The first-century Christian Church had a lot going on. Their Savior died and was resurrected, sending the Holy Spirit and leaving them with the command to take this new message to all tribes and tongues. The book of Acts records some of their travels, as they went all over the known world with this good news. But they were not the only people evangelizing. So were the gnostics. Gnosticism takes a lot of different shapes. It was a belief system that challenged Christianity, even as some tried to incorporate elements into the faith.
Is modernism heresy?
Now consider modernist theology – what we’ve been talking about all season. It is a belief system that doesn’t believe in the miracles or the divinity of Jesus. To evangelicals of the 1800s and 1900s, this was a real threat. Like Gnosticism before it, modernism threatened to destabilize the gospel message. What to do?
In this bonus episode, Chris takes a look at 1-3 John to see what they have to say about dealing with heresy.
Chris is hard at work on season 6! He’ll be presenting these short episodes in the meantime to recap some of the themes of season 5.
If you were alive in the mid-1800s and saw modernism rising, what would you do?
Do you think modernism is a heresy?
How should Christians today deal with heresy?
What did the fundamentalists get right and how did they mess up when approaching heresy?
US Senator Joseph McCarthy unleashed an era of suspicion on the American people as he went looking for communists. His trials, both public and behind closed doors, focused on the government as well as Hollywood and the Army. He claimed that he had lists of communists, but failed to produce that list. It wasn’t until the Army-McCarthy hearings in the spring and summer of 1954 that his unfounded hearings were put to rest.
Is Inherit the Wind historically accurate?
One year later the play Inherit the Wind opened. It was supposed to be a critique of the McCarthy era set inside of a re-telling of the Scopes “monkey” trial. In doing so, it got many of the facts wrong. John Scopes never spent any time in jail. He didn’t have a girlfriend, and that girlfriend was not berated on the stand. The townspeople of Dayton, TN were welcoming to both Bryan and Darrow.
To explore this work of art and revisionist history I spoke with the hosts of the Seeing and Believing podcast Kevin McLenithan and Sarah Welch-Larson.
Select differences between the Scopes trial and Inherit the Wind
John Scopes was arrested but never spent time in jail.
He was “arrested” in a soda fountain where the test trial was conceived and not in school.
Scopes later claimed he never taught evolution, which is why he never took the stand in real life.
The entire case was set up as a publicity stunt to bring attention to the town of Dayton, TN. They got the idea when they saw an ad placed by the ACLU.
The character of Rachel did not exist in real life.
The people of Dayton were welcoming to both Darrow and Bryan and Scopes was loved by many. He even spent time swimming with the prosecution between trial sessions.
The moment when Bryan was on trial was held outdoors.
H.L. Mencken was not some loveable curmudgeon. He was an anti-semite and a racist.
Dayton largely did not vote for Bryan when he ran for president.
Bryan died a few days after the trial, not while in the courtroom.
Darrow did not carry a copy of the Bible and Darwin out of the courtroom.
The textbook in question during the trial was clearly pro-eugenics, was sold in the soda fountain, and had been approved by the state textbook committee.
The preachers of the town were kind. The odd sermon given the night of the trial never happened and the script adds a lot of strange things that are not in the Bible.
Bryan wished the law to have no penalty, unlike his stand-in in the movie who hoped for a harsher punishment.
Inherit the Wind (1960 version) starring Spencer Tracy
Summer for the Gods by Edward Larson
Chris’ own visit to the Dayton museum dedicated to the trial
Most of us would answer with the translation we carry. Maybe it’s New Living, the King James, or the New International Version. I’ve heard plenty of conversations about translations in my life. But I’ve never heard a serious discussion about the notes in various Bibles.
Continuing our long exploration of the Christian fundamentalist movement, we explore the Bible version that nudged the United States toward a particular negative theology. One that encouraged people to question the trajectory of history itself. That was one of the purposes of the Scofield Reference Bible, named for its author C.I. Scofield.
The Bible that changed our view of the end
The Scofield Reference Bible emphasizes the premillennial dispensationalist theology we’ve been talking about all season. It expects that world history is sliding into chaos. That was not the primary view in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the US. Most people thought that humanity could improve things until Jesus returned. This Bible is one of the things that changed that.
Special thanks to Nick, Melanie, Hannah, Marc, and Marian for their help with this episode!
What kind of Bible do you have? Why did you choose it?
What agenda does your Bible have?
What audience is it intended for?
Who wrote your Bible notes?
Flip to Genesis 1 and Revelation 1. What position does it take on creationism? The end of the world?
Have you ever considered the origins of your study notes?
How do you feel about us having so many different targeted Bibles?
Select Sources for this Episode:
The History of the Scofield Reference Bible by Arno C. Gaebelein
The Evangelicals by Frances Fitgerald
Fundamentalism and American Culture by George Marsden
Now that we’ve read In His Steps together and discussed it, let’s talk about another work of fiction. Looking Backward was written by Edward Bellamy. That name may sound familiar! We talked about his cousin Frances Bellamy in the episode about the Pledge of Allegiance. Frances was a Christian socialist. Edward wrote his famous book looking forward to the year 2000. He predicted that the United States would be a socialist paradise. People would work hard, retire early, and equality would reign.
None of that came true.
We’re talking about it today in order to understand the zeitgeist in the late 1800s. This book sold over half a million copies in its first few years of publication. It is now over a million copies. That doesn’t happen without stirring something in society. As we’ll see, socialism was tied to the Social Gospel. The opposition to the Social Gospel is what would go on to create the Christian fundamentalist movement.
The Social Gospel downplayed salvation and emphasized good works
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We’ve been reading the book “In His Steps” together for the last few weeks. It was written by Charles Sheldon, a man whose book is often associated with the social gospel movement. While some historians struggle over the significance of this work, it’s pretty plain how it fits this movement. The Social Gospel downplayed salvation and emphasized good works. What does your church do? What do you do?
I invited patrons of the show to listen early and then discuss their thoughts on this controversial book.
What did you think about the audiobook? Should I record other books this same way?
Did you enjoy “In His Steps”? Why or why not?
How do you think women were portrayed in “In His Steps”?
What do you think about the Home Economics movement?
How did you see the social gospel in the book?
Is the book evangelistic? At which points? If not, why not?