THE CHALLENGE OF ORTHODOXY
There are two primary objectives in this work, so far as the “fundamentalists” are here considered. In addition to a factual revelation of historical truth, there is a need to prove this movement un-Biblical in doctrine and practice, then to prove it to be other than historically Baptist. The latter part is especially important, seeing that the Baptist name has been usurped by the greater number of the congregations which have united with or were organized by this “fundamentalist” movement. This modern movement is not Baptist in either doctrine or spirit. Our challenge of their orthodoxy is not at all a challenge regarding those doctrines which are historically held in common among almost all of the older sects claiming to be “Christian.” It is well known that they believe and teach the fundamental truths of the Bible on such obvious questions as the Deity of Christ, His virgin birth, His resurrection from the dead, and many others of like importance. It is primarily regarding the requirements and evidences of eternal salvation and God’s process of bringing it about in the soul of each individual, the teaching and practices conducive to bringing about such a saving experience, and the degree and kind of assurance needful, in which this movement has departed from Baptist and Biblical orthodoxy. That they are not Baptist in either doctrine or spirit, but are rather, Protestant or Reformed Catholic in these respects, will become increasingly evident as the reader proceeds through the following pages.
If the allegation is true that these “fundamentalists” are not truly Baptists, why, then, is “Baptist” the most popular name chosen by them?
If the salvation doctrine preached by them is not Baptist, whence did it come?
These questions will be answered in this and the following chapters.
In the early 1800’s another teacher with the same expressed motives as those of these “fundamentalists” tried to reform existing “Christianity” to make it purely Biblical. Mr. Alexander Campbell, a renegade Presbyterian with a particular dislike for supernatural experiences, entered into company and official fellowship with the frontier Baptists in America. Very soon afterward this intellectual giant, in comparison to most of the religious teachers about him, undermined the faith of many Baptists who were fascinated by his clever mind and superior ability in debate. By this means, Campbell and his like-minded comrade, also a scholarly Presbyterian renegade, named Walter Scott, with other less influential associates, gained a considerable following among the uneducated Baptists. When Campbell went prospecting for followers in Kentucky, he struck it rich, at first, as he had formerly done in Ohio. As the Campbellite historian, J. W. Shepherd, wrote, “In the fall of 1824, Mr. Campbell made his promised visit to Kentucky, visiting a large portion of the state, addressing everywhere large audiences, and extending his acquaintance and influence with the Baptists. This more intimate acquaintance led him to esteem them very highly, and to regard them as much nearer the apostolic model than any of the denominations with which he had formed acquaintance, and he felt that it would not be difficult to eliminate from the Baptist churches such erroneous theories and usages as had gained currency among them.” (page 208, CHURCH FALLING AWAY AND RESTORATION, by J. W. Shepherd) Subversion of many Baptist churches by “Campbellites” soon aroused some of the most learned Baptist leaders to engage them in battle. In 1830 at Frankfort, Kentucky, the Baptists met to consider “what could be done to check the disorder.” (page 623, Volume 1, A HISTORY OF THE KENTUCKY BAPTISTS, by J. H. Spencer) Mr. Spencer, a Baptist historian, wrote, “This was probably the most important association ever held in Kentucky. The principal object of its meeting was to define Campbellism, which, on account of the ingenious ambiguity of Mr. Campbell’s writings, had not been generally understood by the Baptists, and to warn the churches against its devastating influence.” (page 624, Volume 1, Spencer)
“Ingenious ambiguity” indeed, is an earmark of that same group of fundamentalist successors of Mr. Campbell who still boast of that same achievement first claimed by Mr. Thomas Campbell, Alexander’s father and predecessor in their “restoration”: “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” (p. 179, Shepherd) They have never written a confession of faith, or “creed,” as they contemptuously call it. They have always claimed to follow the New Testament Bible to the letter. It is very easy, however, for an outsider to quickly formulate their unwritten creed from the teachings of their ministers. Their fundamentals are few and simple. Dissent on these points are non-existent, and their church members are very drilled and dogmatic regarding these few “fundamentals.” Careful examination of the religion of the largest groups descended from Campbellism, and to a slightly lesser extent the religion of Mr. Campbell himself, reveals it to be almost a duplicate of second century developing Catholicism. For confirmation of this claim, read Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenaeus, and other second century ANTE-NICEAN FATHERS.
No implication is here intended of any direct descent from Mr. Campbell’s movement to the modern “fundamentalists.” Whatever connection there may have been appears to have occurred prior to 1830, and came not from one to the other but from the common ancestry of both. The similarities we wish to show may be, in part, coincidental rather than hereditary, but there are some striking natural similarities worth noting.
