Several denominations of the Church in the United States have entered a controversy over the varying merits of certain tenets. Two broad divisions exist: the Fundamentalists who assert an unquestioning belief in the literal interpretation of the scriptures and who adhere strictly to established dogmas, and; the Modernists, who adopt a scientific view of ecclesiastical history and who insist upon a liberal interpretation of Scriptural statements.
The struggle between the Fundamentalists and the Modernists is going on at present in the Protestant Episcopal and the Presbyterian Churches. There is a similar tendency in the Roman Catholic Church but owing to its superior methods of discipline no movement of this kind has been able to gather headway. The controversy in the protestant denominations has been recently brought into prominence by the action of the Protestant Episcopal bishops at Dallas on November 14 when they issued a Pastoral Letter defining the Fundamentalist attitude and emphasizing the Virgin Birth. At the last General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church five articles of faith were adopted, as follows. “It is the essential doctrine of the church that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Bible to keep from error; that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary; that He offered himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of His followers; that He arose from the dead with the same body in which He suffered; and that He showed his divine power by working miracles.”
The Fundamentalists of all churches are combining to drive out the liberal viewpoint whereas the liberals of the various denominations have never joined together. However, indications that the groups in the various denominations opposing the Fundamentalists are rapidly drifting together to present a united front appeared when officials of the Modern Churchmen's Union, an Episcopalian organization, said that they would gladly join with the liberals of other churches.
It has been observed that a similarity exists in the views of the present day Modernists and those of the adherents of Martin Luther. Luther held that each man is one with God and needs no interpreter standing between him and the Holy Spirit. He rejected many of the fixed Catholic dogmas. The second generation of his followers are declared to have taken alarm at Luther's temerity, especially in view of the teachings of the Jesuits who became active in the restoration of the old faith, and to have crept back to the shelter of the dogmas. The new Modernist movement has been declared to be no more than a renaissance of the original liberal Lutheran doctrine.