famous Modernist is Not Far from Actual Fundamentalism, According to New York Times Writer
P. W. WILSONAugust151925
Fosdick, Leader of a Crusade
REVIEW of REVIEWS
famous Modernist is Not Far from Actual Fundamentalism, According to New York Times Writer
P. W. WILSON
THOSE of us who are content to be Spectatstors, rather interested and a bit mystified by the wordy war beging waged beteen the Modernists anti the Fundamental alists may be excused for still standing aloof and asking the ageold question: What is this all about?" " Ii :Ttre:iees tel `A ten the t \Vti Conit `I `~ r `vs -eta. 5110€' ia men, to ta:-, en rh a.ar_e;,:tinR artitnele of F rIms Piia:t --a:~~ a he assed, `` \\ hat is - or d hal his tuest itin turnored - ` a.unanswerable in t~'nis that w -• pene: rate his pagan mind, or - aas h\.Pw':. fft-,'i ae a sneer a" net in the `-tint of a man :r,.
V. ,e: r.~ ms r~a i the puhlished - on' Rev I~. II arty Emerson F ;: c iv Otcins to wontier on what con ret - ro;rcis the F'urtiamsntalists tt:m as a M eiernkt. though it is th`azn h s revutat on as a Mh'rnist at he ii~ ga.ned h s :nternational .er''Ltat. n In h `anN I. Dr. Fosdick in lv`tern theme seems to start out 1;"n~ w was .tning to croduce some Dr .n iv ry a-i Bitch-al matters, at; ..n~-';er z-7s ye-v far on hh. say -e -..~ a oh's ha :s~ to what we have a. al m :-"gar.ied as the undamentals rvnz. Itce really is a M as-' ;t .~ sermor,s ertainly lath, a r. S tt is with an lnterv;ew `~ ii ` P V.' V. "ion recently had wi' n..'c s"C~Wfl'tO Ply'JStl'cintheTtV?S re a • r~ an -cal cut of tL nrer'c*-w `v, r. rround hi-. F ohit' ::ar (j5 e must have a el `ttr. more tnan ordinary anu nenetrat `itria.~ rics~ sen fcrmaly ir - ryttuster `~ r't e Pare .kvenue Ba ( hot - a h-crc York. Mr a artittis. nt-orates Mr. F a --ader n~ c ruaade. and `it . atetTt[[O' cz - ore-er.t a c m - man and a preacher n w `: n~n. and rtearooim a-i puahc acu social."
Ot 1.. i o rer..aI provocative a aat D 5I:~~ unrt~cta~:es what h a ) . Cc - d1o\Voeiff-jn, cru at .-. hi; life. lie a ii .nrtli:e as to wel me a~ n~ ,e~ of esi r045t a c ..i( repea a wile uo~eo s!aement Dr. Los lid. rm~s-1f A Ira rn L -in, were ne alt -e, w ,uil oe Toat. reducer.! to the it `a - tin;. wIat cc new cr'jade roe . -- - - `t''' t'('!i ]:,tk, f),
In talking over the situation with Dr. Fosdick I put questions with the utmost car.dor. And it was with complete frankness that he replied. What follows is an attempt to make the position plain, both to his" supporters and to any one who wishes to be regarded as an opponent. Certain misapprehensions ought to be removed. Let us begin with the new church which it is proposed to build on the west side, a church that has been des triced erroneously as a skyscraper.
“Are you wholly convinced,” I asked, “that a skyscraper, as it is called, is the best building for a church?”
“Let me remove that misapprehension,” answered Dr. Fosdick. “To begin with, I have not at any time made the erecting of a skyscraper a condition of this pastorate. In my acceptance of the call, there was nothing of such a gesture. All I said was that there must be assured, first, the equipment, and, second, the liberty for the work which we have to undertake. And you ought to know, perhaps, how the so-called ‘conditions’ arose.
“For a considerable period, I had been asked whether I would accept this pastorate. I answered by declining. I was then urged to explain why I declined, and it was only When I had been so pressed that I stated what seemed to me to be the essentials of a modern church in this city.
“And do please drop the word ‘skyscraper,’ ” urged Dr. Fosdick. “The final plans may involve a great building, but that is not our major interest.”
It has been made clear that the idea of surrounding the church with apartments, let to tenants at a rent, was not suggested in the first Instance by Dr. Fosdick. It is, however, not difficult to imagine what are the considerations whiah have suggested this scheme.
