Chapter 12: Independent Fundamentalist Family
Independent Fundamentalist Family
Consult the "Contents" pages to locate the entries in Part III, the Directory Listings Sections, that comprise this family.
Fundamentalism is the name given to a conservative movement within Protestantism in the early twentieth century. It was characterized by an intense affirmation of biblical authority and allegiance to a modest number of essential Christian doctrines, most of which had been called into question by the so-called "modernists" who had absorbed a variety of new currents of intellectual thought from sociology to evolution. What became known as Fundamentalism, however, derives from the thought of British teacher/theologian John Nelson Darby (1800–1882). The movement he began in England in the 1820s attempted a more thoroughgoing revival of primitive Christianity than either the earlier Puritan or Wesleyan movements. Unlike its Puritan and Wesleyan predecessors, the new movement was not content merely to purify or revive the existing church, but sought to recreate the Apostolic church. The prime methods used to recover Apostolic life were intense concentration on the Bible, and the adoption of a biblical lifestyle, theology, and ecclesiology.
JOHN NELSON DARBY. Probably no Christian thinker in the last 200 years has so affected the way in which English-speaking Christians view the faith, and yet has received so little recognition of his contribution as John Nelson Darby. Why this anonymity? One can only guess. It might be that the theological movement he began was so historical that it was programmed to forget its roots, its originator. It might be that its disestablishment orientation worked for a breakdown of communication that left the second generation without a knowledge of its heritage. In any case, the thinking of a large number of Christians finds its source in the unique biblical theology that Darby evolved in the nineteenth century. From his ideas have sprung modern-day fundamentalism, the later work of Dwight L. Moody (1837–1899) and the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, the Scofield Reference Bible, the Companion Bible, and a number of churches that bear names such as Bible Church, Bereans, Grace Gospel, Brethren, Independent Fundamentalist, and Gospel Assembly. Moreover, as a result of Darby's work, a number of Christians in the larger denominations would one day read with relish the works of such men as I. M. Haldeman, William Graham Scroggie, Clarence Larkin, G. Campbell Morgan (1863–1945), James H. Brooks (1830–1897), and William E. Blackstone (1841–1935), to name a few.
Who was Darby? John Nelson Darby was an Anglican priest ordained in 1826, who, through the study of the Scripture, came to reject the idea of a state church. Darby's dissent led him to withdraw from the Anglican Church in 1827 and begin the pursuit of a non-denominational approach to church life, establishing fellowship groups of Christians who had also come out of the existing denominational structure. It was Darby's view that the true church is a temporary structure, set up by God between the cross and the second coming, and composed of a number of individual believers. This concept dominates Darby's thinking.
In 1827, the famous Albury Conferences on prophetic studies–conferences held at Albury Park, an estate near London–caused Darby to think about eschatology. The term "eschatology" refers to the end time and includes consideration of death, heaven and hell, judgment, the second coming of Christ, and the millennium (Christ's reign on earth for a thousand years). Darby created a new system of thought called dispensationalism. Dispensationalism is a view of the Bible as a history of God's dealing with man in terms of various periods (dispensations) of history. The church had often seen history, on a theological or numerological basis, as divided into three or seven periods. But it was Darby who began a division of the biblical story based on God's method of dealing with his people. Darby's system had seven basic dispensations; one period, Israel's, was divided into three subperiods. The system was roughly as follows:
- 1. (Paradisaical state) to the flood
- 2. Noah–government
- 3. Abraham–calling and election
- 4. Israel
- a. Under the law–Moses
- b. Under the priesthood
- c. Under the kings–Saul
- 5. Gentiles (begins with Nebuchadnezzar)
- 6. The Spirit (the present?)
