This morning, I received the following email from Dr. Robert Sumner, a trustee (emeritus) of Cedarville University. I’m posting it here because it really does embody everything we’re fighting.
Update: Dr. Sumner wrote me back to say this: “It saddens me to learn that a Cedarville grad is “also a feminist neo-Marxist who believes going to pro-choice rallies counts as a good time.” I’m sure that makes your parents very sad if they are still living. Hopefully, they went to be with Jesus before you ‘came out.'”
Dear Friend Jones,
After weeks of being flooded with e-mails (mostly from individuals not really understanding the real issues) I have been disturbed repeatedly by derogatory references to Fundamentalism from a number of the writers. One actually made “a return to fundamentalism” the reason for stopping support for the university. Planning for some time to answer those complaints, yours is the first one that put the term on the subject line, hence I am directing my response to you.As to the Bob Gresh post, after reading it perhaps that is where some of the anti-Fundamentalist writers have been getting their ammunition. You say “… we chose a Christian university … We didn’t choose a fundamentalist university.” My dear young lady, that kind of statement boggles my mind. What kind of university did you think you were choosing? “Christian” comes in a variety of models: Fundamentalist, Evangelical, New Evangelical, Orthodox, Neo-Orthodox, etc., etc. Just to say you chose a “Christian” university and then complain about Fundamentalism does not show much depth of understanding about the issues.
Because of your youth (I am in my nineties; I didn’t just ride in on the cabbage wagon) you may not understand evangelical terms very well, but you should understand whereof you speak or be silent. Fundamentalist is a historic term highly revered by those who know its history. It was men known today as Fundamentalists (who later called themselves by that name) that saved the visible church from the ravages of German rationalism at the turn of the last century. The great educational institutions of the first half of the 20th century were openly and unashamedly Fundamentalist. So were the great evangelical missionary organizations that did such a tremendous job of going into all the world with the message of redemption through the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Cedarville was founded by Presbyterians who were openly Fundamentalists. When the Baptists took over the school they were openly Fundamentalists – and chosen by the Presbyterians to be beneficiaries of their school because of their Fundamentalism. Doctrinally the two were very different on many issues, but they were united on the fundamentals of the faith.
Dr. James T. Jeremiah (so highly revered in memory his name is spoken even yet on campus with a holy hush) was openly a Fundamentalist and called himself one. He brought the school from the brink of destruction to becoming, in 25 years, a highly respected institution in all circles of Christendom. His successor, Dr. Paul Dixon, who carried on in the Jeremiah mold for another 25 years and greatly enlarged the school’s reputation and growth – who is still alive and can speak for himself – will tell you that he is a Fundamentalist. Whether you like it or not, or appreciate it, you are a graduate of a school known – and built on that foundation – as a Fundamentalist school.
The organization I head, Biblical Evangelism (see our web) is a Fundamentalist movement. So is our magazine that we have published since 1966, The Biblical Evangelist (go to the CedarvilleUniversity library and peruse copies or read it on our web). Every printed copy we mail out says at the top of page one: “A Voice for Historic Evangelical Fundamentalism.”
Dr. Jeremiah, who personally invited me to be on the Cedarville board over a half-century ago in 1962, was long on our board at Biblical Evangelism. Dr. Dixon has also been long on our board – in fact; he is still on it.
And you have at least one outspoken Fundamentalist on the Cedarville board today: me! While my status at present is emeriti, I cando everything and receive everything coming from the school and attend all its meetings, regular or specially called – but, after speaking freely on any issue – the only thing I cannot do is vote.
I was formerly the Associate Editor (and serving in other capacities, including the Sword board) with The Sword of the Lord under Dr. John R. Rice, the largest independent weekly in America (circulation over a quarter of a million every week) at the time. It was out-and-out Fundamentalist; no apologies. Then I founded The Biblical Evangelist, another out-and-out Fundamentalist magazine.WheatonCollege recognized The Biblical Evangelist as one of today’s two most representative voices for Fundamentalism. Years ago I served terms on the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (long a supporter of Cedarville in the early days of its struggles as a Baptist liberal arts institution) on its governing body, the Council of Fourteen (now Council of Eighteen). I am a graduate of the first (and at that time only) GARBC school, the Baptist Bible College & Seminary (Clarks Summit, PA). The first hardbound book the Regular Baptist Press ever published was my Evangelism: The Church on Fire! still in print (paperbound) after well over a half-century. I have written Sunday school lessons for the Regular Baptist Press and spoken at many of its seminars and conferences across the country. I delivered the keynote address for the denomination at two of its annual meetings. I contributed devotionals for its short-lived devotional publication, My Devotion. I have also written nearly fifty books. I say all of this merely to note that I know Fundamentalism; I am not a religious novice.
Admittedly, the terms “Fundamentalist” and “Fundamentalism” have come into some reproach over the years because of the secular media referring to every religious quack like Herbert W. Armstrong or nut group like the WestboroBaptistChurch in Wichita (KS) as fundamentalists. It highlights with glee “fundamentalist Mormons” (polygamists) and “fundamentalist Muslims” (terrorists), etc. That caused us to clarify our name in our magazine, adding ‘historic’ and ‘evangelical’ to ‘Fundamentalism,’ but that doesn’t change the fact of history or the movement’s history.
Some of the greatest men in modern religious history were Fundamentalists: John F. Walvoord, long president of Dallas Seminary, was a Fundamentalist and even wrote a paper saying so and telling why. So was B. B. Warfield, James M. Gray, H. A. Ironside, A. T. Pierson, C. I. Scofield, Henry C. Thiessen, Arno Gaebelein, W. H. Griffith Thomas, H. G. C. Moule, Reuben Archer Torrey, A. C. Dixon, Sir Robert Anderson, Robert Dick Wilson, J. Gresham Machen (although he didn’t like the term), and a host of others.
The Ivy League schools – Yale, Harvard, Princeton – started as Fundamentalist institutions (although the term was not used in those days), but little by little ‘progressive’ error crept in and today they are bastions of infidelity. You see “humans” control institutions and we are all frail, weak and imperfect. That is why “the seeds of death” are in everything; “fallen man” bears that responsibility. If our Lord tarries His coming (to use a feeble human expression) Cedarville will one day go by the wayside and future generations of believers will have to start new schools. It is inevitable! That is why the duty of every institution’s trustees is to battle those inroads vigorously, delaying for their own generation the inevitable
decline as long as possible.
Your letter, like almost all that we are receiving, threatens to stop recommending the school, stop giving donations, etc., etc., unless the trustees do as you say. While we appreciate, cherish and love every alumnus, every donor, and every cheerleader of CU – may their tribe be increased – the day we have to depend on them for our life, I say, “Let ’er die!” Like the old “God is Our Co-Pilot” bumper stickers that were so popular until someone said, “Why don’t you just let Him be your Pilot?” we appreciate all our CU Co-Pilots, but we must never forget that He is our Pilot, our Provider, our Mainstay, our All! If He cannot keep us afloat, we will sing “Amazing Grace” as we sink beneath the waves.
Thank you for your interest in Cedarville and your comments. I think you are a fine young lady and deeply love the Lord and His Word. Just, perhaps, mistaken as to Fundamentalism and its history.
Sincerely for souls,
Robert L. Sumner