ABOUT THIS EPISODE
And what is fundamentalism, really?
The Adventist History Podcast tells a story of the Seventh-day Adventist Church each month and is hosted by Matthew J. Lucio.
Season 1, Episode 110 · 6 months ago
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Season 1, Episode 110 · 6 months ago
Was Ellen White a Fundamentalist? - May 2022 Bonus Episode
ABOUT THIS EPISODE
And what is fundamentalism, really?
The Adventist History Podcast tells a story of the Seventh-day Adventist Church each month and is hosted by Matthew J. Lucio.
Welcome back to the AVENIS history podcast. This is your bonus episode for May Twenty twenty two. Now I want to talk about Francis David Nicol, and avenues fundamentalist who edited the Avenues Review and the SD Bible commentary, among other works. And I want to talk about Nicol as an avenues fundamentalist and do something of a character study on him. People often talk about fundamentalists as a faceless movement of just these grumpy Christians, and often enough Christians have been hurt by grumpy Christians and they see the justice in heaping a little shame on fundamentalist. Okay, I've done a little that myself on this show when it came to Judson Washburn and Claude Holmes, arch avenues fundamentalist if ever there were some. But I thought that examining the life of one such fundamentalist would help humanize fundamentalism, for us, put a face on it, give it a pulse, help non fundamentalists to understand where fundamentalist came from and to help current fundamentalist to realize that they have other options should they want a different path. Now, I suppose I'm always worried when any one group in history begins to be seen as evil personified by just about everyone. We often pile so much much a probrium on these people that they just they become aliens and we can't understand what's wrong with these people. Why would they ever make the choices that they made? Right? They're just, they're entirely other. We do that with the Nazis, don't we? I mean, who doesn't love beating up on the Nazis? We can no longer, however, understand why they chose what they chose, and to me, that's when we get to that point. We're failing in our mission to understand history. Now, this doesn't mean we're going to agree with everything we read. Okay, doesn't mean they're actually isn't some evil done in history? Of course there is, but if we allow our reaction to obscure our ability to relate, then it means that we're not going to learn anything. So I think my task is someone who loves history, is to help prevent that from happening. Not to say fundamentalism, not to redeem fundamentalism, but simply to remind us, hey, we're in danger of no longer understanding it. Now, now that I've sold you on this episode thesis, I want to say that this is not the episode we are going to do today. Sure, I tried to write this episode about nickel, but this other thing came him out and I found myself wrestling with the foundational question of what is a fundamentalist exactly, and the more that I explored that question, the less room I had to actually talk about nickel. I mean he just ends up being a footnote at the end of the episode. Now the question of what is a fundamentalist would make a great blog post. That's probably how this episode should have ended up, but I thought that it might be fun to show you the agony of words and their meanings and how they sometimes help us to understand the past and how they sometimes can't obscure our understanding of the past. Choosing words is a very careful endeavor, especially if you're if your goal is to help people understand a particular person or movement or whatever, and fundamentalism is probably one of the greatest examples, in at least in recent Christian history, of how difficult words can be too define. But I wrestled with this whole concept of defining fundamentalism for a while. I think I made a little bit of progress. Maybe it's progress only to me. Okay, I'm open to that being the reality here. And and when I got to the end of this episode, I thought I was done writing, but then a question occurred to me. The question would be an interesting test of my definition. It's a provocative question, it's a relevant question, I think I and after I had finished writing this episode, I just went out mowing my grass like any normal person, and then the question occurred to me. Okay, Matthew, your loose working definition of fundamentalism is all good and well, but what I want to know is, was ellen white a fundamentalist?...