- 7. The fullness of time
While Darby was fairly clear about the early dispensations, his discussion of the present and future is vague and at times seemingly contradictory. To ease the confusion, Darby's theological successors (particularly C. I. Scofield [1843–1921]and Harry A. Ironside [1878–1951]) refined his system into what has become the basis for most modern discussion of dispensational schemes. Scofield's seven dispensations are:
- Innocence–from creation to the fall of Adam
- Conscience–from the fall to the flood
- Government–from Noah to Abraham
- Promise–from Abraham to Moses
- Law–from Moses to Jesus
- Grace–from the cross to the second coming
- Personal reign of Christ–from the second coming to and including eternity
Dispensational schemes solve several basic biblical problems. They clear up some of the baffling biblical contradictions by shifting contradictory passages to different dispensations. For example, when one reads all of the passages concerning the end of time and the events surrounding the second coming of Christ, one is left confused as to what will happen. Passages in Thessalonians, the Book of Revelation, and Matthew offer seemingly contradictory pictures of the future that the dispensationalists were able to reconcile by their rather complex outline of future events. The dispensationalists were also able to reconcile the obvious difference between the small New Testament church and the large ecclesiastical organizations by which they were surrounded. The true church (i.e., the church of the dispensationalists) was ever the small body of the faithful called out from Babylon (i.e., large religious organizations). Finally, the dispensationalists offered a rationale for change. Each dispensation was initiated by a renewed action of God toward his people, by which God tries to reach his chosen ones. The failure of each successive action leads inevitably to the cross, said the dispensationalists. And the failure of the New Testament church to realize the promises given to it must lead inevitably to a final dispensation in which Christ is acknowledged as the universal ruler.
Second only to dispensationalism as a key idea of Darby is his ecclesiology. Darby had early come to reject denominated, primarily state-church, Christianity, and he tackled the problem of the "Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ" in his first pamphlet in 1828. He attacked as the enemy of the work of the Holy Spirit anyone "who seeks the interests of any particular denomination." No formal union of outward-professing bodies is desirable. Unity is to be found in "the Unity of the Spirit and can only be in the things of the Spirit, and therefore can only be perfected in spiritual persons…Believers know that all who are born of the Spirit have substantial unity of mind, so as to know each other, and love each other as brethren." Churches influenced by Darby's ecclesiology generally have a statement of belief in the spiritual unity of believers in Jesus Christ.
Darby established assemblies of like-minded believers tied together by their consensus and their fellowship. They accepted no authority except the "charismatic" leadership of Darby and other talented teachers who soon arose in their midst. There were no bishops or overseers.
The gospel assembly became the central building block among Darby's followers and imitators. The assembly was a local gathering of like-minded Christians. Each person was both layman and minister, and each assembly was independent and tied to the other assemblies only by the bonds of doctrinal consensus and fellowship.
No name for the group was accepted, although biblical designations such as Church of God and, most popularly, Brethren, were often used. The lack of designation has been a characteristic that has persisted and has often made the Brethren an invisible part of the on-going religious life of any community in which they reside. Few groups of Brethren publish their membership statistics.
While they had no formal ministry, the Brethren did display an intense evangelical zeal and began to develop structures that could be used without infringing on the autonomy of the assembly. First, there emerged in the assemblies gifted teachers and evangelists who, by the consent of the assembly, taught the Bible and preached the gospel. The majority of the assembly, of course, had responsibilities in reaching the lost with the gospel. The more talented of the teachers and evangelists began to travel and speak at neighboring assemblies, and, by such informal means, a professional ministry developed.
A major new form that evolved as an expression of the biblical priority in the life of the Brethren was the Bible reading. This sermon-like presentation usually involved the tracing of a key word or idea, such as "creation" or "church," through a series of otherwise disconnected passages, with the speaker briefly commenting on each passage. The Bible reading evolved out of the Reading Meeting of the British Brethren, where students would gather in a home and together search the Scripture.
An active publishing ministry was initiated by the voluminous writings of Darby. Pamphlets and tracts were soon joined by books and periodicals. Last to arise were Brethren-owned printing and publishing houses, which were owned by some prominent Brethren who published as a service to the brotherhood, but, in matters of business, functioned as entrepreneurs. As the movement grew and schisms developed, the publishers became the spokesmen for different factions that could be distinguished, primarily, by the literature they accepted as orthodox. Publishers, in the absence of ministerial associations and national conventions, have become the major molders of opinion in the otherwise informally organized assemblies.
