By David Cloud - I am convinced that New Evangelicalism is one of the greatest dangers facing fundamentalist churches in general and the independent Baptist movement in particular, and to successfully resist it requires the ability to identify it.
I am amazed at how common it is for fundamentalist and independent Baptist churches not to carefully indoctrinate their people in the dangers of New Evangelicalism, at the large number of fundamentalist pastors that do not carefully identify the popular, influential New Evangelicals so the church members are properly informed of this danger.
In February I preached at the Mid-Winter Bible Conference hosted by the Independent Baptist Church of Ramsey, Minnesota, pastored by Chuck Nichols. This four-day conference focused on warning God’s people of the issues that they must face today. How many independent Baptist churches would host such a conference?
New Evangelicalism cannot be ignored, because church members are confronted with it on every hand, particularly through radio and television personalities, through Christian bookstores, and through relationships with family and friends.
The following are some of the characteristics of New Evangelicalism that will enable the Bible believer to identify and avoid it.
1. NEW EVANGELICALISM IS CHARACTERIZED BY A REPUDIATION OF SEPARATION
“The ringing call for A REPUDIATION OF SEPARATISM . . . received a hearty response from many evangelicals. ... Neo-evangelicalism [is] different from fundamentalism in its REPUDIATION OF SEPARATISM” (Harold J. Ockenga).
The very first mark of New Evangelicalism is its repudiation of separation. The New Evangelical does not like separation and refuses to allow it to play a significant role in his life and ministry. This was what Ockenga emphasized two times in his Fuller Seminary speech in 1948.
Evangelicals do not separate from denominations that are infiltrated with modernism, such as the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, the American Baptist Convention, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Anglican Church. The Billy Graham religion column gave the following advice to a Roman Catholic couple who were disillusioned with their church and were thinking about leaving: “Don’t pull out of the church. Stay in it ... help your church” (Sun Telegram, Jan. 6, 1973).
Evangelicals practice ecumenical evangelism:
Billy Graham has worked hand-in-hand with Roman Catholics and theological modernists since the 1950s, and yet he is praised and exalted by the evangelical world.
Billy Graham’s 1957 New York City Crusade was sponsored by the liberal Protestant Council and featured prominent theological modernists. At a preparatory banquet held the previous fall (September 17, 1956) at the Hotel Commodore in New York, Graham stated that he wanted Jews, Catholics, and Protestants to attend his meetings and then go back to their own churches. This statement was confirmed in the Sept. 18 edition of the New York Evening Journal. The New York Crusade was the catalyst for Graham’s break with fundamentalists such as Bob Jones, Sr. and John R. Rice of the Sword of the Lord.
The Graham organization and the co-operating churches in the 1957 San Francisco Crusade appointed Dr. Charles Farrah to follow up the “converts” and to report on the same. His findings were announced December 16. According to the Oakland Tribune, of the roughly 1,300 Catholics who came forward, PRACTICALLY ALL REMAINED CATHOLIC, CONTINUED TO PRAY TO MARY, GO TO MASS, AND CONFESS TO A PRIEST (Oakland Tribune, Wed., Dec. 17, 1958).
Graham has affiliated with and endorsed hundreds of rank modernists and Roman Catholic leaders. At the 1957 New York crusade, Graham spent ten minutes eulogizing Dr. Jesse Baird, a well-known liberal and apostate, calling him a great servant of Christ. At the 1957 San Francisco Crusade, Graham honored Episcopal Bishop James Pike, who had blatantly denied the deity, virgin birth, miracles, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Methodist Bishop Gerald Kennedy was chairman of the 1963 Los Angeles Crusade, and Graham called him “one of the ten greatest Christian preachers in America,” even though he denied practically every doctrine of the Christian faith. The first Sunday of that Crusade, Graham took several minutes to eulogize the modernist E. Stanley Jones, calling him “my good friend and trusted advisor.” Graham’s 1997 autobiography is filled with references to his friendship with apostates.
The practice of ecumenical evangelism has spread throughout evangelicalism. Bill Bright, head of Campus Crusade, Luis Palau, and other prominent evangelicals have walked in Graham’s footsteps in ecumenical evangelism. While reporting on Amsterdam ‘86, reporter Dennis Costella asked Luis Palau if he would cooperate with Roman Catholics. Palau replied that he certainly would and admitted that it was being done.
Even the most conservative of Southern Baptists support Graham’s ecumenical evangelism. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has a course entitled Christian Life and Witness, which trains students in crusade counseling techniques. On May 3, 2001, the Baptist Press ran an article entitled “Hundreds of Southern Students Prepare for Graham Crusade.” R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of Southern Seminary and a prominent conservative SBC voice, served as Chairman of Graham’s crusade. He told the Baptist Press, “Nothing else has brought together the kind of ethnic and racial and denominational inclusivity as is represented in this crusade; nothing in my experience and nothing in the recent history of Louisville has brought together such a group of committed Christians for one purpose.” Southern Seminary proudly hosts the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. To say that all of the participants of Graham’s inclusive evangelicalism crusades are “committed Christians” is to refuse to apply critical doctrinal standards.
