Part I: New Evangelicalism - Its History

The following is part one of a three-part article, first published in 1995 under the title of Fundamentalism, Modernism, and New-Evangelicalism.

I am convinced that few errors are as destructive to fundamentalist Bible-believing churches as New Evangelicalism. When people leave our churches, where do they go? Do they join the Roman Catholic Church? Do they join a modernistic Protestant church, such as the United Methodist, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., or the United Church of Canada? Do they join a cult such as the Mormons? That seldom occurs. Most who leave fundamentalist Bible-believing churches join the positive-thinking, easy-going New Evangelical church down the street or across town.

Few false philosophies more directly pull at members of fundamental Baptist churches than New Evangelicalism. Church members are confronted with it on every hand--through popular Christian radio and television preachers, at the local ecumenical bookstore, through members of other churches, through ecumenical evangelistic crusades, through political activity, through interdenominational organizations such as Promise Keepers.

It is therefore crucial that we understand the nature of New Evangelicalism.

We are concerned that a many of the members of good churches do not have a clear understanding of exactly what New Evangelicalism is, nor of the history of the doctrinal battles which have been fought to preserve the Truth in the past 100 years. Many seem to think that New Evangelicalism is a problem that was fought decades ago and that no longer exists.

To be ignorant of the insidious and pervasive nature of New Evangelicalism is to be unprepared to identify and resist it. Yet, large numbers of fundamentalists do not know anything about New Evangelicalism. A few years ago, a fundamental Baptist evangelist asked the students of a well-known independent Baptist school to raise their hands if they could define New Evangelicalism. Only two raised their hands.

Hosea 4:6 warns, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”


I. The History of New Evangelicalism

II. The Influence of New Evangelicalism

III. The Principles of New Evangelicalism

a. New Evangelicalism is characterized by a repudiation of separation.

b. New Evangelicalism New Evangelicalism is characterized by replacing separation with dialogue.

c. New Evangelicalism is characterized by a love for positivism, by a repudiation of the more negative aspects of biblical Christianity, by a judge-not philosophy, by a dislike of doctrinal controversy.

d. New Evangelicalism is characterized by exalting love and unity above doctrine.

e. New Evangelicalism is characterized by a pragmatic approach to the ministry.

f. New Evangelicalism is characterized by a desire for intellectual respectability, by pride of scholarship.

g. New Evangelicalism is characterized by an attitude of anti-fundamentalism.

h. New Evangelicalism is characterized by an inconsistency, by contradiction.

i. New Evangelicalism is characterized by the division of biblical truth into categories of important and not important.

j. New Evangelicalism is characterized by exalting social-political activity to the same level as the Great Commission.

k. 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.

IV. The Fruit of New Evangelicalism



To understand New Evangelicalism, we must go back two centuries to the formation of theological modernism, which originated in the late 1700s in Europe.

Theological modernism (or liberalism) had its origin in Europe, particularly in Germany, in the 19th century and was merely the rationalistic thinking of that time applied to Christianity. It was the dawn of the “scientific era”; many men felt they were on the verge of discovering the secrets of the universe and solving the problems of mankind. Anti-Christian thinkers such as Darwin, Hegel, and Marx led the movement to dethrone God and replace Him with Man. Unregenerate “Christian” professors in many European universities and seminaries had already rejected the Word of God, so they gladly accepted the humanistic thinking of the day and set out to apply evolutionary thinking to the Bible and Christianity. The result was tragic: The Bible was considered merely a human book, inspired only in the sense that Shakespeare's writings were “inspired.” Jesus Christ was considered a mere man, good and helpful, perhaps, but a mere man nonetheless Modernism spread like ivy. The growth stages of ivy are described by the saying, “It sleeps, it creeps, and it leaps.” This is precisely what occurred with theological modernism. It began in a very small way in the 18th century, then it began to creep forward and expand its influence in the 19th century, and finally it leaped from denomination to denomination and spread throughout the world in the 20th century. It was introduced to American denominations through men who studied in prestigious (though apostate) European universities and through European professors who visited American schools and churches.

Nominal Christianity had paved the way for this apostasy both in Europe and in England.

In Germany, the Lutheran state church was spiritually powerless. The citizens of the nation were members of the church by birth and by infant baptism, but they were not born again and the new birth was seldom preached.

A similar situation existed in England, though to a lesser degree. The Church of England dominated religious life in the nation, and it represented a nominal Christianity, for the most part. In England, unlike Germany, there was a stronger evangelical movement within the state church; there was also a much stronger evangelical church movement apart from the state church, as represented by Baptists, Methodists, Brethren, and others. Spiritual revivals had produced good fruit in England in the late 18th century and early 19th.

Consider some examples of the heretical philosophies and doctrines that were taking hold in these days:

(1) It was the age of “enlightenment” in which rationalism was positively encouraged by Frederick II, the “philosopher king,” who reigned over Prussia 46 years (1740-1786). The “age of enlightenment” should be called the “age of unbelief.” Frederick was “a thorough rationalist and patron of ‘free thought.’ The sight of a cross, it was said, was enough to make him blaspheme” (Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided, p. 5). The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary of 1934 correctly defined “Enlightenment” as “shallow and pretentious intellectualism, unreasonable contempt for authority and tradition.”

(2) Professor H.E.G. Paulus (1761-1851) of Heidelberg, Germany, devised naturalistic explanations for Christ’s miracles. He claimed, for example, that Jesus did not actually walk on the water but that He was walking on the shore, and in the mist and fog it only appeared that he was walking on the water. He claimed that Jesus did not die on the cross, but only swooned, and in the coolness of the tomb he revived; and after an earthquake moved the stone, he walked out and appeared to the disciples.