Both are Baptist parasites. What was true in the 1820’s of Campbell’s movement subverting Baptist churches has been true in our day of modern “fundamentalists” subverting Baptist churches. Within the twentieth century, thousands of once sound Baptist churches have apostatized to become “Fundamental Baptist Churches,” or as in the case of the Southern Baptist Convention, whole organizations of Baptists have largely gone over to this Bible worshipping doctrine, having left their historical spiritual views of the past. The basis of what is preached, practiced, and believed by the vast majority of churches today wearing the “Baptist” name and of those denominated “Bible” churches or “fundamental” churches, found its first formulation in the ministry of a late nineteenth century evangelist named Dwight L. Moody. Mr. Moody’s influence will be covered in detail later. Moody was not a Baptist. Neither were his early followers. In the last century, however, his teachings have nearly destroyed the last ember of true spiritual life from among the Baptist denomination. It was the purpose of Elder Silas Noel and others in 1830 to expose to the Baptists and the world what Campbellites really believed and taught when they formulated that movement’s creed from extracts of Campbell’s periodicals, “The Christian Baptist” and “The Millenial Harbinger.” (pages 626-635, Spencer) It was with like motive in 1980 that we began this attempt to expose to Baptists and the world what the modern “fundamentalists” really believe and teach in light of the Holy Scriptures and factual history. The great strength of both of these movements in their early years came from subverted Baptist churches.
Another characteristic these two movements hold in common is a firm denial that regeneration must occur in a spiritual experience, the processes of which necessitate a conscious awareness of the Holy Spirit’s workings in the heart of the one being regenerated. If Campbell displayed an ingenious ambiguity, so do these fundamentalists. Campbell denied that Baptist formulation of his creed correctly represented his views and principles. They clearly did represent him. Likewise, many fundamentalists will deny that they deny or belittle the new birth experience. They very clearly do, and the following pages will prove it to be so. Campbell scorned all revelation, spiritual impressions, and experimental knowledge of recent date, while the fundamentalists are much more subtle with their teachings on these subjects. They often prefer to deny these things only partially in their teaching and to follow with a complete denial of them in their practices. It is hard to predict what will be the answer given by one of them to a question regarding the new birth experience. One will seem to agree with us; another will agree with Campbell, denying the reality and evidences of spiritual regeneration; another may declare that he agrees with both us and Campbell. It is not uncommon for them to seem to agree with two contradicting opinions on this subject. This is part of their ambiguous teaching which keeps them popular and enhances their opportunity to subvert. It is common practice for a young and zealous fundamentalist pastor to accept the care of an orthodox but weak and careless Baptist church, fully knowing that the church does not believe as he does in the proper manner of calling men to Christ, accepting new members, scriptural baptism, and other basic practices. He is aware of their differences, but the church is not. Like Campbell, he is viewing the church for what he thinks he can transform it into, not for what it already is. His original intent is reform, without respect for the sacredness of the existing institution. This intent is carefully hidden from the church until such time as he has the backing of the majority to make his changes. Little do such men realize or care that such a lack of openness is dishonest and deceitful and far from the methods used by Jesus and his apostles. Such a pastor first greatly relaxes the requirements of membership from what they were previously. He may do this very cautiously at first, often by “counseling” numbers of “conversions” away from the open view of the church. His usual ultimate goal is to combine his altar call for sinners with his invitation to church membership into one invitation to “accept Christ.” Very rapidly he obtains a large increase in membership. Word of such great “success” soon goes abroad and stirs many people to attend the church which seems to be in revival state. Many of these new attenders, impressed by the ease with which salvation can be obtained in recent times, make their decisions to go forward and “accept Christ” also, and so are likewise added to the church roll. Soon the new pastor has a majority of young, zealous, and mostly unregenerated people in the church. By the time that some of the old and wise realize that their new pastor is deceiving souls with a new and easy way, and is filling the church membership with unsaved members, they are already outnumbered. Any resistance they may then exert to stop what is happening to their church is viewed as being ignorantly motivated and in opposition to evangelism by the pastor and his new converts. It is easy for the pastor to say to the non-conformists, although they be the oldest Baptists in the church, “conform, or get out.” Unfortunately, sleepy-headed Baptists, used to doing little, and only faintly, though fondly, remembering long past years of genuine revival, are usually slow to perceive the change in practice as important. In fact, some never do wake up to the fact that their church has completely departed from the true doctrines of salvation.
An example of such a changeover in one preacher from historic Baptist practice to modern Moody and Sunday methods is related in Dr. Dallas Billington’s autobiography. Mr. Billington had begun preaching the doctrine of Billy Sunday quite successfully in Akron, Ohio. After a time he visited his homeland in western Kentucky to preach in a brush arbor meeting. (pages 46-47, GOD IS REAL, by Dallas Billington) He had been denied access to a church by local pastors. (page 44) Perhaps this denial speaks well for the perception and vigilance of local western Kentucky pastors in the 1930’s. Mr. Billington told of his results in that meeting in Kentucky.