This episode went sideways when I started reading Gil Valentine's new book, ostriches and Canaries. Gil Spends a little time appreciating Michael Campel's nine hundred and nineteen book, but ultimately disagrees with Michael on the issue of avenues fundamentalism, at least in terms of who are the avenues fundamentalist? Whereas Michael argues that fundamentalism was something evenus adopted, Gil says that avenues have always been fundamentalists and in the scheme of things it's a seemingly small point the kind of thing professional academics discuss, like Star Trek fans discussed the efficacy of the Prime Directive. Case you're wondering, I'm not a star Trek Fan, but you get the point. No one outside the circle really cares. It's just something that professionals, you know, talk about. Nobody really pays attention, nobody really cares. It doesn't really impact, at least at least not not directly, the rest of our lives. And yet I think there's something at stake in this conversation, and what's at stake here is how adventist understand their past. Michael Campbell's perspective is that the fundamentalist era brought a what I call a fundamentalist shift from which adventism has never fully recovered, and I would say haven't fully recovered largely because many avenues today think fundamentalist adventism is original adventism. They don't see that a shift happened which, for example, ended up seeing fewer women in positions of leadership in the church. These modern conservative adventist might assume women had always had fewer positions of leadership in the church and that this is the way the church was built. And this is the way the church ought to be. But once we realize that a fundamentalist shift happened, modern adventist can work to clear out the rubbles, so to speak, and rediscover original adventism. Now gils perspective, at least as far as I've read in his book, is that adventism has always been fundamentalist. And so for adventism to make progress where we're we got to look forward. We must make progress away from those fundamentalist tendencies of the pioneers and and you know, look, Gil Lives in California, teaches that or taught at Lussierra, and so I greatly appreciate his work, I really do. I love his writing. But when I read this part of ostriches and Canaries, I was reminded of something another Californian, Nancy Murphy, had written. Quote. Inhabitants of liberal territory tend to believe that the Christian world is made up only of themselves and fundamentalists and quote. I don't know if this statement applies the Gil I was just reminded of it when I was reading his book and I found it amusing and hopefully we can get gill on the show sometime and talk about all this. Now I don't want to read too much into either of their positions, especially given that I haven't finished gils book yet, but their discussion helped me ask the question. How should adventists relate to their past? Is it merely something to learn from and move on, or are we trying to recover something from our past and adapt it for modern use? Or are we trying in some way to just get back to our past right, to recreate it, to cosplay it? How does the avenes past relate to the avenues present into the avenes future? Now, I don't think I can answer all those questions yet, but I think that they are deeply interesting questions and it's all wrapped up right now. And how we see adventist fundamentalism? No, I don't think I'm breaking any news here when I say that there are still avenues fundamentalist in avenues churches today. To be sure, the larger fundamentalist movement is over, but the influence of adventist fundamentalism is still with us, in part because avenues fundamentalists are still with us, but also because we live in an avenus world which advent is fundamentalist have largely made, or at least we're influential in the making of especially in the English speaking part of the Church, but we've also exported avenues fundamentalism to many non English speaking parts of the world, and I think that's what happens when the golden age of missions in the age of fundamentalism happen at the same time. Now, Evenis cannot pretend that fundamentalism never happened, and no one really is. But the avens church was becoming something. It has becomes something it wouldn't have been without fundamentalism, and that's why I think there's great value...
...in excavating this time period. We have to understand what happened then so we can understand what's still happening today, and in order to do that we have to understand what aven is fundamentalism is in. That's wrapped up in the question. Was Ellen white a fundamentalist? Gil would probably argue yes, Michael would probably argue no. And if Ellen why was a fundamentalist, what does that mean for those who respect her or revere her? Because if Ellen White was a fundamentalist and if ellen white remains a critical piece of adventism, then in some ways to be adventist is to be fundamentalist. Like there's going to be some fundamentalist components of our spiritual DNA that can never go away. If all of these pioneers, including Ellen White, were fundamentalists. It's just who we are and to abandon these sections of our DNA is to abandon sections of our adventism. It's useless, then, to talk of leaving fundamentalism behind because it's just part of who we are. Sure adventism can change, adventism can grow, adventism can progress, it can leave some of this stuff behind. But if you leave ellen white behind, you are leaving, I believe, something critical about being adventist. Now I think a lot of advent is have a complicated relationship with Ellen White. There's definitely a number of ways to approach her. There's definitely a number of ways to appreciate her. But however you appreciate or approach on the White, I also don't exactly know what adventism is without her. And I don't want to get into all of that right but but just to put it in a short way, if nothing happened in one thousand eight hundred and forty four, if the if the if the three angels messages, this kind of built on some misunderstanding. If you know, her ideas weren't really given to her by God, at least in a basic form. She wasn't inspired. You know, if all of these things, I like the Church was built on on, on some of these ideas, right, that the that aviduce work were raised up at the end of time to restore lost truths to the world, etce, etc. Etc. Etc. Now again, like I said, people have a complicated relationship Ivanus have a complicated relationship with that body of ID has right there. Some are going to accept it wholesale, some are going to accept it with some modifications. You know, will reject it all. But I think if you're in the camp of rejecting all of that, then what are we as seventh day adventists? Why are we here? Why are we not something else? So I think that's a really intriguing conversation. Is Way too big for this episode, but it's enough for me to say at this point that I think, boy, just to kind of amputate that part of our history, you're going to lose something. Now, maybe people are okay with losing that, but you're going to lose something if Ellen White was a fundamentalist. We have to face that because we're we might not be here today without her. We very likely wouldn't have all these schools and hospitals and churches all around the world without her influence. And so we can, we can, we can reject fundamentalism and say it's wrong. We can accept fundamentalism, we can negotiate it in some other way, but we have to face that fundamentalist past. Now on two definitions. You'll be happy to know that defining fundamentalism is really hopeless. That's it. Thanks so much for listening. We'll see you next time. Okay, no, my favorite definition is by the historian George Marsden in his classic work fundamentalism in American Culture, where he writes that quote, a fundamentalist is an evangelical who is angry about something and quote. I just love that so much. It's not a very helpful definition, but it's my favorite definition. Like I said, defining fundamentalism is really a hopeless because it's such an it's such an imprecise term to describe what really was a pretty chaotic historical movement. Fundamentalism. It just it caused a lot of heat. It blew a lot of smoke. They constantly were fighting among themselves. They it spanned different denominations and you know, it's just like, so what is that define? You know, reaching through that smoke, seeing through that fog, you know, not getting turned off by all that heat. It's hard to kind of lay hold precisely of what is in all of that. It's kind of like one of those...