(3) Frederick Schleiermacher (1768-1834) of Halle, Germany, exalted experience and feeling over Bible doctrine. He used traditional Christian language but reinterpreted it. He emphasized the necessity of knowing Christ through faith, but “faith” did not refer to believing the Bible as the infallible Word of God but merely to man’s own intuition or consciousness. He did not consider historical biblical truth to be necessary to faith. Thus Schleiermacher could say, “With my intellect I am a philosopher, and with my feelings quite a devout man; ay, more than that, a Christian” (quoted by Daniel Edward, “Schleiermacher Interpreted by Himself and the Men of His School,” British and Foreign Evangelical Review, vol. 25, 1876, p. 609). Schleiermacher barred doctrinal preaching from the pulpit (Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided, 2000, p. 11). “Schleiermacher is correctly viewed as the chief source of the massive change which has occurred in the historic Protestant denominations during the last two hundred years. ... In his separation of the intellectual content of Christianity (the objective biblical revelation) from Christian ‘feeling’, Schleiermacher seemed to provide a means whereby the essence of Christianity could remain unaffected, no matter how much of the Bible was rejected. Hostile criticism of Scripture need not therefore be seen as a threat to the ‘faith’ ... Christianity, it was concluded, could be successful irrespective of whether Scripture were preserved as the Word of God, and this thought was the more appealing as the theological scholarship of the nineteenth century became increasingly destructive” (Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided). Schleiermacher paved the way for the New Evangelical view that men can be genuine Christians and “love the Lord,” even though they reject biblical doctrine. For this reason, Billy Graham can have sweet fellowship with modernistic unbelievers and Roman Catholic bishops and popes.

(4) F.C. Baur (1792-1860), founder of the Tuebingen School of New Testament criticism (Tuebingen, Germany) claimed that the Gospel of John was not written by the apostle John and, in fact, was not written until 170 A.D. and that only four of Paul’s Epistles were actually written by him. He argued that the New Testament was merely the natural record of the early churches. Baur’s school was very influential in the spread of modernism.

(5) David F. Strauss (1808-1874), a pupil of F.C. Baur, “dismissed all the supernatural and messianic elements in the Gospels as myth.” In his book The Life of Jesus (1835-36) he boldly denied the divinity of Jesus Christ.

(6) Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) popularized existentialism in contrast to biblical absolutes. Though little known in his lifetime beyond the borders of Denmark, his writings later became influential through translations. For example, Robert Runcie, who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1980 to 1990, said he was indebted to Kierkegaard’s idea “that religion had nothing to do with the rational part of your mind.” Runcie said this showed him “a way in which I could hold together a fundamental skepticism with religious devotion” (Humphrey Carpenter, Robert Runcie: The Reluctant Archbishop, 1977, p. 88).

(7) The Graf-Wellhausen theory was named for Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) and Karl Heinrich Graf (1815-1869). (Julius Wellhausen published the Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel in 1878.) According to this theory, the Old Testament is not divine revelation but merely the record of the evolution of Israel’s religion. He held “that Hebrew religion had undergone a development from the primitive stories of nomadic times to the elaborate, institutionalized ritualism of the period of the centuries before the birth of Christ” (The History of Christianity, Lion Publishing, 1977, p. 554). Wellhausen denied the historicity of Abraham, Noah, and other Bible characters in the history of Israel. He claimed that Israel did not know about Jehovah God until Moses taught them this at Mt. Sinai. He claimed that the laws and the priestly system were not given by Moses but were developed after Israel was in Canaan and, in some cases, after the Babylonian exile; that most of the Pentateuch was written during the days of Israel’s kings as a “pious fraud.” This theory has, in its ever-changing forms, wielded vast influence in theological education in most denominations.

At the heart of theological modernism is AN ATTACK UPON THE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE. A central tenant is the critical approach, which questions the traditional authorship and historicity of the Pentateuch and other parts of Scripture. The result is to question or openly deny Old Testament miracles such as the worldwide flood of Noah’s day, God’s destruction of Sodom by fire from heaven, Lot’s wife turning to a pillar of salt, the judgments upon Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the account of Job’s suffering, and Jonah’s three days in the whale’s belly.

The translators of the Revised Standard Version of 1951 were modernists and their writings illustrate this attack. They represented most of the mainline Protestant denominations in America at the mid-point of the 20th century. Following are just a few examples:

Clarence T. Craig: “Revelation has sometimes been understood to consist in a holy book. ... Even on Christian soil it has sometimes been held that the books of the Bible were practically dictated to the writers through the Holy Spirit. ... I DO NOT THINK THAT THIS IS THE DISTINCTIVELY CHRISTIAN POSITION. ... The true Christian position is the Bible CONTAINS the record of revelation” (Craig, The Beginning of Christianity, 1943, pp. 17, 18).

Millar Burrows: “We cannot take the Bible as a whole and in every part as stating with divine authority what we must believe and do” (Burrows, Outline of Biblical Theology).

Russell Bowie: “According to the ENTHUSIASTIC TRADITIONS which had come down through the FOLKLORE of the people of Israel, Methuselah lived 969 years” (Walter Russell Bowie, Great Men of the Bible, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1937, p. 1).

Julius Bewer: “The dates and figures found in the first five books of the Bible turn out to be altogether unreliable” (Bewer, The Literature of the Old Testament, 1940).

Fleming James: “The narrative of calling down fire from heaven upon the soldiers sent to arrest him is PLAINLY LEGENDARY. . . . What REALLY happened at the Red Sea WE CAN NO LONGER KNOW” (James, The Beginnings of Our Religion).

