Reflecting on the founding of Fuller Theological Seminary 50 years ago, George M. Marsden, history professor at the University of Notre Dame, describes how evangelicals have changed in the last half-century. The article, adapted from Fuller's Theology, News and Notes, is condensed from CT's sister publication Books & Culture: A Christian Review (Nov./Dec. 1997, print only).
It is difficult for evangelical Christians today to imagine the world of their forebears in 1947 when Fuller Theological Seminary was founded. Evangelicals in the immediate postwar era were still very much shaped by the culture of nineteenth-century revivalism. They had set themselves apart from drinking, smoking, dancing, card playing, and theater attendance. They had built their own subculture of revival, where they sang gospel songs of Ira D. Sankey or Fanny J. Crosby and learned of the preeminent duty to witness. They knew their dispensational charts, opposed Protestant modernists, and had an intense distrust of Catholics. Like most Americans, they feared communism and worried about the bomb but were glad that only "we" had it. They viewed America as sin-ridden and—if revival did not come—condemned; yet they were enthusiastic patriots.
So much has changed since those pretelevision, pre-Billy Graham days. A renewed evangelicalism has grown out of the old fundamentalist coalition, one more influential than old-line ecumenical Protestantism. And even within the old-line churches, evangelical voices are gaining strength. Today one is not surprised to learn of evangelical prayer in a congressional caucus or an NFL pregame huddle.
This success was not the result of plans by Harold Ockenga, Carl Henry, or even Billy Graham, although they made significant ...1
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