The Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy

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This Week in AG History — September 17, 1927

By Darrin Rodgers
Originally published on AG-News, Mon, 16 Sep 2013 – 4:24 PM CST

Stanley H. Frodsham, in a September 17, 1927, Pentecostal Evangel article, weighed in on the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy that was dividing mainline Protestant churches in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy referred to the debate sparked by theological liberals who sought to undermine traditional views on doctrine, ethics, and the authority of Scripture. Frodsham viewed this debate as evidence of a great “falling away” from the Christian faith.

Frodsham quoted extensively from an article by a liberal Protestant minister who praised efforts by theologians to reject “antiquated hokus-pokus” and “hallowed tradition” in their search for “truth and freedom.” The liberal minister approvingly noted that theologians were working to supplant “superstitious reverence” for the Bible.

What resulted from this spread of theological liberalism? The liberal minister admitted that these beliefs were responsible for the decline of mainline churches. He wrote, “Protestantism as an organized religious force shows signs of rapid disintegration.”

Frodsham warned that Pentecostal churches could easily become “contaminated with germs of faithlessness.” He wrote, “Church history gives us the story of declension after declension…We need to pray that we do not become lukewarm.” Frodsham admonished Pentecostals to avoid the mistakes of the mainline churches by continuing to offer “pure religion” and “spiritual food.”

Pentecostals, according to Frodsham, are “a people who stand for the absolute verbal inspiration of the Bible, and who accept that Book as the all-sufficient rule for faith and practice. When ungodly critics are denying all the miracles recorded in His Word, God is once more confirming His Word with signs following as at the beginning, witnessing to the truth of the Scriptures with both signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost.”

Most mainline Protestant denominations experienced divisions in the 1920s and 1930s over the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy. Many conservatives who left mainline denominations helped to form what became the fundamentalist and evangelical movements. In the early 1940s, the Assemblies of God solidified its relationship with the broader evangelical movement and became a founding member of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Read the article by Stanley H. Frodsham, “From the Pentecostal Viewpoint,” on pages 2 and 3 of the September 17, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Soul Winning Methods” by Charles E. Robinson

* “What Hinders Your Healing?” by Carrie Judd Montgomery

And many more!

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. For current editions of the Evangelclick here.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA

Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free:  877.840.5200
Email: Archives@ag.org

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