George William Lasher—Baptist Proto-Fundamentalist -- By: Jeffrey P. Straub
DBSJ 11 (2006) p. 135
George William Lasher—Baptist Proto-Fundamentalist1
The history of fundamentalism as a self-identified movement typically begins in the 1920s with the series of debates that took place in American Protestantism, most notably among the Presbyterians and the Northern Baptists. It is generally agreed that Curtis Lee Laws gave these people their name when he proposed that they do “battle royal” for the fundamentals and be called “fundamentalists.”3 Histories of fundamentalism date the origin of the movement anywhere from fifty to one hundred years before the outbreak of controversy.4 Given that the title fundamentalist was not self-applied to individuals before 1920, it seems inappropriate to call anyone before 1920 by that designation, despite the fact that their life and ministry were characterized by the esprit de corps of post-1920 fundamentalism. How then should one characterize these stalwarts? Evangelical does not say enough, especially among twenty-first century evangelicalism that has come to include a wide assortment of theological constructs. The term proto-fundamentalist seems to be a most apropos title.5 It is impossible to know for certain whether any particular individual who lived and contended for the faith before 1920 would have joined in the conflicts of that tumultuous decade; however, one can, by examining the life and
DBSJ 11 (2006) p. 136
writings of particular people, get some sense of where that individual might have stood had he lived to see their own denomination torn asunder by theological conflict. Some men were especially vocal in their opposition to the theological liberalism that began to pervade the denominations, and repeatedly so. One such example was George William Lasher (1831–1920), editor of the Cincinnati-based Baptist weekly, the Journal and Messenger.
Few men served American Baptists in the days leading up to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy as did George Lasher. As the long-time editor of the Journal, one of the country’s leading Baptist papers, Lasher advocated historic Baptist theology in the face of the growing trend away from an authoritative Bible. In doing so, he addressed, directly or indirectly, prominent progressives6 in the denomination’s seminaries. His paper carried reports of early liberals who were forced to leave their institutions on account of their progress...
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