Lecture 6: Liberalism, Neo-orthodoxy, Evangelicalism
Course: Systematic Theology I
These are such important movements for us to have a handle on in understanding the current state of theological discussion of what has led to where we are today as evangelicals and in the world around us as well.
It would helpful if you had both some philosophical background as well as theological background.
Philosophically, as you probably know, the age of the enlightenment was a mega-shift in the way intellectuals viewed the whole process of acquiring and analyzing knowledge. Rene Descartes lived from 1596-1650 and was a very important figure in reshaping the way people conceived of the certainty of knowledge that we have. Descartes (in one of the great ironies of intellectual history), in an attempt to arrive at certainty, proposed this procedure of utilizing methodological doubt. Doubt anything that can be doubted. He used examples of why we should do this. When you put a stick into water, it has the appearance of being bent, so you take the stick out and you realize it is not bent; it is straight. You can't trust your senses. You can't trust authority. You all have had experiences, I am sure, in which you have been told something you thought was reliable, and you've come to find out that what you learned was not true. It is possible that people are wrong when they tell you things; it is possible that your senses deceive you. So you engage in methodological doubt. Descartes took this very seriously and took it as far as he could, all the way to the point of doubting everything except the fact that there was something doubting. There was something there that was doubting. So he came up with his famous phrase (I'm sure some of you remember it from philosophy days), ''Cogito ergo sum'', I think therefore I am. That is the one thing he said we can have certainty on. Descartes' purpose was to break down to the bare minimum of what is certain so that he could build up a whole lot of knowledge based upon that.
The problem with his method is that nobody really followed him in terms of the building up part of it. They followed him on the tearing down part, that is, the uncertainty of everything that we thought was so sure. And people were not confident that you could build from the mere ego, the "I" or that you could know anything for certain in life. Descartes based his building up on this notion that God wouldn't deceive us, and people recognized that. Descartes, rather than leaving a legacy of certainty, which he was trying to do, left a legacy of doubt. This is one of the great legacies of the early enlightenment period.
David Hume (1711-1776) followed a very different track. Descartes was a rationalist. All of this was approached through reason, as he is thinking about these things. David Hume was a radical empiricist. As an empiricist, David Hume followed the notion that we should only accept as true what we could know with certainty from our senses, from empirical observation. That lead David Hume to say that there is nothing we can know with certainty from empirical observation. Not even something like a billiard table, with a ball hitting another ball that goes into the pocket. That looks pretty clear cut; the pool stick hits the cue ball, and it hits the eight ball into the pocket. It looks like it is pretty clear that we know the cause of the ball going into the pocket. David Hume says, what does a cause look like? How big is it? What color is it? How much does it weigh? Show me a cause. So how can we know the cause of something? It is not empirically verifiable. All we can know is a certain sequence of events. We can't say that one ball caused the other to go into the pocket of the billiard table. We can just say this happened, and then this happened. This was the sequencing. David Hume was a radical skeptic as it came to knowing things in life and left us this legacy of skepticism through empirical observation. So here we have these two great traditions in the enlightenment, of Rationalism and Empiricism, and both have the effect of bringing about tremendous skepticism in the culture where there used to be confidence that there could be certain knowledge
The philosopher who really brought all of this together, who brought a synthesis of this rationalist and empiricist tradition, was Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). I have heard people say, and I think that it is true, that there is a sense in which the postmodernism which we are a part of now is really the logical extension of Kant's own philosophy. There is a lot of truth to that, and if you understand Kant correctly, I think you will see this. Immanuel Kant rejected both a strict rationalist and a strict empiricist approach. In his ''Critique of Pure Reason'' (one of the most difficult books I have ever read; I read it my MA program in philosophy and labored through that, as well as Whitehead's "Process of Reality"; they were equally dense, equally difficult), he's arguing that there have to be certain categories in the mind in order for sense data to be understood. Here I am, looking at this room and I see various persons, at least I think I see people here; I see colors, shapes and hear sounds. So the sense data is coming to me. Kant asks the question, how is it that an individual perceiver is able to perceive what he or she sees; why these shapes; why these colors; why these sounds; what is happening?
