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The New Neutralism
“New Neutralism Ch. 1 - 3”
by John Ashbrook   
January 10th, 2009



In 1958 when my father finished his eight page tract on new evangelicalism, he gave it the title, The New Neutralism. His thesis was that new evangelicalism was a movement which determined to take its stand halfway between fundamentalism on the right and modernism on the left. From its beginning new evangelicalism took a position on the top wire of the fence between belief and unbelief, in the no man's land between irreconcilable armies, and on the white line in the middle of the road. Neutrality has always been a precarious position, and precarious becomes "impossible" when the truth is involved. The title of my book indicates that it is a sequel and that I share my father's analysis of the position.

One cold April night in 1946, I was a new ensign with shiny braid standing my first watch on the quarter deck of the U.S.S. Denver. We were at anchor in the bay off Newport, Rhode Island. During that watch we sent a picket boat ashore with a number of visiting officers and men. A navy yeoman paused at the foot of our ship's ladder with one foot on the ladder and one on the picket boat. At that moment the choppy waters lifted the small boat in the air, and the sailor found himself in the icy water between the two craft. Thanks to the quick action of a couple of old salts, the young man was fished from his icy bath and was soon warming up in a hot shower. I recount the incident to illustrate the difficulty of standing with one foot planted on each side of an irreconcilable issue.

It is amazing that the founders of new evangelicalism did not seem to recognize the impossibility of reconciling fundamentalism and modernism. It is especially amazing when the modernists saw that impossibility very clearly The classic editorial on the subject appeared in the Christian Century for January 2, 1924. This magazine has been the official mouthpiece of modernism since the early days of the struggle. The editorial read as follows: 

Christianity according to Fundamentalism is one religion. Christianity according to Modernism is another religion. Which is the true religion is the question that is to be settled in all probability by our generation for future generations. There is a clash here as profound and as grim as between Christianity and Confucianism. Amiable words cannot hide these differences. 'Blest Be the Tie' may be sung till doom's day, but it cannot bind these worlds together.
The God of the fundamentalist is one God; the God of the modernist is another The Bible of Fundamentalism is one Bible; the Bible of Modernism is another The church, the kingdom, the consummation of all things
, these are one thing to fundamentalists and another thing to modernists.
Which god is the Christian God, which Christ is the Christian Christ, which Bible is the Christian Bible, which church, which kingdom, which salvation, which consummation are the Christian church, the Christian kingdom, the Christian salvation, the Christian consummation? The future will tell.

In Luke 16:8 our Lord commended an unjust man by saying, "...for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”  The Christian Century has always spoken for "the children of this world," and the above quotation is a fitting illustration of Jesus' statement. New evangelicalism has never seemed to see the battle as one between truth and error, darkness and light. Instead, it has seen both sides as erring brethren. To the new evangelical, the fundamentalist errs by lacking love, scholarship and a social program. The modernist errs by lacking Biblical faith. The two lacks are made to sound quite equal. As a fundamentalist I do not accept the new evangelical's charge. I would observe that to lack Biblical faith is far more serious than to lack love, scholarship and a social program.

Ideally, neutrality should have no bias toward either side. If we are to judge the new evangelicalism by its statements about the two sides between which it claims to be neutral, we soon see that it was never as neutral as it claimed to be. Its descriptions of fundamentalism have always been more harsh than its descriptions of modernism. New evangelical pioneers such as Harold John Ockenga and Carl E H. Henry declared that fundamentalism lacked a social consciousness and was bankrupt. They accused fundamentalists of a harsh temperament, a spirit of lovelessness and strife. Less cultured new evangelicals designated fundamentalists as "fundys," "ignorant," "apostles of hate" and "funny-mentalists." In dining hall discussions at Wheaton College in 1947 and 1948, I heard the whole list. On the other hand, the modernists were always referred to with hope as honest scholars, repentant liberals, compassionate social activists and great preachers. Edward Carnell, after jousting with Karl Barth, the father of neo orthodoxy, termed him "an inconsistent evangelical..." The same charity the new evangelicals claimed was lacking in the fundamentalist attitude toward liberals has always been lacking in the new evangelical attitude toward fundamentalists. New evangelicalism makes great claims for its charity and fairness, but it has never operated with the table completely level. I like the definition I heard which defined a new evangelical as a fellow who hates those who don't love.

Let me sum up these comments about the difficulty of neutralism by quoting a paragraph from page 2 of The New Neutralism: 

New Evangelicalism, beyond question, is seeking middle ground with respect to the theological controversies of our day. Such neutrality represents a position difficult to maintain in any age, but in a day like ours when the battle is so clearly pitched between Christ and Anti-Christ, it is an impossible position. In the realm of things moral and spiritual one must be either right or wrong. Such tags as 'extreme rightists' and `fanatical fundamentalists' cause one to raise the question as to just how far 'left' and how far 'middle' our quasi-liberals are willing to go in order to make rapprochement with avowed liberals. Is it possible to be 'too right' in the momentous battles of our time? After all, the showdown at the close of the age will come in realms of black and white, not in the fog of a confused gray. In the great fight of faith there is no middle ground on which the neutralist can complacently stand for long, and pronounce his anathemas or his benedictions, as the case maybe, upon both sides. He is bound to wind up ere long in one camp or the other, and in a day when God is judging compromise in no uncertain terms, he is most likely to wind up in the wrong camp. There can be no middle ground for Bible­ believing Christians. One of the Scottish evangelists of a former day used to say: 'Joshua had much trouble with the Amorites and the Hittites outside Israel, but he had far more trouble with the Betweenites inside Israel.' Such words are both well­spoken and true, and applicable to our day, also. These are testing times when the dividing line between truth and error becomes ever more distinct. Try as it may, the New Neutralism cannot erase it. 

