Chapter 4

Fuller Seminary – Exhibit A

Let us go back to the press release of Dr. Ockenga, issued December 8, 1957. In that press release he outlined the organizational front which was poised to assure the bright future of new evangelicalism. We have already given time to the first two facets of that front – the National Association of Evangelicals and the World Evangelical Fellowship. I have chosen to pass over the third aspect of that front which has to do with the apologetic literature of new evangelicalism. An examination of this literature would be out of the scope of this book. This chapter will deal with the fourth aspect of the organizational front. Dr. Ockenga stated it thus:

…fourth, there is the existence of Fuller Theological Seminary and other evangelical seminaries which are fully committed to orthodox Christianity and a resultant social philosophy…

If I understand Dr. Ockenga’s mind aright, Fuller Theological Seminary was Exhibit A, the piece de resistance, of new evangelicalism. The school was carefully premeditated to represent the new ideology The school had the prestige of Dr. Charles E. Fuller’s nationally respected name. The school had the pledge of funds to secure its future. The school had the privilege of writing faculty names on a clean sheet – choosing the best authority in each field. No other seminary that I can recall ever had such a start.

In the 1947-1948 school year, I was a student at Wheaton College. The coming fall would also see my own entrance into seminary. I was praying, reading seminary catalogs and listening with interest to every discussion of seminaries. After supper in Williston Hall, seminary-bound young men tarried for discussion about the new school. Humanly speaking, Fuller seemed to be the institution with everything to offer – a new position, a prestigious faculty, a certain future. The prospect was glorious, but the end result was far different. There is no better illustration of the destructive course of neutralism than the history of Fuller Theological Seminary

Professors with Hat in Hand

One of the first battles of neutralism concerned the admission of Fuller Theological Seminary professors to the Los Angeles Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church. U.S.A. This arose out of the ethos of neutralism. Since they came from professed fundamentalist backgrounds, as the early Fuller professors did, they knew the apostasy of the Presbyterian Church. Yet, in true neutralist style, they wanted to have one foot in fundamentalism and the other in apostasy They desired to make certain that the door was open for Fuller Seminary graduates to enter the ranks of the U.S.A. Presbyterian Church, so that it might be reformed from within. If you recall Dr. Ockenga’s “re” statement, quoted some pages earlier, it included “the recapture of denominational leadership.” This was to be done by infiltration, the offensive tactic of neutralism. Consequently various Fuller Theological Seminary professors of Presbyterian background applied to the Presbytery for admission or transfer of papers from other presbyteries. Among these were Dr. Gleason Archer, Dr. Wilbur M. Smith, Dr. Everett F. Harrison, Dr. Bela Vasady, and Dr. William LaSor. The latter two men had impeccable credentials for the approval of apostasy. Bela Vasady a Hungarian, had a record of ecumenical participation in Europe and was a founder of the World Council of Churches. William LaSor had proven his denominational loyalty by serving on the judicial Commission of Presbytery which suspended Carl McIntire from the ministry for his continuation on the Independent Board of Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Despite these credentials, the Los Angeles Presbytery would have none of the Fuller professors.

Standing in the Snow

There was no snow in Los Angeles, but reading about the confrontation reminds me of the tenth century showdown at Canossa when Pope Gregory VII kept Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, standing in the snow in a penitent’s garb for three days before granting him audience to ask Papas forgiveness. The Los Angeles Presbytery acted the part of Gregory, and the Fuller professors played Henry. However, the play was not a three-day drama. It lasted from 1948 until 1965. By that time the Presbyterian Church had seen that neutralism was no threat to the apostasy and could be counted on to swell the ranks without serious threat.

One of the most blasphemous ecumenicists in the Presbyterian Church was then pastor at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church. Dr. Eugene Carson Blake was one of the five-star apostates in Presbyterianism. He was to become the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian General Assembly. He was to be the main author of the apostate Confession of 1967 which replaced the Westminster Confession of Faith. He was to be the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches. He was a notable apologist for Russia. He was co-conspirator, with the unbelieving Episcopal Bishop James Pike, of the Blake-Pike church merger proposals. It was this declared apostate who championed the cause and helped obtain acceptance for the Fuller professors. It demonstrates again that the neutralism of new evangelicalism is always closer to apostasy than to fundamentalism.

The next defection of neutralism at Fuller concerned the biblical doctrine of inerrancy. Dr. Ockenga, in his “re” statement, had said that there needed to be “the restatement of Christian theology in accordance with the need of the time…” I doubt if he ever dreamed that the first doctrine to be restated would be the most essential of all, the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture.