Kant argues that there are categories in the mind that take the sense data and shape it into the perceived picture that I have in minds eye as I look out here. That doesn't mean that the data out there are this way; how could I know that? How could I possibly know that there really are chairs in this room that are sort of a bluish-greenish color? How could I know that? How could I know that there really are people in this room? All I can know is my sense experience of it as it is shaped by the categories of my mind. Kant also talked about certain mechanisms of the mind. He called them "intuitions," like cause and effect, time and space. I don't know if people realize how radical Kant is. For Kant there is no time and space outside the mind. There is no temporal succession of moments. Picture, for example, a boat traveling down a stream. You see it here, then you see it here, and you see it here. There is no literal space nor is there a literal time which at this moment the boat is here and at another moment there. All of that, according to Kant, is because structures of the mind and these intuitions of space and time bring this about. Causation is one of the categories of the mind that would account for how we understand the billiard table example. It is categories of the mind that do that. He has an explanation for Hume and he has an explanation for Descartes on all of these things; they get shaped by the mind on these. So what Kant did was separate two realms; there is a phenomenological and the noumenonal realm. The phenomenological realm is the realm of what appears to be the case, things as they appear, and the noumenonal realm is the thing as it is in itself. According to Kant, these are two totally different realms divided so that we cannot know the thing in itself; the thing as it is itself we cannot know that; that is the noumenonal realm. What we know is our phenomenological experience. What we know is what we see and hear. When asked the question (catch this point because this shows how postmodernism has carried Kant forward and yet adapted Kant in a very strategic way), if my mind shaped these things into the actual picture that I see, why is it two people or three people or ten people or a hundred people can look at something and agree on what they are seeing? They can all agree that yes we are looking at a tree; back behind it is a blue sky; there is a bird in the tree; we can all agree on what we are looking at, so how can that be? Kant's answer to that is the uniformity of the human mind. Because we are human, we have the same categories. These categories work in the same ways among human beings. It is not that there really is a tree out there; at least we can't know that. It is not that there really is a bird in that tree or there really is a blue sky; we can't know any of that. But we can know that we have all had the same experience of that and that is accounted for because of the commonality of the human mind.
Just a footnote in terms of where this goes with postmodernism. The behavioral sciences at this particular point in Kant's time were just in the seminal stages. We have more of a sense of the effect upon our minds by our upbringing, by environment, and by cultural differences; all these things shape the way we see things. So, all of a sudden, Kant's notion that we all have a common human way of perceiving the world is rejected instead for the notion that we have quite distinct ways of seeing the world. In fact, they may be so distinct that they are individual, but at least they are cultural at one level; in another culture they may see things in different ways. The heritage of Kant moves forward, but it just makes it even more radical, insofar as we are bound; we are locked into our cultural or even individual ways of interpreting the world and perceiving the sense experiences that we have.
Kant, in particular, is very important to the background of theological liberalism because Friedrich Schleiermacher, who is considered the father of modern liberalism, was very influenced by the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Schleiermacher applied this distinction, this phenomenological and noumenonal distinction, now to religion.
The cultural and intellectual climate of the enlightenment had major influences on biblical and theological studies as well. There was no longer a respect for the authority of the church or the authority of the Bible. The legacy of the enlightenment is a legacy of skepticism regarding anything that had been accepted in the past as true. Something like the Copernican revolution, insofar as we used to think back in the good old days that the sun rose and went around the earth, but now we know better; we know that we can't trust what we see, even though the sun rises in the east and sets in the west; it isn't really. It looks that way, but it isn't really what is happening. The earth is rotating on its axis, and as it rotates it gives the perception that the sun is moving across the sky. So we can't really trust what have been told in the past; we can't trust what we see; we can't trust Church authority; we can't trust Bible. The only thing that we can trust is our own perceptions.
