We are still on the road making our way through California and looking at some pivotal moments in American Christianity that happened there. We’ve been in Los Angeles, and today we are in Pasadena. It’s a beautiful sunny day and I’m on the campus of Fuller Theological Seminary. This seminary played a key role in the post-World War II evangelicalism resurgence in American Christianity. It was founded by Charles E. Fuller, a host of a weekly radio program, and by Harold Ockenga, who was pastor at Park Street Church on the East Coast in Boston. Ockenga was a student of J. Gresham Machen at Westminster. In fact, Machen preached his ordination sermon, and Machen preached his installation sermon when Ockenga was ordained as a minister in the Philadelphia area. Then, he was installed in a church in Pittsburgh, and then he made his move to Park Street.
In 1947, Fuller and Ockenga joined forces and founded Fuller Seminary. This is right at the beginning of an evangelical resurgence coming out of the war. It was founded to counteract a separatism and an anti-intellectualism of certain strands of fundamentalism. Let’s take a look at some of its founders, some of it’s early faculty, and some of the emphases of this institution. A bit then on Charles Fuller, he was born in 1887 in L.A. and he died here in Pasadena in 1967. He had a weekly radio program, the Old Fashioned Revival Hour. He was converted in 1916 and he was mentored by R.A. Torrey, president of what is now Biola College and Talbot Theological Seminary. He had a church, but in the 1930s he went on the radio. After a few years, the radio ministry grew and demanded his attention, so he passed off the church and went full into the radio program. Through the 1940s, he had an auditorium in Long Beach, California, and his radio program was recorded live before an audience.
The seminary was founded in 1947. That original faculty consisted of a number of giants of the story of American evangelicalism. Everett Harrison was a biblical scholar and part of the team. Carl F.H. Henry taught theology. The same year Fuller was founded, he published his book, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Many see that, along with the crusades by Billy Graham here in L.A., as the beginnings of the modern instantiation of evangelicalism. Also on the faculty was Harold Lindsell, who taught theology and apologetics. He would play a crucial role in the next two decades, especially with his 1976 book, The Battle for the Bible. Wilbur Smith was part of that faculty and he taught English Bible. They were soon joined by Edward J. Carnell. It was Ockenga who was the first president, and he had both his church in Boston and was president of a seminary in California.
This was a time when there was certainly air travel, but it was not quite as efficient as it is in our day. Ockenga was a busy man, and very quickly realized that this was just not tenable. So, Carnell became the second president. Initially, Fuller was committed to a conservative evangelical theology, but in the 1960s faculty were coming in and you began to detect a different influence among them and at the seminary. It all came to a head in 1972 where the doctrinal statement of Fuller Theological Seminary was changed, and the issue orbited around the word “inerrancy.”
Harold Lindsell left the seminary a few years later and wrote his book, The Battle for the Bible. Right after that we have the writing of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. Much of that was a response to things that were happening not only at Fuller, but in other pockets of American evangelicalism. A fascinating take on all this is a book by George Marsden called Reforming Fundamentalism. That book is a great education on that post-World War II American evangelicalism and the role that Fuller Theological Seminary played in that important moment of American Christianity.