History And Polemic

A History of Fundamentalism in America by George W. Dollar (Bob Jones University Press, 1973, 411 pp., $6.95, $3.95 pb), is reviewed by H. Crosby Englizian, professor of church history, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Portland, Oregon.

George Dollar has done the evangelical church in America a great service with this volume on the history of fundamentalism. He narrates the goodness and glory of historic fundamentalism while also revealing its pettiness and misery. Because of the radically separatist stance, symbolized by the clenched fist on the jacket cover, Dollar has produced something more than a history. For the history, we are in his debt. For the rest, some of us who are evangelical historians are embarrassed.

Dollar’s account of fundamentalism prior to 1900 is welcome. Only a few scholars have endeavored to tell in some detail the values and significance of the prophetic conferences held near the close of the nineteenth century (in this connection, the researchers that brought to light the contributions of A. J. Gordon of Boston are noteworthy). The biographical data scattered throughout the book, and especially the seventy-six-page biographical index, are invaluable. One may wonder, however, why such early church figures as Clement, Constantine, and Augustine are included in such an index. Dollar is a student of preachers and Spirit-blessed preaching—a personal enthusiasm that enhances this effort.

The reader might begin his reading on page 279, where Dollar discusses “secondary separation,” and then ponder a while his definition of historic fundamentalism: “… the literal exposition of all the affirmations and attitudes of the Bible and the militant exposure of all non-Biblical affirmations and attitudes.” The reader may soon wonder whether he is reading a history or a pugnacious polemic for an insular Christianity. This definition, which demands our attention by appearing in large, bold type that fills a whole page, has only a confused correspondence with the rest of the book. Does “prima donna” W. B. Riley meet the definition even though he remained in the Northern Baptist Convention almost to his dying day? And what of the amillennial “prima donna” T. T. Shields? And the “schizophrenic [?]” “prima donna” J. Frank Norris?

Dollar finds three categories of professing fundamentalists: the militant (the genuine and historic), who most nearly meet the requirements of the above definition; the moderates, who are faithful in “literal exposition” but disloyal in “militant exposure”; and the modified, who are equated with new evangelicals and who “dismiss the doctrine of the imminent coming of the Lord as unimportant” and “are party to compromise, erosion, and capitulation to Satanic forces.…” Then follows a representative list of institutions in each category: of the fifteen militant examplars, eleven are associated with hard-core Baptist groups; also included is Bob Jones University (where Dollar teaches), founded by an evangelist who, incidentally, remained within the Methodist Church as late as 1957. Among moderate schools are Biola, Cedarville, Moody Bible Institute, Tennessee Temple, and Dallas, Grace, Talbot, and Westminster seminaries. The new evangelicals are purportedly represented by Gordon, Houghton, King’s, and Wheaton colleges and by Fuller, Trinity, and Conservative Baptist seminaries. Beyond this, Dollar believes Southern Baptist pastor W. A. Criswell to be “supporting the apostasy,” and seminary presidents Vernon Grounds, Herman Hoyt, and Earl Radmacher to be contributing to a National Council-like “tolerance toward all religious groups.” Fundamentalists should not support Dallas Seminary or J. Vernon McGee or Harold Ockenga or Charles L. Feinberg or Moody Bible Institute, says Dollar. These are the “SSS” men and schools—they personify Silence, Sympathy, or Support in the face of “all forms of compromise.” Wilbur Smith and John Walvoord are referred to as “men in retreat”; Jack Wyrtzen, John R. Rice, and many others are mentioned with but ever-so-faint praise.

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Dollar and his friends have seemingly established themselves as examiners within the Christian community, dispensing a “clean bill of health” to men and organizations who measure up to their ever-narrowing expectations. The fundamentalist is one who exposes “non-Biblical concepts and activities.” But what of the second class, the “moderate” fundamentalist, who, according to Dollar “refuses to expose error, wrong attitudes, questionable habits, and defections from Bible discipline”? There are thousands of “moderate” fundamentalists who do “expose error, wrong attitudes …,” but not always the same alleged errors and attitudes and habits as the militants. Are the “moderates,” therefore, not “militant”? Can a “militant” be a “moderate”?’ A “moderate,” a “militant”? A “modified,” a “moderate”? If the answer is yes, and the author so suggests, then the efforts toward definition seem to reach an impasse. Granting the “shortcomings” of these classifications and admitting that there is “not enough evidence” to know who belongs where, Dollar asserts, nevertheless, that “lists … must be made.”

