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    Presbyterian Controversy: Fundamentalists, Modernists, and Moderates

    By: Bradley J. Longfield

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    From 1922 to 1936 the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. was torn by conflict. Fundamentalists, led by Clarence E. Macartney, William Jennings Bryan, and J. Gresham Machen, modernists, guided by Henry Sloane Coffin, and moderates, directed by Charles R. Erdman and Robert E. Speer, struggled over theological questions and their implications for such issues as ordination requirements, the role of Princeton Theological Seminary, and foreign missions. The church managed to maintain its institutional unity at the height of the conflict in the mid-1920s, but the struggle resulted in a loosening of the church's doctrinal standards, the reorganization of Princeton Seminary, the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary, and the eventual birth of the Presbyterian Church of America. Weaving together the history of this ecclesiastical conflict with biographies of the six leaders, Longfield shows that theological concerns, though primary, were not the only issues in the struggle. He demonstrates that social and cultural considerations profoundly contributed to the roles of the leaders and to the outcome of the conflict. Finally, Longfield traces the current decline of the Presbyterian Church and other mainline denominations back to this period, arguing that, by embracing doctrinal pluralism they undermined the very foundations of their mission to the world. He concludes that renewal can only be based on a biblical and creedal faith distinct from the values and norms of the surrounding culture.

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