The assemblies, as a rule, reject any doctrinal formulation or creed, though Darby emphasized that unity of mind was an essential feature of the Church of God. There was, and is informally, however, a very rigid orthodoxy and doctrinal stand, particularly about the nature of the church. Almost all of the schisms within the Darbyite movement were articulated as doctrinal disputes and appeared as a breakdown of doctrinal consensus. Of course, a major disagreement concerns the amount of latitude in belief that is possible without destroying the unity of mind.
Darby accepted the orthodox Protestantism of the Reformation on the central issues of belief in God, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the person and work of the Holy Spirit, the Bible as the Word of God, and the necessity of man's repentance, forgiveness, and salvation. Where Darby differed from the Protestants of the Reformation was in the issues of ecclesiology and eschatology.
While never developing an expectancy of Christ's imminent return to the degree that the Adventists did, the Brethren were in the forefront of nineteenth-century emphasis on the approaching end of the age, and they promoted speculative interpretation of Scriptural statements on the nature and order of eschatological events. Their speculations took the form of prophecy. Prominent in the dispensational scheme is a particular form of eschatology, usually termed premillennialism.
It was Darby's belief that people could be divided, for eschatological purposes, into three groups–the Jews, the Church of God (Christians), and the Gentiles (all non-Christians who were not Jews). The first event in the eschatological framework is the invisible coming of Christ to gather his saints, both living and dead, and take them away as described in Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians (4:13–18). This event is called the "secret rapture" of the saints. The rapture is the signal of God's rejection of the Gentiles, particularly nominal Christians; but after the rapture, his work is begun among the Jews, who convert and become preachers of Christianity to the lost world for seven years during which Satan is unleashing his most terrible woes. This seven-year period is called the tribulation (Rev. 7:14). At the end of the tribulation period, Christ and his army will come to do battle with Satan and his allies. After Christ's victory, a thousand years (the millennium) of peace will ensue. The remnant who come to Christ during the tribulation shall live on earth while the raptured saints reign with God in heavenly glory.
At the end of the millennium occurs the judgment of the Great White Throne. Satan, bound for the millennium, is loosed for a last bit of activity before his destruction. Finally, the wicked dead (non-Christians) are resurrected and judged, and the saints are given their eternal reward. This was a relatively new eschatological schema, but as it grew in popularity along with the corollary dispensational view of history, it set the issues of debate for other Bible students and conservative Christians. The rapture itself was the main point of attack by Darby's opponents. It involved an "invisible return," or secret rapture, by Christ seven years before the visible second coming.
THE DEVELOPING MOVEMENT. Darby's theology began to influence a large number of Bible students. First, such men as Charles H. Mackintosh (usually designated as C.H.M.) (1820–1896), William Trotter, and William Kelly (1821–1906) joined Darby's movement, and began to write and expound Darby's system. As early as 1859, Darby visited Canada, with other visits in 1864 and 1866. In 1870, 1872–73, and 1874, he visited most of the major United States cities. In 1872, Moody discovered the Brethren, who spent several days introducing Moody to dispensational thought. As Darby and his associates toured America, such leading clergy as Adroniram J. Gordon (1836–1895) and James H. Brooks (1830–1897) opened both their minds and their pulpits to the new truth. As a result of the massive body of literature this movement created, along with its nondenominational character and association with Moody, a large segment of conservative Christianity accepted it. In the 1880s and 1890s, the thought became institutionalized in many Bible colleges, the most famous of which was Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. It should be noted that while Darby's theology became popular, many people who accepted it never accepted the ecclesiology nor became Brethren, a fact that often gave Darby and his followers moments of consternation.
Two books appeared that greatly increased the popularity of Darbyism. The first was Jesus Is Coming by William E. Blackstone. This eschatologically oriented book appeared in 1878 and was an immediate success. Though its topic was the second coming, its treatment was thoroughly dispensational. The book was still in print more than a century later. The second book was the Scofield Reference Bible. C. I. Scofield was a St. Louis lawyer converted under Moody's preaching. Later, he moved to Dallas and became a Congregational minister. His first dispensational work appeared in 1888, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, which is also still in print. In the 1890s Scofield set up a Bible study course used at many of the Bible colleges, including Moody. In 1902, he commenced work on the reference Bible, which appeared in 1909. It immediately became the cardinal work in the movement and has become the standard by which to judge the dispensational movement. In 1967, a new Scofield Reference Bible, edited by a committee of prominent dispensationalists and with minor additions to Scofield's notes in the light of later research, appeared.