The original statement of faith of Fuller Theological Seminary which was worked out by the faculty and adopted by the faculty and the Board of Trustees, read as follows:

The books which form the canon of the Old and New Testaments as originally given are plenarily inspired and free from all error in the whole and in the part.

A fundamentalist could subscribe to that. The words “free from all error in the whole and in the part,” state the truth of inerrancy This was 1949.

In 1972, alter 23 years of internal combat, the words “…free from all error in the whole and in the part” were removed from the doctrinal statement. Between these years there were faculty members who signed the statement tongue-in-cheek and faculty members who openly warred against inerrancy. Daniel Fuller, son of the founder, led the battle against inerrancy. Because of the scholar-worship of new evangelicalism, he had been trained in Princeton Seminary and later in Switzerland under Karl Barth. Barth’s neo-orthodox view of scripture triumphed over the historic view. Again, new evangelicalism was demonstrated to be much closer to apostasy than to fundamentalism.

A Clause of Calamity

What does it mean in practical results when a theological seminary eliminates a clause in its doctrinal statement? Let me quote from page 246 of Marsden’s Reforming Fundamentalism, as he summarizes the results of a Fuller alumni survey:

Three fourths of the students coming to Fuller in its earliest days, graduating classes of 1950 to 1952, came with a solid belief in inerrancy. At the time they left Fuller about 60 percent of them still remained firm in this view, while almost all of the rest held something like a limited inerrancy view. By the 1960s, on the other hand, limited inerrancy was the overwhelmingly dominant, though not undisputed, view. Less than half the students entering Fuller held to strict inerrancy and only about one-fourth left with the view intact.

Later on page 268 he says:

Predictably, commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture continued to drop, so that by 1982 only about 15 percent of students held that view.

Neutralism produced very real and very tragic results. Dr. Harold Lindsell, who resigned from the Fuller faculty speaks prophetically in his book, Battle for the Bible on pages 120, 121:

Down the road, whether it takes five or fifty years, any institution that departs from belief in an inerrant Scripture will likewise depart from other fundamentals of the faith and at last cease to be evangelical in the historic meaning of that term.


No cause is closer to the fundamentalist heart than that of missions. We rejoice in the call of our young people to the field. We set before them the examples of William Carey Hudson Taylor. David Livingstone, Mary Slessor, Adoniram Judson and Jonathan Goforth. No fundamental church is complete without missionary prayer, a missionary map, prayer letters and furlough reports. Missionaries from fundamental churches have entered new areas, learned strange languages, won and baptized converts, organized churches and taught new believers. Certainly even Fuller Theological Seminary would have no conflict with that.

At this point, enter Donald McGavran. In 1965, when he was contacted by Fuller, McGavran was a Disciples of Christ minister operating a program he called the Institute for Church Growth, at a Disciples of Christ college. He was encouraged to merge his operation with Fuller Seminary in what became the School of World Mission and Institute for Church Growth. McGavran was to produce a dramatic change in missionary thinking at Fuller.

Early Mass Evangelism

Before we get to that change, let me recall a character from medieval church history. Vladimir was a pagan prince who decided that his dominions should have an official religion. He sent his servants to look over various religions to see what was available. The group sent to Constantinople made a strong case for what they saw there. Consequently Vladimir the missionary ordered the mass baptism of the Russian people into Russian Orthodoxy. The consequences of his action still survive. When people, at the end of a sword, are faced with baptism or death, they usually come up with the right answer. Donald McGavran’s philosophy of missions was not quite the same, but there were similarities. As you read the following paragraph from Marsden’s Reforming Fundamentalism, pg. 241, you will see the parallel:

In McGavran’s view, then, missionaries should concentrate on `discipling’ whole peoples. In contrast to traditional evangelical concepts, such discipling did not involve leading each church member to a documentable conversion experience. Rather, more in tune with the open-church tendencies of twentieth-century liberal Christians or the methods of Christian advance in the early middle ages, all the missionary should require for `discipling’ a people was that they collectively agree to abandon their old religion, to identify with Christ, and to claim the Bible as their authority and the church as their institution. The evangelical aversion to ‘mass produced’ conversions and the demands for `solid foundations’ of Christian maturity as a precondition for admitting individuals to church membership were, in McGavran’s view, the standards of `ice-age missions.’

Corporate Salvation?

On Paul’s missionary journeys the gospel was preached to Jew and Gentile. The Holy Spirit brought certain individuals under conviction. Those individuals confessed their sins and cried out to Christ. Individual baptisms followed. Those individuals became the foundation of a local church, and elders were chosen in each individual church.

