We have been discussing the ecumenical spirit of certain signatories of the Manhattan Declaration from the so-called “conservative” evangelical camp. Some of the “conservative” evangelicals like Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan who signed the Manhattan Declaration (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
Reading and research has shown that the current trend toward ecumenism by the likes of John Piper, 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. More recently we have seen a pattern among some men, who claim a heritage to biblical separation, who are redefining the terms and boundaries of separatism to allow for fellowship and cooperative efforts with non-separatists in the evangelical camp. The definition and application of separation, the lines of distinction between separatist fundamentalism and evangelicalism are being blurred. The blurring of the lines are not because evangelicals are moving toward obeying the God-given mandates for separation from unbelievers and the disobedient among us. Sadly, the lines of distinction are being erased because we have men who circulate in fundamental circles and claim to be militant separatists moving toward doing separation the way evangelicals do.
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.
The Subtle Drift Toward the New Evangelicalism, p. 155.
The Appeal of New Evangelicalism to the Fundamentalist, p 156.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.
Gradually Sliding into New Evangelicalism, p. 159.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
One of the first steps 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” not recognizing new breed New Evangelicals such as Al Mohler, Tim Keller and John Piper. The trend of some Fundamentalists toward so-called “conservative” evangelicals appears to be how can I justify and keep my fellowship with them instead of what does the Bible mandate for me.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.
Some pastors and Bible college leaders 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 AND “avoid” (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!4Today, we are witnessing a new and genuine Tragedy of Compromise. With each step of tolerance for the disconcerting actions of evangelicals mature Fundamentalists are setting the example for and showing the younger generation the way to the new breed New Evangelicalism. Men must determine to set the right example (Phil. 3:17) putting fidelity to Scripture ahead of tolerating doctrinal aberrations, ecumenical compromise and worldly methods of ministry among the evangelicals. Otherwise they will work their way down the winding road of closer to New Evangelicalism.
Updated and revised from the original posted December 2009.
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