There is a sense in which we move from an age of revelation, whether through the Church or through Bible, to an age of reason. This reason is a chastened reason, according to these enlightenment figures, particularly Kant. A chastened reason, is a reason that has to realize its own confines in doing what it does. All we've got is reason. We move from revelation to reason as the source of authority. Therefore, when we come to the study of the Bible, there is no longer, according to these people, the right to assume that the Bible is historical, truthful, or revelatory; instead we treat it like any other book or set of books. We treat it like any other set of historical documents and subject it to critical scrutiny. These are all cultural by-products. Hence, the whole rise of higher criticism as it relates to the Bible came out of this enlightenment skepticism, this enlightenment view that we can't trust what we have been told, that we have to look at it through other lenses. In this case, subject it to the canons of reason and see whether it is accurate or not. We will have to decide that as we look.
What lead to this enlightenment way of thinking? I think part of it was that in the Reformation period there was a challenge to Church authority. Here comes Martin Luther and John Calvin and the magisterial reformers who say that you can't necessarily trust what the Church has said. Their interest was to go back to the Bible, but what happened in the next century was more questioning along those lines. Can we believe what others say? Can we believe what our senses tell us? So someone like Descartes is in this period where questioning is taking place, so what he wants to do is establish certainty. Descartes' methodology and outcome is one of the great ironies of intellectual history. Because here was Descartes, a very devoted Catholic who wanted to bring an end to the skepticism and establish a sure basis for certainly, but the legacy he left, instead, was this legacy of doubt and skepticism. I think you can say that Descartes is probably the key figure who made this mega-shift possible. Although, I think the more influential figure carrying forth to postmodernism is Kant, in how he utilized both of these traditions.
The noumenonal realm does exist. Otherwise we wouldn't have sensory experiences. It is just that we can't say anything about it other than it is. We can't say anything about the empirical world. We can say what we receive it to be phenomenologically what it looks like to us but we cannot make truth claims about what it is in itself. We can't do that. But he was duelist, insofar as there is a real world apart from the eye, apart from the person with the senses, and then there is the person who is observing this world. Kant in his "Critique of Practical Reason" talked in terms of ethics and presupposes that there is God, freedom and immorality and that accounts for human experience. There is accountability and there is freedom of choice and this sort of thing. I think Kant, when pressed, would give a creationist answer to that. This is by design, these pre-Darwinian people were not thinking yet in terms of some kind of naturalistic evolutionary theory; that comes later.
2. Some Key Figures
a. Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834)
Almost anyone writing on the history of liberalism will credit this individual as Liberalism's father or the one who really began the Liberal tradition. Schleiermacher rejected what he viewed as speculative natural theology, that is (the kind of thing Thomas Aquinas is famous for doing), that is we can reason from this empirical world to a God who created. We can know things about God by looking at the empirical world. Thomas had "Five Ways," for example, he constructed arguments for the existence of God and certain limited number of attributes of God such as wisdom, and power perhaps. Schleiermacher viewed all that natural theology as speculative and totally inappropriate for enlightened individuals to conduct. He also had a critical view of Scripture. His own view that he adopted of the Bible was following the line of critical scholarship that rejected it as authoritative revelation. Instead, the Bible is dear and very precious religious writings from a particular religious history which happened to be Jewish and Christian. The big move that Schleiermacher made was evoking of cause distinction between the phenomenal and noumenonal realm in saying that this applies to religion as well. So we cannot know the thing itself; we cannot know the noumenonal realm; we can't know God in himself. It is impossible. How could we get at this? How could we possibly know God in himself? Impossible. All we can know is God as he appears to us, God as we experience him. So in Schleiermacher you have this movement (Now catch this; this is critical. This debate goes on today in Southern Baptist circles, I guarantee you). Do we understand the knowledge of God as fundamentally a matter of acquiring objective information via revelation (Schleiermacher says no, you can't have that) or is it subjective understanding that is simply a part of our experience? Is knowledge of God objective fundamentally or subjective fundamentally? The whole classical tradition in theology has said we know God in himself because he has revealed himself; whether it is in nature or in the Bible, God has revealed himself so there is objective revelation of God by which we know God. No one claimed to know God perfectly or to know God comprehensively; no one ever claimed that. What they did claim was that some true knowledge of God, in himself, could be known. It was objectively available because revelation was available. Schleiermacher rejects revelation, has a higher critical view of the Bible, and more importantly, has this Kantian distinction. All we can know is the phenomenological experience of God. Schleiermacher defines religion, then, as our feeling of absolute dependence. It is a very famous phrase in Schleiermacher, "Our feeling of absolute dependence upon God." Notice the word "feeling" is subjective, experiential. This is what true religion is. It what we feel; what we experience about God not some kind of supposed objective truth claims about God.
