discerning and eschewing new evangelicalism

In my Church History notes folder I have the reprint of an article written by Dr. Panosian in 1963 for the Nov/Dec issue of Voice of the Alumni, the news-magazine for BJU alumni. The article has a picture of a very young Dr. P. It was written a bare six or seven years from the Billy Graham 1957 New York crusade, the moment when lines were starkly drawn and personal decisions for or against the new evangelicalism had to be made.

Dr. P summarizes the definitions of other men for the (then) new movement. Among those cited are William E. Ashbrook, Harold J. Ockenga, Charles Woodbridge, Bob Jones, Jr., and Robert C. Brien. From these, Dr. P distills this definition:

So Neo-Evangelicalism is a movement, an approach, a group, a theological position, a practice, an attitude, a method and a mood. It prefers positivism without negativism, liberalism to fundamentalism, infiltration to separation, results to principles, scholarship to Revelation, ‘Preaching the Gospel’ without contending for the faith, ‘love’ to Truth, and ‘unity’ to loyalty to the Word of God. Ignoring the injunctions of the Epistles, concerning the believers’ reaction to error, infidelity, and apostasy — mark them, avoid them, rebuke them, have no fellowship with them, reprove, exhort, receive not, try them, from such turn away — the Neo-Evangelical has already been judged by God’s Word. He needs no other judgement.

A few thoughts flow from this…

  1. At the time Dr. P wrote this, he was young, and a fundamentalist. That is, he was about the age where so many today are questioning the wisdom of the fundamentalist movement as such. For him, fundamentalism, such as it was, was the answer, not the question.
  2. The faculty of BJU in the early 60s were committed to the fundamentalist cause – they had experienced the fallout of the 50s. They lived it. They had choices to make. Some of their classmates went a different direction and became ‘names’ in the evangelical world. These men and women made a choice that meant academic obscurity.
  3. There were virtually no other fundamentalist schools when the new evangelical compromise struck. Maranatha didn’t come along until 1968. Northland began in 1976. Pensacola in 1974. There were some smaller colleges that remained fundamentalist, but the flagship was BJU. To take a fundamentalist stand as an academic in 1963 meant paying a price.
  4. The new evangelicalism as described above offered the road of human approval and a certain ease of career choice. The fundamentalist educators made the same conclusion Dr P. did – ease was not the issue, faithfulness to God was.
  5. For me, it was these men, largely, who trained me. They paid the price and they taught their philosophy to me. For my part, fundamentalism is still the answer, not the question.

It seems to me that the fundamentalist decision today is still the same. One has to be willing to be marginalized. One has to value scriptural fidelity above all else.

There are those who sneer at fundamentalism as a backwards, shrinking, failed movement. Let them sneer. May we be accountable to God and God alone.

don_sig

Comments

  1. A friend noted that I had an inaccurate statement in the first paragraph. I had Ockenga coining the term in 1957, whereas what I really had in mind was the clear battle lines being drawn by the Billy Graham 1957 New York crusade. I have corrected my text above.

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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