07 January 2008

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

posted by Phil Johnson

f you think you know who said the following, leave a comment. I'm traveling today, with no time to write or answer comments. But unless weather (or worse) delays me, I'll be home by this evening. So if nobody's got it yet, I'll post the correct answer then.


"These are the things we have stood for: tolerance, an inclusive Church, the right to think religion through in modern terms, the social applications of the principles of Jesus, the abiding verities and experiences of the gospel. And these are right. I am not sorry we tried this experiment. It was worth trying. We have lifted a standard that no one will put down. We have stated an issue that no man or denomination is strong enough to brush aside. . . . They call me a heretic. I am proud of it. I wouldn't live in a generation like this and be anything but a heretic. But I carry some of you on my heart in ways that heretics are not popularly supposed to do. I want you to be Christians. I want your lives for Christ."

No Googling.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: Those who guessed (or googled) Fosdick were correct. Harry Emerson Fosdick, that is, not the Al Capp character.

Fosdick, one of the most militant modernists of the twentieth century, would feel right at home with both the views and the rhetoric of Emergent Village. The similarity of his ideas and the standard talking points at Emergent Village belies the utterly groundless claim that post-modernized "evangelicalism" somehow constitutes the abandonment of modernity rather than the further advancement of it. (One intrepid commenter at one of the post-evangelical trash-talk blogs recently accused me of misconstruing Spurgeon's position with regard to Emerging trends. Spurgeon hated modernism, this fellow reasoned. Therefore he surely would have embraced post-modernism, right?)

Fosdick's words refute such a notion. Sample any of Fosdick's books or sermons and you'll see that they read like an Emergent manifesto. Same arguments; same style of rhetoric; same appeal to "tolerance"; same revulsion for substitutionary atonement and biblical inerrancy; same tactics of decrying the militancy of conservatives while declaring war on conservative principles. If you want to understand the Emergent trajectory, read up on Fosdick.

Here's another excerpt. This one's from Fosdick's most famous sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?"

Just now the Fundamentalists are giving us one of the worst exhibitions of bitter intolerance that the churches of this country have ever seen. As one watches them and listens to them he remembers the remark of General Armstrong of Hampton Institute, "Cantankerousness is worse than heterodoxy." There are many opinions in the field of modern controversy concerning which I am not sure whether they are right or wrong, but there is one thing I am sure of: courtesy and kindliness and tolerance and humility and fairness are right. Opinions may be mistaken; love never is.

As I plead thus for an intellectually hospitable, tolerant, liberty-loving church, I am, of course, thinking primarily about this new generation. We have boys and girls growing up in our homes and schools, and because we love them we may well wonder about the church which will be waiting to receive them. Now, the worst kind of church that can possibly be offered to the allegiance of the new generation is an intolerant church. Ministers often bewail the fact that young people turn from religion to science for the regulative ideas of their lives. But this is easily explicable.

Science treats a young man's mind as though it were really important. A scientist says to a young man, "Here is the universe challenging our investigation. Here are the truths which we have seen, so far. Come, study with us! See what we already have seen and then look further to see more, for science is an intellectual adventure for the truth." Can you imagine any man who is worthwhile turning from that call to the church if the church seems to him to say, "Come, and we will feed you opinions from a spoon. No thinking is allowed here except such as brings you to certain specified, predetermined conclusions. These prescribed opinions we will give you in advance of your thinking; now think, but only so as to reach these results."

But the fundamentalists did win—at least in the battle against modernism. And today's evangelicals could learn a lot from that episode.

Although Fosdick insisted that those who believe in the truth of Scripture were evil aggressors destroying the unity of the church, and he decried the efforts of fundamentalists and evangelicals to drive liberals out of their denominations, in the end it was the fundamentalists and evangelicals who were driven out. Most liberals thought they had gained the upper hand. But virtually all the mainstream denominations declined drastically under liberal leadership, and some ceased having any kind of spiritual influence whatsoever. Moreover, the independent churches and institutions founded by fundamentalists and evangelicals grew pretty steadily in size, strength, and influence for most of the twentieth century.

But then fundamentalists and evangelicals went to war with one another. Fundamentalists turned their attention away from the fundamental doctrines of Christianity and spent a few decades fighting over secondary matters. And most evangelicals abandoned their evangelical principles in search of the world's friendship.

That's why the church today is weak, divided, and once again desperately seeking "relevance" by aping the world's fashions. We have we've come full circle, and the typical evangelical and post-evangelical of today have more in common with Fosdick than with their own spiritual ancestors. In the immortal words of Shirley Bassey:

It's all just a little bit of history repeating.

