In times of great social change, while some embrace change as progress, others condemn change as evil. Yet these reactive views are also a change from what went before. What became known as Fundamentalism held to Pre-Millennial eschatology which saw the world as evil and to be destroyed, rather than as God’s world, to be transformed. The two views of eschatology are outlined in figure Two.
The Post-millennial eschatology of Jonathan Edwards undergirded all of the missionary and benevolent efforts of the first half of the Nineteenth Century. Liberals did not talk about eschatology, but their belief in progress had similar implications. Many who could be called moderate or traditional, especially those active in the missionary movement, continued to hold post-millennial views. However pre-millennialism was growing in popularity. While some Fundamentalists separated themselves from all who did not believe as they did, others had a more catholic spirit and cooperated across lines of denomination and theology. Fundamentalists preached substitutionary atonement, the inerrancy of the Bible, pre-millennial eschatology, the divinity of Christ, miracles, and Hell.
Dwight L. Moody (1837-99), the most effective lay evangelist of the last half of the Nineteenth Century, started out a Congregationalist, but soon became independent. He promoted interchurch cooperation in his evangelistic campaigns and received strong support from Congregationalists. He developed a complex of private schools and conferences around his home Congregational church in East Northfield, Massachusetts. Moody’s views were pre-millennial, but he had a catholic approach to evangelism, cooperating with all evangelical Christians.
Cyrus I. Scofield (1843-1921), born in Michigan and raised in Tennessee, served in the Confederate Army in the Civil War. Afterward he studied law, was elected to the Kansas state legislature, and President Grant appointed him a federal attorney. His work was affected by his drinking and he left that position to practice law in Saint Louis. In 1879 he accepted Christ as his Savior, gave up drinking, and joined Pilgrim Congregational Church. After studying theology for eighteen months Scofield was commissioned by the AHMS to go to Dallas, Texas, where he was ordained pastor of First Congregational Church in 1883. In 1886 the AHMS appointed him part-time superintendent of the Society’s work in Texas and Louisiana, while continuing at First Church.
While at Dallas, Scofield founded an independent faith mission, Central American Mission, in 1890. In 1896 he proposed the founding of a Bible college which grew into Dallas Theological Seminary. Scofield became a popular speaker and teacher of pre-millennialism, and developed Bible Correspondence Courses.
From 1902 to 1909 Scofield devoted himself to preparing his reference Bible. Published in 1909, the Scofield Reference Bible contained chain references to document pre-millennialism. It is still in print and popular among Fundamentalists everywhere. The review of the work in the Congregationalist (28 August 1909), claimed, “Bible students who prefer . . . the interpretations of fifty years ago to anything of more recent date, will thoroughly enjoy The Scofield Reference Bible.”
Scofield and the Congregational denomination were drifting apart. In 1902 First Congregational Church of Dallas split, the dissenters organizing Central Congregational Church. In 1908 First Congregational withdrew from its Association when the association ordained a liberal. In 1910 Scofield transferred his ministerial standing to the southern Presbyterian Church. Scofield explained that after several years of working on the Reference Bible,
I lifted my face from my work and found that the denomination, in whose fellowship I have found great and true men of God, had resolutely moved to positions to which I could not follow. . . .
My memory holds too many instances of kind things said and done by my Congregationalist brothers to leave any room for anything but gratitude and esteem; but . . . the designation ‘Congregationalist’ would not now describe me. It stands for certain liberties which I do not allow myself, and for a certain attitude toward the Bible and historic Christianity which is not my attitude.
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