Evangelicals quote heretics with no warning to their readers:
Consider, for example, well-known evangelical writer and conference speaker Warren Wiersbe. His practice of quoting rank modernists without any warning was described by Jerry Huffman, editor of the Calvary Contender: “In a panel discussion at the April 1987 Tennessee Temple Bible conference, Wiersbe expressed gladness that Malcolm Muggeridge -- a liberal Roman Catholic -- ‘backed up’ one of Wiersbe’s views. In a Dec. 1977 Moody Monthly article, Wiersbe endorsed writings by liberal authors Thielicke, Buttrick, and Kennedy. More recently he praised books by other liberals such as Barclay, Trueblood, and Sockman” (Calvary Contender, July 15, 1987).
Consider also Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Church fame. In keeping with his “judge not” philosophy, Warren uncritically quotes from a wide variety of theological heretics, especially Roman Catholics such as Mother Teresa, Brother Lawrence (Carmelite monk), John Main (Benedictine monk), Madame Guyon, John of the Cross, and Henri Nouwen. Warren does not warn his readers that these are dangerous false teachers who held to a false gospel and worshipped a false christ. Mother Teresa and Nouwen were universalists who believed that men can be saved apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Another example of this is Chuck Swindoll, who devoted an entire edition of his Insights for Living publication (April 1988) to uncritical promotion of the German neo-orthodox Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Swindoll calls Bonhoeffer “a saint bound for heaven.” But this “saint” promoted the “de-mythologizing” and questioning of Scripture. Cornelius Van Til documented Bonhoeffer’s dangerous theology in The Great Debate Today.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS?
Separation is not an optional part of Christianity; it is a commandment
(Romans 16:17-18; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17; 1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 2:16-18;
2 Timothy 3:5; Titus 3:10; 2 John 7-11; Revelation 18:4). Separation is not mean or unloving; it is obedience to God.
We are to separate even from brethren in Christ who are walking in disobedience
(2 Thessalonians 3:6).
Separation is a wall of protection against spiritual danger. Failure to separate from error leaves one open to the influence of error (1 Corinthians 15:33). The reason the gardener separates the vegetables from the weeds and bugs and the reason a shepherd separates the sheep from wolves is to protect them. Likewise, a faithful and godly preacher will seek to separate his flock from spiritual dangers that are even more destructive than bugs and wolves.
2. NEW EVANGELICALISM IS CHARACTERIZED BY A LOVE FOR POSITIVISM; A REPUDIATION OF THE MORE NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY; A JUDGE-NOT PHILOSOPHY; A DISLIKE OF DOCTRINAL CONTROVERSY
“The strategy of the New Evangelicalism is the positive proclamation of the truth in distinction from all errors without delving in personalities which embrace the error. ... Instead of attack upon error, the New-Evangelicals proclaim the great historic doctrines of Christianity” (Harold Ockenga).
The chief danger of New Evangelicalism is not the error that is preached but the truth that is neglected.
The New Evangelical narrows down his message, focusing only on a portion of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).
This means that much that the New Evangelical preaches and writes is scriptural and spiritually beneficial. The New Evangelical will say many good things about salvation, Christian living, love for the Lord, marriage, child training, sanctification, the deity of Christ, even the infallibility of Scripture. For example, when Ravi Zacharias spoke at Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral in April 2004, his message was largely a blessing. (I read an online version of it.) He preached on such things as love for Jesus in the Christian walk and a godly marriage. The problem was not what he said but what he did not say and the context in which he said it. He failed to warn about Schuller’s self-esteem heresy. He failed to note that Schuller uses traditional theological terms while redefining them in a heretical sense. He failed to reprove and rebuke in a plain manner. He failed to separate from error. (In typical New Evangelical fashion, he also quoted a modernist, J.K. Chesterton, in an uncritical manner.)
A New Evangelical speaker will preach against sin and error in generalities, but not plainly. He will say that he is opposed to error and compromise, but he will not define this plainly. (The only exceptions are what I call “politically correct” or “safe” sins and errors, such as homosexuality and abortion. The New Evangelical will speak plainly against this type of thing because to do so is acceptable within evangelical circles today. Safe sins and errors are those that a preacher can warn about without offending most of his ordinary listeners.) When faced with a requirement of coming out plainly against error and naming the names of popular Christian leaders, he will refuse to take a stand and will, more likely, attack the one who is trying to force his hand or will lash out against “extreme fundamentalism” or some such thing.
