October 21, 2017

Our History from the 1880s Onward

A popular perspective of movements shaping fundamentalism from 1880s to the 1920s, being a lightly edited transcript of a series of lectures given for the Adult Bible Fellowship of Tri-Cities Baptist Church during the spring of 2012  (Part 4)

by Dave Sproul

Click here for Part One – here for Part Two – here for Part Three

No historical review of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International, formerly known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, would be complete without relating the impact of New Evangelicalism and Ecumenical Evangelism on independent Baptist organizations, associations, colleges, seminaries, and most importantly, the local churches.

In reality New Evangelicalism and Ecumenical Evangelism are twin sisters that created quite a stir in their early days and their huge impact continues to the present time. Their two printed voices were Christian Life (begun in 1939) and Christianity Today (started in 1956). The theologian of the New Evangelical Movement was Edward John Carnell, author of The Case For Orthodoxy. In his book Carnell derided fundamentalism by saying it was, “Too little fun, too much damn, and too little mental.” What was he saying? He was belittling the Fundamentalist position on personal separation, their strong preaching on hell and judgment, and accusing them of lacking scholarship and academic credentials. And like Ockenga he strongly urged the penetration of apostate denominations rather than separationas the Scriptures teach.

The third and most powerful voice of both New Evangelicalism and Ecumenical Evangelism was Dr. Billy Graham. Graham traces his salvation experience to a revival meeting held by Mordecai Ham in North Carolina. A short time later he entered Bob Jones College. He left after the first semester citing the spiritual fervor of the school was too much for him (although he did express his appreciation for Dr. Bob Jones Senior in later years). He attended Trinity College in Florida and finished his undergraduate training at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

By 1945 Graham was fully involved with Youth for Christ, a nondenominational youth organization that had a great impact in the 1940s and 50s. He also was featured on Songs in the Night,a powerful Chicago radio program. Soon he became the president of Northwest Schools in Minneapolis. By 1948 he was telling some friends that he believed the newly organized World Council of Churches would nominate the Anti-Christ for president.

The city-wide crusade in Los Angeles in 1949, where many Hollywood stars attended and some professed salvation, propelled Graham into the national spotlight. William Randolph Hearst, owner of many newspapers, sent his editors a two-word message, “Puff Graham.” From that day onward Graham never lacked publicity.

It was at the 1949 crusade that Dr. Bob Shuler, pastor of the First Methodist Church of Los Angeles, heard Graham refuse the support of the Federal Council of Churches, later renamed the National Council of Churches. At that point Graham was still a biblical separatist and drawing large crowds. One wonders what would have happened over the years if Graham had continued to use his God-given talents in separatist circles.

In 1952 Bob Jones University gave Billy Graham an honorary doctorate, thereby signifying the University’s strong support for his city-wide campaigns. Accusations a few years later that Bob Jones University hated Graham were totally misleading. They stood with him while he was obeying the Scriptures but broke fellowship when his compromise became a ministry of disobedience.

The city-wide meeting in Detroit in 1953 provided evidence of the direction Graham was going. Several Baptist pastors were startled to see Christian leaders on the committees and platform who were definitely men of religious compromise.

Pastor Marion Fast tells of being in the office of Dr. John R. Rice, editor of the Sword of the Lord, in 1955 when Dr. Bob Jones Sr. called Dr. Rice and pleaded with him to start addressing the compromise of Dr. Graham. Dr. Rice had been to England to see the Graham Crusade and had come back full of praise for Graham.

Please note how fast Graham changed. He was given an honorary doctorate by Bob Jones University in 1952 and by 1955 Dr. Bob Jones Sr. has serious problems with the direction Graham is going. He warned Dr. Rice and after the 1957 New York City campaign Rice began exposing the compromise of Graham.

It was the 1949 crusade in Los Angeles that propelled Graham into the spotlight. But it was the Crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957 that marked the sell-out of Graham to the liberal crowd. A fairly large group of Bible-believing pastors invited Graham to New York City and offered to sponsor him. Graham refused their sponsorship, but accepted the sponsorship of the Protestant Council of Churches which was saturated with liberals. Thousands attended nightly for many weeks and Graham became permanently known as one who would have liberals and Roman Catholics on his platform and refer to them as brethren in Christ.

