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William C. Doughty and Creedalism: The Fundamentalist-Modernist Debates in the Evangelical Covenant Church

Faculty Supervisor:
Penny Moon
Year of Project Completion:
Jonathan Root


The history of the Christian church is filled with controversy. During the early twentieth-century, modernists and fundamentalists fought a theological battle in the churches. Both believed they represented traditional Christianity and wanted their voices to be heard. In the 1950s, this debate made its way into the Evangelical Covenant Church. William C. Doughty argued that modernism plagued the Covenant Church and needed to be eradicated if the denomination wanted to remain true to its conservative evangelical history. The fundamentalist-modernist debates in the Covenant were unique because as a non-creedal church it did not adopt any of the historic creeds as conditions of membership. When Doughty emerged as a dominant voice for fundamentalism, the Covenant was ill-prepared to handle such doctrinal disputes. Lacking a creed, the denomination had no way to test heresy. However, there are examples of Christian denominations that used creeds in order to test doctrine. During the 1870s, the Presbyterian Church put its creed to the test when Francis Patton accused David Swing of heresy. The “mechanism” used by both denominations created major differences in the way they handled the debates.

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