Chapter 3

The NAE, the WEF and Camels

In his press release about new evangelicalism, December 8, 1957, Dr. Ockenga was very upbeat about the glowing future of the movement. He based this optimism on a six-point organizational front as follows:

Since I first coined the phrase `The New Evangelicalism’ at a convocation address at Fuller Theological Seminary ten years ago, the evangelical forces have been welded into an organizational front. First, there is the National Association of Evangelicals which provides articulation for the movement on the denominational level; second, there is World Evangelical Fellowship which binds together these individual national associations of some twenty-six countries into a world organization; third, there is the new apologetic literature stating this point of view which is now flowing from the presses of the great publishers, including Macmillans and Harpers; 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; fifth, there is the establishment of Christianity Today, a bi-weekly publication, to articulate the convictions of this movement; sixth, there is the appearance of an evangelist, Billy Graham, who on the mass level is the spokesman of the convictions and ideals of the New Evangelicalism.

As a boy I used to be enamored with fishing, but I always had a dread of catching a catfish. Because of its peculiar anatomy I never knew quite where to take hold of one. In a similar way, it is hard to know where to take hold of new evangelicalism. Consequently I will begin by looking at some of the things which Dr. Ockenga believed were the hope of the movement. I will not address all six of Dr. Ockenga’s reasons for optimism, but I will reflect four of them from the vantage point of the thirty-five years which have passed since his statement.

In this chapter I would like you to think about the National Association of Evangelicals, known as the NAE, and the World Evangelical Fellowship, known as WEF. Dr. Ockenga made them separate entries in his list of six, but they are merely national and world levels of the same thing. The history of the latter group has been written by the current General Director, David M. Howard, under the title, The Dream That Would Not Die. From a reading of that history one gets the idea that the World Evangelical Fellowship has always existed on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, it has sought to be a world organization and has tried to avoid being American by having committees which represent the major nations and the third world countries. The other horn of the problem is that the money has had to come from the United States. The worldwide aura, with single nation support, has kept the group from having the influence it would desire.

One Hump or Two?

Having attended several hundred committee meetings in my life, I am fond of the saying that a camel is a horse put together by a committee. Somewhere in school I learned that camels come in two styles – the Arabian camel with one hump and the Bactrian camel with two. When the NAE was formed in 1942, six years before the name new evangelicalism was coined, it was evidently put together by a Bactrian committee, for it was designed with two humps of compromise.

Compromise with Apostasy

The first hump of compromise was that which allowed members of the apostasy, then officially represented by the Federal Council of Churches, to join the new organization. The NAE was organized at almost the same time as the American Council of Christian Churches, known as the ACCC. The distinction between the two groups was that the ACCC required all members to take the step of Biblical separation from the denominations of the Federal Council of Churches. On the other hand, the NAE required member denominations to take that step but allowed individual members and churches to have dual membership. They could join the NAE and still remain in the apostate denomination and church council. Compromising men and churches could get their status in an apostate denomination and their spiritual fellowship in the NAE. This attracted those who had enough conviction against apostasy to complain of the lack of fellowship, but not enough conviction to get out.

This first hump of compromise on the camel has always blunted the NAE’s protest against apostasy. It has made the group acceptable to the National and World Councils of Churches so that they might unite in joint endeavors or attend one another’s meetings. The NAE united to fight for right without ever declaring war on wrong. This hump of compromise on the camel made it impossible for any true fundamentalist to swallow.

This compromise has never been repudiated by the NAE. The long-time Executive Director of the NAE, Billy A. Melvin, gave a lengthy interview to Christianity Today in the October 8, 1982 issue. In answer to questions about the relationship of the NAE to the National Council of Churches and mainline denominations, Melvin gave the following replies:

Of course, there are many good, solid evangelicals within all the mainline structures. I’m not on any crusade to get them to leave their denominations. But certainly, we encourage them to be faithful to their evangelical convictions both in their work and in their witness. This has been the stance of NAE from the beginning. That was one reason Carl McIntire and the ACCC went in another direction. They felt all evangelicals in NCC-related denominations had to leave their denominations. Our position has been that it is not the business of NAE to interfere in the internal affairs of a local church. We are prepared to fellowship with them and love them whether they are in or out of their denomination.

That is correct. NAE is unequivocally evangelical, but it welcomes conservative evangelicals within denominations whose leadership may have departed from biblical commitments of the past.

A significant number of mainline churches and leaders are connected with NAE. Of our 20 past presidents, 6 have come from mainline denominations.

