Friday, September 29, 2006

Review of Pursuit of Purity

In Pursuit of Purity is a book on the history of Fundamentalism in the United States. David O. Beale spends 37 chapters laying out this history from a scholarly view point. This paper will give an overview of the chapter content of the book, followed by a summation of the book’s strengths and weakness.

Overview of the Book
This book is divided into five parts. Part one is “The Fountainheads of Fundamentalism.” In seven chapters, Beal attempts to define Fundamentalism, and then to describe the early stages of the movement, including the controversy of the day and the need for such a movement. Beal is content to define the ideal Fundamentalist as one who “desires to reach out in love and compassion to people, believes and defends the whole Bible as the absolute, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God, and stands committed to the doctrine and practice of holiness” (3). He further elaborates by stating that the essence of Fundamentalism as “the unqualified acceptance of and obedience to the Scriptures.” These are the definitions that will govern the entire rest of the book.

The remainder of the first section is spent in tracing the roots of Fundamentalism. Beal goes into great detail mentioning the people and events that elicited a need for this movement. Chapter seven is titled, “Transdenominational Responses to Liberalism”, which sums the purpose and aim of early fundamentalism in forming conferences that brought together those who wished to respond to liberalism. These conferences and the subsequent cooperation of those wishing to identify liberalism within the denominations resulted in the formulations of works such as The Fundamentals and The Scofield Reference Bible.

The second section titled “Presbyterian Fundamentalism to 1930” gives a history of Presbyterianism in America. Starting with theological controversies in the first chapter of this section, the second chapter moves through the establishment of schools of theology such as Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, McCormick Theological Seminary, Lane Theological Seminary, and Union Theological Seminary. An entire chapter is given to a discussion of the rise of Princeton and its champion, B.B Warfield. Another chapter is dedicated to the fall of Princeton and the subsequent establishment of Westminster Theological Seminary. This section also covers heresy trials within the denomination over liberalism and the controversy the tolerance of modernists such as Harry Emerson Fosdick brought to the table.

The third section is devoted to the rise of fundamentalism among the Baptists in America. Much of the controversy revolved around liberalism within the Northern Baptist Convention which seemed to be doomed from its inception. Some of the Baptists withdrew from the convention, while others stayed in an attempt to purge the convention. Beale points out how eschatological views were not an issue of separation in early Baptist fundamentalism.

Some of the results of Baptist fundamentalism were several fellowships and conferences that were organized to bring unity to the Fundamentalists. It seems that the Baptists considered fellowships and conferences their primary weapon in contending with Modernism. These had their start in the National Federation of Fundamentalists of the Northern Baptists which was started in Buffalo, New York. In these meetings, men attempted to identify modernism and combat it. Subsequent to these meetings were many other gatherings intent on girding the commitment to the movement. This section does take the time to mention the controversial actions of J. Frank Norris, and the poor eye from the public that Fundamentalism received subsequently.

The fourth section is dedicated to a shift in the Fundamentalist movement that began in the 1930’s. Separation was the key doctrine that governed this time period. Apparently, up to this point, Fundamentalist were considered to be non-conformists who remained within their denominations. But after this, they felt the need to make a clear and definitive separation from all they considered to be unholy. Beale does point out that many of the Bible conferences of this time were transdenominational. These moves resulted in associations such as the National Association of Evangelicals. Beale also mentions the rise of New Evangelicalism, a response to the separatism of Fundamentalism. Beale states that there are factions of this that are essentially identical to the historical expression of fundamentalism in theology, but who “refuse to regard the militant defense of the faith and the full doctrine and practice of holiness as intrinsically fundamental” (268). Some of these at the time were Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, John MacArthur, Jay Adams, Charles Ryrie, Charles Feinberg, and others.

Beale also uses this section to describe the rise of the General Association of Regular Baptists and the part that Robert Ketcham played in its founding. This section also covers the life of W.B. Riley and his contribution in founding the Minnesota Baptist Convention which led to the establishment of schools such as Pillsbury Bible College and Central Baptist Theological Seminary. This section also covers the founding of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, considered still the major Fundamentalist voice, and Methodist Fundamentalism.

The last section is titled “Fundamentalism Today.” This section goes into some detail in describing the Christian School movement, which is considered to be one of the most effective tools for continued Fundamentalist discipleship. This section clearly reveals Beales sympathies and devotion. In this section he also makes an appeal to the fundamentalist of the future to continue to pursue purity and holiness, which is the holy ideal and light of Fundamentalism (359).

