All of you Baptist Historians out there. Make sure you check out Steve Weaver’s blog. He is doing his Th.M. under Michael Haykin at Toronto Baptist Seminary and is studying Collins. Collins, a 17th century Baptist, is much neglected in Baptist studies. Read his introductory post to Collins and keep on the look out on more about Collins to come!
Herbert Butterfield, author of Christianity and History, perhaps the best book on Christian historiography concludes forcefully the goal of human history.
“To survey history requires great elasticity of mind because the processes involved are infinitely more supple and flexible than people imagine who make pictorial diagrams borrowed from biology or other sciences, or are deceived by some pattern in text-book abridgments, so that they look for something to which human personalities are only the means. History is not like a train, the sole purpose of which is to get to its destination; nor like the conception that my youngest son has of it when he counts 360 days to his next birthday and reckons them all a wearisome and meaningless interim, only to be suffered for the sake of what they are leading up to. If we want an analogy with history we must think of something like a Beethoven symphony–the point of it is not saved up until the end, the whole of it is not a mere preparation for a beauty that is only to be achieved in the last bar. And though in a sense the end may lie in the architecture of the whole, still in another sense each moment of it is its own self-justification, each note in its particular context as valuable as any other note, each stage of the development having its immediate significance, apart from the mere fact of any development that does take place. It may be the case that the people who once imagined that the world was soon to come to an end were in a position to discover some fundamental aspects of it, and see them in better proportion, than the nineteenth century, with its picture of indefinite progress and rising good fortune. We envisage our history in the proper light, therefore, if we say that each generation–indeed each individual–exists for the glory of God; but one of the most dangerous things in life is to subordinate human personality to production, to the state, even to civilisation itself, to anything but the glory of God (Herbert Butterfield, Christianity and History [New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950], p. 67).
Historians, our job is to see history as that which was accomplished to the glory of God! Each individual, each generation, exists for the glory of God. Our task then as historians is to show the greatness of God manifested throughout history. We too, must do our history to the glory of God!
I know I did not post an “Andrew Fuller” post yesterday but the holidays can be quite busy! I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
It is has been argued in other places that Christian Fundamentalism is necessarily premillennial, and even dispensational in its eschatology. For instance, the entire point of Ernest R. Sandeen’s book, The Roots of Fundamentalism (Rev ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978) is that Fundamentalism grew out of the Bible conference movement and was inherently premillennial and primarily dispensational. Some within the movement are arguing to make eschatological agreement an area of credential for Fundamentalism.
Is Sandeen’s thesis correct? Is a necessary corollary of being a Fundamentalist to be a premillennialist and even a dispensationalist? Is this historically accurate? In fact, it has been argued elsewhere that this thesis is rather reductionist (see John Fea, “Understanding the Changing Facade of Twentieth-Century American Protestant Fundamentalism: Toward A Historical Definition,” Trinity Journal 15 [Fall 1994]). There are a number of notable examples of those historically within the Fundamentalist ranks who were not premillennial or dispensational and their credentials as a Fundamentalist were never questioned (the following information is drawn from Rolland D. McCune, “Doctrinal Non-Issues in Historic Premillennialism,”Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 1 [Fall 1996]: 171-185).
First, two prominent Fundamentalists were amillennial. T. T. Shields, the controversial pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist Church and President of Toronto Baptist Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, Canada was a devout amillennialist. He served as President of the Baptist Bible Union and again his credentials as a Fundamentalist were never held in question. Near the end of his life he embraced premillennialism but continued to adamantly oppose dispensationalism. The second was J. Gresham Machen, founding President of Westminster Theological Seminary. He has been viewed as the theological giant of Fundamentalism even though he disliked the label Fundamentalist (Daryl G. Hart, biographer of Machen though notes, “Machen himself did not like the term fundamentalism because it suggested ‘some strange new sect.’ Yet when forced to choose between fundamentalism and modernism, he admitted he was a fundamentalist ‘of the most pronounced type’” (Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994], p. 63). Machen was never questioned as to his Fundamentalist credentials even though he was an amillennialist..
A third and final example is that of John R. Rice. Rice, the editor of the influential, Sword of the Lord, was both a pretribulationalist and a premillennialist but was not a dispensationalist. Again, his credentials were not questioned as to his belonging in the Fundamentalist movement.