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All three kinds of fundamentalists come in for their share of both praise and criticism. Is this an attempt at a balanced presentation, or might it suggest the instability of the author’s position? Must Christians agree 100 per cent on everything to be acceptable to one another? Do all the GARBs think alike? Or the new evangelicals? Or all members of the New Testament Association of Independent Baptist Churches? No! Dollar is to be commended for his efforts to cite the hardline fundamentalists as they were and are—both good and not so good—but his bias is so markedly evident that the attempt loses some of its credibility. Why not castigate Chester Tulga for speaking against institutional bigness (“jumboism”), since Dollar’s favorites are noted for their immense churches? Why let the Fundamentalist Fellowship within the Northern Baptist Convention escape criticism after founding the “motley group” called the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society! “It is a strange phenomenon,” says Dollar, that militants are “barred” from less militant schools; he is disturbed that second- and third-class fundamentalists “can afford to be friendly” with each other but not with outspoken first-class fundamentalists. But are not the militants guilty of the same exclusivism, inviting into their assemblies their own kind only, and mailing their church papers to select addresses only?

Although Dollar’s definition of a fundamentalist is fine on paper, its practice is something else. Amidst recent Conservative Baptist struggles, it was stated that “policy is the application of principles to circumstances, and men who speak of principle apart from circumstances fall victims to a legalism which easily becomes dogmatic and harsh.” The fact of the matter is that the strict separatists have a soft side, but it is reserved for their own group. Thus W. B. Riley comes out smelling like a rose despite his long stay in the “apostate” Northern Baptist Convention.

Their hard side, on the other hand, appears against those who stand outside their precincts. Examples of such ambivalence are numerous. One militant local church refused to accept a paid subscription to its church paper from the library of a “moderate” Baptist institution on the grounds that the paper was “sent to friends … on a selected basis where there is some compelling reason.” Again, can a respected historian (and I, as a former student and personal friend of George Dollar, have always respected his scholarship, his pastoral heart, and his love for the Saviour) say that San Francisco Baptist Seminary is a “bulwark” institution, in the face of recent events? Dollar mentions Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna, Minnesota, and the leadership of Richard Clearwaters and Myron Cedarholm, men of longstanding note among Conservative Baptists until recently. But he forgot to inform his readers why Cedarholm left Pillsbury to found a competing school across the Wisconsin border. Dollar says that “because of complete capitulation to new-evangelical attitudes and methods, no serious dissension affects the Conservative Baptists now.…” This explanation of the return of peace to the annual meetings of the Conservative Baptists is debatable; some would cite instead the departure of the hard-core element.

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A History of Fundamentalism in America is a history only in part. Interlaced with this history is a strange mixture of interpretation and editorialization. I find little difficulty in agreeing with Dollar as he observes certain laxities in the Bible-school movement and as he evaluates certainly worldly modes and manners. Some new evangelical ideas are indeed fraught with peril; and so is cooperation with liberals, and the employment of gimmicks in the church, and the low estate of exegetical, forceful, and tear-touched preaching. Furthermore, Dollar’s trenchant observation that new evangelicalism (whether in part or in whole) may serve to create a tolerance of “all religious groups” to the detriment of the evangelical church in America is, to my mind, not without substance. It may very well be that new evangelicalism will stimulate or give rise to ideas and practices that even present-day “moderate” and “modified” fundamentalists will reject.

This is a curiously interesting book—one that defines a true fundamentalist as a person who, among other things, gives himself to “the militant exposure of all non-Biblical affirmations and attitudes,” and at the same time praises fundamentalist giants who chose as their successors men “who operate on the basis of connections and not convictions.” Why did fundamentalist leaders who are to expose non-biblical attitudes choose opportunist successors, i.e., men with non-biblical attitudes? Dollar suggests gullibility. Could it be that these stalwarts of the past do not quite fit the above definition? Indeed, does anybody?

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I highly recommend this book for its insights into the history and mind of fundamentalism—both past and present, both real and imagined.

A New Tribalism

The Restless Heart, by Robert C. Harvey (Eerdmans, 216 pp., $3.95 pb), is reviewed by Donald G. Bloesch, professor of theology, Dubuque Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa.

