The Making and Unmaking of an Evangelical Mind: The Case of Edward Carnell

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View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Disciplines: Film. Issue Previous Archives. Welcome to Image. We curate content just for you. Email Address. Pin It on Pinterest. The background to this new movement of reform lies in the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century.

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In the nineteenth century Evangelicalism had been the major expression of Protestant theology and church life in North America. Towards the end of that century a major division occurred in Protestant thought in Europe, England, and America that transcended denominational affiliations. The division comprised two broad camps: Liberal Christianity and Evangelical Christianity. The tensions between these two camps arose over developments in Enlightenment based philosophy where theistic or supernatural explanations of reality were brought into question.

The questioning of theism was not confined to abstract concerns in philosophy, but also developed as modern historical consciousness dawned.


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This new historical consciousness was presaged in the seventeenth century controversies of Deism where Biblical miracles, and especially Christ's resurrection, were called into doubt. Alongside the debates about miracles came new conjectures about the authorship of the Biblical books, and investigations into possible sub-documents and written sources undergirding the present biblical texts.

A further element of controversy for Christians at that time arose in the wake of the theory of evolution as propounded in by Charles Darwin.

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The Genesis narratives of the creation and Noah's Flood were brought into doubt, and the science versus religion debates accelerated. Those in the Liberal camp sought to reconcile their faith and theology in light of the modern historical consciousness and evolutionary thought.


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Some within the Liberal camp began to redefine the message of Christ in light of socialist criticism, and the Social Gospel developed in the popular writings of Charles Sheldon the inventor of the " What Would Jesus Do " slogan and in the theological writings of Walter Rauschenbusch.

Those in the Evangelical camp began to argue that the Liberals were engaged in a massive compromise, if not betrayal, of the central tenets of Christianity.

An Examined Faith

Many of the nineteenth century Evangelicals had prized higher learning, cultural engagement, and pursued matters of social justice and reform like anti-vivisection, anti-slavery, prison reform. However, as the gospel message of the Liberals was perceived to be largely about social reform and not about personal repentance from sin, the suspicions between the two camps widened. In a multi-volume work called The Fundamentals was published, which comprised a variety of tracts that reasserted traditional Christian teachings and challenged modern skeptical thinking and Liberal Christian ideas.

It is from these volumes that the subsequent label of fundamentalist was coined in the s and in the wake of the famous Scopes trial on the teaching of evolution. In the early s a number of those who had grown up in a fundamentalist ethos began to question the eccentricities of the subculture, and particularly its disengagement from both the academy and mainstream culture.

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A new organization known as the National Association of Evangelicals was formed with the agenda of reforming society. Some of the emerging leaders of this movement, which came to be dubbed " Neo-Evangelical " included Carl F. Henry , Harold Ockenga and Billy Graham. These men were convinced that a two-pronged approach to societal transformation was possible.

One approach was to reengage the academy bringing a distinctly Christian worldview to bear on disciplines such as history, philosophy, science, literature, art and law. The other approach involved itinerant evangelistic preachers proclaiming the message at the grass roots level of society. As the Neo-Evangelical leaders pushed towards these goals, a division occurred between them and their more conservative and sometimes militant colleagues who continued to pursue the cause of fundamentalism.

Carnell had grown up as a fundamentalist and been trained at Wheaton College, which was one of the bastions of fundamentalism. He was, however, dissatisfied with the anti-intellectual tendencies he discerned in fundamentalist culture. He was therefore very receptive to the message of Neo-Evangelicals who sought to reform both fundamentalism and the wider society. As part of his contribution to challenging the culture of fundamentalism, Carnell confronted the issue initially by dealing with the advent of television.

Some fundamentalists feared that television was a device in the hands of the devil. In his book Television: Servant or Master? Carnell dealt with some of the issues concerning modern communication systems, the use of technology in the promotion of the Christian message, and engaging with wider cultural concerns. Carnell scorned the anti-intellectual tendencies in fundamentalism, and attacked its legalistic and negative mentality about culture.

Never Such Innocence Again- The Intellectual Consequence of Christian Belief (Part 1)

In Carnell was appointed the President of Fuller Seminary. As some of the Neo-Evangelicals, like Carl Henry and Harold Ockenga, had been instrumental in establishing the seminary, Carnell's rising profile as an apologist, theologian, and now seminary professor, catapulted him into the spotlight. In his book The Case for Orthodox Theology Carnell sought to separate the Neo-Evangelicals from the fundamentalists by arguing that a Reformed Orthodox theology was considerably different from fundamentalism.

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