Edgar Goodspeed: “The oldest of these elements [that formed Genesis] was a Judean account of the nation’s story from the beginning of the world to the conquest of Canaan by the tribes. ... BABYLONIAN MYTHS AND LEGENDS AND CANAANITE POPULAR TALES HE FREELY APPROPRIATED to his great purpose of enforcing morality and the worship of one God. Sometimes crude old SUPERSTITIOUS IDEAS still cling to some of these. The writer of this ancient record was a prophet ... He wrote his book about 850 B.C. in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. ... And IN THE CAPTIVITY IN BABYLONIA THESE BOOKS [THE FIRST SIX BOOKS OF THE BIBLE] WERE COMBINED INTO A GREAT COMPOSITE WORK of history and law ... So at last, not long after 400 B.C., arose the Hexateuch” (Goodspeed, The Story of the Old Testament, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934, pp. 107-110).

Learoy Sperry: “Plainly no divine fiat compounded man out of the dust of the earth and the universal spirit on a Friday in the year 4004 B.C. It is harder than once it was to see God walking in that garden in the cool of the evening” (Sperry, Signs of These Times, New York: Doubleday, 1929, p. 110).

A more recent illustration of modernism comes from the pen of John Shelby Spong, a bishop in the Episcopal Church in America. Consider an excerpt from this man’s writings: “Am I suggesting that these stories of the virgin birth are not literally true? The answer is a simple and direct 'Yes.' Of course these narratives are not literally true. Stars do not wander, angels do not sing, virgins do not give birth, magi do not travel to a distant land to present gifts to a baby, and shepherds do not go in search of a newborn savior. ... To talk of a Father God who has a divine-human son by a virgin woman is a mythology that our generation would never have created, and obviously, could not use. To speak of a Father God so enraged by human evil that he requires propitiation for our sins that we cannot pay and thus demands the death of the divine-human son as a guilt offering is a ludicrous idea to our century. The sacrificial concept that focuses on the saving blood of Jesus that somehow washes me clean, so popular in Evangelical and Fundamentalist circles, is by and large repugnant to us today” (John Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture, Harper, 1991, pp. 215,234).

Another recent example of theological modernism is THE JESUS SEMINAR. This misnamed organization, composed of some 75 “experts in religion and New Testament studies,” began meeting in March 1985 (its organization was first announced in 1978) with the supposed object of discovering which words of the Gospels are authentic.

The Seminar met from time to time to discuss passages of the New Testament. After a passage was discussed by the participating “scholars,” they used colored pegs to indicate the degree of authenticity they felt should be ascribed to it. Red signified a strong degree of certainty in favor of authenticity; pink signified probably; gray signified maybe; black signified their conviction that the passage is not authentic. The colors therefore indicate degrees of doubt in God’s Word.

In 1993, the Jesus Seminar published The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. This included a new translation called “The Scholar’s Translation.” The color coding was incorporated into the text to describe the degree to which the various portions of the Gospels are considered authentic by the Jesus Seminar. Very few of the passages are red!

The Seminar concluded that Christ spoke only 18 percent of the sayings attributed to Him in the Bible. According to the Jesus Seminar, Christ did not speak most of the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount; He did not say anything about turning the other cheek or giving to those who ask of you; He did not speak the parable of the sower, the parable of the ten virgins, the parable of the ten pieces of money, or the parable of the talents; He did not say “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”; He did not pray in the garden of Gethsemane; He did not say “Take eat, this is my body” and the other sayings associated with the Lord’s Supper; He did not say “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” or “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” when He was on the cross. The Jesus Seminar determined that Christ did not walk on the water; he did not feed the thousands with only a few loaves and fishes; Christ gave no prophecies of His death or resurrection or second coming; Christ did not conduct the Last Supper as it is recorded in Scripture; there was no Jewish trial of Christ; Christ did not appear before the high priest or before Pilate; the Jewish crowd did not participate in His condemnation; Christ did not rise again bodily on the third day and did not ascend to Heaven bodily.

According to the Jesus Seminar, “THE STORY OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS ENDED WITH HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS AND THE DECAY OF HIS BODY” (Religious News Service, March 6, 1995).

According to Jesus Seminar scholars, Jesus Christ was a mere man who was filled with delusions and was caught up in some sort of political intrigue. At the Redlands, California, meeting in 1986, Jesus Seminar scholar Ron Cameron stated: “THE DEATH OF JESUS WAS LIKE A CAR WRECK; IT’S AN ACCIDENT OF HISTORY. ... I’m not sure why the Romans killed Jesus, but the gospel stories are not historical in the modern sense of the word. I don’t think Jesus had the notoriety that the gospels say he had. His sayings don’t any where give evidence that he was trying to found a church or a reform movement” (Christian News, April 7, 1986). [He can something idiotic like this, because he discounts the majority of Jesus’ statements in the Gospels.]

Jesus Seminar leader Marcus Borg made the following statement to the religious press in 1992: “I would argue that the truth of Easter does not depend on whether there was an empty tomb, or whether anything happened to the body of Jesus. ... I do not see the Christian tradition as exclusively true, or the Bible as the unique and infallible revelation of God. ... It makes no historical sense to say, ‘Jesus was killed for the sins of the world.’ ... I am one of those Christians who does not believe in the virgin birth, nor in the star of Bethlehem, nor in the journeys of the wisemen, nor in the shepherds coming to the manger, as facts of history” (Bible Review, December 1992).

(For a refutation of modernistic theories of biblical inspiration see the Advanced Bible Studies Series Course on Bible Doctrine or the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity, available from Way of Life Literature.)

Modernism flies under many flags and assumes many guises. Not all modernists are as bold and plainspoken as the translators of the RSV or John Spong or Marcus Borg, BUT ALL DENY THE PERFECT INSPIRATION OF HOLY SCRIPTURE and question the miraculous.

It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit prophesied all of this. The Lord’s Apostles warned that many unregenerate false teachers would creep into the churches and would deceive many, and in fact, such false teachers were already active during the times of the Apostles (Mat. 7:15-23; 24:5, 24; Acts 20:28-30; 2 Cor. 11:1-20; Gal. 2:4; Phil. 3:1, 2; 3:18-19; Col. 2:4-8; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 2:14-21; 3:1-13; 4:1-4; Tit. 1:10-16; 3:9-11; 2 Pet. 2:1-22: 3:1-18; 1 John 2:18-19; 4:1-6; 2 Jn. 7-11; Jude 3-19).