...cartoons with the characters are are fighting each other, like they're wrestling with each other, and then you see all this kind of like smoke kicked up and you don't see the characters anymore. It's just like the smoke. And then, I don't know, some like weird little squiggly lines are shooting out of the smoke to indicate that they're that they're wrestling there in the dirt. I feel like that's what fundamentalism is. It's like who's in there exactly? Who's in what position right now? WHO's, you know, who's winning? WHO's on the WHO's losing on the ground? I don't know. But but that thing, that thing is fundamentalism. And how you define it exactly, I don't know. Now historians, Martin, Marty, Scott Applebe published this five volume set I have on my desk here. It's on fundamentalism. Who was written in s or published in s and they admitted that they spent of their five research years, they spent two whole years just thinking about the word fundamentalism and just saying, is there a better word out there? Spoiler alert, there wasn't. Now, historically speaking, we can start with this. Capital F fundamentalism describes of movement of predominantly American evangelicals in the early nineteen hundreds who responded to theological liberalism by militantly defending what they believed to be the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. And it was during this movement that the word fundamentalism was coined. Now, of course there were there were fundamentalist who existed before the word was paying this movement than the pierrata nowhere. But that's basically at when we talk about capital F fundamentalism, we're talking about this movement in America at this time. But the word fundamentalism has also been used by people like Martin Marty and Scott Applebe to describe Muslims in Hindus and others who seem just as stubborn, just as angry about the liberalizing, globalizing forces that they are facing in the world. Some of them even commit acts of terrorism in order to, I guess, arrest the progress which this modern secular whatever is making in the world. And so I think Marty and apple be defined fundamentalism. It's really a collection of essays from a diverse group of people. So I don't want to put too fine of a point in this, but but fundamentalism, the the working definition for them is a militant rejection of the modern secular world. Basically. So that could apply to non religious people, even though in this these five volumes, they chose to write about religious fundamentalists. And all right, you can see the range of what we're talking about here. A fundamentalist could be a Bible thumbing Donald Gray Barnhouse, or it could be Osam bin Laden. This is a pretty broadnet, although if Donald Gray barnhouse and Osombian Laden, we're both caught in the same that you almost feel sorry for been laden. Fundamentalism can also be a theological description which is often defined by five, sometimes more, core beliefs like the inerran se and verbal inspiration of the Bible, the existence of Miracles, Jesus is bodily resurrection, the Virgin Birth and Jesus is substitutionary atonement. These five doctrines were declared essential not by some conclave of fundamentalist who gathered to hash all this out in the S, but by the Presbyterian General Assembly in nineteen ten. Many fundamentalists would later adopt these five doctrines as the theological standard of the movement. Right, this is what we're fighting for, but they would often modify them by adding or combining points to meet whatever they considered to be these the essential doctrines. Some, for instance, later on added deep premillennial return of Jesus instead of miracles. Fundamentalist can also be a pejorative description that fits anyone who seems grumpy and maybe over committed to some illiberal cause. I remember back when I had America Online, back in those AOL days. Oh yeah, that dial up internet, not going to make that sound for you is trauma inducing. But anyways, back when I had all I would go into a Roman Catholic chat room for some MM, polite interfaith dialog, let's go with that. And one Catholic lady in there who went by the screen name Lady Dragon, which only occurred to me as being funny as an avenues later on because of anyways advances and revelation. But she always called me in this Baptist guy that also went in there, the fun the mentalist. Yes, she said the Fundi's, the fundies are here, and I had no idea what that term meant. It's probably the first time in my life that I ever heard it like applied to me, or does somebody I know or anything like that. And in retrospect I'm pretty sure she meant it purely as an insult, like I was some uncultured religious nut. I mean I was an uncultured religious not back then, but what I'm telling you is that my first encounter with the word fundamentalist was an attempt to other me or to insult me. Now dictionary definitions are...
