December 18, 2017

The Ringing Call of New Evangelicalism Repeated in the New Calvinism

New Evangelicalism and New Calvinism: The Same Disaster (Part 7)

Matt Recker

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 ♦ This is Part 7

I have not written this series with a crow bar or baseball bat, but with a concerned heart. There is no turf, organization, school or fellowship to defend, build or tear down. There is simply the Gospel and the glory of Jesus Christ to proclaim.

It occurred quite naturally to me that the direction of the New Calvinism (NC) seemed eerily similar to the New Evangelicalism (NE). This idea, whether good or bad, came about simply as I read again the original tenets of NE (See below for a full list). Then I thought of Francis Schaeffer, himself a NE, who wrote The Great Evangelical Disaster just before his death. I don’t want disaster for anyone, much less for Christ’s glory in the church. My passion is for Christ’s gospel to be purely propagated to the next generation.

I write also realizing that our own movement, Fundamentalism, has its flaws that are far from completely fixed. I do not want to appear so negative as to deny good that Conservative Evangelicals or New Calvinists have done. Many of them have written helpful books or commentaries and have practical web sites that deal with challenging or cultural issues that have helped Fundamentalists. Many Fundamentalists read, listen, and benefit from the spiritual skills of those outside their movement. Let me also be clear that I have not one time in this series said anything negative about traditional Calvinism or the soteriology of Calvinism. In fact, traditional Calvinists like Peter Masters of The Metropolitan Tabernacle have also strongly denounced the dangers of the New Calvinism in his article, New Calvinism: The Merger of Calvinism and Worldliness. ((http://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/Christian-Article/New-Calvinism-Merger-of-Calvinism-and-Worldliness/Sword-and-Trowel-Magazine)) E.S. Williams, a member of that church has also written a book entitled The New Calvinists: Changing the Gospel and has a website[1] dedicated to clearly unmask some of the hazards within the New Calvinism.

In this article I want to survey the final New Evangelical principle and to see how this movement grew out of “a growing willingness of evangelical theologians to converse with liberal theologians.” Then we shall see how New Calvinism has a similar willingness.

Harold Ockenga, who coined the term, “New Evangelical,” himself defined it as a “ringing call for a repudiation of separatism and the summons to social involvement … It differed from fundamentalism in its repudiation of separatism and its determination to engage itself in the theological dialogue of the day.[2] Note how according to Ockenga theological dialogue was a necessary corollary of a repudiation of separatism.

Conversation with liberal theologians resulted in a growing willingness for the New Evangelicals to associate with those lacking theological orthodoxy. This led to a practice called infiltration which then led to cooperation with theological liberals in evangelistic, missionary outreach, and cooperation in denominations, associations, or ecumenical church councils like the National and World Council of Churches. I emphasize the growing and ever changing downward progression that follows their abandonment of separation: conversation è infiltration è cooperation.

This philosophy of dialogue clearly led the New Evangelicalism to what was perhaps their ultimate disastrous distinctive: a failure to Biblically remain separate to the Lord from theological compromise. In the words of Ockenga, this was its “ringing call.”

What’s Wrong with Theological Dialogue?

Simply put, this innocuous sounding phrase came to mean conversation focused on points of agreement but which ultimately led to a willingness to compromise areas foundational to the Christian faith. Dialoguing differing theological views ultimately led to capitulation of truth in areas of science, creation, the universality of the flood, the Holy Spirit and biblical inspiration. Such hobnobbing with the enemy opened the door to error in doctrine fundamental to the nature of Christianity. As Alva McClain said of unbelieving liberal scholars, “We must never for one instant forget that they are deadly enemies with whom there can be neither truce nor compromise,” and it is still true that “educated unbelief is the worst kind of unbelief.”[3]

