Essay: Protestant Fundamentalism in Early Twentieth Century U.S

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Protestant fundamentalism in early-twentieth-Century U.S.

Over the centuries, were several disagreements and conflicts within the Christian denomination. The clash resulted from the disbelief and apparent avoidance of reference to certain bible versions and verses. Consequently, those who had a contrary opinion to the initial implementation of the Modern belief broke and formed the protestant church. As the name suggests, the movement was against several practices within the Modern Christian society practice; hence, the rise of the protestant fundamentalism (Jones, 2010). The initiators of this fundamentalism saw the significance of simplifying the method of worship and acquiring a more dedicated clergy. In the United States, the rise took the country by storm as it came at a time of political revolution; time when the country was in the rising age to becoming superpower.

The process of the fundamentalism started earlier with Martin Luther in Germany, from where it spread to the U.S. In the consequent years. The main objective of fundamentalism was to restore the aspects of the initial Christian practices that the modern church obscured and institutionalized. In the fundamentalism aspect, the modern society appeared too liberal, leading to erosion of essential aspects and teachings being lost. Fundamentalism in the U.S. started after the Civil War (Jones, 2010). It deals with the persistent optimism in the evangelical dimension of Christianity at the time faced by potentially destructive forces. The first protestant believes based on the interrelation between faith, the bible, morality, science and civilization. However, this was about to collapse due to the encroachment of the modern practices. The greatest threat to the split was the growing rate of science. Science is a practical approach to subjects and matters that require evidence. On the other side, faith is simply just empty believing that something is true or will happen in a certain manner. Therefore, the rise of science meant that it could prove more things than the actual Christian belief. Thus, in the wake of the modernization of the world through scientific research and innovations, many people believed more in science than faith. This threatened the existence of faith and the basis of the founding of Christianity. This is the major reason for the rise of the protestant fundamentalism in the United States in the early twentieth century (McLaren, 2006). Science threatened the existence of faith; hence, the scientific conclusions and assertions of things modernized people, retarding the progress of evangelism. This caused the rejuvenated Christian leaders to find means to curb the spread of belief in science; hence, fundamentalism.

Secondly, the rise of liberalism from the increasing numbers of philosophers and baconianism largely supported the affinity between scientific assertions and cultural advancements (Marsden, 2006). The natural characters suffered a blow from the emerging practices, which saw the morality of the society decline at an alarming rate. New practices introduced in the time caused uproar in the church. The religion, which teaches the society morals and the way of life, was failing in its teaching. The congregation was splitting and people stopped attending church and believing in God. New societies and cults crept into the society. The nation, United States that was largely Christian nation was drowning in the evangelistic ministry. The philosophers and independent thinkers continued to propagate their thoughts into the society, and due to their affinity, people widely accepted them. This necessitated the encryption of new strategies by the Christian leaders at the time to set strong stance against the rising cultures and practices. Therefore, protestant fundamentalists oversaw the movement towards the revival of the old beliefs and practices of the Christian religion.

However, the key factor that exposed the Christian religion is the opposition to the evangelicalism, which was the force that was shaping the culture of the society. In the analysis of Marsden, the beginning of the significantly notable divisions within the evangelical churches came with the Darwinian evolution. The Christians had to decide what to believe, as either being conservative or dynamic and liberal. The conservative version of responding would be to believe in the argument of Charles Hodge who laid emphasis on the practice of Baconianism, stressing that aspect of evolution was unscientific and rested on the naturalistic presumptions. Otherwise, they were to become progressive in their belief and adopt the version of James McCosh who largely advocated for the great compatibility between Christian faith and evolution (Marsden, 2006). Those who chose to adopt the latter choice saw religion as less concerned about facts and largely concerned with the spiritual aspect and thus not open to scientific inquiry. The first herald of such view of faith is Henry Ward Beecher, who died in 1887. In the romanticism of Henry Beecher, we find the first seeds of the later emphasis on liberalism. Among his advocacy was the identification of the advancement of the Kingdom of God with the advancement of civilization. He says that the two should run together simultaneously, hence accepting the good from both sides of the societies (Zink, 2012). Additionally, he said that people should adopt the tendency to find the supernatural within the natural. He also emphasized on the moral dimensions of Christianity within the society. Because of Beecher's romanticism, many conservatives continued to express their moral vision of America, including overwhelming support for the progression of social reforms. From their efforts, they received little response from the society; hence, this indicated that the status of Christianity in America was waning. The unity of the church and evangelicalism was beginning to unravel while those who had opinion and position similar to Beecher moved to the left, those who had conservative attitudes made alliances among themselves, in which they centered on holiness and premillennialism; thus, fundamentalism took root in America.

There are also the days of D.L Mood, who is a transitional figure in the rapid change age within the religion in the United States. Moody was a well-known revivalist who emphasized on the unconditional love of God, whilst downplaying hell fire (Rey, 2007). In his teachings, he emphasized the aspects of holiness and individual Christianity; hence, he did not pay attention to the social concerns in the understanding of the gospel. This was the time of individualism in America, and the responses of the early Protestants to the rising issues that resulted from industrialization and urbanization presented encouragement to convert people to Christianity and developed moral beings. Therefore, Moody largely played a pivotal role in advancing the protestant fundamentalism movement. The most abiding contribution of Moody to the later fundamentalism is his emphasis on the victory over sin (holiness teachings). He presented a premillennial view of eschatology, a simple fact that many prominent leaders who came later after him would share in the fundamentalism partnership. His ministry presented a basis for the rise of the fundamentalism in the years that ensued after him.

The ensuing years of the late nineteenth century saw the emergence of coalitions among the proto-fundamentalists until the beginning of World War I. The key factors in the coalitions were the dispensational premillennialism, the holiness movements, the apologetics and the complex views regarding the church and its relationship with the society's culture. Several of the tension factors within the fundamentalism movement are evident within these key factors, such including the views of Moody and his disciple, R.A. Torrey (Marsden, 2006). The former laid emphasis on the aspect of religion of the heart, while the latter primarily saw religion as an aspect of the mind. These two views are consistent throughout much of the fundamentalism. Additionally, other large contributions to the growing coalition were the modern teachings promoted by Keswick movement. These are teachings embodied by Moody and canonized by the dispensationalist C.I Scofield. His references to the bible received overwhelming acceptance and support from the conservative reformed Christians. Through wide spread social religious gatherings, bible conferences and institutes, the teachings of dispensationalist progressively penetrated the church, combining with premillennialism to develop a more liberal wing of the church (Marsden, 2006). Significant to note, contrary to the interpretations of many of the rise of fundamentalism, Marsden emphasized in his discussions, the return of social reform-mindedness among the evangelicals and holiness in this age of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. He denotes in his notes that the record they set for Christian social service in the era when social reform faced such overwhelming oppositions, was remarkable impressive. Marsden saw a decline in the social interests, in association with the shift among the conservatives from Calvinistic to Pietistic view of the politics role in society (Coreno, 2002). The former was in support of confident cultural transformation while the latter emphasized on mere restrain of sin. From the period 1900 to 1930, this trajectory furthered the decline and subordination of the social concerns; hence, they disappeared dramatically.

Nevertheless, the common and rising opposition to the fundamentalists served to solidify the dispensationalists, denominational traditionalists and Keswick teacher's unity. In the north of America for instance, there was a fight between the conservatives and the Presbyterian Church over the supernatural… [END OF PREVIEW]

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