Tuesday, October 1, 2013

An Appeal to Fundamentalists | March 10, 1943

By Ruling Elder GORDON H. CLARK. Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy in Wheaton College

About a half century ago the churches in the
United States began to feel the effects of the
evolutionary denial of special creation, the destructive
criticism of the Bible, and the rise of Modernism. At
first it was the seminaries that succumbed to German
rationalism, and later their graduates quietly put over
a substitute gospel on the laity.

Recognizing the trend, a group of conservative leaders,
some of whom were very competent scholars, contributed
articles in 1912 to form a set of twelve booklets
called The Fundamentals. By choosing this title and
by distributing three million copies, they brought into
existence and popularized the term "Fundamentalism".
Since 1912 nearly all those writers have died; other
leaders have taken their places, and Fundamentalism
has come to include a wide variety of religious groups.
It is popularly regarded as a single religious movement
because all who claim the name accept the Bible as
authoritative. Whenever the late Dr. J. Gresham
Machen was confronted with the opposition between
Modernism and Fundamentalism, he always made it
clear that he was a Fundamentalist. The term, he believed,
was not sufficiently specific, but the disjunction
was clear-cut and his stand was unambiguous. He was a
Bible-believing Christian.

The Fundamentalists differ widely, however, in their
interpretation of the Bible. At the time of his death
(I believe), a nonchristian paid Dr. Machen the tribute
of pointing out that the difference in Fundamentalism
between Machen and Aimee Semple McPherson was
about as great as the difference in medicine between
the Mayo brothers and Lydia E. Pinkham. That wide
differences among Fundamentalists exist, both in doctrine
and in policy, must be kept in mind as one examines
the history of the movement.

For a few years after 1912, Fundamentalism may
seem to have made headway, but shortly the war directed
people's attention to other matters. After the
World War 'had taken its toll of religious belief and
morality, the well-known radical and pacifist, Dr. Harry
Emerson Fosdick, published a sermon entitled "Shall
the Fundamentalists Win?" Since then two decades
have passed, Modernism has swept the country, and
we are in the midst of a still more terrible war. When
this horrible carnage is over and the chaos is calmed
down, will there be any Fundamentalists remaining?

First of all, let us look at fundamentalist performance
in the last twenty years. As Modernism made inroads
in the large denominations, small groups of Fundamentalists
here and there became disgusted and, rather
than take up the disagreeable task of fighting for the
purity of their denominations, quietly withdrew to form
independent Bible churches. Some, not willing even
to withdraw, simply closed their eyes to the denominational
situation and quietly went to sleep in the false
security of their local congregations.

Both courses of action injured the
cause of Christ, and in several ways.
The withdrawal of Bible-believing
Christians from the denominations
made the progress of Modernism all
the easier, so that when some noble
men, like Dr. Machen, attempted to
resist infidelity in the church, not only
were false charges brought against
them, but also they were tried and
condemned in the ecclesiastical courts
without being given the simple justice
of a hearing-without being permitted
to present their defense.'

In the second place, the formation
of independent churches effectively
prevented these Bible-believing Christians
from forming a compact body
for the united and aggressive extension
of the gospel. They became the disorganized
remnants of a once-great army,
powerless before organized unbelief.
After twenty years of work, or at least
of existence, the independent leaders
of Fundamentalism have not accomplished
the task set for them by the
men of 1912.

Nor can these leaders point with
pride to the quality of the Christianity
they have fostered-if quality is to be
substituted for quantity. That real
Christians are proportionally fewer today
than twenty years ago is not a fact
lightly to be laughed off; but some
comfort could have been generated if
there had been an improving quality
to compensate. But at this point, too,
these leaders have surrendered to the
enemy and have betrayed their people.
So eager were these men at first to
preserve the very fundamentals of
Christianity that in large numbers they
spurned whatever they thought was
not fundamental. Each independent
group was persuaded to adopt a statement
of faith containing six, eight, or
ten doctrines-all fundamental, no
doubt-and to discard a score or more
other doctrines. These others may not
have been logically fundamental, but
by the authority of God's Word they
are all essential. The independent
leaders and Bible teachers had overlooked
the fact that a house needs a
roof as well as a foundation. To be
sure, they said they believed the whole
Bible-and so they did in a way; but
they did not preach the whole Bible.
Thus their belief in the inerrancy of
Holy Scripture was rendered impotent
by their neglect of so much of its contents.