Billy Graham is the king of positivism and non-judgmentalism:
His message has been described as “hard at the center but soft at the edges.” He says his job is merely to preach the gospel, that he is not called to get involved in doctrinal controversies.
In 1966 the United Church Observer, the official paper of the extremely liberal United Church of Canada, asked Graham a series of questions. When asked whether he thought Paul Tillich was a false prophet, Graham replied: “I HAVE MADE IT A PRACTICE NOT TO PASS JUDGMENT ON OTHER CLERGYMEN.” He said further, “OUR EVANGELISTIC ASSOCIATION IS NOT CONCERNED TO PASS JUDGMENT -- FAVORABLE OR ADVERSE -- ON ANY PARTICULAR DENOMINATION. WE DO NOT INTEND TO GET INVOLVED IN THE VARIOUS DIVISIONS WITHIN THE CHURCH.”
This is pure New Evangelicalism. The New Evangelical will preach against error in general terms but rarely will he do it plainly and specifically. When questioned directly by either side, he tends to fudge and dodge. He is not a prophet but a religious politician. No one is better at this than Graham but he has influenced multitudes of other preachers. It is obvious to see why Mr. Graham has been called “Mr. Facing Both Ways.” He is for creation and he is for evolution, for a young earth and an old earth, for the virgin birth and against it, for the liberal position and for the evangelical position. He is for everything and therefore against nothing.
The Church growth philosophy is another example of this. The message must be non-controversial and upbeat. The preaching at Willow Creek Church pastored by Bill Hybels is described in this way: “There is no fire and brimstone here. No Bible-thumping. Just practical, witty messages.”
Consider this description of church growth guru C. Peter Wagner: “Wagner makes negative assessments about nobody; he has made a career out of finding what is good and affirming it without asking critical questions” (Christianity Today, Aug. 8, 1986).
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT THE POSITIVE APPROACH
The prophets of old were not positive-focus New Evangelicals (i.e., Enoch in
Jude 14-15). There is nothing New Evangelical about this sermon.
The Lord Jesus Christ was not a positive-focus New Evangelical. He preached more about hell than heaven (i.e., Mark 9:42-48) and strongly rebuked error (Matthew 23). He scalded the Pharisees because they perverted the way of the truth and corrupted the gospel of grace, calling them hypocrites, blind guides, fools and blind, serpents, generation of vipers. And that was just one sermon!
It is also obvious that the apostles were not positive-focus New Evangelicals. Paul was constantly involved in doctrinal controversies and he was brutally plain about the danger of heresy. He called false teachers “dogs” and “evil workers” (Philippians 3:2). Of those who pervert the gospel he said, “Let them be accursed” (Galatians 1:8, 9). He called them “evil men and seducers” (2 Timothy 3:13), “men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith” (2 Timothy 3:8), “false apostles, deceitful workers”
(2 Corinthians 11:13). He named the names of false teachers and called their teaching “vain babblings” (2 Timothy 2:16, 17). He warned about “philosophy and vain deceit” (Colossians 2:8). He plainly described their “cunning craftiness.” When Elymas tried to turn men away from the faith that Paul preached, Paul wasted no time with dialogue. He said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). He warned about false teachers who would come into the churches and called them “grievous wolves” (Acts 20:29) and their teaching “perverse things” (Acts 20:30). Those who denied the bodily resurrection were called “fools”
(1 Cor. 15:35-36). He warned about false christs, false spirits, false gospels
(2 Corinthians 11:1-4). He labeled false teaching “doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). In the Pastoral Epistles Paul warned of false teachers and compromisers by name 10 times.
Peter was also plain spoken about heresy. Of the false prophets in his day and those who he knew would come in the future, he labeled their heresies “damnable” and warned of their “swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). He called their ways “pernicious”; said their words were “feigned”; and boldly declared that “their damnation slumbereth not” (2 Peter 2:3). He warned them of eternal hell (2 Peter 2:4-9) and called them “presumptuous” and “selfwilled” (2 Peter 2:10). He likened them to “natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed” (2 Peter 2:12) and exposed their deception
(2 Peter 2:13).
John, “the apostle of love,” was also busy warning about antichrists (1 John 2:18-19), calling them liars (1 John 2:22) and seducers (1 John 2:26) and deceivers (2 John 7); saying that they denied the Son (1 John 2:23) and that they don’t have God
(2 John 9). He put too much of an emphasis upon testing the spirits (1 John 4:1-3). He even made all sorts of exclusive claims, such as, “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). John even forbade the believers to allow the false teachers into their houses or to bid them God speed
(2 John 10-11).
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT JUDGING
The Bible requires that we judge everything by the divine standard
(1 Thessalonians 5:21).
(1) We are to judge righteous judgment (John 7:24).
