May 3, 2011

“A Mood of ‘Broadmindedness’.” The NEW “New” Evangelicalism

I, with others, was involved in the original conflicts over ecumenical evangelism. Some of us raised the first cries against the principles of the “new evangelicalism.” We have labored for years to defend our young people, our churches and our educational institutions against the watered-down theology and middle-of-the-road philosophy held by many of those with whom you would have us unite. The arguments we hear now we recall very vividly hearing thirty years ago from those who wanted us to move beyond the “fundamentalist-modernist controversy” to a more “centrist” position. The new evangelical movement began years ago with what one astute observer aptly called a “mood.” Moods are difficult to define sometimes, but they nonetheless can be real and potent forces. Theirs was a mood of toleration, an acceptance of widely varying theological concepts - a mood of “broadmindedness.” We fear such moods since we have seen, within our lifetime, their final outcome - a full-blown movement steeped in compromise. We believe we sense such a mood abroad today among those who, in all sincerity no doubt, think we should broaden our bases and reshape our image.1
Toleration, an acceptance of widely varying theological concepts - a mood of broadmindedness,” is the present day “mood” of certain high profile men in fundamental Baptist circles and the lesser-known, many of whom you will find at Sharper Iron.2 The admonition from Dr. Ernest Pickering is as needed and applicable today as it was then (1985). Only the names of who should heed his ministry of warning have changed. Self-identified separatists are becoming increasingly New Evangelical in “mood” as they cast off what some have labeled the “ugliness” of separatism.

The Rev. Billy Graham justified his compromise based on the exaltation of the Gospel at the expense of obedience to “picky” things. Today, the recurring theme from men who are reaching out to and ministering in cooperation with evangelicals takes these forms: We are “separated unto the Gospel,” we practice “Gospel-driven separation.”3

In recent months through the writing and/or actions of Drs. Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, Matt Olson, Les Ollila, Tim Jordan, et. al., we recognize a paradigm shift from separatism defined by the “whole counsel of God.” A shift away from biblical separation for the sake a pure church as Dr. Ernest Pickering had defined it in his classic Biblical Separation. The new “Gospel-centric” fellowship allows for a great deal of “wiggle room,” for the tolerance of an assortment of aberrant theology and practices whereas the “whole counsel of God” does not.

Since it is very difficult to oppose the Gospel, these men are moving confidently toward compromise—possibly under the impression that only the most discerning will notice. If my only concern, or even my main concern, is the Gospel, and virtually everything else is secondary, I have staked out great latitude in my choices in every area—both in personal and ecclesiastical separation. If, however, I make the entire Bible my “rule of faith and practice,” I find myself far more confined.
With recent events in mind it is clear now that self-described biblical separatists will not be confined by the whole counsel of God.
Rather than the evangelistic meetings of Billy Graham the new form of latitude for converging with non-separatist evangelicals is conducted through meetings of theological/academic concerns. These initial meetings will yield new and greater forms of compromise. This is the pathway of the NEW “New” Evangelicalism!
Theirs was a mood of toleration, an acceptance of widely varying theological concepts - a mood of ‘broadmindedness.’ We fear such moods since we have seen, within our lifetime, their final outcome - a full-blown movement steeped in compromise.”
And so it is again, today! Kevin Bauder, Dave Doran, Matt Olson, Tim Jordan are attempting to influence this and the next generation with a “mood of toleration and broadmindedness” for the sake of unity with evangelicals. In forging strategic new alliances with evangelicals they must and have tolerated doctrinal aberrations, cultural relativism, worldliness in ministry and ecumenical compromises of the evangelicals. Any legitimate ministry of warning must, furthermore, be muted or killed off for the sake of growing this fledgling new unity.

We are witnessing a Gospel-centric mood, a “movement steeped in compromise” through a watering-down of, a nullification, an abandonment of the God-given mandates for separatism.


1) Dr. Ernest Pickering: Should Fundamentalists & Evangelicals Unite? An evaluation of Edward Dobson’s book, In Search of Unity (emphasis added). Kevin Mungons, as well as the leadership at Sharper Iron (SI), will have us believe that the principles and practice of separatism coming from Drs. Bauder, Doran, Olson, Jordan is no different than that of Dr. Ernest Pickering.

2) SI has never posted a main page article that was positive and uplifting toward Fundamentalism. SI’s leadership (admins/moderators/publisher), most of the few active participants and in its blogroll are heavily slanted toward and biased on behalf the star personalities of the so-called “conservative” evangelicalism and their conferences. See, I Had to Ask: How Does This Sharper Me?