The result of such leadership is that
many of these independent churches
today can hardly be called truly fundamental.

It is not that their people
have become Modernists. Far from it.
They still accept the authority of the
Bible. But because for the last twenty
years they have never heard of many
of the very important doctrines, these
good people have been raised from
childhood in ignorance of blessed and
profound truths that God has revealed
to us for our edification. Because their
ministers have neglected to instruct
them in the whole counsel of God,
they are blown about, not by every
wind of doctrine, but at least by many
winds. In some places the doctrine of
grace is vitiated by assigning a part of
salvation to man's efforts, so that irresistible
grace is replaced by the doctrine
of free will as taught in the
Romish church. Furthermore, some
Fundamentalists are preaching that
there are several ways of salvation, one
way for this age and other ways for
other ages. Since each church is independent
of every other, each minister
does that which is right in his own
eyes. There are no checks on fancy or
perversity. One minister claims that
repentance is unnecessary; another
that baptism is for another dispensation;
a third refuses to use the Lord's
Prayer; and quite a number have repudiated
the Ten Commandments.

In the meantime, the secularization
of society grows apace. The reading of
the Bible in the public schools of
some states is prohibited by law,
though the doctrine of creation is attacked
from the second grade on. Not
only is true piety considered impolite
in good society, but profanity is found
on the pages of the most reputable
magazines. While Americans vaunt
their moral superiority over Gestapo
sadism and Japanese barbarity, brutal
labor racketeers are encouraged to
prey on honest workingmen. The freedom
of religion is imperiled not only
by governmental units but also by
those who, advocating church union,
aim at a united Protestant church devoted
to evolution while giving a
patronizing acknowledgment to what
they call Hebrew mythology.
Let us not ask what American pagans
need; they need a disquieting
sense of sin, repentance, a return to
God through Jesus Christ. But let us
rather ask what Bible-believing Christians

First of all, the scattered, independent
congregations of devout and
humble Christians need ministers who
have renewed their grip on the fundamentals.
Both ministers and people
should take Charles Hodge off the
shelf and learn what the deity of
Christ, the atonement, the person and
work of the Holy Ghost, really mean.
Next the minister should lead the way
beyond the fundamentals to the essentials:
total depravity and its implications,
unconditional election, and irresistible
grace. In short, he should
possess himself of all the doctrines
of the original Reformers. A close
study of Calvin's Institutes and the
confessions of the Reformed churches
would be a long step toward the recovery
of a lost heritage. Then when
faithful preaching gives the people a
fair understanding of these divine
truths, the prospects of the church of
Christ will look bright indeed.
Finally, these leaders should cease
their defeatist independentism and get
back to the Scriptural principles of
cohesion among congregations. The
apostolic churches were united and
sent delegates to a general council in
Jerusalem. America can well do without
one big antichristian Protestant
church, but it desperately needs well
organized, aggressive denominations
true to the whole counsel of God. Dis-
organized, independent congregations
with abbreviated creeds stand in pitiful
contrast with the appalling situation
of the day.

And if the present leaders of independent
Fundamentalism are unable
or unwilling to follow the principles
of the Scriptures they acknowledge,
the common people themselves must
seek a better leadership in a sound,
aggressive denomination that not only
acknowledges the Bible but also
preaches it in its entirety.

In very plain words, we invite you
to unite with us, The Orthodox Presbyterian

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