December 15, 2009

Are We Recognizing the “New” New Evangelicalism?

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

I am developing another article in the series on the Manhattan Declaration (MD) and its ramifications for the New Testament church. With the Christmas holiday upon us I may reserve that article for publication just after the New Year holiday.

We have been discussing the ecumenical spirit of certain signatories from the so-called “conservative” evangelical camp. Some of the “conservative” evangelicals like Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan who signed the MD apparently did not intend, “to forge an ecumenical relationship which compromises the gospel by giving Christian recognition to people without a credible profession of the gospel. That wasn’t the intent, but it is the result.”1 I will continue on this theme in the next article.

In the meantime my reading and research has shown me that the current trend toward ecumenism by the likes of Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, et. al. is eerily similar to a previous generations slide toward New Evangelicalism. There may be some greater measure of restraint in this generation, but nevertheless there is tangible evidence of a slide toward New Evangelicalism.

If there is one book I would recommend to help contemporary Fundamentalists get a handle on the danger at their doorsteps it would be The Tragedy of Compromise: The Origin and Impact of the New Evangelicalism, 1994 by *Dr. Ernest D. Pickering. For their consideration I am going to share select excerpts from Pickering’s classic on the subject. The following excerpts come from Chapter Seven, Gray Hairs Are Here and There. Afterward I will close with some personal commentary.

From The Subtle Drift Toward the New Evangelicalism, p. 155.
The ancient prophet Hosea was concerned about gray hair also, but for a different reason. In a brokenhearted lament over his beloved nation, Israel, he wrote: “Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not” (Hos. 7:9). Gray hairs are a mark of aging, of deteriorating strength, and, in the spiritual sense employed by Hosea, of a loss of spiritual vitality. The saddest note in this lament was the fact that the nation did not realize it was losing its spiritual moorings.

All over America and the world at this hour there are churches that are drifting into New Evangelicalism without the remotest knowledge that they are doing so. They are being carried along with the shifting winds of compromise and have long since departed from the solid biblical position established by their predecessors. Young pastors, many without firm doctrinal underpinnings, have led their churches to believe that in order to reach the masses they must abandon the strict biblical principles of yore and embrace more fluid and attractive positions. They have changed, but they do not realize that they have changed.

Many contemporary fundamentalists are being wooed by the siren call of New Evangelicalism. It seems especially compelling to younger men (though not exclusively so). Born in a different generation and without personal involvement in the battles against the early forms of New Evangelicalism, some are impatient with the fray, do not see the relevance of the conflict, and are inclined to adopt the attitude “a plague on both your houses.” What is there about the New Evangelicalism that seems to attract some from within the fundamentalist camp?2

David Beale warned against those who bear the label fundamentalist but whose personal philosophy is essentially New Evangelical. “Unlike present-day Fundamentalists, they refuse to regard the militant defense of the faith and the full doctrine and practice of holiness as intrinsically fundamental.”3 In other words, there are fundamentalists who are either becoming or already are New Evangelicals. Some are actually adopting New Evangelical philosophies while still proclaiming that they are not New Evangelicals. The basic problem is this: Many fundamentalists, when speaking of the New Evangelicalism, are referring to the original positions and writings of the early founders of New Evangelicalism such as Carl Henry and Harold Ockenga. They repudiate heartily the thoughts of these earlier leaders, but either in ignorance or willingly they fail to recognize the updated version, the “new” New Evangelicalism. It is always safer to berate the teachings of those historically farther removed than of those who are currently afflicting the church.
The first step toward New Evangelicalism is refusing to live in fidelity to the Scriptural mandates that call for separation when it is clearly warranted. Unfortunately some men in Fundamentalism, who presently identify with biblical separatism, appear to be “either in ignorance or willingly” greasing their own skids and may not be too far behind the direction of men like Dr. Mohler. The trend of some Fundamentalists toward the “conservative” evangelicals appears to be how can I keep my fellowship with them instead of what does the Bible mandate for me.

I am hearing of pastors and Bible college leaders who have begun laying out in stark terms to their congregations and student bodies the dangers of ecumenical compromise, and are referencing both the MD and its signatories as a prime example of it. I am grateful for men who have marked certain signatories to the Manhattan Declaration. When we speak of to “mark” we must, however, speak of it in terms of mark ANDavoid” (Rom. 16:17).
Paul admonishes believers to ‘avoid’ those whom we have marked. The form of this verb indicates that it is a present imperative, which indicates that this avoidance is neither a suggestion nor advice, but, in fact, a command. We are commanded by God to continually avoid the person who has been marked!4
Unless men determine to set the right example (Phil. 3:17) putting fidelity to Scripture ahead of tolerating doctrinal aberrations and methods of ministry among the conservative evangelicals that they (fundamentalists) would never tolerate in their own ministries they will inch their way closer to New Evangelicalism. With each step of tolerance for and compromise with the disconcerting actions of evangelicals the mature Fundamentalists are showing the younger generation, under their influence, the way there.


