Early Fundamentalist Exotheology

Fundamentalism is used as a by-word these days and perhaps much of their reputation is deserved. I used to joke that I was trying to put the “fun” back into fundamentalism because the “duh” and the “mental” were already well covered.

Originally, Christian fundamentalism wasn’t about mangling the doctrine of separation to justify a cloistered relationship with the world-at-large, Right wing political activism, counter culture asceticism, or even conspiracy theory Satanic panics and Doomsday obsessions.

Fundamentalism was a reaction to the rise of Modernism, particularly material Darwinism and Higher Criticism. The original fundamentalists sought to defend the fundamentals of the historic Christian faith

Fundamentalist thought was widely disseminated and solidified through the publication of twelve booklets called The Fundamentals (1910-1915). The fourth booklet contained an essay by Dr. James Orr called “Science and Christian Faith.”

“The so-called “astronomical objection” to Christianity more specially takes the form of enlarging on the illimitableness of the universe disclosed by science in contrast with the peculiar interest of God in man displayed in the Christian Gospel. “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4). Is it credible that this small speck in an infinity of worlds should be singled out as the scene of so tremendous an exhibition of God’s love and grace as is implied in the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Sacrifice of the Cross, the Redemption of Man? The day is well-nigh past when even this objection is felt to carry much weight. Apart from the strange fact that up to this hour no evidence seems to exist of other worlds inhabited by rational intelligences like man — no planets, no known systems (on this point A. R. Wallace’s “Man and the Universe” may be consulted) — thoughtful people have come to realize that quantitative bigness is no measure of God’s love and care; that the value of a soul is not to be estimated in terms of stars and planets; that sin is not less awful a fact even if it were proved that this is the only spot in the universe in which it has emerged. It is of the essence of God’s infinity that He cares for the little as well as for the great; not a blade of grass could wave, or the insect of a day live its brief life upon the Wing, if God were not actually present, and minutely careful of it. Man’s position in the universe remains, by consent, or rather by proof, of science, an altogether peculiar one. Link between the material and the spiritual, he is the one being that seems fitted, as Scripture affirms he is, to be the bond of unity in the creation (Hebrews 2:6-9).

This is the hope held out to us in Christ (Ephesians 1:10). One should reflect also that, while the expanse of the physical universe is a modern thought, there has never been a time in the Christian Church when God — Himself infinite — was not conceived of as adored and served by countless hosts of ministering spirits. Man was never thought of as the only intelligence in creation.”

 

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