Some of the key elements to this dialogue were (1) the formation of Fuller Theological Seminary in 1947, to establish a scholarly center for the New Evangelicalism, (2) the inauguration of Christianity Today magazine to articulate their beliefs and give a platform for this dialogue, (3) the founding of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE, formed in 1942) which became a meeting point for evangelical churches as well as churches in apostate denominations to join a more conservative association,[4] and finally, (4) the sending forth of Billy Graham as the spokesman for this movement. Graham’s inclusive policy of working with theological liberals was first officially announced and implemented in his 1957 New York City Crusade.[5] This meeting is still touted as a huge success by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, as they boast that the campaign lasted for “an unprecedented 16 weeks. During those 16 weeks, 2,397,400 persons attended the meetings and 61,148 made decisions for Christ.”[6] Nevertheless, it ushered in a tragic compromise as Graham broke down barriers between Bible believers and Bible deniers. In 1960, Graham had Bishop James Pike offer a prayer at his Detroit crusade. Pike, a notorious liberal who denied every major fundamental Christian doctrine, was an alcoholic, was divorced multiple times, was an adulterer, and he practiced the occult. Graham’s cooperation soon extended to Roman Catholic churches and leaders.

The New Evangelical Past Influence the Present

Franklin Graham now leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and follows in his father’s philosophical footsteps of ecumenical compromise. In the most recent BGEA “festival” in Pittsburgh, PA, August 15-17 2014, Franklin Graham brought in Catholic Bishop David Zubik to give the opening prayer during one of the nights. During the bishop’s prayer, he acknowledged his belief that Protestants and Catholics are all part of the same church. While I commend Graham’s public stand against homosexual marriage and his work to help the poor, uniting with Roman Catholicism is clear disobedience to Scripture. One does not justify the other. To embrace Roman Catholicism as a genuine expression of Christianity is to potentially deceive multitudes of immature Christians and doom many Roman Catholics to hell.[7]

Repudiating clear Biblical principles of separation led to the Great Evangelical Disaster. New Evangelicals refused to separate from those who are not sound in the faith (2 Timothy 3:5). They assisted in the cause of the ungodly (2 Chronicles 19:2). They gave honor to those who have another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9). They joined forces with unbelievers to supposedly further the Lord’s work (2 Cor. 6:14). They emphasized unity at the expense of truth and doctrinal purity (Jude 3), and finally, they cooperated and received those who do not abide in the true doctrine of Christ (2 John 9-11).[8]

I am fully aware that these issues represent some of the most difficult choices we have to make in our Christian experience. We want to balance truth with love and courage with compassion. There are many factors to consider in weighing who we will fellowship with in ecclesiastical areas, and unquestionably, many are still weighing these factors in light of the New Calvinism. Nevertheless, I would like to share two specific examples of New Calvinist dialogue and association with theological error that should be a cause for concern.

A Quick Review on the Scriptural Teaching on Separation

The Bible clearly teaches that separation is primarily unto God based on His holy character and His sovereign right for primacy in our lives individually and corporately as His people. Christians must work out their salvation by maintaining holiness. One application of this is refusing to unite with doctrinal error, remaining separate from it, and exposing it for the good of God’s people (Romans 16:17-18; 2 Timothy 3:5). Separation must be practiced from false prophets (Matthew 7:15) and false doctrine (1 Timothy 6:3–5). Those who preach a different gospel are accursed, and we are not to touch the accursed thing (Galatians 1:8-10; 2 Cor. 6:14-18). God’s people must separate from error concerning the true Person and work of Jesus Christ (1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 7-10). Furthermore, we are to withdraw ourselves from “every brother that walketh disorderly” (2 Thess.3:6). The brother in this case was in a consistent practice of rebellion against the clear instruction of the inspired apostle (1 Thess.4:11-12; 5:14). A disobedient brother is a “professing Christian who deliberately refuses to change some aspect of his conduct to conform to the clear teaching of Scripture….He refuses to cease from his disobedient practice.”[9] 2 Thess 3:6 presents an “important principle of refusing to condone, honor, or utilize persons who continually and knowingly are following a course of action which is harmful to other believers and to the welfare of the churches.”[10]