Robert C. Harvey, an Episcopal clergyman, has given an incisive analysis of the crisis in social identity in contemporary Western society. His basic contention is that our society is becoming collectivized, and that this is reflected in the shift from inner-direction to other-direction and random-direction. In the inner-directed society, which was present from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, man takes his cues from a divinely illumined conscience and acknowledges the reality of moral absolutes. In the other-directed society man appeals to the consensus of the group or wider community; the author calls this a new tribalism. Among young people today there is a movement away from other-direction to random-direction, which makes an island of every man by giving him total autonomy. Random-direction is individual in intention but collective in fact. Indeed, it represents the most thorough form of collectivism, since it denies individual morality and substitutes an ethic of collective morality. Both other-direction and random-direction characterize modern society, though inner-direction can be detected among southern fundamentalists and later generation ethnics.

Most people today, he maintains, are person-oriented, not value-oriented, which means that they place loyalty to their fellows above fidelity to transcendent moral values. The homogenized man is supplanting the free, self-individual. A demand for uniformity crushes individual initiative and responsibility. Criminals are no longer treated as responsible but as sick and therefore not deserving punishment. Guilt is seen as collective instead of individual. Progressive education, group dynamics, and psychiatry all tend to press people into the mold of the collective personality. Even the church is acquiring the collectivist mentality, since it is more intent on reforming social structures than on converting individuals.

Harvey issues a plea for a recovery of transcendence and abiding moral values. He is suspicious of the liberal mentality that sees man as basically good and institutions as harmful. The need of mankind is to acquire a universal identity that will include both a corporate and an individual sense of personhood. He is aware of the perils of a rampant individualism, but he believes that a heightened sense of individual conscience contributes to stability in society and to the preservation of religious values. Man can be free and responsible, Harvey contends, only when he finds his identity in the personal, trinitarian God.

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Much of what Harvey says rings painfully true, and this is why churchmen of every persuasion need to ponder this book. He writes as both a sociologist of religion and a theologian, since he tries to relate his sociological analysis to his theological vision. While basically concurring in his social analysis, I take exception to some of his theological affirmations. He is right that society can be ruled only by law and not by love, but he does not see that law must be measured in the light of the higher criterion—love. His ranking of the Gospels over the Epistles and his view that God accepts a man as righteous because his goodness is motivated by a love for God is not acceptable to biblical or evangelical believers.

Harvey speaks of the need for a faithful, righteous and saving remnant that will be a leaven in society. I agree, but are any of his categories, including inner-direction, appropriate for such a creative minority? In my opinion it is more proper to see such persons as upper-directed or God-directed rather than inner-directed. A case can be made that such an orientation characterized the Christian remnant in all previous ages.


Library Research Guide to Religion and Theology, by James R. Kennedy, Jr. (Pierian Press [Box 1808, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48106], 57 pp., $7.50, $3.50 pb). An invaluable aid to writing term papers and theses. Students, teachers, librarians—take note. The large-size pages contain many illustrative reproductions from card catalogues and a variety of available indexes as the user is given step-by-step guidance. The nine-page bibliography of basic reference works is commendably fair in its inclusion of titles by evangelicals.

Parents and the Experts, by Diane Kessler (Judson, 96 pp., $2.45 pb), Evelyn Duvall’s Handbook For Parents, by Evelyn Duvall (Broadman, 192 pp., $2.25 pb), and Know Your Child, by Joe Temple (Baker, 149 pp., $2.95 pb). Noteworthy and practical helps for parenting. Kessler evaluates the best-selling guides for parents from a Christian perspective. Duvall touches briefly on most aspects, but with little explicit reference to the Scripture and focuses on positive discipline.

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The Pastor and Marriage Group Counseling, by Richard Wilke (Abingdon, 173 pp., $5.75), The Minister as Crisis Counselor, by David Switzer (Abingdon, 288 pp., $6.95), and Divorce: The New Freedom, by Esther Fisher (Harper & Row, 198 pp., $7.95). Pastors who do much counseling can, with careful evaluation, find some helpful insights and methods to try.

Good News, by Jim Comstock (EPM [1003 Turkey Run Rd., McLean, Va. 22101], 44 pp., $6.95 pb). Key events in the life of Christ as they might have been reported on forty-four front pages of tabloid newspapers of his day. Includes photographs.

Grow: Your Sunday School Can Grow, by Lowell Brown (Regal, 120 pp., $2.25 pb), Twenty-four Ways to Improve Your Teaching, by Kenneth Gangel (Victor, 131 pp., $1.95 pb), You and Adults, by Lawrence Richards (Moody, 111 pp., $1.95 pb), and You Make the Difference For 4’s and 5’s, by Mary LeBar (Victor, 47 pp., $.95 pb). Some new life for all aspects of Sunday school, with specific howto’s on each count.

