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CHAPTER THREE: Definition of Terms (Part Two)


In a doctoral dissertation examining the roots of fundamentalism in Canada, Ronald G. Sawatzky employs the term “proto-fundamentalism” in a manner that proves helpful for the purposes of this project particularly as it relates to attempting to establish some kind of meaningful distinction between the terms “evangelicalism” and “fundamentalism.” He writes:
It has been pointed out above that the fundamentalist movement existed both before and after the controversy of the 1920’s and that the name was only self-consciously applied in 1920. From the point of view of the period under discussion here (1875 to 1914), it is not quite accurate, then, to refer to the movement prior to 1920 as fundamentalist. Therefore, throughout this study the term “proto-fundamentalist” will be used to refer to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century of the Canadian movement which is being analyzed here.201
Sawatzky uses “proto-fundamentalism” strictly within the context of his examination of the 1885 international Bible and prophecy conference held at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. This writer, however, sees some value in applying the term even more broadly to developments that occurred in the last quarter of the nineteenth century when figures such as A.B. Simpson and Dwight L. Moody rose to prominence in the United States with their respective Bible schools at New York and Chicago.202 It was during this period of time that some of the influential forefathers and prominent themes of emerging American fundamentalism came to the fore to establish a unique theological energy that was eventually articulated in The Fundamentals and demonstrated on the sawdust trails of evangelistic crusades conducted by men such as Billy Sunday.203
Elements of overlap are inevitable when discussing evangelicalism and fundamentalism. This thesis therefore sees merit in the use of the concept of “proto-fundamentalism” to identify a particular period of time (the late nineteenth century) when a group of spiritual leaders including A.B. Simpson, D.L. Moody and A.J. Gordon established Bible schools and conducted Bible conferences. These initiatives promoted a pietistic interpretation of Christianity in the course of advancing strategic themes such as world missions, revival, an ongoing experience of the filling of the Holy Spirit, and the imminent, pre-millennial second coming of Christ. Although some of these same emphases became a part of the fundamentalist platform in the 1920s, the terms “proto-fundamentalism” or “proto-fundamentalists” will surface occasionally in this thesis. They refer to the beliefs, practices and personalities of late nineteenth century leaders such as Simpson, Moody and Gordon who played a very influential role in the theological and ideological orientation of both L.E. Maxwell and Prairie Bible Institute.


The comments of Professor Roger W. Stump serve as a succinct and useful introduction to an attempt here to define fundamentalism. He writes:
As the twentieth century began, the effects of modernism and secularism on American culture produced a growing sense of alarm among conservative Protestants, who believed that these innovations threatened to undermine the traditional values and moral authority of evangelical Christianity. They responded by asserting their unyielding commitment to certain fundamental beliefs, such as the divine authorship and literal truth of the Bible, and by working to ensure the survival of those beliefs in American institutions and public life. By the 1920s, this movement came to be known as fundamentalism, and, since that time, its views have permeated swathes of the social and cultural fabric of America.204
Stump’s observations underline the veracity of Marsden’s and Carpenter’s important reminders that the term “fundamentalism” was originally used to define a religious movement.205
The difficulty involved in distilling a definition of the term “fundamentalism” that is sufficiently comprehensive yet utilitarian enough to distinguish it from “evangelicalism” or “neo-evangelicalism” is underscored by a comment offered by Frank Schaeffer. He concisely refers to modern evangelicalism as “fundamentalism-lite.”206
Although it might be argued that Schaeffer’s judgment reflects the reality of the late 1900s in North America more than it does the situation in the century’s early years, his point is well taken since there is no universally agreed-upon line of demarcation between “evangelicalism” and “fundamentalism.”207 Add to this consideration the frequent observation in the literature that whereas all fundamentalists are evangelicals, not all evangelicals are fundamentalists, and the complexity of establishing a problem-free definition for “fundamentalism” quickly comes into focus.208
This conundrum is compounded by writers who speak, for example, of “conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists” without clarifying what they perceive to be the apparent difference(s) between the two designations.209 The fact that the meaning of the term “fundamentalist” encountered several revisions or refinements over the course of the twentieth century further complicates the endeavor to establish a sufficient definition.210
Regardless of these challenges, George Marsden offers a helpful starting point in our quest when he writes:
Fundamentalism was a mosaic of divergent and sometimes contradictory traditions and tendencies that could never be totally integrated. Sometimes its advocates were backward looking and reactionary, at other times they were imaginative innovators. On some occasions they appeared militant and divisive; on others they were warm and irenic. At times they seemed ready to forsake the whole world over a point of doctrine; at other times they appeared heedless of tradition in their zeal to win converts.211
Of particular significance in Marsden’s words here is his judgment that fundamentalism was not a monolithic movement or entity.212 There were significant differences within its ranks owing to both the variety and complexity of the personalities and themes that coalesced to make it an identifiable movement. Further, Marsden acknowledges the very important reality that there was a definite psychological dynamic at play in the personalities of fundamentalist leaders. Accordingly, and as will be noted again later in this section, any definition of fundamentalism that fails to take into account both the theological and psychological elements of the collective entity should ultimately be considered incomplete and insufficient.