The term “fundamentalism” has come to mean any number of things and is commonly used in a derogatory and slanderous way by those who do not believe the Scriptures. It is used to describe all sorts of dangerous extremism, such as Islamic terrorists, Pentecostal snake-handlers, the racist Ayrian Nations, and cult leaders such as Jim Jones who caused the mass suicide of his followers.

Let’s consider the origin of the name “fundamentalist.”

Fundamentalism arose from the doctrinal controversies that embroiled American churches at the beginning of the 20th century when theological modernism began to take root in seminaries and Bible colleges and in leadership positions in the denominations. In America, the church situation was significantly different than in Europe and even in England. There were no state churches, and the nation had been blessed with some powerful revivals in the 1700s, 1800s, and the early 1900s. As theological modernism began gaining adherents in U.S. denominations, regenerate Christian leaders who believed the Bible took a stand against it. The battle that followed was called the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy.

The stage was set for this battle by the publication of a series of books that were written to expound fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. Published over a five-year period from 1910-1915, the series, titled The Fundamentals, was composed of 90 articles written by 64 authors. With the financial backing of two wealthy Christian businessmen brothers (California oil magnates Milton and Lyman Stewart), some three million copies of the 12 paperback volumes of The Fundamentals were distributed to Christian workers in the United States and 21 foreign countries. The articles defended the infallible inspiration of the Bible, justification by faith, the new birth, the deity, virgin birth, miracles, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and other Bible truths. Not only did The Fundamentals address the heresy of Modernism, but also of Romanism, Socialism, and the Cults. Contributors included W.B. Riley, James Gray, G. Campbell Morgan, H.C.G. Moule, James Orr, A.T. Pierson, Thomas Spurgeon (son of Charles Haddon), J.C. Ryle, Philip Mauro, W.H. Griffith Thomas, R.A. Torrey, and B.B. Warfield.

The fundamentalist cause was further advanced with the gathering of the World Conference on Christian Fundamentals in Philadelphia in 1919.

It is said that the name “fundamentalist” was first used in 1920 by Edward Lee Laws, editor of the Watchman Examiner, a Northern Baptist publication. Laws coined the term “to describe a group of concerned Baptists who had just met at the Delaware Avenue Baptist Church in Buffalo, New York, to discuss the problem of Modernism in the Northern Baptist Convention” (David Beale, S.B.C. House on the Sand? p. 195).

In England, few accepted the name fundamentalist, preferring to remain known as evangelicals while attempting to distinguish themselves from the new evangelicals. G. Campbell Morgan, for example, said: “I dislike the word ‘Fundamentalist’ as much as I dislike the word ‘Modernist.’ I always decline to be labeled by either designation. My own position is that of holding the Evangelical faith in its fullness” (“Fundamentalist Foibles,” The Biblical Evangelist, Oct. 12, 1984). Peter Masters, pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, writes: In the UK the term fundamentalist has not been much used” (Are We Fundamentalists? 1995, p. 4).

The fundamentalist movement was never homogenous even in its earliest days. There were many aspects or divisions.

The Protestant fundamentalists in general were more oriented toward a “unity in diversity” type of fundamentalism that ignored such things as ecclesiology and prophecy for the sake of a wider umbrella.

The authors of The Fundamentals represented the broader approach to fundamentalism. They held a wide variety of doctrine, some holding very serious doctrinal errors. For example, James Orr of Scotland denied the verbal inspiration of Scripture and allowed for theistic evolution. J. Campbell Morgan denied the literal fire of hell and believed that men could be saved even if they do not hear of nor believe in Christ.

The Fundamentals, a series of booklets which defended orthodox Christianity

Some men who started out with the fundamentalist movement turned back and renounced their former position. For example, A.C. Dixon was the executive secretary of the committee that produced The Fundamentals. Historian George Dollar observes that though Dixon was a fundamentalist for many years, he “deserted because of the stigmas and battles of separatism.” Dixon helped found the Baptist Bible Union in opposition to the liberal Northern Baptist Convention, but “right in the middle of the fiercest battles against the liberals within the convention, Dixon abruptly and without warning turned in his resignation.” He went back into the very denomination that he had left and publicly called upon others to do the same. There were many sad cases like this that discouraged and confused the hearts of those who were in the battle for the truth.

Baptist fundamentalists have tended to be concerned about a broader number of doctrines and issues. G. Archer Weniger observed: “The bulk of fundamentalism, especially the Baptists of every stripe who composed the majority by far, never accepted ... the lowest common denominator in doctrine” (G. Archer Weniger, quoted in Calvary Contender, April 15, 1994). An example was J. Frank Norris, who stood against modernism in the Southern Baptist Convention. He stood for the whole counsel of God and was not afraid to make an issue of anything clearly taught in Scripture. He even fought against the liquor crowd.

Historic fundamentalism involved a militant stand for doctrinal truth and separation from error. Some professing fundamentalists, such as Jerry Falwell and Jack Van Impe, have been teaching since the 1980s that true fundamentalism is merely the stand for “the five fundamentals.” They downplay the issue of separation and doctrinal militancy. The following facts refute this:

George Dollar, in his history of fundamentalism, defines it in this way: “Historic fundamentalism is the literal interpretation of all the affirmations and attitudes of the Bible and the militant exposure of all non-biblical affirmations and attitudes” (Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America, 1973). Dollar divides historic fundamentalism into two periods, and the second period was that of separation. From 1875-1900 conservative leaders raised the banner against Modernism within the denominations. From 1900-1935 these struggles resulted in men leaving their denominations to form separate churches and groups.

