Theology Thursday - Ernest Pickering on "New Evangelicalism"

Donald Pfaffe, "Views Of New Evangelicalism," CENQ 02:2 (Summer 1959)

In the spring of 1959, Ernest Pickering wrote an article for the Central Bible Quarterly entitled “The Present Status of the New Evangelicalism.”1 This was only one of the first in an eventual avalanche of articles written by passionate and articulate fundamentalists, beginning in the late 1950s, as the breach between the “New Evangelicalism” and “Fundamentalism” became, for many men, a bridge too far.

Elsewhere, Robert Ketchum wrote to GARBC churches and pleaded with them to not participate in Billy Graham’s crusades. To do so, he warned, would be “the same in principle as going back into the [American Baptist] Convention for a season.”2

In the summer of 1959, William Ashbrook (also writing for the Central Bible Quarterly) solemnly warned his readers about the “New Evangelicalism.” He thundered forth, “First, it is a movement born of compromise. Second, it is a movement nurtured on pride of intellect. Third, it is a movement growing on appeasement of evil. And finally, it is a movement doomed by the judgment of God’s holy Word.”3

This isn’t the language of diplomacy! The gauntlet had been thrown down, and Pickering’s article was one of the opening salvos fundamentalists launched to warn its constituents about this insidious threat.

One of the most significant theological movements of this generation is exercising an increasingly large influence in American church life. It has arisen out of the soil of American fundamentalism. The distinguished character and ability of its leaders and the wide-spread exposition of its principles are combining to assure it a ready hearing among many conservative ministers and laymen today.

By common usage this movement has come to be known as the “new evangelicalism.” Basically, it is an attempt to find a meeting place between liberalism (with its more modern expression, new-orthodoxy) and fundamentalism. It is unwilling to espouse all the tenets of liberalism, but is anxious to escape some of the reproach attached to fundamentalism.

Probably several factors have contributed to the rise of this new approach. Apparently one of the most basic of such factors is a long-cherished desire to exert more influence and receive more recognition from the contemporary secular and religious society. A hint of this is given in this statement by one of its advocates:

And we have not always been granted even that measure of civilized respect which our competitors seem willing to accord each other in the world of scholarship and learning. Too often our best reception has been an amused indulgence…” (Christianity Today, March 4, 1957).

Some evangelicals have for years chafed at the bit because their classification as fundamentalist precluded any serious consideration of their thought and writings by the masses of our country. The bitter pill of reproach, isolation, and derision because of their theological position has been a difficult one to swallow. They have longed for acceptance as bona fide religious leaders among the recognized religious groups of the day. This driving motive has compelled them to change their approach in order to better conform to the pattern of the day, and so seek to make themselves acceptable.

Coupled with this has been an unwillingness to continue in a constant, vigorous defense of the faith. New evangelicals express impatience and disdain with those who expose the sin and error of apostasy and long to forget the whole fundamentalist-modernist controversy and move on to something more “constructive.” They have grown weary in the battle, and have decided that the advice of the old frontiersman is wise, “If you can’t lick ‘em, jine ‘em.”

The Principles of The New Evangelicalism

The new evangelicalism is a very recent movement, an emerging movement, and hence it does not as yet present itself in any highly organized form nor have its principles been all thoroughly crystallized. However, it is not too difficult to discover their major premises by a perusal of various articles which are appearing in defense of their cause.

Friendliness to liberalism and neo-orthodoxy.

This new evangelicalism approaches the liberal bear with a bit of honey instead of a gun. It expresses the feeling that liberalism is on the wane and that conservatism is growing in many of the major denominations. So, Donald Grey Barnhouse, in a letter of apology to the Presbyterian Church for his uncooperative spirit in the past, states that, “there has been a change of circumstances and of theological emphasis within our denomination,” (Monday Morning, Dec. 20, 1954). He declares in another place that “the movement in the theological world today is definitely toward the conservative position,” (Eternity, Sept., 1957).