True orthodox Christianity has always held that acquiring true objective knowledge of God must lead, if it really is acquired, if it really is embraced, to genuine experience with God. Look at Jonathan Edwards as a supreme example of that with his book, ''Religious Affections''. So it is not as though anybody in orthodoxy was wanting to argue for a kind of objectivity of revelation and intellectual knowledge void of feeling and experience. But the feeling and experience must be based upon objective revelation that is given by God. So here comes Schleiermacher and says we can't have that. There is no revelation; we can't know God in himself. We can know that there is a God, in all likelihood, but there can't be certainty about this. What we can know is our experience of him. Here is the beginning of liberalism, in which subjective takes the place over objective, in which imminentalism (God in my experience) takes the place of transcendentalism (a fundamentally transcendental view of God, in which he is above and beyond and other than and separate from the universe). Now, God is in my experience and there is a personal authoritative basis for theology rather than an external authoritative basis for theology. Whether it is in the Catholic tradition or the Protestant tradition, there was something external that was pointed to, but now it is my experiences, my feelings that are authoritative.
b. Albrecht Ritschl (1822-1889)
For Ritschl, Jesus was the supreme embodiment of God's consciousness and dependence. Right away you can see how he takes from Schleiermacher this notion of feeling of absolute dependence. What marks Jesus as being particularly significant, noteworthy, an example to follow? We call ourselves Christians. We want to live our lives like Christ. We want to follow Christ. In Jesus Christ of Nazareth, you see the greatest example that has been lived of this God consciousness. He did it better than anyone else. Jesus, while being threatened by hostile forces, trusted God's power and love in his life. As such, Jesus is the archetypal man; this is how Ritschl thought of him. He is the archetypal man; he is the epitome of what humanity is meant to be. In terms of studying the life of Jesus, there was a need, then, to discover or to get at this archetypal person, to get at exactly who he was, as clearly as possible. When that was done; when this clear, critical, historical study was done, we would find in the end that he was this archetypal man. So claims to deity, and claims to the miraculous were stripped away. Some of you who know the work of Rudolf Bultmann can see the extension of this in his demythologizing program. Bultmann was a very consistent liberal with existential overtones. Here you have in Bultmann an extension of ritual where you get at the core of Jesus. Or even von Harnack argued, you get rid of the husk and you keep the kernel. All of this comes out of this liberal tradition.
When you did that and got to the archetypal man, Ritschl argued that what you find most prominently at the center is the moral Jesus, the ethical Jesus, the Jesus who loved others, cared for the poor, and reached out to the needy. This moral Jesus is the archetypal man who we are to follow.
c. Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930)
Harnack was raised in the home of an orthodox Lutheran scholar and was himself greatly influenced by Ritschlian liberalism, the liberalism that came through Schleiermacher and then Ritschl. He became trained in that. Von Harnack came to see orthodox doctrine as wrongly preoccupied with specific doctrinal teachings and standards of belief, rather than getting at the thrust of what Scripture was trying to get at: to teach us a way of life. So don't get bogged down with orthodox doctrine that misses the point. The purpose of Jesus' life and the Bible as a whole is show us a way of life which he described as "the way of the kingdom," or, "kingdom life." We have a moral responsibility to live out the ethic of the kingdom, according to von Harnack. He argued that as we read the Bible we have to separate out the husk. If you think of a grain of wheat, we need to separate the chaff or the husk and blow it away to keep the kernel. For him, the kernel was the ethical core of the Bible's teachings, the kingdom message of light that shines in darkness, the message of God's goodness that comes to dispel evil. He said that if we understand that, then we will see much more clearly. If we could enter into this mind set that we are in the kingdom, then we could see the fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man lived out among us.