Strengths of the Book
This book finds its strength in three areas. First it is historically thorough. Beale goes to great lengths to show the different sections of Fundamentalism’s part in the battles that were fought. He goes into the not just the fundamentalist history, but the American history of the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists to show their roots. He speaks of the impact the awakenings had on the controversy from the revival era of Finney and its watered down Calvinism that gave way to the entrance of Liberalism. Beale approaches the early historicity of the movement in a very scholarly fashion that shows the depth of study he has put into this subject.

Along with the book’s historical thoroughness comes a second strength; Beale documents his work very well. The reader is inundated with a flood of resources that provide pathways for future study. These resources may prove to be the value of the book.

Finally, Beale’s historical thoroughness sets up the fact that there was a need for the movement in its early stages. He presents the material in such a way as to show the danger of the rise of liberalism and the consequences it would have held for Christianity. In this way, the reader is able to come to a true and better appreciation for the work and tenacity of the early fundamentalists.

Weakness of the Book
While the scholarly strength of this book represents itself easily in the thoroughness and accuracy of the research, the weakness comes more from the inherent writing presuppositions that Beale very clearly communicates as his book unfolds. The first weakness that can be observed is that Beale gives Fundamentalism a faulty premise. He reveals this in his very first chapter in which he attempts to define fundamentalism and gives a pathway for his book to follow. Regarding his theme, Beale states, “The second and central theme of this study is that, while Fundamentalism has always embraced and defended the cardinal doctrines of traditional Christianity, the movement has been characterized by an emphasis on the doctrine and practice of holiness.” He goes on to state, “In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the word holiness, or sanctification, carries the basic idea of separation” (6). Apparently, Beale feels that these statements validate his presupposition of holiness without the need for a textual argument. From here, Beale equates holiness, sanctification, and separation without regard to the context of the passages that would give a biblical theology of holiness and sanctification. This is the attitude that governs the rest of the unsavory light in which Fundamentalism is cast. A biblical theology of holiness throughout Scripture would reveal that holiness is more about a relationship with God that produces an image of Christ, which will be very distinct. But it is not about placing the “sword into the enemies’ bosoms” (357).

Flowing out of this first weakness is a second, Beale is very one-sided. He does not present the issues and problems of infighting over petty issues with the later generations of Fundamentalism. He does not even mention these. A book such as this needs to give an accurate representation of these. Rather, much of his language sounds rather like a fundamentalist propaganda presenting the movement as perfect. This is particularly true in chapter 36. The whole movement, warts and all, needs to be presented for proper evaluation.

A third weakness is that this book is dated. It is twenty years old, and the face of fundamentalism has changed much in the last twenty years. It may be helpful for someone to do a scholarly updating of this book with a chapter evaluating the last twenty years of fundamentalism with the new problems the current generation is facing.

This book is a good read for any who need to know about the early roots of Fundamentalism. It is thorough and mentions many of the men who were instrumental in standing up for the truth of orthodox Christianity. However, the reader must be cautioned that the presuppositions that Beal reveals in his first chapter are to govern the rest of the book. With this in mind, the reader can benefit from this book and come to a greater appreciate of the work that was done in the struggle against a liberal ideal.

montanus: case study in church history: part 1

A Time of Tension
The mid to end of the second century was a time ripe for a schismatic such as Montanism to come on the scene. The events in church history leading up to this time period had created a tension that would cause a person with radical ideas such as Montanus to be welcome to those who may be have been confused about the mixed messages that were pervasive during this time period. The locus of these mixed messages centers around the work of the Holy Spirit, and specifically His gift of prophecy; the way this issue had been dealt with up to the time of Montanus, although with good intentions, had not addressed the topic in a systematic manner that, while addressing the problems, would clearly emphasize the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.

Church writers during this time period were reactionaries. They addressed a need as it came up; Tillich observes that the theologians of the time period developed their systems in opposition to heresies, “The greatness of theologians like Irenaeus and Tertullian is that they saw this danger, and used the Logos doctrine to develop constructive theological ideas in relation to the religious movements of their own period.”[1] While Tillich is noting the strength in this, there is an inherent weakness as well in that the tendency is to only address the wrong and not to clearly lay out what is right. In the midst of the confusion, Montanus finds his place in during this time in church history.