Feeling that theological liberals are increasingly “repentant” and are seeking Bible truth, the new evangelicals are advocating a rapprochement with them, and one editor has noted “a growing willingness of evangelical theologians to converse with liberal theologians.” This feeling has expressed itself in many ways — cooperative evangelism, acceptance of speaking engagements in liberal institutions, and in other ways. Specifically, this tenet of evangelicalism is gradually bringing its proponents into a closer relationship with the leaders of the ecumenical movement— the National and World Council of Churches.

Alva McClain, President of Grace Theological Seminary, has very aptly and forcibly put his finger upon the fallacy of this reasoning.

Does anyone really think that we might “profitably engage in an exchange of ideas” with blasphemers who suggest that our only Lord and Master was begotten in the womb of a fallen mother by a German mercenary and that the God of the Old Testament is a dirty bully? Basically, the problem here is ethical rather than theological. We must never for one instant forget that they are deadly enemies with whom there can be neither truce nor compromise, (King’s Business, January, 1957).

Disavowal of fundamentalism and hostility toward separation

The adoption of the title “evangelicalism” is in itself an expression of rebellion against fundamentalism. The statement has been made by one leading figure that “God has bypassed extreme fundamentalism.” A number of journals have produced articles severely castigating the fundamentalists for their “divisiveness,” “bitterness,” and a host of other evils. The temper of the new evangelicalism is definitely one of strong criticism of fundamentalism as a movement.

This is accompanied by a hostility to separatists, those who hold that severance from denominational apostasy is the only Scriptural course to follow. Harold Ockenga, first president of Fuller Seminary, stated at the inception of that seminary that it intended to train young men to go back into the established denominations and that it was not a separatist institution. Donald Grey Barnhouse, for the past few years, has severely reprimanded anyone who separated from an ecclesiastical organization on doctrinal grounds.

Theological elasticity

New evangelicals view fundamentalism as impossibly rigid in its theological expression. In an article setting forth some of their major beliefs it was suggested that the “whole subject of biblical inspiration needs reinvestigation,” (Christian Life, March, 1956) … In fact, they resist the use of the phrase, “verbal inspiration,” because they feel that it antagonizes liberal theologians.

This contemporary brand of evangelicalism is very broad in doctrinal inclusivism. It opposes the preciseness of dispensationalism and registers an impartiality which borders on indifference when faced with the great prophetic questions. It is cordial to Pentecostal and holiness theology, “advocating great latitude on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. In short, it tries to embrace as wide a constituency as possible by removing as many theological obstacles as it can. This results of course in an undefined evangelicalism which bypasses many important doctrines.

Emphasis on social problems

One of the leaders of the new evangelicalism was requested by reporters to define its nature. He replied that the new evangelicalism “differs from fundamentalism in its willingness to handle the social problems which the fundamentalists evaded,” (Associated Press, Dec. 8, 1957). Vernon Grounds declares, “We must … make evangelicalism more relevant to the political and sociological realities of our times,” (Christian Life, March, 1956).

The problem the evangelicals face at this point is the rather clear fact that nowhere in Scripture is the church commissioned to agitate for better social conditions or to attempt to solve current social problems. While it is the duty of every believer to conduct himself as a good citizen and vote for whatever measures seem right, it is not the responsibility of the church of Christ to remedy all the social evils of its day. Paul never organized a “Society for the Abolition of Slavery.” He simply admonished slaves to be good slaves for Christ’s sake.

The New Testament does not reveal any divine plan for a church-sponsored social program. History teaches that preoccupation with this eventually leads to the ruin of the church.

A positivism without negativism

New evangelicals wish to avoid as much controversy as possible. The leading editorial spokesman for the position seeks a ministry which is “positive and constructive rather than negative and destructive,” (Christianity Today, March 4, 1957). The clear implication is that negativism is not constructive.

For this reason the new evangelicalism does not clearly and consistently expose the machinations and error of religious apostasy. It feels that to engage in such ministry would be to alienate the liberals and render their hopes of winning them void. To bolster their program of positivism evangelicals have branded fundamentalists as too “negative” and “reactionary.” Doctrinal controversy has been described as unfortunate and divisive.

However, John F. Walvoord answers this charge. “Fundamentalists have inevitably been controversialists, since historically they have fought the tide of liberal theology. Those who dislike controversy naturally turn away from fundamentalism,” (Eternity, June, 1957, p. 35).

