The end of Reconstruction
The 1800s were a time of milking cows and going to the county fair.
Sure… but what else? We tend to think of this century as a quiet, pastoral era when people were friendly and life was simple. But the 1800s were a crazy time! The American Civil War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Spanish-American War, conquest, the suffrage movement, the prohibition movement, massive technological changes. It’s a wonder we ever made it out alive.
In this episode, we explore the early life of William Jennings Bryan and the Democratic Party, the party of Jim Crow that he would soon lead. After the Civil War, it was the Democrats who created Black Codes in the South to restrict the upward mobility of African Americans. They were the party of white farmers and soon transitioned into representing labor unions and, eventually, many black people in the United States. Bryan was one of the men responsible for that transition.
Helpful Links and Sources:
- “A Godly Hero” by Michael Kazin
- Truce episode about the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)
- Meeting notes of the 1873 Evangelical Alliance
- “Fundamentalism and American Culture” by George Marsden
- “A Righteous Cause” by Robert W. Cherny (book on William Jennings Bryan)
- Interesting bio on Stephen Douglas
- President Hays’ acceptance speech
- What do you think of when you think of the 1800s?
- Was the 1800s a simpler time?
- What mistakes did the Republican Party make in ending Reconstruction?
- How should abolitionists have handled the South after the Civil War?
- Can a Christian lead a racist political party? Should they?
- What were some technological advances that came about in the 1800s? How might they have shifted the way people lived and thought back then?
- Are there technological changes going on now that could shift the way we think and interact with each other?
- Chris ends the episode by talking about how Christians should be a people of the means, not necessarily the ends. Do you think the ends ever justify the means for Christians?
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What is dispensationalism?
This season we’re tracing the history of Christian fundamentalism through the life of William Jennings Bryan. But first, we need to learn some important definitions. Our big word of the week is dispensationalism. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Dispensationalism is (in part) the notion that God treats humankind differently depending on what era we are in. It is not accepted by all Christians, but it is a building block of fundamentalism. Another component of dispensationalism is the secret rapture–the idea that God will take His elect to heaven just before the tribulation. It also asserts that the Christian Church will become apostate before the end times. This last tidbit is important! Premillennialism made Christians suspicious of the outside world, but it was dispensationalism that made us suspicious of each other.
Who created dispensationalism?
John Nelson Darby is often credited as the father of dispensationalism. He came up with the idea of the rapture and is the man who packaged a bunch of existing ideas into this systematized vision of the Bible. In the 1700s and 1800s, people adapted the scientific notion of categorizing everything into genus and species and applied it to all areas of study, even when reading the Bible. This encouraged people like Darby to break the Bible into “dispensations” or eras.
Our guest this week is George Marsden. He’s the author of “Fundamentalism and American Culture”.
- Are you suspicious of other Christians? Why is that?
- Do you believe in the rapture? Why?
- Does the God of the Bible behave differently in different parts of the Bible? Or is He the same throughout?
- Do you believe that Jewish people were destined to return to Israel based on Matthew 24:32-33 or Romans 11:25-26?
- What did you know about the French Revolution before our recent episodes on it? Do you think it was a significant event in world history? If so, why?
The difference between Premillennialism and Postmillennialism is more important than you think
What is the difference between premillennialism and postmillennialism? And what does it matter?
After the French Revolution in the late 1700s, Christians began to see the world as coming to an end. Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 describe an oppressor who will wear the people out for a period of time. Some Christian interpret that as being 1260 years. That 1260 years can be placed over the reign of Justinian all the way through history up until the French Revolution. That is just one interpretation that not everyone shares. But if you hold that view then this event was HUGE. It meant that the end of the world was super close. It has now been over 200 years since that event, but many premillennialists still hold up this prophecy as proof of the fulfillment of scripture.
