Chapter 9

The Popularizers

Not long ago I found myself in conversation with a fellow pastor who had formerly been a leader in the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches and had served on the Council of Eighteen. As we discussed the position of two of the prominent schools in that movement, I asked my friend, “What factors were influential in moving those institutions from a fundamentalist stance to the new evangelical position?” He did not hesitate in his reply “The two most important factors were the use of contemporary Christian music and the use of a group of popular new evangelical speakers without any warning about their dangerous position.”

In this chapter I would like to talk about that “group of popular new evangelical speakers.” In the previous chapter we thought about “Intellectuals in Residence,” those who man the ivory towers of new evangelicalism. However, any movement must have its popularizers who take the principles of the movement to preach in its pulpits and practice before its people. New evangelicalism has such a coterie. Most of them are good theologians, excellent preachers, and communicators with natural charisma. Schools, churches and conventions book them because they are good. Their major failing is that they move from the fundamentalist orbit, to National Council of Churches pulpits, to Southern Baptist gatherings, to new evangelical schools, and charismatic conventions. Their modus operandi is to go wherever they are invited. This, of course, is in keeping with Dr. Ockenga’s new evangelical prerequisite of repudiating Biblical separation. Their influence on the movement comes not so much from what they say as from where they go. In this chapter I hope to illustrate this principle by giving capsule sketches of some of the popularizers and the places where their names appear.

Dr. John MacArthur

In this chapter I am making no effort to rank these popularizers in order of importance. However, I will admit that Dr. John MacArthur would be number one on my list.

MacArthur’s schooling was at Bob Jones University, Los Angeles Pacific College, and Talbot Theological Seminary. He is senior pastor of the large Grace Community Church of Panorama City, California and is speaker on the popular “Grace to You” broadcast. He has stirred controversy and gained fame by taking nontraditional positions on the blood of Christ, lordship salvation, and the eternal sonship of Christ. He appears to delight in purporting to know more than the historic theologians on these questions. It is not my purpose to analyze these positions. I will leave that to others.

John MacArthur’s contribution to new evangelicalism is to cross all barriers and bridge all gaps in diverse fellowship. He has spoken in Southern Baptist circles at such places as Memphis’ Bellevue Baptist Church with Dr. Adrian Rogers and in the First Baptist Church of Atlanta with Dr. Charles Stanley. He was a Pastors’ Conference speaker prior to the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans. He serves on the Board of Moody Bible Institute and has been a frequent speaker at Moody Founder’s Week and Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken for R.C. Sproul, Jerry Falwell, and various General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. He has been a featured speaker at Wheaton College, Cedarville College, Dallas Theological Seminary, California Graduate School of Theology Word of Life, Tennessee Temple University and the National Fellowship of Conservative Baptists. I list these names to show that his speaking engagements range from supposed fundamentalists to confessed new evangelicals.

MacArthur has stated, concerning himself and his Grace Community Church staff, that they consider themselves evangelicals, not fundamentalists. In this light, it is rather strange that MacArthur is a member of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America. Grace Community Church was host to the 1990 National Convention of this group. The prospect of this invitation caused some stir among the more fundamental brethren of that fellowship. Consequently, at the group’s 1989 convention in Limerick, Pennsylvania, a question and answer session was held with Dr. MacArthur. The panel members quizzed him about the blood of Christ, lordship salvation and Christ’s eternal sonship. The group decided that he was not heretical. Sad to say he was not quizzed about his new evangelical connections and engagements. I have not studied MacArthur’s writings enough to call him heretical, but a glance at his itineraries demonstrates that he is by all means new evangelical.

I was a member of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America in 1963 and contended on the convention floor that to eliminate criticism of ecumenism and new evangelicalism from the Voice magazine, the group’s organ, would open the door for independent men who had no conviction of separation to enter the group and hold ministerial credentials there. In Dr. John MacArthur I offer you Exhibit A.

Evangelist Luis Palau

The name of Luis Palau is probably better known internationally than the name of Dr. John MacArthur. Evangelist Palau is a native of Argentina, and a graduate and member of the trustee board at Multnomah School of the Bible. He is commonly called “the Billy Graham of South America.” The title is fitting, for he has followed Graham’s new evangelical policies in his crusades and been willing to join hands with liberals, charismatics, and Roman Catholics. His ministry has not been confined to South America. He has had crusades in such diverse places as Aberdeen, Scotland, New Zealand and Peoria, Illinois.