...go to are completely useless here. I mean Britannica defines fundamentalism as, quote, a type of conservative religious movement characterized by the advocacy of strict conformity to sacred text and quote, I mean basically a religious conservative. That's this could apply to most monotheistic religious people, perhaps throughout history. It doesn't explain why we didn't seem to need this word until the beginning of the twenty century in America, however, and that's really the challenge of using this word fundamentalist, of trying to define it, because it often ends up including a bunch of people throughout history who wouldn't consider themselves fundamentalist at all. You know, just can you imagine trying to have a conversation with al Qaida or isis or something and saying hey, you guys are fundamentalist and they say what's that? And then you describe this movement, you know, on the nineteens and S in America, and I just said of a feeling they're going to look at you and be like, what are you talking about? We have, you know, we have nothing in common with them, and certainly they do have some things in common. But the challenge is so often the definitions are so imprecise that they just it's like a shotgun approach. They just hit people to whom the word fundamentalist like. No reasonable person would say that they ought to be included in this definition. So anyways, whatever definition we choose, I believe that our first principle is it. It has to honor the historical event of the fundamentalist movement. I think that's a good test for a definition. I'm not sure it makes sense to use a word that would catch Donald Gray Barnhouse, Osam bin Laden and maybe some secular antimodernist up in the same net. I can definitely see why people like Martin and apple be see the similarities between Muslims fighting globalism and Christians fighting modernism, but I think using fundamentalist to apply to both groups overwhelms it's historical meaning, because if you allow the meaning to broaden so much that it would no longer make sense to the people who first coined it, then I don't think we have a useful word, at least not in a historical sense. It would be like looking at the Protestant reformation in using the word Lutheran to describe everybody. Lou Utheran Hiss followers are Lutheran because they oppose the Roman church and they emphasize certain chre doctrines. Oh, but look at these other reformers, this John Calvin guy. He's also against the Roman church and is also emphasizing certain chre doctrines. So, Oh, wait, here we have this Mento Simmons Guy. Well, these all must be Lutheran's. Oh look, if you use Lutheran describe all Protestants, then the word no longer accurately describes actual Lutherans. I imagine we just need a new word to describe religious people who are against the secular Western order of things which has come to prevail in the last hundred plus years, because within that group you'll definitely find fundamentalist and you'll definitely find others. But to use fundamentalist to describe anyone who is militantly against the modern, secular world just moves the meaning from describing one thing to describing another. So get your own word, dude. Whatever definition we choose, I believe it must do justice to the historical movement known as fundamentalism. Now, the theological definition is attractive because, well, the Presbyterian General Assembly so helpfully defined the essential doctrines for us and because later fundamentalist groups would champion their own essential doctrines, which were pretty similar. It seems like an open and shut case then, right, fundamentalists have defined fundamentalism for us. The problem is that these five doctrines are not unique to fundamentalists. They are definitely modern Christian articulations of doctrine, especially in Er and C, but you will find that many Christians throughout history believed in the bodily resurrection, in the existence of miracles and so on. There would be agreement, at least in the broad meaning of these doctrines, and so I don't think theology alone defines fundamentalism. And fundamentalist, by the way, would have agreed with this statement. They didn't think that they were creating anything new. They believe that they were defending what good Christians had always believed. Besides, fundamentalists themselves couldn't fully agree on what was truly fundamental to the Christian faith. So which version of the five fundamental doctrines do you use to define fundamentalists? Should we incorporate all the variations, and maybe that adds up to ten or twelve or fifteen fundamental doctrines? Is Michael Campbell points out, in one thousand nine hundred and twenty two Avean has had their own lists of fundamental doctrines, the shortness of which had nineteen fundamental beliefs. So how do you make...
