Remembering the Ministry of
The Reverend Dr. Carl McIntire
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What is the Difference Between Fundamentalism and Modernism?


The twentieth century struggle to preserve the historic Christian faith is known as the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy.

The Fundamentalist believes the Bible to be the Word of God. He is called a 'Fundamentalist because he accepts the great foundation doctrines of the Christian religion. A Modernist considers himself to be a Christian, though he has accepted the new theology, a social gospel, and rejects the great doctrines of the faith as being theories or unimportant. The struggle has centered around the supernaturalism which is in Christianity. The Fundamentalist insists there is only one true Gospel. The Modernist insists there are many gospels. The Fundamentalist insists that the Church of Jesus Christ must be pure and present only the true faith. The Modernist wants the church to be inclusive, with all manner of opinions and beliefs represented in it.

The Fundamentalist honors the great creedal confessions of the church. The modernist relegates creeds to the sphere of interesting historical documents and relies. Fundamentalism is forthright, evangelistic. Modernism is deceptive, vague, evasive. The Modernist talks about life without doctrine; deeds without faith.

The Fundamentalist contends earnestly for the faith, his Scriptural duty. The Modernist ridicules the idea.

The historic summary that came to be known as Fundamentalist doctrines, the battleground over which the two parties have fought, was the deliverance of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., in 1910, 1916, and 1923, in 'which five points were included as follows:

"1. It is an essential doctrine of the Word of God and our standards that the Holy Spirit did so inspire, guide, and move the writers of Holy Scripture as to keep them from error.

"2. . . .that our Lord Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary.

"3. . . .that Christ offered up Himself a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and to reconcile us to God.

"4. . . .that on the third day He rose again from the dead with the same body with which He suffered, with, which also He ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of His Father making intercession.

"5. . . .that our Lord Jesus Christ showed His power and love by working mighty miracles. This working was not contrary to nature, but superior to it."

The Modernist attack upon these doctrines was known as the heretical Auburn Affirmation, a document which called these doctrines "theories," insisted they were not the only theories allowable by the Bible, and that the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Scriptures was harmful to the life of the church. This position now has become dominant in many churches and theological institutions, and is a condition that makes possible the ecumenical movement.

The modernist movement is represented in the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and the World Council of Churches, with their thrust to build the "coming great church" and one-world government.

The Fundamentalist movement is represented in the American Council of Christian Churches and the Internatinoal Council of Christian' Churches, and their ' r appeal for a genuine Twentieth Century Reformation.

Christian co-operation represents a spiritual unity and oneness in faith. Each church must preserve its own purity and integrity. The Fundamentalists believe that the ecumenical movement represents a great apostasy from the Christian faith. Older Modernists include Harry Emerson Fosdick, Schuyler Matthews, Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, and Dr. John A. Mackay. Young leaders include Bishop James A. Pike, Nels F. S. Ferre, Eugene Carson Blake, and Theodore A. Gill.

Attacks have been made upon the Fundamentalists by those who would take a middle position, desiring compromise. The leaders of the historic Fundamentalist movement in the United States have defended the, whole counsel of God, have believed that the church has its responsibility to all areas of human life because "man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."

When the Fundamentalist movement gave birth to the American and International Councils of Christian Churches, their historic summary of Christian doctrines began by saying, "Among other equally Biblical truths, we believe and maintain the following:" and concluded, "And still believing the Apostles' Creed to be a statement of Scriptural truth, we therefore incorporate it in these articles of faith."

The Fundamentalist movement calls for separation from the apostasy and obedience to the commandments of God. The Modernist movement insists that organizational division is sin, that organic union is more important than what a church or a group may believe within it. Loyalty to church union becomes the great battle cry of the ecumenical, Modernist movement. Loyalty to the Scriptures and faithfulness in building the Church of Christ is the great call of the Fundamentalist.

The Fundamentalists have had great successes, especially since the movement has reached the point of separation from unbelief and apostasy. Since the great divisions have developed in American Protestantism over the Fundamentalist issue, the Fundamentalists have been gaining great strength, more recognition, and they are stronger today than at any time in the history of the struggle.

Prepared and distributed by
Rev. Carl McIntire, D.D., Director

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