(2) We are to judge all things (1 Corinthians 2:15-16).
(3) We are to judge sin in the church (1 Corinthians 5:3, 12).
(4) We are to judge matters between the brethren (1 Corinthians 6:5).
(5) We are to judge preaching (1 Corinthians 14:29).
(6) We are to judge those who preach false gospels, false christs, and false spirits
(2 Corinthians 11:1-4).
(7) We are to judge the works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11).
(8) We are to judge false prophets and false apostles (2 Peter 2; 1 John 4:1;
We are not to judge hypocritically (Matthew 7:1-5). In this passage, the Lord Jesus is not condemning all judging; He is condemning hypocritical judging (Matthew 7:5). That He is not condemning all judging is evident from the context. In the same sermon He warned about false teachers (Matthew 7:15-17) and false brethren
(Matthew 7:21-23). It is impossible to beware of false prophets and false brethren without judging doctrine and practice by comparing it to God’s Word. That He is not condemning all judging is also evident by comparing Scripture with Scripture. We have seen that other passages require judging.
3. NEW EVANGELICALISM IS CHARACTERIZED BY EXALTING LOVE AND UNITY ABOVE DOCTRINE
Billy Graham said, “The one badge of Christian discipleship is not orthodoxy, but love” (quoted from Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided, p. 33).
Consider the example of Baskin-Robbins Christianity. In an article calling for ecumenical evangelism, Pastor Ted Haggard (New Life Church, Colorado Springs) likened doctrinal convictions to different flavors of ice cream. “I love all kinds of ice cream. Sometimes I want vanilla with caramel topping, whipped cream, lots of nuts and a cherry. Other times I want Rocky Road, banana or chocolate chip. That’s why I love Baskin-Robbins ice cream stores. … In Colorado Springs, Colorado, where I am a pastor, we enjoy 90 flavors of churches. ... I am saying that we need to appreciate the respected interpretations of Scripture that exist in the many Christian denominations. ... Have you erected any fences between your church and the congregation down the street? have you judged other Christian groups in your heart, or openly criticized them? I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us to move our fences and demonstrate to a watching world that we are united” (Ted Haggard, “We Can Win Our Cities ... Together,” Charisma, July 1995).
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT DOCTRINE:
We are to separate from those who teach false doctrine (Romans 16:17). We must be careful of every wind of false doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). No false doctrine is to be allowed (1 Timothy 1:3). The preacher is to take heed to the doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16).
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT CHRISTIAN LOVE:
Ecumenists are confused about THE DEFINITION OF LOVE (John 14:23;
Philippians 1:9-10; 1 John 5:3). Biblical love is associated with obedience to God (John 14:23; 1 John 5:3). Biblical love is obedience to God and His Word, not gushy emotion, not broadmindedness, not toleration of error.
Biblical love is associated with knowledge and judgment (Philippians 1:9-10). Biblical love is never divorced from strict application of God’s Word, from spiritual judgment based on God’s Word. Biblical love is not non-judgmentalism.
Biblical love is associated with rebuking sin and error. Jesus, who is Love Incarnate, “looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:5) and rebuked the Pharisees sharply, even fiercely (Matthew 23). Jesus called Peter a devil (Mattthew 16:23) and upbraided the disciples “with their unbelief and hardness of heart” (Mark 16:14). The apostle Paul called false teachers “dogs” and “evil workers” (Philippians 3:2). Of those who pervert the gospel he said, “Let them be accursed” (Galatians 1:8, 9). He called false teachers “evil men and seducers” (2 Timothy 3:13), “men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith”
(2 Timothy 3:8). He named the names of false teachers and called their teaching “vain babblings” (2 Timothy 2:16, 17). He plainly described their “cunning craftiness.” When Elymas tried to turn men away from the faith that Paul preached, Paul said, “O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). None of this is contrary to Christian love.
Ecumenists are also confused about THE DIRECTION OF LOVE. The first direction of love must be toward God (Matthew 22:35-39). I need to love God enough to take a stand for His Word, to love and fear God more than I love and fear man.
The second direction of love must be toward those who are in spiritual danger (“feed my sheep” John 21:16-17). I need to love the Lord’s sheep more than I love the wolves.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT CHRISTIAN UNITY:
JOHN 17:21 -- The modern ecumenical movement has taken John 17:11 as one of its theme verses, claiming that the unity for which Christ prayed is an ecumenical unity of professing Christians that disregards or downplays biblical doctrine. The context of John 17 destroys this myth.
In John 17, Jesus is referring to those who are saved (JOHN 17:3). John 17 is not a unity of true regenerate believers with those who are false or nominal.