...sense of this mess? which doctrines defined fundamentalism exactly? It might I say, which doctrines define fundamentalism, and only fundamentalism exactly. It's unclear to what degree these doctrinal markers were even accurate. Carl F H Henry, one of those new evangelicals reacting to both fundamentalism and modernism, claim that the dictation theory of inspiration, as he put it, wasn't actually shared by all fundamentalists, but was popularly ascribed to them. Now I haven't studied this enough to know whether that is true. Dictation theory was certainly held by a lot of fundamentalists, but Henry might be right that it was overstated. So I don't think theology is the way to define fundamentalism, at least not theology alone. These five doctrines, in whatever configuration they're found or just shared by too many Christians around the world and throughout history, Christians who would never consider themselves fundamentalists and might even have argued against it. I also think the historical definition of fundamentalism is flawed because I don't think it accounts for the fact that similar phenomenal have happened in other non evangelical religious groups. I'm still not comfortable with broadening the word fundamentalist to include basically anyone who is militantly antimodern. But I do think it is broader than just this historical movement at this particular time. But where to draw those lines? I don't know. It's clear that fundamentalism was far more influential than its brief and chaotic day on the stage as a visible movement, and any definition needs to allow for the fact that it changes over time, that it was more than just a historical movement anyways. And it's heart, fundamentalism was one conservative Protestant reaction to the Liberal Protestant theology that was largely being exported from Germany. In the late, or actually throughout the nineteenth century. Protestants saw this liberal theology as a threat and reacted by emphasizing what they believed to be essential theological doctrines. Never mind that they didn't all agree on what doctrines were essential, although maybe they mostly agreed. Perfect agreement wasn't the point. The point is that we believe biblical Christianity is under attack by these liberal Christians and we are going to fight back to defend our faith. It is, I believe, that spirit that makes a fundamentalist. It's that fighting spirit, not mere opposition to modernism, but the willingness to fight. Now this theological liberalism got folded in with the broader threat of modernism, which included evolution and represented an existential threat not just a conservative Christians, but too well Western civilization itself. Modernism, said the president of the Moody Bible Institute Back Then, quote, is a revolt against the God of Christianity and is the foe of good government and quote. Fundamentalist treated all of modernism as a spiritual problem, because all of these cultural, philosophical, musical, economic and, yes, religious ideas in modernism had implications for Conservative Evangelical Christians. Fundamentalist felt overwhelmed and besieged, and so George Marsden defines fundamentalism as, quote, militantly antimodernist Protestant evangelicalism and quote, and I think that's as good as any definition, at least to start with. The problem I think some people fall into is in taking that word modernist to mean modern, as if fundamentalist oppose any kind of change and they wanted to continue living in some bygone era. That is a huge mistake. Modernism was abroad, but a very particular word to fundamentalist and others of their day. The pope even released an encyclical condemning aspects of modernism. Okay, it wasn't just fundamentalists who were against modernism. What made fundamentalist fundamentalist, in my opinion, is how they were against modernism. Pioneering Adventists were deeply concerned about things like worldliness and evolution and what became known as the historical critical method, but they weren't well, weren't always militant about it, at least not in the in the later fundamentalist sense. Returning to Marsden's definition, the word antimodernist tells us that the fundamentalists were reacting to modernism, and so I think pioneering adventists wouldn't qualify as fundamentalist, because this modernism had yet to reach America's shores as a distinct thing until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The fundamentalist movement was Protestant's true and it was specifically evangelical. Yes, the word evangelical gives us another range of theological doctrines which characterize...
