04 September 2009

The Demise of Evangelicalism

Why "neo-evangelicalism" was a monumental mistake
by Phil Johnson

eo-evangelicalism was a movement among evangelicals whose aim was to make evangelicalism seem more intellectually sophisticated and less polemically combative. The movement was strongly influenced by the early drift of Fuller seminary, led by men who were affiliated with Christianity Today and the National Association of Evangelicals, and driven mainly (I think) by a desire for academic respectability, even at the expense of a clear and consistent testimony.

Harold John Ockenga was an extremely influential voice in mid-20th-century evangelicalism. He helped found Fuller Seminary, Gordon Conwell, and the National Association of Evangelicals. He was pastor for many years of Park Street Church in Boston. He also introduced the idea of neo-evangelicalism and proposed that name in a 1948 meeting at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

The vision as Ockenga outlined it was driven by three priorities: First, it was a repudiation of fundamentalist separatism. Second, it was a summons to social involvement. And third (in Ockenga's words) it represented a "determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day."

All three aspects of the neo-evangelical agenda had unintended and unfortunate consequences. The deliberate renunciation of separatism, for example, turned neo-evangelicals against their own fundamentalist brethren (in effect erecting an impassible barrier between the two groups) while deliberately opening the door to fellowship and cooperation with non-evangelicals. The call to "social involvement" was frankly ill-defined, and evangelical social involvement never really materialized on any grand scale, unless you count the rise of the religious Right after the 1970s. And the promised "theological dialogue" never really took place on any serious, sustained level. Instead, the movement trivialized and marginalized its own theology.

In the earliest days of neo-evangelical enthusiasm, the movement included prominent leaders like Harold Lindsell, Carl Henry, and Donald Grey Barnhouse, who were qualified and willing to engage in theological dialogue. But by the end of the century, the mainstream of the evangelical movement could hardly care less about theological dialogue. Evangelical megachurches were best known for their pursuit of shallow entertainments and superficial fads. And somewhere along the line, Christianity Today's editorial board apparently came to the conclusion that engagement in theological dialogue meant giving a platform to practically every theological anomaly that came along except the old evangelical orthodoxies.

You hardly ever hear anyone (except fundamentalists) talk about neo-evangelicalism these days, but the fact is that neo-evangelicalism completely overwhelmed and commandeered the entire evangelical movement, and that is the primary reason the movement itself is no longer truly evangelical.

Face it: the evangelical movement that our grandparents and great-grandparents knew is dead. Evangelical principles live on here and there, but the label has been appropriated by people who have no right to it. It has been bartered away by those who promised to be the movement's guardians and mouthpieces—Christianity Today and the National Association of evangelicals being among the chief culprits. But rank-and-file evangelicals are to blame as well, because they were content to abandon their own heritage and run after cheap amusements.

The average American today thinks evangelicalism is a political position or a religious ghetto rather than a set of biblical beliefs.
The task for the remnant who still believe and teach classic evangelical doctrine is to remain faithful and remember that the gospel—not the combined clout of a large politically-driven movement—is the power of God unto salvation.

Phil's signature


Willem Bronkhorst said...

This should go in TIME magazine, in Christianity Today and into every single Evangelical pew leaflet or bulletin right about now!

Nash Equilibrium said...

So is it merely coincidental that this fellow Ockenga's three goals were almost exactly the same as the goals of Emerg** are now?

Or am I only imagining that they are the same goals, when they aren't, really?

Brian Auten said...

Apologies. Had to fix a typo. Teaches me not to hit publish before I review. Here's the original post --


(a) Who do you consider this remnant to be?

(b) If you take Christianity Today's editorial position as one finite set, or Fuller as a finite set, and this remnant as another finite set, how much overlap do you think we would find between these sets in a Venn diagram?

Craig and Heather said...

Wow. Those three priorities seem to be admirable pursuits....yet the results sure resemble bad fruit.

It helps me to bring into focus the danger of taking my eyes off of Christ in order to make peripheral issues my main concern.


Terry Rayburn said...


Here's a great irony:

Harold Lindsell, former editor of Christianity Today, and noted Neo-evangelical, wrote the book Battle For The Bible, which was a pivotal book to me as a new Christian in the late '70's.