Graham came under intensive scrutiny of separatist pastors, churches, and Christian organizations during the lengthy crusade. With pressure mounting Graham called his long time lawyer friend, Uncle Jimmy Bennett, and urged him to come and sit on his platform. Bennett responded by saying he would be happy to sit on his platform if Graham would preach a message that night refuting liberalism from the Bible. Graham replied, “Uncle Jimmy I can’t do that.” Bennett then told him he would not be sitting on the platform with liberals and Roman Catholics. (I heard Bennett tell this story from the chapel platform of Bob Jones University where I was a student in 1958.)

As an aside, there is no questioning the many God-given talents Graham possessed. His ability to simplify the Word and preach it in great power is indisputable. Nor does any honest critic deny that many have come to Christ under his preaching. In the summer of 1956 I was driving on the Ohio turnpike one Sunday evening. I turned on the radio to the Hour of Decisionand listened intently as Graham preached a stirring biblical message. The tears streamed down my cheeks as I listened to the message and I remember telling God I would go anywhere and do anything if I could only preach like Billy Graham. Little did I know that in a few months time I would be seated in chapel when Dr. Bob Jones Sr. announced that Bob Jones University would no longer be supporting Dr. Graham and his ministry, because his upcoming crusade in New York City would violate numerous Scriptures in the Bible. My heart was deeply grieved but by that time I knew Dr. Jones was right.

Perhaps the best illustration of the destruction Graham’s compromise caused is the story Dr. Bob Jones Sr. told about a man having a large orchard. A man came by and asked to pick the fruit. The owner gave him the job. Sometime later the fruit picker reported to the owner and told him all the fruit had been picked. When the owner surveyed the scene, he saw the fruit picker had cut all the trees down and ruined the orchard for many years in order to get the fruit. In like manner Graham’s compromise evangelism left the orchard of local churches and pastors in disarray after he had picked the fruit.

The announcement of the stand taken by Bob Jones University in March of 1957 literally sent shock waves around the world. Missionaries abroad as well as pastors and churches here at home were often unaware of the radical turn Graham had taken in a few short years. Great criticism thundered down on the school. In the ensuing years many Bible believing churches split over the Graham issue. Pastors who took a separatist stand often lost their pulpits. Great confusion reigned. It was a bit like the Civil War where brother sometimes fought against a brother.

But the glowing reports continued. Graham was a great preacher. The choir and Bev Shea presented great music. Souls were professing salvation in great numbers. What is wrong with that? Let us all be assured that God is more interested in souls than we are. John 3:16 proves that. But not only is God interested in souls being saved, he is also interested in the method used. “…Behold, to obey is better than sacrifices, and to hearken than the fat of rams” I Sam. 15:22b.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 Paul states we are not to be yoked together with unbelievers. Certainly having liberals and Catholics on the platform, having them lead in prayer, giving them Christian recognition in a Christian setting, and referring to them as brethren in Christ constitutes a yoke. We are commanded to abstain from that.

Note also five major differences between belief and unbelief in the passage. (1) What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? (2) What communion hath light with darkness? (3) What concord hath Christ with Belial? (4) What part hath he that believeth with an infidel? (5) What agreement hath the temple of god with idols?

Listen to the command! “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). Ecumenical Evangelism does not separate from anyone. Rather the practice is to put your arms around everyone regardless of belief or unbelief and endorse them as members of the body of Christ. What a rebellious practice! Paul repeats his separatist injunction by writing, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).

To show the significance of being right on the gospel Paul tells the Galatians, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8, 9). Note three things about these verses. (1) If Paul or an angel preached another gospel they were to be accursed. (2) The verses are talking about preachers. That is, liberal preachers that deny and distort the gospel. (3) The punishment for denying or distorting the gospel is to be accursed. It literally means “let them be damned.” That is the crowd Graham turned to in the 1950s and continued to endorse throughout his long ministry. As an example, in the Indianapolis crusade Graham put his arm around the notorious liberal Bishop Oxnam and said to the crowd, “The same kind of religion this man has is the kind of religion I want you to get.” Bishop Kennedy, another well documented liberal, was the chairman of the 1963 Los Angeles Crusade where Biola College got involved. Repeatedly, Graham has had ministers from the World Council of Churches on his platform; openly endorsed them and had them lead in prayer. This is the same evangelist who in 1948 thought the World Council of Churches would elect the Anti-Christ. Uncle Jimmy Bennett’s booklet written about the New York City Crusade called it a “Ministry of Disobedience”.

