Review of "Strangers in Zion" by William R. Glass

Strangers in Zion, Fundamentalists in the South, 1900-1950 by William R. Glass, Mercer University Press, 2001, 309 pp.
Fundamentalism is true orthodox Christianity represented best in the Southern states, right? WRONG!, according to William R. Glass in Strangers in Zion, Fundamentalists in the South, 1900-1950. In this well-researched and heavily-footnoted volume Glass shows how Fundamentalism emerged in the Northern states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and that while it has affinities with conservative orthodox Christianity, it is a movement all its own; a reaction to growing Liberalism and a deviation from orthodoxy in its promotion of such doctrines as dispensationalism.
Because Fundamentalism initially was a foreign (Northern) movement its followers “had difficulty making a home for themselves in the region [the South].” The Bible conferences which first promoted Fundamenalism in the North later came to the South in the first decades of the twentieth century but were never as successful as in the North. Following these early conferences, Strangers in Zion gives interesting information on the formation of southern Fundamentalist schools including John Brown University (1919), Dallas Theological Seminary (1924), Bob Jones College (1927), and Bryan College (1930, named after William Jennings Bryan).
Perhaps no school figures more prominently in the story than Dallas Theological Seminary, a seminary spurned by Presbyterians and Baptists for years, with many of their churches refusing to hire a pastor if he had attended Dallas.
A major problem was that doctrine of dispensationalism taught at places like Dallas put Fundamentalists at odds with the actual conservatives for whom that doctrine was a novelty. Dallas’ founder Lewis Sperry Chafer tried to sneak his dispensationalism in under the banner of premillennialism and claim it orthodox only to later suggest that Presbyterians do away with their confession and judge dispensationalism not by it but by the Bible.
While various southern Christians struggled against Fundamentalism because they believed that its insistence on dispensationalism “comes in to disturb the peace,” they often remained naive to the growing liberalism in the churches thinking that it was a problem in the North but not so much in the South. This allowed liberalism to slowly work its way into the southern churches, eventuating in, for example, a merger of the Southern Presbyterians with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America in 1983; a merger which fell only 1 vote short in 1955. (p. 180)
For Southern Presbyterian history Strangers in Zion is a good book to read in conjunction with For a Continuing Church by Sean Michael Lucas as, while they have some overlap, the former larger ends where the latter takes off.

2 thoughts on “Review of "Strangers in Zion" by William R. Glass”

  1. Interesting post! I do not know I agree with the author of the book’s confounding Dallas as a Fundamentalist school. John Hannah clearly denies this in . It is true the lines are blurred sometimes between fundamentalists, dispensationalists and even neo evangelicals but I do see them as different movements. I think there is a clear difference in the scholarship say of Charles Ryrie ( ) and John R. Rice ( ). The fundamentalist church I grew up in was suspicious of Dallas Seminary but recommended heartily Bob Jones University because they felt Dallas too Calvinistic. Ryrie was Amyraldian whereas Bob Jones was a Methodist Arminian (see ).

Comments are closed.