The movement that officially became known as fundamentalism in the 1920s had roots among the activities of proto-fundamentalist Protestants in the United States and Canada in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Among the better known figures of these years were men such as Dwight L. Moody, A.J. Gordon, A.T. Pierson and Reuben A. Torrey.213 Other leaders who had lesser yet important profiles were people like W.H. Howland, S.R. Briggs and Alfred Sandham.214
Numerous Christian leaders of that day found themselves increasingly alarmed by what they viewed as the pernicious impact of such troubling innovations as German scholarship’s higher-criticism of the Bible and Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory regarding the origins of the universe.215 Of particular concern were the advances theological modernism was making into the mainline denominations and their leading educational institutions. Many evangelicals, including observant laymen such as J. Fergus Kirk in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada, believed the historic Christian faith was under siege.216
“Modernism,” declared James M. Gray, president of Moody Bible Institute as the twentieth century approached, “is a revolt against the God of Christianity” and a “foe of good government.”217 In the judgment of William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic nominee for President of the United States: “The evolutionary hypothesis is the only thing that has seriously menaced religion since the time of Christ.”218
Emphasis among proto-fundamentalists in the late nineteenth century on such themes as dispensational pre-millennialism, prophecy, revivalism, and holiness theology led to annual conferences to study these matters. Such gatherings were held at various locations in the U.S. and in the Niagara region in Canada.219 These conventions helped fuel growing opposition to liberal teachings and also assisted in the development of the kind of organizational infrastructure necessary to mount an effective resistance movement.
The perceived need to rigorously defend the historic beliefs of the church eventually led to the publication of a series of booklets called The Fundamentals in 1910-1915. This ambitious project was financed by California oil millionaires Lyman and Milton Stewart and featured the publication of short scholarly essays on what were considered fundamental Christian doctrines. The essays were edited by A.C. Dixon, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, who had distinctly impressed Lyman Stewart in a sermon the former had preached attacking the teachings of a modernist university professor.220
Millions of copies of The Fundamentals were distributed free of charge to every pastor, missionary, theology student or instructor, Sunday school superintendent and religious broadcaster who would receive them.221 The multivolume series denounced higher criticism, evolution and Roman Catholicism while vigorously defending the authority of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the atonement, justification by faith, the personal return of Christ. The essays also underscored the urgency of evangelism.222
In addition to a sense of unfolding theological crisis, an atmosphere of alarm gripped post-World War I North America when widespread demobilization and a number of discordant labor strikes took place. The increasing industrialization and urbanization of the American population served as an impetus to the development of social ills such as alcoholism and prostitution. This unrest was augmented by a growing fear of foreign powers brought about by the Bolshevik Revolution that occurred in Russia in 1917.223
In response to the significant social changes taking place in American culture, the popularity of new interpretations of science and the international challenges underscored by World War 1, theological modernists insisted that man’s understanding of Christianity should adjust accordingly.224 For traditionalists, however, the numerous signs of modernity served to validate passages of Scripture such as II Thessalonians 2 and II Timothy 3. These portions of Scripture warn of the increase of sin and spiritual fervor growing cold in the last days and, for many evangelicals, merely served as proof that Christ’s return was imminent.225
As World War I came to an end, a number of the leaders of the Bible school and prophecy conference movements proposed the establishment of the World’s Christian Fundamentalists Association in 1918.226 Baptist magazine editor Curtis Lee Laws applied the term “fundamentalism” in 1920 in an article about the growing movement.227 Accordingly, the word was initially associated with its religious or theological roots to categorize those who were unswervingly loyal to the historic, orthodox teachings of the evangelical Christian church and were convinced, at least to some extent, of the urgency to aggressively or militantly combat, struggle against and resist modernist teachings.
It is important to briefly interject at this point that when Prairie Bible Institute was founded in 1922, it unashamedly identified with the emerging fundamentalist movement and those who originally shaped it such as Dwight L. Moody, A. J. Gordon, A.T. Pierson, Reuben A. Torrey and the contributors to The Fundamentals. The handwritten PBI Prospectus for 1923-24 clearly states: “The school stands for every whit of the “Fundamentals,”” presumably a reference to the essays financed by the Stewart brothers and edited by A.C. Dixon.229 The writings of Moody, Gordon, Pierson and Torrey were staples in both the PBI Book Room and the PBI Library throughout the L.E. Maxwell era.
