Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New Evangelicalism: The Fine Art of Fence Straddling

As the battle between truth and error rages, New Evangelicalism tries to sit on the fence. It seeks to avoid the fury of war, and counsel the Church to rethink its historic faith. The irenic spirit of New Evangelicalism follows a downward path towards greater compromise and blindness. Christians must be wary of this spiritual deception.

New Evangelicalism is not a distinctively defined scheme of dogma or theology. It is neither a denomination nor an organization that can be pinpointed categorically. It is more accurately described as a philosophy of compromise and appeasement. It is a mood of neutralism, a hodgepodge of theological confusion, ecumenical pacification and self-proclaimed “orthodoxy”. It is pervasive, deceptive, dangerous and definitely lethal to the spiritual integrity of the Church. Pervasive, because its philosophy is acceptable and appealing to the carnal, rational human mind; deceptive, because it claims to be faithful to the apostolic faith; and dangerous, because contamination with its false beliefs would result in the demise of the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints”(Jude 3).

Dr. Harold J. Ockenga, a father of New Evangelicalism, succinctly described its philosophy in the following words:

“Neo-evangelicalism was born in 1948 in connection with a convocation address which I gave in the Civic Auditorium in Pasadena. While reaffirming the theological view of fundamentalism, this address repudiated its ecclesiology and its social theory. The ringing call for a repudiation of separatism and the summons to social involvement received a hearty response from many Evangelicals. . . . It differed from fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. It had a new emphasis upon the application of the gospel to the sociological, political, and economic areas of life.” (Harold J. Ockenga, in the Foreword to Dr. Harold Lindsell’s book The Battle for the Bible)

The Repudiation of Biblical Separation

One of the basic tenets of New Evangelicalism is the repudiation of ecclesiastical separatism. Rejecting God’s command to separate from apostates, false teachers and those who cooperate with them (2 Cor 6:14-7:1, 2 Thess 3:6-15, Rom 12:1-2, 16:17, Eph 5:11, 1 Thess 5:22, 1 Tim 6:3-5, 2 Tim 2:16-21, Tit 3:10, 2 John 7-11, Jude 3, Rev 18:4), the New Evangelicals prefer to “dialogue” with unbelievers. The bible teaches us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph 5:11). Biblical separation is also taught clearly in the second epistle of John, culminating in verses 10 and 11: “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”

Dr Harold Ockenga made the following remark, “The New Evangelicalism has changed its strategy from one of separation to one of infiltration. Instead of static front battles, the new theological war is one of movement. Instead of attack upon error, the New Evangelicals proclaim the great historic doctrines of Christianity ... The strategy of the New Evangelicalism is the positive proclamation of truth in distinction from all errors without delving in personalities which embrace error.”

How can we proclaim the truth “without delving in personalities which embrace error”? Heretics have always been identified throughout church history. The Apostles themselves were quick to name names; Hymenaeus (1 Tim 1:20, 2 Tim 2:17), Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17-18), Alexander (1 Tim 1:20, 2 Tim 4:14), Demas (2 Tim 4:10), Diotrephes (3 John 9), Phygellus and Hermogenes (2 Tim 1:15) were properly identified and dealt with in the epistles. Paul did not “dialogue” with perpetrators of false doctrines, neither did he infiltrate the churches to promote a theological “movement”. With regard to false teachers, the apostle commanded us to “mark them” and “avoid them” (Rom 16:17).

“Instead of attack upon error”, the New Evangelicals encourage disobedience to the Word of God. In its “ringing call” for the repudiation of separatism, New Evangelicalism has replaced clear biblical teachings with worldly, carnal philosophy. Its strategy of “infiltration” into apostate denominations is in direct opposition to God’s command to "come out from among them, and be ye separate (2 Cor 6:17,18)."

In the guise of “love” and “charity”, they would cooperate with the enemies of God in ecumenical ventures. Returning to the vomit of Romanism and wallowing in the Modernist’s mire, these fraternal compromisers would trade biblical truths for “unity” and “scholarship”.