As I survey the neutralist position of new evangelicalism, I find it untenable from a Biblical point of view. However, though it may be Biblically untenable, it cannot be said that it is unsuccessful. New evangelicalism has a vise-like grip on most of the Christian colleges and theological schools of our day. It has accomplished an almost complete takeover of the Bible institutes and colleges which sprang up after the fundamentalist-liberal battle in the early part of this century. It has reshaped the missions founded by the pioneers who opened India and China and Africa. The "faith missions," whose speakers thrilled my heart as a young man, are now in the camp of new evangelicalism. Mass evangelism is the exclusive province of new evangelicalism. New evangelicals such as Billy Graham and Luis Palau are the household names of evangelism. Publishers whose materials once helped establish fundamental churches now train a generation of new evangelicals. New evangelicalism owns the music publishers. The churches which once thrilled to the wholesome songs of great Christians now are satisfied with the trash of contemporary Christian music drawn from the rhythm of the same world the Lord commanded us not to love. The new neutralism is not logical; it is not Scriptural; but it is overwhelmingly popular.



The thesis of my father's book on new evangelicalism is expressed in a single paragraph on page 3 of The New Neutralism: 

Bible believing Christians would do well to beware of the New Evangelicalism for four valid reasons. First, it is a movement born of compromise. Second, it is a movement nurtured in pride of intellect. Third, it is a movement growing on appeasement of evil; and finally it is a movement doomed by the judgment of God's Holy Word. Strong language, this? Let us face the facts. 

I do not disagree with one word of that. It has stood the test of the thirty years which have passed since he wrote it. Yet, it is not my writing, and, I prefer to express my thesis in three points which revolve around the words of this chapter title. I believe that the mainspring of new evangelicalism is found in three determinations of its founder which may be clearly traced in the state of things today. First, new evangelicalism determined to reject Biblical separation. Secondly, new evangelicalism determined to find acceptance by the world. Thirdly, new evangelicalism determined to add the social gospel to the Scriptural gospel.

My father was a many sided man. One of his interests was in livestock. He was a student of livestock pedigrees. In studying pedigrees one looks for the recurrence of the name of some great sire which has stamped his image on the animal in question. If one views the progenitors of new evangelicalism as one would a livestock pedigree, one finds the name of Dr. Harold Ockenga recurring everywhere. It is no mistake to call him the father of new evangelicalism. Dr. Harold John Ockenga coined the name, "Neo-evangelicalism". When the National Association of Evangelicals was born in 1942, its first President was Harold John Ockenga. As a pastor he occupied the pulpit of Park Street Congregational Church on the edge of Boston Common. When Fuller Theological Seminary was founded in 1947 its first President was Dr. Harold John Ockenga. Christianity Today, the daily racing form of new evangelicalism, had its birth in 1956 as the brainchild of Billy Graham and his father-in-law, Dr. L. Nelson Bell. The Chairman of the Board of the new magazine was Dr. Harold John Ockenga. When the World Congress on Evangelism convened in 1966 one of the three featured speakers was Dr. Harold John Ockenga. Just to see if you have been following my train of thought I will ask a question: Whom do you suppose was President of Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Divinity School at the same time in the 1970's? If you miss the answer, you have not been paying attention. In the history of new evan­gelicalism, there is no more important name than that of Dr. Harold John Ockenga. 

Dr. Ockenga, who passed away in 1985, was a dignified, well-trained, conservative Presbyterian preacher. He was studying at Princeton Seminary in 1929 when Dr. J. Gresham Machen led the courageous exodus from the school because of modernism. Ockenga followed his teacher to the newly formed Westminster Seminary and was one of its first graduates. There are many unearned degrees among preachers, but Dr. Ockenga's was not one of them. An interesting fact from his seminary days is that Carl McIntire was a fellow student and served as head usher at Ockenga's wedding.

With this bit of background about the father of the movement, we begin to look at the three determinations which spawned the movement. First, new evangelicalism determined to reject Biblical separation.

Dr. Ockenga wrote the foreword to Dr. Harold Lindsell's book, The Battle for the Bible, published in 1976. In that foreword he said: 

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. 

I do not believe that anyone reading that statement can deny that the number one determination of new evangelicalism is the "repudiation of separatism." The statement is made twice and is termed, "The ringing call." Our newspapers today are filled with talk about "Quebec separatism." Political sides line up and make their arguments for and against it. However, what new evangelicalism has determined to repudiate is Biblical separatism. Separation is God's prescription for treating the disease of apostasy. It is not ours to repudiate, for it is a divine command, not a human idea. The doctrine of separatism gets its name from 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18. 

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty 

The same doctrine is taught in passages such as Ephesians 5:11 which says, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." It is the theme of II 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. 

It is taught throughout the Scriptures, but it is very plain in passages such as I Kings 13, II Chronicles 19:2, Romans 16:17. II Thessalonians 3:6 and I Timothy 6:3-5. It is not my purpose to expound the doctrine of separation in this book. I have sought to do that in another booklet. Repudiation of separatism may sound acceptable until you realize that it is a repudiation of God's command about how to treat apostasy.