On traditional, fundamental doctrines, NAE and the fundamentalists are in agreement, except that not all of us hold their view of ecclesiastical separation. If fundamentalists are willing to accept that some in NAE belong to denominations that are influenced by liberalism or wish to support the Billy Graham Crusades, we’re all together

Are There Fundamentalists in the NAE?

The above quotation shows that six out of twenty times the NAE has been led by a president who did not have enough conviction against apostasy to leave it. In my booklet, Axioms of Separation, I have used the following definition of fundamentalism: “Fundamentalism is the militant belief and proclamation of the basic doctrines of Christianity leading to a Scriptural separation from those who reject them.” If one uses this definition, it is obvious that no fundamentalist can be a member of the NAE.

Compromise with Charismatics

The second hump of compromise was that which opened membership to the Pentecostal denominations. During the last thirty years, the Pentecostal element has metamorphosed into the charismatic movement. This movement has taken the doctrines of tongues, healing in the atonement and continuing revelation to heights of excess never dreamed of by the old-time Pentecostals. However, the membership of even the most radical elements has never been questioned. Thus, the NAE can never address even the most obvious aberrations of the charismatic movement. Until the NAE came on the scene, theologians still believed that oil and water would not mix. No effort was made to unite the whole theological spectrum. The NAE attitude is clearly set forth in another of Billy A. Melvins answers in the Christianity Today interview:

Theologically we represent the whole spectrum – everything from Mennonite to Reformed Presbyterian, from Baptist to Lutheran, Pentecostal, and holiness. Probably the total membership is slightly more Calvinistic than Arminian; it’s almost fifty-fifty.

There you have the two humps on the NAE camel which were designed into the original animal and continue to distinguish it today.

Neutralism on Great Issues – Neutralism on All Issues

My father chose to designate new evangelicalism as a movement of neutralism. Here you see it again. The first hump of compromise declares neutralism between faith and apostasy The second declares neutralism between historic Christianity and the charismatic movement. Once any group declares itself neutral on any of the great issues of the day, it is easy for neutrality to become a way of life. Dozens of illustrations could be given to show that this has happened to the NAE.

Neutralism and Romanism

An interesting illustration began at the Seventh General Assembly of the World Evangelical Fellowship, March, 1980, in Hertfordshire, England. According to David M. Howard’s history of the WEE General Secretary Waldron Scott, with the permission of the Executive Council, invited two observers from the Roman Catholic Church to bring greetings. They were Ralph Martine of the Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement, and Monsignor Basil Meeking of the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity

The appearance of these two Catholic theologians at a Protestant gathering provoked reaction. Delegates from Spain, France and Italy protested. Eventually the Evangelical Alliance of Italy withdrew its membership in protest and the Evangelical Alliance of Spain suspended its participation in the WEF

How was the matter handled? Was it acknowledged that there had been a Protestant reformation? Did the assembly agree that the Roman Catholic Church neither accepted Scripture as sole authority or grace as sufficient for salvation? Scott took the position of neutrality. According to Howard:

He observed that in some parts of the world evangelicals were actively courting closer relationships with the Roman Catholic Church

How was the matter disposed of? According to Howard:

As a result of the deep feelings and misunderstandings generated by this issue WEF appointed a carefully selected Task Force to study relationships with the Roman Catholic Church. This Task Force was composed of leading theologians from every major region of the world, with special attention given to those areas, such as southern Europe and Latin America where the Roman Catholic Church has exercised special influence in the life of the nations.

This Task Force reported to the Eighth General Assembly at Singapore in 1986 with a report titled, “A Contemporary Evangelical Perspective on Roman Catholicism.” As the title almost tells you, the report dealt heavily in neutralism. According to the Christian Beacon of March 12, 1987, Gordon J. Spykman, Professor of Religion and Theology at Calvin College said as follows:

This story does not yet have an ending. In view of the shortcomings in the Perspective, a further chapter has yet to be written. At the recent General Assembly of the WEF, it was concluded that the report `deals with only a limited range of issues of Roman Catholicism.’ Moreover ‘the Theological Commission did not have an opportunity to discuss the statement before it was sent to the Assembly.’ It was therefore decided that the Theological Commission should continue this study of contemporary Roman Catholicism. To this end it appointed a five member ‘continuation committee’ to draft a supplementary report.

The Christian Beacon goes on to report the following:

Then in a special feature, ‘To Dialogue or Not to Dialogue,’ David F. Wells, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Gordon-Conwell Seminary answers that it must continue. He says, ‘Should we dialogue with Catholics? Yes, I believe we should.’

Is this report still knocking around in the WEF? I do not know, but it is a classic example of neutralism.