3) Dr. Dave Doran: Starting at the Right Spot, Nov. 23, 2009. See also, Is This a Clear Case for “Gospel-Driven Separation?”

Related Reading:
Dr. Ernest Pickering, “The Separatist Cause is Not Advanced by Featuring Non-Separatists.”

Is There a Second Definition for “Separation in Academic Contexts?”
Do the Scriptures allow for two sets of standards for the definition and application of biblical separatism? Is there one standard for the God ordained mandates for believers in a local church and a different, moderated, redefined standard for believers in a ministry under the auspices of a local church? We address this new form of separatism presented in an article by Pastor Dave Doran.
Is Northland International University “Unchanged”?

Preserving the Separatist Impulse


  1. Lou,

    Pardon the analogy, but with the same precision as the recently carried-out operation to eliminate the world's most wanted man, you have delivered another excellent evaluation of what is unfolding before our very eyes.

    I am not inferring that the men you mentioned in your article are terrorists, but I am saying that what they are doing is very destructive of the foundations of biblical separatism.

    Thank you for being fearless in calling them on it and identifying those who are attempting to co-opt biblical fundamentalism with their new, new mood: the mood of old new evangelicalism.

  2. Thanks Lou,
    This is deja vu all over again. In the 50's there was the formation of New Evangelicalism. Those then "young fundamentalists" were dissatisfied with the fundamentalist's militant stance on separation. They wanted an openness with those of a more diverse theological understanding. The same is happening today. There is a new generation of "young fundamentalists" who too have become dissatisfied with fundamentalism's militant stance on separation. Both groups considered their change a necessary corrective in order to bring fundamentalism into balance.
    Some have sought to distinguish the New Evangelicalism from this current manifestation by stating that the former was interested in infiltration whereas the current is not. To which we must point out that two of the current CE men do indeed follow that old pattern. I speak of Al Mohler and Mark Dever. Some laud these men for what has taken place in the SBC seminaries. Yet, how was this accomplished? By infiltration. These men stayed within an organization steeped with liberalism (the leaven of liberalism has not been totally eradicated from the SBC, by the way) instead of coming out like so many others did through the 50's, 60's, 70's, etc.
    The siren call of compromise is so alluring to so many who are not tied securely to the masthead of sound Biblical doctrine. The shores of history are strewn with the carcases of those who dared to jump ship believing the call of the siren. Instead it was to their destruction.

  3. Brian:

    Thanks for adding a very helpful follow-up to this article. In this present hour we are witnessing a repeat of a genuine Tragedy of Compromise* unfolding before us.

    You twice mention the “young fundamentalists,” which is of course sad to see them losing their sense of fidelity toward God’s principles of separation. What I am more deeply, troubled by is the mature men like Drs. Bauder, Doran, Olson, Jordan,, who have changed and are leading/influencing next generation into compromise for the sake of unity with non-separatists.


    *Borrowing from Dr. Ernest Pickering’s book title by the same name.

  4. Gary:

    I appreciate knowing you’ve found my evaluations of what is taking place helpful. I was thinking of how the Bible often warns of the danger coming into the church from the outside. Apostates, unbelievers are a genuine danger, but today in fundamental Baptist circles threats to authentic NT Christianty are coming from termites on the inside. (Acts 20:30-31) They are chipping away at the biblical foundations.

    There have been and will be more of the young men falling into the traps of Lordship Salvation's false gospel, Charismatic theology, ecumenical compromise and worldliness because, in part, the mature men will not raise a genuine alarm that the Bible mandates we do when faced with the erring and/or disobedient brethren among us.

    Evangelicals will not tolerate genuine separatism and will not fellowship with men who are separatists or would call them to authentic biblical separation. What does that tell us? If men who claim to be “militantbiblical separatists would be faithful to the whole counsel of God they’d lose their opportunity to unify with the so-called “conservative” evangelicals. It is as if they prefer the company of men in academia than absolute fidelity to God’s Word at any cost.


