Development of Protestant Fundamentalism

A particular form of American Evangelicalism developed in the 1920s to combat the secular culture after World War I, during the Roaring Twenties with its jazz age Gatsby morality.  From 1890-1920 over 20,000,000 people, mostly Roman Catholic Europeans, immigrated into the major American cities.  These new immigrants brought an end to the Victorian morals with their gambling and their bootlegging alcohol drinking during the Prohibition era.  The League of Nations and the growth of international communism were other factors.  Most fundamentalists were against the scriptural criticism of Protestant liberalism and the various other modernism trends.  They feared losing their world, because others were aggressively posing a threat to their traditions.  This was an apocalyptic view of history, where the past was great, the present cloudy and the future assured.

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Protest

The Protestant principle testifies to God’s sovereignty against human endeavors.  Continually Protestants remind us not to absolute the relative.  God is beyond nature and history.  For many Protestants, the Bible is the ultimate source of truth, the living word of God.  On the other hand, dogma, sacraments, and church are at the heart of Catholic belief.  Protestants do not grant papal infallibility, preferring to rely on the corrections of the Holy Spirit.  You need to continually protest against something.

Dispensationalists

Dispensationalists interpret all history in terms of the Bible with 7 different 1,000-year eras.  The final era will be the “rapture,” which has been variously interpreted by a number of fundamentalists.  This apocalyptic view thinks in terms of the final victory of Christ and the conversion of Jews.  They are millennium people.  There will be 1,000 years until the last Judgment.  Their favorite books of the Bible are Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation.

The Gospel passion narratives

All the four historical canonical gospel stories have passion narratives with different perspectives within the four accounts.  These gospel stories are a mix of history, facts, and interpretations that represents the true experience of the early Christian followers of Jesus, the primitive Christian community.  The gospels contain history remembered, but this history includes an interpretation.  In a certain sense, this is prophecy historicized.  For the followers of Christ, the Jesus story is a true story that represents something that happened in our world.

 

History versus story

In what sense are these biblical books literal interpretations of what was happening?  History means different things to differ people.  History is always an interpretation.  In fact, our concept of what is history is always changing.  The result is that a literal interpretation means that you have to understand what they were trying to say about God, not the incidentals surrounding the events.  The idea of footnoting has become a general practice that was not known over a thousand years ago.  History sometimes refers to a good story.  Even in our own lifetime we can still argue about the events surrounding the death of President John Kennedy or the victims at the OJ Simpson house.  Thus, it does not seem out of place to question events that supposedly took place either pre-historically or thousands of years ago.  They did not have to happen exactly as detailed by men writing about them years after the described events.

Human Authors

The Bible is the record of the Hebrew people and early Christians.  These human authors worked under the influence of God’s Spirit and at the same time under the influence of their community and culture.  Why these words?  Christians believe that this is God’s meaning in human words in content and message.  The cultural history and empirical science was true for their particular time.  History is always an interpretation.  Science is always experimenting finding new ways to do things.  The divine message of God transcends time and space, since it has an eternal ring to it that goes beyond the human authors and their words.

The return of the remnant (Isa 11:11-11:11)

“On that day,

Yahweh will extend his hand

Yet a second time.

He wanted to recover

The remnant that is left

Of his people,

From Assyria,

From Egypt,

From Pathros,

From Ethiopia,

From Elam,

From Shinar,

From Hamath,

And from the coastlands of the sea.”

In this ideal time, all the scattered Israelites would return from their Exile. Yahweh was going to extend his hand for a second time. The first time was the Exodus from Egypt. This time it is a call to recover the remnant from all over the place. Some of these places are easy to figure out. Assyria (present day Iraq), Egypt, and Ethiopia are easy to understand. Pathros was in upper Egypt. Elam is where current day Iran is. Shinar was in Babylon. Hamath was in Syria. The coastlands may have been the Aegean islands around present day Greece. Obviously, this was during the Exile or after it. It is interesting to note how many different places the Israelites were in Diaspora, so early in their history.