George Marsden, “Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary
and the New Evangelicalism” (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987).
While on a recent golfing vacation I picked up this book
that told the story of one of the schools in my background. I came to faith in Christ in a church that
honored its fundamental heritage. Many
of the leaders in my church attended Talbot Theological Seminary of Biola
University. After discerning a call to
pastoral ministry, I eagerly enrolled at Biola and found myself nourished and
challenged in the Scriptures. After
receiving a seminary degree I began church planting in the mountains north of the
greater Los Angeles area. However, I
continued to take classes having to do with evangelism, the church, and the
Scriptures. This hobby eventually turned
itself into my pursuit of a doctoral theological degree at Fuller Seminary in
Pasadena. Fuller challenged me in new
ways and developed my perspective and discernment in the matters of God. Although I did not agree with everything I
was taught (at either institution), I greatly valued my theological education.
The burden of George Marsden in “Reforming Fundamentalism”
is to tell the story of Fuller Seminary from its inception in the late 1940s through
the late 1980s. The book intends to
reach into the heart of the founders and describe how they wanted to reform or
correct the errors of fundamentalism.
These errors included an over-emphasis on separating from the world, a
combative attitude toward mainline Protestantism, and a rigid approach to
interpreting Scripture. There remains a
kernel of truth to these concerns. In
too many cases the fundamental Christian church has not served its surrounding
community very well. It has tended to
withdraw from the world rather than engage the world with the gospel of Jesus
Christ. In weaker moments it has been divisive
and proud. Those of us who make up Aspen
Ridge Church must admit that we share in these weaknesses and failures.
But the story of Fuller Seminary is like the proverbial
mistake of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The leaders became so committed to correcting
the errors of fundamentalism, they eventually gave up on the belief that the
Scriptures were without error in the original autographs. Inerrancy essentially refers to a belief that
our Bible is without error in all that it asserts. When all the facts become known, they will
demonstrate that the Bible… when correctly interpreted, is entirely true in all
that it affirms (including ethics and the social, physical, and life
sciences). Fuller turned its back on the
inerrancy of Scripture, instead affirming the infallibility of Scripture, which
essentially meant that the Bible never intended to be accurate in matters of
the social, physical, and life sciences.
In my mind, this is a really big deal. The inerrancy of Scripture is important
because it reflects on the credibility of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 5:17-20 and John 10:34-5 Jesus
emphasizes the authority of the Scriptures.
The smallest detail of the law will be fulfilled, and the Scriptures are
absolutely binding. If these assertions
of Jesus are not the case, then Jesus’ accuracy as a teacher must be
questioned. Further, if these assertions
are not the case, then something that contains errors may not be absolutely
authoritative. However, the Scriptures
ARE absolutely authoritative. You can trust the Bible. The Bible is reliable. The Bible comes from God who cannot lie. At the end of the day, the Bible is both
inerrant and infallible. The Scriptures
are a reliable guide toward our home in Christ.
Are you following?
Warmly, Pastor Jeff