In a much earlier press release dated December 8, 1957, Dr. Ockenga made the following statements: 

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. 

In a war, generals may change strategy, but that is not the prerogative of the Christian when God has given a command. Obviously separation is God's command, and infiltration is man's idea. The irenic statement above sounds rather noble in man's eyes. One can picture the new evangelical standing peacefully with hands folded far above the din of battle. But how does that square with Jude 3 and 4? 

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 

What do you think of the new evangelical suggestion that we can proclaim truth "without delving in personalities which embrace error"? Throughout church history, heresies have always been identified with the men who perpetrated them. Almost every heresy of the past has been associated with a personality You cannot erase nineteen centuries of church history with a cute phrase. Certainly Dr. Ockenga was aware that the battle for the faith in the 1920's was between a Baptist unbeliever, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, and Presbyterian believers. Did he believe that his brilliant teacher, Dr. J. Gresham Machen, should not have delved into the blasphemous statements of Dr. Fosdick in the First Presbyterian Church of New York City? The idea of preaching positively without contending for the faith is a compromise of Biblical truth. 

Paul names the names of his opponents, and so must we. I wish that it were possible to write a book like this one without naming names. Life would be much easier, but the book would be worthless. In forty years of preaching, l have learned that I can identify any aberration from Scripture with no reverberation. But when I explain about whom I am talking, the rubber hits the road. 

Sometimes men reject things they do not understand. That is not the case with Dr. Ockenga's repudiation of separation. He followed Dr. Machen in his separation from Princeton Seminary to found Westminster Seminary After Ockenga's graduation from seminary he went to Pittsburgh to be the assistant to Dr. Clarence Macartney at the First Presbyterian Church. Dr. Macartney and his compatriot, William Jennings Bryan, were two great warriors who stood together to fight modernism on the floor of the Presbyterian General Assembly in the early 1920's. The first professor at Fuller under Dr. Ockenga's leadership was Dr. Wilbur M. Smith. He had been one of the original men on Dr. Machen's Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. In the heat of the Presbyterian battle, Smith wrote a tremendous book titled, Therefore Stand. (My father always opined that Smith wrote Therefore Stand, and then sat down.) Another associate at Fuller was Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge, who was unfrocked by the Presbyterian Church in the Independent Board matter. I could go on. I merely want to make plain that Dr. Ockenga knew what he was repudiating when he repudiated separation. He had heard the arguments of noble men involved in the Presbyterian battles and decided to take a different course. New evangelicalism determined to reject Biblical separation. 

Secondly, new evangelicalism determined to find acceptance by the world. I have seen boys and girls feverishly seek the acceptance of their peers. A new child comes to visit, and they rush to show him every toy in the effort to be accepted. This is a note not to be ignored in the new evangelical profile. It shows itself in the desire to be accepted in the world of academia, and it also shows in the desire to make the gospel more palatable to the natural man. Let me begin by going back to Dr. Ockenga's foreword to The Battle for the Bible: 

It differed from fundamentalism in its repudiation of separation and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day. 

Re-entering the theological dialogue with modernism was an important cause to new evangelicalism. Notice that it is described as "dialogue," not debate. A debate is a conflict which clarifies a position. A dialogue is a conversation which compromises a position. (That may not be correct according to Webster, but it comes from observing theological dialogue.) Lest you think I am being picky with this matter, let me go further in the quotation from the foreword of The Battle for the Bible to show the specific items about which Dr. Ockenga desired to dialogue: 

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. 

I call this Dr. Ockenga's "re" statement. In my own seminary experience, I was never taught that theology needs to be restated according to need. If we have a theology stated as the Bible states it, is it right to restate it to make it more palatable to a sinful world and an apostate church? New evangelicals have finely tuned the art of restating theology so that it causes no ripple at the National Council of Churches, Union Theological Seminary or a Presidential Prayer Breakfast. I could not state Biblical theology in any of those places and have it warmly received. Billy Graham does it all the time. Think about it. 

Dr. Ockenga again suggested "the reengagement in the theological debate." I assume that he meant the theological debate between modernism and fundamentalism. I would agree with that, if he meant to show the emptiness of apostasy and why men should leave it. New evangelicalism did not interpret it that way. Rather, it chose to return to apostate presbyteries, synods, seminaries and colleges to try to have an influence while dialoguing about the matters discussed there. As Dr. Ockenga said, "The New Evangelicalism has changed its strategy from one of separation to one of infiltration." This was demonstrated in a rather humorous way by the sight of several early Fuller professors, such as Herbert Mekeel, Gleason Archer and William LaSor pleading on bended knee for the reception of their credentials by the Los Angeles Presbytery. Was this "reengagement in the theological debate"? 

Dr. Ockenga's third "re" is the recapture of denominational leadership. I cannot see from the Bible that either men or denominations are ever recaptured from apostasy. New evangelicalism has been on the scene recapturing denominational leadership for over forty years. What denominational leadership has been reclaimed? Has the United Presbyterian Church been recaptured for Biblical Christianity? Has the Methodist Church been recaptured for the doctrine of the Wesleys? Has the leadership of the United Church of Christ been triumphantly recaptured? Men from these denominations have talked in theological dialogue with the scholars of new evangelicalism and have sat on the platforms of great crusades with Billy Graham, but the leadership of not one denomination has been reclaimed. The policy has failed, for it is a policy of horrible, hideous, compromise. God's program for apostasy is to separate from it, expose it and contend against it. 