Liberalism, among other things, was very optimistic about human well-being. Besides rejecting orthodox doctrines like inspiration, revelation, and the deity of Christ, what else went in the process? Well, total depravity, sin, and the imputation of Adam's sin is gone too. So we have a fundamentally good humanity that just needs to realize its own inherent goodness and enter into that kingdom of life under the fatherhood of God, expressing the brotherhood of man, and we will enter a utopian society. There is very strong optimism that this liberal gospel message of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man would have the effect of bringing in the kingdom, that is, a utopian society on earth.
Neo-Orthodoxy stands as a deliberate rejection of 19th century and early 20th century liberalism, in the religious and moral crisis associated with World War I. Think about how liberalism rejects sin, and rejects depravity. Well all of that sounded good. There were utopian societies that were forming in the late 19th century and early 20th century. There was a tremendous optimism. By the way, most orthodox Christians were postmillennial at this time, at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. Postmillennialism swept orthodox Christianity in the west. It was just a cultural climate of optimism; the kingdom is going to come, whether it is the Schleiermacherian kingdom or the kingdom of God as people are saved and the world is Christianized. There was this tremendous optimism. Then all of a sudden World War I hit and it was tremendously sobering as people realized with greater technology comes even more devastating cruelty and harm and devastation that could happen to human well-being. So World War I really did provide a tremendous reason for reevaluating the optimism of liberalism.
(It also meant postmillennialists by and large shifted to amillennialism. The majority in the Reformed tradition in the 20th century from World War I on have been amillennial rather than postmillennial. Postmillennialism has been a minority view until just recent years when it has had resurgence.)
2. Some Key Figures
a. Karl Barth (1886-1968)
Karl Barth was trained in classical liberalism. He studied, among others, under von Harnack and was steeped in this. But for Barth, as he began to write his Romans commentary (he actually writes in there) he came to terms with the bankruptcy of liberalism and the truth of God's word in Romans that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), that there is fundamental depravity of the human heart. He came to terms with this and he talks about publishing his Romans commentary, rejecting liberalism, and upholding this new orthodoxy, hence Neo-Orthodoxy. It was, as he said, as though he was groping for a rope to hang onto as he was writing Romans. He found the rope and when he pulled on it, he didn't realize that at the top of the rope was a bell that sounded and a whole countryside was awakened. There is a lot of truth to that. Barth's commentary on Romans was, in fact, an awakening to a whole community of liberals who were dissatisfied with liberalism and shifted over to Neo-Orthodoxy. Barth himself rejected this content bifurcation whereby, according to Schleiermacher, we could not know God. He reinvested theology with the concept of revelation. Now, granted, his view of revelation is deficient. All of us as evangelicals recognized that his view of revelation erred in a number of ways, but don't miss the point; revelation is back with Barth. This is a huge shift out of liberalism, to hold a view that a transcendent God is holy other (One of Barth's best parts of ''Church Dogmatics'' is where he describes the doctrine of God. It is just marvelous. Honestly, I have been led to tears reading Karl Barth's discussion of God. It is so moving and so much of it is right on track.) He has this very high view of God, a lofty view of a self-existent, self-sufficient, all perfect, supreme holy God who creates a world and reveals himself to this world. Now the revelation, for Barth, is most prominently in the person of Jesus. Christ is the revelation of God, and the Bible is a witness to that revelation. This is where his view begins to break down in terms of what evangelicals would accept. The Bible is a witness to revelation. Not that the Bible is itself revelation. He was reluctant to talk in those terms. He was reluctant to say the Bible is the Word of God. He would rather say that the Bible witnesses to the Word of God, who is Christ; or the Bible becomes the Word of God as God speaks to us through it of Christ. Do you hear both of those? He is happy with both of those. The Bible witnesses to the Word of God, Christ; or the Bible becomes the Word of God as God uses it to witness in our hearts to help us understand the Word of God, Christ. But he was not inclined to talk about the Bible as the Word of God. But nonetheless, revelation is here; we have a transcendent God again, a holy other God who makes himself known. We have the necessity of the atoning death of Christ back in Barth. Now again, there are problems because in Christ, according to Barth, God's "yes" is greater than man's "no." And most interpreters of Barth, myself included, have argued that in Barth's view universalism is entailed, even though he never does explicitly say so. I can show you passages in Barth where, if you take seriously what he is saying, it looks clear that this must mean universal salvation of all people ultimately. The gospel really becomes for Barth going and announcing to people that they have been saved, so live like it. Live like the saved people that you are, is the message according to Barth.
