Dyrness on Fundamentalism and Modernity

“How can conservative Christians, who entered the century determined to oppose modernism and all it stood for, end up being so influenced by the culture this modernism produced? We have noted that Marsden stressed the anti-modern character of twentieth-century fundamentalism, which led to its consistent opposition and the cultural polemics it engendered. In his history of Wheaton College during this period (1921-65), for example, Michael Hamilton argues that Wheaton demonstrates the ability of fundamentalism, like its evangelical forebears, to adopt modern technology and appropriate (especially) the youth culture in its evangelistic and mission institutions.”

What is happening here? How did a movement nourished by the separatism of the holiness movement become so enamored of cultural innovation? The answer, I believe, lies in the inability of conservative Christians to understand the nature of the cultural challenge and their tendency to conceive of its problems in strictly intellectual terms, they did not understand the challenge of social modernism.”

William Dyrness, The Earth is God’s, New York: Orbis Books, 1997, pg 61.

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