The confusion of this time period can be demonstrated through observing several facets of the church up to the time Montanus came around. Hopefully, these will clearly illustrate the tensions of ideas. First, there was an awareness of problems with abuse of the gift of prophecy. Evidence from early on shows that there were false prophets going around attempting to promote themselves and deceive the people among whom they “ministered.” The Didache demonstrates this problem in XI:2, “But if the teacher himself being perverted teaches another teaching to the destruction [of this], hear him not, but if [he teach] to the increase of righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord.”[2] In this section the writer is attempting to provide an objective way of determining whether or not someone was a false prophet.
While at the point of the writing of the Didache (somewhere between 70 and 110 A.D.)[3], they could not declare that there was no longer a gift of prophecy because all of the apostles had not yet passed off the scene, they felt that they had to do something to combat the abuses of those who would deceive people with their “prophetic” messages.
The Didache places us into the situation between the church polity of the Pastoral Epistles and the establishment of Episcopacy, or between St. Paul and Ignatius of Antioch. The Apostolic government was about to cease, and the Episcopal government had not yet taken its place. A secondary order of Apostles and Prophets were moving about and continued the missionary work of the primitive Apostles.[4]

A second demonstration that helps to build the tension is the heresy of Gnosticism. Flourishing between the first and third centuries, Gnosticism made its assertions based on secret traditions that were in opposition to biblical writings.[5] Some believe that Paul himself was combating early forms of Gnosticism as early as the writing of Colossians.[6] While it is not the purpose of this paper to outline the beliefs of this heresy, it is interesting to observe as does Tillich that, “The problem which the Gnostics posed for the church was in the realm of authority, the question whether the Holy Scriptures were decisive over against the secret teachings of the Gnostics.”[7] Tillich goes on to observe that the Gnosticism of the day was reacted against so strongly that the church was pushed into a more rigid expression and the work of the Holy Spirit was thereby minimized. Anything that smelled like a special work in an individual, (the gnosis) was looked at with suspicion. Thus, this set the scene up for a suspicion and depression of any work of the Holy Spirit that would be considered special. The heresy of Gnosticism was prior to and contemporary with Montanism, and Tillich concludes that Montanism was a reaction against the rigid development of the spirit of order.[8]

Third, the Apostle John had passed off the scene less than one hundred years before this. His words freshly written in his gospel and Revelation were still ringing in the ears of the early church. While modern theologians would view John’s promise of the Paraclete as having been fulfilled after Pentecost in Acts 2, it may be that the believers, not having access to all Scriptural documents of the first century, were looking for the promised Paraclete with which John laces his gospel. Not only that, but the eschaton would have been on their minds as well as they read about Christ from John’s book of Revelation. Groh notes, “Christianity in Asia Minor had long treasured the Gospel of John with its promise of the Paraclete, and was the setting for the eschatological prophecy of the Book of Revelation.”[9] With the expectation of the coming of the Lord having been disappointed, the apostolic fathers began to establish this order mentioned above, thus a tension is acknowledged in the second century, and Montanus comes on the scene to answer the questions.

The Beginning of Montanism
Montanus came from the village of Ardabau in Phrygia, an area in Asia Minor. Frend suggests that he was possibly a priest of Cybele, a goddess of nature and fertility.[10] While there is no clear testimony to Montanus’ prior involvement in the religion of Cybele, it is of note that Phrygia was known for its frenzy and fanaticism in worship of Cybele,[11] because similar practices are found in Montanus’ teachings later on. In fact, Boer asserts that Montanus, “expressed his new religion in the old religious manner. It was thus natural for him to emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit.”[12]

The writings of Eusebius state that Montanus was converted to Christianity, and shortly after his conversion he began to babble and prophesy in a manner contrary to what had been accepted in the church thus far.[13] Burgess observes that Montanus claimed to be the inspired organ of the Holy Spirit, and describes Epiphanius as accusing Montanus of claiming to have a fuller revelation of the Spirit than the church possessed.[14] There is a controversy over the exact dating of these events. Some would place it at 155,[15] while others would place it around 170.[16] With either date, the movement is seen to have begun in the mid to late second century A.D.. Montanus' form of religion was to take over the area of Phrygia and dominate it.[17]

Before long, Montanus was joined by two women who had abandoned their husbands to follow Montanus and prophesy with him. Their names were Priscilla and Maximilla. They took up the same ecstatic behavior that Montanus had manifested, and all three continued their work together under the umbrella of a claim to the Paraclete, Montanus even in his ecstasy denying his humanity and claiming to be God.[18] Montanus taught that through him the age of the Paraclete had come. He taught that this was the beginning of the New Prophecy that would accompany the eschaton,[19] which would culminate in the Parousia coming down in the village of Pepuzza near Philadelphia.[20]

