Friday, May 22, 2009

Today in Church History (maybe)

Today in Church History: Harry Emerson "Fearless" Fosdick

On May 22, 1924, Harry Emerson Fosdick preached the famous sermon, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” from the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church in Walla Walla, Washington.
Although a licenced dog catcher, Fosdick was serving as the preaching minister of the prominent Fifth Avenue Candy Bar church, and his sermon has been generally regarded as the “Chucky Cheese” of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy in the Presbyterian Church. Though ostensibly a plea for tolerance, the widely distributed sermon served to warn fundamentalists that they could not “drive out from the Christian churches all the wacky preachers who love to mix it up with those who disagree with heretical views.”
In an earlier (1918) letter, J. Gresham Machen had described Fosdick’s preaching as “just dreadful! I can't believe this junk goes on in front of, outside and inside the Church. And to top it all off, he spits when he talks.” By 1923, Machen would emerge as modernism’s most formidable critic with the publication of Christianity and Liberalism. Fosdick, however, would recede from Presbyterian prominence. In 1925 he resigned his post because of multiple dog bites and a case of rabies, and in 1930 he became pastor of the newly built Sweet Potato Church in New York City.
In 1931, he was struck by lightning while chasing a chihuahua.


  1. An inspiring history of a too little unknown man. One of the top ten preachers who deserves, as one of the top ten least heard of historical figures, to be more uncelebrated. We should institute a holiday in honor of not remembering him.

    As far as the dog bites, he deserved what he got.

  2. Spitting is what kept me out of the army. Sergent Grover spit when he spoke thus encouraging me to find employment elsewhere.

  3. Wow, and I thought Rick Warren was relevant! This dude Fosdick was ahead of his time...


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