The Desire for Worldly Recognition

New Evangelicalism is a movement nurtured on intellectual pride. Determined “to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day”, New Evangelicalism urges Christianity to rethink its historic position. It exhorts us to be less rigid, more tolerant and understanding. New Evangelicals view Fundamentalism as rather “unloving”, “narrow”, “unscholarly” and “doctrinaire”. Credentials and respectability have taken precedence. Scholarly recognition is now an essential commodity. In an earnest desire to be recognized by the academic world, the New Evangelicals have gradually accommodated rationalistic, modernistic and humanistic thoughts. Renouncing the militant exposure of doctrinal errors, they prefer to negotiate for a “middle-ground”. New Evangelicals refuse to reprove false teachings and teachers.

“Neo-evangelicals emphasized the restatement of Christian theology in accordance with the need of the time, the reengagement in the theological debate, the recapture of denominational leadership, and the reexamination of theological problems such as the antiquity of man, the universality of the flood, God's method of creation, and others.” (Harold J. Ockenga, in the Foreword to Dr. Harold Lindsell’s book The Battle for the Bible)

Since when did fundamental doctrines such as the universality of the flood, creation ex nihilo and the inerrancy of the Bible become “theological problems”? Yet in its desire to compromise with “modern scholarship”, New Evangelicalism had concocted a myriad of heresies, for example, theistic evolution and limited inerrancy.

The dogmatic proclamation of biblical doctrines is replaced by a theological compromise, which attempts to tailor God’s truth to the current generation. “In accordance with the need of the time”, New Evangelicals are willing to dilute vital doctrines to make them more palatable to carnal minds. After more than fifty years of “reengagement in the theological debate”, none of the “denominational leadership” has been recaptured. Contrariwise, the irenic spirit has captured the hearts of most denominations. Be aware that “The New Evangelicalism is a theological and moral compromise of the deadliest sort. It is an insidious attack upon the Word of God” (Dr. Charles Woodridge).

Preaching a Social Gospel

The devil knows that blatant error is easy to identify. Therefore, Satan’s perennial strategy is to seek an amalgam of truth and error. The thrice-holy God demands separation from error and unbelief; the father of lies urges us to cooperate and compromise. Our Lord demands that we preach no other gospel (Gal 1:8-9); Satan entices us to add social work to the Gospel of Christ.

New Evangelicalism attempts to combine the scriptural gospel with the social gospel of liberalism. This false social gospel is radically different from what our Lord had commanded us to preach. “First, it tended to emphasize structural reforms--changes in law, government policy, and the formal institutions of society. Second, it was firmly rooted in Protestant liberal theology.” (Eerdman’s Handbook to Christianity in America, p. 319)

Christian charity (James 1:27) must be distinguished from the gospel preached by the apostles (1 Cor 15:1-4). Nowhere in the New Testament do we see the usage of social-political work for the propagation of the gospel. The apostles did not labour for great social-political projects with the heathens. They simply went forth in preaching the gospel, producing disciples who would in turn convert others to Christianity. New Evangelicalism exalts social-political agendas to a place of prominence, sometimes even substituting gospel evangelism itself. This is to ignore the example given by the apostles.

Derived from liberal theology and modernism, the emphasis of the social gospel is on social service and reformation. The apostles were concerned with the salvation of souls, not the eradication of societal ills. New Evangelicalism marries the pure saving gospel with liberal ideologies to produce a false, humanistic message. Things of the spirit and of the flesh are mangled together to produce an unholy alliance; a misbegotten, illegitimate counterfeit. Dr Ockenga’s “summons to social involvement” is a New Evangelical lie which we must reject. God has called us to preach the gospel of Christ (Rom 1:16), not a spurious humanistic message that does not save.


Dear Christian soldiers, beware of the New Evangelicalism. It is a satanic lie that seduces us to forsake militancy for the truth and to eventually capitulate to evil. It approaches us with a facade of love and reasonableness, but deny the very Truth that it claims to profess.

Dr. Charles Woodbridge, who was a professor at Fuller Seminary and a member of the National Association of Evangelicals before he rejected New Evangelicalism, warned, “The New Evangelical advocates toleration of error. It is following the downward path of accommodation to error, cooperation with error, contamination by error, and ultimate capitulation to error.”


Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that many of today's narrow-learned seminarian have remained ignorant of the great social crisis in churches that spur brave souls like Ritschl, Troeltsch and Rauschenbusch to put forth great researches and learning on making the christianity relevant to society. While many ghetto-inclined churches (well monikered by A. McGrath) lke the Presbyterians were in-fighthing on issues like bible translation, the above named stood up where it counts - the people, who have yet to hear the Gospel truth. Theirs was a task to strip the Gospel which has been coated with years of Protestant/Reformed learning that put layers and layers of argument/counter-argument before those who heart cries out for salvation in the society. Their method was historical criticsm, so what? Why can't they be recognized for what they did in that period - to present the Gospel as relevant to society. Why do today's seminarian get so excited about the E.C when the best they can do is present a half baked Ritschl Kingdom of God emphasis in their talk about christianity when these so called "liberals" were condemned for daring to present the kingdom of God to a society torn by World Wars? By all means exposed the Neo-Evangelicals but do not be ignorant on the misunderstood "liberals" like Ritschl, Troeltsch and Rauschenbusch. They stood for the Gospel when Protestants faught their own ghetto war and are still fighting those wars as evident from your blogs. So what if I speak for the liberals? Sue me.


Anonymous said...

You dismissed 'social' gospel by quoting Eerdman's book. The narrow learning of today's seminarian is only amplified by their narrower still dismissal of an era they do not understand. Much gibberish has been spouted against liberal/social strand of the christian era, but can any christian today honestly say they understood what happened and why the theologians like Ritschl, Harnack, Troeltsch and Rauschenbusch make their stand for the 'social' gospel. Theirs was an era where chrisitianity in the name of protestanism has evolved into a ghetto of petty studies and irrelavance. (e.g. biblical translation which continue on till today...)Theirs was an era in the face of a world war, where the churches were apolitical = silent on the movements of destruction throughout europe. Theirs was an era where it took courage to stand and say that Christ was still relevant despite what was happening. It is lazy and convenient to stand back 50 years later and dismiss the 'liberals' as political/social activist. Any serious readings of the works of Troeltsch will pierce the heart on how our ghetto like christianity has fallen from a gospel that brings salvation to society to a gospel that has lost touch with the people. So what if the methods of these theologians are textural, historical criticsm? So what if they sound un-protestant? So what if they don't follow the popular arguments in your blogs? They dared to make a stand for Christ in a society faced with war, they dared still to proclaim the kingdom of God while mass destrcution was crippling nations. They were put people like you and me to shame, and their hearts pound for Christ still.


Evangelical books said...

What was that all about?

Vincent, I guess a new post is required?


vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Anonymous,

I had hesitated to publish your comments; in general, I do not publish anonymous comments without links back to websites or blogs. Why would anyone hide behind his/her anonymity? Intellectual integrity must be coupled with courage and not cowardice.

In view of your anonymity, I will not interact with your comments beyond the following brief paragraph:

Rauschenbusch’s doctrine was primarily that of ethics and social justice, with almost no exposition or arguments for foundational presuppositions e.g. metaphysics and epistemology. More importantly, it has little semblance to scriptural teachings and Pauline theology (1 Cor. 15:1-8). For example, in the final chapter (XIX) of “A Theology for the Social Gospel,” he repudiates (despises?) the evangelical doctrine of substitutionary atonement, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and forensic justification, favoring “a conception of spiritual solidarity” (p. 259). His gospel does not call for the repentance of sinners, or requires the imputation of righteousness via the atoning death of the God-Man Jesus. In other words, his is a brand of “Christianity” with no need for a Savior in the true evangelical sense of the word. With no fear of impending judgment, no eternal damnation, no Parousia of Christ, and no atonement for sins, his concept of the Kingdom of God is but a vestige of his imaginative passion for social work in the guise of bad, heretical theology. Why don’t you interact with G E Ladd’s work on the Kingdom instead?

So what?

So he is a liberal who preaches a false gospel. And the emergents are buying it hook, line and sinker.

As John Battle has said, “May God give us grace to “stand firm and hold” the gospel which has been handed down to us!” (John A. Battle, A Brief History of the Social Gospel, WRS Journal 6/1 (February 1999): 10).

vincit omnia veritas said...


This article was written for lay Christians not trained in theology; it was published in a Bible Presbyterian magazine. If you want to interact further, give me your real name and blog address. Thank you.