The book argued for not only the inerrancy of Scripture, but also a basic sola scriptura authority position (as best I remember).

Yet it is departing from that "battle for the Bible" in order to, as you say, "seem more intellectually sophisticated" where the Neo-E's went down the drain.

It all comes down to the Word, as both authoritative and sufficient.

I remember the arguments from my Bible Institute days about "primary separation" (don't join with RC priests, e.g., in evangelistic crusades, like Billy Graham did) and "secondary separation" (don't have anything good to say about Billy Graham or anybody who likes Billy Graham because he doesn't practice "primary separation").

Interestingly, those who failed to practice "primary separation" became the very ones (like Graham himself) who veered into vague ideas of universalism and promoting false teachers.

We don't have to choose between Jesus and the inerrant written Word. Thank God we have both. And to pretend to love and honor one without loving and honoring the other is foolhardy.

All that to say, Phil, that your points are far more profound than first meets the eye.

DJP said...

...the early drift of Fuller seminary....

The modifier makes all the difference. At first, it was a drift.

Calling where they are now a "drift" would be like saying the Titanic "took on a bit o' water."

Chad V. said...

i have no idea what a Venn diagram is.

Terry Rayburn said...

A Venn diagram is where you have interesecting circles, and the intersections of the circles share common traits of the circles (whew...easier to show than define).

My favorite is the Twitter one seen here.

Craig and Heather said...

Haha! Terry Rayburn beat me to the explanation...but I like his example better than the one I had anyway :o)


Nash Equilibrium said...

His audiences grew smaller during the 1920s as Sunday grew older, religious revivals became less popular, and alternate sources of entertainment appeared.

The above appears in the Wikipedia entry for Billy Sunday - so the entertainment aspect of evangelicalism is apparently something that existed for most fo the 20th century...

James Scott Bell said...

All fine and good points. But we also have to recognize what fundamentalism did to itself in the 20's. After the debacle at Dayton, social ridicule was met not with reason but with a lot of outright nuttiness. Local pastors, free of denominational ties, built little empires (or, sometimes, large ones) for themselves, and came up with all sorts of inanities (e.g., Washburn's Bible Crusaders) that hawked paranoid conspiracy theories and so on. You couldn't reason with these people. By 1930, nobody really wanted to.

Coming out of that soil, Ockenga, Henry, et al. did want to bring some reason to the "uneasy conscience" of the modern fundamentalist. The intentions were good ones.

So what happened? I agree with Terry (who cites Lindsell) that the tipping point was (and always will be) inerrancy.

Turn of the century fundamentalism was also socially minded. It was its reaction to the "social gospel" that put it in retreat on this front, IMO. And wrongly so.

olan strickland said...

The vision as Ockenga outlined it was driven by three priorities: First, it was a repudiation of fundamentalist separatism. Second, it was a summons to social involvement. And third (in Ockenga's words) it represented a "determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day."

This is the seed-bed philosophy for an apostate ecumenical agenda.

Priority #1 corresponds to the false notion that the church is to be known for what it stands for and not what it stands against - which in and of itself is self-defeating because you can't do one without the other. This was and is an attempt to remove what is seen as standing in the way of unity.

Priority #2 corresponds to the false notion that deeds are what matters and doctrine doesn't. Today this is so-called orthopraxy but to utter contempt for orthodoxy. Deeds to the exclusion of doctrine are the only possible unifying essence for an ecumenical movement.

Priority #3 corresponds to the false notion that God is at work in all religions and that we can learn God's truth from all the false religions of the world.

Neo-evangelicalism was indeed a monumental mistake!

David Sheldon said...

Exactly Phil! Exactly!

Now the question for me and I believe all of us:
Can we really rescue a movement gone astray by starting anew or do we turn our attention to simply rescuing saints? Maybe we can do both.

If the former - what does that look like? Give me a plan and I am on board. Absolutely!

But if not and it is the later - let's get going! Let's be the local/vocal remnant and let God deal with the fallout. If this is the end of this present evil age - what do we actually loose anyhow?