Widespread use of the Scofield Reference Bible has led to growth in orthodox dispensationalism, and the book has become the source from which leaders in the movement have deviated to launch new teaching. For instance, Moody Bible Institute graduate J. C. O'Hair developed the Grace Gospel movement, which rejects water baptism.
Following Scofield's pattern have been a large number of conservative ministers, both denominational and independent. For many years, I. M. Haldeman, pastor of the First Baptist Church of New York City, wrote on dispensationalism. His most significant book in this vein is A Dispensational Key to the Holy Scriptures, which was published in 1915. Manifesting the way dispensational teaching readily adapts itself to pictorial presentations, two authors had great success specializing in publishing diagramic texts of dispensationalism. Clarence Larkin's Dispensational Truth and Ray O. Brown's Truth on Canvas became popular.
Darby's movement grew out of the traditional theology of the Church of England. While noncreedal, it, in fact, accepted all of the affirmations of the more notable creeds promulgated by the ecumenical councils of the Christian movement during the conciliar era (fourth to eighth centuries), most notably the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds. Darby also affirmed the major ideas of the Protestant Reformation such as the authority of the Bible, salvation by faith alone, and the priesthood of believers. However, in his new emphases he also set up the possibility of endless deviations from that tradition.
Eschewing the developments and experience of the church over the centuries, Darby emphasized Bible Study and placed great authority in the hands of people knowledgeable of the Bible in great detail. He also placed great stress on a resolution of Bible passages to emphasize the full and complete revelation of God. Finally, he placed a great emphasis upon prophecy and eschatology, the most speculative aspect of Christian belief. It seems inevitable in such a situation that variant understandings of biblical passages and differences on Christian theology would come to the fore. Such was the case, and it led to the splitting of the Brethren movement into a set of fragments (some of which were able to reunite in the latter decades of the twentieth century). It also led to a major new doctrinal perspective among British Bible students.
In England, two scholars, Ethelbert W. Bullinger and Charles Welch, contemporaries of C. I. Scofield, produced a major deviation in the Darbyite manner of thinking. What Scofield called the dispensation of grace begins with the cross, the resurrection, and Pentecost, and goes to the second coming of Christ. Bullinger divided this period into two dispensations, so that one dispensation covers the era of the Apostolic church. This added dispensation begins with Pentecost and closes with the end of the ministry of the apostles and Paul. In the Bible, this era traces the church from Acts 2 to Acts 28:25–28, and was to be considered separate from the body of Christ mentioned in Colossians and Ephesians. Also, Bullinger identified the bride of Christ in Revelation as being entirely a Jewish remnant church to be built at the end, and not at all the body of Christ. Bullinger, through his popular writings, and Welch, in his continuance of Bullinger's thought, have occasioned discussion and some acceptance of their teachings. A major debate among dispensationalists, producing the Grace Gospel movement discussed below, concerns one's views toward Bullinger's thought. In America, Bullinger's teachings have taken hold and produced several groups. A spin-off of Bullingerism is the work of A. E. Knoch, discussed below.
During the twentieth century, followers of Darby's teaching in the Scofield vein remained a conservative wing in the major churches. However, during the 1920s, as a result of the heated fundamentalist-modernist controversy, groups that were dispensational in their stance began to form. This new emergence of dispensational-thinking, independent bodies, along with the continued splintering of the older bodies, has left no fewer than thirtynine groups growing out of Darby's teaching.