  5. I used the word "young" deliberately. Dr. McCune, in his book, Promise Unfulfilled, states in at least two places these similar statements. "NEW EVANGELICALISM was born with the formation of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1942. This new group was in the main led by younger professing fundamentalist scholars and leaders who had become dissatisfied with their heritage and wanted to establish an evangelical middle ground between fundamentalism and neo-orthodoxy." (On the back cover of the book) Also, on p. 231, "A post World War II crop of young evangelical scholoars and would-be leaders within the fundamentalist/evangelical coalition, who had not personally fought the modernists in the great conflict, had grown discontent with old-line fundamentalis militancy. Fundamentalism's lack of social involvement and activism distressed the younger evangelicals."
    What is happening today is a repeat of what happened in the 40's and 50's. We are seeing a new crop of disaffected fundamentalists leaving the fold. It really should come as no surprise. There have always been those to leave our ranks. The difference this time like that of the 40's and 50's is that this crop like then is vocal about their move.
    I encourage the readers to get McCune's book. Very helpful, not only to see and understand the past but also is very concise in viewing our current trends.

  6. Lou,

    Great article once again. The lack of discernment among those leading and following this “revival” of spiritual broadmindedness is astounding, but quite frankly, predictable if you only study the scriptures. It is the same spirit of unity and repudiation of purity/obedience to ALL of God’s Word that was promoted by Nimrod at the Tower of Babel. It is the same spirit of unity and repudiation of purity that the Bible prophesies will be characteristic of the last days. Although I do not believe all NEs or the YFs that are embracing the cries for unity and toleration are necessarily part of the apostasy predicted in the Bible, they certainly are embracing the spirit of toleration that will lead there. A “theological wasteland” awaits them, I believe, is how you put it. What Christians today MUST understand, is that the Bible DOES emphasize strongly unity of the Spirit, while WARNING constantly about the spirit of unity! When the latter takes priority over the preceding, Biblical error and compromise is inevitable! This is what we are seeing in the cases of Northland, Central, Calvary, etc.

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  8. Ps. Rogers:

    Thanks for the input on this important discussion. One thing I want to make clear is proper attribution of a term you noted.

    A ‘theological wasteland’ awaits them, I believe, is how you put it.” That term, “theological wasteland,” was used by Dr. Dave Doran in his 1995 article In Defense of Militancy. Here it is in context,

    It seems to me that those who want to rid contemporary Fundamentalism of its alleged belligerence should watch the pathway carefully. The last group of people to take that path found it to be a winding road which ends up in a theological wasteland.”

    I cite that article with some regularity for two reasons.

    1) It is an excellent article on the militancy of biblical separation with a clear warning about the dangers of compromising the principles of separation.

    2) To show that Doran, by comparison to the actions he is taking today, no longer holds to the sound biblical, principles he articulated in that article from 1995. Brother Doran has drifted far from the moorings he set down in that excellent article. He has joined and is out in front of the drift into the “NEW” New Evangelicalism.

    Brothers Doran, Bauder, Olson and Jordan are well down the “winding road which ends up in a theological wasteland.” I am doing what I can to call them back to fidelity to authentic biblical separatism, while warning the unsuspecting.

    Kind regards,


    For the PDF, In Defense of Militancy

  9. Thanks Bro. Rogers, would agree with your assessment, these who are espousing toleration, cooperation are not themselves apostate but they have opened the door for apostasy to come in succeeding generations.

  10. Most of the young men in Fundamentalism today are unaware of the historical context that birthed the books written by Dr. Earnest Pickering and Dr. Clearwaters' book The Great Conservative Baptist Compromise. These men did not write these books from the sidelines. They wrote these books in the heat of the battle. They were seeking to call men out of compromise. They certainly did not lay great accolades at the feet of those compromising. They rightly saw them as enemies of the purity of the Church. They played no word games, but spoke clearly and concisely to the issues. They simply called for repentance and return to the Old Paths. They did so from a position of separation, not while sitting around the campfire with those they rightly viewed as enemies of true Christianity.

  11. Dr. Ketchum:

    Thanks for adding to this discussion. It is unfortunate that in this day we are witnessing a resurgence of compromise and has at its end the “theological wasteland” of new evangelicalism. New names and faces treading the same pathway of compromise that Drs. Pickering and Clearwaters dealt with in their day.

    I have for several years now noted one significant difference between the events then and today. As you noted about Pickering and Clearwaters, “These men did not write these books from the sidelines.”

    We are in the heat of a new battle over the same ground. There are Baptist men compromising for the sake of unity with non-separatist (compromised) evangelicals. Today, if there are men of distinction who would call men out of compromise clearly and concisely as Pickering and Clearwaters did, they are still sitting on the sidelines. They will not openly engage the heat of battle. I often ask myself, “What are they waiting for?”


  12. New article posted on Convergent and Emergent Evangelicalism