The reason I ask is because fake evangelicalism should have long ago been mad at and ostracized us if we had started doing whatever it is we are supposed to do now - back whenever. (I'm just saying.) So I just want to help us make sure we get it right this time. Maybe in starting afresh we should have a public funeral for the "fake old paths" - that should make someone real happy.

If we have churches in our cities that promote themselves as seeker-sensitive and are "certified" on-board with Willow or Purpose churches: Everybody knows who and where they are located. And they are welcomed by the masses because they have no cross! They have rejected the actual preaching of the cross or they would not be these kinds of churches!!! Whoever showed the first session of the first "40 days" actually baptized "their" church into the spirit of antichrist. They just don't know it - yet.

But which are the churches (of any denomination!) in our cities where even at least the true saints know:

"Our elders/pastors don't take surveys and when they call for 40 days of anything it is for fasting/confession and pray so that we will boldly deliver the real gospel - instead of a fake!"

Going down a true path means rejecting a false. The only way true paths are made clear is when Godly men respond in obedience to Jesus Christ as they are forged in the crucible of spiritual battle - for His sheep to follow along, according to His Word and for His Glory.

So - we are on board with you TeamPyro !!!

Craig and Heather said...

@ Olan Strickland,

Thank you for that run-down on the 3 goals.

While it is easy for me to see the bad results, I wasn't really aware of the underlying philosophy.

On the surface, the ideas do appear to be "good" ones. I suppose such are the "best laid schemes of mice and men..."


Brian Auten said...


I'd heard that this place gets kinda wild after a few comments, but I'd never experienced it myself.

Olan, I don't believe Ockenga's third point was about other faiths, but about neo-evangelicalism's engagement with inter-denominational theological dialogue. Check out chapters 8-10 in George Marsden's Reforming Fundamentalism (Eerdmans, 1987).

David, **all** churches that have adopted Willow Creek and/or Saddleback's approach have rejected the gospel and are of the spirit of anti-Christ? All of them? You really think all of them?

And Fuller = Titanic? Sheesh.

Perhaps just a tad overgeneralizing here in the comments section...

olan strickland said...


You can take each of Ockenga's priorities and put each against the Word and see that each fall's miserably short of obedience.

1. We are commanded to separate from false and apostate religion (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

2. Our mission/commission has never been to solve the world's problems through social involvement but through preaching the gospel (Romans 1:16) and any of the commission statements by our Lord.

3. We aren't called on to entertain speculations raised up against the knowledge of God but are to be polemical (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Philosophy is man's best thinking and may appear to be true to us. God's word is truth and is the only way to make a righteous judgment.

DJP said...

If emotional outbursts are an argument, then that's quite an argument.

DJP said...

(Re. Fuller, to be specific)

donsands said...

Another excellent post.

"..the movement trivialized and marginalized its own theology."

Theo-logy is what life is all about, and what makes me what I am. We have Reformed theology, which studies and teaches the deep things of God, and so helps us have our spiritual roots grow deep and firm within the soil of the truth.

All this is rare in our day. But there's a remnant. And if we all pray with faith in Christ, and ask Him to bring a Great Awakening, then maybe we will see in the future the fruition of our requests to our Sovereign Lord.

"Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."(John 14:13-14).

Have a terrific holiday weekend, and Lord's day.

David Sheldon said...

I said when they showed the video they baptized "their" church into the spirit of antichrist. Maybe go listen/watch the first session of the "40 Days of Purpose" and report back your findings. Was the gospel preached? Listen carefully - because the answer is obvious. That might be the first step. If Spirit/Word/Truth does not take place - what fills the void? Do you know? (Paul knew or we wouldn't have Galatians.) After watching are you saying for sure it could not possibly be the spirit of antichrist?

Anonymous said...

And I remember on a blog thread two or three years ago when I asked Phil Johnson if GCC was a apart on the NAE.

It's embarrassing now when I think back to that question.

Anonymous said...

"apart of"

Morris Brooks said...

I think events like T4G, the Gospel Coalition, and maybe the GCR in the SBC might be indicitive of the remnant of the Evangelicals gathering together around the main thing, which is the Gospel.

Hopefully some sparks will be fanned that will cause a true resurgence.

Craig and Heather said...