Christianity Today for December 19, 1975 reported on Palau’s Managua, Nicaragua crusade, “it enjoyed the support of most of Managuas 125 Protestant churches and many Catholics. Catholic charismatic groups attended.” In its report on the Aberdeen, Scotland crusade, Christianity Today for July 20, 1979 said as follows:

Palau came with his team, including Jerry Edmonds, director of the Moody Bible Institute Chorale, and Dave Pope, a popular Christian singer in Britain… While the older folk were a bit skeptical of Dave Pope and his band’s bouncy, contemporary music, they were beginning to clap their hands and tap their feet as they sang, ‘He’s Coming Back.’

The Richmond Times-Dispatch for June 3, 1979 reported on plans for a “Methodist Congress on Evangelism” to be held at Oral Roberts University January 1-4, 1980. Oral Roberts holds his ministerial credentials in this most liberal of denominations. Palau was to be present with Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Dr. Charles Allen of the First United Methodist Church of Houston and several Methodist bishops. This merely serves to illustrate that Evangelist Palau is not adverse to cooperation with those still in the fellowship of apostate Methodism or those on the radical fringe of charismaticism, such as Oral Roberts. He is scheduled for a May 1992 crusade in the Peoria Civic Center. A list of 150 churches is already committed to the campaign. This includes churches of the liberal denominations, charismatic churches and some from John Wimber’s radical Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Palau’s evangelistic association is affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals. Along with comedian Steve Allen, he was a speaker at the 1987 convention of the National Religious Broadcasters. Despite these dubious connections, he has also been a speaker at Moody Bible Institute, Dallas Seminary’s “School of Evangelism” and the 25th anniversary celebration of Talbot Seminary

Dr. E. V. Hill

Dr. E. V. Hill is the black pastor of the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in the Watts section of Los Angeles. His church is affiliated with the National Baptist Convention, which is a part of the National Council of Churches. His doctor’s degree (or, at least one of them) is from Oral Roberts University in 1985. Dr. Hill has a strange list of credentials. The Fundamental Information Service Bulletin for September 15, 1982 quoted the Wheaton College Bulletin for March 1977 as stating that Dr. Hill was on the Billy Graham Association board of directors, the board of the Los Angeles Urban League, the Los Angeles NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He endorsed the 1984 candidacy of the Rev. Jesse Jackson for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. Christian Life for March 1982 indicated that Dr. Hill appeared with Rev. Jackson at a Campus Crusade sponsored conference in Chicago called “Chicago ’81.” Jesse Jackson may be called “Reverend,” but he is by no means reverent. He has no respect for the Bible and has said that “Adam and Eve is a myth,” and that, “Now I think Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail is just as profound as anything Paul ever wrote.” I would think that even the most fervent new evangelical would choke on that. Foundation Magazine for November/December 1986 cites Dr. Hill as listed to speak at the 1987 Inner-City Pastors Conference in Washington, D.C. March 16-19, 1987. Other featured speakers were charismatics Jack Hayford, Larry Lea, and Bob Mumford.

Despite these leftist credentials Dr. E. V. Hill has been a speaker at Billy Graham’s Amsterdam ’83 Conference, Jerry Falwell’s 1983 and 1991 “Super Conference,” Dallas Seminary, Moody Bible Institute’s “Founder’s Week” in 1991 and “Pastors’ Conference” in 1985. He, along with Jerry Falwell, spoke for the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists prior to the SBC Convention in Las Vegas in 1989. He spoke for the 1987 annual fellowship of the Conservative Baptists. In May of 1991 he was commencement speaker at charismatic Kenneth Hagin’s Rhema Center. He is listed as a speaker for Billy Graham’s 1992 “School of Evangelism” in Wheaton, Illinois. Brethren, such things ought not so to be. Any good man can make a mistake in his associations, but this group of popular speakers in new evangelicalism seems to make a career of it.

Charles Colson

Almost everyone knows the story of the conversion of Charles Colson. His world collapsed when he was trapped in the Watergate scandal. He was an Episcopalian with no understanding of saving faith. A man by the name of Tom Phillips pointed him to Christ. When left alone he humbly cried out, “God, take me as I am.” Shortly after, he was sentenced to prison. He wrote his testimony in the book, Born Again. After his release from jail he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries to help meet the needs of the kind of men he met in prison. Any Christian reading this short summary must say, “Praise the Lord!”