Montanist Teachings
The Montanists believed their prophecy was exclusive and was the final revelation to man.[21] Additional Montanist teachings alongside the claim to new revelation from the Paraclete and the coming down of the Parousia in Pepuzza include the teaching that Christians should not avoid persecution, the teaching that any type of remarriage is sinful, the teaching of strict asceticism, including dietary rules, and the teaching that certain sins could not be forgiven after baptism.[22]

While these teachings appear to be very legalistic, Montanism still was attractive for two reasons. First, it offered a vibrant work of the Holy Spirit in contrast to the perceived deadness that an anti-Gnostic orthodoxy was spawning; second, the rules combated the perceived sinful excesses that that this anti-Gnostic orthodoxy was spawning. This was so influential, that around the year 207, Tertullian converted to Montanism. Much of what is known about the teachings of the Montanists comes from the writings of Tertullian.[23]

Some of those who opposed Montanism were Irenaeus, and Eusebius. While these men came from a tradition that did not deny the existence of prophecy or its exercise in the church, they reacted strongly against the way it was exercised by Montanus and the authority Montanus placed upon his prophecy as superseding that of the apostles and even Christ.[24] Another who opposed Montanus from a standpoint of an end of prophecy with the death of the last apostle was Hippolytus of Rome.[25] These men and their views will be discussed in a later chapter in this paper.

The Decline of Montanism
The Montanist movement continued on with force in Phrygia. However, as time progressed, the promised Parousia did not come. The Montanists organized a church to rival their opponents, but found themselves guilty of the same orthodoxy with which they would accuse their opponents.[26] They continued on in weakness until the sixth century when they were exterminated by the church under Justinian.[27] The rise and fall of this movement can be seen to be prescriptive of a cycle of action and reaction in the church. The best way one can learn from this event is to study the ensuing reactions and observe how to remain in a state of delicate balance on a firm foundation when excesses reveal themselves.

[1]Paul Tillich, A Complete History of Christian Thought (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1968), 37.

[2]Philip Schaff, The Oldest Church Manual Called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles: The Didache and Kindred Documents in the Original (London: Pendleburys Church House, 2001 [reprint of the 1885 edition]), 64.

[3]Ibid. 62.


[5]Stanley M. Burgess, The Holy Spirit: Ancient Christian Traditions (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984), 35.

[6]J.B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1879),74.

[7]Tillich, A Complete History of Christian Thought, 38.

[8]Ibid. 40.

[9]Dennis E. Groh, “Montanism,” The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity 2nd ed. vol. 2, 778.

[10]W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 253.

[11]W. Le Saint, “Montanism,” New Catholic Encyclopedia vol. IX, 1078-1079.

[12]Harry R. Boer, A Short History of the Early Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 63.

[13]A New Eusebius, ed. by F. Stevenson (London: SPCK, 1965), 108.

[14]Burgess, The Holy Spirit: Ancient Christian Traditions, 49.

[15]S. M. Burgess, “The Holy Spirit, Doctrine of: The Ancient Church Fathers,” Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 419.

[16]Groh, “Montanism,” 778.

[17]Frend, The Rise of Christianity, 254.

[18]A History of Christianity vol. 1, ed. by Ray C. Petry (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988), 90.

[19]Boer, A Short History of the Early Church, 63.

[20]Frend, The Rise of Christianity, 254.


[22]“Montanists,” A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, 461.


[24]Burgess, The Holy Spirit: Ancient Christian Traditions, 51.

[25]Ibid. 52.

[26]Frend, The Rise of Christianity, 256.

[27]Burgess, “The Holy Spirit, Doctrine of: The Ancient Church Fathers,” 420.

studying hard

Sorry for the very few updates on the blog lately. Julie and I have been very busy in getting started with the new semester. We love all of our family and friends who have heard little from us lately.

I plan to post some pictures of our post renovation dwelling soon, but until then, I thought I might share some of my research lately. Please don't feel like you have to read the entire text (as if anyone every felt that way). But please do feel that I want interaction and contstructive criticism.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

resourceful help

For any of my friends who are willing to contribute:

I am doing research on early church pneumatology in light of modern cessationism/continuationism controversies for a seminary class I am taking on early church history. This has been a topic I have wanted to research for several years now, and I now have a good excuse to do so. I would be open to suggestions as to books, journal articles, and magazines that would shed light on how either side would use church fathers to support their view.

Warfield, Lloyd-Jones, Grudem, Fee, and Williams are on my list of writers to explore. To be honest, at this point in my research I am not running across any continuationists that address church fathers or issues of a closed canon early in church history. I know there must be some, but I need help finding them so that the paper is well rounded and not ignorant.

I welcome any suggestions that would help my research to be the most informed it can be. I do not want to neglect any writers coming from either side.