David Beale makes the same observation about separation being an integral part of historic fundamentalism: “The essence of fundamentalism ... is the unqualified acceptance of and obedience to the Scriptures. ... The present study reveals that pre-1930 fundamentalism was nonconformist, while post-1930 fundamentalism has been separatist” (Beale, In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850, Bob Jones University Press, 1986, p. 5).

John Ashbrook has deep roots in the fundamentalist movement. His father, William, was brought to trial by the Presbyterian denomination because of his stand against modernism. After his separation from Presbyterianism, William Ashbrook established an independent fundamentalist church. He wrote an incisive book on New Evangelicalism entitled Evangelicalism: The New Neutralism. The first edition of this work appeared in 1958. His son, John, after a period of toying with New Evangelicalism as a young man, became a solid fundamentalist leader in his own right. His book New Neutralism II: Exposing the Gray of Compromise is, in this author’s opinion, one of the best books in print on this subject. In looking back over the fundamentalist movement since the 1930s, how does John Ashbrook define fundamentalism? “Fundamentalism is the militant belief and proclamation of the basic doctrines of Christianity leading to a Scriptural separation from those who reject them” (John Ashbrook, Axioms of Separation, nd., p. 10).

Consider the militancy of The Fundamentalist, published by J. Frank Norris, the influential fundamental Baptist leader of Texas. Baptist historian George Dollar describes Norris’s The Fundamentalist in this way: “The Fundamentalist alarmed and alerted ... Reading the 1920-1930 back issues of The Fundamentalist, one can almost see the smoke and hear the battle cries of those times” (Dollar, The Fight for Fundamentalism, published by the author, 1983, p. 3). Norris’s paper is representative of that entire generation of fundamentalism in that it was a generation noted for its bold militancy for the truth.

Consider the militancy of T.T. Shields, a Canadian who helped found the Baptist Bible Union. At that time, he said, “What then shall be our answer to modernism’s declaration of war? There can be but one answer. The Baptist Bible Union is designed to mobilize the conservative Baptist forces of the continent, for the express purpose of declaring and waging relentless and uncompromising was on Modernism on all fronts.”

A definition of fundamentalism was given by the World Congress of Fundamentalists, meeting in 1976 in Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland. They said, “Fundamentalism is militant orthodoxy set on fire with soulwinning zeal.” They listed seven things that define a fundamentalist. Note particularly the final two points:

* Maintains an immovable allegiance to the inerrant, infallible, and verbally inspired Bible.

* Believes that whatever the Bible says is so.

* Judges all things by the Bible and is judged only by the Bible.

* Affirms the foundational truths of the historic Christian Faith: The doctrine of the Trinity; the incarnation, virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection and glorious ascension, and Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; the new birth through regeneration by the Holy Spirit; the resurrection of the saints to life eternal; the resurrection of the ungodly to final judgment and eternal death; the fellowship of the saints, who are the body of Christ.

* Practices fidelity to that Faith and endeavors to preach it to every creature.

* Exposes and separates from all ecclesiastical denial of that Faith, compromise with error, and apostasy from the Truth.

* Earnestly contends for the Faith once delivered.

The very fact of New Evangelicalism proves that historic fundamentalism was more than an affirmation of a few fundamentals of the faith. If such a definition were true, the New Evangelical movement of the 1940s would have made no sense at all. The fathers of New Evangelicalism all held to “the five fundamentals.” In fact, one of these (Carl Henry) said that there at least several dozen fundamentals (cited from G. Archer Weniger, Calvary Contender, April 15, 1994). The keynote of New Evangelicalism, as we will see, was the repudiation of the separatism and other of the more militantly negative aspects of old-line fundamentalism. In his history of Fuller Theological Seminary, Reforming Fundamentalism, historian George M. Marsden makes it plain that Fuller’s early leaders were consciously rejecting the negative aspects of old-line fundamentalism. It is clear to honest historians that fundamentalism fifty years ago was characterized by MILITANCY, by a willingness to deal with the NEGATIVES, a zeal to JUDGE DOCTRINE, and by SEPARATION, and it was this fact that brought about the New Evangelical movement.

Thus, though fundamentalism has never been a homogenous movement and though it has taken a variety of forms, and though as a movement, it has been largely interdenominational, yet it is equally true to say that one of the chief hallmarks of fundamentalism--its very essence, if you will--has been a MILITANCY for the faith of the Word of God. Anyone who is not truly militant in standing for the Truth has no title to biblical fundamentalism.

Those today that deny the militancy and separation of historic fundamentalism are trying to rewrite history. Instead of admitting that they are NOT old-line fundamentalists, that they have repudiated biblical fundamentalism, have compromised the Word of God and adopted New Evangelicalism, these revisionists are trying to redefine fundamentalism to fit their backslidden condition.

Let me emphasize my own conviction that old-line evangelicalism and fundamentalism at their best were biblically deficient. I am a fundamentalist as far as biblical dogmatism and militancy for the truth and separation from error go, but I am more than a fundamentalist. The goal of my Christian life and ministry is not to be a good fundamentalist, but to be faithful to God’s Word in all matters. Following are two weaknesses that I have observed in fundamentalism as a movement:

(1) The first weakness is the transdenominational character that often characterizes fundamentalism. I do not accept the philosophy that limits the basis of fellowship to a narrow list of “cardinal” doctrines, such as the infallibility of Scripture and the deity of Christ. While the Bible does indicate that some doctrines are more important than others, all teaching of the Bible is important and is to be taken seriously. Timothy was instructed not to allow any other doctrine than that which Paul had delivered to him (1 Tim. 1:3; 6:13,20; 2 Tim. 2:2). Paul was concerned with the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). When the Bible instructs Christians to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3), it does not specify only a narrow aspect of the faith. “The faith once delivered to the saints” refers to the whole body of New Testament truth delivered by the apostles. When God instructs preachers to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2), no particular part of the Word is identified. He is to preach all of the Word of God. Obedience to these commands does not allow me to overlook denominational differences such as the mode of baptism, the manner of the Lord’s Supper, eternal security, the woman’s role in the ministry, or the interpretation of prophecy. Those who differ with me on such things I can accept as true Christians, because these are not issues of “damnable heresy” (2 Pet. 2:1); but I cannot have joint ministry with them, because I do not believe the Bible allows it.