An obedient church must contend with error as well as propagate truth.

The Impact of The New Evangelicalism

Compromising theologies are not new in the Christian church … The two extremes of liberalism and fundamentalism are bound eventually to bring forth a mediating effort such as the new evangelicalism. Very rapidly the new evangelicalism is cohering into a definite theological movement. It already can lay claim to its own leaders, its schools, and its magazines. It has become a force which cannot be ignored in Protestantism today.

For any honest observer it is obvious that the new evangelicalism is dividing the conservative camp. Many conservatives are being swayed by the large-scale scholarly and popular presentation of the new evangelicalism. Possibly the single greatest asset to their cause is the ecumenical evangelistic technique which in metropolitan centers of the world is uniting liberals and fundamentalists and thereby subtly gaining the objective of evangelicalism — a synthesis.

On the other hand, many fundamentalists of various denominational allegiances are standing fast against the inroads of this evangelicalism and not without great opposition.

The effect of this entire movement will have to be decision. Decision on the part of all those who have in the past been identified with what is known as the fundamentalist movement. The interdenominational schools of our country are facing a decision. Will they stand for fundamentalism or will they abdicate to the new evangelicalism? For most of them it is not an easy decision for their interdenominational character relates them to leaders on both sides of the issue.

The same decision will face interdenominational missionary agencies. Many of them are reluctant to take sides in any doctrinal or ecclesiastical controversy for fear of alienating some of their supporters. However, the very nature of the new evangelicalism will demand a decision.

The new evangelicalism, while propagated by sincere and able men, is not worthy of the support of Christians. It lacks moral courage in the face of the great conflict with apostasy. It lacks doctrinal clarity in important areas of theology. It makes unwarranted concessions to the enemies of the cross of Christ. Christians everywhere should resist it steadfastly in the faith.


1 Ernest Pickering, “The Present Status of the New Evangelicalism,” Central Bible Quarterly, CENQ 02:1 (Spring 1959).

2 Robert T. Ketchum, “Special Information Bulletin #5,” GARBC, (n.d.), 4.  

3 William Ashbrook, “The New Evangelism - The New Neutralism,” in Central Bible Quarterly, CENQ 02:2 (Summer 1959), 31.        

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There are 101 Comments

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

Thanks for sharing Tyler. Talk about stirring the pot! I believe that many of his criticisms would not stick to conservative evangelicalism today but that the more seeker-sensitive and charismatic factions of evangelicalism probably fit much of this bill.

I would have to disagree strongly with his view on social matters. As Salt and Light, we have a duty to press for social reform that seeks to honor the image of God displayed in humanity. The problem comes when we confuse these efforts with gospel work, which they are not. And the greater part of our energies should be directed to gospel work. But that does not mean that pushing for social change is not a responsibility of the church.

I've also wondered about the charge that evangelicals were obsessed with "academic recognition." While this is likely the case with some, I wonder if the underlying motivation for more academic prowess within "new evangelicalism" was for the advance of the gospel. To be able to dialogue with them for the sake of calling out the problems with their views. Not that I am advocating that such an approach is wise or prudent, but, I think it is unfair to paint them all as pride-hungry academics.

I think looking back on this illustrates how diverse "evangelicalism" has become. While the pendulum certainly swung towards liberalism in the advent of "new evangelicalism," I think it is safe to say that the pendulum has swung back the other way with the conservative and reformed resurgence in the modern evangelical church. But it is always fascinating to learn where we were so that we can work to protect swinging that way again!

Phil Golden

Bert Perry's picture

Quite a bit of "assuming motives" on the part of Pickering here.  For example, the old saw that neo-evangelicals simply wanted to be respected by liberals--perhaps some did, but if we take a look at the state of fundamental "educational" institutions at the time, exactly what choice did neo-evangelicals have?  If they wanted to do real academic work, they weren't going to be able to do it in fundamental institutions at that time.   Pickering's own theological degrees were from Dallas, after all, just as Clearwaters' were from Kalamazoo College and the University of Chicago.  They knew from experience that evangelicals couldn't do academic work in the fundamental orbit.