I am certain that you did not miss the word, “individual,” in that paragraph. True missionary work, from Bible days to Fuller Seminary, had always meant leading individuals “to a documentable conversion experience:” The new mission theory would not be individual, but corporate. It would only require heathen cultural groups to (1) “collectively agree to abandon their old religion”; (2) “to identify with Christ”; (3) “to claim the Bible as their authority”; (4) to claim “the church as their institution”. This would allow whole cultural groups to be counted Christian. It would use the services of anthropologists, computers and demographics. It could make common cause with apostate missions, which already thought this way. It would make missions of the past obsolete. Oh yes, it seems hard to fit, “Ye must be born again,” into this scheme.

Did this new approach catch on? Every fundamental pastor receives a constant flow of folders advertising seminars on missions and church growth. If you study them you will see that most of them are built on McGavran’s model from the School of World Mission and Institute for Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary

In a previous chapter about the National Association of Evangelicals, I pointed out that the second hump of compromise on the N.A.E. camel was compromise with charismatics. The neutralist, because he is a neutralist, cannot protect himself from the doctrinal aberrations between which he stands. That has been a part of Fuller Theological Seminary.

Mr. Pentecost

Evidence for this statement is the David du Plessis Center for Christian Spirituality This two million-dollar facility opened on the Fuller Campus in 1986. CHARISMA Magazine, in its April 1985 issue, rejoiced that “Fuller Seminary made a bold move by embracing `Mr. Pentecost,’ Dr. David J. du Plessis, by creating the du Plessis Center.” The center was placed under the leadership of Dr. Russell Spittler, Associate Dean of the School of Theology and an Assemblies of God minister.

David J. du Plessis was a Pentecostal minister from South Africa who became a worldwide gadfly for the cause of making the charismatic movement known and accepted in every place. He was secretary of the Pentecostal World Congress. He was befriended by the well-known ecumenicist, Dr. John A. Mackay, late president of Princeton Theological Seminary and allowed to speak at the seminary His appearances took him from the Vatican to the World Council of Churches. He was a frequent speaker at the Faith and Order Conference of the World Council of Churches. As an extraordinary ambassador for pentecostalism in ecumenical circles, he earned his honorary title of “Mr. Pentecost:”

Even after studying new evangelicalism for a number of years, it is hard to grasp the giant step taken by Fuller in moving from the careful Calvinism of Harold Ockenga to the recurring revelations of David du Plessis. The new evangelicals, who could not stomach fundamentalists, had no trouble with charismatic ecumenicists.

Following this trend, a new course was added to the catalog at Fuller in 1982. The course was titled, “Signs. Wonders and Church Growth,” and was taught by Dr. C. Peter Wagner in conjunction with his friend, John Wimber, a local charismatic pastor. The course discussed “signs and wonders” in churches today. It moved a step further by having “how to’ sessions designed to teach students to perform signs, wonders and healings as aids to church growth.

Foundation Magazine, Volume IV Issue III for 1983 quoted a doctoral candidate at Fuller Theological Seminary who gave testimony at the Billy Graham Conference on Itinerant Evangelism in Amsterdam in the following words:

l am at the moment finishing my doctorate program at Fuller Theological Seminary When I contemplated entering Fuller Seminary there were many voices. Some of them said, ‘Are you going to a liberal, non-charismatic, non-pentecostal seminary?’ However, I felt it was the will of the Lord and I went in and walked on the campus, praying that God would send His Spirit upon the campus, and the last two years some phenomenal things have taken place in Fuller Seminary. They, have now started offering a course called ‘Signs, Wonders and Church Growth.’ This course has the largest attendance in the history of Fuller Seminary. The president, David Hubbard, normally draws 150 students and that’s very high. But this particular course drew 350 students and there were so many that there was hardly any room to accommodate all of them. What is unique and so extraordinary that is happening at Fuller is the genuineness, the spontaneity of the power of God. The two professors who teach this course are Peter Wagner and John Wimber John has a church of 5,000. He comes to class and after 2-3 hours of lectures, he says, ‘Relax. Don’t close your ears. Don’t get religious. But see what God is doing.’ And, in a few minutes the Holy Spirit starts working. Psychology students, theology students – they all come under the power of God and they start shaking. I have never seen such genuine shaking in all my life. And some of them come under the power of God – they fall down without anybody pushing them and they are slain in the Spirit, they speak in tongues, people are getting healed and I have never seen so many manifestations of the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom as I saw in Fuller Seminary last year.