“It was a common thing to see people there going to an altar from the time they were young children until they were adults and hear them say they were still not saved. They were convicted of their sins, but no one seemed to be able to take the Word of God and show them how they could know they were saved. About seventy-five to eighty persons accepted Christ during my first revival meeting, and I dealt with them, eager that they should not doubt their salvation.” (page 47, Billington)
It is easy to see that the folks in rural western Kentucky customarily practiced something far different than the “sawdust trail” evangelism of Dallas Billington. They expected, in accord with historical Baptist practice, as well as that of several other denominations of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Holy Spirit to work regeneration in the hearts of seeking souls in His own time. The real Word of God to them was the Living Christ, not the letter of New Testament scripture. The Holy Spirit was both the operator in the salvation of man and also the One who gave His witness to the heart. The word of God in the Bible was merely an instrument used by God, as were the preachers and other witnesses. However, in most of the rural south, between 1930 and the present (1980), a transition has been completely made to use of the new practice with far too little opposition. By this time, only in areas where unusual perceptiveness caused an early organized opposition to this new practice, has there been a significant number of churches salvaged which still hold to the historic Baptist position regarding handling of lost souls seeking salvation. Not until Kentucky Baptists outlined Alexander Campbell’s system of doctrines by gleaning it from his publications did Baptists have a clear picture of what that deceitful but brilliant artful dodger really did believe. Likewise, these “fundamentalists” cannot be exposed for what they actually believe except by gleaning it from their own teachings and then outlining their system in order to expose what they really are. They are not historical Baptists, but Moodyites – disciples of D. L. Moody. Their view of the Holy Spirit’s work is very little different from that of the Campbellites. Their view of God’s word is that it is simple, not sublime, and to be carnally interpreted, not revealed by the Holy Spirit. Conversion, to them, is not a wonderful spiritual experience, but a mental decision. Spiritual leadership, to them, is not a matter of deep spiritual impressions in the heart, but rather of outward providential signs.
Thus, “fundamentalists” hold much in common with Campbellites against the most essential truths of God. They do not agree with them on the purpose of baptism, but they teach the same faith preceding baptism, which “faith” amounts to mere blind presumption. Like the Campbellites, they over-emphasize the Bible, thinking it to be able by itself to instruct sinners into conversion and assure them afterward of their salvation. They deny both the NECESSITY of people experiencing a HEART-FELT working of the Holy Spirit when He is convicting and converting souls and CONSCIOUS AWARENESS in men of those spiritual operations. They both in some degree deny the inner feelings or senses which are new to the new creature, through which he receives evidence directly from God in supernatural impressions of peace, joy, and love never before experienced. They both deny the necessity of such a conviction of heart as breaks the heart and crushes the spirit in order to produce true repentance and faith unto salvation. They both make their positions obscure by insisting that they believe and follow the exact message of the New Testament Bible. They both have used Baptist churches as parasites use their hosts in order to advance their movements through subtlety and dishonesty. Alexander Campbell received his baptism from a Baptist preacher, although he persuaded him to use a disorderly manner. His church afterward represented in a Baptist association of churches for a time. He published his periodical for some years under the title, “Christian Baptist.” He and his helpers later subverted the entire Mahoning Baptist Association of Ohio and many other Baptist Churches. They later dropped the Baptist name from their usage, adopting either of the denominations, “Disciples of Christ,” or “Christians.” (Many years after Campbell’s death many descendants of these churches chose “Churches of Christ” to be their official name.) Campbell changed the title of his periodical publication from “Christian Baptist” to “Millenial Harbinger” when it no longer suited his purposes to be identified with Baptists.
In very similar manner “fundamentalists” have for many years been posing as Baptists and energetically taking charge of many old Baptist churches, sowing in them the doctrine of D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday, by which they soon deceive many souls and subvert the churches. As Mr. Moody was, these are “non-denominational” in their beliefs. They hold the “universal invisible church” view almost universally. They can therefore eagerly join any group which they have a prospect of converting to embrace their religious beliefs and practices. Already, many formerly “Baptist,” but now “independent fundamental churches” have dropped the Baptist name. Many others will do likewise as soon as they deem it advantageous to their progress to leave it behind. That day may be shortly at hand. When they have gone entirely non-denominational, or have adopted another name, when circumstances have made such action seem to them advantageous, it will be obvious to all who study the matter that they have only USED the Baptists for advantage. By that time it will be much too late for recovery for many of the dead hosts of these religious parasites, after they have counted their spoils and moved on to greener pastures.
Now that the accusation has been made, haste will be made to substantiate our charge, with full proof as far as the records of many historians and biographers will allow, that THIS MODERN “FUNDAMENTALIST” MOVEMENT IS NOT HISTORICALLY BAPTIST. This will be done primarily by first quoting confirmed advocates of the Baptist position over a period of centuries so that their consistency may be shown. After that, by contrast, the doctrines and practices of the fathers of “fundamentalism” will also be shown.
It is regrettable that some offense cannot be avoided in the process of this necessary exposure. Certainly we realize that among the followers of these errors are many sincere fellow citizens whom we wish not to offend, but if their deception should carry them, or their loved ones, out into eternity lost eternally from God, their hurt will be infinitely worse than if we offend them now through such a warning. Much rather would we beg such readers to look past the offense, considering us for the moment to be as sincere as we believe them to be, yet deluded by error, until they have fully and honestly considered the evidence yet to be presented.