And the comment on "Paul didn't start a society to end slavery"--my goodness, we fundamentalists have been trying to get past statements like that ever since, haven't we?   Reality here is that our movement did indeed show a huge blind spot when confronted by slavery and Jim Crow, and statements like that are not only an embarrassment, but also a great opportunity to think through "where did Ernie Pickering go wrong with this statement, Biblically speaking?".   The Bible does have cultural implications that we ought to think through; some degree of "social" is inherent in the Gospel.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

DLCreed's picture

It was stuff like this that actually drove me AWAY from fundamentalism.

JBL's picture

It was stuff like this that actually drove me AWAY from fundamentalism.

Could you clarify what specifically the "this" is that drove you away from fundamentalism?


John B. Lee

Ron Bean's picture

There can be negativism without positivism. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture


Are you positive about that?

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jim's picture

I think Pickering was right (for 1959)

We do not live in a Billy Graham environment today

A very strong Conservative-Evangelical world has emerged (or converged HT FBFI Smile ). 

Half of (generalizing) the C.E.'s are former fundamentalists who were sick of the Fundamentalist excesses (which are):

  • Legalism
  • Anti-calvinism
  • KJVOnlyism


TylerR's picture


As Jim wrote, the context seems to be a bit different today. You often see in these articles from the late 1950s an accusation that new evangelicals are flirting with modernism. Neo-orthodoxy was a big concern. For example, the Central Bible Quarterly's early editions have several articles warning people against neo-orthodoxy.

Today, evangelicalism has fractured into several million pieces, and the "new evangelicals" were essentially holding the same ground the conservative evangelicals hold today. Do ya'll see a danger, a "slippery slope" in men like Mohler, MacArthur, Dever, Carson, Kaiser (et al) that will lead Christians into modern "modernism?" In other words, are Pickering's warnings directly applicable to the contemporary context?

To quote Ashbrook, can we say that (for example) Carson's commentaries, DeYoung's books or MacArthur's sermons and writings are indicitive of (1) a movement born of compromise, (2) a movement nurtured on pride of intellect, (3) a movement growing on the appeasement of evil, and (4) a movement doomed by the judgment of God’s holy Word?

According to the FBFI's unfortunate "Convergent" issue of Frontline, fundamentalists should be wary of the conservative evangelical world.

  1. Are Pickering's warnings still directly applicable?
  2. If they are, to whom are they applicable? Who is "the enemy?"

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

I don't think any one of the 4 dangers Ashbrook mentions can rightly be levied at the individuals you mention, Tyler. But that doesn't mean that there are not some things we need to be wary of with these individuals.

I think there is a growing concern over Macarthur's connection with James White (a guy I immensely respect and appreciate but who has made some questionable decisions as of late).

It always puzzled me that Mohler signed the Manhattan Declaration. (He tried to explain his reasons here but I find them to be not very compelling, especially since the Declaration was declared a document from Christians and there were those in that group who, if we believe orthodox Christian doctrine, are not Christians)

Carson's (and Keller's) views on Origins are troubling for me (albeit I am no where close to anathematizing them for those views) and may be an indication of compromise for the sake of academic respectability.

Beyond these, the desire to entertain in worship has almost wholesale support in broader conservative evangelicalism. (I was a little weirded out at TGC this year when you knew the session was about to begin because the fog machines were turned on).

So do I think Ashbrook's critique applies today. No. Are there still concerning things within conservative evangelicalism? Yes.

Phil Golden

Bert Perry's picture

No question, per Phil's comment, that there are many concerns with the neo-evangelical (and now generally "evangelical")  movement, theologically speaking, from the youth pastor vaping at TGC, to origins, to positions on the inerrancy of Scripture, to Graham's willingness to partner with apostates in his crusades.  

The trouble I have with Pickering's rhetoric mostly transcends the time frame; it's that Pickering is assuming motivations in a fairly perjorative way when he knew from personal experience that there really wasn't much of a place for academic level work in fundamentalism.  And as DL and Jim have noted, this crosses the line between "contending for the faith" and "just being cantankerous", and it explains a lot of why there's a fairly significant population of people who have "kissed fundamentalism good bye" in favor of being CE/Convergent.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

I don't believe that most of the Conservative Evangelicals are the same as the New-Evangelicals. I did listen to a podcast yesterday with a guy who writes on the New Perspective and he said many or most guys in academia calling themselves evangelical have adopted much of it. 

