T. T. Shields The Fundamentalist: Man Of Controversy -- By: Gerald L. Priest

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 10:1 (Fall 2005)
Article: T. T. Shields The Fundamentalist: Man Of Controversy
Author: Gerald L. Priest

T. T. Shields The Fundamentalist:
Man Of Controversy1

Gerald L. Priest2

Beginning in the late nineteenth century, conservative Christian leaders became alarmed over persistent attacks by liberal activists on the Bible as the inspired infallible Word of God and those fundamental teachings of Scripture which comprise the Christian evangel. Liberals were claiming to be evangelical,3 but fundamentalists believed this was only a subterfuge cloaking apostasy. To them, liberalism was not a modern form of Christianity; it was an entirely different religion altogether, as foreign to the Christian faith as Buddhism or Confucianism.4 But fundamentalists took their case one step further: liberalism was not only non-Christian; it was anti-Christian in that it denied Christianity’s basic tenets.5 Liberalism was sometimes difficult to detect because of the clever use of equivocal language which

appeared to exalt Jesus. Fundamentalists, on the other hand, sought to be univocally precise in theological expression. Certainly, the conflict was not merely semantical, nor was it a matter of confusion versus clarity (the liberal retort was often, “You misunderstand me.”), but it was a battle for truth against falsehood, a true gospel versus another gospel. Clark Pinnock comments that

Conservative churchmen were therefore outraged by what appeared to be a revolution in theology which had the effect of a complete sell-out of the biblical message. When one considers the enormous difference in outlook between these two mentalities it is easy to understand why any struggle between them is not easily resolved, and why the debate often gets very bitter and unpleasant.6

Undoubtedly, historic fundamentalism’s chief hallmark has been militancy. As the editor of the Watchman-Examiner proposed in 1920, “fundamentalism” would be the term used to describe an alignment of conservative nonconformists in the Northern Baptist Convention who would do “battle royal for the fundamentals.”7 This is the language of war! Rhetoric was uncompromising and unrelenting. It reflected a battle for the very soul of Protestant Christianity.8

Sharing with his American counterparts a mutual concern to defend the faith against modernist assaults, Cana...

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