Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 124:495 (Jul 1967)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous


Periodical Reviews

“Toward A Historical Interpretation Of The Origins Of Fundamentalism,” Ernest R. Sandeen, Church History, March, 1967, pp. 66-83.

This article opens with the observation that “the fate of Fundamentalism in historiography has been worse than its lot in history” (p. 66). By this the author refers not only to the paucity of historical study but also to the misinterpretation of the movement primarily as a political, sociological, or psychological phenomenon, ignoring its theological distinctives. Sandeen contends that “it was these neglected theological affirmations which gave structure and identity to Fundamentalism” (p. 67). His thesis is “that Fundamentalism was comprised of an alliance between two newly formulated nineteenth-century theologies, dispensationalism and the Princeton Theology which, though not wholly compatible, managed to maintain a united front against modernism until about 19l8” (p. 67).

Many of the points made in this article are valid and expose wrong interpretations of fundamentalism in the past. The movement obviously was more than a political struggle between opposing power blocks for control of the denominations. In addition, as the author says, “we ought to stop referring to Fundamentalism as an agrarian protest movement centered in the South” (p. 83). He rightly insists that it cannot “be explained as a part of the populist movement, agrarian protest or the Southern mentality” (p. 83). Fundamentalism is popularly equated today with “the Bible Belt.” This is not valid even for today and it certainly has no historical support.

The main point of the article, however, is wrong. The contention of the author is that the theological foundations of fundamentalism—dispensationalism and Princeton Theology—were “newly-formulated nineteenth-century theologies.” He says, “Both dispensationalism and the Princeton Theology were marked by doctrinal innovations and emphases which it is mistaken to confuse with apostolic belief, Reformation theology or nineteenth-century evangelism” (p. 83). He insists that the fundamentalists were not correct in “their claim to be defending the truths of an historic faith” (p. 83). In reality, according to Sandeen, they were introducing and promulgating a new theology the same as the modernists.

In discussing dispensationalism, Sandeen says that it “stems principally from a small British sect, usually called Plymouth Brethren…and from one man in particular, John Nelson Darby” (p. 67). This is a common error, but it reflects a lack of theological and historical research. In his “A Bibliography of Dispensationalism,” Ehlert traces dispensational schemes not only back t...

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