Ron Bean's picture

Historic fundamentalism was known for waging war against modernism and for raising the standard for Biblical truth. From the late 50's on it waged war against neo-evangelicalism and particularly against its willingness to affiliate with modernism in evangelism.  Unless I missed something examples of Bible believers uniting with modernists in evangelistic efforts are rare today. Nothing unites a group like a common enemy and with the diminishing of NE a new enemy was needed. Pseudo-fundamentalists created enemies by declaring the enemy to be Calvinists, non-KJV, and/or CCM users. Those with whom I identify decided that the CE's/convergents (whatever they are-still waiting for a definition) were the rebirth of NE. Meanwhile the new generation and some of the older ones saw clearly that the fundamentalists were standing against certain things but weren't hearing a clarion call as to what they were standing for.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture



You bring up some issues that aren't necessarily indicative of "conservative evangelicals" as a group. In other words, I'm not certain whether we can point to "evangelicals" as if they're a coherent group which engages in questionable practices. Pickering was arguing against what he perceived to be a monolith. Your issues (and others that could be brought up) are more about disagreements about what individual leaders have done from time to time. Is that an "evangelical problem," or is it just a disagreement with another Christian?

I hope I'm making tha distinction clear. Pickering argued against a coherent movement of conservative evangelicals who flirted with modernism. Today, I doubt this monolith exists, and even if it did, I don't see the "movement" flirting with modernism. Instead, I see genuine disagreements with some Christian leaders over past decisions they've made. But, that isn't necessarily the same as saying "the movement sucks."

My own opinion on your points:

  1. James White is good to go. I watched both his dialogues with Qadhi when they happened. No problem. This is an issue manufactured by Brannon Howse and others for their own reasons. I watched the dialogues, and I;m not concerned. I also follow Qadhi on Twitter.
  2. Mohler was wrong. Not sure what he was thinking.
  3. Carson and Keller on origins. Bad stuff. Matt Recker did a series about his concerns about Keller in Proclaim and Defend a few years back.
  4. Fog machines. Get a life, people! How ridiculous. Catering to younger people.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

CAWatson's picture

I think the situation within conservative evangelical circles is more serious than some realize. Most in here would call D.A. Carson a conservative evangelical. And so he is, and continues to defend inerrancy. But would any fundamentalist want to send a student to Trinity for anything other than an upper-level degree (PhD/DMin - because upper-level degree programs are lacking in Fundamentalism)? Vanhoozer doesn't really believe in inerrancy anymore. The nature of biblical studies and historicity has been completely turned on its head by Enns/Sparks. Walton (at Wheaton) is knocking on the door of liberalism and will likely do more than any others in pulling people away from inerrancy, without even realizing the intellectual end of his positions (the criticism of a lack of theological intellectual dishonesty does not come from me, but from Enns critiquing Walton). Intellectually, the evangelical left is winning (one only needs to read the Zondervan multiple-views series on the Historicity of the Early Chapters of Genesis, or Inerrancy). 

Concerning Carson/Keller on origins - the problem is not a textual one, but epistemological. As soon as we have to hold a certain interpretation (or reject a certain interpretation) because "science" we have lost Scripture as authority. 

Every generation will refight the battle for inerrancy and authority. I have a feeling, that apart from the SBC and fundamentalism, the mainstream of evangelicalism, and much of what is currently called "conservative evangelicalism" will lose the authority of Scripture, especially in relation to historicity within a generation. 



Philip Golden Jr.'s picture


I agree that there is no "coherent group" of conservative evangelicals. I simply responded to some of the concerns I have with the individuals you listed. (In full disclosure, I am a big fan of MacArthur- have been to the Shepherd's Conference and am considering going next year) and James White (He is one of the best biblical apologists out there today).