Earlier in this book I mentioned that Colson had joined a Southern Baptist Church in the Washington area but that, according to Colson, his wife was a born again practicing Roman Catholic who taught a women’s Bible study class in the Baptist Church. That put up a red flag in my mind. That red flag began to snap in the breeze a few weeks ago when I read the book, Evangelical Catholics by Keith Fournier. Fournier, a young lawyer, is Dean of Evangelism and the legal counsel at the University of Steubenville, Ohio, a Franciscan school. Keith Fournier is one of the new breed of charismatic Catholics. The book is his sincere attempt to show that he is truly evangelical and truly Catholic. This is not a book review, but I would have to observe that in the first part of the book Fournier almost convinced me that he is evangelical. In the last part of the book he destroyed all the progress he had made and convinced me beyond doubt that he is Catholic.

The dedication of the book was a shock. It reads as follows:

This book is lovingly and admiringly dedicated to two men whom I count it a privilege to call my friends. They are both great evangelical Christians and deeply rooted in their respective church tradition and heritage. Their course, prophetic insight, and holy example have inspired and fueled my own conviction that the time has come for evangelical believers of all Christian communions to recognize the urgency of these times and rise to call one another brother.
To my brothers:
Father Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., and Chuck Colson

Father Michael Scanlan is the Franciscan President of the University of Steubenville. The foreword of the book is by Charles Colson. In that portion he writes, “The pain and distrust between Catholics and Protestants goes back centuries. The church has often been plagued by wars within her walls, crippling her in her battle against the encroaching armies of secularism.” As I have pointed out in other such instances, Colson obviously has little knowledge of the Reformation. The Reformation happens to be the greatest thing that happened to the church in the sixteenth century, not some demeaned war within her walls. He goes on to say, “But at root, those who are called of God, whether Catholic or Protestant, are part of the same Body” Further on he says, “It’s high time that all of us who are Christians come together regardless of the difference of our confessions and our traditions and make common cause to bring Christian values to bear in our society” Colson’s conclusion about the author is “Keith Fournier stands in the breach – truly orthodox in his adherence to Catholic doctrine and fully evangelical in his relationship to Christ and His creation.”

Later on in the book, author Fournier says concerning Colson, “Several years ago we honored Chuck with our Poverello Medal, our highest award given annually to the man, woman, or organization which most reflects the spirit of Saint Francis in his simple love for Jesus Christ” (1990:205). In another place the author comments on Prison Fellowship Ministries by saying that “The PFM staff and volunteers simply want to touch unbelievers and fellow Christians with the love of Christ. So when their work takes them to predominantly Catholic countries and Catholic environments, they strive to work with Catholic Christians” (1990:202). Throughout the book, to my observation, Fournier’s foremost Christian heroes are Mother Teresa and Charles Colson.

Earlier in this book I quoted from Foundation for March-April 1990 in reference to Colson. That article stated, “When questioned as to any doctrinal requirements for participation in his Prison Fellowship Ministries, he explained that because of its nature and scope, it is necessary to make no distinctions on the basis of either religion or race.” After reading the revelations in Fournier’s book, I understand how Colson could make that statement. He simply sees no differences based on doctrine. This is tragic. It is obvious that Colson was trained as a lawyer, not as a theologian.

Surely the fuzziness in Colson’s view should cause thinking evangelicals to be careful of him and to give him good theological counsel. However, the record shows that he was a speaker at the 1990, 48th annual convention of the National Association of Evangelicals. He spoke at Dallas Seminary in 1989 and was commencement speaker there in 1990. He was on the Moody Founder’s Week program in 1985. He has spoken for Jerry Falwell. He was the speaker for commencement at Wheaton College on May 17, 1982, at which time he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws. He spoke for the 1987 annual National Fellowship of Conservative Baptists. The Wheaton magazine, Inform, for Summer 1984 has a story and series of pictures recording Colson’s donation of his personal papers and manuscripts to the Billy Graham Center Archives. In the article Colson gave his reasons for giving the papers to this repository rather than to other libraries which sought them. He said as follows:

I think that as part of the Graham Center, the papers will have the greatest usefulness to others. I also have a deep respect and affection for Wheaton, and I am honored to be an alumnus by virtue of the degree conferred on me in 1982. I hope and pray these papers will be of some help and interest to others.