(2) The second weakness is the “universal church” mentality of evangelicalism-fundamentalism. It is common among evangelicals and a large number of fundamentalists to view “the church” as all professing Christians in all denominations and parachurch organizations. To call all of the denominations the “church” or the “body of Christ” is a great confusion which naturally produces an ecumenical mentality and which makes the purifying of the churches impossible. Harold J. Ockenga used the many divisions of evangelicalism-fundamentalism and the “shibboleth of having a pure church” as an excuse for New Evangelicalism’s non-separatist mentality (Ockenga, “From Fundamentalism, Through New Evangelicalism, to Evangelicalism,” Evangelical Roots, edited by Kenneth Kantzer, p. 42). This is dangerous and unscriptural thinking. God’s Word does call for a pure church (1 Cor. 5:6-8); yet, it is not a universal church that we are to purify but the New Testament assembly. To attempt to purify some sort of universal church composed of parachurch and interdenominational structures is something the New Testament never envisions or requires. God has given His people clear instruction about discipline of sin and doctrinal purity, and those instructions are in the context of the assembly (i.e., 1 Corinthians 5). Regardless of what one believes about the New Testament definition of the church, in a practical sense church truth can be applied only to the assembly. It is obvious, at least to me, that God intends for men to be content with the assembly and not to busy themselves with parachurch and transdenominational institutions. (By the way, I also strongly reject the Baptist Bride position. See the article “Are You a Baptist Brider?”)


The founders of New Evangelicalism grew up in fundamentalist homes. They were the “second generation” (Judges 2:10).

In the first half of the 20th century evangelicalism in America was largely synonymous with fundamentalism.

Many historians make this connection, including Mark Ellingsen (The Evangelical Movement) and George Marsden (Reforming Fundamentalism). Marsden says, “There was not a practical distinction between fundamentalist and evangelical: the words were interchangeable” (p. 48).

When the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) was formed in 1942, for example, participants included such staunch fundamentalist leaders as Bob Jones, Sr., John R. Rice, Charles Woodbridge, Harry Ironside, and David Otis Fuller.

By the mid-1950s, though, a clear break between separatist fundamentalists and non-separatist evangelicals occurred. This was occasioned largely by the ecumenical evangelism of Billy Graham. The stronger men dropped out of the NAE. The terms evangelicalism and fundamentalism began “to refer to two different movements” (William Martin, A Prophet with Honor, p. 224).

The sons of evangelical-fundamentalist preachers determined to create a “New Evangelicalism.” They would not be fighters; they would be diplomats, positive rather than militant, infiltrators rather than separatists. They would not be restricted by a separationist mentality.

Harold Ockenga claimed to have coined the term “new evangelical” in 1948. Ockenga was pastor of Park Street Church in Boston, founder of the National Association of Evangelicals, co-founder and first president of Fuller Seminary, first president of the World Evangelical Fellowship, president of Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and chairman of the board and one-time editor of Christianity Today. Following is how Ockenga defined New Evangelicalism in 1976 when he wrote the foreword to Harold Lindsell’s The Battle for the Bible:

“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. The name caught on and spokesmen such as Drs. Harold Lindsell, Carl F.H. Henry, Edward Carnell, and Gleason Archer supported this viewpoint. We had no intention of launching a movement, but found that the emphasis attracted widespread support and exercised great influence. Neo-evangelicalism... DIFFERENT 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. Neo-evangelicals emphasized the restatement of Christian theology in accordance with the need of the times, 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, foreword to Harold Lindsell’s book The Battle for the Bible).

Regardless of who coined the term “New Evangelical” (Ockenga’s claim has been disputed), it is certain that it aptly described the new mood of positivism and non-militancy that was permeating that generation. Ockenga and the new generation of evangelicals, Billy Graham figuring most prominently, determined to abandon a militant Bible stance. Instead, they would pursue dialogue, intellectualism, and appeasement. They determined to stay within apostate denominations to attempt to change things from within rather than practice biblical separation. (Billy Graham remained a member of a Southern Baptist congregation even as that denomination was permeated with theological modernism in the 1960s and never gave even the mildest warning.) The New Evangelical would dialogue with those who teach error rather than proclaim the Word of God boldly and without compromise. The New Evangelical would meet the proud humanist and the haughty liberal on their own turf with human scholarship rather than follow the humble path of being counted a fool for Christ’s sake by standing humbly and simply upon the Bible. New Evangelical leaders also determined to start a “rethinking process” whereby the old paths were to be continually reassessed in light of new goals, methods, and ideology.

Before this, the terms “evangelical” and “fundamentalist” (which, as we have seen, were basically synonymous) referred to A STRICT “PROTESTANT” CHRISTIANITY. Though the term “evangelical,” like “fundamentalist,” has never had one strict established definition and has always incorporated wide latitude of belief, as a rule it traditionally described Protestants who preached the new birth and were stridently opposed to Rome. Generally speaking (and certainly in contrast to the mushy evangelicalism of our day), evangelicals in past generations were militant soldiers for Christ.

Some trace the term “evangelical” to the English revivals of the Wesleys and Whitefield. Others trace it to the earliest days of the Protestant Reformation. In either case, evangelicalism of old was dogmatic and militant. It was old-fashioned Protestantism. Luther was excommunicated by the pope; John Wesley and George Whitefield were barred from Anglican churches for their bold preaching. All of the Protestant denominations once identified Rome as the Revelation 17 whore of Babylon. Anyone familiar with the old Lutheran and Methodist creeds knows this. Those men, though we Baptists don’t see eye to eye with them on many important points, stood militantly for what they believed. This is exactly what the New Evangelical does not do.

