Isaac Massey Haldeman: The Life and Religious Imagination of an Early Fundamentalist – a preliminary study – Part One

A scattering of references on the contemporary Christian fundamentalist scene, a numerous corpus of monographs, pamphlets, and sermons, and at least a brief mention in almost every major work that addresses the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy; it seems too wonderful an opportunity for a researcher that no other historian has ever written a significant biography or analysis of the ministry and theology of Isaac Massey Haldeman. Indeed, Haldeman presents to the historian an almost Melchizadekian sort of enigma. Why such a broadly circulated corpus of sermons, tracts, and pamphlets with no apparent custodian of a biography? How does a man attain such a stature for such a duration of time and yet not have any significant exposition of his life, ministry career, or theology? I do not think that these particular questions will be directly answered by this series of posts, but some clues may emerge. What seems most necessary is a synopsis of  the preacher’s life and ministry – one that is introductory, giving the bare outline of his life and thought.  When this is done, even briefly, I believe that the reader will find Haldeman to be a man of intense religious imagination, and that this imagination begins in his early ministry and funds his entire ministry up until his death. This imagination fired his pulpit style, fueled his theological emphases, and funded the accoutrements of his ministry. In coming to such a conclusion, I have researched what is known to exist concerning his life and ministry and his rather prolific extant literary corpus. While the former remains somewhat limited, my intent is to continue to follow leads to more sources of information. Even without any significant insight into his private life and thought, copious amounts of material abounds in the holdings of individual pastors’ libraries, church libraries, seminary, college, and even university libraries. Scores of  Haldeman’s pamphlets, more than a dozen of his monographs, and a handful of his individual sermons remain extant. This along with the records of First Baptist Church of New York City provides ample material with which to begin to form a reasonable assessment of his religious imagination.

And, by the way, as an aside – if you have any knowledge concerning the whereabouts of Haldeman’s personal papers or any more information leading to a better understanding of Haldeman’s life and ministry, please contact me here or at vcarpenter@gmail.com. I am endeavoring to do the preliminary work for a dissertation on the life of this prominent figure in Baptist and fundamentalist history. More interestingly, Haldeman’s church – First Baptist Church of New York City is now pastored by one who who is well known in the circles in which I move – Matt Hoskinson. While doing research for this story, I spent a week in New York at the church, riding the subway from Queens, changing trains at Grand Central Station, and finally getting off at 79th and Broadway – right at the doorstep of the church. An assistant pastor was trying to keep things going. There are great needs in New York City, and I pray that Pastor Hoskinson will be able to give that ministry vision and a religious imagination commensurate with that of I. M. Haldeman.

SDG

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6 thoughts on “Isaac Massey Haldeman: The Life and Religious Imagination of an Early Fundamentalist – a preliminary study – Part One

    • Indeed, I really do not have a penchant for alliteration. It sort of happened here, but I will await your more substantive criticisms. It might help if I explained that the text of the post is based upon a paper that was presented in front of a more public forum, so when I found that I had nearly alliterated the thesis, I went all the way. The “fired” bespeaks my affections for Delnay. The “funded” bespeaks my recent reading in postmodern theology, in particular Radical Orthodoxy. The “fueled” was appropriated ad hoc.

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