We must maintain both a deep reverence for the authority of God’s word as well as a deep affection and love for God’s people as these principles are practiced. However, when an individual, church, or Christian organization disobeys the clear doctrine and practice of Scripture, separation must be practiced. When a man who is a brother unites with a denomination, an ecumenical religious meeting, or religious organization that has known theological error and continuously persists in that position without any notion of withdrawing from that direction, then that individual is being clearly disobedient to God’s standard of separation.[11] “The Bible teaches separation from Christian individuals and organizations that are doctrinally deviant, that affiliate with those who deny the faith, or that are content to walk with those who compromise the doctrine and practice of Scripture.”[12] I prefer not to use the term “second degree” separation, but Biblical separation from a disobedient brother. We must not join with those who unite with those unfaithful to the Word of God. They may be popular. They may write good books or commentaries. But we must avoid assisting them in their compromise.

The Manhattan Declaration Signed by Catholics and well known New Calvinists

The 2009 Manhattan Declaration was a statement of major ecumenical proportion. Drafted by Chuck Colson, Robert P. George (Princeton University law professor) and Timothy George (Beeson Divinity School), it was originally signed by a broad partnership of Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical leaders. Its purpose was to call on Christians to reject governmental authority and even engage in civil disobedience if tyrannical laws forced them to accept abortion, same-sex marriage and other ideas that betray their religious beliefs. While I obviously wholeheartedly agree with this stand, there is a dangerous overtone to it, as the Gospel was boldly compromised and relegated to a secondary importance. Here is an excerpt from the Manhattan Declaration:

“It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season” and even calls it a Gospel of “costly grace.” It went on to say: “May God help us not to fail in that duty.”[13]

Those who signed included Evangelicals and Roman Catholics, tacitly assuming that the Gospel of Rome is identical to the Gospel of Evangelicalism. Not merely unwise, it is dangerous for evangelicals to put their signature to such an ecumenical manifesto. In fact, the declaration minimizes doctrinal distinctions as mere “ecclesiastical difference(s)” between faith communities. It implies that Catholics and Evangelicals proclaim essentially the same Gospel message, yet a Roman Catholic means something entirely different in their understanding of the fullness of the Gospel than true Bible believers do. Is the Gospel of “costly grace” in the daily mass of the Roman Catholic Church or the other Roman Catholic sacraments? How can evangelicals sign a statement that mentions the gospel but fails to define it with full knowledge that some sign it while meaning the Gospel to be something entirely different than the Gospel of God?

Furthermore, the Manhattan Declaration honors the Medieval popes of the 16th and 17th Centuries, saying “It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country.” These same popes fought against true believers in the Church who sought to preach the Gospel of grace alone, faith alone, and Christ alone. I find this a strange compromise to place popes alongside Wilberforce and Wesley as if they believed the same things.

Well known New Calvinists Ligon Duncan, Wayne Grudem, Tim Keller, and Albert Mohler signed the statement. How sad! To sign this statement is to agree that those Popes valiantly strove for peace and justice and that Rome proclaims a true gospel. This treatise allows for a Romish false gospel and is shot through with popish error. It places social concerns before the Gospel and even John MacArthur, who did not sign the statement, said that it downgrades the Gospel to a secondary issue. MacArthur said, “Perhaps (this is) the very worst way—for evangelicals to address the moral and political crises of our time. Anything that silences, sidelines, or relegates the gospel to secondary status is antithetical to the principles we affirm when we call ourselves evangelicals.”[14] The willingness of New Calvinists like the New Evangelicals of old, to converse with liberal and even apostate theologians, may bring forth dangerous fruit in the days ahead. Although Mohler did not sign the statement Evangelicals and Catholics Together, he set a bad example by signing The Manhattan Declaration, notwithstanding his justifications.[15] As I write this, from my understanding, Mohler has not corrected his position. This sort of dialogue leads to cooperation and compromise and confusion for those he leads.