PLYMOUTH BRETHREN. The Plymouth Brethren is the group given to the movement originally founded by John Nelson Darby and his associates. The meeting at Plymouth, England, became the most prominent assembly in the otherwise unnamed movement and, as the group refused to be denominated, others began to informally refer to the group as the Brethren from Plymouth. Within the growing movement, a separation appeared in the 1840s. One leader, Benjamin W. Newton (1807–1899), differed with Darby on both eschatology and ecclesiology. Newton denied Darby's idea of the saints' rapture, and emphasized the autonomy of the local assembly as opposed to the unity of the whole movement. Darby's attack on Newton was characterized as violent and vindictive. Division at Plymouth was followed by accusations against Newton for holding a heretical Christology. The assembly at Bethesda, formerly a Baptist congregation, had been received into the Brethren as a group. In 1848, the Bethesda congregation received some of the Newton people at the Lord's Supper. The ensuing controversy led to the permanent division of the movement into the "Open" Brethren and the "Exclusive" Brethren.
The basic division concerns the doctrine of separation. The Exclusive Brethren believe in receiving no one at the Lord's table who is not a true Christian in the fullest sense, including being a member of a fully separated assembly (an assembly of Brethren who associate only with Brethren and not with persons from other churches). The Open Brethren, on the other hand, receive all believers to be true Christians (Brethren), even if other members of their church might hold allegedly false doctrine. The Exclusive Brethren have established several "circles of fellowship," that is, groups of mutually approved assemblies in which the decision of one assembly is binding on all.
Because the Brethren refuse to accept denominational labels, early in the twentieth century the United States Bureau of the Census chose to designate them with Roman numerals. This mode of reference was followed by Elmer T. Clark in The Small Sects in America and by Frank S. Mead in various editions of The Handbook of Denominations in the United States. (This numerical system of reference is noted for the entries in the directory section of this encyclopedia.)
FUNDAMENTALISM. The arrival of fundamentalism as a movement within American Christianity is usually dated from 1910 and the publication of a series of booklets entitled The Fundamentals: A Testimony of Truth. The booklets, printed by two wealthy Presbyterians, Los Angeles oilmen Lyman (1840–1923) and Milton Stewart, were distributed freely and were the textbooks for what in the 1920s became the fundamentalist-modernist controversy. Fundamentalism so defined is usually viewed as a reaction to modernism, asserting traditional standards against the new theology and its search for scientific compatibility. While there is much truth in that definition, it is limited. It misses the essentially affirmative nature of fundamentalism and the century-old movement, of which early twentieth century fundamentalism is but one passing phase.
Fundamentalism was, in its best form, an affirmative assertion of certain ideas concerning Bible truth. At its beginning, it was a discovery by clergy and laymen of American Protestant churches of the dispensational theology of John Nelson Darby, discussed early in this chapter. Conservative and evangelical, fundamentalism became a rallying point for church leaders and, during the late nineteenth century, was one of the major thrusts of Christianity in America.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the ideas of William Miller brought to public consciousness the doctrine of the second coming of Christ and the dispensational theology of Darby, with its emphasis upon the premillennial literal return of Jesus. In America, Darby found that people accepted his ideas without leaving their own church to join the Brethren. Outstanding Christian leaders became vocal exponents of dispensational theology. Possibly none was as effective as evangelist Dwight L. Moody, who had been deeply affected by Brethren evangelist Harry Moorhouse. Leading ministers—Adoniram J. Gordon, Arthur T. Pierson, William G. Moorehead, and James H. Brooks–were all changed by Brethren thinking.
In 1869, a group of ministers associated with a millennial periodical, Waymarks in the Wilderness, held the first of what became the Believers Meeting for Bible Study. The ministers met to promote belief in the "doctrine of the verbal inspiration of the Bible, the personality of the Holy Spirit, the atonement of (Christ's) sacrifice, the priesthood of Christ, the two natures in the believer, and the personal imminent return of our Lord from heaven." In 1883, the annual meetings were moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, and thus became known as the "Niagara Conference on Prophecy."
Part of the aim of the Niagara Conference was to manifest the primitive idea of the ecclesia, the church. Thus the conference was the ministers' means of forming what Darby called the church, a gathering of believers free of denominational systems. However, the ministers did not leave their mainline denominations. They gathered for the informal closeness and doctrinal purity that Darby said should characterize the church. They used the Bible reading as developed by the Brethren, and they accepted Darby's ideas on dispensationalism and his eschatology.