So Barth rejected liberalism and brought in this new kind of orthodoxy, deficient in many ways, but nonetheless, I would say on balance closer to us than to liberalism. The reason I say that is, think of the gulf between revelation or not. That is huge. If you go down this track then God has spoken; has reveled himself. If you don't have revelation, what do have? What does Schleiermacher have? My feelings, my thoughts, subjectivity altogether. Your subjectivity is yours, and mine is mine. There can be no normative truth in this. But if God has spoken then we are talking about the possibility of normative truth about God, and Barth holds to that. Where he differs, in numbers of ways, is very problematic. But he made a huge shift from the liberalism from which he was a part.
b. Emil Brunner (1889-1966)
Like Barth, Brunner affirms the self-disclosure of God as the only basis for theology. In the self-disclosure or self-revelation of God, God makes himself known. Brunner's distinctive emphasis, as it relates to revelation, differed from Barth on the notion that revelation ought to understood as a personal encounter. He is sometimes called "the crisis theologian" of the Neo-Orthodox movement. Revelation must be a personal encounter. So as we read the Bible, God may bring us to the point of crisis in experiencing something of God through the witness of Scripture. Brunner rejected a literal portrayal of Jesus as strictly a human being and insisted that Jesus was at once true God and true man (so did Barth by the way). Barth and Brunner both rejected the critical view of Jesus. Not that they rejected all of criticism; they didn't. They accepted quite a bit of critical theory, but they rejected the notion that Jesus, rightly understood, is just a man and not God. They held, rather, that he is both God and man. The one area of greatest disagreement between the two actually might strike us a being a rather trivial area. Brunner argued for natural theology, that you could come to know God through looking at nature; and Barth, in response to that, wrote a little booklet in German whose title was "Nein." No. That is an interesting way to oppose a friend because they were friends until that point, and then they separated and really it made a breach in their relationship for the rest of their adult lives. Barth was very opposed to the notion of natural theology, believing that only as one entered into faith could one then perceive the world correctly. According to him, one could not argue to an unbeliever, one outside of faith, from the world to God. That is impossible; you have to be in the faith in order to believe in God. So they had that major disagreement.
c. Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
Niebuhr was strongly influenced in his early years by social gospel liberalism: do good to others. This is what the gospel is: go and share the good of the kingdom, and they too will share in kind. Throughout his life he was intensely interested with the application of the Christian faith. He really wanted to see how this worked in practice. He became convinced that the liberal gospel was a sham because it was founded upon an altogether false anthropology. It was founded upon a false view of the fundamental goodness of human beings. He came to see with orthodoxy the reality of people as sinners, as desperately wicked people who needed to be changed by God. So humanity is in this paradoxical state as created by God, good but desperately wicked as sinners. Or believers are in this paradoxical state desperately wicked as sinners but now as saints called into the kingdom of God. So he argued that there had to be this paradoxical understanding of human beings and not a uniform understanding. Humans are not all bad and not all good. Neither one of those would do full justice to who we are.
