The Spirit of Niceness

August 19, 2009 (Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, -

The following is excerpted from
The Tragedy of Compromise: The Origin and Impact of the New Evangelicalism by Dr. Ernest D. Pickering (Bob Jones University Press, 1994, Greenville, SC 29614) --

Franky Schaeffer put it this way: "The clear, loud call for accommodation comes wrapped in the name of the Gospel of Niceness. Sin as the source of all human problems is banished and a call for repentance is rarely made" (Schaeffer, Bad News for Modern Man, p. 45).

Evangelicalism today is consumed with relationalism, the fine art of getting along with people. Bruce Larson, a leading New Evangelical author himself, advises us that "the quality and scope of relationships and the ability and willingness to relate are marks of orthodoxy rather than doctrine" (Larson, The Relational Revolution, p. 32). In other words, the emphasis in theology becomes relational and not conceptual. This tendency, by the way, accounts for a major shift in expectations of the average church member toward the ministry of the pastor. Many want the pastor to center his preaching around "how to" themes rather than doctrinal themes. More will be said about this later.

THE ATTITUDE OF EVANGELICALS TODAY IS, "LET'S NOT OFFEND ANYONE. Let's preach the gospel in such a way as to be well-thought-of by the unsaved world." "To begin with, most Evangelicals tacitly recognize that Protestant hegemony in America has given way to a potpourri of religious belief systems that itself is girded by a strong liberal code of religious tolerance. ... In response, Evangelicalism has adopted A SOCIAL POSTURE THAT PLEADS, 'DON'T TAKE OFFENSE, BUT HERE IS THE TRUTH.' IT IS A DEMEANOR OF PROPRIETY, GENTILITY, AND SOCIABILITY" (James Hunter, American Evangelicalism, p. 91).

THIS SPIRIT OF GENTILITY, OF "NICENESS," PERMEATES EVANGELICALISM. It affects the approach which evangelicals take toward the presentation of the gospel and their general attitude toward cardinal doctrines of Scripture. "The civilizing process entails a de-emphasis of Evangelicalism's more offensive aspects: the notions of inherent evil, sinful conduct and lifestyles, the wrath of a righteous and jealous God, and eternal agony and death in hell" (Hunter, American Evangelicalism, p. 88). The popular pastor, Chuck Swindoll, says, "When there is a grace-awakening ministry there is an absence of dogmatism and Bible-bashing. ... There is a spirit of openness" (Swindoll, The Grace Awakening, pp. 227-28).

One of the original founders of the New Evangelicalism, Carl Henry, is not impressed with the "progress" which has been made. He is alarmed by certain trends and speaks out against them.

In contrast to inclusive modernism, evangelical spokesmen have hesitated to declare all nonbiblical religions false. They have spoken rather in terms of the 'superiority' of evangelical orthodoxy. In short, in deference to the growing mood of tolerance and for the sake of civility in dialogue, the Christian belief was packaged for greater marketability. References to eschatological damnation and to hell as the final destiny of the impenitent wicked were evaded, abridged, or introduced semi-apologetically. The term 'heresy' vanished from inter-religious dialogue" (Carl Henry, "YFC's 'Cheer for Jesus' No Substitute for the Apostolic Creed," World, March 11, 1989, p. 7).

WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURES? Our Lord did not seem to concern Himself with the gospel of niceness when He thundered, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites" (Matt. 23:14 et al.). Paul was not being very nice when he indicted his fellow Jews with the crucifixion of Jesus and declared that 'wrath is come upon them to the uttermost' (1 Thess. 2:14-16). No thought of 'helpful dialogue' seemed to be in the apostle's mind when he emphatically denounced those who preached a false gospel as those who would be "accursed" (Gal. 1:9). In summary, the method of presenting biblical truth as exemplified by the apostles, the founders of the church, does not square with the "new look" in evangelicalism. EARLY CHRISTIANS DID NOT SPECIALIZE IN MAKING EVERYONE FEEL COMFORTABLE. THEY SPOKE THE TRUTH IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT, WITH LOVE BUT ALSO WITH CLARITY AND FORCEFULNESS. THEY PULLED NO PUNCHES.

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