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Secondary Doctrinal Issues- Part Two

November 15, 2010

Last week we began considering some of the doctrinal issues that were not part of the early battles of fundamentalism.  That article covered premillenialism, dispensationalism and denominational affiliation.  Ones position on those three areas was not determinative of their position within fundamentalism.  While Fundamentalism has had a mainline, or majority, opinion about these and other topics, Fundamentalism has recognized an allowable difference of opinion that does not undermine the gospel message.  This week I want to consider two currently volatile topics, Bible versions and Calvinism/Armenianism, and the perspective on these issues within early fundamentalism.

Within the ranks of early fundamentalists could be found strict five point Calvinists and full fledged Armenians, though the majority of that generations fundamentalists can be best described as 3 or 4 point Calvinists.  While the early fundamentalists held strong opinions on these matters, they did not hold them up as issues worth dividing over.  The differences between Calvinism and Armenianism are not insignificant, but they do not reach so deep as to change the gospel message.  The men who found themselves fighting for the faith recognized those of a different theological camp as brothers and fellow soldiers in the conflict.  Maybe most pertinently to the majority of those within fundamentalism today, early fundamentalists were not anti-Calvinists.  Though not everyone accepted its tenets, they did not label as apostate, sinful or compromising those who held to the five tenets of Calvinistic theology.

Probably few issues in have been so divisive within fundamentalism as that of Bible versions.  This issue is worthy of, and will receive, much greater attention.  All that needs to be said at this point is that Bible versions were not an issue within fundamentalism.  The Fundamentalist institutions at the time were also using the American Standard Version, teaching and studying from it.  Within the pages of the seminal Fundamentalist publication, “The Fundamentals”, quotes from the ASV can be found.  Versions were simply not the issue.  To put the finer point on it, though it was the most widely used translation, the King James was not a defining feature of fellowship within the early battles for the faith.  In an article printed in the “The Fundamentals” entitled “The Inspiration of the Bible”, James Gray stated clearly the assertion that only the original manuscripts were inspired and that inspiration does not apply to any translation.  The battle for innerrancy and infallibility was recognized to be a battle for the perfection of the original manuscripts.  Manuscripts, translations and modern versions were considered accurate only as they accurately reflected the originals.  None upheld the King James as the perfect Word of God for the English speaking people.  None saw the use of a different version as a basis for separation.  The undeniable reality is that historic fundamentalism never considered the King James Version to be a fundamental of the faith.

The reason for these two articles is to consider what things were not divisible issues in early fundamentalism.  Though the intervening decades have changed the theological and ecclesiastical landscape considerably there is great value in considering in what teachings the great men of early fundamentalism allowed some room for disagreement.

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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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