20th century evangelicalism (actually the second half of the 20th century) or the evangelical movement is marked by perhaps the founding of Fuller Seminary or Christianity Today or Carl Henry's little book, ''The Uneasy Conscious of Modern Fundamentalism'', which is from the late forties. So evangelicalism as we know it is a second half of the 20th century movement.
What was before that? Before that it was Fundamentalism. In Fundamentalism we have a movement of orthodox theologians who share in common, with later evangelicals, all of the fundamentals of the faith. The virgin birth of Christ, the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, the doctrine of the trinity, the depravity of human beings, the necessity of faith in Christ and all of these fundamentals of the faith are held in common between fundamentalism and evangelicalism. So what marks them as fundamentalist and us over here as evangelicals? A couple of things. One is the early fundamentalists in the early 20th century were standing against modernists. The controversy was fundamentalist with modernists, or liberals if you want to think of them as liberals, standing against them. The cultural forces were definitely favoring modernism. This was at a time when Darwinian evolution, for example, had become not totally accepted by the culture at large, but the intellectual elite had accepted Darwinian evolution as a fact. So here are these fundamentalists over here arguing for six day creation. And the intellectuals, among the modernists in the culture, are demonstrating the folly of this ridiculous, naïve, old view that is archaic and ought to be discarded.
One of the pivotal events (you can mark a shift that happens in fundamentalism) is the Scopes trial. William Jennings Bryan was the defender of the state of Tennessee. Clarence Darrell came down from Chicago to defend this teacher, Scope, who had been teaching evolution. So they took this to trial and actually William Jennings Bryan won the trial, but he lost the culture war because in the process Clarence Darrell put William Jennings Bryan on the witness stand. Come to find out, he not only didn't know much about contemporary evolutionary theory (the science that was involved in that), but then he started asking him questions about the Bible and he didn't know much about the Bible either. At least his answers were very unsatisfying. So it looked to most people that William Jennings Bryan, who had run for President and was a highly respected individual, was not the intellectual icon they thought he was. So in the eyes of the culture, fundamentalism took an enormous beating at the Scopes trial. Fundamentalism, prior to Scopes trial in 1925, had been engaged in a fundamentalist/modernist controversy. People like J Gresham Machen and B. B. Warfield were intent on engaging modernist arguments and trying to answer them. Look sometime at J. Gresham Machen's thick book (it is almost 400 pages long, if I remember correctly) on the virgin birth of Christ. Can you imagine writing a 400 page book on the virgin birth of Christ? Do you know what this book is? It is an intense exegetical, theological defense of this doctrine in light of this modernist attack. That is fundamentalism up until 1925. Now they are beat.
What do fundamentalists do? They say, you know we are probably not going to win this culture war with modernism, so what we are going to do is separate from them. We are going to take our own home with us; we are going to set up our own schools, and train our own kids so they don't go off to those modernist schools and get infected with liberalism. So the Bible school movement flourished in the late 20's, the 30's, 40's and 50's. Furthermore, we are going to insulate ourselves as much as possible from this liberal culture that we are a part of. The only exception to that was a kind of witnessing; you can even hear it in the phraseology used. "We are going to go and save souls." I find nothing wrong with that in principle; we do need to save souls. But what was point here? The liberals were the ones who were interested in physical ministry to people. The liberals had the social gospel where you do kind deeds to others and that sort of thing. "We don't want to be liberals," said the fundamentalists, "So we don't want to be involved in social activism; we are interested in spiritual needs, not social or physical needs." What I am giving you is a generalization; not all fundamentalists were like this. Not all movements were like this. For example, rescue missions continued in this time. There were efforts made by Christian people, but as a movement, on the whole, there was this isolationism that took place. In that context here comes a Carl Henry, and he says, you know what we have really blown it here. We've got to change. That's what began evangelicalism.