Phil's signature

91 comments:

Scottj said...

Spong, or Pike.

Scottj said...

Ok, I was wrong. I googled, and that's wrong too. I won't give it away. Why am I not surprised?

agonizomai said...

Bill Hybels

Scottj said...

Too contemporary--I should have paid more attention to the post title before I rattled off.

Patrick said...

Robert Schuller

Hanani Hindsfeet said...

Tony Campolo

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

Hybels. I agree with Agonizomai.

étrangère said...

It's blatantly not this generation, from the post title! I wonder if it was translated - if so, then 'modern' might merely stand for contemporary. But I'll assume it was in English originally, so I'll go for a 1920s liberal since that's what's described, and since it's Pyro, an American. But I can't remember the names of those Machen was interacting with in America - know this side of the pond better. Not a Presbyterian since in the 1920s they wouldn't have called him a heretic but accommodated him, whoever he is. Come on, someone else provide a name for my guess!

fishformen said...

Fosdick

Al said...

hmmm... I will go with Fosdick too

al sends

Johnny Dialectic said...

I cannot imagine Hybels or Schuller ever using a term like "abiding verities." Got to be someone older...

Garet said...

I have no clue, but I'm guessing it is early 20th century American.

Doug McMasters said...

Fosdick

beachbirdie said...

I can't guess because I had to Google. I guessed the time period, does that count for anything?

Thanks for introducing me to this person.

The more things change...no...wait...someone already said that. There is nothing new...wait...someone already said that too. What goes around comes around...arrgghh, I give up.

lee n. field said...

Any one of a vast crew of 20th century Protestant liberals. I'll reach back and say Harry Emerson Fosdick.

donsands said...

Brian McLaren?

I think this to be an interesting portion of the quote.
Luther was considered a heretic by the Church, though he was a true servant of the Lord. And I suppose a genuine heretic, will call himself a heretic, thinking he's not.

"They call me a heretic. I am proud of it. I wouldn't live in a generation like this and be anything but a heretic. .... But I carry some of you on my heart in ways that heretics are not popularly supposed to do. I want you to be Christians. I want your lives for Christ."

Daniel said...

Satan, albeit indirectly through some well meaning, but misguided fellow.

centuri0n said...

My guess was Finney, but I googled and found out I was wrong.

centuri0n said...

daniel --

wow. Nice call.

dac said...

Wesley (I will go with either)

stratagem said...

Make that Fearless Fosdick. Oh no, wait, that was from Dick Tracy...

DJP said...

Clinton?

Kevin Rhyne said...

Whew! I would have gone with Finney...thanks Frank...

stonecoldcleric said...

Has anyone said:

Walter Rauschenbusch?

DJP said...

Um... no.

wordsmith said...

My vote is for Fosdick.

wordsmith said...

Speaking of Fosdick, here's a quote from him that could pass for something from the pen of McLaren:

"I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it."

Mike Riccardi said...

"I want you to be Christians. I want your lives for Christ."

This sounds so noble, doesn't it? I mean, you'd expect to hear that from any good preacher who cares about the people he's shepherding, no? But it's so deceptive when people are so careful to use the same words that everyone else uses, just with entirely different meanings.

If you fight for an inclusive Church, then what does it really mean to be a Christian? To apply the social implications of the gospel? Does having "your lives for Christ" mean that in some mystical and undefined way I can believe whatever I want about whatever I want, and as long as my life looks okay, I'm living for Christ?

No way dude. The just shall live by faith, not by praxis. (The works will be there because of faith, but one does not live by them.) "I am crucified with Christ..." i.e., I died. My flesh, my old man, all of me that could have been cleaned up and nicely coiffed -- crucified with Christ in 30 AD. "...and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Because of this transaction -- this condemnation of flesh and glorification of Spirit, I'm not my own. Because I believe the Truth. We don't just "start living in the way of Jesus" and all of a sudden become crucified with Christ.

"I want you to be a Christian. I want your lives for Christ. But don't worry... you can be a worldling and have your lives for yourselves too."

Doesn't cut it...

Johnny Dialectic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

Wesley Crusher?

Chris said...

Fosdick?

DJP said...

étrangère?

donsands said...

Hey wordsmith,

What does your logo say, if you don't mind me asking?

I wonder if one can pray for the gift of interpretation for written tongues?

stratagem said...

My memory is faulty - I just remembered that Fearless Fosdick was from Lil' Abner, not from Dick Tracy. Forgive me.

I don't remember any quotes from him, but maybe you theologians do. I hear y'all read comics a lot.

dkyle said...

I believe I have heard Billy Graham say "I want your lives for Christ". So, I would say him.

andyk said...