Another item from Foundation, July-August, 1990, indicates that Fuller professors C. Peter Wagner and George Kraft were key figures at the Catholic/Charismatic Indianapolis ’90 Conference in Indiana. Their seminars reportedly drew the largest crowds of any offered. Kraft said the following:

Our healing course at Fuller continues and we’ll be adding one on Power Encounter this year… My wife teaches at BIOLA University Talbot Seminary is part of that complex (and) has a course on Spiritual Warfare.

What begins at Fuller spills over in other places. Dr. C. Peter Wagner gets added national exposure by conducting church growth conferences. The New England Church Life for May, 1988 contained an article about one of these church growth conferences being held on the Gordon College Campus, co-sponsored by the Evangelistic Association of New England and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary


According to the World Evangelization Information Service for March 10, 1981, as quoted in Foundation, March/April 1981, Dr. C. Peter Wagner made the following statement to the Council on Evangelism of the United Methodist Church: `As an outsider, I don’t know of any other denomination which has done so much to restore evangelism. If I were a United Methodist, I would have a sense of optimism about my church.” The United Methodist Church has been perhaps the leading denomination in liberalism. The evangelism which it has restored is certainly not the “Ye must be born again” of the Bible.

According to Marsden’s Reforming Fundamentalism, p. 269: “In 1982, an astounding 44 percent of Fuller theology students said they considered themselves `a pentecostal or charismatic Christian,’ and 43 percent said they have spoken in tongues.”

Three Streams

Dr. Richard Lovelace, who is himself a new evangelical, professor of Church History at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, wrote an article for CHARISMA, September, 1984. His article was titled, “Three Streams, One River?” He wrote:

And Fuller’s program, at the moment, is a ‘mixing bowl’ into which the three streams are flowing. There is significant Catholic input in the seminary’s program of spiritual formation. In the course on ‘Signs, Wonders and Church Growth, ‘taught by C. Peter Wagner and John Wimber has injected a significant charismatic dimension in the School of World Missions.

The third stream, not specifically mentioned in the quote, is the stream of new evangelicalism. Lovelace’s comments do not represent the criticism of a fundamentalist but the commendation of a new evangelical.

We have already seen that new evangelicalism was to have a concern for social involvement which fundamentalism supposedly lacked. Many pages could be written about the seminary’s efforts in this direction. It has decried racism on its campus, sent a representative to march at Selma, crusaded for women’s rights, opened all of its degrees to women and spoken sympathetically about homosexuals. In 1975 Professor Paul K. Jewett published a book, Man as Male and Female. The purpose of the book was to establish the equality of men and women. Some of his statements were in conflict with the Scriptural statements of the Apostle Paul. Jewett argued that Paul was simply mistaken. On the one hand, his conclusion shows the extremity of his position on equality On the other, it shows the bankruptcy of his position on inspiration.

Dr. Lewis B. Smedes, Professor of Ethics at Fuller Seminary, wrote an article in the August, 1978, Reformed Journal, on the subject of ordaining homosexuals. He wrote the following:

The data coming from psychology may tell us more about what homosexuality is than the Bible tells us. Any sophomore today is likely to know more about homosexuality than Paul knew.

What did Paul know about homosexuality without the benefit of Freud or Kinsey? Romans 1 shows that, by the inspiration of God, he knew that homosexuality was the ultimate sin of a sin-sick society, that it was “uncleanness” in God’s eyes, that it was a “vile affection,” and that it would receive the judgment of God. Paul may not have understood it psychologically, but he knew the will of God on the matter, and that is what we need to know to have a right attitude toward the sin.

There you have the story of Fuller Theological Seminary Exhibit A of new evangelicalism. It abounds with Dr. Ockenga’s “re’s.” Its professors were readmitted to the denominations of apostasy; the doctrine of inspiration was emasculated by restatement; the concept of missions was reshaped from individual salvation to corporate amalgamation; respectability was bestowed on the excesses of charismaticism and Bible doctrines were reshaped to make rapprochement with current social theory. Fuller Theological Seminary is Exhibit A, a warning to all who consider walking the new evangelical road.

No king ever began his reign with more promise than King Saul. He stood head and shoulders above his countrymen. God gave him a unique spiritual experience of prophesying. His humility was demonstrated by his hiding at his own coronation. However, there was one chink in his armor – his self-willed rebellion. Because of that fatal flaw, David was forced to opine over him, “How are the mighty fallen!”

No seminary ever began with more promise than Fuller. It had the prestige of a great name, the pledge of adequate funds and the privilege of a hand-picked faculty However, there was one chink in its armor-the faulty premises of the new neutralism “How are the mighty fallen!”