Philosophy is man's best thinking and may appear to be true to us. God's word is truth and is the only way to make a righteous judgment.

Isn't that the truth! Even though I know to ask God for wisdom (and that His way is far superior to mine), I often get impatient or full of myself and end up with very unpleasant results.


Anonymous said...


I must compliment you. This is one of the most beautifully crafted, eloquent and piercing posts you've ever written.

I'll be sharing it.


Live As If said...

DJP said:Calling where they are now a "drift" would be like saying the Titanic "took on a bit o' water."

I don't know much about seminaries, but had just assumed that Fuller was just like Wheaton in terms of doctrinal integrity ... thank you.

Lou Martuneac said...


You wrote, “The deliberate renunciation of separatism, for example, turned neo-evangelicals against their own fundamentalist brethren (in effect erecting an impassible barrier between the two groups)…

That barrier is evident when we view certain methods of ministry among the so-called “conservative” evangelicals. Those methods were best defined by Dr. Pete Masters’s in his compelling article, The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness

There is a cell of reformed men that primarily identify with fundamentalism who desire increased fellowship with, but increasingly allow for and tolerate those certain methods of ministry among “conservative” evangelicals that they would never allow for or tolerate in their own ministries.

IMO, absolute faithfulness to the biblical mandates for personal separation erects the “impassible barrier between the two groups,” including “conservative” evangelicals on the opposite side.


Russ said...

This is well said; I've been thinking recently how little attention is given to neo-evangelicalism as a distinct, identifiable movement, and how strange that is considering its importance. Darryl Hart has given some, and there's Marsden's history of Fuller Seminary. One recent book that points out the ironies of #3 is John A. D’Elia's biography of George Eldon Ladd.

Matt said...

Morris Brooks - I think events like T4G, the Gospel Coalition, and maybe the GCR in the SBC might be indicitive of the remnant of the Evangelicals gathering together around the main thing, which is the Gospel.

I agree fully with Phil's post here and the demise of the evangelical movement, but I would also like to utter a word of optimism at the end. There does seem to be a very real return to the gospel in some fairly visible segments of the church.

Notwithstanding the accurate points made by Carl Trueman, the visibility of men such as John MacArthur, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and others has opened up a door for many evangelicals to hear the gospel clearly articulated. May we just pray that the legacy of their ministries will be hearts that are bowed to Christ and filled with the gospel, and not just celebrity status.

Bill Honsberger said...

And lets not let the Evangelical Theological Society off the hook in this whole demise. What does the word evangelical mean when you include people who think not just that the Bible is mistaken, but that God himself is mistaken?!?!?! (Clark Pinnock). What does the word evangelical mean when there are members who hold to baptismal regeneration? (Stone Campbell movement). And what does the word mean when you have universalists (Sanders) inclusivists (too many to mention!!!) full blown pomos (Grenz when he was alive - Fullerites like Nancy Murphey, etc etc) When I resigned several years ago now I asked them how they will keep the Mormons out given the ETS doesn't even require holding to the minimalist statement they already have? No answer given of course. Still I do miss the discounted books...

Lou Martuneac said...


I am going to post what I believe will be a helpful excerpt from Dr. Mike Harding’s- The Necessity of Personal Separation in Biblical Fundamentalism. Harding’s complete article accompanies the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International’s (FBFI) Resolution 09-05 and is reprinted in the May/June issue of FrontLine magazine.

In regard to personal separation from the world, God’s Word corrects. “Correction” (2 Tim. 3:16) is used in the sense of “setting something right,” most likely with reference to conduct.1 God’s Word has the authority to regulate personal and public conduct. Attitudes and behavior among “Christian” young people toward things once considered wrong and sinful are gradually changing. There has been a noticeable shift in attitudes toward smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, objectionable movies, questionable entertainment, rock music, modern dancing, gambling, sexual involvement outside of marriage, androgyny,2 and public immodesty.

