The 1920s saw one of the greatest structural developments in the church of Christ since the Reformation. For fifty years theological liberalism had been putting down roots in mainstream Protestantism denominations. By the late 1920s conservatives realised that the only means of maintaining the purity of the gospel was to separate. In the decades that followed many new denominations were formed and many para-church organisations were established in opposition to the theological shift. Many of those who left these denominations were dubbed “Fundamentalists” because they held to stated fundamental truths of Scripture—the sin qua non of the gospel.
Every great movement in the church has a particular emphasis and consequently a blind side. While Fundamentalism greatly benefited the church, there was in certain parts of this movement an emphasis on doctrinal purity over individual growth in grace. The relish for controversy very often overshadowed the graces of humility, selflessness, and a Christ-like longsuffering and love.
Defending the faith against heresy and apostasy does not mean only (and certainly not exclusively) a verbal denunciation of error. Jude warns about the apostates and tells us that the way to resist them is fourfold—building ourselves up in the faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keeping ourselves in the love of God, and looking for the mercy of Jesus Christ. Defending the faith, then, means fighting for Christ. Paul often uses the language of warfare. But this warfare evidently means more than fighting for certain Fundamentals—it includes also defending the church against unnecessary division (Hebrews 12:15; 1 Corinthians 1:10) and the soul against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:10ff). Paul did not say, “For to me to live is Christianity” but “Christ.” Let us defend the faith, but let us do it through the growth of personal graces.
Reading: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”—Philippians 1:21