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Secondary Doctrinal Issues- Part One

November 8, 2010

Not only is it worthwhile to consider what doctrines were a part of the rise of early fundamentalism, it is also important to consider what doctrines were not factors.  These doctrines are not insignificant, but they were not deemed matters of such import that disagreement demand total separation.  The more significant of these matters were premillenialism, dispensationalism Calvinism or Armenianism, denomination, and Bible versions. This week we’ll deal with three areas and then next week will look at the remaining.

Premillenialism is the belief that the church is still waiting for Christ to establish his kingdom on earth.   When He does so, it will be a real, physical kingdom over which He will rule from the city of Jerusalem.  This kingdom will last for 1,000 years and will end with a final rebellion of Satan.  Premillenialists are waiting for Christ to usher in that kingdom with His return to earth at the second coming.  Fundamentalism, from its inception to today, has been primarily made up of those who are premillenialists, but an eschatological belief other than premillenialism was in the earliest days not a reason to question someone’s commitment as a fundamentalist.  In fact, a brief search through some of the big names of early fundamentalism will reveal a handful of amillenialists.  This issue is simply not one critical to the gospel message.

Related to premillenialism is dispensationalism.  With the recent increased popularity of reformed theology within Baptist circles, some have wanted to respond to covenant theology as if it is a violation of the fundamental doctrines of the Word.   While the differences between covenant theology and dispensationalism are significant, dispensationalism was not an ear mark of fundamentalism.  As an example, there were those in the early fundamentalist movement who were fighting within Presbyterianism.  These men were not denied acceptance as fundamentalists because of their covenant theology.  Rather, some of them played major roles in the early fights of fundamentalism and left a massive legacy of scholarship and commitment to the Word from which all fundamentalists continue to benefit.

As is already evident from what has been stated so far, denominational delineation was not an issue in early fundamentalism.  Fundamentalism has never been solely the domain of Baptists.  The early battles were not fought only in Baptist conventions.  At roughly the same time northern Baptists were fighting for the gospel within in their denomination the northern Presbyterians were fighting within in their denomantion.  Also present in early fundamentalism were Congregationalists, Methodists, Lutherans and others.  This is not to suggest that all fundamentalists shared in equal fellowship and cooperation despite difference in denomination, theological system or eschatology.  The significant differences between beliefs at times circumscribed cooperation.  The point is, differences on these matters were not generally seen as differences in the gospel or a weakened commitment to the authority of the Word.  One could be a fundamentalist and disagree with other fundamentalists over these issues.

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I welcome comments, questions or input on these articles. However, the purpose of this blog is not to give an open forum for discussion. If you would like to comment on these articles or have specific questions regarding fundamentalism, please feel free to email me. I will do my best to respond quickly to your emails. A few days after its publication, I will attach to each blog article any pertinent or particularly pithy comments that I receive.


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