Dr. Rolland McCune Message #3 on Fundamentalism – Period of Controversy, 1918-1930

William Bell Riley, 1861-1947

When I arrived at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary I had a very sketchy idea of what fundamentalism was. It was basically informed by two books I had read just one or two years beforehand, the biography of Robert T. Ketcham (Portrait of Obedience, 1978), and William Ashbrook’s New Neutralism. I was convinced fundamentalism was the biblical path to follow, and that was one of the reasons in 1992 I chose to attend DBTS (I didn’t start until 1994; another story).

Early on in my seminary education there would be times when Dr. McCune would “get militant.” I saw the necessity of that toward unbelieving liberals like I read about in Portrait of Obedience, but had a hard time processing why Dr. McCune would also speak negatively about evangelicals and even fundamentalists who weren’t as separatistic as he felt they should be. I thought and felt, “What’s the big deal? Why so upset about this? Why can’t we work together? I think he’s being too belligerent.” I actually thought Dr. McCune wasn’t being very spiritual.

Then he gave this series on fundamentalism in 1996, and especially this message. My eyes were opened. I saw why he said what he did, saw the issues at stake, and especially saw that I was controlled by ignorance and false piety.

Dr. McCune observes at 19:50—“Who really sold the faith down the river? In the interest of piety, brotherhood, and unity, these kind always lose the farm.” And here’s an RDM observation that has stuck with me through the years:

I’ll just stand here and prophesy: Those who are evangelical and conservative but don’t have a militant, separatist mind will always lose the farm. Just mark my words.

He then concludes at 43:25–

If you learn anything this morning people, if you’re going to take a stand, take it. If you’re going to believe the fundamentals, then stand up for the fundamentals. Riley said this: ‘The enemies of the truth are always the in-betweenites.’ They always fall on the wrong side of an issue. Every time they’ll vote on the wrong side of an issue. I’ve seen this in my own life, in the controversies I’ve been in. Be strong. I can’t urge you enough. We stand for militant separatism here. That does not mean pugnacious and ugly and lying kind of militancy, but it means being firm and aggressive and standing where you stood 25, 30, 40 years ago. And when an issue comes up if you don’t have the fortitude to lead the battle then get [behind those who will lead the battle].”

This is the kind of fundamentalist Dr. McCune was. He was very gracious, patient, and giving, and he was committed to militant, separatist, fundamentalism. Let’s not forget this essential aspect of Dr. McCune, and let’s heed his admonitions and warnings.

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Period of Controversy, 1918-1930