In John 17, Jesus is referring to those who keep His Word; it is a unity in truth
(John 17:6, 17). It is not a unity that ignores doctrinal differences for the sake of an enlarged fellowship. It is not an ecumenical “unity in diversity.” Nowhere does the New Testament teach that doctrine is to be sacrificed, or even downplayed, for the sake of unity.
In John 17, Jesus is referring to those who not of the world (JOHN 17:14, 16). By contrast, the ecumenical movement is not separated from the world. Billy Graham is praised by the world and frequently voted the most favorite man in America. In 1989, Graham was even awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! His star is near those honoring Wayne Newton and John Travolta. The ecumenical movement today is characterized by a rock & roll type of Christianity that does not believe in strict separation from the world, and the world responds with awards rather than persecutions.
In John 17, Jesus is referring to a unity of the Spirit not a man-made unity
(John 17:1). John 17 is a prayer directed to God the Father, not a commandment directed to men.
PHILIPPIANS 1:27 -- This is another verse that is misused as a platform for the ecumenical movement, but notice the following observations from the context:
Biblical unity is in the local church. This instruction was addressed to the church at Philippi. True Christian unity is not a parachurch or interdenominational matter.
Biblical unity means having one mind, not “unity in diversity.” Compare
Romans 15:5-6; 1 Corinthians 1:10.
Biblical unity means total commitment to the one faith. The N.T. faith is not many separate doctrines but one unified body of truth into which all doctrines fit. There are no “secondary” doctrines that we can ignore for the sake of Christian unity. The choice is between a “limited fellowship or a limited message.” If one is faithful to the New Testament faith, it is impossible to have a wide fellowship, and if one is committed to a wide fellowship he must limit his message to something less than the whole counsel of God.
4. NEW EVANGELICALISM IS CHARACTERIZED BY A PRAGMATIC APPROACH TO THE MINISTRY
“We want to retrieve Christianity from a mere eddy of the main stream into the full current of modern life” (Harold Ockenga).
Pragmatism is to aim at achieving some stated human objective rather than simply being faithful to God’s Word and “let the chips fall where they may.” Following are some examples:
Aiming to influence the world for Christ. This is the goal of Graham’s ecumenical crusades. It is the aim of the Christian rockers and rappers. It is the aim of the church growth principles. A world of compromise and disobedience to Scripture is excused today for evangelism’s sake.
Aiming to influence denominations. This was one of the original goals of New Evangelicalism. Ockenga said he wanted to recapture the denominational leadership. This is why evangelicals say they want to stay within liberal denominations rather than separate from them.
Aiming to influence the nation. This is the goal of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and his new organization called The Faith and Values Coalition. It is the goal of the BBFI in the Philippines and of a new ecumenical political movement in Australia led by the Hills Christian Life Centre in Sydney.
Aiming to build a big church. In 1986, Carl Henry warned, “Numerical bigness has become an infectious epidemic” (Confessions of a Theologian, p. 387). This explains the amazing popularity of visibly successful pastors such as Bill Hybels and Rick Warren. This type of pragmatism has also characterized a large segment of the fundamental Baptist church movement. In the 1970s, the goal was achieved by creating an exciting atmosphere with “special days,” aggressive promotional campaigns, large bus ministries, stirring but typically shallow motivational preaching, and such. This was what I was taught at Tennessee Temple in the mid-1970s, and it was what was modeled at Highland Park Baptist Church. The men that were exalted were men that had built big churches, men who were “successful” by the standard of big numbers. Things that did not fit into the goal -- such as strong Bible teaching, plain refutation of error that includes naming the names of influential false teachers, an emphasis on ecclesiastical separation -- were omitted or downplayed, because “it didn’t build a church.” It is not a dramatic shift to move from this type of pragmatism to that of Rick Warren and Bill Hybels in the 1990s. The goal remains the same, which is a big church and impressive numbers, but the methods have changed. Instead of promotionalism, we use contemporary worship music and the lowering of standards to draw the crowd. In neither case is the preeminent goal to obey the Scriptures and be committed to the whole counsel of God at all cost, whether the church is big or small.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS:
We are commanded to have only one goal, and that is to obey God’s Word (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
We are to keep all things that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:20).
We are to respect the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and to keep God’s Word “without spot,” which refers to seemingly small and inconsequential things
(1 Timothy 6:13-14).
When King Saul obeyed only part of God’s command, he was severely rebuked
(1 Samuel 15:22-23).
What about 1 Corinthians 9:22? The “rock & roll Christian” crowd uses this verse to support its philosophy of being a rapper to reach the rappers and a beach bum to reach the beach bums. However, when one compares Scripture with Scripture, we find that Paul did not mean anything like this. Let’s look at the immediate context and then the more remote context:
In 1 Corinthians 9:21, for example, Paul says, “To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.” Thus, he explains that he was always under the law to Christ and he was never free to do things that would be contrary to the Scriptures. For example, Paul would not adopt long hair in order to reach the heathen, because Christ’s law forbids long hair on a man (1 Corinthians 11:14).