...the fundamentalist coalition of Christians. It really wasn't about these particular five essential doctrines, or even ten. It was really a defense of what they saw is the important parts of Evangelical Protestantism in general, and you can kind of pick and choose a little bit of what's important in evangelical protestantism. It was really a defensive evangelical protestantism in general, even if not all evangelicals were fundamentalists, and that's why it didn't matter if different fundamentalist groups precisely agreed on what the fundamentalists were or not. Now I do have two quibbles with Marsin's definition. First, the word antimodernist. I think Nick Miller and others have shown that both fundamentalist and liberals shared a foundationalist philosophical underpinning. In other words, fundamentalist and modernist were caught up in the same philosophical framework as it related to the certainty of knowledge. They both believed we can, we can absolutely know, and and so fundamentalism was definitely antimodernist in some respects, but it was itself a creation of this modern wave, I guess, at least philosophically. Now. My second quibble is that I think I need to know more about how other Protestant evangelicals reacted to modernism. Before I can sign off on this definition, was the only difference between fundamentalists and some others the fact that fundamentalists were militant and some were not? I think that word militant needs to be more carefully to find. What does that mean? It wasn't just that they were they felt more strongly than other people about modernism. They also kind of organize their defense. They also militated differently than others. It wasn't just that they were militant in others simply resisted modernism. It's that that militancy took a distinct form, and maybe we can talk about that some other time. So I suspect there's more nuance to this story, but I nevertheless I think Marson's definition is pretty good for a start. Now, what does all this mean? Well, it means I don't believe that Ellan White was a fundamentalist. She was definitely a conservative evangelical type Christian who probably would have agreed with most of the things fundamentalist were saying, but not all, maybe especially on inherency. Nor was all white militant. I believe fundamentalist was a dis fundamentalism, whether was a distinct historical coalition of Evangelical Christians that were United Against Modernism. But the real glue of the movement, the thing that makes fundamentalist fundamentalist, is that aggressive defense of Protestant Evangelical Christianity in reaction to the perceived threat of modernism. That's what's fundamental about fundamentalism. Now that that militancy takes on a few qualities, and these qualities are not always universal among fundamentalist but they kind of became associated with the movement. Qualities like that fundamentist could be deeply antiintellectual. Right, if you went to a certain school, we're going to you know if, especially if it's known for liberalism. Right like, we're not going to do this, we're not going to support you, we're going to be suspicious of you. Of One one fundamentalist famously boasted that he didn't read books at all. That's not how the movement started out, by the way, but it's how it ended, at least in some circles. Fundamentalist work in theology was often narrowly focused on defending the Bible from modernism rather than actually understanding the Bible, and I think that's really, really important. There wasn't a curiosity to know necessarily what the Bible teaches. They believe that they knew what the Bible teach taught rather and they were going to aggressively defend that. But I don't think fundamentalist were aware of how that theology changed because of modernism. Okay, they included miracles in that original top five list of essential doctrines. I mean, find me a creed in Christian history that that puts miracles somewhere in the top five of the most essential things that Christians believe in. Now, the only reason why miracles was promoted to the top five is because modernists were largely anti supernatural. You know, there is no miracles, these things can't happen. So in response to that, fundamental say well, yes, they can. Now Miracles are one of our most essential doctrines. In other words, they were doing they were doing theology in conversation or in reaction to modernism, and without modernism there is no fundamentalism. It was not a positive religious movement, it was a reaction, a particular reaction at some point in history. In later new evangelicals like Carl Henry understood this. Looking back, writing in nineteen fifty seven, Carl Henry wrote the quote. Impression was given that ethics need only involve a spirit of negation, abstinence from externals such as...
...smoking and card playing. The more subtle and dangerous sins of the spirit in mind receive scant attention. Failure to develop a system of Christian ethics for all phases of life proved harmful. and quote. Now, Henry was a broad minded, conservative evangelical, neat chastised fundamentalist for reacting so strongly against the Social Gospel that they confined the Gospel to just personal evangelism. On the contrary, Henry wrote in nineteen sixty five that an evangelical quote should be concerned about the relations between nations and about minority rights. There is no reason at all why Evangelical Christians should not engaged energetically in projecting social structures that promote the interests of justice in every public realm. Social Justice is the need of the individual, whose dignity as a person is at stake, and of society and culture, which would soon collapse without it. and quote. So Henry was no quack evangelical. If you don't know, he was an evangelical power player the first editor of Christianity today, and I should add he had a personal relationship with some Avidus church leaders. Here he is, in the decade of the civil rights movement, arguing that evangelicals should be interested in creating just social structures. It's not something you usually here evangelicals talking about today. So this new evangelical resurgence in after the Second World War was really evangelical saying we need to reclaim our faith from fundamentalist because fundamentalists have so have put these blinders on, have so narrowed their focus on things that they're just they're just kind of defending this one point in the in the spiritual space against modernists, and they're not even doing that particularly well right because modernism just it just kind of rolls right on by, the fundamentalist rate over them, right under them, right around them, and and they're just kind of in the middle of nowhere, still defending this point and in to the exclusion of developing more broadly as Christians. Henry's first point, where there was, you know, they were focused on don't smoke, don't play cards, and to the point where it was all about these externals. If you don't do this don't do this, then you're good. And Henry he's like look, I mean there's a lot, a lot more subtle and dangerous sins of the spirit in mind that are not, you know, they're not as observable as cards and smoking and things like that. It's not that. It's not that Henry was okay with smoking and card playing. Okay, it's not that these new evangelicals were okay with that. It's just that we shouldn't only focus on these these easily observable external things as evidence of our of our ethical health. There are much more sinister, much more dangerous, much more subtle things out there that we need to worry about, and fundmentalist are focusing our attention purely in these observable areas like card playing and smoking. This is his points. Like we need to we need to kind of re refocus here, because fundamentals have us focusing on just such these narrow, kind of superficial, or at least surface level things, and there are a lot other things that a lot of other things that we need to be worrying about as Christians, that we need to be focusing on, that we need to be studying, including projecting these social structures that promote the interests of justice in every public realm, as he put it, including social justice. And fundamentalist would reject social justice because, well, that sounds a little bit too much like the Social Gospel, which is a, you know, all mark of Modernism in the early twenty century. At this Social Gospel that really we need to take the Gospel to the poor. In the Gospel is seen through feeding them and clothing them in so forth, like that's what it means to preach the gospels, to do these things. And there was kind of in the in the modernist camp, but d emphasis on repentance and a d emphasis on sin as a condition and it was more about kind of meeting these felt needs. I'm not trying to over I know I'm really over simplifying the Social Gospel, but but this is how fundamentalists saw it. They're like no, we need to preach repentance, we need to have public evangelism, like the People's spiritual wellbeing as more important than their physical wellbeing, and they kind of responded the Social Gospel by going so far to the other side that they weren't they didn't really have any social programs whatsoever. That the Gospel didn't seem to have any implications for society other than spiritually. And so this is Henry's trying to pull evangelicals out of fundamentalism and say, you know, no, we should as Christians, care about what happens in society beyond Mere Republic Evangelism.
