The Fundamentals of the Christian faith
Between 1910 and 1915 a collection of 90 essays was distributed by two wealthy oil magnates. These essays attempted to nail down the basics of the Christian faith and counteract the growing modernist movement. “The Fundamentals” is often mentioned in history books about Christian fundamentalism, but it is rare for anyone to discuss the essays themselves. So I thought we should break down at least 6 of them together!
I’m joined this episode by some good friends to introduce you to “The Fundamentals”. This influential time capsule document takes us inside the proto-fundamentalist movement, just before it really took off.
- What would you include in your own list of fundamentals?
- Is creationism fundamental? What is the role of evolution in our modern theology?
- The fear of evolution wasn’t just about people thinking we’d come from chimps. It also revolved around concerns of people applying evolution to other areas of life. How have you seen evolution applied to other studies?
- Is the Bible inerrant? What does that mean?
- Have you read the full Bible yourself? Why or why not?
Essays we read:
- “My Experience With the Higher Criticism” by JJ Reeve
- “The Deity of Christ” by BB Warfield
- “The Certainty and Importance of the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead” by Reuben Torrey
- “Science and Christian Faith” by James Orr
- “Evolutionism in the Pulpit” by “An Occupant of the Pew”
What kind of Bible do you have?
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
- Article on Lyman Stewart who financed this Bible
- A Godly Hero by Michael Kazin
- Isaiah 37
- A Christianity Today article about the changes made to the Scofield Bible (material not used for the episode, but still interesting)
- The Scofield Reference Bible (1945 edition)
- The MacArthur Study Bible
- The Founders Bible
- The Battlefield of the Mind Bible
In His Steps free audiobook
This is part 3 of an audiobook presented on Truce. Please start at part 1!
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In His Steps by Charles Sheldon is a classic of Christian fiction. It is also one of the top-selling Christian books of all time. We’ve been running through the history of Christian fundamentalism this season. It’s worth noting that fundamentalism was a reaction to liberal theology, especially modernism. Another form of liberal theology was the “Social Gospel”. It was a movement led by people like Walter Rauschenbusch that emphasized the socially conscious aspects of Christianity, while simultaneously downplaying evangelism.
Christian fundamentalists did not like the Social Gospel. For one thing, it had a positive view of human progress. It said that the world could get better and better and then Jesus would return. Christian fundamentalists generally think that world history trends downward.
I’m presenting this original audio recording for many reasons. I think this book offers a great window into the era in which it was created (the late 1800s). It also represents the Social Gospel and a slice of the Holiness movement quite well. Finally, I think we need to hear this story in our modern context. Modern Christian churches are divided. What would happen if we dared to ask “What Would Jesus Do?”
Things to track as you listen:
- The role of women in this society
- Wealthy attitudes toward the poor
- The genesis of financial woes in this book is sometimes economic crisis (the late 1800s was full of panics and recessions) and sometimes sin based
- The Holiness movement and those who object to it
- Is this book evangelistic? If so, how is the gospel presented? If not, what does this book leave out?
- The overall positive view of human progress
- Social movements like the pure foods movement, temperance, suffrage, anti-gambling
What is the Gold Standard?
There was a time not so long ago when the value of an ounce of gold cost $20.67. That was true not just in one moment or one year. It was true in the 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, 1920s… This was the gold standard. A person could take $20.67 to a federal bank and receive an ounce of gold in return.
This system worked really well… for a while. But by the 1890s the constant deflation caused by the increasing value of gold meant that people with loans had to work harder and harder to pay them back. The value of gold and the value of goods had an inverse relationship, like a seesaw. One side went up and the other went down.
William Jennings Bryan and “The Cross of Gold” speech
This is the topic William Jennings Bryan chose to discuss in the 1896 Democratic Convention. And it was that speech that won him the presidential nomination that year. Imagine that! Someone so passionate about inflating the cost of good that they are chosen to be president! His bimetallism (he wanted to add silver into the mix to devalue the specie) stance came out of his social gospel leanings and his Christian faith. This was a high point for the social gospel. As the evangelical world was about to turn to the darker premillennialist view, Bryan made an impassioned plea that we could, in fact, make this world a better place.
My guest for this episode is the amazing Jacob Goldstein. He’s the author of the book “Money: the True Story of a Made-Up Thing”. He’s also a co-host of the Planet Money Podcast. You’ll also hear from Michael Kazin, professor of history from Georgetown and author of “A Godly Hero”.
King Leopold II of Belgium used forced labor to build his empire in the Congo.
- Have you ever gotten so excited at a political speech that you would gladly carry the politician around the room?
- What is money?
- Why do some of us want our money to be backed by something else? Why gold?
- Is there something inherent in gold that you think makes it forever valuable?
- Do politicians and government officials have some responsibility to consider how monetary policy impacts those in the lower classes? What does that look like?
- How has your life been impacted by monetary policy?
- How do you feel about things like the FDIC?
When you think of the world’s worst mass murderers, King Leopold II doesn’t usually come up. But due to his forced labor practices in the Congo, nearly 10 million people lost their lives. He did this by pretending that his actions in that region were a missionary effort. In reality, he forced Africans to harvest wild rubber or risk having their hands cut off.
The truth is even darker than that: it turns out that Leopold was far from the only person doing this. This same era was marked by many major world powers engaging in forced labor. From the US in the Philippines to Arab countries in eastern Africa, much of the modern world was built on forced labor.
Author Adam Hochschild joins us for this episode to discuss his book “King Leopold’s Ghost“.
I first heard about this story on the Noble Blood podcast and their episode “The Red Paint on Leopold II”.
- Had you heard of King Leopold II before this?
- Leopold did send missionaries to the Congo. Was that a positive or negative thing for our Christian witness?
- Did you know that other major countries were engaged in forced labor into WWII?
- What do you think of the US-backed coup in Congo? Is it okay for the US to get involved in the politics of another nation?