And in 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul says, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” Thus, Paul was always strict in regard to sin and he did not allow anything that would result in spiritual carelessness.
And in Galatians 5:13 Paul says, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Thus, Paul’s liberty was not the liberty to serve the flesh. Paul taught that believers are to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). That is the strictest form of separation, and Paul would not have done anything contrary to this in his own life and ministry. “The Christian faith is rather at its strongest when its antagonism to unbelief is most definite, when its spirit is other-worldly, and when its whole trust is not ‘in the wisdom of men but in the power of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:5)” (Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided, 2000, p. 212).
5. NEW EVANGELICALISM IS CHARACTERIZED BY THE DESIRE FOR INTELLECTUAL RESPECTABILITY, BY PRIDE OF SCHOLARSHIP
Billy Graham, speaking at the annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1971, said: “I believe that Christianity Today has played a major role in giving evangelicals that intellectual respectability and initiative that was so drastically needed 29 years ago.”
John R.W. Stott: “For 50 years and more, I have urged that authentic evangelical Christians are not fundamentalists. Fundamentalists tend to be anti-intellectual...” (Stott, Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue, 1988, p. 90). The younger evangelicals in the Church of England, who have been influenced deeply by John Stott, are on a “quest for respectable theology” (Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided, p. 175).
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS:
God warns against intellectual pride (Proverbs 11:2; 1 Corinthians 1:25-30). Apostasy usually begins among the intellectuals. This is what brought the downfall of Harvard University in the early 19th century; in their zeal for intellectual respectability, they brought in a Unitarian to head up the school. The Bible believer is not anti-intellectual in the sense of being anti-learning and education; but he understands the dangers inherent in human scholarship because of man’s fallen nature; and he is opposed to humanistic scholarship that is divorced from and antagonistic to God’s Word.
Consider how Jesus was treated by the religious intellectuals (John 7:15) and consider His warning (Luke 6:26).
Consider how the apostles were treated by these same religious intellectuals
Consider the requirement for church leaders. God does not require intellectualism and degrees in higher learning (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). God’s people are, for the most part, common; they don’t need intellectualism; they need simple and practical Bible truth
(1 Corinthians 1:26-29). The truth is not complex; it has a basic simplicity that the common man can understand (Matthew 11:25). It is the devil who makes things complex (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Paul refused to preach the truth in an “intellectual” manner (1 Corinthians 2:4).
The truth is narrow and unacceptable to the unsaved (“narrow is the way”
Matthew 7:14; John 15:19; 1 John 4:5-6; John 5:19). It can never be made acceptable in this present world. To gain intellectual respectability requires deep spiritual compromise.
The New Evangelical approach to scholarship has corrupted those who have pursued it (1 Corinthians 15:33). Within ten short years from its inception, New Evangelicalism was deeply infiltrated with skepticism in regard to biblical infallibility.
Forty years ago the term evangelical represented those who were theologically orthodox and who held to biblical inerrancy as one of the distinctives. ... WITHIN A DECADE OR SO NEOEVANGELICALISM . . . WAS BEING ASSAULTED FROM WITHIN BY INCREASING SKEPTICISM WITH REGARD TO BIBLICAL INFALLIBILITY OR INERRANCY” (Harold Lindsell, The Bible in the Balance, 1979, p. 319)
“In or about 1962 it became apparent that there were already some at Fuller Theological Seminary who no longer believed in the inerrancy of the Bible, among both the faculty and the board members” (Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible, p. 106). David Hubbard, who became president of the seminary in 1963, mockingly referred to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture as “the gas-balloon theory of theology; one leak and the whole Bible comes down.”
6. NEW EVANGELICALISM IS CHARACTERIZED BY AN ATTITUDE OF ANTI- FUNDAMENTALISM. IN PRACTICE, IT FOCUSES MORE ON THE ALLEGED PROBLEMS OF FUNDAMENTALISM THAN THE ERRORS OF MODERNISM AND ROMANISM AND ECUMENISM
The New Evangelical speaks of the error of theological modernists and Romanists in gentle terms. He gets truly agitated, though, when the subject turns to fundamentalism. For the fundamentalist he reserves choice terms such as legalist, Pharisee, obscurantist, mean-spirited hatemonger, ignoramus, and extremist.
When Billy Graham looked back on the founding of Christianity Today, he said, “We were convinced that the magazine would be useless if it had the old, extreme fundamentalist stamp on it” (“In the Beginning: Billy Graham Recounts the Origins of Christianity Today,” Christianity Today, July 17, 1981).
