October 19, 2017

Recipe for Disaster

Ralph G. Colas

First published in 2005, the following article describes the state of evangelicalism almost 10 years ago, but its salient points are still relevant today. — ed.

Someone has aptly declared that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The trip by the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) into full-orbed compromise did not begin when it gave Dr. Robert Schuller, pastor of the Crystal Cathedral and the number-one TV preacher (on hundreds of stations in more than 180 countries), two standing ovations. These were given before and after his address at the 62nd Annual Convention of the NAE at the New Life Church, Dr. Ted Haggard pastor, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on March 11, 2004. That journey down the road of compromise began 62 years earlier in St. Louis, Missouri, when the NAE came into existence.

Dr. Schuller’s church is a part of the Reformed Church in America, a denomination holding membership in both the National and World Councils of Churches. Schuller, a promoter of Self-Esteem, told the NAE that, “There are some things in the Bible I cannot swallow, but you get saved not by the Book but by the blood. Keep your message positive. Understand God is a God of grace and glory so forget the matter of justice.”

The audience in Colorado Springs gave Schuller their rapt attention as he continued, “Repentance is not a healthy response. Repentance is really defined when someone says, ‘I want to live the dream You have, Lord.’ Intelligent people do not understand the fear of God. Grace has been missed in Fundamentalism. Remember Jesus invested His stock in the Roman Catholic Church for at least 1,000 years prior to the Reformation. Now we need a new reformation with the message that God loves you and so do I.”

Giving a gentle rebuke to those in the NAE who hold to the exclusivity of Christianity, Schuller related the occasion when he was warmly received when speaking to a Muslim group of 15,000 at a mosque. He went on to say, “The NAE had strong negatives in its early days, but I now sense a mellowing and maturity here, so I will join it. I want the NAE to be healthy and whole.”

This popular author has written more than thirty books, and in his book Self Esteem: The New Reformation (Word Books, 1982), he reveals his heretical views. He writes, “We are born to soar. We are children of God . . . the Fatherhood of God offers a deep spiritual cure for the inferiority complex and lays the firm foundation for a solid spiritual selfesteem ” (p. 162). Thus in promoting the heresy of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man, he ignores our Savior’s clear teaching that there are two families and that those without Christ are in the family of the Devil (John 8:44).

In that same book, Schuller wrote concerning Christ’s work at Calvary, “The cross sanctifies the ego trip. For the cross protected our Lord’s perfect self-esteem from turning into sinful pride” (p. 75). And in explaining being “born again,” Schuller explains, “To be born again means that we must be changed from a negative to a positive self-image—from inferiority to self-esteem, from fear to love, from doubt to trust” (p. 68).

Why then was Dr. Schuller invited to address the NAE with his deviant views regarding such basic Scriptural truth concerning salvation, the wrath of God, and Hell as well as Heaven? All of Schuller’s teachings are always stirred in with his possibility philosophy. And even more revealing were the two standing ovations given this apostate. His self-esteem message was followed by long lines of friends and supporters waiting to shake his hand or have him autograph his book My Journey, which had been on sale at the back of the large sanctuary of Dr. Ted Haggard’s Church.

The answer why Dr. Schuller, a false prophet, was welcomed and honored at this NAE Convention goes to the fact that more than six decades before, the NAE repudiated Biblical separation. At that NAE organizational meeting in April 1942, Dr. Stephen Paine, who was at that time president of Houghton College, declared, “The feeling of the National Association of Evangelicals has been that our organization was not founded to fight anybody. . . . Negative motives for united action contain within themselves the very seeds of disintegration.” Another NAE leader, Dr. J. Elwin Wright, in rejecting separation from the Federal Council of Churches, which later became the National Council of Churches, did so by saying, “We should be able to at least shake hands over the tops of the fences.” And Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer of Dallas Seminary wrote concerning that first meeting of the NAE, “I believe our first obligation is in the line of positive proclamation of God’s truth rather than a negative objection against some specific enemy. There is a need of an organization which is formed to declare God’s truth to a lost world rather than to attack other lines of Christian work.”

