Billy Sunday Evangelism Evolves

Billy Sunday was responsible for an unprecedented paradigm shift in evangelism practices and theology. The template for salvation had changed forever. It isn’t stating it too strongly that evangelism can be identified as pre-Billy Sunday and post-Billy Sunday. As the pre-Billy Sunday ministers died off, so did the understanding of the workings of the Holy Spirit in the penitent.

Why did the evangelical community allow the big lie of 100 percent conversion to be perpetuated? There were many factors. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, a war for the soul of America was raging that threatened the very survival of what we now call Fundamental Christianity. Liberal theology from Germany and modern science openly challenged the authority of the Scriptures. Many denominations were in the process of adapting their theology to the new lights.

Billy Sunday was the champion of Fundamentalism. The old axiom, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” certainly applied to Sunday. Several of D.L. Moody’s successors were disgusted with Sunday’s influence over evangelism, but veiled their criticism. In the end, perhaps they allowed the lie because it made evangelism look more powerful than ever before, able to compete with the lures of the modern world.


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