In particular regarding White, I do find the strategy of going to mosques to debate Islam a problematic practice for a number of reasons. I do not think it is wise or prudent to do so, for various reasons, which is not the point of this thread. Please let me be clear, however, that Howse is making stuff up and exaggerating things in this whole issue and I am in NO WAY siding with him. My concern is more with the overall strategy and White's affiliation with Jeff Durbin. And again, Durbin has done some really really good stuff, but it seems that he is beginning to embrace the whole "hipster" pastor persona as he now has a Christian late night program that runs on youtube. Maybe I am not seeing my own blindspots here and this is a legitimate way to engage the culture with the gospel, but, he (Durbin) seems to have many of the marks that even conservative evangelicals are decrying. 

Regarding Fog Machines... I;m not sure if you are agreeing or disagreeing with me. No there is nothing wrong with a fog machine, per se. But their use to produce a quality concert atmosphere is a bit of a problem. Along with the very palpable sense of celebrity that went along with TGC. (Which is not necessarily the organizers fault but the attenders)

Again, I agree there is no monolithic conservative evangelical movement, but I also think there is something to be said about the "grass is not necessarily greener on the other side" argument I have heard made from Fundamentalists. I took those individuals you mentioned as they represent the very best of conservative evangelicalism, and there are, I think, legitimate issues and inconsistences with their approaches that should be pointed out. As there are also MANY legitimate issues and inconsistences with Fundamentalism, even the best parts!

I think what concerns me with other fellow "convergents" is the danger of not critiquing the movement that we are running to as we run from fundamentalism and turn our guns on them as well. Among those who move within and lead the conservative evangelical movement in America (however you define it), there are legitimate issues that we should be discerning about and give a careful ear to the critiques of fundamentalists who may just have a point.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that I agree with Tyler that the problems listed with conservative evangelical leaders is not necessarily an evangelical problem but a disagreement with another brother. That being said, there are patterns of similar problems within evangelicalism. Just as there are patterns of problems in fundamentalism. They both have problems. Its just that they are different problems.

Phil Golden

TylerR's picture



I've watched Durbin's new show, and don't find it particularly interesting. I think he's trying too hard. On the iother hand, I've seen some of his stuff from his abortion ministry, and he is doing some good work there. I also listened to a good sermon of his to teens recently, and it was excellent.

Fog machines - I think they're silly!

I think the grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side. I think we ought to show a healthy amount of discernment whenever we look at anybody's material; there is probably some good stuff, and other stuff we can safely shove to the side. Regardless, we can probably learn from anybody. I'll listen to MacArthur exegete a passage, but I'll take a pass on his views on church leadership!

It often doesn't do anybody any good to over-generalize, especially with religious sub-cultures. There are too many different kinds of fundamentalists (see the various taxonomy charts floating around on SI, somewhere) to do that. The situation is even more confusing with evangelicals.  

One important distinction is that I think Pickering was arguing against a very tight, coherent, and identificable stripe of evangelicals. I don't think you can make a direct parallel today, point to a particular group, and say "watch out for them! They're just like new evangelicals from the 1950s." This is why I find the term "new evangelicals" anacronistic and useless in today's context.

My takeaway:

  1. Fundamentalism has some systemic issues, which are not going away anytime soon. Carnell, despite his own problems, put his finger on some of them. Fundamentalists today should look past their own feelings against Carnell and seek to not be the kind of people Carnell wrote against. The movement still features some problams he pointed out. Unless, that is, you feel nothing Carnell said has anything to do with our context today. Ironically, that attitude would prove Carnell correct . . . Smile
  2. Conservative evangelicals have some systemic issues, some of which Pickering mentioned here. Fundamentalists should avoid broad-brushing and labeling groups in an irresponsible fashion. Instead, we should consider some of the excesses of conservative evangelicals (Philip has pointed out some of them), and seek to avoid them in our own contexts. I'll have more to write about this later.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jay's picture

Jumped out at me:

And we have not always been granted even that measure of civilized respect which our competitors seem willing to accord each other in the world of scholarship and learning. Too often our best reception has been an amused indulgence…” (Christianity Today, March 4, 1957).

I don't know who the author is, but if this quote is correct (and I have no reason to doubt it), then my first question to the author is - "why are you even in ministry or academia?"

I don't expect affirmation from academics because I know they don't believe the truth that I do and teach.  I will talk with and minister to them if they tolerate it, but trying to get a book published by Harvard University Press (for example) is going to entail sacrifices and compromises that I am not willing to make and neither should any seriously committed Christian.