In 1890, a definitive step for the whole course of fundamentalism occurred. The Niagara Conference adopted a "creedal statement." The 14-point statement was highly determinative of the movement's future course and set its priorities. The premillennial return of Christ is asserted as the answer to the impossibility of converting the world in this dispensation. The conference accepted the premillennialist's idea that the world is becoming less Christian, with evolution not bringing real human progress, thus necessitating Christ's direct intervention before the millennium. The conference was dominated by a mixture of Darby's ideas (especially on eschatology) and what is termed Princeton theology, a conservative Reformed developed at Princeton Theological Seminary. Princeton theology had developed new language to assert the authority of the Bible in the face of challenges by Darwinism and liberal theology. It affirmed that the Bible (in its original text) was inerrant, the Scriptures are Christ-centered, and all of the books of the Bible are equally inspired.
The Niagara statement also included the Reformed theological emphasis on human depravity and salvation by the blood of Christ, which were assertively detailed in six articles. Almost all of the attendees at the Niagara Conference were from churches of the reformed heritage, and it is not surprising that support for the Niagara statement drew the majority of its response from churches of the Reformed heritage (Baptist, Presbyterian, Reformed, and Congregational). In the 1920s, Fundamentalism had its major battle ground in the Baptist and Presbyterian churches.
Fundamentalists also cut off other conservative Christians who might have offered some support. For example, they denied the second blessing (a major idea of the Holiness movement–the second blessing is a personal religious experience after which the believer is believed perfected for life), and two ideas of the Adventists—soul-sleep and annihilationism. Soul-sleep is the idea that the soul exists in an unconscious state from death until the resurrection of the body. Annihilationism means the belief that the wicked are destroyed instead of existing in eternal torment. While some Methodists and some Adventists would, in the 1920s, agree on the "five fundamentals," the Methodists and Adventists were not prominent in the fundamentalist movement.
From the 14-point Niagara statement, five were lifted up as the most essential, the very fundamental beliefs of anyone who could be considered a Christian. The five fundamentals, as they came to be known, are the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, the deity of Christ (including his virgin birth), the substitutionary atonement of Christ's death, the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead, and the literal return of Christ in the Second Advent. These points assume the truth of the ecumenical creeds, the Nicene and Chadedonian. At the height of the modernist-fundamentalist controversy in the 1920s, the fundamentals would become the crucial points at issue.
The group consciousness of the leaders of the Niagara Conference was solidified in the several Bible institutes that were founded in the late nineteenth century. The most influential of these was the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, but others, including the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Philadelphia Bible Institute, the Toronto Bible Training School, and the Northwestern Bible Training School in Minneapolis, contributed to the cause. These schools institutionalized fundamentalism and, more important, helped train its future leaders.
In the early years of the twentieth century, the most prominent of the fundamentalist leaders was Arno E. Gaebelein (1861–1945), a former Methodist who left that church after accepting the dispensational theology. He began a magazine, Our Hope, in 1899. He also helped finance the work on the Scofield Reference Bible, the single most influential source of Darby's theology in the modern era.
New life flowed into the movement with the publication of The Fundamentals in 1910, and Darbyite fundamentalism came into direct conflict with emerging liberalism in the decade before World War I. The Fundamentals followed the lead of the Niagara Creed in asserting the verbal inerrancy of Scripture, the Calvinist doctrine of human depravity, and the imminent second coming. As modernist thinking grew, polemic led to polarization within American Protestantism, and polarization was followed by the formation of new denominations. The modernist thinking was highlighted by a theology that accepted the theory of evolution and by higher biblical criticism, the study of the Bible in the light of the findings of secular historians and archeologists.