The Troubling Lack of Separation Ministry of John Piper

John Piper is unquestionably one of the most influential of all the New Calvinists. A skillful communicator and an eloquent author, he was the long time pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. I do not question that his sermons and books have helped many, his stand on marriage and manhood have been encouraging, and his web site has provided timely direction. I myself have benefitted by his book, Don’t Waste Your Life as well as his definition of manhood. Piper’s keen insights have given him immeasurable influence. He is current and vocal on issues that affect us all. Nevertheless, Piper has demonstrated a strong unwillingness to separate from compromising associations for many years, which cause me to have legitimate concerns over the long term consequences of his ministry. Let me share three.

First, his church has been a part of the Baptist General Conference (BGC), now called Converge Worldwide[16] Converge Worldwide is a member of the thoroughly New Evangelical, National Association of Evangelicals[17] The NAE, as seen above, is one of the foundational elements of New Evangelicalism. Members include the North American Baptists, which Fundamentalists left a long time ago, and Vineyard, which is filled with radical elements of signs and wonders theology. Membership in the BGC, through its connection with the NAE, places Piper in the mainstream of New Evangelicalism. Leith Anderson, the president of the NAE, is the former pastor of Doug Pagitt, one of the founding members of the Emergent church. Anderson wrote A Church for the 21st Century which helped to “set the tone” for the emerging church. Anderson stated a paradigm shift was needed in the new century, and ultimately the emergent church filled that void.[18] Converge Worldwide also appears to be moving down the path of postmodernism and emergent, yet Piper never separated from that denomination.

Additionally, the heresy of Open Theism has been promoted by Greg Boyd, a leading member of Converge Worldwide. Piper denounced this theology as one that “dishonors God, distorts Scripture, damages faith, and would if left unchecked, destroy churches and lives. Its errors are not peripheral but central.”[19] Strong language without loving separation goes for naught and the leaven of heresy remains in Converge Worldwide. Remaining in a compromising denomination as well as being joined to the NAE shows a refusal to obey God’s Word that says, “Come out from among them and be ye separate.”

Second, I am saddened by Piper’s association with The Passion Conference. This meeting is fraught with disconcerting associations demonstrating an unwillingness to separate from false teaching and worldliness, especially seen in its music (Carl Lentz, Judah Smith, Beth Moore, Jesus Culture, etc.). You can read my article on the Passion Conference: Its Danger and Lack of Passion for Truth.

Finally, I am deeply troubled by John Piper’s long time endorsement and promotion of Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren. I am not picking on Driscoll simply because he has finally been called into question for his many scandals. I am talking about Driscoll’s ministry throughout the years. Driscoll is known for his provocative sex sermons, his mocking of Biblical Fundamentalists, and his worldliness in promoting tattoos, drinking, and New Years’ Eve champagne dance parties. Driscoll’s idea of worship is rock and roll in a darkened building that emphasizes an ungodly atmosphere. Yet Piper has spoken with him and invited him to speak at his Desiring God conferences. As more and more individuals come forward to expose Driscoll’s disobedience, it is clear that he has been enabled by men like Piper who have enhanced his reputation and aided his continuance in his sins of abusive authoritarianism.[20] I am deeply troubled by the confusion this causes to many young people who have immense respect for John Piper.

Rick Warren has also been invited to speak at John Piper’s conferences. Warren (SBC) is well known for his utter disregard for separation. Rick Warren sympathizes and has dialogue with Muslims, homosexuals, and the Roman Catholic Church to achieve his PEACE plan. This is a blasphemous mockery of true peace through the Name and by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He routinely promotes the highly dangerous practices of Roman Catholic contemplative mysticism and spiritual formation. Warren’s purpose driven methodology has brought confusion and compromise throughout the body of Christ.[21] When Piper invites Warren to speak at a conference in which he is the host, he tacitly endorses the ministry of Rick Warren and spreads the leaven of a false peace through compromise. Piper has tried to defend this area of disobedience by claiming this is secondary separation, but it is not secondary separation to be separate from Warren, it is Biblical separation based on the texts referenced above.

