Many men in the church who would be known as sound, historic, orthodox Protestants, who therefore would avoid any such designations as “Modernist” or “liberal”, but nevertheless detest the label “Fundamentalist,” and regard the term “conservative” as too openly implying the compromisers they are, call themselves neo-evangelicals. They prefer mightily not to be recognized as Fundamentalist, as separatist, as holding the strict practice of coming out from Babylon and being separate from Belial. They prefer an inclusive, middle-of-the-road approach which will allow an in-and-out contact with any company which is appealing, especially that of the modernist camp. A Fundamentalist, to the neo-evangelical mind, has no “depth of sympathy and understanding” and so renders himself unfit for witnessing with cultured grace to the liberal strata in the church. The same charge has been made against the prophets of God who were never sympathetic to false prophets or false doctrine, nor to anything not according to Christ. But the neo-evangelical does not take a clear-cut, antithetical stand on the fundamentals and the essentials of the faith over against everything contrary to sound doctrine. He manifests a rather soft, weak, pacifist attitude toward the enemies of the historic, Reformed, Christian faith. He puts on a strong front; uses some strong terms, but will not maintain a consistently traditional orthodox position, since he must proceed out of expediency and opportunism. He shuns his Fundamentalist brother as a “too independent Christian who has failed to progress with God.” The same remark would certainly apply with as much justification (?) to the prophets Micaiah and Elijah, or to anyone else of their succession. But shun or withdraw from the modernist enemies of the gospel the neoevangelical does not. The movement of Neo-evangelicalism maintains certain publications, such as the magazine, “Christianity Today” and the former Fundamentalist paper, the “Sunday School Times.” The magazine “Eternity” turned neo-evangelical, and “Christian Life” belongs in that category. A prominent organization of the movement is the National. Association of Evangelicals, which has never taken a stand on anything like the truth found in the Belgic Confession, Articles 27, 28 and 29 on the true and the false church, for the NAE will not work on the basis of the concept of the purity of the church. It proceeds rather on the inclusivist idea.
The movement, then, has no protection against the tide of apostasy, the socialism and leftism of the false ecumenical movement, or the coming one-world church of the Antichrist. Neo-evangelicalism compromises with the Babel-builders.
The father of neo-evangelicalism, and inventor of the term itself, is recognized in Dr. Harold John Ockenga, pastor of the Park Street Congregational Church at Park and Tremont Streets, Boston. He tells us that the strategy of neo-evangelicalism differs from that of Fundamentalism, which is that of separation, in that it adopts the tactic of infiltration. This is the tactic of permeation, the aim being to capture from within. The concept “infiltration,” to us, has a bad connotation, sounding too much like the strategy of Unitarianism, which is to infiltrate the Protestant denominations, “like breaking a hole in the Chinese wall,” or like “grafting new thought . . . on the older churches . . . By indirection a large part of the finest and subtlest work is accomplished . . . The purpose of its very existence is . . . undoubtedly capturing strongholds that we could never carry by direct attack…The modernists of Protestantism . . . are working from within the fold . . . we want more of them and we want them where they are.” “What could Unitarianism hope to achieve? To permeate other churches with liberal tendencies . . . to leaven the lump of . . . Christianity.” They “work from the inside . . . doing it successfully, and the gradual permeation of the orthodox denominations with liberal ideas disseminated by trusted leaders of their own appears to them the best procedure.” Within the body of the Christian church they gradually “sow the seeds of liberalism and wait until the time was ripe for more aggressive agitation.” (From Unitarian writings quoted in “The Leaven of the Sadducees.”) For the church to adopt this subversive tactic of the enemy is to suppose that a piece of decayed meat may be successfully treated with a cure-process or a preservative. It is to suppose that health is just as contagious as disease. One wonders whether neoevangelicalism appropriated this “tactic” from Unitarianism, for the former opens its doors to the latter. At the 150th anniversary of Park Street Church on February 28, 1959, there were included among the speakers beside Ockenga, Rev. Dana McLean Greely, president of the American Unitarian Association, and Erwin D. Canham, editor of the Christian Science Monitor. When a man ignorantly swallows a deadly poison, he certainly wants the right antidote. But what man in his right mind would care to stomach a mixture of cyanide and its antidote?
Neo-evangelicalism does not, as Fundamentalism, make an “attack upon error,” but rather proclaims “the great historic doctrines of Christianity.” The implication is that Fundamentalism is largely negative, while neo-evangelicalism is more positive. The same line of reasoning would make the Reformed position, generally, and the position of the Protestant Reformed Churches, particularly, negativistic because they maintain The Rejection of Errors in the Canons of Dordt. But the Ten Commandments are both negative and positive. The Sermon on the Mount is both negative and positive. The Reformed Confessions and the Reformation theology are both negative and positive. In the Gospel there is no dichotomy between the negative and the positive sides of the truth. Both sides are integral parts of the Christian Faith.
