Save OBU: Understanding Fundamentalism

Today begins a new, six-part series that I am writing for Save OBU titled Understanding Fundamentalism.  The series will explore the rise of the fundamentalist movement and its impact on the Southern Baptist Convention and Christian (and Baptist) higher education.  Here is an excerpt from today’s post, the series introduction:

The focus of the Understanding Fundamentalism series will be the three confessions put forward by Southern Baptists—the Baptist Faith and Message of 1925, 1963, and 2000.  (A very helpful, side-by-side synopsis of the three confessions can be found on the SBC website.)  As we shall see, these confessions illuminate well the shift within Southern Baptist thought throughout the last century.

Initially, the convention held neither creed nor confession at its formation in 1845, relying instead on the commonly understood acceptance of The New Hampshire Confession of Faith of 1833.  However, the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy nearly split the denomination and led to the adoption of the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message as a necessary measure to maintain unity among Southern Baptists on both sides of debate.  Then, in 1963, the Convention saw fit to clarify and alter the confession in response to the controversy inspired by Midwestern Seminary professor Ralph Elliott and his bookThe Message of Genesis (in which he took a non-literal approach to understanding the Genesis creation accounts).  Finally, in 2000, the Baptist Faith and Message was revised as a conclusion to the Conservative Resurgence or Fundamentalist Takeover and as an expression of the denomination’s new identity.   Each event had its roots in the fundamentalist movement, and at each alteration of the institutional expression of Southern Baptists’ faith, the fundamentalist movement in some fashion or other influenced those official declarations.

…Save OBU has made it clear that we believe that fundamentalism and the Christian (and Baptist) liberal arts tradition should not be mixed.  Even so, despite our frustrations with the fundamentalist leadership of OBU, the BGCO, and others, we have no interest in marginalizing their voices or challenging their theology.  Our sole concern is the protection and preservation of the academic and educational heritage of OBU.  It is our belief that a true, Christian liberal arts university will give voice and time to the whole spectrum of human thought—whether Christian or non-Christian, fundamentalist or moderate—and trust the Spirit of God to work in the hearts and minds of its students as they search after God’s truth.

It will be well worth your time—even if you are not Baptist—as I will hope to answer many questions about fundamentalism and its effects on religious traditions.  For more, click over to Save OBU.

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