The whole incident of Charles Colson and his respected place in new evangelicalism, regardless of doctrine, shows the theological carelessness which is popular in the movement.

Dr. Charles E Stanley

One of the best-known headliners in the new evangelical phalanx of popularizers is Dr. Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta. Television stations all across America broadcast his Sunday service under the name, “In Touch.” As of 1985 his radio program was carried on about 150 stations. He is a graduate of the University of Richmond, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Luther Rice Seminary He is a good preacher. If you start to listen to one of his messages, you will hear him out.

Dr. Stanley was one of the original founders of the Moral Majority. That group is one of the classic examples of “the good cause syndrome” – the persuasion that Christians can cross Scriptural lines of demarcation if the cause is good enough. The Moral Majority joined believer and unbeliever, Mormon and Methodist, Catholic and charismatic in an unholy union to save the country. Needless to say, the country was not saved, but the cause of Christ was damaged. The line of demarcation between the godly and the “do-gooder” was blurred beyond recognition. He served (or has served) on the board of the National Religious Broadcasters. We have already seen that that group is one of the most compromising parts of the National Association of Evangelicals. For example, Stanley was listed as a speaker for the 1990 convention, along with charismatic Pat Robertson. He has spoken at Moody Founder’s Week in 1989 and at the California Graduate School of Theology The lists of places where these popularizers speak could be made endless. I have given just the ones which I notice in the brochures and reports which cross a pastor’s desk.

How do I know that Dr. Charles Stanley is a new evangelical? The simple answer to that is to say that he is a part of the Southern Baptist Convention. There are no fundamentalists in the Convention. Fundamentalism is the militant belief and proclamation of the basic doctrines of Christianity leading to a Scriptural separation from those who reject them. Over the past thirty years, the fundamentalists in the Convention recognized the apostasy and left the sinking ship to found independent Baptist churches all across the south. The media have conspired to muddy the waters on this issue. They describe the battle as one between the conservatives and the moderates. Any study of theology and reality will show that the moderates are higher-critical apostates in the mold of Harry Emerson Fosdick. Fosdick never traveled under false colors; they do, but the theology is the same. The conservatives are really new evangelicals. They repudiate separation from apostasy as proven by the fact that they are still there. They identify apostasy. They cry loudly against it. They tolerate and dialogue with it. They are doing in the Southern Baptist Convention what Dr. Harold John Ockenga and Fuller Seminary sought to do in the Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Stanley believes in Biblical inerrancy and recognizes the apostasy of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Stanley instructed his church that the way to fight the apostasy was to starve it out by refusing to give to the Cooperative Program. But then, in 1984, Dr. Stanley was elected to the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention. Would the new president make war on blasphemy within the convention? Dr. David Beale, in his excellent book, S.B.C. House on the Sand, gives Stanley’s statement at his first press conference, “I think we have to learn to live together and love each other, whether we agree or not.” Dr. Beale reported further: “Dr. Stanley announced to the Baptist Press Association on September 17, 1984, that he had now challenged his church to more than double its Cooperative Program giving for the coming year and to ‘rethink’ its entire missions program.” (If you desire the whole story in detail get Dr. Beale’s book from Unusual Publications, Greenville, SC, 29614.) Would the new president clean house of the infidels in Southern Baptist schools? No, Dr. Stanley chose to settle for parity instead of purity. I cannot conceive how any Bible believer could think that God would settle for a parity of belief and unbelief. I guess I would have to term this, “the unequal yoke of equality” What will you do with II Corinthians 6:14-18, II John 7-11, Ephesians 5:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6? The God who demands purity will never settle for parity This, Friend, is neutralism – an impressive presence in the pulpit with an impotent protest on the field of battle. This is prominent popularizer, Dr. Charles Stanley

Dr. Charles Swindoll

I entered a Zondervan Bookstore in our area to seek a book. I pulled my hat low and my collar up, for the rock and contemporary Christian music which filled the store made me know that I didn’t care to be seen there. As I searched for what I wanted, I observed that the shelves were well populated with books by Dr. Charles Swindoll. Most of them dealt with the emotional problems to which humans are heir, loneliness, fear and depression. The writer is usually known as “Chuck” Swindoll and that is a little testimony to his informal, folksy way of speaking and writing. He is pastor of the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton, California. He is one of the eminent popularizers of new evangelicalism. Men like Harold Ockenga, Carl Henry and Vernon Grounds would proudly claim the title of new evangelicals. Most of the popularizers of whom I write do not say, “I am a new evangelical.” They just represent and reflect the attitudes, itineraries and values of that system.