Neutralism and Inerrancy

Another example of neutralism is the discussion surrounding the inerrancy of Scripture. Dr. Harold Lindsell’s excellent book, The Battle for the Bible, came off of the press in 1976. The thesis of the book is to defend the Biblical doctrine of inerrancy Lindsell’s position (which is the historic position of fundamentalism) is expressed as follows on pages 139 and 142 of his book:

It seems to me that those who believe in inerrancy are left with little choice except to stand for a definition of `evangelical’ that includes in it the notion of biblical inerrancy This is especially true if inerrancy is really a watershed that determines where one ends up. This need not be taken to mean that those who hold to a limited inerrancy are excluded from the household of faith. But it does mean that there is a real difference that should not be obscured, for the dangers inherent in the limited inerrancy viewpoint are too important to be overlooked.

It is my contention that once biblical infallibility is surrendered it leads to the most undesirable consequences, It will end in apostasy at last. It is my opinion that it is next to impossible to .stop the process of theological deterioration once inerrancy is abandoned.

With this book, written by a prominent new evangelical, hot off of the press, the issue of inerrancy became a live question at the NAE convention in 1976. Christianity Today for April 1, 1977 said as follows:

An important position paper reaffirmed the NAE’s belief in the infallibility of the Bible, but the word inerrancy did not appear, and no one suggested publicly that it should be inserted. There were some corridor utterances to that effect, but apparently no one wanted to disturb the unity… Inerrancy advocates quietly took their lumps.

Dr. David Hubbard, president of Fuller Seminary and an opponent of inerrancy did not miss the significance of this when he said the following:

It is worth noting that the National Association of Evangelicals chose the word `infallibility’ rather than ‘inerrancy’ for its statement.

In 1977, the very next year, Hubbard was an invited speaker at the NAE convention.

The NAE was a sponsoring organization of a conference titled Evangelical Affirmations ’89. It was held on the campus of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School May 14-17, 1989. The purpose of the conference was for the theologians of new evangelicalism to define the movement. (If I were of a sarcastic bent I would say that they were seeking to agree on the five fundamentals of new evangelicalism.) Action for July-August, 1989 published a summary of the affirmations. Affirmation 4 reads as follows:

We affirm the full authority and complete truthfulness of Scripture. The appropriate response is humble assent and obedience. Through the Scripture the Holy Spirit creates faith, and provides a sufficient doctrinal and moral guide for the church.

Here again is neutralism. It is a deliberate attempt to speak reassuringly of Scripture while carefully avoiding any reference to an inerrant Scripture. It is an attempt to make peace between errantists and inerrantists. Such peace should not be made. This is neutralism.

Neutralism on Hell

There was another interesting illustration of neutralism at Evangelical Affirmations ’89. Christianity Today reported the following in its report of June 16, 1989:

Strong disagreements did surface over the position of annihilationism, a view that holds that unsaved souls will cease to exist after death. Debate arose in the final plenary session over whether such a view should be denounced in the affirmations.

A representative from the Advent Christian General Conference, whose churches hold such a view, argued strongly against such a move. Noting that his denomination is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals, he pleaded with the group not to exclude Advent Christians from evangelical fellowship on the basis of that single position.

A show of hands revealed the conference was almost evenly divided on how to deal with the issue in the affirmations statement, and no renunciation of the position was included in the draft document.

Here you have a key doctrinal deviation addressed by the group preparing the fundamentals (oops, sorry affirmations) for new evangelicalism. The deviation wipes Scripture clean of all that Christ said about hell. What was done? There was a show of hands, an even division, neutralism prevailed, and the affirmers agreed to affirm silence. Such, Friend, is neutralism. Once a man starts to slide down the neutralist slope, it is hard for him to have convictions on anything.

Beware of the Flypaper

If you were not reared in the good old days you probably never saw the sticky spiral flypaper which hung from the lamp over the dining room table. The flies circling the food caught a wingtip or a leg, and soon they were permanently fastened to their final resting place.

The NAE has a series of commissions which attract people with special interests. Most of them do not even bear the name of the NAE. They act as flypaper to catch those with an interest in certain subjects. Such commissions are the Evangelical Foreign Missions Associations, the World Relief Commission, the Commission on Chaplains, the Evangelism and Spiritual Life Commission, the National Religious Broadcasters, the Social Concern Commission, The National Sunday School Commission, the National Association of Christian Schools and the Theology Commission. All of these commissions may not be active at this moment. However, I have not coined the names. They come straight from an NAE brochure.

You may see at a glance how these commissions act like flypaper to attract innocent victims who are interested in the chaplaincy, missions, Sunday school or Christian schools. Through his particular interest, the victim finds himself unintentionally affiliated with the NAE.

