New Evangelical Fundamentalists
One of the root problems with New Evangelicalism is what it refuses to preach. It aims to be positive. It is willing to narrow down its message. This causes many to be confused by New Evangelicalism (the vast majority of evangelicals today have adopted the New Evangelical philosophy). They hear or read a popular evangelical and say, "My, how he teaches the Bible so wonderfully; I don't see anything wrong with him." They don’t understand that the problem with the New Evangelical's teaching is not so much what he says that is wrong, but what he refuses to say that is right. It’s not so much the error that he preaches but the truth that he neglects. He refuses to proclaim the whole counsel of God. He will not deal with many of the negative aspects of the Word of God, such as ecclesiastical separation and plain rebuke of apostasy. He will not identify false teachers by name and call upon God’s people to avoid them.
This philosophy is rapidly finding its way into churches that claim to be fundamentalist. The preacher steers clear of many controversial things, and when he does deal with something that is unpopular he is almost apologetic.
Charles Finney noted this tendency in his day: "Ministers generally avoid preaching what the people before them will understand as addressed to them. They will preach to them about other people, and the sins of others, instead of addressing them and saying, 'You are guilty of these sins.' They often preach ABOUT sinners instead of preaching TO them. They studiously avoid being personal, in the sense of making the impression on anyone that he is the man."
This is becoming descriptive of many fundamental Baptist pulpits which in years past plainly preached against sin and error.
Here are some questions I would propose to test the content of a preacher's ministry:
Does the preacher preach hell hot? Does he preach hell at all, meaning does he even use the word when referring to the sinner’s destiny? Or does he more often tend to avoid that term and refer to the eternal condition of the lost in more vague ways? Billy Graham has not preached plainly on that subject for decades. In fact, he is not certain that hell is a place of fiery torment. He has said, “I think the fire that is mentioned in the Bible is a burning thirst for God that can never be quenched” (Orlando Sentinel, April 10, 1983).
In 1986 Kenneth Kantzer, senior editor of Christianity Today, said the last sermon on hell he heard in evangelical circles was one he preached himself--in the 1950s!
You might be saying, That is terrible that New Evangelicals no longer preach on hell. Let me ask this: When, fundamentalist friend, was the last time you heard a red-hot sermon on hell in your church? The Lord Jesus Christ, the most loving, compassionate preacher this world has ever seen, preached frequently and in great detail on the topic of hell.
Does the preacher warn of the denominational error plainly? It is highly unpopular in this present ecumenical climate to speak against others, so it is more comfortable for the preacher to deal with such things only in generalities. Instead of saying, for example, that infant baptism is a gross error and all those denominations which practice it are guilty of this error, whether Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, he refuses to mention any denominational error by name. He might speak in general against the error of infant baptism or baptismal regeneration or episcopacy or ceremonialism or sacramentalism, but he will not tell his people exactly who is practicing such heresies. He will not plainly identify the false teachers who are deceiving God's people.
Does the preacher warn of compromising preachers and movements and name the names of these so the people can know exactly who he is talking about? It is one thing to warn about psychology in general; it is quite another to warn about James Dobson or whoever in particular. It is one thing to warn about New Evangelicalism in general; it is quite another thing to warn about Franklin Graham or Chuck Swindoll in particular. We would ask whether the preacher EVER mentions chief compromisers by name from the pulpit, or does he forever speak in generalities? Our people are being influenced by the Charles Stanleys, the Franklin Grahams, the Joseph Stowells, the Charles Swindolls, and it is essential that they be identified. Any fundamental Baptist pulpit that refuses to preach pointedly by naming the names of heretics and compromisers is an ineffective pulpit that is not protecting God’s people from the spiritual dangers of our day.
Does the preacher define worldliness in particular, or does he speak only in generalities? It is one thing to say, "People, we must not be worldly," or, "People, we must not be immodest." That kind of preaching is really meaningless if it is not defined. People can sit under that preaching and remain comfortable living in all sorts of worldliness. It is quite another thing to say, "People, we must turn off those wicked movies and sitcoms and Saturday morning cartoons on T.V.; we must stop listening to Hollywood's cursing; we must stop watching Hollywood's harlots parade themselves before us in our homes; we must keep on our clothes and stay away from the beaches and swimming pools where people are half naked and lust is rampant; men must dress like men and women like ladies; let the men wear the pants, ladies, and you cover yourselves with wholesome, feminine attire; we must reject that worldly 'Christian' rock music and Contemporary Christian Worship music; we must turn off that rebellious country-western trash."