Dr. Ockenga's fourth "re" has been the most destructive compromise of all. It is "the reexamination of theological problems such as the antiquity of man, the universality of the Flood, God's method of creation and others." Stop to think about the three areas Dr. Ockenga has identified. These areas are "theological problems" for one simple reason. The natural man has a problem with God's sovereignty. The Bible declares that God did these things in a certain way. Man cannot accept that at face value, because he has never seen creation in seven days or a universal flood. To reexamine what God has told us He did is to subject God's Word to the judgment of science. If a man accepts God's sovereignty he needs no reexamination. On the other hand, if a man accepts only science he must reexamine, reexamine and reexamine. This reexamination of Biblical truth by worldly scientists has had a deadly effect on the biology departments of Christian colleges. Before new evangelicalism, those departments believed both in creation as taught in Genesis and in a universal flood. Today, in most of those departments, science, rather than the Bible, is normative. Consequently, professors teach some form of evolution and believe in a local flood. I heard Dr. Charles Woodbridge say that a local flood that covered the mountains must have been the first egg-shaped flood on record. The compromises of Dr. Ockenga's four "re's" have had a devastating effect on Christianity. 

As my father pointed out in his book, there is a tremendous pride of intellect in new evangelicalism. Let me quote again from Dr. Ockenga's December 8, 1957 news release: 

The New Evangelicalism differs from Fundamentalism in its willingness to handle the social problems which Fundamentalism evaded ...The New Evangelical is willing to face the intellectual problems and meet them in the framework of modern learning ...The evangelical believes that Christianity is intellectually defensible, but the Christian cannot be obscurantist in scientific questions pertaining to the creation, the age of man, the universality of the flood and other moot Biblical questions. 

It seems to me that as Dr. Ockenga paints the portrait of the new evangelical with his right hand, he caricatures the fundamentalist with his left. Do you see the picture? The fundamentalist is unwilling to handle social problems, unable to face intellectual problems, not possessing modern learning and obscurantist in scientific questions. Intellectual pride is peer pressure on a scholarly level, and it doesn't look any better on scholars than it does on teenagers. Ho, ye new evangelicals, wisdom has arrived and will die with us!

From its inception new evangelicalism has been determined to impress the world with its intellect. It has craved the respect of academia. It has determined to earn plaudits at the fountainheads of secular learning. Why should this be a goal for the Christian? Paul spelled out for the believer the vanity of this world's wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1:20, 21: 

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 

George Marsden, who wrote the history of Fuller Seminary under the title, Reforming Fundamentalism, (Marsden, George M., Reforming Fundamentalism, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1987, 319 pp. I have decided to write this book by giving documentation in the text rather than in conventional footnotes. I give a footnote here because this is a book every fundamentalist should read. I would judge Marsden to be a new evangelical himself, but in writing the history of Fuller, he has revealed the problems of new evangelicalism more clearly than fundamentalists knew. Read the book!)  points out on page 24 how Ockenga viewed the ministry of Fuller:

Now he told the Fullers that what was needed was a true scholarly center to produce serious books that all the world would have to notice ...Ockenga was, in effect, proposing a new Princeton: the new west coast seminary would recapture the glory and academic standing of the old Princeton.

 Ockenga also styled the school as "A Cal Tech of the evangelical world." When the first class of 1939 arrived at Fuller, Marsden records that "immediately the seminary began advertising that its 'almost forty' students were from schools like Harvard, Dartmouth, Berkeley and the University of Southern California:' Why should Christians, who have a foundation for knowledge that the universities have lost, boast that its students come from the poisoned fountains of worldly wisdom?

In Dr. Ockenga's press release of December 8, 1957, he mentioned six reasons why he was very encouraged about the future of new evangelicalism. Let me quote them: "...third, there is the new apologetic literature stating this point of view which is now flowing from the presses of the great publishers, including Macmillans and Harpers." Marsden, in commenting on the publication of one of Edward J. Carnell's books by Macmillan, said the following: "To be published by a major secular publisher was a great triumph for the new evangelicals." Christian publishers existed. Why not have Christian books published by them? The goal was to be published by publishers that the world respected. On page 174 of his book, Marsden says that "Carnell hoped to lead Fuller to full acceptance by the largely non-evangelical American theological establishment." On page 248 Marsden, in commenting on another Fuller professor, George Ladd, wrote: "Ladd saw his calling as above all to correct evangelical scholarship's general lack of prestige. His ambition, as he sometimes told his students, was to write a book in biblical studies that every scholar in the field would have to respect." These numerous quotations illustrate the intellectual pride and the consuming desire of the new evangelicals to be accepted in the world of academia.

The simple truth of life in this world for the Christian is that the more he is like the world, the more the world loves him. The more he is like Christ, the less this world loves him. The obedient believer must learn to accept the scorn of this world for his faith, intellect and morals.