The new denominations occasioned by the fundamentalist controversy were of two kinds. First, from the several large Protestant bodies arose fundamentalist churches that differed only from their parent bodies by acceptance of a fundamentalist mind-set with which to interpret the parent bodies' own doctrinal statements (such as the General Association of Regular Baptist churches). Second, there emerged new religious bodies that encompassed the total fundamentalist thrust and were the truly American form of the Plymouth Brethren tradition discussed earlier in this chapter. These have been referred to as the undenominated churches, since they were organized in loose fellowships. They had a dispensational theology with the Reformed emphasis of Niagara, and became the ecclesiastical products of the Bible Institutes (such as the Independent Fundamental Churches of America).
Fundamentalism of both kinds split into essentially two parties. One group emphasizes separation from all apostasy and from particular forms of evil such as communism, the National Council of Churches, and organizations that compromise the faith. It also separated from its former colleagues who chose to remain in the larger liberal denominations.
A second group also emerged among those who left the denominations who wanted to retain a relationship with colleagues who for various reasons wished to stay in their post. This group developed a more positive attitude toward the world and articulated a desire to engage modern intellectual thought and culture while retaining an allegiance to a conservative theological stance. Neoevangelicalism (or today just Evangelicalism) is the name assumed by this post-fundamentalist movement. Its leaders have tried to be honest with natural science, conversant on philosophy and theology, and socially concerned.
The separatists have been associated with the American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC) and the ministry of Dr. Carl McIntire (1906–2002), whose organ of expression has been the Christian Beacon. McIntire is the head of the Bible Presbyterian Church. Membership in the ACCC is made up largely of small separatist bodies. The more inclusive approach is advocated by the National Association of Evangelicals. It includes a wide range of bodies that accept its minimal statement of faith. The NAE accepts not only church bodies, but also conferences and local churches, or groups not otherwise affiliated. The independent magazine, Christianity Today, is the most important periodical of neoevangelicalism, though the NAE has its own organ, United Evangelical Action.
Evangelicalism was one of the more dynamic segments of American religion through the last half of the twentieth century, and gave birth to a variety of new denominations. Included has been a variety of groups that have placed a new emphasis on evangelizing Jews. The first of these groups, Jews for Jesus, emerged in California in the 1970s and it continues as an important missional effort supported generally by Evangelical churches. However, in the 1980s, its initial thrust was inherited by what became known as the Messianic Jewish movement. Many Jewish converts and others who had been associated with Jewish missions began to form synagogues that followed Jewish cultural patterns (including a liberal use of Hebrew) into which was poured a Christian theology. Through the last two decades, a spectrum of Messianic denominations emerged that reflected the variant theologies present in the larger movements.
The Messianic movement, of course, traces its roots to the Jesus People movement of the 1970s, and Jews for Jesus was original perceived as another branch of the Jesus People revival. The Jesus People produced a number of new structures (fellowships of communal societies), but by the end of the century, all of these had been absorbed into older denominations.
THE GRACE GOSPEL MOVEMENT. As John Nelson Darby's dispensational theology gained acceptance in evangelical circles, it was inevitable that variations would arise. One such variation is attributed to Anglican Ethelbert William Bullinger, who published a new outline of dispensational history in his book How to Enjoy the Bible. His seven dispensations are outlined in a symmetrical manner:
- The Edenic State (Innocence)
- Mankind as a whole (Patriarchal)
- Israel (under Law)
- The Church of God. The Secret.
The Dispensation of Grace
- C. Israel (Judicial)
- B. Mankind as a whole (Millennial)
- A. The Eternal State (Glory)
Evident in much of Bullinger's writings is a desire for symmetry and mathematical order, which influenced greatly his interpretation of the Scriptures. For Bullinger, the Edenic State went from creation to the fall; the patriarchal dispensation went from the fall to Moses; the dispensation of Israel under the law went from Moses through Pentecost to the beginning of Paul's ministry and therefore included the Apostolic church. The fourth dispensation is the present. It is the time of the church of God, the Christian church as influenced by the ministry of Paul and therefore directed not to the Jews but to the Gentiles. Bullinger called this period "the secret" because to Paul was revealed the secret hidden from the ages, the secret of God's grace replacing the law and reaching beyond the Jews to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1–6). For Bullinger, the next dispensation is a judgment period for the Jews in which the Jews will be judged according to their own law, not according to the grace of Christianity. The judgment period occurs before the tribulation, a conclusion based on Jeremiah 30. The sixth dispensation includes the tribulation and millennium, as discussed early in this chapter with the material on John Nelson Darby, who originated dispensationalism. Bullinger's seventh dispensation is eternity.
