The Niagara Bible Conference And American Fundamentalism -- By: Larry D. Pettegrew

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 19:4 (Winter 1976)
Article: The Niagara Bible Conference And American Fundamentalism
Author: Larry D. Pettegrew


The Niagara Bible Conference And American Fundamentalism

Larry D. Pettegrew, Th.D.

Pillsbury Baptist Bible College Owatonna, Minnesota

[Part one in a series. This article is a portion of Dr. Pettegrew’s Th.D. dissertation at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas, and printed with permission. The dissertation is entitled “The Historical and Theological Contributions of the Niagara Bible Conference to American Fundamentalism.”]

Introduction To The Niagara Bible Conference

National Changes

The American Civil War began after years of political maneuverings and compromises. The Missouri Compromise, the Walker Tariff, the Wilmot Proviso, the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Dred Scott case were stepping-stones to one of the most dreadful periods in American history.

The war itself was “a watershed between an old and a new America,”1 and the new America was significantly different in at least three major areas. There was notable difference, first of all, in the population composition. Whereas America began the nineteenth century with an overwhelming predominance of the British extraction, it finished with a great influx of immigration from non-British countries. One-third of the seventy-five million people in 1900 were either of foreign birth or children of foreign-born parents. Of these eight million were German, five million were Irish, two and one-half million had come from Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Italy, and another two and one-half million has come from Scandinavian countries.2

Secondly, there was a new intellectual climate in America. Men such as Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin, and Herbert Spencer had begun to teach a new science built upon the principles of uniformitarianism and evolution in far-away Europe. In the post Civil War years, these philosophies began to dominate American thought.3

A third contrast between the old and the new America was the shift in economic power from Jeffersonian agrarian democracy to urban industrialization. The Civil War had acted as an hot-house on the new industrialism, and it was clear by 1875 that this was now the dominant influence in economic life.4

Religious Activities

At the same time as these new forces were making their impact upon the nation in general, the American churches were busy with their own important activities. Some of the large denominations, for example, took ste...

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