on my first fundamentalist heros

I grew up in a rough oil town on the edge of the Alberta prairie. My family attended a church that is part of the Church of God in Western Canada, a branch of the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). The church was the most conservative church in our town at the time, I have no idea how it ranks today. My mother graduated from two colleges of this group (Alberta Bible Institute, Camrose, Alberta, and Warner Pacific College, Portland, Oregon.) That connection further bound our family to this body of believers.

Daniel S. Warner, a holiness preacher in the American mid-west, founded the Church of God in 1872. From this group have come such notable figures as Doug Oldham, Bill and Gloria Gaither, and other prominent Christian musicians [just a note: this is a statement of fact, not an endorsement]. The group is not charismatic, although there are connections between the Church of God and the original Azusa Street revival. The preacher who led that meeting was at some point defrocked by the Church of God, partly because of his teachings on the Holy Spirit, if I recall correctly.

Over time, like so many religious groups, the Church of God drifted from its foundations. By the time I was a teenager (1970-1975) compromise in many forms appeared within its ranks. Some of its teachers were out and out liberals in theology. One of the distinctives of the CoG is its resistance to any kind of creeds, hence they have no safe guard whatsoever on theological drift. [That is not to say that a creed by itself will prevent drift.]

During these years, my first fundamentalist hero did what he could to stem the drift in the denominational organs of our group. My second fundamentalist hero did the same. These men failed in their efforts, but their vigor and conviction instilled a fundamentalist spirit in me.

One of these men is my dad. My dad grew up on a homestead on the Alberta prairies, went to a one room school house through grade 9 and finished grade 10 by correspondence. He later took a few grade 12 courses by correspondence while working to support his young family. Through the years he has been a reader and has educated himself at least to the equivalent of a bachelors degree, by my assessment. He made his way in this world first by working on oil drilling rigs in our oil rich province, then by starting an insurance and a real estate business in our home town. (I can remember the days when he would work graveyard on the rigs, then go work in his office all day long. Sometimes customers would have to wake him up at his desk to do business.)

My dad grew up with a God-fearing Irish mother and an unsaved father. As a young man, various circumstances and the influence of two godly pastors led my dad to Christ and discipled him in the Christian walk. It was in my home church that my dad met my mother and the rest is history.

My second fundamentalist hero was my mother’s brother. My uncle grew up on a slightly more prosperous farm north of Edmonton, with a godly mother and an unsaved father. (Both of my grandfather’s professed faith in Christ late in life.) My uncle was also born again as an adult. He pursued the ministry, attending Alberta Bible Institute, my mother’s alma mater, and then serving in pastorates in each of the four western provinces of Canada for the Church of God. He went to glory after his last pastorate, suffering from brain cancer.

These men were involved sometimes separately and sometimes together in agitating for true doctrine and fidelity to the fundamentals of the faith within the Church of God. Recently, while researching something else, I ran across copies of letters from 1980. Three were written by my dad, and one by my uncle.

It did my heart good to see the words of these men who made an impression on me for their courage to stand in the face of withering criticism and opposition. They manifested the grace of God and willingness to fight for the faith which must characterize true believers.

I plan to post these letters here to give you a sense of the kind of men they are. For me they are two of my first fundamentalist heros.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3