James Hunter, in Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation, considers certain aspects of this shift as “moral reposturing.”3 Generally speaking, there has been a decline in personal separation from the world in Evangelical colleges and universities, among Evangelical preachers and leaders, and among everyday Christians. Richard Quebedeaux, a self-professed New Evangelical, admits in The Worldly Evangelicals that “Evangelicals are making more and more compromises with the larger culture.” He adds that “Evangelicals have become harder and harder to distinguish from other people,” pointing out that Christian “business people, professionals, and celebrities have found it necessary (and pleasant) to travel the cocktail-party circuit in Beverly Hills.”

Lastly, he mentions with approval that “Evangelicals have often discovered the pleasure of alcohol and tobacco while studying and traveling in Europe.”4 The status of these traditional taboos has undergone alteration in Christian circles. They are regarded less as sins that displease God and are described only in terms related to their dysfunctional or unwise character. In some respects Fundamentalism lags about ten to fifteen years behind such Evangelical trends.

[1] This Greek term is used only once in the NT (BAGD, p. 282).
[2] Androgyny means the removal of male and female characteristics, roles, or dress.
[3] James Davison Hunter, Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp. 59–62.
[4] Richard Quebedeaux, The Worldly Evangelicals (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1978), pp. 12, 14, 118.

DJP said...

Martuneac rises to advocate the reinstitution of "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" as the way to real spirituality.

Lou Martuneac said...

And what of Dr. Masters's *The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness and Dr. Harding's *The Necessity of Personal Separation in Biblical Fundamentalism?

What "spirituality", in your opinion, do these men "rise to advocate" with these articles?


*See links above.

DJP said...

Beyond what I've already written about Masters' declamation? Not much more.

So, back to Scripture. What was Paul talking about in Colossians 2, Lou? How does that list differ from what you singled out? Could you comment on the irony of, in any sense, associating the word "Fundamentalist" and the subject of anyone's attitude towards tobacco?

Lou Martuneac said...


1) And your reaction to the excerpt by Harding, an Independent Fundamental Baptist, with very close ties to Dr. Mark Minnick, whom I believe Phil has received some instruction on Fundamentalism from in years past.

2) Now, let’s see- the article highlights three of neo-evangelicalism’s priorities the first being, “a repudiation of fundamentalist separatism.”

Naturally, a balanced understanding of and fidelity to the Scriptural mandates for personal and ecclesiastical separation would properly be defined as “biblical separatism.” Wouldn’t you agree?

If, however, you align yourself with open disdain for biblical separatism, as the new-evangelicals do, you would then of course view the biblical mandates as rigid rules to be undermined and/or ignored for the of sake of unity.

As for Col. 2 we would naturally want to avoid the kind of traditions and philosophies of men that Paul addressed in the chapter. Things such as: circumcision (Col. 2:11; Sabbath days, ceremonial laws (Col. 2:14-17) which Christians were never commanded to observe.

It would be tragic for a NT believer in this day to take the things from Col. 2 to build a case against the biblical mandates for separation that also appear in the Word of God; wouldn’t it?

It tragic to force into or extract things from the Scriptures to bolster a philosophy that is anti-thetical to the Scriptures. And that is what the neo-evangelicals did and continue to do. The very things, which wrought the demise of evangelicalism, have been openly denounced for decades by fundamentalists.

Shouldn’t a broad base of “conservative” evangelicals, who profess fidelity to the whole counsel of God, openly denounce the neo-evangelicals open disdain for biblical separatism? Wouldn’t you agree with that?


Craig and Heather said...

DJP and Lou Martuneac,

I'm curious as to whether the two of you would agree that there is a difference between:

biblically defined "separation" (as in the supernaturally occurring, life-time sanctification process of voluntarily removing ourselves from worldly indulgence)
religious "separatism" (which would suggest an unnecessarily divisive and externally applied attitude of piety that often goes no deeper than the clothes which the person is wearing)?


DJP said...

Lou, I don't see any direct response to anything I asked, including Colossians 2:21.

Craig and Heather said...

I ask because (being horribly prone to legalism) I first was encouraged by DJP saying" Martuneac rises to advocate the reinstitution of "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" as the way to real spirituality.

And then as LM continued with his argument, I started to question whether I shouldn't be more active in extricating myself from worldly association.

But, not currently being internally convicted of anything specific, wouldn't that just result in an attempt at "sanctifying" myself through works?


Anonymous said...