Many Christians tried to uncover the meaning of it all. Some turned to an old idea — premillennialism. It’s the notion that the world is on a downward trajectory. Things are going to get really bad and then Jesus will return. Before this time, many evangelicals were postmillennialism. They thought the world was going to get better over time. This split was an important part of what would become the fundamentalist/ modernist debate.
Premillennialism has some dark “logical” conclusions to it. Some premillennialist like pastor John MacArthur argue that since the world is going to burn anyway, we humans shouldn’t worry about things like global warming.
- Why was the French Revolution such an important moment in world history?
- Pre-Revolution the nobles and clergy controlled much of the power in France. They could out-weigh 98% of the population of France. Is this perhaps a reason why the French people turned against them?
- Are you a premillennialist, a postmillennialist, or neither?
- Did you read the Left Behind books? What do you remember? How did they impact you?
- Do you think you have a positive or negative view of world history? How does that impact the way you act?
- Should premillennialists see Jesus’ second coming as a reason to avoid taking care of the planet?
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Who is an evangelical?
Who is an evangelical? If you go by the news today, you probably think evangelicals are all American middle-class white men. Nope! Evangelical Christians come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. They can be men or women from anywhere in the world. They can speak any language. And they can have a lot of variety in their beliefs.
This season on the Truce Podcast we are examining the history of Christian fundamentalism. How did fundamentalism begin? What is Christian fundamentalism? Is Christian fundamentalism a good thing, a bad thing, or somewhere in between?
In this episode, we’re joined by author and professor George Marsden. He’s the author of Fundamentalism and American Culture, which is THE book everyone else refers to when they talk about fundamentalism. According to Marsden, fundamentalism is “militantly anti-modernism protestant evangelicalism”. That is a lot of big words! By the end of the season, you should understand all of that. One important part of that definition is the word “evangelicalism”. It is one of those words that has been used so much in so many different ways that it can be difficult to define it. There are whole movements to create new definitions these days. But in order to move forward this season, we need to pick some frame of reference. I chose David Beggington’s definition of what defines an evangelical:
- Biblicism (a focus on the Bible)
- Conversionism (an emphasis on evangelism)
- Crucicentrism (the centrality of the cross)
Those four things, according to Bebbington, are what make up an evangelical. Again, it is a hotly debated subject.
So when did evangelicalism begin? Many of the sources that I found pointed to the revivals in the decades leading up to the American Revolution. Evangelists like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield spread the gospel using a post-millennialist vision of the end times mixed with Calvinism. This was part of the First Great Awakening. Then there were others after the revolution who spread an Arminian view of salvation. Guys like Finney. Belief in God became more personal, without the direct oversight of a priest or minister. It became an individual’s responsibility to look after their spiritual growth.
Welcome to season 5! God willing, I’ll be releasing new episodes every other week.
- What is an evangelical?
- What is a fundamentalist?
- If fundamentalists are evangelicals who are angry at something, what are they angry at? Are you one of those people?
- Do you believe in the Calvinist view of salvation or the Arminian one? Does it matter? Why?
- The Great Awakening movements established a sense that belief in God was not something that needed to be handed down by a priest or minister. Do you think that was a positive move? What are some potential drawbacks (if any)?
Helpful Links and Sources:
Correction: The original version of this episode incorrectly represented Arminian belief. It involves the belief that once grace is offered by God that a sinner can reject the offer. The original version stated that the sinner made the first move to initiate a relationship. That is incorrect. Arminians believe that God makes the first move, but His offer can be rejected. The error has been corrected in this version, My apologies for any confusion.
How should Christians respond in a difficult year?
Christmas can be a difficult time for many of us. How do we love people who disagree with us? How do we cope with people who don’t seem to make sense anymore?
In this bonus Christmas message, I just want to remind all of us of Jesus’ command to both love our God AND love our neighbor.
How has 2021 been for you? Leave a comment on social media or on the website at www.trucepodcast.com. God willing, season 5 of Truce will begin in winter 2022.