Thursday, April 20, 2006

Has There Ever Been Non-Revivalistic Fundamentalism?

It seems as though there are and always have been revivalists who were not fundamentalists. It is absolutely certain that there are now fundamentalists who are not revivalists. Has this always been the case, apart from individual anomalies? Besides Machen, which of the early fundamentalists spoke out against revivalism?

In some interesting interaction in the comments section of a recent post, Keith asked these questions:
Which parts of the fundamentalist movement rejected revivalism?

I'm sure there were some parts that were less, um, enthusiastic in using the revivalist techniques, but which parts rejected revivalism AND remained in the fundamentalist movement?
I would very much like to know the answer to this question. It seems to me that there is nothing essential to the "idea" of fundamentalism that demands a partnership with revivalism. If anything, I would expect the opposite to be the case. One would think that people committed to sound doctrine would abhor anything that cheapens the gospel and worship. Yet the harsh reality is that fundamentalism and revivalism are largely joined at the hip, at least from the (admittedly non-exhaustive) reading I've done. I would love to encounter data to the contrary. So please, help me out.

Let's not kid ourselved, fundamentalists. It's not just the big boat in the SharperIron cartoon (I'd link to it but they're still down) that is populated by revivalists. With few exceptions, we're talking about a quantitative difference, not a qualitative one.


Ryan Martin said...

Well, in the sense of movements (if we can speak this way), let's not forget that "evangelicalism" comes from the same breed.

I am sure that there have been pockets of non-revivalistic fundamentalism, but it is not the rule.

Ben said...

Modern evangelicalism comes from the same breed, I think it's fair to say. But Spurgeon was a non-revivalistic evangelical, for example. I'm not familiar enough with when and how evangelicalism became a movement to identify its associations with revivalism. Was it really a "movement" before the late-20th century? Wasn't it just orthodox biblical Christianity? I suspect we're getting into some of the same questions the SBC Founders movement is dealing with.

I think at some point we have to figure out when and how Puritanism and Pietism got swirled together in England and America, don't we?

For example, was there an evangelicalism that wasn't influenced by Pietism that persisted in America into the 1800s? Surely there must have been. What happened to it?

Ben said...

Well, obviously the Princeton theologians of the 1800s would be examples.

Keith said...

I don't think Machen regarded himself as a "Fundamentalist". He was willing to work with Fundamentalists -- like Spurgeon --but he didn't like the name.

I don't want to get things too far off track -- because like Ben, I would really like to hear an anwer to my earlier question. However, at some point I'd also like to hear who are the Fundamentalists now that reject revivalism?

Also, at some point, I think those who like the “idea” of Fundamentalism and who think that it originally included a commitment to sound doctrine and worship ought to take a second look. Is a reactionary commitment to certain threatened doctrines the same as commitment to sound doctrine? And, did the original idea of Fundamentalism even consider it possible to cheapen worship?

Ben said...


I know Machen had reservations at the very least, but I'm trying to be as generous as possible.

For the record, I am one fundamentalist who rejects revivalism (although I'm all in favor of authentic revival). I know there are others—how many, I wouldn't hazard a guess. Maybe we should start an official sign-up list?

I think that part 4 will interact with your last paragraph.

Anonymous said...

I generally understand the rising suspicion against anything having to do with the term revival because of the misuse of the term. Consider the following by Spurgeon on "The Kind of Revival We Need" however. Certainly we can agree on this?

"I am glad of any signs of life, even if they should be feverish and transient, and I am slow to judge any well intended movement, but I am very fearful that many so called revivals in the long run wrought more harm than good.. . . But if I would nail down counterfeits upon the counter, I do not therefore undervalue true gold. Far from it. It is to be desired beyond measure that the Lord would send a real and lasting revival of spiritual life."

The entire post is here:

Keith said...

Anonymous, why remain anonymous?

I don't think anyone has exhibited any suspicion of revival. I haven't taken the time to reread all the posts, but I'm fairly sure they all discuss revival-ISM.

Well intended movements don't deserve your procrastinating to judge -- the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Mistakes deserve mercy and understanding -- we all make mistakes. Without a doubt there were/are many, many good and godly people who mistakenly thought that the road to true gold was a sawdust trail. Those many, many get nothing but understanding from me.

The ones I can't understand and won't agree with are the ones who want to say, "Yeah, I found out that the sawdust trail was a dead end, but let's not say so 'cause it was well intentioned."

alia said...


This is an interesting question. I have been reading different works for a class and the impression I get is that revivalism was "fundamental" to fundamentalism. Machen, at least in the later years, seems like an abnormality, unless others like him just went quiet.

Neoclassical said...

Wouldn't all fundamentalist who are Presbyterian or Reformed in their theology be non-revivalistic?