Note how John Stott defines fundamentalism: “...anti-intellectualism; a naïve, almost superstitious reverence for the KJV; a cultural imprisonment; racial prejudice; extreme right wing political concerns” (Stott, Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue, 1988, pp. 90-91).
Consider the following example of how the New Evangelical looks at things. After Stephen Olford delivered a strong sermon on the authority of Scriptures at Amsterdam ’86, Dennis Costella of Foundation magazine had an opportunity to interview him. Costella asked, “You emphasized in your message the dangers of liberalism and how it could ruin the evangelist and his ministry. What is this conference doing to instruct the evangelist as to how to identify liberalism and the liberal so that upon his return home he will be able to avoid the same?” Olford replied: “That’s the wrong spirit—avoid the liberal! I love to be with liberals, especially if they are willing to be taught, much more than with hard-boiled fundamentalists who have all the answers. ... Evangelicals should seek to build bridges” (Costella, “Amsterdam ’86: Using Evangelism to Promote Ecumenism,” Foundation magazine, Jul.-Aug. 1986). This is pure New Evangelicalism. It appears to be zealous for the truth and bold against error, but in practice, it turns its fiercest guns upon the fundamentalists.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS:
Even the very strongest believer is but a sinner saved by grace (Romans 7:18). We hold the treasure in earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7). All men, including those who are zealous for the faith and for separation, are weak and have foibles. The believer’s stand for the truth will always be imperfect. Consider Noah, who stood boldly for righteousness in his generation, but who also got drunk and brought shame upon his family. Consider David, who esteemed all of God’s precepts concerning all things to be right and hated every false way (Psalms 119:128), which is certainly a fundamentalist’s testimony, but who also committed adultery and murder and proudly numbered Israel. Consider Peter, who stood for righteousness in his generation and was zealous for the truth and warned boldly of damnable heresies
(2 Peter 2), but who also cursed and denied the Lord and played the hypocrite (Galatians 2:11-14). Consider Paul, who was such a warrior for the faith; certainly he could be described as a fundamentalist; but he also split apart from Barnabas over a purely personal matter (Acts 15:36-40).
Spirituality and carnality is a personal matter, not a positional one. There are carnal and ungracious New Evangelicals and carnal and ungracious fundamentalists. Of the hundreds of New Evangelicals who have written to me through the years, most have treated me with a complete lack of Christian grace.
It is not wise to judge an entire movement by the failures of individuals. “It is true that some Fundamentalists have said unkind things, but Fundamentalism is not unkind. It is true that some Fundamentalists were intemperate, but Fundamentalism is not a free-for-all. Some Fundamentalists may have been vindictive, but Fundamentalism is not vengeful” (Rolland McCune, Fundamentalism in the 1980s and 1990s).
New Evangelicals who treat fundamentalists so sharply, do not level the same criticisms at true heretics. In a letter to the Sword of the Lord in July 27, 1956, Chester Tulga, who had often born the brunt of the New Evangelical’s barbed tongue, “brilliantly exposed the evangelicals’ duplicity of ‘condemning fundamentalism by the disreputable device of caricature’ while handling the liberals ‘very respectfully and objectively--no wisecracks, no sneers, no generalizations that reflect upon the men in any way’” (Bob Whitmore, The Enigma of Chester Tulga, 1997).
New Evangelicals constantly judge the motives of the fundamentalist. He labels the fundamentalist mean-spirited, ungracious, fear-driven, jealous, and unloving, yet it is impossible to know the motives of another man’s heart. In this, the New Evangelical is more truly “judgmental” than the fundamentalist he criticizes.
Correction and strong preaching against sin and error always seem to be harsh and unkind to those who refuse to repent. We see this from the beginning to the end of the Bible. One preacher wisely advised, “If Bible preaching rubs your fur the wrong way, turn the cat around!”
Israel constantly complained about her prophets and demanded that they preach “smooth things” (Isaiah 30:10).
The Jews of Jesus’ day rejected His preaching, saying He was preaching “hard sayings” (John 6:60, 66).
7. NEW EVANGELICALISM IS CHARACTERIZED BY THE DIVISION OF BIBLICAL TRUTH INTO CATEGORIES OF IMPORTANT AND NOT IMPORTANT
New Evangelicals divide doctrine into “cardinal” and “secondary” categories and the “secondary” can be overlooked for the sake of unity. Even Iain Murray, who understands the errors of New Evangelicalism in general, falls into this trap. Condemning fundamentalism in America he stated, “In its tendency to add stipulations not foundational to Christian believing, fundamentalism was prone to make the boundaries of Christ’s kingdom too small” (Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided, p. 298).
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS:
This is refuted by Christ’s teaching. It is refuted in Matthew 23:23. Here Christ taught that while not everything in the Bible is of equal importance, everything has some importance and nothing is to be despised or neglected. It is refuted in Matthew 28:20, where Christ taught that the churches are to teach ALL THINGS whatsoever He has commanded.