1) Dr. Dave Doran, A Bronx Declaration, Dec. 2009.

2) Pickering goes into detail as he answers that question under the subheadings of: A Lessening of Tensions; A Wider Working Relationship; A Greater Attractiveness to the Masses; The Perception The New Evangelicals are More Loving; etc.

3) In Pursuit of Purity, pp. 261-ff.

4) In Defense of the Gospel, p. 212.

*Dr. Ernest D. Pickering (1928-2000) “was a fundamentalist pastor, author, college administrator, and mission board representative…. Pickering criticized the ecumenical neo-evangelism of Billy Graham in print as early as 1957, and his chief contribution to twentieth-century evangelical Christianity was as a Baptist theoretician of separatist fundamentalism.” I recommend three more works by Dr. Pickering that may be helpful to those who are concerned over modern day compromise with evangelicalism. They are:

Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church

Holding Hands With the Pope: The Current Evangelical Ecumenical Craze

Are Fundamentalists Legalists?

Previous Articles in this Series Include:
Al Mohler Signs The Manhattan Declaration: Is This a Clear Case for (Dave Doran’s) “Gospel-Driven Separation?”

Al Mohler Signs The Manhattan Declaration, Part 2: Was This a First Time Foray Toward Ecumenism?

Al Mohler Signs TMD, Part 3: Tolerance & Compromise Will, In Its Wake, Leave Casualties

ADDENDUM:Through 12/14 I had been participating in a discussion on the MD at another blog. Within that interaction two persons there have discussed with me various articles/comments I have made about Dr. Dave Doran’s Gospel-Driven Separation series; the “biblical obligations” he has defined in particular. Each of these men asked me a companion question. These were reasonable questions to which I gave a careful response.

Those questions and answers, however, do not fit the subject matter of this particular article. Therefore, I have located those questions and my response to the thread location of Al Mohler Signs The Manhattan Declaration: Is This a Clear Case for “Gospel-Driven Separation?”
From Gradually Sliding into New Evangelicalism, p. 159.

From The Appeal of New Evangelicalism to the Fundamentalist, p. 156.


  1. On this I tend to agree especially since Catholics never repudiated many decrees against non Catholics.

    The question I have, why don't Evangelicals just sign a seperate document generated by and for Evangelicals?

    I see this as being equally yoked together with unbelievers. It does not matter the content as we are never to be united with unbelievers no matter the cause

  2. David:

    You wrote, “I see this as being equally yoked together with unbelievers. It does not matter the content as we are never to be united with unbelievers no matter the cause.”

    This would likely be among the first lessons freshman Bible college preacher boys are taught, not to mention any new believer. Certainly Al Mohler would teach this himself at the seminary where his is president.

    Nevertheless, he willingly chose to disregard the biblical principles which forbid such an unholy alliance that the Manhattan Declaration certainly is, no matter how worthy the cause. Some congratulate him for outgrowing the biblical restraints.

    The Manhattan Declaration (MD) signatories include nine Catholic archbishops, the president of the Catholic League, the primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America, liberal evangelical Ron Sider, and African Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola. Al Mohler knew who and what organizations he was aligning himself with when he signed the MD.

    There is no way he can be taken seriously if he ever chooses to preach on the necessity of obeying the biblical mandates on separation for the sake of a pure church.


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  4. If I am doing this wrong in posting I apologize-still getting used to blogs.

    My one and only forray in Ecumenicism withthe permission of my Pastor was prison ministry. Not sure how much tongues flapping and women preachers I endured but kept getting stringed along. In the past, we had to work with others for a sponsor but once in it was our program and made this clear to my Pastor. They wanted me to come in under their ministry. My Pastor said to do it and see how it worked out. Before going in to preach I had to show my sermon notes and then was told I cannot preach this. Told them to have a nice day and they were shocked when I left. They called my pastor and he told them if we cannot preach the gospel, we want no part in this. I think my Pastor did this to teach me a lesson-never ever compromise your beliefs to work with another ministry as this was the one and only time I ever did this and vowed never to do anything like this again!

  5. David:

    Years ago I was part of a prison ministry team. We had one night per month at a maximum security facility. There were no restrictions on our preaching, no pre-preaching sermon submissions, no other denominations involved with us. Your experience was quite another thing.

    Thanks for sharing it.