John Calvin was no New Evangelical when he said: “Popery is nothing else than a monster formed out of the innumerable deceptions of Satan, and that which they call the Church is more confused than Babylon.” This was typical of the position held by all of the old Protestant leaders.

Martin Luther was no New Evangelical when in December 1520 he published two tracts in answer to the Bull of Leo X, one of which was entitled, “Martin Luther against the Execreable Bull of Anti-Christ.” He charged the Pope and his cardinals of acting “the undoubted part of the Anti-Christ of the Scriptures.”

William Tyndale, the father of our old English Bible, was no New Evangelical when he identified the Pope as the Antichrist in his treatise The Practice of Prelates as well as in the preface to the 1534 edition of his New Testament. “Though the Bishop of Rome and his sects give Christ these names (His rightful names), yet in that they rob Him of the effect and take the signification of His names unto themselves, and make of Him but a hypocrite, as they themselves, and make of Him but a hypocrite, as they themselves be, they be the right Anti-Christs, and deny both the Father and the Son; for they deny the witness that the Father bore unto His Son, and deprive the Son of all power and glory that His Father gave Him” (William Tyndale).

On September 9, 1560, Waldensian Pastor Jean Louis Paschale of Calabria, Italy, just before he was burned alive in the presence of Pope Pius IV in Rome, proved that he was not a New Evangelical when he turned to the pope and “arraigned him as the enemy of Christ, the persecutor of his people, and the Anti-Christ of Scripture, and concluded by summoning him and all his cardinals to answer for their cruelties and murders before the throne of the Lamb” (J.A. Wylie, History of the Waldenses, c1860, p. 120).

William Latimer, a Greek scholar who loved the Word of God during the time of Tyndale, was no New Evangelical when he said, “Do you not know that the Pope is very Antichrist, whom the Scripture speaketh of? But beware what you say; for if you shall be perceived to be of that opinion, it will cost you your life. I have been an officer of his but I have given it up, and defy him and all his works” (Christopher Anderson, Annals of the English Bible, I, pp. 35,36). Latimer was burned at the stake by Queen Mary.

In his 1893 work titled Union with Rome, Christopher Wordsworth, bishop of Lincoln in the Church of England stated the view which prevailed among evangelical Protestants at that time, and it was not a New Evangelical position: “… we tremble at the sight, while we read the inscription, emblazoned in large letters, ‘Mystery, Babylon the Great,’ written by the hand of St. John, guided by the Holy Spirit of God, on the forehead of the Church of Rome” (Wordsworth, Union with Rome, p. 62).

The Methodists were not New Evangelicals when they wrote in their Articles of Religion: “...the sacrifice of Masses in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable, and dangerous deceit.”

David Otis Fuller, speaking of evangelicals of bygone days, said: “Each man possessed the same fierce conviction--that all truth is absolute, never relative. For these men, truth was never a nose of wax to be twisted to suit their system of dialectics or deceptive casuistry. Two times two made four. In mathematics, their supreme authority was the multiplication table; in theology, their absolute authority was the Bible” (D.O. Fuller, Preface, Valiant for the Truth, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1961, pp. ix, x). It is impossible to be a New Evangelical and hold “fierce” convictions!

Baptist CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON (1834-1892) is an example of what “evangelical” meant in generations past. Spurgeon’s ministry was characterized by faithfulness to the truth, holiness of life, a pure gospel of grace, and unhesitating exposure of error.

Spurgeon stood unhesitatingly against Roman Catholicism. Consider this excerpt from one of Spurgeon’s sermons, which demonstrates just how much Spurgeon was NOT a New Evangelical: “It is impossible but that the Church of Rome must spread, WHEN WE WHO ARE THE WATCHDOGS OF THE FOLD ARE SILENT, AND OTHERS ARE GENTLY AND SMOOTHLY TURFING THE ROAD, and making it as soft and smooth as possible, that converts may travel down to the nethermost hell of Popery. We want John Knox back again. DO NOT TALK TO ME OF MILD AND GENTLE MEN, OF SOFT MANNERS AND SQUEAMISH WORDS, we want the fiery Knox, and even though his vehemence should ‘ding our pulpits into blads,’ it were well if he did but rouse our hearts to action” (C.H. Spurgeon, Sermons, Vol. 10, pgs. 322-3). It is obvious that Spurgeon was no New Evangelical, but his description of the soft-mannered men and silent watchdogs of his day fits today’s New Evangelicalism exactly.

Spurgeon was not content to preach boldly against error, he also separated from it. Though misunderstood and misrepresented even by his own brother and some of his former students, Spurgeon did not draw back from separating from the Baptist Union of Britain because of the false doctrine that was being countenanced. Note the following statement that characterized at least the stronger side of evangelicalism before the onslaught of New Evangelicalism: “Complicity with error will take from the best of men the power to enter any successful protest against it. It is our solemn conviction that where there can be no real spiritual communion there should be no pretense of fellowship. FELLOWSHIP WITH KNOWN AND VITAL ERROR IS PARTICIPATION IN SIN. As soon as I saw, or thought I saw, that error had become firmly established, I did not deliberate, but quitted the body at once. Since then my counsel has been ‘Come out from among them.’ I have felt that no protest could be equal to that of distinct separation from known evil. That I might not stultify my testimony I HAVE CUT MYSELF CLEAR OF THOSE WHO ERR FROM THE FAITH, AND EVEN FROM THOSE WHO ASSOCIATE WITH THEM.” This position is ridiculed today as “secondary separation,” but it is obedience to God’s Word (2 Thess. 3:6) and it is wisdom, because “evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33).