Following is some good instruction regarding separation:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler--not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you." (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 ESV)

Craig and Heather said...

Never mind. Hubby straightened me out.


Craig and Heather said...

Thank you for your response, Stan. Looks like our posts crossed.

I appreciate that there is usually someone around here who is willing to help.

Craig and I were just discussing how the "what" of separation is pretty clear in Scripture, but it seems that in some areas, God reserves the right to personally direct believers concerning the "how".

I think that helps guard against us building artificial fences and create a need for an active, living relationship with Christ. But that's only my thought.


Lou Martuneac said...


For your consideration here is an excerpt from the 2009 FBFI Annual Fellowship. This exchange took place in a symposium on the topic of “Conservative Evangelicals.”

The moderator Dr. John Vaughn asked, “Define evangelicalism for us…. What is the difference between whom we call “conservative evangelical” and those of us who call ourselves “fundamentalists” to distance ourselves from some of them?”

Mark Minnick's reply, “The issue of separation is right at the heart of that definition. That is where the line of demarcation comes in. You can be very close to someone who is using the word “evangelical” rather than the word, “fundamentalist.” You can be right at the top of a mountain figuratively speaking and be on different sides of that mountain as far as far as your terminology is concerned, but you are standing for the *same territory doctrinally. But the line of demarcation that is between you as it has worked out in the last 60 years is this controversy that Ian Murray captures in his little booklet that he calls The Unresolved Controversy: Unity with Non-Evangelicals…. Evangelicals have not settled that issue. Fundamentalists settled it, that the Scripture forbids unity with non-evangelicals. [END]

Minnick picks this mountain top illustration later in the symposium to reiterate that the divide is over biblical separatism.

*The “same territory doctrinally
is Calvinism, but that is applicable ONLY for the Calvinists in Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) circles.

You see, there are Calvinists in Fundamentalism who want and are moving toward embracing evangelicals with the rally point being Calvinism. That (Calvinism) is what IMO Minnick refers to as, “the same territory doctrinally.” There are many in Fundamentalism who will never agree to work in cooperation with “conservative” evangelicals because the cost is abandoning fidelity to the Scriptures on separatism

There are, however, a number of Calvinists in IFB circles who are IMO incrementally losing their commitment to biblical separation. Their passion for unity with Calvinists in the “conservative” evangelical community is causing them to allow for and tolerate the kind of worldliness that Dr. Masters eloquently identified in American Calvinistic circles that these same Calvinistic IFB men would never allow for or tolerate in their own ministries. We’ll see how that plays out, but I suspect the IFB men will cave in preferring unity at the expense of fidelity to the Scriptures on separatism, which is the legacy and the prime contributor to the demise of evangelicalism.

That is all until post Labor Day. Craig/Heather, until then.


PS: DJP- I did not recognize you specifying verse 21 above for specific comment. You asked, “What was Paul talking about in Colossians 2, Lou?” I made good effort to make a general application from the gist of the full chapter with questions of affirmation for you. You, however, have not answered any of these. Your turn!

Lou Martuneac said...


If you haven't already may I suggest you folks read Peter Master's article, The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness.

Masters gave me permission to reprint it and I added pictures to illustrate the very concerns he raises in the article.

He sent me three of his books in appreciation for how I reprinted his article.


trogdor said...


And if you do bother to wade through that, I suggest you follow up with this from Frank Turk and this from DJP responding to it.

For bonus points, explain in 200 words or less why, when his stated purpose is to promote churches "where Truth and practice are both under the rule of Scripture", yet most of the examples he cites are absent (or even contradictory to!) any actual scriptural commands, I have a really hard time putting any stock in it. A good answer may win you a gold star!

Craig and Heather said...

Craig here, 200 words or less, eh?

1 Corinthians 8:1-2
(1) Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." "Knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up.
(2) If any one imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.

1 Corinthians 8:7-13
(7) However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through being hitherto accustomed to idols, eat food as really offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
(8) Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.
(9) Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
(10) For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol's temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?
(11) And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.
(12) Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
(13) Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother's falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.

Paul begins by quoting them "we all know that. . ." and then in verse 7 says in effect "no we don't all know that . . "

So what shall we do? Take care lest our liberty is a stumbling block to the weak.

