The Formation Of The New Evangelicalism (Part Two): Historical Beginnings -- By: Rolland D. McCune

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 04:1 (Fall 1999)
Article: The Formation Of The New Evangelicalism (Part Two): Historical Beginnings
Author: Rolland D. McCune


The Formation Of The New Evangelicalism (Part Two):
Historical Beginnings

Rolland D. McCune*

* Dr. McCune is Professor of Systematic Theology at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, MI.

In the early 1940s there arose notes of dissatisfaction with fundamentalism from among those who were within the general pale of the fundamentalist cause. Their historical and educational roots were in fundamentalism, and organizationally they were within the broader fundamentalist movement. Their feelings came to light in various publications and actions. Over the course of ten to fifteen years they planned, agitated, and eventually launched a coalition self-styled as the “new” evangelicalism. The plan here is to chronicle the rise of the new evangelicalism through a series of crucial issues and events that reflected the dissatisfaction with fundamentalism in such a way as to participate in and promote a new movement. These issues overlap in many cases, so that it must not be construed that they were separate and unrelated factors that gave rise to the new thought. For example, dispensationalism impacted several areas, and the matter of ecclesiastical separation was found intruding itself into many of the differences that the moderate evangelicals had with the fundamentalists in the struggles of the 1940s and 50s.

The Unity/Separation Issue:
The National Association Of Evangelicals (1942)

With the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) new evangelicalism was conceived if not born. The distinction between “fundamentalist” and “evangelical” was beginning to take shape at this point,1 and the decisive measure, the “most explosive issue” and

“dilemma”2 for the dissatisfied element within fundamentalism was the issue of separation from corrupt denominations. The agitators for change were loyal to the fundamentals of fundamentalism but they also wanted to be loyal to their own denominations, which were capitulating to liberalism, and thus infiltrate and recapture them for orthodoxy.3 They as well wanted to present a genuine alternative to other religious groups, such as the current fundamentalism, neoliberalism, and neoorthodoxy, in a positive not negative manner. Ellingsen well describes the unity/separation issue and its ultimate resolution:

In many ways this desire to present the old fundamentals of the faith in a positive, not merely defensive way was to set the agenda and rationale for the emergence of Evangelicalism out of its original ...

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