carlton Helgerson, theological modernists are called “evil”; they are called “heretics”; their theology is called “poison,” “damnable”; New Evangelicals are called compromisers, dangerous, pragmatists, popularizers, latitudinarians, neutralists. New Evangelicalism is called “a virus,” “tragedy,” “menace,” “deadly,” “deviant,” “the deadliest ism of all,” “theological and moral compromise of the deadliest sort.”
The old fundamentalists named names--lots of them! They named names when preaching, and they named names when writing. Heresy and compromise is a public issue, and they made a public issue of dealing with it.
They knew they would be misunderstood and charged with hate-mongering; they knew that they were in the minority and that by so speaking they were closing doors of fellowship and ministry. They knew they were choosing a limited fellowship by refusing to limit their message. They knew that “to identify oneself with the truth is to place one’s self in the heart of a storm from which there is no escape for life.” But they did it anyway, because this is the biblical example and therefore it is the will of God, and because they loved God and had a zeal for God’s truth in their hearts and souls. Like lonely Jeremiah, they could say, “But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jer. 20:9).
Until today, fighting is what sets fundamentalists apart from even the most conservative of evangelicals. The latter might wear gloves, but they are velvet ones. They might point out a theological disagreement with someone, but typically in gentle, intellectual, “let’s still be friends,” non-separatist terms. They aren’t warriors. They say that they esteem all of God’s precepts concerning all things to be right, like the Psalmist, but unlike the Psalmist, they don’t “hate every false way” (Ps. 119:128). To hate false ways is shocking to their sensibilities. It’s not their kind of Christianity.
But fundamentalists are warriors. We think of W.L. Pettingill in his warning about the liberal Harry Emerson Fosdick: “[T]he fight is on and it grows hotter. Let us praise God for that. A fight is much better than a disgraceful surrender and a fight is necessary just now that the truth of the Gospel may continue with us” (Serving and Waiting, January 1925, Philadelphia School of the Bible).
A.J. Gordon said, “Satan is the real Pope [and] demons the real cardinals.”
No velvet gloves there.
We think of David Otis Fuller who often ended his letters with the words, “The battle is getting hotter and hotter, and I like it better and better.” I received many of those letters.
We think of JOHN ROACH STRATON (1875-1929), pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New York City from 1918 until his death in 1929, during the “Roaring Twenties.” He was called “a crusader, a two-fisted hard-hitting man of God, always the defendant at the bulwarks of Christianity.” Calvary Baptist was founded in 1847 and had prominent pastors, including John Dowling, author of The History of Romanism.
Straton was the son of a Baptist preacher, but when he was 18 he attended law school and embraced humanism and evolution and was on a moral spiral downward. He visited services at First Baptist Church of Atlanta and was born again. He attended Mercer University and Southern Seminary. He started preaching, and by the end of World War I in 1918, he rejected postmillennialism for premillenialism. That was the year he was called to the pastorate of Calvary Baptist.
Straton published The American Fundamentalist (later called The Calvary Call) to broadcast his preaching and warnings. The New York Times reported regularly on his hard-hitting sermons, sometimes on the front page and sometimes publishing his entire Sunday sermon, which reminds us of how dramatically America has changed. The media was not universally positive of course. “Hostile journalists and cartoonists dipped their pens in acid and satirized Straton as ‘the Fundamentalist’s Pope,’ the ‘Witch Doctor of Gotham,’ and the ‘Meshuggah (Yiddish for crazy) of Manhattan’” (“John Roach Straton,” Baptist Bible Tribune, Jan. 25, 2013).
He was a tall, distinguished looking man, but he preached on the streets, and he preached against things. He designed and built a pulpit platform on an automobile from which he preached to crowds in the city (David Beale, In Pursuit of Purity, p. 213). He aimed to call America to repentance. He preached against Unitarianism, theological modernism, German skepticism, the social gospel, denominationalism, and communism. He preached against the popular press of his day for “engaging in a plot to ruin moral forces and bring them into national contempt” (George Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America). What would he say today when the press is promoting free sex, pornography, homosexual rights, sex education for children, and abortion on demand!
Pastor John Straton named names. He called the very popular, very liberal Harry Emerson Fosdick “a religious outlaw--the Jesse James of the theological world.” He called out S. Parkes Cadman, president of the Federal Council of Churches, for saying there is no hell. Straton said that Cadman was one of those who were “sprinkling cologne upon the putrid iniquities of a rebellious race.” He preached against liberal Baptist historian H.C. Vedder of Crozer Seminary. He preached against the budding tendency for American courts to capitulate to humanistic psychology and to coddle criminals rather than punish them. He said God is “not a mollycoddle ... and the present wave of crime and vice that is simply devastating America is the direct result of this false and flimsy teaching.”
Straton also preached against worldliness. His books included The Menace of Immorality in Church and State (1920), The Scarlet Stain on the City and How to Wipe It Out (c. 1921), and Satan in the Dance Hall (c. 1925). Chapter titles in the latter included “Flappers and the Dance of Life” and “The Devil’s Music and the Scopes Trial.” There were 750 dance halls in New York City in Straton’s day. Of female fashions, he said, “When it comes to women’s dress today there is not enough to talk about.” What would this warrior pastor say today! He preached against church dances and the use of theater stars and starlets to attract a crowd. He reproved parents who let their children choose between the picture show and Sunday School. He said the result of worldly homes was “the cigarette smoking boy who develops into the girl-ogling, sap-headed dude who would not recognize a sound thought or a sound ethical principal if he met it in the street; and the female flapper and flirt who knows more at 16 than her grandmother knew at 60, who hasn’t a speaking acquaintance with the art of sweeping a room, sewing a dress, or making a biscuit, but is past mistress with the lip-stick, the powder puff, and the bunny bag” (from Straton’s sermon “New York as Modern Babylon”). (A bunny bag was a small bag for cosmetics and other female accouterments.)
Straton took on prominent skeptics and heretics in public debates. The interest was so large that they were held in Madison Square Garden. He also debated at Harvard, Dartmouth, Columbia, and other leading schools.
At the Northern Baptist Convention in 1923, Straton stood from the floor and denounced W.H.P. Faunce of Brown University as an infidel who was unfit to deliver the keynote address.
There isn’t a prominent “conservative evangelical” alive today who knows anything of the fundamentalist prophet-warrior spirit. There are no A.J. Gordons, no John Stratons, no William Bell Rileys, no J. Frank Norrises, no Bob Jones, Srs., no Marion Reynoldses, no Robert Ketchams. The spirit of these old fighters does exist today, but it doesn’t exist anywhere in conservative evangelicalism.
The essence of Fundamentalism was its warrior spirit, and that was biblical and right and good and godly, though the fighting wasn’t done with any perfection. Poor redeemed sinners haven’t done anything with perfection since Adam’s fall.
The warrior spirit was right, and from the warrior spirit flowed testing, reproofs, rebukes, warnings, and separations.
But conservative evangelicals don’t believe in fighting after this manner. They don’t even like fighters. If they find a fighter battling against sin and error, it is far more likely that they will attack him than join him.
The essence of Fundamentalism was, and is, its warrior spirit, and may the Lord multiply that spirit ten thousand fold today, regardless of the label! When living in such a wicked, apostate age, if a preacher doesn’t get worked up like Enoch of old and start firing off a bunch of well-aimed “ungodlys,” something is seriously wrong with him.
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