the vocabulary of compromise

Speaking of my education, I have long thought it might be interesting to reproduce some of my notes from Church History class while in seminary. The area of interest is my notes on fundamentalism and the new evangelical compromise. My professor for this class was Dr. Panosian, but my notes should be no reflection on him! Some of them are direct quotations, but I take full responsibility for any errors.

Dr. P was famous for lists. The first lecture notes I’ll blog for you is called ‘The Vocabulary of Compromise/Infidelity’. You’ll no doubt recognize some of these terms. My sub-header says “words that must be clearly defined for our own use”.

Here we go:

  1. Commitment
  2. Decision
  3. Encounter
  4. Crisis
  5. Dialogue (more on this one below)
  6. Confrontation
  7. Divine
  8. Ecumenical
  9. Mission
  10. Reconciliation
  11. Born-again
  12. Polarization
  13. Inner-city
  14. Disadvantaged
  15. Love
  16. Relevance
  17. Compassion
  18. Understanding
  19. Puritan (Puritanical)
  20. Pious
  21. Victorian

We were talking about political correctness before political correctness was cool. This would have been, I think, the spring of 1980.

After #5, Dialogue, I have these notes:

If dialogue is to occur, these assumptions must be made:

  • Neither party possesses the truth
  • Each can learn from the other
  • The fruit of dialogue will be greater progress toward the truth

Can you see how dangerous a word ‘dialogue’ is? I don’t think that it is in vogue as much now as it once was, but it is a key word and was an especially key word in the 1970s and 1980s. In large measure, it is an explanation for the incredible drift in doctrine in broader evangelicalism. The more open one is to dialogue, the less sure their moorings and more easily compromised their doctrine.

I would suggest that fundamentalists might not be open to dialogue on an official level, but the wide appreciation for and uncritical (or barely critical) use of evangelical books may create a ‘dialogue’ in one’s mind with the thought of the evangelicals that put them out. The result may well be doctrinal drift.

Another note appeared just after #10, Reconciliation:

This is a result of the recurring theme of Babel throughout the history of the world and the church. Satan’s mission is to achieve the unity of man before God unifies men through Christ.

The language of this note suggests the seriousness of the battle. I suppose some would discount the notion that our contending is over the ‘theme of Babel’. The more you accept that we are part of that age-old struggle, the more you will apply fundamentalist philosophy in your life. The less you accept the notion, the more likely you will be able to go along with the easy words of compromise.



  1. This was good. I liked the reminder about the unity of man—Babel, Babylon.