Go back to Dr. Ockenga's statement that we cannot be "obscurantist" about creation, the age of man and the universality of the flood. What do we have to gain by giving in to the unsaved scientist on these points? Man's responsibility to God rests solidly on the statement of Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." God was there when He did it. He told us what He did. What will we gain by accommodating the unsaved scientist who does not believe it? What is the problem with the age of mankind? The Bible indicates that God made man of the dust and breathed into him the breath of life. God talked to man as a rational being and gave him instructions on his very first day. We won't know exactly how long ago that was until, in glory we are able to ask the Creator. However, Scripture would seem to indicate that it was a relatively short time ago. On the other hand, science postulates the origin of man as being millions or billions of years ago. The only reason for the vast amount of time is that the scientist does not believe Genesis 1 and so must allow eons for man to move up the evolutionary ladder to Harvard. What benefit is it to Christianity if we join the scientist in the great spoof of truth he has foisted on mankind? To be "obscurantist" in this matter is to have your faith on the solid ground of Scripture. To compromise with the evolutionist is to have your faith firmly planted on the thin air of an unbelieving hypothesis. Genesis 6 states that there was a universal flood because of universal evil. The New Testament corroborates that eight people were spared by entering the ark God prepared. The universal flood provides a scientific explanation for many phenomena we find in the earth's crust. It may explain things from the icecaps to the disappearance of dinosaurs. God says the flood was universal. What is to be gained by agreeing with some absentminded professor from academia who thinks it extended only from Baghdad to Basra? 

Let me reproduce one of my father's short paragraphs from The New Neutralism: 

Not only is the new-brand Evangelicalism born of compromise, but in the second place, it is a movement nurtured on pride of intellect. The statements of its leading advocates indicate that these men are trying very, very hard to be accepted among 'the upper four hundred' of the intelligentsia. This new crop of evangelical scholars has done graduate work at Harvard, Chicago University and Princeton, and they know a lot of answers that the common herd of fundamentalist preachers can't fathom. To speak very plainly, an attitude of intellectual snobbery is very typical of many of its leaders. 

Back so many paragraphs ago that you have forgotten it, I began with the thought of acceptance. I said that this craving for acceptance shows itself in the desire to be accepted in the world of academia and that it also shows in the desire to make the gospel more palatable to the natural man. I have commented on the first part of that. Let's move on to the second part. 

You will not find this matter stated in the literature of new evangelicalism, or in the words of Dr. Ockenga. However, it can be documented and illustrated from the history of new evangelicalism. With the idea of acceptance by the academia of the world came a twin sister, smaller perhaps, but no less real, of acceptance by the world in general. The gospel is unpalatable to the natural man, for it declares him lost and undone. It declares him helpless. It strips him of his boasted good life and exposes his pitiful boast of keeping the golden rule. It leaves him with no hope except to cry out, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." 

All of us have been tempted to water down the gospel to make it palatable to a friend. We knew that we were wrong when we did it. New evangelicalism made it acceptable to water down the gospel. Campus Crusade's "Four Spiritual Laws" are a prime example. They give a diluted presentation of the gospel designed be non-offensive. Who could fail to be attracted to, "God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life:"? It is not false, but it is not the gospel as preached by Peter or Paul. It is an accommodation to the way the natural man thinks about himself. It produces an easy-believism in which every man is saved but lives just as he did before. 

With this accommodation of the message to the natural man came an accommodation in the way of presenting the message. The historic method has always been what Scripture calls, "the foolishness of preaching." The new method became the selling of the gospel by the use of sports heroes, beauty queens and famous people. 

During 1944-1945 I was a young serviceman stationed in the Chicago area. For me. Chicagoland Youth for Christ was the place to go on Saturday evening. To this day I am thankful for this, and I do not wish to deprecate the work which was done there - some of it in my own heart. However, as I look back on it, it was an incipient new evangelicalism. No rally was complete without the testimony of an All American tackle from UCLA, a beauty queen from Los Angeles, or some famous person from government or business. In the past history of gospel meetings, testimonies were given by those who were famous for great hymns, missionary service or notable sacrifice for Christ. It began to bother me that those who gave testimony to the new evangelicalism were all famous for exploits in the world, not the church. This trend has continued in the rallies and explos of new evangelicalism. No meeting is complete without a song from Pat Boone, a message from Senator Mark Hatfield, a testimony from Dale Evans, or a word from Trigger. It is all done to please the world. It says, "If the gospel is good enough for the rich and famous, it is good enough for you." 

In no area is this accommodation to the world as obvious as in the area of music. The attitude of new evangelicalism has been "to reach the world, give the world the music it likes." Today, people, especially young people, like rock music. All of the explos and extravaganzas of new evangelicalism have centered around rock groups. They have drawn the crowds. The music is the same as that heard at any rock concert, except that the performers are screaming Christian words. A news release from URBANA '90, dated June 28, 1990 said that "Music will be more contemporary than in the past, with 70 percent contemporary hymnology ...Music is a powerful means of communication for this generation of students." What kind of music is the means of communication for the student generation of the 1990's? You guessed it - rock music. 

With this accommodation to the world in message, presentation and music, came an accommodation to the world's lifestyle. Standards which had been traditionally held in Christian homes have been mocked and set aside. The most dramatic (and saddest) illustration of this is the following quotation from page 84 of Richard Quebedeaux' book, The Worldly Evangelicals: 

Evangelicals of the left range from moderate Republicans to democratic socialists, if not Marxists. Most affirm the nuclear family, but are at the same time open to alternative domestic lifestyles, from extended families to communes. Just about all of the left evangelicals are feminists and support the ordination of women, egalitarian marriage, and the use of inclusive language. The old evangelical taboos against alcohol, tobacco, social dancing and the like are almost universally condemned (as binding at least). Biblical criticism, used constructively and devoutly, is employed by a great many evangelical students and scholars of the left. They recognize the marks of cultural conditioning on Scripture, and their study of the Bible is informed by their knowledge of the natural, social, and behavioral sciences. 

