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The neo-evangelical movement began with the founding of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1942. The neo-evangelical movement was a lead by Harold Ockenga, Carl Henry, and Billy Graham. The movement started by these men, was one of building institutions, publications, and ministries. This movement was post-fundamentalist in that it rejected the separatism and elitism characteristic of some of the fundamentalists. The partnership still built itself o two core theological beliefs, the full authority of the inspired Scripture and the insistence on the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.

Harold John Ockenga, one of the prime movers of the new coalition, was convinced that what was needed was “a progressive fundamentalism with an ethical message.”‘ This became the passionate concern of the rising breed of conservative leadership. There soon followed respectable journals, such as Christianity Today, top-notch seminaries, such as Fuller and Trinity, and with an arena for theological discourse, the Evangelical Theological Society, Evangelicals began to be accepted in the academy. The one man who really led Evangelicals to the intellectual spectrum was Carl F. H. Henry.

Henry’s influence shaped American Evangelicalism (AE) as we know it. The infrastructure of our sub-culture was laid and shaped by these men and their legacies. AE has become a vast sub-culture. Randall Balmer, in Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, spent a few chapters devoted to exposing the amount of money that is spent within our own sub-culture, Christian bookstores, Bible colleges, even Christian theme parks and vacation destinations. Where would we be without all the corny Christian t-shirts? I wonder if Henry and the others knew of the animal that would surface from their creation. Despite our critiques, our infrastructure is a big part of who we are.

Another problem is that the founders of the neo-evangelical movement thought that if the two core doctrines remained strong, the full authority of the inspired Scripture and the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, Evangelicals would be given liberty in other areas of doctrine. Other areas of liberty were issues of church polity (women in ministry), the continuation or cessation of spiritual gifts, the mode of baptism, and views on the millennium. But what began as an allowance for liberty turned into an abrogation of doctrine. These other areas of doctrine began to be seen as secondary issues, or ultimately, unimportant.

Evangelicalism today is plagued with doctrinally thin churches. What Henry and the others intended to be a way to unite around the gospel, ultimately produced dumb Christians. Evangelicals hold two things dear to their hearts today, their Bibles and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This is directly a result of the neo-evangelical coalition.

What is interesting is that the same kind of coalition is being made in AE today. There is currently a movement called, “Together for the Gospel,” (T4G)…the neo-neos. T4G began as a friendship between four pastors, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C. J. Mahaney, and Albert Mohler. These friends differed on a number of theological issues, like baptism and the charismatic gifts. But they were committed to standing together for the main thing, the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am thankful that these men are standing for the gospel. These men are my heroes. I trust these men. But I can’t help but be concerned. I am concerned these men may be setting evangelical churches up to reducing Christianity again. Please don’t hear that I am saying that focusing on the gospel is reductionism, rather I am questioning if this is how the problems were started with the post-World War II evangelical giants.

 

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I’ve always liked Calvin better than Morrie.  I enjoy reading Calvin more than I enjoy reading any other theologian.  And not because I am a “Calvinist,” but because Calvin had a very deep and weighty view of the majesty and glory of God in all of life.  In other words, he had gravitas.  I have also found him to be very misunderstood by the Christian world.  I always let out a deep long sigh when I hear Christians talking about him as a cantankerous, cold, misguided, loudmouth.  Or when I hear people talk about how Calvin himself would have only been a “3 point Calvinist” or when people think that Calvin was all about predestination and election.  Sigh.  Sure, he didn’t pull any punches, and he was a man of his time, tough times at that, but he devotedly fed his flock the life giving substance of the Word of God, of which he was a slave.  To do my (very, very small) part in helping to dispel the myths, Every Tuesday I hope to post a quote from his writings, sermons, commentaries Etc.  This inaugural entry comes from his commentary on John 3:16

For God so loved the world. Christ opens up the first cause, and, as it were, the source of our salvation, and he does so, that no doubt may remain; for our minds cannot find calm repose, until we arrive at the unmerited love of God. As the whole matter of our salvation must not be sought any where else than in Christ, so we must see whence Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Savior. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish. And this order ought to be carefully observed; for such is the wicked ambition which belongs to our nature, that when the question relates to the origin of our salvation, we quickly form diabolical imaginations about our own merits. Accordingly, we imagine that God is reconciled to us, because he has reckoned us worthy that he should look upon us. But Scripture everywhere extols his pure and unmingled mercy, which sets aside all merits.

And the words of Christ mean nothing else, when he declares the cause to be in the love of God. For if we wish to ascend higher, the Spirit shuts the door by the mouth of Paul, when he informs us that this love was founded on the purpose of his will, (Ephesians 1:5.) And, indeed, it is very evident that Christ spoke in this manner, in order to draw away men from the contemplation of themselves to look at the mercy of God alone. Nor does he say that God was moved to deliver us, because he perceived in us something that was worthy of so excellent a blessing, but ascribes the glory of our deliverance entirely to his love. And this is still more clear from what follows; for he adds, that God gave his Son to men, that they may not perish. Hence it follows that, until Christ bestow his aid in rescuing the lost, all are destined to eternal destruction. This is also demonstrated by Paul from a consideration of the time; for he loved us while we were still enemies by sin, (Romans 5:8, 10.) And, indeed, where sin reigns, we shall find nothing but the wrath of God, which draws death along with it. It is mercy, therefore, that reconciles us to God, that he may likewise restore us to life.

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