We aren't of this world and shouldn't expect it's praise, and Jesus makes that abundantly clear. Is that really hard to understand?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

TylerR's picture


I think Pickering was correct about a yearning from some evangelicals for "status" and a seat at the scholarly table. Marsden's book about Fuller Seminary shows this. There is an account of one faculty member (Ladd, I think - or Carnell?) shouting for joy when he had a book published by an academic publisher, then being crushed and sinking into terrible depression after reading a poor review of it in some academic journal.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Craig Toliver's picture

Help me out here if I am incorrect but it seems to me that Fundamentalists focus upon:

  • Ecclesiology – The study of the church
  • Eschatology – The study of the end times
  • Separation - degrees of, issues to separate over (eg music, translations, personalities and schools)


TylerR's picture


That's what some ​fundamentalists major on. I think that is a terrible mistake. That isn't what fundamentalists have historically been about.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Don Johnson's picture

The impression I have of the comments is that most of you have no real appreciation for the time in which Dr. Pickering was writing or the massive betrayal of the gospel that was and is New Evangelicalism. I've heard Mohler discuss these matters and even he speaks as if the new evangelicals went too far. (He does betray some latent new evangelical tendencies, however.)

The current situation is more complex, as evangelicalism has fragmented into many divergent tracks. The conservative evangelicals are the best of the lot, but the "conservative" in the name refers to their attempt to conserve orthodox theology and new evangelical methodology.

I think you need to read history more carefully, rather than simply bring up your favorite whipping boys.


Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

WallyMorris's picture

Concerning something Ron Bean wrote in "The Need of an Enemy" -

For information purposes, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is having a 3 day event in early October in Ft. Wayne, IN with Will Graham as the main speaker. I've talked to one of the organizers for this event, and he told me that all Protestant churches are invited to participate and send workers for the event. When I asked if this would include churches that believe baptism is essential to salvation, he was vague. When I asked him if people who make decisions would be sent to "mainline" Protestant churches for "followup", he was vague. When I asked about Catholic churches, he said they were not specifically invited but would accept Catholic workers at the event. Seems to be basically the same procedure Billy Graham used. What has changed?

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

Larry Nelson's picture



"Conservative evangelicals are different from Fundamentalists, but they are not new evangelicals. New evangelicals were committed to a policy of re-infiltrating ecclesiastical organizations that had been captured by apostates. They wanted to live in peaceful coexistence with apostasy. They were willing to recognize certain apostates as fellow-Christians and to cooperate with them in the Lord’s work. These are attitudes that conservative evangelicals explicitly reject. To apply this label to a conservative evangelical is completely unwarranted."

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

Bauder, as is usual with him, hits it right on the head. Today's Conservative Evangelicals are not the past generation's New Evangelicals. To answer Don's charge about "tearing down statutes," I don't think anyone here is necessarily faulting Pickering for what he said (the bit about social justice is concerning, but, makes sense understanding his cultural context- it doesn't justify what he said, it just explains it) in the context of what he was combating. The bigger issue is that some recent Fundamentalists have tried to paint conservative evangelicals with the same brush that Pickering uses. And as Bauder rightly points out, they are not the same.

I have two follow ups then for discussion. First, in the era of New Evangelicalism's rise, were there any who stood apart from both Fundamentalism and New Evangelicalism- in other words, are there any historical figures from that time that would fit more in with the "Conservative Evangelical" tag of today. (Perhaps Carl Henry would be an example?)

Second, today, who best represents the equivalent of the New Evangelical of Pickering's Era? Bill Hybles? Rick Warren? Who else? If, as Bauder argues, conservative evangelicals are not New Evangelicals, then how is their response different than the Fundamentalist response to today's New Evangelicals. I think as we identify the players and their reaction to the various groups, we may find that the conservative evangelicals of today are principally standing in nearly the same spot that Pickering and Ashcroft stood, with perhaps a more toned down rhetoric.

All said, I think that today's Conservative Evangelical and today's moderate Fundamentalist (I say moderate to differentiate between the KJV-Only, anti-Calvinist and big "B" baptist factions in fundamentalism)  have more in common than either group wishes to give to each other.

