(Get up to speed by reading about week one and week two of this course.)
This week we raced through another sixty years of evangelical history–from the end of the Civil War (1865) to Scopes Trial (1925). I began by juxtaposing the very “otherworldly” aspects of late 19th-century evangelicalism with the very “worldly” developments in American cultural, intellectual, and religious life occurring at the same time. As Dwight L. Moody was saving sinners with his “lifeboat,” and evangelicals were “going deeper” with God in the Holiness movement, and dispensationalists were contemplating the timing of the rapture, America witnessed the emergence of Darwinism, the social gospel, and German higher criticism.
Evangelicals eventually woke up to these changes, but it was probably too late to do anything about them. The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of the early 20th century redefined the Protestant landscape in America. Figures such as Harry Emerson Fosdick, Shailer Matthews, William Bell Riley, J. Gresham Machen, William Jennings Bryan, and Billy Sunday also figured prominently in the lecture.
I ended with the Scopes Trial and the collapse of evangelical cultural and religious authority in America. Next week I hope to discuss the so-called reawakening of evangelicalism (borrowing heavily from the work of Joel Carpenter), the emergence of the neo-evangelical movement, and the birth of the Christian Right.
It’s not too late to join us. 9:00 in room A143 at West Shore Evangelical Free Church in Mechanicsburg, PA.
Tom Van Dyke says
John, I think the epilogue to Harry Emerson Fosdick's work and life is of interest. The magnificent Riverside Church that John D. Rockefeller built for him and for his “liberal theology” in Manhattan is at a theological impasse.
The pastorship has been “interim” since Rev. Dr. Braxton was forced out in 2009. Although the social activist arm of the church rolls along coherently along the lines of Democratic Party politics, the actual “worship” part remains an uneasy truce between older more “deistic” whites and more “Jesus-enthusiastic” blacks.
I've been following the story off and on–I don't think much has changed since 2009:
But by almost all accounts, Dr. Braxton’s decision to give up the pulpit at Riverside reflected a crisis of identity rending not only one congregation and its 2,000 members but the soul of Protestant liberalism in the United States.
“It’s about all the issues confronting the progressive tradition within the church,” said Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary and a member of the Riverside congregation. “Liturgy. Theology. Finance. Race and class. This is a tragedy.”
As for Fosdick's “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?” I trust you're acquainted with his theological opponent J. Gresham Machen and with his biographer Darryl G. Hart.
I piss Darryl [oldlife.org] off far more than I ever manage with you. Heh heh. But as I'm not an evangelical, I find the whole thing interesting and delightful–especially if I can make peace between youse guys.
In November 1921, Machen [the subject of this biography] delivered a important address to a meeting of The Ruling Elders of Chester Presbytery on the subject “ The Present Attack against the Fundamentals of our Christian Faith from the Point of View of Colleges and Seminaries. ”
This was reworked into an article “ Liberalism or Christianity ” that appeared in The Princeton Theological Review [PTR] Vol 20 number 1 pages 93-117. Machen contrasts the Liberal view with the Christian view with regard to:
-their view of God
-their view of man
-their choice of the seat of authority in religion
-their view of Christ
-their view of the way of salvation