This is refuted by Paul’s example and teaching. He preached the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). He taught Timothy to value all doctrine and not to allow ANY false doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3). He further taught Timothy to keep all doctrine “without spot” (1 Timothy 6:13-14). Spots refer to the small things, the seemingly insignificant things. The context of Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 6:14 is the an epistle that has as its theme church truth (1 Timothy 3:15). In this epistle, we find instruction about church order, involving such things as pastoral standards (1 Timothy 3), deacons
(1 Timothy 3), the woman’s work in the church, including the ban against teaching and holding authority over men (1 Timothy 2); care for widows (1 Timothy 5), and discipline (1 Timothy 5). These are the very kinds of things that are typically despised by New Evangelicals.
8. NEW EVANGELICALISM IS CHARACTERIZED BY A MOOD OF SOFTNESS, A DESIRE FOR A LESS STRICT CHRISTIANITY, A WEARINESS WITH FIGHTING, A NEUTRALITY TOWARD SPIRITUAL WARFARE
New Evangelicalism is a subtle thing. At its heart it is a mood, an attitude, a tendency, a direction.
In 1958, William Ashbrook wrote Evangelicalism: The New Neutralism, which began with the following warning: “One of the youngest members of Christendom’s fold is called The New Evangelicalism. It might more properly be labeled THE NEW NEUTRALISM. This new ‘Evangelicalism’ boasts too much pride, and has imbibed too much of the world's culture to share the reproach of fundamentalism. It still has enough faith and too much understanding of the Bible to appear in the togs of modernism. IT SEEKS NEUTRAL GROUND, being neither fish nor fowl, neither right nor left, neither for nor against--it stands between!”
In A History of Fundamentalism in America, Dr. George Dollar observes: “It has become a favorite pastime of new-evangelical writers, who know so little of historic fundamentalism, to call it offensive names, as if to bury it by opprobrium. The real danger is not strong fundamentalism but A SOFT AND EFFEMINATE CHRISTIANITY--exotic but cowardly. It is sad that these men would not heed the warning of W.B Riley about the menace of ‘MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROADISM’” (Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America, 1973, p. 208).
At its inception, especially, New Evangelicalism can be difficult to detect. It does not necessarily start with a complete repudiation of separatism. New Evangelicalism starts more with a changing mood, a new attitude that dislikes a strict approach to the things of God. Since this is the tendency of any church or movement, to grow weaker and softer rather than stronger, it is necessary to guard carefully against this “new mood.” As Evangelist John Van Gelderen observed, “If you compare modern fundamentalism to modern new-evangelicalism, there is still a gap. But if you compare modern fundamentalism to early new-evangelicalism, the similarities are alarming” (Preach the Word, Jan.-Mar. 1998).
Wayne Van Gelderen, Sr., wrote about “A NEW SOFTNESS WITHIN FUNDAMENTALISM.” He said: “In the 50s and 60s, the Conservative Baptists were the Fundamentalists--the Separatists among Baptists in the North. They had fought a noble battle, but finally had to come out of the old Northern Baptist Convention in the 60s. Soon after the separation and the formation of the CBA, there began to emerge a strange spirit. Many began to feel that we needed to be more ‘Christian,’ more practical, more communicative, MORE GENTLE in our stand for God. The terms ‘SOFT CORE’ and ‘hard core’ were used to describe the two camps that emerged. The soft policy was to be practical at the expense of being righteous. The results sought for were more important than the means. These compromisers believed that part of the movement was too hard. Over 400 churches left in a division in the 60s. These real fundamentalist churches blossomed and multiplied in the 70s. Now, in the 90s, some of us see a reenactment of the past. There is a new emphasis on methodology and P.R. to grow churches. This new methodology is market-oriented and geared to please the people. NOT OFFENDING IS THE CARDINAL VIRTUE. Personal separation and holiness are pushed back into the dark ages. In spite of greatly increased open sin, THE CONDEMNATION IS SOFTENED. ... In every generation our battles must be refought. The generation that does not follow the old paths will die as did evangelicalism in England” (Calvary Contender, May 1, 1995).
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS:
Christianity that is not strict is not biblical. It is strict in doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3) and strict in Christian living (Eph. 5:11). It contends earnestly for the faith (Jude 3) and is unmoving and uncompromising, dogmatic and resolute. Simply open the New Testament to any page and begin reading, and it will not be long before this will be evident.
Strictness and zeal for the truth does not mean that one is unloving and uncompassionate. Jesus was strictness Personified and was also love and compassion Personified. To the woman caught in adultery He said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11). What great mercy and yet what great strictness, as well! Paul demonstrated the same combination. He was strict and unbending about doctrine and practice, but he was tender “even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7)
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