There are other things that we need to be focusing on as well, and fundamentalism is just kind of overly narrowed our focus here. Now this dynamic between fundamentalist and new evangelicals will help you understand, I think, if you're avinist, the adventism of your own childhood as well, because Francis David Nickel Ah at long last, editor of the review, whom we've been talking about in the past few episodes, at least before Qod, responded to the civil rights movement differently than Carl Henry. Samuel London quotes Nichol is saying, and this very influential or very important editorial that he wrote, that pastors supporting the civil rights movement are sometimes supporting the Social Gospel. This is something that we believed, and nickel rights quote against the emphasis on the Social Gospel. We, in common with all conservative religious groups, have consistently raised our voices, and rightly so. and quote. Now, of course, Nicol it should be said, offered sympathy for, quote, those underprivileged and quote. Acknowledging that, quote, it has led us to a more quiet and distinctly avenues approach to the problem. And, quote, Nichols saw the choices before. The church is either embracing the Social Gospel Right, that hallmark of modernist Christians, or else rejecting it and focusing on public evangelism as the cure for all social ills. And this is a very common, decades decades long explanation of some of these fundamentalist adventists of why we can't support civil rights or why we can't support, you know, regional black conferences or whatever it may be. It's because, you know, if everyone just believed in the Gospel, then we wouldn't have these problems. Right, black and white would worship together, they would love each other, you know whatever. All of our problems would be solved. We wouldn't be having riots, we race riots, we wouldn't be having union riots, we wouldn't be having all this as turmoil, because the Gospel brings peace and it brings reconciliation. And you know, they're always short on explaining exactly how that happens or how that works, but they firmly believe that that's that's really the solution all of our problems. So it's either Social Gospel Nichol's mind, or it's this public evangelism is the cure for all of our social ills. Now that's not merely a conservative perspective, it's a fundamentalist perspective. I joked earlier that Liberal Christians ce Christianity is divided between themselves and fundamentalists. The same thing is true in reverse, by the way. Fundamentalist see the world as divided between themselves and liberals. Right, you're either going to do it our way and you're either going to see things the way we see things, or you're just some species of liberal. That's it. And when you put things that way, people tend to choose side, sides they might not otherwise have chosen, but it's like, well, of you know, these are my two options. I guess I got a pig one. But of course fundamentalist failed to appreciate that they had other options. After all, Carl Henry could see other paths forward for evangelicals, paths that included fixing America structural racism, racism problem on biblical grounds, he would say, not on secular ones, but nevertheless it's a work that evangelicals should be a part of. And so I just want to make sure I mentioned at least once in this episode that fundamentalism and conservatism are are separate things. You can be a conservative without being a fundamentalist. Fundamentalism is kind of a species, is a subset, a type of conservative, and so please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying well, you know, we we have these conservatives in the church and they're all fundamentalist. They're not. They're not. Fundamentalism is just a type of conservative. And you know what we see with these new evangelicals. New evangelicals are conservative. To Carl Henry is conservative theologically, socially politically, but nevertheless he's not a fundamentalist. And so what when I'm hoping, if you're a fundamentalist, listening your buys, there are other options of being conservative, there are other ways the resp. You know, just just because you're not a fundamentalist doesn't mean doesn't mean the option is well, now I have to go embrace modernism. No, there are other ways to resist modernism. There's other ways the critique modernism without being a fundamentalist. It's not this either or, black or white kind of a thing you had. There's plenty of other options. Plenty of other options. anyways, I bring nickel up as an example of how adventist fundamentalism came to be so deeply ingrained into adventism that has become difficult to tell it apart from historic adventism. We have inherited this lens of seeing the Bible and the world and it has shaped generations of adventists. We don't yet know, I think, a ten of how adventist fundamentalism has changed the trajectory of the church. Now, if I could wrap all this up, I'd say that it seems that this conversation over avenus fundamentalism is a conversation about how we see advenus history and Michael Campbell's view.
