Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Sword of the Lord: "Theological Pornography" (And Much More)

That's just one tidbit from a few minutes Al Mohler spends on Fundamentalism, Neo-Evangelicalism, and Southern Baptists in the first third of his fall 2010 convocation address, "Which Way to the Future? Southern Baptists, Southern Seminary, and the Future of the Evangelical Movement in America."

An oft-forgotten fact: "The Southern Baptist Convention was largely out of the picture of the fundamentalist-modernist controversies of the early decades of the 20th century" and was "largely marginal to the development of the evangelical movement in America."

And some little-known facts: Many of the most significant "fighting fundamentalists" of the North were graduates of Southern Seminary. J. Frank Norris claimed to be a SBTS grad, and even the valedictorian, though the honor has never existed at SBTS.

The rest of the address is partially an explanation of how SBTS students will be obligated to defend the faith in years to come. In the midst of the ongoing devolution of evangelicalism, the candid liberalism of the early 20th century now masquerades as evangelical. And it's partially a historical survey of how the fundamentalist-modernist controversy washed up on SBC shores, jsut a half century late. Of course the difference is, the fundamentalist side won, but it won with the help of evangelical scholarship drawn into the conflict from outside the previously insulated SBC world. Ironically, Mohler argues, it now falls largely to Southern Baptists "to put forth a stalwart witness to what remains of American evangelicalism."

Fascinating stuff, well worth a listen at the very least for the historical perspective.


QueenKnitter said...

He's kidding, right? I mean, I agree that the _Sword_ is pornographic on so many levels (the articles are lurid and grotesque). But he's actually trying to argue that the SBC was *out* of the fundy kerfuffle in the early 20th-century?

I will listen to his address, but uh . . . if your summary parallels what he's saying, he's doing some serious revisionism.

Ben said...

He alludes to some analogical episodes--I'm assuming this would be the battles over particular proprofs & publications--but nothing remotely as cataclysmic as the Baptist & Presbyterian battles of the 20s-30s or the conservative resurgence.

QueenKnitter said...

Yeah, he's wrong. I don't understand why he's revising like that. But he's wrong.

QueenKnitter said...

On my first pass -- just *one* search -- of the _Sword_ archives, I have an article from November, 1938 that describes the fundy/modernist controversy in the SBC in Texas.

It seems like Mohler is wanting to throw the SBC/Texas Baptists under the bus. To put them at arms' length. He does it with Norris. I understand wanting to not claim Norris.

You can't separate Norris out of fundamentalism and inerrancy and SBC. Not and keep any intellectual integrity.

We don't get to pick and choose our past. We don't. But we can learn from it. And pushing the fundyness out of the story when you want to have a call BACK to the fundamentalist ideology will only repeat the same problems.

Very disappointing. . . .

Ben said...

QK, there was nothing in the SBC that approached the cataclysmic level Presbyterians and Northern Baptists experienced. Did churches pull out? Sure. I was a member of one that did, albeit in a reckless fashion. Were there battles in state conventions? Of course. But there was nothing that approached the level of the 20s-30s and the conservative resurgence of the 80s.

And as I said, Mohler affirms that there were analogous battles. Check the recording. Now, you can try to make a rhetorical point if you want, I guess. I'm not going to get into an argument with you over the definition of "largely out of the picture of the fundamentalist-modernist controversies" vs. "analogous battles."