Martin Luther

Joel Kientz said...

William Ellery Channing

DJP said...

Mitt Romney?

Rhology said...

Googled it and I learned something. I'd never heard of this person. Thank you!

wordsmith said...

donsands: The first character means "God," and the second means "grace" or "favor," thus making it an approximation of my real name.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Barth?

(Heh, heh...)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Internet Monk?

Brian McLaren?

Rob Bell?

Tony Jones?

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Schleiermacher?

steve said...

John Henry Newman

DJP said...

Alfred E. Newman.

(I can do this all day, folks, until someone finds ONE of them funny.)

Strong Tower said...

I suppose you're gonna tie this back to the Emergent Church and tell us that JM has been there-done-that?

Paul said...

Cosmo Kramer?

donsands said...

Mitt Romney was funny.

Wordsmith, thanks, but I don't understand. Your name is God Grace?

philness said...

Its Christopher Walken

mark pierson said...

" stonecoldcleric said...
Has anyone said:

Walter Rauschenbusch?

7:21 AM, January 07, 2008"
=======
He was from Rochester, New York. I second the nomination. Go Walter Rauschenbusch.

Remember him, cent?

Stefan said...

I'm going to go with stonecoldcleric and guess Walter Rauschenbusch. The language is a bit dated, so it's not likely to be a current figure.

Stefan said...

Okay, that makes three of us.

Strong Tower said...

Christopher Robbin?

DJP said...

Robin Trower?

dac said...

Wesley Crusher was funny.
And actually I could see that kind of eastern mysticism swill coming from any number of ST NG characters.

Robin Trower is too esoteric. Not enough reprobates on this board who would get it

wordsmith said...

donsands:

in juxtaposition like that, the first character modifies the second, giving us "God's grace;" i.e., "John" and its variations (male and female versions) :)

wolf said...

I'll go with Norman Vincent Peale.

Brad Leber said...

-Robin Trower-

Oh we get it all right, former reprobates....

"so were some of you"

DJP said...

Oh, right; you've got that version of 1Co 6 that says "thieves... idolaters... Robin Trower fans...."

(c;

centuri0n said...

Wha ... ? Robin Trower?!

Which blog is this? "Dinosaurs who love Rock"?

Four Pointer said...

Rauschenbusch? Schleiermacher? Fahrfegnugen?

I'll agree with Benjamin Glaser and say Schleiermacher.

Strong Tower said...

Could be, take all the meaning out of it and its like draining the color out of a rainbow, eventually it becomes a whiter shade of pale.

SolaMeanie said...

No, not Robin Trower. Not Nick Lowe. Not Dave Edmunds.

Phil Collins.

BTW, I notice that there was flagrant violation of Phil's mandate not to Google. Yes, I know. You technically didn't Google for the answer before you guessed, but that is postmodern fudging. He said no Googling at all.

Oops. I'm wrong. It wasn't Phil Collins.

It was Barney Google.

donsands said...

Oh, I see. Right. I'll take your word for it.
Thanks wordsmith. Grace and peace.

Faithful Servant said...

I totally googled. There's no way Id ever know that.

Strong Tower said...

Google is EC for 'I knew that!'

bassicallymike said...

Benjamin P. Glaser said...
Schleiermacher?


Gesundheit!

Strong Tower said...

Been There Done That

http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2006/03/been-there-done-that.html

TrothKeepr said...

Now that the cat's out of the bag: what blew me away in Fosdick's speech is his calling Paul a liberal! "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. " Come again, Fosdick?

Tyler said...

[Writing after the update]

I googled and found an interesting article on Fosdick at the First Presbyterian Church of New York City's website.

A particular quote of Fosdick that I liked was the following, regarding his sermon, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?":

"[The Sermon] was a plea for...a church inclusive enough to take in both liberals and conservatives without either trying to drive the other out.” [Link]

It reminds me of A Generous Orthodoxy, pg. 24 where McLaren writes that he wants to seek "a generous third way beyond the conservative and liberal versions of Christianity so dominant in the Western world."

Another quote I liked from the article available at FPCNYC was the following: "Daniel D. Williams, former Professor of Systematic Theology at Union, says, “It might be said with some accuracy that all theological liberals were modernists; but not all those who used modernist methods of interpretation shared the faith of the liberal theology, especially its optimistic estimate of human nature.”" [Link, emphasis mine]

Interesting stuff Phil.

Preson said...

I would aggree with him that fundamentalism breeds intolerance (and historically violence).

Johnny Dialectic said...

