Whither Evangelicalism? -- By: Warren C. Young

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 02:1 (Winter 1959)
Article: Whither Evangelicalism?
Author: Warren C. Young


Whither Evangelicalism?

Warren C. Young

Read at the Mid-Western Section meeting held in Chicago, Illinois, Feb. 9, 1959.

The history of evangelical Christianity, both in America and in Europe, has been sufficiently traced by others so that no detailed consideration of it is needed at present, even if time permitted. In America in particular the conservative reaction to the rising liberalism in religion was named Fundamentalism, although many of the stalwart supporters of the evangelical position never accepted this particular name. Among the stout-hearted defenders of the traditional conservative position were numbered many outstanding biblical and theological scholars. They were men who believed in the eternal Truths of God; in His personal revelation in Christ, the living Word Who became flesh; and in the inspired record of God’s complete plan and purpose for man in the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures.

With the passing of the years, unfortunately, the propogation and defense of the evangelical understanding of the Christian faith sometimes took on forms generally unacceptable to the majority of evangelical Christians. At times sincere Christian leaders tended to become more obsessed with the preservation of the unessential past, rather than in the making of the gospel of Christ meaningful and relevant in the dynamic and ever-changing present.

The result has been a very evident and growing dissatisfaction with the methods and results of recent decades. More and more evangelical leaders have been working to separate the living gospel from the cold, dead past, that Christ may be made more real and meaningful for our day. This spirit of revolt against the perpetuation of the past may be illustrated quite well from leaders both here and in Great Britain.

For example, a little over four years ago, Dr. A. W. Tozer described the present scene as one in which there is a healthy revolt against the cold textualism so characteristic of fundamentalism for a quarter of a century.1 In his striking article Dr. Tozer used the illustration of the French scientist who placed some army worms on the rim of a glass. They circled ‘round and ‘round each blindingly following the one ahead until they all fell off and perished. As a result of the same general procedure, he writes that we succeeded in creating “an army of cookie-cutter believers, all repeating each other without much need for the illumination of the Spirit.” He continues,

Fundamentalist leaders, like these army worms, have for decades been following each other around the rim of their own little jars, each one afraid to step aside or hunt any new direction for himself, each slavishly following the othe...

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