So many avenues today think avenues fundamentalism is original adventism, and so that there is value in peeling back the layers of fundamentalist adventism and rediscovering our actual past as adventist. Now that actual past is not always some tolerant, open minded generoust church that that more progressive avenues might want to see. Sometimes we sometimes we make this this this kind of assumption. It's like yeah, you know, we're kind of dismantling this fundamentalist past. We're critiquing ourselves and and look, you know, we see these quotes get shared on social media. It's like look, Ellen White said this thing and this thing. It's so progressive, it's so open minded. Yeah, Um, but ellen white would never be considered a progressive. Okay, she might not be a fundamentalist, which is how I think she was portrayed for generations. She might not be that, but she certainly not a progressive by today standards either. Okay. So so anyways, our actual past that we're rediscovering here is not this progressive paradise, but neither is it fundamentalist. I think neither is it fundamentalist. So I think when we look at the past, this, this conversation between Gil and Michael, has really got me thinking. How do we relate to this avenue past? Is it something that we're kind of running from, you know, that we acknowledge and say, yeah, that happened, that's unfortunate, but we're still growing. Is it something that we are trying to to to retrieve, saying, you know what, it's not as bad as people think. There's some really good stuff here that we need to reconnect with. Are we trying to just go back to the past and say, you know, this is when things were going pretty well, we were verily united and in spiritually vibrant and all these sort of things. We need to get back there in some way, shape or form or you know, I don't think anybody would ever say we need to like just kind of recreate the nineteen century, but we need to recover what made pioneering adventism great again. That just kind of slipped out. Well, what can you do? You know, how do we relate to this avenues past? What? What's our relationship with what happened and how do we see it? I'm going to assume throughout all of this that you're not a fan of fundamentalism. I'm not a fan of fundamentalism. I don't think it's the way to go about our faith. I think I think it's I'm happy that it's in the dust spin, will just put it that way. But we have avenues fundamentalist among us who are still reacting to modernism and in the way that that historical fundamentalist did. They're still fighting that war and there may not be as many of them as there used to be. But you know, if you're, if you suspect you might be, in evidence, fundamentalist and you're listening to this, I hope you understand the goal of this whole thing is not to shame you, it's not to make you feel bad about yourself. It's just let you know that there are other options, that the world is not neatly divided between modernists and fundamentalists and you have to pick a side. There are other ways to critique the world, there are other ways to to react and you know, I believe that this, this kind of warfare model is not helpful. It's not even just because everything that came with modernism was not bad. Nick Miller and another essay, and implanet saying this, but Nick Miller in another essay says you know, there's different there's different ways to approach the historical critical method, for instance, and in one of them is to accept some of the some of the methods that are being used because they're actually really helpful in understanding the Bible. So I you know, I think that we didn't mean to get into this moment where I'm recommending a course of action for everybody, but you know, I think that there's a lot to be said. They're about kind of a more nuanced reaction to the changes that we have faced in the last hundred plus years. It's not a choice of either wholesale rejection or wholesale acceptance. I think the healthy way forward is going to be a more nuanced navigating through this strange new world that we find ourselves in. But I do not think Ellen White was a fundamentalist and because of that I think we can we can. That gives us a perspective on this avidus fundamentalist moment and we can let those fundamentalist we know know they may not believe us, but we can let them know that, hey, the church was conservative but it was not fundamentalist, and so your fundamentalism is not original adventism and and maybe there's some conversations that can open up there. I don't know. This is just rough draft of my thoughts. I think I've said enough. I hope at the very least this has got some juices flowing in that old head of yours. Some stuff...
...to think about. Thank you so much for listening. I know your time is valuable. It is so important these days. I mean where you choose to spend fifty plus minutes is I'm it's a huge honor to me that you would spend it with me. So thank you. Thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next time.
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