Another example of what evangelicalism was before the advent of New Evangelicalism is the late evangelist JAMES A. STEWART. He was used in a mighty way in revivals in Eastern Europe between the end of World War II and the fall of the Communist Iron Curtain, and his published sermons were characterized by uncompromising declaration of Bible truth. Not only did he preach the gospel and the “positive truths” of the Word of God, but he also preached a very “negative” fashion, reproving error and compromise. In sermons such as “Potpourri Evangelism,” Stewart witnessed mightily against modern ecumenical evangelism, which was beginning to raise its head in his day. Consider a quotation from that sermon, first preached in the 1940s (excerpted from James Stewart, Evangelism, Asheville, NC: Gospel Projects, pp. 25-28), and ask yourself how popular would James Stewart be in evangelical circles today?

“We must be more afraid of flattery from the camp of the enemy than persecution. Read the pages of Church history. Persecution never did the Church of God any harm, but compromise with the world has always robbed it of the power of its purity. ... ‘Potpourri Evangelism’ consists of two features: mixed evangelistic campaigns and mixed Christianity. By mixed evangelistic campaigns I mean the alliance of Modernistic and Evangelical churches together in an evangelistic effort.”

“When religion gets up a revival, it must have from five to twenty churches of heterogeneous creeds and sectarian bodies to go into a great union effort; it must have a mammoth choir with great musical instruments, and many preachers and multiplied committees, and each committee headed by some banker, judge, mayor, or millionaire’s wife. It signs cards as a substitute for the broken-hearted cry of scriptural repentance. It must count its converts by the hundreds in a few days’ meeting. It must apologize for natural depravity.”

“Human religion’s enterprises have an atmosphere of earthliness about them. It despises the day of small things and scorns little humble people and lonely ways. It is eager to jump to the height of prosperity. Its music has no pathos in it, its laughter lacks divine cheerfulness, its worship lacks supernatural love, its prayers bring down no huge answers, it works no miracles, calls forth no criticism from the world, and has no light of eternity in its eyes. It is a poor, sickly thing, born of the union of the heart of the world with the head of Christian theology--a mongrel, bastard thing with a backslidden church for its mother and the world for its father. Oh, my dear brother and sister, never forget that this unnatural monster will be destroyed at the coming-again of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ” (James A. Stewart, “Pot-Pourri Evangelism”).

Countless other examples could be given to show that evangelicalism of past generations involved contending plainly for the faith and separating from error. When was the last time you read things like the above, that we have seen from the pens of old-line Protestants or Charles Spurgeon or James A. Stewart, in Christianity Today magazine or preached by Billy Graham or Charles Colson or Charles Swindoll or Max Lucado or John Maxwell or James Dobson or other popular evangelicals today? Sadly, today’s evangelicalism is almost 100% in the business of upholding “potpourri evangelism” and “turfing the road of Roman Catholicism.”


New Evangelicalism was a popular philosophy, appealing to the carnality of the age, and it spread rapidly to became the prominent doctrine among evangelicals.

1. New Evangelicalism was popularized through charismatic personalities and broadcast through powerful print, radio, and television media. New Evangelical philosophy has been adopted by such well-known Christian leaders as Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Harold Lindsell, John R.W. Stott, Luis Palau, E.V. Hill, Leighton Ford, Charles Stanley, Bill Hybels, Warren Wiersbe, Chuck Colson, Donald McGavran, Jack Van Impe, Tony Campolo, Arthur Glasser, D. James Kennedy, David Hocking, Charles Swindoll, Max Lucado, John Maxwell, Tony Evans, and a multitude of other men (and women).

2. New Evangelicalism became the working principle of large interdenominational and parachurch organizations such as the National Association of Evangelicals, National Religious Broadcasters, Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ, Back to the Bible, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, World Vision, Operation Mobilization, the Evangelical Foreign Mission Association, World Evangelical Fellowship, and the National Sunday School Association, to name a few.

3. New Evangelicalism has spread through educational institutions such as Fuller Theological Seminary, Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell, BIOLA, Regent College, Westminster, The Evangelical Divinity School, and Moody Bible Institute.

4. New Evangelicalism has been promoted by the publishing media. Christianity Today, for example, was founded in 1956 to voice the new philosophy. It was distributed freely for the first two years to ministers in the U.S.A., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, and also sent freely to missionaries throughout the world. Large Christian publishers such as Eerdmans, Zondervan, InterVarsity Press, Tyndale House, Moody Press, Thomas Nelson, and Broadman, have broadcast the New Evangelicalism.

5. New Evangelicalism has been promoted by national and international organizations, such as Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, National Association of Evangelicals, Evangelical Alliance of Britain, World Evangelical Fellowship, National Religious Broadcasters, National Sunday School Association, and Promise Keepers

6. New Evangelicalism has been promoted through international conferences, such as the International Congress on World Evangelization (Lausanne, Switzerland, July 1974) and the International Conference on Itinerant Evangelists at Amsterdam in 1983, 1986, and 1999.

7. Because of the tremendous influence of these men and organizations, New Evangelical thought has swept the globe. Today it is no exaggeration to say that almost without exception those who call themselves evangelicals are New Evangelicals; the terms have become synonymous. Old-line evangelicals, with rare exceptions, have either aligned with the fundamentalist movement or have adopted New Evangelicalism. The evangelical movement today is the New Evangelical movement. For all practical purposes, they are the same. “Part of the current confusion regarding New Evangelicalism stems from the fact that there is now little difference between evangelicalism and New Evangelicalism. The principles of the original New Evangelicalism have become so universally accepted by those who refer to themselves as evangelicals that any distinctions which might have been made years ago are all but lost. It is no doubt true to state that ‘Ockenga’s designation of the new movement as New or Neo-Evangelical was abbreviated to Evangelical. ... Thus today we speak of this branch of conservative Christianity simply as the Evangelical movement’” (Ernest Pickering, The Tragedy of Compromise, p. 96).

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