In 1960 Graham took his ministry to the Cow Palace in San Francisco. The newspapers gave it glowing reports. Billy Rose, editor of the Oakland Tribune and friend of Graham, wrote a follow-up to the crusade some months later. He mentioned that many made “decisions for Christ” and noted that 1,200 did not list a church home. These were followed up several times but at the time of Rose’s writing less than 1% or less than 12 had attached themselves to any church whatsoever. Rose commented, “Something went wrong somewhere.” By contrast British evangelist George Whitfield went up the East Coast in the l730s during the Great Awakening. Many thousands professed salvation. Fifteen years later 85% were still active in local churches.

In crusade after crusade of Graham’s ministry many were recorded as making a “decision for Christ.” Yet there was no discernible change in the moral character of the city. Lawlessness, drunkenness, drugs, sexual immorality continued as they did before. The campaigns had little or no impact on the general public. Graham’s campaign at the Cow Palace in 1960 did little or nothing to stop the pot-smoking hippie crowd in the Haight–Asbury District in the mid-60s. Graham conducted three city-wide crusades over the years in Chicago. Does anyone think the Graham meetings had any measurable effect on the general public in that metropolitan area?

The many crusades throughout his ministry were highly publicized and great planning went into getting out the crowds but cities did not repent like fish-worshipping Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah. Yet by contrast Billy Sunday held revival meetings in Wilkes Barre, Pa. By the close of the meetings, every tavern was closed down and every known prostitute was saved or had left town. The same often happened in the South under Evangelist Sam Jones and Dr. Bob Jones Sr. The memorabilia room at Bob Jones University was filled with detailed newspaper articles about Dr. Jones Sr.’s meetings when I was a student there in 1956-58. The articles revealed great numbers added to the local churches and heightened interest in spiritual matters while crime, drunkenness, and many sins of the flesh were greatly decreased. The spiritual character of the community was greatly changed. One will search in vain to find such detailed reports six to twelve months after the Graham team has left town. This is a major factor that for over fifty years has been largely unreported.

In 1967 Graham was invited to Belmont Abbey, a Roman Catholic institution in North Carolina, to receive an honorary doctorate. On that occasion he said, “The same gospel that you believe and teach is the same gospel I preach.” Is he unaware that the Roman Catholic Church is wrong in many areas of doctrine especially on the issue of justification by faith? I wonder what Martin Luther would think about that statement?

Or what about his statement in Redbook Magazinewhere Graham essentially denied that Jews must accept Christ as their Saviour to go to Heaven? If only one such statement appeared, one might think he was misquoted. But similar quotes appeared over the years, which strongly suggested Graham believes there is more than one way to Heaven. Shall we reject Acts 4:12?

Some twenty seven years after Graham’s statement at Belmont Abbey, some leading New Evangelicals joined with a group of Roman Catholic theologians to publish certain accords (The Evangelicals and Catholics Together, May 1994) declaring they had resolved their differences over justification by faith. What a historical capitulation on the part of those New Evangelical leaders!

Dr. James Singleton used to say, “Separation is to theology what antiseptic is to the medical field.” Without biblical separation, truth will be diluted and ultimately denied. Without constant antiseptic practices, many will be infected and some will ultimately die.

The twin movements of New Evangelicalism and Ecumenical Evangelism are now 60 years old. The results are appalling. Compromise has become a way of life. Second and third generation New Evangelicals commonly attack the inspiration of Scripture by questioning and sometimes denying the truthfulness of Scripture when it comments on history, science, archaeology, etc. They shred the book of Genesis by accepting and promulgating theistic evolution and denying the 24-hour, seven-day concept of creation.

Ecumenical evangelism has broken down the walls of separation between belief and unbelief in the minds and practices of millions of professing Christians. Ecumenism says that if a pastor, church, or organization calls itself Christian, then it is incumbent upon us to accept them as part of the body of Christ despite their denying the core truths of the Word. Moreover, if a disobedient pastor, church or Christian organization supports, endorses, and promotes ecumenical endeavors, then we who hold to a biblical separatist position are rejected as being narrow, bigoted, and unloving, etc. Indeed, New Evangelicalism and Ecumenical Evangelism stalk our land and the world. They have swept much before them. Their impact on biblical inspiration and obedience is indescribable. Nevertheless, all over the world and in our country are thousands and yes, tens of thousands of churches and pastors who are standing tall for the Word of God. They have not dipped their flag in the oceans of compromise. They are God’s faithful remnant. We believe that the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International and our own church make up a part of that faithful group who truly believe the Bible is our only source for faith and practice.


Dr. David Sproul is a senior consultant with International Baptist Missions.


Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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