Select Page
S5:E25 The Battle for the Presbyterian Soul

S5:E25 The Battle for the Presbyterian Soul

Harry Emerson Fosdick was the “bad boy” of modernist preaching

Harry Emerson Fosdick had a certain reputation. He was the theological “bad boy” of modernist theology when he stood at a lectern in the 1920s and delivered his famous sermon “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”. He was in New York City. One preacher, preaching one sermon. But this one talk spread all over the country and created real upset. Could modernist theology win in the Northern Presbyterian denomination?

J. Grescham Machen didn’t think it should. He was a fundamentalist and wrote in response to Fosdick’s sermon. But how does one keep out heresy?

The fundamentalists decided to call in a big-name Christian celebrity — William Jennings Bryan. He was on a cross-country crusade to stop the teaching of evolution in public schools. Not because he didn’t believe in science. He did. The problem that Bryan saw with teaching evolution in school was the cruelty that humanity would express if they believed they were nothing more than animals.

The battle between liberal and conservative Christians was a public one. William Jennings Bryan and Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote competing articles in The New York Times. Would it cause a split in the Northern Presbyterian denomination?

Sources for this episode:

Discussion Questions:

  • What do you think are the basic beliefs required to call something “Christianity”?
  • What if someone does not believe those things but still calls themselves a Christian?
  • Does it matter when people try to use a word to describe themselves that does not apply to them?
  • What is to be our response when we encounter someone who spreads false doctrine?
S5:E23 World War One and the Modernist – Fundamentalist Controversy

S5:E23 World War One and the Modernist – Fundamentalist Controversy

The Great War Helped Create the Modernist-Fundamentalist Controversy

The modernish/ fundamentalist controversy was heating up in the early 1900s. Conservatives saw this coming a long way off but could not stop modernism from taking control of seminaries and popular pulpits. It was everywhere. It all came to a head with WWI.

Theological conservatives saw WWI as evidence that the world was getting worse. To them, it was a chance to fight for patriotic reasons. Modernists were also pro-war because they thought this was the “war to end all wars”. There would be no more war after this and democracy would take over the world. The liberals fired the first shots in this theological battle because they thought that premillennialism encouraged people to root for the end of the world. That is how the Great War helped Create the Modernist-Fundamentalist Controversy.

William Jennings Bryan was Secretary of State in the US during this time and did his best to keep us out of the war.

This episode features the voices of George Marsden (author of “Fundamentalism and American Culture”) and Michael Kazin, professor at Georgetown University and author of “What it Took to Win”.

Special thanks to the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois, Wyoming for letting me record with permission.

Sources:

Discussion Questions:

  • What was the purpose of WWI? What caused it?
  • Would you have been for or against the war in the 1900s?
  • How can pre and post-millennialism shape a person’s view of the world? Does it have to?
  • How does social Darwinism tie into WWI and WWII?
  • Is WWI an outcome of changing morality?
  • How would you tell a large audience of Christians to adapt to changing morality?
S5:E19 The Treaties of William Jennings Bryan

S5:E19 The Treaties of William Jennings Bryan

Can one man end war forever?

William Jennings Bryan.

If we know him at all it is from the Scopes Monkey Trial at the end of his life. Or maybe we know of his 3 failed campaigns for President of the United States on the Democratic ticket. But many of us are unaware of his efforts to establish world peace. William Jennings Bryan hated war. He wasn’t a pacifist – he enlisted for the Spanish-American War after all. But he saw the meaningless carnage of war and vowed to do his best to reduce the amount of bloodshed.

So “The Commoner” used his position as Secretary of State under President Wilson to establish 30 peace treaties. In this mini-episode, we revisit his career and talk about the impact this man might have had if WWI hadn’t slowed his progress.

God-willing I’ll be back soon with a full episode! Thanks for your patience!

Helpful Sources:

  • “A Godly Hero” book by Michael Kazin
  • “A Righteous Cause” book by Robert Cherny
  • “The Evangelicals” by Frances Fitgerald
  • “Money: The True Story of a Made Up Thing” by Jacob Goldstein
  • “What’s Your Problem?” podcast from Pushkin Industries, hosted by Jacob Goldstein

Discussion Questions:

  • William Jennings Bryan was the head of the party of Jim Crow. Do his actions to stop imperialism or war shape how you feel about him?
  • Would a conciliation treaty policy work today?
  • Is world peace a worthy goal today? What role do weapons play in that?
  • How might this tie into fundamentalism?
S5:E10 Social Darwinism and the Spanish-American War

S5:E10 Social Darwinism and the Spanish-American War

Social Darwinism and the Spanish-American War

The 1800s were an era of big questions, many of which we answered in cruel and selfish ways.

  • Is one race better than another?
  • Is one religion? If so, which one? In what ways?
  • Is one economic system better than another?
  • Is one system of governance like a democratic republic like the US, or socialism, monarchy, theocracy, communism, best?

Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Social Darwinism

Some people answered these questions with a resounding “yes”. But if we think our people and ways are better than anyone else’s, what responsibility do we have to spread those things? Men like Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt were firm believers in social Darwinism, though their vision of it meant teaching those less “civilized” people our ways. And they were okay with the United States taking power over them.

Meanwhile, there were men like William Jennings Bryan who refused to think of others in social Darwinism terms. He spent years fighting that dark philosophy, ultimately prosecuting the Scopes Monkey trial to stop the spread of social Darwinism. But the seeds of eugenics were planted.

Cubans held in concentration camps by Spain

Caught in the middle were the people of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Phillippines, and other colonies of the Spanish empire. Spain was busy imprisoning Cubans in concentration camps. Their ruthless behavior toward America’s neighbors caught the attention of the US Senate, which was already champing at the bit for a fight. Men in the United States were worried about their waning influence on society. Groups bellyached about how men were not men anymore thanks to cities and offices. In the minds of some, war was the answer to weak-willed men. And Spain provided that war.

Our guest today is Paul T. McCartney author of “Power and Progress: American National Identity, the War of 1898, and the Rise of American Imperialism”. He teaches at Towson University.

**CORRECTION – In the original version of this story I referred to the USS Maine as the HMS Maine. That was incorrect. HMS stands for “Her Majesty’s Ship”, which makes no sense for American ships. The current version was changed for accuracy.**

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you believe your people are somehow superior to another people group? Why?
  • Does that sound like an attitude Jesus would have?
  • If you are somehow superior, what is your responsibility to other people?
  • Should the US help people who are being oppressed around the world? When should we intervene?
  • Do you think that men are in decline? If so, what is the answer to that?
  • Do you better relate to Teddy Roosevelt or William Jennings Bryan when it comes to war? Or are you a pacifist?
  • How would Jesus have responded to the cruelty of Spain?
  • What do you think about social Darwinism?

Helpful Links and Sources:

S5:E1 What is an Evangelical?

S5:E1 What is an Evangelical?

Donate to support the Truce Podcast!

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:

Bebbington’s Quadrilateral

  • Biblicism (a focus on the Bible)
  • Conversionism (an emphasis on evangelism)
  • Crucicentrism (the centrality of the cross)
  • Activism

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.

Discussion Questions:

  • 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.