My father, William E. Ashbrook, had a heart for the fundamental church. He came out of modernism. That step cost him his pulpit and his pension. He loved the men and movements which shared that step of obedience. On the other side, he hated apostasy with its opposite set of men and movements. Apostasy had cut the heart out of Christianity and had stolen the hope of its hearers. He was never too busy to donate an evening of his time to any little group of people in our state who were seeking a way out of an apostate denomination.

In 1958 my father completed an eight page tract titled, Evangelicalism: The New Neutralism. He put a stack of them on the literature table at the back of his church and began to give them to his friends and enemies. He had witnessed the founding of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1942 with an official position of neutrality in the great conflict with apostasy. About 1943 he had his own personal skirmishes with the authorities of Wheaton College over its quiet change from fundamentalism to neutralism. He analyzed the speeches of the founding fathers of Fuller Seminary in 1947 and 1948 and saw again the danger of neutrality in the great battle between faith and unbelief.

As the new evangelical movement began to develop, my father became more agitated about the things he saw. He correctly discerned that the move to neutrality would be a gradual curve to the left instead of a straight line. Each time he needed a new printing of The New Neutralism, he would add a few more pages of recent developments. He published a new edition in 1966, another in 1969 and one in 1970. In 1971 he suffered a stroke which took him out of his pulpit ministry However, a year or two later he said to me, “Son, I believe the Lord wants me to get out one more edition of The New Neutralism before he takes me home, but I have lost some of my ability to organize, and I will need your help.” That began a two-day work trip to Columbus each month. My wife and I would leave our home in Mentor, Ohio early on a Monday morning and come back late Tuesday evening. I would help write, and she would type our efforts. Thus, the last edition was finished in 1975. My father’s reaction to his first look at the completed book was to share the feeling of Simeon and add some of his own words by saying, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for I have finished the task thou dids’t give me.” The eight pages of 1958 had become the 128 pages of 1975. The Lord did not immediately respond to Dad’s feeling. My father had the joy of mailing several thousand copies of The New Neutralism before the Lord took him home from his armchair, April 5, 1977.

As I write these words in 1991, I am aware that sixteen years of new evangelical history have gone by since the last addition to Dad’s book. I have continued to have The New Neutralism reprinted. I have wrapped and mailed my own several thousand copies. I have been amply repaid by unsolicited letters from pastors, missionaries, and laymen telling how God used the book to clear their vision and reclaim them from new evangelicalism. As I have read those letters the conviction has grown in my heart that the book needs to be updated. I have put if off and argued that someone else should undertake the work. That someone else has not turned up. I have accepted the conviction in my heart and the absence of that other person as the Lord’s summons to the task.

New evangelicalism has become famous for its use of the term, “Explo,” as a contraction of explosion. My father used to refer to Bill Bright as the godfather of explos and extravaganzas. The term explosion also fits in another way. The movement which Dr. Harold Ockenga christened neo-evangelicalism in 1948 has become an explosion in 1991. It has been like a cluster bomb streaking in every direction. Over the years the explosion of new evangelicalism has done no damage at all to the fortress of liberalism. However, it has left devastation on the field of fundamentalism. The healthy fundamentalism which I knew as a student in 1948 has been almost destroyed by the infiltration of new evangelicalism. It is amazing how innocuous the disease has been to liberals and how virulent it has been to fundamentalists. Wherever the explosion has reverberated, it has destroyed sound doctrine, reverent worship, and holy living among the Lord’s people.

How does a person chronicle an explosion in an orderly way? Which fire trail does one follow? How does one do it justice? I have not been able to completely answer my own questions, but I trust that the trails I follow in this book will help some of the casualties of new evangelicalism find their way back to the sound doctrine, reverent worship and holy living of former years. I hope that the book may reach Bible school and seminary students who are setting their course for future ministry. I pray that they may see that the neutralism of new evangelicalism is a compass heading replete with the shipwrecks of those who thought they would do mighty things. The only safe course is the heading mapped out by militant obedience to the truth of God and the recognition that this world, with all its professed learning, is our foe and not our friend. No matter how much education we may have, we will never shake the world with our scholarship. The only good which we can do will be done by holding high the truth that Jesus Christ died for lost men, will change the lives of those who trust Him and will come again to receive them unto Himself.