Excerpts from articles on

Harry Emerson Fosdick

See also The New Neutralism


Harry Emerson Fosdick: "A Baptist minister, he rose to prominence as the weekly preacher at New York City's First Presbyterian Church (1918-1924). Fundamentalist Christians nationwide attacked his view that 'modern Christians' could doubt doctrines such as the literal truth of the Bible and the virgin birth of Jesus and still remain faithful.


"In a sermon, 'Shall the Fundamentalists Win?' (1922), he spoke out against the exclusion of modernists and their views. A Fosdick publicist mailed it to thousands of U.S. churches, fueling the controversy. Not wanting a prolonged national fight with Presbyterian conservatives, Fosdick left and in 1925 became pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church. The church moved in 1930 to a cathedral-like structure in Upper Manhattan, built by Park Avenue member John D. Rockefeller Jr., and became the interdenominational Riverside Church. Fosdick preached there until his retirement in 1946."

Harry Emerson Fosdick : "...if you own any written by Harry Emerson Fosdick, I wouldn’t give them to your young children to read.... Valerie Jacobsen has this to say about Fosdick and his writing:

"Harry Emerson Fosdick denied the Resurrection, Special Creation, and Jesus Christ’s Deity and worked to teach and promote these unorthodox views. His mission is plainly evidenced in his books, including his Landmark books for children…"

"Gary North... had some trivial information about Fosdick in an article last year. During the tumultuous years of communist concerns as well as the liberal take-over of many church denomination, Harry Emerson Fosdick and his brother were in the middle of many important events on both fronts:

"Note: For all you hard-core conspiracy buffs, [John Foster] Dulles served as the ecclesiastical defense counsel for Harry Emerson Fosdick in 1924 when Fosdick was brought to trial for liberalism. Fosdick was the brother of Raymond Fosdick, who by 1924 had been running the Rockefeller Foundation for three years. Harry was on the Foundation’s Board. John D. Jr. built the Riverside Church for Fosdick after Fosdick resigned from the Presbyterian Church in 1924, because, as a Baptist minister in a Presbyterian pulpit, Fosdick at last had decided that he could not affirm the Presbyterians’ 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith, which nobody had previously asked him to do."

"Which brings me to the post which inspired this post. The Pyromaniacs posted an article by John MacArthur about Harry Emerson Fosdick and the Emerging Theology of Early Liberalism. It’s an interesting history lesson as well as a warning to the church today, which Pastor MacArthur thinks is poised on the brink of the same liberal plunge."

From "Harry Emerson Fosdick and the Emerging Theology of Early Liberalism"

by John MacArthur, 21 March 2006 

"In the early part of the 20th century liberalism took mainline Protestant churches by storm. In fact, it might be argued that the first half of the century ushered in the most serious spiritual decline since the Protestant Reformation. Historic evangelicalism,1 which had dominated Protestant America since the days of the founding fathers, was virtually driven out of denominational schools and churches....

"One of the most popular spokesmen for liberal Christianity in its heyday was Harry Emerson Fosdick, pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City. ...Fosdick wrote,

"...in the theology of these recent years we have taught a very mild, benignant sort of deity.... Indeed, the god of the new theology has not seemed to care acutely, about sin; certainly he has not been warranted to punish heavily; he has been an indulgent parent and when we have sinned, a polite 'Excuse me' has seemed more than adequate to make amends...."

"...Fosdick ultimately would not acknowledge the literal reality of God's wrath toward impenitent sinners. To him, 'the wrath of God' was nothing more than a metaphor for the natural consequences of wrongdoing. His theology would not tolerate a personal God whose righteous anger burns against sin. To Fosdick, the threat of hell fire was only a relic of a barbaric age. 'Obviously, we do not believe in that kind of God any more.'

Fosdick wrote those words almost ninety years ago. Sadly, what was true of liberalism then is all too true in the so-called "evangelical movement" today. ...

"Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God" (Rom. 11:22).

"Ironically, an overemphasis on divine beneficence actually works against a sound understanding of God's love. It has given multitudes the disastrous impression that God is kindly but feeble, or aloof, or simply unconcerned about human wickedness. Is it any wonder that people with a such a concept of God defy His holiness, take His love for granted, and presume on His grace and mercy? Certainly no one would fear a deity like that.

"Yet Scripture tells us repeatedly that fear of God is the very foundation of true wisdom (Job 28:28; Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Mic. 6:9). People often try to explain away the sense of those verses by saying that the "fear" called for is nothing more than a devout sense of awe and reverence. Certainly the fear of God includes awe and reverence, but it does not exclude literal holy terror. "It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread" (Isa. 8:13).

"We must recapture some of the holy terror that comes with a right understanding of God's righteous anger. We need to remember that God's wrath does burn against impenitent sinners (Ps. 38:1-3). That reality is the very thing that makes His love so wonderful. We must therefore proclaim these truths with the same sense of conviction and fervency we employ when we declare the love of God. It is only against the backdrop of divine wrath that the full significance of God's love can be truly understood. That is precisely the message of the cross of Jesus Christ. After all, it was on the cross that God's love and His wrath converged in all their majestic fullness.

Note: These are excerpts "from the new Shepherds' Fellowship blog, Pulpit Live. John MacArthur... is senior pastor of Grace Community Church and perhaps is best known as the teaching voice of 'Grace to You,' heard daily on hundreds of radio stations worldwide.'"

1. From the time of the Protestant Reformation until fairly recently, the expression evangelical has referred to those who believe that the Bible is inspired and absolutely authoritative, and who therefore understand that salvation from sin is available through faith in Christ alone, not by any works or sacraments. When I speak of "historic evangelicalism," I'm using the term in that specific and technical sense, minus all the contemporary baggage the word evangelical seems to have acquired.
2. Harry Emerson Fosdick, Christianity and Progress (New York: Revell, 1922), 173-74 (emphasis added).

"Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things..."  2 Timothy 4:2-5

See Biblical Discernment and Don't Be Deceived!

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