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New Book on Fundamentalism: the "All Christians" thread

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by Eric B, Oct 13, 2011.

  1. Eric B

    Eric B Active Member
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    May 26, 2001
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    The Sword of the Lord, by Andew Himes (our own John of Japan's brother)

    This was a great read, and hopefully a conversation starter within the Church.
    It’s like a refresher course on American history and on Protestantism as well, and places the development of fundamentalism in those larger contexts. It was a nicely interwoven account of personal testimony and secular and religious history, covering many of the top names of Christianity from a few decades ago, and showing how they converged and diverged.

    It puts a human face onto those pesky people:D who’ve always been scolding society, and even other segments of the Church. Who are these people? To someone who grew up far removed from them (in a family already turned against Christianity by the ’60s), they were these strangers who yet seemed to want to control your life. And they preached against every sin except racial hatred. I could never for the life of me fathom that.

    I'm not going to go on too much about the race issue, because we have been through that here, but reading that, right on the heels of another book Michelle Alexanders’ The New Jim Crow, (which argues that the mass incarceration system of the “War on Drugs” continues the legacy in a way); the one thing that was really needed was REPENTANCE.
    Unfortunately, the fundamentalists were the ones who had cornered the market of "preaching repentance", but they had basically defined it on their own terms, such as sexual sin (including dancing and music styles as we have seen), along with evolutionism, communism, other religions, modernism/liberalism, etc. were wrong, but not their own little pet sin, which they could supply ["literal"] proof-texts for.
    They then took on a very righteous posture against everyone else, both in the world and Church; one which often continues today, even if what they are saying might be for the most part true. Who would have a more moral higher ground or authority them they?

    So (at least it appears) no one else really ever called them out, scripturally, on the issue. (Maintaining the illusion that their beliefs were really above scriptural reproach). The objectors were the blacks themselves (naturally), or the very modernists or liberals who they were waging their righteous war against.
    Their approach was usually the more moderate “peace and love” premise (which often takes those aspects of religion as givens, but does not expound scripture enough), which fuels their claim that their religious opponents have simply sold out to modernism.
    They could therefore rest their case. They were clearly on God's side.

    Even Himes actually seems to grant them that racism was based on a “literal” reading of the Bible. But it was not based on a literal reading at all! It was based on selective reading at best, and outright eisegesis (adding of stuff that was not there), at worst. Genesis 9 is the foundational example. Has anyone ever really noticed WHO actually uttered the infamous "curse" (was it really God, or someone else), and the context it was uttered in (hint, how was the offense that warranted the curse able to have occurred in the first place and think of the term "the morning after"?), and if God even honored it? (Let alone, whether 17th-20th century "races" even fit so neatly into those categories based on the three sons. Everyone probably has blood from all three in them).

    So it seemed like the choice was either between the Bible and racism, or modernism and equality; with nothing inbetween. This is perhaps why so many people just turned away from the Bible, if they hadn’t taken the modernist course.

    In the 20th century, the probably felt that to admit their forefathers and predecessors wrong on this issue will call into question the truthfulness of everything else they taught (and verify “modernism”; and this was the whole excuse of moderates like Rice for not condemning racism). But those political issues should not have been bound up with the “fundamentals of the faith” in the first place.

    (The closest to a strong biblical rebuke I have seen is from Michael Horton; particularly in Beyond Culture Wars, which hits the nail on the head in several points. But it seems, his ultimate objective is the promotion of Calvinism over "semi-Pelagianism", which he seems to subtly blame for all the problems of fundamentalism and evangelicalism).

    To sum up the race issue, from both this, and New Jim Crow, we see that the issue behind slavery and Jim Crow was ultimtely about wealth. So those who insist that the Civil War was not so exclusively about race have a great point. But they still condemn the whole cause. (And notice, just as "new liberals" predicted, wealth has become the new issue the two sides are divided over, and sometimes, race still does get entangled in it, like in all the whole "government programs" issue).

    What we see from Himes' book (and what I think the most important issue is), is that the entire minset of can be summed up in the mythos of “The Lost Cause“, where a Confederate general and his troops escaped to Mexico, and thus technically “never surrendered”, and leaving the struggle of the Confederacy open to “live on”. (Wouldn't this be a rather sinful form of pride"? Eerily foreshadowing this was the Zealot sect in AD70, who holed themselves up in the Masada fortress after the Temple was destroyed vowing never to surrender. Instead of fleeing, they committed suicide, and the cause lives on today through some Israel Defense Forces, who climb the mountain and declare “Masada Shall Not Fall Again”. Does anyone else see the blinding parallels?)

    So this continues on today, in the premise (in whichever social, political, economic or religious aspect it takes the form of) that something has been taken from us, and we demand it back. Our "godly Christian nation" given us by our forefathers will rise again. (Even amidst a dispensational theology in most, that says that all of this age is supposed to be lost, and only Christ will restore it in an all new supernaturally established "kingdom", and this is our very hope).

    We then become totally self-protective, even while preaching to those we oppose or feel threatened by, that self-protection is wrong; you're supposed to "trust in God's will". This we see clearly in the whole history in both books, and it has turned MANY fiercely away from God (Rom.2:2-24) more than anything else! (If you say it's only their sin that turns them against God, then it gives them, in their minds, a good excuse for it rather than reproving it. "Give the devil no occasion" to speak reproachfully 1 Timothy 5:14!)

    So what I think we can learn the most from this book is to get our spiritual priorities in order. Are we really driven by the Gospel, or our own self-interest? Are we still fighting a "lost cause" and thinking it is God's cause? God is obviously not behind them, because they are human-centered. Do we realize we are still sinners though adopted into the spiritual "holy and chosen nation" (1 Peter 2:9) by being justified by grace, or that "chosenness" is really national, or by our [idea of] good works, or that regeneration makes all of our acts and beliefs right? (the basis of what is called "presuppositionalism").

    I actually believe the fundamentalists, with all their fervor and commitment to doctrine, would be the ones most likely to lead some sort of revival. Certainly more than the contemporary Church, which has in many ways blended with the trends of the secular world. But they have to realize their own susceptibility to veering off the path, and not get so hung up on comparing themselves (2 Corinthians 10:12) to others (they see as "compromising" or "apostasizing") so much, that they cannot see this.

    I would say the book was very fair, just laying out the dirty truth that was there; along with the good stuff.
    Himes managed to expose what went on without even having to do it in a “stick it to them” sort of way. Including the notion that people had fashioned a “God” that was just like themselves.
    Rice is shown continuing to tone down and rethink his attitudes towards the end of his life, even to the point of ostracization by former colleagues. By the end of the book, I was sympathizing with him. Himes' only direct rebuke was to BJU professor Beale’s 1986 statement toward the end.

    It is a needed insider account of this movement that manages to respect them as humans, rather than villains. He has gone through a lot in just his own journey. We got a little bit of this from writers like Philip Yancey over the years, but here we have a full account.
    It was overall a very interesting, and nicely flowing read. It was even a quick read, for such a full volume.
    #1 Eric B, Oct 13, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 13, 2011