I have already spent many words on Billy Graham and his position in ecumenical evangelism. Dr. Swindoll supported Graham’s 1985 Los Angeles Crusade and has been a speaker at Graham’s “Schools of Evangelism.” Many a group leery of Billy Graham because of his outspoken cooperation with ecumenism and Catholicism will have Chuck Swindoll without ever thinking of the connection between the two. One of the habits of new evangelicals is to use the testimonies of prominent worldlings who claim to have received Christ – movie stars, entertainment figures and professional sports celebrities. Swindoll took this penchant to a new height in his Winter 1986, Insights Magazine by using the testimony of brewery magnate Adolph Coors IV. I could wish that Billy Sunday might be resurrected to comment on that.

Like the rest of our popularizers, Swindoll has spoken around the circuit in all kinds of company He was advertised at Dr. R.C. Sproul’s February 1992 conference with Charles Colson and Dr. J. I. Packer. He has been a keynote speaker for National Religious Broadcasters conventions with Billy Graham and the usual NRB mix of charismatics. He has appeared on Southern Baptist Convention platforms. He has been featured at Dallas Seminary for commencement and the Founders Celebration and has been a repeater at Moody Founder’s Week. Fellow speakers listed for 1992 were psychologist Larry Crabb, charismatic Bruce Wilkinson and Southern Baptist Charles Stanley. Swindoll is theologically well trained. I wonder if he is not secretly troubled at times by some of the company he keeps.

Rev. Bill Hybels

One of the prominent themes in the pragmatic churches of new evangelicalism is that of church growth. Brochures inviting me to seminars on the subject cross my desk every month. One of the experts in this area is Dr. Elmer Towns, dean of the School of Religion at Dr. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Towns advises churches to concentrate on the crowd called “the baby boomers,” those in the 18-35 age bracket. Towns says that the boomers are not attracted to religion through the old ways of guilt, fear and tradition. He suggests that churches should drop Sunday evening services in favor of adult education or social programs. He suggests an early service, kind of early mass for Protestants. He suggests that pastors preach “fix-it” and “how-to” sermons on sexual topics. He thinks churches ought to get rid of the choir and use electronic music instead of traditional hymns on the organ and piano. He suggests that churches do more hugging. Such is the upbeat stuff of new evangelicalism. I take it that baby boomers do not come under repentance in the standard Bible way. I assume that “traditional hymns” are those of Watts, Wesley and Newton – or, perhaps, Bliss, Crosby and Sankey. If dignified Dr. Ockenga could return to share in such a service, I think he might hold his head and ask, “What did I start?”

These words are a prelude to the introduction of the Rev. Bill Hybels, Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. Pastor Hybels is Exhibit A of the new era. Foundation Magazine for May-June 1990 quotes from an article about Hybels’ church which appeared in USA WEEKEND for April 13-15, 1990 under the byline of Cindy Yorks. Yorks said the following:

To attract churchgoers today, you’ve got to please the consumer. That means high-tech entertainment. Day care. Self help groups. No pleas for money. No Bible thumping. Happy customers from California to Maryland are eating up ‘fast-food religion’ this Easter.

Foundation goes on to say:

The article describes a service at Willow Creek as ‘a slick, show-biz service where drama and soft rock are served up on a stage washed in pink and blue spotlights. A soft-sell sermon is delivered by Hybels from a lucite lectern…’

The author of the article acknowledges the fact that people attending the services there ‘will not be bored as a combination of drama, humor and pop music is presented with no archaic hymns.’ And, she likens the church building to ‘a 4,500 seat theatre complete with 12 big screen TV’s showing close-ups of action on stage just like at Rock Concerts.’ Billy Graham’s Grason Press is pushing Hybels’ latest book. Many evangelical pastors are rushing to Hybels for instructions in implementing his worldly programs in their own churches.

It is as if some evil paraphraser had retranslated 1 John 2:15 to say, “Do love the world and the things that are in the world; for the love of the world will bring many people to the Father.”

