The entire “Now About Those Differences” series is available here.
SEPARATION! A History, continued
Continued from last week…
To fundamentalists, Graham’s conduct was as inexplicable as it was inexcusable. True, Graham preached the gospel. In his conduct, however, Graham effectively denied the right of the gospel to define the boundary of Christian faith and fellowship. At Fuller Seminary, Carnell opined that some liberals were more pious than fundamentalists; Graham simply put Carnell’s theory into action.
As far as fundamentalists were concerned, faithfulness to the gospel required repudiation of the neo-evangelical agenda. Fundamentalist leaders could not endorse what Carnell said and they would not participate in what Graham did. It is not simply that they saw Graham’s conduct as sinful—they saw it as a scandalous betrayal of the gospel itself. They refused to recognize Graham, Carnell, and their ilk as legitimate Christian leaders.
This is the practice that some labeled “secondary separation.” Whatever one thinks of that label, it is clear that separation from neo-evangelicals was no afterthought or appendage to fundamentalism. It was the only faithful way of implementing fundamentalist ideals.
Theological liberalism is apostasy and liberals are apostates. Apostates are enemies of the gospel and, therefore, enemies of Christ. To extend Christian fellowship to an apostate (a liberal) is to make common cause with Christ’s enemies against Him. If an apostate is an enemy, then a neo-evangelical must be considered a traitor to the cause of Christ. Why would anyone point to such a person as an example of Christian virtue? How could a fundamentalist knowingly follow such leadership?
Fundamentalists did not separate from neo-evangelicals because of petulance. They separated because they really had no choice. The gospel was at stake. It was being denied by liberals and betrayed by neo-evangelicals.
Separation from new evangelicalism was necessary, and by the mid-1960s it had become a characteristic of fundamentalists. At this point in history, however, some fundamentalists adopted attitudes that guaranteed the disintegration of their movement. Not all fundamentalists shared these attitudes, but those who did managed to confuse the idea of fundamentalism in important ways.