Double Standards in Fundamentalism Today, #3: Scholarship

I attended a conference recently in which one the reasons stated for supporting the KJ”B” over any other translation was the superior scholarship of the King James translators. At a latter session of the conference, we were told how we ought not put stock in the highly touted scholarship in the Wescott Hort position. I left wondering, “where does scholarship have its place in Christianity?”

Obviously, I believe we are to avoid liberal scholarship and the obsession with having the approval of secular scholarship. But when Bart Ehrman attacks my faith, do I seek for answers in the Sword of the Lord or should I read a book by Dan Wallace? Certainly, we want true biblical scholarship. As a matter of fact, most fundamentalist Bible colleges to my knowledge have to employ the use of textbooks from scholarly sources in order to meet the need of academic diligence. No one says we have to agree with everything therein, but at the bookstores of these colleges one will find more books published by Dallas graduates than graduates from fundamentalist schools.

One preacher said, “there are those who write and those who do,” as if to make a distinction between the two. Somehow, fundamentalism has only become a movement of men who do rather than write. (And I don’t think we have to consider the Hyles Church Manual or Sorenson’s Touch Not the Unclean Thing as examples of scholarship) But one may object, “that’s not what fundamentalism is about! Writing is for liberals! Fundamentalism is about…” About what? Preaching? Historically, fundamentalism arose to confront the liberalism of its day – in a scholarly manner! Please read the Fundamentals to know what I’m talking…er, writing…about. Read Warfield, Machen, Torrey, Robertson, Gray, Scofield, and Pierson. These men were biblical scholars who diligently and intelligently articulated and defended the faith. Yet, even they were seen as ignorant. There is a difference, though.

Historic fundamentalism was characterized by its opponents as ignorance concerning things without.
Modern fundamentalism is characterized by ignorance concerning things within.

Big difference!

Historic fundamentalism, for example, may not have entirely grasped the system of Darwinianism. Think of Inherit the Wind. How dumb they made Bryan look! But yet, Bryan and his fellow fundamentalists still wisely defended the Bible and the account of creation in a way unrivaled by today’s fundamentalists. They knew the scriptures, they knew how to defend them, they knew how to employ science and history to do so. No one has to know what Darwin ate for breakfast everyday to refute evolution. (Does George Bush really have to know what a vegan is to govern the country?)

Modern fundamentalism, sadly, not only struggles against ignorance of doctrine, hyper-fundamentalism flaunts it! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat through a sermon in which the preacher delighted to make himself seem ignorant. It wouldn’t be abnormal to hear a statement like, “I don’t know much about theology, but I like preachin’!” I can’t count how many Woes that truly warrants. And yet, despite their distaste for scholarship and “liberal” stigma attached to it, how many of today’s fundamentalist leaders make sure you know that they possess a (honorary) doctorate!

Praise the Lord that there still are some in fundamentalism attempting to defend the faith in an intelligent and articulate fashion. But I would say that the true heirs of this aspect of historic fundamentalism are those who don’t call themselves fundamentalists, but conservative evangelicals like John MacArthur, Josh McDowell, Ron Rhodes, Norman Geisler, James White, and many others. (And Al Mohler who finally wrote a book!)

Let’s be more diligent to defend our faith. Let’s not mind what the world thinks of our scholarship, but never ever be satisfied with ignorance concerning our doctrine. Let us be mindful to firmly stand for what we believe and refute compromise, but careful not to tear down the men, colleges, and publishing companies that produce the underlying curriculum for our institutions of learning.

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1 comment so far

  1. Travis James on

    Comment #1 – Case in point: Dr. Tony Hutson.
    Comment #2 – Al Mohler wrote a book!?! It’s as good as mine.
    Comment #3 – It’s almost as if we’ve bought into the criticism of H.L. Menken and those who originally discredited the efforts of Bryan, Machen, Warfield and others. When someone heard that these men were ignorant, they had only to examine them and see that the accusation was false.
    When someone hears that today’s fundamentalists are ignorant, they have only to look at a few and see us prove them right.
    It’s high time we change all that!


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