As the 1920s unfolded, outspoken pastors and Bible teachers like John Roach Straton, William B. Riley, J.C. Massee, J. Frank Norris and T.T. Shields, who held pulpits in prominent cities across North America, stoked the rapid spread of fundamentalism.230 Shields was a fiery orator of British extraction who was pastor of a large Baptist church in Toronto. He earned a reputation for his repeated allegations that modernism was creeping in among Canadian Baptists and, among other ventures, was involved in a controversial and somewhat bizarre attempt by fundamentalists to take control of Des Moines University in the U.S.
People from a variety of denominations coalesced in the increasingly belligerent fundamentalist cause believing society’s problems could and should be attributed not to political, economic or social considerations, but to America’s rapid drift toward theological liberalism.232 Rifts that developed in the Northern Baptist and Presbyterian denominations were particularly bitter and public.233
As denominational conferences and institutions became centers of rancorous and heated debate, the fundamentalist identity inevitably acquired a psychological or temperamental connotation.234 The term “fundamentalism” thus acquired an even more militant dynamic than merely a school of thought that vigorously advocated and defended the historic, orthodox teachings of the Christian church.
Surges of acrimony ultimately led to such hostile conflicts as the infamous 1925 “Scopes monkey trial” in Tennessee, widely viewed as the ultimate showdown between fundamentalists and modernists.235 Ironically, although the fundamentalist cause actually prevailed in the court battle in that John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution in violation of state law, fundamentalism was thereafter widely discredited. Clarence Darrow, counsel for the defense, and journalists like H.L. Mencken effectively combined to portray fundamentalist Christianity as synonymous with the ignorance and backwardness associated with prevailing stereotypes of the rural population in America.
For better or worse, it is this acrimonious dimension of fundamentalism and the resulting caricature of its adherents as uneducated and unsophisticated dogmatists that many have consistently associated with the terms “fundamentalism” or “fundamentalist.” It is not without due cause that in the minds of many observers the psychological dimension of fundamentalist identity eventually came to overshadow the theological features of the movement.236
One of the first attempts to define fundamentalism contained elements of an obituary.237 Explaining that the movement had existed from 1918 to 1928, in 1931 Richard Niebuhr wrote of it strictly in the past tense. In his view, fundamentalism had been a brief hiccup on the American religious scene that featured the short-sighted thinking of predominantly rural people who were resistant to the inevitable cultural changes that were welcomed by better educated city-dwellers.
Niebuhr’s perspective was premature, however, as demonstrated by subsequent history and by the fact that the term remains popular today in referring to militant pockets of strident defenders of orthodoxy as found in numerous religions.239 The rise of the so-called “Religious Right” in the United States during the last quarter of the twentieth century introduced the concept of “fundamentalism” to a new generation of Americans.240 As well, it is widely perceived that radical Muslim fundamentalists were responsible for the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.241
The standard early works on fundamentalism by Stewart Cole and Norman Furniss reflect Niebuhr’s judgment that fundamentalism’s adherents were predominantly staunch opponents of social change cut from a traditionalist cloth who stubbornly, and somewhat ignorantly, insisted upon preserving standard values largely because such had been universally accepted for centuries.242 Richard Hofstadter identified more of a psychological element in fundamentalists’ anti-intellectualism and argued they saw an opportunity for “a militant type of mind” to come to the fore in a cause that provided “an outlet for animosities.”243 Historian Winthrop Hudson dismissed fundamentalism as “much more cultural than religious in its orientation” and criticized its alignment with conservative economic, political and social perspectives.244 William McLoughlin argued that fundamentalism should be understood as an inevitable side effect of the passing of an old cultural order.245
A couple of objections were registered in the mid-twentieth century, however, regarding the prevailing tendency to view fundamentalism as merely a passing aberration on the religious or social scene. William Hordern complained that no system of thought should be assessed solely on the basis of what certain fanatics do in its name.246 And, as Michael Hamilton records in his dissertation that was referred to earlier in this thesis, in 1968 Paul A. Carter published an important article arguing that, contrary to standard liberal perspectives, fundamentalism was anything but dead and its passing had been celebrated too soon. In fact, Carter contended, fundamentalism was not even in decline; it was alive and well.247 Such a state of affairs, Carter suggested, thus required a new understanding of fundamentalism.