Love, Altruism and World Crises: The Challenge of Pitirim Sorokim, by Joseph Allen Matter (Nelson-Hall, 336 pp., $9.95). Exploration of a noted sociologist’s theories on the practical power of selfless love in a crisis-ridden world.

The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by J. D. Douglas (Zondervan, 1074 pp., $24.95). Nearly 200 evangelical scholars have prepared a comprehensive reference work on the history of Christianity. Some 4,800 brief articles. Belongs in every academic and public library, and ministers and many others should have personal copies as well.

If Christ Is the Answer, What Are the Questions?, by Tom Skinner (Zondervan, 219 pp., $2.95 pb). An excellent way to get one (well-known) evangelist’s answers to a variety of questions posed to him. Since Skinner is black, many of the questions are on topics like black power, black theology, and black-white relations. Highly recommended.

The Liberation of Planet Earth, by Hal Lindsey (Zondervan, 236 pp., $4.95, $2.95 pb), Assumptions and Faith, by Wayne Roberts (Gibbs Publishing Co. [Broadview, 111. 60153], 97 pp., $1.95 pb), and Ten Teachings, by J. Rodman Williams (Creation, 121 pp., $1.95 pb). Basic presentations of evangelical doctrine by, respectively, a well-known author, a math professor (who lays an apologetical foundation), and a leading charismatic theologian.

The Black Experience in Religion, edited by C. Eric Lincoln (Anchor, 369 pp., $3.95 pb). Twenty-six essays previously published within the past few years. Good introductory overview of the literature, but more writing on the subject from more biblically shaped perspectives is needed.

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Biblical Theology: New Testament by Chester Lehman (Herald Press, 566 pp., $18.95). A major, systematic overview of the ministry of Christ and the teachings of James, Peter, Paul, Hebrews, and John. The author taught at Eastern Mennonite College and Seminary for fifty years.

Trinity Journal, Volume 3, edited by Mark Asp and Leonard Goss (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School [Deerfield, 111. 60015], 117 pp., $2 pb). Eighteen essays and reviews by past and present students and teachers at Trinity. Very worthwhile.

New Testament Survey, by Robert G. Gromacki (Baker, 433 pp., $9.95). A professor at Cedarville College (General Association of Regular Baptist Churches) presents a well-illustrated freshman-level text.

Letters to an Unborn Child, by David Ireland (Harper & Row, 138 pp., $5.95). The kind of book that is hard to put down. The author is now paralyzed by a rare disease that has always led to premature death. These letters, started during his wife’s pregnancy, attempt to let his child know more about his father. They also point to the Heavenly Father, revealed through his Son, who longs to have us all know him better.

The Challenge of Black Theology in South Africa, edited by Basil Moore (John Knox, 156 pp., $4.95 pb). Seventeen stirring essays, mostly by South African blacks. If those who brought the Gospel to South Africa had also taught and tried to practice biblical ethics, such a book need not have been written.

The Armstrong Empire, by Joseph Hopkins (Eerdmans, 304 pp., $4.50 pb), Herbert W. Armstrong and His Worldwide Church of God, by Roger F. Campbell (Christian Literature Crusade, 120 pp., $1.25 pb), and Armstrongism, by Robert L. Summer (Biblical Evangelism Press [Box 157, Brownsburg, Indiana 46112], 424 pp., $5.95). Hopkins is definitely the best on the movement as a whole, including its recent troubles. The other two books especially focus on presenting biblical refutations of key Armstrong positions.

The Hungry Sheep, by John Sheridan (Arlington, 175 pp., $7.95). A straightforward logical defense of the traditional orthodox doctrines of Roman Catholicism.

Mourning Song, by Joyce Landorf (Revell, 184 pp., $5.95), To Die With Style, by Marjorie Casebier (Abingdon, 174 pp., $5.95), The Experience of Dying, edited by Norbert Greinacher and Alois Muller (Seabury, 152 pp., $3.95 pb), When Cancer Comes, by Clarence McConkey (Westminster, 140 pp., $2.95 pb), and The Cost of Dying, by Raymond Arvio (Harper & Row, 159 pp., $5.95). Death is the topic of the season, and these books cover the gamut of the experience. Landorf covers the five emotional stages of facing death that Kubler-Ross identified, but from a Christian and personal perspective. Very helpful. Casebier illustrates and supports the thesis that we face death with the same attitudes and styles that we face life. Greinacher and Muller collect thirteen theological and scholarly essays. McConkey examines the scope of cancer from definition to demise. Arvio offers some creative, debatable alternatives to our traditional costly funerals.

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