From April 1942 until the present hour, the NAE, which now claims to represent 23 million individuals through their member churches, holds and defends an inclusive position. Such a position permits local churches and individuals to maintain membership in liberal denominations as well as countless Pentecostal and Charismatic church bodies. Over the years the NAE has reached out to many speakers for its programs, but at this year’s convention they used a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Neither the next speaker, Dr. Jack Graham, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), nor any other NAE leader publicly distanced himself from the teachings of Dr. Schuller. What transpired in Colorado illustrates the road traveled when an organization refuses to practice Biblical separation. Dr. Harold Ockenga, often identified as the “father of New Evangelicalism,” declared many years ago that there must be a rejection of the “come outers.” In defending the inclusive practice and policy of the NAE, Ockenga related, “Many individual congregations whose denominations were in the Federal Council of Churches (FCC) were received into the NAE in order to give them an opportunity of cooperative action on an evangelical and orthodox base.”

When the NAE met for its 55th Annual Convention in 1997, one of the main speakers was Dr. Ted Haggard, now president of the NAE, who told those in attendance how his New Life Church in Colorado Springs was impacting that city. “It will happen,” Haggard said, “when churches reach across denominational lines. I describe churches as fitting into three groups: liberal churches, life-giving churches—like ours, and legalistic churches which cut off people’s heads with the Bible.” Dr. Haggard, a Charismatic, recently participated in a symposium which included Jack Hayford, Rod Parsley, Joyce Meyer, C. Peter Wagner, Steve Hill, Richard Bonnke, and other high-profile Charismatics. At that meeting in Orlando, January 6–7, 2004, Haggard suggested that the distinction between the Pentecostal-Charismatic community and the evangelical world “was quickly becoming irrelevant. In my work with the NAE I have found no resistence to the Pentecostal-Charismatic message, and within ten years, I don’t know if there will be a distinction. I do not think the issue is theological; the issue is style.”

Dr. Donald Argue, former president of the NAE, was invited to speak at the National Council of Churches General Assembly meeting a few years ago. When questioned about his identification at such a meeting with the liberal NCC, Argue said the NAE leaders were supportive. The then-NCC general secretary, Joan Brown Campbell, a divorced American Baptist clergywoman, told the press, “Dr. Argue comes to us with the blessing of his board, and I think this makes it more significant.”

Back in 1972, Dr. Hudson Armerding, then president of the NAE and Wheaton College, pled with the NAE to discipline those who denied inerrancy. His appeal was ignored. The NAE doctrinal statement on the Bible says it is, “inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God,” but not inerrant. Fuller Theological Seminary has often exhibited at the NAE. Their literature explains why it was that years ago Fuller removed inerrancy from its doctrinal statement. Such a position, as held by Fuller and the NAE, ignores the fact that either the Bible includes error or it does not. There can be no “halfway” position about this.

Dr. Leith Anderson, pastor of the Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, Minnesota, served a term as president of the NAE prior to the election of Dr. Ted Haggard. At an earlier NAE convention Dr. Anderson was asked as to the procedure used by their church in starting another church. After checking to make sure the television cameras were off, lest it be recorded, he said, “Our church is a member of the Baptist General Conference, but we are presently starting a church in union with the Christian Reformed denomination!” It would appear that this former president of the NAE, a graduate of Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary and Fuller Seminary, had embraced the ecumenicity encouraged in both institutions.

While the motto of the NAE is “Cooperation Without Compromise,” their practice is just the opposite. A defender of the NAE wrote, “We would rather come together on issues that unite us, than let some of our differences separate us.” That individual overlooks the fact God’s Word clearly forbids alliances with those who put experience above the Scriptures and permit membership to those who are still a part of the Ecumenical Movement, as Dr. Schuller certainly is.


Dr. Ralph G. Colas is the Executive Secretary of the American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC) in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. With press credentials he has covered and reported on religious meetings in the USA and abroad.

(Originally published in FrontLine • January/February 2005. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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