Two important works on fundamentalism were published just after the mid-point of the twentieth century, one of which pointed out the British contribution to the kind of thinking that eventually blossomed in the American fundamentalist movement. Ernest Sandeen argued that fundamentalism should not be merely equated with evangelical Protestantism but contained a couple of distinctive beliefs that qualified it as a new religious movement. He rooted fundamentalism in a millenarian theology that had surfaced in England in the early part of the nineteenth century prior to being transported to America by John Nelson Darby in the form of dispensationalism. He also argued that faith in an inerrant Bible was as much a hallmark of fundamentalism as its eschatology.248
Representing another perspective on fundamentalism, Louis Gaspar argued that the zenith of the movement was not the Scopes monkey-trial as many believed. He advanced that fundamentalism actually reached its peak following 1930 due to the primary influences of two divergent groups of fundamentalists: the conservative, separatistic American Council of Christian Churches and the more widely-embracing National Association of Evangelicals which this study will later identify as neo-evangelicalism.249
British scholars James Barr and Harriet A. Harris are representative of a school of thought that perceives minimal differences between fundamentalism and evangelicalism.250 Interestingly enough, this perspective is also advanced by Sandeen in the Preface to the New Edition of his work reissued in 1978.251 This possibly indicates that views of fundamentalism which take into accounts behaviors and developments outside of North America do not share the fine distinctions between the two theological camps that North American scholars appear eager to advance.
Barr maintains that the core of fundamentalist thinking represents a particular kind of religious tradition and sees a close parallel between the terms “fundamentalist” and “conservative evangelical.”252 Harris’s work posits a strong connection between the Scottish school of philosophy known as Common Sense Realism and fundamentalism. Although she is sympathetic to Barr’s views, she is particularly eager to point out that the doctrine of an inerrant Bible as shared by both fundamentalists and evangelicals in North America has never been widely accepted among evangelicals in Britain.

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Table of Contents 
Dedication and Acknowledgements
A Militant Faith: L.E. Maxwell, writing in The Prairie Pastor, December 1931
Introduction: A Brief History of Prairie Bible Institute, 1922-1980
I. The early years at PBI
II. The spirit of sacrifice
III. Remarkable growth & fame
IV. PBI’s famous and infamous alumni
V. A distinctive reputation
VI. The arrival of Ted S. Rendall
VII. The arrival of Paul T. Maxwell
Chapter One: The Orientation of This Study 
I. A Working Hypothesis
II. The Method of Inquiry
III. Research Parameters
Chapter Two: Definition of Terms – Part One 
I. Bible school, Bible institute
II. Bible college
III. Christian liberal arts college
IV. “Non,” “un,” “inter, and “trans” – de-nominational Bible schools
V. Sect
VI. Evangelicalism
Chapter Three: Definition of Terms – Part Two 
VII. Proto-fundamentalism
VIII. Fundamentalism
IX. Neo-evangelicalism
X. Pietism
XI. Modernism/worldliness
Chapter Four: Review of Literature – Part One 
I. Entire books/booklets on Maxwell/PBI
II. Academic work entirely on Maxwell/PBI
Chapter Five: Review of Literature – Part Two 
III. Partial books/booklets on Maxwell/PBI
IV. Academic work partly on Maxwell/PBI
V. Other works
Chapter Six: American influence in Canadian history – Part One 
I. Observations: general histories of Canada
II. Observations: general histories of the West
Chapter Seven: American influence in Canadian history – Part Two 
III. Observations: religious histories of Canada
Chapter Eight: Leslie Earl Maxwell
III. His sermons, lectures, interviews
Chapter Nine: Other Prominent Leaders at PBI
I. J. Fergus Kirk
II. Dorothy Ruth Miller
III. Ruth C. Dearing
IV. Paul T. Maxwell
V. Ted S. Rendall
Chapter Ten: Evaluating Stackhouse’s View of Fundamentalism
I. Allowing a part to represent the whole
II. Militancy is not the sum of fundamentalism
III. A more encompassing definition of F’dsm
Chapter Eleven: PBI and the Theological Milieu of Fundamentalism
I. Unyielding allegiance to Biblical authority
II. The imminent return of Christ
III. Holiness and revival
IV. The primacy of missions
Chapter Twelve: PBI and the Cultural Milieu of Fundamentalism 
I. Dress and appearance
II. Worldly habits
III. Radio and television
IV. Films and drama
V. Music
Chapter Thirteen: Two Key Issues of PBI’s Fundamentalist Identity 
I. The academic accreditation issue
II. The Billy Graham debate
Chapter Fourteen: The Militancy Factor in PBI’s Fundamentalism 
I. Militantly defending the Christian faith
II. Militancy versus modernism in general
III. Militancy versus The United Church
IV. Militancy versus evolution

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