Knowledge puffs up, love builds up.

We should love our brothers on both sides of this discussion, and seek to build them up.

Not sure I answered the question, but in short the "why" is simple. We think we know, but we don't. The answer? Place the same value on my brother that Christ did. (this one for whom Christ died)

I can't require it of them, but I must require it of me.

Never got a gold star from the peanut gallery before. . .


Tom Austin said...

First, it was a repudiation of fundamentalist separatism. Second, it was a summons to social involvement. And third (in Ockenga's words) it represented a "determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day."

Let me summarize that for you:

First: (I want men to think I'm tolerant.)

Second: (I want to men to think I'm compassionate.)

Third: (I want men to think I'm intellectual.)

Unknown said...

I think you failed to include the influence that Billy Graham has had in what has happened to evangelicalism. Graham was the catalyst for a least common denominator of evangelism that drew together liberals and evangelicals. To raise any objections to his evangelical inclusivism brought the anathema of the supposed "big wigs" of evangelicalism. Graham and his crusades weakened evangelicalism more than any other factor in my opinion because he was the public face of the movement and the expression of its philosophy.

Craig and Heather said...

Probably, I should admit to not being a Calvinist—historic or otherwise. It isn’t that I disagree with what I understand of the doctrines but mainly that I have a tendency to get distracted easily and am in danger of wanting to defend “Calvinism” rather than Scripture itself. Glasses can be helpful when reading, but if the lenses are covered with someone’s fingerprints, it can be difficult to see past the marks…you know?

At any rate, I admire those who can be “Calvinist” and not allow his teachings to become a sort of idol that causes them to be, as James puts it, “double minded”. Fortunately for me, the Bible says nothing about being a “good Calvinist” in order to be a truly regenerate individual.

I agree that there is a lot of garbage that passes for “Christianity” these days. And it is a Biblical mandate to be wary of falling into the trap of “holding hands with the world”, so to speak. While I do not find most aspects of modern secularity even remotely appealing, I personally struggle with always trying to determine at what point have I “crossed the line”. And it makes me crazy because there is always something I’m doing that someone else might consider to be impious. Certainly, I need to be careful to not deliberately offend other believers with the choices I make but in the end, it is God who judges me (and everyone else). And He informed Samuel that He judges not according to external appearance but by what He sees in a person’s heart.

Craig and I visited the links offered by Lou Martuneac and trogdor. I hovered over hubby's shoulder while he read more thoroughly. It appears this is yet another Pyro discussion that has been simmering off-site and I'm like the overly excited dog that races onto the field to disrupt the ball game ;o)

Craig and Heather said...

(I think I've exceeded the "200 word limit already)

It seems to me that Jesus (and Paul, and John) made it pretty clear that worldliness is first and foremost a state of the heart. And, His scathing indictment of the Pharisees seems to indicate that it is possible to have visibly perfect religion and still completely miss God’s standard of holiness. In the Good Samaritan parable, the “bad guys” were the religious ones who were overly concerned about becoming “contaminated” by touching their injured kinsman.

According to Mr. Martuneac's article, the main issue here seems to be "where Truth and practice are both under the rule of Scripture",

Which brought to mind the following:

And David danced before Jehovah with all his might. And David was girded with a linen ephod.
And David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of Jehovah with shouting, and with the sound of the ram's horn.
And it happened as the ark of Jehovah came to the city of David, Michal, Saul's daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and dancing before Jehovah. And she despised him in her heart.

It appears that David’s rather revealing mode of worship could be considered pretty charismatic (and perhaps anti-Calvinistic) and this caused his wife some embarrassment.

And David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”
And David said to Michal, “It was before Jehovah, who chose me before your father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of Jehovah, over Israel. And I danced before Jehovah.
And I will be still lower than this, and will be base in my own sight. And of the handmaids of whom you have spoken, with them I shall be had in honor.”
And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child by David to the day of her death.