The crucial item in Bullinger's work had to do with his interpretation of the transition from the third to the fourth dispensation. Bullinger sees in the Gospels, Acts, and New Testament Epistles a development in several stages. The Gospels belong to the third dispensation and have one baptism, John's water baptism. In Acts and the early Pauline epistles, there are two baptisms–John's and the baptism of the Spirit. In the later Pauline epistles, representing the start of the fourth dispensation, there is again only one baptism–the Spirit baptism (Ephesians 4:5–"There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism"). The immediate significance of so dividing Scripture is to say that, in the church age, water baptism has no place. Its long-term significance is to assert Paul's latter letters as the principle documents for the Christian and the ones through which the others should be interpreted.
Strongly influenced by Bullinger was Charles H. Welch, who, in 1929 began The Berean Expositor in London and authored several books. As "ultradispensationalism" developed, a strict differentiation was made between the church of Acts and the body of Christ that had its beginning with Paul's pronouncements in Acts 28:25–28, telling the church to direct its efforts to the Gentiles instead of to the Jews. The Gospels are purely Israelitish. With Pentecost, the church was inaugurated; its distinctives were the sign-gifts (miracles), water baptism, and the Lord's Supper. However, these ceased with the beginning of the body of Christ with its one baptism. Bullinger and Welch also taught that the body of Christ was distinct from the bride of Christ, which was identified with a remnant of Israel. The Churches of Asia in Revelation 2:3 are seen as future Jewish churches that will become Christian.
Among the additional beliefs of Bullinger and Welch, for which they were most criticized by fundamentalists, were annihilationism, or the belief that the wicked are destroyed instead of existing in eternal torment; soul-sleep, or the idea that the soul exists in an unconscious state from death to the resurrection of the body; and the belief that the Lord's Supper is not to be observed in the post-Acts church. There is some dispute concerning whether or not Bullinger actually taught annihilation for the wicked, but Welch certainly did.
In the 1920s, the views of Bullinger began to spread in America. The first advocates were Pastor J. C. O'Hair, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and minister of the North Shore Church in Chicago, and Dr. Harry Bultema of the Berean Church in Muskegon, Michigan. O'Hair, a member of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America and a prolific writer on dispensationalism, published many pamphlets and Bible studies and was active in conferences and a radio ministry. He frequently wrote and spoke of the "blunder of the church," by which he meant the confusion of the hope, calling, and program of Israel with the hope, calling, and program of the church. O'Hair's discussion of Israel includes the early Apostolic church, which existed within the Jewish community. O'Hair did not want Christians to confuse that church with the church as influenced by Paul's later epistles and therefore directed to the Gentiles in a much broader program than the Apostolic church that was directed to Jews. The church influenced by Paul's later epistles is the church of the present, the church existing in the dispensation of grace. Thus O'Hair's teaching came to be called the Grace Gospel position.
During the 1930s there was an increase in the number of ministers and Bible churches that held the Grace Gospel position. Early centers developed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Paterson, New Jersey; St. Louis, Missouri; Grand Rapids and Holland, Michigan; and Indianapolis and Evansville, Indiana.
Welch made his first visit to Canada in 1927 and, in 1955, made a trip both to Canada and the United States. After World War II, a following which accepted annihilationism and did not practice the Lord's Supper (as did O'Hair) developed around Welch.
Sources–The Independent Fundamentalist Family
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The Plymouth Brethren and John Nelson Darby
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Grace Gospel Movement
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——. Selected Writings. London: Lamp Press, 1960. 296 pp.
Hoste, William. Bullingerism or Ultra-Dispensationalism Exposed. Fort Dodge, IA: n.d. 32 pp.
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——. The Great Blunder of the Church. Chicago: The Author, n.d. 70 pp.
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