One would think that such open worldliness would repulse all but the most radical believers. However, guess who was a speaker at Moody Founder’s Week in 1989 and again in 1991? Dallas Seminary’s fall Pastors’ Conference in 1989 brought Hybels to Texas, along with Chuck Swindoll and Moody Church’s Erwin Lutzer. Christianity Today for September 8, 1989 had a picture of Hybels with Dr. Robert Schuller and Dr. C. Peter Wagner at Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral. I considered ranking Dr. Robert Schuller as one of the popularizers of new evangelicalism, but after rereading some of his writings I came to the conclusion that he is a popularizer of apostasy and not new evangelicalism. I may be wrong in my estimation of Hybels’ importance, but it is my guess that we will see the name of Bill Hybels on all the marquees along the new evangelical trail in coming years.

Bill Gothard

I had a debate with myself as to whether or not to include Bill Gothard in this group of new evangelical popularizers. Some fundamentalists who have been with me up to this point will say, “Brother Ashbrook, you are making a big mistake now.”

Bill Gothard was a 1957 graduate of Wheaton College. For several years he worked with teenage gangs in the Chicago area. In 1965 he developed a six-day seminar which has become known as the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts. Gothard presents this seminar in person, or on videotape, in cities all across America. The crowds are tremendous – ranging up to ten thousand people. One report I read said that “in the first decade and a half, there were 350,000 red notebook-carrying alumni.” I am certain that is true.

From whence come these large crowds? One of my ministerial brethren here in Ohio began his ministry in the United Brethren Church and left that church, because of its apostasy about the time of the United Methodist merger. In conversing about Gothard he told me of accepting an invitation to a Gothard Pastors’ Seminar in Dayton. Much to his chagrin, he found himself surrounded by his former Methodist and United Brethren associates – all of whom enjoyed the seminar tremendously There is something wrong here. The ecumenical crowd does not enjoy fundamentalist meetings. It must have been something else.

What I know about the sponsorship of a Gothard seminar I learned a few years ago, when there was a movement to bring a seminar to Cleveland. The groundwork was laid by General Association of Regular Baptist pastors. I received a letter from one of them who seemed to be serving as chairman of the effort. His letter said that “Over 75 pastors have written a letter of interest and invitation for a seminar to be brought to the greater Cleveland area. We have now generated enough local interest that we may move to the next step toward having a seminar here.” Included with that letter was a sheet titled, “THREE PHASES IN SELECTING A SEMINAR LOCATION.” Three steps were given and one was headed “Phase II – Petition for Seminar by Local Christian Leadership. “The first sentence under this heading reads as follows: “This phase begins when the seminar headquarters receives personal letters of invitation from the majority of pastors representing the various denominations in a city’s greater metropolitan area.” That is the same policy Billy Graham uses. That explains the mixed crowd at a Gothard Seminar, which will run the gamut from Catholic priests and nuns, to the ecumenical crowd, to the new evangelical crowd. That is bad, but the tragedy is that the audience will be well sprinkled with professing fundamentalists. The fellowship of sitting for six days with that mixed multitude makes the fundamentalist layman go home saying, “The priest I sat beside was a very nice fellow.” Attitudes toward false religion and plain unbelief are softened by participation.

In the margin of the sheet from which I have most recently quoted I find that I had jotted down at some time a quotation from Dr. Charles Woodbridge. It asks a question: “Does it spurn, or does it promote, the deadly ecumenical compromise of today?” The question makes the needed point.

The Projector for August 1981 carries a statement from the church bulletin by the pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Church of Atlanta, Georgia. I do not know the name of that pastor. However, I agree with what he says:

Second, I cannot support Gothard because he does not identify himself as a fundamentalist and does not teach his hearers that remaining in liberal and neo-evangelical churches is a sin.

I have talked with men across America who have voiced the same concerns. Others have said he is going to change. Unless and until he publicly identifies himself as a fundamentalist, exposes the liberal churches, and changes his teaching on authority, I cannot support him.

For years I have heard of good fundamentalists who have gone to convince Bill Gothard to be a fundamentalist. They have come away saying, “Gothard really wants to be a fundamentalist …just give him time.” Much time has been given. Gothard may believe the fundamental doctrines, but he does not act like a fundamentalist. As long as he acts like a new evangelical and serves that cause, I will have to treat him as one. He seems to believe in the Southern Baptist doctrine of parity for I know of at least one instance in which he combined the SBC’s Dr. Charles Stanley and a well-known fundamentalist on the same program. I count Bill Gothard as a new evangelical popularizer.