Says Ockenga, “The New Evangelical is willing to face the intellectual problems and meet them in the framework of modern learning.” Now Christians are to fight the battle of the faith on a certain battle-ground, but that ground is not “in the framework of modern learning.” The Christian position is not to look for a common ground where the Christian and the non- Christian may meet. There is no common ground between the Christian position and the non-Christian position. The area of so-called “common grace” may not be viewed as such a ground and meeting place. Such a “ground” is far from firm. For the Word of God affords the man who takes a position inimical to Christianity no place of refuge anywhere except in Christ. If he will not stand with us on the Rock, Christ Jesus, he cannot find refuge in any supposed neutral or common ground. Much worse, however, than seeking a common ground with the enemy, is that of standing on the enemy’s ground. The only safe position is on the ground of Scripture truth, the doctrine of God, and that as exemplified in the Reformed Confessions. Otherwise the church soon ceases being the church and conforms to the world, and spies from the true church infiltrating the false church soon become turncoats.
A further criticism neo-evangelicalism makes of Fundamentalism is that the latter has failed because it is really not fundamental; it is rather peripheral, and taken too much with subsidiary elements of the faith. This is true. Fundamentalists, despite their vaunted name, have really never been as fundamental as true adherents to the Reformed Faith. For they, except for very few exceptions, have always omitted the most basic fundamentals of the faith, namely, the fundamental principle of Scripture and the Christian Faith the absolute sovereignty of God, the eternal counsel of God, the doctrine of predestination, election and reprobation, and the Five Points of Calvinism, without which essentials the fundamentals are sterile. Fundamentalists are also wrong in supposing that the Neo-evangelical stand arises from an eschatology other than that of Premillennialism. The eschatologies of post- or amillennialism are thought to have opened the door to neo-evangelicalism. This implies that, our amillennialism exposes us to compromise. By our amillennialism we open the door to compromise and to many other errors I It is not mere boast, but fact that we as Protestant Reformed have never been guilty of compromise; and our theological standards reveal, we believe, the purest manifestation of the body of Christ. But the compromise of the New Evangelical does not stem from any eschatological position, but from a concession to ecclesiastical liberalism and the modern world. Another failure of Fundamentalism is that although it has constantly fought Modernism, it has never exposed Arminianism, which, unless uprooted, invariably leads to Modernism. Arminianism is incipient Modernism. There is simply no effective antidote against the plague of Modernism without taking steps to eradicate the deadly germ of Arminianism. But worse than Fundamentalism, neo-evangelicalism has failed. It is an ecumenical neutralism, less fundamental, and permeated with pious platitudes, pragmatic religion, and Arminianistic theology.
One of the great spokesmen for the new evangelicalism is the ecumenical evangelist Billy Graham. They and he kick against the goads (Acts 95). They kick against such sharp arrows of the Almighty as found in II Cor. 6:14-19. They struggle like a dove in a snare to avoid the force of such barbs. For example, Billy Graham claims that such texts do not apply to him on the ground that he is an evangelist! He reasons, it is the calling of an evangelist to separate from sin, but not from sinners; to reprove and rebuke as an evangelist, but not to reprove as an apostle, a prophet, an elder, or a watchman on the walls of Zion. Be feels it his calling to lead those who ought to come into the church, not to expel those who ought to be removed from the church. Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse of the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, after taking up with neo-evangelicalism, similarly misinterpreted this passage, referring it exclusively to the idols of the Corinthian temples. According to this casuistry, the Bible loses its force, not applying to any man or any age following the period in which it was written.
While Fuller Theological Seminary is a center of this neutralism, Dallas Theological Seminary has become infected with it, and so have Wheaton College, Taylor University, Bryan University, and Moody Bible Institute. Organizations taken with it are the Youth For Christ movement, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and the China Inland Mission. They reject Fundamentalism as “dead,” “narrow-minded,” and “bigoted.” Now, say they, we think in terms of “unity.” They warn against “an extreme ultra-fundamentalism that God has long since by-passed and proved that His hand is not on it” (Billy Graham, NAE convention, Buffalo, N.Y., 1957). A more Christian attitude toward Fundamentalism is found expressed by Dr. J. Gresham Machen. “Nevertheless, thoroughly consistent Christianity, to my mind, is found only in the Reformed or Calvinistic Faith; and consistent Christianity, I think, is the Christianity easiest to defend. Hence I never call myself a ‘Fundamentalist.’ There is, indeed, no inherent objection to the term; and if the disjunction is between ‘Fundamentalism’ and ‘Modernism,’ then I am willing to call myself a Fundamentalist of the most pronounced type. But after all, what I prefer to call myself is not a ‘Fundamentalist’ but a ‘Calvinist’—that is, an adherent of the Reformed Faith. As such I regard myself as standing in the great central current of the church’s life . . .” With this we agree, which indicates that fundamentalists are not the only ones in the world actively contending for the faith today.