“It is said that your associate pastors will include a Presbyterian minister,” Dr. Fosdick was reminded.
“The report is premature,” he replied. “No associate pastor has yet been appointed. As you know, I am spending a good many months in Europe and the Near East before I undertake my active
duties in New York. But I should add that we are free to associate with the church any minister, irrespective of the question whether he is Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopalian, Methodist.”
“You are still yourself a Baptist?” “Yes. And the church belongs to the Baptist Association and expects to remain
“Will you continue to baptize?” “Certainly, whether by Immersion or by sprinkling as may be desired by the individual applicant. In fact, we will welcome a Quaker to our membership on confession of faith alone.”
“Can a Fundamentalist belong to the churches?”
“By all means. He will be entirely welcome. In all churches with which I have been connected there have been Fundamentalists.”
“On evolution, do you, in fact, ask the sincere Christian to accept all that has been taught as the significance of that word? For instance, are we required to scrap the Sermon on the Mount and substitute the survival of the fittest?” “What do you mean by the fittest? If by fittest you mean strongest, then I agree that the survival of the fittest is not only bad Christianity but also bad science. The strongest in that sense has not survived. For instance, the ichthyosaurus has banished. But we have the bees and the ants. Co-operation wins, not brutality. If you define fitness as an urge toward the highest and best in life, then the fittest certainly do and ought to survive.” “Do you agree that evolution reduces man to a merely developed animal? Has biology undermined the divinity of our
“So far as I am concerned that is wholly untrue. All that we hope to do in the Park Avenue Church is based upon the unshakeable belief that man, as the son of a divine Father, should live in brotherhood with man. Our entire message is animated by a profound belief in man as a spiritual being.”
“Then to what should we attribute the trouble that has arisen in the churches?”
“It seems to me that when the churches were confronted with the challenge of science they were too ready to take refuge in merely inspirational preaching, which failed to meet the real case. We have not been teaching our people to think in religion. As a result we are fifty years behind Britain in our theological thinking.”
“You have spoken of a reformation. Do you mean by that a tearing aside of ancient formulas so as to reveal the Christ?”
“I prefer to suggest that the reformation will be the emergence of God in Christ.”
“Does this new vision of the Divine mean that we must expect a disruption or a rearrangement of the churches?”
“All of us hope that such a disturbance will be avoided. Of all methods of reformation a schism is by far the most costly. Our hope is that the forward impulse may be felt in ail the churches alike, leading them onward, as it were, without a break, and leading them not only onward, but also toward one another, so developing a broader and deeper unity, with the possibility of actual reunion in years to come.” “Does it look like that in the Presbyterian Church?” •
“If some of the counsels there ad van cedi are allowed to prevail there may be a split. The disasters may be unavoidable.”
“And if it should happen, what then?”' “I hope that it will not happen. But we cannot avoid the possibility that liberals in all the churches may draw together and constitute a communion in Christ which will offer a comprehensive home for all who desire to serve Him and to worship Him. I think, however, that the changes will be peaceful and not disruptive.”
Of the “Protestant Confessional” at which Dr. Fosdick, like many of his colleagues in the ministry, seeks to assist the searcher after God and truth and right, this is hardly the place to speak. Enough to say that in conversation he is approachable, sympathetic, excellent as listener, quick to take a point, and ready to answer it. As a theologian he belongs to an entirely new type—not “high and dry,” but human, a student among students, keenly appreciative of wholesome pleasures, desiring not so much the ascetic life as the abundant life.
In the pulpit his manner is quite his own. His diction frequently recalls the splendid cadences of the King James version, but he has no use for what has been called pulpit language. He does not hesitate when it suits his purposes to use slang like “wash-out” but only at rare intervals and for a specific reason.
It would not be true to say that his discourses are devoid of “the purple passages.” His description of a glacier as “a shining scimitar that cleaves in twain the Alpine mountain” was full of gleam and glitter. But his aim is ease, not elaboration. In preparation he writes much that he preaches. But this use of the pen is only for the purpose of clarifying his mind. He “thinks on paper.” But of this paper scarcely a scrap reaches the pulpit—merely a heading or two or a quotation. Faced by an audience, he aims not to recite the verbiage of the study but to visualize the argument or appeal, as he stands on his feet. It is by this visualizing the thought that he renders the thought visible to others. This way of preaching is, he believes, essential to the vivid presentation of religion.
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