Quebedeaux calls himself a new evangelical. He was a World Council of Churches Ecumenical Scholar at Oxford University in 1969-70. Obviously he is a radical new evangelical. However, he is an example of how far the trend goes, once it has begun. 

Had you strolled across Boston Common to attend church at Park Street Congregational Church in the days of Dr. Ockenga's ministry, you would have found a very worshipful service. You would have thrilled to a great organ and choir singing the hymns of Watts, Wesley and Newton: You would have found Dr. Ockenga to be a dignified, moral, Presbyterian pastor. If he could come back to a new evangelical rock concert and view a crowd of young people carrying out Mr. Quebedeaux' ideas, I think he might hold his hands to his head and cry, "No, no, this is not what we intended to start." New evangelicalism determined to find acceptance by the world. It has! 

Let's move on to the third and final determination of new evangelicalism. New evangelicalism determined to add the social gospel to the Scriptural gospel. As we have done with each point, let us go back to the words of the founder in his press release for December 8, 1957: 

The New Evangelicalism differs from Fundamentalism in its willingness to handle the social problems which Fundamentalism evaded. There need be no dichotomy between the personal gospel and the social gospel. The true Christian faith is a supernatural personal experience of salvation and a social philosophy. Doctrine and social ethics are Christian disciplines. Fundamentalism abdicated leadership and responsibility in the societal realm and thus became impotent to change society or to solve social problems. The New Evangelicalism adheres to all the orthodox teachings of Fundamentalism, but has evolved a social philosophy. 

Again, in the foreword to Dr. Lindsell's book he said as follows: 

The ringing call for a repudiation of separation and the summons to social involvement received a hearty response from many evangelicals. 

By very definition, preachers must have something to preach. Liberalism, by its denial of inspiration and rejection of the deity of Christ, lost the gospel. The historic definition of the gospel is that given by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1,3,4: 

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand... For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 

A modernist would read that and say, "None of which I believe anymore." What, then, should a modernist preach? Men such as Washington Gladden, Walter Rauschenbusch, Shailer Mathews, Henry C. King and others put their heads together and came up with the social gospel. Gladden was a Congregational pastor with a long tenure in Columbus, Ohio, where he served on the city council. Rauschenbusch was an American Baptist professor at Rochester Theological Seminary Mathews, another liberal Baptist, was professor at the University of Chicago and an early president of the Federal Council of Churches. King, a Congregationalist, spent twenty-five years as president of Oberlin College. 

Godly missionaries have always benefited the society in which they worked. They preached the gospel. Lives were changed. Morality in villages improved. Men and women were taught their proper roles from the Bible. Homes became happier and children disciplined. Medical treatment was usually given. Society improved wherever the gospel went. However, this was never the vision of the social gospel as evolved by liberalism and personified in the Federal Council of Churches. Eerdman's Handbook to Christianity in America correctly says on page 319:

 The social gospel differed from evangelical reform movements like the Salvation Army in at least two respects. 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. 

This social philosophy is not taught in scripture. Rather, it was the invention of men who rejected the gospel. Notice the last line of Dr. Ockenga's statement which I gave you a few paragraphs ago. He said that "The New Evangelicalism ...has evolved a social philosophy" That word "evolved" tells us that it is not taught in the Scripture but has had to he evolved from it. Before new evangelicalism came on the scene, we had fundamentalism with a saving gospel and the liberals with a social gospel. Now, the movement which desires to stand between the two and be accepted by the liberal religious world decides that it will have "a personal gospel and a social gospel." Satan is always busy in seeking a rapprochement between belief and unbelief. The two-pronged gospel of new evangelicalism gave a pathway for the new evangelical to cooperate with the fundamentalist in soul-saving endeavors and a list of common causes in which new evangelicals and liberals could find fellowship. On this bridge new evangelicals could join hands at Selma, make common cause with Caesar Chavez to boost the price of grapes, join hands with the feminist movement and help establish support groups for homosexuals. These have all happened.

Satan is a joiner. God's key word in regard to unbelief is separate. Satan's key word is cooperate. Satan is always seeking an amalgam of belief and unbelief. The joining of social action causes by new evangelicals has been a magnificent strategy to produce cooperation with liberalism. Remember that Satan's ultimate strategy is to produce the one-world church of the end time. 


Over 40 years ago, at the beginning of new evangelicalism, Dr. Harold John Ockenga stood like an architect with his drawings under his arm and outlined the plan of the movement. He declared that it had three great determinations - the determination to reject Biblical separatism, the determination to find acceptance by the world, and the determination to add the social gospel to the Scriptural gospel. The history of new evangelicalism has gone according to plan.




THE NEW NEUTRALISM - The NAE, the WEF and Camels 

In his press release about new evangelicalism, December 8, 1957, Dr. Ockenga was very upbeat about the glowing future of the movement. He based this optimism on a six-point organizational front as follows:

Since I first coined the phrase 'The New Evangelicalism' at a convocation address at Fuller Theological Seminary ten years ago, the evangelical forces have been welded into an organizational front. First, there is the National Association of Evangelicals which provides articulation for the movement on the denominational level; second, there is World Evangelical Fellowship which binds together these individual national associations of some twenty-six countries into a world organization; third, there is the new apologetic literature stating this point of view which is now flowing from the presses of the great publishers, including Macmillans and Harpers; fourth, there is the existence of Fuller Theological Seminary and other evangelical seminaries which are fully committed to orthodox Christianity and a resultant social philosophy; fifth, there is the establishment of Christianity Today, a bi-weekly publication, to articulate the convictions of this movement; sixth, there is the appearance of an evangelist, Billy Graham, who on the mass level is the spokesman of the convictions and ideals of the New Evangelicalism.

