The Four Major Controversies

I have been reading various chapters in From the Mind of God to the Mind of Man, and recently finished the articles written by Pastors Ashbrook and Minnick. Today, I began reading the book from the beginning as I should have from the start. The introduction is very interesting. As I read the Introduction, the remarks of Dr. James B. Williams caught my attention:

Protestantism, which grew out of that Reformation, has faced four major controversies during the present century that are directly related to what is known as Christian Fundamentalism:

1. The first of these was the conflict between liberalism and orthodoxy. This sharp controversy during the first thirty years of this century pointed up the radical differences between those who denied the historic view of the Bible and its cerntral teachings and those who defended against these attacks. The terms Fundamentals and Fundamentalist were coined to describe those who adhere tenaciously to the historic position. The Bible and its foundational doctrines were the issues.

2. Neo-evangelicalism, which arose in the middle of this century, is a further attempt to bridge the gap between liberalism and Fundamentalism that neo-Orthodoxy had attempted to close. At stake is the issue of ecclesiastical separation. It is very divisive.

3. The Charismatic movement, which is a complete misunderstanding of and misuse of the spiritual gifts, has also proved to be very divisive. The present day Charismatic emphasis has its roots in the movement that began in 1901 and produced numerous Pentacostal denominations. Since the middle of this century, these false teachings and their divisiveness have spread into the ranks of many churches and denominations, even to some who had been considered Fundamentalists.

4. The translation controversy, which arose from the immediate ranks of Fundamentalism, has created unnecessary confusion and division. This issue focuses on whether the King James Version of the Bible should be the only translation used by Fundamentalists. This controversy is doing more damage to the cause of Christ among Fundamentalists than any of the other controversies.

What interests me is the author’s ability to look over a century of fundamentalist history and narrow down the difficulties into four major controversies. As you read his comments, would you agree that these were the four major problems faced in the 20th Century? And what would you say is the present controversy we are facing?

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5 thoughts on “The Four Major Controversies

  1. dale

    Excellent post, Andy! Your recent exposes on the Asphalt Assault actually come very close to defining the area of controversy that faces fundamentalism more than the book you summarized here: doctrinally sound, orthodox gospel messages interwoven with what many see as worldy methods. Therein lies some level of disagreement which may or may not become divisive within fundamentalism.

    The division between theological liberalism and fundamentalism is obvious. What fellowship does Christ have with Belial? They are absolutely and diametrically opposed/mutually exclusive theologies/philosophies, and anyone who does not see this is not fundamental in position (and wrong). Period. Defining methodology is something where good and godly men can disagree (?). Calling this approach “new evangelicalism” may or may not fit. Dialoge with those who are opposed to the Gospel (liberalism) is absolutely wrong. No disagreement.

    Yet what to do with conflicting methodologies in presenting the Truth will always be something that divides even those who love the Gospel and its message of salvation. You were spot on with your analysis of the Asphalt Assault where it puts the method above the message. When the centrality of the Gospel message becomes overshadowed by the method, maybe that is the defining dividing line in current fundamentalism today. I liken this to your “easy believism” posts. Good stuff, btw!

    It may be that fundamental doctrine v christian liberty will always be a means of division within fundamentalism. Can folks have fun in fundamentalism, and how do we define it? Some, I have heard, mockingly ask, “Is there salvation outside of fundamentalism?” Some liken fundamentalism to the RC position that there is no salvation outside the RC Church. To many outside of the circles in which we were raised, these are questions many see as, in themselves, divisive. Are we saved unto Christ or “fundamentalism”?

    Thanks for posting this, Andy. You are a blessing to the blogosphere!

  2. Andy Rupert

    So, we might add Christian liberty to our list:

    5. The call for Christian liberty has produced a generation of “Christians” which allows for almost any means for carrying out the purposes of the Church. The opinion is that if one’s motive is biblical, the method can be left to one’s conscience. This worldly philosophy is causing a rift between conservative fundamentalists and those which are more tolerant.

  3. dale

    I like it!

    Could I take some liberty with the response (pardon the pun)? Would the phrase “proclaiming the truth of the Gospel” in lieu of “carrying out the purposes of the Church” in the first sentence change the meaning? Or changing to “if Christ is faithfully presented” from “one’s motive is biblical”?

    “Worldly philosophy” is opposed to Christ and has no place in the Gospel message. The smash-mouth blaring of solid and methodical rock music is a hinderence to the presentation of the Gospel (the music isn’t really that good anyway). Christ should never be mixed with any style that detracts from the message of the Cross. The circus has no place in the Gospel message.

    Christ must be deliniated from the World. There must be a distinction that is recognizable. Where the exactness of the line is is what gets us into levels of controversy: the “I’m right you’re wrong” type stuff, or “my interpretation of liberty is more holy than yours”. That is an unappealing position.

    The older I get, the more I realize that the stuff I used to argue is about as appealing as left-over food forgotten in the fridge. People must come to a clearly defined Christ, the vicarious atonement for sin, not some watered down person who is a hip dude just like I am. When we put Christ onto our level, we demean the Only Begotton Son of God who washed our sins by shedding his own blood.

    Getting back to your Point 5: Good discussion point. I like it!

  4. Andy Rupert

    [Dale said … proclaiming the truth of the Gospel” in lieu of “carrying out the purposes of the Church” in the first sentence … Or changing to “if Christ is faithfully presented” from “one’s motive is biblical”? ]

    I did not get specific because the underlying philosophy affects more than evangelism: worship, discipleship, preaching, advertising, etc. (If we limit the discussion to one aspect, I’m afraid we’ll miss the overall philosophy and get stuck on pet peaves.)

    The idea seems to be that in Christ I am free to do his work most any way I decide to do it. We’re back to the Judges 21:25 syndrome.

  5. dale

    Good clarification. Maybe that’s why I was so upset with the idea of…oh, well, I won’t go down the Piper road again :). It would be nice to see how others respond. Blessings on tonight’s prayer service.

    Hey, totally off subject (sorry) how is the recovery going from the massive floods of this past Summer? Another post on flood recovery would be good so we may praise God for his goodness, and know how to continue to pray.

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