Phil Golden

WallyMorris's picture

Two big problems apparently will always be music and the ongoing willingness to cooperate with liberal denominations. As much as some want to say a focus on music is "cultural", it is more than "cultural", and as long as some continue to believe it is only "cultural", then there will always be a divide. And as per my previous post, Many Evangelicals are still willing to cooperate with liberal denominations. I wonder: Are any who consider themselves "conservative Evangelicals" involved in the ongoing "celebrations" of BGEA? If so, then how are they different than previous Evangelicals?

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

TylerR's picture


Friendliness to Liberalism and Neo-Orthodoxy

Yes. I think any friendliness to theological liberalism is a terrible and costly mistake, and these people should be avoided. As Bro. Golden has pointed out, one need only look at the tap-dancing from many on origins or the historicity of Adam and Eve to see this. We also see this when it comes to the composition of the Pentateuch. Also, when it comes to the New Testament, you can see the same thing. What to do, for example, with Mike Licona? What about the inerrancy question? In fact, people who tap-dance on inerrancy (depending on who their audience is) are actually displaying the typical "new evangelical" methodology.

Here is my question - how do you distinguish between (1) somebody who is ignorantly and blindly accepting an orthodox "packaged deal" he inherited in bible college from (2) somebody who is trying to actually understand the issues for himself? These are not the same people. I mean that we shouldn't blindly label people as "compromisers" unless and until we read their writings, and take the time to understand what they're saying.

There has always been a danger of second-hand, reactionary labeling - tarring somebody with a label with little to no evidence, or any personal familiarity with the "compromiser's" actual writings.

For example, I recently read a book by a man who holds a PhD from Notre Dame, who claims to be a Protestant, grew up in a KJVO Baptist church, and teaches for a Catholic university. In his book, he advocates that faith, properly understood, includes the concept of allegiance. Now, if I had immediately tarred him with the label "liberal" before reading his book, I'd have been making a terrible mistake. As it turns out, I did read his book, and he isn't a "liberal" at all. He is extraordinarily difficult to pin down, and his soteriology is an odd blend of Catholicism and New Testament Christianity. He's complicated. But, he is thoroughly "conservative" in his theology, if you get what I mean.


  1. It is bad to be friendly towards liberalism. Mark them and avoid them.
  2. Take time to understand what somebody actually believes before you attack. Bro. Recker did a good job of that with Keller, I believe. So did people like Pickering, too, I think. I believe Pickering understood what these men were playing at.
  3. Don't be a reactionary knucklehead and label somebody because of where they went to school, or where they teach. Remember Robert Gagnon, late of Ptitsburg Theological Seminary and the PCUSA; he isn't a liberal. 

Here is a good example, from Ligonier, on how to oppose modern liberalism in churches. Yes, it's true they're Presbyterians. Yes, it's true they're not Baptist fundamentalists. Yes, it's true they're not dispensationalists. But, I content men like these would have stood in the forefront of the fundamentalist-modernist controversies 100 years ago.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture


Wally, please - can we not talk about music on this thread? Pickering didn't mention it. It always derails things. No music; I beg of you . . . Smile

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

So I'm not sure if Bauder has been reading this thread or not but his "In the Nick of Time" article that came out today makes some interesting observations about CE vs Fundamentalism. Curious of others thoughts about what he writes here:

Roger wants us to believe that today’s conservative evangelicals are nothing but fundamentalists who lack the nerve to wear the correct label. He is wrong. People like Al Mohler, Paige Patterson, Danny Akin, Mark Dever, Jerry Falwell, D. A. Carson, Kevin DeYoung, Carl Trueman, and Daniel Doriani (to select names almost at random) do not occupy the position of historic, separatist fundamentalism. Rather, they take exactly the stance of the older evangelical mainstream. In terms of position (and probably numbers), they are the true center of the evangelical spectrum. I write this as a separatist fundamentalist who disagrees with them at certain important points (and who is willing to engage them about those disagreements), and yet who wishes to see them represented fairly.

The whole article can be read here if its not reposted on the main SI page,

Phil Golden


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