The Debate Over Inerrancy: Comparing B.B. Warfield and Harold Lindsell – Part 3: Harold Lindsell

If you are an Evangelical Christian (or you know any) then you know how divisive the debate over the inerrancy of scripture can be. However you might not know that every generation this battle comes up over and over again. In this blog series we will be taking a look at to iterations of this debate, then we will be comparing them. Hopefully there is something to learn from the past…..

In this post I will give a very brief sketch of Harold Lindsell’s life.

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The Men

II. Harold Lindsell

In comparison to Warfield, Lindsell has not been the focus of much scholarly work. Perhaps the reason that not many historians have focused on him is that he is such a contemporary character. Lindsell was born in 1913 and passed away in 1998. As one of Fuller seminary’s founding faculty he played an important role in giving Fuller its initial identity. Brought to Fuller to teach due to the help of his friend C.H. Henry, Lindsell served as registrar and teacher of church history and missions. Lindsell was a New Yorker and Wheaton graduate. Initially interested in business he eventually developed interests in missions and academics.[1] However, due to health issues he was unable to be a missionary in the foreign field, so instead “he completed a Ph.D. in history at New York University, specializing in U.S. relations with Latin America.”[2]

Initially Lindsell was a Presbyterian, however while teaching at Columbia Bible College in the 1940’s he became a Baptist, being ordained into the Southern Baptist Convention. In 1944 Henry went to teach at Northern Baptist Seminary, but there he ran into problems. Along with his friend C.H. Henry he supported the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission society, this displeased the administration of Northern Baptist Seminary. Because of this situation both he and Henry were put in a strange position; they were “in a sort of ecclesiastical no-man’s land. On the one had, they sympathized deeply with the cause of the separatists; on the other they rejected separatism itself.”[3] However being in “ecclesiastical no-man’s land” was a common place for members of the Fuller family to be. From the very beginning Fuller Seminary had distanced itself from the separatist fundamentalist attitude and rhetoric, yet it maintained many of the fundamentalist distinctives. Because Fuller resolved not to become separatist, it was snubbed by fundamentalists, yet it was too conservative for some of the mainline denominations. This same attitude can be used to describe Lindsell as well, initially he did not want to be a separatist he wanted to move away from issues that would distract from the presentation of the gospel, but at the same time he was resolved to stick to the fundamentals of the faith.

One final thing should be mentioned about Lindsell. He was brought on to teach at Fuller because he shared the vision that Fuller’s founders had for the school. Fuller’s founders conceived of the seminary as becoming “a great center of scholarship… and a place for training a generation of missionaries and evangelists.”[4] However there was a larger agenda working in the background as well. Fuller would be involved in ‘much more than just training pastors and missionaries. It would be involved in a cultural task, the task of saving Western civilization.”[5] This attitude of working towards “saving Western civilization” would eventually resurface Lindsell’s arguments for the inerrancy of Scripture.


[1] George Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 27.

[2] Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism,27.

[3] Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism,46.

[4] Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism, 82.

[5] Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism, 62.

 

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