As a boy I used to be enamored with fishing, but I always had a dread of catching a catfish. Because of its peculiar anatomy I never knew quite where to take hold of one. In a similar way, it is hard to know where to take hold of new evangelicalism. Consequently I will begin by looking at some of the things which Dr. Ockenga believed were the hope of the movement. I will not address all six of Dr. Ockenga's reasons for optimism, but I will reflect four of them from the vantage point of the thirty-five years which have passed since his statement.

In this chapter I would like you to think about the National Association of Evangelicals, known as the NAE, and the World Evangelical Fellowship, known as WEF.  Dr. Ockenga made them separate entries in his list of six, but they are merely national and world levels of the same thing. The history of the latter group has been written by the current General Director, David M. Howard, under the title, The Dream That Would Not Die. From a reading of that history one gets the idea that the World Evangelical Fellowship has always existed on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, it has sought to be a world organization and has tried to avoid being American by having committees which represent the major nations and the third world countries. The other horn of the problem is that the money has had to come from the United States. The worldwide aura, with single nation support, has kept the group from having the influence it would desire.

One Hump or Two?
Having attended several hundred committee meetings in my life, I am fond of the saying that a camel is a horse put together by a committee. Somewhere in school I learned that camels come in two styles - the Arabian camel with one hump and the Bactrian camel with two. When the NAE was formed in 1942, six years before the name new evangelicalism was coined, it was evidently put together by a Bactrian committee, for it was designed with two humps of compromise.

Compromise with Apostasy
The first hump of compromise was that which allowed members of the apostasy, then officially represented by the Federal Council of Churches, to join the new organization. The NAE was organized at almost the same time as the American Council of Christian Churches, known as the ACCC. The distinction between the two groups was that the ACCC required all members to take the step of Biblical separation from the denominations of the Federal Council of Churches. On the other hand, the NAE required member denominations to take that step but allowed individual members and churches to have dual membership. They could join the NAE and still remain in the apostate denomination and church council. Compromising men and churches could get their status in an apostate denomination and their spiritual fellowship in the NAE. This attracted those who had enough conviction against apostasy to complain of the lack of fellowship, but not enough conviction to get out.

This first hump of compromise on the camel has always blunted the NAE's protest against apostasy. It has made the group acceptable to the National and World Councils of Churches so that they might unite in joint endeavors or attend one another's meetings. The NAE united to fight for right without ever declaring war on wrong. This hump of compromise on the camel made it impossible for any true fundamentalist to swallow.

This compromise has never been repudiated by the NAE. The long-time Executive Director of the NAE, Billy A. Melvin, gave a lengthy interview to Christianity Today in the October 8, 1982 issue. In answer to questions about the relationship of the NAE to the National Council of Churches and mainline denominations, Melvin gave the following replies:

Of course, there are many good, solid evangelicals within all the mainline structures. I'm not on any crusade to get them to leave their denominations. But certainly, we encourage them to be faithful to their evangelical convictions both in their work and in their witness. This has been the stance of NAE from the beginning. That was one reason Carl McIntire and the ACCC went in another direction. They felt all evangelicals in NCC-related denominations had to leave their denominations. Our position has been that it is not the business of NAE to interfere in the internal affairs of a local church. We are prepared to fellowship with them and love them whether they are in or out of their denomination.

That is correct. NAE is unequivocally evangelical, but it welcomes conservative evangelicals within denominations whose leadership may have departed from biblical commitments of the past.

A significant number of mainline churches and leaders are connected with NAE. Of our 20 past presidents, 6 have come from mainline denominations.

On traditional, fundamental doctrines, NAE and the fundamentalists are in agreement, except that not all of us hold their view of ecclesiastical separation. If fundamentalists are willing to accept that some in NAE belong to denominations that are influenced by liberalism or wish to support the Billy Graham Crusades, we're all together


Are There Fundamentalists in the NAE?
The above quotation shows that six out of twenty times the NAE has been led by a president who did not have enough conviction against apostasy to leave it. In my booklet, Axioms of Separation, I have used the following definition of fundamentalism: "Fundamentalism is the militant belief and proclamation of the basic doctrines of Christianity leading to a Scriptural separation from those who reject them." If one uses this definition, it is obvious that no fundamentalist can be a member of the NAE.

Compromise with Charismatics
The second hump of compromise was that which opened membership to the Pentecostal denominations. During the last thirty years, the Pentecostal element has metamorphosed into the charismatic movement. This movement has taken the doctrines of tongues, healing in the atonement and continuing revelation to heights of excess never dreamed of by the old-time Pentecostals. However, the membership of even the most radical elements has never been questioned. Thus, the NAE can never address even the most obvious aberrations of the charismatic movement. Until the NAE came on the scene, theologians still believed that oil and water would not mix. No effort was made to unite the whole theological spectrum. The NAE attitude is clearly set forth in another of Billy A. Melvins answers in the Christianity Today interview:

Theologically we represent the whole spectrum - everything from Mennonite to Reformed Presbyterian, from Baptist to Lutheran, Pentecostal, and holiness. Probably the total membership is slightly more Calvinistic than Arminian; it's almost fifty-fifty.


