Whoever evaluates the modernist-fundamentalist controversy from the standpoint of the sixth decade must sense the current distaste for religious contention, must sense the deference to ecumenical cooperation. In the face of present pressures for unity and unanimity, the ministry no doubt reflects an increasing impatience with controversy because of its apparent historical fruitlessness and futility. Ecumenical inclusivism rolls on; each passing year registers new mergers and numerical gains while the outside minority diminishes.

An added pressure is the destructive impact of religious controversy upon the unchurched multitudes. For more than half a century liberal preaching defined the evangelical message as irrelevant and meaningless for modern man. Conservative pulpits, in turn, affirmed that whatever else modernism might be, it was not Christianity. As the decades passed, increasing multitudes detached themselves from the churches. All the while modernist inveighed against fundamentalist and fundamentalist against modernist. Unchurched multitudes have been watching from the sidelines, justifying their detachment from a pugilistic spirituality.

Alongside these pressures against church strife engendered out of consideration for the larger Protestant witness and for the unchurched masses, evangelicals within their own camp experienced disappointments due to religious controversy. Deploring the strategy that delivered one influential post after another to liberal denominational leadership, conservatives saw some of their own leaders fall prey to the lust for ecclesiastical prominence. Theological controversy got out of hand; not only was it appended to personal ambition, but it was made to serve unnecessary discord and division. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.