While it is true that Fundamentalism has been predominantly premillennial and dispensational, it has not been completely that way. There have been those within the movement who have taken different eschatological positions. They have always been embraced as being true fellows who “do battle royal for the fundamentals.” Should we now make premillennialism and/or dispensationalism a hallmark of Fundamentalism? Must one embrace these eschatological positions to continue to fight the good fight of the faith in defense of the Fundamentals? I cannot see this as a good idea for three reasons.
First, it has not been historically true of the movement. The movement has embraced those of differing eschatological positions as still being within the stream of Fundamentalism.
Second, most major eschatological positions can embrace the Fundamental eschatological truth that Jesus Christ is coming again in bodily form and the wicked will be judged and the righteous will be blessed. Why should I separate from my amillennial brother over his eschatology when in the important Fundamental truth we agree?
Third, eschatology is perhaps the most speculative area of theology. Should we be separating from those who differ with us over the exact nature and timing of the Second Coming of Christ when this is perhaps the most difficult area of theology to dogmatic? If we embrace the Fundamental truth of the bodily return of the Lord Jesus Christ, that should be sufficient.
I would suggest to everyone that they watch the 2006 graduation message from Geneva Reformed Seminary given by Dr. Kevin Bauder, President of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, MN (perhaps one of the greatest theological minds in Fundamentalism today). He provides the best explanation for not restricting Fundamentalism to eschatological agreement.
Finally, let me quote from Dr. McCune’s very wise statement here: “It would appear to be unwise to cast fundamentalism into an exclusive mold of dispensational premillennialism. Distinctions and convictions on eschatology can and must be maintained individually and institutionally, but they have not been definitive rubrics for fundamentalism as a movement” (“Doctrinal Non-Issues,” pp. 179-180).
This quote comes from a submission that Fuller sent to the “Biblical Magazine.” In it he is discussing the progressiveness of sin and holiness. In typical Fuller fashion, he gives a number of supporting arguments for his case. In this instance it revolves around the tendency of true holiness to aspire after perfection.
This is the fourth argument, taken then from “Progressiveness of Sin and Holiness” (The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, II:665).
“Fourthly, Holy acts tend to form and strengthen holy habits, which constitute the highest degree of holiness.– In one sense every person who is the subject of true religion possess a holy habit: religion with him is not occasional, but an habitual pursuit. But the term is more properly applied to those fixed dispositions of the soul which are the effect of repeated exercises. God has so formed the mind, that a number of acts of the same kind, whether good or evil, shall give a tone or direction to it: by this righteousness is encouraged and sin is punished. Every exercise of repentance goes to form an habitual tenderness of consceince, and abhorrency of that which is evil; and every exercise of faith tends to a life of faith on Him who loved us, and gave himself for us. The more we read the Holy Scriptures, the more we shall imbibe their spirit, and be formed by them as a by a model. It is thus that the word of Christ dwells richly in us in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. It is worthy of notice, that the general strain of apostolic exhortation is directed to habitual religion. ‘Simplicity in giving, diligence in ruling, cheerfulness in showing mercy, love without dissimulation, abhorrence of evil, cleaving to that which is good, being kindly affectioned one to another, with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of the saints, given to hospitality;’ are all expressive, not of one or two particular acts, but of a life of devotedness to God, and kindness to men. And whatever acts the apostles exhorted to, they were considered only as so many steps in a race, each of which contributed to its success, or to the winning of the prize (Emphasis in original).”
In the context of a letter to a brother asking for Fuller’s thoughts on preaching, Fuller discourses on the importance of preaching.
This is taken then from “Thoughts on Preaching, in Letters to a Young Minister.” Specifically from Letter 1, “Expounding the Scriptures” (The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, I:712).
“The work in which you are engaged is of great importance. To declare the whole counsel of God in such a way as to save yourselves and them that hear you–or, if they are not saved, to be pure from their blood–is no small matter. The character of the preaching in an age contributes, more than most other things, to give a character to the Christians of that age. A great and solemn trust, therefore, is reposed in us, of which we must shortly give an account.”
Attention all those interested in Baptist History. August 1-3 you should be in Charleston, South Carolina for the Baptist History Celebration! In celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Philadelphia Baptist Association (the oldest Baptist association in America) a number of leading Baptist historians from around the world will be descending upon Charleston to celebrate this milestone. Drs. Michael Haykin, Tom Nettles, and Jim Renihan are just a few of the heavy-weights that will be there.
Lord willing I will be attending myself (although that makes two Baptist History conferences in August what with the Andrew Fuller conference at SBTS) and hope to see some folks I know there!