There you have the two humps on the NAE camel which were designed into the original animal and continue to distinguish it today.

Neutralism on Great Issues - Neutralism on All Issues
My father chose to designate new evangelicalism as a movement of neutralism. Here you see it again. The first hump of compromise declares neutralism between faith and apostasy The second declares neutralism between historic Christianity and the charismatic movement. Once any group declares itself neutral on any of the great issues of the day, it is easy for neutrality to become a way of life. Dozens of illustrations could be given to show that this has happened to the NAE.

Neutralism and Romanism
An interesting illustration began at the Seventh General Assembly of the World Evangelical Fellowship, March, 1980, in Hertfordshire, England. According to David M. Howard's history of the WEE General Secretary Waldron Scott, with the permission of the Executive Council, invited two observers from the Roman Catholic Church to bring greetings. They were Ralph Martine of the Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement, and Monsignor Basil Meeking of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity

The appearance of these two Catholic theologians at a Protestant gathering provoked reaction. Delegates from Spain, France and Italy protested. Eventually the Evangelical Alliance of Italy withdrew its membership in protest and the Evangelical Alliance of Spain suspended its participation in the WEF

How was the matter handled? Was it acknowledged that there had been a Protestant reformation? Did the assembly agree that the Roman Catholic Church neither accepted Scripture as sole authority or grace as sufficient for salvation? Scott took the position of neutrality. According to Howard:

He observed that in some parts of the world evangelicals were actively courting closer relationships with the Roman Catholic Church

How was the matter disposed of? According to Howard:

As a result of the deep feelings and misunderstandings generated by this issue WEF appointed a carefully selected Task Force to study relationships with the Roman Catholic Church. This Task Force was composed of leading theologians from every major region of the world, with special attention given to those areas, such as southern Europe and Latin America where the Roman Catholic Church has exercised special influence in the life of the nations.


This Task Force reported to the Eighth General Assembly at Singapore in 1986 with a report titled, "A Contemporary Evangelical Perspective on Roman Catholicism." As the title almost tells you, the report dealt heavily in neutralism. According to the Christian Beacon of March 12, 1987, Gordon J. Spykman, Professor of Religion and Theology at Calvin College said as follows:

This story does not yet have an ending. In view of the shortcomings in the Perspective, a further chapter has yet to be written. At the recent General Assembly of the WEF, it was concluded that the report 'deals with only a limited range of issues of Roman Catholicism.' Moreover 'the Theological Commission did not have an opportunity to discuss the statement before it was sent to the Assembly.' It was therefore decided that the Theological Commission should continue this study of contemporary Roman Catholicism. To this end it appointed a five member 'continuation committee' to draft a supplementary report.

The Christian Beacon goes on to report the following:

Then in a special feature, 'To Dialogue or Not to Dialogue,' David F. Wells, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Seminary answers that it must continue. He says, 'Should we dialogue with Catholics? Yes, I believe we should.'


Is this report still knocking around in the WEF? I do not know, but it is a classic example of neutralism.

Neutralism and Inerrancy
Another example of neutralism is the discussion surrounding the inerrancy of Scripture. Dr. Harold Lindsell's excellent book, The Battle for the Bible, came off of the press in 1976. The thesis of the book is to defend the Biblical doctrine of inerrancy Lindsell's position (which is the historic position of fundamentalism) is expressed as follows on pages 139 and 142 of his book:

It seems to me that those who believe in inerrancy are left with little choice except to stand for a definition of 'evangelical' that includes in it the notion of biblical inerrancy This is especially true if inerrancy is really a watershed that determines where one ends up. This need not be taken to mean that those who hold to a limited inerrancy are excluded from the household of faith. But it does mean that there is a real difference that should not be obscured, for the dangers inherent in the limited inerrancy viewpoint are too important to be overlooked.

It is my contention that once biblical infallibility is surrendered it leads to the most undesirable consequences, It will end in apostasy at last. It is my opinion that it is next to impossible to .stop the process of theological deterioration once inerrancy is abandoned.


With this book, written by a prominent new evangelical, hot off of the press, the issue of inerrancy became a live question at the NAE convention in 1976. Christianity Today for April 1, 1977 said as follows:

An important position paper reaffirmed the NAE's belief in the infallibility of the Bible, but the word inerrancy did not appear, and no one suggested publicly that it should be inserted. There were some corridor utterances to that effect, but apparently no one wanted to disturb the unity... Inerrancy advocates quietly took their lumps.


Dr. David Hubbard, president of Fuller Seminary and an opponent of inerrancy did not miss the significance of this when he said the following:

It is worth noting that the National Association of Evangelicals chose the word 'infallibility' rather than 'inerrancy' for its statement.


In 1977, the very next year, Hubbard was an invited speaker at the NAE convention.

The NAE was a sponsoring organization of a conference titled Evangelical Affirmations '89. It was held on the campus of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School May 14-17, 1989. The purpose of the conference was for the theologians of new evangelicalism to define the movement. (If I were of a sarcastic bent I would say that they were seeking to agree on the five fundamentals of new evangelicalism.) Action for July-August, 1989 published a summary of the affirmations. Affirmation 4 reads as follo

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