It is not easy to name names and to be specific in dealing with popular sins. The backlash from the unsaved, the carnal, the fence-straddlers, and the ignorant can be terrific. One pastor noted, "Many fundamental churches would be twice their size if they only went along with Billy Graham." Indeed! The same would be true if the church would only soften its stand a little here and there on any number of controversial matters. AND MANY FUNDAMENTAL BAPTIST CHURCHES ARE DOING EXACTLY THIS.
We need to be on guard lest we adopt a New Evangelical, compromising, soft ministry without being aware of it. Our chief duty is not to please man or to have a large church or to be well liked in the community or to make our congregation comfortable and happy; our chief duty is to please God and to proclaim His Word--all of it--without apology. The first duty of the preacher is to "reprove, rebuke, exhort" (2 Tim. 4:2). The time HAS come when people will not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3-4). They are indeed heaping to themselves teachers which tickle their emerging fancies rather than be faithful to God’s Word.
I refuse to tickle the ears of a rebellious generation, though I well understand the pressure to soften the message. That old war horse Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in speaking of Christian publications, said, "A magazine which is not outspoken, and is destitute of principle, is a literary nuisance."
The same can be said for any preaching ministry. A preacher that is not outspoken, and is destitute of principle, is a ministerial nuisance!
In conclusion, consider some statements by other men of God on this issue:
"Many religious persons have a dread of controversy, and wish truth to be stated without any reference to those who hold the opposite errors. Controversy and a bad spirit are, in their estimation, synonymous terms, and to strenuously oppose what is wrong is considered as contrary to Christian meekness. Those who hold this opinion seem to overlook what every page of the New Testament lays before us. In all the history of our Lord Jesus Christ, we never find Him out of controversy." --Robert Haldane
"Independent Baptist churches have gone full circle and are now in most cases identical to the association churches I left in my early twenties--DEAD--just trying to be respectable. Our teens look scrubby, our church services are powerless, and a soul winner is rare." --Roger Voegtlin
"Again, men say that instead of engaging in controversy in the Church, we ought to pray to God for a revival; instead of polemics, we ought to have evangelism. Well, what kind of evangelism is it that is indifferent to the question what evangel it is that is to be preached? ... not the evangelism that Paul meant when he said, 'Woe be unto me, if I preach not the gospel.' No, my friends, there can be no true evangelism which makes common cause with the enemies of the cause of Christ. ... Every true [moving of the Holy Spirit] is born in controversy, and leads to more controversy." -- J. Gresham Machen
"The problem of doctrinal 'wishy-washiness' is a cancer that is spreading through the Church. The alarm must be sounded and the troops rallied. We must 'fight the good fight' of faith with the same fervor that was characteristic of the early Church. Every believer is to be a 'watchman on the wall' giving warning, lest, as the Scripture states, 'Their blood will be on your hands.'" --Rich Varlinsky
"Folks will sometimes accuse us of crossing every t, and dotting every i, but it is only that we are trying to judge every sin in our lives to become a spiritual house before God. If we have standards and convictions, we will become very narrow and straight in our lifestyle--not because we are legalists, but because we realize that the smallest of sins can affect our relationship to the Lord." --Doug Sehorne
"No amount of earnestness can be condemned when pleading, on straight lines, the cause of God. ... To employ soft words and honeyed phrases in discussing questions of everlasting importance; to deal with errors that strike at the foundations of all human hope as if they were harmless and venial mistakes; to bless where God disapproves, and to make apologies where He calls us to stand up like men and assert, though it may be the aptest method of securing popular applause in a sophistical age, is cruelty to man and treachery to Heaven. Those who on such subjects attach more importance to the rules of courtesy than they do to the measures of truth do not defend the citadel, but betray it into the hands of its enemies. Love for Christ, and for the souls for whom He died, will be the exact measure of our zeal in exposing the dangers by which men's souls are ensnared." -- George Sayles Bishop, 1885
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