You may think that I thought up the idea that commissions are NAE flypaper. Let me defend myself. The NAE held its forty-eighth annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona

March 6-8, 1990. One of the key addresses was given by Dr. Billy A. Melvin, executive director for 23 years. Let me quote from his address as reported by Foundation, March-April, 1990:

While we encompass an amazing breadth of churches from a wide theological spectrum, we need to make aggressive advances to evangelicals in the mainline denominations, as well as continue to nurture our contacts with Southern Baptists and the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. We must also find creative ways to bring into our fellowship some of the black denominations and other minority groups, as well as fundamentalist churches that no longer shun fellowship with evangelicals. One way we can do this is through naming influential leaders from these groups to the NAE board of administration, executive committee, and various commissions.

Did you read that last sentence? To be appointed to a commission is to have one foot on the neutralist flypaper with all its sticky glory

What Does the Flypaper Catch?

Does the flypaper really catch anything? The advertisement for Evangelical Affirmations ’89 in Action for March/April ’89 lists Dr. Joseph Stoll as a respondent at the conference. What was the president of Moody Bible Institute doing at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School May 14-17? Methinks I see the flypaper working.

Action for July/August, 1989, in its summary of Evangelical Affirmations ’89 has the following paragraph:

Represented at the conference were all the major theological traditions, including the NAE member denominations, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary

Knowing the course of events at Liberty and Dallas, I am not surprised to find their men there, but again, that NAE flypaper works with the unsuspecting and those who have no conviction about avoiding it.

Sometimes flypaper came in sheets instead of ribbons. This gave a sticky concentration in strategic areas. One NAE commission has been more effective than any other in bringing a disparate group under the NAE banner. That commission is known as the National Religious Broadcasters. In my booklet, Axioms of Separation, I discuss “the good cause syndrome.” Satan has a favorite tactic of getting good men to cooperate with others whom they do not match because the cause is so good that all must stand for it. In the case of this commission, the good cause is the broadcasting of the gospel. That is a good cause, but is any cause good enough to unite men who ought not to be united? The long-time executive director of this commission was Ben Armstrong, a Presbyterian (USA) minister who never broke that tie to the apostasy and the National Council of Churches. The new Executive Director, installed at the 1990 convention, is E. Brandt Gustavson, a long-time executive with Moody Broadcasting.

Neutralist Variety

Many pages could be written about the National Religious Broadcasters. Let me merely give a listing of speakers who have appeared at NRB conventions. These include Jerry Falwell of Liberty University, Jimmy Swaggart, Dr. D. James Kennedy, comedian Steve Allen, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Dr. David Hocking of BIOLA, charismatic Jack Hayford, Dr. Warren Wiersbe of Back to the Bible Broadcast, Korean Billy Kim, Billy Graham, Rex Humbard, Bill Bright of Campus Crusade, Chuck Colson of Prison Ministries, Pat Robertson, E. V Hill, Chuck Swindoll, Joseph Stoll III of Moody Bible Institute, Martin DeHaan of Radio Bible Class, John Ankerburg of the SBC, Dr. Charles Stanley and Jack Van Impe! That group is about as disparate as you can get. It ranges from sound Bible teachers to charismatic empire builders. Jerry Rose, a recent president of the NRB, said in Christianity Today for March 5, 1990: “The genius of the NRB has always been the ability to put those (theological) differences aside and come together with a common goal.” You said it, Jerry; you said it. The flypaper of commissions works.

An NAE Speech for the NCC

Let me close this chapter on the NAE with a word from the retiring president spoken at the 1990 NAE Convention in Phoenix. I quote from Foundation, March-April, 1990:

The message of the retiring NAE President, Dr John H. White from Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa., was a classic example of the confused, contradictory thinking which results from compromise. Regarding the expression `social gospel,’ White said, `Long ago, our brother, and for many of us our theological mentor… Carl Henry, reminded us that there is no such thing as a social gospel, but there is a social imperative to the Gospel.’ Let us determine that we will think and act more radically as an organization and more holistically (a truly ecumenical expression) than we have in the past.

The above remarks by Dr White had been preceded by his call for greater NAE participation in social issues. He said, ‘Our pro-life stance and things like that is clear-cut and …marvelously balanced. But, brothers and sisters… what about hunger? what about consumerism? what about homelessness, pollution of the environment, world peace? Do we really believe, for example, that materialistic capitalism is economically and socially better for our world than any other system’

That statement reeks of the National Council of Churches’ passion for the social gospel. Neither Harry F. Ward nor Gus Hall could have said it better. And neutralism? Read the last sentence of the quotation again.