Yep, the more things stay the same...back in 1910, T. C. Horton (Superintendant of the Bible Insitute of Los Angeles) wrote an article for the institute's publication entitled "The Gospel of Grace vs the Gospel of Gush." Could have been posted on TeamPyro yesterday.

The gospel of gush, he wrote, "tells man to cheer up, think good thoughts, believe in himself, turn over a new leaf" (IOW, how to live your best life now). It is "wishy washy sentimentalism that prevails everywhere with reference to the Word of God."

He ended thus: "The demand of the day is for strong, sturdy preachers of the pure Gospel of Grace, and zealous followers of the living God."

Still in demand.

Mike Riccardi said...

That last paragraph in his sermon is stomach-churning. But I guess that was the selling point of modernism, and now is the selling point of postmodernism: We'll make you feel important; they'll make you feel inferior.

Nothing like some exalting of self while belittling the Word of God.

centuri0n said...

Sola:

I was dancing and drinking while I googled, so if you're going to turn your nose up, turn it up all the way.

lee n. field said...

>It's all just a little bit of history repeating.

You-all need to go re-read Machen's _Christianity and Liberalism_. Much of it has direct relevance to the current situation.

The Doulos said...

I never thought I would read "Robin Trower" on Team Pyro. Just looking for a Little Bit of Sympathy, as I Shame The Devil while crossing the Bridge Of Sighs on The Day Of The Eagle.

Phil Johnson said...

The Doulos: "I never thought I would read "Robin Trower" on Team Pyro."

I, too, turned a whiter shade of pale when that name popped up.

I'm disappointed, though, that no one riffed on the Shirley Bassey reference.

Doug McMasters said...

Phil,

Fuzzy recollection, but I remember Jack Hyles saying he took his sermon titles from Fosdick. I was shocked at the time, concerned he might take in more than just the titles. Of course, time revealed other troubles.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Sorry, Phil. I was asking my head about that but found my hips were swinging.

DJP said...

Doulos! M'man!

wordsmith said...

For better or for worse, "Goldfinger" is the only thing that comes to mind when you mention Shirley Bassey.

No clue about Robin Trower, though.

SolaMeanie said...

Frank,

If you are "a dancin" and "a drinkin," I hope you're at least doing it with the BeeGees playing in the background. Of course, that will probably make many here think of John Revolta in a leisure suit, but that's my payback for Robin Trower. I at least expected Dan to pop a Jeff Beck reference, but Trower surprised me. LOL.

Come on, aren't there any unapologetic, snobby proggers out there like me? How about a little Yes or Supertramp? How about a little Kansas or the Zombies? Or best of all, the upper class British gents who went to school at Charterhouse? But no. They're all secular (except one, arguably). Okay.

DeGarmo and Key. No Googling to find out who they are.

SolaMeanie said...

Back on topic now..

Phil..I find it funny that the EC would somehow try to enlist Charles Spurgeon in their cause because he "hated modernism." A bit of obtuseness there on what things mean again. If Spurgeon hated anything, it was theological liberalism or watering down biblical truth. He would have hated trends within "modernist" theologians to do those very things, but that is certainly a far cry from making him a fan of postmodernism, as you well know.

I'd love to see them try and flesh that idea out some more. It could get comical.

Daryl said...

Preson,

"I would aggree with him that fundamentalism breeds intolerance..."

Agreed, and thankfully so!!!

(Assuming you're using the typicaly Emerg*** definition "Biblical inerrantists" when you say "fundamentalist")


"...(and historically violence)."

Again, assuming the EC definition of fundamentalist that would be patently untrue unless you're referring to violence from the opposite side.

donsands said...

I had one Robin Trower 8 track tape. Can't remember it's name, but he reminded me of Hendricks a bit.

Stefan said...

"I'm disappointed, though, that no one riffed on the Shirley Bassey reference."

Phil, I was going to write something about Shirley Bassey last night, but I couldn't think of anything witty to write. As I get older, she's more my style.

Only on Team Pyro could one find a history of early 20th-century Presbyterianism and a mention of Shirley Bassey, all in the same post.

Stefan said...

Actually, more broadly, your afternoon update was the most concise history of 20th-century liberal Christianity I've ever read!

terriergal said...

I'm thinking McLaren. Jim Wallis? Campolo? I don't think Campolo would be dumb enough to use the word Inclusivism or inclusive and give away his heresy that blatantly.

terriergal said...

Oh wait... with the capitalization of Church one would think Catholic...

terriergal said...

Ahhh.... got it.. I was of course wrong wrong wrong... but interesting how close it does sound to some of the guesses...

ajlin said...

this is why (I think it's been pointed out here before) post-modernism should really be called hyper-modernism