Harry Emerson Fosdick and the Fundamentalist Controversy

The Fundamentalist Controversy and how we understand truth

By 1925, Modernism had fundamentally changed the world. It changed our thinking, our politics, our everyday life. In this series, I am trying to show how it has also changed our faith. This is more than just historical interest. These events are the reason we think and approach faith the way we do today. Today, we’re looking at the fundamentalist controversy and how it continues to influence conversations within the church.

This change didn’t happen easily. As we saw in the reflection on the Roman Catholic Church, there was a strong backlash. This backlash happened in the North American Protestant church as well. Today, I want to look at one figure at the heart of these controversies in the early 20th century: Harry Emerson Fosdick, a New York City pastor who sought to answer the fundamentalist controversy. In the next one, we will turn to a man who influenced Fosdick: Walter Rauschenbusch, the founder of the Social Gospel Movement.

Harry Emerson Fosdick

Whenever such a [new] situation has arisen, there has been only one way out—the new knowledge and the old faith had to be blended in a new combination

Harry Emerson Fosdick

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969) is best remembered for a famous sermon that got him thrown out of his church. Even so, this sermon moved John D. Rockefeller so much that he had thousands of copies published and built a new church for Fosdick to preach in.

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Mission to Missional

Imagining toward the future

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

— Paul (2 Corinthians 5:20)

The future of the church will be shaped by Christian leaders who are daring enough to engage this cultural moment with a fresh missional imagination.

Winfield Bevins

I have been writing about what I think the future church will emphasize. A word we hear often is ‘missional.’ ‘Missional’ is an exciting approach to understanding the church. But what does it really mean?

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