2. Some Key Figures
a. Edward John Carnell (1919-1967)
Carnell is most noted for his strong intellectual critique of modernism and liberalism as an evangelical. He believed post 1925 fundamentalists made a huge mistake by leaving the marketplace of ideas, leaving the universities, and leaving the intellectual climate of the culture. He insisted on entering it again. He did two doctorates; the first he got at Harvard University where he did his dissertation on Reinhold Niebuhr. He did a second doctorate at Boston University under E. S. Brightman. He wanted to show that he could master everything liberalism had to offer and answer it. Carnell was just brilliant; his apologetics works are still very valuable to look at. He had a very sad ending to his life. He taught at Fuller Seminary and his light was on late at night (of course that was not unusual as he often there very late), and they went and discovered that he had overdosed on some prescription drugs; it wasn't illegal drugs, but prescription drugs. They don't know if this was suicide or accidental, but he came to a rather early end of life.
b. Carl F. H. Henry (1913- 2003)
What an amazing man. He was a man who had a tremendous influence on our president here. Dr Mohler has shared his story many times in context where Carl Henry was the one, who humanly speaking, the Lord used to turn him around, that is turn Dr Mohler around. When he was here at Southern, he was the assistant to the president, Dr. Honeycut and was assisting the moderate cause in the Southern Baptist Convention. He wrote a paper for the seminary on supporting the ordination of women when he was assistant to the president. Who would ever guess that that was the case? But Carl Henry was the one whom the Lord used to help him start thinking in ways about Scripture that he hadn't, and it just opened up this whole world of careful biblical understanding which turned him around. Carl Henry, I think, could be called the dean of contemporary American Evangelicalism that began at the very end of the first half of the 20th century. In 1947 he wrote a little book, 75 pages, called ''The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism''. In this book he argued two things primarily. Number one was that fundamentalism was dead wrong to abandon the intellectual fight with liberalism, and he wanted to re-engage the fundamentalist movement (that now would be called evangelical movement) and make a case for the claims of the gospel and the truths of the Bible. He encouraged people, like Carnell had done, to learn what liberals had to teach and then show them what is wrong with it. Defend the faith. He had a very strong apologetic and evangelistic interest in this. Re-engage with the intellectual culture.
The second thing that he said fundamentalism erred on horribly was to distinguish spiritual well-being (preach the gospel and save souls) from physical social well-being. In fact God calls us to minister to whole people, and we can't do this by not being involved in social work. He was also very clear that social work cannot in itself be the gospel. He wasn't calling for people to come to social gospel liberalism and that all. He agreed with Jesus; what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36). Social work had to be coupled with spiritual teaching and conviction of heart in order for people to receive the full ministry of God's grace in their lives. Well that book had an enormous impact. Billy Graham, among others, read it and encouraged Carl Henry to become the founding editor of ''Christianity Today''(CT) magazine, which he did. CT, which is still in existence today, has perhaps shifted a bit from its earlier mission and vision, but it is, nonetheless, still in existence. It was founded by Billy Graham and H. Nelson Bell who was his father-in-law. So Ruth Graham Bell's dad and Billy Graham founded Christianity Today and Carl Henry was the first editor. Carl Henry has also been very involved with World Vision, a relief organization, because of his interest in bringing together social work combined with gospel proclamation.
c. Billy Graham (1918- )
He is still living, and he is able to do remarkably well at his age. Billy Graham is failing a bit, but praise the Lord he is still with us. Billy Graham went to Wheaton College and after his ordination as a Southern Baptist he became, in 1943, the first evangelist of this newly founded organization, Youth For Christ. His 1948 Los Angeles crusade is what brought him national fame. From that point the Lord has blessed his ministry enormously. He has been an evangelist preaching the gospel, but he has also been very involved in holistic ministry to people. You probably know of all the ways he has been involved in relief work and social work, as well as the crusades that they do, the gospel proclamation. There is a sense in which if you put Henry and Graham together you really get the heart of evangelicalism. Because what you have is an aggressive interest in the truth of the gospel, defending the truth, and knowing the truth; and you have an aggressive interest in sharing the gospel with others. Both are interested in both. It is not that Henry is the mind and Graham is the heart or one is the theologian and the other is the evangelist. They both are interested in both. It is really wonderful to see how that has been, although each has their own specialty and area of expertise.
Blessings on You.