Let’s give earnest heed to Jehu’s words, ringing out to Jehoshaphat as this godly king walked disorderly: “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD?” Sadly, moving in the realm of the New Calvinism puts one in that unenviable position.

I close by quoting from a Resolution of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International in 2011: “The defense and confirmation of the gospel must include the proclamation and practice of separation because ecclesiastical cooperation with false teachers is both serious disobedience to the Scriptures and fatal to the long-term defense of the faith and purity of the church. History teaches that a great contributor to doctrinal error within evangelicalism has come from the repudiation or disregard for the need for separation.”[22]

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Here is a summary of the points we have contrasted in this seven part series:

  1. “A friendly attitude toward secular science”
  2. “A willingness to re-examine beliefs concerning the work of the Holy Spirit” [this emphasis contributed to a surge of charismatic teaching]
  3. “A more tolerant attitude toward varying views on eschatology”
  4. “A shift away from so-called extreme Dispensationalism” [the New Evangelicals objected to Dispensationalism’s pessimistic view of world history]
  5. “An increased emphasis on scholarship” [part of an attitude viewing fundamentalists as anti-intellectual]
  6. “A more definite recognition of social responsibility” [viewing fundamentalists as retreating from social and political involvement]
  7. “A re-opening of the subject of biblical inspiration” [a change which opened the door to question Biblical inerrancy]
  8. “A growing willingness of evangelical theologians to converse with liberal theologians” [finally resulting in evangelicals not seeing theological liberals as lost souls but merely misguided but well-meaning Christians][23]

Matt Recker is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in New York City.

  1. http://www.newcalvinist.com/ []
  2. John Ashbrook, New Neutralism 2, p. 5, emphasis added. []
  3. Rolland McClain, Promise Unfulfilled, p. 69. []
  4. The NAE attracted churches that complained about the apostasy of their denominations, but who did not have enough conviction to separate from that apostasy. []
  5. Rolland McCune, Promise Unfulfilled, p. 51. []
  6. http://www.billygrahamlibrary.org/PGView.aspx?pid=63. []
  7. Read more: http://triblive.com/lifestyles/morelifestyles/6570993-74/festival-graham-says. []
  8. Ernest Pickering, Biblical Separation, p. 154. []
  9. Mark Sidwell, The Dividing Line, p. 56. []
  10. Ernest Pickering, Biblical Separation, p. 222. []
  11. Robert T. Ketcham, “The Position of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches on Separation,” Literature Item #6. []
  12. Rolland McCune, Promise Unfulfilled, p. 148. []
  13. Full text of the Manhattan Declaration. []
  14. http://surphside.blogspot.com/2009/11/john-macarthur-refuses-to-sign.html. []
  15. Albert Mohler’s reasons for signing The Manhattan Declaration: http://www.albertmohler.com/2009/11/23/why-i-signed-the-manhattan-declaration/. []
  16. http://www.hopeingod.org/news-events/news/pastor-sams-blog/what-baptist-general-conference-gospel-declaration. []
  17. http://www.nae.net/membership/current-members. []
  18. Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, p. 28, 55. []
  19. http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-are-john-pipers-views-on-gods-foreknowledge-and-openness-theology.)) That is strong language. McCune well states, “While caution is always commendable in such cases, one wonders just how much more non-Christian, God-dishonoring, faith-damaging, Scripture-distorting, church-devastating, and lives-destroying doctrine it will take before membership is removed from the BGC.” ((Rolland McCune, Promise Unfulfilled, p. 152. []
  20. http://joyfulexiles.com/2014/08/28/new-disclosures-by-former-mh-pastorelder-bent-meyer/. []
  21. http://www.submergingchurch.com/influencers/rick-warren/; http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/warrenpromotingcp.htm. []
  22. David Shumate, Frontline Magazine, May/June, 2011, p. 9. []
  23. “Is Evangelical Theology Changing?” Christian Life, March 1956, pp. 17-19. []


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