2 Samuel 6:14-16, 20-23

Matthew Henry’s commentary was too good to not share:
If we can approve ourselves to God in what we do in religion, and do it as before the Lord, we need not heed reproach. Piety will have its praise: let us not be indifferent in it, nor afraid or ashamed to own it. David was contented to justify himself, and he did not further reprove or blame Michal's insolence; but God punished her. Those that honour God, he will honour; but those that despise him, and his servants and service, shall be lightly esteemed.


Craig and Heather said...

After reading my previous comment, Craig said that some people have interpreted "Michal's punishment" to be that David just decided to not have anything to do with her after she confronted him. Thus, no children.

Not being a theologian, I can't argue whether God intervened there but my thought was centered in the idea that David's wife made a judgment call that perhaps she should not have made. If the text does not state that God was displeased with David's worship of Him, it seems rather presumptuous to say that what he did was wrong. Perhaps I missed something.

I am fully aware that some Charismatic "christian" services are incorporating overtly pagan practices. If the going's on bother an individual's conscience or are obviously a contrived, man-centered show, then God may well be directing His people away from participation.

But, I'm not sure we should say that everyone who shows emotion, enjoys "loud" music or uses drums or modern instruments should be scorned as being counter to the otherwise solid message that is being preached from the pulpit.

Okay. The dog is now running back off the playing field.


Sir Brass said...

Heather, if you affirm the truth of the doctrines of grace then you're a calvinist even if you refuse to accept the label ;).

Morris Brooks said...

Christ has left us in the world (John 17:11), but not to be of the world (John 17:15). This is the rub isn't it, how to exercise Chritian liberty without doctrinal compromise or dilution? How separate are we to be, even among those who profess Christ along with us?

One thing I have learned from much personal experience is that if you continue to take a firm and uncompromising stand on the Scriptures, preaching it and teaching it as it is given, without dilution or compromise, then separation will automatically occur as they will separate from you. Truth is divisive, always has been, always will be. The issue is are we willing to lose friends, acceptance, prestige, numbers, et al, for the truth, or will we succumb and run after them.

So what I am saying is that if we do what we should do then we don't need to worry about separating from them, they will separate from us....most gladly.

Craig and Heather said...

Aw, Sir Brass, you blew my cover!

Yes, I do admit to being a practical Calvinist.

So what I am saying is that if we do what we should do then we don't need to worry about separating from them, they will separate from us....most gladly.

This says so well what I have been trying to work through concerning separation. Thank you! :o)


Ryan Hayden said...

Great post. I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, it seems that the new-evangelicalism has been repackaged as the hip-evangelicalism by my generation. Same hatred of fundamentalists, espousal of social causes, and attempt to shroud the christian message in the dialogue of the day. Very informative, thanks.

CR said...

PJ: But rank-and-file evangelicals are to blame as well, because they were content to abandon their own heritage and run after cheap amusements.

Well, I think part of the problem was that orthodox Christians were unable to cope with the deluge of new ideas that were arising: German higher criticism, darwinian evolution, Freud, marxism, nihiilism - all of which undermined confidence in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scriptures. Not to mention that we were becoming a society heavy on material prosperity, loyal to the nation/state and rugged individualism (again, all inspired by social darwinianism).

This is why the apostle Paul warns believers to put on the whole armor of God and to pray. American Christians had their armor laid down all over the place during the lull of the battle and when these onslaught of ideas exploded, we were left defenseless.

Lou Martuneac said...


I'd like to recommend two classics on the subject of biblical separation. The first you would likely find on the shelf of almost every preacher regardless of his personal position on the subject. And hopefully required reading at the seminary level.

Both are by the late Dr. Ernest Pickering, whom I knew and ministered along side (7 years) through Baptist World Mission.

Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church

The Tragedy of Compromise: The Origin and Impact of the New Evangelicalism

And, just one more if I may, Be Ye Holy: The Call to Christian Separation by Dr. Fred Moritz.

If anyone wants a balanced view of biblical separation from recognized pastors/theologians in Fundamentalism, these books are among your best choices.


ralph23 said...

Interesting. Here's some cool Jesus tshirts for y'all too! http://www.cafepress.com/jesusteesplus

Reforming Baptist said...

now that you've declared new evangelicalism dead and fundamentalism dead, what else is left?


"now that you've declared new evangelicalism dead and fundamentalism dead, what else ..."

The Five solas are left.