Dr. Warren Wiersbe

One of the most likable of the popularizers is Dr. Warren Wiersbe. Outwardly he is not as aggressively new evangelical as some. He has a soft, encouraging voice which convinces his listeners that he understands their problems. Perhaps this is a reason he speaks in more borderline fundamentalist pulpits than most of the other popularizers. If you check the speakers list at Tennessee Temple University, at General Association of Regular Baptist Schools like Cedarville College and Grand Rapids Baptist College and Seminary Word of Life, Moody Bible Institute and many G.A.R.B.C. fellowships and churches, you will find that Dr. Wiersbe has been there.

Dr. Wiersbe has pastored at least three churches, the most well-known of which is Moody Church of Chicago. From 1957 to 1961 he worked with Youth for Christ as editor of Campus Life. He joined the Back to the Bible Broadcast in 1981 and served as its main speaker and the editor of the Good News Broadcaster. He has had a prodigious output of books, more than seventy volumes. For a number of years he wrote a column in Moody Monthly magazine, in which he revealed his fondness for quoting unbelievers such as Helmut Thielicke, Methodist Bishop Gerald Kennedy and blasphemous George Buttrick. He had the habit of quoting helpful sayings without pointing out that they came from harmful heroes.

Dr. Wiersbe is a board member of the National Religious Broadcasters. In 1991 he was scheduled to speak (and I assume he did) at Samford University This is a Southern Baptist Convention school which is no bastion of fundamentalism. His fellow speakers were to be Dr. E. V Hill whom we have already identified, Dr. Billy Melvin of the National Association of Evangelicals and Dr. Mack Stokes, a United Methodist Bishop. That seems like covering the religious waterfront in one easy step. He was a main speaker at the 1991 N.A.E. Convention, along with Evangelist Luis Palau. It would be impossible to give a complete list of the schools, missions, retreats and church conventions where Dr. Wiersbe has spoken.

I suppose that the epitome of success in the new evangelical league is to appear with or for Dr. Billy Graham. The famous evangelist has a new training center in the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina called, “The Cove.” The subject of these paragraphs was the scheduled speaker there April 30-May 3, 1991. Obviously Dr. Warren Wiersbe has no conviction against Billy Graham’s communist, Catholic or ecumenical connections.

If health authorities are to battle the outbreak of any new disease, they must determine how that disease spreads. I would submit that the men whom I have called “the popularizers” are an effective network for spreading the virus of new evangelicalism. They speak with and for those who are more liberal than they are – the National Council of Churches, Southern Baptist Convention, National Religious Broadcasters or some Billy Graham program. Then, they speak with and for those who are more conservative than they are. The latter group would not associate with the former group. However, the popularizer speaks for both and forms a bridge between them. In so doing, he softens the attitudes of the more liberal and more conservative to each other. Both sides decide that the other can’t be that bad, because the popularizer speaks there. So, the virus spreads.

As they move from school to school the popularizers soften the attitudes of impressionable young people. Many of us remember sitting in college chapel and considering as spiritual heroes those who spoke in the pulpit. Because we got a blessing from the speaker we assumed that wherever he spoke must be all right. Every pastor learns that he must be careful where he goes, for his actions sanctify that place for his people. The pastor’s presence at an entertainment, a restaurant or an event sanctifies that place for his people. The popularizers’ presence with any group, speaker or school sanctifies that for his young disciples.

The presence of the popularizers, without protest, in dubious places, vitiates the influence which they might have for good. These speakers could do a world of good for the stand of friends if they had the courage to say, “No, I cannot speak for you as long as you remain in the National Council or the Southern Baptist Convention.” They could do a world of good by saying, “I do not believe the charismatic movement is Scriptural and I cannot speak with charismatics.” I have a hunch that some of these popularizers feel as uncomfortable in the company they keep as Jehoshaphat did in the company of Ahab’s false prophets. What a difference there would have been in Jehoshaphat’s story had he had the courage to stand and say, “I do not belong in this company and I am leaving.” He would have done a world of good for his own nation and for other onlookers.

I am sure that some of my readers will want to say to me, “You are another Joe McCarthy dealing in guilt by association.” (Poor Joe, resurrected again!) The fact remains that whom I speak with, whom I speak for, and whom I have in my pulpit indicates what I believe. Every faithful pastor will make some mistakes in this area. I have not mentioned men who have made mistakes. I have cited only those who have made such mistakes an official policy.